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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 3 March 2019 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
Julie's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mari's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Suanne's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

An Incomplete List of My Wishes
Jendi Reiter
Sunshot Press
9781944977207, $12.95, pbk
9781944977085, $24.59, hbk

Jack Messenger, Reviewer

Fine writing transcends generic boundaries. Should we call An Incomplete List of My Wishes, Jendi Reiter's outstanding collection of short stories, Southern fiction? Possibly, but only as long as we permit a Southern sensibility (however defined) to extend as far north as New York and Connecticut. Is it LGBTQ? Assuredly, yet the breadth of human response the book elicits encompasses far more than specific issues of sexual/gender identification. Is it historical? In part, but the 1990s reside still in many living memories and can comfortably coexist with the present. May we even call these prizewinning works short stories? Only if we allow that a short story need not necessarily tell a story, or that it can tell many stories all at once.

Sensitive readers will try to store these kinds of interesting and bewildering questions at the backs of their minds: An Incomplete List of My Wishes will ask us to reconsider them eleven times over, while it overwhelms us emotionally and beguiles us with its technical dexterity, its complexities of tone and points of view, its sheer humanity. 'Humanity' is one of those embarrassing words one doesn't know quite what to do with these days. The glorious and long-overdue breakout of the suppressed and the ignored, the persecuted and the victimized, the hidden and the marginalized, means all-encompassing concepts such as 'human nature', 'society', 'family' and, yes, 'humanity' have been stretched and exploded and abandoned as contexts and identities and rights have multiplied. Yet 'humanity' is a redeemable concept inasmuch as it can be persuaded to include the truly human - all of us - while preserving and protecting our differences.

This is to say that An Incomplete List of My Wishes is far more than merely a 'gay book' - whatever that might mean - of interest solely to gay people; it is for all of us who identify as human beings. Its thematically dominant gayness is not a metaphor for something more significant; rather, it is one among many wonderful facets shown and lived in these stories, some of whose characters simply happen to be gay. Inhabiting these lives - the gay and the straight, and several points between and beyond - is our privilege. Stories like 'Two Natures' and 'Julian's Yearbook', for instance, provide such an emotionally intelligent, immersive experience that they move us profoundly, broadening our comprehension and deepening our sensibilities - quite an achievement in fewer than twenty pages.

Around half the stories in An Incomplete List of My Wishes use the South (specifically, the State of Georgia) as a cultural lens through which to view other, more personal themes: family, faith, ambition, memory, violence, death, regret, sexuality (race is notably absent). Gayness (male and female) in the 1990s in the South could only emerge in a hostile environment, so that children and teenagers aware of the direction their bodies are taking have the added burden of concealment, an instinctive survival technique that worsens their confusion and dismay. Yet gayness can also enable, or at least permit, a sideways appropriation of the culture that does its best to exclude: readers of An Incomplete List of My Wishes will never look at The Little Mermaid or Splash in quite the same way.

There is huge variety here, much of which challenges conventional expectations. 'Exodus', for instance, the ironically entitled opening piece, is just over a page long, and is a reflection of sorts on loss and grief, of precious lives gone forever. Jendi Reiter is also a poet, and their* prose here possesses a poetic concision and allusiveness of language and image that convey more genuine feeling than many novels manage in a hundred pages. Its emotional resonances are held in deft details and small, often-overlooked words such as 'polite' and 'sorry', washed away in blurred ink. 'Waiting for the Train to Fort Devens, June 17, 1943', a later story, takes a similar approach to confront death and forgetting, the silence of men who have seen terrible things, and our compulsion to tell stories, to make sense of that which eludes reclamation.

Amid all its differences of theme and technique, An Incomplete List of My Wishes is held together by an insistent, unsentimental claim on our empathetic understanding. 'The House of Correction' (the allusion to Dostoevsky's 'House of the Dead' is surely intentional), for example, a humorous and seemingly more conventional work, provokes a complex emotional response: we are surprised by joy for those who unexpectedly find freedom and flourish, only to be shocked and saddened by what life has perpetrated on another. Great fiction - like all great art - helps us to experience that which is hitherto inexperienceable, or only experienced lightly, fleetingly, unrecognized and unregarded. The writing here grasps those little moments in which life's possibilities glance our way and hold out their hands before they vanish forever.

An Incomplete List of My Wishes asks us to behold these moments, to make sense of words and of lives. Jendi Reiter uses language, punctuation, emphasis, and context to extend connotation almost to breaking point, and often to the reverse of what is actually uttered. In the final story, 'Taking Down the Pear Tree', an utterly compelling account of a couple in need of a child, the simple line 'Nothing hurts, you say' is one such instance where denotation and connotation are at opposite ends of feeling, where the ostensible cause of the pain is the least significant source of anguish. This could be called free indirect speech, inflected with a semi-detached irony and a deep feeling for what is left unsaid - rather like the sad, haunting, kind smile of a despised uncle whose only impulse is to love.

An Incomplete List of My Wishes may only give up its secrets after many readings. Even then, I have the feeling it will never quite tell us everything it knows. And while some of its more arcane references and allusions to popular US culture will not be recognized by non-Americans, that hardly matters. Whoever we are, we can still be invited to cherish love and kindness whatever form they take, to sorrow for mistakes and injustices, to value people whose choice is for life, to enjoy the art of the short story at its most sublime.

Thank you, Jendi Reiter, for the invitation.

Xhenet Aliu
Random House
9780399590269, $17.00

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Recently, I was at a writers' conference where a famous, best-selling author spoke. Her presentation drew a huge crowd, and thunderous applause followed her speech, which I had found to be predictable and bland, but clearly pleased her fans. This woman has won both a Goodreads award and a People's Choice award for her fiction, I thought; I ought to break down now and buy one of her novels. I should see what all the fuss is about.

When it came out, her best seller hadn't appealed to me because the story seemed derivative of so much else that preceded it, but I chose to buy that one because it was, well, her biggest seller.

Long story short: I made it through 20 pages before I was bored. More significantly, I was afraid that her "voice" - that enigmatic element of a writer's craft - would stick to me, and I might start to write like that. In fact, however, there wasn't a voice at all. Her prose comprised short, choppy sentences of similar construction, strung together in a most inelegant, monotone. I had the feeling she was attempting to mimic Hemingway but failing. Utterly. It almost seemed like she'd hired a computer to write her sentences.

The next book I picked up, Brass by Xhenet Aliu, was a perfect antidote. Now here was VOICE. All caps: VOICE. The narrator - actually two - were full of personality. I knew it was written by a person and not a computer - a person with wit, charm, imagination. Also a person with humility, angst, hope and frustration all wrapped in such flowing prose I kept smiling at the page. Further, this is a writer with guts. Not many are brave enough to try to write in second person; even fewer can actually pull it off.

So, now you are wondering what the novel is about. That seems almost insignificant, in light of the stellar prose, but here you go: The story is about Elsie, a single mother and first generation American, in a dead-end, rust-belt town she had always planned to escape; and her daughter, Luljeta, whose life is considerably easier, but for whom disappointment started with the disappearance of her father before she was born, and culminates at the beginning of the novel with her rejection by NYU - for an education she probably couldn't have paid for anyway.

Luljeta decides what she needs to fill her empty future's ugly reality is to find her father, and she sets out to do so. Whether she finds him or not (no spoiler, here) is almost immaterial because the real point of the narrative is for mother and daughter to understand and build a new empathy for each other, which they do.

Xhenet's background so closely matches that of her protagonists in this debut novel, I worry about what she will be able to write next. An author can go back to the well many times (ala Willa Cather), but can this author expand her grasp enough to build on this wonderful debut? I have no idea, but I will be in line (or online) to grab her next book to find out.

Pulp According To David Goodis
Jay A. Gertzman
Down & Out Books
9781948235365 $19.95

Robin Friedman

The Noir Of David Goodis

American artistic accomplishment can be found in seemingly unlikely places. At the time of his death, David Goodis (1917 -- 1967) and his paperback original pulp fiction had been virtually forgotten. Gradually, some readers developed an interest in Goodis. In 1997, the Library of America included his novel "Down There" in a volume of 1950's noir fiction. In 20012, the LOA published a volume devoted to Goodis, including five additional novels. These two volumes helped me and many other readers discover Goodis. I went on to purchase and read some of Goodis' additional novels that were available and relatively accessible. I read Philip Garnier's own English translation of his biography: "Goodis: A Life in Black and White" (2013) and watched the film adaptations that I could find of Goodis' writings. I loved this author that I had only recently discovered.

I was glad to find this outstanding new critical study of Goodis, "Pulp According to David Goodis" by Jay Gertzman, Professor Emeritus of English at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. Gertzman specializes in American publishing history and is an authority on Goodis: with our shared interest, he and I became acquainted through several online sites. Gertzman kindly sent me a review copy of his book.

Born in Philadelphia, Goodis worked as a Hollywood screen writer and wrote several novels before returning to Philadelphia where he lived in his parents' home for the rest of his life. In Philadelphia, Goodis wrote the series of "paperback originals" or pulp fiction for which he is best--known today. Gertzman's book delves deeply into Goodis' life and writings with an emphasis on several of the books he wrote upon his return to Philadelphia with their lyrically dark exploration of Philadelphia's lower-class neighborhoods and their inhabitants.

Gertzman places Goodis and pulp writing within the context of American literature. Goodis and other pulp writers once were not taken seriously, a situation that has fortunately changed. Gertzman distinguishes between American "authors" who wrote serious, thoughtful books for demanding readers and American "writers" who wrote to be popular and to entertain. Goodis self-described himself as in the latter category. With the market for throwaway pulp paperbacks that sold for about a quarter, Goodis and his publishers aimed to reach a large market. Gertzman develops six characteristics of the genre crime, noir novels Goodis wrote which were designed to appeal to readers seeking a titillating read through identifiable characters and situations. If that were all there was to Goodis, he would not deserve the attention he has received. Gertzman shows how Goodis took the conventions in which he worked and developed them with originality and feeling based largely on his own creativity and experiences. The distinction between "author" and "writer" or between "serious" literature and "trash" ultimately becomes blurred and in the case of a gifted author such as Goodis seriously misleading.

In his study, Gertzman combines analysis of Goodis' novels with analysis of the work of Freud and Kafka, among others. He offers a history of Philadelphia in the years after WW II as it became the setting of much of Goodis' writing. Gertzman discusses the themes that pervade Goodis' fiction, including poverty, fate, the failed search for intimacy, conflicts in recognizing and fulfilling one's sexual needs, entrapment in a destructive way of life, loneliness, and ultimately, the possibility of a redeemed life in the middle of failure. The Goodis hero as a "noble loser" and the characterization of Goodis' writing as "doomed romanticism" are themes that run through this study. Gertzman sometimes takes a novel and offers a sustained, close reading. In other instances, he examines a work of Goodis, sometimes more than once, based upon a variety of themes the work presents.

With the LOA volumes and other works that are reasonably accessible, some of Goodis is still difficult to find. Some of Gertzman's most detailed analyses are of works that I and most readers probably still have been unable to find and read. Thus, in his opening chapter, Gertzman offers a detailed reading of Goodis' 1952 paperback original "Street of the Lost" and shows how this work in many ways captures the themes of Goodis' output in its own inimitable way. I enjoyed learning about what seems to be a fascinating, violent book and am sorry that it is not in print or easily accessible.

In his final chapter, Gertzman offers another detailed analysis of Goodis' final novel "Somebody's Done For" (1967). This again is one of Goodis' less accessible titles. Readers of Goodis have mixed responses to this late title, with some disliking the book and others finding it a masterpiece in its way. Gertzman is of the latter opinion and discusses the book convincingly and well, concluding that it is a "tragedy of the common man". I learned a great deal about Goodis from Gertzman's discussion of "Somebody's Done For" and would love to have the opportunity to read the novel itself.

Gertzman also offers thematically-oriented discussions of Goodis novels I have read, centering upon their Philadelphia locations, including "Cassidy's Girl" "The Moon in the Gutter", "Street of No Return" the "Blonde on the Street Corner" and, of course "Down There" (which became a famous movie, "Shoot the Piano Player") His discussions of these books are wonderfully evocative. He discusses "Of Tender Sin", a book I have read, which explores themes of incest as it wanders through Philadelphia's mean streets. Gertzman also offers a perceptive reading of "The Burglar", a work with a discussion of the nature of loyalty and morality which also became a film with Jayne Mansfield as a major character. This is a work of Goodis which has long fascinated me and which is readily accessible in the LOA volume.

Gertzman devotes a chapter of his study to a discussion of Kafka and to parallels between Kafka and Goodis. He uses Kafka with insight at several points in his study. While the discussion of Kafka is illuminating, I found that this study works best when it focuses on Goodis' own books and on his life and on the settings of his writings.

I became absorbed and Gertzman's study and wanted to think about Goodis again, to reread the works I know and to read some of his books for the first time. The book helped me understand why I was so taken with Goodis when I found him. He may not be for every reader. Those who love Goodis and who are interested in noir and pulp fiction will learn a great deal from Jay Gertzman's study.

Visits and Other Passages
Carol Smallwood
Finishing Line Press
9781635348002, $18.99, 134 pages

Ronald Primeau

In her latest of over sixty books, the prolific Carol Smallwood serves up a feast of genres in a hybrid of fiction, poetry, essays, letters, and other vignettes that exemplify her career-long mastery of exquisite close observation. These fresh and widely varied selections play like a documentary film about visits and revisitings, the feelings of loss and passage, and the ways we can either miss totally or experience more fully the process of living as it unfolds. Smallwood - always a master of character - sends her narrators on simple quests that will change the way we see everything and introduces us to an array of fascinating folks who drop by for visits that we don't want to end.

Like most of her collections, Smallwood's latest is almost always about the creative process itself as we live it in our everyday experiences and try to capture it in writing and reading. In an interview four years ago, Smallwood suggested that "writers do most of their work when not actually writing; thinking is where it boils. The subconscious is the mother of all." In fact, the most crucial times in her way of writing occur when she does not appear to be writing at all. Ideas come while daydreaming or washing dishes and then need "brooding time" to "mull over" what she calls "the incubating bits" which "appear to have no connection until when one is at last ready, the seemingly loose ends can be fit together" ("Arriving at the Aha Moment," 75-76). The mulling over time also forges the connections between the actual process of writing and the rigors of paying attention to details we generally overlook. In her Introduction Smallwood quotes Heraclitus ("We are estranged from that with which we are most familiar") and sets out to reconnect herself and readers to the passages and visits we live through every day. Enter writers who "see things with fresh eyes ("Perspective" 46) and give readers a chance to recover from the self-induced blindness of familiarity: "What we see in everyday life is often limited from seeing it so often: people become part of the furniture." Hence we need the aesthetic sensibility that defamiliarizes what would otherwise never get beyond mere ordinariness to "what is there just beyond reach" "Sleep," 33).

Smallwood's defamiliarization includes works that take a closer look at what is easily missed - concentrating on the passages we encounter and the visits and revisitings that show how we participate in community. Close ups include a fly eating a morsel of fruitcake near her keyboard, deliberations about how to handle mounds in the lawn, members of a spice-shelf brigade standing for military formation, a tea party with a treasured vintage doll, looking at clocks for more than the time, and the art of folding napkins like J. Alfred Prufrock would do it. The most notable visits to include the dentist, Aunt Heidi's, the supermarket, and the library; visits from feature friend Polly and an unsuspecting Avon Lady who never knew what hit her. The "revisiting" poems include significant discussions of memory and the spirit of place. Other selections pause over a brief and fascinating history of libraries, the shifting of continents, thoughts on the evolution of cornfields, and a show-stopping recollection of her Uncle Walt's funeral. The collection is rounded out by a series of short essays on various authors and other subjects. While interesting in themselves, some short discursive and less illusive reflections don't always find their right place alongside the other more successful pieces.

In her Foreword to this volume, which she calls a travel narrative, Su Epstein identifies what is "comfortingly familiar, fascinatingly foreign, and intellectually thought provoking" as "a life lived" sneaks out from behind the narrator's magnifying glass. In "One December Day,' a maestro fly walks to the podium for the volume's overture as it nibbles " fruitcake with an occasional kick of the leg." More close ups come into view as the narrator struggles to address the problem of mounds taking over her lawn. Rejecting outright killing, she decides on sonic rockets that would trigger swift and thorough evacuation. This plan too is vetoed by "dreams of families forsaking homes" to become "the underground homeless," and in the end profoundly mundane activities are left to unfold: "Don't let your molehills become mountains" ("Mounds Keep Appearing," 10). The villanelle "The Last Doll" introduces us to a long-haired beauty who sits with two other Christmas presents, ruling over them perhaps because "she's not been held as often for validation" ("The Last Doll," 32). Soon we see Prufrock folding napkins in fast food restaurants, pause at a three-month cancer check-up where we endure "the smile for the aged," and find ourselves reading a letter to God exploring why we keep on thinking "everything revolves around" us and go on to "kill each other especially in your name." And then there is the unforgettable spice shelf in every store where those iconic jars "stand at attention facing you always on parade." Again all around us where so much is too familiar to see, "there's tales worth knowing" if we "just look" ("There's Much to See," 45).

Just as these altered perspectives defamiliarize what would otherwise be lost in narcoleptic ordinariness, many of the varied genres in this volume infuse vibrance into ordinary visits that make up much of daily life. In Smallwood's hands, a visit from the Avon Lady is whimsical and poignant. This visitor shares not only products and calendars but updates on her grandchildren, her sister who "still doesn't know her place" at the age of 45, and a battery of questions intended to "welcome" new customers to the neighborhood. As an extension of the passage motif of moving away from one's home and into a new neighborhood, "Polly's Visit" brings an assault of unpleasantries from someone who tries to stop the passage of moving on from divorce, poverty, and the death of a spouse. Some of the best selections in the volume about passages are portraits of those jealous of others who are moving on. "Lunch at Aunt Heidi's" is another prickly trip down memory lane as the narrator fends off advice about battle fatigued returning veterans, Heidi's life with Uncle Walt, and polite exchanges about the benefits and destructiveness of religion. When the narrator shares stories of a Vietnam Vet scarred for life. Heidi advises that he "drink prune juice for iron and pray." Even a trip to the dentist is grist for Smallwood. "Give me all the shots you can," she says to "the masked man" who looks like Zorro or the Lone Ranger and dispenses pain medication like candy.

Return visits provide additional layers of passage enabling a measure of not only change but of how well memory holds up against inevitable change. Returning to college after retirement, the narrator takes note of changes but revels in the "freedom intoxicating" of new ideas in class discussions. Feeling empowered by this trip back home, she quotes Hemingway: "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life. It stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast" ("Hallways"). For Smallwood, passages require reciprocity. Her narrators take stock of the moving forward that is central to relocation and growth itself even as they go back in time to places they have left on trips where "memories of when I'd been there competed with each other" ("Revisiting, 52). Repeatedly in these selections she learns the lessons of what D.H. Lawrence called "the spirit of place." Living through and coming to understand passages requires, of course, almost constant change - whether in physical spaces, concepts or movements, the evolving meanings of words, or the growth spurts and almost imperceptible deterioration of aging itself. Smallwood's Epilogue is called "passage" where the evanescence of summer ice testifies to both "the pleasure of the moment" and the inevitable passage of time. Cubes turn round and swirl into miniature rings: "Evaporation could be measured/ if there were days enough."

Inviting readers into its variety of places and perspectives, Visits and Other Passages successfully defamiliarizes ordinary events so we can reconnect with the lives we are experiencing. Clocks reveal more than the time of day. Napkins in fast food restaurants and spices on grocery shelves have stories to share. Smallwood's poems, stories and vignettes are rooted in the two-fold belief that "we are usually too much a part of our setting to be very conscious of it" ("Location and Character") and that creative estrangement from what has gotten encrusted in ordinariness can be learned. For readers of this book, dentists' waiting rooms will never again be the same. Wonder may be restored once more to corn fields, supermarkets, libraries, and front porches. Smallwood's defamiliarization moves forward strikingly as she attends to so much that is generally overlooked. A postcard from a funeral director urging her to "PLAN AHEAD WITH PIZZA" is read carefully on its way to the wastebasket: "It was good it was sent to RESIDENT--/it discouraged being selected as a/prime candidate for the Grim Reaper" (44). There's the Avon lady's hair that "looks just like the wig called 'Caesar's Wife' in a catalog"(1), colorful puzzles on placemats at Wendy's" (12), and the oft overlooked spiders whose intricate work created the first ever curtains in her new home" (23).

For most of us perhaps nothing brings more estrangement than death, and in this book perhaps the summative passage bringing everyone together is the formal visitation at Uncle Walt's funeral. Perhaps the pivotal work in this collection, "Preparing for the Service" asks whether we attend funerals to honor the deceased, comfort survivors, or jolt ourselves at least temporarily out of numbing familiarity. Uncle Walt is a significant presence in this volume. He seems a steadying influence who monitors the excess of people around him to the point of telling his overzealous wife "I never know what the hell kind of bugs I'll find in your cooking" ("24). Even though Uncle Walt has died, our attention is drawn not to him but to the preparations unfolding for his memorial. In the satiric demeanor of the deceased, the speaker remarks on the colors of the Big Boy placemat and eases pain by trying to "float away on whiffs of Belgian Waffles" (29). Talk of corn relish and the clatter of plates gives way to a waitress who walks "like one of her heels is missing" and reaches under a counter to give "her underwear a quick tug." Relatives gather to help with casket and flower selection and wonder what happened to their Uncle's blood: "Did they just slit his wrist and let it drain like oil from a car?" The narrator provides details on the funeral procession which, once moving, felt like being "in a car wash."

Readers used to poetry collections or volumes where the prose knows if it is fiction or nonfiction might at first be perplexed by the way genre boundaries are transgressed or redrawn this time around. But my bet is that those who come with a spirit of adventure will be rewarded by the irreverence and innovation on almost every page. Visits and Other Passages provides enough threads of a motif that knits up a quest myth, patterns of loss and recovery, and the power of visitation. The language is fresh throughout and constructs mastery of form and characterization. A half dozen or so selections could have been cut, and the editing misses a few too many errors. The cover design creates simple elegance.

Determined: Encouragement for Living Your Best Life with a Chronic Illness
Mark K. Fry, Sr.
Half Full Encouragement Publishing
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B07B9YWLZM, $7.99, 122 pages

Suzie Housley

"And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."

Isaiah 58:11 - English Standard Version

Mark Fry was living an ordinary life with his family. Then four words sent his world spinning out of control "YOU HAVE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS". For some, they would see this as an ending to life as he knew it but instead, he accepted his condition and decided to live the best life possible.

DETERMINED is a book that will show you how one man put his faith into the Lord and is able to walk in hope and encouragement. He uses his condition to educate those diagnosed early. He has successfully dealt with his condition for the past twenty years.

Through Mark Fry's encouraging words and inspiration to live life to the fullest it will enable those with similar circumstances to also strive to learn what method he has used to keep him with a positive mindset.

I highly recommend this book for its positive energy; the words used to describe his journey of survival has convinced me that this is one very talented writer. I can easily see this book being recommended by health care physicians to patients as a source of hope and determination.

Apocalypse Five
Stacey Rourke
Black Spot Books
9781732613416, PB, $14.99, 250pp,
9781732613423 Ebook, $5.99

Seven Jane, Reviewer
The Nerd Daily

If you're looking for a new young adult sci-fi adventure to fall in love with this Valentine's Day, might I suggest Apocalypse Five - the first in the Archive of the Fives series, upcoming from author Stacey Rourke [Black Spot Books, February 12, 2019].

Like a swift punch to the gut, Apocalypse Five starts off with the sudden burst of energy of a rocket ship - literally - as readers are plunged headfirst into the jarring and unpredictable reality of Earth's future (spoiler alert: don't get too attached to anyone you meet in the first chapter).

Stationed aboard the AT-1-NS space station, the A-5 - highly trained and deadly - are little more than children forced into a militarized combat life. Per 17-year old team-leader Detroit, nameless cadets begin their training as soon as they're old enough to "stand without wobbling," foregoing (unwittingly) a life of human emotion and connection and instead forced into virtual simulations to practice saving Earth - which is now populated with humanoid things while what's left of humanity's chosen people live a glamorous, synthetic existence in space. Only the best soldiers are chosen to become part of the mock-celebrity elite A-5 team, but it's not all pomp and circumstance here; it's a high-stakes game where a game over on the grid is a brutal death sentence with all the gore and pain you'd expect in a proper sci-fi combat scenario.

When team-leader Detroit - a kickass, sharp-tongued, and totally self-aware lady of color - is sent on a solo mission that's a little too real to be a simulation, she finds all she has come to believe - or, rather, has been brainwashed into believing - might not be true after all. Of course, as these things go, when she and the rest of her team - including love-interest Houston, ginger twins Juneau and Reno, and probably the most teenage-angsty, dread/mohawked dude ever, Augusta - take their concerns to the political and military leader of their universe, Chancellor Washington, he does what a classic sci-fi villain always does: prove them correct. The A-5 find themselves in a run-or-die situation as they head back to Earth - only this time it's not the simulated one that they've been training to "protect", but the real one, and they're not there to protect Earth, they're there to save it…from them. With their feet firmly on the scorched and battle-drained dirt of the real world, the A-5 quickly discover the depth of the lies programmed into their psyche and the consequences of what their specialized "training" has done to the very actually-human people of Earth, who are now little more than resource mills - from foodstuffs to children - for the AT-1-NS regime. It's impossible to tell the rest of the plot without spoilers, so you're going to have to check this one out for yourself. (There are androids, and really cool bracelet weapons, and some rather chuckle-worthy nods to current pop culture, too.)

There are some tropey genre-mainstays in this new series that fit it firmly within the ranks of a typical YA SFF - a good bit of eye-batting between Detroit and Houston, fashionable spacesuits and an obsession with fancy outfits, laser guns with dubious technology, and a head-honcho bad guy(s) - but Apocalypse Five also includes unexpected and refreshing elements that make it a breath of fresh air in genre saturated with cheesy love triangles and fickle white girls trying to play badass (yeah, I said it, fight me).

This isn't just a story about kids who fight back against a power-hungry regime, but one that embeds a critical social message at its heart. While Detroit and her team are busy fighting Washington and the fury released from the Fortress at their insurgency while trying to save the people of earth - including a newborn baby who is, like all cadets, intended to be fed to the ranks of the soldiers-to-come aboard the AT-1-NS - what Rourke is really writing is so much more than just another dystopian book. With a cast of strong, empowered women - from Olympia (the ill-fated original leader of the A5), Detroit and Juneau; to the leaders of the Air Walkers and the Floaters (two of the three tribes of Earth introduced in the first book); to new mother Remi and enduring baby Adalyn, this story is a call for women to stand up against oppression, to find our own power, and for everyone to take up arms and fight to save what's left of our humanity in a world that would sooner see us turn on each other rather than unite as one.

Apocalypse Five is a fresh breath into a genre thick with same-as-always stories with a tale ripe with classic dystopian elements and soft science fiction, as well as a healthy dose of female empowerment, diversity, and the social critique that we've been waiting for.

Waters Run Wild
Andrea Fekete
Guest Room Press
9780692197455, $16.95, PB, 228pp

Gonzalo Baeza, Review
The Observer

Andrea Fekete's first novel Waters Run Wild was originally published in 2010. Even though it garnered rave reviews and the author's work has been widely anthologized, the book suffered the fate of many independent press titles, and has long been out of print. Fortunately, this powerful novel of a family's struggles during the West Virginia Mine Wars is back in an enhanced edition that introduces new readers to an outstanding voice and allows those who enjoyed its earlier version to reacquaint themselves with its elegant language and compelling characters.

Waters Run Wild is told through multiple points of view, each short chapter a first-person narrative as well as part of a mosaic that describes life in a mining camp. Jennie is an older sister who is forced into adulthood as her family ekes out a living in the distressed community of Caney Branch, West Virginia. Her father and her two brothers, Isaac and Ezra, are employed in the coal mines and navigate the dangers of working underground and dealing with the threat of Baldwin-Felts detectives hired to keep miners servile. Jennie's sensitive yet resilient nature contrasts with the hardened character of her younger sister Katie and the innocence of the youngest of the siblings, Anna May.

The novel's mosaic is completed by the Hernandez family, part of the contingent of Mexican workers employed in the mines; Nandi, a miner and recent arrival from Hungary (Fekete is the granddaughter of Mexican and Hungarian immigrant coal miners); and Fannie Garrison, an African American teacher who sets up a school for the African American children in the camp.

Miners are underpaid, and when they die, their families are evicted from the camp. This climate inspires them to form a union and Ezra to become one of its leaders. His family bears the brunt of antagonizing the mine owners and their hired thugs.

As the novel enters historical territory, Fekete does not lose sight of the characters, telling an intimate story that nevertheless has an epic sweep. Coupled with the author's ear for dialect and eye for description, Waters Run Wild often resembles a poetic ethnography, capturing life in a period of American history from which we still have much to learn.

While the novel is more focused on the impact of the mine wars on a family than the conflict itself, it leaves room for non-human characters - a creek, the snow, falling leaves - to also speak in some of the novel's most beautiful passages. In its lushness, Fekete's prose is sometimes reminiscent of the magical realist writers of Latin America and especially one of the movement's antecedents, literary feminist pioneer María Luisa Bombal. Like Bombal, Fekete transcends plain realism and interweaves the characters' emotions and thoughts with the landscape - eyes can be "gray and blue like a soft quilt, a sky about to cry all over the dirt" while the mountains are both a stabilizing and oppressive presence - enhancing the stark reality of the hills.

Early in the story, Jennie reflects about the future: "I've seen my Mama's hands slowly twist up like the branch of a rotting tree over the years from all the planting, the packing, the canning, the digging (…) Can't those hands dig through these mountains, build our own road, a road for girls like us?" The hard-wrought answer lies at the end of this rich debut novel.

Gonzalo is a writer born in Texas, raised in Chile, and currently living in Shepherdstown. His books have been published in Spain and Chile, and his fiction has appeared in Boulevard, Goliad, and The Texas Review.

Hard Cider
Barbara Stark-Nemon
She Writes Press
9781631524752, $16.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 240pp,

Meg Nola, Reviewer
Foreword Reviews

In Barbara Stark-Nemon's Hard Cider, a midlife desire to pursue a dream comes to literal fruition -- but not without persistence, resistance, and research.

Abbie Rose Stone is a wife of thirty years, a mother, and a true lover of the Great Lakes region "at the pinky finger of the Michigan mitt," where she and her family have a lakeside cottage. Abbie finds herself increasingly intrigued by the process of making hard cider, a fascination that began decades ago in England, where she lived before marriage and family became her focus.

Now approaching her mid-fifties, Abbie is accustomed to putting the needs of others before her own. Abbie's plan to start her own cider press in Michigan is not met with enthusiasm by her husband or her three adult sons. They needle her with questions about finances, time demands, and the viability of such a venture, surprised that she would step beyond her nurturing role into the realm of becoming a small-business owner.

Fortunately, Abbie refuses to have her hopes quashed. She continues to research logistical and horticultural details, learns about the wide variety of apples, travels to New England to visit other cider presses, and seeks out local business allies.

Beyond all this is some family drama and a mysterious young woman who will come to play an unexpectedly larger role in Abbie's life.

The novel soars with passages about upper Michigan's unique beauty, as well as through Abbie's instinctive love for nature and her captivating excitement as she steps into a cider house, with its "sweet dank warmth and the powerful smells of a packed earth floor, crushed apples, and hay."

Hard Cider is a story about following a dream, but not without the planning and perspective needed to turn passion into reality.

Five Ferries
William Michael Ried
CKBooks Publishing
PO Box 214 New Giarus WI 53574
9781949085020, $16.00, PB, 320pp
9781949085013, $4.99, Kindle

Kirkus Reviews

After his brother's death, a young American sets out to backpack around Europe in this debut novel.

Stephen Kylemore's fixation with travel comes in part from reading "too many novels." From an early age, he took to perusing the books his elder brother, Edward, left behind. During a tour of duty in Vietnam, Edward writes to Stephen, recommending he read Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander.

When Edward is killed in battle, the novel is returned home as part of his effects. Stephen reads the book over the course of one evening and is fascinated by the mystical setting of Catalonia. He purchases a one-peseta Catalonian coin for good luck and as a reminder of his brother and starts to plan the journey that in happier circumstances he and Edward would have taken together.

Leaving behind his partner, Pam, Stephen takes a flight from New York to London and begins his adventure. His initial target destination is Grettstadt in Germany, where he believes his old boss will set him up with a job. He meanders his way there, first catching a ferry to the Netherlands and then hitchhiking. His mind regularly turns to the love he left behind, his lost brother, and the hope of finally arriving in Catalonia.

The novel captures the naivete of a young, wide-eyed American traveling overseas for the first time - comparing all that he encounters to home: "Tiny cars, large black taxis and double-decker buses drove on the wrong side of the street. Still, it seemed a bit staged, as if this weren't real." Such passages read as extracts from a travel diary, and as a consequence it is easy to forget that this is a work of fiction.

In Stephen, Ried has created a believable and likable first-person narrator that speaks with a simple sincerity: "I loved my brother and I hated war, but I was resolved that my life would be enriched, not shrouded, by his memory." The author's prose never displays the fervid passion for the road found in Kerouac's Lonesome Traveler nor captures the vulnerability of being penniless and exposed to the grime of the urban underbelly evoked in Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London. But Ried's narrative earnestness is sufficiently beguiling to make this an emotionally engaging travel novel that will prove difficult to put down.

Full-hearted, believable writing in an enjoyable travel tale.

This Heart Holds Many: My Life as the Nonbinary Millennial Child of a Polyamorous Family
Koe Creation, author
Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, foreword
Thorntree Press
9781944934729, $17.95, 192pp (paperback)
9781944934736, $9.99 (ePub)
9781944934743 (mobipocket)
9781944934750 (PDF)

Laura Leavitt
Foreword Reviews

Creation's articulate prose offers their audience a variety of ways to question and learn that are curious and polite. Their narration demystifies a complex topic so that others can address it with clarity and precision. This Heart Holds Many is a thoughtful, hopeful LGBTQ+ memoir that includes parenting guidance on creative ways to raise children collectively and compassionately.

The Apotheosis
Darrell Lee
Progressive Rising Phoenix Press LLC
P.O. Box 59, Aledo TX 76008
9781946329806, $16.99, PB, 362pp.

Lesley Jones

In The Apotheosis by Darrell Lee, when Dr. John Numen's father dies suddenly he inherits a major stake in a successful pharmaceutical company. Using the company as a cover, John Numen begins his own medical research which could change human life as we know it. As the decades pass, John discovers the meaning of abandonment by those close to him but also true unconditional love. His research and his plan to boost his wealth even further takes him down a morally disturbing path. Following a series of devastating events, he finds himself on the run from the FBI. There is now no turning back and John is determined to see his experiment through, no matter who has to suffer, in the name of progress. Follow John through many decades and continents as he tries to master his life's work and get his retribution before the FBI can stop him.

This science fiction thriller will hook you from the first page. The suspense throughout this fast-paced plot will always keep you in anticipation. The medical jargon is just enough to understand and enjoy the story but it is clearly very well researched. John Numen is a disturbed character who believes his macabre work is for the benefit of mankind. Whether he is a villain or a misunderstood hero will be for the reader's belief system to decide. The tangled web of deceit and corruption in the story is woven throughout with nail-biting conflict. Not often does a novel make you question your own values but this one did mine. Each of the characters was well created and three-dimensional, especially Irina, a strong-minded fighter with a fierce attitude towards the cold-blooded and callous Roman. The hunt by the FBI at the end had me on the edge of my seat, followed by an excellent twist that was absolutely masterful.

The Snow Clown: Cartwheels on Borders from Alaska to Nebraska
Jeff Raz
Adam's Court Press
9780997904826, $17.00, PB, 202pp,

Ernest Albrecht, Reviewer
Spectacle Magazine

Jeff Raz has had a remarkably varied career in the performing arts that has supported him and his family for decades. His book The Snow Clown deals with only a small portion of his artistic endeavors, this time in the unlikely venues of the remote frozen tundra of Alaska and the equally unlikely heartland of Nebraska. In both of these venues clowning and circus are foreign matters approached with skepticism if not downright hostility.

Although there are only the two settings in which the action of Raz's tales take place, The Snow Clown is divided into three sections, the first and longest takes place In Alaska, where Jeff has been hired by the Alaska Arts Council to bring some culture to the native population. To achieve this he presents his own clowning and works with the schools, from kindergarten to seniors in high school, teaching circus skills, in one section with a partner and in another alone. Each week's stay culminates with a circus performance of sorts.

In the second section, laid in Nebraska, Raz is an itinerant playwright. In the final section, almost two decades later, he is back in Alaska, now both a playwright and circus artist as he attempts to create a circus "for a people who have never seen a circus, will never see a circus and can never get a job in a circus." Acknowledging that inescapable reality, he contemplates the ruins of a building that was designed by an outsider. Its roof collapses when it get snowed on. "Why try to make something that doesn't belong here?": he is forced to ask himself. "How clueless. How arrogant." "Maybe I want to stop trying to be the great white circus savior like at the Omaha Nation School," he wonders. Nonetheless he tries, and in that sense the book is as political as it is personal.

In his telling of how he goes about his work, the fact that he is a clown is inescapable. There is a great deal of humor, mostly at the author's own expense, and there are fascinating characters to be met along the way. These are well drawn, and we are easily sucked into the various stories thanks to his easy and graceful writing style. The narration is often moving without a sense of ego, arrogance or patronizing his students, the villages and their culture.

The author tells us in an introduction that the characters are fictional. I suspect fictionalized might be a better description. They and the events are based on the author's actual experiences in the tundra of Alaska, during the depths of its winter and in Nebraska under somewhat balmier conditions. Eventually we also learn of his father's untimely and tragic death as it is the subject of his play Father-Land that becomes an important element in the story.

Maintaining a career as an artist, especially one who is essentially a clown is not easy, and requires a great deal of compromise, but even this, we learn from The Snow Clown, is rewarding and meaningful, and it is fascinating to read of the adventures it leads the artist into.

A Dime is a Sign
Sherrill S. Cannon
9781949483208, $13.50 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 183pp,

Susan Violante, Reviewer
Reader Views

"A Dime is a Sign" by Sherrill S. Cannon is another keeper! The book is a collection of eclectic poetry formats all focusing on putting 'Feelings Into Words' as noted by the subtitle. There is something special about Sherrill's poetry that takes the reader out of their regular day and into an inward journey that heals old feelings from their past. This book contains poems about love and loss, organized into three sections: Love and Friendship, Of Related Emotions, and Of Heartache and Anguish. These parts represent the tossing of a dime (Heads, spinning, and tails).

I loved the metaphor as I chose poems to read and decided to toss the coin, sometimes by spinning the pages to see which poem I got. This made the read fun and thought provoking as again and again I would get poems that connected with my current mood or situation! For example, I was working on a small speech for my daughter's upcoming wedding, and the landing page was on 'Love is Love' which embodied the message I wanted to convey to the bride and groom…so I made it a part of my speech and will read it citing the book and author of course, during the toast or even the ceremony.

It is hard, as usual with Cannon's poems, to pick a favorite but the one below is one that stands out as the contrast of simplicity and depth, hand in hand with words and feelings, is evident immediately:

A Poem

You sent me a poem
(I think it was you)
Describing a moment
That I never knew…

A tentative feeling
Of love in the air
Portrayed with an image
Of quiet despair

As the portentous moment
Revealing love's joys
Was disrupted by sounds
Of a motorbike's noise…

And the now broken moment
Reduced to a page
Of unrevealed passion
That never could age…'

"A Dime is a Sign" by Sherrill S. Cannon is a collection of feelings straight from the author's heart that will touch all readers. I recommend it to all poetry lovers, but especially recommend it to anyone searching for the words behind their feelings, words that describe unforgettable lived moments and words to heal hearts. A Five-Star collection to keep!

LC Van Savage
Beach House Books
c/o Science and Humanities Press
9781596301078, $19.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 386pp,

Charlie Wing

"I don't have a lot of time to read other people's books, but this is a great book. I never stopped reading until the last page. The story brought me back to my own high school years. Queenie deals head-on with major issues of today: bullying, social, cultural and racial discrimination and sexual abuse. Along with this food for contemplation, there is a satisfying story involving intrigue, personal growth and redemption.

"Protagonist Courtenay Walcott was born into money - lots of it. In her early teens, her wealthy lifestyle is torn from her. Suddenly forced to spend her days among the "lower classes", she is continually disdained and mocked. Now out of her social element, she strains to maintain a balance between two very different worlds, survives a severe beating, endless harassment and constant humiliation.

Perhaps most searing is watching her ethical and emotional battle to fit in with elements of society she has been trained to scorn. A shocking, vicious family scandal finally opens her eyes to the true goodness of the "Not of our Kind, Dear" people. This is a cogent story of awakening, realization and maturing.

"You nailed it! This is one terrific book and is very well written, and you know perfectly well this should be a movie. GET IT DONE!"

Editorial Note: Charlie Wing is a Physical Oceanographer and the author of more than 20 books.

Andrea's Bookshelf

Medical Manslaughter
Gloria J. Yorke
9781524697129 $26.95 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Based on the tragic true story of when author Gloria Yorke's husband suffered a treatable concussion but ultimately perished due to doctor error, Medical Manslaughter is a novel about the horrific reality of preventable deaths caused by medical errors - mistakes that kill an estimated 250,000 people each year in the U.S., according to a May 2016 John Hopkins study published by the British Medical Journal. Shocking, jaw-dropping, and thought-provoking, Medical Manslaughter keeps the reader riveted to the very end. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Medical Manslaughter is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Her Widow
Joan Alden
Dog Ear Publishing
4011 Vincennes Road, New Augusta, IN 46268-3005
9781457562983, $18.00, PB, 202pp,

A pioneering work dealing with one of the more obscured aspects of a healthy and loving lesbian relationship, in the pages of "Her Widow", author Joan Alden provides an informative, engaging, and impressively candied 'window' into a shared life an art director for HarperCollins for years and professional photographer and her partner, a novelist and painter. Here portrayed in a simply riveting read from first page to last is an aspect of contemporary life when at its most vulnerable episodes and inspiringly victorious occasions. Exceptionally well written and certain to be an enduringly appreciated addition to both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Her Widow" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Sweet Neighbors Come in All Colors
Lisa Blecker, author/illustrator
Based on a song by Dick Grover
Baha'i Publishing
9781618511287 $11.95, HC, 32pp,

Lisa Blecker is an educator and author who, with her husband, runs a family-friendly media and games publishing company: Studio 9 Inc. Lisa also contributes Brilliant Star, an award-winning, international children's magazine inspired by the Baha'i teachings. Her latest picture book for children ages 2-5 is "Sweet Neighbors Come In All Colors" in which an ensemble of friendly fruit characters sing about their diversity of colors, shapes, and sizes. "Sweet Neighbors Come In All Colors" gives very young children the opportunity to explore early-learning concepts and offers families the chance to discuss ideas like unity and diversity. Of special note is that "Sweet Neighbors Come In All Colors" also includes sheet music and online link to the song's recording. "Sweet Neighbors Come In All Colors " is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library picture book collections.

Sheet Music
Marina Blitshteyn
PO Box 911, Buffalo, NY 14207
9781934513576 $13.00

Marina Bitshteyn, a Russian-born author who emigrated to the United States in 1991 as a refugee along with her family, presents Sheet Music, a poetry chapbook featuring brief, free-verse entries in a stream-of-consciousness style. Crafted in tribute to notable figures including Gertrude Stein, Igor Stravinsky, Coco Chanel, and more, Sheet Music is memorable, timeless, and bold in its references to love, sexuality, creation, and mortality. "Sheet Music" is a treat for connoisseurs of original chapbook poetry, highly recommended.

Andrea Kay

Andy's Bookshelf

Quantum Convention
Eric Schlich
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574417364, $14.95, PB, 192pp,

Quantum Convention's eight genre-bending stories by Eric Schlich that balance precariously between reality and fantasy, the suburban and the magical, the quotidian and the strange. Caught at a crossroads in his marriage, a high school teacher attends a parallel universe convention, where he meets his multiple selves and explores the alternate paths of life's what-ifs. The story of Margaret Hamilton, the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West, parallels the coming of age of a cross-dressing boy whose crisis of identity is tied to The Wizard of Oz. Other stories feature characters labeled as "outcasts" by society - whether physically, morally, or fantastically: an alcoholic lucid dreamer, a closeted bisexual, a nerdy cyclops, a bachelor time-epileptic, orphans-turned-keeners, a vengeful banshee, and more. Many struggle to find what Dorothy and her entourage searched for: the wisdom to trust or discount their faith; the ability of the emotionally detached to love; the courage to speak up for oneself; a place to belong. A winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction, "Quantum Convention" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Quantum Convention" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.57).

Delivering Virtue
Brian Kindall
Driving Boy Books
PO Box 2476, McCall, ID 83638
9780990932895, $24.99, HC, 264pp,

Didier Rain is broke, lovesick, and just off a three-day whiskey binge. And yet, The Church of the Restructured Truth has been told in a vision that he's the man to fulfill their Holy Prophecy. He must deliver Virtue (a blue-eyed infant) 1,000 miles along the western pioneer trail to their prophet's stronghold as his child bride to be. Savages, zealots, and wildfire all stand in Rain's way, not to mention a list of Thou-shalt-nots designed to thwart any man's most basic comforts. But, there's something holy about the job -- something, Rain suspects, that might just turn his sorry life toward a better path! An original and riveting dark blend of comedy and action/adventure, "Delivering Virtue" showcases author Brian Kindall's genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling, While very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Delivering Virtue" is also available in a paperback edition (9780990932864, $11.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Wisconsin Post Office Mural Guidebook
David W. Gates Jr.
Post Office Fans
PO Box 11, Crystal Lake, IL 60039
9781970088090 $9.95 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Wisconsin Post Office Mural Guidebook is a simple, straightforward guidebook with information about 35 post office buildings in Wisconsin. Here is a summary of which post office buildings in Wisconsin have murals that the public may view; which post office historic buildings have been sold and if their artwork was moved; which historic buildings are privately owned (and therefore inaccessible to the public); and which murals have been destroyed. Each page shows a full-color exterior photograph of a specific post office building (but not of the edifice's internal artwork) along with the building's address, the name of the associated artist and the title of their work, the artwork's medium, the status of the building, and a website URL specific to the building. Wisconsin Post Office Mural Guidebook is a succinct, accessible, and convenient resource for road trip travelers and tourists.

Andy Jordan

Ann's Bookshelf

The Orchardist's Daughter
Karen Viggers
Allen & Unwin
9781760630584, A$29.99, paperback, 400 pages

"She was asleep when it happened, so she did not hear the embers collapse as the log rolled from the fireplace onto the floor"

The Prologue to The Orchardist's Daughter is vivid and dramatic. Only Miki and her older brother survive the fire which kills their parents and destroys their home. Miki is just sixteen, and just beginning to test the restrictions which her Christian fundamentalist parents have imposed on her. She has been home-schooled, isolated from other people and kept away from the small Tasmanian town near which she and her family live. Her life, so far, has been one of domestic drudgery - helping her arthritic mother in the house whilst her father and brother run the farm.

Now that her parents are dead and the farm has been sold to pay off debts, her brother, Kurt, acts as her guardian. Together, they run a fish-and-chip shop, the only one in their small town, but Kurt is even more controlling than her parents had been. He supervises her every encounter with customers, keeps the accounts to himself (although Miki is adept at adding up the profits in her head) and locks her in the house whenever he goes out.

Every Saturday night, Kurt takes Miki with him to the tip at the edge of town to help him get rid of the rubbish. And whilst he goes off to make private phone calls or to attend to his beehives deeper in the forest, Miki explores. For Miki, "coming here was the highlight of her week". Gradually Miki gets to know the animals which live at the tip - small spotted quolls and, unusually, Tasmanian Devils, which sound fierce but which Miki admires as 'feisty'. She notices that some of the devils have sores on their faces and, later in the book, she leads some scientists to them so that they can assess them for the cancer which makes them a threatened species in Tasmania.

But this is jumping ahead. First, Miki has to establish some sort of freedom for herself. She finds various secret ways of doing this when every Tuesday Kurt locks her in and goes into the nearby city of Hobart on mysterious business errands.

Nervous in her new adventures, Mike ends up one day in the local visitors centre where she not only sees a short video about the cancer threatening the Tasmanian Devils but, more importantly, meets middle-aged Geraldine, who runs the centre. Aware that Miki is under some sort of restraint, and learning that they share an interest in reading, Geraldine lends Miki carefully chosen books (Little Women, The Prince, The Old Man and the Sea…). From each of these, Miki learns something about independence, self-knowledge and freedom of choice. By the end of Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd "she knew that she and Bathsheba had much in common. Miki wanted to go out into the world and meet people too. She wanted to get to know them. Be independent. Fall in love. Make mistakes."

Miki's developing sense of self and her deep love of the forest are just one theme in this book. A second strand of the story follows the efforts of a young man, Leon, as he begins a new job in the town as a Parks ranger. In this small community, many of the men work in the logging industry and see rangers as 'greenies' who will want to save the trees and will put them out of work, so, automatically, they see Loen as a threat. Leon's attempts to become part of the community in which he now lives seem doomed to failure.

At the same time, Leon is dealing with guilt at leaving his mother without protection from his sometimes abusive father. One saving grace, which turns out to be vitally important, is his re-acquaintance with his grandfather, a remarkable old man who was once a champion logger. At a loggers rally, the old man is hoisted onto a stage amidst much ill-feeling, confronts the loggers, earns their attention and prevents a potentially violent confrontation with environmental activists.

There are dark secrets associated with Kurt and many dramatic situations which generate tension in this book as the reader gets to know and become involved in the lives of a number of town's people. At the same time, Miki's and Leon's lives are set against a backdrop of concerns associated with living in a small Tasmanian town where such things as domestic violence are know but not talked about, football is an often violent but essential part of the community activities and bonding, and environmental concerns, the logging of Tasmanian forests, and potential job-losses are ongoing concerns.

Karen Viggers, who is a wildlife veterinarian and has worked with native animals in Australia and the Antarctic, clearly loves the land and writes beautifully of it with knowledge and love. Altogether, The Orchardist's Daughter is an absorbing and satisfying book.

The Wall
John Lanchester
Allen & Unwin
9780571298723, A$29.99, paperback, 288 pages

"None of us can talk to our parents. By 'us' I mean my generation, people born after the Change….Everyone knows what the problem is. The diagnosis isn't hard - the diagnosis isn't even controversial. It's guilt: mass guilt, generational guilt. The olds feel they irretrievably fucked up the world, then allowed us to be born into it. You know what? It's true"

The Change is the reason the Wall was built. And it was built to keep out the Others: those whose lands have been inundated by rising sea levels.Those whose countries are no longer habitable. The Wall now surrounds England and it has to be defended.

Amongst the younger generation, those born in England have to serve two years on the Wall as Defenders. It's like compulsory National Service used to be. Joseph Kavanagh, like every new army recruit, everywhere, begins his two years learning how to hold, clean, look after and fire his weapon; learning about hard discipline; learning to obey orders unquestioningly; and living in harsh conditions with a company of strangers. Each company comprises thirty men and women and is divided into two squads each of which spends, in rotation, two weeks on the Wall, one week away from it and one week training.

Life on the Wall is hard and dangerous. And it is cold:

"You look for metaphors: It'd cold as slate, as diamonds, as the moon. Cold as charity - that's a good one. But your soon realise that the thing about cold is that it isn't a metaphor. It isn't like anything else"

We follow Kavanagh as he adjusts to this new life and makes friends, especially with Hifa, who had puzzled him at first, because he couldn't determine her sex beneath all her layers of clothing.

"Time on the Wall is like treacle", Kavanagh remarks at one point. "You train yourself not to look at the time because it's never, never, ever, as late as you think and hope and long for it to be". He makes concrete poetry about the only constants: "cold:::wind:::sky:::water".

And we learn of the need for constant vigilance. The Others may attack anywhere on the Wall and at any time, day or night, and for each Other who manages to get over the Wall and escape into the country one Defender is put to sea to survive or die as chance decrees.

There are attacks. And John Lanchester's descriptions of the battles are as thrilling and absorbing as the best computer games. There are twists and turns, strategies and betrayals, exercises and the real thing. The pace is fast, the results harrowing. Friends die, Others die, Kavanagh is wounded and awarded a medal but this does not negate the risk of his being put to sea after future battles.

The final chapters lose some of that pace but none of their imaginative power. And the end of the book leaves the reader to ponder what may happen next.

This is a disturbing book. So many of the things which led to the creation of the Wall have already happened in our own world. Walls are being planned and built. Sea levels are rising. Others are already attacking borders. And the potential for us all to become the guilty elders by doing nothing about this is too real to be comfortable. Whether you are climate-change sceptic or not, this book must surely make you pause for thought.

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Sustainable Diets
Barbara Burlingame & Sandro Dernini, editors
9781786392848, $160.00, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Barbara Burlingame (Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand) and Sandro Dernini (Forum on Mediterranean Food Cultures, Rome, Ital), "Sustainable Diets: Linking Nutrition and Food Systems" takes a transdisciplinary approach and considers multisectoral actions, integrating health, agriculture and environmental issues to comprehensively explore the topic of sustainable diets.

The assembled team of international authors informs readers with arguments, challenges, perspectives, policies, actions and solutions on global topics that must be properly understood in order to be effectively addressed. They position issues of sustainable diets as central to the Earth's future.

Presenting the latest findings, the contributors to "Sustainable Diets" : Explore the transition to sustainable diets within the context of sustainable food systems, addressing the right to food, and linking food security and nutrition to sustainability; Convey the urgency of coordinated action, and consider how to engage multiple sectors in dialogue and joint research to tackle the pressing problems that have taken us to the edge, and beyond, of the planet's limits to growth; Review tools, methods and indicators for assessing sustainable diets; Describe lessons learned from case studies on both traditional food systems and current dietary challenges.

As an affiliated project of the 10YFP Sustainable Food Systems Program, "Sustainable Diets" provides a way forward for achieving global and local targets, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition commitments.

"Sustainable Diets" is an invaluable resource that is essential reading for scientists, practitioners and students in the fields of nutrition science, food science, environmental science, agricultural science, development studies, food studies, public health and food policy.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Sustainable Diets: Linking Nutrition and Food Systems" includes a complete listing of the contributors and their credentials, along with a seven page Index, making it an ideal curriculum textbook and an unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, environmental and health activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sustainable Diets" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $122.83).

Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558 - 1837
Louise Duckling, et al.
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526744975, $34.95, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative project of Louise Duckling, Sara Read, Felicity Roberts, and Carolyn D. Williams, "Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558-1837' is an engaging and lively collection of original, thought-provoking essays. Its route from Lady Jane Grey's nine-day reign to Queen Victoria's accession provides ample opportunities to examine complex interactions between gender, rank, and power. Yet the book's scope extends far beyond queens: its female cast includes servants, aristocrats, literary women, opera singers, actresses, fallen women, athletes and mine workers.

This collection of historical essays explores themes relating to female power and physical strength; infertility, motherhood, sexuality and exploitation; creativity and celebrity; marriage and female friendship. It draws upon a wide range of primary materials to explore diverse representations of women: illuminating accounts of real women's lives appear alongside fictional portrayals and ideological constructions of femininity. In exploring women's negotiations with patriarchal control, this book demonstrates how the lived experience of women did not always correspond to prescribed social and gendered norms, revealing the rich complexity of their lives.

This unique volume has been published to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Women's Studies Group 1558-1837. The group was formed to promote research into any aspect of women's lives as experienced or depicted within this period. The depth, range and creativity of the essays in this book reflect the myriad interests of its members.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a complete listing of contributors and their credentials, illustrations, a six page bibliography of Further Readings, and a ten page Index, "Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558 - 1837" is an impressively organized and presented body of detailed scholarship that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Women's History collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558 - 1837" is also available in a paperback edition (9781526751393, $22.95).

The Interlude
Lin Stepp
Mountain Hill Press
9780998506364, $15.00, PB, 300pp,

Synopsis: Too much work, too much pressure, and too much heartache can lead even a strong young woman like Mallory Wingate to the edge of a nervous breakdown. Now her doctor and employer have insisted that she take a space to heal and rest, so like it or not, she's heading to her grandparents' resort in the Smoky Mountains. Hoping to sleep and rest on the flight home, Mallory is entertained instead by an unexpectedly charismatic stranger, making her forget many of her problems and even making her feel deliciously female again.

Lucas James, flying home from a pro golfing event, hadn't expected to enjoy an interlude of flirting with a pretty stranger on the plane. A stranger he never expected to see again but turns out to be the granddaughter of his boss at The Millhouse Resort. Worse, he quickly learns she's passed through a recent history of emotional problems that remind all too painfully of his past wife. The last thing Lucas wants is to get involved with anyone like Cecily again. Surely it won't be too hard to keep his distance while Mallory is at the resort.

Critique: An engrossing, engagingly scripted, and inherently entertaining contemporary romance by an author who is a master of the genre, Linn Stepp's "The Interlude" showcases her natural as a novelist for originality and narrative driven storytelling. Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections, "The Interlude" is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of all dedicated romance enthusiasts!

Editorial Note: A native Tennessean, Lin Stepp is the author of sixteen published books and also works as both a businesswoman and an educator. Although not actively teaching now, she is still on adjunct faculty at Tusculum College, where she taught research and a variety of psychology and counseling courses for almost twenty years. Her business background includes over twenty-five years in marketing, sales, production art, and regional publishing.

Sunset Over Lalamusa: A Memoir
Klara Portner
Grosvenor House Publishing
9781786233806, $10.50, PB, 166pp,

Synopsis: "Sunset Over Lalamusa: A Memoir" is a true story about a young and innocent woman whose passion for a debonair and handsome man takes her on a voyage of self-discovery to Pakistan and whose world expands beyond her recognition as she tries to bring up three little boys in the midst of family dividing and antagonistic Eastern and Western cultural forces.

Critique: Exceptionally well written with complete candor and hard won personal insights, "Sunset Over Lalamusa: A Memoir" is an extraordinary autobiography that will hold the reader's total attention from first page to last. "Sunset Over Lalamusa: A Memoir" is one of those stories that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended for community library Contemporary Biography collections, it should be noted that "Sunset Over Lalamusa: A Memoir" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

A Gentlewoman's Guide to Murder
Victoria Hamilton
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738758046, $15.99, PB, 360pp,

Synopsis: The shocking murder of Sir Henry Claybourne leaves Regency London shaken and horror-struck. But for genteel spinster Miss Emmeline St. Germaine, the crime slices far too close to home. Just hours before the knight's death she held a dagger to him, threatening him to stay silent as she rescued a scullery maid he had procured for his pleasure.

Did the man (or woman) who murdered the knight know of her visit? Her secret identity at risk, her reputation and life in jeopardy, Emmeline must solve the crime or face scandalous exposure and ruination, or worse (the hangman's noose) for a crime she did not commit.

Critique: A simply riveting and compulsive page-turner of a read from cover to cover, author Victoria Hamilton's master of the Regency Mystery genre is on full display with the publication of "A Gentlewoman's Guide to Murder". A deftly scripted mystery with more twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster, "A Gentlewoman's Guide to Murder" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "A Gentlewoman's Guide to Murder" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.59).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Second Language Learners in International Schools
Maurice Carder, et al.
Trentham Books
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781858568591, $42.95, PB, 290pp,

Synopsis: By 2020 it is estimated that there will be more than ten thousand international schools educating five million students. Native speakers of English, the language of instruction in 90 per cent of these schools, will be in the minority. The learning needs of second language learners in national education systems differ fundamentally from those of SLLs in the international community. In "Second Language Learners in International Schools", Maurice Carder (the former head of the ESL & Mother Tongue Department at the Vienna International School), along with his collaborators Patricia Mertin and Sarah Porter argues that SLLs in international schools are better provided for within models of instruction that do not assimilate to any political system; where motivation can come from areas other than wanting to belong to a specific culture; and where students can develop all their languages equitably.

"Second Language Learners in International Schools" traces the theories underpinning second language learning programs in international schools and delves into the complexities of teacher relationships and the influence of curriculum agencies on second language learning. Through case studies and vignettes, "Second Language Learners in International Schools" argues for establishing a department of Professional English as a Second Language at the center of the academic life in each school, whose staff will build on the widely acknowledged potential of second language learners and enhance their capabilities in all their languages.

Critique: An impressive volume of seminal scholarship, "Second Language Learners in International Schools" is extraordinarily well written, organized and presented. While a ground breaking study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for college and university library Contemporary Education Issues collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academicians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Second Language Learners in International Schools" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $42.95).

Publishing for Smarties: Finding a Publisher
B. L. Ham
MSI Press
1760-F Airline Hwy, #203, Hollister, CA 950243
9781942891734, $14.95, PB, 164pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly revised and expanded second edition, "Publishing for Smarties: Finding a Publisher" by B. L. Ham is specifically written for aspiring authors having trouble getting their book published, as well as new authors wanting to avoid the long wait through dozens of submissions as publishers they have submitted to seek find a writer whose work they would be amendable to publishing.

Written from the perspective of an acquisitions editor for a publishing house who has also served as a reader and adviser for acquisitions editors at presses ranging from small to large to the leading presses in her field, B. L. Ham wants to help new writers navigate the confusing myriad choices in finding a publisher.

Typical missteps of new authors are presented, along with criteria for making decisions on choosing a publisher -- and advice on how to approach the publisher.

Of potentially great assistance, the author, acquisitions editor B. L. Ham, shares real-life stories of manuscripts she turned down -- and why.

"Publishing for Smarties: Finding a Publisher" differs from most of the how-to-get-published books on the market because it is focused on giving authors a decision-making model rather than yet another a reference book on publishers and provides personalized decision-making activities to lead the writer to the right publisher in the right way.

Critique: Exceptionally practical, 'real world' insightful, packed from cover to cover with specific tips, tricks and techniques, "Publishing for Smarties: Finding a Publisher" should be considered a 'must read' for anyone seeking to have their work, fiction or non-fiction, successfully published on terms as advantageous to the author as possible. Whether an novice author seeking publication for the first time, or an experienced author with many a published title to their credit, "Publishing for Smarties: Finding a Publisher" should be an core part of any personal or professional Writing/Publishing instructional reference collection. While appropriate for both community and academic library Writing/Publishing collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Publishing for Smarties: Finding a Publisher" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

New Hemi Engines 2003-Present: How to Rebuild
Larry Shepard
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613254479, $29.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: When Chrysler released the "new" third-generation Hemi engine in 2003, the automotive public placed high expectations on the Hemi's triumphant return. The Hemi Gen III 5.7L, 6.1L, and 6.2L supercharged and 6.4L engines didn't disappoint; they produced copious amounts of horsepower and torque while delivering exceptional durability. These powerful engines occupy the engine bays of new Challengers, Chargers, Magnums, 300C, Durangos, Jeep Grand Cherokees, and Ram trucks. Many of these engines have been used for high-performance service or logged hundreds of thousands of road miles, and as a result, many need to be rebuilt.

Long-time Mopar engineer, racing coordinator, and parts manager Larry Shepard delivers thorough instructions for each crucial step of the rebuilding process. Before commencing engine tear down, Shepard shows you how to perform compression and leak down testing to accurately assess the health of the engine. Disassembly and comprehensive inspection instructions are provided so you can determine and remedy any underlying problems. Expert insight allows you to select the ideal parts package for your rebuild, whether OEM replacement or compatible and complementary high-performance parts are selected. The most pertinent information for the latest machining practices is provided, so you can coordinate with the machine shop to return the block, head, intake, and other surfaces to like-new condition. Assembling the cylinder heads as well as accurately measuring, checking clearances, and test fitting parts is detailed, so you're sure all components are within spec and ready for final assembly. Finally, comprehensive step-by-step instructions are provided for assembling all components into a completed engine.

The modern Hemi engine is lighter and stronger and offers far better drivability and performance than its predecessors. However, after hundreds of thousands of miles, extreme use, or high-performance applications, these rugged engines require a professional caliber rebuild. With this book, you can confidently complete your Hemi rebuild and get your car or truck back into action.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "New Hemi Engines 2003-Present: How to Rebuild" is a complete and comprehensive "how to" instruction manual that is extraordinarily user friendly in organization and presentation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library Contemporary Automotive Repair reference and resource collections.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Antarctica's Lost Aviator
Jeff Maynard
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781643130125, $27.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: By the 1930s, no one had yet crossed Antarctica, and its vast interior remained a mystery frozen in time. Hoping to write his name in the history books, wealthy American and aspiring aviator Lincoln Ellsworth announced he would fly across the unexplored continent. And to honor his hero, Wyatt Earp, he would carry his gun belt on the flight.

The main obstacles to Ellsworth's ambition were numerous: he didn't like the cold, he avoided physical work, and he couldn't navigate. Consequently, he hired the experienced Australian explorer, Sir Hubert Wilkins, to organize the expedition on his behalf.

While Ellsworth battled depression and struggled to conceal his homosexuality, Wilkins purchased a ship, hired a crew, and ordered a revolutionary new airplane constructed. The Ellsworth Trans-Antarctic Expeditions became epics of misadventure, as competitors plotted to beat Ellsworth, pilots refused to fly, crews mutinied, and the ship was repeatedly trapped in the ice.

Finally, in 1935, Ellsworth took off to fly from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. A few hours after leaving, radio contact with him was lost and the world gave him up for dead.

Antarctica's Lost Aviator brings alive one of the strangest episodes in aviation and polar history, using previously unpublished diaries, correspondence, photographs, and film to reveal the amazing true story of the first crossing of Antarctica and how, against all odds, it was achieved by the unlikeliest of heroes.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of 16 pages of B&W period photographs, "Antarctica's Lost Aviator: The Epic Adventure to Explore the Last Frontier on Earth" is a simply fascinating and inherently riveting read from beginning to end. Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented by Jeff Maynard (who is a member of the Explorers Club and a former President of the Historical Diving Society). While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library 20th Century American Biography, 20th Century Aviation History, and Polar Exploration collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject tht "Antarctica's Lost Aviator" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.16).

Legion versus Phalanx
Myke Cole
Osprey Publishing
4301 21st St, Suite 220B, Long Island City, NY 11101
9781472828422, $30.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: From the time of Ancient Sumeria, the heavy infantry phalanx dominated the battlefield. Armed with spears or pikes, standing shoulder to shoulder, and with overlapping shields, they presented an impenetrable wall of wood and metal to the enemy. It was the phalanx that allowed Greece to become the dominant power in the Western world. That is, until the Romans developed the legion and cracked the phalanx.

In "Legion versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World", author and historian Myke Cole weighs the two fighting forces against each other. Covering the period in which the legion and phalanx clashed (280--168 BC), he looks at each formation in detail by delving into their tactics, arms, and equipment, organization and the deployment.

Cole then examines six key battles in which legion battled phalanx: Heraclea (280 BC), Asculum (279 BC), Beneventum (275 BC), Cynoscephalae (197 BC), Magnesia (190 BC), and Pydna (168 BC) -- battles that determined the fate of the ancient world.

Drawing on original primary sources, Cole presents a highly detailed but lively history of this defining clash of military formations that is enhanced with the inclusion of a Chronology, Maps, a sixteen page Glossary, a ten page Bibliography, and a five page Index.

Critique: A simply fascinating and informative read that is exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Legion versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World" is an extraordinary, unique, and seminal study that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Ancient History, Military History, and Greco-Roman collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Legion versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781721333479, $29.99, MP3 CD).

A Field on Fire
Mark D. Hersey & Ted Steinberg, editors
The University of Alabama Press
PO Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0380
9780817320010, $49.95, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: Inspired by the pioneering work of preeminent environmental historian Donald Worster, the contributors to "A Field on Fire: The Future of Environmental History" reflect on the past and future of this discipline. Featuring wide-ranging essays by leading environmental historians from the United States, Europe, and China, the collection challenges scholars to rethink some of their orthodoxies, inviting them to approach familiar stories from new angles, to integrate new methodologies, and to think creatively about the questions this field is well positioned to answer.

Worster's groundbreaking research serves as the organizational framework for the collection. Editors Mark D. Hersey (Associate Professor of History at Mississippi State University) and Ted Steinberg (who is the Adeline Barry Davee Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University) have arranged this environmental studies anthology into three sections corresponding to the primary concerns of Worster's influential scholarship: the problem of natural limits, the transnational nature of environmental issues, and the question of method.

Under the heading "Facing Limits," five essays explore the inherent tensions between democracy, technology, capitalism, and the environment. The "Crossing Borders" section underscores the ways in which environmental history moves easily across national and disciplinary boundaries. Finally, "Doing Environmental History" invokes Worster's work as an essayist by offering self-conscious reflections about the practice and purpose of environmental history.

These essays aim to provoke a discussion on the future of the field, pointing to untapped and underdeveloped avenues ripe for further exploration. A forward thinker like Worster presents bold challenges to a new generation of environmental historians on everything from capitalism and the Anthropocene to war and wilderness. "A Field on Fire" is an engaging volume that includes a very special afterword by one of Worster's oldest friends, the eminent intellectual historian Daniel Rodgers, who has known Worster for close to fifty years.

Critique: The seventeen erudite essays that comprise "A Field on Fire" are enhanced with the inclusion of figures, and includes a thirty-two page Bibliography, a four page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a seven page Index. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Environmental Studies collections and curriculum textbooks, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Field on Fire" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $39.99).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Politician in Uniform: General Lew Wallace and the Civil War
Christopher R. Mortenson
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806161952, $34.95, HC, 298pp,

Synopsis: Lew Wallace (1827 - 1905) won fame for his novel, Ben-Hur, and for his negotiations with William H. Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, during the Lincoln County Wars of 1878 - 81. He was a successful lawyer, a notable Indiana politician, and a capable military administrator. And yet, as history and his own memoir tell us, Wallace would have traded all these accolades for a moment of military glory in the Civil War to save the Union. Where previous accounts have sought to discredit or defend Wallace's performance as a general in the war, in "Politician in Uniform: General Lew Wallace and the Civil War" Christopher R. Mortenson (Associate Professor of History at Ouachita Baptist University) takes a more nuanced approach. Combining military biography, historical analysis, and political insight, "Politician in Uniform" provides an expanded and balanced view of Wallace's military career -- and offers the reader a new understanding of the experience of a voluntary general like Lew Wallace.

A rising politician from Indiana, Wallace became a Civil War general through his political connections. While he had much success as a regimental commander, he ran into trouble at the brigade and division levels. A natural rivalry and tension between West Pointers and political generals might have accounted for some of these difficulties, but many, as Mortenson shows us, were of Wallace's own making. A temperamental officer with a "rough" conception of manhood, Wallace often found his mentors wanting, disrespected his superiors, and vigorously sought opportunities for glorious action in the field, only to perform poorly when given the chance.

Despite his flaws, Mortenson notes, Wallace contributed both politically and militarily to the war effort - in the fight for Fort Donelson and at the Battle of Shiloh, in the defense of Cincinnati and southern Indiana, and in the administration of Baltimore and the Middle Department. Detailing these and other instances of Wallace's success along with his weaknesses and failures, Mortenson provides an unusually thorough and instructive picture of this complicated character in his military service. Politician in Uniform" clearly demonstrates the unique complexities of evaluating the performance of a politician in uniform.

Critique: A superbly crafted work of original and seminal scholarship, "Politician in Uniform: General Lew Wallace and the Civil War" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library American Civil War and 19th Century American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of students, academia, civil war buffs, and non-specialist general readers that "Politician in Uniform: General Lew Wallace and the Civil War" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.95).

Civility Lost: The Media, Politics, and Education
George A. Goens
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781475840438, $30.00, HC, 166pp,

Synopsis: The United States is undergoing serious splintering that threatens, not only relationships, but also politics and society as a whole. Divisions are emphasized. Disagreements turn into name-calling and castigating. Issues are sharply painted in right or wrong, ethical and unethical, intelligent or unenlightened colors.

The country's motto is E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one. Philosophy and principle, not force or fear, unite the country through ideals that celebrate the sovereignty and authority of all citizens.

Education has an essential role. An educated citizenry is essential to understand issues and engage in a rational and civil conversation about how to address them. Education must explore civil dialogue to bring people together and engage constructively about democratic principles and values.

"Civility Lost: The Media, Politics, and Education" explores principles and expectations for a democratic society, and how differences can be approached civilly to explore and define solutions. Citizens must engage in respectful conversations to build greater understanding. Differences are inevitable in democratic republic by its very nature. Civility is essential for citizens to engage in self-government.

Critique: It has been about three full decades since courtesy and politeness have been the rule and not the exception in the halls of Congress. Partly this is due to the technological advances in social media that permit anonymous slanders, misrepresentations, and false information to flourish in our national discourse. Partly it is due to the political and cultural radicalization of the general populace. Partly it is due to the overwhelming influence of money and greed as a corrupting factor in our politics, our media, and in our economics. And partly it is due to the abolition of Civics classes in our school system curriculums. In "Civility Lost: The Media, Politics, and Education", these factors and more are identified, along with the principles that are fundamentally necessary for the health and continuance of a democracy.

While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Political Science collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Civility Lost" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.09).

African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War
Jack Darrell Crowder
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476676722, $39.95, PB, 217pp,

Synopsis: At the time of the Revolutionary War, a fifth of the Colonial population was African American. By 1779, 15 percent of the Continental Army were former slaves, while the Navy recruited both free men and slaves. More than 5000 black Americans fought for independence in an integrated military -- it would be the last racial integration of the American military until the Korean War and President Harry Truman's administrative fiat in his role as commander-in-chief.

In the American Revolution the majority of Native American tribes sided with the British yet some tribes rallied to the American cause and suffered heavy losses as a consequence. Of 26 Wampanoag enlistees from the small town of Mashpee on Cape Cod, only one came home. Half of the Pequots who went to war did not survive. Mohegans John and Samuel Ashbow fought at Bunker Hill. Samuel was killed there -- the first Native American to die in the Revolution.

In "African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War", former educator and author Jack Darrell Crowder presents a history recounting the sacrifices made by forgotten people of color to gain independence for the people who enslaved and extirpated them.

Critique: An impressively researched and deftly written contribution to our understanding of the American Revolution, "African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War" aptly recovers from obscurity the history of African American and Native American contributions to the founding of our nation. Enhanced for academia with a eight page Bibliography and a four page Index, "African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War" is an extraordinary and seminal contribution to community and academic library American Revolution History, 18th Century Native American History, and 18th Century African American History collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Playing Chess with God
Verne R. Albright
Hellgate Press
9781555719197, $15.95, PB, 326pp,

Synopsis: Henning Dietzel, at the urging of a Chilean prostitute named Encinas, investigates rumors of gold in California prior to the 1849 rush. Intrigued he heads to the Gold Country to stake his claim.

When others flee a brutal winter, Henning perseveres, and by the time the Forty-Niners arrive, he's already a wealthy young man.

His saga is a sweeping tale of fortune and misfortune, discovery and tragedy, love and loss. From the backwaters and boardrooms of early San Francisco to malaria infested jungles and a guano island off the coast of Peru, Henning's search for meaning and purpose eventually brings him to realize that all that glitters is not necessarily gold.

Critique: Written by an author with a genuine flair for originality, deftly crafted narrative storytelling, and a knack for creating memorable characters, "Playing Chess with God" by Verne R. Albright is a consistently entertaining and highly recommended novel for community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Playing Chess with God" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Blood Echo
Christopher Rice
Thomas & Mercer
9781503904354, $24.95, HC, 351pp,

Synopsis: Kidnapped and raised by serial killers, Charlotte Rowe suffered an ordeal that made her infamous. Everyone in the world knew who she was. But no one in the world has any idea what she's become.

Charlotte is an experiment. And a weapon. Enabled by a superpower drug, she's partnered with a shadowy pharmaceutical company to hunt down and eliminate society's most depraved human predators.

But her latest mission goes off the rails in a horrifying way. Unsettled by her own capacity for violence, Charlotte wants some time to retreat so she can work on her new relationship with Luke, a sheriff's deputy in the isolated Central California town she now calls home.

If only the threats hadn't followed Charlotte there.

Something sinister is evolving in Altamira, California -- a massive network of domestic terrorists with ties to Charlotte's influential and corrupt employers. As a vast and explosive criminal conspiracy grows, the fate of Charlotte's hometown hangs in the balance. With everyone she cares about in danger, Charlotte has no choice but to bring her powers home.

Charlotte Rowe has been triggered, and now she'll have to take matters into her own powerful hands!

Critique: A deftly crafted novel by author Christopher Rice, "Blood Echo" is an inherently riveting read with a wealth of unexpected twists and turns right down to it's nail-biter finish. While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Blood Echo" is also available in a paperback edition (9781503904330, $15.95), in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781978608283, $24.99, MP3 CD).

Dangerous Illusions
Vitaly Malkin
Arcadia Books Ltd.
9781911350286, $30.00, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: Vitaly Malkin (born 16 September 1952) is a Russian businessman and investor. He has been a physicist, banker and senator (from 2004 to 2013). Malkin became interested in philosophy and history of religion while engaged in his philanthropic activities for the Fondation Era and Fondation Espoir, and from his extensive travels around the world. Living now in Europe, Malkin has fully dedicated himself to writing and to continuing his work as a philanthropist.

In "Dangerous Illusions: How Religion Deprives Us of Happiness" Malkin deftly argues for a radical shift in humanity's thinking about religion -- namely, that reason and religion cannot co-exist, and that mankind will only be truly happy if we are able to shake off the illusions of religion in order to live a life more rooted in the present.

"Dangerous Illusions" sets out to explore the irrational demands that religion makes of man and asks the reader to question what benefit these acts offer human beings in this life. Malkin scrutinizes topics such as suffering and evil, pleasure and asceticism, sex and celibacy, and circumcision and excision, through the lens of the three major world monotheistic religions -' Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

In doing so, "Dangerous Illusions" fearlessly refutes our most careless beliefs, encouraging us to be more aware of the dangers religions pose to our society and, even to change our intellectual practices altogether.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Dangerous Illusions: How Religion Deprives Us of Happiness" is an iconoclastic and philosophical tour-de-force from beginning to end. Nicely illustrated throughout and an especially recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library Contemporary Philosophy & Religious Studies collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists, it should be noted that "Dangerous Illusions" was deftly translated and adapted from Russian.

Clint Travis

Julie's Bookshelf

The Book of Help
Megan Criswold
Rodale Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781635652208, $25.99, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: Megan Griswold went to Barnard College, received an MA from Yale, and went on to earn a licentiate degree from the Institute of Taoist Education and Acupuncture. She has trained and received certifications as a doula, shiatsu practitioner, yoga instructor, personal trainer, and in wilderness medicine, among others. She has worked as a mountain instructor, a Classical Five Element acupuncturist, a freelance reporter, an NPR All Things Considered commentator and an off-the grid interior designer. She resides (mostly) in a yurt in Kelly, Wyoming.

In "The Book of Help: A Memoir in Remedies" Megan traces her life-long quest for love, connection, and peace of mind. A heartbreakingly vulnerable and tragically funny memoir-in-remedies, Megan's narrative spans four decades and six continents, ranging from the glaciers of Patagonia and the psycho-tropics of Brazil, to academia, the Ivy League, and the study of Eastern medicine.

Megan was born into a family who enthusiastically embraced the offerings of New Age California culture -- at seven she asked Santa for her first mantra and by twelve she was taking weekend workshops on personal growth.

But later, when her newly-wedded husband calls in the middle of the night to say he's landed in jail, Megan must accept that her many certificates, degrees and licenses had not been the finish line she'd once imagined them to be, but instead were just the preliminary training for what would prove to be the wildest, most growth-insisting journey of her life.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Book of Help: A Memoir in Remedies" is an inherently riveting read. Candid, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Book of Help" will be of immense interest to students of Eastern philosophy and alternative medicine for the soul as well as the body. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Book of Help" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

The Friendship Cure
Kate Leaver
Brilliance Corporation
PO Box 887, Grand Haven, MI 49417
9781978650985, $24.99, MP3 CD,

Synopsis: Our best friends, Twitter followers, gal-pals, bromances, Facebook friends, and long distance buddies define us in ways we rarely openly acknowledge. But as a society, we are simultaneously terrified of being alone and already desperately lonely. We move through life in packs and friendship circles and yet, in the most interconnected age, we are stuck in the greatest loneliness epidemic of our time. It's killing us, making us miserable and causing a public health crisis. Increasingly, we don't just die alone; we die because we are alone. What if meaningful friendships are the solution?

Journalist Kate Leaver believes that friendship is the essential cure for the modern malaise of solitude, ill health, and anxiety and that, if we only treated camaraderie as a social priority, it could affect everything from our physical health and emotional well being. Her much-anticipated manifesto, The Friendship Cure, looks at what friendship means, how it can survive, why we need it, and what we can do to get the most from it. Why do some friendships last a lifetime, while others are only temporary? How do you "break up" with a toxic friend? How do you make friends as an adult? Can men and women really be platonic? What are the curative qualities of friendship, and how we can deploy friendship to actually live longer, better lives?

From behavioral scientists to besties, Kate draws upon the extraordinary research from academics, scientists, and psychotherapists, and stories from friends of friends, strangers from the Internet, and her "squad" to get to the bottom of these and other facets of friendship. For readers of Susan Cain's Quiet and Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, The Friendship Cure is a fascinating blend of accessible "smart thinking," investigative journalism, pop culture, and memoir for anyone trying to navigate this lonely world, written with the wit, charm, and bite of a fresh voice.

Critique: The overwhelming social revolution that has been created by the rapid technological advances support social media has had a profoundly impact on human social connections and and interactions that are only now coming into focus. This flawless produced audio book edition of "The Friendship Cure" by Kate Leaver should be considered 'must listening' for anyone who feels that even though their 'Likes' number in the thousands, they still feel a loneliness that arises from a lack or a distortion of actual human contact, one-on-one or in a group. Simply stated, this MP3 CD edition of "The Friendship Cure" should be a core part of every community, college, and university library Contemporary Audio Book collection.

New Beginnings
MaLin Wilson-Powell
The Tia Collections
c/o University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780991479238, $65.00, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: Santa Fe and Taos were among the most important national and international art communities during the 1920s and 1930s. "New Beginnings: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists in the West" explores their similarities, differences, and connections. Legions of American and European artists found new beginnings in the physical and cultural landscapes of northern New Mexico, resulting in a new and deeply rooted orientation for modern art in America.

Produced on the occasion of the New Beginnings traveling exhibition, this lavishly illustrated catalogue presents 111 objects by 72 artists from the Tia Collection, including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures.

To encourage a fresh view of the shift from representation to diverse branches of Modernism, the artworks are grouped into three sections: by the four seasons; by the vibrant mixture of Native American, Hispano, and Anglo themes; and by studio-made still lifes and portraits.

Work by artists such as Ernest L. Blumenschein, E. Irving Couse, Stuart Davis, Leon Gaspard, Robert Henri, John Marin, John Sloan, and Walter Ufer are juxtaposed with lesser-known or virtually unknown works by William Verplanck Birney, Richard Crisler, Katherine Levin Farrell, Jan Matulka, Arthur Musgrave, Polia Pillin, and Beulah Stevenson.

The exhibition will travel to the Scottsdale Museum of the West, Scottsdale, Arizona; Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, Georgia; Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; and Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, Montana.

Critique: MaLin Wilson-Powell has served as Curator of the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe and the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, as well as Director of the Jonson Gallery at the University Art Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "New Beginnings: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists in the West" reflects her many years of experience and expertise, making this a simply outstanding contribution to the growing library of American Art History.

While very highly recommended for community and academic library American Art History collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "New Beginnings: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists in the West" is also available in a paperback edition (9780991479245, $40.00).

Brian Froud's World of Faerie
Brian Froud
Insight Editions
PO Box 3088, San Rafael, CA 94912
9781683835912, $35.00, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: In a newly revised and expanded edition, readers can return to the world of faerie with "Brian Froud's World of Faerie", a justifiably acclaimed magnum opus that showcases breathtakingly beautiful paintings, watercolors, and drawings never before seen by the general public.

Drawing inspiration from the gnarled shrubbery of England's windswept moorlands, Brian Froud is best known for being the genius behind Jim Henson's film The Dark Crystal and for illustrating such best sellers as Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book. Now this revised and expanded edition of a dazzling world of Faerie offers a startling vision of the magical realm that is enhanced by Froud's own words about his experiences and insights.

A lavish, full-color volume that opens the door to Brian Froud's wondrous imagination, "Brian Froud's World of Faerie" presents beautiful portrayals of faeries that have touched hearts and minds for generations, "World of Faerie" is by far Froud's most personal book and represents the visionary artist and creator of fantasy worlds at the pinnacle of his prowess.

Critique: Offering a visually iconic tour-de-force that features rare, previously unpublished imagery from Froud's oeuvre, this new edition of the classic tome is a must-have for faerie and fantasy fans of all ages. An absolutely 'must have' for the legions of Brian Froud fans and Faerie enthusiasts. While "Brian Froud's World of Faerie" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections.

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Goodbye to Tenth Street
Irving Sandler
Pleasure Boat Studio
9780912887722, $22.95, PB, 373pp,

Synopsis: Irving Sandler (July 22, 1925 - June 2, 2018) was an American art critic, art historian, and educator. He provided numerous first hand accounts of American art, beginning with abstract expressionism in the 1950s, where he managed the Tanager Gallery downtown and co-ordinated the New York artists' ZT 'Club' of the New York School from 1955 to its demise in 1962, as well as documenting numerous conversations from the Cedar Street Tavern and other artists venues. (Wikipedia).

Deftly exploring the business and the culture of Abstract Expressionism, including the soul-searching quest for artistic authenticity, the alcohol, the sex, and the intense rivalries among its proponents, "Goodbye to Tenth Street" is the first novel written by Sandler and vividly portrays the New York art world from the death of Jackson Pollock in 1956 to the emergence of Andy Warhol in 1962.

"Goodbye to Tenth Street" is based on Sandler's own personal experiences. The art world of his fictional invention brings to life a tight-knit but deeply competitive community of artists, critics, curators, and gallery owners, where connections are forged and betrayed, ideologies clash, and relationships blossom and implode with dizzying speed.

Several of the characters appearing in "Goodbye to Tenth Street" are well known personalities (Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, et al.), while others hint at real people or are amalgams of art world denizens that may be identified by the astute reader.

Art theory and art history are interwoven throughout the plot of this crisp and sparkling narrative as Sandler paints a dynamic portrait of the Abstract Expressionists and their visual breakthroughs and makes his reader ponder the pursuit for meaning, emotional honesty, and objectivity via artistic expression.

With the arrival of Pop Art as the newest avant-garde, where commercialism supplants emotional expression, Sandler reveals the changing attitudes in the art world, the conflict between the older and younger generation of artists, and the necessity of these periodic upheavals in keeping art relevant to our times.

Written from the perspective of a contemporary, Sandler gives an insightful "behind-the-scenes" look at the personalities and events of this important period in American art history.

Critique: Showcasing Irving Sandler's impressive narrative driven storytelling talents as a novelist, "Goodbye to Tenth Street" is an inherently fascinating and skillfully presented read that ably conjures up a kind of 'window on the past', making it very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Literary Fiction collections.

No Beast So Fierce
Dane Huckelbridge
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062678843, $26.99, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: In 1900 Nepal, the single deadliest animal in recorded history began stalking humans, moving like a phantom through the lush foothills of the Himalayas. As the death toll reached an astonishing 436 lives, a young local hunter was dispatched to stop the now-legendary man-eater before it struck again.

At the turn of the twentieth century as British rule of India had tightened and bounties were placed on tiger's heads, a tigress was shot in the mouth by a poacher. Injured but alive, it turned from its usual hunting habits to easier prey -- humans. For the next seven years, this man-made killer terrified locals, growing bolder with every kill. Colonial authorities, desperate for help, finally called upon Jim Corbett, a then-unknown railroad employee of humble origins who had grown up hunting game through the hills of Kumaon.

Like a detective on the trail of a serial killer, Corbett tracked the tiger's movements in the dense, hilly woodlands -- meanwhile the animal shadowed Corbett in return. Then, after a heartbreaking new kill of a young woman whom he was unable to protect, Corbett followed the gruesome blood trail deep into the forest where hunter and tiger would meet at last.

Critique: One part pulse-pounding thriller, one part soulful natural history of the endangered Royal Bengal tiger, author Dane Huckelbridge's "No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Animal in History" is the gripping, true account of the beast which terrified northern India and Nepal from 1900 to 1907, and of Jim Corbett, the legendary hunter who pursued it. "No Beast So Fierce" is a masterful telling that also reveals that the tiger, Corbett, and the forces that brought them together are far more complex and fascinating than a simple man-versus-beast tale.

Drawing upon on-the-ground research in the Indian Himalayan region where Huckelbridge retraced Corbett's footsteps, "No Beast So Fierce" brings to life one of the great adventure stories of the twentieth century. And yet Huckelbridge brings a deeper, more complex story into focus, placing the episode into its full context for the first time: that of colonialism's disturbing impact on the ancient balance between man and tiger; and that of Corbett's own evolution from a celebrated hunter to a principled conservationist who in time would earn fame for his devotion to saving the Bengal tiger and its habitat.

Today the Corbett Tiger Reserve preserves 1,200 km of wilderness; within its borders is Jim Corbett National Park, India's oldest and most prestigious national park and a vital haven for the very animals Corbett once hunted.

An historical epic of beauty, terror, survival, and redemption for the ages, "No Beast So Fierce" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "No Beast So Fierce" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, 12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982609191, $39.99, CD).

Eanger Irving Couse: The Life and Times of an American Artist, 1866 - 1936
Virginia Couse Leavitt
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806161020, $59.95, HC, 400pp,

Synopsis: Eanger Irving Couse (1866 - 1936) showed remarkable promise as a young art student. His lifelong interest in Native American cultures also started at an early age, inspired by encounters with Chippewa Indians living near his hometown, Saginaw, Michigan. After studying in Europe, Couse began spending summers in New Mexico, where in 1915 he helped found the famous Taos Society of Artists, serving as its first president and playing a major role in its success. This richly illustrated volume, featuring full-color reproductions of his artwork, is the first scholarly exploration of Couse's noteworthy life and artistic achievements.

Drawing on extensive research, Virginia Couse Leavitt gives an intimate account of Couse's experiences, including his early struggles as an art student in the United States and abroad, his study of Native Americans, his winter home and studio in New York City, and his life in New Mexico after he relocated to Taos. In examining Couse's role as one of the original six founders of the Taos Society of Artists, the author provides new information about the art colony's early meetings, original members, and first exhibitions.

As a scholar of art history, Leavitt has spent decades researching her subject, who also happens to be her grandfather. Her unique access to the Couse family archives has allowed her to mine correspondence, photographs, sketchbooks, and memorabilia, all of which add fresh insight into the American art scene in the early 1900s. Of particular interest is the correspondence of Couse's wife, Virginia Walker, an art student in Paris when the couple first met. Her letters home to her family in Washington State offer a vivid picture of her husband's student life in Paris, where Couse studied under the famous painter William Bouguereau at the Academie Julian.

Whereas many artists of the early twentieth century pursued a radically modern style, Couse held true to his formal academic training throughout his career. He gained renown for his paintings of southwestern landscapes and his respectful portraits of Native peoples. Through his depictions of the domestic and spiritual lives of Pueblo Indians, Couse helped mitigate the prejudices toward Native Americans that persisted during this era.

Critique: Another still outstanding volume published by the University of Oklahoma as part of their The Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West collection, "Eanger Irving Couse: The Life and Times of an American Artist, 1866 - 1936" by Virginia Couse Leavitt (who is the granddaughter of E. I. Couse, a founding member of The Couse Foundation, and the author of "Eanger Irving Couse: Image Maker for America") is a beautifully produced volume of superbly executed paintings and informative commentaries that will prove to be an enduringly valued and appreciated addition to personal, community, college, and university library American Western Painting collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Rest in My Shade: A Poem About Roots
Nora Lester Murad & Danna Masad
Olive Branch Press
c/o Interlink Publishing Group
46 Crosby Street, Northampton, MA 01060-1804
9781623719692, $20.00, HC, 48pp,

Synopsis: "Rest in My Shade" is a story poem about displacement, identity, loss and belonging recited by an uprooted ancient olive tree. "Rest in My Shade" also features art created in various media by eighteen prominent Palestinian artists living around the world.

Millions of people are being uprooted, separated from their families, and risk losing their culture as a result of war, poverty, repression, and climate injustice. "Rest in My Shade" is a tool for building understanding, compassion and dialogue. Co-authors Nora Lester Murad and Danna Masad believe that together we can build a world in which we can all live without fear, move freely, value and share the cultures and traditions that make us who we are, and feel dignity and acceptance everywhere.

Critique: A perfect gift, coffee table book, or tool for discussions by adults and children about today's global refugee and migration crises, "Rest in My Shade" is a thoughtful and thought-provoking browse that will have immense and enduring appeal fo students of poetry, art, and Palestinian history. The reader will come away from "Rest in My Shade" with newly inspired awareness of the universality of the tragic experience of displacement. In this era of Forever Wars and 'Build the Wall' politics, "Rest in My Shade" is a welcome counterpoint in our national dialogue and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as family, community, and academic library collections.

The Sisters Hemingway
Annie England Noblin
William Morrow Paperbacks
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062674517, $15.99, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: The Hemingway Sisters of Cold River, Missouri are local legends. Raised by a mother obsessed with Ernest Hemingway, they were named after the author's four wives -- Hadley, Pfeiffer, Martha, and Mary. The sisters couldn't be more different -- or more alike! Hadley is the poised, polished wife of a senator. Pfeiffer is a successful New York book editor. Martha has skyrocketed to Nashville stardom.

Now they're back in town, reunited to repair their fractured relationships. They each have a secret - a marriage on the rocks, a job lost, a stint in rehab -- and they haven't been together in years.

Together, they must stay in their childhood home, faced with a puzzle that may affect all their futures. As they learn the truth of what happened to their mother (and their youngest sister, Mary) they rekindle the bonds they had as children, bonds that have long seemed broken.

With the help of neighbors, friends, love interests old and new (and one endearing and determined Basset Hound) the Sisters Hemingway learn that he happiness that has appeared so elusive may be right here at home, waiting to be claimed.

Critique: A thoroughly engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, "The Sisters Hemingway" showcases author Annie England Noblin's impressive gift for narrative storytelling. While very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Sisters Hemingway" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99). Librarians should note that "The Sister Hemingway" is also available in a hardcover large print edition (Center Point Pub, 9781643581606, Large Print, 500pp) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982609948, $39.99, CD).

The Curiosities
Susan Gloss
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062933768, $26.99, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: Nell Parker has a PhD in Art History, a loving husband named Josh, and a Craftsman bungalow in Madison, WI. But her last pregnancy ended later in the second trimester, and rather than pausing to grieve, she pushes harder for testing and fertility treatments. Urging Nell to apply for jobs, Josh believes his wife needs something else to focus on other than a baby that may never be.

Finding a job turns out to be difficult for an art historian . . . until Nell sees the ad seeking a director for a new nonprofit called the Mansion Hill Artists' Colony. The colony is the brainchild of the late, unconventional society dame Betsy Barrett, who left behind her vast fortune and a killer collection of modern art to establish an artist-in-residency program to be run out of her lakeside mansion. The executor of Betsy's estate simply hands Nell a set of house keys and wishes her luck, leaving her to manage the mansion and the eccentric personalities of the artists who live there on her own.

Soon one of the artists, a young metal sculptor named Odin, is keeping the other residents awake with his late-night welding projects. Nell is pretty sure that Annie, a dreadlocked granny known for her avant garde performance pieces, is dealing drugs out of the basement "studio." Meanwhile Paige, an art student from the university, takes up residence in the third-floor turret, experimenting with new printing and design techniques, as well as leading a string of bad boyfriends upstairs when she stumbles home late at night.

Despite all the drama, Nell finds something akin to a family among the members of the creative community that she's brought together. And when her attraction to Odin begins to heat up, Nell is forced to decide what will bring her greater joy - the creative, inspired world she's created, or the familiar but increasingly fragile one of her marriage.

Critique: "The Curiosities" is the follow-up to Susan Gloss's successful debut novel, "Vintage", and is a charming mid-western story of artists, inspiration, and how to reinvent your life with purpose and flair. Showcasing a genuine flair for originality, the creation of memorable characters, and engaging narrative storytelling, "The Curiosities" is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Curiosities" is also available in a paperback edition (9780062270368, $15.00), in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), and as a complete an unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982607180, $39.99, CD).

A Different Kind of Fire
Suanne Schafer
Waldorf Publishing
2140 Hall Johnson Road 102-345, Grapevine, TX 76051
9781641368650, $16.95, PB, 300pp,

Synopsis: Ruby Schmidt has the talent, the drive, even the guts to enroll in art school, leaving behind her childhood home and the beau she dreamed of marrying. Her life at the Academy seems heavenly at first, but she soon learns that societal norms in the East are as restrictive as those back home in West Texas.

Rebelling against the insipid imagery woman are expected to produce, Ruby embraces bohemian life. Her burgeoning sexuality drives her into a life-long love affair with another woman and into the arms of an Italian baron.

With the Panic of 1893, the nation spirals into a depression, and Ruby's career takes a similar downward trajectory. After thinking she could have it all, Ruby now wonders how she can salvage the remnants of her life.

Pregnant and broke, she returns to Texas rather than join the queues at the neighborhood soup kitchen.

Set against the Gilded Age of America, a time when suffragettes fight for reproductive rights and the right to vote, "A Different Kind of Fire" depicts one woman's battle to balance husband, family, career, and ambition.

Torn between her childhood sweetheart, her forbidden passion for another woman, the Italian nobleman she had to marry, and becoming a renowned painter, Ruby's choices mold her in ways she could never have foreseen.

Critique: An inherently absorbing and deftly crafted novel, "A Different Kind of Fire" is an extraordinary read from first page to last. Showcasing author Suanne Shafter's genuine flair for originality, deftly crafted and memorable characters, and a reading riveting narrative storytelling style, "A Different Kind of Fire" is unreserved recommended -- especially for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Different Kind of Fire" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.58).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

Horse Boys
J.T. Blossom
1981248633, $11.99, paper, 274 pps

Set in Wisconsin, 1969, J.T. Blossom's Horse Boys is a summer of sex, drugs and rock and roll - coupled with the hard work of growing up.

Due to marital and financial difficulties, instead of paying for Michael to attend a camp the summer before high school, his parents send him to work at the horse stables. The youngest of the "horse boys," Michael, nicknamed Coolidge (Cool), gets extensive training not only in horse care and stable maintenance, but in bullsh--ing. By the end of the summer, Cool forms an opinion of the hazing techniques and dangerous fun that supplement his grueling work experience.

The descriptions of the setting, both Eastern Wisconsin's natural beauty and the perils of insects, heat, and horse body functions, are the staple of this novel. The writing's clear conveyance of Cool's full engagement with these physical forces is offset by a few instances of moralizing and clumsy sentences. The narrator is more than omniscient; he addresses "you" with a message. Reading group discussion questions at the end of the book confirm the leading tone of the narration.

Cool is the easiest character to whom to relate. His inner thoughts, which he is careful to keep private, are italicized, voicing his, and readers', wide spectrum of reactions to all his new experiences, from getting drunk to horse sex, to stealing logs and stealing glances at girls in the shower. The few females are also multi-faceted, although they show up too seldom to develop as characters. The other horse boys exhibit more of a group character: brazen, brawny, risk-taking, and bronzed. Their endless school boy humor isn't funny so much as farcical. It highlights how tiresome their act gets and how genuine Cool becomes.

The horses parallel the boys. Mostly, the horses share character traits. A wild horse the boys tame, Rim Tank, stands out like Cool. Their dramatic transformations conclude in a stunning ending, replete with a stand-off and a tragedy.

A vivid coming of age story that sets life lessons in the rousing - and arousing - context of a horse stable.

Treading the Uneven Road
L.M. Brown
Fomite Press
9781944388805, $15.00

With a keen eye for human frailty, L.M. Brown's Treading the Uneven Road bears witness to an overlooked town in Sligo, Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s.

The nine stories in this collection hover around pairs of characters. Enda and Dick are enterprising brothers who grow distant after one leaves for Dublin and the other stays to look after their mother. Lou and Joe are fast friends a generation younger than Dick and Enda, and as different from each other. They, too, leave for Dublin. Marcus and Patrick are gay lovers pulled apart by opposition to their affair. Ester and Moire move to London together. Ester returns home while Moire stays with an older man she meets. The stories explore many misbegotten ways to express intimate love.

A bypass makes the town a place to go around, rather than a destination. Like the bypass around the town, characters skirt around secrets they harbor. Hiding, running away from, avoiding are themes of the stories. Some run from love affairs that will never work. Others run from tragedies that make carrying on as usual impossible. The secrets become more pronounced, like characters themselves, as the characters avoid them. "I want you to do nothing, Ester." Moire wants to escape the past, stay hidden in London, instead of following Ester home. Lou says "I wanted to be invisible." Written this bluntly and starkly, these desires take on a life of their own. The brief descriptions of the town: its bridges and few storefronts, mirror the succinct descriptions of its inhabitants. Town and people are bound together in a pithy prose that intrigues in its austerity.

The tone is largely somber. Death and abandonment feature in almost every story. The three stories told in first person are the most powerful, with the biggest range of anger and catharsis. The final story, narrated by "we" the town, is the most hopeful. Dick tells snippets of fairy tales to Enda's son in the bakery, imparting to him a timeless gift. The shop owner, Faith, listens, with the statue of Our Lady ever present behind her. Forgiveness shines through these watchful, sage eyes.

With its title taken from a Yeats poem inspired by Sligo, light and dark mingle in these understated stories that read like facets of a whole. L.M. Brown is an Irish born novelist and short story writer now living in the States, whose subtle work is worth seeking out.

Stories of the Mother Bear
Myrtle Brooks
Black Rose Writing
9781684331970, $19.95

Myrtle Brooks' Stories of Mother Bear warms the heart with a series of encounters with a silver-haired grizzly in the Teton mountains.

Bill Larkin, narrator, first meets the majestic Mother Bear and her three cubs on a camping trip with family and friends when he's a boy, in the 1960s. His experience informs his journalism aspirations. He reports about the Vietnam War and other national news out of Omaha and other Western cities. When he brings his wife and kids back to the Tetons to inquire further into Mother Bear sightings, he enters into a life-changing legacy involving black cowboys, Indians and family rifts.

The plural title (Stories of Mother Bear) is apt for a book that stretches the confines of a single novel. There is no one conflict. Rather, narration is shared by a host of speakers, in diverse formats. The histories of Bill and his family, the Headrick family of black ranchers, as well as Vietnam vets, pioneers traveling West, and Shoshone Indians are told in letters, journals, and dialogue. Historic objects - a painting, a key, an etch-a-sketch - keep the text rooted in each time period. Keeping track of all the connections between characters requires attention, and serves the purpose of showing Mother Bear's far reaching and enigmatic influence. She is the real heroine of this story, setting the expansive tone with a poem at the outset.

"Drawn from the ocean womb, fathered by wind and water

I remain dandled upon the two knees

Of my mother who understands my progress

Clearly written

As are rings of growth into the whitebark pine" (11).

The "I" in this opening poem takes up Bill's "I." Mother Bear speaks through Bill first and foremost, but through all the characters, a voice of forgiveness in the face of suffering, comfort in longing, and peace toward anger. She is akin to Aslan from the Narnia series, a God-like figure who draws people with his regal bearing coupled with kindness. Mother Bear's spirit is expressed in poetry and also the caring exhibited between characters. They're about the friendliest cast of characters to be met in literature.

A mystery, inspirational, historical-fiction and love story rolled in one, Stories of Mother Bear is a lush saga of human-divine interaction.

We Are Family
Fabio Bartolomei
Translated from Italian by Anthony Shugaar
Europa Editions
9781609455033, $17.00, 320 pps

A rousing family portrait set in Italy's recent past, Fabio Bartolomei's We Are Family makes a salvific splash.

By age 4, Al Santamaria, narrator, is declared a genius destined to save the world. With his talents (among them starting fires and telepathy), he is sure to find his way. But first, he must help his parents struggling to make ends meet in Italy's volatile 1980s economy. His mother Agnese's beauty fades as she tries in vain to find work. Due to his long hair, Al's father, Mario Elvis, barely keeps his job driving bus. Accident-prone sister Vittoria only makes matters worse. When the family finally finds their "dream house," Agnese and Mario Elvis disappear on an extended trip, leaving Vittoria and Al to establish a home to which their parents would be proud to return.

Al's child perspective makes the perfect lens through which to face modern society with levity. "I've come to the conclusion that it is possible to summarize the world as follows: it works just like a high school class year" he says (140). Noting observations in his "human flesh diary," he concocts this and other metaphors to understand adults. They are "bigger, hairier kids" (117). "The UN behaves exactly like the electric company" (215). But more than bringing humor and fantasy to the current human condition, Al's youthful observations pose serious criticisms of postmodern problems and absurdities. The "independent principality" he and his sister make of their parent-less household becomes a winsome, convincing alternative model. With Elvis currency, walls made of Legos, a stunning bathtub as well as the principle of Responsible Neocolonization, Al may not succeed in saving the world, but does build family with those around him, including We who read his antics.

We Are Family draws us back to the basics of fun and family with comic-like Calvin Hobbes adventures combined with Italian movie Life is Beautiful wisdom couched in games. A fanciful baptism into a promising new era.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Let Us Die Like Men
William Lee White
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611212969, $14.95, PB, 168pp,

Synopsis: John Bell Hood had done his job too well. In the fall of 1864, the commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee had harassed Federal forces in north Georgia so badly that the Union commander, William T. Sherman, decided to abandon his position. During his subsequent "March to the Sea," Sherman's men lived off the land and made Georgia howl.

Rather than confront the larger Federal force directly, Hood chose instead to strike northward into Tennessee. There, he hoped to cripple the Federal supply infrastructure and the Federal forces that still remained there -- the Army of the Cumberland under George Thomas. Hood hoped to defeat Thomas's army in detail and force Sherman to come northward to the rescue.

On November 30, in a small country town called Franklin, Hood caught part of Thomas's army outside of its stronghold of Nashville. But what began as a promising opportunity for the outnumbered Confederate army soon turned grim. "I do not like the looks of this fight," one of Hood's subordinates said; "the enemy has an excellent position and is well fortified."

Hood was determined to root the Federals out.

"Well," said a Confederate officer, "if we are to die, let us die like men."

And thousands of them did. As wave after murderous wave crashed against the Federal fortifications, the Army of Tennessee shattered itself. It eventually found victory -- but at a cost so bloody and so chilling, the name "Franklin" would ever after be synonymous with disaster.

Critique: Historian William Lee White, whose devotion to the Army of Tennessee has taken him from the dense forests of northwest Georgia to the gates of Atlanta and back into Tennessee, now pens the penultimate chapter in the army's storied history in "Let Us Die Like Men: The Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864". Reading with all the drama of a deftly crafted novel, this definitive history of one of the key confrontations of the American Civil War between the forces of the Union and the Confederacy is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Ocean's Menace
Archibald Rutledge
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611178159, $24.99, HC, 56pp,

Synopsis: The late Archibald Rutledge (1883-1973) was South Carolina's most prolific writer and the state's first poet laureate. His nature writings garnered him the prestigious John Burroughs Medal. One of the more underappreciated aspects of Archibald Rutledge's varied and prolific literary efforts focuses on the way he could weave stories involving danger in the wilds. What he frequently described as chimeras (great sharks, alligators, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths of incredible and often embellished dimensions, wild hogs with razor-sharp tusks, and more) clearly fascinated him.

Similarly, he exhibited a knack for twists and turns in his tales reminiscent of O. Henry at his best. "The Ocean's Menace" offers a fine example of this aspect of Rutledge as a creative writer.

The title is misleading, because it immediately conjures images of something massive, such as a white shark, devilfish, whale, or other leviathan. Instead, "The Ocean" is a remote, treacherous tract of land near Hampton where hunters dared not venture and which locals viewed with a mixture of awe and alarm. It provides an ideal setting for this tale.

Rutledge was at his best when writing of whitetails, because deer hunting is woven as a bright thread through the entire fabric of his life. Here though, instead of yet another tale of a mighty stag or an antlered giant, the quarry proves to be the hunter's salvation.

Delightfully told, with an abundance of twists and turns as the story unfolds, this is the sage of the Santee at his finest. A project of South Carolina Humanities benefitting South Carolina literary programs, this new edition of "The Ocean's Menace" is illustrated in handsome charcoal etchings by Southern artist Stephen Chesley.

Award-winning outdoors writer and noted Rutledge scholar Jim Casada provides this new edition with an informative introduction and afterword.

Critique: A memorable read that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "The Ocean's Menace" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Ocean's Menace" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.15).

The Intellect and the Exodus
Jeremy Kagan
The Toby Press
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781592645138, $29.95, HC, 316pp,

Synopsis: Developing emuna, or faith in God, is extraordinarily challenging in our day. Emuna may have sat comfortably with us as we dwelt among the worshiping cultures of the ancient Near East. But several thousand years of exposure to rationally based Western cultures has transformed our consciousness, personalities, and outlook to the point that God often seems like an idea pasted incongruously onto our vision of reality.

How can we achieve an emuna that is integrated, consistent with our rational context, yet still retains its Near Eastern soul?

In 'Intellect and the Exodus', award-winning author Rabbi Jeremy Kagan traces the history of our experience of emuna, building on the perspective it provides to gain powerful insights into the nature of emuna in the modern world. Rabbi Kagan then shows how the story of the Exodus is structured to foster a perception of reality in us, out of which an awareness of God emerges naturally.

That perceptual component, however, must be complimented with an inner sense of God that has a genuine basis. That basis is to be sought in the depths of the self.

Critique: An extraordinary contribution to the growing library of Judaic theological literature, "The Intellect and the Exodus" is an impressively well written, organized and presented study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, synagogue, college, and university library Contemporary Judaism collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Editorial Note: Born in Boston and raised in Hawaii, Rabbi Jeremy Kagan attended Yale University, graduating with a BA in philosophy. He first began studying Torah at Ohr Somayach while traveling in Israel during his college years. Following the completion of his degree at Yale, Rabbi Kagan returned to Israel to pursue talmudic studies, eventually becoming a student at Heichal HaTorah and the Mirrer Yeshiva.

Rabbi Kagan received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg and regularly attended the classes of Rabbi Moshe Shapiro. Rabbi Kagan is the principal of Midreshet Tehillah, a post high-school seminary under the auspices of Neve Yerushalayim.

In 1998 Rabbi Kagan published "The Jewish Self: Recovering Spirituality in the Modern World". In 2011 he published "The Choice to Be: A Jewish Path to Self and Spirituality", which was awarded the National Jewish Book Award for Modern Jewish Thought. He currently lives with his family in Jerusalem.

I Will Find You
John Taylor
Austin Macauley Publishers
9781787102798, $14.95, PB, 346pp,

Synopsis: "I Will Find You" by John Taylor is an inherently riveting tale of mystery and intrigue which starts in wartime Fenland near Ely and then moves halfway across the globe to Australia.

Taylor's story is colorful, poignant and moving as it charts the journey of young Robbie Spalding and his path from a Dr. Barnardos Home in Cambridge to a new life on the other side of the world.

Robbie becomes Nick Thorne and this account of his arrival into adulthood is more than a little tragic and filled with unexpected twists and turns. Touching, funny, sad and filled with drama, "I Will Find You" is an authentic and engaging read that is both gripping and compelling, and will certainly keep the readers' earnest attention from beginning to end.

Readers should expect to shed a tear for the casualties of war.

Critique: In the pages of "I Will Find You", author John Taylor showcases a genuine flair as a novelist for originality, as well as an impressive flair for narrative storytelling. While "I Will Find You" is unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.55).

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

Making Tracks
Patricia FitzGerald-Petri
Wings ePress, Incorporated
9781597059473, $16.95, Paperback, 324 pages

Reviewed first for ScribesWorld As eBook Peggy Does a Runner

Trish Fitzgerald Petri's Making Tracks, first pubbed as Peggy Does a Runner, presents Peggy Fitzpatrick along with several friends as they set out from Dublin to end up in the North Clare village of Ballydereen where Peggy first notices the man she will marry.

Patrick Cunningham is a handsome man who happened to be in Mullen's pub when Peggy and her friends drifted in.

Almost before she knows it; Peggy finds herself ensconced in a small housing tract overlooking Galway Bay.

Today at forty Peggy is pretty well fed up.

Patrick with his paunch hiding his belt; is not as attractive or attentive as he once was. Adolescent daughter Sally Ann struggling in the throes of teen-age angst is driving her mother up the wall with the talking back, agony and histrionics. The mother in law from hell, social climber Nora, is a real pain in the neck.

Peggy walks into her kitchen with an armful of groceries, drops the lot and considers her options.

She sets out in her auto, thoughtlessly seeking independence, drives into a hedgerow along the Clare-Galway roadways. Soon she takes up with a group of trekkers traveling in their horse drawn caravans. For a time Peggy enjoys the bohemian life with a long haired German, Rudi. After a short period of time filled with stimulating rashness, all of a sudden the situation is no long enjoyable or fun.

Her inexpert impetuosity had brought Peggy right into a snare.

It does not take long before Peggy realizes Rudi fierce fascination cloaks a dangerous callous streak.

In Peggy's absence, Patrick's mom has been ineffective in coaxing Pat to take up with another woman. At last Patrick has finally become aware of the fact that his mam has been less than forthright... after deciding the old bat is really a downright liar; he and sets out with Bosco, the family pup, in an effort to locate Peggy.

Peggy undertakes a frenetic effort to flee the crazed Rudi, and is hurt in the process. He moves his caravan into seclusion where Peggy begins to lose hope and fears the harshest outcome; when suddenly Bosco's feverish barking restores her hope for a reprieve from the situation.

Beginning on the first page Writer FitzGerald Petri's Making Tracks is an action packed, entertaining at time a hilarious read, with some real occasions of drama.

Fitzgerald Petri's talent for setting the scene is dandy. Her main character Peggy comes to life and all but leaves the page while moving the reader along on a at times hysterical, albeit, dynamic journey.

I found her characters to be nicely fleshed from the, at times, dim Patrick who ultimately does get his act together to the pain in the neck teen and especially the snob, mother in law Nora.

Droll, realistic discourse packed with whimsical description is credible, draws the reader right into the tale where the reader is filled with all the impatience, uncertainty and worry as experienced by Peggy. I have never seen Ireland, Trish Fitzgerald Petri's description convinces me I would like to.

How we parents can identify with Peggy's dissatisfactions with that youngster of hers, the meddling mother-in-law is a real non-charmer. I found myself pleased to read of her comeuppance.

Rudi is out-and-out scary. Peggy is a little silly, however most of us who have been married a long time may also wonder if we might have made another wiser choice and can definitely understand her motivations.

FitzGerald Petri has crafted a cleverly wrought tale filled with just the right balance of shock, wit and trickery. Readers may guffaw with overexcited laughter as the ongoing drama continues to the end of the tale.

The scene when Mama is found out and cannot talk her way out is a real chuckle. Rudi and his mad meanness are set down in tense, believable manner. This is not a book to be read after dark when you are home alone.

Dialog is credible, nicely set down, presented in gritty style certain to keep the reader entranced.

From the outset the reader is carried along on a wild ride filled with excitement and masque. The truth of the old saw, the grass is always greener on the other side, is presented with skill.

Watch for red herrings.

Enjoyed the initial read as an eBook, I like it even more on paper. Happy to recommend

Dyslexia My Life
Sam Sagmiller
Doubting Thomas Publishing Company
9780964308718, $8.95, Paperback, 1st edition, 132 pages

Sam Sagmiller's 'Dyslexia My Life: One Man's Story Of His Life With A Learning Disability' is a dandy resource for parents, teachers and others who work with students, children or others facing trying to learn to read despite having the Learning Disability Dyslexia as part of the mix.

Even though 10-20% of Americans may suffer from Dyslexia, the impediment to unlocking the mystery of letters, words, sentences and books is a continuing factor serving to segregate and bewilder those who labor to overcome it.

On the pages of his book 'Dyslexia My Life: One Man's Story Of His Life With A Learning Disability', Journalist Sagmiller shares his specific involvement with the learning debility generated by Dyslexia. This is a dissertation I would have been happy to use had it been produced some nearly forty years ago when I was embarking upon my own teaching career. We had little help available regarding the bright eyed, eager youngster in our classrooms who just struggled and became filled with despair as classmates somehow gained the key to unlocking the puzzle of letters and reading and they did not.

Comprised of five chapters 'Dyslexia My Life: One Man's Story Of His Life With A Learning Disability' is succinct, while it is not a dogmatic poor me recounting of difficulties experienced by the author.

A brief, general, definition of Dyslexia is provided in Chapter 1, as the writer recounts his commencement of schooling and the suffering caused to himself and his family by the incorrect identification of his 'mental retardation.'

In Chapter 2 Sagmiller commences classes in a new school and meets the first teacher to offer him a bit of hope that he is not stupid and is not the failure as he now views himself and is now viewed by his family. Sadly, he also lists behaviors of teachers who rapidly attempted dashing any hope he may have had.

Chapter 3 offers some of the highpoints and happy times Writer Sagmiller has had in his life journey. Meeting other adults who were also attending classes re learning disabilities was an eye opener for the writer.

Chapter 4 begins as the author receives his college degree and initiates life in the 'real' world. College for Sagmiller had been a time for learning many life lessons and gaining some book learning as well. Embarking on a search for a job as a computer programmer proved to be challenging as the author interviewed and was not hired. His first job even ended in disaster, however a new boss who himself had a child with Dyslexia proved to be a turning point.

Chapter 5 is a positive, optimistic, helpful culmination for the narrative.

The author has found his niche; computer consulting!

In my classroom I too often found myself struggling, with little success, to clarify for outwardly bright, hardworking Little Students who were also struggling with little success to disentangle the mystery of the written word.

At that time I was, also, facing the lifelong scuffle my own eldest son has borne in his particular encounter to overcome the quandary of being an enormously bright fellow who did, and must, strive for each word he reads. He too has Dyslexia, and, is also a computer geek.

In vibrant, understandable prose, Writer Sagmiller sets down concisely what those who suffer the problem face daily.

I have longed for years that those who suffer the disability would write a decisive work to offer teachers and parents with a tool for reaching those in our classrooms and/or homes who labor to learn to read despite this obstacle. Today I am most delighted to find Writer Sagmiller and others hard at work producing important books on the subject.

Today we appreciate that Dyslexia may affect not only reading, but as well time perception, speech, writing and reading, and may hinder learning in other academic areas as well.

Those overcoming Dyslexia can and do learn, they simply must strive harder than most of us, and they will learn in their own way. This nugget of understanding is something every teacher can now hold on to as we continue to teach those who seem very intelligent while having more problem than usual in learning what we are teaching.

Writer Sagmiller details how he was diagnosed as mentally retarded while in elementary school. This was a common mistake of the time. Some thirty plus years ago little or nothing was known of Dyslexia.

Two incidents stand out in my memory of the early years of our awakening awareness. One was the first day of school for son and myself at different schools, and he met me at the door with a solemn, 'I think I have it, Mom, if I write it backwards to me, it is right everyone else.' The second was a little lad in my first-grade classroom a few years before my son was old enough for school, the overjoyed little boy was burst with glee at the thought of learning to read. And he was devastated as were his parents and myself that he did not, nor could he write his name. I cannot tell you the thrill we experienced during his third grade term when he took a spray can and carefully scribed his name, backwards turned g and all. His mom and I alternated laughing, hugging and crying as we gazed in happiness at that success!

Even today so many, including those who teach and those who do not, too often misjudge Dyslexia and invalidate its importance by frequently calling it either instructors who don't care, or kids who are lazy, or both, as they contend Dyslexia is not a 'real' situation, or a 'real' diagnosis.

While I am not Dyslexic, my son and one sister - another school teacher - are and my niece are; I know well their individual struggle as each has learned to deal with their individual type of letters and words and making sense of them.

I found Writer Sagmiller's work to be a most thought-provoking glimpse into the world in which the Dyslexic dwells.

Sagmiller points out that the term Dyslexia is not a 'one size fits all,' designation, rather it denotes a varying situation regarding letters and words that is encountered by those who do experience the condition.

Sagmiller's writing style is highly readable, evoking laughter at times and tears at others as the reader comes to appreciate something of the feelings of witlessness and ignorance too often endured by those who struggle with the dilemma of Dyslexia.

'Dyslexia My Life: One Man's Story Of His Life With A Learning Disability' is a must read for teachers, parents and particularly those who may have faced that life long struggle with the condition.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Monster at the End of This Book
Jon Stone, author
Michael Smollin, illustrator
Random House Books for Young Readers
Published by Golden Books
9780375829130, $8.99, Hardcover

The Monster at the End of This Book, Author Jon Stone, the first head writer for Sesame Street, one of the show's principal directors and producers for more than 24 years created one of the most loved of children's picture books. Based on Muppet Grover, the blue, charming character featured prominently on Sesame street this book has been credited by more than one generation of Little People learning to allay fears and develop a love for printed words, being read to and learning to read alone.

Loveable, furry old Grover is distressed, upset and nearly hysterical: there is a monster at the end of this book.

The opening lines of the book finds Grover enquiring; 'What did that say? Did it say there will be a monster at the end of this book? It did? Oh, I am so scared of monsters!

Little people wish to turn to the last page to see the monster. Grover implores them not to do that. 'Don't turn the page.'

Grover is so fearful about the monster and doesn't want the reader to go any further into the book. Every page turned brings Grover closer to the monster, and 'I am so scared of monsters!' As pages are turned, Grover continues to beseech do not turn the pages.

Grover tries his best to make certain those pages cannot be turned; he ties them together, he nails them together, he gets band aids and tapes the page shut, he even builds a brick wall in front of the pages.

Nothing works, and that monster is getting closer.

And, finally, there it is. We can see the monster at the end of the book.

And it is Grover.

Loveable, furry old Grover is the monster at the end of the narrative!

Grover is all but overwhelmed--and kids of all ages are thrilled--to discover who is actually the monster at the end of the book!

' I, lovable, furry old Grover, am the monster at the end of this book.'

Oh how delightful that is for children.

On the other hand, poor Grover, 'oh I am so embarrassed.'

This appealing work was favorite of my oldest son, who is now in his forties, and I when he was a tot not quite two-years-old. And was very terrified at the thought of monsters.

I credit this book and the TV children's program, Sesame Street with getting us through a difficult time, helping my child begin to understand the beauty of books and how to deal with notions as yet unexplained, and with helping me maintain a firm grip on patience as we worked through the terror many children have regarding the unknown, and monsters.

This is a book I continued to read to my K 1 classes as a teacher long after my own sons were well past the need for reading it at home.

As I read I found Little Listeners at home and in the classroom will quickly be caught up in Grover's growing dread and expectation the first time or two the book is read aloud as he comes closer and closer to that 'monster' at the end of the book.

The worry children, my own at home and in the classroom expressed and exhibited was soon replaced with delight as the awareness that the monster IS just loveable Grover.

Classroom filled with bright eyed Kindergarten or First Graders were astounded to learn that my kid had been afraid of monsters! Which led to first one and then another to admit and then begin to discuss their own remembered 'little kid' fears, as they eyed the book with expectancy and settled into listening mode.

Grover's Herculean labors in getting those pages nailed down in his determination to keep the reader from continuing on; elicits peals of laughter today as was the case with my own children at home decades ago as we sat down for reading time.

Chuckling Little Listeners happily challenge Grover's repeated request 'Don't turn the page.' He continues to help cause the unknown and monsters in particular seem not so terrifying

Author Jon Stone penned the chronicle so that Grover is speaking directly to children as they sit safe and sheltered on Mom or Dad's lap to listen to the account. Cuddling close with parents, grandparents and other caregivers is an encouraged and encouraging method for reassuring Little Listeners while allowing lots of child responses during the reading and listening.

Michael Smollin illustrations are a delight, each action to prevent turning and the consequence for not preventing the page to be turned is present across a two page spread filled with lots of color and activity.

The central and only character of this narrative is, of course, old friend Grover from Sesame Street. Sesame Street was a favorite of my almost two-year-old and his younger brother, for many years during their pre-school and Primary school years. Grover, as were others of the Muppets, was and continue to be remembered as an unqualified, much loved, part of their lives.

Grover is just as humorous and livid as always was he helps make monsters seem not so scary. I find The Monster at the End of This Book will support children as they develop awareness and understanding that notwithstanding everything, all the fear, and worry we imagine; there are times, when there really isn't reason to be afraid.

Children today, as I found with my own sons and in my early days of teaching decades ago in California, often also dread the unfamiliar, and tend to enjoy listening to stories with great pleasure.

I continue to realize Little Listeners, listening to an account regarding a scary little creature who IS a little blue monster; is just the ticket for guiding little people as they talk about their fears and why the fears may not be well grounded.

Both of my children enjoyed this book very much when they were tots.

When I returned to teaching after a hiatus of ten years following the 26 spent in California K 1 classrooms I had pondered whether today's Little Listeners might be too 'grown up' first graders to enjoy the tale. I am happy they were not.

Happy to recommend. 4 thumbs up from two former little guys, and 150 give or take a few from the kids in Mrs. Martin's Osage County Kindergarten and First Grade classes, Osage County.

Available at Amazon kindle board book paperback hard cover Little Golden Book

I bought the book, a paperback measuring about 13 inches in length and maybe 7 inches across because my own child, at age almost two, feared monsters, even as he adored loved Grover; he was nearly as anxious as Grover during the first reading. Subsequent readings were filled with laughter and no worry.

I do not find that particular format as was my original book for home use offered today on Amazon or other sites; I do find the Golden Book 8 x 10 available, it is the one I used in the classroom.

Searching for the larger paperback I used at home led to me to many negative reviews regarding the board book, a small side hidden under a hand in the photo on the Amazon page. I have not seen it but take the word of parents who do not care for the size; it is too small.

Now and then I find The Golden Book edition on the shelf at jumble shops, and book stores and see it listed on various book sales sites on the internet.

I have yet to find the original rectangle version anywhere. I happily recommend The Golden Book edition for school and public libraries, Primary K-3 classrooms, home usage and gifting a birthday or other event.

The Blue Ribbon Day
Katie Couric
Marjorie Priceman, Illustrator
9780385501422, $15.95, Hardcover, 32 pages

Best friends Ellie McSnelly and Carrie O'Toole raced down the hall of Brookhaven School.

Tomorrow is a big day; it is the day to try out for Soccer.

Both girls are so excited they can hardly think.

On Monday Carrie was happy she had taken a chance and tried out; that is until she read the sign listing the girls who made the team. Carrie's name was not on the list.

Mom's words 'Everybody's a star, a brilliant creation, the trouble is finding the right constellation' do not bring Carrie much consolation. However by morning Carrie was again ready to go on with life.

The science fair is only a week away.

Carrie's lab partner Lazlo already has an idea and Carrie has one too. The twosome set about generating a great project. The question is, will it work, and can they enter it into the fair.

It worked, it worked!

And, Ellie was the first to come see what her friends had done.

Writer Couric and Illustrator Priceman have joined talents to create an exceptional means for guiding children who may not yet feel themselves to be in their right constellation.

A lesson we all must learn sooner or later is that no one of us shines at every and all things. Sometimes our friends do well at something while we do well at another.

The disappointment Carrie experiences as portrayed by writer Couric is undeniable and genuine. Learning to deal with disappointment is something we must all learn.

Couric develops a valuable approach for presenting to youngsters a practicable, achievable method for dealing with the ups and downs we all face in life.

Rather than Carrie lamenting her misfortune she sheds a few predictable tears while snuggled on Mom's lap; followed by dusting herself off and moving on with a project where she really does shine.

That is an admirable lesson for us all; the sooner we can learn to roll with the punches so to speak, the better prepared we become when faced with coming disappointments and future successes.

Ellie and Carrie remain friends as each excels at something she does well, and each continues to cheer one another and share joys and upsets.

As both a school teacher, and, a parent I like the fact that in the book 'Mom' offers compassionate understanding and empathetic encouragement. She does not go in a rage to the school to demand that Carrie be made part of the team.

Mom supports her saddened daughter's self-self-assurance, helps to restore her self-confidence; but does not meddle with reality of life. Mom allows Carrie the well-being she needs along with the reassurance needed to go on with another plan.

There is a dandy lesson to be garnered from this light-hearted caper dealing with the ups and downs of childhood.

We each have distinct talents, some we share with our friends, and some are inimitable to us. Sharing one another's endeavors helps make us each a more rounded person as we grow an understanding, appreciation and insight that it is the diverse talents that make life more exciting for us all.

Enhancing the self-esteem of our friends as presented through thoughtful empathetic behavior is a dandy example presented before uncertain and self-assured children alike on the pages of this appealing little book.

Artworks provided by Majorie Priceman are a dandy fit for the breezy text set down by writer Couric in this certain to please manuscript meant for readers in primary to middle grades.

Child friendly jargon may be a, a bit beyond reading level of younger children, even as it is well within the possibility of understanding for children from ages 4 - 10.

The Blue Ribbon Day is a volume I used with success in my own Kindergarten-First Grade classroom. The Blue Ribbon Day is a read to book for the younger set, a read with some help for strong Primary Readers and read alone for the third - fifth grade group.

Happy to recommend The Blue Ribbon Day as a first-rate addition for the home and school library, for pleasure reading, classroom unit work on self-esteem and for home schoolers seeking a fine, workable approach for guiding children toward self-acceptance of their own talent strong points and the lesser ones too, as well as, developing compassion for others.

Enjoyed the read. Happy to recommend.

From the Rill to the Ocean
Imre Kalanyos
Xlibris International
9781425735500, $30.99, Hardcover, 128 pages

Available Amazon Kindle Paperback Hardcover

Imre Kalanyos' memoir, opening with a lovely poem bearing the identical name as the book From the Rill to the Ocean is an attention-grabbing read.

In 1935 sixteen-year-old Maria and twenty-one-year-old Janos and their neighbors in the little village of Sivo, Hungary considered themselves Baesh because of their ethnic culture and somewhat darker skin than some, while others of the Hungarian larger population eyed them as Gypsies and deserving of discrimination.

The pair promised each other their best and were joined in partnership for life.

Kalaynos, born in 1941, cherished early memories of a community filled with hardworking people, and a childhood filled with love and care, brothers, a one room school and a positive self-awareness.

On April 27, 1941 Imre Kalanyos was born in a minuscule Hungarian village, Sivo. Sivo was so small the hamlet did not have a church thus there is no mention of it even on Imre's birth certificate.

Notwithstanding his indigenous, ethnic, cultural background, living as a minority and living with ongoing discrimination despite working hard to fit in, become educated and, be accepted as himself rather than being viewed as merely a Gypsy, dirty, not worthy, not respected; Imre grew up with a good understanding of the history of the country.

Twenty-seven years living his life as a minority shaped Imre's understanding of what it meant to be Gypsy.

Life led in the hamlet prior to Imre's birth was uncomplicated, simple and pretty uneventful until one April day when the bridge spanning the Drava River was bombed.

The incident did not pose a particular or immediate peril for the villagers then. The bridge was about four miles distant, and, while disturbing, the destruction was not threatening in and of itself.

World War II was underway in a part of the world the villagers of Sivo scarcely knew about.

The war became a reality for the inhabitants of the hamlet in June of that year when Janos along with others of the village was drafted to fight alongside the Germans against the Russians. Sivo suffered eventual removal, the village was devastated, and ultimately the family returned to a battered home in nearby Gordisa and was reunited.

Destitution and privation became the lot of the whole of Hungary as the country fell under the regime of Stalin, and in 1949 due to the village's proximity to the border militarized zone it was relocated. Imre attended school in Gordisa where he soon learned he was not Hungarian … he was Gypsy.

From the Rill to the Ocean traces the life of Imre Kalanyos whose parents Maria and Janos were hard working, long-suffering people. Twenty-seven years of life lived as a minority shaped Imre's understanding of what it means to be Gypsy. And at that time and place a Gypsy was always considered to be worth less than others.

From Maria; Kalanyos inherited a facility for perseverance, and a loving heart. From his father Janos; Imre learned diffidence and intellect.

The years following WWII were hard, filled with impoverishment and hardship. They were also filled with family, and contentment and joy despite the hard times.

Older brothers Janos and Jozef grew up, married, raised children and took their places in the local society. Imre went on to high school, served in the military and retained a quiet resolute view that simply being Gypsy did not mean subservient or tainted.

It was during his childhood that the government came up with the lofty notion to integrate the minorities into the larger society. It was an idealistic notion, however, implementing governmental standards are regularly not successful and old prejudices are frequently retained.

Kalanyos never accepted that his background, ethnicity or self was inferior.

His discontent with ongoing discrimination, oppression, Communist controlled Hungary, and constant danger grew; at age twenty-six Imre had reached a time of decision. He determined his life value had to be Live Free or Die.

His anxiety regarding being caught in an escape attempt emerged greater than his dread of imprisonment or death if caught during the effort. For Imre he would be leaving everything behind, including his family.

Setting out alone, on foot, taking little with him and telling no one to lessen the chance of capture in the attempt or retaliation against his family; he set out. He had set his sights and hopes upon a better life in the United States.

In June 1967, without incident, Kalanyos crossed the Hungarian-Yugoslavian border.

Crossing the Yugoslavian-Italian border was a bit thornier.

He had negotiated about half of an expanse of clear area when a siren resounded and Imre sank to the ground like a stone.

Springing to his feet he sprinted across the last of the cleared space and melted into the woods.

Later in a refugee camp at Trieste he discovered the siren always sounded at that time of the day to indicate the shift change at a adjacent factory.

He was in Italy.

Told in a relaxed reading style by a man who faced injustice and adversity for much of his life From the Rill to the Ocean will draw the reader into the narrative and touch the heart of readers who are captivated by the strength of character found in the human spirit.

The unfairness of the prejudice and discrimination Kalanyos withstood as a child together with the failure of the Communists to actually carry out the improvements promised when they gained power in Hungary served as motivation for Imre to seek a better life.

The tome is illuminated with family photos, copies of documents and nostalgic poems penned to explicate some of the yearning felt by Writer Kalanyos.

Included at the last of the volume is a short history of the Gypsies, as well as charts explaining a little of the relation of Indo-European Languages.

From the Rill to the Ocean is a convincing outline of one man's life, strength of character and optimism.

Imre Kalanyos arrived in American during the Christmas season 1968.

At the time the memoir was written he had earned a degree in Linguistics was living in North Carolina with his wife and dogs Jesse and Buddy and where he had retired after working nearly a quarter century as a Librarian Clerk in the Rare Books Collection of University Library in Wilson Library.

I was sent a Trade Paperback for Review. Writer Kalanyos has packed a whole lot of something to say on 120 pages. From the Rill to the Ocean is a must have for the school and public library collections, as tuck in gift basket for serious readers, as an addition for college and high school libraries and the personal reading shelf.

Imre Kalanyos' From the Rill to the Ocean is an attention-grabbing read …

Enjoyed the read and Highly Recommended for those who enjoy history, tales of determination and grit, and those who just plain like a compelling, well written, good book.

Walking Through the Jungle
Debbie Harter
Barefoot Books
9781841485485, $TBA, Paperback, 32 pages

Debbie Harter's - Walking Through The Jungle quickly became an Osage County First Grade beloved read.

Page after page of glowingly hued, lively jungle scenes, rhythmic, rhyme filled narrative all come together to generate a joyful, joy filled, playful read.

Text -Walking through the jungle, Walking through the jungle- is inscribed upon a jungle landscape packed with a lion, parrots and butterflies, as well as a myriad of dazzlingly hued sequence of blossoms, trees, butterflies, insects, and, a not so fearsome tiger almost hidden in the brush.

A pleased, beaming, bright eyed little girl, hand to her forehead is looking to see what she can see.

The following page of the two leaf spread asks - What do you see? What do you see?-

Osage County First Grade enjoys locating a rhinoceros beetle, toucans and monkeys swinging on vines or hiding behind trees, an elephant, and, what is that shadowy black and white vine.

A roar reverberates, away goes the little girl. It is a lion!, -chasing after me-

The narrative continues now with the little girl floating on the ocean, and the question - what do you see?- Illustrations occupied with numerous sea critters abounds, before abruptly, a killer whale looms! and text - chasing after me-

The scene moves on to a mountain climbing little girl. We see a scene filled with the critters to be expected on the hill side, with text - what do you see- turning the page we see the little girl flees again. A howling wolf has sent her rushing away.

Trekking in the desert, and a hissing snake; swimming in the river, and a snapping crocodile; slipping on an ice berg followed by a growling polar bear.

At last, the little girl is rushing home for supper where the little girl, her supper guests, and, a fun surprise awaits Little Readers.

Pulse, tempo and pulsing arrangement assure children speedily become adept at first understanding the text and joining in as I read aloud and then reading the text for themselves as the book is taken to DEAR reading offices for supplementary reading work or carrying home at school day's end to read to family and friends.

Each segment is offered as 4-page sequence of 2 page spreads. The four pages feature a particular habitat area of our earth completed with canto text and animal sounds and behaviors leading Little Readers on to the next section.

Osage County First Grade enjoys the varied rhythm, pace, lively colors, as well as, inspired creative settings, pictures and depiction.

I like the occasion Walking Through The Jungle provides with opportunities for discussion, sentence writing, and art work, as Osage County First Grade pore over a page before commencing to draw a particular critter; taking up pencil before sitting down to write a sentence or two narrative regarding one of the animals, colors or plants depicted; or just sitting and talking with their table mate as Little Learners toil together, chatting, learning, reading, and perhaps locating something not noticed on the page before and the like.

Child friendly, lively Text is uncomplicated, repetitive, overflowing with rhythm and verse, as we pursue the plucky explorer trekking from habitat to habitat, landscape to landscape, or, body of water to body of water.

Vibrant graphics bursting with dazzling, magnificent color; animals presently just enough dynamism to keep Little Readers on the edge of their seat so to say, as they bounce on the rug, eyes bright, murmuring along as I read or turn page upon page during DEAR reading and 'finished with my work' activity.

Delightful as a read to book to Little Learners, often chosen by Little Learners to read for themselves, Debbie Harter's - Walking Through The Jungle is a nice addition to the classroom library shelf. Happy to recommend for gifting a special child, for the public and school library and for adding to a birthday or other special day gift basket.

Available as audible, paperback, library binding.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Suanne's Bookshelf

Another Side of Paradise
Sally Koslow
9780062696762, $26.99

I started this book and decided I really wasn't interested in reading a story about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood at that particular moment, preferring something lighter and fluffier. But I decided to read a few pages, and the next thing I knew I'd finished the book.

Graham led an extraordinary life, rising being abandoned at a Jewish orphanage and forging a new existence as a successful gossip columnist in Hollywood. She felt she and Fitzgerald were soulmates, but their relationship was tested constantly by his alcoholism and his anti-Semitism.

Author Sally Koslow's fictional version of the romance between gossip columnist Sheilah Graham and Fitzgerald reads like a memoir but moves with the speed of a page-turner. The voice she gives Sheilah is nuanced and touching; the prose itself is richly detailed and evokes the glamour. What is unexpected is Koslow's portrayal of the dark underbelly of Hollywood with its anti-Semitism.

Golden Child
Claire Adam
SJP for Hogarth
9780525572992, $26.00

I chose to read Golden Child because, as an inveterate traveler, I enjoy being transported to different places. This book is set in Trinidad in the 1980s, so it seemed a perfect match for my interests. That said, I had a hard time settling into the book and feeling much empathy for the characters. Adam does a good job setting the scene: a small rural community in which, one would expect people to be close-knit and willing to help each other. Instead, corruption and crime are rampant, and even one's neighbors are suspect. Clyde, the main character, is poorly educated but has hopes for one of his twins. Peter is extraordinarily bright while Paul has some congenital mental defects.

Adam's writing is beautiful-evocative and rich, but also very matter-of-fact. Even when some horrific things happen to this family, there doesn't seem to be much of an emotional response even when the family is betrayed by other family members. The last part of the book occurs very quickly, and when I read the last page, I didn't feel the book was over. All in all I had mixed feelings about Golden Child.

In the City by the Lake
Taylor Saracen
13 Red Media Ltd.
9781732322592, $12.99

In the City by the Lake, Viktor, a half-Jewish Russian emigre, lives a life of quiet desperation as a low-grade mobster in Chicago from 1929 to 1938. Raised in an all-male family (his mother died birthing him), his Weltanschauung is skewed. He's a tortured character knowing he is a gay male in a family of manly men. He lives in the closet, misanthropic and misogynic, certain of the reception his family would have if they learned of his inclinations. He always feels that he is merely realistic - rather than fatalistic - and that if he ever found someone to love, he wouldn't deserve it anyway.

Chicago provides a bleak backdrop that echoes Vik's personality. During Prohibition, he is financially doing okay, at least able to set some money aside, as he arranges deliveries of alcohol to Towertown, the gay section of the city. Here he meets Cal. Effervescent Cal, is so much Vik's opposite that he feels the man is unattainable. When these two finally allow themselves to love each other...

Saracen's world-building is superlative; her story is overlaid over the last of the Roaring Twenties, prohibition, the Stock Market crash, the rise of Nazism in Europe. As the United States recovers from the Great Depression, newspapers circulate story after story blaming homosexuals (the Pansy Craze) for the downward spiral of the economy. Parts of this book are difficult to read because of man's inhumanity to his queer fellow men.

In the City by the Lake is a gorgeous character study of a man coming to terms with himself and a romance that is poignant enough to bring me to tears. There are no overt sex acts here, but the sensuality is over-the-top, the emotionality is genuine. Their dialogue is appropriate, their voices laced with slang of the time. Vik's voice constantly tries fathom his own struggles while dealing with broader societal issues.

The Chef's Secret
Crystal King
Atria Books
9781501196430, $28.00

I chose to read this book because I've lived extensively in Italy, I've read Crystal King's The Feast of Sorrow and enjoyed her approach to food. The Chef's Secret did not let me down. The descriptions of food were enough to make me salivate remembering the pasta and other delights I ate there.

Written in dual points of view alternating between Bartolomeo Scappi, the private chef to multiple popes, and his protege/nephew Giovanni. Scappi was a famous chef and wrote on of the best-selling cookbooks of all times. Much of the book is divulged as Giovanni reads his uncle's diaries. Giovanni must first solve the riddle of the coded sections then piece together his uncle's life and the name of Scappi's one true love.

The book seemed well-researched, the Italian accurate as well as the descriptions of Rome and Venice. In the 16th century, if you've seen the TV programs about the Medici, the Sforzas, and the Borgias, apparently poisonings, swordplay, treachery, and infidelity were rampant. This book combines all that - part romance, part mystery, part intrigue - and delightful, sensual descriptions of food. It is a quick, fun read.

The Psychology of Time Travel
Kate Mascarenhas
Crooked Lane Books
9781683319443, $26.99

I chose this book because I was intrigued by the title. This is a genre-breaking book combining time travel, science fiction, a "locked room" mystery, with touches of romance. I am sure there are techies out there who will denigrate the time-travel aspect, but I was able to suspend disbelief long enough to get through - and enjoy - the novel.

There are a lot of characters who, as they time travel, meet their future selves (called "silver selves" because of their gray hair) and their past selves ("green selves" because of their youth). With four main characters and multiples of their green and silver selves zipping in and out of time, often it's like looking into the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Many of these characters had very little development. Perhaps stream-lining the character list might allow for expansion of character development and increase the emotionality.

There is a bit of a mystery with a woman killed in a locked room. It's not the highlight of the book, but rather a bit of a subplot that adds interest especially since it can only be solved by time traveling back to just before the woman is murdered.

The main appeal of The Psychology of Time Travel is that it describes four female (yes, women! and culturally diverse and sexually diverse to boot) scientists who create the first time machine back in 1967. The book focuses on these four pioneers and their multiple selves to look at how time travel affects them psychologically and physiologically. This books looks at multiple currently relevant issues through the lens of the lives of its characters: sexuality, death, bipolar disorder, bullying, hazing, racism, and infidelity.

Mascarenhas's writing style is quite matter of fact but is enriched by neologisms she lists in an appendix to the book. The multi-layered, creative plot requires some concentration to follow, but overall the book is worth the effort, especially as it is loaded with female characters who are competent, capable, and sexual.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

In God We Trust: Morally Responsible Investing
George P. Schwartz
TAN Books
c/o Saint Benedict Press
PO Box 410487, Charlotte, NC 28241
9781505113464, $29.44, 276 Pages

How to combine investing wisely with your moral responsibilities and beliefs.

What a refreshing book, I thoroughly applaud the ethics behind the Ave Maria Funds and its policy to offer investors the opportunity to invest in a manner consistent with their faith. Sounds too good to be true? Well read on, and discover how the Ave Maria Funds came to be and the values of the people who set up and manage them.

As indicated in the Forward by Lou Holtz, this is the sequel to 'Good Returns, which he contributed to. In this new book, 'In God We Trust the reader discovers the ever increasing more morally conscientious investors. In 2001 Gorge Schwartz the CEO of the Schwartz Investment Council Inc. was approached by Tom Monaghan the founder of Domino's pizza and the late Bowie Kuhn Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Dedicated Catholics, they wanted to launch a series of investment vehicles - the Ave Maria Mutual Funds, which enabled investors to invest in a manner consistent with their faith. The funds would provide Morally Responsible Investing, identifying with companies which do not participate in, contribute to, or support abortion or pornography.

There are now five different mutual funds, all pro-life, pro-family, and dedicated to investing in companies which don't violate the core principals of the Catholic Church.

These mutual funds each have a different objective, they are:

Ave Maria Value Fund
Ave Maria Growth Fund
Ave Maria Bond Fund
Ave Maria Rising Dividend Fund
Ave Maria World Equity Fund

What I loved about this book is that in it George Schwartz gives his reader a real insight into his life, upbringing, and the values he has been taught, and has lived by, in the Catholic faith. It is these things which has made him the man he is today, and the help of his wife Judi of course. It is also these strong moral principles which form the basis of the Ave Maria Funds.

However, right from the very first page this book's subject is paramount. This is investing and principally about how to invest morally and responsibly. The authors offer a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field accumulated through many years. Throughout, sound, practical advice is freely given. In a world where greed is rife and everyone is keen to make a fast buck, wouldn't you rather invest in a fund with strong, good moral principles?

This book's values touched me personally, although I am not a catholic, and I found it extremely thought-provoking and interesting.

Available from Amazon:

The Exigent Earth: Recently Placed On The Endangered Species List: Humans
Beverly Knauer and Murray Rosenthal
Wise Words Press
9780997730357, $13.22 pbk / $0.99 Kindle, 296 Pages

A fascinating and thought provoking passionately written science-fiction story.

This outstanding book sends out a powerful and very strong message to its readers. Woven into a fascinating science-fiction plot is the fact that we are stewards of the world, its fate, and ultimately our own is in the hands of everyone. Mother earth is a strong spirit with incredible ways of protecting herself. Everyone is accountable, and can make a difference. As it says in the book "People must understand that it isn't up to someone else to save them. Their power is within and always has been."

The story opens with Virginia Sutter a multilingual geologist and writer deciding to attend a conference in Zurich by Nickolai Sparsinsky a reclusive Russian scientist. Neither Virginia, nor Nickolai could have imagined that the decision would change both their lives forever!

It's love at first sight, and it isn't long before Nicholai manages to escape Russia and relocate to America. It is in Montana that they meet a young 14 year old Indian girl called Olivia, who even so young possesses special healing powers. An instant friendship develops and Virginia invites Olivia to live with them on their ranch in the Pryor Mountains.

There Nickolai builds a laboratory set into the mountains. He is passionate about his research and the icing on the cake comes the day when Nickolai reveals proudly to his wife that there is in fact another secret lab. Taking her there he explains the full potential of his achievement in successfully turning on higher energy states at the cellular level. Although elated, both are very aware that his breakthrough can help mankind, but it also worryingly has the potential to be weaponised in the wrong hands.

Nickolai's tragic death soon after his revelation sends government officials flocking to the ranch desperate to discover what the talented scientist has been working on, but the secret lab isn't discovered. Unaware, the officials after ransacking the lab leave with plenty of paper, but the secret it safe.

Soon after, Virginia enters the secret lab alone and something happens. Then, it isn't long before Virginia discovers that Nickolai will always be with her both in her dreams and also in the form of the baby growing inside her.

As soon as he is born Olivia calls him her 'Child of Light.' Zac is no ordinary baby, and afraid that his abilities will be noticed, the women do their best to protect him. However, not even Olivia can shield him from the cruel events of life, and it is a sad orphaned boy who finds himself travelling with Olivia to Vermont, to live with his uncle Brian.

As this amazing story progresses the bond between Brian, Olivia, and Zac grows. With Olivia's spiritual guidance, and Brian's enthusiasm and dedication Zac grows into an intelligent young man. Then, a meeting with his father's oldest friend, opens doors for Zac into his father's world. Finally understanding his research, an incredulous Zac, through it, and his mother's guidance in visions, finally realises his role in life.

As natural disasters leave the planet desecrated and the death tolls rise, the government wants him discredited but the people love him. What will destiny hold for Zac, Olivia's Child of Light, and the planet we all take for granted?

Murray Rosenthal one of the authors is a world-renowned, board-certified psychiatrist, researcher, and lecturer who thrives on adventure, and lives with his wife on Lake Tahoe. Whilst his multi-award-winning co-author Beverly Knauer is a retired chief of rehabilitation services, who now enjoys writing stimulating novels. Her two previous works are the visionary 'The Line Between' and 'The Soul's Hope.

This is an exciting story, passionately written. With space travel, biological weapons and incredibly thought-provoking content it really does makes compulsive reading - Highly recommended!

Available from Amazon:

The Amazon Rainforest Adventure: Inform children about how important our Rainforest is
The Rescue Elves Book 2
Monty J. McClaine
Independently Published
9781795702591, $11.99, 31 Pages

As a family we are very conscious of the world around us, the environment, recycling, and animal welfare. Awareness is so much easier to teach when children are young, and so when after reading The Plastic Pollution Adventure (Picture Book) (The Rescue Elves Book 1) I discovered that there was a second book in the series The Amazon Rainforest Adventure I just had to get it to read to my little granddaughter. This was not just because it has magical elves in it, but also because the deforestation of the Amazon rainforests has such an incredible impact on our planet and its ecosystems.

For those who don't know, The Rescue Elves, or relves, are the special elves who look after Santa's sleigh. It is their job to ensure that if there are any problems with it, they know what to do, and if necessary can rescue Santa, and save the day. However to do this they must stay in tip top condition throughout the year, and be ready to deal with any situation in any place on the earth. Therefore Mrs. Claus sends them on special missions to test their skills, and ensure they can deal with any situation, and these missions are the topics for this series of children's books.

Holly, Charlie, Jack and Sparkle, are the names of the elves, and they are so excited, they love exploring and visiting beautiful places. In this adventure Mrs Claus has sent them to the beautiful Amazon Rainforest.

Before they go, the elves already know how important the rainforest is to the health of our planet and all the creatures who live on it, and why it is called the "lungs of the earth." They also know how wet it is, the clue, well it is a 'Rainforest,' and so they are suitably dressed. However, when they arrive they are dismayed not to hear the animal and bird sounds they are expecting, but screaming!

Who could be screaming, and why? Well, the reason is revealed when they come across a very unhappy Monkey King who has his foot trapped. When the relves discover what it is under, and how it happened, they set about helping the monkeys to free him. However, when they find out from the monkeys how much of the beautiful forest has been cut down by humans, and the damage it causes, they are very sad. At the back of the book there is a list of a variety of websites which can provide more information.

I thoroughly recommend this compelling story which is beautifully illustrated. It is a wonderful instrument to open up discussions with children about the importance of trees, why they are cut down, and what they are used for. The author very cleverly bringing environmental awareness gently to their attention at an age when they are very receptive to ideas and good habits are easily formed.

Available from Amazon:

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

What Remains of Her
Eric Rickstad
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062843319, $14.99, 404 pages, Trade Paperback

When a mother and her daughter disappear, who is the likely suspect? Naturally, most law enforcement would accuse the husband. There is a catch, the husband is a professor of poetry at a local college and seems to sincerely miss both every second of every day. No clues, no evidence, the two seemed to have disappeared from the planet.

Jonah Blum sees his world ripped from him when his beautiful wife, Rebecca and his daughter, Sally vanish. A family of three become a lonesome one. The community along with the media, immediately throw guilty verdicts at Jonah, but there is no evidence, just circumstances.

Jonah's long-time friends, Maurice immediately enlisted the help of his deputies in the search. Also, questioned was Sally's best friend, Lucinda, who also happens to be Maurice's daughter.

Jonah leaves his home and lives as a hermit. For a quarter of a century, life for him is simply survival in a cabin in the nearby woods.

A foster child is missing, Lucinda is now a deputy herself, Maurice is retired, reclusive Jonah all return to his former home and life in discovering what happened to Rebecca and Sally.

The characterization is outstanding in What Remains of Her. Each person is revealed as single layers are removed from an onion, every one slowly unpealing to show their true self, but many layers exist in each of us to hide who we really are. The setting of a small, remote Vermont village can be visualized through the pages. The time is the present but could easily fit into the last fifty years.

The story is written as the third person but the reader feels that it is almost first person, sitting with Jonah on his shoulder with a darkness constantly surrounding the town.

Eric Rickstad resides in Vermont. He is a New York Times bestselling author of the books: Reap, The Silent Girls. Lie in Wait, and The Names of Dead Girls.

What Remains of Her in an an enthralling mystery for all adult readers. I look forward to more novels by this thrillingly dark author of a marvelous piece of literature.

The Wild Robot
Peter Brown
Little, Brown Children's Books
9780316381994, $16.99, Hardback, 282 Pages

The Wild Robot Escapes
Peter Brown
Little, Brown Children's Books
9780316382045, $16.99, Hardback, 280 pages

Technology makes life easier in today's society all over the world. Full-sized robots are capable of completing a multitude of tasks for humans. One particular technological company is sending hundreds of their robots, each packed in their own individual crate across to the ocean to their begin their new productive lives.

However, the ship encounters a hurricane sinking the ship to the bottom of the ocean. Only five crates containing robots did not sink. Quickly, one crashed into the rocks, shattering the robot inside, leaving only four. Three more robots quickly hit the rocks, breaking into pieces. Leaving just one, who somehow missed the rocks, cracked the crate, but left the last robot unscathed.

A group of sea otters played with the broken crate accidentally turning on a button on the back of the head. Breaking out of the crate, the robot became stronger every second it spent in the sunlight. How can a robot survive on an island that seems to be without humans? Can robots exist completely on their own without mankind guiding them?

Fortunately for readers, Roz finds herself alone with the native animals on this island? Can a robot develop feelings?

The Wild Robot, the first book reveals themes of loneliness and the value of friends. The unique abilities of each individual, even though not human, demonstrates that friendship can exist even without commonalities.

For Roz, she discovers her own individualism while learning to make friends and to value these friendships.

What does it feel like to be alone? What if you were a robot who discovers she has feelings? What if you are fulfilling your dreams, but not those you were intended to fulfill.

With The Wild Robot Escapes, the story continues a few years after the first book concludes. In this book, Roz finds she needs, but also feels an emptiness while missing her adopted son, Brightbill. Amazingly, this longing can occur even in a robot.

Both of these novels are aimed at young adult readers, but adults would also enjoy the adventures and even the emotions of Roz.

Peter Brown is the author and illustrator of these two books and many authors. His illustrations add to the story by reinforcing the images for the readers. He has won a Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots, and his other books My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.), Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Children Make Terrible Pets, and The Curious Garden. This is a writer who truly enjoys his characters.

For a feel good book for middle school students, teens, and adults, read The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes.

Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Sarah Miller
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062685346, $25.99, 372 pages, Hard Cover

Many of us have either read, heard, or watched Little House on the Prairie. These stories are told from Laura's perspective. Did her mother, Caroline see things the same way? For author, Sarah Miller, her hours of research recreates the Little House experience, but from Caroline, not Laura.

Imagine moving in a horse-drawn covered wagon, likely carrying the equivalent of your entire household in a large car or van, along with two young girls, ages four and five, and being pregnant. Also, you probably can only move about fifteen miles a day. Any takers?

Their adventure begins in the Big Woods of Wisconsin during February of 1870 with her husband, Charles eager to sell his land and move his family to the Kansas Indian Territory. The reason for leaving in February is the hope that most of winter is over and opportunity for owning a large amount of land, even if far from their family and friends. The hope is that the sooner they arrive in Kansas territory, the sooner they can build a house, establish themselves in this unknown land and possibly even plant before the following winter.

Unfortunately, the family had no idea about the trials ahead on this journey. It seems that Caroline's motivation is her love of Charles and her protection of her two daughters, Mary and Laura.

For Charles, his dreams are his motivation for his young family pursuing the prospect of completely owning his own land.

Will the family be able to live successfully here? Have they really planned for every possible challenge?

Included on both the inside covers at the beginning and end of the book is a map of the journey from Wisconsin to the unsettled Indian territory in the southeastern part of Kansas.

The author, Sarah Miller resides in Michigan. She is also has also written two historical fiction novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller and The Lost Crown as well as the nonfiction book, The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century.

This novel inspires readers with Caroline's devotion to her husband, her daughters, and her unborn child. The events from the sorrow of leaving her family, to constantly believing in her husband and his loyalty as well as the devotion is daunting compared to today's society. With loneliness and somehow still being hopeful in almost every situation almost seemed unrealistic in today's society.

Caroline excels in being a true picture of the people and the times of those first settlers.

Christina Dalcher
9780440000785, $26.00 hc / $12.99 Kindle, 326 pages, Hardback

The status of women in the United States has changed tremendously in the last one-hundred years with numerous examples of their proper relationship with men varying as much as each individual female.

The current President of the United States and his trusted Christian advisor changing women's rights. All women are to be cared for my the head male of their family. For those married, that means their husbands. For unmarried women, the means their closest male relative.

In order to preserve the households of doting women, each female wears a bracelet limiting her speech to one-hundred words a day. Any word beyond that will cause the bracelet to shock the wearer with increasing strength as each word is said. Could you live with only speaking one-hundred words a day?

Young girls are taught in their own school. Naturally, they don't need the level of education of their male counterparts. Girls learn additional home economics needed in their duties of being future wives and mothers.

Jean is a wife and mother of four children, three teenaged sons and one younger daughter. Every day the wife is expected to cook and clean. Women are not allowed to read books or to use a computer. Those are only for men.

For Jean, this situation is extremely difficult. She had earned a PhD and was near a major breakthrough with stroke patients who had difficulty with language. Working with a team who was discovering a treatment possibility that seemed to have positive and consistent results was a realistic expectation for her team. She was forced to become. The perfect ideal 1950s housewife using only 100 words a day preparing meals for her family, being a good wife, a good mother to three nearly grown sons who could command her, and to her young daughter while only using one-hundred words a day.

Then the President's brother has an accident. How will helping him change her life? What is the real purpose of allowing her to return to her work? What happens afterwards?

Vox is a disturbing tale similar to Margaret Atwood's dystopian story, A Handmaid's Tale. It makes the reader uncomfortable and reflective about whether or not the story could actually happen. The mixed reviews seem to reflect each person's biases of the probability.

Vox is the debut novel for Christina Dalsher. She has earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University specializing in phonetic sound changes with Italian and British dialects. She resides in Norfolk, Virginia. For her awards, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Bath Flash Award.

Vox is a thoughtfully disturbing tale that every man and woman should read.

Thread the Halls
Lea Wait
Kensington Publishing Corp.
9781496706300, $7.99, Paperback, 310 pages

Angie Curtis is looking forward to her first, of what she hopes is many, quiet Christmas holidays with Patrick West. Patrick is also looking forward to his first holiday spent with Angie. Both are anxious to see how their relationship grows during this holiday season.

Unfortunately, his mother has other ideas.

Skye West is both a movie star and Patrick's mother. She is planning on taking a break from her current movie, along with some co-stars, writers, and the director at her Victorian mansion in this small Maine town. Of course, a well-known and loved celebrity who rarely visits her home mansion, can come home for Christmas bringing along a few friends, or acquaintances, and it won't affect the town people at all. Why would it?

Skye wants everything perfect. The mansion needs to be decorated for Christmas like a picture perfect Currier and Ives postcard, complete with a horse-drawn sleigh, needlepoint pillows, high-class meals available at all hours, and of course, carolers. Not to mention that to attend these events would require the proper outfits for Angie.

Patrick is at a slight disadvantage in decorating since his hands were injured in a fire. He is still recuperating and wonders if he will ever return to his life as a painter. For now, he seems content managing the local art gallery.

Relaxing quickly turns into a hectic race to get ready and to keep the secret from the media.

Lea Wait writes delightful cozy mysteries and phenomenal historical fiction for young adults regarding her home state, Maine. Her needlepoint and antique print mysteries are fun to read. Her historical fiction is outstanding, placing the reader immediately inside and feeling part of the story.

Her stories in this her needlepoint and antique print books carry the main characters from the first book forward. Even though the books are part of a series, these can easily be read as standalone mysteries. Obviously, there is more enjoyment if you follow the characters from the first book.

Lea Wait beautifully sets her readers with the taste, recipe included, smells, climate immersing you into her state of Maine.

The plot is clever and keeps the reader guessing as you turn each page.

Lea Wait's books are great mysteries to warm up during these chilly winter nights.

The Otter of Death: A Gunn Zoo Mystery
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464209925, $15.95, 265 pages, Trade Paperback

Theodora "Teddy" Bentley loves her work as a Zookeeper. It always provides variety even with boring tasks. While completing the annual "otter count" at Gunn Landing Harbor in California, Teddy discovers her favorite otter, Maureen is holding a smartphone. You think of the possible fun in getting a phone away from an otter.

When Teddy actual examines the phone, she finds that the camera had been in use recently capturing a crime in action, a murder.

The phone belongs to Dr. Stuart Booth, part of the otter census crew and a marine biology instructor. Stuart in not known for his good behavior, but has a tendency to sexually harass his female students who idolize him, at least for a while.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Teddy's fiance is Sheriff Joe Rejas. He is handsome, hunky and doesn't like Teddy nosing into his business.

So what is Teddy to do when her friend, Lila, an accuser of Booth's conduct, is arrested for his murder?

Being Teddy, she follows her own ambitions and delves into the investigation if only to prove her friend innocent.

Teddy also reveals another side of her life, partying with the upper crust of the ultra-rich. These events she does not usually attend by her choice, her mother tends to be involved a little too much.

The Otter of Death is Webb's fifth novel in his Gunn Zoo series. Yes, for those not acquainted with the series look for a puffin, an anteater, koala, and llama. Each one involves many of the fictional zoo animals who tend to have many human characteristics.

Betty Webb was a journalist and has interviewed U.S. Presidents and Nobel Prize winners.

Webb has also written another well-known mystery series featuring Lena Jones. These books delve into the life of polygamy with Desert Noir, Desert Wives, Desert Shadows, Desert Run, Desert Lost, Desert Cut, Desert Wind, Desert Rage, and Desert Vengeance. All of these are well-written mysteries included with the actual events of many of these unfortunate women.

I thoroughly enjoy all her books since there is always a piece of each one of us in her characters. Her settings, plots, and characters are realistic and visual to her readers.

A Casualty of War: A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062678782, $26.99 hc / $9.99 Kindle, 378 pages

There are certain authors that you just can't wait to read their next books. Charles Todd is one of those that many people who enjoy authentic historical fiction feel anxious in waiting for the next book. Personally, I feel that Todd truly seizes your mind immersing you in the World War I battlefield with the nurse, Bess Crawford. There is no male or female preference, just dumping you onto the war torn areas so much that you can smell it.

World War I, was coming to an end and for nurse Bess Crawford returning home is now within her future. While waiting for the transport, she chats with others and happens to meet a memorable soul, Captain Alan Travis, He is a wealthy Englishman from a prestigious family who have made money in Barbados.

Surprisingly, while is still working near the Frontlines, Bess finds again that one her patients as Captain Travis. While he is injured this time, he claims that his cousin, James Travis attempted to kill him. She agrees to investigate only to find nothing about this Lieutenant Travis. She does wonder if his possible concussion confused him and whether the Lieutenant even exists.

A while later, Bess meets Captain Travis for the third time. He again claims that his cousin attempted to kill him. He is badly wounded this time. Whether Bess believes it or not, someone did shoot at him.

Unfortunately, as nurses know, there are numerous patients with extreme demands that constantly require her attention.

Bess is given leave to an English hospital specializing in brain injuries. This time Captain Travis is suicidal causing him to be strapped to his bed.

Bess and her trusted friend, Sergeant Major Simon Brandon arrange to investigate the Captain's claims. The two travel to Suffolk to investigate the relationship between the twins only to discover a larger threat than they ever anticipated.

Charles Todd is actually a mother/son collaborative team living on the East Coast of the U.S. They are known for their Inspector Rutledge as well as their Bess Crawford books. Also, they have co-written two stand alone novels.

The characters are believable, likable or not, and authentic is the descriptions of their lives. The experiences on the French battlefield hospitals is outstanding. Usually, the plots are first rate. This is the first Charles Todd novel that was predictable, which is not enjoyable in a historical mystery. That said, these World War I books are outstanding in terms of setting and events.

Teri Davis

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

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