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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 6 June 2017 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Alma's Bookshelf Andrea's Bookshelf
Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christina's Bookshelf
Clint's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Joshua's Bookshelf
Julie's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mari's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Polk's Bookshelf Sloan's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf
Teri's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Libertarianism for Beginners
Todd Seavey
For Beginners LLC
155 Main St, Suite 211, Danbury CT 06810
9781939994660, $15.95, 216 pages

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

What is Libertarianism all about? This book attempts to give the answer.

Quoting from the book, it is a "political philosophy that emphasizes individual rights, including strong property rights, and the radical shrinking or abolition of government (since government routinely interferes with your use of your body and property)." A person can do what they want with their body or possessions as long as they don't use someone else's body or possessions without their consent.

Victimless crimes, like using drugs (without physically injuring anyone else) or watching pornography are not grounds for arrest. How do we pay for public services without taxes? By imposing voluntary user fees; the people who actually use the service should pay for it. Government has taken over the task of providing aid to the poor, destroying networks run by poor people themselves. In some cases, government has imposed restrictions on private charities, making their job much more difficult.

There are many different types of libertarianism. Objectivists, followers of Ayn Rand, reject anarchism, religion and other parts of conventional morality. Minarchists believe in a minimal, limited state that consists of little more than police, courts and purely defensive military. Left-libertarians advocate the abolition of the state and of other unequal relationships, like between landlords and tenants, bosses and workers and traditional husbands and wives.

This is a pretty painless introduction to libertarianism. It might take more than one reading to understand the whole book; the effort will be well worth it. Yes, this is recommended.

Fish Girl
Written by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner
Illustrated by David Wiesner
Clarion Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780544815124, $25.00, 192 pages

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Napoli and Wiesner team up for this graphic novel, which is a modern-day slant on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid." Fish Girl is the main attraction at Ocean Wonders. Not just any old boardwalk aquarium, this is an old 3-story seaside building converted into a series of connecting fish tanks. Fish Girl has a tail like a mermaid and she doesn't speak. Her best friend is Octopus who is both companion and bodyguard. Neptune (not his real name) is the aquarium's owner, as well as master-of-ceremonies and tour guide. He has convinced Fish Girl that she is not human and therefore can't survive in the outside world. He gives her two jobs. One is to collect all the coins that visitors drop into the tanks. The other is to stay out of sight just enough to tease the visitors. She lives the life watery spirit until one day a curious girl named Livia pursues her until she finds her. Livia returns often and Fish Girl gradually shows herself more often. Livia tells her all about her life and names her Mira. Napoli and Wiesner masterfully contrast Livia's flaky personality with Mira's naivete. As their unusual friendship develops, Mira's self-awareness expands and she begins to see through Neptune's aqueous shield to the ugly truth that she is a human slave for his profit. Wiesner's rich watercolors vividly portray the beauty and complexity of Mira's underwater prison. And it is only through his illustrations that we fully understand the role of Octopus. "Fish Girl" is a haunting tale about human bondage that is both sensitive and topical in today's world.

Falter and Fall
Vivekanand Jha
Authors Press
9789352075171 $12.00 88 pages

Sandeep Kumar Mishra, Reviewer

The first thing that strikes you about Falter and Fall is that it does not employ the ironic conversational tone favored by so many of the today's new poets. Instead, it sticks firmly to the tried and tested descriptive tone popularized by the likes of Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. The style is light and conversational which gives the poems a deceptively simple feel. The themes range from memories of love, poetry, father, urban life, animals, tree, life, current issues and generalization of the situation and other life intricacies. Obviously, he uses a plain description of reality and is not afraid to include 'unpoetic' elements into his work. In fact, the poems have a reassuring Anglo-Saxon feel to them. Jha makes use of consonance, alliteration and assonance - not to mention some similes. In Cruelty he compares life with a water container "Cruelty like sediments into a water container, even an inadvertent stirring spoils the serenity and sanctity".

All the poems have an undertone of 'Description is Revelation' and in the hands of the air force veteran, they have force as well. The first poem "An Elegy to the Poem" reveals the plight of the aspiring poets who become victims of the so-called modern Editors. As I mentioned in another book review "Hare Krishna" there is a lack of broad mindset. It is an indication of our present state of mind, a result of the modern life devoid of emotions and lack of insight into the loveliness of nature. Who decides what is good and are they right - and are we, the poetry reading public, getting what we want/need? Who can correct them? They are the Editors, 'the powerful dad of all poets".

Jha does indeed possess a 'remarkably mature talent' - especially when we know that he has started late. When the themes are stronger, however, he seems more successful. The two poems addressed to father A Paragon of Perseverance and Ashes of Altar is assured - as is the stately and solemn contemplation of worldly wisdom. He shows deep sympathies for animals in poems such as Cut Throat, an Elegy to Animal, Humanity died, killing of Innocence and song of Woes. He poignantly pinpointed the so-called kindness "As we prefer to eat the meat of those animals whose throats are chopped off in a go" But sometimes he is straight forward, "relish the nibbling tallow and sucking the soup inside the shank of wholesome and palatable flesh and bone"

Throughout the collection, there are also echoes of Philip Larkin. Jha combines "an ordinary, colloquial style", "clarity", a "quiet, reflective tone", "ironic understatement" in his poems. Although he uses very little rhyme and few traditional stanzas, it's nice to see his sneak in an accomplished traditional poetry form in his collection. He also possesses some of Larkin's formal skills: he can rhyme when he wants to and he can use meter effectively. However, what he definitely cannot do is draw the kind of significance that Larkin draws.

The poems it contains are bang up to date. Vivekanand stares modern urban India in the eye: 'Colour', 'Honour killing' and 'Pay - perk' to name but a few. Furthermore, his work is definitely not idealized, sentimentalized or picturesque in any way - which has got to be a good thing.

To be fair, Jha is good at capturing the modern world (something which many poets can't do) and there are some good descriptive touches. Many of the poems such as A Second, Dream House, Pay- Perk, Believe Me or not, lament heavily upon the modern life ethics, where we can't think beyond our wife and children. Jha does not use his (working class) background to tackle issues relating to class and culture. Far too often he uses it to pad out the poems. But there's simply no punch line. In fact, it only narrowly avoids descending into sentimentality.

The title poem Falter and fall is but grittier, more disparate. Again this is admirable stuff - uncompromising. There are some enjoyable poems in this collection: e.g. Connectivity, Fair Play, Fool, Multicolor and Nonconformist.

What is also surprising about this collection is that many of the poems are love poems. Amid the psychedelic grot and ugliness of the modern world is the redeeming power of love. In poems such as Love, Loveria, Lovey-Dovey, By the Seashore and If you will be my Valentine Vivekanand shows a tender side. In Love, for example, we have the marital love where two lovers compare their love to fire, to a magnet, to a fruit and see its culmination in a birth. In Lovey-Dovey, the lover "sheds milky tears like the leaves when they are subjected to cut or break". But in "Loveria" the poet depicts the modern love as an epidemic in which teens "delve deep into the impulsive illusion of life". In the frequently ironic world of modern poetry, this kind of candidness would be shunned - which is a shame. He was clearly one of those fortunate writers who happened to be in the right place at the right time, his work is competent, well-crafted and credible; it just lacks that unique sound.

Worked in the air force in his youth, he perfected closely the enthusiasm and discipline which we need in any craft. He is a formalist who carries traditional poetic techniques like rhyme and meter forward into thoroughly modern poems that are not interested in making us feel comfortable or special.

Yet there is something that I find profoundly consoling about his poetry. Jha shows an emotion, however uncontrollable it may have appeared originally, was not, in fact, unmanageable." His poems don't include the dark confessional secrets one finds easily enough in the poetry of the late 20th century, but they offer language to carry us through experiences that threaten to overwhelm.

Perhaps this is why he is so good at writing in original ways about calamity. "Nature on Rage and Global Warming," his two poems about environmental degradation, becomes a brief meditation on how the tiny negligence can shape a new experience of tragedy "Developed into embryo from the drop of sooty sperm injected by the ruthless chimney of carbon industries" his poems speaks of this difficult era and suggests that the fall of Eden is not really a story of tragedy at all but a vision of humans choosing a more terrifying but also more beautiful world.

The poems not only manage difficulty; they also make something new of it. The quiet grandeur of his lines makes the prospect of being forgotten no longer feel so grim. What they say affirms the probability of this fate, but how they say it changes the way that I feel in relation to it. The fate of being forgotten becomes linked to a vision of a better future world, one without sickness or the memory of our particular suffering.

The beauty in Jha's work is never achieved by glossing over or minimizing difficulty. His great subject is the memory, but he never indulges in simple nostalgia. Instead, he invites us to reflect on nostalgia's dangers, temptations and imaginative pleasures, as well as the way it, like poetry, can be "most beautiful in its erasures."

Why read these poems? In the larger sense, the sense that counts, they are addressed to you. Surefooted, if a little inconsequential, Vivekanand Jha is certainly one to keep an eye on for the future.

It is not the sort of book Faber and Faber, or for that matter, many other poetry publishers would put out. But he has obviously found an audience and he is putting his words inside other people's heads which, at the end of the day, is what it's all about.

Author Vivekanand Jha is the founder and chief editor of two literary journals, Verbal Art ( & Phenomenal Literature ( published by Authors press, New Delhi.

Radical Acceptance
Andrea Miller
Atria Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781501139208, $26.00 print / $13.99 Kindle

Tina B. Tessina, PhD LMFT

As a therapist in private practice, I am very interested in the topic of Radical Acceptance, which I find my clients have a hard time grasping. I was hoping this book would introduce and explain this topic in ways my clients could understand, and I was not disappointed.

Radical Acceptance is well written, supportive, and easy to understand. Miller is very effective at using her own relationship and those of friends and associates to illustrate the various techniques she's presenting. She writes, "Radical Acceptance requires radical giving -- giving more, giving your all, and doing it all again, over and over. I know this may be a different way of thinking about love and life than you're used to. We live in an instant-gratification world in which we are conditioned to get what we pay for, stat. Radical Acceptance requires a fundamental recalibration of your relationship expectations."

Her steps to achieve acceptance, and other step-by-step guidelines are clear and concise.

Miller writes for women, explaining that the information is for both genders, but she finds using both awkward and prefers a chatty woman-to-woman style. While this might put off male readers, it does create a fluid, flowing conversational tone that is warm and inviting. The author is right to say that the information is useable by anyone, but I think women will be most comfortable with this book. Women who are concerned about their relationships will benefit from the model presented here.

The book is very persuasive, and although the concepts presented can be difficult to master, I think there is good, solid support and information here to help the reader do that.

The author, Andrea Miller is the CEO and developer of, an online site about relationships.

The Road to Vermilion Lake
Vic Cavalli
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861400, $22.95, 250pp

Sharon Alker, Reviewer
Professor of English, scholar of eighteenth-century and Romantic Literature

Near the center of Vic Cavalli's Road to Vermilion Lake, the narrator, hearing the beauty of a Gregorian chant, muses that "the music sounded extremely otherworldly but also extremely grounded at the same time, as if the men singing it were both calloused-hands farmers and scholarly contemplatives, which it turns out they were" (83-84). This moment, which weaves together callouses and contemplation, captures the intersection of the mystical and the material, the pragmatic and the poetic that is at the core of the novel. If, as Charles Taylor argued in A Secular Age, we have lived in a disenchanted world since the Reformation and the Enlightenment, Vic Cavalli invites us to consider that such a way of life is not necessary. We may unwittingly focus on the materiality and transience of the secular world alone, but it may be an unconscious choice that renders invisible a far richer, multifaceted form of existence; re-enchantment may be within reach, through art, literature, and spirituality. Ordinary lives can become extraordinary.

The novel tells the story of one such ordinary life, that of Thomas Neal Tems, a blaster's assistant and first-aid attendant who lives and works on a construction site beside a glorious, remote lake. The site is being developed by a Swiss company into an ecologically friendly village, and Thomas begins a romance with the talented and imaginative architect who designed the site, a devout Catholic. The world that the characters must navigate, however, is decidedly not a romantic one. It is marked by painful past experiences, dysfunctional families, tragic accidents, alcoholism, and drug overdoses, all of which seem to derive from an inability to reach beyond the superficiality of existence. And yet, this is a world of second chances, for those who desire to change their imaginative perspective, to seek a sense of depth and enchantment that is deeply embedded in the tangible world, particularly in the body and in the natural world, as well as in the creative world of contemplative thought.

Acquiring such a profound change of perspective is demanding and onerous and not all have the stamina to make the journey. The pathway Cavalli creates is marked not only by love, but also by the transcendence and power of the arts. Cavalli weaves a rich array of references to historical artists, poets, and philosophers into the novel, from John Keats to Walt Whitman, from Franz Kafka to Bram Stoker, from Thomas Aquinas to William Blake. Even forms of art that are often categorized as part of low culture, tattoos, can provide meaning and perhaps even a fragile beauty to horrific experiences that are beyond rational comprehension. The splendor and sacred nature of art prepares the protagonist for a life that is made more intense and meaningful through mythology and mysticism, and that embraces a form of slow living that is far more restrained but infinitely more meaningful; this is an invitation to a life where we are not trapped by memories of a fractured, traumatic past, but imaginatively and painstakingly re-craft ourselves into a flawed but glorious future beauty.

In Hubble's Shadow
Carol Smallwood
Shanti Arts LLC
193 Hillside Road, Brunswick, Maine 04011
9781941830444, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 98pp,

Marilyn L. Taylor, Reviewer
Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Emerita

In Hubble's Shadow - an exceptional poetry collection filled with with stylistic variety and thoughtful insights - vividly reflects the unique sensibilities of Carol Smallwood, its multi-talented author.

Smallwood, who is also an editor and accomplished writer of essays and creative nonfiction, brings to her poetry a mature clarity and directness that's currently not easily come by. Her poems actually invite us in, focusing on everyday triumphs and losses, rewards and regrets, joys and disappointments - matters that both poet and reader care deeply about, especially in these uneasy times.

Smallwood has divided the book into four sections, loosely thematic. The first - aptly titled "The Universe" - features a small galaxy of other-worldly poems, with content that includes a almost startlingly quick but profound take on the the remains of a dying star to the basic tenets of astrophysics, neither of which are beyond the poet's imaginative scope. This introductory section is followed by another titled "On the Road," which finds poetry in unlikely places, including the local post office, dirt roads, and your local McDonald's. The most memorable of these might well be a short, deceptively simple observation entitled "The Bug" - which could put the reader in mind of Dickinson's equally devious "A Bird Came Down the Walk:"

The Bug
was on the post office floor, so put it in my purse:
I've seen its kind before but didn't know its name.

It liked Subway lettuce, the drops of coke;
once home it joined my window plants.

Its ancestors began millions of years ago -
surviving countless species long extinct.

If we but wait, we may see the coming spring.

The second section is followed by a third, titled "The Hearth," which focuses on matters closest to home. One of its several small gems (nearly upstaged by clusters of carefully-wrought villanelles and pantoums) offers, along with its close examination of a sidewalk, a thoughtful nod to Wordsworth:

the struggle of dandelions in
sidewalk cracks each spring
genders more hope than
crowds of daffodils.

But it is in the final section, called "Sea-Change, " where some of the finest poems in the collection have found a home. A remarkable case in point:

The Ache of Greening
came today, a sharp surprise -
although each year it does
in early spring

An ache erasing all
remembrance of the fall
to come

And another:

Dry Leaves
have the rustle
of elders
discussing youth -
no longer tied down
they travel

It's undeniable, perhaps, that these relatively brief examples of Smallwood's work don't do justice to many of the longer and more ambitious pieces in the book, including, for example, its abundance of well-wrought pantoums, sestinas and poems in other traditional forms. Also quite captivating is the frequent presence of language play, and of prosodic experimentation throughout. Some readers might agree, however, that many of the most successful poems to be found in the pages of In Hubble's Shadow are those that are free of some of the heavy strictures of form. Form's innate complexities can, of course, be pleasing, and often add something intangible to the actual content of a particular poem. On the other hand, some formal poems (pantoums in particular) will benefit if they're not quite so heavily burdened with the required repetitions and rhymes; in other words, when their own clear light is allowed to shine through.

Despite this lone quibble, however, I find In Hubble's Shadow to be a moving and meticulously-written volume of verse. From poem to poem, the collection exudes the elusive but unmistakable qualities of humility, perceptiveness, and wisdom. Or, as Smallwood herself so eloquently expresses it: The story lies with the interpreter.

Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction
Carol Smallwood
Shanti Arts LLC
193 Hillside Road, Brunswick, Maine 04011
9781941830468,$16.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 162 pages,

Patti Gibbons, Reviewer
Head of Collection Management
Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Accomplished author, poet, and editor Carol Smallwood's latest offering, Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction, Shanti Arts Publishing, 2017, is a collection of essays that offers readers a chance to view select moments of Smallwood's life where she pauses, as a woman and as a writer, to reflect, analyze, and contemplate the interconnectedness of her earlier self, life's universal moments, and the outlook that comes with the passage of time. Smallwood's perspective brings strength engrained in her as a member of her generation's feminist movement, a theme that supports the overarching tone of the collection of essays.

Smallwood's assembly of over forty essays are organized into seven thematic chapters, and work on the individual essay level, as groups of essays, and finally as a whole collection. Looking at the mundane, such as visits to the post office or to the library, Smallwood works in an accessible realm, one which readers of all backgrounds can relate to, but her voice filters her experiences through her vantage point, namely as a woman born in a pivotal generation, and through it rings a perspective that prompts readers to go beyond an interpretation of her stories as descriptive pieces, to a body of work that provides a faceted look at the small moments of life that communicates deeper meanings and speaks to experiences Smallwood narrates from her reflections across her lifetime. Smallwood shares her private thoughts in clear and uncensored terms, not for shock value, but as a reflective simplicity that has come clearer into view as she benefits from the long view of maturity.

Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction is a peek into a writer's sketchbook, a collection of ponderings and meditations when the author encounters silently powerful moments in her everyday life, and rubs and massages them to tease out the emotional underpinnings and delineates how each speaks not only to the conversation at hand, but to deeper dialogues when examined in light of a lifetime of living and experience. The perspective presented in the individual essays is perhaps clarified by the writing process, and Smallwood, as an author skilled in many genres, is able to share feelings, sentiments, and wisdom with an apparent simplicity and economy of words, due in large part to her mastery as a writer. Smallwood's Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction shows universal expressions of feeling.

Readers of all backgrounds could easily connect with the themes, and readers seeking to examine American life and the life of twentieth century women, in particular, would delight in the insight Smallwood provides, and the honest reflections she shares. Smallwood's essays leak with quiet sentiment and encourage readers to approach her prose intuitively. Honest and uncoated, Smallwood evenhandedly leads readers through a series of richly described vignettes that are relatable and prompt readers to interject themselves into the circumstances she writes about, to experience situations first-handedly themselves, as well as on behalf of the author.

As Dr. William Brevda, Professor of English at Central Michigan University, aptly points out in the foreword, "What Smallwood has written is literature. It has staying power." Through her descriptive yet careful voice, Smallwood candidly captures how she experiences daily life through the medium of language in a profound manner that reaches the level of lasting art.

The Parrot Matchmaker: An African Lovers Tale
Felix Adeoti Oguntoye
Asalako Press
9780989163026, $15.00, PB, 300 pages,

Shel Horowitz, Reviewer

Kidnapped, brutally beaten and left for dead in the ocean, a young African man washes ashore somewhere off the coast of Nigeria, unconscious, on a deserted island far from home. The lowly peasant boy had had the temerity to win the heart of a wealthy young woman. For this love, her other suitors - wealthy and powerful men - had conspired to destroy him. But not only is he still alive - so is the love he holds for his beloved, now hundreds of miles away. But she has been told that he is dead.

In his debut novel, a retelling of an old Nigerian Yoruba folktale, Nigerian-American author Felix Adeoti Oguntoye tells the story of Remi, a simple farm boy in love with the beautiful Aderonke. Remi goes against the power structure of his village to claim his love...learns to survive, alone and with no prior skills, in a completely alien place...turns his island exile into a shrine to Aderonke and composes love songs to her...and with the help of a singing parrot, a shaman on the mainland, and the power of telepathy in dreams, shows Aderonke how to find and rescue him.

The book has three distinct narratives:

Remi's long courtship of Aderonke, set in the context of a small but busy coastal Nigerian village some decades ago - and full of fascinating details about life in Africa before it was altered by Western influences.

His solitary life on the deserted island. Arriving severely injured and with no wilderness skills and no tools, he must learn to construct shelter, to feed himself, and to make peace with a life that might not ever include another human being - but does include a parrot he adopts as a baby, who turns out to have magic powers.

The arrival of the rescue party that reunites Remi with his beloved, and the weeks of preparation for the days-long traditional Yoruba wedding that follows. This section is so thoroughly described, it could be used as a cultural anthropology text. Along the way, we get glimpses of everything from the class structure of this Yoruba village to the role of shamans.

The Parrot Matchmaker is grounded in the very popular genre of African multicultural fiction (authors like Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and Chinua Achebe. Add in a big layer of magical realism of the sort you might find in writers like Isabel Allende or Jorge Luis Borges.

It won a prestigious Ippy Award for multicultural fiction.

Brimming with the visual beauty and exotic culture of Africa and offering a unique and detailed look at coastal Nigerian village life before it was westernized and modernized, this book would make a great movie.

While the universal theme of love across class differences and surviving outside hostility has made thousands of bestselling books and hundreds of blockbuster movies, The Parrot Matchmaker offers the extreme twist of Remi not even knowing where he is and having no way to communicate - and Aderonke being told that he has been killed. Think of it as "Romeo and Juliet meets Robinson Crusoe meets House of the Spirits."

The book should appeal to many audiences: fans of star-crossed romance...lovers of multicultural fiction...the African Diaspora community...anyone interested in Yoruba, Nigerian, or African classes in African fiction...libraries, book discussion groups, and live audiences for visiting author programs.

Alma's Bookshelf

How to be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together
Tina B. Tessina and Riley K. Smith
Muffihaven Press
9781530583591, $10.15 pbk / $2.99 Kindle,

How to be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together, by Tina B. Tessina and Riley K. Smith, is
a unique handbook for couples who are unhappy in their relationship and lack the proper tools to repair it themselves. It is a handbook on how couples can achieve mutual happiness, through non-competitive negotiation and communication.

How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together is a manual that provides intimate partners a proven, set-by-step guide for working together as a team to overcome negative relationship patterns and master the positive new skills required to create a successful, satisfying, and sustainable relationship that fulfils the needs of both individuals. The book expertly leads couples through a step-by-step process which teaches each person ways to take care of his or her own needs at the same time as caring for the partner's happiness. What is unusual is that the clear and simple guidelines outlined in the book bring satisfaction to both individuals in the relationship.

The instructions are based on The Negotiation Tree, an original and highly creative tool designed by the authors to help any couple change a conflict into a non-competitive meeting of minds. The book is written for individuals who lack a model for equal partnership, as well as couples who need to remodel a conflictive situation into a working relationship. It is designed for people who are married, cohabiting, or simply dating, and are partners in either a traditional or alternative relationship. The book is also helpful to many people in business, particularly in decision making.

The book is also useful in helping partners overcome "the shoulds," replacing them with what is actually needed, and not be limited by rules that may no longer apply.

It helps people to acknowledge and overcome secret expectations, which exist when you make guesses about what your partner wants, and force him or her to guess what it is you need. The book gives guidelines for active listening, and how to take the fear out of wanting. With these simple, easy to follow instructions any couple can learn to work together to create a loving, lasting, healthy, and enjoyable partnership.

The book is written simply and well, with a minimum of psychological jargon, and holds the interest of the reader from beginning to end. It is highly recommended for all people who wish to get along with mates, friends, and family, as well as business partners, thus experiencing less conflict and more pleasure in the company of others.

If I have any criticism of the book, it concerns certain limitations inherent in it. Although many therapists and marriage counselors find the technique useful in their work with patients, How to be Happy Partners: Working it out together seems designed to help beginners in therapy, and is less useful for the psychological sophisticate.

About the Authors

Tina B. Tessina is a licensed psychotherapist in South California sine 1978, with over 35 years experience in counseling individuals and couples. She is the author of 14 books in 17 languages, including "It Ends With You, Love Styles, and The Real Thirteenth Step.

Riley K. Smith, M.A., is a Licenced Marriage and Family Therapist who has been helping couples and individuals create satisfying relationships since 1974. He supervises and trains therapists in addition to his therapeutic practice. He is the author of How to Be a Couple and Still be Free, True Partners, and Equal Partners.

The Hours Between Us
Carol Graf
Mill City Press
9781635052367, $24.95 HC, $6.99 Kindle
9781635051766, $15.95, PB,

The Hours Between Us, by Carol Graf, is a beautiful written story about the powerful struggles and unbreakable spirits of two remarkable women and the healing relationship that existed between them. The book seized my attention from the beginning to the very last page.

Kai Ingersohn was motivated to become a psychiatrist by the miserable childhood experiences she was put through by Dumpling, her violent, manic-depressive grandmother. As a divorced woman in the private practice of psychotherapy, Kai raised two teenagers alone, and began work with Stephanie, a young graduate student with acute leukemia, to help in the fight for her life. Kai quickly became deeply involved with Stephanie and her fate. As the therapy proceeded, Stephanie survived learning long hidden family secrets, and helped Kai come to terms with the machinations of her own past. Together, both therapist and patient grow, as they discover insights into life, love, and their inner spiritual world.

This delightful book was written by Carol Graf, who is a psychiatrist herself and makes excellent literary use of her real-life experiences as a practicing therapist in Charleston. The setting of The Hours Between Us is the lavish scenery of the low-country south, with its salt marshes, huge silent oaks, Spanish moss, and the ever-present pounding of the sea.

The book is an excellent example of the role that a positive transference (in which a person experiences feelings for the therapist that she once had for her own parents) plays in the healing process of psychotherapy.

As a psychoanalyst myself, I was captivated by the unfolding of Stephanie's therapy, and felt it was a true-to-life description of a successful case history, although Dr. Kai's treatment was "out of the box," as befitting this particular patient. Clients would be lucky indeed to have Dr. Kai Ingersohn (and probably Dr. Carol Graf) as a therapist. The book is highly recommended to all readers of fiction and those individuals interested in psychotherapy and psychology.

Author Carol Graf received her medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina and completed her psychiatric residency there as well. She has practiced psychiatry in the Charleston, South Carolina area for over thirty years. She lives on a salt marsh with her husband. They have a blended family of their children and eight grandchildren.

Dr. Alma H. Bond, Reviewer

Andrea's Bookshelf

The Barefoot Book of Children
Tessa Strickland, author
Kate DePalma, author
David Dean, illustrator
Barefoot Books
2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140
9781782852964, $19.99, HC, 64pp,

Innovative and inclusive, informed and informative, "The Barefoot Book of Children" is the collaborative work of authors Tessa Strickland and Kate DePalma. Empowering young readers ages 5 to 8 wanting to learn about children around the globe and ponder their own place in it, "The Barefoot Book of Children" is colorfully illustrated by David Dean. Drawing upon the guidance of diversity specialists, "The Barefoot Book of Children" is truly groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction which addresses the need for children's books that depict multicultural diversity, while simultaneously demonstrating the interconnectedness and uniqueness of all people. No elementary school or community library should be without a copy of "The Barefoot Book of Children" in their collections for young readers.

The Other La Boheme
Yorker Keith
Book Baby
9781483591988, $15.97, PB, 364pp,

Deftly written by an author with a love and familiarity with theatre, classical music, opera, "The Other La Boheme" is focused on the lives and loves of four friends who pursue opera singers' careers in present-day New York City. After graduation from music school they band together as a group called the Dolci Quattro, pledging to support one another in their professional pursuits. Several years later, they have landed the roles of Mimi, Musette, Marcello, and Rodolfo in the nearly forgotten opera La Boheme by Leoncavallo (also known as "the other La Boheme") which is to be produced by the New York Bel Canto Opera. Original, compelling, richly detailed, and consistently interesting from first page to last, "The Other La Boheme" will prove to be a unique and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. With its obvious appeal to opera and classical music fans, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Other La Boheme" is also available in a Kindle format ($4.99).

The Holy Crap Cookbook
Corin Mullins with Claudia Howard
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781771621397, $22.95, PB, 148pp,

Starting with HapiFoods' cereals and adding other healthy ingredients, "The Holy Crap Cookbook: Sixty Wonderfully Healthy, Marvellously Delicious and Fantastically Easy Gluten-Free Recipes" is inspirational cookbook that emphasizes a plant-based, gluten-free diet and showcases simple-to-prepare but simply awesome recipes that harness the power of superfoods. From protein-packed breakfast fare like refreshing smoothies and perfect pancakes, to satisfying savory dishes and decadent desserts that don't sacrifice nutrition for flavor, all the recipes in "The Holy Crap Cookbook" are in keeping with the Holy Crap philosophy: what you eat should be good for you and taste great. Of special note is the 'behind-the-scenes' history of the founding and success of the Canadian business enterprise HapiFoods. Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, "The Holy Crap Cookbook" is a pleasure to simply browse through and inspiring to plan menus with, making it very highly recommended for both personal and community library cookbook collections.

Andrea Kay

Ann's Bookshelf

The Essential Paradise Lost
John Carey
Faber & Faber
9780571328550, $32.99, hardback, 235 pages.

John Carey's introduction to his Essential Paradise Lost is a masterly piece of analysis of John Milton's most famous work. Not only does it make this great epic poem more easily approachable and enjoyable, it is also an invaluable and enlightening introduction for anyone approaching Paradise Lost for the first time and it will be invaluable to any students of Paradise Lost.

In a clear and interesting way, Carey guides the reader through the background to the poem. He discusses Milton's relationship with his Muse (who dictated the poem to Milton in his sleep). He suggests the way in which Milton's blindness is reflected in the imagery of the poem; and the way in which the dramatic and harrowing political and personal aspects of Milton's life may be seen reflected there. He comments on the original style of the poem and its place in English poetry. And he discusses the Devil's questioning of God's foresight and omnipotence.

He even touches on feminist issues which have been the topic of 20th and 21st century criticism of Milton. Yes, he says, Milton's Adam does regard Eve as inferior to him, and that is the way the Bible describes them. But Milton's Eve has a mind of her own. At her first sight of Adam she thinks him "less fair / less winning soft, less amiably mild" than the image of herself which she has just seen reflected in the lake. So, as Carey notes, "She turns around and heads back to the pool with Adam chasing after her and comically shouting in protest".

As can be seen from this example, one of the delights of Carey's 'Introduction', as well as of his footnotes, the summaries which he offers for the parts of the poem he has chosen to omit, and of his discussion of the poem at the end of the book, is his wry sense of humour. He clearly loves and admires Milton's great work but that does not stop him from occasionally mocking Milton's vision. He accuses Milton, on one occasion, of "an unfortunate attempt at mannish jocularity (p.89)"; he describes Adam and Eve "preparing for a day's gardening", and God, whilst being praised by the heavenly host for his justice, amusing himself by making "some meteorological adjustments" which alter the relative motions and positions of the sun, earth and planets so that "seasonal weather-changes" cause "a proto-Darwinian battle for survival" (p.194).

Carey's judicious pruning of Milton's epic poem cuts 11,500 lines and 12 books by two thirds, so that instead of being confronted with dauntingly long, unbroken passages of poetry, the reader is given shorter 'chapters' of the story separated by brief commentaries which tie it all together. Milton's text is unchanged, the structure of the poem is preserved and the music of the poetry is as strong as ever. Occasional, very brief, footnotes explain unfamiliar names, mythological references and words which are no longer in frequent use. Above all, Milton's 'voice' remains loud and clear and the action he describes (especially the war in heaven between Satan and his angels and God and the heavenly host; the building of Pandemonium in Hell; and the tempting of Eve) is vivid and his characters are full of life, full of human emotions, goals, ambitions, envies, deviousness and self-deception. This applies not only to Adam and Eve but also to the Devil and, to some extent to Milton's God who, at one point, admits to teasing Adam (p.141).

Milton's Satan is a superb creation and Carey quotes and comments on William Blake's statement that "The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote about Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet & of the Devil's party without knowing it". Milton's Satan, says Carey, was "English literature's first terrorist". He undertook "the destruction of the innocent for political ends", and Milton allows him to explain his reasons for challenging God's omnipotence and, in so doing, to reveal not only his ambitions, his yearning for power, his manipulation, craftiness and deceit but also his moments of self-doubt and weakness, all of which gives Milton's Devil realistic psychological depth.

Carey wisely retains the episodes which Milton invented and which may surprise those reading Paradise Lost for the first time. At the gates of Hell, Milton sets two allegorical figures, Sin and Death. They hold the keys to Hell, and Milton gives them stories of their own. Milton's Devil persuades them to unlock the gates for him, and he is adept at conning information out of God's guardian angels and deceiving them in order to get into God's newly created world. Having leapt over the wall of Paradise and entered the garden for the first time, he disguises himself as various animals - "now one / now other, as their shapes serve best". Finally, he becomes a toad and squats at the ear of the sleeping Eve. There, he whispers evil thoughts into her mind and gives her dreams of eating from the forbidden tree and becoming angelic and equal with the gods. Satan is discovered in the garden and Gabriel sends the angel, Ithuriel, to prod him with his spear and burst his disguise. He is sent back to Hell and it is only on his second visit to the garden that he takes over the body of a serpent and, with his beauty, charm, and very plausible arguments, he beguiles Eve into tasting the forbidden fruit.

Once Adam, too, has eaten the fruit and God has discovered their disobedience and decreed their punishment, Eve tries to persuade Adam that they should refrain from having children who will inherit the results of their sin, or (amazingly, given Milton's knowledge of the Church's and the State's long-standing sanctions against such an act) commit suicide.

There is, as is evident in Carey's choice of the essential parts of Paradise Lost, much more to Milton's story than the bare outline of the Creation and Fall as given in the Bible, but all that is there, too. Carey's brief and easily-read analysis of some of the issues raised by Milton in the poem - God's omnipotence and foresight, and his reasons for creating human beings and giving them free will, for example - add to the interest. So, too does his answer to the self-imposed question "Is Paradise Lost a Christian poem?" and his suggestion that Milton's God is "morally repellent". And in spite of his labelling of the Devil as a terrorist, he comments that "there is only one speaker in the poem who thinks deeply enough to point out the futility of violence as a means of settling disputes, and that speaker is Satan, who remarks crisply: "Who overcomes / By force, hath overcome but half his foe' (I: 648-9)" - a statement which has very contemporary relevance.

Crucially, Carey gives book and line references for quotations from and references to the original text of Milton's Paradise Lost. This allows readers to look up anything which they wish to pursue further (the Guttenberg Project web-site has copies of Milton's original text). What is missing from Carey's book, however, is an index which would allow the reader to refer back to particular passages, events and characters in his selection from the poem. Carey's comment that "for first-time reader the style of Paradise Lost is likely to come as a shock" is true and his discussion of the originality and purpose of Milton's blank verse and his long and complex sentences is interesting, but although many passages of the poem read smoothly and easily there are still parts which first-time readers are likely to find difficult on first reading. Carey wisely advises that the poem should be read aloud, since the sound of the poem (just as blind Milton dictated it) helps to make the meaning and power of the poem clear.

Everything Carey has done in The Essential Paradise Lost has been done with care for Milton's original poem and the whole book provides compelling support for the long-held view that Milton's poem is a sublime masterpiece. If Carey can bring new readers to enjoy it, as he aims to do, then there are many who will thank him for it.

The House of Names
Colm Toibin
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781760551421, $29.99, paperback, 262 pages

Clytemnestra's husband, Agamemnon, on the instructions of the gods, has ritually sacrificed their daughter, Iphigenia, in order to obtain a fair wind for his becalmed ships so that they can sail to wage war on Troy. During the ten years he is away, Clytemnestra takes his cousin Augisthus as her lover, and on the day of Agamemnon's glorious return she welcomes him lavishly then murders him in his bath. Electra, their second daughter knows all this and has watched her mother's behaviour with disgust and anger. She arranges for her young brother, Orestes, to be taken to a safe haven so that he can grow up and return to claim his rightful heritage.

In the Ancient Greek myths about Orestes, family relationships are interwoven and complex and the gods are heavily involved. In House of Names, Colm Toibin avoids these complexities by focusing only on Orestes' immediate family, which is probably a blessing for those unfamiliar with the ancient myths. And he dispenses with the gods almost completely.

I read House of Names before refreshing my memory of the original myths, in which there are several different versions of the story. It is a powerful story however it is told, and Toibin manages to capture vividly the sacrifice of Iphigenia and Clytemnestra's thoughts and feelings as she watches this happen. Clytemnestra's voice is compelling and we come to understand some of the reasons for her subsequent anger, dissimilation and duplicity. Electra, too, has a voice of her own and we feel her disgust and anger at her mother's behaviour, her fear of Augisthus, and her growing desire to avenge the murder of her beloved father. We understand her longing for Orestes to return and exact this revenge.

Toibin says, in a publicity sheet which accompanied my copy of this book, that he did not find anything much about Orestes in the Greek texts. Orestes, he says, "has been away; he returns; he performs. That is all. He remains a mystery". This is true only in so far as Orestes' exile is concerned. It is certainly not true of what happens to Orestes after he murders his mother. In 458BC, for example, when Aeschylus's trilogy, The Oresteia, won a major prize for drama, the audience learned in the first play of the adultery deceit and murders in the House of Atreus at Argos, to which Orestes is heir. In the second and third plays they would have seen the terrifying results for Orestes of these acts, and his subsequent trial for matricide. Justice and law, the struggle between the old earth gods and the new Greek gods of Olympus, all was played out with Orestes at their centre.

It is an author's privilege, however, to tell a story and invent its contents as he or she wishes. Toibin says that he gives Orestes "a memory, a conscience, a way of noticing and feeling" and he creates him "at two different ages; as a young boy and then later as a young man". Toibin also invents what happens to Orestes during his exile. After his father's murder, Toibin's young Orestes, at the command of Augisthus, is forcibly taken to a far-distant, violent and cruel prison where other boys from the city have been incarcerated. Orestes and his friend Leander escape, taking a sickly boy called Milos with them. They flee across dangerous war-scarred land and eventually find refuge with an old woman who tells stories which reference (for those who recognise them) old myths about Orestes' family history. Eventually, Orestes returns to Argos, meets Electra, is reunited with his joyful mother and, following a plan devised by Electra, he murders his mother. All this is dramatic enough but since Toibin chooses to tell Orestes' story himself, rather than giving him a voice, the result, compared to his creation of Clytemnestra and Electra, is rather flat and dry.

For anyone who knows even just the broad outline of the ancient Orestes' story, there are things here which will jar. Why, for example, does Toibin change the name of Orestes' closest friend, Pylades, to Leander? It was in the noble house of Pylades' father that Orestes of the early myths spent most of his exile and it was there that the two boys formed their close bond. Toibin keeps the homo-erotic suggestions of their friendship but eventually separates Orestes and Leander, kills off Leander's family, and gives Electra the role which Pylades originally plays in supporting Orestes in the murder of his mother.

In spite of such quibbles, for those who know nothing of the original myth Toibin's House of Names is as dramatic and bloody a psychological thriller as any modern, murderous, TV family drama.

The Walworth Beauty
Michele Roberts
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781408883402, $18.99, paperback, 389 pages.

Joseph, London 1851. "He abandoned his report for Mayhew, turned the page. He wanted to write something for this new projecthe'd dreamed up. Start by describing Mrs Dulcimer. His black muse. His Walworth Beauty. Follow with an account of the morning's patrol, his encounters with the prostitutes who'd accosted him".

Joseph Benson, a one-time Bow Street police clerk, has been taken on by mayhew to investigate the living conditions of the criminal poor - the thieves, beggars and prostitutes - in the area south of the Thames in London. In fact, the Victorian social investigator Henry Mayhew (1812-1887), really did publish a book about the living conditions of the London poor in 1851, but Joseph is a purely fictional figure and his methods of research and reporting are certainly not the dry factual sort which appear in Mayhew's book.

Joseph, with his prurient imagination gets involved with his subject and his first meeting with Mrs Dulcimer, who runs a house for fallen women, is full of misunderstandings on his and her side, and on the part of the reader. Ony later in the book does this become clear but until that time Joseph appear to be a rather unpleasant character full of the usual Victorian male-chauvinistic attitudes towards women.

Although he still mourns the death of his beloved first wife and loves his family, especially their daughter, Millie, he strictly conventionally with his second wife, Clara, and their children. And when he eventually quarrels with Clara, her revelations about his earlier marriage are devastating.

Mrs Dulcimer remains an enigma. An attractive, independent black woman, who runs her own business and is very much in charge of her own life and that of the girls she supports, she, too, is not all that she originally seems to be.

The story of Joseph's involvement with Mrs Dulcimer unfolds in parallel with that of Madeleine, a thoroughly modern 21st century woman. Maldelein's teaching position has just been axed, she has no job and very little money, so she decides to leave her smart London City life and move to a very different environment across the river in the very different, working-class, environment of Walworth. The flat she buys is a semi-basement down in the front area of an old Victorian house in Apricot Place. It is the house once owned by Mrs Dulcimer and visited by Joseph.

As we learn about the women who once lived in the house, and Joseph's involvement with them, some of the strangeness Madeleine feels in the flat begins to link past and present. And sometimes, this time-link becomes so close that the paths of characters from the different centuries cross, although only the reader realises this.

London itself is a very real presence in this book. Not just its streets but its markets, it history, the noise, the dirt, the smells, the varied multitude of people who live there and the closeness between neighbours. Michele Roberts immerses the reader in all this and brings London vividly (and for a Londoner like me, realistically) to life. Apricot Place may not be there on Google maps but the route Madeleine's taxi takes to get there is. So is the old market, which is still know as 'The Lane'.

Some of the streets and sites are not quite where Roberts describes them, but the cemetery for prostitutes in Redcross Way and its history as the burial place for the 'Winchester Geese', who once were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to ply their trade close to his Palace in Southwark, can be found on the internet, along with information about some of the characters and ceremonies which Madeleine watches.

It is easy to get involved with Madeleine's friends and with Joseph's family, and with the events and dilemmas which they experience. Mrs Dulcimer and her girls are slightly less vividly drawn but they are still curious and interesting.

As an occasionally ghostly story which interweaves past and present, fact and fiction, this is an entertaining, fascinating and enjoyable book and Roberts writes fluently and well.

The Lost Pages
Marija Pericic
Allen and Unwin
9781760296865, $29.99, HC, 259 pages.

The Lost Pages is the 2017 winner of the prestigious Australian Vogel's Literary Award. It is an innovative, imaginative and well-written novel based on the real friendship of Franz Kafka and his fellow writer and contemporary Max Brod.

It was to Brod that Kafka left all his writings, with instructions to burn them when he died. Brod, of course, did no such thing and it was due to him and his belief that Kafka's writings held hidden Zionist messages that Kafka and his work eventually became more famous and more widely-known that Brod himself.

Due to complicated legal proceedings over the ownership of Kafka's papers, this great archive has never yet been seen. It is known, however, to contain Brod's own diaries, in which his friendship with Kaafka is documented.

In The Lost Pages, Marija Pericic, inspired by the complex and bizarre story of Kafka's papers, as told in a 2010 New York Times article, 'Kafka's Lost Papers' by Elif Batuman, has invented Max Brod's memoirs. There, Max writes in detail of his difficult relationship with the elusive Kafka, who never seems to be where he is meant to be, whose success threatens to surpass Max's own, and who becomes, in Max's eyes, his rival in love as well as in his work.

This is an ingeniously contrived novel but sadly, for me, the Max Brod revealed in these pages is a depressing, depressed, self-focused and unsympathetic character with whom I soon lost patience. However, I did continue reading and the final dramatic chapters of the book do explain his obsessions and delusions, and it becomes clear that these character traits are essential to the outcome, and that this has been hinted at and prepared for throughout the book.

Whether Franz Kafka and Max Brod were anything like their namesakes as depicted in The Lost Pages is impossible to tell, but Marija Pericic's extensive research suggests to her that Kafka was far less bleak a character than is usually supposed, and that Brod, who was born with a physical disability may well have resented Kafka's success when it began to eclipse his own.

Brod was a successful and popular writer and composer. He acted as promoter and editor of Kafka's work during his life and, as his literary executor, after his death. In fact, there seems always to have been a complex relationship between Kafka's and Brod's work and it is possible that the archive papers will reveal much more about Brod's influence on Kafka's novels. It is this closeness which Marija Pericic has cleverly and inventively exploited in The Lost Pages.

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Situation Momedy
Jenna Von Oy
Medallion Press, Inc.
c/o Medallion Media Group
4222 Meridian Parkway Suite 110, Aurora, IL 60504
9781942546603, $14.99, PB, 472pp,

Synopsis: While preparing to give birth to her first daughter, actress Jenna von Oy, known for her roles as Six on Blossom and Stevie on The Parkers, looked for a book along the order of a best-friend's guide to motherhood. But what she found were clinical guides to pregnancy and beyond. She address this lack with "Situation Momedy: A First-Time Mom's Guide to Laughing Your Way through Pregnancy & Year One".

Now entrenched in the toddler years with her two daughters, she knows that each year of motherhood brings even more comedy and chaos and his written "Situation Momedy: A Very Special Episode in Toddlerdom" as an introduction to the adventures a mom can look forward to as her child moves into toddlerhood. A few chapter examples are "This Is a Test of the Emergency Tantruming System," "Potty Training . . . It's a Crap Shoot," "Working & Harried...with Children," and "Independence Day Isn't Just a National Holiday."

Filled with the humor and reassurance only a best friend can offer, "Situation Momedy: A Very Special Episode in Toddlerdom" will guide moms through the topsy-turvy world of life with toddlers.

Critique: Once again with the publication of "Situation Momedy: A Very Special Episode in Toddlerdom", Jenna Von Oy proves herself to be as gifted a writer as she is an actress. Written with a genuine flair for presenting practical information and insights with rye humor and refreshing candor, "Situation Momedy: A Very Special Episode in Toddlerdom" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Parenting instructional reference collections. For the personal reading lists of mothers with toddler aged children, it should be noted that "Situation Momedy: A Very Special Episode in Toddlerdom" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Sacred Medicine Cupboard
Anni Daulter, Jessica Booth, Jessica Smithson
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623170684, $21.95, PB, 448pp,

Synopsis: "Sacred Medicine Cupboard: A Holistic Guide and Journal for Caring for Your Family Naturally-Recipes, Tips, and Practices" is the collaborative work of Anni Daulter (author of Sacred Pregnancy and founder of the Sacred Living movement), Jessica Booth (a birth worker, healer, mother, and cocreator of Mama Baby Wise, Sacred Essence, Sacred Fertility, and Sacred Moon Wisdom), Jessica Smithson (a creative kinesiologist, healer, birth worker, mother, and cocreator of Mama Baby Wise, Sacred Essence, Sacred Fertility, and Sacred Moon Wisdom.

An inspirational guide for holistic family wellness, "Sacred Medicine Cupboard" presents seasonal insights, practical knowledge, recipes, projects, and journal prompts for a sacred medicine practice -- broken down into 36 chapters.

Beautifully designed, with an abundance of full-color photographs, "Sacred Medicine Cupboard" cultivates skills and tools for readers navigating an increasingly complicated world. Organized by topic of the week, such as Awakening, Blossom, Spicy, Glow, and Rest, "Sacred Medicine Cupboard" provides a treasury of tools ranging from medicinal teas and elixirs, to sacred practices to creative projects, for the purpose of nurturing and rejuvenating the entire family, along with journaling spaces at the end of each section to write, reflect, and develop a way of life rooted in peace and natural health.

"Sacred Medicine Cupboard" is a compendium of practical tips and creative ideas to put readers back in touch with simple time-tested practices that bring wholeness and well-being out of the cupboard. The underlying message of "Sacred Medicine Cupboard" is that medicine can also include a well-timed hug, a reassuring hand, or a thoughtfully prepared meal. Echoing the core tenets of the Sacred Living Movement, "Sacred Medicine Cupboard" reveals the power and insight we possess when our body, mind, and soul communicate in harmony.

Critique: A life-changing, life-enhancing, life-healing compendium of information, insights, and practical wisdom, "Sacred Medicine Cupboard: A Holistic Guide and Journal for Caring for Your Family Naturally-Recipes, Tips, and Practices" is an extraordinary and unique volume that should be part of every community and academic library Health & Medicine reference collection. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of wellness students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sacred Medicine Cupboard" is also available in a Kindle format ($13.99).

The Dream Interpretation Dictionary
J. M. DeBord
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Rd., #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578596379, $21.95, PB, 480pp,

Synopsis: In "The Dream Interpretation Dictionary: Symbols, Signs and Meanings", J. M. DeBord addresses such issues as What do reoccurring dreams reveal? What's the purpose of nightmares - and can they be stopped? Why do some people show up in dreams? Are some dreams actually warnings? Going beyond superficial explanations.

Bringing a deep and rich understanding to a variety of images, signs, and symbols, "The Dream Interpretation Dictionary" considers the context to help anyone complete their own personal dream-state jigsaw puzzle by providing the tools to allow anyone to sort through possible connections and to make sense of their dreams.

From entries ranging from "Abandonment" to "Zoo", "The Dream Interpretation Dictionary" analyzes sex dreams, money dreams, dreams of falling, running, or paralysis and much, much more. It brings profound insights to thousands of dream messages. It shows what to look for and what to ignore and teaches how to master dream interpretation. Examples of symbols are given. The complexity and context of a dream are explored. Signs and their meanings are illustrated. Of special note is the exploration of the messages delivered by the unconscious mind during sleep, examines how dreams connect to daily life, and shows how dreams can lead to deeper understanding and self-awareness.

Critique: Informed and informative, "The Dream Interpretation Dictionary" is an inherently fascinating read that is exceptionally organized and presented. Essentially a complete course of instruction with reference to the interpretation of dreams, "The Dream Interpretation Dictionary" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of psychology students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Dream Interpretation Dictionary" is also available in a Kindle format ($15.85).

Chicago's Fabulous Fountains
Greg Borzo, author
Julia Thiel, photographer
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809335794, $39.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: The city of Chicago is home to many diverse, artistic, fascinating, and architecturally and historically important fountains. "Chicago's Fabulous Fountains", by journalist Greg Borzo reveals more than one hundred outdoor public fountains of Chicago with noteworthy, amusing, or surprising stories about these gems. Complementing Borzo's engagingly written text are around one hundred beautiful fine-art color photos of the fountains, specifically taken by photographer Julia Thiel for this volume, as well as a smaller number of historical photos.

"Chicago's Fabulous Fountains" begins by providing an overview of Chicago's fountains and discussing the oldest ones, explaining who built them and why, how they survived as long as they have, and what they tell us about early Chicago. At the heart of "Chicago's Fabulous Fountains" are four thematic chapters on drinking fountains, iconic fountains, plaza fountains, and park and parkway fountains.

Among the iconic fountains described are Buckingham (in Grant Park), Crown (in Millennium Park), Centennial (with its water cannon shooting over the Chicago River), and two fountains designed by famed sculptor Lorado Taft (Time and Great Lakes). Plazas all around Chicago (in the neighborhoods as well as downtown) have fountains that anchor communities or enhance the skyscrapers they adorn. Additionally presented are the fountains in Chicago's parks, some designed by renowned artists and many often overlooked or taken for granted. A chapter on the self-proclaimed City of Fountains, Kansas City, Missouri, shows how Chicago's city planners could raise public awareness and funding for the care and preservation of these important landmarks. Also covered are a brief period of fountain building and rehabbing (1997 - 2002) that vastly enriched the city; fountains that no longer exist; and proposed Chicago fountains that were never built, as well as the future of fountain design.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "Chicago's Fabulous Fountains" is an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover and will aptly serve as an itinerary planning guide to Chicago's many and varied fountains. A unique and thoroughly 'reader friendly' survey, "Chicago's Fabulous Fountains" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

By April's Kiss
David Di Paolo
SDP Publishing
9780998127743, $19.89, PB, 79pp,

Synopsis: Comprised of verse and photos by David Di Paolo and artwork by Diane Frossard, "By April's Kiss" fully captures the classic poetic hero (the journeyman) as he continually searches for the elusive place we call "home".

David Di Paolo takes the reader along his own path of discovery, leading right up to the edge of darkness and back again. "By April's Kiss" draws upon Di Paolo's own personal experiences with illness and loss, great wisdom and care, and examining the essence of life once all the layers of the world are stripped away.

Critique: The poems are memorable, the photos and artwork thematically appropriate, "By April's Kiss" is an inherently engaging read from cover to cover. One of those rare volumes of poetry that will linger in the mind long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf, "By April's Kiss" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collection. 'Let Me Not Be Vexed': A hand not taken. / A smile not reciprocated. / An embrace not partaken. / A Kiss not requited. / A moment not shared. / Let these things be the markers of what should vex me.

Flash Forward: A Series of Futuristic Vignettes
Nora Savage & Anita Street, editors
Pan Stanford Publishing
c/o CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9789814669443, $49.95, PB, 198pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by environmental scientists Nora Savage and Anita Street, "Flash Forward: A Series of Futuristic Vignettes" contains ten fascinating vignettes by experts in the field that depict future societies and the implications which increasing technological change has on society and the environment. The topics discussed include nanotechnology, medicine, computational science, biotechnology, synthetic biology, and cognitive technology, among others in science. In addition, social norms, attitudes, and policy are also featured. The upshot of this combination is an entertaining, educational, and thought-provoking volume of science based extrapolations.

The glimpses into future societies subsequent to the introduction and incorporation of various emerging technologies depict scenarios of how we view ourselves, how we view others, how we are viewed by others, how our surroundings are viewed, how our leaders and political structures are viewed, what our social and behavioral norms are, what our temperament/mood is, and so forth. The introduction features a focused discourse on current trends of the impacts of emerging technologies and the conclusion highlights where society should go from here.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Flash Forward: A Series of Futuristic Vignettes" is an informative, thought-provoking, compelling read and will prove to be a critically important addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Flash Forward: A Series of Futuristic Vignettes" is also available in a Kindle format ($43.56).

Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland
Sid Luft, author
Randy L. Schmidt, editor/contributor
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613735831, $30.00, HC, 480pp,

Synopsis: The third of Judy Garland's five husbands, Sid Luft was the one man in her life who stuck around. He was chiefly responsible for the final act of Judy's meteoric comeback after she was unceremoniously booted off the MGM lot: he produced her iconic, Oscar-nominated film A Star Is Born and expertly shaped her concert career.

Previously unpublished, "Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland" is Sid Luft's intimate autobiography that tells his and Judy's story in hard-boiled yet elegant prose. It begins on a fateful night in New York City when the not quite divorced Judy Garland and the not quite divorced Sid Luft meet at Billy Reed's Little Club and fall for each other.

The romance lasted Judy's lifetime, despite the separations, the reconciliations, and the divorce. Under Luft's management, Judy came back bigger than ever, building a singing career that rivaled Sinatra's. However, her drug dependencies and suicidal tendencies put a tremendous strain on the relationship.

Sid did not complete his memoir; it ended in 1960 after Judy hired David Begelman and Freddie Fields to manage her career. But Randy L. Schmidt, acclaimed editor of "Judy Garland on Judy Garland", seamlessly pieced together the final section of the book from extensive interviews with Sid, most previously unpublished.

Despite everything, Sid never stopped loving Judy and never forgave himself for not being able to ultimately save her from the demons that drove her to an early death at age forty-seven in 1969. Sid served as chief conservator of the Garland legacy until his death at the age of eighty-nine in 2005. This is his testament to the love of his life.

Critique: Informed and informative, impressively candid and intimate, "Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland" is an inherently fascinating and compelling read from cover to cover. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated Judy Garland fans that "Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99). Librarians should be aware that "Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland" that there is a complete and unabridged MP3 CD audio book edition of "Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland" (Blackstone Audio, 9781538430354, $29.95).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Flying Scotsman: A Pictorial History
Fred Kerr & Keith Langston
Pen & Sword Books
9781473899926, $39.95, HC, 136pp,

Synopsis: Built at Doncaster works in 1923 the Nigel Gresley designed then-A1 class Pacific (4-6-2) first entered service as No 1472. The new locomotive did not receive a name until it was sent for display at a Wembley exhibition in 1924, and then the name Fying Scotsman was chosen. The Legend was born.

In 1928 the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) express steam locomotive hauled the first non-stop service from London to Edinburgh and in 1934 went on to break through the 100mph barrier. In addition to regularly hauling express trains for the LNER and later British Railways (BR), the Gresley steam icon has also travelled to, and worked passenger trains in, North America and Australia. Withdrawn by BR in January 1963 as BR No 60103, the locomotive was bought for preservation and soon became a regular sight on mainline specials and at preserved railways.

The locomotives history in preservation is an interesting if not chequered one, however stability is now assured as Flying Scotsman has rightly become a part of the national collection administered by the National Railway Museum (NRM). The excitement which surrounded the return to steam of Flying Scotsman in 2016, and the ongoing celebrity status afforded to the famous Gresley designed engine, are perchance confirmation of the fact that it is The Worlds Most Famous Steam Locomotive. The most famous phrase entered into locomotive preservation folklore when first broadcast by John Noakes, a BBC TV Blue Peter presenter.

A great many words have been written about the engineering specification and in service performance of Flying Scotsman. Accordingly, the publication of "Flying Scotsman: A Pictorial History" simply uses carefully selected images, dating from the BR steam era to the present day, to celebrate the Return of the Legend.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated with both B/W and color photography, "Flying Scotsman: A Pictorial History" is an extraordinary historical account that will be an especially appreciated addition to the personal reading lists of dedicated railroading enthusiasts, as well as an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Railroading History collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted that "Flying Scotsman: A Pictorial History" is also available in a Kindle format ($23.97).

Hacking the Hacker
Roger A. Grimes
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781119396215, $25.00, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Hacking computer information is an growing and enormous problem ranging from issues of personal privacy, to national security, to the very foundations of an informed electorate-based democracy.

In "Hacking the Hacker: Learn From the Experts Who Take Down Hackers", Roger A. Grimes draws upon his more than 27 years as a professional penetration tester who has successfully broke into every company he was hired to hack within an hour (with a single exception that took three hours) takes the reader inside the world of cybersecurity to show what goes on behind the scenes, and introduces the men and women on the front lines of this technological arms race.

Twenty-six of the world's top white hat hackers, security researchers, writers, and leaders, describe what they do and why, with each profile preceded by a no-experience-necessary explanation of the relevant technology. Dorothy Denning discusses advanced persistent threats, Martin Hellman describes how he helped invent public key encryption, Bill Cheswick talks about firewalls, Dr. Charlie Miller talks about hacking cars, and other cybersecurity experts from around the world detail the threats, their defenses, and the tools and techniques they use to thwart the most advanced criminals history has ever seen.

Light on jargon and heavy on intrigue, "Hacking the Hacker" is designed to be an introduction to the field; final chapters include a guide for parents of young hackers, as well as the Code of Ethical Hacking to help readers start on their own journey to the top.

As a field, cybersecurity is large and multi-faceted, and yet not historically diverse. With a massive demand for qualified professional that is only going to grow, opportunities are endless. "Hacking the Hacker" shows why we should give the field a closer look.

Critique: Impressively informative, comprehensive, organized and presented, "Hacking the Hacker: Learn From the Experts Who Take Down Hackers" is an extraordinary and highly recommended study that is emphatically and unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, governmental, and academic library Computer Science & Technology collections in general, and Computer Hacking instructional reference supplemental study lists in particular. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Hacking the Hacker" is also available in a Kindle format ($13.00).

God of Sense and Traditions of Non-Sense
Sigve K. Tonstad
Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781498233156, $52.00, HC, 476pp,

Synopsis: One hundred taxis lined up on Church Street in Oslo on November 26, 1942, deployed in order to round up the city's Jews and send them to Auschwitz. This reality anchors "God of Sense and Traditions of Non-Sense": it is theology from a Holocaust perspective.

The brash Elihu excoriating Job for his insistence that he is owed an explanation for the calamities that have befallen him is the opening salvo. Job speaking of a God of sense, Elihu and Job's three friends inaugurating a tradition of non-sense: this is the existential and theological predicament. The problem of finite suffering in this life addressed in the theological tradition with the prospect of infinite, endless suffering, in this erudite study described as a key element in Traditions of Non-Sense.

Back to the millions of Jews, among them 188 women and 42 children from Oslo, deported, gassed, and cremated -- in God of Sense this is not seen as a problem that defeats belief, but as the reality that demands a religious and theological account of human existence.

Critique: "In "God of Sense and Traditions of Non-Sense", Sigve Tonstad (Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Loma Linda University, California) reveals a deeply insightful understanding of theological complexities with regard to the complex and seemingly paradoxical matrix of evil, suffering, and God within a Judeo-Christian theological and biblical framework. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "God of Sense and Traditions of Non-Sense" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship and very highly recommended for community and academic library Religion/Spirituality collections and supplemental studies lists. For seminary students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "God of Sense and Traditions of Non-Sense" is also available in a paperback edition (9781498233132, $25.00) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Why God?: Explaining Religious Phenomena
Rodney Stark
Templeton Press
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
9781599475202, $24.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: "Why God?: Explaining Religious Phenomena" by Rodney Stark (Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and Co-Director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University) addresses such questions as: Why is it that the majority of people, from all socio-economic, education, and ethnic backgrounds, ascribe to some sort of faith? What draws us to religion? What pushes us away? And what exactly is religion anyway?

Defining religion over the past century has, ironically, led to theories that exclude belief in God, proposing that all systems of thought concerning the meaning of life are religions. Of course, this makes it impossible to distinguish the village priest from the village atheist, or Communism from Catholicism. Worse yet, it makes all religious behavior irrational, presuming that, for example, people knowingly pray to an empty sky.

Drawing upon his years of experience and expertise as a renowned sociologist of religion, Professor Stark offers a comprehensive, decisive, God-centered theory of religion. While his intent is not to insist that God exists, Professor Stark limits religions to systems of thought based on belief in supernatural beings -- to Gods. With this God-focused theory, Professor Stark explores the entire range of religious topics, including the rise of monotheism, the discovery of sin, causes of religious hostility and conflict, and the role of revelations.

Each chapter of "Why God?" builds a comprehensive framework, starting with the foundations of human motivations and ending with an explanation of why most people are religious. Professor Stark ultimately succeeds in describing what religion is, what it does, and why it is a universal feature of human societies.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Why God?: Explaining Religious Phenomena" is an exceptional work of outstanding scholarship that will have particular interest and relevance for clergy, academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in religion, belief systems, and faith-based relationships as a part of the human experience. While very highly recommended for personal, community and academic library Religion/Spirituality collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted that "Why God?" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99).

An Odd Book
R. Scott Williams
Privately Published
9780998699707, $18.90, PB, 284pp,

Synopsis: As the highest-paid and most-read columnist of his era, Oscar 'Odd' McIntyre achieved great fame and fortune in the early decades of the twentieth century. In his daily column about New York, he recorded what was happening backstage and behind the scenes with popular culture in the city and around the world.

He was close friends with many of the leading personalities of the day, including writers Edna Ferber, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; entertainers Fred Astaire, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., Billie Burke, and Will Rogers; composers George Gershwin and Meredith Willson; actors Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin, and many others.

With the help of his wife, Maybelle, Odd triumphed over a debilitating mental illness and years of professional failure to become the nation's preeminent pop culture writer. He was there as the telegraph changed the news business, and then as radio changed everything. He covered live entertainment as it shifted from vaudeville to something new and exciting on Broadway, and had a literal front-row seat as moving pictures evolved from nickelodeons, to silent films, and finally to talkies.

Buried under a century of change, what Odd wrote about entertainment, media, and politics nearly one hundred years ago still provides a unique glimpse into one of the most fascinating periods in American popular culture.

Critique: R. Scott Williams is chief operating officer and senior vice president of sales and marketing at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Williams earned his degree in journalism from the University of Memphis. In "An Odd Book: How the First Modern Pop Culture Reporter Conquered New York" Williams has deftly applied his journalism-based research skills to deftly craft an impressively informative biography that is an inherently fascinating and compelling read from cover to cover. "An Odd Book" is an extraordinarily detailed eye-witness account of the evolution of American 19th century popular culture under the impact of early 20th century technologies. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library American Biography collections in general, and 20th Century American Popular Cultural History supplement studies lists in particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "An Odd Book" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Knights Hospitaller
John Carr
Marketing Department
Pen & Sword Books
9781473858886, $39.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: The Knights of St John evolved during the Crusades from a monastic order providing hostels for Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. The need to provide armed escorts to the pilgrims began their transformation into a Military Order. Their fervor and discipline made them an elite component of most Crusader armies and Hospitaller Knights (as they were also known) took part in most of the major engagements, including Hattin, Acre and Arsuf.

After the Muslims had re-conquered the Crusader Kingdoms, the Order continued to fight from a new base, first in Rhodes and then in Malta. Taking to the sea, the Hospitallers became one of the major naval powers in the Mediterranean, defending Christian shipping from the Barbary Pirates (and increasingly turning to piracy themselves as funding from their estates in Europe dried up). They provided a crucial bulwark against Islamic expansion in the Mediterranean, obstinately resisting a massive siege of Malta by the Ottoman Turks in 1565. The Order remained a significant power in the Mediterranean until their defeat by Napoleon in 1798.

Critique: Enhanced with illustrations, a three page Appendix, six pages of Notes & References, a two page Bibliography, and a six page Index, "The Knights Hospitaller: A Military History of the Knights of St John" is a deftly written, impressively comprehensive history that is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. Exceptionally informed and informative, "The Knights Hospitaller" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "The Knights Hospitaller" is also available in a Kindle format ($20.77).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Three in Thirteen
Roger Dunsford with Geoff Coughlin
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781612004402, $32.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Written by Roger Dunsford with the assistance of Geoff Coughlin, "Three in Thirteen: The Story of a Mosquito Night Fighter Ace" is the story of Joe Singleton, a Mosquito night fighter pilot in World War II, who shot down three German Junkers planes over Hull in 1944.

Joe Singleton was an unlikely hero. A junior manager at a paints and varnish company at the outbreak of war, he was surprised to discover he had a hidden talent for flying. Despite RAF Fighter Squadrons crying out for replacements after the carnage of the Battle of Britain, Joe was posted to the rapidly developing world of night fighting. He flew first Defiants then Beaufighters as the technological race to field effective night fighters hotted up leading to the first tentative attempts to put radar inside an aircraft.

Singleton found himself in the thick of the very earliest stages of ground controlled interception and airborne radar engagements. But the grind of fruitless searches and patrols only served to highlight the futility of lives lost in training and the inherent dangers of flying at night with relatively primitive equipment.

His skills finally began to bear fruit when piloting a Mosquito and he took place in several successful missions. But the pinnacle came on the night of 19th March 1944: scrambled to intercept a big German raid on Hull he located and shot down a Junkers 188, then went on to shoot down two more, all in the space of thirteen dramatic minutes. He and his navigator survived the crash-landing that ensued, and he went on to be feted as a national hero.

"Three in Thirteen" is a unique sortie-by-sortie account of his journey from bewildered recruit to celebrated expert, illustrated with extracts from Joe's RAF logbook, and unpublished photographs and illustrations.

Critique: An inherently compelling read from cover to cover, it is clear that in Roger Dunsford's account of the life and exploits of Joe Singleton he draws upon his own extensive experience as an RAF pilot to brings a vivid immediacy and accurate accounting to Joe's experiences combined with astute analysis of the planes, the tactics and the events of that fateful night. Impressively informed and informative, and featuring six pages of Notes, an eighteen page Appendix, and a one page Bibliography, "Three in Thirteen: The Story of a Mosquito Night Fighter Ace" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library World War II Military History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of military aviation buffs that "Three in Thirteen" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Fabrications
Baret Magarian
Pleasure Boat Studio
201 West 89 Street, New York, NY 10024
9780912887494, $29.95, HC, 438pp,

Synopsis: When Bloch, a popular London novelist, starts writing a fictionalized story featuring his unremarkable friend Oscar, the invented details from the story start to come true. Gradually, Oscar embarks on a surreal odyssey into fame, while Bloch descends into the dark places of his soul. Oscar falls in love with Najette, a bewitching painter, but their relationship hangs in the balance as his myth balloons out of all proportion. At the centre of the hype and spin stands the demon-like publicist Ryan Rees, whose power enables him to manufacture the truth, and the story builds to an unforgettable, startling climax.

Critique: An especially deftly crafted novel that blends satire, emotional relationships, and contemporary identity with memorable characters embedded in an inherently compelling story of unexpected twists and turns, "The Fabrications" clearly reveals author Baret Magarian as a novelist with a genuine flair for originality and engaging his reader's rapt attention from first page to last. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Fabrications" is also available in a paperback edition (9780912887470, $19.95).

Canada's Dream Shall Be of Them
Eric McGeer, author
Steve Douglas, photographer
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781771123105, $49.99, HC, 223pp,

Synopsis: There could be no truer witness to the enormity of the First World War and its terrible cost in lives than the memorials and war cemeteries along the old Western Front. In Canada, no less than in the other dominions of the British Empire, the war left a conflicting legacy of pride and sorrow that endures to this day.

The soaring Vimy Memorial, the Brooding Soldier, and the monuments honouring Canada's significant contribution to the Allied victory symbolize the spirit of shared sacrifice and nationhood that emerged from the crucible of the war. But alongside this official commemoration there exists a poignant, strangely overlooked, record of the grief and search for consolation among the Canadian populace in the years after the Armistice.

This has come down in the personal inscriptions which the Imperial War Graves Commission invited next of kin to have engraved on the headstones of the fallen. Simple, heartfelt, often gems of compression, these farewells preserve the voice of Canada's bereaved, the parents, the wives, the children, who were left to mourn and to seek meaning and comfort in their loss.

"Canada's Dream Shall Be of Them: Canadian Epitaphs of the Great War" offers an anthology of epitaphs drawn from the war cemeteries where Canadian soldiers lie buried in Flanders and France. Photographs and war art transport readers to the sites, and each individual chapter reviews the sources and themes of the epitaphs to establish their place in the national memory of the First World War.

Critique: Unique, compelling, memorable, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Canada's Dream Shall Be of Them: Canadian Epitaphs of the Great War" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition for both community and academic library collections. Indeed, "Canada's Dream Shall Be of Them" would make an appropriate and enduringly appreciated Memorial Fund acquisition selection for library collections.

Michael J. Carson

Christina's Bookshelf

A Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula K. LeGuin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003
9780547773742, $8.99 Kindle, $6.76 PB, $13.41 HC, 320 pages,

LeGuin's Message to Young People in her book, A Wizard of Earthsea

LeGuin implies maturity means more than achieving power. Maturity also means consciousness of the results of decisions and then being responsible for them. LeGuin shows this through her young character Sparrowhawk, who has a great gift of magical capability. He eventually learns of his power around the age of thirteen. Sparrowhawk wants to use this power; learn of its depth, yet is afraid because he does not understand how to use this ability. Since he does not have past results to go by, he thus cannot be conscious of making responsible decisions. Through the guidance of seasoned mage's and through numerous experiences, Sparrowhawk eventually gains consciousness. LeGuin's is a coming of age tale (meant as a message for her young readers) and throughout her book, she sends a series of messages to her young readers. The two largest messages are: maturity means consciousness as well as responsibility, and not only about power, but also gaining consciousness and responsibility takes time. LeGuin uses her main character, Sparrowhawk, to show this.

In the beginning, Sparrowhawk is innocent of his potential. He is not aware of his capacity for power. LeGuin displays this when dangerous warriors, named Kargs, ride into the unsuspecting village where Sparrowhawk lives. They come to destroy its inhabitants. For the first time in his life, Sparrowhawk (Duny at the time, and later Ged), works magic impressive enough to save his people. When a great wizard explains afterwards that the boy is not a "Common man" (15) and offers to take Ged as an apprentice, the boy becomes conscious of his capacity for power. This is how LeGuin sets up her tale in comparison to when young people first become aware of their power.

When Sparrowhawk, now known as Ged, begins his apprenticeship with the great wizard, Ogion, he believes "He would enter at once into the mystery and mastery of power" (17). He is disappointed however, because Ogion answers his question of "When will my apprenticeship begin" (18), with "It has begun" (18). Ged is confused; he does not believe the wizard has taught him anything yet. To this Ogion replies, "You haven't found out what I am teaching" (18). This displays how young people believe learning to use power is a matter of simplicity; as when learning a secret color or code. Ogion's point is that understanding requires experience and patience. LeGuin's first message to young readers is that learning subtleties and one's purpose must come first, and involves time.

A girl approaches Ged one day asking him about his power, for she admires the abilities of Mages. Ged is proud and shares what he has done so far, which is little. In an effort to impress the girl, Ged leads her to believe his powers are great. He says he can call the spirits of the dead, although does not really know if he can or not. The girl asks him about more of his abilities. This makes Ged feel mocked. When she further pushes Ged by challenging his bravery, due to how young he is, Ged decides to prove himself. He does this by attempting a powerful spell from Ogion's Lore-book without the wizard's permission. This results in Ged's summoning a growing horror inside him that "Seemed to hold him to his chair" (24). This makes him cold and he sees "Something crouching beside the closed door, a shapeless clot of a shadow darker than the darkness" (24) that whispers to him. LeGuin makes a few points here. She displays how peer pressure, combined with pride, makes young people do dangerous things. They do not have past experiences as a guide to help them to be conscious of what kind of decision they are making. They also do not have the patience to wait for the experiences. This lack of patience combined with pressure and pride lead young people to dangerous situations. This is LeGuin's second message to her young readers.

Ogion asks Ged if he wants to stay or go to Roke Island where the high arts are taught. This begins Ged's training for responsibility. He realizes he needs more than power only. He wants to stay with Ogion, go through the forest with him and learn how to be silent, but another desire burns deeper. Ged wants glory as soon as possible. Ged's decision is shown when LeGuin writes, "Ogion's seemed a long road towards mastery, a slow bypath to follow" (26), and when Ged tells Ogion "Master, I will go to Roke" (26), Ogion does not attempt to stop Sparrowhawk. He tells him, "Any craft you undertake to learn you will learn, your power is great. Greater than your pride" (26). LeGuin's readers see how that even when young people realize power is more than a simple code, and dangerous too, they are still impatient. They also receive unspoken messages from Ogion's encouragement to Ged which goes something like, 'Your power is great and you will learn no matter how impatient youth makes you,' and 'Because your power is great, as well as your pride, you will probably have to learn the hard way.' These make up LeGuin's third message.

Again, LeGuin portrays peer pressure as a thing that often leads young people astray. She uses this again to show how important what young people's peers think of them is. When Ged makes it to Roke and meets another young man, Jasper, who questions the depth of Ged's power. Ged has not learned enough from his episode back at Ogion's under the young girl's pressure. Jasper mocked Ged which causes him to swear that he would prove himself to Jasper and everyone else. Ged is confident that Ogion's statement is true, that "He would be the greatest wizard of Gont" (46). Ged also meets another young man, Vetch, whom he forms a friendship with. LeGuin sends a message about a skill that is powerful by way of Vetch. She writes "Yet a greater, unlearned skill he possessed, which was the art of kindness" (45). LeGuin wants readers to know how important these two young men are in Ged's life. She wants readers to know how deeply these two types of people affect them. Jasper causes Ged to feel envy and to work hard because the two view each other as competition. Competition can be helpful in learning, but dangerous as well. Vetch causes Ged to be aware of a great power called kindness. Kindness does not require magic words or potions and help with strength. These make up LeGuin's forth message.

Ged is on his way to learning. His teachers guide him in mastery of spells, illusion, wind bringing, healing, and finding and binding. Ged cannot forget about the episode using Ogion's lore-book. Those phrases from the spell he spoke taught him something. Subconsciously he learned an important lesson that he refuses to confront. The lesson has been learned deeper than those learned at Roke. Ged remembers the fear and darkness, but unfortunately comforts himself by thinking, they were merely "The shadows of his ignorance. The more he learned, the less he would have to fear, until finally in his full power as Wizard he needed fear nothing in the world" (60-61). Ged does not understand. From this, young readers discover that lessons learned with emotion are learned better and explaining away one's weakness and fear using pride means not being conscious. These make up LeGuin's fifth message.

Ged's failure to learn from his fear and from a mistake cause him to need a harsher lesson. His missed chance for the beginning of consciousness which allows pride to take over. This harsher lesson reminds readers of Ogion's message that Ged needs to learn the hard way because his pride is as great as his power. This harsher lesson comes when he and Jasper attempt to out-do each other. Both want to prove their power is greater. When Jasper mocks him, Ged claims to be able to summon up a spirit from the dead. This takes readers back to Ged's fear, caused from the shadow at Ogion's. Again, LeGuin drives her message of how emotion and experience teach deeper, long-lasting lessons. Although it had been two or more years ago, and he had read them but one time, Ged remembered the Summoning spell in Ogion's lore-book. When Ged completes his spell and a "Lump of shadow clung to Ged, tearing at his flesh," and "He was bound, unable to move" (67), he began his journey toward consciousness. This is a turning point for Ged and the story. Ged will finally see and understand a lesson that leads him toward maturity. He now will have a result to examine. One involving emotion, action, and consequence. Ged will pay dearly for this lesson however. He almost dies. He also finds the Shadow he summoned will stay with him forever waiting to possess him. Archmage Gesher tells him, "You must stay here, until you gain strength and wisdom enough to defend yourself from it" (72). Now, Ged cannot be free. He has limited himself. LeGuin demonstrates her sixth message with Ged's first true lesson of which he is quite aware.

After his friend, Vetch, comes to see him before leaving Roke. Now at eighteen, Ged begins to reflect on who he is and where he came from. He listens better to his teachers too. When he asks for help from Master Summoner, Ged hears the heavy truth. To move ahead, Ged must deal with the result of what he did. Master Summoner cannot undo the results, but he can offer wisdom. He says, "The truth is that as a man's real power grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do. . ." (78). LeGuin offers her young readers insight on how when stripped of everyone's help and there is only oneself and results, real power begins to grow. She also implies that when you have nothing else, it is sheer willpower that drives a person. This is where people find out what they're made of and pass the ultimate test - the test one puts oneself through. Ged is conscious of a result and now he must be responsible for that decision, however, he does not understand the Mage's message. This is LeGuin's seventh message.

Eventually, Ged leaves Roke and comes to the island of Pendor. This is the beginning of his attempt to run away from his problem; away from the result of his decision. He has learned the depth of his power and consciousness of the result of a decision, but he has not attained the ability to be responsible for them. He is still afraid to confront what he did. In Pendor, the villagers have a problem with dragons. They kill and eat the villagers. Although Ged is running, he volunteered for the job at Pendor as a wizard. The Archmage had told Ged on the day he made him wizard, "No fame, no wealth, maybe no risk. Will you go?" (84). LeGuin is beginning to drive at her main message to her readers using a small one here. Young readers may not know it, nor does Ged: True greatness often comes without bells and whistles, without the title, and sometimes without excitement. This is LeGuin's eighth message to her young readers.

LeGuin trusts at this point, that her readers have started to understand, and leans into it with her story. After Ged spoke the dragon's name on the island of Pendor, and received the dragon's word that he and the other dragons would bother the islanders no more, Ged leaves. He thinks about what the dragon said, "I know what alone can save you. There is a horror that follows you. I will tell you its name" (100). When Ged ignores his need and places his mission for the islanders above his own, he shows growth toward responsibility. He is beginning what Master Summoner said earlier about a person gaining real power from choosing nothing, and "does only and wholly what he must do" (78). Instead of reveling in how the islanders phrase his deed, and now call him dragon master, Ged does not seem at all impressed with himself. He received a title and excitement from others, but is not proud. Ged knows he has done only what he was trained to do using the power given to him by birth. Readers may begin to understand a little of LeGuin's message at this point; greatness comes when responsibility and others are put before self. This is her ninth message.

LeGuin has set up her readers. Her main character and readers are ready for the last few steps in gaining maturity. She writes that Ged continues to run, encountering adventures along the way. His heart is heavy however, and he cannot enjoy anything except the simple pleasures. One day, he finds himself in the village of East Reach where he runs into his old friend from Roke, Vetch. Ged has learned much at this point, yet he has not thus far learned the biggest lesson of all. LeGuin knows her reader's attention is hers now, and so she takes her time and adds more coaching. In taking her time, her stance starts to materialize. This is: true understanding, consciousness, responsibility, and maturity cannot be hurried. LeGuin includes how good friendship weakens difficult lesson's sting and aid in vision. LeGuin demonstrates this while Ged continues to run. Vetch informs Ged that he had seen him "three days ago, or an imitation of you. I called and got no answer" (168-169). LeGuin reveals a big clue to readers with Vetch's words about the shadow that taunts Ged, but does not come out and say it. Instead, she has Vetch offer to go on the journey with Ged. LeGuin's tenth message is that gaining maturity takes a long time and cannot be hurried. At the same time, she adds that friendship not only eases the sting of the journey, but may aid in reaching the destination.

As LeGuin draws near to providing her character and readers release, Ged turns to chasing instead of running. He is after the shadow, now. He and Vetch eventually grow restless. The world about them at sea grows dark, the "waves heaved up and down" before "the wind grew faint and the swells diminished" (191). LeGuin seems to elude to holding one's breath for what is about to happen. The shadow and Ged confront each other. Finally, Ged understood and spoke the shadow's name knowing he at last "held the thing's life in his keeping" (75). Likewise, the shadow spoke his. Both spoke the name, "Ged," and now "were one voice" (294). The final lesson comes from what Mage Gensher told Ged earlier in the book, and with LeGuin's words at the end. These are "It is the shadow of your arrogance, the shadow of your ignorance," (72) and 'he (Ged) had made himself whole: a man: who, knew his whole true self" (196). LeGuin implies that power is more difficult and prolonged than young readers think. Through her character, LeGuin shows how Ged finally faced the result of his decision. He faced the most difficult thing in life that kept him from attaining power - himself. LeGuin's story may aid young readers in their journey to power - to maturity.

Works Cited: LeGuin, Ursula K. A Wizard of Earthsea. New York: Bantam Spectra, 1968: 15-294.

Eric D. Goodman
Merge Publishing
9780990443292, $17.96 Paperback / $3.99 Kindle, 261 pages

Goodman begins his story around the belief that people are born with "common knowledge." In other words, they already have a certain understanding, and the longer they live, the more they learn and this enlightenment fades. His main character is an embryo that wants to live in spite of his mother's complicated situation. She considers aborting her fetus to save her marriage. The fetus shares with readers his mission is to help his mother. Along the way, readers learn the fetus is able to hear sounds outside his mother's womb and can understand some of her thoughts. Readers also learn what it is like inside a womb from this character's perspective.

Though the story may at first seem to center around whether abortion is right or wrong, it actually is more about the difficulty and reality of the human condition, and about the difficulty of making choices. People hurt one another and make mistakes. They are far from perfect and we need to keep that in mind, especially with those we love and care about. WOMB reminds readers that there are times when loved ones have made less than respectable choices. It doesn't make them unlovable or bad, especially when they didn't intend to. It definitely makes them human. In an ideal world, people learn from the choices they make, bad or good.

In Goodman's WOMB, a couple is faced with a messy situation due to the wife's choice, which breaks a sacred promise. The husband must then make his own choice, which is to stay in his marriage or not. Besides their marriage being in crisis mode, another crisis exists. Each partner has an important, difficult choice to make that will affect them and another. The wife must decide whether to allow her baby to live or not. Interestingly, this baby will help her eventually if allowed to, yet the wife doesn't know this. The baby knows however and shares this with readers. Difficult decisions without full knowledge, along with a broken promise, complicate the matter. Readers are asked to realize their choice is to look at one another with more empathy and understanding.

A provocative and thoughtful read that causes reflection. Readers who like contemplating life, who look beyond the surface of hot topics and the human condition, will enjoy WOMB. Those who just like a good story will enjoy WOMB too however.

Christina Francine, Reviewer

Clint's Bookshelf

The Dying Detective: A Mystery
Leif GW Persson, author
Translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307907639 $27.95 hc / $14.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Lars Martin Johansson is a living legend. Cunning and perceptive, always one step ahead, he was known in the National Criminal Police as "the man who could see around corners." But now Johansson is retired, living in the country, his police days behind him. Or so he thinks.

After suffering a stroke, Johansson finds himself in the hospital. Tests show heart problems as well. And the only thing that can save him from despair is his doctor's mention of an unsolved murder case from years before. The victim: an innocent nine-year-old girl.

Johansson is determined to solve the case, no matter his condition. With the help of his assistant, Matilda, an amateur detective, and Max, an orphan with a personal stake in the case, he launches an informal investigation from his hospital bed. Racing against time, he uncovers a web of connections that links sex tourism to a dead opera singer and a self-made millionaire. And as Johansson draws closer to solving the crime, he finds that he will have to confront not just a mystery but his own mortality as well.

Critique: Superbly translated from the original Swedish, The Dying Detective is dark, riveting story of one man's struggle to see justice done before the Grim Reaper comes to collect. An intensely riveting work of crime fiction from cover to cover, The Dying Detective is a "must-read" for connoisseurs of the genre. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Dying Detective is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Made Safe
Francis Sparks
Pandamoon Publishing
PO Box 1892, Cedar Park, TX 78630
9781945502231, $14.99, PB, 218pp,

Synopsis: For Private Investigator, Moses Winter, the job just got more complicated. His adultery case has taken a violent turn landing the subject of his investigation, Fred Dunsmore, in the hospital and Moses in jail. Moses is held for questioning along with his erratic client, Sharon Dunsmore, and Fred's mistress, a Bosnian refugee who just happens to be related to the DCI agent investigating the case, Raif Rakic.

After Rakic secures their release, Fred goes missing, and Moses Winter finds himself compelled to find him. With the assistance of Rakic, Moses unravels Fred's ties to Des Moines's underworld and is forced to confront the most heinous crimes of his career.

Critique: "Made Safe" by Francis Sparks is an original, riveting, deftly written, and impressively crafted novel depicting the gritty underbelly of the American heartland. Clearly, as a novelist, Sparks is a master of the crime thriller genre. While "Made Safe" is very highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists of dedicated detective novels, that "Made Safe" is also available in a Kindle format ($4.99).

The Girl Who Was Taken
Charlie Donlea
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781496701008, $25.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It's a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing.

Nicole's older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole's body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister's fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole's disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia's morgue -- that of a young man connected to Nicole's past.

Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you've been looking for.

Critique: "The Girl Who Was Taken" by Charlie Donlea is a haunting novel that is laden with twists and high tension, about two abducted girls (one who returns, and one who doesn't) and the forensics expert searching for answers. An inherently compelling read from cover to cover, "The Girl Who Was Taken" reveals author Charlie Donlea's genuine flair for impressively original and deftly crafted storytelling. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Girl Who Was Taken" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.99).

The Hypnotic Communist
W. Calvin Fields III
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781533695895, $19.95, PB, 362pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Hypnotic Communist: The Satanic Seduction of America", Calvin Fields (a former Professor of Management who now writes and helps manage his family's cattle ranch in Texas) lays out the case that there is a hidden enemy within America that is continually undermining our institutions, culture, and traditions.

This enemy is alien to the American way of life. Surprisingly, this deadly enemy operates in plain view yet very few recognize it. This enemy stays hidden by blinding its millions of victims. As a result, we don't even know its true identity or motives. It doesn't want anyone to know its true identity and mission. That's because its secret mission is to destroy America without firing a shot.

How can it be stopped if we don't recognize and confront it? "The Hypnotic Communist" reveals the true identity and deceptive methods of this most dangerous of enemies before it's too late America!

Critique: An incredibly timely expose that will help to make sense out of today's political headlines and the Trump administrations alarming and otherwise bewildering support of Putin and seeming collaboration with Russia to the determent of America's European allies, "The Hypnotic Communist" is a compelling and informative read from beginning to end. Impressively well written, organized and presented, "The Hypnotic Communist" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Political Science collections, as well as the personal reading lists of political science students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

A Wise Man Taught Me How to Defy Gravity and Now I'll Teach You
Nathaniel Whitten
Vitally Important Books
9780977480760, $10.95, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: At the intersection of zen, physics, and budget travel ideas, Nathaniel Whitten's "A Wise Man Taught Me How To Defy Gravity and Now I'll Teach You" explains how a human being need not set foot on a rocket, satellite, or space station to travel past the realities of the human condition and disengage from the material world. Combining clear directions with photo illustrations, "A Wise Man Taught Me How to Defy Gravity and Now I'll Teach You" details the proper methods of launching into space and discovering the bridge between present life and what lies beyond.

Critique: A thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "A Wise Man Taught Me How to Defy Gravity and Now I'll Teach You" is particularly commended to the attention of readers with an interest in the cosmos, or who have grown disenchanted with the world, or who are seeking to overcome an adversity, or wish to expand themselves creatively. A uniquely inspired and inspiring read from cover to cover and highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Wise Man Taught Me How to Defy Gravity and Now I'll Teach You" is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).

Clint Travis

Gail's Bookshelf

Navigating Public Schools
Stephen Williams & Sarah Williams, PhD
Preparing the Way Publishing
9780997141900, $15.99,

Christian students and teachers today face peer pressures and unique challenges to their faith because of an increasingly secular culture which is changing our nations long-standing biblical worldview to a secular one that no longer recognizes God. Veteran California public school teacher Stephen Williams gained firsthand experience of this, he writes, when he used "primary source documents with Christian references" in his class of 5th-grade students because, "he wanted to teach history accurately."

When a confrontational atheist parent complained to the principle about his use of documents that talked about "God" the principle asked Stephen, "What were you doing talking about God in class today?"

This was only the first in a series of events that caused the school principle to ban Stephen's lessons on the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and other original documents that over time led to a "federal court case concerning censorship of historical documents with Christian references."

After the two-year case was settled in 2006 with the help of "Alliance Defending Freedom," Stephen was led to leave teaching and he and his wife Sarah founded "Prepare the Way" ministries where Christians could learn "to stand firm in their faith and know and exercise their rights on campus in a graceful way."

And that's what "Navigating Public Schools: Charting a Course to Protect Your Child's Christian Faith and Worldview" is all about, equipping parents, students and teachers to know, understand and implement their constitutionally protected rights. The book is co-written by Stephen and his wife Sarah with the majority of the book written from Stephen's perspective.

Some fascinating topics include what the original public school textbooks were, how biblical rhymes and memorization were used in teaching, differences between a biblical and secular worldview, historical revisionists effects on science, history and social studies and what the "separation of church and state" from the First Amendment Bill of Rights was intended to mean.
The well-researched appendices include condensed versions of documents on "religious expression and protected prayer" in public schools, a "Student's Rights Handbook" outlining "Rights of Students and Religious Clubs in Public Schools;" Free Speech and Academic Freedom for Teachers;" an excellent list of additional resources and a copy of the "Declaration of Independence" with full versions of these documents available to download from their website free of charge.

The book is designed to educate, help and encourage students, parents and teachers to live out and stand firm in their Christian faith and exercise their rights on campus. I believe this inspiring, easy-to-read, powerful resource belongs on every Christian parent, student and school teachers bookshelf.

Stars in the Grass
Ann Marie Stewart
Barbour Books
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781634099509, $14.99,

Ann Marie Stewart's debut novel captures readers with a sensitive portrayal of how one family survived and coped with loss, anger and grief. The unique first-person account is narrated from the captivating viewpoint of nine-year-old daughter Abigail McAndrews who shares the family's cascading emotions with moving insight, nostalgic remembrances and subtle touches of humor.

Each one struggles with tragedy differently, from Abby's father, minister of the Presbyterian Church, to her mother and brothers, fifteen-year-old Matt and three-year-old Joel. Caused by a tragic event that changed and challenged each one and made them question God and what the future holds - except for one.

Yet when they left home for the family's first ever vacation together there wasn't a hint of the tragedy to come. Instead they felt blessed and excited to "dig clams, build sand castles and splash in tide pools" when they arrived at Birch Bay, Washington.

While Abby's mom prepared a meal around the campfire the first night, the rest of the family went to the nearby amusement park and three-year-old Joel proudly announced to his mother on his return, "I rode 'wiff' Matt" on the Ferris Wheel. That night the family lay in a "circle, their feet to the fire like spokes" on a wheel, listening to the sounds of "waves lapping the shore" and watching the stars never suspecting what tomorrow would bring or how much they would wish to turn the clock back.

Before they left the next day, the family "strolled the remaining crescent of the beach" pressed in on one side by the incoming tide and "cars inching along the road" on the other. Joel was tired, his nap time long past and he asked Matt to "Carry me 'pwease'" and his brother quickly obliged.

Mom warned Matt Joel would "fall asleep and let go" so Dad took the tired little boy who then settled his legs around his Dad's waist and "nestled his head beneath his chin." It would be the family's last happy moment. Just then a "Chevy swerved off the road, hit Dad and Joel was thrown into the Chevy's windshield and his small blonde head bounced onto the road bed.

Thus begins one family's story of doubt, anger and grief wrapped with realism and touches of humor in their long journey of healing. That was when time for the family became "before and after" where a family learns the world is sometimes not safe and good things don't always last forever; an emotional time of doubt and testing - of beliefs, relationships and ideals on a journey of faith that sometimes spirals out of control.

I was very impressed with Ann Marie's warm and genuine characterizations of Abby, the family and the tragedy that almost tore them apart. This well-written story will appeal to all ages and I look forward to more fiction from this author.

Gail Welborn

Joshua's Bookshelf

Sick From Freedom
Jim Downs
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780190218263, $21.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle
9780199758722, $31.95, HC, 280pp,

Many are taught in grade school that the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, a turning point in the Civil War, brought happiness to the enslaved Africans in the southern theater. Jim Downs' book, Sick From Freedom, denies this statement. Downs recovers a part of forgotten history as he describes the deadly consequences from the highlighted emancipation. The author successfully argues that the difficulties and illnesses that plagued the former slaves on their long path to freedom truly defined the history of the African American after emancipation.

Downs pours over many un-used archival pieces to prove his claim. In the book, the author successfully describes the struggles the slaves endured after they were set free in the 1863 emancipation. Instead of traveling north in happiness, the black migration was plagued with numerous diseases such as malaria, small pox, and yellow fever. The former slaves had little food on hand and clothing on their backs, resulting in many losing their lives to malnutrition and death. Unfortunately, the federal government and the abolitionists' temporary relief organization, the Freedman's Bureau provided little aid, as the nation's medical institutions were unprepared to handle the greatest and bloodiest war in American history. There was little medicine and food, with few operational hospitals and trained doctors. Cramped quarters quickly spread the diseases around black communities, and the ignorance and racial prejudice by many Union generals and soldiers resulted in thousands being left out in the cold. The former slaves might as well have been slaves again- instead of succumbing to fear and punishment, they were now subject to harsh weather and death. The unplanned aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation produced a mini-holocaust- multiple forgotten stories were constructed that defined the history of the Freedmen.

Before reading Sick From Freedom, I knew that President Andrew Johnson was not the type of Lincoln-like leader that the former slaves would have liked to see in the Oval Office. However, I did not realize how defiant the President was when the freedmen came into the picture. Downs' book allowed me to look at Johnson differently- a lame duck who truly disliked people of color, and did not care about the welfare of millions of new citizens in the aftermath of the war. In addition, Downs mentions that the federal government only cared about the social and economic interests of the nation when reviewing the Emancipation Proclamation before it was officially signed. No one, including Lincoln (he might have cared if he had not been assassinated) took notice of the physical being/welfare of the slaves upon entering the new grounds of freedom. Upon receiving word of their freedom, the slaves were still stuck in a middle ground, left to rot on the side without further instructions. This lack of preparation for the short-term aftermath of a bill/law is similar to the situations seen in our present-day Congress. Current politicians seem to only care about the stability of the nation rather than addressing the individual issues of their subjects and the effects a law might have on a person's life. It is very interesting to compare and contrast history from the nineteenth-century to the present. Downs' book places the Civil War in another perspective that helps the reader think critically beyond the Emancipation Proclamation. I certainly did not have a problem picking points out from Sick From Freedom and comparing the history of the United States to the larger picture. I would highly recommend this book.

What This Cruel War Was Over
Chandra Manning
Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307277329, $15.96, PB,

James McPherson's For Cause & Comrades and Gerald Linderman's Embattled Courage suggest that fighting for the emancipation of the enslaved black did not occur to many until after 1863, when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Chandra Manning's book, which we will look at today, examines a new approach in the motives of Union and Confederate soldiers fighting in the Civil War. In What This Cruel War Was Over, Manning argues that those that did the fighting 'plainly identified slavery as the root cause of the Civil War' since the very beginning of conflict in 1860.

To prove her claim, Manning traveled to many archives in twenty-seven states, where she collected primary sources that were essential to the core message of the book. She uses letters, personal diaries, and excepts from newspapers to look inside the thoughts of Union and Confederate soldiers, both whites and blacks. She explores her argument in discovering that slavery was always a central issue to the soldiers since the beginning of the Civil War. After the succession of the southern states and then the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, Union men signed up to fight because they believed that their experimental democratic government, formed in Philadelphia's Independence Hall at the end of the eighteenth century, protected the liberties of all men in the nation. No matter what color that man was, the chains of enslavement was nowhere to be seen in this picture. The Union soldier looked back on his past, disliked the notion that man was still enslaved in America, and fought for that idea of a free nation for all. On the opposite side, the southerners fought to defend slavery as it was connected to their manhood, power, and honor. A majority of the Confederate soldiers did not own slaves, but still fought because they believed that emancipating the slaves meant enslaving the white man. Manning also points out an interesting side-road in which might have brought down the Confederate government along with emancipation. She develops an argument stating that many southerners were independent when the war broke out; the CSA government had little to do with them. However, as the war dragged on, the Confederate government tried to infringe upon their self-interests, which in turn led many in the south to distrust their government, weakening the support bridges that held the nation together.

Manning tells the stories from soldiers, and focusses on documents written primarily by the enlisted men during the war. Manning does present an unusual argument, one that many authors would turn a blind eye to because of the logistics. Many still think that slavery was not entirely a frontal issue of the Civil War until after Lincoln's emancipation signing. Manning successfully rebukes this and argues her case. The reader of this book can see that the issue of slavery had been boiling in American veins for a long time. The high point came in 1860, when the north and south had to engage in war because they had to deal with slavery. However, questions arise on other groups of people that she does not mention in the book. For example, Manning could have looked at the families of these soldiers. As the soldiers would have been close to their families, the motives behind the mother, father, may have been influential and altered the perceptions of slavery seen by the soldier. As Manning's book, What This Cruel War Was Over, only tells part of the story of people's views on what the root cause of the war was, there is an inclination from the reader to look elsewhere for additional answers. Manning's book was one of my favorite books in my graduate Civil War seminar- I would recommend this piece.

Joshua V. Chanin, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

What Motivates Getting Things Done
Mary Lamia
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442203815, $32.00, HC, 164pp,

Synopsis: Humans are not solely motivated by their desire to experience positive emotions. They are also motivated, and even driven to achieve, by their attempt to avoid or seek relief from negative ones. "What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions, and Success" by Sid Luft (a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who practices in Marin County, Californiad, as well as a Professor and the Faculty Chair at the Wright Institute in Berkeley) explains how anxiety is like a highly motivating friend, why you should fear failure, and the underpinnings of shame, distress, and fear in the pursuit of excellence.

Many successful people put things off until a deadline beckons them, while countless others can't resist the urge to do things right away. Dr. Lamia explores the emotional lives of people who are successful in their endeavors (both procrastinators and non-procrastinators alike) to illustrate how the human motivational system works, why people respond to it differently, and how everyone can use their natural style of getting things done to their advantage. "What Motivates Getting Things Done" illustrates how the different timing of procrastinators and non-procrastinators to complete tasks has to do with when their emotions are activated and what activates them.

"What Motivates Getting Things Done" illustrates how emotions play a significant role in our style of doing, along with our way of being, in the world. Readers will acquire a better understanding of the innate biological system that motivates them and how they can make the most of it in all areas of their lives.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informative and insightful, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions, and Success" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections, as well as the personal reading lists for psychology students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

The Avant-garde Won't Give Up: Cobra and Its Legacy
Alison M. Gingeras
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791355092, $49.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: "The Avant-garde Won't Give Up: Cobra and Its Legacy" is an impressively definitive study of the renowned postwar avant-garde artistic movement offers a comprehensive insight into Cobra's history and achievements, and explores its lasting influences on contemporary art.

The European artistic collective known as Cobra was born in the wake of World War II's devastating events, its name an acronym for the native cities of its founders: Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Brussels. The influential group of painters and sculptors had a tremendous impact on the development of European Abstract Expressionism, and contemporary art in general.

Cobra was arguably the last avant-garde movement of the 20th century. Moving chronologically, "The Avant-garde Won't Give Up: Cobra and Its Legacy" explores the years leading up to Cobra's formation, charts its complex expansion over a decade, and illuminates how the movement helped shape the trajectory of contemporary art today.

Thoughtfully integrated among the numerous images, many presented as full-page color illustrations, are insightful essays that probe the ideological hallmarks that shaped the group as a whole: its rejection of rational constraints; a focus on play and youthfulness; and its embrace of immediacy, particularly in the form of "action" paintings. In addition, comprehensive biographies of the artists illuminate crucial aspects of each individual's journey, helping to expand readers' understanding of Europe's socio-political and theoretical climate.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "The Avant-garde Won't Give Up: Cobra and Its Legacy" is a unique and highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.

James Moore: Photographs 1962-2006
Martin Harrison & Holly Brubach, authors
c/o D.A.P.
76 Broad Street, Suite 630, New York, NY 10004-2415
9788862084949, $75.00, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: American fashion photographer James Moore (1936 - 2006) was an influential voice in mid-20th-century fashion photography, working for Harper's Bazaar during its 1960s heyday under the leadership of legendary editor Carmel Snow. Shooting languid mod gamines and luxe bohemians in arresting, often surreal or cinematic compositions, Moore helped shape the visual vocabulary of '60s fashion alongside better-known colleagues such as art director Alexey Brodovitch (under whom Moore studied).

Moore also directed television commercials and contributed photographs to European magazines in the 1980s and 1990s, and taught photography at the School of Visual Arts, New York, and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Every Moore photograph is an intricate exploration of space and beauty, with an attention to detail that betrays the photographer's peerless eye. Something of a "photographer's photographer", Moore influenced the next generation of great fashion photographers but has been somewhat neglected in histories of 1960s fashion and culture -- until now.

"James Moore: Photographs 1962-2006" collects a half century of extraordinary photographs by Moore, the first time his work has been collected in a single monograph. Including texts from the leading editors, models, photographers and designers of the day, "James Moore: Photographs 1962-2006" takes stock of James Moore's astounding career and an extraordinary cultural moment.

Critique: A visually stunning and comprehensive photographic study of American fashion, "James Moore: Photographs 1962-2006" is a critically important and truly extraordinary addition that is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library American Photography collections in general, and American Fashion History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Vanishing Stepwells of India
Victoria Lautman
Merrell Publishers
8755 Lookout Mountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046
9781858946580, $60.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Stepwells are ancient water stores are some of the most stunning architectural structures in India are to be found below ground and are unique to India and from around the 3rd century CE were built throughout the country, particularly in the arid western regions. Excavated several stories underground in order to reach the water table, these cavernous spaces not only provided water all year long but also fulfilled other functions; they offered pilgrims and other travelers a respite from the heat, and became places in which villagers could socialize. Stepwell construction evolved so that, by the 11th century, the wells were amazingly complex feats of architecture and engineering.

Journalist Victoria Lautman first encountered stepwells three decades ago and now, a seasoned traveller to India, she has devoted several years to documenting these fascinating but largely unknown edifices before they disappear. Of the thousands of stepwells that proliferated across India, most were abandoned as a result of modernization and the depletion of water tables. Often commissioned by royal or wealthy patrons, the wells vary greatly in scale, layout, materials and shape.

Those in what is now Gujarat state also served as subterranean Hindu temples that featured columned pavilions and elaborate stone carvings of deities. Islamic wells were generally less flamboyant, but incorporated arched side niches. Today, few stepwells are in use. The majority have been left to silt up, fill with rubbish and crumble into disrepair. Gradually, however, the Indian government and heritage organizations have come to recognize the need to preserve these architectural wonders. In 2014 India's best-known stepwell, the Rani ki Vav in Patan, northern Gujarat, became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In her introduction to "The Vanishing Stepwells of India", Lautman discusses why and where the stepwells were built. She reflects on the reasons they became derelict and considers how the appreciation of stepwells is changing with the work of organizations and individuals who aim to protect and restore them.

The main part of "The Vanishing Stepwells of India" is arranged in a broadly chronological order, with up to six pages devoted to each of c. 80 stepwells, every one unique in design and engineering. The name, location (including GPS coordinates) and approximate date of each well accompany color photographs and a concise commentary by Lautman on the history and architecture of the well and her experience of visiting it. While many of the stepwells are rather decrepit, their magnificent engineering and great beauty cannot fail to impress.

Critique: An extraordinary and profusely illustrated volume, "The Vanishing Stepwells of India" is a unique and impressively informative study that is impressively well organized and presented from beginning to end. Simply stated, "The Vanishing Stepwells of India" is unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections. Indeed, librarians should noted that "The Vanishing Stepwells of India" would make an appropriate and enduringly popular Memorial Fund acquisition candidate.

A Beast's Belle
J. Gambardella
Riverdale Avenue Books
9781626013568, $16.99, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: Isabel is the daughter of a widowed inventor and tinkerer, but leaves home to join the indentured staff of a manor. Upon arriving, she explores the rigid structure of domestic servitude and discipline in the manor, and eventually grows fascinated with the Master of the house, a feral man with curious proclivities and voracious appetites. Isabel tries to find her way in a new life at the manor, but quickly finds herself bound up with the Master of the house and engrossed in the lifestyle and ritual the manor's occupants share.

Critique: "A Beast's Belle" is author J. Gambardella's unique and inherently fascinating retelling of the classic Beauty & The Beast fairy tale. The first volume of Gambardella's the 'Beast and Belle' series, "A Beast's Belle" is a wonderfully entertaining read from cover to cover and very highly recommended, especially for community library collections where it is certain to become an enduringly popular addition. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Beast's Belle" is also available in a Kindle format ($6.99).

Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write
Helen Sword
Harvard University Press
79 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
9780674737709, $24.95, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: "Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write" by Helen Sword (Professor and Director of the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education at the University of Auckland) is an essential new guide for writers aspiring to become more productive and take greater pleasure in their craft.

For this outstanding instructional, Professor Sword interviewed one hundred academics worldwide about their writing background and practices. Relatively few were trained as writers, she found, and yet all have developed strategies to thrive in their publish-or-perish environment.

Professor Sword identifies four cornerstones that anchor any successful writing practice: Behavioral habits of discipline and persistence; Artisanal habits of craftsmanship and care; Social habits of collegiality and collaboration; and Emotional habits of positivity and pleasure. Building on this "BASE," she illuminates the emotional complexity of the writing process and exposes the lack of writing support typically available to early-career academics.

Professor Sword also lays to rest the myth that academics must produce safe, conventional prose or risk professional failure.

The successful writers profiled in the pages of "Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write" tell stories of intellectual passions indulged, disciplinary conventions subverted, and risk-taking rewarded. Grounded in empirical research and focused on sustainable change, "Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write" offers a customizable blueprint for refreshing personal habits and creating a collegial environment where all writers can flourish.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. A 'must read' for any aspiring writer seeking to be published for an academic readership, "Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write" is an unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and academic library Writing/Publishing collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in writing for the academic community that "Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write" is also available in a Kindle format ($19.00).

No One Eats Alone
Michael S. Carolan
Island Press
2000 M St NW, Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610918046, $28.00, HC, 184pp,

Synopsis: In today's fast-paced, fast food world, everyone seems to be eating alone --whether it's at their desks or in the car. Even those who find time for a family meal are cut off from the people who grew, harvested, distributed, marketed, and sold the foods on their table. Few ever break bread with anyone outside their own socioeconomic group.

So why in "No One Eats Alone: Food as a Social Enterprise", does Michael Carolan (Professor of Sociology and Research Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts, Colorado State University) say that no one eats alone?

Because all of us are affected by the other people in our vast foodscape. We can no longer afford to ignore these human connections as we struggle with dire problems like hunger, obesity, toxic pesticides, antibiotic resistance, depressed rural economies, and low-wage labor.

Professor Carolan argues that building community is the key to healthy, equitable, and sustainable food. While researching "No One Eats Alone", he interviewed more than 250 individuals, from flavorists to Fortune 500 executives, politicians to feedlot managers, low-income families to crop scientists, who play a role in the life of food. Advertising consultants told him of efforts to distance eaters and producers -- most food firms don't want their customers thinking about farm laborers or the people living downstream of processing plants. But he also found stories of people getting together to change their relationship to food and to each other.

There are community farms where suburban moms and immigrant families work side by side, reducing social distance as much as food miles. There are entrepreneurs with little capital or credit who are setting up online exchanges to share kitchen space, upending conventional notions of the economy of scale. There are parents and school board members who are working together to improve cafeteria food rather than relying on soda taxes to combat childhood obesity.

Professor Carolan contends that real change only happens when we start acting like citizens first and consumers second. No One Eats Alone is a book about becoming better food citizens.

Critique: Exhaustively researched, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, as impressively informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "No One Eats Alone: Food as a Social Enterprise" is an inherently engaging read from cover to cover. Enhanced with an informative six page Introduction (Changing the Foodscape), fourteen pages of Notes, and a four page Index, "No One Eats Alone" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Science Issues collections. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "No One Eats Alone" is also available in a Kindle format ($17.90).

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

A Pope and a President
Paul Kengor
ISI Books
3901 Centerville Road, Wilmington, DE 19807-1938
9781610171434, $29.95, HC, 648pp,

Synopsis: Even as historians credit -Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II with hastening the end of the Cold War, they have failed to recognize the depth or significance of the bond that developed between the two leaders.

That unusual and extraordinary bond between two fundamentally different and influential men is the subject of "A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century" by Paul Kengor (Professor of Political Science and the Executive Director of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College).

In this fascinating and singular study, Professor Kengor reveals a special and unique bond, which included a spiritual connection between the Catholic pope and the Protestant president, that drove the two men to confront what they knew to be the great evil of the twentieth century: Soviet Communism.

Ronald Reagan and John Paul II almost didn't have the opportunity to forge this relationship: just six weeks apart in the spring of 1981, they both took bullets from would-be assassins. But their strikingly similar near-death experiences brought them close together -- much to Moscow's dismay.

The product of years of research based on Kengor's tireless archival digging and his unique access to Reagan insiders, "A Pope and a President" reveals: The inside story on the 1982 meeting where the president and the pope confided their conviction that God had spared their lives for the purpose of defeating communism; Captivating new information on the attempt on John Paul II's life, including a previously unreported secret CIA investigation (was Moscow behind the plot?); The many similarities and the spiritual bond between the pope and the president -- and how Reagan privately spoke of the "DP": the Divine Plan to take down communism; New details about how the Protestant Reagan became intensely interested in the "secrets of Fatima," which date to the reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, starting on May 13, 1917 (sixty-four years to the day before John Paul II was shot); as well as a startling insider account of how the USSR may have been set to invade the pope's native Poland in March 1981 -- only to pull back when news broke that Reagan had been shot.

Critique: An impressively comprehensive and exceptionally well organized and presented chronologically oriented study, "A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century" is enhanced with the inclusion of a informative Prologue (May 13, 1981 - Moscow Takes Its Shot) and Epilogue (June4 27, 2011 - Kindred Spirits, Kindred Souls); a six page listing of Acknowledgments; seventy pages of Notes, and a twenty-page Index. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Pope and a President" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Numbers and the Making of Us
Caleb Everett
Harvard University Press
79 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
9780674504431, $27.95, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: Carved into our past, woven into our present, numbers shape our perceptions of the world and of ourselves much more than we commonly think. "Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting and the Course of Human Cultures" by Caleb Everett
(Andrew Carnegie Fellow and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Miami) is a sweeping account of how numbers radically enhanced our species' cognitive capabilities and sparked a revolution in human culture.

Professor Everett brings new insights in psychology, anthropology, primatology, linguistics, and other disciplines to bear in explaining the myriad human behaviors and modes of thought numbers have made possible, from enabling us to conceptualize time in new ways to facilitating the development of writing, agriculture, and other advances of civilization.

Number concepts are a human invention, a tool much like the wheel, and has been developed and refined over millennia. Numbers allow us to grasp quantities precisely, but they are not innate. Recent research confirms that most specific quantities are not perceived in the absence of a number system. In fact, without the use of numbers, we cannot precisely grasp quantities greater than three; our minds can only estimate beyond this surprisingly minuscule limit.

Professor Everett examines the various types of numbers that have developed in different societies, showing how most number systems derived from anatomical factors such as the number of fingers on each hand. He details fascinating work with indigenous Amazonians who demonstrate that, unlike language, numbers are not a universal human endowment. Yet without numbers, the world as we know it would not exist.

Critique: An extraordinary work of seminal scholarship, "Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting and the Course of Human Cultures" is enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Prologue (On the Success of Our Species), twenty-eight pages of Notes, a two page listing of Acknowledgments, and a six page Index. An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Numbers and the Making of Us" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers that "Numbers and the Making of Us" is also available in a Kindle format ($15.99).

White Water Red Hot Lead
Dan Daly
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781612004785, $32.95, HC, 360pp,

Synopsis: During the Vietnam war 3500 officers and men served in the Swift Boat program in a fleet of 130 boats with no armor plating. The boats patrolled the coast and rivers of South Vietnam, with the average age of the crew being twenty-four. Their days consisted of deadly combat, intense lightning firefights, storms and many hidden dangers.

"White Water Red Hot Lead: On Board U.S. Navy Swift Boats in Vietnam" is action-packed story of combat written by Dan Daly (a Vietnam combat veteran who was the Officer in Charge of PCF 76) makes you part of the Swift Boat crew.

The six man crew of PCF 76 were volunteers from all over the United States, eager to serve their country in a unique type of duty not seen since the PT boats of WWII. This inexperienced and disparate group of men would meld into a combat team - a team that formed an unbreakable, lifelong bond.

After training they were plunged into a 12-month tour of duty. Combat took place in the closest confines imaginable, where the enemy were hidden behind a passing sand dune or a single sniper could be concealed in an onshore bunker. In many cases the rivers became so narrow there was barely room to maneuver or turn around. The only way out might be into a deadly ambush.

Critique: An impressively written and riveting history of what this particular area of lethal combat was like on a daily basis by a man who survived it, "White Water Red Hot Lead: On Board U.S. Navy Swift Boats in Vietnam" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library 20th Century American Military History collections in general, and Vietnam War History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. The stuff from which block buster movies are made, it should be noted for non-specialist general readers with an interest in American involvement in the Vietnam War that "White Water Red Hot Lead" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Remember the Ladies
Angela P. Dodson
Center Street
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781455570935, $26.00, HC, 448pp,

Synopsis: From the birth of our nation to the recent crushing defeat of the first female presidential candidate, "Remember the Ladies: Celebrating Those Who Fought for Freedom at the Ballot Box" by Angela P. Dodson (who is currently a contributing editor for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, and has served as senior editor for The New York Times and executive editor of Black Issues Book Review) highlights women's impact on United States politics and government.

Dodson documents the fight for women's right to vote, drawing on historic research, biographies of leaders, and such original sources as photos, line art, charts, graphs, documents, posters, ads, and buttons. She deftly presents this often-forgotten struggle in an accessible, conversational, relevant manner for a wide audience.

Here are the groundbreaking convention records, speeches, newspaper accounts, letters, photos, and drawings of those who fought for women's right to vote, all in their own words, arranged to convey the inherent historical drama. The accessible almanac style allows this entertaining history speak for itself.

"Remember the Ladies" is replete with little-known facts including that when the Constitutional Convention of the thirteen colonies convened to draft the Constitution for their new Republic, Abigail Adams admonished her husband John Adams to "remember the ladies" (write rights for women into the Constitution!).

Important for today's political, social, and cultural discussions, "Remember the Ladies" does not extract women's suffrage from the inseparable concurrent historic endeavors for emancipation, immigration, and temperance. Rather, its robust research documents the intersectionality of women's struggle for the vote in its true context with other progressive efforts.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, impressively informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in composition, organization and presentation, "Remember the Ladies: Celebrating Those Who Fought for Freedom at the Ballot Box" is a complete and comprehensive history that should be considered a high priority addition to community and academic library Women's History collections in general, and American Political History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Remember the Ladies" is also available in a Kindle format ($13.99).

The Fearless Path
Leah Guy
New Page Books
c/o Career Press Inc.
12 Parish Drive, Wayne, NJ 07470
9781632650870, $15.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: For more than 22 years, Leah Guy has been an intuitive transpersonal healer, spiritual teacher, professional speaker, and media personality. Leah Guy believes that disconnection is the root of all fear, and the attempt at letting go causes more problems than it solves.

In "The Fearless Path: A Radical Awakening to Emotional Healing and Inner Peace" she draws upon her experience and expertise to debunk the myth of detachment and other popular New Age ideologies. Her emphasis is asserting that there is no escapism in emotional healing. Rather, the process is about putting the personal pieces of your heart, mind, and soul back together again.

"The Fearless Path" offers a radical approach that will heal trauma, fear, heartache, and mental and physical health. Overcoming anxiety, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and addiction using the principles in her self-help manual, Leah has spent her life helping others find relief and freedom from personal afflictions.

"The Fearless Path" covers such issues as: Why "letting go" is the worst advice for healing, and how to really move on; How to understand the stories your energy system tells about your mind, body, and spirit -- and how to rewrite the script; How to transform fear and anxiety into love and inner peace; Why the law of attraction isn't all it's cracked up to be; Find strength and serenity in the midst of a personal storm.

Critique: As informed, thoughtful, and inspiring as it is thoroughly and effectively reader friendly in organization and presentation, "The Fearless Path: A Radical Awakening to Emotional Healing and Inner Peace" is one of those truly life-enhancing volumes that will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of counselors and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Fearless Path" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.35).

Teach to Work
Patty Alper
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9781629561622, $27.95, HC, 284pp,

Synopsis: The United States is abundantly rich in adults with "know how". By connecting mentors (educated adults with expertise and knowledge) with mentees (teens and young adults who lack motivation, experience, and role models in their lives) we can begin to close this gap dramatically. We can prepare the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow by adding real-world, project based experience to their education.

"Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America" by Patty Alper (President of the marketing and consulting company Alper Portfolio Group, and who is a board member of both the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and US2020, which is the White House initiative to build mentorship in the STEM program seeking to promote science, technology, engineering, and math careers) is a call to action for mentors currently sitting on the sidelines.

Whether you are a banker, lawyer, architect, accountant, engineer, IT specialist, or artist, you have the experience and skillset to become an ambassador of talent, grit, and transferable skills. "Teach to Work" provides a step-by-step guide to help professionals share their knowledge with the next generation of workers through this inter-generational experience.

Based on her fifteen years of mentoring inner-city high-school students, Patty Alper's "Teach to Work" proves how corporations, professionals, and boomers can have a significant impact on the professional future of America's youth. Drawing from real-life stories and letters received from students, teachers, and fellow mentors describing pride of accomplishment, she helps professionals embark on this journey to transform lives, mentoring one student at a time.

Critique: Impressively informative, thoughtful, thought provoking, practical, and inspirational, "Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America" is a critically important and highly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Teach to Work" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Integrated Healing
Rev. Michael C. Gadway, D.C.
Holy Fig Tree Publications
9780998546506, $12.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Chronic disorders are widespread in the United States, and their numbers are growing. The calculated approach in "Integrated Healing: Spirit, Mind, Body Solutions to Chronic Health Care Challenges" by Michael C. Gadway (who has been thoroughly trained in the Vedic sciences) combines the most effective treatments in Eastern and Western medicine to offer a new, holistic way to alleviate these conditions.

Humans are spiritual beings functioning through minds and bodies. Ideal health is when the soul is effortlessly expressed through the body and the mind. This holistic approach takes into account the physical as well as the mental, the spiritual as well as the logical. Many factors influence a chronic disorder, whether it is allergies or diabetes or IBS, and so the most effective treatment plan must address each of these. For each illness, sections are included on physiology, lifestyle considerations, pranayamas, nutrition, asanas, chakras, meditation, and affirmations, among others. The solutions can be matched to each individual's particular symptoms and experiences. Together they provide all the practical advice necessary for improving one's health.

In order to decrease the effects of a chronic illness on daily life, it's necessary to take responsibility for reaching ideal health. "Integrated Healing" offers systematic guidance, allowing the reader to become empowered to improve their own health.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Integrated Healing: Spirit, Mind, Body Solutions to Chronic Health Care Challenges" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Health/Medicine collections and Alternative Medicine supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers that "Integrated Healing" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Defining Metis
Timothy P. Foran
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887557743 $31.95 pbk / $25.00 Kindle

Synopsis: "Defining Metis" examines categories used in the latter half of the nineteenth century by Catholic missionaries to describe Indigenous people in what is now northwestern Saskatchewan. It argues that the construction and evolution of these categories reflected missionaries'changing interests and agendas.

"Defining Metis" sheds light on the earliest phases of Catholic missionary work among Indigenous peoples in western and northern Canada. It examines various interrelated aspects of this work, including the beginnings of residential schooling, transportation and communications, and relations between the Church, the Hudson's Bay Company, and the federal government.

While focusing on the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and their central mission at Ile-a-la-Crosse, this study illuminates broad processes that informed Catholic missionary perceptions and impelled their evolution over a fifty-three-year period. In particular, this study illuminates processes that shaped Oblate conceptions of sauvage and metis. It does this through a qualitative analysis of documents that were produced within the Oblates' institutional apparatus - official correspondence, mission journals, registers, and published reports.

Foran challenges the orthodox notion that Oblate commentators simply discovered and described a singular, empirically existing, and readily identifiable Metis population. Rather, he contends that Oblates played an important role in the conceptual production of les metis.

Critique: Defining Metis: Catholic Missionaries and the Idea of Civilization in Northwestern Saskatchewan 1845-1898 is a scholarly, in-depth study of how Catholic missionaries once perceived the indigenous population of western and northern Canadian territory. Over seventy pages of notes, a bibliography, and an index round out this thoughtful examination of cognitive concepts and (at times prejudiced) categorizations among oblates (individuals who have affiliated themselves with a monastic community, even though they are not themselves monks or nuns), particularly the oblates of Mary Immaculate at Ile-a-la-Crosse. Defining Metis is a thoughtful and welcome contribution to Canadian History and Native American Studies shelves, highly recommended especially for public and college library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Defining Metis is also available in a Kindle edition ($25.00).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

The Butcher's Daughter
Florence Grende
Madison Literary Press
0692803610, $16.95

In this memoir, Florence Grende traces her family's past, hiding in the Polish forests to escape Nazis, then finding brief reprieve in Heidelberg, Germany, and finally settling in the Bronx. Alongside her family's story, pieced together from memories, her imagination, as well as research at the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw, she narrates her own struggles with the smoldering beasts, the dead ever present in her household, who inform her inner life. Her tale becomes a talisman, like the shoe she takes from the Majdenak work camp and donates to her synagogue for teaching purposes. She begins writing her story after attending a symposium sponsored by One by One which fosters dialogue between descendants of those on opposite sides of WWII. Speaking and writing allow her to encase the past in words. Reading this work, told in short chapters that jump back and forth in time, mirrors the jarring experience of growing up as the child of survivors. But through metaphors like the dragon who stands for Dee Melchombe [The War] and her vivid descriptions of her cleaver-wielding father, taciturn mother, non-violent brother and her own freedom-seeking self, Grende invites us to see beauty and discover healing in her endeavor.

The Nakano Thrift Shop
Niromi Kawakami
Translated from Japanese by Allison Markin Powell
Europa Editions
214 West 29th St, New York, NY 10001
9781609453992, $16.00 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Like the characters who run it, the Nakano Thrift Shop starts off a messy jumble of cast offs. And, like these characters, it transforms into The Nakano, more put together - a narrative - over time. Each chapter is named for an item (paperweight, letter opener, dress, sewing machine, gin, jug...) and contains its backstory, mixed in with the story going on in the shop around it. Mr Nakano, shop owner, tries to woo a mistress and Masayo, his sister and helper, mourns a lost lover. Hiromi and Takeo, the two college-aged shop attendants, grope to get each other's attention. The items in the shop express, in their very simplicity and solidity, graceful truths that their keepers have difficulty expressing. Mr Nakano says, "you know what I mean" without meaning to. Takeo apologizes out of habit. Masayo and Hiromi miss chances to say, "I love you." But "the bottom of the gin jug... reflected a dusky and beautiful radiance," (206) in her cheeks, and that says all that needs to be said at the moment. Put together, the characters and their things communicate a delicate, timeless, and familiar beauty, a to which we can all relate.

My Name is Lucy Barton
Elizabeth Strout
The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400067693, $16.00 print / $11.99 Kindle

"Oh... always that telling detail," (28) the one that makes you stop and take notice, that says it all. Lucy becomes the telling detail in her own story, one woven together with her mother, her daughters, husband, friends, lovers neighbors and fellow writers. Per her husband's request, Lucy's mother, whom she hasn't seen in decades, comes to "babysit" while Lucy's in the hospital for nine weeks following complications from surgery. The five days of her mother's visit are the setting for Lucy's memories of her impoverished childhood and her steady march toward success as a writer. Her mother comes across as more than a mother; but as Lucy's muse. She feeds her stories of people in their Midwest town. Lucy's reactions to her mother inspire further inquiries into what makes her the person she is. In tone, this work reminds me of Lila by Marilyn Robinson, spare and light-filled, playing with themes of deception and honesty, acting and authenticity. By the end of the book, the chapters are shorter, shifting more abruptly between time frames, saying less to say more - Oh.

The Itching Scars
Mohy Omar
Amazon Digital Services
B071VM5WC8, $4.99 paperback / $0.99 Kindle

Three stories with death as a common thread. In the first story, death is a fair-skinned, black-clad lover. In the second story, set in a future dystopia, with overtones of the Biblical story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac, a God-loving father wishes his own death would unburden his unbelieving son in a "free-thinking" world. In the final story, caught between a therapist and a demon, John comes to terms with a murder he commits. Mohy Omar gives us a taste of John's mindset by using disjointed tenses and flashing between moods. Not unlike Rabih Alameddine's The Angel of History, death here is complex, as vibrant as any other character. He (or she) is as much a part of life as sex, and, according to Mohy, just as tender or as violent. Readers, beware of graphic content. The author plans more Scar stories.

The Merchant of Oria
David Wiley
Willow Wings Press
A division of OWS Ink, LLC
9781946382047, $2.99 Kindle

After two weeks of travel, Firion is about to fulfill his dream of buying and selling in the dwarf town of Oria, but something is horribly amiss there. Eyes staring at him from the shadows, shrunken dwarves not acting their usual garrulous selves, the merchant hall deserted except for the serpent with whom he finally makes a trade. The serpent's companion, Melody's sweet (though bearded) visage gives him insight into Oria. Oria needs saving from whatever illusion it is cast under. Like most of us readers, lowly Firion doubts he has it in him to overcome his fear and be strong enough to save Melody and perhaps the rest of Oria. Is that what a hero does? "No, a true hero steps up and does the right thing because he sees a problem needing to be solved," his mentor Tyron tells him. We can guess that Firion plays the part of hero, but how he goes about it is worth the read. David Wiley believes in his characters and makes fantastical figures come to life.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal
Dorothe Nors
Translate from Danish by Misha Hoekstra
Pushkin Press
9781782273127, $10.99 Brit. pounds

What do driving lessons, massage, crime novels and an uncommunicative sister have in common? They are like the displaced stones in Sonja's inner ears, causing her dizziness. Like this inner ear condition, she can't override all these components of her life; she has to manage them. Sonja manages two driving instructors who each give her a different set of challenges. Meanwhile, the crime novels she translates from Swedish to Danish remind her that the dark underworld is not for her. Massage relieves her stress but presents her with yet more expectations. Despite her aspirations to earn her living via the life of the mind, among other thinkers and dreamers in the city (Copenhagen), her rural home and family draw her as the seat of her true longing. Overlapping present and past, dream and reality, humor and drama, not unlike Virginia Woolf, Dorothe Nors leads us through Sonja's transition from student-driver to navigator of her own destiny, "to take what was dragging her down in one place and transform it into something that raised her up in the other" (153). This book is shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

Didn't Get Frazzled
David Z Hirsch
Ebook published by Smashwords, Kindle, and Createspace
9781310825576, $3.99,

Seth Levine didn't get frazzled - not during first year medical school parts-naming exam, nor while examining his own professor's vulva for a second year OB/GYN class, nor during rounds with a nemesis intern his third year. Or, maybe he's just covering up how frazzled he is inside, as he and his girlfriend break up. Well-supported by a spectrum of friends -- ranging from uptight Fran and competitive Margaret, to detached Sujay and laid-back Jeff and Bea, to sexy Michelle and, finally, effervescent Abby -- Seth learns to receive as well as give care. He admits to a patient-cum-confidant, "we always expect our patients to thanks us because we work hard to help them, but this works both ways. You helped me every bit as much as I helped you. Probably a whole lot more. I wish there was more we could do for you, more I could do for you," (289). After a climactic scene in an infamous club soon following this sincere encounter, Seth begins to get to the heart of his love-life struggles. He applies his good rapport with patients to himself. Laugh with him, cry with him, sling hammers with him; Seth will keep you busy and entertained during this 332 page New York City adventure.

God and the gods
Genesis Yengoh
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478753568, $19.95 pbk / $5.00 Kindle

When a gruff young policeman asks to see what's in his pouch, traditional medicine man, Mforme Tata, responds, "It is not something you want to see... So are you sure I should open this package?" Brace yourselves, readers: "when traditional values that have been held, respected and unquestioned for several generations are mixed with the complacency and stupidity of of modern rationalism in the contemporary world, the outcomes can be disastrous." Genesis Yengoh's story centers around the dramatic coming-together of old and new in the lives of Nseimboh Ngoske and Tayang Emmanuel Tifu. As Nseimboh, the favorite and eldest son of Elias and Lydia Ngoske, moves steadily up the civil service ranks, his family enlists traditional practices for protection. Meanwhile, Nseimboh's uncle, Tayang, himself initiated into the high ranks of a secret traditionalist society, decides not to bring his twelve year old son forward for initiation. Both men reap the consequences of their actions, as do other members of the family. Mixed with beautiful renderings of landscape and dress, as well as hospitality and village life, Yengoh's probe into Cameroonian culture is shocking and at times brutal.

The Worlds We Think We Know
Dalia Rosenfeldt
Milkweed Editions
1011 Washington Ave S, Suite 300, Mpls, MN 55415
9781571311269, $16.00

Perhaps what there is to know has been under our noses all along. In the title story in this debut collection of twenty short stories, the narrator, a young American woman living in Israel, falls in love with a man she learns is the son of the gentleman her job is to interview. As she comes to know the taciturn old man through his soldier son, the narrator falls in love with the pair of them, the chance to unlock their secrets bit by bit. Subtle revelation rather than nonstop action drives these stories. Rosenfeldt sets seemingly disparate "primal elements" -- vegetables, window screens, a hospital gown, piano lessons, a sigh, a pastry, soup, a pebble in a shoe, a doppelganger, a painting -- alongside one another in quirky new compositions for us to interpret. Think Judy Budnitz and Molly Antopol. With punchy prose, Rosenfeldt invites readers to set aside what we think we know and pay attention to what calls to us, "look at me: I have tapped you on the shoulder and you have stopped."

Check Point
Jean-Christophe Rubin
Translated from French by Alison Anderson
Europa Editions
214 West 29th Street, Suite 1003, New York, N.Y. 10001
9781609453725, $18.00

"Pomoc!" ("Aid!") the convoy declares at every checkpoint along their way across Bosnia to their humanitarian aid destination. But it becomes increasingly unclear what kind of aid they can provide as the group of five splinters apart, each with a different agenda. Already at odds after hire in France, Lionel (leader), Vauthier (mechanic), Marc and Alex (former soldiers), and Maud (the only woman and central figure - for whom danger is the avenue to love), discover how they mirror the Serb-Croat war surrounding them. When Marc and Alex reveal what they're actually transporting, the team enters the war as combatants against each other, not humanitarian agents together. Rufin writes with constant psychological tension and suspense that keep readers engrossed. The book, like the characters themselves, raises perpetual questions and doubts. Is there a point to doing good? What is hatred? Where is there to go from reaching the nader? After an opening scene that predicts a tragic end, what unfolds is a paradoxical shared experience of dissolution in which factions can finally help each other.

Going Over the Falls: A Novel
Amy Waeschle
Aviva Publishing
978193244335724, $19.95 / $3.99 Kindle

"Over the falls for you... my heart wide open," singer/songwriter Joe croons to "you," Lorna, whom he can't put out of his mind. While Joe attempts to forget Lorna and invest his altruistic energy elsewhere, Lorna escapes his care to find her own escape-artist mother. This second book by Amy Waeschle is about telling the difficult truth to those who least want to hear it. Lorna insists on helping her dying mother, even against her mom's wishes. Joe has to come to grips with the true object of his devotion. These difficult relationships contrast paradisiacal backdrops in Fiji, Mexico, Washington State and California, among other spots. Alongside the main characters, supporting characters offer levity as well as side drama. There's Marty, Joe's partying bandmate, Garth, the pro surfer who'll do anything to catch the next biggest wave, and Francine, who exposes herself to get exposure as an actress. Surfing brings Lorna together with her mom, Joe and other characters she meets as a surfer and doctor. Told with empathy and realism, the characters hold on to dreams we readers root for them to achieve.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

After Katrina
Anna Hartnell
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438464176, $90.00, HC, 276pp,

Synopsis: Through the lens provided by the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, "After Katrina: Race, Neoliberalism, and the End of the American Century" by Anna Hartnell (Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London) argues that the city of New Orleans emerges as a key site for exploring competing narratives of US decline and renewal at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Deploying an interdisciplinary approach to explore cultural representations of the post-storm city, "After Katrina" suggests that New Orleans has been reimagined as a laboratory for a radicalized neoliberalism, and as such might be seen as a terminus of the American dream. This US disaster zone has unveiled a network of social and environmental crises that demonstrate that prospects of social mobility have dwindled as environmental degradation and coastal erosion emerge as major threats not just to the quality of life but to the possibility of life in coastal communities across America and the world.

And yet "After Katrina" also suggests that New Orleans culture offers a way of thinking about the United States in terms that transcend the binary of national renewal or declension. The post-Hurricane city thus emerges as a flashpoint for reflecting on the contemporary United States.

Critique: A seminal work of original scholarship, ""After Katrina: Race, Neoliberalism, and the End of the American Century" is enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Introduction (Is This America?); thirty pages of Notes; a ten page Select Bibliography; and an eleven page Index. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "After Katrina" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition for both community and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the diverse subjects covered in "After Kartina" it should be noted that it is also available in a Kindle format ($76.61).

A History of Badger Baseball
Steven D. Schmitt
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299312701, $29.95, HC, 360pp,

Synopsis: Once the undisputed favorite American pastime, baseball has been surpassed by football and basketball. But baseball still continues to have an important place in America's organized sports in colleges, mostly city-based minor leagues, and the big-league professional teams. "A History of Badger Baseball" is the specific account of one particular university baseball program's rise and fall.

For more than a century, the University of Wisconsin fielded baseball teams known as the Badgers. "A History of Badger Baseball: The Rise and Fall of America's Pastime at the University of Wisconsin" is an impressively comprehensive history that combines colorful stories from the archives, interviews with former players and coaches, a wealth of historic photographs, and the statistics beloved by fans of the game.

The earliest intercollegiate varsity sport at Wisconsin, the baseball team was founded in 1870, less than a decade after the start of the Civil War. It dominated its first league, made an unprecedented trip to Japan in 1909, survived Wisconsin's chilly spring weather, two world wars, and perennial budget crises, producing some of the finest players in Big Ten history - and more than a few major leaguers. Fan traditions included torchlight parades, kazoos, and the student band playing "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" as early as 1901.

There is painful history is candidly presented as well. Including the fact that although African Americans played on Wisconsin's first Big Ten championship team in 1902, including team captain Julian Ware, there were none on the team between 1904 and 1960.

Heartbreaking to many fans was the 1991 decision to discontinue baseball as a varsity sport at the university. Today, Wisconsin is the only member of the Big Ten conference without a men's baseball team.

"A History of Badger Baseball" is enhanced with the inclusion of appendixes providing details of team records and coaches, All Big Ten and All American selections, Badgers in the major leagues, and Badgers in the amateur free-agent draft.

Critique: An extraordinarily well researched, written, organized and presented history, "A History of Badger Baseball: The Rise and Fall of America's Pastime at the University of Wisconsin" is an impressive work that is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone and commentary, and features occasional black-and-white photos of Badger players, coaches, and teams. An exceptionally informed and informative account, "A History of Badger Baseball" is very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Sports History collections in general, and Badger Baseball History in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all Badger fans that "A History of Badger Baseball" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.99).

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

Count Us In
Editor Ruth Greenstein
Harvest Books
9780156031950, $14.95, Paperback, 208 pages

"To my mom and dad and Mitchell's mom and dad, two helpful families who made this all happen I would like to thank my parents who made my whole life to the fullest." -Jason Kingsley, dedication

"Throughout my whole entire life and since I was born, my family has been there for me. That is why I feel that this book is important to me and to my family. At this time, I would like to dedicate this book to the people who I love the most, my family." -Mitchell Levitz, dedication


Foreword Joan Ganz Cooney Sesame Street
Introduction Emily Perl Kingsley and Barbara Gibbs Levitz
About This Book Every single one counts
Who We Are People like me for my charm
Our Friendship It will always be there
Having Down Syndrome There's more to it than I expected
At School Easy Steps to get to hard work
Having Fun I feel happy and hoppy
Girls and Sex The tummy is sexy and the shoulder is friendly
Marriage and Children A Together Bed for You and Me
Important People in Our Lives The kind of person I'd like to be
Politics and World Affairs Citizens of all the world
Becoming Independent Get off my back please!
Our Future Plans It's the end of a story but, a new Chapter in our Book

When this book was first published the two young men who are the focus of the book were teens born in the early 1970s, were in high school and were contemplating their lives to date and their future before them.

The words appearing in their reminisces are those spoken by themselves in various settings to parents, each other, perhaps to a therapist. Both young men were fully aware of their particular life situation, support of their separate families and the world around them.

And, as others of their particular age, were quite verbose concerning any and all aspects in their lives. They talk of schooling, their friendship, their personal feelings about having Down syndrome, important people in their lives, the kind of person each hopes to be, as well as discussing what sets them apart, what others think of them and how they have been treated by various sundry situations, persons and settings. They are frank in discussion of sex and marriage and one day perhaps having a wife, children, family of their own.

The book is 182 pages of text detailing the lives of Jason Kingsley and Mitchell Levitz as they, in forthright manner, detailed the private most personal parts of their lives. Without being maudlin, or whiney regarding their lives they portray the determination we could all take a lesson from; play the hand dealt to ya without a lot of folderol.

Their hardnosed facing of reality, doing the most with what they had, becoming the person they hope to be and understanding that there is wonderful potential in each and every one; this book can do much to reshape thinking about disability, of any kind, and may well prove beneficial to those who tending to believe the disabled, whether physical, developmentally, or a combination of the two, should be kept out of sight and out of mind.

Whatever the disability, strong family support, education and training, and treatment as a worthwhile individual can work many seeming miracles. Not every Down person, including my just graduated high school grandson, or Jacob the child of a longtime friend who last year was honored to have his face appear with others on the scroll 'on that building in New York!!!' along with Mr Levitiz and Mr Kingsley and all the others who are taking their place in a society which once doubted any disability was other than can't do reach the same pinnacle. Nor do each and every non-disabled persons reach the same pinnacles.

Stereotypes regarding disability are slowly changing. It is a wonderful thing to behold.

Today Mr Levitz and Mr Kingsley are 40 ish, have careers, are active in community affairs, and lead happy lives.

Note: while it is true that not every Down person will achieve all that these authors have achieved; all can achieve the fullest to their own special ability.

Interesting, thought provoking, educational Read ... Recommended for teachers, parents, therapists, medical staff and those who would just enjoy a nice uplifting book to read.

A must have for the home, school and public library, therapist's shelf and worker, professional, volunteer or para professional, of the disabled.

Sleep Before Evening
Magdalena Ball
Bewrite Books
9781904492962, $17.99 Paperback / $5.99 Kindle, 296 pages

The narrative commences as seventeen-year-old Marianne and her grandfather, Dr. Cotton, are chatting and playing chess as grandfathers and grandchildren often are wont to do. Without warning; Grandpa tumbles from his chair.

Mari is certain her mischievous Grandpa, who has done this and other pranks before, is only being playful. However, this time it is unlike those ones before. This time it is not Grandpa teasing, this time it is a stroke which has left Eric Cotton with no brain activity.

From that opening we follow Mari, Marianne as well as Lily, Mari's drama driven mother, an artist who is focused upon her painting, and second husband, Russell Wilkinson.

Eric Cotton, speaker, philosopher, writer, has long been a pillar of love, hope and permanency for music phenomenon Marianne. Deprived of him and his quiet resolve Mari feels her life is now spinning without direction. Lily's frenzied actions, downheartedness and distrust begins to wear on them all.

Ultimately Russell leaves. Mari sets out on her own and predictably finds a boyfriend, illicit drugs, sex, violence, loss, a job as well as a bracing sense of freedom. Life Mari had not predicted; spirals inexorably onward.

Twelve Step, Lily begins to serve as replacement for Russell and Mari's agony continues. Lily and Mari start a fragile faltering attempt at adult relationship.

Before her life can advance toward a constructive, gratifying plane Marianne meets with a committee to resolve her fate. The result of the meeting is a pleasant amazement for Mari and satisfying consequence for the reader who is left realizing that some good can come even from pain, loss and preceding bleakness.

On the pages of Sleep Before Evening Writer Magdalena Ball presents her inaugural novel and, what a read it is!

This reader was quickly captivated with the chronicle as sat with Marianne and her grandfather in the serenity of a friendly chess game overlooking Long Island Sound.

Within a short time seventeen-year-old Marianne is reeling on the rim of disaster. The death of her grandfather seemingly has endlessly ripped away the life line to which she has been clinging for most of her life and with it went her expectation for cheer, empathy and adult leadership and has sent her into a murk from which she will have trouble extricating herself.

Her academic excellence work to that point, as well as a promising musical future are directed following her grandfather's death, into a calamitous downward whirl leading to nothing advisable until Mari's understandable resentment aimed at those who were contributory in shaping her past; thrusts the teen on an agitated pursuit for the reality that is herself.

The reader is given an emotion charged glimpse into the dreadfulness of drug addiction and comes away with an empathetic realization for how dependence CAN happen to anyone and addiction can propel the addicted onward even at times to a point of no return.

For Marianne she was able to hit bottom, locate the help she needed and begin to elevate herself up and out of the depths into which she had lurched.

Sleep Before Evening is a spellbinding and fast moving coming of age tale dealing with both the compelling as well as the repellant characteristics of torment agonized over by many who have friable inner strength to guide them in their pursuit for realizing who they truly are.

Marianne at 17 is smart even though she has learned to withdraw into herself as shield against the craziness of her family peopled with an immature, bewildered and pretty self-centered mother, truant father, persevering but fed up step father, compounding the loss of the grandparents who had provided a steadying rock to which Mari might cling.

Writer Ball forwards believable dialogue which become at times resolute and acerbic, well-fleshed characters who very well may be people we all have known; smiles, bantering, warts, foibles and all.

The horrors of addiction and torpidity of drug scenes are depicted in stark realism.

The work is concluded on a positive note as Mari and her mother come to an acceptable meeting of their minds and Marianne again has hope for the future.

Sleep Before Evening is a must read for the high school literature reading list, the public and high school library, the personal reading shelf and the counselor and therapists collections of books to loan to the students and clients with whom they are working.

This is one of the books I suggested to our school counselors where I taught.

Patrick's Dinosaurs
Carol Carrick and Donald Carrick
HMH Books for Young Readers
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780899194028, Paperback, 32 pages

Osage County First Grade likes dinosaurs. The Carrick team's Patrick's Dinosaurs written by Carol Carrick and illustrated by her late husband Donald proved to be among the most favored by the class.

During a Saturday trip to the zoo with his brother; Hank tells his younger brother Patrick about dinosaurs.

And before long Patrick has begun scaring himself nearly senseless by envisaging what it would be like if the incredible creatures were alive today. Patrick no longer sees the animals living in the zoo, every habitat and enclosure seems to be filled with huge reptilian creatures. Even the walkways appear to be filled with dinosaurs.

Later as Hank and Patrick deliberate regarding their trip and possible dinosaur sightings during their visit to the zoo, Patrick is very worried. Worried that is, until he discovers the dinosaurs all died millions of years ago.

Prolific author, Carol Carrick has created more than twenty-five child friendly, kid pleasing, well-received works for her publisher; Clarion. Patrick's Dinosaurs is one of the numerous Carrick books illustrated by her late husband himself a gifted artist, Donald Carrick.

Those artworks are a pleasure to see as I read the narrative aloud to Little Learners. Illustrator Carrick captures faultlessly the power of Patrick's imagination, and packs the page completely with the various dinosaurs. It is a technique Osage County First Grade really likes.

On some pages, Patrick is all but overcome by the size and multitude of dinosaurs thronging around him, on another we find Patrick enjoying the presence of the dinosaurs. It is very apparent that Artist Carrick really understood what it was his wife was presenting, and that he was very aware of what makes a six-year-old tick.

Our copy was a purchase made during the annual book fair held in the library across from our classroom. The cover of the book drew the class to it much as does a magnet. Hurrying back to the classroom the children were very anxious to hear the story of Patrick and the dinosaurs first.
When I first read the tale, my students were all but overcome with the sight of huge dinosaurs rambling along a street or standing behind a house. Typically lively, noisy little people became quiet and edged forward as I read from page to page.

The dinosaurs are all over the place! Massive or small they are realistic in appearance but are not frightening. Colors are true to what we think the real dinosaurs may have presented... no little red or pink, Osage County First Grade realizes critters, ancient extinct, or living today, need to be colors to blend into their surroundings if they do not want to be lunch.

Many of the various dinosaurs do almost seem to fill and then overflow the two page spread devoted to each of a specific species. All in all the illustrations are perfect for the text.
Patrick's Dinosaurs adroitly balances data, reality and mind's eye. The book has proven to be a popular addition for free time reading choices, as well as an often chosen edition to take to a DEAR office for reading in the corridor. Luckily I did purchase more than one edition, Patrick's Dinosaurs proved to be one of the most loved of the - can I borrow it over night and I won't forget it in the morning- books!

There is never any dawdling to get the room in order for going home before getting to the rug for listening time; when Little Learners notice Patrick's Dinosaurs in my hands. I set the timer, clean-up is commenced, when the timer rings I begin reading to myself or to children sitting on the rug. Patrick's Dinosaurs is such a class favorite that the none of the kids want to miss a minute of the reading.

From that delightful cover and on through the creative, data filled work Patrick's Dinosaurs is an admirable choice for classroom reading shelf, gifting to an eager little person, for home school, public and school libraries.

Osage Count First Grade dinosaur enthusiasts give Patrick's Dinosaurs sixteen thumbs up. Happy to recommend.

Note: I am now retired, however, ready aloud to Little Learners is always a joy to perform, and to remember.

Hark! A Shark
Bonnie Worth
Random House Books for Young Readers
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780375870736, $9.99, Hardcover: 48 pages

Bonnie Worth's Hark! A Shark is a book all about sharks. Is a dandy edition to the home or classroom library for young science enthusiasts.

While the book does not have a table of contents

Pages 7 -41 provide text, illustrations and reading enjoyment

Page 42 is a glossary offering explanations of some vocabulary children may not yet know

Page 43 delivers a short list with brief explanation for Further Reading

Index is provided on pages 44 and 45

A list of other Cat in the Hat Learning Library is found on the inside back cover.

Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu Bonnie Worth's Hark! A Shark follows the format seen in others of the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library; The Cat in the Hat romps across each 2-page spread.

Each spread includes notes, pictures, the girl and boy we know from others of the Seuss Learning series books, and what appears to be two small, frazzled hair, blue PJ wearing cousins of original thing one and thing two. While the illustrations are not exactly the same as original Seuss drawings, I doubt they are supposed to be. And, I have never found children I taught in the K 1 venue of elementary classrooms from California to Oklahoma have any dislike or concern that they are not.

The first informational box relates that People fear sharks, and that's mostly because of films that star sharks with big, snapping jaws.

Leaves include rhyming data page while another has specific fact information regarding sharks and shark habits and behaviors. Some facts are presented in side bar type information boxes and some are simply facts presented as text.

A zany submarine, a selection of Great Whites, shark teeth, a factoid regarding cartilage, size comparison of Megladon, Great Whites, depiction of denticles, factoid that shark skin stays clean and is nearly gunk free, description of sharkskin, explanation for the durability of sharkskin are all addressed.

Facts and pictures of the huge Whale shark, no teeth; baleen gill rakers, notes regarding how sharks swim with mouth open, description of a diversity of sharks including Great White, Leopard, Nurse, Blue, Dwarf lantern, Mako, Woebegong, Thresher, Cookie Cutter, Dogfish, Megamouth, Whitetip Reef, Spinner, Puffadder Shyshark, Hammerhead, Lemon and the elusive Goblin Sharks are all detailed.

I found youngsters in the Primary Grade group K 3 seem to have an affinity for learning as much as possible about all things science and especially shark. Facts regarding feeding habits, how baby sharks develop, what baby sharks are called - pups, the biggest, smallest, fastest and slowest sharks are all facts Little Learners remember well.

This book offers a peek into how scientists tag sharks. Some don't seem to mind the tags; while tagging others can get a bit dicey. Mermaid purses and what they really are, as well as information regarding that some pups develop inside the mom shark's body while others are expelled as eggs in an egg case to develop and hatch at a later date is included. Not included is information that more eggs are produced and become pups than are pups born or hatched.

Illustrations are whimsical and child friendly; because most of my classroom career was spent in California classrooms, the sea, and it's inhabitants, was something most of us grew up with. A large whale with barnacles was easily recognized as was a boat with the same creatures attached at and below the waterline.

All in all Bonnie Worth's Hark! A Shark is a child friendly read, vocabulary may need to be explained in places, illustrations are attractive and pleasing to children.

I like the back pages notes that sharks are becoming extinct due in part to the utter disregard many on our earth have for these marvelous creatures. 'People hunt sharks for oil and their remarkable skins and let's not forget their dorsal fins'.

As with all Dr Seuss Library books, Hark a Shark is well made to stand up to many readings and years of use whether at home or in the classroom. Many of my original library of Dr Seuss books first used back at the beginning of my teaching career spanning nearly 4 decades are a little worn around the edges, or have an errant pencil mark here and there. All remain with pages intact and readable, and enjoyed by children today as they were on the first day they appeared in my classroom.

I don't have all the books is have used, when I readied my room for my departure in California, thinking I would be retiring, each child chose a favorite of the books to take home to keep. Others have been given away over the years, however I do have some of the original package teachers received when Dr Seuss was first introduced to us and to children alike.

The only change I would like to see would be addition of a Table of Contents. As a rule Teachers introduce the concept in Grade 1.

Interesting read, Lots of information, sure to please the target audience of 5 to 8 year olds, and more.

Happy to recommend for home, home school and classroom use, a must have for the classroom science table, home, public and school library.

Note: I realize the review is very detailed, on the whole children choose books by the cover, they do not often read reviews. Parents and other adults will read reviews; as a parent and a teacher I like to know what I might expect between the covers of a book I choose for my child or yours.

Calligraphy: From Beginner to Expert
Edited by Caroline Young
Designed by Jane Felstead
Illustrated by Chris Lyon and Paul Sullivan
Usborne Books
c/o EDC Publishing
PO Box 470663, Tulsa, OK 74146-6515
9780881106923, $TBA Paperback w/ 3 pens, 48 pages

The cover filled with brightly hued calligraphy letters and a calligraphy pen caught my eye as I shopped. Usborne Guide Calligraphy From Beginner to Expert is a work of 48 jam packed pages including a Table of Contents, illustrated information divided in small segments, Glossary, Useful Information and index.

The table of contents is presented as a sequential guide for young writing enthusiasts.

The Story of calligraphy is offered across a two page spread, as are most of the various categories.

Starting out

Pens and nibs

Capital letters


The look of letters

Looking at layout

Gothic letters

The italic style

Built up letters

Decoration and illumination

Cards and presents

Chinese calligraphy

Different tools

Designing an alphabet

Calligraphy and color

Stencils and rubbings

Embossing and incising

Careers and calligraphy

Alphabets to copy, one of the longer segments is found on pages 40-44

Numbers and patterns

Glossary/useful information


Illustrated by Chris Lyon and Paul Sullivan, edited by Caroline Young and designed by Jane Felstead. Fellow of the society of Scribes Susan Hufton acted as consultant. Usborne Guide Calligraphy From Beginner to Expert was produced by Susan Hufton.

'Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing' I found the section What is calligraphy to be especially interesting. Interestingly the basic techniques of the calligrapher are the same today as they were centuries ago.

Filled with colorful bits and pieces beginning with cave paintings depicted against a tan background are dated back to 38,000 BC and relate the stories of the earliest men living on earth. Pictographs and hieroglyphics were used prior to introduction of cuneiform 2,500 BC when marks were made in clay with wedge shaped tools.

Chinese characters, Phoenician alphabet of 22 letters was adapted in part by the Greeks who added some vowels, the Romans adapted the Greek alphabet and during the 1st to 10th centuries AD added 3 more letters to produce an alphabet of 26 letters.

The beginnings of calligraphy occurred around 6 AD when monks used a style of lettering, Unicals to write beautifully decorated religious books. As more people began to write and read narrower lettering to fit more letters on a line began to be used, and the ornate, somewhat difficult to produce Gothic style of lettering was developed.

Toward the end of the 1400s AD the italic style of writing which simpler to produce than Gothic, but retains the beauty and style desired by scholars in Italy began to flourish. The first printing press was set up in German during 15th -19th centuries AD, letters were based on the Gothic calligraphy style.

As books began to be produced using printing presses calligraphy became less important, but was retained as a method for producing beautiful lettering for missives.

Edward Johnston, about 1900 revived the art of calligraphy. He taught the historical styles including one developed by himself and based on a 10th century manuscript.

The section identified as Starting Out shows pictures of basic equipment needed along with explanatory notes. Pens and Nibs is a section my fourth grade students, 2 years sandwiched between many years teaching K 1 classes, proved especially fascinating for youngsters who had grown up with plastic ball point pens. I often use fountain pens; the students were intrigued with them which led to my looking for book such as this Usborne Guide Calligraphy From Beginner to Expert.

Lettering begins on pages 8 - 9 with details regarding how to form the letters. Lettering is introduced with both capitals and minuscues, or lower case letters. A handsome foundational alphabet is shown, with each letter stroke numbered.

I like the foundational letters, letters are both attractive and impressive, but are also pretty simple for kids even as young as the ten year olds in my 4th grade classes, and for arthritic old fingers of their teacher to produce.

The look of even simple calligraphy lettering makes a simple paper mass produced reading or math certificate more special to the recipient of the document.

Because I have taught K 1 for so many decades manuscript lettering is my standard form of writing, I have adapted an italic alphabet as my signature and note taking lettering technique.

I like the sections pertaining to uses of beautiful lettering today, and see use in the classroom as students begin to think of one day entering the adult job market.

As a handy introduction to the art and beauty of calligraphy this Usborne Guide Calligraphy From Beginner to Expert is a dandy. As with most activities and experiences in the 4th grade every student expressed some interest in the art of beautiful lettering. Not all retained enthusiasm for long.

As a gift for a teacher who wants to add a little dash to 'store bought' certificates, or a garden or jam making crafter who presents gifts labeled in 'fancy' lettering to family and friends and to the youngster interested in hobby art Usborne Guide Calligraphy From Beginner to Expert is a good choice.

I enjoyed the read from beginning pages and right on to the end. There are some lettering techniques I may never use, but for the middle grade and beyond student who may have an artistic bent not yet fully developed; this guide may spur interest and provide hobby or employment possibility as yet not considered.

Happy to recommend for the home library shelf, classroom, art room, and school library.

Note: while my guide was purchased as a stand-alone item, I see that Amazon and other outlets also offer the guide as a part of book and implement package. I buy pens, inks, papers and the like from the local Hobby Lobby.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin
Written by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780060244057, $17.99, Hardcover, 32 pages

IF YOU GIVE A MOOSE A MUFFIN opens with a little boy looking out the window, and tossing a muffin to a large moose standing at the edge of the woods outside the house.

If you give a moose a muffin .. the youngster muses... thus begins one of most beloved of all the If you give series of books written especially for children. Moose debuted the series in 1991.

Moose, carefully carrying his muffin in his teeth, hurries into the house where he hopes there might be some jam for it.

And, we, Osage County First Grade and I begin another romp into the world of what if, and maybe and fun. First, the little boy brings out delicious blackberry jam, Moose eats muffin after muffin with jam, causing the little boy to make a trip to the store so that more muffins can be made. Because it is chilly the little boy puts on a sweater, Moose of course, needs one too.

Page after page of just plain fun ensues as moose forgets all about the trip to the store, tries to mend a loose button on the sweater, and makes little puppets out of old socks, decides to put on puppet show, prepares the backdrop for the show, tries to help with cleanup and ... so it goes until the last pages when Moose notices Mama coming in from working in the berry vines, asks for some, and again asks for another muffin.

There are books used by this nearly 4 decades K 1 teacher that children like. And, there are some the children adore.

The Numeroff series 'if you give' provides many books for the adored group of creative, whimsical works for children.

Written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, IF YOU GIVE A MOOSE A MUFFIN is a delight to read aloud, and to listen to others read.

Vocabulary, presented as a sentence or two on each page used is within the comprehension level of most children. Illustrations filled with lots of color, feature animals, locations and characters familiar to youngsters, are child friendly, open across a 2 page spread.

I like that each of the books provides lots of material for class discussion regarding myriad topics, none of us living in California, or later in Oklahoma as I was teaching had ever seen a live moose, some situations presented are plausible, while others are just for fun.

What would you do? Has long been a thinking starter I have used with children as I read aloud;, children never cease to amaze as their thoughts and imagination begins to grow. Art work, writing lessons all can be incorporated into the work activities at the end of reading.

IF YOU GIVE A MOOSE A MUFFIN was often chosen for DEAR reading time, and as 'I'm finished with my work, now can I read' activities. I like the hard cover edition for classroom reading. Paper backs are easier for Little Reader's to hold and carry for reading alone or with a Buddy. Paper backs are nice for carrying home to share with family and friends.

An all time favorite in my K 1 classrooms for many years, HAPPY TO RECOMMEND.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Polk's Bookshelf

The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich
Igor Ljubuncic
Privately Published
B01GF0GF9S, $2.99, Kindle
9781530008667, $9.99, PB, 386pp,

Prince Dietrich is a thoroughly disgusting individual; one who, unfortunately, reminds me of a few people I've encountered through the years who invariably cause their supervisors and co-workers to spend huge amounts of unproductive time doing damage control. His attitude is such a turn-off that I almost refused to read the book.

I did read it, however, for one reason and one reason alone; Dietrich's stupidity is so profound that the reader is held spellbound wondering what disaster he will cause next and how he will rationalize it. Despite his efforts to the contrary, the idiot comes out on his feet, exactly where he was destined to be.

The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich is a study in human nature; the part consisting of envy, greed, pervasiveness and disobedience, and the part consisting of murder, back-stabbing and the demands of self, without the benefits of self-awareness. It is well written and edited, and should be enjoyed by a broad spectrum of readers along with a mixture of disgust, a little dark humor, and compassion for Dietrich's companions. 4-Stars

Smells Like Weeia Spirit
Elle Boca
Poydeen Publishing
2901 Clint Moore Road #265, Boca Raton, FL 33496
B06XFMYWBV, $5.99 Kindle
9781932534160, $12.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 362pp,

When Marshal Danielle Metreaux and her junior partner, Sebastien, answer a call to investigate a student's death at the Academie Superieur de Goin, (Sebastien's upper class private school alma mater) she was as unprepared for the uncaring defensive posture of the school administrator (an old friend of Sebastien's family) as she was the free use of narcotics among the students. With nothing to indicate a homicide, they must assume the death was the result of accident related to the student's use of drugs.

However, when other Weeia began to act strangely in a manner that would reveal their presence to normal humans, Danni and Sebastien must intensify the investigation. At a loss to explain the phenomena, they must enlist the aid of the CUT Team to resolve issues until a full time command center is organized with Danni's boss, Francois, in command. When Danni is side-lined during the investigation with a personal loss, Sebastien steps in with the help of a Syrian chemist and provides the expertise need to allow Danni to figure out what is causing the disruption among the Weeia.

Once again, we have Danni Metreaux who is beginning to feel increasingly comfortable in Paris, and who is more comfortable with Sebastien as well. Her boyfriend, Iaen, is a big help to her adjustment, but is not destined to be a permanent part of her life. The intensity of the crisis for Weeia forces Francois to become more active, and Danni who has come to the attention of the CUT team leader may have a chance for advancement outside Paris.

As are the other Weeia books by Elle Boca, Smells Like Weeia Spirit should be entertaining to anyone who likes an investigative adventure with a light fantasy flare. 4-Stars

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Sloan's Bookshelf

The Raid On Troy (The Orfeo Saga Book 7)
Murray Lee Eiland, Jr.
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
B06ZYK6M2Z, 207 pages, $2.99, Kindle,

Forget women. Hell hath no fury like a freed galley slave.

Popular author Murray Lee Eiland brings his newest hero to vivid life in this, the seventh installment of the Orfeo saga. Memnon is the slave's name, and he wastes no time in rallying his formerly indentured shipmates to murderous intent against their previous masters, the hapless Therans.

They march to victory, wielding weapons pried from the Therans' dead fingers. In fact, their pure battle lust attracts the attention of a much bigger warlord, Orton. He promises Memnon and his men land and status if the ragged but rage-filled band of men joins up with Orton's troops.

During the ensuing combat, Memnon finds himself fighting alongside battlefield legends Telemon and Orfeo. He's duly filled with adulation, but, as the day winds down, Orton is gravely wounded. This renders null and void his promise to make Memnon and his men new members of the local landed gentry.

So, they turn, out of necessity, to banditry in order to survive. However, he excels even at this, building up his sphere of influence and consolidating surrounding towns into a virtual kingdom.

Author Eiland's skills as a storyteller are prominently on display in this tale of a lowly galley slave's rise to prominence. Memnon and his brother Menas are certainly not cardboard cutout characters, as so many in the action-adventure genre are these days. Eiland imbues each one with hopes and dreams, along with more than a few flaws, giving readers plenty of reasons to cheer for their continued success.

However, as the plot progresses, some of the luster fades from the brothers' reputation. Memnon in particular becomes a great schemer for ever more power, aided ably by his conniving wife Klytemnestra, who has a pretty vicious reputation for deceit herself.

Eventually, Memnon -- now calling himself Agamemnon -- tires of simply being king of a petty holding of hill towns and hatches a plot with his brother Menas to raise a fighting force to raid the city of Troy. In so doing, they visit Telemon, expecting his unqualified support.

To their surprise, however, he refuses, citing a need to defend his own people. This doesn't set well with the brothers, who, in a moment of drunken enlightenment, make an extremely poor choice.

They kidnap Telemon's beautiful daughter, Elena, and escape into the dead of night.

The rest of the book details the epic pursuit staged by Telemon to recover his daughter and deal out death to the two idiotic brothers. It remains far from a sure thing, however, as Agamemnon recruits an impressive army of fortune hunters ready for a share of plunder from the sack of Troy.

Then, in typically atypical Eiland fashion (he is never predictable), the whole thing winds up in a mano a mano contest pitting Telemon against a seven-foot-tall giant named Ajax, whose sole reason for being on the scene is to protect Agamemnon's worthless hide.

Does it work?

Download this incredibly entertaining adventure story to find out. And pick up the other books in the series as well. Each installment adds a different and refreshing new character or quest that could easily stand on its own successfully.

As usual, five-plus stars to The Raid On Troy. All fans of this popular saga will be well-satisfied.

The Gambit
Brad Carlson
Privately Published
9780998259499, $12.99, PB, 316 pages
B01MUYMDHL, $4.99 Kindle,

A CIA agent's involvement with an OPS team turns into a death-defying mission in Brad Carlson's debut political thriller.

Carlson sets the stage of his edgy plot by weaving in tension from the get-go, beginning with a believable moment. Carlson's story opens with a message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented to the United Nations in 2012.

Days after Netanyahu's UN message, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson receives an unexpected CIA assignment to meet with General Tamir Pardo in Tel Aviv. Aside from being told that the Iranians are developing a nuclear bomb, Tom is pretty much in the dark about any other details.

Meeting up with an eight-person Mossad team, Tom is shocked to find out that two of the Special Forces from Israeli Intelligence are women - certainly something that he's not accustomed to seeing.

Regardless, Tom immediately takes a liking to self-assured Danielle (Dani) Yaniv, who conveniently has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering under her belt. Although Tom and Dani appear to be attracted to one another, Carlson keeps his audience ruminating on the probability of a burgeoning romance, considering the two are constantly on the move - beginning with a reconnaissance mission where Tom is asked to "tag along."

Iran's weapon production moves faster than predicted. Briefed on this eye-opening news, Tom learns that this information was passed on to Mossad from Israel's spy who - according to the encrypted message within Netanyahu's UN talk - is "ready to leave Iran."

Now with Tom on board, the mission of the nine-person team is to transport this mole from Iran safely to Israel before the Israeli government launches a full-blown attack on Iran's nuclear development plant.

Iran's retaliatory strikes are unexpected, and as a result, the United States Government gets involved. When that happens Iran's military tactics shift toward their new target: the U.S.A.

Carlson presents to his politically thrill-seeking audiences a horrifying picture of what "a meticulously planned and well-organized attack by a foreign government" looks like.

Going way beyond the devastating effects of 9/11, Carlson clearly did extensive research to create a plot so realistic that it will send shivers down readers' spines. Carlson's idea of "action-packed" is not limited to fast moving scenes. Indeed, much of his storyline is heavily based on strong communication.

Carlson's well-defined cast is a balanced mix of protagonists, antagonists, and many foils that he deftly places in settings replete with tense rapid-fire dialogue. These captivating character scenes are crucial to the novel's continual flow as it shifts between Mossad, areas of the Middle East, the CIA, the Pentagon, the White House, central command stations, and the evil machinations of Quds Force leaders, Ashkan Rafsanjani and Said Jalili.

But that's not all. Carlson goes a step further with his research by lightly sprinkling apt weaponry, military, and political history.

Leading up to nail-biting ticking time bomb scenes, The Gambit is not only a 5-star read but also has Silver Screen potential.

From Anaphylaxis to Buttercream
Holli Bassin
Accede Corporation
9780998563008, $14.95, PB
B071S3997Y, $3.99, 246 pages, Kindle,

Tired of hearing condescending platitudes from your pediatrician, pooh-poohing your concerns about your child's suspected food allergies? Well, here's a book that will validate your instincts when it comes to what's best for your young one.

Holli Bassin hasn't always been the confident, knowledgeable person that she is today. Early on, she suffered anxieties as her precious baby girl Rachel swelled up and developed hives and severe eczema from -- what? She didn't know, and her pediatrician wasn't much help.

Finally, she effectively fired him, switched doctors, and began getting to the bottom of the mysterious attacks that, at one frightening moment, sent her child to the hospital in anaphylactic shock.

This excellent, well-written account of Rachel's carefully shepherded journey from a childhood where she couldn't even eat her own birthday cake, to her current enjoyment of just about any kind of treat, is filled with inspiration and information aplenty for Moms currently going through the hit-or-miss process of what might be safe to feed their children.

Bassin takes the reader through a well-documented -- yet eminently readable -- account of Rachel's early years, and then documents how, through a process known as systematic desensitization, the young girl blossoms into a normal, healthy pre-teen who can eat -- well, just about anything.

This would not have been possible, Bassin points out, without the groundbreaking allergen therapy provided by a woman known throughout the book simply as Alexis -- a naturopathic, professional nutritionist, health coach and advanced level practitioner of an allergy elimination technique that marries Western techniques such as systematic desensitization with Eastern techniques known as "energy medicine."

It's a long-haul treatment protocol that, Bassin emphasizes, should not be undertaken without strict supervision. However, with proper oversight and diligent adherence to a plan that -- among other elements -- includes eating measured portions from formerly forbidden food groups -- a person can truly go -- as the title of the book suggests -- from anaphylaxis to buttercream, and to living a totally normal life.

Make no mistake. This is a deceptively serious and well-documented work, featuring copious references to both scholarly and popular articles and clinical studies on this subject the author knows so well -- from firsthand experience as a vigilant caregiver and as a professional Integrative Nutritional Health Coach.

But it's written in the light and helpful tone of a gentle and concerned friend, dispensing knowledge and hope over a cozy cup of coffee.

"Food allergies have increased dramatically among children in the last fifteen years," says Bassin, "more than fifty percent between 1997 and 2011." She is citing a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the statistic is at once startling and troubling.

She lays much of the blame at the feet of the food industry which has, she asserts, "cut corners," choosing profits over our well-being. Nevertheless, she says there is hope for children afflicted with food allergies as parents become more empowered to get the upper hand through nontraditional programs like the one that has transformed Rachel.

Still, Bassin cautions readers not to go it alone in trying to fix food allergies in their own kids.

Only through a carefully constructed protocol and regimen overseen by a fully qualified nutritional health coach can a child be desensitized over time using the methodology so painstakingly described in this book.

Rachel now is a healthy, normal teen who can go out with friends or host a sleepover, consuming large quantities of Cherry Garcia and even loaded-down pizza from one of the national chains.

It's a far cry from the delicate -- and dangerous -- condition she was forced by allergies to endure in her early years, when even going off to summer camp caused major anxiety for Bassin.

Five stars to From Anaphylaxis to Buttercream. It's a frank and thoroughly documented read, jam-packed with wonderful information and inspiration for any parent currently coping with their kids' food allergies.

Don Sloan

Susan's Bookshelf

Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln
John C Fazio
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781541095380, $24.95 print / $14.95 Kindle, 420 Pages

Genre: History

Right from the beginning it is obvious that this amazingly thorough book has been very carefully researched by the author, John C. Fazio, who formerly had a successful fifty year career practicing law.

His retirement has given John C. Fazio the time he needed to devote to writing this book on a subject for which he has had, for a long time, a great fascination, the American Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He looks in depth at not only the shooting of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, but the events surrounding it. Abraham Lincoln was watching a production of Our American Cousin, in the presidential box of the Ford Theatre on the 14th April, 1865 when he was shot. The following morning at 7.22 Abraham Lincoln died, one of the greatest men in American history had been murdered!

Being a student of history, and especially European and American history, with special emphasis on the Civil War, meant that he has accumulated an immense knowledge of the subject. He enjoys sharing this knowledge by teaching Civil War history at the Chautauqua Institution, writing numerous articles, and speaking about the subject. He is also a member, and former president of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, and is active in the Lincoln Forum, the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Cleveland Grays, and the Surratt Society.

There is so much mystery surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, that out of the 16,000 books which have been written about this great man, over a hundred are dedicated to solely to this subject. However, accounts, and details of it, and the events around it, are surrounded in enigmas, mystery, theories, and littered with errors, so much so, that the author decided it was time for him to write this thought provoking book.

It is forwarded by the well-known historian Joan L. Chaconas, and then the author gives the reader a thorough background on events which led to a nation torn apart by conflict, and Abraham Lincoln's murder. Finally he concludes with the imprisonment, trial and sentencing of all but John H Surratt, of the assassination group.

This book makes absolutely riveting reading, and I would imagine that this would be of immense interest to anyone studying this period of American history, as the author provides plenty of notes and references in the back. For me personally, the icing on the cake is the fact that it is liberally sprinkled with terrific photographs, copies of hand written notes, drawings, and portraits, which I feel are very important in this type of book.

The Happy Chip
Dennis Meredith
Glyphus LLC
9781939118226, $16.95 print / $2.99 Kindle, 292 Pages

Genre: Science Fiction

Family man and struggling science writer Brad Davis cannot believe his luck. All his problems are solved when he manages to clinch a $400,000 contract to co-write the biography of Marty Fallon the billionaire owner of a leading tech company, NeoHappy Inc. The Happy Chip is THE new piece of nanotechnology to have. It is a fantastic invention which can monitor the body's responses and enhance the person's life in every way.

With his new chip installed courtesy of his new employers, Brad can explore the whole new world the Happy Chip opens to him, and soon to his joy, his wife Annie overcomes her reservations and has one too. Together they realise just what amazing things can be achieved with this wonderful new piece of technology. Life is looking up, how could it get any better? No financial worries, and a higher standard of living for them all.

Brad is in his element, enjoying his work with the open and friendly Marty Fallon on his biography. However, when he is writing about the company, the access he is allowed has restrictions. With his journalists curiosity aroused Brad finds himself wondering why? What are they doing, and why is his access denied, after all he has signed a non-disclosure agreement.

It is like a red rag to a bull and he is unable to let the matter go, after all there appears to be separate group of scientists employed at the company who are working on chips with life enhancements which are very different to his, what will be the effects of these chips on the recipients, and what is their agenda?

Sometimes you just have to do what is right, whatever the risk. It is this philosophy that takes Brad, and his wife on a dangerous mission from Boston to Beijing, to discover the truth. Danger lurks at every corner, big brother is a terrifyingly real threat, and the safety of all he hold dear, and indeed the whole world is in jeopardy. He has to know what is going on, and what will be the consequences for all of mankind if these scientists succeed in their work?

This fast paced exciting science fiction thriller takes its reader through its pages on a fantastic rollercoaster ride, on an adventure where murder, intrigue, mystery, secrets, and lies all wait to enthral. It is a book you will quite simply not want to put down.

Good Enough
Pamela Gossiaux
Self Published
9780997638738, $14.86 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 170 Pages

Genre: Romance

The main character in this very entertaining romantic comedy is Amy Summers a girl who has everything she could wish for, amazing boyfriend, fantastic job. Well, this is how it appeared until the fateful morning when missing her work alarm is just the beginning of a truly horrendous day!

So what would you do if your world fell apart? Well, Amy has the perfect solution to help her forget, one which is universally popular, however, like thousands before her she quickly discovers this particular quick fix is not the answer.

Looking for inspiration she takes her laptop to Starbucks and fortuitously meets the handsome Josh Gray, a life coach, he, she decides is just the person to turn her life around.

Full of excitement and enthusiasm Amy resolves to fulfil a lifelong dream, and with encouragement and coaching from Josh they forge ahead, planning and fulfilling her dream.

Amy is smitten with Josh, and he admires her sweet generous nature, everything is looking rosy, but will it go further?

To everyone who knows her, Amy is an angel in disguise, happy to help those less fortunate, motivated, and successful. What others do not realise is that Amy is hiding a secret one she is too scared to reveal. Being deceitful is tying her knots, what will Josh, her parents, and others think of her if she reveals the truth, will they forgive her, or judge? Will she be good enough?

This story is such a fun read, it is impossible once you have opened it not to be thoroughly captivated by Amy's escapades. However all the characters are important and very different, this is not your ordinary romance, underneath the surface the plot really develops leading the reader on the incredible journey which is Amy's life.

Jug Valley Mysteries BOYS vs. GIRLS (Book 1)
Anne Digby
Straw Hat
B06W9FWLHF, $1.29, 78 Pages

Genre: Children's Book

This story is set in the town of Jugminster, where twins Tim and Amy Dalladay live in the ramshackle old Knoll House, with their parents and younger brother, Harry.

Tim, has two best friends Ludo and Ben and the children all go to Jug Valley County Junior School. One day the three friends are met at school by Peter Pay, a younger boy who tells them that his bike has been stolen overnight from the bike sheds. The boys decide that they must try and help Peter by discovering who could have stolen it. Of course embarking on such a dangerous venture means that they must create a name for their group, but what should it be? Cleverly, they pick on the name 'Handles,' and if you read the story you will discover why this is such a clever name.

Of course when Tim's sister Amy and her friend Mini discover the 'Handles' and what they are going to do, they want to join in. But as you can imagine they are told in no uncertain terms that detective work is a job for boys, not girls. Of course the girls think this is rubbish and are determined to show the boys that they are just as good as they are, and so they set up their own rival club called - guess what?

As the rival groups try to discover clues and set traps, the whole thing becomes more personal as Tim and Amy's mum's bike is stolen. Now both sets of friends are even more determined to find the thief!

But if the police have no suspects, how can they do this?

Is the thief someone at school, or an adult?

Where are the bikes being hidden and what will happen to them?

This exciting mystery will have boys and girls alike avidly reading through its pages to discover if the bikes are found, and if they are, who the finders are, the boys or the girls.

Although this is a boys v girls story, throughout it the author has interwoven important life lessons of teamwork, friendship, loyalty, determination and compassion.

Reading it to my grandson, took me back to my childhood, playing with my brother, having dens and great adventures together, however, none were as exciting as this!

The Trainee Undercover
Brenda Shaw
Ade Press Ltd
9780995472327, $12.99 print / $2.99 Kindle, 228 Pages

Genre: Suspense Thriller

In this fast paced action thriller, Alex, Harry, George and Angela are four teenagers who have been friends for a long time. The summer holidays have arrived and as usual they are all at Harry's house, however, when George arrives he is clearly agitated, and with good cause, they are soon to discover.

Reluctantly George tells his friends what has happened. His dad, Paul Collier who is a high level executive at Pat Pharma has admitted to him that he is scared. Although the innocent party, he appears to have been the catalyst in events which have escalated out of control, and the only way he can keep his family safe is to send them away for the summer. There has been a murder at work, a colleague has been held for questioning by the police, and now he is being watched, and what's more, someone seems to be one step ahead of him all the time, and is sending him threatening letters.

On hearing George's story, Alex, Harry and Angela all decide that they must help Paul discover who is threatening him, and so Alex and George talk to Paul, and with his help Alex manages to get a summer job at Pat Pharma. The job gives Alex inside access to the company, and with his new found ability to gather insider knowledge, and the others using their own unique skills, the group make a formidable team. However, as they rapidly become more involved in the case it is apparent that there is a lot more going on secretly than they could ever have imagined.

In their quest to help Paul the friends uncover deep resentments in Pat Pharma, and as the skeletons begin to come out of the cupboard, they realise that their investigations have put them into a very precarious position, as they find themselves pursued by dangerous criminals.

Despite being on a mission which is fraught with danger the friends' comradeship, loyalty, tenacity, and friendship shine through, not only to each other, but also to those around them.

This is a truly fantastic adventure thriller which keeps the reader on the edge of their seats. Packed with murder, mystery, and intrigue this story is one that you just cannot put down.

Adventures of Little Yaga and Her Friends
L. B. O'Milla
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781540730282, $18.00 pbk / $5.99 Kindle, 440 Pages

Genre: Children's Book

This is a magical story about a very special girl called Little Yaga, who belongs to an extraordinary race of forest people. Little Yaga lives with her grandmother, Big Yaga, in a special hut, deep in a mysterious forest ruled by the evil Scraggard the Immortal.

The forest folk keep away from humans, you see although they look similar at first glance, they are different, and besides humans smell funny. It is this strange smell which first alerts Little Yaga to the presence of a human girl called Ashley. The trouble is, despite Little Yaga's attempt at disguising her, she is not the only one who realises that Ashley is there, Scraggard has discovered her, and he wants her energy for himself!

Despite the fact that she knows how difficult it is going to be, Little Yaga still helps Ashley to escape. Together they defy the odds, and the magical deceitfulness of the forest, where everything is not as it seems, and as a friendly thank you Ashley invites Little Yaga to her birthday party. However deep in the forest, at his palace Scraggard is very angry, he has decided he wants her, and being naturally evil decides to use all his devious means to ensure that his plan succeeds, after all no one escapes the clutches of Scraggard the immortal.

Devastated, Ashley's boyfriend Eric decides he must rescue her. At Big Yaga's very strange Hut on a chicken leg, Eric, Ashley's brother Sean, Little Yaga and her friends Kikimra, make their plans and discover the strange secret to killing the supposedly immortal Scraggard.
Fearlessly, the intrepid group set of on an amazing adventure. However, as Little Yaga and Kikimra try to warn them, and Eric and Sean are soon to discover, nothing in the forest is as it seems. Unbelievably, the land itself holds secret powers, there are magical birds, strange animals, and things you could never imagine live there, waiting to trap the unsuspecting traveller...

I found myself thoroughly immersed in this fantastic adventure, each page reveals new dangers which the courageous group have to face as they battle the elements, creatures and Scraggard's shape shifting army, to save Ashley from a terrible fate.

Will they succeed, or will the forest and the army foil their rescue attempt?

This magical story will keep you compulsively turning the pages as the answers reveal themselves, with surprises waiting around every corner, right until the very end.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

If You Were Me and Lived in... The Ancient Mali Empire
Carole P. Roman, author
Mateya Arkova, illustrator
9781540337276, 2015, 78 pages

If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient China Han Dynasty
Carole P. Roman, author
Mateya Arkova, illustrator
9781532875243, 2015, 76 pages

If You Were Me and Lived in...The Mayan Empire
Carole P. Roman, author
Paula Tabor, illustrator
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781535046213, $16.99, Paperback, 2017, 64 pages

If You Were Me and Lived in the Ancient Mali Empire begins in the year of 1322 and covered much of the area of Western Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara Desert including the current area of western Sudan.

Reflecting on both the time and the area is a typical Islamic family including a father with many wives. For this particular family, there is a total of seventeen siblings with the perspective from a favored daughter.

Essential to both the time and area were the trade routes uniting Asia and Africa in their exchange of gold, salt, silk, and slaves.

If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient China was about life in the year 150 A.D. and life in China about two thousand years ago. The Han dynasty of this time is considered to be the Golden Age of Ancient China with people reading and writing literature and poetry as well as the creation of porcelain china.

Life here was very involved with The Silk Road connecting cities throughout all of China creating the new positions of merchants.

The development of the entire silk industry began at this time, explaining how silk is made starting with the moth, with the worms feeding all the mulberry bushes, worms spinning cocoons, killing the moths, and spinning their silk into threads. This process made many people wealthy and was a secret which if revealed was punishable by death.

If You Were Me and Lived in the Mayan Empire takes occurs in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico about 1500 years ago. These people are the only ancient American society that wrote of their history that prospered by establishing trade routes.

These Mayans were attractive if their heads had been flattened from birth and crossed eyes. The idea was to resemble an ear of corn. A jewel was tied between the boards around the head to cross the eyes.

Included with this book are the many contributions these people gave to the world that were foundations of today's modern society throughout the world.

Each book has its glossary regarding the book including pronunciations and definitions for their particular time and place.

All three of these books are outstanding in enriching readers of all ages of individuals living in different times and venues with a multitude of various experiences unique to their culture. The only way any of us can be more accepting of others from other places is to be educated in their way of life and to discover their lives are not so different from our own.

The Bitter Season
Tami Hoag
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780451470072, $9.99, Mass Market Paperback, 2017, 480 pages

Supposedly change is good for us, but unfortunately we do not always adjust as well as we could, or should even if it our choice to change.

Detective Nikki Liska has this problem. She chose to leave homicide due to the long and unpredictable hours which are difficult for a single-parent of two teenaged boys.

This was her choice.

Now she is a part of the newly formed cold case unit in Minneapolis. Now she has predictable hours, at least that is what she believes entering this position.

Each member of this team is going through the extensive files of cold cases, choosing what case they can successfully solve. With newness, each member is acutely aware of the need for success in order to continue and be of value to the force and to the taxpayers.

The selected case is the murder of a police officer, Ted Duffy which happened twenty-years ago. If the police could not solve it in all those years, why would the cold case unit now be able to find new information? Nikki is not pleased with this decision.

Strangely, Nikki quickly discovers that Ted's widow married his twin brother. Also the former investigating detective seems to want to be too involved with this new investigation.

Her former partner, Kovac, who is still in homicide is trying to find a new partner. That is not easy for an experienced detective accustomed to his own procedures.

His newest case is the brutal murder of a college professor of East Asian history and his wife. The killer had used a samarai sword and nunjucks.

The professor was due at an interview that morning to become head of his department. Would anyone kill over a promotion?

The pace of these two alternating storylines creates the perfect page-turner with characters thoroughly developed with complex relationships complicated with both their personal and professional lives.

California resident, Tammy Hoag, is the best-selling authors of more than thirty books published into over forty million copies of their books translated into more than thirty languages.

The Bitter Season is a fast-paced novel the 480 pages go by. This book is enthrallingly addictive as you accompany the converging investigations combining past and the present.

Who would best enjoy this mystery? Any adult reader who delights in a well-plotted and organized story that is a complete distraction from a busy life would be entirely engrossed in this complex real-life novel.

Desperate Housedogs: A Pampered Pets Mystery - Book One
Sparkle Abbey
Bell Bridge Books
9781611940503, $14.95 pbk / $4.61 Kindle, 192 pages,

Being a pet psychologist has to be a challenge. One must depend on behavior rather than a common language to communicate. Even though animals are known to talk, you have to understand them to translate.

For Caro Lamont, this is her career. Previously she lost her license to work with humans caused by her husband and ending in divorce.

Caro moved on to another place in an exclusive area in southern California, Laguna Beach; she now deals with slightly different clients, the non-human kind. This community has more dog residents than children.

Her first client of the day is Kevin Blackstone who is having difficulties with his two German Shepherds. They are upset and overly excitable, refusing to calm.

Two hours after her visit, Kevin is dead. Caro knows that she is not the killer being he was alive when she left.

What about the shifty gardener who observed her? Why was he not working and watching? Why don't the dogs like this man?

If you are not certain if the police will clear your name as a person of interest, politically correct way of saying suspect, what do you do?

Sparkle Abbey is the combined work of two central Iowa authors both being owned by their pets. Mary Lee Woods writes for her cat, Sparkle. Anita Carter is commanded by her dog, Abbey.

Desperate Housedogs aims for a female audience of light, cozy mystery readers. The book is simplistic in form and organization while establishing the characters for many future books in this first book of the series.

Desperate Housedogs is fun to read while in pursuit of a murderer and to have to deal with a close-knit community including gossip and running a small business while maintaining personal relationships.

Does anyone lose business if they are a person of interest in a murder?

Why does the police, even a handsome officer, insist that Caro stay out of the investigation when she has more relationships and access to the real suspects? Why can't they trust her?

I thoroughly recommend Desperate Housedogs to any reader who enjoys a fun, fast-paced, light mystery.

Rogue Wolf: Book Three of The Oldenglen Chronicles
Robin Mason
Tricklewood Press
9780994837165, $17.45, Trade Paperback, 2016, 384 pages

Oldenglen is a special place near Jax's home in southern Oregon. Having his life uprooted from life in England was difficult for him. However, school wasn't his salvation, but the magical relationship he discovered with this unique forest and the creatures who live within as well as the trust and friendship with each other.

Keeping the area protected is always a constant challenge. With the ever-expanding new housing developments for humans threatening the natural habitats of the wild creatures while keeping the balance of nature between the expanding population of people and nature.

Balances within Oldenglen are also difficult to maintain. Providing food for all creatures requires just the correct proportion between predators and prey. Too many prey demands massive amounts of plants and small creatures, while predators must depend on an abundance of prey, otherwise they starve.

Oldenglen now is facing two challenges.

The first involves some new visitors, eleven wolves. The problem is that this area of the glen cannot possibly feed that many without decimating the population of the prey animals.How does anyone convince the wolves to leave the area? How many creatures will be food for this pack? With their needs for food, the local ranchers raising sheep and cows are fearful for the survival of their herds. They see the only solution is to have the wolves killed.

Another problem bothering Jax and Sarah is the existence of two nearby poachers who are renting from Sarah's grandfather. Can they possibly save the young eagle that was captured?

Rogue Wolf is the third book in this projected five book series. This Oldenglen series should be read in order. Minimally, all readers need to read the first book, Oldenglen to understand the characters and their relationships and history individually and with each other.

Oldenglen, the first book in the series has been the recipient of many awards including a Silver Medal at the 2016 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards for The Bill Fisher Award for the Best First Book: Children's Young Adult, and Second Place in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2015/2016 for ages 12-16.

Book Two, Lone Wolf also won numerous awards. It was a Red Ribbon Winner in The Wishing Shelf Book, a finalist in the 2016 Foreward Indies for Juvenile Fiction, a Silver Medalist in the 2017 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards for Young Readers, and an Honorable Mention in the Readers Views Literary Awards 2016/2017.

In all these books, including this one, all the characters are believable and realistic including the animals which stay true to the creature and have personalities while magically communicating with Jax.

With the theme of balance, friendship, and anti-bullying, the pace is quick with the reader wanting more with their cliff-hanging chapter ends and the book truly expressing the harmony of nature.

Even the cover is beautifully illustrated by artist, Chris Beatrice.

The Oldenglen series was begun by author Robin Mason and his father, Michael Mason. Robin completed books two and three completely by himself. Robin was born in England but spent considerable time in his childhood exploring an estate in British Columbia while his father read to him numerous books including The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit, and The Lord of The Rings trilogy.

This book is recommended for children from ages eight to twelve. Personally, I would find this book challenging for an eight-year old to read independently and believe this age level would thoroughly enjoy it as a read-aloud.

I also recommend this book be extended to readers through high school. In actuality readers of all ages, adult and children would completely enjoy Rogue Wolf.

The Midnight Watch
David Dyer
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250080936, $26.99, Hardcover, 323 pages, 2016

"The midnight watch: a time of loneliness, demons, and trances".

The night the Titanic sunk, April 14th, 1912, was also the same night that the closest ship, the Californian had difficulty itself fighting the constant enclosing ice and avoiding icebergs.
During the midnight watch on the Californian, a distress call was sent to them by the Titanic. The Californian's captain, Captain Lord, chose to ignore all communications including lanterns using Morse Code, telegraph communications, and the sight of eight white rockets from the sinking Titanic.

The rescued survivors of the Titanic in the rowboats actually could see the Californian in the distance and expected them to save them and those in the frozen ocean.

Fortunately for those in who were rescues, another ship, the Carpathian was further from the Titanic and collected those lucky survivors.

Unfortunately, thousands died in the ocean while hoping the nearby ship; the Carpathian would rescue them quickly.

However, the Carpathian did not come to their aid.

Eventually, communication between Carpathian and the Californian was established with directions for the Californian to search for bodies. For some reason, the Californian found none, of course, the location they supposedly looked was not correct.

The Midnight Watch is based on the investigation both in the United States and England regarding the role of the Carpathian and the choices made by Captain Lord.

Lord's crew was torn between honesty and loyalty. On shipboard, everyone is expected to follow the captain through all situations even when he is either wrong or lying. For many of the crew, this conflicted with their values of honesty and the rules of the sea with loyalty to their captain.

The Midnight Watch is the fascinating story from various perspectives of the actual historical events. Viewing the disaster from different people in varying roles allows the reader to decide whether or not they agree with the final decisions.

Even with the disastrous event happening more than one-hundred years ago, The Midnight Watch is an investigative mystery into the past.

The author, David Dyer, writes what he knows best. Having worked on various types of merchant vessels, and graduating from the Australian Maritime College, he worked as a lawyer at a London legal firm whose parent company represented the Titanic's owners in 1912. Currently, he is employed as an English literature in Sydney.

Dyer has created an utterly enthralling journey in the Titanic's disastrous past.

Racing the Devil: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery
Charles Todd
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062386212, $26.99, 2017, 341 pages

Wartime comrades frequently form unusual alliances. Former rivals can become lasting friends through bonding over life/death experiences of any war.

It was June of 1916 when a group of seven English officers who while sharing could be their final drink, they discovered that all of them had lived within one-hundred miles of each other in southern England with each of them being very passionate with motorcars.

Realizing that this could their last relaxing drink before returning to the Front to fight the Germans, these men agree to a challenge if they survive the war.

The agreement is for each of the men to meet in Paris one-year after the war ends and to each bring a vehicle to race all the way to Nice, whether their car is a racer of not.

The race occurs with only the five survivors and becomes dangerous as the drivers approach Nice with one accident, severely injuring the former officer and another vehicle almost pushed off the road.

One year after the race another death occurred of a clergyman who died in an accident. It appears that someone hit his car while pushing it off the road while he was driving.

How does this connect to the racers? The owner of the car was one of the officers.

Inspector Ian Rutledge represents Scotland Yard in investigating the clergyman's death. Unfortunately, the community seems to have many secrets that they are extremely reluctant to share with law enforcement.

Will he be able to solve this case and to prevent others from dying?

The secrets of two villages complicate Rutledge's investigation with two completely different personalities. These small towns are close regarding proximity but one is completely separate, even isolated due to the lack of transportation in 1920, and both are fighting for jurisdiction and not thrilled about Scotland Yard's involvement.

Charles Todd is the combined named of a mother-son writing team of Caroline Todd and her son, Charles.

The two are well known for their series of novels directly after World War I with protagonists Inspector Ian Rutledge, Bess Crawford, and Hamish MacLeod winning multiple mystery novel awards throughout the years.

Racing the Devil is an extraordinary adventure transporting every reader into the post-war years following the World War 1.

I Wasn't Invited to the Party
Susanna Isern, author
Adolfo Serra, illustrator
c/o Consortium Book Sales & Distribution
9788494444647, $16.95, 2016, 32 pages

"You can't always go to all the parties. But this doesn't mean that we should be sad, and we shouldn't enjoy ourselves."

For all children, a birthday party is exciting.

When the invitations are delivered to each person in a class at school, the anticipation of each child is thrilling.

However, what if one child is left out.

Mark is not invited to the party.

The afternoon of the party, he goes into the park, but it appears vacated, even the birds are gone. Surprisingly, Mark discovers two of his classmates also in the park who were not invited to the party.

Yuna and Adrian begin to climb a tree with Mark.

From their high perch, they quickly view the nearby sea which is rising rapidly around nearby buildings.

As the water levels increase, it becomes so deep that a whale who is wearing a tiny hat maneuvers itself to the tree. He quickly offers the threesome a ride while picking up other children who were not invited to the party as they journey through the water. The whale transports the children to a village in the clouds on a tall mountain.

The residents are animals dressed in clothes, wearing shoes, glasses, and watches. These creatures are having a celebration since they were not invited to the ostrich's birthday party. The children had so much fun that they had completely forgotten about the birthday party. As night falls, the whale whistles to return the children to their homes.
Imagination is a wonderful thing.

Author Susanna Isern is a writer and child psychologist whose books have been translated into many languages. She was awarded the Silver Medal in the Moonbeam Children's Books in 2013. The illustrator, Adolfo Serra has won numerous awards for his beautiful illustrations.

Everyone is left out sometime in their life. Making the best of any situation is the most positive and learning how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons.

I Wasn't Invited to the Birthday Party is for children from preschool to at least second grade, or older if exclusions are causing problems for children. This book could easily be a fast read aloud in any elementary school classroom and continue with both journal writing and discussions.

The illustrations wonderfully match the text enhancing the story as it progresses making this an enjoyable book that can be read multiple times.

Teri Davis

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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