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

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 3 March 2018 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Andy's Bookshelf
Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf
Gail's Bookshelf Grace's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mari's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Messenger's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Pedro's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Barbra Streisand On the Couch
Dr. Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610882125 $16.95 pbk / $8.69 Kindle

Charlotte Kahn

Historically, beginning with Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysts have written case studies, theoretical treatises, and studies on technique, or sometimes a discourse on an observation such as Alma Bond's "The Masochist Is the Leader,"[i] an article I found insightful and helpful these many years ago. Since then, Dr. Bond has retired from successful psychoanalytic practice.

I believe that the psychoanalytic thought processes become ingrained in the practitioner's mind and will always continue to illuminate both relationships and inner experiences. So what does a retired psychoanalyst do? Dr. Bond's interest in women and their place in our society, led her to research the lives of several famous women, among them Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Hillary Clinton, and most recently Barbra Streisand. In a uniquely creative coup, Dr. Bond - in the guise of Dr. Darcy Dale - puts them on her virtual couch and session by fictitious session recounts the true biographical details of their lives. The reader is informed not only of the "patients'" life stories and their feelings, but also of Dr. Darcy's personal reactions to what she hears. In addition to therapeutic interventions, Dr. Darcy sometimes even gives expression to her own thoughts and feelings in a way not officially so approved by early classical psychoanalysts, though without ill effects in these fantasized analyses.

Barbra Streisand arrives at Dr. Darcy Dale's office in disguise, and addresses the doctor in an unmistakable Brooklyn accent. Nevertheless, she quickly reveals herself to be a highly intelligent, creative, and multi-talented woman. Yet, Dr. Darcy Dale "wasn't sure I liked her. There was a grandiose, narcissistic hostile quality about her that I found off-putting. But I know my job isn't to like people; it's to help them, so I decided to give her a chance" (p. 5).

Barbra's first session seemed to give a preview of all that was to come to light in infinitely more detail during later thrice-weekly sessions. The same was true in the fictitious analyses of Marilyn, Jackie and Hillary. Perhaps it is important to realize that we should all pay even closer attention to what transpires in the first contact with our patients.

Barbra's childhood was difficult. Her beloved father died when she was eighteen months old. She grew up in abject poverty, so that her mother told her to steal the neighbor's milk. Her mother remarried and her stepfather treated her miserably. Her mother was unsupportive: When Barbra voiced an interest in acting, her mother discouraged her, saying in Yiddish that the daughter is a "mieskeit" (ugliness).

Each of the other women "On the Couch" had to suffer either a critical, demanding parent, or, in Marilyn's case, a mentally ill mother, no father, and sequential foster families. The wonder is their successes. What made it possible?

A California research[ii] on children's resiliency found that pre-school to school predictors of performance were correlated with family support and social class. These factors varied among the "On the Couch" women. The research also listed children's "personal-social qualities," such as self-initiation, capacity for work, and response to stress, as well as the ability to use support. "Adaptability" was included (Anthony & Cohler, 1987, p.79), however, without any mention of level of intelligence.

For Barbra the memory of her father was of the utmost importance. "At the crucial 18-20 month juncture, when Piaget posits object permanence ... psychological representations in terms of object relations seem to be relatively unstable" (Greenspan, 1979, p.301)[i]iii Yet, it seems possible that highly intelligent Barbra was sufficiently precocious to have a memory of her father, perhaps an internalized sense of his presence with her. Based on this, plus biographical information she learned later, probably helped Barbra to idealize him and to keep a representation of his encouraging presence in her consciousness.

In "On the Couch" Dr. Darcy - as Barbra came to call her - accepted Barbra's phenomenological experience and representation of her father. While the memory of her father is of the good parent, that of her unsupportive mother - who called her daughter a mieskeit [ugliness] - is of the bad parent. Still, Barbra credits her mother with giving her the opportunity to oppose her at every turn. "I should be grateful to her. I have a funny quirk - if someone says I can't do something, I have to do it no matter how hard it is, just to prove 'em wrong" (p. 10).

Besides the evidence of Barbra's resilient response to stress, according to Greenspan, "behavioral creativity and originality," and "integration of behavioral and emotional polarities" promote adaptability (p. 382).

Barbra was endowed with the gifts of creativity and originality. - and more. She expressed her talents and creativity in diverse areas of life. These characteristics. fueled by her high intelligence, enabled her to be resilient during difficult times in childhood, during the early years of her career, and after several wrong choices of husbands, until she finally found the love of her life, a truly supportive husband who makes her happy and fulfilled.

If there is one minor flaw of logic in the account of Barbra Streisand On the Couch, it is that at the beginning Barbra says "Thirty years with a million different analysts ... And I don't understand myself any better than the day I walked into the door of the first one. ... I wish my life was more peaceful. I wish I got less angry" (p.7) Yet on page 278, during her January 18, 2016 session, Barbra reports that on July 1, 2016, she and her husband will celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary.

Throughout the fictitious psychoanalysis of Barbra Streisand, Dr. Dale lets the reader know the analyst's impressions, thoughts, and feelings. It gives the reader a fairly accurate picture of the psychoanalytic process. The reader can empathize with both patient and therapist, and remain awed by both their talents. At the end of each session, this reader eagerly awaited the next one to find out what would follow..

Dr. Bond has succeeded in writing a fast-paced book of interest and benefit to younger members of the profession and to the general public.

[i] Bond, Alma H. (1981) The Masochist Is the Leader. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, (9,321-389).

[ii] Anthony, E.James and Bertram J. Cohler, Eds. (1987). The Invulnerable Child. New York and London: The Guilford Press.

iii Greenspan, Stanley (1979). INTELLIGENCE AND ADAPTATION An Integration of Psychoanalytic and Piageian Developmental Psychology. New York: International Universities Press.

7 Simple Tricks to Remembering Names: How to Recall Names of People You Meet
Travis Tyler
Amazon Digital
B078ZGHTV3, $2.99 Kindle, 36 Pages,

Cheri Clay

"We've all been there - you're introduced to someone and than immediately find yourself wondering what the heck their name is."

In everyday life, I know I've encountered situations where I'm meeting new people or trying to remember my forgotten grocery list - the mind goes blank - we fumble, we flub and we flaw. But I found I don't do that anymore since I discovered this little gem. Very small, nevertheless jammed-pack with 7 techniques to remembering names (or anything else you need to remember). The tricks range from easy to more complex, but it's more about which one works best for you. Personally, I've always used repetition in my head, however, I found the idea of creating a fiction story in my mind really works for me. But with 7 tricks the reader can pick their favorite, whether image-linking, chalkboard in our head, rhyming or one of the others, I'm sure there is one that will work for everyone. I highly recommend for every teen and adult because afterall the subject is one we all encounter. Remembering names is not easy, but with "7 Simple Tricks" it will become a piece of cake!!

Vulnerable: A Prequel to the Red Dog Conspiracy
Patricia Loofbourrow
Red Dog Press LLC
B079GSW12F, $0.99, 24 pages, Kindle

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

In the far distant dystopian future world of Bridges hooliganism is the norm. Pity the weak and disenfranchised...the widows and orphans who live in the street, victimized by most; pitied by few.

Eleanora Bryce lived comfortably with her husband and her sons Herbert and David in the town of Dickins...until her husband died; and by his own hand or so it seemed.

Suddenly, she found they were not as well off as she thought. Truth be told, her husband owed creditors a lot of money and the creditors were more than ready to throw her and her sons out on the street.

Finding a friend in a sympathetic police constable, dare she believe she has legal recourse against her oppressors? Her well-being hinges on an investigation into her husband's death. Their lives hang by a thread.

If her husband died by his own hand, she is at the mercy of her husband's creditors and must pay back an insurance settlement as well. If he was murdered, by whom? If he died of natural causes, she can keep the insurance money, but the creditors have already taken it and are about to take her house.

She can flee back to Bridges, but she fled Bridges when another of her sons was murdered. There is nothing for her but bad memories in Bridges. And then there is no money for three Zeppelin tickets to Bridges anyway.

Oh my, what a predicament. Whatever is a mother to do?

So the stage is set for a showdown. Will Eleanora and her sons be homeless in Dickins...or will they somehow pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and flee back into the nightmare they came from?

Vulnerable is a short story companion to the Red Dog Conspiracy Series: Jacq of Spades, Queen of Diamonds and Ace of Clubs. It is an enjoyable read and worthy adjunct to this fine series of Steampunk fiction. 4-Stars

Hogan's Hope: A Deaf Hero's Inspirational Quest for Love and Acceptance
Connie Bombaci
9781532014611 $23.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Jena C. Henry

What a blessing to read Author Connie Bombaci's book about her life with her deaf dog, Hogan. She adopted him as a rescued special needs dog from her local humane society. But my short, factual sentence does not truly convey the depth of how Hogan impacted his new human and dog family and how they changed his life. Hogan's story may well change your life for the better.

Hogan was born deaf, which is common to the Dalmatian breed. The author named him Hogan, from the Navajo word for home, because that's what this dog was seeking. But there's more to the name "Hogan" because the author wanted to recognize the spiritual component that Hogan radiated.

This spiritual force blazed forth when Hogan, an intelligent, and deep- thinking dog and Connie, a loving, compassionate, but practical and experienced animal person bonded through communication. Ms. Bombaci trained Hogan using American Sign Language (ASL). Hogan learned at least 73 signs, for words you might expect, "sit" and "out", and more novel and sophisticated words, such as "sing" and "mama".

This book is a loving, well-written and inspiring work and it was no surprise to learn that Hogan became a celebrity- appearing on Oprah and other national and local shows. Hogan qualified as a certified therapy dog and there is a touching story about his nursing home visits. Appendices about Hogan and deaf dogs are also included. Here's some great advice, "A tired dog is a good dog."

I highly recommend this book. More than just a nice dog story, this is a testament to love, perseverance, and hope. "Hogan's hope was for everyone to realize anything is possible if you don't give up believing." Hogan's Hope also reminded me, "What I can I give Him, Give my heart." Give your heart the gift of Hogan's Hope.

My Secret Life with Chris Noth and Other Stories
Iris N. Schwartz
Poets Wear Prada
9780997981162, $12.00

Niles Reddick, Reviewer

Iris N. Schwartz's latest book My Secret Life with Chris Noth and Other Stories (Poets Wear Prada) is a small collection of flash fiction that a reader can read in one sitting because it simply can't be put down. It's Schwartz's first collection of flash. Previously, she co-authored a collection of poems Awakened (Rogue Scholars Press) with Madeline Artenberg and has published multiple stories in respected literary journals including Jellyfish Review, Connotation Press, The Flash Fiction Press, and many others. What Schwartz has done here is whet my appetite for even more of her flash fiction.

"My Secret Life with Chris Noth" is the story that gives the collection its title, and it's the last story in the collection. It was tempting to read it first, but I read them in order. It wasn't until I began reading the story that I realized Chris Noth is a famous actor. Being a re-run kind of viewer, I might get to know this actor in a few more years. What struck me about this story, other than the fine writing, is the reality that we all must, at one time or another, have fantasies about famous personalities, and what we might imagine is usually nothing close to the real person behind the acting persona. I could recount multiple crushes from teen years through adulthood, but I never once thought to write such an excellent story as Schwartz did here. At least, I know who Chris Noth is now!

Another favorite is "Golden Opportunity" about a teenage Jewish girl who falls for a blond Christian boy who makes her body "hum." She tells us that she "was wearing my bell-bottomed, ass-hugging, rust-colored corduroys when we met." Schwartz paints broad strokes with her description and detail, creating a canvas that resonates.

Perhaps my favorite story is "The Light Show", not because it's necessarily better than any of the others, but because of the extreme creativity, or coping mechanisms, that the two children exhibit at what seems to be the abuse of the grandparents every weekend when their mother disappears and drops them off there. As a result of being restrained for hours at a time, the brother and sister use their fists to rub the outside of their eyelids to create a light show, which the brother believed "like a zealous preacher-yielded variety, beauty, and, especially, freedom from the blackness."

For the flash fiction connoisseur, My Secret Life with Chris Noth is a great read and I found myself thinking time and again: "What an ingenious idea for a story or what great detail." Other than the pure enjoyment from each and every story in the collection, this writer took away a few lessons on how to write even better.

To read more about Iris N. Schwartz, please see her About Me page or her Amazon page:

Forward-Facing Trauma Therapy: Healing The Moral Wound
Eric Gentry, PhD with Ilisa Keith Block
Compassion Unlimited
PO Box 15729, Sarasota, Florida 34277
9780997529203, $19.95, Paperback
9780997529210, $9.99, Kindle

Roger Keizerstein

With the publication of his latest book, FORWARD-FACING TRAUMA THERAPY, Eric Gentry, PhD, makes a major contribution to the field of trauma and it's treatment, while bringing to light the less well-known - yet equally debilitating - accumulated stress illness. He respectfully assesses previous treatment approaches that failed to successfully treat trauma and stress illness and proceeds to unveil his own program of recovery.

To develop his thesis and unique treatment model, Dr. Gentry draws from and builds upon the works of other distinguished trauma theorists: Viktor Frankel, Holocaust survivor and author of Man's Search For Meaning; Judith Lewis Herman's Trauma and Recovery; and special attention is given to Van der Hart and Paul Brown's groundbreaking paper Abreaction re-evaluated.

In the opening pages of FORWARD-FACING TRAUMA THERAPY, Dr. Gentry cites the importance of the public's increased awareness of trauma and post traumatic stress, due to it's prevalence among soldiers returning home from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although this increased public awareness has led to greater sympathy towards those injured, it has not necessarily translated into a clearer understanding of trauma and post trauma stress among lay persons and mental health professionals alike, thus I will provide a brief tutorial on the subject so the reader can form a full understanding of Dr. Gentry's pioneering theory and practice.

Understandably, one might conclude that trauma is the result of an event, an event perceived as life threatening. But this is not always the case. One person's trauma could be another person's painful experience, regardless of how the event was perceived. Actually, trauma is equal to the impact - or damage done to--the nervous system responsible for processing stress, (Gentry, Levine.)

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for processing stress. An external stressor sends a charge of energy into the ANS, said energy is discharged and a resolution of said energy is achieved. Stressor, Charge, Discharge, Resolution. The processing of stress occurs continuously, even during sleep. The Restorative Function - akin to a shock absorber--is responsible for the smooth running of the ANS and the preservation of equilibrium.

Trauma occurs when a life-threatening event sends a catastrophic adrenaline rush into the ANS - an adrenaline rush that does not achieve discharge or resolution. The energy gets bound up in the nervous system like a thickly clogged artery. Consequently, the restorative function can no longer do its job effectively, resulting in deregulation of the entire system and a myriad of symptoms that we commonly associate with posttraumatic stress injury.

Why does this happen? Why does the autonomic nervous system seem to fail us?

In the face of a life threatening confrontation, the ANS shuts down, much like an over-heated circuit breaker, to preserve the entire organism. In early human history, before homo sapiens developed the upper regions of the brain responsible for reasoning and deliberate thinking (a neo-cortex), stress responses were dominated by the flight or fight mechanism. This led to much death and destruction, serving to hamper human progress.

To further elucidate the role the neo-cortex plays in nervous system trauma, I will provide a case study.

A 19-year-old male gas station attendant is held up at gunpoint. His pockets are bulging with cash. With a gun pointing at his head, adrenaline coursing through his body, the higher function of his brain intervenes and commands him to remain still, do not discharge this energy, do not fight or flee, do not provoke the gunman, your life depends on it.

If this 19-year-old male had instinctively fought the Gunmen or somehow escaped - acted - he would have discharged the above-mentioned adrenaline - would have brought neurological completion to the experience-- and most likely would not have been traumatized and, in turn, would not have experienced the symptoms of posttraumatic stress.

Fortunately, this nineteen-year-old male did live to pump gas another day, but in the life - rushing - before - him-- paralysis (brought on by the higher functions of his brain), where did all that super charged energy go? Unfortunately, it remained lodged, bound up, in his ANS, hamstringing the restorative function and impairing the smooth processing of all types of stress. Mild stressors became moderate in their impact. Moderate stressors became severe and severe stress became emotionally debilitating, until he received treatment for posttraumatic stress 41 years later.

One of the central questions raised in FORWARD-FACING TRAUMA THERAPY is how to properly treat trauma and posttraumatic stress and other forms of stress that causes emotional and behavioral dysfunction. Here, Dr. Gentry out lines a clear smooth summary of the long running conflict between two schools of thought: Abreaction and Interoception.

The Abreaction model is based on the belief that if the traumatized patient can somehow relive the life threatening experience and express pent up feelings associated with it, achieve catharsis, emotional healing can proceed. The Abreaction model is similar to other forms of psychotherapy that address non-traumatic past painful experiences in an attempt to explain present dysfunctional behaviors and modify them.

Interoception differs from abreaction in that it is focused specifically on the re-regulation of an over-reactive autonomic nervous system by helping the patient identify triggers associated with pent up traumatic energy and diffusing and nullifying their impact through various relaxation techniques. Although the Interoception model acknowledges the importance of identifying traumatic experiences, unlike Abreaction, it steers clear of the need to excavate and rehash them.

Dr. Gentry's form of Interception therapy uses many of the traditional aspects of interpersonal psychotherapy. He first carefully develops a rapport with his patients through active listening and compassionate psycho-education. Once a trusting relationship between him and his patient is established, the main principles of FORWARD-FACING TRAUMA THERAPY can be employed: symptom reduction, the re-association of trauma related dissociated thinking and the incorporation of a relaxation technique program into one's daily life to address the core symptom of the posttraumatic existence; the body's inability to sustain a state of relaxation or calmness.

Through four case studies FFTT clearly illustrates Dr. Gentry's unique treatment approach. A 36-year-old stay at home mom is experiencing over whelming anxiety due to being unable to manage two unruly sons and a faultfinding husband. A 72-year-old widower is weighted down by grief, loneliness and feelings of meaninglessness. A 15-year-old high school freshman has resorted to cutting herself to relieve anxiety. And a 30-year-old veteran is suffering from the intensifying symptoms of posttraumatic stress. All four patients were treated successfully and in a reasonably short period of time.

Although all of these patients had unique backgrounds and presenting problems, the core of each treatment was the same: what are the triggers causing the patient's internal dis-regulation and over-reactivity? What relaxation techniques has the patient chosen and employed to reduce reactivity in real time; and once self-regulation has been achieved and the patient is able to think rationally and deliberately, who does the patient want to be? What is the patient's mission in life? What is the patient's moral code?

Although most mental health professionals shy away from moral and spiritual issues with their clients, Dr. Gentry believes that they are a necessary coupling to the nuts and bolts of trauma treatment and serve as a life long guide to a client's on-going recovery. After reading his splendid book, it will be hard for professionals and laypersons alike to disagree.

Mrs. Chartwell and the Cat Burglar
Pamela Gossiaux
Tri-Cat Publishing
9780997638752, $14.95 paperback, $3.99 ebook, 241 pages

Xanthe Muller

Abigail Chartwell is a widow and likes it that way, thank you very much. She has a fulfilling job as a librarian, a great cat to come home to, and isn't interested in any of the offers of masculine attention that come her way in response to her youthful good looks and lovely auburn hair. Everything changes on the night she works late at the library, when a cat burglar swings down through a skylight and into her life. He isn't looking for valuables or things he can sell - this time - but instead is searching for a map that will lead him to a lost painting that holds the key to his beloved grandmother's family history. Tony wears his spandex pants well and convinces Abigail not to give him away to the police, luring her into the search for this famous missing painting, and endangering her heart as well as her conscience. As the mystery pulls her in, Tony steals over her defenses, opening up her heart to the risks and joys of love that she had promised herself she had forever left behind.

Mrs. Chartwell and the Cat Burglar is a sweet, fun romantic mystery that made me very happy while I was reading it. Abigail and Tony investigate and banter and talk through both (all?) of their relationship issues as they work together to find the missing painting. Both of them examine who they are and who they want to be, together and apart, as they fall in love. I enjoyed the quiet aspects of this story as well as the fun investigation and mystery. It's a cozy, uplifting read for anyone looking for good story to curl up with. Optional accessories: a cup of something warm and a cat in your lap.

Harlem Bible-In The Beginning
Grant Harper Reid
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781976572838, $19.95 PB, Kindle $9.99, 336pp,

Christian Sia

In the spirit of James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Grant Harper Reid's Harlem Bible: In the Beginning is a memorable offering that helps readers rediscover the soul and spirit of black culture in Harlem. In this spellbinding autobiography, the author relives wonderful and touching memories of his childhood, growing up as a black man in Harlem. The author explores the dreams of black families, poised for the revolution - perhaps gentle like the wind - that was a promise of an upward movement in the American economic status. Readers are introduced to the shift in culture, thanks to the advent of gentrified folk. But what was Harlem like among the black community? This book answers that question and offers more.

Harlem Bible: In the Beginning is a wonderful book, a well-crafted memoir that explores the dynamics of black culture in Harlem and redefines the very soul and spirit of the "black man" within a well-defined historical context. The writing is beautiful, laced with arresting images and, I must say, Grant Harper Reid has a phraseology that gives a unique to his writings. The language is fluid and laced with humor and symbolism. For instance, just a few lines into the narrative, he describes his usual visits, accompanied by his dad, to the house of a wealthy man: "Whenever my dad and I went to visit Mr. Llewellyn, he be either wearing a smoking jacket or a bathrobe on his balcony deck. If that wasn't dressing for success, I don't know what is." The readers find themselves smiling quite often as they read through the gripping and enjoyable narrative, the culture and social commentaries opening a whole world for the reader to navigate.

Blowing America's Mind: A True Story of Princeton, CIA Mind Control, LSD and Zen
John Selby and Paul Davids
Yellow Hat Publishing
9780989024228, $29.95 HC, $19.95 PB, $8.69, 232pp,

Simon Warwick-Smith

USA Today states "You're not tripping: LSD is making a comeback." A 40% jump in those 18 to 25 using acid is reported.

What scared the hell out of America in 1966 when LSD was criminalized for the first time? And why aren't the young today frightened anymore?

The new book BLOWING AMERICA'S MIND (subtitled A TRUE STORY OF PRINCETON, CIA MIND CONTROL, LSD AND ZEN) now appears on the scene as an emotional catharsis for anyone who ever put his toes into the cosmic pond of psychedelia. The two authors waited almost fifty years to publish it (coinciding, almost, with the death of everyone in the book who might have raised hell). The authors are well-known Princeton grads (Selby a writer of popular psychology and Davids a producer / director of controversial TV films for NBCUniversal).

Dr. Humphry Osmond, a British psychiatrist, came up with the word "psychedelic," meaning "mind-manifesting" and is considered one of the Superstar 'Psychedelic Pioneers.' Selby and Davids both had the privilege (some might say misfortune) to stumble upon Osmond and the now-defunct New Jersey Neuro-Psychiatric Institute (NJNPI) when they were Princeton undergrads majoring in psychology, at a time when Humphry Osmond had opened up shop there. Unknown to the authors, Osmond's shop was funded not only by the National Institutes of Health, but barrels of cash were flowing in from cover organizations established and controlled by the CIA.

NJNPI was just one of what declassified documents now establish were 86 U.S. institutions conducting almost 150 mind control projects for the CIA as part of its notorious MK-ULTRA. This is a shocking, formerly top secret, episode in American history with plenty of Ivy League twists.

For Osmond, blowing minds with LSD wasn't enough. He added hypnosis. Officially, the goal was to use hypnosis (with a pinch of acid here and there), to put neutral subjects (i.e., the book's authors) into both schizophrenic and expanded states of consciousness to study human behavior under contradictory hypnotic conditions. It was CIA-sponsored "Mind Blowing" all in the name of science, with the sweet ribbons and bows of the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" playing in the background (and plenty of lady love interests around for good measure, back in the days of all-male Princeton.)

Admitting to this awkward phase of their post-adolescent lives now almost fifty years later, co-authors John Selby and Paul Davids describe in hair-raising detail how they became volunteers, guinea pigs in early LSD and deep hypnosis research that they thought could offer mind expansion, artificially-induced nirvana and even improved sex lives. The results were not quite what they had anticipated. Their journey of mind manipulation is a fascinating emotional roller coaster which at times reads like adventures from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST or THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST.

It is perhaps an item for the Guiness World Records how these authors actually stuck with this project after beginning it in 1972, and they finished it in 2017 just time for the resurrection of LSD among the 18-to-25 year old set. ("It rose to item number one on our bucket list," explains Davids, who recently stopped dying his hair for the youth look and let the white hair blossom).

Second Life: An Atheist's Journey to Spirituality
Anne C. Cooper
Independent Publisher
9780999123706, $15.00, PB, 382pp
9780999123713, $TBA, 373pp
Formats: hardcover, paperback, and e-book

Kathryn H. Hug, PhD

I have known Anne Cooper for about 30 years, but I did not really know her until I read her memoir, Second Life. As Anne shares her life before and after the death of her 16-year-old son, Todd, she brings the reader to the same conclusion that she herself reached: there are many ways to achieve spirituality. Second Life is a story of family, of grief, and of coming of age. In Anne's case, she comes of age when she overcomes her grief a dozen years after her son's death, realizing that "death is not the end, but a continuation."

In the first half of the book, Anne tells what her life was; in the second half, Anne explores the multiple ways life can be. She moves from dependence to independence. Finally refusing to hide the alcoholism of her husband, the family's financial problems, and her own insecurities - "I am becoming a deep weathered basket" - Anne resolves to build a second life. "I was a woman who had made promises to herself. I was making a new life that would be very different from the old one."

Anne has an extraordinary talent to recapture the moments with a deranged mother-in-law, a reclusive husband, three teenage sons, and diverse jobs. Many of the scenes are raw and painful, none more so than the night of Todd's death. Anne also has an exceptional ability to share the extensive experiences and reading that led her to a spiritual awakening. "It was hard for me to let go of what I thought was the right way, but once I did, I became a better navigator of the unknown." At one point, a psychic predicts Anne's future: "There's writing - a lot - and inspired. It will be a benefit to you and others." The psychic was right. Second Life is inspiring, life changing.

Readers will be examining their own lives as Anne reveals the many dimensions of hers.

There Is Something About Edgefield
Edna Gail Bush & Natonne Elaine Kemp
Rocky Pond Press
9780999240625, $20.00 HC
9780999240601, $15.99 PB; $9.99 Kindle, 332pp,

Tim Talbott

It has been quite a while since I've posted a book review on this forum. I've written a number of reviews for other publications in 2017, so that, perhaps unfairly, has resulted in a diminished number here. However, I recently received an opportunity to review There Is Something About Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic Testing by Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp (Rocky Pond Press, 2017) and jumped at the chance.

Ever since I read All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence by Fox Butterfield, about twenty years ago, I've sought to learn more about Edgefield County when an opportunity presented itself. Located along the Georgia border in west-central South Carolina, the area produced some of the state's most noted politicians and fierce defenders of slavery and post-Civil War white supremacy. Born in Edgefield were governors George McDuffie, Pierce Mason Butler, James Henry "Cotton is King" Hammond, Francis W. Pickens, Benjamin "Pitchfork" Tillman, and Strom Thurmond. Edgefield also produced Preston Brooks (who caned Charles Sumner on the Senate floor in 1856), and Confederate general James Longstreet.

As one might imagine, Edgefield County had a large enslaved population, and the authors' attempts to connect to their Edgefield ancestors is the main focus of the book. In 1860, there were over 24,000 slaves in the county. This is the sixth highest total in the United States that year!

There Is Something About Edgefield begins with thoughtful and informative sections which provide the co-authors' acknowledgments, as well as a preface, forward, and introduction.

Co-author Edna Gail Bush supplies the first two chapters of the book. In the first chapter Bush examines her paternal ancestors and focuses on the family's ability to acquire land in post-Civil War Edgefield, and sadly, how it was eventually taken from them. Bush also shares the amazing story of her DNA findings. She had her brothers take the Y-DNA tests and found that the results indicated her paternal line as originating solely from European countries. As she states, "The fact is, for many African Americans, a European progenitor serves as the original head of the paternal line." (pg. 55)

In the second chapter, Bush seeks and provides information on her maternal ancestors. Doing genealogical research for African American ancestors is difficult enough, especially when searching before 1870, but finding maternal lines lend extra special challenges. Her search for information found an early date of about 1799 for one ancestor and also put her on the trail of her maternal ancestors' enslavers, the Burton Family. As Bush wisely writes "It is a sad fact that the only way I have been able to trace my enslaved ancestors is by looking through records that pertain to property, which may or may not even give the dignity of a name." (Pg. 80). After emancipation in 1865, things do not always get easier for the genealogist. Although census information is available for African Americans from 1870 on, there are still obstacles such as name changes, gaps here and there due to census taker errors, and often overlooked households or households with incorrect information.

Natonne Elaine Kemp examines the line of her Blair ancestors in chapter three. In doing so Kemp reminds us that networking with other researchers can be of great benefit. Sharing one's findings, discussing them with others, and receiving help with research obstacles is one of the most rewarding aspects of doing historical research. This chapter is infused with contextual history, which I sincerely appreciated. In telling about her ancestor's challenges, especially during the Reconstruction years, Kemp exposes the terroristic state in which Edgefield's black population found itself after the Civil War, when recently defeated whites sought to reclaim political dominance through intimidation, mayhem, and murder.

Kemp continues searching for her Blair connections in chapter four, but puts particular emphasis on an incident where a white Blair killed an African American man in 1872. The examination of this particular incident illustrates the significant knowledge one acquires during the research process. It is one thing to read about Reconstruction violence from a formal history book, it is yet another to get into the nitty-gritty of a specific tragic occasion, which in turn illustrates the larger situation. I also found Kemp's research on Calliham Baptist Church intriguing. The break from the church by its black members after the Civil War and the Calliham congregation's response is particularly fascinating.

The also book contains three short epilogues. The first provides a bullet-point list that enumerates post-1870 potential sources for information on African American genealogy. The second and third reemphasize the help that DNA testing can provide, particularly when searching a specific geographic area.

I was especially impressed with the book's documentation. Being a historian, it is pleasing to see a work so clearly cited. It adds a level of credibility that can only come through such work. Other pluses to the book were the included family photographs. Seeing the people who where being researched and written about adds a level of connection to their stories that words alone cannot fill. In addition, the defined terms related to DNA testing were helpful to someone who is not all that familiar with this rather new form of research. Lineage charts, maps, graphs, and other primary sources were all selected with care and only enhance the book's many strengths.

One might not think that a book on someone else's genealogy would not be a "can't put down" type of book, but I found that There Is Something About Edgefield is one of those kind of books. It is not only a family tree book. Rather, by describing their exhaustive research resources, both traditional and non traditional, the authors give readers ideas on the plethora of ancestral information sources available to family history researchers. But not only that, this book gives hope. Hope for those searching to know their family's hidden pasts, and hope that through studying the past, we can create better presents and futures for all of us. By this point you can understand why I highly recommend this book. On a one to five scale, I have no reservations giving it an empathetic five! Well done!

Geoff Habiger & Coy Kissee
Shadow Dragon Press
9781932926491, $15.95 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 205 pages,

Ron Fortier, Reviewer

We've often said the fun of writing a review blog is discovering new and exciting talent. Case in point this book sent to us by authors Habiger and Kissee, "Unremarkable." From the book design it is easy enough to infer that the story deals with death and violence and sure enough it kicks off fast in those directions.

The year is 1929 and young Saul Imbierowicz is a postal clerk in Chicago. For an average fellow, his life has been what most people would consider dull and boring. But when he meets a vivacious redhead named Moira a few days before Valentine's Day, things seem to be changing for the better. Moira is a beauty and Saul can't believe his good luck. When she asks him to accompany her on an errand to the North Side, he willingly agrees to tag along. There isn't much he wouldn't do for the girl.

Then they find themselves walking into one of the most celebrated gangland shootings in American history, the St. Valentine's Massacre wherein seven of Al Capone's men were gunned in a street corner garage by members of the Irish Mob under the orders of Bugs Moran. Tragically Moira and Saul arrive at the location while bullets are still flying and Moira is shot. Shocked and frightened at her body lying in a pool of blood, Saul flees in horror unable to deal with the violence suddenly foisted upon him.

As if that wasn't enough to totally ruin his life, he is then grabbed by several of Moran's thugs and brought to a meeting with the mob boss. Moran informs him that federal agents, who maintain offices in the same building as the post office, have come into possession of Frank Capone's tax accounting records. The data in those books would be sufficient to put Al away for a very long time. Something Moran wants to assure happens. Fearing Capone might somehow steal the books from the feds, he wants Saul to do it first and then bring those books to him. If Saul doesn't do as he demands, Moran will have his parents and sister killed.

The authors waste no time in building the suspense and the narrative moves at a very steady pace. Saul is the innocent protagonist who, for no fault of his own, finds himself in a seemingly inescapable dilemma. Can he actually do what Moran wants; break into the feds' offices and steal the Capone books? As he grapples with this question, he is suddenly set upon by the very agents who occupy those offices. They know of his presence at the street corner during the shooting and want to know what happened to Moira? If poor Saul was mixed-up before, this new wrinkle totally leaves him confused. Moira's dead, isn't she? After all, he saw her die. Or did he? And if she is somehow alive, where is she and how is she involved with the entire affair?

"Unremarkable" is a really fun read that will keep readers guessing from chapter to chapter. The characters are one hundred percent authentic and the underlying mystery reveals itself slowly like a many layered onion. It is a thriller in the best sense of the word and one we highly applaud. Do yourselves a favor and pick up a copy.

The Piketty Problem or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming
Garth Hallberg
The Reason for Everything, LLC
P.O. Box 108, Waccabuc, NY 10597
9780991377046, $13.50 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 407pp,

Michael Radon, Reviewer
US Review of Books

"Money in the abstract made him feel superior. Actual people with money made him feel awkward and insecure."

Set in the very recent past, this book follows the stories of various people impacted either personally or emotionally by the issue of income inequality following the 2016 Presidential Election. In the quaint, East Coast city of Canaandale, an incoming Trump presidency and the influence of best-selling French economist Thomas Piketty drive enterprising and concerned citizens to action. George Dealy and his wife are dealing with an increasingly hostile marriage made worse by political differences. George owns more than two dozen regional McDonald's franchises and is preparing to unveil an automated "McDonald's of the Future" run entirely by robots so as not to have to pay rising worker wages. Meanwhile, Suzanne takes to shoplifting groceries to protest her husband's beliefs, which leads her to meet a local copywriter on the skids with a similar world view.

The author refers to this book as a social protest novel, meaning that it is designed to be entertainment but also provide the reader with a pertinent message. Between Steve Harris's pending divorce and the Dealys' icy relationship, there is plenty of drama built into this story, but the driving source of conflict is the concept of income inequality and the influence of Piketty's ideas. Whether it's the wealthy trying to decide what the poor deserve to make or the younger generation struggling to make a living, the idea of minimum wage and a healthy living wage drive the action from beginning to end more than the titular standoff between the McRobots and the Piketty Brigade.

The dynamic cast of characters draws the reader in and presents multiple perspectives to a challenging and necessary debate which is never heavy-handed or boring in the slightest. At times darkly comic but always certainly relevant to modern issues facing Americans, this story succeeds in being both entertaining and thought-provoking.

A Roadmap for Curing Cancer, Alzheimer's and Cardiovascular Disease
Paul J. Marangos
9780128127964, $49.95, PB, 160pp,

Norman M. Goldfarb

"A Roadmap for Curing Cancer, Alzheimer's and Cardiovascular Disease" explains why our current approach to curing the major terminal diseases is not working and proposes ways to reform the process.

The author starts by asking a simple question: Given the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on medical research over the past 50 years, where are the cures for the terminal diseases that kill most people?

To greatly oversimplify, the book makes the following proposals:

Focus the NIH on curing terminal diseases in the three most important areas: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological diseases.

Make the government and academic research enterprise accountable for achieving relevant milestones for curing these terminal diseases, rather than pursuing a disorganized and grossly inefficient process of academic inquiry into questions of basic science.

Apply much of the government and academic research effort to an organized program of high-quality, reproducible applied science.

Streamline the regulatory path to market for treatments that treat terminal diseases, e.g., reducing the number of required trials, loosening the proof of efficacy from p-.05 to p-.10, and shortening FDA review cycles.

Enhance the financial incentives for developing treatments that cure terminal diseases by, for example, extending patent protection, as is currently available for drugs that treat orphan diseases.

Reform tort law to reduce the litigation costs and risks for manufacturers of drugs that treat terminal diseases.

The book includes 11 chapters:

The Medical R&D Fiasco
Academia is Marching to the Wrong Drummer
Mavericks Versus the Establishment
The Strangled, Unincentivized Drug Industry
The FDA Roadblock to Cures
The Liability Barrier
Cleaning Up the Academic Research Quagmire
Reforming the FDA
Enabling the Drug Industry
Patent and Liability Reform
The Public Will Make It Happen

Light And Dark: 21 Short Stories
C.G. Harris
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9780244338497, $4.64 (3.99 Brit. pounds) PB, $0.99 Kindle, 99pp,

Breakaway Reviewers

5 Stars: It will make you laugh, cry and scared!

A mixed bag of stories from a possible murder on a cruise, a ghost story, to a Russian who would do anything for his country.

This book of 21 stories is well worth a read, well written and each story is well thought out. The thing I specifically like is each story has a proper ending. So many authors think it is a good idea to keep the reader hanging which is so annoying!!! C.G Harris doesn't do this and it's fab!

Each story is very different and as the book has only 99 pages it is a good quick afternoon with a cup of tea and a biscuit read.

Well worth an hour and a digestive biscuit.

Playing by Heart
Carmela A. Martino
Vinspire Publishing, LLC;
P.O. Box 1165, Ladson, SC 29456-1165
9781546799450;$16.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 278 pages,

Leslie Lindsay, Reviewer

A sweeping historical novel set in 18th century Milan features bright, spirited girls well ahead of their time.

Carmela Martino completely transported me to the historical landscape of Italy where girls were destined to become "only" a wife/mother or join the convent. Oh, but the Salvini sisters, Maria and Emilia, have so much more they want to do with their lives.

Emilia, "the second sister," wants nothing more than to marry a man who loves music as much as she does. Her sister, on the other hand, really desires to take the veil, but her father has insisted she become a scholar--her brilliant language skills are second to none (she has mastered seven!) and her math and astronomy studies are fearless. In fact, he hopes her skills land their large family in noble status.

Every character in PLAYING BY HEART has a strong desire to become something: a mother, a musician, a nun, a nobleman. Their desires are often incongruent with the 18th century culture of Milan.

I found the writing lucid, the characters well developed, and the story straddling the YA/adult genre. Martino is a gifted storyteller that made the reading of PLAYING BY HEART an absolute joy. In comparisons, I felt this title closely resembled the historic and descriptive detail of THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO (adult, Margaret George) meets THESE SHALLOW GRAVES (YA, Jennifer Donnelly). While it is billed as a romance, I didn't see it as that at all, but more of a determined (and bright) young girl searching for satisfaction in a life she wants so desperately.

Crossing the Threshold: Based on a True story, A Healer Revealed
Hansen Highland
Balboa Press
9781504372039, $35.95 HC
9781504372022, $17.99 PB Kindle, $3.99; 256pp,

Eva Suel

I want her muscles that took to ' Cross her Threshold !' Wonderful read! Thank you, please....keep writing!! October 5, 2017

Sometimes we buy a book, just by what's written on the back of the jacket. I wasn't sure how I would like reading it, being that I am a Christian. We are taught that if someone is speaking with a spirit, it's probably the devil. But this story, shows us not to judge someone if you really know nothing about them except what's written on the back of a jacket. It's a wonderful story that takes us into her personal life, one that's just like ours. Except that she has a gift. I know of a few people who have this gift but don't explore it like she does. I love the way she pulls and twists this story, keeping us guessing what's going to happen next! The author, because it's a true story, has had to deal with things in society that certain people would frown upon. I'm so glad she stepped out of a ' normal ' life, to one that blesses people with healing, and of course, a relationship with our maker. I'm glad she explains how one can get into a lifestyle of peace, and getting closer to the spiritual life a person may chose to live. I know I would! Thank you for writing your story, and I hope you don't stop with just one."

Blind Acceptance
Sandra Pimentel
Xlibris Corporation
9781514486276, $29.99 HC, $19.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 324pp,


Sandra Pimentel, humanitarian, motivational speaker and author releases her book Blind Acceptance. This is a must-read book to have in 2018 and is available at major book retailers and online including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris.

In Blind Acceptance, author Sandra Pimentel experiences a metamorphosis as she confronts the realities of war, racism, and the cultural changes for women of her time. With an innate sense of our inter-connectedness and an unwavering trust in humankind, she and her steadfastly supportive and delightfully irreverent husband perpetuate a family legacy of caring for others without reservation. For more information on Sandra Pimentel and Blind Acceptance, visit

This captivating book is about the evolution of a marriage of true partners maturing and changing, grappling with personal and family issues, that plays out before a backdrop of the social and political upheaval of the latter half of the 20th century, bringing surprises, challenges, and blessings. Sandra Pimentel's Blind Acceptance is available to purchase at major book retailers and online retailers.

Millard Salter's Last Day
Jacob M. Appel
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue Of The Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781507204085, $16.00, PB, 245pp,

Joan Baum, Reviewer
Education Update

Let it be said that the cover of this new novel by quirky, brilliant, award-winning fiction writer, essayist, teacher and psychiatrist Jacob Appel watercolors the title word by word in descending type size and is resolved in an ink line drawing of a belt and buckle, black on white. In a way, this clever design signals the novel's narrative - a three-part dawn-to-nightfall excursion that follows the movements of potential suicide Dr. Millard Salter as he wanders around Manhattan, a bit like James Joyce's Leopold Bloom, on his putative last day on earth. No spoiler alert -- though a reader may hope that the witty, cynical and compassionate doctor changes his mind - the book's epigraph gives it away. "Most things may never happen: this one will...." it's from the quirky, brilliant poet Philip Larkin, whose confident dark vision informs Appel's tale.

Let it also be said admiringly that in Millard Salter 44-year-old Appel has created a voice and wisdom beyond his years. An MD psychiatrist as well as a graduate of Harvard Law School, the polymathic author of Millard Salter's Last Day inhabits the mind and heart of a 75-year-old whose Ashkenazi cultural roots will be recognized instantly by readers of a certain age. A time of Schrafft's, S. Klein on the Square, the Pan Am building, Jimmy Durante, Mickey Mantle; a time of "gentlemen's bars and hatcheck girls, of Automats, of milkmen and icemen and piano hoisters," and of the IRT and BMT, before subways got too many letters. In this sense the novel pays loving, poignant tribute to mid- 20th century New York, before the wrecking ball destroyed so much of the city's iconic landscape and old ethnic neighborhoods. What's amazing is how carefully Appel avoids sentimentality by undercutting nostalgia with humor, sarcasm and a critical review of history, remote and recent.

Told in the third person through Millard's eyes, including interior italicized ruminations, the novel provides a sharply focused observation on the modern family where good intentions are often met by dysfunction or failure. Millard loved his first wife Carol but they got divorced because he was having an affair with younger Isabelle, a dialysis nurse. He loved them both, in his own way, and theirs. Isabelle died two years before the narrative begins, leaving Millard distraught until he met Delilah, whom he deeply loves, who used to be an actress (they particularly share a love of classical music), and he agrees to assist her in her own suicide (she is dying of cancer).

He loves his children as well though his one son, Lysander, who may be on the spectrum, disappoints him. A sweet enough boy of 43, named after "the greatest admiral of the ancient world," Lysander never learned to swim. As Millard's dying rabbi friend reminds him, he's an "abject failure as a parent in the eyes of God, for Talmudic law required that a father pass along only three skills to his sons: a knowledge of Torah, a trade, and a steady Australian crawl."

Most of all, however, it's clear from the story that the good doctor is just that - a good human being, an excellent clinician, scholar, colleague and practical skeptic (he has no illusions about the horrific and ineffective old days of psychiatric treatment, and thus he is suspicious of the present). With no pretentions or affectations, he is content to serve, to play a role, if need be, as he does with a female taxi cab driver whom he's commandeered for various stops in the city. His observations on the absurdities and lunacies of the world amuse rather than anger him, though a pushy colleague (hilariously described) who wants his job, comes close to making him lose it. The hospital, not incidentally, "with its drafts, its wheezes, its cracked porcelain urinals and decaying spruce rafters" - is called is called St. Dymphna, after the 7th century daughter of an Irish pagan king who had her killed, after he went mad. Millard surely would appreciate the irony.

Millard, a man of "broad-hearted liberalism and nonjudgmental regard," is also a first-class punster. Like many schtick scenes here, some are included it would seem (well, many) because they're entertaining. Indeed, a case might be made for Millard Salter's Last Day being an extended collection of comedic routines and societal critiques, heading toward ultimate darkness - even if some of the allusions pass some readers by. "Whatever happens, he mused to a pun deferred?

Appel's eye for detail is remarkable, and the ease with which he lets Millard slide in time and in considerations catastrophic and mundane is evident from the novel's opening paragraph: "On the day he was to hang himself, Millard Salter made his bed for the first time in fifty-seven years. . . .when he'd finished . . . the queen-sized bed looked togged up for a fashionable hotel. Only a mint on the pillow was lacking. I suppose they'll cut me down and lay me out on the covers, Millard reflected. And if they assume that I tidied my bedding so fastidiously every morning, is that such a crime?" Only a man of Millard's impeccable addiction to truth and unswerving humanity would think it might be. And only a reader insensitive to reasons why some people elect to take their own lives would not see in Millard Salter's Las Day an intelligent and moving exploration of this theme.

Islands of Deception: Lying with the Enemy
Constance Hood
Waves Press
9780999394618, $15.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 327pp,

Kirkus Reviews

A Jewish Dutchman leaves his native Holland in advance of Nazi occupation for the United States and is drawn into a world of wartime espionage.

Anxious about Germany's increasing belligerence and the infiltration of Dutch Parliament by Nazis, Hans Bernsteen procures two visas - one for himself and one for his sister, Esther - to flee Holland for New York. Esther refuses to leave, though, optimistic that there is little to fear, and Hans leaves without her. Despite being a polyglot and skilled photographer, Hans finds it impossible to find employment, which is largely denied to both foreigners and Jews. He leaves for Rochester to work at Eastman Kodak, but they are not allowed to hire "aliens." Luckily, he then meets Greta, a German-American, at a Woolworth lunch counter. They fall in love, but her brothers are unrepentant admirers of Hitler, and they conspire to steal the plans for a new bombsight technology and deliver it into German hands. Hans feels duty-bound to report this to the FBI, which ropes him into spying on Greta and her family. He's bullied into working as a film developer in Canada and then joins the American Army as a combat photographer. He's pushed into counterintelligence work, where his superiors note his remarkable observational skills. He boards a Dutch ship headed to South Africa, which ends up in French New Caledonia, and uncovers an enemy intelligence-gathering operation. Meanwhile, Esther becomes pregnant, and her boyfriend leaves to join England's Royal Air Force. She is sent to Bergen Belsen, where she struggles to survive.

Author Hood (Off the Tracks: A Beatnik Family Journey, 2014) paints a vivid picture of war-torn Europe and the epistemological distance between those who see the inevitable and those who turn a blind eye to Nazi aggression. Her knowledge of the period's politics is broad and her prose self-assured. The novel borrows from her father's life, and her loving attention to her protagonist, beautifully drawn, is evident throughout. Hans is a complex figure, patriotic but conflicted, unsure where his loyalties should lie.

A thrilling, sensitively conceived historical novel.

Andrea's Bookshelf

Wizard for Hire
Obert Skye
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629724126, $17.99, HC, 400pp,

Fourteen-year-old Ozzy lives near Portland, Oregon, and is desperate for help. His scientist parents have been kidnaped after discovering a formula that enables mind control. Their work was so top secret Ozzy is afraid to go to the police, but without help, he fears he'll never find his parents. Then he stumbles across a classified ad in the local newspaper that says "Wizard for Hire. Call 555-SPEL". Ozzy has read about wizards in books like Harry Potter, but wizards couldn't actually exist today, could they? After Ozzy meets the wizard Labyrinth (aka Rin) he's even more skeptical. Sure, Rin dresses like a wizard, but the short robe and high-top tennis shoes seem unorthodox, as does Rin's habit of writing notes on his shoes and eating breakfast for every meal. Plus, Rin doesn't even cast any magic spells, which means that the unexplained coincidences that start happening around Ozzy are just that -- coincidences. With the help of a robotic-talking raven invented by Ozzy's father, a kind and curious girl at school who decides to help Ozzy, and, of course, a self-proclaimed wizard who may or may not have a magical wand, Ozzy begins an unforgettable quest that will lead him closer to the answers he desperately seeks about his missing parents. A thoroughly clever and unabashedly entertaining read from first page to last, "Wizard for Hire" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both school and community library Fantasy Fiction collections for young readers ages 10 to 14. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Wizard for Hire" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.12). Librarians should be aware that there is a complete and unabridged audio book edition of "Wizard for Hire" (Blackstone Audio, 9781538545072, $34.95, CD).

Moon: A Peek-Through Picture Book
Britta Teckentrup
Doubleday Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9781524769666, $16.99, HC, 32pp,

Over deserts and forests, Arctic tundra and tropical beaches, the moon shines down on creatures around the world. Children age 3 to 7 will love discovering how it changes from day to day as the lunar cycle is shown through clever peek-through holes, each revealing the moon in a different size and shape. Charmingly told and beautifully illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, "Moon: A Peek-Through Picture Book" is the perfect light nonfiction book for young stargazers, as well as an ideal bedtime book, ending with a giant moon hovering over a sleepy town hunkered down for bed. Wonderfully entertaining from cover to cover, "Moon: A Peek-Through Picture Book" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

Wordy Birdy
Tammi Sauer, author
Dave Mottram, illustrator
Doubleday Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9781524719296, $16.99, HC, 32pp,

Wordy Birdy just loves to talk. "Hello, sunrise. Hello, pink sky. Hello, orange sky. . . ." But does she love to listen? No! One day, while she's walking through the forest, her gift of the gab gets her into hot water: "That's a pretty tree and that's a pretty tree and that's a pretty danger sign and that's a pretty tree. . . ." Will this inattentive bird walk right into danger? Will her faraway thoughts lead her along a path of doom? It's up to her long-suffering, heard-it-all-before pals Squirrel, Raccoon, and Rabbit to save their distracted friend. A laugh-out-loud funny, fast-paced, lovable picture book caper about the importance of paying attention -- and the importance of standing by your friends through thick and thin, "Wordy Birdy" is an ideal and entertaining addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 3 to 7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Wordy Birdy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

How Mamas Love Their Babies
Juniper Fitzgerald, author
Elise Peterson, illustrator
The Feminist Press
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9781936932009, $16.95, HC, 36pp,

Illustrating the myriad ways that mothers provide for their children from piloting airplanes, to washing floors, to dancing at a strip club, "How Mamas Love Their Babies" by author Juniper Fitzgerald and artist Elise Peterson is the first picture book for children ages 4 to 8 that depicts a sex-worker parent. It provides an expanded notion of working mothers and challenges the idea that only some jobs result in good parenting. Children are reminded that, while every mama's work looks different, every mama works to make their baby's world better. Inspired and inspiring, and effectively dealing with a potentially sensitive subject manner, "How Mamas Love Their Babies" is especially recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

The Heart of Wellness
Kavitha Chinnaiyan, MD
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738751993, $19.99, PB, 288pp,

Now anyone can transform their relationship with habits, lifestyle, and disease using Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan's remarkable approach to health. Integrating modern medicine and the ancient wisdom of Yoga, Vedanta, and Ayurveda, as laid out in the pages of The Heart of Wellness. This exceptionally well written, organized and presented instructional guide shows you how to break free of the false assumption that disease is something you need to fight. Instead, you'll explore the mind-body connection and your true nature so that you can end suffering and embrace the unlimited bliss of who you are. Examining the nature of disease including: the causative and risk factors, the role of diet, exercise, and medication, and how Eastern and Western medical practices can come together, "The Heart of Wellness" presents a holistic and self-paced practice that is outlined and based on the author's successful Heal Your Heart Free Your Soul program. Readers will learn how to reduce stress, attend to inner needs with meditation and breathwork, declutter their outer lives, increase forgiveness and gratitude, and so much more. While "The Heart of Wellness" is especially recommended for community library Health & Medicine collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Andrea Kay

Andy's Bookshelf

Life Under Corporate Rule
Gene Strandberg
Better World
9780979989018 $29.95

Life Under Corporate Rule: How Democracy Dies examines how monetary and corporate power has increasingly translated into political power in America, pushing a de-evolution of American democracy (rule of the people) to plutocracy (rule of the wealthy) followed by oligarchy (rule of the few). Chapters recount how power has been stripped from the people, especially the poorest Americans, and concentrated among the wealthy influential few. Individual tops scrutinized include legal, predatory loan practices perpetrated against the working poor who take a loan to buy a mobile home; generations of ill health and death perpetuated by tobacco companies; how "privatization" in the states hijacks public benefits; widespread benzene pollution in the air and water (benzene is a carcinogen so toxic that it has no safe exposure limit); the damage wrought by the disastrous Citizens United court decision, allowing unlimited corporate money to be spent influencing elections; and much more. Thought-provoking and sober, Life Under Corporate Rule a resounding warning of the America's cataclysmic path, unless dramatic change and much-needed reforms are undertaken, and soon.

David Mamet
Custom House
c/o William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062797193, $26.99, HC, 352pp,

Mike Hodge is a veteran of the Great War, a big shot of the Chicago Tribune, and probably shouldn't have fallen in love with Annie Walsh. Then, again, maybe the man who killed Annie Walsh have known better than to trifle with Mike Hodge. In his latest novel, "Chicago", author David Mamet has created a bracing, kaleidoscopic page-turner that roars through the Windy City's underground on its way to a thunderclap of a conclusion. Here is not only his first novel in more than two decades, but the book he has been building to for his whole career. Mixing some of his most brilliant fictional creations with actual figures of the era, suffused with trademark "Mamet Speak," richness of voice, pace, and brio, and exploring (as no other contemporary writer can) questions of honor, deceit, revenge, and devotion, "Chicago" is a deftly crafted and inherently riveting read from cover to cover. While "Chicago" is a 'must' for community library Contemporary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a paperback edition (HarperLuxe; Large Print edition, 9780062835932, $26.99, 432pp) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

The Naked & The Nude
Pete Najarian
Regent Press
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587903953, $25.00, PB, 454pp,

"The Naked and the Nude" is the seventh volume in author Pete Najarian's epic autobiographical narrative that he crafts lyrical autobiography elements into a fictionalized novel telling now only his personal story and the complex and complicated story of his whole generation, in the context of the early 20th century Armenian genocide, as well as immigrant life in America. Najarian's subject is the male artist and the unsortable way which blends sexual hunger and literary ambition, with the hunger for a home and a belief in the transformative power of art. A fully engaging, iconoclastic, and thought-provoking read throughout, "The Naked and the Nude" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Naked & The Nude" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Andy Jordan

Ann's Bookshelf

The Letters of Sylvia Plath
Peter K. Steinberg and Karen Kukil, editors
Faber and Faber
9780571328994, A$69.99, hardback, 1388 pages.

Although the main focus of my research and writing has always been on the work of Ted Hughes, inevitably I have become very familiar with Sylvia Plath's poetry, prose, journals and letters. My interest in this new unabridged edition of her letters, however, is personal rather than scholarly.

This is a hefty book in all senses of the word and faced with such a thick book many readers, I know, will read only the sections which are of particular interest to them. Sylvia's earliest daily postcards and letters to her mother from summer camp, for example, are likely to interest only the most dedicated of Plath scholars, although they do show her increasing ability to capture her life in her words. They routinely catalogue her activities, her health, comments about her fellow campers ("The two new girls in my tent are not well brought up" (p.15)), what she has eaten and drunk, and her achievements. Already she is ambitious: "in swimming we have three classes starting with the lowest red, next white, highest blue. For three days I was a redcap but today I was promoted to a white cap!" (p.25); "I was chosen to make the cover of the camp newspaper. I was elected unanimously to write a report about Cove". (p.77).

The 'Introduction', written by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil, admirably sums up the general biographical background to Plath's letters, the range of people to whom she wrote, and the huge variety of things which caught her attention and interest and made their way into her letters. They note that readers will see Plath's "empathic attention to her recipients and how, like writing a poem or short story for a specific market, she was able to craft a letter concentrating solely on her relationship to the addressee". Her letter writing was, as they say, "a serious art form" (p.xxv).
Plath learned this skill very early. In the earlier edition of Plath's letters, edited and abridged by her mother, Aurelia, Aurelia wrote that as a teenager Sylvia had already collected multiple rejection slips and, on one, the editor of the magazine Seventeen had commented that although Sylvia's writing had "promise and present merit", she still needed to learn to " 'slant' her subject matter towards the requirements of the particular publication from which she hoped acceptance" (Sylvia Plath: Letters Home 1999. p.35). Throughout Sylvia's letters in this new volume, there are examples of teasing letters to boy-friends, carefully crafted business letters to interest and flatter editors, and wonderful flights of imaginative description. Not only is she intent on keeping Mother happy ("I can't cry on her shoulder any more when things go wrong" (p.255)) but she is knowingly adept at "writing to meet certain specifications" (p.862) and tailoring "for specifications" (p.879). Her habit of examining journals and magazines for their specific 'slant'; of entering every possible competition; and of constantly submitting and resubmitting her work to as many potential publishers or judges as possible, was highly successful and is one which many writers who long to see their work in print should emulate. Not only did it work for Sylvia, it clearly also worked for Ted when she began to submit his work to various American and English magazines.

Sylvia's strategies worked, too, when, almost by accident, she learned of the Harper competition, open to "a poet who has not yet published a book". "the hitch, if such there be", she told Ted, "is that the judges are: wh auden, marianne moore and, o god, stephen spender" (1312-3) (Sylvia was "under the compulsion to type a la e.e.cummings" (p.659) and had foregone the use of capitals). A 60 page manuscript was required and Sylvia estimated that Ted had 55 pages: "let me do this typing", she urged, "I'm sure you'll win this". And he did. The result was the publication in both America and England of his first book, Hawk in the Rain.

The problem with this slanting of her letters to her various recipients and regarding her letters as an art form, is that it becomes hard to know when the feelings she expresses are genuine. Throughout this book, for example, it is clear that Sylvia relied on her mother for practical, psychological and, often, financial support. Aurelia unstintingly typed manuscripts for her, sent and received them, banked cheques, posted requested items, read and commented on Sylvia's work, and wrote regular news-filled, chatty letters to her, all whilst teaching, doing her own writing and coping with ill-health. It is a pity we don't have any of these letters, but Steinberg has said that very few exist. In her letters to Aurelia, Sylvia, with one or two rare exceptions, maintained the facade of an ever-happy, loving daughter. But to her friend Ann Davidow-Goodman, she wrote: "I've got to pretend to her that I am all right and doing what I've always wanted to do - - - and she'll feel her slaving at work has been worthwhile" (p.255). And writing to Gordon Lameyer in 1954, she offered as an analogy of her relationship with her mother the way in which the "new American colonies" once needed "close parental surveillance and direction from mother england; but as they gained maturity a tempestuous revolution was needed to break the umbilical cord" (p.793). This break is not apparent in her letters.
Steinberg and Kukil also note in their Introduction, that reading Plath's journals alongside the letters often helps to establish the dates of journal entries which, unlike the letters, Sylvia left largely undated. This will be of value to researchers but it also adds new dimensions to the letters, offers invaluable insight into Sylvia's true thoughts and emotions and, for me, it raises some puzzling questions.

Sylvia was mistress of flirting by letter and keeping her boy-friends dangling, as can be seen in her letters to Richard Norton, Myron Lotz, Gordon Lameyer and, especially, Richard Sassoon. She also, at times, copied her letters, or extracts from her letters, into her journal for later use in her writing. What are we to make, then, of the two impassioned, emotional and very personal letters she wrote to Richard Sassoon on March 6 and April 18, 1956? In these, she tells Richard of her struggles to free herself of her love for him and to regain her soul. She writes of "living now in a kind of hell" (p.1164) since he rejected her. Then she copied these letters into her journal, and on March 9th 1956, when contemplating writing a novel, she wrote: "use letters to Sassoon etc." (SP Journal p. 231).

Reading Sylvia's letters to Sassoon and those to Ted Hughes which almost immediately follow them is interesting. To each of them she declares her intention to "fight for you" (to Richard p.1091) and to "work for you, slave for you" (to Ted p.1293). Yet, as the letters as a whole show, Sylvia, whilst determined to find a strong, brilliant, healthy (and tall) husband, was fiercely independent. She knew, took to heart, and referred to W.E. Henley's poem 'Invictus' in which he declares: "I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul". So, she drove herself relentlessly to be the best in everything and her letters show her continuous self-analysis, her ambitions, her successes and her failures.

At camp she strove to best at swimming, to be popular, and to write publishable poems and stories. At school she was a straight A student. At Smith College, to which she had won a scholarship, she was shocked and felt "slightly sick" (p.204) when she received only a B- for her first English assignment. After her second English assignment she wrote "If I get another B- I'll scream" (p.211); and she drove herself relentlessly until she eventually got an A. She set herself this standard in all her studies. She spent 2 hours a day six days a week writing for the College Press Board, was elected to various committees, and continuously wrote and submitted stories and poem to various magazines and journals. At the same time, dating and the search for a potential husband became important and consumed her leisure time. Such relentless pressure often exhausted her, she suffered frequent sinus infections, and she often felt vulnerable and "like a square peg in a round hole" (p.327-8).

There were "Too many Alphas", as Ted Hughes wrote in 'Telos' and the "Furies of Alpha" drove her to the limit. Reading all this in her letters and journals, her breakdown and her suicide attempts (there were two) seem almost inevitable.

In a letter to Eddie Cohen she describes her second suicide attempt in detail and notes "I tried drowning, but that didn't work" (p.656). And in her journal she recalls feeling that she was "reduplicating" Virginia Woolf's suicide but "couldn't drown" (p.269). Whist at Cambridge University she wrote: "scholarly boys I know", (boys at Cambridge University who knew nothing of her suicide attempts), "think of me as a 2nd Virginia Woolf". It was a fatal identification.

It is now possible to dovetail Sylvia's letters to Ted Hughes, which are published here for the first time, with those he wrote to her which are published in Letters of Ted Hughes, edited by Christopher Reid (Faber, 2007). Their love for each other is very evident and very moving to read. They shared a passion for poetry, their criticism and comments on each other's work was constant, and it is easy to understand the joy of being able to write of "ten poor idiot fingers", as Sylvia did (p.1271), and know that the one reading this would understand Crowe Ransom's poem 'Winter Remembered' and understand the pangs of absence which it expresses.

I was amused to read Sylvia's letters to her mother and her brother shortly after she met Ted. To Aurelia she wrote of him as "a violent Adam" (p.1165); and she told her brother that Ted "has done nothing but rave, work and desert women for 10 years" (p.1174) and that he has done an "unconcerned rip through every woman he has ever met". How different is this to what Sylvia had been doing with her many men friends? Her letters show her leading them on, writing passionate letters to them, letting them wine and dine her, then dropping them because they got TB or were too short or too immature. In April, she vows to reform Ted and "make him kind" (p.1174) and by October he is "the dearest, kindest, gentlest, most darling person alive!" (p. 1261). "To find such a man and make him into the best man the world has ever seen: such a life work!" she wrote to her mother in May (p.1192). And apparently she managed it in just six months. "I never dreamed that love could be so incredibly transforming", Sylvia wrote ecstatically to her mother (p.1300), although she was referring to her own altered personality not to her speedy success in changing Ted.

In spite of Sylvia's claim that "the class system is really nonexistent in America" (p.1148), she grew up in the prosperous American city of Wellesley, where parents had middle-class aspirations, were often college and/or university educated, and sent their children to summer camps, good schools and the best universities. Ted's background was very different. He grew up in an industrial area in post-war England where scarcity and rationing of food and clothing was in force until 1945 (clothing) and 1952 (meat and some other foods). His parents had little knowledge of higher education and Ted was as one of the many children who benefited from the Butler Education Act of 1944, which provided all children who passed the '11 Plus' exam with scholarship places at Grammar schools. Sylvia's defensive championing of Ted's good qualities and the way she promotes these to her mother show her acute awareness of these differences: "He may shock you at first", she tells her mother, but "all the social questions about money, family position, bank accounts, blow off like chittering irrelevancies in a cyclone before two people who depend solely on their native talent and love of honesty, frankness, and the beauty of this various world;" (p.1187-8). And a little later to her mother and brother: "If you will both just take him for what he is, in his whole self, without wealth or a slick guarantee for a secure job, or a house and car..." (p.1192).

Finding, transcribing, footnoting and indexing Plath's letters has been a monumental task and the editors note that there are still many additional letters to be discovered. So far, there are 1,402 letters to more than 140 recipients in the two volumes, the second of which will be published in 2018. The footnotes are meticulous and the index is comprehensive, but in addition to the chronology at the beginning of the book there were times when I wished for some editorial notes to put the letters in context. Sylvia's concerns about war, for example - her mother's tears and her own fear that her brother would be called on the carry a gun (p.171) - were fuelled by America's ongoing involvement in the conflict in Korea which is often called "the forgotten war". In 1950, President Harry Truman committed US troops to the United Nations forces, and in 1951 Congress approved compulsory military service for men from the age of 18.

Similarly, reading Sylvia's excited and detailed description of the supper-dance at the grand mansion, 'The Elms', in Connecticut, made me want to know more about this. An extensive internet search eventually yielded the information that 'The Elms' was the home of William Buckley, the prominent politician and millionaire oil-tycoon, and that Maureen (who was one of Sylvia's house-mates at Haven House and whose 18th birthday this supper-dance celebrated) was one of his ten children.

Overall, Plath's letters, especially those written to friends, boyfriends and her German pen-pal, vividly convey Sylvia's charismatic, ambitious, determined, yet vulnerable, character. They also show very clearly her compulsion to write, her anxiety when she felt unable to do so and her exhilaration when her work was accepted for publication. They show, too, that she was well aware of the "intense moods - which I can bounce in and out of with ease" (p.473); and that she drew all she wrote from her life. In 1952, she was striving to write stories "where the protagonist isn't always ME" (p.450); and in her journal in 1957 she wrote: "My health is making stories, poems, novels, of experience....My life, I feel, will not be lived until there are books and stories which relive it perpetually in time." (SP Journal, p. 286). These letters vividly demonstrate the achievement of that ambition.

Leila Slimani, author
Sam Taylor, translator
Faber and Faber
9780571337538, A$27.99, paperback, 207 pages.

"The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds".

From the first page of this book we know of the brutal and violent deaths of the two children; the failed suicide attempt of Louise, their nanny; and of the terrifying scene which confronted their mother, Myriam, when she came home early from work. What we don't know, is why it happened. And only as the events of the past are told do we get clues.

The great skill with which Leila Slimani tells this story makes everything that happens seem almost normal. Almost, but not quite.

Myriam and Paul are a successful Parisian couple. Myriam was in her last year of law school when she became pregnant with Mila but she went on to graduate. Paul's work in the music industry was going well. And, initially, they had the help of Paul's parents, although Myriam and her mother-in-law "never saw eye-to-eye" and Myriam resented her interfering ways. Then, one month before their second child was born, Paul's parents went on an extended holiday and didn't tell Paul until the last minute. There was some ill-feeling, so Myriam took on total responsibility for looking after the children.

Slimani writes convincingly of Myriam's increasing tiredness, and of the loss of independence and identity which total immersion in a child-centred world involves. "With two children, everything became more complicated: shopping, bath-time, housework, visits to the doctor. The bills piled up. Myriam became gloomy". Myriam envies Paul's busy and interesting life, which takes up increasing amounts of his time, and she is angered by his lack of awareness of her distress. When she bumps into a friend from law-school and he subsequently offers her a job in his law firm, she knows that for the sake of her own sanity, and for the sake of her marriage, she must take it. The only problem is finding a suitable nanny.

Louise, small, neat, efficient and with an excellent reference, seems to be perfect for the job and she quickly makes herself indispensable. The children adore her, the house is kept immaculate, she even cooks superb meals for Myriam and Paul and, when they entertain, for their friends.
Yet, there are disturbing signs - only hints - that something about her is not quite right. Our first glimpse of Louise, shows her in her apartment, looking out into the street and wondering about her neighbours: "With the tip of her fingernail she scratches the corner of the window. Even though she cleans it zealously twice a week, the glass always looks murky to her, covered in dust and black smears. Sometimes she wants to clean the panes until they shatter". She scratches until her nail breaks and she has to put her hand in the shower to stop the bleeding. She cleans her shoes "with furious care" and is clearly obsessively tidy. But this is all to the good when she keeps Myriam and Paul's home spotless.

She also plays immersive games with the children, acting out the stories she tells them of princesses and ogres. The children love it. And her favourite game is hide-and-seek. Except that there are no rules and sometimes she hides herself too well, choosing places where she can observe the children's distress and panic when they can't find her: Adam's sobs, because he is too young to understand that she has not gone for good and Mila's despairing pleading for her to return; their "hysterical joy" when she suddenly reappears.

Occasionally Slimani reveals information about Louis's past. A chapter devoted to her ex-husband Jacques tells of his abuse, his drinking and his debts. Two chapters devoted to Stephanie, the daughter she never wanted, provide reasons for their estrangement. And there is mention of a hospital stay, which is not elaborated on until late in the book when the police investigate the murders.

Louise takes over more and more of the care of the children. The children love her and she treats them as her own. She begins to sleep at the apartment so that Myriam and Paul can go out and enjoy themselves, and they even take her on holiday with them, although this is not a complete success.

Some incidents do disturb Myriam and Paul, but the breaking point only comes when Louise retrieves from the garbage a chicken carcass which Myriam has hidden there because there were still bits of chicken left on it and she knew Louise would disapprove of throwing it out. Louise re-assembles the chicken bones into a complete skeleton and leaves it in the middle of the kitchen table for Myriam to find. And Mila tells her mother, excitedly, how Louise taught them to eat the scraps of meat with their fingers and gave them big glasses of Fanta to drink "so that they wouldn't choke".

Paul and Myriam agree that Louise must go, but "she has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her".

Louise, who now faces eviction from her own apartment, and the loss of her job because the new baby she has obsessively willed Myriam to have is clearly not going to happen, becomes, by the last chapters of the book, more and more erratic in her care of the children. But nothing suggests her final acts.

Slimani's telling of this story is subtle, absorbing and compelling, and the whole scenario is deeply disturbing in its reality. We share the lives and thoughts of Louise, Myriam and (occasionally) Paul, and everything seems perfectly reasonable and understandable - and so easily possible that no-one planning to hire a nanny should read this.

Leila Slimani deservedly won the prestigious French Prix Goncourt for this book.

The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow
Danny Denton
9781783783656, A$29.99, paperback, 357 pages

to hear the tale of
RAIN and FIRE - of KID and KING!"

So begins The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow: a Fairground barker's call which in the first two pages promises "to spill the beans about the whole SHITSHOW in Ireland". So "HEAR IT WELL". I was not sure I want to be shouted at but these pages introduce us to Ward, who is one of the Heavy Gang ("under staffed, under gunned, under everything"), an Irishman who has the gift of the gab and can tell a good story sprinkled with Irish humour: "I asked O'Casey at one point, much later: 'How much of this is true?". 'Oh it's all true", he replied, 'I just don't know which bits are made up'.

O'Casey is a sinister reporter who secretly listens in on the Earlie Boys and keeps a ledger in which he records the all details of the deaths they cause. He likes to "live the stories as they unfurl, one dark petal at a time"; then he reports the deaths to loved ones and relatives and tells them all they want to know - if they want to know.

And the Earlie Boys, all ten of them in their gaudy Kandinsky shirts, leather waistcoats, boots, knives and tribal tattoos, are the henchmen and executioners for the Earlie King. They move "everything" - "pharm, dolls, organs, clones, money" - around this drowned world of mutant sheep ("muties"), giant slugs, deformed generations, buried towns, villages and machinery. And they have a portable guillotine, which they delight in using.

The Earlie King, who has won his title and power in two bloody and lethal fist fights, rules from a secret location. And opposed to him and to all his evils is Vinnie Depaul, "Him of the incorrupt heart", who, according to a character we occasionally meet in the pub, "Serves the poor", sets raging fires and "Burns the bastards". As the King notes: Vinnie "Goes after politicians, too. Burns all the bastards". And throughout the book, Mr Violence haunts the victims and revels in the horrors which kill them. We meet him first in the second chapter, gloating over the death of a woman in childbirth.

Living in the midst of all this horror is the Kid in his yellow rainproof "skins". He is, he thinks, fifteen years old and was once a runner for the Earlie King and a prospective Earlie Boy. But he met the King's thirteen-year-old daughter "T" and they fell in love. The "babby" is theirs and it is T's death which first introduced us to Mr Violence. The Kid has promised T that he will bring their babby up good, so he infiltrates the King's secret home, overpowers the King and kidnaps the baby. The Earlie Boys - in particular Bart ('Crooner Bart" the Bard of the Earlie Boy tribe) - track the boy, seeking vengeance and the return of the baby. Ward and his offsider, Ray, track the boy. O'Casey tries to follow them all. And the rain keeps falling: "Would be a grand country if we could put a roof on it".

This is Danny Denton's first novel. And novel it is - in many ways. Chapters alternate between characters; there are snatches of poetry, yarning scraps of ancient Irish myths, a miracle involving a statue of the Virgin Mary, and play scripts which vividly present scenes and characters. Ireland is a strangely transformed, half-drowned world in which everyone communicates through their 'devices', postal drones deliver the mail, people roll and smoke "herbals", get high on Fadinhead (a lethal and addictive white powder) and watch TeleVisio. Horror and violence reign.
The violence is shocking but at times the horror is almost unreal. The Kid falls in with a group of wanderers who are looking for meaning in this fallen world. 'The Wandering Question Mark', he calls them. When Bart disrupts a seance where they are channelling T for the Kid, the Kid sees only "a neck black with wine", wine spreading out on the table, wine spilled on the floor, people exhausted, sleeping, collapsed - before he sees Bart folding his knife. And the Kid himself is the hero of the story. His love for his pony Honest John, and for T and their baby is seen in his actions and is never mawkish. He is realistically naive about looking after a baby, he loves and protects her fiercely, and he fights for what he believes is right, suffers terribly and doubts everything. We do not know how all this will end, but his love acts as a counter-balance for the violence in the book.

The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow is written with the fluency, wit and imagination which are traditionally attributed to Irish story-tellers. It almost asks to be read in an Irish accent. And although some may find it too strange or too violent, it is a fine debut novel.

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Suburban Remix
Jason Beske & David Dixon, editors
Island Press
2000 M Street NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610918626, $80.00 HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: The suburban dream of a single-family house with a white picket fence no longer describes how most North Americans reportedly want to live. The dynamics that powered urban and suburban sprawl have all but disappeared. Instead, new forces are transforming real estate markets, reinforced by new ideas of what constitutes healthy and environmentally responsible living. Investment has flooded back to cities because dense, walkable, mixed-use urban environments offer choices that support diverse dreams. Auto-oriented, single-use suburbs have a hard time competing.

Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Jason Beske (an urban planner and urban designer with public and private experience) and David Dixon, (who leads planning and urban design for Stantec's Urban Places, an interdisciplinary team that helps cities and suburbs alike thrive by harnessing the growing demand for urban life), "Suburban Remix: Creating the Next Generation of Urban Places" brings together experts in planning, urban design, real estate development, and urban policy to demonstrate how suburbs can use growing demand for urban living to renew their appeal as places to live, work, play, and invest. The case studies and analyses show how compact new urban places are already being created in suburbs to produce health, economic, and environmental benefits, and contribute to solving a growing equity crisis.

Above all, "Suburban Remix" shows that suburbs can evolve and thrive by investing in the methods and approaches used successfully in cities. Whether next-generation suburbs grow from historic village centers (Dublin, Ohio) or emerge de novo in communities with no historic center (Tysons, Virginia), the stage is set for a new chapter of development in the form of suburbs whose proudest feature is not a new mall but a more human-scale feel and form.

Critique: An informative and invaluable addition to professional, community, governmental, and academic library Urban Planning collections and supplemental studies reading lists, It should be noted for the personal reading lists of urban planning students, governmental policy makers, city planners, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Suburban Remix: Creating the Next Generation of Urban Places" is also available in a paperback edition (9781610918626, $40.00) and in two digital book formats (eTextbook, $23.99 & Kindle, $39.99).

Plant-Powered Beauty
Amy Galper & Christina Daigneault
BenBella Books
10300 N. Central Expressway, Suite 400, Dallas, TX 75204
9781944648855, $22.00, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: All of us have had the experience of looking at the back of our facial moisturizer or body cream and, despite claims about "natural", the ingredients on the package, seen complicated additives like Isopropyl Myristate, Hydrolyzed Elastin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium Benzoate, Triethanolamine, Diazolidinyl Urea,(Red 40) CI74.340.

Mass-produced synthetic beauty products make it difficult to know exactly what we are applying to our skin or how we will react to them. As a result, they're rarely the best choice for good, safe, effective skin care.

"Plant-Powered Beauty: The Essential Guide to Using Plant-Based Ingredients for Health, Wellness, and Personal Skincare" by the team of Amy Galper (Executive Director and Founder of New York Institute of Aromatherap) and Christina Daigneault (who is a certified aromatherapist and beauty product formulator) is a long-awaited resource for those who are ready to harness the power of plant-based energy to maintain their natural beauty and promote health and well-being.

At the heart of "Plant-Powered Beauty", readers will find more than 50 easy-to-follow, do-it-yourself recipes to make their own plant-based skincare and beauty products ranging from: Almond Milk Face Cleanser; Anti-Aging Facial Scrub; Acne Gel; and Choc-o-Mint Lip Balm; to Coconut Whip Makeup Remover; Vitamin-Rich Hair Boost Scalp Serum; Quick & Fresh Cucumber-Thyme Body Scrub; Moisturizing Body Oil for Super Dry Skin; and Natural Mouthwash.

"Plant-Powered Beauty" offers invaluable tips and instructional guidance on deconstructing beauty labels, parsing ingredient lists, making informed decisions about beauty products, and better understand how human skin works.

"Plant-Powered Beauty" unlocks sought-after wisdom for all aspects of plant-based personal skincare and celebrates the shift in beauty trends, bringing the reader back to natural beauty and reconnecting all of us with plants and healthy choices.

Critique: Impressively informative, profusely illustrated, remarkably comprehensive, thoroughly 'real world practical', and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Plant-Powered Beauty: The Essential Guide to Using Plant-Based Ingredients for Health, Wellness, and Personal Skincare" is a complete course of study under one cover and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Health & Beauty instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Plant-Powered Beauty" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.90).

Journeys in the Kali Yuga
Aki Cederberg
Destiny Books
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620556795, $16.95, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: An extensive traveler, Aki Cederberg is a writer, musician, and filmmaker, who gives talks and lectures on esoteric topics.

"Journeys in the Kali Yuga: A Pilgrimage from Esoteric India to Pagan Europe " is a beautifully evocative account of Aki's personal odyssey to discover authentic and unbroken magical traditions in the East and reawaken them in the West

"Journeys in the Kali Yuga" details the author's encounters with the Naga Babas, his initiation into their tradition, and his experience at the Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual gathering on Earth; shares the similarities he discovered between the teachings of the Indian tradition and the Western traditions of magic, alchemy, and pagan pantheons; and introduces a wide cast of characters, including Goa Gil, the world-renowned guru of the Goa techno-trance scene, and Mahant Amar Bharti Ji, a "raised-arm Baba," who for more than 40 years has held up one arm in devotion to Shiva

Beautifully detailing his spiritual pilgrimage from West to East and back again, in the age of strife known as the Kali Yuga, "Journeys in the Kali Yuga" shares the authentic and unbroken magical traditions Aki experienced in India and Nepal and how his search for a spiritual homeland ultimately led him back to his native Europe.

Aki also explains how his odyssey began as a search for spiritual roots, something missing in the spiritually disconnected life of the Western world, where the indigenous traditions were long ago severed by the spread of Christianity.

Traveling to India, he encounters the ancient esoteric order of mystic, wild, naked holy men known as the Naga Babas, the living source of the Hindu traditions of magic and yoga. Immersing himself in the teachings of the tradition, he receives an initiation and partakes in the Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual gathering on Earth.

With his evocative descriptions, Aki shows how traveling in India can be an overwhelming, even psychedelic experience. Everything in this ancient land is multiplied and manifold: people and things, sights and sounds, joy and suffering. Yet beyond the apparent confusion and chaos, a strange, subtle order begins to reveal itself. He starts to glimpse resemblances and analogies between the teachings of the Indian tradition and the Western traditions of magic, alchemy, and pagan pantheons.

Along the way, Aki meets a wide cast of characters, from mystical hucksters in Rishikesh and the veritable army of naked, chillum-smoking mystics of Maya Devi to Goa Gil, the world-renowned guru of the Goa techno-trance scene, and Mahant Amar Bharti Ji, an urdhvabahu or "raised-arm Baba," who for more than 40 years has held up one arm in devotion to Shiva.

After extensive traveling and immersing himself in the extraordinary world of India, Aki returns to his native soil of Europe.

Traveling to holy places where old pagan divinities still linger in the shadows of the modern world, Aki dreams of forgotten gods and contemplates how they might be awakened yet again, reconnecting the West with its own pre-Christian spiritual traditions, sacred landscapes, and soul.

Critique: Illustrated with both color and black/white images, "Journeys in the Kali Yuga: A Pilgrimage from Esoteric India to Pagan Europe" is an inherently fascinating, impressively informative, and exceptionally well written account that will prove to be a unique and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Religion/Spirituality and Contemporary Biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Hindu religion that "Journeys in the Kali Yuga" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide
Jane Mersky Leder
9781946229533, $17.99, PB, 210pp,

Synopsis: When the brother of Jane Mersky Leder took his own life it was on his thirtieth birthday. Jane's life has never been the same.

Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of "Dead Serious", this second completely revised and updated edition covers new ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and more. Scores of teens share their stories that are often filled with hurt, disappointment, shame--yet often hope.

Written for teens, adults and educators, "Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide" explores the current cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression--suicide. Leder's own journey of discovery after her brother's suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders and connectors to trusted adults.

The skyrocketing number of teens who take their own lives makes "Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide" more relevant and important than ever. The clear message that readers should take away is that: "Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking."

Critique: Candid, compelling, sensitive, informative, deftly written, timeless and timely, "Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide" is an extraordinary read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for highschool, community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, and Soul
Almila Kakinc-Dodd
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791383910, $29.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Almila Kakinc-Dodd has made a name for herself in the digital world. Her website, The Thirlby (, attracts a worldwide audience hungry for her tips on holistic food, beauty products, and spiritual practices, which she has discovered through her personal journey to health and wellness.

As a teenager Almila Kakinc-Dodd was first diagnosed with an eating disorder and then an auto-immune disease that she helped manage holistically. Today her passion is to visually curate life's pleasures and share her considerable knowledge about self-care.

"The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, and Soul" offers precise, easily attainable advice on natural health, spiritual living, and nourishment. From meditative mantras and herbal first aid to ideas for zero-waste living and delicious grain-free and sugar-free recipes, "The Thirlby" helps readers make mindful decisions every day -- whether it's what to eat after working out or how to tame anxiety.

Designed with the same lovely aesthetic as her website, "The Thirlby" contains a wealth of valuable information created with the whole person in mind. From cover to cover, Almila Kakinc-Dodd offers grounded, realistic tips that will appeal to anyone looking to improve their health and wellbeing from the inside out.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, and Soul" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, and will prove to be a popular and appreciated addition to community, college, and university library collections.

Raising the Barre
Lauren Kessler
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9780738218311, $24.99, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Like generations of little girls, Lauren Kessler fell in love with ballet the first time she saw The Nutcracker, and from that day, at age five, she dreamed of becoming a ballerina. But when she was twelve, her very famous ballet instructor crushed those dreams (along with her youthful self-assurance) and she stepped away from the barre.

Fast forward four decades. Lauren (suddenly, powerfully, itchingly restless at midlife) embarks on a "Transcontinental Nutcracker Binge Tour," where attending a string of performances in Chicago, New York, Boston, and San Francisco reignites her love affair with the ballet and fuels her long lost girlhood dream.

What ensues is not only a story about The Nutcracker itself, but also an inside look at the seemingly romantic (but oh-so-gritty) world of ballet, about all that happens away from the audience's eye that precedes the magic on stage. It is a tale told from the perspective of someone who not only loves it, but is also seeking to live it.

Lauren's quest to dance The Nutcracker with the Eugene Ballet Company tackles the big issues: fear, angst, risk, resilience, the refusal to "settle in" to midlife, the refusal to become yet another Invisible Woman. It is also a very funny, very real look at what it's like to push yourself further than you ever thought you could go -- and what happens when you get there.

Critique: Remarkably informative, inherently fascinating, surprisingly instructive, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance the Nutcracker" is a notable compelling and refreshingly candid personal account that is a compelling read from beginning to end. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated ballet enthusiasts that "Raising the Barre" is also available in a paperback edition (9780306903274, $15.99) as well as in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Renegade Beauty
Nadine Artemis
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781583949696, $25.95, PB, 448pp,

Synopsis: "Renegade Beauty: Reveal and Revive Your Natural Radiance--Beauty Secrets, Solutions, and Preparations" is an essential full-color instructional guide and manual in which Nadine Artemis (the creator of Living Libations, a line of serums, elixirs, and essential oils for those seeking the purest of botanical health and beauty products) introduces her readers to the concept of "renegade" beauty -- a practice of doing less and allowing the elements and the life force of nature to revive the body, skin, and soul so our natural radiance can shine through.

Anyone woman stuck in perpetual loops of new products, facials, and dermatologist appointments will find 'real world practical' answers as Artemis illuminates the energizing elements of sun, fresh air, water, the earth, and plants.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout, "Renegade Beauty" is a comprehensive resource for any woman of any age who is seeking to simplify their self-care routine, take their own health into their own hands, and discover their own radiant beauty -- both within and without. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Renegade Beauty" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Renegade Beauty" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Israel Rising: Ancient Prophecy/Modern Lens
Doug Hershey, author
Elise Monique Theriault, photographer
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780806539072, $34.95, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: Thousands of years ago, the prophet Ezekiel foretold a future time in which the arid land of Israel would come alive for its people. Now "Israel Rising: Ancient Prophecy/Modern Lens" by author Doug Hershey and photographer Elise Monique Theriault impressively documents the fulfillment of this vision, from the hills of Shiloh where shepherds once roamed, to the booming city of Tel Aviv, founded on sand dunes, to the stellar beaches of Caesarea, transformed from a small village into one of Israel's most stunning coastal cities and finally Jerusalem, the Eternal City of Peace, where in ancient times the power of worship resounded from the Temple.

Here, rarely seen photographs taken between the 1880s and the 1940s are deftly juxtaposed with contemporary images of the same locations illustrate the region's biblical history as a place of monumental battle, celebration, worship, and awesome resilience.

Whether by helicopter or on foot, on their own or with the aid of locals, the team of Hershey and Theriault negotiate the terrain to access the vantage points required to match the original photos, from the rooftop of Israel's National Museum of Science, Technology and Space in Haifa, to Jaffa Port's breakwater, and much more. Their joint quest creates a collection that will inspire and captivate as it illuminates Israel's foretold awakening in a new and unforgettable way.

Critique: Visually stunning, impressively informative, inherently fascinating, "Israel Rising: Ancient Prophecy/Modern Lens" is an absolutely and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections and a perfect celebration of the 70th anniversary of the modern state of Israel.

Ephemeral by Nature
Stephen Lyn Bales
The University of Tennessee Press
110 Conference Center UT, Knoxville, TN 37996
9781621903543, $24.95, PB, 219pp,

Synopsis: "Ephemeral by Nature: Exploring the Exceptional with a Tennessee Naturalist" is a collection of twelve impressively erudite essays that collectively are a testament to naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales' lifetime's fascination with the outdoors and its myriad wonders.

In these informative essays Bales deftly examines a variety of flora and fauna that in one way or another can be described as "ephemeral" -- that is, fleeting, short-lived, or transient.

Focusing on his native East Tennessee, Bales introduces his readers to several oddities, including the ghost plant, a wispy vascular plant that resembles a rooster's tail and grows mainly in areas devoid of sunlight; the Appalachian panda, an ancestor of today's red panda that wandered the region millions of years ago and whose fossil remains have only recently been discovered; and the freshwater jellyfish, a tiny organism that is virtually invisible except for those hot summer days when clusters of them bloom into shimmering "medusae," sometimes by the thousands.

Other essays consider such topics as the plight of the monarch butterfly, a gorgeous insect whose populations have dropped by 90 percent in only the last two decades; the reintroduction of the lake sturgeon, one of nature's most primitive and seldom-seen fish, into the waters of the Tennessee Valley; and the surprising emergence of coyote-wolf and coyote-dog hybrids in the eastern states.

Written with insight, humor, and heart, "Ephemeral by Nature" is as entertaining as it is instructive. Along with a wealth of biological details-and his own handsome pen-and-ink drawings-Bales fills "Ephemeral by Nature" with delightful anecdotes of field trips, species-protection efforts, and those thrilling occasions when some elusive member of the natural order shows itself to us, if only for a brief moment.

Critique: An extraordinary and inherently entertaining volume that is as impressively informed and informative as it is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Ephemeral by Nature" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Nature/Wildlife collections -- as well as being a 'must' for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Jimi Hendrix and Philosophy: Experience Required
Theodore G. Ammon, editor
Open Court Publishing Company
70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601
9780812699562, $19.95, PB, 256pp,

In his brief career Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942 - September 18, 1970) transformed rock music, established himself as the greatest guitarist of all time, and left a rich legacy of original songs and dazzling recordings.

Compiled and edited by Theodore G. Ammon (who teaches philosophy, specifically logic and aesthetics, at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi), "Jimi Hendrix and Philosophy: Experience Required" assembles nineteen articles by philosophers who have come to terms with the experience and the phenomenon of Hendrix, uncovering some surprising implications of Hendrix's life and work.

Much of "Jimi Hendrix and Philosophy" is concerned with the restless polarities and dualities that reveal themselves through Hendrix. His compositions display a preoccupation with the tragic nature of life, moving between the polarities of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea and and Platonic philosophy. Jimi's "guitar-being" has surprising implications for the philosophical relation between mind and body.

There is in Hendrix a duality between innovation and tradition - innovation in psychedelic sonic adventures and tradition in the form of the blues. Hendrix exemplifies the interaction of technology and art, as seen in his use of feedback, varieties of noise, and backwards reel-to-reel playing. How much of the Hendrix phenomenon can be explained by the technological situation and how much by his own unique genius?

Everyone knows about Hendrix's use of feedback in the narrow sense, but feedback can also be viewed as a general phenomenon that arises in complex dynamical systems and emerges at the border of chaos and order.

Although critics associate Hendrix's lifestyle and early death with self-destructive patterns of the Sixties, his actual thoughts as revealed in his songs and writings show a more positive and constructive concern with authentic freedom. What did Hendrix mean when he spoke of "the realities" of conflict conveyed in "Machine Gun"? What is a "Voodoo Chile"? When does noise become music? These and other questions are addressed by the contributors to "Jimi Hendrix and Philosophy".

Hendrix's undying popularity following his death in 1970 has led to the release over the years of a large body of material which Hendrix would never have chosen to make public, raising serious questions about what we owe to the dead and how we view the construction of the artist's public persona.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a four page Historical Note (John-The-Boss); a four page Bibliography; a four page listing of the contributors and their credentials (Ezy Wryters); and a seven page Index, "Jimi Hendrix and Philosophy: Experience Required" is an unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Philosophy collections in general, and Jimi Hendrix supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Jimi Hendrix and Philosophy: Experience Required" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Real Life: Construction Management Guide from A-Z
Jamil Soucar
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Dr. Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781480941397, $43.00, HC, 190pp,

Synopsis: Have you ever experienced discrepancies between the concepts you read in textbooks and their real-life application? In order to successfully enter the field of construction management, one must incorporate both theoretical concepts and practical experiences. "Real Life: Construction Management Guide from A-Z" by Jamil Souca does just that.

"Real Life: Construction Management Guide from A-Z" combines theoretical principles with real-life insight, offering a practical guide of best practices to be a successful construction manager. A complete manual taking the reader through all phases of a project, from its inception, to design, to completion of construction, "Real Life: Construction Management Guide from A-Z" covers all the challenges that a construction manager must deal with, whether working as an owner's representative, for a contractor, for an architect, or for owners themselves.

Critique: Written in an easy-to-read, conversational style, and will benefit anyone, from a new construction manager to a seasoned professional, "Real Life: Construction Management Guide from A-Z" is a complete, comprehensive, 'real world practical' instructional guide and resource that is unreservedly recommended for professional, community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Real Life: Construction Management Guide from A-Z" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $37.37).

On Forgiveness and Revenge: Lessons from an Iranian Prison
Ramin Jahanbegloo
University of Regina Press
9780889775008, $19.95, PB, 250pp,

Synopsis: "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." - Nelson Mandela

Upon his release from Iran's notorious Evin Prison, philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo contemplated these words by Mandela as he himself grappled with demons arising from being unjustly imprisoned in Iran.

Ramin then began to wrestle with ideas of forgiveness versus revenge, and wondered if the politics of forgiveness could offer salvation in a world where revenge endangers the social and political fabric of our lives.

"What is forgiveness, and how do we get there?" Jahanbegloo asks, in this follow-up to his internationally celebrated book "Time Will Say Nothing: A Philosopher Survives an Iranian Prison".

Prevailing upon the wisdom of the Ancients, the Dalai Lama, and other great thinkers, "On Forgiveness and Revenge: Lessons from an Iranian Prison" is meditation on forgiveness and revenge offers insights into building a more peaceful world during this time of nationalism and exclusion.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "On Forgiveness and Revenge: Lessons from an Iranian Prison" is an extraordinary and truly memorable read from first page to last. Extraordinary and deftly written, "On Forgiveness and Revenge: Lessons from an Iranian Prison" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as a critically important addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Philosophy collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Crunch!: A History of the Great American Potato Chip
Dirk Burhans
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299227746, $19.95, PB, 232pp,

Synopsis: The potato chip has been one of America's favorite snacks since its accidental origin in a nineteenth-century kitchen.

"Crunch! A History of the Great American Potato Chip" by Dirk Burhans (past publisher of the magazine Burger Boy and an authority on the history of potato chips, soda pop, and hamburger chains) tells the story of this crispy, salty treat, from the early sales of locally made chips at corner groceries, county fairs, and cafes to the mass marketing and corporate consolidation of the modern snack food industry.

"Crunch!" also uncovers a dark side of potato chip history, including a federal investigation of the snack food industry in the 1990s following widespread allegations of antitrust activity, illegal buyouts, and predatory pricing.

In the wake of these "Great Potato Chip Wars," corporate snack divisions closed and dozens of family-owned companies went bankrupt. Yet, despite consolidation, many small chippers persist into the twenty-first century, as mom-and-pop companies and upstart "boutique" businesses serve both new consumers and markets with strong regional loyalties.

Illustrated with black-and-white images of early snack food paraphernalia and clever packaging from the glory days of American advertising art, "Crunch!" is an informative tour of large and small business in America and the vicissitudes of popular tastes.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Crunch!: A History of the Great American Potato Chip" is a unique and exceptionally informative history that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Food History and American Popular Culture collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Crunch!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Desperado / A Noose for the Desperado
Clifton Adams
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781944520359, $11.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: In "The Desperado", when Ray Novak, the sheriff's son, got in trouble with some Texas bluebellies, they just naturally come after Talbert 'Tal' Cameron as well. After all, Tall is a known hothead who had clubbed a carpetbagger. Leaving his girl behind, Tall and Ray take off for the hills and lay low for a bit, until Ray decides to head back and face the law. Now, Tall considers himself a peace-loving man, but when he returns to find that Yankee soldiers have killed his pa, he naturally has to even the score. But this score takes a lot of evening, and pretty soon Tall is on the run. That's when he meets Pappy Garrett, a veteran outlaw who takes him under his wing and teaches him the tricks of shooting and staying alive. Tall's gun seems to take on a life of its own as one score after another gets settled the hard way. Now, like Pappy, Tall's a wanted man with a price on his head and the only peace to be found is the peace of the grave.

In "A Noose for the Desperado", it had been a long trail from Texas for Talbert Cameron, but now Tall finds himself in Ocotillo near the Mexican border, in a small town controlled by a gang of thieves. The fat man, Basset, controls the set-up, but a corrupt Marshall named Kreyler makes it all possible. The gang ambushes the Mexican smugglers who come out of the hills laden with silver. Basset wants Tall to join the gang and Tall reluctantly agrees. But he runs into trouble before he even gets started by attracting the unwanted attention of Black Joseph's girl, Marta. Black Joseph is an Indian gun-slinger who d just as soon kill you as look at you. And Marta has got a helluva temper herself. Tall has never been one to back down from a fight. But this time he's fallen into a veritable snake pit, with no one to trust but himself and his two 45s.

Critique: The late Clifton Adams (1919 - 1971) wrote more than 50 books and 125 stories under a number of pseudonyms. The winner of Two Spur Awards for his westerns, Adams was as good as he was prolific. Now Stark House Press has published two of his classic, time-lost westerns under one cover. A perfect introduction to the work of Clifton Adams, "The Desperado / A Noose for the Desperado" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Western Fiction collections and the personal reading lists of dedicated western action/adventure fans.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Frantic 7
John Radzilowski & Jerzy Szczesniak
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781612005607, $29.95, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: The Frantic operations were conceived in late 1943 as Soviet forces advanced westward into Ukraine, making Soviet airfields accessible to long-range aircraft based in Italy and later England. American aircraft hit targets in central Europe, refueled and rearmed at Soviet airbases, then flew back to bomb additional targets. In addition to hitting Nazi war industries, the political objectives of Frantic were to build closer cooperation with the Red Army as thoughts turned to what would come after the war finally ended. The first Frantic operation was in June 1944 and operations continued through July, despite continued Soviet misgivings.

For the first two weeks after the Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944, Soviet forces stood idle outside the city, and Stalin refused to let the RAF land at Soviet airfields after dropping supplies to the Polish freedom fighters. But eventually, the United States managed to persuade him to let them use Frantic to drop supplies to the Poles.

On September 18, 1944, American B-17 Flying Fortresses, supported by fighter planes, dropped arms, ammunition, medical supplies, and food over the city of Warsaw. The assistance came too late and had no bearing on the situation of the Polish freedom fighters in Warsaw. For many, Frantic 7 remains a mere gesture to placate Western public opinion, but the events of that day, and the courage of 1,220 airmen who risked their lives to bring them aid, are still remembered by the Poles of Warsaw.

"Frantic 7: The American Effort to Aid the Warsaw Uprising and the Origins of the Cold War, 1944" by John Radzilowski, (Associate Professor of History at the University of Alaska) and Jerzy Szczesman (a Warsaw resident and WWII historian) gives a full narrative of the Frantic 7 operation itself. Using the firsthand accounts of the events from the freedom fighters on the ground in Warsaw, the fates of the young aircrew, in particular those of "I'll Be Seeing You" are told in detail. It also sets Frantic 7 in its political context, and explains how the diplomatic wrangles help set the stage for the breakdown in relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, and the beginning of the path to the Cold War.

Critique: A thoroughly researched, impressively detailed, and exceptionally well written history, "Frantic 7: The American Effort to Aid the Warsaw Uprising and the Origins of the Cold War, 1944" is an extraordinary and valued contribution to the growing library of World War II history collections and supplemental studies reading lists. "Frantic 7" will prove to be of enduring special interest for students, academia, and the personal reading lists of dedicated World War II military buffs.

General Lee's Immortals
Michael C. Hardy
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611213621, $34.95, HC, 480pp,

Synopsis: The Branch-Lane Brigade was a part of the Army of Northern Virginia from 1861-1865. It was first led by Lawrence Branch until his death at Sharpsburg, and then by James H. Lane, who served with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during its entire existence.

The names emblazoned on its battle flag read like a history of that army, beginning with the Seven Days' Battles and ending with the final roll call at Appomattox. Originally part of A.P. Hill's famous "Light" Division, the Branch-Lane Brigade earned spectacular plaudits for its disciplined defense, hard-hitting attacks, and incredible marching abilities. Its constant position at the front, however, resulted in devastating losses, so that its roll call of casualties by the end of the war far exceeded its number of survivors.

"General Lee's Immortals: The Battles and Campaigns of the Branch-Lane Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865" by civil war historian Michael C. Hardy is a deeply researched work revealing the combat experiences of North Carolina's Branch-Lane Brigade in nearly every major battle fought in the east, including that infamous day at Chancellorsville when its members mistakenly shot Stonewall Jackson. Two months later they were in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, and thereafter throughout the titanic battles of 1864. In the meantime we learn of the camp-life and the hard winters of Lee's army. Yet when Lee finally surrendered at Appomattox it was the Branch-Lane Brigade still with him, no longer victors but yet unbowed.

Critique: Impressively informative and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "General Lee's Immortals: The Battles and Campaigns of the Branch-Lane Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865" is enhanced for academia and dedicated Civil War history buffs with a fourteen page Bibliography and a seven page Index. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.97), "General Lee's Immortals" is unreservedly recommended as an essential, core addition to personal, community, college, and university library American Civil War collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Mythical Ireland
Anthony Murphy
Liffy Press Ltd.
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, 124 Byers Road, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9780995792722, $45.00, PB, 344pp,

Synopsis: "Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past" by Anthony Murphy (who runs the very successful Mythical Ireland website at offers the reader an inherently fascinating and impressively informative journey through time, landscape, and the human spirit. Dealing with archaeology, interpretive mythography, cosmology, and cosmogony, Murphy seeks a core meaning; something beyond academia's functional interpretations of Ireland's past 5,000 years. Along the way, he delves into enthralling aspects of this journey including such questions as: How much knowledge did locals have of Newgrange before it was excavated? Who is the ubiquitous ancient hag goddess Cailleach? What happened to make Ireland's Stonehenge disappear? What connects Fourknocks, a tiny passage-tomb, with the stones of Newgrange? What were the indigenous Irish myths about the Milky Way? Did someone try to steal the Tara Brooch? Why are there myths about flooded towns and cities? With exquisite and beautiful photographs of the Irish landscape and ancient monuments, Murphy invokes the druids and poets of the Boyne, and thus the spirits of ancient texts are reawakened for our turbulent, modern world.

Critique: Thoroughly accessible for the non-specialist general readers, and enhanced for academia with the inclusion of eighteen pages of Notes, a seven page Bibliography, and a four page Index, "Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Irish History & Culture collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East
Azriel Bermant
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781107151949, $99.99, HC, 274pp,

Synopsis: Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS, FRIC (nee Roberts; 13 October 1925 - 8 April 2013), was a British stateswoman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to have been appointed.

"Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East" examines Thatcher's policy on the Middle East, with a spotlight on her approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Author Azriel Bermant questions claims that she sought to counter the Foreign Office Middle East policy, and maintains that the prime minister was actually in close agreement with the Whitehall bureaucracy on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In particular, Bermant argues that Thatcher's concerns over Soviet ambitions in the Middle East encouraged her to oppose the policies of Israel's Likud governments, and to work actively for an urgent resolution of the conflict. Furthermore, while Thatcher was strongly pro-American, this was not translated into automatic support for Israel. Indeed, the Thatcher government was very much at odds with the Reagan administration over the Middle East, as a result of Washington's neglect of the forces of moderation in the region.

Critique: Exceptionally and impressively researched, written, organized and presented, "Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East" is a model of solid scholarship and an extraordinarily informative and thoughtful study throughout. While especially and unreservedly recommended, especially for college and university library collections, it should be noted that "Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East" is also available for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject in a paperback format (9781316606308, $29.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.75).

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

New York Station
Lawrence Dudley
Blackstone Publishing
31 Mistletoe Rd., Ashland, OR 97520
9781538469194 $27.99 hc / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In August 1940 - eighteen months before Pearl Harbor - Anglo-American MI6 agent Roy Hawkins is mysteriously rushed from Nazi-occupied Paris to New York. Enraged at being ordered away from what he believes is the real fight against Nazism and Fascism, he wants to get back to Paris as soon as possible, even though he knows it means almost certain death.

In New York he is shocked and sickened to encounter a now alien America increasingly dominated by right-wing extremists, including a new radio celebrity, Walter Ventnor. After a tense encounter with his friend and mentor William Stephenson, he agrees to temporarily pursue a Nazi commercial envoy, Hans Ludwig, and try and stop him from stealing American submarine warfare secrets.

Hawkins follows Ludwig to the elite Saratoga racing meeting, where Ludwig is cultivating top American business leaders. There he meets the scion of an ancient and aristocratic New York family, Daisy van Schenck. Fascinated by her after he persuades her to throw Ludwig out of her mansion, which Ludwig has rented, Hawkins finds himself increasingly attracted to Daisy and a different life. When Hawkins discovers a Nazi plot to rig the presidential election, he is forced to choose between duty and the woman he loves.

Critique: New York Station is a suspenseful historical novel, set during World War II, and following a protagonist who uncovers a plot to sabotage America's contribution to the war effort from within. Intrigue and danger abound, immersing the reader in a deadly cat-and-mouse game. Suspenseful to the very last page, New York Station is a treat for connoisseurs of historical fiction and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that New York Station is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

World War Trump
Hall Gardner
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633883956, $25.00, HC, 399pp,

Synopsis: How will Donald Trump's "America First" policy impact international stability? "World War Trump: The Risks of America's New Nationalism" by is sobering book by Hall Gardner (who has been the chair or co-chair of the Department of International and Comparative Politics at the American University of Paris since 1992) argues that it will put the country on a path toward war.

An international relations expert, Professor Gardner deftly analyzes the twists and turns of our president's foreign policy pronouncements from the beginning of his campaign to the present. He argues that Trump's proposed economic nationalism and military buildup (if implemented) will alienate America's friends and rivals alike. The unintended and perilous consequence could well be to press Russia, Iran, Turkey, and China into a closer counter-alliance versus the United States, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Professor Gardner has long warned that the uncoordinated NATO and European Union enlargement into former Soviet spheres of influence and security would not only provoke a Russian revanchist backlash, but could also encourage Moscow to forge a Sino-Russian alliance. That Russian backlash has already taken place since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 during the Obama administration.

Now Trump's seeming contempt of trade pacts and multilateral relations, plus his confrontation with both Iran and North Korea, could push Russia to construct closer ties with a more assertive China to form a polarizing alliance. At the same time, "America First" trade and monetary disputes with allies could tempt some of those states to move into neutrality or else drift into the Russia-China orbit.

Against this dangerous and destabilizing unilateralism, Gardner makes a convincing case that the only workable means of maintaining a peaceful world order is through patient and thoroughly engaged diplomacy and a realist rapprochement with both Russia and China.

Critique: A thoughtful and thought-provoking study with an immediate relevance to what we see playing out nightly and so disastrously on Donald Trump's latest reality tv show called 'Make America Great Again', "World War Trump: The Risks of America's New Nationalism" should be considered essential reading by every citizen and every statesman concerned with what is happening to our country today. An absolutely and unreservedly recommended addition to every community, college, and university library Contemporary Political Science collection, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "World War Trump: The Risks of America's New Nationalism" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It
Shane Burley
AK Press
370 Ryan Avenue, #100, Chico, CA 95973
9781849352949, $15.95, PB, 300pp,

Synopsis: We can no longer ignore the fact that fascism is on the rise in the United States. What was once a fringe movement has been gaining cultural acceptance and political power for years. Rebranding itself as "alt-right" and riding the waves of both Trump's hate-fueled populism and the anxiety of an abandoned working class, they have created a social force that has the ability to win elections and inspire racist street violence in equal measure.

"Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It" by Shane Burley (who is a writer, filmmaker, and antifascist based in Portland, Oregon) looks at the changing world of the far right in Donald Trump's America. Examining the modern fascist movement's various strains, Shane Burley has written an accessible primer about what its adherents believe, how they organize, and what future they have in the United States.

The ascension of Trump has introduced a whole new vocabulary into our political lexicon, including white nationalism, race realism, Identitarianism, and a slew of others. Burley breaks it all down. From the tech-savvy trolls of the alt-right to esoteric Aryan mystics, from full-fledged Nazis to well-groomed neofascists like Richard Spencer, he shows how these racists and authoritarians have reinvented themselves in order to recruit new members and grow.

Just as importantly, "Fascism Today" shows how they can be fought and beaten. It highlights groups that have successfully opposed these twisted forces and outlines the elements needed to build powerful mass movements to confront the institutionalization of fascist ideas, protect marginalized communities, and ultimately stop the fascist threat.

Critique: Incredibly informed and informative, impressively well written, organization and presented, "Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It" is a critically important and ultimately inspiring study of the crisis in American politics today. While unreservedly recommended as an essential addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Political Science & Cultural Affairs collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, political activists and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Clint Travis

Gail's Bookshelf

Breaking Cover
Michele Rigby Assad
Tyndale Momentum
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496419590, $25.99,

Michelle Rigby Assad's true story of her ten-years as a CIA agent in "Breaking Cover: My Secret Life in the CIA and What It Taught Me about What's Worth Fighting For" reads like a blockbuster novel whose pages can't turn fast enough. Her story is one of struggles that became "skill builders...where pain became a motivator and confusion...a clarifier." However, it was only in retrospect that she saw those difficulties as a "tremendous gift" when she realized God used them to work out His plan and purpose for her life.

Working as a clandestine CIA agent, a counterterrorism specialist trained to lie and manipulate, was not something Michelle dreamed about. She was a woman of faith, a newlywed and her dreams were of a career, husband, family and friends. Until her final year of graduate school at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies chose because of her personal interest in the Middle East.

That's when curiosity drew her to listen to a CIA representative at the Georgetown University library. She thought, "it can't hurt just to listen, right? What do I have to lose?" Especially since it was so late in her education and she still hadn't decided what career path to take.

Thus, begins an inspirational, often terrifying true story of a counterterrorism, counter intelligence CIA specialist stationed in some of the most treacherous parts of the Middle East alongside her CIA husband. Her training, decade long CIA career, leaving the CIA and later becoming a security consultant, public speaker and refugee mentor were all part of what she considers "God's call on her life."

Beginning with "how to be one thing while pretending to be another," learning how to "spot, assess and develop an agent...debrief agents, identify counterintelligence surveillance...protect sources and conduct dead-drops..." while a target of ISIS and much more.

Added to that Michelle also had to fight feminine serotypes within a male dominated agency while she achieved the challenging requirements of an "undercover intelligence officer." That taught her to turn her "gender liability" into an advantage as a field operative and later as a security specialist in her own business which focused on counterterrorism and personal security.

The thread of faith and trust throughout her story is realistic as are the dangerous life and death situations she faced, some of which caused her to question if she could do the job and survive; even wonder if she had misunderstood what God wanted her to do.

Her story, training and journey of faith is fascinating. The incidents and situations are real. However, names of cities and countries are blacked out for security reasons, even though the CIA cleared her to drop her cover, so she could write her story. It's a captivating, informative and enjoyable read for anyone, but, especially for readers who like spy and thriller stories.

A Woman of Strength and Purpose
Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
10807 New Allegiance Drive Suite 500, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601428981, $15.99,

"A Woman of Strength and Purpose," by author, teacher and well-known Seattle speaker, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias concerns strong-willed women. After thirty years' experience as a strong-willed woman she describes the positive and negative aspects of a strong will and encourages women to channel strong wills appropriately. Otherwise, she writes a woman with a strong will, is a force for "great destruction" as well as "great good"

She begins with why such women are often described as determined, domineering, self-sufficient, tenacious and difficult to deal with. Yet, she writes, the quality of a "strong-will, in and of itself, is a positive trait." In addition, "strong-willed" is not a neutral term and such women often invite extreme positive and negative reactions.

Cynthia writes from the perspective of a woman who has learned the constructive and destructive effects of a strong will. After she chose to submit to God and add godly inspiration to her strong will she could then "harness the gift of a strong will" to powerfully influence and "impact the world for good."

She also believes strong-willed women are unique and there isn't a typical characteristic or profile to describe them, other than they are generally bold and unwilling to take no for an answer. However, when strong wills aren't kept "in check," she warns, they become a "destructive force" that results in a "struggle between the dark and light sides."

Her target audience is strong-willed Christian women and her arguments are supported with extensive use of Scripture. Chapters include surveys, discussion questions and practical tips to identify strong wills strengths and weaknesses and even a checklist to determine "How Strong Your Will Is."

Chapters end with "Profiles in Perseverance," which are stories of strong-willed women who learned to submit to God and allowed Him to work in their lives. Their stories illustrate Cynthia's wise counsel on how to overcome "Three Stumbling Blocks to Surrender:" decision making, discipline and commitment.

Filled with real-life examples Cynthia's practical advice inspires women to surrender their will to God and live for Him. She teaches how to be with God instead of without God because; she writes, "your strong will is God's will!" for you. Written in an easy-to-understand conversational style Cynthia's guidance is well-done, practical and applicable.

Hold the Light
April McGowan
Whitefire Publishing
9781939023865, $14.99,

Award-winning author April McGowan's latest release, "Hold the Light" is a story of love, loss, and catastrophic change in the life of a promising young artist who receives a devastating diagnosis from what she anticipated would be a "routine eye appointment."

When Amber made the appointment with Dr. Birkman she thought she might need glasses to correct her vision. She wasn't prepared for him to say she had macular degeneration, a genetic condition that causes loss of vision although the progression was different for everyone. Dr. Birkman also said if she found her biological family they "might give us some clues" as to what to expect.

Never Amber thought! She had been adopted by a loving family and believed her biological mother had abandoned her. When she received a letter from her four years ago she had torn it into shreds and thought, "how dare she try and contact me." She didn't need or want to hear from her! Hot anger still simmered just beneath the surface.

Besides, she had her adopted parents, best friends Shannon and Justin, her teaching career mentoring young art students and a budding romance with Kyle. Yet, the doctor's words changed everything and brought questions she didn't have answers to! What would happen to her teaching job and her painting career? Without vision she couldn't drive, couldn't support herself and she would lose her independence!
Thus, begins Amber's redemptive story of learning to cope with loss of vision, loss of independence and the haunting question, "How could the God she loved all her life turn everything upside down - again?"

She had been abandoned by her birth mother as a toddler, lost her adoptive father as a teenager and now was going blind! April invites readers into Amber's struggles with anger, faith, a divisive romance and deep issues of trust complicated by a plot twist that creates a thread of suspense.

April gives life to both primary and secondary characters with believable dialogue and well-done character development. However, the portrayal of Amber's anger and attitude in the first third of the book was extreme enough to make me dislike her instead of feeling sympathetic towards her. Nevertheless, as the story progresses she begins to show growth, courage and the bright promise of hope, so the criticism is a light one.

Overall the author creates a compelling atmosphere of devastating loss, abandonment and what it might be like to learn you are going blind. Although listed as a romance the plot twists and elements of suspense make it more of a contemporary novel anyone would enjoy.

Stories I Love to Tell
Gene Edwards
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9780785218692, $19.99, Hardcover,

Gene Edwards, long considered the "Paul Harvey of Christian writers," writes true short stories that contain nuggets of spiritual truth. He continues that theme in "Stories I Love to Tell" scheduled to release February 20. Some stories will make you cry while others will bring smiles and exclamations of delight, yet each story reveals "God often uses the extraordinary to get our attention."

For example, "The Miracle at the Wailing Wall," (pg. 21) is about written prayers, the Wailing Wall and a Jewish father who disowned his Christian son that illustrates with God there is no "coincidence." Sometimes it's just a miracle.

"Memba's" story (pg. 113) concerns a venerated Sudanese witch doctor who challenged missionary Don McClure to a test to determine whose God was greater. Don accepted the challenge though he had no idea how to counter Memba's display of magic or did he know he would face a gigantic and hideous, poisonous tarantula. This story reminded me of the test Elijah faced on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal and teaches that the Holy Spirit knows "what you are going to ask before you ask it."

"Poor White Trash (pg. 1) is Gladys's story of growing up in an underground storm cellar, six feet wide, six feet high and six feet long. Her account of determination, growth, education and courage led to marriage, children and college, yet one of her sons received terrible grades and was considered a "slow learner." Frustrated with labels and teacher discussions she drove her son to where IQ tests were given and "announced in a loud voice, "My son is either a moron or a genius and I want you to find out which it is." This heartwarming story of faith, perseverance and a mother's love illustrates the unseen hand of God in the lives of His children.

These stories and more are part of 26 delightful and faith-affirming accounts contained in Edwards collection. Each story illustrates a different aspect of God's love and care. From His often-miraculous intervention in the lives of men to His knowledge of our needs before we even pray to literal miracles that defy MRI's and medical tests that reveal cancers, failing kidneys and enlarged hearts.

The small size book fits easily into purse or bag and the stories are short, especially perfect for coffee breaks or appointments. I also think the book would be excellent for anyone with health challenges, threatening diagnoses or those with chronic illness, as well as anyone who likes well-written stories of faith and hope.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Grace's Bookshelf

Voices in the Air, Poems for Listeners
Naomi Shihab Nye, with introduction by the author
Green Willow/HarperCollins
9780062691842, $17.99, 190 pages

Naomi Shihab Nye's book is one waited for by 20th and 21st century readers and writers: now ready to be introduced to the next generation. She's an American icon - not the marble pillar kind or one of those in portraiture - but an active teaching citizen of the poetry world who is moving us forward word by word. This time she's inspired by "Yutori" (life space) found from teaching poetry workshops in Japan. The book's introduction leads us from this moment of stillness - to listen, and then to hear. This book comes from listening to many people - some great and some unknown. The poems are elegiac, reverential and celebratory; addressing more than 75 individuals in 100 new works. Each character suggests an idea within an historical story. It's a streaming of cultural happiness observing others.

Emily Dickinson is featured in a poem called, Emily: "What would you do if you knew/that even during wartime/scholars in Baghdad/were translating your poems/into Arabic/still believing/in the thing with feathers? /You wouldn't feel lonely/that's for sure. /Words finding friends/even if written on envelope flaps/or left in a drawer." Coincidentally, Naomi Shihab Nye also has poems saved and read in prisons, halfway houses, schools, therapeutic institutions; and why is this? Because she writes sharply and clearly of a wholesome reality where we find something to like in each line. Her work is completely understandable while maintaining a high level of language and poetic identity. She presents a reality without artifice and lets a poem speak for itself without getting in its way. These poems seem to say: this is what I saw - this is what I heard - I stopped long enough in (life space) "Yutori" to hear. Just take a look at people and places - each is a portal you can see into.

A gentle rebuke is in the poem Oh. Say Can You See it begins, "I'd like to take Donald Trump to Palestine, /set him free in the streets of Ramallah or Nablus/amidst all the winners who never gave up/ in 69 years. /... I'd wrap a keffiyeh around his head, /tuck some warm falafel's in his pockets, /let him wander alleyways and streets, / rubble and hope..."
I love the prose piece where the author, at age 20, visits Jack Kerouac's widow (whom she barely knew via telephone) and grieves with her. Her parents drove from Texas to Florida to deliver her to this visit. We see early on the meaning of tenacity.

Naomi Shihab Nye is an intermediary between the reader and a language that dignifies ideas. There's moral leadership here in an excellent book where on every page poetry subordinates the bad in this world. This is why she's one of our country's most beloved poets.

In Transit

I mailed a package to myself, it never arrived.
Months later, wondering what it contained. . .
the package was oversized, I paid extra.
Mailed it from a place under trees. Surely shade
and sunlight was in the package. Mailed it
from a place compassionate to refugees.
Unopened envelopes inside the package,
poems from kind students hoping for response.
How do we answer without knowing
who they were or what they said?
This is why you must smile at everyone,
living and dead, everywhere you go.
You have no idea what has been lost
in transit.

Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater
Sam Roxas-Chua
Lithic Press
9781946583000, $17.00, 85 pages.

Poet Joseph Stroud says these poems "will take you on a journey to where you have never been before." This is true and it's miraculous, for all of us to have the same words in English - yet a poet can, by virtue of his fantastic vision, combine them magically. Roxas-Chua is dreamlike, mythic, imagistic, bringing forth spirits from his ancestral China and the Philippines. All poetry is made of mystery but this poet transports us to a realm that is both primitive and exalted. There's a ritual of the mind, as well as a boy inside a man, who speaks a vivid language in After His Great Fires: "... Death's gift/is in the lifting/of limbs, of forearms, /strong like the breast/of a horse carrying/a boy on its back - /its muscles and chambers/moving the clack/of his skeleton, echoing in/the interior of a boy whose/mind like a carousel spins/against a reflection/of mad ghosts in odd/shaped mirrors."

The father figure features predominantly in his work as a source of energy and the inequities of childhood - not forgiveness and reconciliation but something more like longing and remorse. There's a beautiful haunting we've not seen exactly like this before and may not until he writes again. I wish to focus on this. The same poem (After His Great Fires) begins," When my father turns his wrists/to unbutton his flannel sleeves, /I pull half the world like a mule/and sing diphthongs/ to a somnambulist God/who failed my father, /my drum, my bakunawa, /neighing - tied against/the great catalpa/where he left me his shirt, /his flannel shirt/that I inhale to believe that I am a boy:/ a bastard a bastinado, a dab/ of blood in his compass..."
And in The Adoration & Mystery of The Fifth Thorn he writes: "The sound of early footsteps/presses against the wood, it is my father, //light in his substance now - little tides/under his translucent feet. An inch//is all I saw of his levitation/to the kitchen, to the back door, //to the flat chest of the yard/where I once hug on to him, //cheek on the back of his neck - /my first nosebleed//coating the white cotton of his starched collar...."

See the poem After The Carnival: "I carry you, /my Strongest Man in the World, //your bloated stomach on my back - /our beard songs so beautiful//tonight - I walk home. /Father, I didn't mind the mud//or the breaking of illuminated creatures/under my boots.... I never did close your eyes//when I sold you to the seas. Never did I take a sea palm// .../Tonight, // our fealty belongs to the sirens, /their long hair - our beds, //Their hands of soft ambulances/stitching the silver lines//back into your graying eyes."

Roxas-Cua is also a visual artist and I believe this with all my heart.


Last night I watched my mother
milk a memory into a letter.

The fading days are here,
fiddleheads are falling

from her silver hair,
umber stems are crawling out

of her mouth as she coughs
into a pillow.

Her bed, a brittle star.
Her hands, light -

the paltry soul of paper.
Her eyes are vellum coffins

dimming in the whirl
of a lifeline.

She sleeps with folded hands -
a dorsal.

Our dancing days are over,
my hands are ledges,

my fingers drink from a bleed
in the oyster.

Analicia Sotelo
9781571315007, $16.00, 93 pages.

This is a new voice for me and it's a dazzling one. The book has major sections - taste; revelation; humiliation; pastoral; myth; parable; rest cure, all with an overlapping theme: male/female relationships. Others have written this, in fact everyone has, then how can it feel so new, so exciting, and so dangerous. Whether it's about a mother and father, an old lover, or male summoning, Sotelo goes in two directions at once. She embraces her own autonomy while evaluating understandable attractions and thirst.

I love the way fantasy grounds reality with unexpected imagery. Each line has its own life then takes on another identity when set up against the next line. It's rare to have a poet allow each line a special place and give it such a big life; for this writer makes words alive, surprising, with unintended consequences. She's intuitive and has never outgrown the childhood ability to play, changing the dynamics of a gray world by instinct, daring and the totality of intelligence. I'm crazy about this poet. She's deeply meaningful about human relationships and has the ability in this book to reframe poetry.

A Little Charm

She floats like a lost brain cell.
Her body is a sleek brown lamp from 1929.
She arches and slurs.
Gentlemen in winter coats would like to cover her.
Gentlemen in thick winter coats hand her new cigars.
She nods like a child under the influence of milk.
She appeals with eyes as wide as money.
Even in alleys, her legs look like unfiltered honey.
Her moods are expensive. She's all lit up.
Gentlemen order her whiskey and whiskey
and horses dip her gloves
into the whiskey with their mouths.
They love her. They want to sweep her up
with their tongues until she learns to stand straight.
She never learns. I did not suspect I would like her.
I did not expect to give her
this loving little push out the door.

Paul's Hill, Homage to Whitman
Shelby Stephenson
Illustrations by Jacob Stephenson
Sir Walter Press
$TBA 65 pages

Whitman would love this book. Stephenson's Homage is filled with all of his culture. The sounds and sights of the earth float free in fractional lines, natural phraseology ringing with song. Stephenson reaches deeply into the soul of the south, living life every day with the natural world. This book-length poem allows us to see things never seen before via Stephenson's bucolic setting. Birds and foliage represent the truth and background for the Stephenson's family history, sustained for generations. Stephenson lets people know what poetry is, as Whitman did, allowing the words to carry us through the world.

'The old house' becomes a character filling emotional space. We hear his mother walking on the floorboards when he's 'home from school.' We meet teachers, the fire department, Smith's nursery, every corner where people used to live "among the honeysuckle." With the extraordinary listing of "melons in the garden, roasting - eared corn, September peas, turnips, collards, cabbage, yams," we see the details of southern life delineated in atomized measure. This is a lesson about how the poet notices every blade of grass - but even more - makes the noticing proportional on the page to make the space beautiful. The poet, as observer, as singer, as visual artist, has never been combined better than here. There's one entire page of people's names listed - a column of names - each one evoking a memory, time and place. The past becomes a ribbon on the page technically and strategically placed simply by the naming.

We learn that "a stroke slapped Shorty" and we know Ms. Caro wanted to be ridden around her house in her coffin when she died. We learn hundreds of secrets and dreams. These are characters you'll never forget; and here's what I believe - we should read one page a day of this monumental poem to savor its sensuality and tapestry. This is poetry not about ideas but sensations, where time has stopped, where every page leads us more toward wonder. We are back in North Carolina. There's nothing like this on the shelf, physically beautiful, made of prayers, mythology, and symphony - drawings that carry the notion of the poems. Sweet courtesy, storiography, and empathy are the themes. Here's a place where nothing is lost. It's all remembered within sight of Paul's Hill.


From Paul's Hill and my birth-house,
Farmsteads fade into tree-clumps and housing developments.

The ninth-month trees turn their coats in Cow Mire Branch.
The tulip-poplar, sourwood, hawthorn, beautybush, sweetgum, pine,
The southern oak with the elbow like a kettle's arm -
Fall's upon us - frost, October's ovens, winter's snow.
I hitch my britches for spring.
The bluebirds come home again and again.
The purple martins make their long trips here and back to Brazil.
The little ones churble from their nesting gourds.


The moon over the terrace hangs full of cotton blooms.
The Nimrod Stephenson Memorial Cemetery lights up for July and her sawbriars.
The street lights the field where the June Peter house was.
The path's paved to the Peter Hole on The Creek.
I wait out the pumpkinseed and the channel-cat
And daydream over the beans.
The patrolling jay comes for an acorn.
The cardinals feed early light and dark.
The bluebirds fold insects in the air.
The downy, hairy, red-bellied, tanager, jay,
The Carolina Wren of the dashing eye-stripe -
The garden floats blulup blulup.

All Blue So Late
Laura Swearingen-Steadwell
Northwestern University Press
629 Noyes St., Evanston, IL 60208
9780810136342, $16.95, 63 pages.

Sometimes very good poetry comes from the very dark feelings. At 14 years of age that's where we all were, in the deep morass of emotion. This poet reaches back to a certain time to center her book. Several poems are actually titled Fourteen, with a strong writer describing the way it felt, struggling with gender, race and oppression - these are the flame-throwing words of our time but that's where the spirit is - poems pried out of memory to be burnished into powerful stories. They describe and dramatize psychological states of being that are autobiographical but become fictional when made into art. And that's what I admire: changing the reality while original feelings remain on the page. They guide us toward the bigger message that incidents are only seen in a half-light until they become "truth" in a critical infrastructure such as poetry. Although there is a variety of perspectives in these poems there's only one point of view and that's a good thing, for that's how oppositional forces become clear. It's always interesting to have an adult writer recreating a younger self, looking at scenes with a connection that almost gives off sparks. I praise very much both the adult and the teen for courage. Happily, Swearingen-Steadwell has honesty plus skill - that's the challenge for the writer, and reward for the reader.


It all goes down in the cafeteria, the warehouse
where throngs of wild children congregate,
jostling for space with their gangly bodies, their plastic trays,
trading jokes, rumors of hookups, fights, suspensions, the news
that matters. Everyone sits with their own: the mostly white
table, kids from Southeast, basketball players, the black girls
with good grades and no white friends, the kids whose infant English
still wobbles. Your chest rustles with broken glass as you scan
the tables, hungrier than you've ever been. If only
you had the look (Hoyas Starter jacket, hair ironed flat),
the markers of belonging - but you want to be the star,
the one whose life goes nova. The standout. Look at you now,
standing alone among hundreds of people. Nowhere girl
hunched over her food at an empty table. Don't look up.

House of Fact, House of Ruin
Tom Sleigh
Graywolf Press
250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781555977979, $16.00, 113 pages

Sleigh reveals that 'fact' and 'ruin' are the same, as much as we'd like to believe our little mortality is a real commodity. He takes meaning to its extreme, pushing logic to become philosophy - taking the rough stuff of this earth, rolling it around in his hands and then letting us know just what it's worth. The book has a great portion devoted to war (Libya, Baghdad) when he was witness to devastation, and writes of what he saw. But even more, he made a promise to young combatants to 'tell their story.' Some of the poems are first sight, and others retelling. Because Sleigh was trained as an anthropologist he can realistically replicate cultural events. Although one doesn't have to be an anthropologist to record the chilling horror of death, destruction and loss, the transcendent task is to never let it descend to reportage if poetry is the goal. Poetry is Sleigh's task here and he's one of a handful of writers today upholding the brightest part of our canon.

Down from the Mount is a four-page poem that's heartbreaking, "... all are dead ones like after - party/stragglers who//keep showing up in dreams, /saying, I want you/to keep this for me." Later: "The dogs are terrorists to cats, the cats/terrorists to rats, the rats terrorists/to each other watching each other's/terror. The rock band warming up to shout//inside its wall of noise..." Although there's death at the ending, nobility in the writing overrides this. Sleigh, again and again, shows that poetry is a mechanism of service tapping into something more eternal than what we think is present and substantive. What is the substory of Sleigh's poetry? He's carrying on history - his own as well as others. The eight-part poem titled Enhanced Interrogation Techniques presents windows into the treatment of POWs in perfect 14 line "sonnets." (Talk about containing the tumult!) and with each narration is an actual interrogation technique combined with dreamlike surreality (poem 5:) "... We'd have three strobes/going at once, we'd lock this guy in a little box/and like me he's afraid of insects and I'd have to turn into ants."

The chaos and human defeats through the poems are dignified by a musicality and coherence. In the title poem House of Fact, House of Ruin - another long one - seven pages - listen to the glorious start of the fifth section titled "The Last To Be Excused:" "Remember the old aunts, sarcastic,/chain-smoking, gesturing with their canes,/scoring point after point with their widowed lungs?//How was I to eat with them as they pushed/ around their plates not peas and carrots/but distance and disdain for their silly nephew//still trying, at his age, to forget/how being old is as new to the old/as being just born is to the just born - ..."

Since Sleigh is known for his prose, it's not surprising that several prose poems are in this book. My favorite is Autobiography with an epigraph by mystery writer Raymond Chandler. (Ah the romanticism.) A postmodern "intimations," it's a story of growing up, a permutation where Sleigh presents events, finally leaving "... my promised land of Raymond Chandler" ... "That was when I left the steppes forever, when/the tangled underlife entwined with voices that pricked/and burned, were now flattened to black squiggles on a page/where what comes from the tribe the tribe has lost:..." He wisely notes at the end he knows he needs life insurance, plus, "... I needed a vacation, /I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, /hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room."

No matter how imagination becomes fantasy, there's always a gravitational field in Sleigh's work, so we don't dare allow ourselves to be seduced. We know it'll be fact to ruin, after all, although never said better; and when each piece is written it leaves, in spite of itself, a tough love that outlasts its life. Sleigh makes poetry go beyond itself. Like Wallace Stevens there's an imperative beneath the line, words as a consequence of fine grained thought. The complexities of experience can only be written with complexity, but the fundamental gift of craft makes poetry responsive to the world and allows the reader to respond in kind. He couldn't do this without clarity and irony, making the consequential burdens of life beautiful things.

The Fox

Marine helicopters on maneuver kept dipping
toward swells at Black's Beach, my board's poise
giving way to freefall of my wave tubing

over me, nubs of wax under my feet as I crouched
under the lip, sped across the face and kicked out -
all over Southern Cal a haze settled: as if light breathed

that technicolor smog at sunset over
San Diego Harbor where battleships at anchor,
just back from patrolling the South China Sea, were

having rust scraped off and painted gray.
This was my inheritance that lay stretched before me:
which is when I felt the underbrush give way

and the fox that thrives in my brain,
not looking sly but just at home in his pelt
and subtle paws, broke from cover and ran

across the yard into the future to sniff my gravestone,
piss, and move on. And so I was reborn into
my long nose and ears, my coat's red, white, and brown

giving off my fox smell lying heavy on the winds
in the years when I'd outsmart guns, poison,
dogs and wire, when the rooster and his hens

clucked and ran, crazy with terror
at how everything goes still in that way a fox adores,
gliding through slow-motion drifts of feathers.

Best Prose

The Land between Two Rivers; Writing In An Age Of Refugees
Tom Sleigh
250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781555977962, $16.00, 254 pages.

This is Sleigh as journalist with a stunning exegesis on our current wars. I'm soft, however, on his essays about childhood and, another about a friendship with Seamus Heaney, but as the teens like to say. "It's all good."

On World War I poets Wilfred Owen and David Jones:
The Earth is nothing but unfeeling rock, and if it pulses, that pulse is only the soldier's heartbeat as it speeds up from the adrenaline rush of fear, from the physical effort of combat. In Keats and Wordsworth, there would have been no qualification about the cause of the earth's palpitations: it would have been assumed that the earth was in cosmic sympathy with human beings, that the pantheistic reciprocity among all things, animate and inanimate, human and divine, was still available as a mode of feeling - in an Owen poem, summer can still move into a soldiers veins; but in the Jones poem, "dark gobbets" of bodies, or body parts, are oozing out blood, staining torn uniforms of dead soldiers skewered to barbed wire supports...

Best New and Selected Poems

The Clinic, Memory
Elaine Feinstein
Sheep Meadow Press
9781937679798, $19.95, 173 pages.

Poems from eleven books, plus new poems.

Suppose I took out a slender ketch from
under the spokes of Palace pier tonight to
catch a sea going fish for you

or dressed in antique goggles and wings and
flew down through sycamore leaves into the park
or luminescent through some planetary strike
put one delicate flamingo leg over the sill of your lab

Could I surprise you? or would you insist on
keeping a pattern to link every transfiguration?

Listen, I shall have to whisper it
into your heart directly: we are all
supernatural every day
we rise new creatures cannot be predicted

Best Literary Journal; Vol 84. Number 1
New Letters
Robert Stewart, editor
University of Missouri- Kansas City. 141 pages.

contributors, poetry, prose, art

Here's a poem by Albert Goldbarth:


One of the usual friendly arguments:
Is poetry the greater art - or music?
Maybe it's like the sky above us
on the porch as Nathan's bottle of vodka goes
increasingly empty and the talk
correspondingly full: it's not as if the moon
and the stars are a competition.
And yet
we argue, if only to use it as a vehicle
of friendship. You won't be surprised I say
that words are music and idea both, and thus
superior. This gains much support,
and yet not all, and someone offers

up a dream: how at the graveside, toward the end
of an elegiac song, when the weight of the mourning
stretched the web of the humans vocabulary
that held it . . . a man became a wolf,
a woman became a loon, and the keening sounds inside their throats
changed too - left the words
behind, the way those water lilies late in his life
by Monet stretched out of botany,
out of the very idea of "flower," and entered that space
where the universe takes its matter back
and returns it to energy.
"That is," he said, "what my saxophone does."

Grace Cavalieri

Julie's Bookshelf

Soul Support: Spiritual Encounters at Life's End
Joan Paddock Maxwell
Resource Publications, Inc.
c/o Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781532618741, $25.00, PB, 230pp,

Synopsis: Joan Paddock Maxwell was trained and served as a chaplain in three acute-care hospitals in the Washington, DC area. During six years as palliative care chaplain, she served patients with life-threatening illnesses. "Soul Support: Spiritual Encounters at Life's End" is a compelling memoir of her life and experiences in that role.

A young dancer's last hope (a bone marrow transplant) has failed. A homeless man, in the final stages of AIDS, refuses to speak. A newly retired woman has just received a terminal diagnosis and is wailing in despair.

What can we learn about death, dying, and the human spirit as we journey with a hospital chaplain into sickrooms like these?

In the pages of "Soul Support: Spiritual Encounters at Life's End", Joan Paddock Maxwell tells true stories of people coming to terms (or not) with their final days.

She offers intimate, behind-the-scenes accounts of the many ways patients, their families and friends, and hospital staff all deal with death and dying. She speaks directly to readers reflecting on their own mortality or the life-threatening illness of a loved one, and tells of the sometimes-astonishing events that can occur when people are in their last hours of life.

"Soul Support" tells not only their stories, but also the chaplain's, relating how Maddox listened and learned and stumbled and grew. "Soul Support" speaks to believers and nonbelievers alike, providing information, inspiration, and hope.

Critique: An inherently compelling, emotionally moving, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "Soul Support: Spiritual Encounters at Life's End" is a unique and truly extraordinary account that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and the Psychology of Death & Dying in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Soul Support: Spiritual Encounters at Life's End" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

White Leather and Flawed Pearls
Susan Altstatt
Fithian Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564746030, $15.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Three years ago, in 1983, Miranda Falconer (Andy) kidnaped Tommi Rhymer, the rock star she adored, and kept him prisoner in her family's cabin in the Sierra, until he calmed down, sobered up, and became a friend deserving of Andy's love. Then he and his partner in their rock duo, Belshangles, and also his partner in a personal way, returned to England, to resume their extravagant life together.

Over the past three years, Tommi and Andy have stayed in touch through the mail, and now that Belshangles is back in the States, stopping over in San Francisco, the two friends get together. They find a strong attachment remains between them, and before long they're off to Reno to get married. Tom (as he now prefers to be called in private) promises his new bride that they'll have a proper wedding when the time is right.

Left behind in California, Harlan becomes Andy's friend. He helps her hunt for the perfect wedding dress. To her wonder and distress, Andy finds herself falling in love with Harlan, and he returns her affection, which puts her in a state of mind and heart for which her Catholic girlhood has not prepared her!

Critique: An original, deftly crafted, inherently engaging read from cover to cover, "White Leather and Flawed Pearls" reveals author Susan Altstatt has having a genuine flair for the kind of storytelling that is as familiar as our own young adult experiences of love, friendship, heartache, and unexpected expectations fulfilled. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "White Leather and Flawed Pearls" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.13).

Exhibiting Atrocity
Amy Sodaro
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813592145, $99.95, HC, 226pp,

Synopsis: Today, nearly any group or nation with violence in its past has constructed or is planning a memorial museum as a mechanism for confronting past trauma, often together with truth commissions, trials, and/or other symbolic or material reparations. Exhibiting Atrocity documents the emergence of the memorial museum as a new cultural form of commemoration, and analyzes its use in efforts to come to terms with past political violence and to promote democracy and human rights.

Through a global comparative approach, "Exhibiting Atrocity: Memorial Museums and the Politics of Past Violence" by Amy Sodaro (Associate Professor of Sociology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, The City University of New York) uses in-depth case studies of five exemplary memorial museums that commemorate a range of violent pasts and allow for a chronological and global examination of the trend: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC; the House of Terror in Budapest, Hungary; the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda; the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile; and the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York.

Together, these case studies illustrate the historical emergence and global spread of the memorial museum and show how this new cultural form of commemoration is intended to be used in contemporary societies around the world.

Critique: An original and unique study, "Exhibiting Atrocity: Memorial Museums and the Politics of Past Violence" provides documentation and analysis of a growing cultural institution -- Memorials and museums dedicated to showcasing social injustice and exploitation of ethnic, religious, political, and cultural minorities with the intent and purpose of preventing the reoccurrence of genocidal and other forms of violence.

Enhanced for academia and non-specialist general readers with the inclusion of ten pages of Notes, a ten page listing of References, and a nine page Index, "Exhibiting Atrocity: Memorial Museums and the Politics of Past Violence" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Human Rights and Cultural History collections in general, and Museum Studies supplemental reading lists in particular.

It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Exhibiting Atrocity: Memorial Museums and the Politics of Past Violence" is also available in a paperback edition (9780813592138, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.45).

Demystifying the Proverbs 31 Woman
Elizabeth Ahlman
Concordia Publishing House
3558 South Jefferson Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63118-3968
9780758656643, $14.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Proverbs 31:10-31 is a beloved, often-quoted passage of the Bible. Many have learned to look to it for guidance on how to be a better woman - yet the passage is often misunderstood and misapplied.

As today's culture lauds the woman who does and has it all, Christians seek to reconcile what they hear from the secular, feminist world with what God says in His Word. The heart of the Book of Proverbs is God's love. More than just pithy sayings, these proverbs are a picture of how life was meant to be and how it will be when He returns in glory.

"Demystifying the Proverbs 31 Woman" Elizabeth Ahlman (author, blogger, and stay-at-home mother who exegetical theology and systematics with deaconess certification at Concordia Seminary) is an authoritative yet inviting Bible Study discussion of the passage in terms of language, history, purpose, and application. Readers will come away with a sense of renewal and affirmation - and a keener understanding of the biblical example of the Proverbs 31 woman.

What shines through is not a prescription for how to become a better wife, mother, woman, or friend, but a description of the Savior, the Church, and ourselves. Christian women (young and old, married and single) will learn valuable lessons from Proverbs 31 and apply it to their lives.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Demystifying the Proverbs 31 Woman" is an extraordinary and deftly written study that is especially and unreservedly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations.

China: A History in Objects
Jessica Harrison-Hall
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500519707, $39.95, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: Featuring some 650 superbly reproduced images, "China: A History in Objects" by Jessica Harrison-Hall (who is Head of the China Section, Curator of Later China, Vietnam, and the Sir Percival David Collection of Chinese Ceramics at the British Museum, London) is illustrated introduction to the history of China offers a fresh understanding of China's progress from the Neolithic age to the present.

"China: A History in Objects" is comprised of six chapters which are arranged chronologically, through art, artifacts, people, and places, and richly illustrated with expertly selected objects and artworks, that collectively and firmly connects today's China with its internationally engaged past.

From the earliest archaeological relics and rituals, through the development of writing and state, to the advent of empire, "China: A History in Objects" charts China's transformation from ancient civilization into the world's most populous nation and influential economy, offering historical insights and cultural treasures along the way.

An accessible study for the non-specialist general reader that presents an eclectic mix of materials including Chinese theater, the decorative arts, costume, jewelry, and furniture-making, running through to the most recent diffusion of Chinese culture, "China: A History in Objects" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a four page Selected Bibliography and a five page Index.

Critique: An original work of simply outstanding work of seminal scholarship, "China: A History in Objects" is comprehensive, definitive, exceptional, informative, and inherently fascinating read that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community and academic library Chinese History & Culture collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

A Heartfelt Mission: The West End Home Foundation 1891-2016
Mary Ellen Pethel
Orange Frazer Press
PO Box 214, Wilmington, OH 45177
9781939710697, $20.00, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: After the Civil War, the citizens of Nashville Tennessee with moved to a passion for caring for the elderly war widows and others which resulted in the inspiration to create the Old Woman's Home, the forerunner of today's West End Home Foundation. That generosity and insight set a standard by which the West End Home Foundation still strives to continue to operate in compliance with today.

That original mission of providing direct care for senior women has lasted for over 120 years.

As times changed, the Board members were faced with tough decisions regarding the future of the home, but always in the forefront was the loving care of the remaining residents. With the publication of "A Heartfelt Mission: The West End Home Foundation 1891-2016" interested readers can look back at the foundation's history and remain grateful for those that had the foresight and commitment to service that led the present generation to where the foundation is today.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, nicely illustrated with black-and-white period photos, informatively organized and presented, "A Heartfelt Mission: The West End Home Foundation 1891-2016" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, and would well serve as a template for other similar organizations to create histories of their own.

The Way Of Tank Girl
Alan Martin, author
Jamie Hewlett & Brett Parsons, illustrators
Titan Comics
9781785864636, $14.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: Tank Girl is a British comic book created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin. Originally drawn by Jamie Hewlett, it has also been drawn by Philip Bond, Glyn Dillon, Ashley Wood, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Jim Mahfood, Brett Parson, Jonathan Edwards, Craig Knowles, Rufus Dayglo, Andy Pritchett, and Mike McMahon.

The eponymous character Tank Girl (Rebecca Buck, who later was revealed to have been born as Fonzie Rebecca Buckler) drives a tank, which is also her home. She undertakes a series of missions for a nebulous organization before making a serious mistake and being declared an outlaw for her sexual inclinations and her substance abuse. The comic centers on her misadventures with her boyfriend, Booga, a mutant kangaroo.

The comic's style is heavily influenced by punk visual art, and strips are frequently deeply disorganized, anarchic, absurdist, and psychedelic. The strip features various elements with origins in surrealist techniques, fanzines, collage, cut-up technique, stream of consciousness, and metafiction, with very little regard or interest for conventional plot or committed narrative.

Initially set in a futuristic Australia, the Tank Girl stories drew heavily from contemporary British pop culture.

"The Way Of Tank Girl" is an inherently fascinating collection of comic panels, poems, covers, and extracts from Tank Girl's 30 year career. Included are an impressive profusion of rare, unseen, and brand new images. This is Tank Girl's philosophy on life, distilled from her filthiest, dirtiest, stupidest best.

Critique: An absolute 'must' for the legions of Tank Girl fans, "The Way Of Tank Girl" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Popular Culture collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Way Of Tank Girl" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.24).

The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques
Margaret Wehrenberg
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393712827, $35.00, PB, 2 Volumes, 528pp,

Synopsis: Margaret Wehrenberg is a licensed psychologist in private practice, a popular public speaker, and international anxiety coach. In this newly updated and expanded second edition of The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques and its accompanying workbook, she continues to draws up her years of experience and expertise to provide exercises, worksheets, tips, and tools that expand on the top 10 anxiety-busting techniques presented in the earlier editions.

From panic disorders, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety, to overall worry and stress, manifestations of anxiety are among the most common (and often debilitating) mental health complaints. But thanks to a flood of supporting brain research, effective, practical strategies have emerged that allow us to manage day-to-day anxiety on our own.

In this newly revised two-book set, Dr. Wehrenberg draws on fresh insights into the anatomy of the anxious brain. She offers a veritable trove of helpful tools, showing just how physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms can be alleviated with targeted methods. Step-by-step exercises for practicing counter-cognition, mindfulness meditation, thought-stopping, and thought-replacement, "breathing minutes," demand delays, cued relaxation, affirmations, and much, much more are presented -- all guaranteed to overcome anxious thoughts.

Critique: Ideal for the non-specialist general reader seeking to successfully deal with the enervating, disabling, devitalizing, injurious effects of untreated anxiety, "The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques" and its accompanying workbook are impressively 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it unreservedly recommended for personal self-help/self-improvement collections.

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Architecture Inside-Out
John Zukowsky, author
Robbie Polley, illustrator
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9780847861804, $35.00, 304pp,

Synopsis: Taking readers behind architecture's facades and finishes,"Architecture Inside-Out: Understanding How Buildings Work" by is charmingly illustrated book in which John Zukowsky (an architectural and design historian with more than four decades of experience) deftly explores how some of the most important buildings in the world were constructed.

Specially commissioned isometric drawings by Robbie Polley ( an architectural illustrator with more than twenty-five years of experience) expertly presents the essential structural elements of the world's masterpiece buildings that are not visible to the naked eye. These illustrations are displayed alongside plans, details, and photographs, all of which are clear and accessible, yet accurate and elegant enough to satisfy the most discerning eye.

"Architecture Inside-Out" is fascinating exploration of the thinking and expertise behind architects' designs and offers a means by which to better understand buildings already visited as well as those on the must-see list. Selections range from domestic structures such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and skyscrapers such as the Chrysler Building, to iconic classics such as the Louvre and Barcelona's famed Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

The buildings have been chosen for their importance and interest, their role in the development of architectural thinking, and the structural secrets that intricate 3-D drawings can reveal.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Architecture Inside-Out: Understanding How Buildings Work" is extraordinarily informative and will prove to be an enduringly popular and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community and academic library Architectural History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Illusion of Certainty
James T. Houk
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633883239, $19.00, PB, 381pp,

Synopsis: "The Illusion of Certainty: How the Flawed Beliefs of Religion Harm Our Culture" by James T. Houk (Professor of Anthropology at Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, LA) presents an informed and informative examination of religion's influence on society, in an anthropological critique of fundamentalism and all mindsets based on rigid cultural certainties.

Professor Houk argues that the future can only be safeguarded by a global humanistic outlook that recognizes and respects differing cultural perspectives and endorses the use of critical reason and empiricism. Professor Houk coins the term "culturalism" to describe dogmatic viewpoints governed by culture-specific values and preconceived notions. Culturalism gives rise not only to fundamentalism in religion but also stereotypes about race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Turning specifically to Christian fundamentalism, Professor Houk analyzes the many weaknesses of what he calls a faith-based epistemology, particularly as such thinking is displayed in young-earth creationism, the reliance on revelation and subjective experiences as a source of religious knowledge, and the reverence accorded the Bible despite its obvious flaws. As Professor Houk points out, the problem with such cultural knowledge generally is that it is non-falsifiable and ultimately has no lasting value in contrast to the data-based and falsifiable knowledge produced by science, which continues to prove its worth as a reliable source of accurate information.

Concluding that there is no future to the fundamentalist mindset in a diverse world where religion often exacerbates conflicts, Professor Houk makes a strong case for reason and mutual tolerance.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "The Illusion of Certainty: How the Flawed Beliefs of Religion Harm Our Culture" is a meticulously written work of exceptional scholarship and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Psychology of Religion collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Illusion of Certainty: How the Flawed Beliefs of Religion Harm Our Culture" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Murder at Small Koppie
Greg Marinovich
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611862768, $24.95, PB, 267pp,

Synopsis: An award-winning investigation that has been called the most important piece of journalism in post-apartheid South Africa, "Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of South Africa's Marikana Massacre" delves into the truth behind the massacre that killed thirty-four platinum miners and wounded seventy-eight more in August of 2012 at the Marikana platinum mine in South Africa's North West province.

News footage of the event caused global outrage; however, it captured only a dozen or so of the dead. In the pages of "Murder at Small Koppie", Greg Marinovich (who is a Pulitzer Prize - winning photojournalist, author, and filmmaker, a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and who currently teaches Visual Journalism at Boston University and Harvard University) focuses on the violence that took place at Small Koppie, a collection of boulders where a second massacre took place off-camera and in cold blood.

Combining his own meticulous research, eyewitness accounts, and the findings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, Marinovich has crafted a vivid account of the tragedy and the events leading up to it. By taking readers into the mines, the shacks where the miners live, and the boardroom, Marinovich puts names, faces, and stories to Marikana's victims and perpetrators.

Marinovich also presents the big questions that any nation must ask when justice and equality are subverted by conflicts around class, race, money, and power, as well as the subsequent denial and finger-pointing that characterized the response of the mine owner, police, and government.

Critique: A seminal work of journalism with an impressive attention to historical detail and accuracy, "Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of South Africa's Marikana Massacre" is a riveting account of a tragic incident that still has reverberations in South African society today. Informed and informative, and featuring a section of historical full color photographs, "Murder at Small Koppie" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library African History and Photojournalism collections in general, and Contemporary South African History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Cosplay In America: Volume 2
Ejen Chuang
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9780996129503, $40.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Cosplay is a contraction of the words costume and play. Cosplay is a hobby in which participants called cosplayers and wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific fictional characters.

Offering the reader a volume of lush combinations of portraiture and documentary photography, "Cosplay in America: Volume 2" embarks upon a tour of fan conventions across the nation from Comic-Con International in San Diego and Los Angeles's Anime Expo to DragonCon in Atlanta and New York Comic Con in celebration of the pastime of cosplay.

The act of dressing up as characters from manga, video games, and anime can require hundreds of hours of build time and painstaking attention to detail; and with five hundred cons per year in the United States and a dedicated community, the line between hobby and lifestyle blurs.

Ejen Chuang spent two years photographing people constructing costumes and gathering at events to model their efforts. Accompanying Chuang's beautiful and deeply human images, cosplayers of all ages and backgrounds discuss their experiences of finding themselves while bringing fictional characters to life.

Essays by Andrea Letamendi, PhD, and Liz Ohanesian deepen our understanding of this transformative subculture.

Critique; An inherently fascinating browse from cover to cover, "Cosplay In America: Volume 2" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections. Also very highly recommended is the first volume in this unique series from Ejen Chuang, "Cosplay In America: Volume 2" (9780615349060, $74.96, 272pp).

The First King of Hollywood
Tracey Goessel
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613734049, $34.95, HC, 560pp,

Synopsis: Silent film superstar Douglas Fairbanks was an absolute charmer. Irrepressibly vivacious, he spent his life leaping over and into things, from his early Broadway successes to his marriage to the great screen actress Mary Pickford to the way he made Hollywood his very own town. The inventor of the swashbuckler, he wasn't only an actor -- he all but directed and produced his movies, and in founding United Artists with Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith, he challenged the studio system.

When Mary Pickford died, she was an alcoholic, self-imprisoned in her mansion, nearly alone, and largely forgotten. But she left behind a small box; in it, worn and refolded, were her letters from Douglas Fairbanks. Pickford and Fairbanks had ruled Hollywood as its first king and queen for a glorious decade. But the letters began long before, when they were both married to others, when revealing the affair would have caused a great scandal.

Now these letters form the centerpiece of the first truly definitive biography of Hollywood's first king, the man who did his own stunts and built his own studio and formed a company that allowed artists to distribute their own works outside the studio system. But Goessel's research uncovered more: that Fairbanks's first film appearance was two years earlier than had been assumed; that his stories of how he got into theater, and then into films, were fabricated; that the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios had a specially constructed underground trench so that Fairbanks could jog in the nude; that Fairbanks himself insisted racist references be removed from his films' intertitles; and the true cause of Fairbanks's death.

Fairbanks was the top male star of his generation, the maker of some of the greatest films of his era: The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro. He was fun, witty, engaging, creative, athletic, and a force to be reckoned with. He shaped our idea of the Hollywood hero, and Hollywood has never been the same since. His story, like his movies, is full of passion, bravado, romance, and desire. Here at last is his definitive biography, based on extensive and brand-new research into every aspect of his career, and written with fine understanding, wit, and verve.

Critique: Film historian Tracey Goessel is on the board of directors of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and is the founder of the Los Angeles - based Film Preservation Society. She is the ideal person to write a detailed and definitive biography that does far more than simply listing the accomplishments of Douglas Fairbanks. With the publication of "The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks" Tracey Goessel makes excellent use fo her exclusive access to Fairbanks's love letters to Pickford, and as a result she brilliantly illuminates how Fairbanks conquered not just the entertainment world but the heart of perhaps the most famous woman in the world at the time. An extraordinary biography and a truly impressive contribution to community and academic library American Film History collections in general, and Douglas Fairbanks supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of film buffs and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks" is also available in a paperback edition (9781613738948, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.91).

Something Complete and Great
Holly Blackford, editor
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
842 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, Canada, V6B 2P6
9781683931256, $100.00, HC, 318pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Holly Blackford (Professor of English and Writing Director at Rutgers University), "Something Complete and Great: The Centennial Study of My Antonia" is a part of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Press series on Willa Cather. This scholarly study situates "My Antonia" as a novel that stands the test of time by including in its pages an extraordinarily wide range of historical, cultural, literary, psychological, thematic, perceptual, and stylistic issues.

"Something Complete and Great" also provides an analysis and assessment of complexities in the novel as well as its reception and legacy. The thirteen essays by expert contributors as a whole situate the novel at the cusp of the modern period, marking in myriad ways the novel's transitional role between nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and culture.

The first section "Translation" features writers that reflect on Cather's curious devaluation of My Antonia's reception over time; translation issues in Germany, Italty, France, and Russia; and linguistic issues in the novel's vision of Antonia's acculturation.

The second section "Tradition" defines Cather's relationship to modernism and regionalism through her career shifts and changes to the Introduction as well as her narrative technique in marginalizing violence and darkness to the edges of Jim's consciousness.

The third section "Transgender" analyzes Cather's relationship to Hamlin Garland's Life on the Prairie, J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan and the Neverland, and the work of Truman Capote, especially his gay protagoanist Joel Knox in Other Voices, Other Rooms.

The fourth section "Transhuman" deploys work on hysteria to situate Cather's vision of genderless desire and ecocritical lenses to understand Jim and nature. Finally the last section "Transition" discusses Lena Lingard's presence as a New Woman and gift economies in the novel that underscore the community's uneasy transition to twentieth-century capitalism.

Gathered in the page of "Something Complete and Great" are an impressive international group of scholars who demonstrate the novel's centrality to women's studies, American studies, queer studies, childhood studies, psychoanalysis, ecology, translation and reception, Marxism, narratology, and intertextuality.

Critique: An extraordinarily informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution to the student of Willa Cather's literary work in general, and her novel "My Antonia" in particular, "Something Complete and Great" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an Introduction (Cather's Sod House of Fiction 'Holly Blackwood'), a fourteen page Bibliography, a ten page Index, and a four page listing of the contributors and their credentials. While unreservedly recommended for college and university library Literary Studies collections in general, and Willa Cather studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Something Complete and Great" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $76.00).

Teaching Politics in Secondary Education
Wayne Journell
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438467696, $90.00, HC, 234pp,

Synopsis: In this extraordinarily polarized age of American politics, many social studies teachers report feeling apprehensive about discussing potentially volatile topics in the classroom, because they fear that administrators and parents might accuse them of attempting to indoctrinate their students.

In "Teaching Politics in Secondary Education: Engaging with Contentious Issues", Wayne Journell (Associate Professor of Secondary Social Studies Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) tackles the controversial nature of teaching politics, addressing commonly raised concerns such as how to frame divisive political issues, whether teachers should disclose their personal political beliefs to students, and how to handle political topics that become intertwined with socially sensitive topics such as race, gender, and religion.

Professor Journell also discusses how classrooms can become spaces for tolerant political discourse in an increasingly politically polarized American society. In order to explore this, Professor Journell analyzes data that include studies of high school civics/government teachers during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and how they integrated television programs, technology, and social media into their teaching.

"Teaching Politics in Secondary Education" also includes a three-year study of pre-service middle and secondary social studies teachers' political knowledge and a content analysis of CNN Student News.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of tables, figures, an informative introduction, a ten page methodological appendix, six pages of notes, a twenty-page listing of references, and a fourteen page index, "Teaching Politics in Secondary Education: Engaging with Contentious Issues" is a seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship in the field of education and unreservedly recommended for college and university library Social Studies Teacher Education instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Teaching Politics in Secondary Education: Engaging with Contentious Issues" is also available in a paperback edition (9781438467702, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Tastes of Faith
Leah Hochman, editor
Purdue University Press
504 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2058
9781557537997 $23.94 hc / $22.86 Kindle

Synopsis: "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are," wrote the 18th Century French politician and musician Jean Brillat-Savarin, giving expression to long held assumptions about the role of food, taste, and eating in the construction of cultural identities.

Foodways?the cultural, religious, social, economic, and political practices related to food consumption and production?unpack and reveal the meaning of what we eat, our tastes. They explain not just our flavor profiles, but our senses of refinement and judgment. They also reveal quite a bit about the history and culture of how food operates and performs in society.

More specifically, Jewish food practices and products expose and explain how different groups within American society think about what it means to be Jewish and the values (as well as the prejudices) people have about what "Jewish" means. Food?what one eats, how one eats it, when one eats it?is a fascinating entryway into identity; for Jews, it is at once a source of great nostalgia and pride, and the central means by which acculturation and adaptation takes place.

In chapters that trace the importance and influence of the triad of bagels, lox, and cream cheese, southern kosher hot barbecue, Jewish vegetarianism, American recipes in Jewish advice columns, the draw of eating treyf (nonkosher), and the geography of Jewish food identities, this volume explores American Jewish foodways, predilections, desires, and presumptions.

Critique: Tastes of Faith: Jewish Eating in the United States explores the interconnection between Jewish-American cuisine and culture, which is no easy task when simply defining what it means to be "Jewish" can potentially provoke a heated argument. Expertly researched, engagingly presented, and thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Tastes of Faith is highly recommended for personal and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Tastes of Faith is also available in a Kindle edition ($22.86).

12 Rules for Life
Jordan B. Peterson
Random House Canada
9780345816023 $25.95 hc / $13.95 Kindle

Synopsis: What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.

Humorous, surprising and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticize too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street.

What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility, distilling the world's wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. 12 Rules for Life shatters the modern commonplaces of science, faith and human nature, while transforming and ennobling the mind and spirit of its readers.

Critique: Insightful, provocative, and candid, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos lives up to its title with twelve invaluable directives for living a satisfying life, including "Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)", "Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't", "Be precise in your speech", and "Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them". 12 Rules for Life is a transformative self-help guide for tackling both the small and the big obstacles in one's life, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that 12 Rules for Life is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.95).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

The Arab's Ox
Tony Ardizzone
Bordighera Press
9781599541204, $18.00

In this reissued release of Tony Ardizzone's second collection of short stories, he rolls out an exquisite carpet for our arrival into Morocco - and into the depths of our own souls. With the changes in Morocco since the book's original publication twenty five years ago - a new king, The Arab Spring, terrorist attacks, protests, land negotiations with Spain, the immigration crisis, among others - Ardizzone's questions about what it means to be open to another culture, and one's own, are relevant now more than ever. In the first tale, in which their bus from the Casablanca airport hits an ox, we're introduced to the cast of characters featured in the subsequent stories. Henry, an American tourist with stomach cancer, Sarah, a native of Chicago travelling alone, and Peter, a history professor setting up an exchange study, each confronts what brings them to Morocco before they can welcome what Morocco has to offer them. Ardizzone offers us readers not only a glimpse of this beautiful country, but characters at crossroads, intricately and beautifully drawn.

The first story is a prism for understanding all the others. Confusion, fear, and awe ensue when the bus strikes the ox. It had come out of nowhere, just like the prospect of Morocco comes out of nowhere for Henry, Sarah, and Peter, the Americans on the bus. Henry, looking for an adventure before his stomach cancer gets the better of him, lands on Morocco by chance. Sarah goes because everyone said she shouldn't since the boyfriend she'd planned on going with is out of the picture. Peter volunteers to go on behalf of his university because he thinks it will benefit his career, not because it's Morocco. While the Americans take pictures of the accident, an amusing first anecdote on their adventure, the Moroccans have to deal with the ox. The boy who witnesses its fall has spilled the milk he was delivering and will be in trouble. The bus driver might lose his job. How will the Americans come to care about the consequences of this journey, this foray into foreign land?

Morocco stands for something to each of the characters. In order to decipher this symbol in their lives, they must look inward. They each arrive at a turning point in which Morocco speaks back to them, helps them discover its meaning to them. For Henry, Ahmed becomes his guide not only to various Moroccan sites, but to his own mortality. Rosemary, an American ex-patriate, a grizzled but classy woman, sees her younger self in Sarah and tries to steer her toward a different future. Peter, whose background resembles the author's, befriends his counterpart in the study exchange, Mohammed, and his wife Aisha. Morocco, for Peter, is a chance to right his former wrongs.

Ardizzone masterfully weaves together these characters' individual stories with a portrait of the Moroccan people. He sets vivid descriptions of street scenes alongside his characters' thoughts. Peter wonders to himself, "What had he done to have lost her [his wife]? What hadn't he done? He pulled in a sudden breath, gazed across the traffic at a man in a dark blue business suit and red fez walking past the first row of tables outside the Hotel Balima" (155). Morocco implants itself in his inner life. In the final story, another Peter tale, he negotiates the sale of a carpet for his new home, but no sooner does he buy it than he's asked to set it down with all the other rugs to welcome the king back from his travels. Peter's purchase becomes baraka, a kind of spiritual communication between The Other and himself. With it, he begins to embrace a new life. So, too, Ardizzone's book is a mediator for readers, leading us into a magical, yet very relate-able world.

South Pole Station
Ashley Shelby
175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010
9781250112828, $26.00

When asked to answer, in one sentence, why she wants to come to the South Pole, artist Cooper Gosling quotes Apsley Cherry-Garrard of the Scott Pole expedition: "If you are a brave man, you will do nothing; if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery." As a confessed coward, this main character in Ashley Shelby's debut novel (based on her sister's experience), fits among misfits, loners, and outcasts all running from something in the "real world" to this desolate alternative universe, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. But could they end up running to each other? Join the "Polies," scientists (beakers), maintenance (nailheads), artists/writers/dancers/sociologist grant recipients, cooks, and administrators as they build community and get to the heart of some of the world's most pressing concerns.

The central conflict in the novel surrounds the arrival of Frank Pavano, a scientist whose work conflicts with all the others'. Backed by big business and Congress lobbyists, Pavano's work questions climate change, namely, that humans create it. While Sal Brennan, a physicist at the Station, leads a revolt against Pavano, making it nearly impossible for him to work, Cooper befriends him. Pavano reminds Cooper of her twin brother, David, whose memory haunts her. Side conflicts - lovers' spats, kitchen feuds, pool tournaments, medical emergencies - provide humor while Pavano's presence threatens overall progress at the station. Setting aside differences, the crew rallies around Cooper's personal mission to put her brother's memory to rest. She's a microcosm of what the South Pole means to everyone who's there, just as the South Pole Station is a locus of scientific inquiry to the wider world.

Shelby manages to elucidate big ideas at stake - climate change vs. denial, the Big Bang vs. the Big Bounce, and other theories - while not overwhelming readers with science. Set against these debates, the book is about a cast of brilliant and unforgettable personalities who care about the fate of their world, both large and small. With journalistic attention to facts and novelistic character development and drama, Shelby makes clear that individual stories matter to the bigger picture.

Five Days That Shocked the World
Nicholas Best
Thistle Publishing
B079K7FSHX, $10.47

Longtime history and travel author, Nicholas Best, sheds new light on momentous events at the end of WWII through the lens of eye witness accounts. He captures the reactions of people we don't normally associate with the war: actresses and filmmakers, writers and soon-to-be Popes, as well as more familiar political figures like Bob Dole, Jack Kennedy, and Winston Churchill and his wife. More than a chronological sequence of events, this book reads like a series of snapshots, as vivid and captivating and as the events and people they describe.

He divides the book into five parts, corresponding to the last five days of the war, April 28 - May 2, 1945. Between Italy, Germany, Russia and the Netherlands, Best chronicles both Mussolini's and Hitler's gruesome deaths and the ensuing mayhem they inspire. Mussolini's wife and two children just hope to get out alive after Mussolini's body, and that of his girlfriend, are paraded through the streets. Hitler's closest Nazi officials debate escaping their underground bunker, killing themselves like their leader, or surrendering to the Allies rather than the Bolsheviks. Those in charge of Dachau and other concentration camps have no choice; they're dealt with by the Americans who liberate the camp. Russians celebrates May Day by storming the German Chancellery. Meanwhile, American and British pilots drop food instead of bombs over famished Holland in Operation Manna.

One of the most compelling storylines is to follow actress Hildegard Knef and her boyfriend Ewalt on Demandowsky over the course of the five days, as they fight their way through enemy lines, staying with willing friends until their presence makes their hosts easy targets for Russian soldiers. We don't get such protracted stories of other personages, like Audrey Hepburn, one of the starving Dutch, or Kurt Vonnegut, a soldier, or Ezra Pound, American Nazi, or Gunther Grass, Nazi-turned-resistor, or Allen Dulles, negotiating a surrender in Italy, to name a few. But almost all the voices Nicholas Best cites, speak in their own words. At the beginning of the book, he makes no bones about the fact that some accounts contradict. He concludes the book with follow-ups of what happens to all these people after the war, making the overall project less about the war and more about preserving firsthand memories.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

The Berlage Affair
Vedran Mimica, author
Vladimir Mattioni, editor
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers
355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781945150616, $35.00, PB, 386pp,

Synopsis: The Berlage Institute was an independent unaccredited postgraduate school of architecture in Amsterdam and Rotterdam the Netherlands that operated from 1990-2012. Named after the Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage, the Berlage Institute had an international student population and teaching staff.

In 2012 the institute moved to Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and reestablished as The Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and Urban Design.

Kenneth Frampton once called Vedran Mimica, 'the spiritual leader of the Berlage Institute'. Written by Vedran Mimica and edited by Vladimir Mattioni, "The Berlage Affair" investigates the educational legacy of that institution, and in the process, explores new ways to research and project new models of global urbanization. Through this multilayered compilation of diverse views, the essays, studies, reviews, and interviews within all share an intellectual origin from the Berlage, where Mimica worked for 22 years alongside contemporaries such as Herman Hertzberger, Wiel Arets, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Kenneth Frampton, Rem Koolhaas, and Elia Zenghel, as well as many leading architects and students from all over the world.

What sets "The Berlage Affair" apart from other architectural literature is its very subject matter. Rarely do we learn about innovative or alternative educational models that have produced and imparted applicable, real world knowledge in the field of architecture. This knowledge was produced in an experimental environment as a result of exchange between leading and emerging Dutch, North American, Japanese, and European architects and their students from around the globe.

In the process of this exchange, the Berlage created a platform for the construction and consumption of an array of contemporary architectural pursuits. And in the pages of "The Berlage Affair", Mimica records those efforts.

Critique: Unique, informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Berlage Affair" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, college, and university library Architectural History collections in general, and The Berlage Institute supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Hunted & The Hunter
Alan Nichols
Regent Press
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587904271, $49.95, HC, 156pp,

Synopsis: For nearly 800 years since his death in 1227 A.D. archeologists, treasure hunters, scientists and explorers have been searching for the tomb of Chinggis Qa'an (aka erroneously known in the West as Ghengis Khan), the 13th century Mongol emperor who conquered and ruled more of the world than anyone before or since.

The Hunted and Hunter Expedition has found the gravesite based on four expeditions and nine years of special research. All it has to do now is prove it technically before seeking permission to excavate. Using on-site ground penetrating radar and magnetometry, the expedition has already accumulated the data necessary to confirm the find that is being analyzed by world experts.

Chinggis was a master of deception and the Mongols have felt that a rulers body should never be disturbed, so extraordinary measures to conceal the burial site were undertaken. Consequently everyone, according to author and explorer Alan Nichols, has been looking in the wrong place.

Extensively illustrated, "The Hunted & The Hunter: The Search for the Secret Tomb of Chinggis Qa'an" chronicles Nichols' recent expedition, with a team of technicians and advanced scientific equipment, to Central Asia and Mountain X, to prove his find and pinpoint the true location of Chinggis' tomb, some 1,000 miles away from where conventional wisdom says it should be.

Critique: Alan Nichols, a past president of the New York-based Explorers Club, has traveled extensively in Chinggis Qa'an's old empire in central Asia and was in the perfect position to conduct and report on the expedition to find and document the tomb of Chinggis Qa'an. Impressively informative, profusely illustrated, expertly organized and presented, "The Hunted & The Hunter: The Search for the Secret Tomb of Chinggis Qa'an" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community and academic library Contemporary Archaeology collections in general, and Chinggis Qa'an (Ghengis Khan) supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Hunted & The Hunter: The Search for the Secret Tomb of Chinggis Qa'an" is also available in a paperback edition (9781587904196, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Gates of the Arctic National Park
Joe Wilkins
Brown Books Publishing Group
16250 Knoll Trail Drive, Suite 205, Dallas, TX 75248-2871
9781612549736, $39.95, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: Joe Wilkins has now accumulated more than half a century of experience in the wilds of northern Alaska since receiving training in arctic wilderness survival in 1966. During the 1970s he began hiking, backpacking and camping in the region which, in 1980, was officially designated Gates of the Arctic National Park.

A complex land of breathtaking contrasts, this frontier is exceptional because in no other region in North America does it get colder, darker, or wilder. Its remote beauty and extensive human history imbue the land with an elemental and visceral sense of inspiration for those who visit.

In the pages and through Wilkins' own photographic images, "Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration" provides thorough, accurate and detailed information about Gates of the Arctic National Park. and thereby creating a definitive, perennial introductory presentation of one of the country's most enchanting national parks -- and one that will stand the test of time.

Critique: Beautifully and memorably illustrated throughout, "Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration" is an extraordinary, informative, and deftly written account that will please even the most demanding of armchair travelers. Unreservedly recommended, "Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections

Science for the People
Sigrid Schmalzer, Daniel S. Chard, Alyssa Botelho, editors
University of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004
9781625343178, $9.00, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Compiled from original documents from Science for the People, the most important radical science movement in U.S. history, "Science for the People: Documents from America's Movement of Radical Scientists" is the collaborative editorial work of Sigrid Schmalzer (Professor of History, University of Massachusetts - Amherst); Daniel S. Chard (Lecturer in History, University of Massachusetts - Amherst); and Alyssa Botelho (an MD/PhD candidate in the history of science, Harvard University).

Between 1969 and 1989, Science for the People mobilized American scientists, teachers, and students to practice a socially and economically just science, rather than one that served militarism and corporate profits. Through research, writing, protest, and organizing, members sought to demystify scientific knowledge and embolden "the people" to take science and technology into their own hands.

The movement's numerous publications were crucial to the formation of science and technology studies, challenging mainstream understandings of science as "neutral" and instead showing it as inherently political. Its members, some at prominent universities, became models for politically engaged science and scholarship by using their knowledge to challenge, rather than uphold, the social, political, and economic status quo.

Highlighting Science for the People's activism and intellectual interventions in a range of areas (including militarism, race, gender, medicine, agriculture, energy, and global affairs) "Science for the People: Documents from America's Movement of Radical Scientists" offers vital contributions to today's debates on science, justice, democracy, sustainability, and political power.

Critique: Eloquently informed and informative, extraordinarily well organized and presented, and offering unique perspectives on the social/political/economic/cultural impact of science upon the American public and governance, "Science for the People: Documents from America's Movement of Radical Scientists" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Science, Technology, and Popular Culture collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Science for the People: Documents from America's Movement of Radical Scientists" is also available in a paperback edition (9781625343185, $24.95).

Jack Mason

Messenger's Bookshelf

An Accidental Profession
Daniel S. Jones
Waxing Press
0998562009, print
0998562017, $6.99, digital

Why can novels about people at work be so pleasurably captivating? Undoubtedly, it's rather nice to think that others are toiling away while we read about them, and the similarities and differences with our own working lives emerge with unusual clarity: occupations do not have to be exotic or abstruse for us to find them fascinating. An Accidental Profession is all about work: its organization and administration, what it does to people, the power of the corporation, our ambivalent relationships with our co-workers.

Author Daniel Jones makes some strategic stylistic decisions in telling his story, which takes place over a few days of diegetic time and involves layoffs, corporate restructuring and a trip to a conference, where the interestingly analytical narrator turns out to be less above the things he describes than we might have thought. Significantly, the company for whom everyone works, the Canterbury Education Company (CEC), provides products and services to institutions of higher education; this rather vague and vaguely parasitic corporation strikes just the right postmodern note in a narrative given over to the opaque manoeuverings of executives and staff alike.

The first-person narration works extremely well: descriptions of past events are sufficiently numerous to avoid the potentially soporific effect of all those third-person singulars in the here and now. Another important decision is that no one is named; instead, they are alphabetized and anonymized: A覧, B覧, C覧 etc. Shades of Kafka's Joseph K覧 are immediately evoked but, more significantly, the suggestion of interchangeable productive units is never far off, as is the peculiar blend of distant friend and intimate stranger that co-workers can constitute for each other.

An Accidental Profession is concerned with how hard it is to preserve our specificity, our uniqueness, our interconnectivity in a modern work environment:

People here have a habit of disappearing - either they are fired or quit or get transferred, in which case we never see them once they are gone from the office. Or they get absorbed into their job and become something else entirely. Either way, the struggle is to keep something of yourself alive before it is entirely deleted. We spend the years in pursuit of similar goals, being around other people without having to get close to them. Sharing in the illusion of having friends, but in fact not really knowing these people with whom we spend the majority of our waking hours.

It's in this awkward, near-impossible non-space of the heart and head that the aspiration for something real and nourishing struggles to be articulated, appropriately and inappropriately:

What I cannot reach, what I have not been able to shed, is the idea that there is something more than compensation, that work should be worthwhile in and of itself, rather than for its rewards. Somewhere, we are told, is an office in which employees are excited to work, enjoy their jobs, collect their pay with happiness. A place, it seems, where they do not plan their days as a series of time-wasting exercises in fifteen minute chunks, taking long walks around the work spaces, taking smoke breaks even though they have quit smoking, riding the elevator one floor to use the bathroom, reading novels tucked beneath their desks or falling in love when one shouldn't or having anonymous sex in the stairwells. And yet the promise of business, not of this or that particular business, but the promise of business itself, is that somewhere people can take meaning from what they do to earn their pay. This is the elusive promise, the unanswerable question. In any case, as an employee, as a businessman, my purpose in life is not to find answers to these questions, ultimately, but to survive, a process that must admit this stark reality.

There are many references to truth in An Accidental Profession: the narrator frequently asserts in passing that he is speaking it; it is a precious commodity buried beneath an avalanche of corporate-speak and ungrammatical inter-office emails; it has to be gleaned from the gossip of co-workers, via observations of their movements. There is a kind of corporate aphasia that stifles true feeling which, when it does emerge, can be shy and painful:

When F覧 stands to leave I come out from behind my desk and lean to shake his hand. It is not the typical handshake for our office, a contest of strength, a who-can-squeeze-whose-hand hardest, but a more friendly connection: handshake, fingers clasped, fists, and then a one-armed hug that alarms me for a moment but not enough to pull away.

It is touching that the narrator keeps a copy of Wallace Stevens' Harmonium on his office bookshelf, sandwiched between 'The Ultimate Corporate Strategy Resource and The Fundamentals of Accounting.' It is an act of resistance - perhaps merely a gesture at resistance - from someone who has survived in his job and part of whose job it is to fire others.

The central controlling metaphor of An Accidental Profession is of the red-crested cardinals that peck and flutter at the office window of the nameless narrator. Dead ladybugs (UK: ladybirds) accumulate along the edge of the windowsill every spring, and the birds attempt to reach them through the glass. The significance the birds hold for the narrator - his attachment to them, the distraction they provide - codes him as different, as 'ours', enabling us to enter comfortably into his reasonings and observations. However, we are also invited to regard the behaviour of the birds - particularly the complex interactions of males and females - as correlative with the behaviour of the office workers distributed at their work stations in a large open-plan office. One may be less convinced by this than intended: zoological comparisons only extend so far; culture - human and office - is an anamorphic lens that splays nature in myriad dazzling ways.

An Accidental Profession is a little too long and is occasionally marred by typos; it could certainly do with more action and fewer contemplations; ultimately, the pledge of its journey is not sufficiently redeemed by its conclusion. Nevertheless it is enjoyable and comforting in ways that books about people working usually are; it has a quiet anguish about the indignities of work that many will recognize; it is an act of resistance.

Miantae Metcalf McConnell
Huzzah Publishing
P.O.Box 684, Columbia Falls, MT 59912
9780997877007, $21.95, pbk
9780997877014, $8.99, ebook

The front cover of Deliverance proclaims Mary Fields (c. 1832 - 1914), the putative subject of the novel, 'First African American Woman Star Route Mail Carrier in the United States'. The cover also announces that this is 'A Montana History'.

Mary Fields had been born into slavery and was only freed with Abolition. She must have been a woman of great determination and perseverance, for she won the respect and friendship of the communities she served, and was an independent businesswoman. 'Black Mary', as she was known by many, even became the 'mascot' of a local baseball team. She did not become an employee of the US Post Office; rather, in common with other persons, she was contracted to deliver the mail on a specified route based on her initial bid, her guarantees and her dependability. In 1885 Mary was awarded the contract to deliver mail from Cascade, Montana to St Peter's Mission.

Not a great deal else is known about Mary Fields, but Miantae Metcalf McConnell has undertaken extensive research into her subject and has added to our knowledge of this redoubtable woman. One of McConnell's stated ambitions in writing her novel is to enable Mary to become 'an inspiration to all peoples: past, present and future'. Therein lies a problem.

When novelists begin to consider a project, they seek an answer to an important question: is there a novel here? In this case, is there a novel here that can comfortably extend over a thousand pages (as measured in iBooks)? In my opinion, the answer to both these questions is an emphatic 'no'.

The paucity of information on Mary Fields has inspired McConnell to add, and add, and add to her narrative, expanding it to bloated proportions, so that it is shapeless and unorganized, despite the appearance of structure provided by part titles, intertitles, section breaks, and prologue and epilogue. The impressive bibliography of works consulted by the author seems to have unleashed a torrent of prose unrestrained by a guiding intelligence that should have been screaming 'Enough already!' An author too attached to her subject, too excited about telling the whole truth, and intoxicated by her historical milieu will inevitably lose all sense of proportion: everything is precious, and all her inventions are vital. The avowed motivation to inspire readers lays a dead hand on creativity, on balance, on history.

Deliverance is rife with confusions that begin with the plethora of titles/subtitles/straplines on the front cover, leaving readers in doubt as to what kind of book they are meant to be reading. That doubt, it seems to me, is shared by the author, whose prologue is an epically misjudged venture into geological prehistory. There follows an eighty page account of Mary struggling through a snowstorm, eventually leading to a search party and recovery. This section is interminable and completely typical. I thought myself entitled to expect a book about Mary, but lo! there are all these other interesting characters we simply must follow, endlessly and in tedious detail.

As for the writing itself, McConnell has an excellent vocabulary, which she displays at every opportunity, often at some cost to intelligibility:

Blasts of noise screeched. Flesh lunged, shrieks wailed ...

Beads of sweat pimpled her forehead ...

Overhead, an onslaught of pewter clouds gestated into columns. Whiffs of dry air whirled across snow mounds, quipping tiny crystals airborne. Dusk retreated. Legendary north winds, known for hurling glaciers, amassed and fisted, launched into fury ...

Striated layers of mist hung at ground level.

This is irritatingly overwritten and stuffed with pleonasm. McConnell invariably goes for the unusual word (heads can't simply turn or twist or jerk, they must 'torque'), and her predilection for the missing conjunction is confusing. Reading this stuff is exhausting: the mind longs for straightforward, concise prose without artifice.

Alone with herself, Mary is much given to uttering helpful contextual remarks designed for the reader's benefit:

Guess it's a bona fide town with the new post office. Got one store, one church, one schoolhouse, two sheep sheds, and three saloons - looks like a tintype of life sequestered in the wild and wooly. Yep.

'Yep' indeed. Surveying the wintry landscape, she lets us know that 'Folks came thinking it was gonna be easy', a sentiment I soon came to appreciate as I struggled valiantly through another hundred pages of deep narrative drifts and icy squalls of description.

As if the novel's massive cast of supporting characters were not already more than enough, room is made for the souls of the dead and apparitions of younger selves, the latter of whom speak in pious platitudes to their older avatars:

I am here because there is still hurt inside you. To be a true servant of God you cannot have personal desires mixed in your heart.

It is at junctures like these that one suspects an ulterior religious motive behind the novel, which would also explain the banality of the dialogue. Nobody - not even a murderer - speaks in a convincing voice. Everything - racial bigotry, lust, Christian devotion, horses, cooking - is sanitized for our protection. One looks in vain for provocation, challenge, stimulation.

The lives of forgotten, marginalized persons - among them, people of other ethnicities to our own, and women - are in desperate need of recuperation. Many of those lives are fascinating, enlightening and inspiring, but if we seek deliberately to make them inspiring from our own positions of power and privilege, then we do them a grave disservice and perpetuate the historical imbalances that marginalized them in the first place. Such lives are already inspiring; they don't need us to make them so. When I compared Deliverance with the short entry on Mary Fields in Wikipedia, I'm afraid I much preferred the latter.

A Mentor and Her Muse
Susan Sage
Open Books
978061572280, $7.99, ebook
0615722806, $16.95, pbk

'I wouldn't classify what I did as a crime, rather as a sort of vigilante justice', proclaims the intriguing opening line of A Mentor and Her Muse. Thus are we introduced to the moral and emotional uncertainties that haunt schoolteacher Maggie, the story's central protagonist. They also haunt the novel itself, for good and ill.

Taezha (Tae) and Maggie both live in Flint, Michigan, a town whose fortunes declined precipitously when the auto industry shut up shop without a backward glance or moral scruple. Maggie is a white schoolteacher and prolific serial monogamist; Tae is a talented and beautiful black schoolgirl. Maggie has some money and freedom; Tae has little of either. Maggie's parents killed themselves, and she herself once attempted suicide and is something of a kleptomaniac. Tae's family circumstances are difficult and stressful; her mother, Quintana, is fickle and conflicted.

Maggie and Tae first meet when Tae is twelve, and Maggie is immediately smitten in ambiguous ways that are supposed gradually to untangle as the story unfolds. Tae is almost fifteen when Maggie takes her on a road trip, more or less with Quintana's permission. This trip forms the spine of the story. 'Tae is not Maggie's Lolita!' exclaims the authorial voice at one point, although Humbert Humbert's travels with his underage victim have long since been evoked. Maggie cloaks her need to be with Tae in concealing cliches: 'We both realized, without telling ourselves or each other at the time, that we needed each other as central players in our lives.'

Structurally, the novel alternates interestingly between third person and first, between Maggie's journal entries (dating back decades to race riots in Detroit and tensions with her conservative parents) and Tae's adolescent poems, with frequent changes of tense and perspective.

However, there is also a lot wrong with A Mentor and Her Muse, and its many problems are mutually reinforcing.

All authors have their little writerly tics and subconscious habits. The practice of writing necessarily includes constant effort to bring these habits to creative awareness. Only then can we place them under our command. Susan Sage has a lot of them, in my view, and they need to be disciplined. Together, they add up to a confusing and disappointing experience.

To begin with, the text could do with careful proofreading: there are more than enough errors to irritate the most patient reader. Missing words and garbled sentences abound; at one point, 'eluded' is used when 'alluded' is meant; a gazebo is severed into 'two halves'.

Explanatory clauses and qualifying statements in parentheses (like this) run amuck, page after page. Throughout, swarms of self-referential questions infest passages of free indirect discourse, concluding paragraphs or else nesting in their midst. This overuse of an otherwise effective rhetorical device becomes wearing and predictable, so that it ceases to function. Eventually, about half-way through the book, they become merely amusing, as we wait for their inevitable arrival.

Themes of race and age, love and creativity struggle in vain for precise articulation throughout A Mentor and Her Muse. 'What is this white woman up to?' asks Tae of Maggie, but the question is hopelessly underdetermined. Maggie is, I think, meant to be taken seriously, but she is irritatingly naive: 'So I, too, have known something of racism and discovered what a hell on earth it truly is!' For a middle-aged white woman like Maggie - no matter how observant, sensitive and 'concerned' - to make such a claim is frankly derisory, particularly as it is uttered after a marginally uncomfortable experience at a school committee meeting. Hell indeed.

A Mentor and Her Muse would benefit from a lot more dialogue. Assertions of states of affairs become dull and repetitive when they are used to the exclusion of so much else, depriving us of artistry and nuance. These assertions are hurled at the reader, many of them out of nowhere, and we have to take them on trust.

'As much as Tyler wishes he could spend more time with Tae, it's been amazing getting to know Maggie.' There is precious little evidence for this amazement: if only Tyler had been allowed to say this for himself, so that we could see his feelings grow; if only we could know that his heart beat quicker and his eyes shone. But we don't. Similarly with 'More than once he's thought about putting the place up for sale, much as he hated to even think of it.' If he'd only expressed these doubts to someone, so we could see them evolve, then they would become real. But they're not.

Maggie's sister Caroline arrives for reasons best known to herself, at which point there is potential for conflict and dramatic interaction. Instead, we are provided with more dull exposition.

We don't get to know any of these characters because they seldom reveal themselves in any other way. Thus, Sulie, a relatively marginal character, is a mix of personality traits and motivations that make her ridiculously unbelievable and incoherent. Maggie and Tae's compulsion to write seems like empty and self-important posturing.

Every bit of information this stylistic approach conveys is given the same emotional weight. It fails to provide a path through the narrative: everything becomes equally unimportant, with no highs or lows, and the reader ceases to care. That's a great shame.

Tom Ward
Crooked Cat Books
9781548701642, $10.49 pbk

Novel titles are seldom as apt as Tom Ward's Fires, which follows Guy, a firefighter in a town dominated by its vast steelworks, and Nathan and his friends, teenage arsonists whose lives are otherwise foreclosed by poverty, corruption and 'the system'. Guy and Nathan's paths eventually cross in expected and unexpected ways - most of them fiery - in an intermittently compelling narrative suffused with anger and loss.

The unnamed town in Fires is decaying due to neglect and poverty. The rich live in gated communities above the urban sprawl that is filled with abandoned civic buildings and row upon row of boarded houses. Increasingly vociferous and angry protestors march through the streets: there are shady goings-on at the steelworks, and jobs are dwindling. People are frightened. Lives and livelihoods are at risk.

This non-specific scenario is oddly timeless - deliberately so, I believe. In the context of the UK, a town wholly dependent on the production of steel harks back many decades, before the domination of China and elsewhere. Yet the gated communities, vacant tower blocks and fast-food outlets described in Fires sound contemporary. There is little sense of a surrounding nation, and the anonymous town is a self-contained entity that exists in a vacuum suggestive of wider catastrophe: one pictures everywhere else as cloaked in impenetrable night.

There are comparatively few novels devoted to firefighters, so it is interesting that Fires should resonate so strongly with Henry Green's Caught (1943), which is also an urban tale, this time of the Auxiliary Fire Service during the London Blitz. Caught is similarly pared down: its principal characters are sparely named Pye and Roe (PyeRoemania?), and its narrative trajectory is as grimly inevitable as Fires. The writing style of Caught is extremely odd: error-strewn and infelicitous sentences that cumulatively become incantatory, hieratic. As one perceptive reader - reviewer has said of Caught, it's not an enjoyable read, but it feels like a necessary one. He or she might have much the same feeling about Fires.

Stories echo forward and back, and fire itself is a potent and ambiguous cultural metaphor: a warm and caring friend when safely contained; a devil of destruction and pain when it escapes our control. Whether ignited or fought, fires rage through Fires, consuming property, lives and possibilities. For Guy, dedication to fighting fire has consumed his life; for Nathan and his gang, arson provides a power and freedom, a terrible beauty, rarely experienced in their world of dead-end jobs and dreary routine.

Coincidentally, it's here that another Green(e) is evoked, for Fires conjures a close cousin to Greeneland, populated by isolated individuals contemplating their past with regret and their future with paralysis. Guy's feelings of guilt are like those of Rowe (another one) in The Ministry of Fear (1943, again). In addition, the urge to destroy that propels Nathan and his gang is shared by the children in Greene's short story The Destructors (1954).

Fires is less successful when considered in isolation from its illustrious forebears. In my opinion, it is too long, so that the story seems slackly spun out. And there are just too many fires: by the time I'd reached the sixth or seventh descriptive passage about explosions of flame and falling masonry, it was difficult to feel involved. With some judicious pruning and an injection of momentum, the novel would have felt much more urgent. Alternatively, if conversations and/or contemplations had been more creative and provocative, the novel would have filled the space available. As it is, the plot outcomes are unexpected but unsurprising. The prose tends to be flat and hurried, with an irritatingly absent comma before the coordinating conjunction then, plus other minor errors.

Despite these problems, much of the novel is strangely compelling. I read it quickly because I was caught up in the ambiguities of time, place and meaning, its principal achievements.

Jack Messenger, Reviewer

Molly's Bookshelf

Ava Xox
Carol Weston's
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; Reprint edition
9781492635987, $TBA hc / $6.15 Kindle, Paperback, 208 pages

Carol Weston's Ava XOX is the third work of the Ava series.

The narrative opens with Ava relating astonishing news, Chuck is 'going' with Kelli.

Ava states that she is annoyed in part because she, Chuck and Kelli are all only in fifth grade. She does mention that she thinks of Chuck as a brother, nothing more..... just friends.

From that point The Reader is observer as Ava threads her way into and part of various situations, circumstances, relationships and nuances of relationships and situations..

Valentines Day is soon upon the class, Ava eschews buying the usual packet of Valentines she has enjoyed giving and receiving in the past.

Ava's sister Pip and Pip's boyfriend Ben WILL be exchanging valentines of course, they are after all, A Couple.

A chance meeting with Chuck as he is pouring change into the change sorting machine leaves Ava a bit confused, 'since when do I feel nervous around Chuck?'

Ava and her mixed feelings regarding her relationship with long time friend Chuck, trying to help Pip and her friend Tanya with their Spanish class project only to have it become a disaster, first boy girl party and BFF sleepovers, a pack of Bubblemint Gum, Ben's sister Bea and Ava again join forces to help Pip's friend Tanya as she tries to change her eating habits, setting the tips down as a Poster and it backfires for Ava, are all part of the narrative as Ava is learning how to live through the growing up process.

AVA XOX is a dandy read for the middle grade group. That writer Weston knows this age level well comes across on the pages of her Ava books. Ava reminds me so of the children in my own family as sisters and I were parents of the 'tween set.

I like the diary format, encouraged my two fourth grade classes when I returned to teaching after a decade hiatus, to begin journaling and read aloud Weston's 'Melanie' books one chapter at a time and am sorry now that I don't have a group of fourth graders begging for 'one more chapter, Please, one more chapter.'

AVA XOX is another thought provoking read sure to please girls, and as I found during my earlier daily chapter reading days of the Melanie books, perhaps the boys too in the target reading group of 9-14 year olds.

Once more Author/Parent Weston proves her adroit ability as a skilled writer who not only has her finger on the pulse of the target audience, but knows particular issues to address to help guide the reader's through the sticky quagmire of the 'too little to be big and too big to be little'. The 'tween group is learning how to become more grown up and somehow mesh school work and burgeoning social skills.

Clearly Weston understands and manages to illuminate the primary charm of this age group. AVA XOX is an easily read, pleasant account filled with more palindromes and word nerd fun. I found students in my classes whether firsties, or the middle grades were all fans of palindromes and other word fun.

As with works of the earlier Melanie series, and now the Ava books, writer Weston presents a practical depiction of the childhood to almost an adult angst, along with well delineated details designed to draw the reader into the narrative and hold reader interest from opening lines on to the last paragraphs. The muddled, and at times confusing, interpersonal relationships closely mirror those exhibited by the middle grade students.

The format of diary entries filled with personal asides by Ava as she describes her feelings and hopes, tosses in personal notes about spelling words, and the like, all add pleasant child-like playfulness and predictable narrative issuing naturally from an eleven-year-old girl present positive stimulus to continue reading.

The reader is drawn into the narrative without pause. Ava is a representative 'almost a teen girl' who is learning to cope with day to day activities of home and school. In her diary Ava sets down her hopes, mistakes, successes, distress, emotion, growth and spirit in her diary.

Writer Weston gently guides the reader into realization that Ava, the reader and most likely each of us at one time or another are facing or have faced all of the difficulty, sensitivity, circumstance and mistakes Ava too must deal with.

Girls, and boys too, during the middle grades ages 9 - 14; may not always feel comfortable to talk with parents or teachers about their churning emotions. Reading Ava's feelings set down on her diary pages may may do much to guide other youngsters toward understanding that they really are not so peculiar, singular or 'out of it' when their own feelings, insecurities and mistakes may seem to reflect many of the ups and downs as Ava too is experiencing.

AVA XOX is a book I am happy to recommend for a place in the public and school library, on the classroom reading shelf, for a free reading program, a home library and for pleasure reading for middle grades. This Ava book will make a nice back to school gift for the beginning of the new school term for student and teacher alike.

Hope there are more Ava books to come in this series, Enjoyed the read very much, happy to recommend and rate 5 stars.

Red Fox and His Canoe
Nathaniel Benchley, author
Arnold Lobel, illustrator
HarperCollins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780064440752, $12.99, 64 pages

Listening level: Ages 3-9
Reading level: Read to K - 1
Read with help 1 - 2
Read alone 1 - 3

Nathaniel Benchley's Red Fox and His Canoe introduces Red Fox, a small boy, and his dad. Like other Indian boys, Red Fox did have a small canoe to use when he wanted to go fishing. However, he longed-for a bigger one, a much bigger one!

Red Fox asked his father to make him a bigger canoe. His father was a little taken aback when Red Fox announced that he wanted the biggest canoe in the whole world. Papa did not think that was a real dandy idea, nevertheless, the pair set off into the forest searching to locate the perfect tree for the new canoe.

Each tree Papa found, Red Fox thought was too small, however, at long last Papa chopped down a tree and made a fire in it.

"This is too big for you. But, you'll grow into it."

Red Fox and his father quickly scraped the burned part out of the tree and soon Red Fox was ready for his first outing in his BIG canoe. Setting off in the water Red Fox planned to catch a million fish.

He WAS nearing the half million mark when Red Fox heard some peculiar sounds. And, he found a bear having no luck fishing. The bear saw Red Fox, and, he saw all those fish Red Fox had in the canoe.

He ate them all!

Red Fox and the bear set about to do a bit more fishing. Red Fox did the rowing, and the bear highjacked the fishing pole. Over on the bank the bear noticed a friend, and invited her to come along.

She wanted to bring her friend Al.

Red Fox paddled, the bears fished and ate and fished and ate. Red Fox realized he had to get rid of the bears. And, he tricked the bears into hurrying to one end of the canoe. It tipped way over.

However, before Red Fox could tip it all the way; two otters climbed on board. The otters knew where the best fishing spots were, as they passed below the limb of a tree a raccoon hopped into the canoe.

Complaintive Rumbling broke out, the bears got sleepy, they nestled down for a nap, the otters clamored up on the bears and they too went to sleep.

A moose thought the jam packed canoe looked like a fun time, so in he began climbing.

A huge cr-aaaaa-ck reverberated, AND NO MORE CANOE.

All that was left of Red Fox' canoe were the front and back ends of the small boat. Tying the foremost and the backmost pieces of the canoe together with vines; Red Fox set out for home.

Nathaniel Benchley's Red Fox and His Canoe is one of those timeless works accepted so well by Little People back when I was first teaching in California and it continued to be a favorite right to the last days I taught in Oklahoma as Osage County First Grade gathered on the rug to listen to books read to them.

I particularly like Arnold Lobel's artistic prowess, his critters are all child pleasing. The plains Indian headdress, a la movies, on Papa's head may be a touch out of kilter, however, Papa is a goodhearted type and Lobel depicts the long suffering all parents tolerate at one time or another when raising kids.

Osage County First Grade students listened with the same bright eyed enthusiasm as did my first classes decades before in California whether it was the first reading or the umpteenth.

Red Fox may be a tad ambitious, as are most six and seven year olds I have ever known.

He is a figure with which Little People identify promptly. I like the possibility for discussion that always turn up as Red Fox and his new canoe prove to be a bit too much for a Little Fellow.

I enjoy hearing Little People agree, he should have listened to his Dad.

I enjoy reading Red Fox and His Canoe aloud to children, Happy to recommend for use in classrooms, homeschool settings, free time read, and parent/child reading time.

Red Fox and His Canoe will be a dandy choice for a back to school gift for the shy Firsties class, or for gifting a Little Person on birthday or other important day in the life of the Little Person.

Hummingbirds Their Life and Behavior
Esther Quesada Tyrrell
Crown Publishing Group
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780517553367, $42.00, 212 pages

During a sojourn to a local jumble shop the cover of this remarkable book straightaway caught my eye. Hummingbirds are regular, most welcome visitors to our ygarden during spring through fall each year.

This HUMMINGBIRDS Their Life and Behavior 'Photographic study of the North American Species' is a sizable publication measuring nearly 10" x 13", having 212 pages and numerous photos of these minute feathered denizens.

The Table of Contents indicates a Preface followed by An introduction to Hummingbirds, A Portfolio of North American Hummingbirds, Anatomy, Feathers, Flight, Courtship and Nesting, Food and Metabolism, Behavior, Wildflower Pollination, followed with a subdivision regarding Hummingbirds of the World, a Bibliography and Index.

I was interested to note while reading the preface, The Tyrell's 'interest in hummingbirds began in 1975 at which time Robert tried his hand at phtographing a female Anna's Hummingbird and discovered how difficult these tiny birds are to catch on film.'

From that opening the husband and wife duo have gone on to become skilled in the field of study regarding hummingbirds and their habits.

Occupied with full page and half page photos along with hand drawn sketches as well as text resultant from first-hand knowledge garnered during years of learning in the field, as well as informative research, HUMMINGBIRDS is a pleasure to read.

I particularly relished the detail and fidelity to de facto representation of the diverse birds displayed in this book. Pages 5 - 37 are specially remarkable for the admirer living in North America.

Beginning with Allen's Hummingbird, an alphabetical listing of the birds extant in North America is presented, including Anna's, Berylline, Black-chinned, Buff Bellied, Calliope and Costa's, and on through Lucifer, Magnificent (Rivoli), Ruby-throated, Rufous, Violet Crowned, and finally White-eared.

Each specific bird is presented as a 2, half page color photographs of the male on the left leaf and particular information text regarding Genus, Species, Field Markings, Range, Breeding Range, Winter Range if known, Nesting, Migration and Habitat. A detailed sketch of the female of the species is placed in the lower quadrant of the detail page.

I was in particular curious to realize which of the birds I will most likely discover in my own yard here in the center of the continent, Oklahoma/Kansas.

Each year we have various pairs who return to imbibe from various blossoms we have added to garden over the quarter century we have lived here. I do not add sugar water or other feeder material to the spring garden, rather the birds feed from the assorted flowering cultivars. I do leave blossoms in place and add sugar water if blossoms are sparse during fall migration period.

I enjoyed reading the detail contained in the written material regarding anatomy. I am a school teacher, curious regarding nature, and favor learning in general. This beautiful publication answers many inquiries, and strengthens cognition I had already pulled together from a miscellany of smaller, less detailed texts.

While photos in this section are not so prolific as in the preceding pages showcasing specific birds; there is nonetheless a copiousness of photos presenting some of the birds I have not seen before.

The subdivision pertaining to 'Feathers' relates that during the 1800s the beautiful feathers caused thousands of hummingbird skins to be shipped to Europe for use to create bonnet and fan accessories. This section has both sketches and color photos of birds, feathers and nests with nestlings.

While not quite as flashy during molting the little birds are ever lilliputian flying jewels in the garden. Molting is delineated in detail, making for interesting reading; I discovered not all the feathers are lost or replaced at the same moment.

This division too is packed with elegant photos, one in particular caught my eye. I have never seen a Costa's Hummingbird, now I would like to especially after seeing the beauteous amethyst helmet the males display, shown in this book!

The section titled 'Flight' begins with John Zugshwert's quote, 'The hummingbird is nature's helicopter.' Observing the diminutive birds in the garden bears out that notions as birds dart, flit, fly backwards, hover, lift off straight up or mayhap even upside down.

Male and female bird photos are displayed in the section regarding 'Flight.'

Now and then I have been fortunate to find tiny nests materialize on a branch in my garden; the selection titled 'Courtship and Nesting', I found particularly engrossing.

Drawings portraying courtship displays of one or another specie as well as photographs of nests are included in this section. Tiny nests are created with specifics for each specie, all are small whether cone-shaped or round, are all but concealed completely as they blend into surroundings. Locations for nest building varies, some appear on branches, or rocks, cactus, or vines are all used. Building materials include spider web, lichens, hair, mosses, and grasses.

Eggs are bantam, chicks grow rapidly, I found the ones in my garden often soon outgrew the nest itself, and perched on the outer rim of the nest until ready to fly. Mom will mend and improve the nest while chicks are in it. A single brood of two chicks during spring is common, although, now and then, a second or even third pair will be hatched and cared for.

Babies are born blind, helpless and having short bills. Feathers appear, bills lengthen, and at 26 days or so fledglings; will soon depart the nest and fend for themselves.

'Food and Metabolism' informs that hummingbirds with their high, weight specific metabolism, need to eat a good bit. Hummingbird primary food source is nectar. Nectar gathered from tubular blossoms along with insects supply the nourishment requirements of hummingbirds.

A recipe for sugar water, ratio 1 part sugar to 5 parts water is given. Hummers learn which flowers are best for them. They learn through trial and error the type flowers they favor. In my garden I principally have morning glories and climbing red trumpet vine.

Hummers do also come to the Rose of Sharon even though it does not have deeply tubular blossoms.

Various metabolic rates, torpidity, sleep and migration are all discussed in this section.

'Behavior' opens with a quote from F. Stephens, 'They are very fond of chasing one another, sometimes for sport, often for spite. I am always reminded of a lot of schoolboys playing tag.' That statement pretty much sums up the hummingbirds who frequent my own garden.

Hummers in the main are somewhat unsociable, curious and argumentative. They tend to be moderately noisy; I often hear whistles and chirps when the hummers are here. I have not heard, but have read that some hummers sing.

Hummingbirds tend to be territorial, bellicose and migratory. They will ruffle and preen feathers, favor sunbathing, and stretch wings at intervals.

'Wildflower Pollination' points to a direct relationship between hummingbirds and the flowers from which they feed. Red blossoms having tubular shape are favored by hummingbirds who carry pollen from blossom to blossom on beaks, and feathers. A listing of specific Hummingbird-Pollinated Wildflowers is included.

Exquisite photos are distributed on pages in each section of the book.

Page 200 begins an itemization of Hummingbirds of the World, with a Bibliography beginning on page 205 and Index rounding out the work pages 205 - 212

Tyrrells, Esther Quesada and Robert have crafted a lovely, informative book entitled HUMMINGBIRDS Their Life and Behavior.

Robert Tyrrell is noted to be the world's world-class photographer of hummingbirds, and, opening the book and turning the pages sure enough attests to the truth of the statement.

Esther Quesada Tyrrell, Robert's wife, field researcher, and one who studies Hummingbirds extensively has written the related illuminating text.

I am very impressed with this elegant book, it is a well made edition having firm, plain blue fabric covers, a sturdy dust jacket, thick, glossy pages and a multitude of photos and content based on science, fact and personal observation.

Happy to recommend HUMMINGBIRDS Their Life and Behavior 'Photographic study of the North American Species' for those who study birds in general, and hummingbirds in particular, as well as those who simply enjoy reading a well designed book packed with almost 250 beautiful photos and sketches along with a well written text.

Happy to recommend for home and public library, for the personal collection and as a gift for a friend or relative who enjoys birds and books about birds.

Gorgeous Impressive photos and instructive text ... Highly Recommended ... 5 stars

Tom Ugly
Helen Joan Vandepeer
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
978149536569, $TBA, 140 pages

Author Vandepeer notes in the Prologue that she motored down the southern loop road that takes travelers below Tom Ugly's Bridge. ... she says, 'the name fascinated me.'

Helen Joan Vandepeer's Tom Ugly begins as Mary, a scared native girl labors, alone, to give birth to her baby. She is birthing her infant by herself because her baby is thought by some in her village to be a demon child who would belong-a-no- body.

Mary, a Dharawal girl living in Australia, had come to work for Tom Hector in his shanty close to the boundary of the Georges river, because her mother wanted her to learn the white man's ways as a method to perhaps allow her to live in the white man's society. Mary hopes Tom will be happy with the fine son she has produced.

He was not.

When Mary is expelled from Hector's cabin following the birth of her son, she returns to her people, who due to health problems brought by the prisoners housed at the penal colony in Australia, is all but decimated. Mary and her baby, while not welcomed with enthusiasm, are allowed to stay.

With skin too dark for the European colonists and too light for the aboriginal Dharawal indigenous people little Tom faces disadvantage for simply being. Life spent living with his mother's people taught little Tom that he really does not fit with the native people, his return at the bidding of the village elders at age seven to Tom's cabin following his mother's death to illness; reinforces the lad's understanding that he really belong-a-no-body.

Tom matures to be an industrious young man, who was always a bit of odd man out, he and his Dah, father, do develop a relationship; however Tom always remains at the outside edge of all society.

In time Tom's father dies, leaves his shanty and land and debts to Tom. Tom hopes to ameliorate his holding, however, there are those who begrudge the land left to a half white, half aboriginal child.

Writer Vandepeer has taken some actual historical fact, including the fabrication of a penal colony in Australia, prejudice, along with loss of life for many of the aboriginal people of Australia principally due to small pox brought by the European immigrants whether free or those sent to the penal colony. Tom Uglys Bridge is actually two bridges, completed in 1929 and 1987, crossing the Georges River in southern Sydney.

Vandepeer intertwines actual historical facts into, and, along with what is possible, if not actual, events to weave a painful moving narrative.

I received an ARC for review. The cover, with kangaroos standing and hopping caught my eye immediately.

I found the narrative Vandepeer has produced to be very readable, settings are richly detailed, characters are well fleshed, the anguish of a mournful little boy is perceptible. The hurt he carries into adulthood is palpable.

I like the pieces of historical fact woven into the tale.

Man's inhumanity to man is manifest, but does not bludgeon the reader. Tom's quandary is not resolved by the last chapter of the tale. And, I think that is part of the appeal of the narrative; although Tom is a fabricated character the reader is soon drawn into the tale, and begins to hope that life will become better, respectable, less problematic, and more rewarding.

I found that leaving the concluding years of Tom's life as an enigma is more gratifying than would be 'and lived happily ever after' might be.

All in all, I am certain Helen Joan Vandepeer's Tom Ugly deserves a place in the school and public library and will be a dandy addition for a gift package to teens and adults.

*Not for everyone, if you favor a more formula, all problems solved, happiness wins out and such; Tom Ugly is likely not a narrative you will enjoy.

If you like a well plotted storyline set down in dandy readable prose; I believe you will find elen Joan Vandepeer's Tom Ugly a satisfying read.

Interesting Read ... Happy to Recommend ... 4.5 stars

NOTE: Reference to an episode of sexual abuse of young Tom may put off some readers, the abuse is not overly graphic, and fits the narrative, I did not have any feel that it was added for shock value.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Pedro's Bookshelf

The Wright Brothers
David McCullough
Simon & Schuster
9781476728742, $30.00

Since the invention of electrical power, during the Second Industrial Revolution - the period from 1870 to the start of World War I - no invention has had a greater impact on travel and commerce as the airplane. In 2016 U.S.-serving airlines flew over 928 domestic and international passengers. It is estimated that the total revenue of the global airline industry will be around $736 billion in 2017.

The creation of powered and controlled flight by Wilbur and Orville Wright was the culmination of man's fascination with flight that dates back to ancient times. While mankind benefits from the ingenuity and toil of visionaries, and those who labor to make their inventions practical and commonplace, few people know much about the creators responsible for the industrial world.

David McCullough's The Wright Brothers offers aviation enthusiasts and other history buffs a window into the lives of Wilbur and Orville Wright and their determination to invent the airplane. The American historian spends considerable pages detailing how both brothers were mechanically minded growing up. Like their mother, the boys tinkered with toys, always curious to know how they worked. What whet their appetite for aviation and fueled their awe and wonder for flight was a toy helicopter that they received as a gift. The contraption was essentially a stick with two propellers that moved by twisting rubber bands.

In addition to their mechanical savvy, the brothers were also voracious readers. Some of the books that inspired them the most were on the "locomotion of birds." In other words, how birds fly. Their love of books came from their father, Bishop Milton Wright, who kept many books in their home.

Part of the charm of McCullough's insightful biography of the Wright Brothers is his attention to the details of the Wright family. The Wright's, we are told, were a close-knit family. Wilbur and Orville were close to their sister, Katharine, a school teacher. There were also two older brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin, both married. Their mother, Susan Koerner Wright, died from tuberculosis on July 4, 1889, age fifty-eight.

The Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset, argues that human history is the result of vital-reason, or life lived and understood from the inside out. Individuals make history. This should be the main task of historians. McCullough's biography of the Wright brothers goes a long way in citing the character and personality of the Wright brothers, how they received their tireless work ethic from their father, and what it means to toil alone for years without the promise of success. Much of what we know about what made the brothers work as hard as they did - and triumph over tremendous odds - comes from the many letters they wrote home while away working on their airplanes. While reserved and unassuming, the Wright brothers took many photographs of their early flying machines. This would suit them well in settling future disputes with other aviators as to who invented the airplane.

Missing from McCullough's The Wright Brothers is the cliche, psychoanalytic babble that many writers use today to make historical figures fit into the social-political agenda of the post-modern world.

Before dedicating themselves to inventing a flying machine, the Wright brothers began to build bicycles during the bicycle craze of the last two decades of the nineteenth century. The brothers were successful as bicycle builders. They even opened a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They believed the knowledge gained from their work on how best to balance a bicycle helped them understand the problem of "equilibrium" in flight.

McCullough situates the Wright brothers and the invention of the airplane in a historical milieu that enlightens readers as to the problems and technical difficulties that the brothers faced. The Wright brothers are placed alongside a handful of others who also aspired to fly. The author pays attention to Otto Lilienthal's glider, and how this made the Wright brothers realize that, while Lilienthal was a dedicated student of flight, his tables for creating lift were wrong. Also, we are informed about how Wilbur and Orville became friends with Octave Chanute, a French-American civil engineer and early aviation pioneer. Of equal importance, the reader learns about Samuel Langley's unsuccessful attempt to fly his aerodrome, the creation of which was aided by a $50,000 U.S. War Department government subsidy, and how Langley eventually became the 3rd Secretary of the Smithsonian. In contrast to Langley, from 1900 to 1903 the Wright brothers spent $1,000 of their own money building and transporting their flying machines. The Wright brothers first flew in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; perfected powered flight at Huffman Prairie outside of Dayton, and hosted flying demonstrations in Washington D.C., where Orville had a near-fatal crash. The book also explains in fine detail Wilbur's methodical flying demonstrations in over one year that he lived in France, Germany and Italy. On May 25, 1910, Orville flew to a height of 2,720 over Huffman Prairie in a flying demonstration before the Aeroplane Club of Dayton.

As important as building and flying their airplanes, the story of the Wright brothers is one of human perseverance and how they managed the ongoing challenges of their desire to fly with confidence and optimism. Another valuable aspect of McCullough's book is the story of what happened to the brothers post the invention of the airplane. For instance, there was a contentious lawsuit that Orville dealt with for many years, after Wilbur died on May 30, 1912, age forty-five. The lawsuit was with aviation pioneer, Glenn Curtiss, and had to do with the rightful ownership of the patent for the invention of the aileron. The Wright brothers eventually won the lawsuit.

The Wright brothers approached flight meticulously. They were not crackpots. They created the first wind tunnel, which enabled them to understand the dynamics of air flowing through the surface of an airfoil. They were the first aviation pioneers to understand the dynamics of flight: lift, pitch, roll and yaw. Until they gained this knowledge, human flight remained impossible. The Wright brothers were also the first flyers to understand the necessary curvature of wings in order for them to be effective in creating life: dihedral angle. This discovery even allowed them to understand what type of propeller worked best. Perhaps most importantly, the Wright brothers first developed the idea of "wing warping," also called "wing twisting." They were the first to realize that flight, and especially turning an airplane, requires changing the pressure of wind passing over a wing. This is how they came upon the invention of the aileron.

Aviation enthusiasts are adept at navigating through the rich archives of aviation history and aircraft specs and technology that discerning readers can tap into today. There are many excellent books available that concentrate on flight and aviation history. McCullough's The Wright Brothers is a book of American history and the lofty aspirations of the humble brothers from Dayton, Ohio who made the invention of the airplane possible. This biography of the Wright brothers is truly a look at the broad shoulders of human ingenuity and the painstaking effort that makes anything worth achieving possible.

A-3 Skywarrior: Units of the Vietnam War
Rick Morgan
Osprey Publishing
9781472805645 $22.50

The Vietnam War initiated the expansion and diversification of United States air power. After World War II and the Korean War, the U.S. military saw the need to create "heavy attack" bombers capable of being launched from aircraft carriers - which were getting bigger.

A-3 Skywarrior: Units of the Vietnam War is author and pilot, Rick Morgan's, story of the A-3 Skywarrior, its many diverse missions and the men who flew it. The A-3 is a unique aircraft. At the peak of its naval service, the A-3 was the largest and heaviest aircraft to be carrier-based. For this reason, the A-3 was called the "whale."

The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was designed by Ed Heinemann of the Douglas Aircraft Company. Heinemann also designed the A-4 Skyhawk and the Douglas A-1, among other aircraft. Heinemann designed the A-3, a nuclear attack bomber, to be capable of operating on the newer and bigger Forrestal class supercarriers. Heinemann, an accomplished and confident designer, also believed that the A-3 could operate on older Midway and Essex class carriers with the aid of steam catapults and angled flight decks.

The initial A-3 design called for an aircraft capable of flying over 2,000 miles while carrying a 10,000-lb bomb to its target. The A-3 had a three-man crew: Pilot, bombardier, navigator and crewman/navigator. Eventually, the A-3 saw many "versions," including heavy attack bomber, reconnaissance and tanker.

The A-3 main theater of operation was the Vietnam War. The aircraft was instrumental in operation Linebacker I, II, Rolling Thunder and Freedom Train. Its versatility allowed the A-3, in one configuration or another, to be in service from 1956 to 1991, including two aircraft that were called into service in the 1990 operation Desert Storm. The A-3 Skywarrior was a workhorse for the U.S. Navy.

Dr. Pedro Blas Gonzalez

Susan's Bookshelf

The Starlight Club 9: Una Morte Facile (An Easy Death)
Joe Corso
CreateSpace Independent Publishing
9781985032422, $19.95, 350 Pages

Genre: Suspense Thriller

What daughter doesn't love listening to her father's stories, and this exciting new Starlight Club adventure opens with Lynn, devoted daughter of Bobby, waiting for her father to return from a visit to Queens, where he hopes to see some old friends.

When he arrives safely home they settle down with a coffee and some Sambuca, and Bobby tells Lynn of his day, and how it had bought back memories of a troubling period in 1975 when the Sicilians had arrived in Queens and set up in business selling drugs.

You see, Big Red Fortunato, owner of the Starlight Club, despite having his fingers in many pies did not condone drugs and prostitution on the streets of Queens. So when the word got back to him that the Zips were peddling drugs, he wasted no time in sending out his men to get more information, and after a 'meeting' with the Sicilians, he eventually discovered who the leader of the cartel was.

Determined to keep drugs of his streets, and with a fortuitous legitimate excuse for visiting Sicily, Red, Tarzan and Trenchie set off to meet Antonio Andolino, the person responsible for sending the Zips over, and the leader of one of the largest drug cartels in the world.

Used to being feared, Antonio has never met the likes of Red before and as the meeting deteriorates it is clear that the problem is not going to be solved simply.

In this powerful, exciting story we follow Red and his gang as they travel between Queens and Sicily, and very early on find ourselves fascinatingly ensconced in the world of the Sicilian mafia, with their proud honour, sense of family, blood oaths, and revenge killings.

This enthralling story brings together many of the past very memorable characters in the Starlight Club books, and if you are a fan, like me your will quickly remember them like old friends, however if this is the first book in the series you have read, it doesn't matter, as everything is wonderfully explained and you will find yourself sinking into this excellent plot and its larger than life personalities with ease.

The author has managed through his amazing storytelling to bring the streets of Queens and the atmosphere of Sicily magically to life, in weaving together a clever story which includes drama, murder, mayhem, and kidnapping.

A really gripping thriller, reading The Starlight Club, An Easy Death, with its twist and turns, will keep you riveted to the page, and keen to know what will happen next, I highly recommend it.

Lakewood: Reggie and Anita's Camelot
Reggie Hill
Christian Faith Publishing
9781641406260, $11.95, 48 pages

Genre: Inspirational

For Reggie, Lakewood had been his childhood playground a place for him to explore, learn about nature, and make memories with his beloved Granny Good. Reggie's grandfather had built a lake on his land there between 1942 and 1943. Post war gasoline was not available and 'so the lake was built with pans pulled by mules and driven by men.' Isn't that amazing, a seven acre lake and a dam built solely by man and animal, surrounded by woods and fields, truly heaven!

Back then Daniel and Annabel Hinson, Reggie's grandparents recognised what a special place Lakewood was and spent many Sunday afternoons in their trusty pickup atop the highest mountain at Lakewood lovingly gazing down the mountain to the lake.

When Reggie inherited Lakewood from them, he and his wife Anita decided to build a house on the land. Over the years they have been fortunate enough to live in this very special place, observing nature and the seasons. Through their busy careers they have always had Lakewood to return to and have enjoyed the peace and solitude there. This beautiful place, their piece of heaven has a bounty of wildlife, fish in the lake, and has furnished them with wondrous memories, and now they are sharing them with us the readers of this lovely book.

Each page is like a slice of paradise, with beautiful poems about the animals and nature which surrounds Lakewood. Interspersed with these are snippets of Reggie's memories, precious words which transport us from our modern busy lives into a bygone era, a time when people had time to stand and stare, and children were given time to grow without a keyboard, mobile phone or educational stages to accomplish. I found this wonderful as I too was lucky, I had a childhood like this abet on another continent, and this lovely book brought back memories of special times with my grandparents.

This little book gives its reader something very unique, a place to retreat, far from the madding crowd. The memories, old photographs and anecdotes Reggie shares, and the visions of the natural world which share Lakewood with him make it very special, a book not just to sit on the book shelf but to be carried around until its pages curl and it becomes part of your life. I loved it!

Forgive Me: Nadia
Veronika Gasparyan
Privately Published
9780692931493, $15.99, 242 Pages

Genre: Mystery Thriller

From then on life has other cruel cards to deal Natalia, and it is incredible that one young woman could suffer so much hardship and sorrow, through no fault of her own. However, Natalia's strong faith, kind heart and compassion to others is a true inspiration, and it is heart-warming to read how she transforms the lives and futures of those who know her with the beauty of her spirit.

Unfortunately it is a horrific fact that sex-slave trafficking is still going on in Moscow, and throughout the world, and very young children are sold and stolen to provide sexual gratification for cruel and perverted adults.

This story brings the plight of one of these children to the attention of its reader. Natalia's life and what happens next in Nadia's makes compelling reading.

The author's attention to detail about the life of Natalia both as a sex slave and afterwards makes parts of it heart-breaking. However, perhaps the most shocking thing is that it is based on a true story, somewhere out there this woman exists...

Sloths: Life in the Slow Lane
Dr. Rebecca Cliffe
The Sloth Conservation Foundation
9780692864364, $25.00, 143 Pages

Genre: Wildlife Conservation

This outstandingly beautiful, and highly informative book is a celebration of the sloth, and a masterpiece. It is the combination of the knowledge of the author, Dr. Rebecca Cliffe, a British zoologist and one of the world's foremost authorities on sloths, and the incredible photography of renowned award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas.

Dr. Rebecca Cliffe has been working with these amazing animals since 2010, and she is Founder and Executive Director of The Sloth Conservation Foundation.

The intrepid pair have spent months in mosquito ridden rain forests, and on an isolated uninhabited island, patiently gaining the trust of these remarkable creatures in order gain a better understanding of them. It is this dedication which enabled Suzi Eszterhas to get such beautiful pictures of these shy animals, and their young.

The book is packed with fascinating facts about all six species of sloths, including the reason that they were named sloth, after one of the seven deadly sins. We think of sloths as lazy couch potatoes, however we soon discover that there are very good reasons for their slow speed, including some very unique physical features, and we learn how these have attributed to them surviving for over sixty million years. I knew of Sloths, however it was not until I started reading this book that I realised how very little both I, and I would imagine the majority of people actually know about these astonishing animals. In so many ways they are unique! Their evolution which has gained them the reputation of the slowest form of existence has resulted in a totally different creature to any other species on earth, physically, internally, their metabolism, the incredible variety of wildlife which lives within their fur, and in so many other ways.

Dr. Rebecca Cliffe explains, and shows in the book, how it is now possible to study these fascinating creatures like never before, using tracking backpacks which record a range of data, such as the sloths movements, when it feeds, and much more.

However there is a very serious side to this book. The author wanted to bring to the attention of the public the plight of sloths. We learn that every day hundreds of animals fall victim to the progress of man, with urbanisation and land development, in South, and Central America, their home. The Sloth Conservation Foundation (SloCo) is dedicated to saving sloths in the wild. They tirelessly work on campaigning for underground power lines to preserve the forest and the planting of new forest corridors for the animals. They carry out tree surveys, and are dedicated to the international education programmes which educate the local communities, and reduce the poaching of sloths for the pet and tourist photo industry.

If you would like to help The Sloth Conservation Foundation you can find out the wide varieties of ways you can make a difference at the back of the book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a love of nature, not only is it a beautiful book to own, but also there is so much to learn about these wonderful creatures within its pages.

Dynomike: Love Bug
Frankie B. Rabbit
CreateSpace Independent Publishing
9781984186997, $12.99,

Genre: Children's Book

Valentine's Day is a special day where people express their love, however the power of love, and the feeling of being loved every day is immeasurable. Hugs are something which hopefully all children receive a lot of, and in this very special children's book the power of a hug to show someone how much they are loved and cared for is explained to children in a very simple way.

Dynomike discovers how the power of love can change your world from sad to happy, and how caring makes the world of difference.

At the beginning we find Dynomike sad and searching for love, then, luckily he runs in to his old friend Barry McDoug.

It may be cold, and the snow may be falling, but with a big bear hug Barry McDoug makes Dynomike very happy and awakens his love bug.

Suddenly Dynomike realises the magical powers of the love bug, and what's more, that it is contagious!

Armed with the knowledge that a hug will unlock the power of the love bug, together Dynomike and McDoug set off around town. As they spread the love to people and groups, it's not long before everyone realises how blue days can become sunny with a magical hug.

The message in this wonderful, beautifully illustrated book is clear, it is in everyone's power to brighten up someone's day with a hug, and with this simple gesture the recipient feels better and knows they are loved.

This is a book to treasure and one which I think will be loved by all children.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design