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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 3 March 2021 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf Annette Meeuwse's Bookshelf
Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Elan Kluger's Bookshelf Gini Grossenbacher's Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf
Jack Mason's Bookshelf Jaime Cone's Bookshelf Jessica de Koninck's Bookshelf
John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf Marisa Di Vitto's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf    

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf

N. Semenov: Soviet Science Legend
Michael Zhilaev
Independently Published
9780578695563, $4.99 Kindle, $13.99 Paperback, 64 pages

History Comes Alive!

This is a very thoughtful work of historical drama! The prose reveals a unique perspective of Nikolay Semenov while also paying respects to the enduring legacy of his impact upon history. This book could also appeal to anyone yearning to learn more about what it means to be a person given the universal quality of the narrative. In fact, this is no ordinary book or history textbook because it is a written example of how people could cope with hope, but only if they choose to do so, of course. Thank you!

First Generation Father
Anthony Blankenship
Everything Connects Media
9781544516028, $9.99 Kindle, $18.99 Paperback, 248 pages

Parenting Advice

This book involves much more than just parenting. In fact, it deals with happiness in profound ways. Through compelling prose, the author utilizes the harshness associated with pain to suggest that it is still possible to raise well-rounded children even though it might be hard to do that. Furthermore, the book reveals how parents could still help their children while also maintaining happiness for the entire family. Finally, this book is perfect for anyone interested in having his or her own children one day.

Alex Andy Phuong

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

A Crooked Tree
Una Mannion
Faber and Faber (UK)
HarperCollins (US)
9780571357963, A$27.99, 323 pages

'Out. Get out.' My mom said it with her voice low, which let us know she meant it. Ellen reached across Thomas, opened the back door and started to climb out.

'You can't leave her here,' Marie said. 'It's getting dark. I'm going with her.' She started to gather her school bag from the floor of the front.

'You'll do no such thing.'

'Wait', said Thomas. He looked stricken, blaming himself for the teasing. Ellen was standing on the gravel verge in her school pinafore, tennis shirt and knee socks. Marie was opening her door when my mother threw the car into gear and accelerated forward.

This is a dramatic beginning, and when Ellen seems to have disappeared a train of events is set in motion which involve the whole family in unexpected dangers.

Libby, who tells this story, is 15, and she describes the events which lead up to her sister's ejection from the family car with typical sisterly irritation. Thomas (17) and Ellen (12) have been bickering in the car as their mother drives all five children home from school on the last day of term. Ellen is upset because her mother will not consider allowing her to attend an art summer camp during the holidays. Her mother thinks it 'promotional blackmail, sending home brochures in school bags', and this infuriates her. Ellen's art work, however, is exceptional, and later Libby finds a note in Ellen's art folder: 'A beautiful and expressionistic portfolio', Ellen's art teacher had written, and she had included a special reference to help Ellen with an application for the Art Academy's summer camp.

We get to know Libby, her family and her friends well as she tells this story, and she is an interesting story-teller. Her love of the countryside, her awareness of the natural world around her, and especially her passion for trees, is as much part of her character as her love and concern for her brother and sisters. Her teenage half-awareness of the difficulties between her parents, is evident, as is her love of her father, who had moved away from the family and who had died just a year before this story begins. 'I don't know if I spent so much time with trees because I loved them or because of how much he loved me loving them.' Libby notes, and she remembers how, when she was 'about six', he had sat her on the washing machine to scrub her feet and told her

There's copperheads in those woods Libby - you have to wear sneakers. You can't keep going around barefoot'

Jagged scabs scored my shins from climbing trees and crawling under laurel and rhododendron thickets.

He took my hand and pulled my fingers across the ridge of a particularly bumpy scab.

'See that? You're already turning into a tree. Your legs are becoming bark'.

Libby's oldest sister, Marie (18), in spite of having 'Hair on one side dyed black and spiked out like Siouxie Sioux's', and wearing Goth clothes, is the sensible one of the family, and the one all the others turn to whenever there are problems, rather than to their mother who always seems to be shut in her bedroom and cross. When Ellen turns up, dirty, blood-smeared and distressed at the house where Libby is babysitting, and is scared to go home because she thinks her mother will be angry with her, it is Marie who arranges for her own friend, Wilson, to pick her up in his father's car; Marie who thinks of the need for 'antibiotics and Valium'; and Marie who helps to smuggle her into back into their own house.

Libby dislikes Wilson intensely and can't understand why Marie would want him as a friend. And it is Wilson, and his reaction when he finds out what happened to Ellen, who causes all the subsequent problems and puts the family in real danger.

Una Mannion keeps uncertainty and tension high throughout the book but she also manages to make Libby a very believable and likeable teenager. Libby's life is an essential part of her story and we come to know about her friendship with Sage, whose family are far better off than her own; her concern for Thomas, who has become withdrawn since their father died; her feelings when Marie moves out to live and work independently; and her difficult relationship with her mother whose 'secret' boyfriend is probably the father of her youngest sibling but is never seen by the other children. There are teenage parties in the hills, with kegs and pot; illicit night-time pool-bombing parties at the Mountain Swim Club; there is Jack, who may or may not like her; and there is the secret 'Kingdom', a fort, which she and Sage have created, marked by a crooked tree which they imagined 'was one the Indians had used as signposts along trails to signal where there was good hunting or soft ground for shelter'.

The Kingdom was an enclosure about four feet above the trail and set back in a natural ring formed by a stand of red oak and thick mountain laurel. Inside, deep green moss provided a natural carpet. Sage and I had dug a deep trench to bury a large suitcase filled with supplies: flashlights, batteries, canned food, sleeping bags and pillows - our own nuclear bunker.

The Kingdom comes to play an important part in the story later, when Ellen is kidnapped from the Sun Bowl Fourth of July Firework night. And when Libby borrows the Marksman air gun which Marie had kept hidden in her closet, and creeps up as Wilson and Thomas fight with an armed giant of a man, the tension is almost unbearable.

Una Mannion has won several awards for her writing but this is her first novel. It is set in rural Philadelphia, where she was born (she now lives in Ireland), and partly it reflects her childhood memories of woods and trails. Mostly, however, it is a gripping and beautifully imagined tale which captures Libby's relationship with her siblings and the way they co-operate in the dangerous situations which follow Ellen's traumatic experience after being ordered out of the car.

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

Annette Meeuwse's Bookshelf

Book Marketing Demystified: Self-Publishing Success
Bruce Batchelor
Agio Publishing
9781897435007, $14.99, PB, $4.99 Kindle, 180pp

I appreciate this book because it is a very practical 'how to' guide. Bruce Batchelor is not just someone guessing at the theory of self-publishing... first, he had a positive experience with self-publishing two bestselling books in the 1970s... which led him to invent the Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing process (more about this in a second...), while simultaneously operating a communications consultancy.

He was the founding publisher and CEO at Trafford Publishing, which "grew to become one of the world's most prolific publishing houses with more than 10,000 active titles from indie (i.e. independent) authors living in more than 100 countries". He and his wife then founded Agio Publishing House, a small publishing company.

Clearly, Bruce knows the industry, and he makes a solid case for self-publishing! POD publishing was a new concept to me but it makes total sense! Authors notoriously struggle to get published by traditional publishing houses. Getting one's book into print in the traditional process is so competitive... and in the era of self-publishing, internet, and social media, it's not even necessary anymore!!

He also makes a case for POD from an environmental point of view. Traditional book publishing is the second largest user of water in the world! And traditional printing in large batches and then discarding all the unsold books is a substantiable waste of paper and energy resources. POD is about printing only as many copies needed as they are needed.

Once Batchelor establishes a solid rationale for self-publishing, he proceeds to give the reader chapters packed full of practical tips and suggestions, offering guidance from his own and others' experiences as well as websites to visit for more specific information. For example, he recommends having book launches on week days rather than weekends, and donating part of the sale profits to a charity who in turn agrees to sell your book as a fundraiser.

I like that he organizes the book within a "14-P framework... each chapter discusses an aspect of marketing that begins with the letter P". Some of those 'P's' include purpose, place, positioning, promotional mix, profits, and planet. At the end of the book, he provides a helpful 14-P template and reflection questions to support the reader with planning and implementing self-publishing.

I like how he acknowledges two necessary levels of awareness in the marketing process: the buyer needs to know the book exists... and the buyer needs to be able to find the book in order to buy it.

I also like how I learned so many book world vocabulary words and concepts, things like "rack jobber" and advanced reading copy (ARC) and returnable options.

My only wish is that Batchelor would publish a sequel. This book was published in 2010, just when the internet was starting to be more widely used for all the things that we know it can do today. He mentions ads in Facebook and some websites, but we've made so many advances in technology in that past eleven years. Batchelor would give us a great helping hand if he would write a sequel that updates us with the latest tips and hints about successfully self-publishing in this new decade and leveraging the internet and social media for marketing.

Self-publishing is not a task I have attempted or even explored until now. But Bruce has... and this book shows it! Who knows... maybe I will too... I'll keep you posted!

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451673319, $17.00 PB, $5.99 Kindle

Wow! I arrived very late in life to the 'Books by Ray Bradbury' party!! How had I only vaguely heard about this author and never known about this book until now?! I recently learned of it when I told one friend that another friend and I would be burning our journals in a bonfire for the new year. He texted 'Fahrenheit 451'; I texted back:'?'. He explained this was the title of a book by Ray Bradbury in which firemen burn books, and the title is supposedly the temperature at which paper burns. Duly intrigued, I got the book from the library, and whoosh! the book lit up my imagination from the first sentence, hasn't released me yet.

I adore this book on so many levels... first of all, it's a solid, readable story - beginning, middle, end - kept me turning pages, wanting to know what happens next with the main character Guy Montag, who starts the story as a respectable fireman and ends the story as a fugitive (yes, that's a spoiler but I guarantee you'll still want to read the book for the sheer pleasure of it!).

I can't even find the best adjectives to capture Bradbury's storytelling style - honest, direct, unadorned, evocative, poignant? Sensual in the true sense of the word - not sexy, but rather invoking all the reader's senses - hearing, feeling, seeing, smelling, tasting.

Secondly, Bradbury's futurist foresight astounds me. He wrote this in the 1950's yet he casually describes earbuds/air pods, wall size touchscreens, a mechanical dog, and voice-activated smart home features as if he were writing in 2020.

Thirdly, his themes resonate deeply with so many pieces of my heart and soul - writing as a legacy, the value of books and stories and literature and thinking in society, Bradbury himself wrote about Fahrenheit 451, "So my love of books is so intense that I have done- what? I have written a book about a man falling in love with books. How unusual that is." Unusual indeed... and I'm in love with it!!!

Annette Meeuwse

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies
Mary Guillermin, editor
Precocity Press
9781736217405, $49.95, HC, 322pp

Synopsis: John Guillermin (11 November 1925 - 27 September 2015) was a British film director, writer and producer who was most active in big budget, action adventure films throughout his lengthy career. If you have seen The Towering Inferno, King Kong or The Death on the Nile, you are familiar with the directorial work of Guillermin. But there are many other thoughtful gems directed by this English-born Frenchman who was nicknamed "The Wild Man." His personal favorite was Rapture, a striking, Brittany-based psychological drama that was largely overlooked on its first release in 1965 but is now widely perceived as a bold and original movie by a master of his craft.

Compiled and edited by his wife, Mary Guillermin, "John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies" is the first book to be published about Guillermin's life and films. Award-winning film critics, directors, film archivists and professors of film examine the thought and creativity of his directing and help answer the question of why you may not be more familiar with his work.

Lavishly illustrated and offering new critical appraisals of his key films from the 1950s to the 1980s, "John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies" includes a never before published autobiographical essay and unique and invaluable insights by his widow, Mary, into the personality of a fascinating filmmaker. A full appreciation of his impressive body of work is long overdue and this book will delight and inform enthusiasts and film scholars alike. It offers fresh insight not only into this director, but also into the history of filmmaking and the British and US film industries of that time.

Critique: An impressively informed and informative study of the life and work of a master film maker responsible for an exceptional catalog of movies, "John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies" is an extraordinary biography and one that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Cinematic Studies and History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of film students, academia, and movie buffs that "John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781735292151, $21.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

John E. Monaco, MD
Commonwealth Publishing
9781892986184, $16.99, PB, 174pp

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Ana's abusive psychopath of a divorced father manipulates the legal system to gain custody of her and her bother and block all contact with her loving mother. Ana secretly utilizes social media as her only contact with the outside world, her mother and the one person who seems to "get" her, her mother's boyfriend Jack, who finds himself caught up in a psychodrama intertwining Ana's contract killer father, her mother whom Jack loves, the broken family law system and his own checkered past.

In the chilling climax of "Snapchat" -- a powerful modern-day fable of love and salvation, Ana is forced to take matters into her own hands and orchestrates a desperate scheme to save herself, her bother and retain hope for some semblance of family.

Critique: Deftly written and all the more impressive when considering it is Dr. John Moncaco's debut as a novelist with a genuine and effective narrative storytelling talent that will keep the reader riveting to the story from first page to last, "Snapchat" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections as one of those absorbing novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf.

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

A Dog For Lockdown (Irish Lockdown Book 2)
Clare O'Beara
Independently Published
B08H2C4K46, $2.99 Kindle, 102 pages

A Dog For Lockdown is a story about a thirteen-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a council house (public housing in Ireland). They have no car. Dermot skips school the afternoon of his birthday. Lockdown across Ireland is announced by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar. Dermot has no idea. He notices upset, panicked shoppers filling carts and cars with what he considers odd items such as toilet paper plus disinfectant. Starting to feel uneasy, he returns home to his mother, who confronts him for not attending school. She says beans on toast is more than he deserves for dinner that night.

Dermot and Ann struggle to carry home extra supplies for lockdown with no car. A neighbor is taken to the hospital, and they are asked to care for the dog. They barely have money for themselves but work out a trade for dog care by using the neighbor's Wi-fi password. Without broadband themselves, it is how Dermot can attend virtual classes.

I like this modern realistic story as the characters are everyday people without pretenses. I feel it is relatable. Ann learns of her pre-diabetes and begins to eat right. Dermot is bullied on Facebook. He learned to deal with the situation with a teacher's help. His one friend, Jamie, seems unreliable for much of the story.

This would be a good read for students who have been bullied or may have diabetes. It is also suitable for children to realize not everyone has enough of everything in life.

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

The Dark Corners of the Night
Meg Gardiner
Blackstone Publishers
31 Mistletoe Road, Ashland, OR 97520
9781982627515, $26.99, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: The 'Midnight Man' appears in the darkness like a ghost, made of shadows and fear. He comes for the parents but leaves the children alive, tiny witnesses to unspeakable horror. The bedroom communities of Los Angeles are gripped with dread, and the attacks are escalating.

Still reeling from her best friend's close call in a bombing six months ago, FBI behavioral analyst Caitlin Hendrix has come to Los Angeles to assist in the Midnight Man investigation and do what she does best -- hunt a serial killer. Her work is what keeps her going, but something about this UNSUB (unknown subject) doesn't sit right. She soon realizes that this case will test not only her skills but also her dedication, for within the heart of a killer lives a secret that mirrors Caitlin's own past. Hesitancy is not an option, but will she be able to do what must be done if the time comes?

Critique: A perfectly crafted suspense thriller of a novel, "The Dark Corners of the Night" by meg Gardiner is an inherently compelling and compulsive page turner read from first page to last. The stuff of which block buster movies are made, "The Dark Corners of the Night" is certain to be an immediately successful and enduringly appreciated addition to community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Dark Corners of the Night' is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781799956365, $16.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (9781982627553, $29.95, MP3-CD).

The Unwilling
John Hart
St. Martin's Press
9781250167729, $27.99, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: Gibby's older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.

Jason won't speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn't known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.

But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.

Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother's hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns and outlaw motorcycle gangs.

What he discovers there is a truth more disturbing than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra's murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.

Critique: A deftly crafted crime fiction novel, "The Unwilling" by John Hart is a vividly engaging and inherently riveting read from cover to cover. While particularly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Unwilling" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Macmillan Audio, 9781250752215, $39.99, CD).

The Foreign Girls
Sergio Olguin
Bitter Lemon Press
9781913394387, $9.99, PB, 346pp

Synopsis: Two foreign girls are murdered after a high society party in Yacanto del Valle, northern Argentina. Their bodies are found in a field near sacrificial offerings, apparently from a black magic ritual. Veronica Rosenthal, an audacious, headstrong Buenos Aires journalist with a proclivity for sexual adventure, could never have imagined that her holiday would end with her two friends dead. Not trusting the local police, she decides to investigate for herself.

Critique: A deftly written crime novel of the first order, "The Foreign Girls" by author Sergio Olguin is a simply riveting read from cover to cover. Original, absorbing, populated with finely crafted and memorable characters, "The Foreign Girls" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated crime fiction fans that "The Foreign Girls" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Clint Travis

Elan Kluger's Bookshelf

Timothy Snyder
Basic Books
9780465002399, $15.99

Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder is about the Holocaust and all of the killings in the Soviet Union enacted upon his civilians by Josef Stalin. It was written by a historian at Yale, who speaks 10 languages, allowing for him to read through Polish, Russian, German, Ukrainian, Israeli, and other sources for the book. The book was most interesting when it talked about the Soviet Union as that is covered way less than the Holocaust, largely due to how the Cold War stopped historian research in the Russian archives, which didn't happen in Germany, as the end of the war allowed for total western control of their archives. The vivid descriptions given of cannibalism were especially disturbing, because it was in response to a man-made famine. The book's methodology is captivating. The author divided the Bloodlands into three segmented parts: first was the period 1933-1938 where a majority of killing was done by the Soviets. 1939-1941 was the period of equality between the Germans and Soviets, and then 1942-1945 was where the Germans killed the most. The book was disturbing in the way it described how Auschwitz is the most famous Death Camp because it had the most people when the ultra-horrific Treblinka had left more than 50 survivors and therefore is less known about. While reading through holocaust historiography could take many lifetimes, this book, as combined with the detailed descriptions of the horrors in the Soviet Union, is worth reading.

Elan Kluger, Reviewer

Gini Grossenbacher's Bookshelf

East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu
Shelley Buck
Write Words Press
9780979357374, $17.00 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Author Shelley Buck's memoir, East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu, spins a vivid story of her eye-opening journey in 1972 from Europe across the Middle East to India and finally Kathmandu. The memoir reads like a novel as the author does not hold back her emotions; instead, she revisits the feelings of her twenty-something self who yearns to see the world, to experience the exotic first hand, to go to the place her hand locates on the world map, to discover "the largest yellow landmass" on the globe. The travel is rugged, dangerous, and often lonely, though she enjoys the momentary companionship of other world travelers coming and going to Asia.

Undaunted, she desires to press on from living in a cave in Greece to crossing Turkey and making her way through Afghanistan. At times she is the only woman in town who is not covered with a burqa from head to toe. What is the impetus for her onward progress? It is the lure of India and all its spices, along with the romanticism of the Silk Road, that leads her onward, despite dilapidated bus rides and leering men. In India, she comes face-to-face with horrific poverty which causes her to question not only herself as a voyeur, but also humanity in its truest form. She says, "This was no longer a paradise. I had sought India, and now I was seeing it . . . I was being shown the world, unmerciful and unmercifully."

I could not put down her compelling memoir and I found myself savoring its gorgeous detail, searing emotional content, and love of place. The author provides ample historical background for the places she visits, filling in the details about the Silk Road and its many cultural manifestations. This is a treat for a reader who enjoys tales of exotic travel, historical background, and vibrant language that enlivens each scene. Thus I highly recommend East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu.

Invitation to Die
Barbara Cleverly
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781641291903, $16.67 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Barbara Cleverly, the author of Fall of Angels, returns with DI John Redfyre in the Cambridge early summer of 1924. The clever young detective becomes entangled in a series of multiple murders, all seemingly related to St. Bede's College and the long-forgotten Boer War. Redfyre discovers a neatly positioned corpse on a graveyard tombstone adjoining the university. The body bears the card, "An Invitation to Dine," along with an empty bottle of brandy.

The coroner reveals the victim died by strangulation, and Redfyre links the homicide to a series of unsolved cases pointing to a St. Bede's dining club. His careful investigation links the multiple victims to an incident in The Boer War in which a troop of soldiers' discovery and theft of diamonds unsheathes the worst and most treacherous aspects of human nature.

This novel grows on the reader since the slow beginning is shrouded in unknowns and strange incidences, such as the odd behavior of a homeless man who turns out to play a role in the story later on. A patient reader unearths the soldier's tale of murder and mayhem during the Boer War, and watches as the soldiers' oath of loyalty breaks in the face of greed, corruption, and self-aggrandizement. The plot twists and turns gain in complexity and speed until DI John Redfyre cracks the case, surprising even himself. An enjoyable read with lots of historical detail.

Gini Grossenbacher

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Agamemnon: A Play by Aeschylus
Translated by Dr. Howard Rubenstein
Granite Hills Press
9780963888648 $TBA

One of the great plays

Dr. Howard Rubenstein's translation of the famed Greek playwright Aeschylus' play "Agamemnon" is a brilliant work. It is the first modern, very readable, very interesting and educational translation of an important classic with a wealth of explanatory information. The problem with former translations is that its English is outdated, stilted, and often hard to understand. Dr. Rubenstein's version was performed in 1997 in California and in 2002 in Florida with high acclaim. The work is so good that it should become part of the literature courses in upper high school grades and in colleges.

The play is fascinating and worthwhile to read both because of the thought-provoking drama that it portrays and because of its history. It is one of the earliest dramas from antiquity still in existence and shows how modern dramas developed. Dr. Rubenstein a physician and playwright of close to a dozen much admired plays, passed away on September 20, 2020. He added stage directions to the play which makes the drama much clearer, as well as a 20 page introduction in his book version, a 10 page synopsis, and 21 pages of informative notes. This is 51 pages of learned, very easy to read and enjoyable information about the play itself, the author Aeschylus, the mind-set of the Greeks when the play was composed, how other playwrights and authors handled the famous story, and more. He also includes a prologue and epilogue to the play of information the ancients knew but not modern people, a map of Agamemnon's world, and a chart showing the three generations of the major characters in the drama.

Aeschylus is considered the "father of tragedy." His plays are the earliest currently existing plays of antiquity. He died around 456 BCE at age 67. He wrote 90 plays and half of them won first prize at the Athenian festivals where plays were shown. He was one of the three most important Greek playwrights. The others were Sophocles and Euripides who were born after him. He is famous for being the first to add a second speaker in the play. Previously there was only a single actor who spoke to the chorus. He also reduced the chorus from 50 people to 12. The additional actor was usually the antagonist. Aeschylus was the first to have his characters engage in dialogue that showed conflict. One of the greatest philosophers of all times, Aristotle, who lived almost two centuries after him, admired and praised Aeschylus.

Aeschylus' Agamemnon is part of his trilogy, three plays in which the second continues the first and the third follows the second. It is about King Agamemnon around the year 1200 BCE, about the time the ancient Israelites left Egyptian bondage. He is returning home after a ten-year battle at Troy where he was the commander in chief of the Greek forces that defeated Troy. He is accompanied by his prize, his slave and concubine, the prophetess Cassandra, a daughter of the king of Troy. He and his concubine are murdered by his wife and her lover, as his wife's revenge for Agamemnon's sacrifice of his and his wife's daughter, and her lover's revenge for Agamemnon's father killing his siblings.

Interestingly, Aeschylus was not only brilliant, he had modern ideas that are reflected in the drama. Like the much later Jewish philosopher Maimonides, he did not believe in the truthfulness of prophecies and that the gods need or even want sacrifices. He discusses the fact that wisdom comes from suffering, parents sacrifice children to further their career, what is the difference between vengeance and justice, how do the gods deal with people who murder, are wars justified, is there divine retribution, why do people suffer, do the gods care about humans, what is the source of evil, and are women equal to men. All these ideas are in this play. Evidence exists that his predecessors and contemporaries were not interested in these subjects that interest many people today.

In short, Dr. Rubenstein has not only given us a very entertaining play and much information about it, but has also shown us the brilliant thinking of one of the greatest playwrights.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia
Fata Ariu Levi, author
Sheila Deeth, editor
Faiga Tapusone Asiata, illustrator
Independently Published
9781954076037, $29.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: "Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia" by Fata Ariu Levi is the historical account of a mystery migration across the East Pacific. It is an inherently fascinating story that traverses science, history and mythology. It is a tale that awakens the spirit of adventure and reveals a search for freedom and a homeland!

Expertly written and presented by an Orator Chief and native Samoan, an experienced teacher of the Island Nation's history, culture, genealogy, religious rituals, and language, with a passion for research, "Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia" builds on a plethora of scientific studies from the last 250 years, from the day Ferdinand Magellan first discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1519.

Postulating the origin of the Polynesian migration has been a conundrum compounded by the fragmentation of the studies undertaken. But "Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia" coalesces the results and connects the dots of diverse studies to weave a complex tapestry and reveal the ocean floor's multi-colored mosaic of the Navigators' cultural development, history, language and ethnicity.

Readers will enjoy following a Polynesian migration; out of Africa, out of the Levant, out of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, out of the Eurasian steppe, out of India, out of mainland China, out of the Asiatic Archipelago, out of the Malay archipelago, out of the Indonesian archipelago, crossing the Wallace Line into the Bismarck Archipelago, and on to East Pacific Ocean.

"Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia" also explores the physical sciences: anthropology, ethnology, archaeology, Pacific Ocean geology, the ecosystem of Southeast Asia and more. As well as the social sciences: cultural functionalism and structuralism, social organization. Plus being introduced to the ethnological studies of the Navigators'-Samoans' and Manu'ans'-cultural, economic, heath, and well-being in isolation dating back to the Neolithic period.

Readers will also learn of one of the oldest languages in the world, and see how language morphology, phonology, particle verbs, and sentence structures reveal the path of Polynesian, Proto-Austronesian, Proto-Indo-European, and even Sanskrit languages-languages of the RigVedas, and of the Dravidians-agglutinative as opposed to inflectional.

"Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia" also includes DNA sequencing of the Samoan genome-mtDNA revealing a matrilineal family and social structure, Y-chromosome markers revealing the Samoan chieftain structure for leadership and management development.

Orators are the poets of the Polynesian Navigators, delivering messages from ancient ancestors. They are custodians of culture and the operational management of the family organization. And Chiefs are the master storytellers of the culture's mythology, legends, folklore, and family genealogy. And the myths reveal the history.

With the guidance of Orator Chief, Fata Ariu Levi, "Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia" reveals the timeline of the Polynesian Navigators' migration, with waves of voyages following that first migration out of Africa around 60,000 years ago-journeys into the Asiatic Archipelago, Indonesia, and the Malay archipelago before the last Glacial Maximum, when the Sahul Shelf was part of Australian continent. As well as how the Austronesian-speaking people were an amalgamation of migrants into the Asiatic Archipelago. Meet the Seafaring population of the coastal line from Taiwan to Madagascar off the coast of East Africa. And follow the Navigators to Polynesia -- the land of Mythology.

Critique: An eloquent and impressively informative study, "Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia" will have a very special value for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Cultural Anthropology collections in general, and Polynesian History supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Navigators Quest For A Kingdom In Polynesia" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781954076020, $14.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.19).

Redefining Possible
Ron Alford & Dustin Hillis
Southwestern Publishing Group
9781941800508, $24.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: It's easy to feel stuck in the grind, struggling to simply get through the day, especially as we all try to define a new normal. But what if you could start achieving your goals and living with purpose? In the pages of "Redefining Possible: Proven Strategies to Break Belief Barriers and Create Your New Normal" authors Dustin Hillis and Ron Alford can show you how.

As record-breaking business coaches and sales leaders, Hillis and Alford have helped thousands of people realize their dreams, including hundreds of top leaders and executives. They share their proven formula for goal setting and personal success in their book "Redefining Possible".

The authors' seven success strategies will provide you with a blueprint for creating a happier and more fulfilling life. You'll redefine your potential with strategic activities and actionable tools. Learn how to get unstuck by using the RAFT technique. Uncover and break belief barriers by rewiring your inner dialogue with positive self-talk and targeted affirmations. And be inspired with relatable anecdotes from high achievers who demonstrate what can happen when you live a life of intention.

"Redefining Possible" challenges readers to take an honest look at their lives and ask, "What would happen if I stopped holding myself back -- and started believing that I really can achieve everything I desire?"

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Redefining Possible: Proven Strategies to Break Belief Barriers and Create Your New Normal" is a life changing, life enhancing, motivationally inspiring read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community, college and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Redefining Possible" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Ron Alford: As a senior partner, the vice president of recruiting, and an executive-level sales and leadership coach for Southwestern Consulting, Ron Alford is an expert in recruiting, sales training, and coaching, helping individuals and teams to reach higher than they ever imagined.

Editorial Note #2: Dustin Hillis is the chief executive officer of Southwestern Family of Companies which includes the oldest direct sales company in the US. Dustin Hillis is leading the vision and strategy to make Southwestern the most impactful privately-owned company worldwide. In addition, Hillis is a cofounder of Southwestern Consulting and the president of Southwestern Coaching. In its first 10 years, the coaching business produced over $100mm in revenue and grew at 60 percent per year.

Jack Mason

Jaime Cone's Bookshelf

Cuppy and Stew
Eric Goodman
IF SF Publishing
9781733386418 $20.00 trade paperback, 220 pages

A civilian attack on a commercial aircraft was unheard of back in the mid 20th century, when Jack Gilbert Graham smuggled a bomb onto United Airlines Flight 629 and killed all 44 people on board, including the intended target, his own mother. The concept was so alien that no one knew how to react - not the legal system, the airlines or, least of all, two teenaged girls who were suddenly orphaned after their parents were killed in the bombing.

The lives of those two girls and the complicated life led by their parents before they died is the subject of a new novel by Mecklenburg, New York author Eric Goodman. His wife, Susan Morgan, was the younger of the two girls whose lives were upended when the plane went down over Colorado that day in November 1955.

The first part of the book is a historical novel based on the information Goodman could glean about Suzanne Faulds Kerr and Stewart Morgan, aka Cuppy and Stew. Though he has a rough outline of the events of their life together, he filled in many of the blanks with his own imaginings of what might have happened.

"Many of the events took place before Susan Morgan the person was alive or could remember," Goodman explained. "Some of the major beats for the parents' life we established through research."

What they do know is that the couple moved from Nova Scotia to South Africa in the late 1940s. He was 15 years older than her, and Cuppy was a nickname, short for Cupcake, that Stew bestowed upon her. Susan remembers them being very fond of one another.

Unbeknownst to their children, Stew had a second wife whom he left behind. When word broke out that he was living with another woman, his very well-to-do father disowned him.

The first half of the book is written in third person, alternating between the point of view of the mother and the father, in the voice of the daughter, who is telling their story.
The second half is about Susan and reads much more like a memoir. Some of the story is informed by childhood diaries Susan found in the attic of one of her former homes, of which she had many.

"She survived a terrible adolescence," Goodman said. The bombing threw the lives of her and her sister (who was two years her senior) into utter turmoil; they were shuffled from relative to relative, many of whom were not equipped to suddenly take on the care of two girls.

From a 12-year-old's point of view, the scenario was a nightmare. The bombing made headlines worldwide, not just at the time of the incident but for months and years to come as the perpetrator was identified and his trial progressed. Not one viewed her as a tragic figure at an age when most girls just want to blend in and be normal. Graham was executed about a year and a half after the plane went down for the murder of his mother, though incredibly he was not charged with the killing of other passengers because air travel was so new there was not a law on the books against bombing an aircraft.

A gifted scholar, Susan not only survived but thrived as an adult by repressing many of her most traumatic memories, Goodman said. Relatives viewed her as taking after her very intelligent father, and she went on to earn her PhD from the University of Chicago and a degree from Northwestern as well.

Her sister, who did fine in school but was not seen as extraordinary, was not so lucky. She spent her teen years trying to shield her little sister from the harsh realities of the world and ended up being an auto worker who "limped through life," Goodman said. She was a lesbian who was first married to a man but "had a wonderful partner by her late 70s, so they had a stable life then," Goodman said. She died about 10 years ago.

With her degree, Susan Morgan was a professor at Cornell for a time and continued to work in academics all her life.

Goodman said he wanted to tell his wife's story simply because it is the most compelling story he knows. He and Susan went on a tour of sorts through the characters' pasts so that he could faithfully recreate Vancouver in the 1930s and the homes where his wife lived growing up.

One chapter at the end of the book is the only one that does not fall into chronological order with the rest of the novel. It tells the dramatic story of the bombing itself, giving the reader more insight into what it must have been like for the sisters to be directly connected to the infamous crime; Susan, with the protection of her sister, came out of the experience on a much different trajectory than her sister did.

"It's really about what happens when normalcy gets totally blown up when you're just a kid and you have to try to deal with it," Goodman said. "The second half, I hadn't realized when I started to write it, but it's the tale of two sisters and how divergent their paths were."

Jaime Cone, Reviewer
Ithaca Times

Jessica de Koninck's Bookshelf

The Brothers Silver
Marc Jampole
Owl Canyon Press
9781952085079, $19.95 PB, $8.95 Kindle, 298pp

The Brothers Silver, a panoramic view of the lives of Jules and Leon Silver, their divorced parents, Ethel and Ed, their large extended family, and many friends, represents a new high-water mark in the history of novels written my men concerning the impact of childhood trauma and the strategies necessary to cope with or survive that trauma as an adult. It is a story as old as the stories of Cain and Abel and of Joseph and his brothers in the Bible, told with fresh insight.

Written in twelve chapters, each with its own distinct voice and style, this is the first novel by poet and essayist, Marc Jampole. Jampole's deep and intense interest in the possibilities inherent in the use of the English language is evident from the very first page. His use of rhyme and rhythm to capture voice is riveting as is his turn to dramatic dialogue. He renders the voice of Jules Silver as a child relating the sad incidents of daily life in a manner that is poignant, real and riveting.

The Brothers Silver is also a story of the baby boom generation, following Jules and Leon from the late 1940's to the turn of the 20th Century, crossing the continent from East to West, North to South, as it reflects on the personal and global possibilities of the turbulent 1960's to the complacency at the turn of the 21st century.

Jessica de Koninck, Reviewer

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Grieving While Black
Breeshia Wade
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623175511, $14.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: Most of us understand grief as sorrow experienced after a loss -- the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a change in life circumstance. In the pages of "Grieving While Black: An Antiracist Take on Oppression and Sorrow", author Breeshia Wade approaches grief as something that is bigger than what's already happened to us -- as something that is connected to what we fear, what we love, and what we aspire toward. Drawing on stories from her own life as a Black woman and from the people she has midwifed through the end of life, she connects sorrow not only to specific incidents but also to the ongoing trauma that is part and parcel of systemic oppression.

Wade reimagines our relationship to power, accountability, and boundaries and points to the long-term work we must all do in order to address systemic trauma perpetuated within our interpersonal relationships. Each of us has a moral obligation to attend to our own grief so that we can responsibly engage with others. Wade also elucidates grief in every aspect of our lives, providing a map back to ourselves and allowing the reader to heal their innate wholeness.

Critique: A uniquely compelling, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "Grieving While Black: An Antiracist Take on Oppression and Sorrow" is an extraordinary treatise and one that should be a part of every community, college, and university library Grief & Bereavement, Cultural Anthropology, and Black Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies list. Eloquently articulate, and in this time of the police brutality Black Lives Matter movement, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Grieving While Black" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Breeshia Wade holds a BA in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity from Stanford University and an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago. She completed Upaya Zen Center's two-year Buddhist chaplaincy program. Wade also served as a hospice and palliative care end-of-life caregiver in Los Angeles County. Over the past five years, she has supported people through grief and transitions as a birth doula and a lay-ordained Buddhist chaplain working in jails, on the mother and baby units of hospitals, and in people's homes. Wade uses her practice as an end-of-life caregiver to encourage those who are not facing illness, death, or dying to be open to what grief can teach them about relationship, life, failure, sex, and desire.

Up from Nothing
John Hope Bryant
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781523090358, $26.95, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Facing a pandemic impacted and challenging economy, too many Americans despair of improving their lives. Reviving the forgotten story of the American Dream in "Up from Nothing: The Untold Story of How We (All) Succeed", author John Hope Bryant insists that America is still the Land of Opportunity based upon our beginnings as a nation of go-getters who believed they were winners before they won.

Using the inspiring story of his own rise from humble beginnings, and that of his parents and grandparents, Bryant shows how individually we can change our mindset from survivor to thriver to winner and move beyond just getting by or being financially independent to becoming wildly successful. Collectively, we need to become a nation of winners once again.

By ensuring that every stakeholder in America has access to the Five Pillars of Success (massive education, financial literacy, strong family structure, self-esteem, and supportive role models) Bryant shows how we can fulfill the promise of America's greatness. But to do so, we must turn away from distractions, such as political in-fighting or racial and class divisions, and focus on what we can control. "Up from Nothing" is not a book of tips on how to get a better job or make more money. Rahter it is about adopting a new way of thinking that will do all that for us and more. "Up from Nothing" is the new (and traditional) business plan to keep us winning as a country.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Up from Nothing: The Untold Story of How We (All) Succeed" is an extraordinary call to remember who were and who we still are as a people, as a nation, and as an idea in the corridors of human history. As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "Up from Nothing" is an unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library 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 "Up from Nothing' is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.23).

Editorial Note: An American entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and prominent thought leader on financial inclusion, economic empowerment and financial dignity, John Hope Bryant was named by American Banker magazine as its 2016 "Innovator of the Year", Inc.'s "The World's 10 Top CEOs" (honorable mention), and one of Time magazine's "50 Leaders for the Future" named in 1994, John Hope Bryant is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, Inc. the largest not- for-profit and paramount provider of financial literacy, financial inclusion and economic empowerment tools and services in the United States for youth and adults; chairman and chief executive officer of Bryant Group Ventures and The Promise Homes Company, the largest for-profit minority-controlled owners of institutional-quality, single-family residential rental homes in the U.S., and co-founder of Global Dignity.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Calm the H*ck Down
Melanie Dale
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781982114367, $16.99, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Most of us thought we'd be amazing parents -- and then we had kids. Now we spend what little free time we have comparing ourselves to other parents, comparing our kids to other kids, and panicking that everyone else is nailing it except us. Between constant social media postings to conflicting advice found in parenting books, we often have no choice but to freak out. But there is another way. In the words of author and parent Melanie Dale -- we all just need to calm the h*ck down.

Melanie Dale is a special needs parent, adoptive parent, in vitro parent, and reluctant cheer mom who believes we are all putting too much pressure on ourselves and our kids to be perfect. Instead, she argues, we need to take a step back so we can actually enjoy this journey called parenting.

Her parenting guide, "Calm the H*ck Down: How to Let Go and Lighten Up About Parenting" is filled with stories from Melanie's own life, as well as real-life research for learning how to lighten up about every aspect of parenting ranging from poopy diapers and germs, to family vacations and adolescent angst. She also discusses the pressure to knock it all out of the Pinterest park, the challenge of instilling some kind of faith into your kids, and worrying about their future while still trying to live in the present.

Infused with quirky humor, profound insight, and accessible advice, "Calm the H*ck Down" gives you the permission to finally relax and enjoy this ridiculous thing we do called parenting.

Critique: Exceptionally well written with humor, insight, practicality, and reality based optimism, "Calm the H*ck Down: How to Let Go and Lighten Up About Parenting" should be considered essential reading by both aspiring and practicing parents. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Parenting collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Calm the H*ck Down" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797107103, $39.99, CD).

It's Time You Knew
Valena Wright
Irish Moss Press
9781736008607, $14.99, PB, 213pp

Synopsis: When women's cancer surgeon Valena Wright, MD lost her older sister to Stage IC Ovarian Cancer, she knew she had to speak up. Her younger sister was saved through cancer prevention measures -- but nobody was explaining to the general public just how those measures could save more women.

What prevents cancer? How can you spot early warning signs? What symptoms mean you should call your doctor and seek medical care? Daily health and lifestyle choices are the key to cancer prevention and early detection. But what choices?

In the pages of "It's Time You Knew: The Power of Your Choices to Prevent Women's Cancer" readers will learn from a gynecologic oncologist with over 25 years of experience about: Twenty-eight women's stories of patient experiences from symptoms to diagnosis and the path they took to cancer recovery; The types of testing that your doctor may not have told you about but could save your life; The daily and annual habits to adopt to lower your chance for disease, including the role weight, diet, sleep, and exercise play; The wisdom to speak up when it matters -- it just may save your life or the life of your loved ones.

Family history isn't the only factor when it comes to women's cancer. Listen to your body and take control of your health with 28 lessons straight from an oncology doctor. Committing to your health daily could be the simple step to cancer prevention. Buy for yourself and pass along to others a copy of "It's Time You Knew" and uncover how to decrease your risk of women's cancer through daily choices and ultimately protect your greatest asset -- your health!

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented for the benefit of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, "It's Time You Knew: The Power of Your Choices to Prevent Women's Cancer" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Cancer Prevention supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "It's Time You Knew: The Power of Your Choices to Prevent Women's Cancer" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Valena Wright, MD is an accomplished women's cancer surgeon practicing at Beth Israel Lahey Health Network in Boston, MA. She completed her medical degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia before moving to Boston to complete residency and fellowship training at Brigham and Women's Hospital, an affiliated Harvard teaching hospital. Valena's own family cancer history drives her efforts to empower women from all walks to prevent cancer through informed decision-making regarding risk reducing options and healthy lifestyle choices. During more than 25 years of medical practice, Valena has been named Top Doctor by Boston Magazine numerous times and is currently an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine.

Who Knew?: Lessons from My First 40 Years
Christine R. Andola
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480838154, $8.99, PB, 106pp

Synopsis: In her years of imperfect living, writer, consultant, and inquisitor of human behavior Christine Andola constantly sought to achieve just that. In "Who Knew?: Lessons from My First 40 Years" she shares candid anecdotes and real life lessons learned from years of complex family dynamics, awkward social missteps, marriage gone wrong, grief and death. Christine also reflects on the agonizing and inspiring cold hard facts of life with idealism and a quirky sense of humor -- sharing with the reader just how she has achieved a new and potent definition of happiness after 40!

Critique: With its underlying and laced with humor message that "We all simply want to be happy!", Christine Andola's eloquent and motivationally inspiring approach to dealing with the ordinary (and extraordinary) stresses and strains of life with "Who Knew?: Lessons from My First 40 Years" is an inherently thoughtful, thought-provoking, life appreciating, and inspiring read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Who Knew?: Lessons from My First 40 Years" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President
Peggy Brooks-Bertram
Red Lightning Books
9781684351626, $14.00, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: As the first woman of color elected as the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris broke through many barriers and made history, energizing a host of women who have a lot to say. Seeing a model of themselves filling the second-most-powerful office in the Free World, women from Africa to California, Canada to Florida began writing to the new Vice President.

Compiled and edited by Peggy Brooks-Bertram, "Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President" showcases an impressive selection of these heartfelt and moving letters. Girl Scouts confide their fears for a future ravaged by climate change; a business owner in Harlem offers unflinching advice about the need for real investment in inner cities; civil rights activists share their stories, struggles, and successes over the decades.

Filled with moving personal stories and heartbreaking tales of racial injustices suffered, "Dear Kamala" offers much more than just the kind words of a fan letter. They represent an offer of support and a call to action for all those who will be at Vice President Harris's side throughout the next four years.

Critique: Simply stated, "Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President" is a 'must read' for anyone with an interest in seeing the seemingly overwhelming problems of the lethal pandemic, deepening economic inequality, systemic racial injustice, continuing white supremacy threats to our American democracy - just to begin the list that Kamala Harris in her new role of Vice President must help President Joe Biden deal with and eventual overcome. A compelling read from cover to cover, "Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to highschool, community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.30).

Editorial Note: Peggy Brooks-Bertram is an author, educator, social historian and community activist. She is also the President and cofounder of the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, Inc. She was the co-editor of "Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady" (2009).

In My Grandmother's House
Yolanda Pierce
Broadleaf Books
510 Marquette Avenue N, Minneapolis, MN 55402
9781506464718, $22.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: As a general rule, the most steadfast faith you will ever encounter comes from a Black grandmother.

The church mothers who raised Yolanda Pierce, dean of Howard University School of Divinity, were busily focused on her survival. In a world hostile to Black women's bodies and spirits, they had to be.

Born on a former cotton plantation and having fled the terrors of the South, Professor Yolanda Pierce's grandmother raised her in the faith inherited from those who were enslaved. Now, in the pages of "In My Grandmother's House: Black Women, Faith, and the Stories We Inherit", Professor Pierce reckons with that tradition, building an everyday womanist theology rooted in liberating scriptures, experiences in the Black church, and truths from Black women's lives.

Professor Pierce tells stories that center the experiences of those living on the underside of history, teasing out the tensions of race, spirituality, trauma, freedom, resistance, and memory.

A grandmother's theology carries wisdom strong enough for future generations. The Divine has been showing up at the kitchen tables of Black women for a long time. It's time to get to know that God.

Critique: An inherently absorbing and ultimately inspiring read from cover to cover, "In My Grandmother's House: Black Women, Faith, and the Stories We Inherit" is an exceptional life story that will be read with recognition and appreciation by so many readers with faith-based grandmothers (and mothers!) of their own. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library Black Studies, Christian Liberation Theology, Christian Social Issues, and African American Demographic Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "In My Grandmother's House" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.38).

Editorial Note: Yolanda Pierce is professor and dean of Howard University School of Divinity. She is a scholar of African American religious history, womanist theology, race, and religion, as well as a public theologian, activist, and commentator. An alumna of Princeton University and Cornell University, Pierce served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Pierce's writing has appeared in Time, Sojourners, and The Christian Century, and she is also the author of the book Hell Without Fires.

Symbols of Patriotism
Laurence L. Cook
Vandamere Press
9780918339843, $19.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: "Symbols of Patriotism" by Laurence L. Cook is the story of the evolving role of First Lady of the United States as seen through the actions of the twelve women profiled in this history. These were women who served without pay and often without recognition of their contributions, yet their service has been invaluable not only to the advancement of the Office of the First Lady but often to the smooth functioning of the executive branch of government.

Unbeknownst to everyone except perhaps Martha Washington, the position of First Lady began on April 30, 1789, when George Washington took the oath of office to become the first President of the United States. Upon completion of taking the oath of office, George was president, but there was no title given to Martha. Out of respect for her position as the wife of the president, she soon became known as "Lady Washington". Despite not having an executive mansion in Washington, D.C., Lady Washington began the traditional role of hostess for official events both in New York City and Philadelphia. The title of First Lady would not be used for more than fifty years after George Washington left office, and even then, it was not commonly used for another thirty-five-plus years. For almost 100 years, the president's wife was referred to by a variety of names ranging from her first name to "Mrs. President".

Along with no title, there was also no job description or salary. Although First Ladies now have an official office, staff, and budget, there continues to be no official job description and no salary. The sustained lack of formal objectives, boundaries, and function for a First Lady has allowed the wives of presidents to customize the duties of the position to best serve the nation during their tenure, and to best fit their individual skills and interests.

The women showcased in this study have worked to preserve the history of the White House, assisted their husbands in a variety of ways, and taken on causes that benefitted the entire nation. America's First Ladies are glowing symbols of patriotism, who have served their country with pride and resourcefulness.

Critique: An exceptionally informed and informative history of some of the most influential wives of America's presidents, "Symbols of Patriotism" is a unique and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as highschool, community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Laurence Cook is an award-winning presidential historian, specializing in the personal side of the presidency. He is a lifelong collector of presidential memorabilia and has a museum-quality collection which exceeds 8,000 pieces. He is the author of Presidential Coincidences, Amazing Facts, and Collectibles. He has lectured at numerous events and historic places, including several programs for the National Park Service. He has worked on several projects with President Jimmy Carter and has been a historical memorabilia consultant for the former President. He is the recipient of the 2021 Ella Dickey Literacy Award, which is presented annually to six nationally recognized authors who have contributed to the preservation of history.

Julie Summers

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

No Modernism Without Lesbians
Diana Souhami
Head of Zeus
9781786694867, $33.82, HC, 456pp

Synopsis: "No Modernism Without Lesbians" by biographer Diana Souhami is the extraordinary and true story of how a singular group of four women, Sylvia Beach, Bryher (the pen name of Annie Winifred Ellerman), Natalie Barney, and Gertrude Stein, in the pivotal time and place of Paris between the two World Wars fostered the birth of the Modernist movement..

A trailblazing publisher; a patron of artists; a society hostess; a groundbreaking writer. They were all women who loved women. They rejected the patriarchy and made lives of their own forming a community around them in Paris. Each of these four central women interacted with a myriad of others, some of the most influential, most entertaining, most shocking and most brilliant figures of the age.

Diana Souhami deftly weaves their stories into those of the four central women to create a vivid moving tapestry of life among the Modernists in pre-War Paris.

Critique: An extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library LGBTA /Studies and Women's Biography collections in general, and 20th Century Modernist Movement supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "No Modernism Without Lesbians" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781786694874, $15.95).

Editorial Note: Diana Souhami was brought up in London and studied philosophy at Hull University. She has published biographies of Gluck, Gertrude Stein, Alice Keppel, Radclyffe Hall, Romaine Brooks and Edith Cavell. Her biography of Alexander Selkirk, Selkirk's Island, won the Whitbread Biography Award.

Vibrational Nutrition
Candice Covington
Healing Arts Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620559178, $16.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: We have all been taught about the physical health benefits of fruits, vegetables, meats, herbs, and spices and their nutritional effects on the human body. It is also known, for example, that turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and carrots significantly improve eyesight, but what about the vibrational benefits of foods? How does our diet affect the energy body and our emotional, mental, and spiritual states?

"Vibrational Nutrition: Understanding the Energetic Signature of Foods" by Candice Covington is a comprehensive guide to vibrational nutrition in which she explores the vibrational signatures of the foods we eat and how they help form the energetic structures that influence our behaviors and spirit.

Candice explains how, by choosing foods that resonate with your natural vibrational patterns, you can use your diet to fine-tune your energetic body, remove negative energy patterns, and consciously craft a positive state for body, mind, and soul. She also details the energetic and spiritual qualities of more than 400 common foods, drinks, and seasonings, including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, mushrooms, grains, seafood, poultry, other proteins, tea, wine, and both cooking herbs and medicinal herbs.

Then she explores how each food affects you on multiple levels, how a food's color determines which chakra it resonates with and how to work with dreams to decode the divine role of foods in your life. The author explains how to interpret food cravings and aversions on an emotional and spiritual level and provides exercises to help you identify the vibrational meaning of your current diet.

Offering a selection of recipes along with interpretations of their energetic stories, "Vibrational Nutrition" explores how to intuitively select foods and food combinations to reinforce your energy patterns, support you in any endeavor, and provide nutrition for body, mind, and spirit.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Vibrational Nutrition: Understanding the Energetic Signature of Foods" is a complete course of an iconoclastic approach to human nutrition. An inherently absorbing, informative, and life changing read, "Vibrational Nutrition: Understanding the Energetic Signature of Foods" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Vegetarian Diet, Energy Healing, Chakras, and Alternative Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: The founder of Divine Archetypes, an essential oil company, Candice Covington is a certified aromatherapist, healing arts master, and energy worker. A former instructor at Ashmead College in Ayurvedic theory and aromatherapy, she is now the primary aromatherapist at the Chopra Center.

Eco Craft Book: Don't Throw it Away, Recreate & Play
Laura Minter, & Tia Williams
The GMC Group
9781784945695, $19.95, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: While crafting can be so much fun, it can sometimes create excess waste that is not good for our planet. But for the imaginative collection of projects comprising "Eco Craft Book: Don't Throw it Away, Recreate & Play" by the team of Laura Minter and Tia Williams, most of what you need is already in your recycling box, but for other supplies there is a handy guide on what gets a planet-friendly thumbs up and what to avoid. Throughout "Eco Craft Book: Don't Throw it Away, Recreate & Play" there is a wealth of facts, tips and handy hints on how to be a crafty eco warrior. There are also special information sections dotted throughout covering tips and ideas for climate activism and an overview of the main climate issues we face.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout and offering hours upon hours of entertaining creativity, "Eco Craft Book: Don't Throw it Away, Recreate & Play" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, senior citizen center, and community library Crafts collections. It should be noted that "Eco Craft Book: Don't Throw it Away, Recreate & Play" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Laura Minter and Tia Williams started Little Button Diaries, their crafting and baking blog, in 2013 to show that having children doesn't mean you have to stop doing the things you love. They have won various awards and are based in Brighton, Sussex, UK.

12 Step Guide For The Self-Help Book Addict
Jen Palko
Gatekeeper Press
9781662903922, $16.99, PB, 164pp

Synopsis: A self-help book addict is someone who collects and owns bookshelves full of personal development and self-help books yet never feels helped. A unique, one-of-a-kind book, "12 Step Guide For The Self-Help Book Addict" by Jen Palko is a dedicated DIY instructional guide for the self-help book "addict".

The psychological basis for "12 Step Guide For The Self-Help Book Addict" is about choosing your reality versus it choosing you, taking inspired action versus reading about it all the time. Indeed, the primary goal of "12 Step Guide For The Self-Help Book Addict" is to make you think about your life, what you want out of your life, and how you're filtering and choosing your reality on a daily basis.

By the end of it, you'll have the ability to not only shift your mindset, but choose the life you want, not because a self-help book forces you to do it, but because you will have decided what your choice will be.

Critique: Perhaps the most unique and unusual self-help book every published, the "12 Step Guide For The Self-Help Book Addict" by Jen Palko will prove to be an immediately and enduringly welcome addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that the "12 Step Guide For The Self-Help Book Addict" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Jen Palko is a self described soulpreneur, content creator, and a former corporate Pharma 9 to 5er who turned acupuncturist turned entrepreneur who now pursues her passion of helping others reinvent their reality. She empowers others through her growing YouTube channel, online courses, and quirky life experiences. She maintains an informative website at

Freedom Starts Today
John Elmore
Baker Books
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9781540901446, $29.99, PB, 269pp

Synopsis: Every Christian church is filled with people who are struggling (often secretly) with addictions of all kinds. Porn, pills, food, money, alcohol, social media, body image, status, sex, anxiety -- the list goes on and on.

John Elmore is no stranger to addiction. Fifteen years ago, he put a loaded shotgun to his head and later had three doctors tell him he was going to die of alcoholism. More than 15 sober years later, he leads the world's largest weekly recovery gathering, re: generation, where people journey toward healing in Christ.

In the pages of "Freedom Starts Today: Overcoming Struggles and Addictions One Day at a Time", he makes a huge promise to the addicted: you can be free from your struggle, and much sooner than you may think. Through easily digestible readings grounded in Scripture and the practice of daily surrender, Elmore shows you how to break the cycle of addiction, make war against sin, and find your identity in who you are and not the shame of what you have done--one day at a time.

Leave behind struggles, addiction, and shame as you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the love, mercy, and forgiveness of the God who is not only by your side but on your side.

Critique: A book that should be a part of every personal, professional, Christian church library, community library, and academic library collection on the subject of addiction and recovery, "Freedom Starts Today: Overcoming Struggles and Addictions One Day at a Time" is an ideal instruction manual and guide for counseling men and women seeking to overcome an addiction of any kind. It should be noted for the personal reading list of clergy, counselors, therapists, victims of addiction, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Freedom Starts Today: Overcoming Struggles and Addictions One Day at a Time" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781540900623, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.15).

Journey Together: Turn Your Marriage into the Adventure of a Lifetime
David Hawkins
Harvest House Publishers
PO Box 41210, Eugene, OR 97404-0322
9780736980203, $16.99, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: In "Journey Together: Turn Your Marriage into the Adventure of a Lifetime", Dr. David Hawkins gives his readers a roadmap to a romance that endures. A licensed clinical psychologist and marriage counselor with more than 40 years of experience, he's seen firsthand that a healthy, happy marriage can stand the test of time -- but it requires intentional pursuit and a receptive, ready heart.

Whether you and your spouse are newlyweds or you've been together for decades, your connection will be strengthened as Dr. Hawkins teaches you to: Make the unhesitating, continual decision to appreciate the person you've married; Receive constructive criticism well and put your spouse's feedback into action; Champion emotional maturity and clear communication in your relationship; Seek win/win solutions to conflicts rather than treating your partner as an adversary.

Learning to love well is among the most exciting journeys you'll ever take, and though the trek is challenging, the payoff is tremendous. "Journey Together" will give you the tools to cultivate the deep-rooted affection and lasting intimacy you need to keep your romance evergreen.

Critique: Expertly written, informatively organized, and effectively presented, "Journey Together: Turn Your Marriage into the Adventure of a Lifetime" is an ideal gift for newly weds, couples experiencing martial discord, and a highly recommended addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Journey Together: Turn Your Marriage into the Adventure of a Lifetime" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: With more than 30 years of counseling experience, David Hawkins, PhD, has a special interest in helping individuals and couples strengthen their relationships. Dr. Hawkins has also authored "When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You" and "Dealing with the CrazyMakers".

Divorce, Simply Stated, second edition
Larry Sarezky
21st Century Divorce Books
9780996380959, $17.99, PB, 382pp

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded second edition, "Divorce, Simply Stated: How to Achieve More, Worry Less and Save Money in Your Divorce" (second edition) by attorney Laurence Sarezk offers a laser-focused yet compassionate approach to navigating the divorce process. You will become empowered with knowledge and insight to maximize results, reduce costs, and care for yourself and your children during this difficult time.

With a rare blend of wisdom, wit, and sensitivity, Laurence Sarezky, a 35-year career matrimonial lawyer, explains the mechanics of divorce, principles of divorce law and finance, how to find, afford, and work with the right divorce professionals, and how to avoid the dysfunctional conflict that traditional divorce actually encourages, and much more. In addition to all the divorce essentials, "Divorce, Simply Stated" contains a wealth of tips and strategies from a divorce veteran that cannot be found elsewhere.

"Divorce, Simply Stated" is a veritable treasure trove of information and advice offered to non-specialist general readers in a uniquely engaging way. Extensive use of checklists eliminates the excess verbiage that overwhelms readers of other how-to-divorce books. An array of skills to help you cope, organize, and relax during this process are punctuated by the author's 9-year-old granddaughter's drawings to keep you focused on your children, stress-reducing quizzes to keep things light while you learn, -- and a golden retriever named "Chuck" to guide you through the divorce thicket.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, this newly published second edition of "Divorce, Simply Stated: How to Achieve More, Worry less and Save Money in Your Divorce" is an ideal instructional guide to the divorce process and especially recommended reading for anyone contemplating or experiencing a divorce. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Divorce, Simply Stated: How to Achieve More, Worry less and Save Money in Your Divorce" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

Sister City
Ian Woollen
Coffeetown Press
9781603813525, $15.95 pbk / $5.99 Kindle

Like a modern, globalized twist on Sherwood Anderson's classic, Winesburg, Ohio, Ian Woollen's Sister City pairs a quirky Midwestern town with a Mexican town of similar name. Twenty years ago, in their Sister City project, two friends, one from each Cave City, extended a link between locations that existed in trade routes and celestial confluences for ages. Now, the formalized Sister City agreement, involving semi-annual visits and sports competitions, is up for referendum and threatened by naysayers.

Through the whimsical conceit of this unique partnership, the book explores weighty topics like immigration, family dissolution and addiction. Each character is a weighty topic of his or her own. Among others, on the American side, there's Winnie, a new folklore professor at the local college, more at home with cultural artifacts than with people. Her rocky fiance recovers from drug addiction as a newly minted drug counselor. Cave City's sheriff/obituary writer rides a horse canvassing town for illegal Mexicans, including Dolores, single mother to a wayward teen, working three jobs with the help of her mute partner, Rosa. On the Mexican side, Cuidad de la Gruta's mayor El Plastico is still in love with Dolores, who mysteriously crossed the border years ago. His nemesis Ramon attempts to use El Plastico's adopted son to turn their quaint town into a moneymaker for himself. Thrown together, these restless individuals rumble and writhe into a comical mess the referendum exacerbates and heals at the same time.

Traveling back and forth between all the threads, the book reads like a lively - and sometimes stuttering - bilingual conversation. Cinemagraphic in its upbeat pacing and dramatic scenes, the "cut to" endings provide glimpses into the future, adding cherries to rich chapter-servings of entertainment. Sister City combines old world charm and contemporary intrigue for a rollicking celebration of bonds that endure through the democratic process - and other potential disasters.

Ben Hopkins
Europa Editions
9781609456115, $28.00 hc / $14.99 Kindle, 622 pp.

In 1229, when their peasant father dies, three orphaned siblings venture out on their own, placing themselves at the mercy of the nearest German city, Hapsburg. Rettich becomes a mason working on the city's new cathedral. Grete becomes a weaver. Emmerich apprentices with a financier. All aspiring in his or her own right, their futures are largely dictated by the church, and then by wars waged between the church and the nobles.

The central Lenzenbach brothers and sisters connect out to a wide swath of other characters. Rettich's Master, the architect of the cathedral, teaches him construction skills as well to love. Through Rettich, we meet artists and heretics. Grete marries a soldier-turned-businessman. Through her we meet pirates, mistresses and other rogues. Emmerich learns his trade from a Jewish loan shark. Through him, we meet many Jews and their many clients, including bishops. With modern day precision and acuity, from each subject's own perspective, the cast presents a full bodied picture of the ancient time period.

The novel's modulating styles are as sweeping as its timeline (1229-1351). Beginning chapters are told from a child's point of view, focused on immediate surroundings. Sentences are short and pragmatic, also reflecting the stark concerns of the time. Letters and missiles are introduced in the middle of the book (around the time paper is invented) expanding the vocabulary and scope of plot. At the end, language returns to child-speak, narrated by the son of a plague victim. Throughout, the prose reminds of stage directions, providing just enough information to evoke a vivid medieval scene in the mind's eye and to keep the action churning. (Hopkins is best known for his movies). What begins and ends in innocent wonder, in the middle builds to splendor and chaos in equal measure.

Like a cathedral, the novel is mammoth. And, like the unfinished cathedral, it is a monument to the continuing work of human magnanimity, ingenuity - and hubris.

Havall 16
A.J. Ullman
Independently published
9798685958075, $7.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

As CEO of a nanotechnology firm, NORML, about to go public, Tommy Canada answers hypothetical questions like, "what if we could live forever?" with real, groundbreaking innovations. But a visitor from the future questions his project, citing what the world becomes as a result of NORML's creations: 2 entrenched classes of people, Havalls and Havenots, at war. With help from loved ones, Tommy risks everything to undo his mistakes before they happen.

With big ideas as the conceit, what could easily turn into a philosophical manifesto or sci-fi research paper instead entertains as an action-packed human drama. Tommy is MENSA smart, but he's also a motorhead and a romantic, newly engaged to the love of his life. He tackles the challenge of redirecting NORML with practicality - and missteps. While he's a hero in his humble-but-resolute convictions, he wouldn't defeat his enemies (business partner Win Gault) without the heroines surrounding him. Zand, his fiancee, foregos an important business trip to join him in his fight. Jenny, the visitor from the future, brings fancy new weapons enhanced by formidable martial arts training. Together with a loyal janitor and an ex-military chief security officer, Tommy's team ensures the future's better fate with brains, braun and panache. The text focuses on well-drawn plans also expertly executed. Rhetorical musings add depth to active scenes of crawling through pipes, trips to the hardware store and tense confrontations with nemeses.

Rock albums (The Who's Tommy), literature (Atlas Shrugged) and pop culture references enliven this future-oriented read with gems from the past. But the book's biggest effect is to comment on contemporary struggles around scientific possibilities, economic realities and political clout in graphic-novel-esque intrigue and the ageless value of love.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marisa Di Vitto's Bookshelf

I Can't find you a Boy Friend or your keys, my life as a caulbearer
Bob Buchanan
Volossal Publishing
9781735018447, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 88 pages

I was so exciting to get Bob's new book. Read it in one day!! It is encouraging to see how many lives are comforted by their loved ones, including my own. I had the pleasure of having a couple of sessions with Bob Buchanan and he was right on!!!! Strongly recommend!!!! (5 out of 5 Stars)

Marisa Di Vitto

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

The Deep, Deep Snow
Brian Freeman
Blackstone Publishing
9781094071329, $16.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle, 354 pages

Brian Freeman is one of Minnesota's favorite writers; his 17 previous novels have won numerous awards in mystery and thriller categories. He's so well respected that he was selected as the author to continue Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne series, starting with The Bourne Evolution in 2020.

Perhaps one of the endearing qualities of his novels is the underlying depiction of "Minnesota nice," which Wikipedia defines as "the behavior of people from Minnesota" ... "unusually courteous, reserved, mild-mannered and passive-aggressive."

Even when briefly usurped by murder or kidnappings, the cultural stereotype seems to hover over Freeman's small towns and medium-sized cities of northern Minnesota. Even when they do bad things, the author seems to suggest that they didn't really mean to do it. It just ... well, happened.

This charming quality is evident in The Deep, Deep Snow. Shelby Lake was herself abandoned as an infant on the doorstep of the town's sheriff, and decades later, now as deputy to her adopted father, she is charged with finding and rescuing a missing child. The unsolved disappearance haunts the entire town, and the trail goes cold - perhaps buried under deep, deep snow of the Minnesota lake country.

Shelby makes a mistake that denies her promotion to her father's place, and she continues to work under the new sheriff, her former partner and a man with a many faults and secrets of his own. With a cast full of characters, each with their own troubled pasts, the story comes full circle, unraveling not only the mystery Shelby sought to solve, but even some she never expected to find answers for. A quick and absorbing story, highly recommended.

The Doctor of Aleppo
Dan Mayland
Blackstone Publishing
9781982622152, $27.99 hc / $8.69 Kindle, 351 pages

Many Americans paid little attention to the war in Syria - including me. It was complicated, there were too many factions involved, it was so far away, it seemed hopeless, Assad seemed undefeatable, and who really knew what ISIS was anyway? But Dan Mayland's The Doctor of Aleppo is a powerful novel that broke through all of my resistance, telling the story of one town destroyed by the fighting, two families on opposite sides of the war, one American woman caught up in the desolation, and one amazing doctor who was willing to sacrifice himself for his children and the rebel cause.

Hannah and her boyfriend Oskar work for an international aid agency in Aleppo when the war breaks out. Caught up in street protests, Oskar is wounded and rushes out of the country, leaving Hannah alone to navigate the dangerous streets and get to Turkey. But she continues to tempt danger, bringing medical supplies into rebel-held territories, until finally, she becomes a target of Rahim, a commander in the Mukhabarat, the secret police of the Hassan regime and is trapped inside the city.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sami Hasan disrupts his comfortable upper-class life as he goes to work at the hospitals and clinics in rebel-held areas of the city, and through his work becomes a target of Rahim as well. Dr. Sami loses everything but his two children, Noora and Adam, who end up being detained and cared for by Hannah. As Rahim finally is faced with the truth about his own son's death, and Dr. Sami realizes he is the only asset Rahim will accept in trade for the release of Noora and Adam, the story comes to a devastating conclusion, as heartbreaking and true as the horrific war itself.

This is not an easy book to pick up, but it is a harder one to put down. Told in short, often gruesome chapters, Mayland forces us to look at the torture, the death, the inhumanity of the war, all the while giving us characters we care about and ones we don't like but curiously come to understand. I highly recommend this book, and I thank Mayland and his publisher for finally making me pay attention.

The Girl with the Louding Voice
Abi Dare
c/o Penguin Random House
9781524746025, $26.00 Hardcover, $11.99 Kindle, 379 pages

Adunni, the girl in The Girl with Louding Voice, is a poor 14-year-old living in rural Nigeria, and just sold by her father to an old man as a third wife. She doesn't have a "louding voice" - her phrase for the ability to speak up and make a difference in people's lives, but she wants one, and this is a story about how she gets it.

Adunni's mother convinced her at a young age that education was her ticket out of the poor rural community. But when her mother dies, she is forced to quit school and she's shoved into a life tremendous poverty, slavery, and abuse. To tell much more of the plot would take too much away from the driving force of the book, but one can probably suspect that the story would not have been written unless Adunni does eventually gain her "louding voice."

The allure of this novel rests on a few evocative elements. Dare's characters are fully rendered and while the good ones are easy to like, even the horribly despicable ones are given backstories that elicit our understanding, if not forgiveness. She creates setting and action in equally vivid detail. But perhaps the most delightful aspect of the book is her use of language.

When I first started the novel, I wondered if I would finish it. The English was bad; grammar and word choice were random and confusing. But as I read further, I realized there was a purpose to the diction. I started to see the charm in the way Adunni put words together to express something new when she did not know its proper English name. Soon I could forgive such mistakes as "wifes," "teethspaste," and "a frying food" because in turn I got "sorrow climb out of my heart and stick his tongue in my face." She asks a Westernized woman why she has put her "teeth inside iron gate." The new phrases and expressions add a texture and a sense of the culture of Western Nigeria that we would not get from a version that strived for correctness.

I highly recommend this book. It provides a compelling look at reality for the 100 million of Nigeria's 180 million citizens who, despite the country's rich oil reserves, live on less than $1 a day.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
Stephen Greenblatt
W.W. Norton & Company
9781393064476, $26.95 Hardcover, $9.61 Kindle, 356 pages

Although I have shelves and shelves and shelves of books, I seldom read one more than once, and usually when I do, I have a special purpose in mind. Sometimes I need to reread a book so I can use it as an example in my workshops, and sometimes I need it as research for something I'm writing myself.

But when it comes to The Swerve, I needed only one reason: I found the book so fascinating the first time I read it, that I simply wanted to read it again.

The Swerve takes its title from the concept that an unexpected, unpredictable movement of matter that could explain nearly everything from the formation of planets to evolution. It was a theory that Lucretius, the author of On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura), explored in his six-book poem written in the first century BCE. The "swerve" in Greenblatt's book also serves as a metaphor for the unlikely, and highly fortuitous discovery in 1417 of Lucretius's long-lost poem, a discovery, Greenblatt postulates, that was one of the forces that drove civilization out of the religious dark ages toward the renaissance - or "swerved" us toward modernity.

Part of this highly accessible and fascinating novel is the story of the discovery, part of it is about the tumultuous times of the high Middle Ages, and partly, it's about Lucretius's depiction of Epicurus's philosophy. That philosophy, stemming from the middle of the fourth century BCE, was astoundingly modern, describing all matter as made up of tiny particles (atoms); declaring that if there are gods, they have no interest in humans; asserting that there were many worlds, galaxies and universes; and insisting that neither humans nor the Earth are the center of things. There are even hints of what, many centuries later, would be the strange "new" theories of quantum physics. Obviously, those postulates did not jive with orthodox Christianity, and the reading and study of such philosophy had no place in a culture dominated by the Roman church.

While Epicureanism and Lucretius's interpretation of it dominate much of the narrative, Greenblatt treats us to riveting digressions. In describing efforts by the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund of Hungary, to determine which of three men who had declared themselves the pope (Pope John XXIII, Pope Benedict XIII, and Pope Gregory XII) should be the legitimate head of the church, the author delights us with tales of John's corruption; the indictment and martyrdom of the heretic, Czech church reformer Hus; and the sacking of Rome by the rival would-be emperor Ladislas, king of Naples. These characters, and somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 travelers, all with some interest (including prostitution) in the outcome, converge in a grand council called by Sigismund in the mountainous Swiss city of Constance. Pope John entered the city on a white horse with four burghers of the town carrying a golden canopy over his head, followed by a parade of mounted cardinals, clerics and staff.

"And at the front of the procession stretched a line of nine white horses, covered with red saddlecloths. Eight of these were laden with garments - the pope's wardrobe was evidence of his hold upon his sacred identity - and the ninth, a little bell jingling on its head, bore on its back a casket of silvergilt covered with a red cloth to which were attached two silver candlesticks with burning candles. Within the casket, at once jewel box and tomb, was the Holy Sacrament, the blood and body of Christ. John XXIII had arrived."

However dark and unenlightened the times were, they certainly weren't devoid of spectacle.

Wide-ranging and always fascinating, this book's glimpse into the last decades before the Renaissance is worth a reread every ten years or so. Goldblatt deserved all the accolades he received for this book, and then some.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Go Do Some Great Thing: The Black Pioneers of British Columbia
Crawford Kilian
Harbour Publishing
9781550179484, $26.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Living in pre-Civil War Philadelphia, young Black activist Mifflin Gibbs was feeling disheartened from fighting the overwhelming tide of White America's legalized racism when abolitionist Julia Griffith encouraged him to "go do some great thing." These words helped inspire him to become a successful merchant in San Francisco, and then to seek a more just society in the new colony of Vancouver Island, where he was to become a prominent citizen and elected official.

Gibbs joined a movement of Black American emigrants fleeing the increasingly oppressive and anti-Black Californian legal system in 1858. They hoped to establish themselves in a new country where they would have full access to the rights of citizenship and would be free to seek success and stability. Some six hundred Black Californians made the trip to Victoria in the midst of the Fraser River Gold Rush, but their hopes of finding a welcoming new home were ultimately disappointed. They were to encounter social segregation, disenfranchisement, limited employment opportunities and rampant discrimination. But in spite of the opposition and racism they faced, these pioneers played a pivotal role in the emerging province, establishing an all-Black militia unit to protect against American invasion, casting deciding votes in the 1860 election and helping to build the province as teachers, miners, artisans, entrepreneurs and merchants.

In the pages of "Go Do Some Great Thing: The Black Pioneers of British Columbia", Crawford Kilian brings this vibrant period of British Columbia's history to life, evoking the chaos and opportunity of Victoria's gold rush boom and describing the fascinating lives of prominent Black pioneers and trailblazers, from Sylvia Stark and Saltspring Island's notable Stark family to lifeguard and special constable Joe Fortes, who taught a generation of Vancouverites to swim. Since its original publication in 1978, "Go Do Some Great Thing" has remained foundational reading on the history of Black pioneers in BC. Updated and with a new foreword by Adam Rudder, this new third edition of this under-told story describes the hardships and triumphs of BC's first Black citizens and their legacy in the province today.

Editorial Note: Crawford Kilian is the author of twenty-one books, including both fiction and non-fiction. He is a contributing editor at The Tyee and is the former public education columnist for the Vancouver Province. He previously taught at Vancouver City College and Capilano College, and currently teaches creative writing at Simon Fraser University. Partial proceeds from each copy sold will be donated to the Hogan's Alley Society.

Money Games
Weijian Shan
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781119736981, $29.95, HC, 330pp

Synopsis: Money Games is a riveting tale of one of the most successful buyout deals ever: the acquisition and turnaround of what used to be Korea's largest bank by the American firm Newbridge Capital.

Full of intrigue and suspense, "Money Games: The Inside Story of How American Dealmakers Saved Korea's Most Iconic Bank" is an insider's account is told by the chief architect of the deal itself, private equity investor Weijian Shan. With billions of dollars at stake, and the nation's economic future on the line, Newbridge Capital sought to become the first foreign firm in history to take control of one of Korea's most beloved financial institutions.

In a proud country still reeling from a humiliating International Monetary Fund bailout in the Asian Financial Crisis, Newbridge Capital had to muster every ounce of skill, determination, and patience to bring the deal to closing.

Shan takes readers inside the battle to win control of the bank -- a delicate and often exasperating process that meant balancing the goals of Newbridge with those of the government, bank employees, and Korea's powerful industrial titans.

Finally, "Money Games" describes how Newbridge transformed and rebuilt the struggling bank into a shining example of modern banking -- as well as a massively profitable investment. In the secret world of private equity, few buyouts have been written about with such clarity, detail, and insight -- and none with such completeness, covering not only the dealmaking but also the transformation and eventual exit of the investment.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and meticulously detailed account, "Money Games: The Inside Story of How American Dealmakers Saved Korea's Most Iconic Bank" showcases how private equity investors can strike bargains, turn around businesses, and create immense value in a capitalist oriented economy. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library International Business & Investing, Private Equity & Banking collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Money Games" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.00).

Editorial Note: Weijian Shan is chairman and CEO of PAG, a leading Asia-focused private equity firm. Prior to PAG, he was a partner of the private equity firm TPG, and co-managing partner of TPG Asia (formerly known as Newbridge Capital). Previously, Shan was also a managing director of JP Morgan, and an assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His articles and commentary have been published in the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs and many other publications.

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Wisdom Tales Press
9781937786830 $17.95 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Shiva For Children

Together with Brahma and Vishnu, Shiva, "the auspicious one" is one of the three great Hindu gods who create, preserve, and destroy the universe. The renowned writer and illustrator of children's books, Demi, tells and illustrates Shiva's story in this lovely new book written for children between 4 and 8 years of age.

The book discusses Shiva's place within the Hindu pantheon and describes his family, including his wife, Parvati. Shiva and Parvati are "the father and mother of the universe". The book shows Shiva riding on his beautiful green parrot, Garuda. And Demi tells and illustrates some of the many legends about Shiva's life. The book includes a short selection of Hindu prayers about Shiva, and it concludes with an illustration and discussion of Shiva as the "Lord of the Dance".

Demi's text is simple and delightful. The beautifully colored and idiomatic illustrations include a fearsome purple snake, a wicked dwarf, a portrait of Shiva's elephant-headed son, Ganesha, and many portrayals of Shiva himself. The story works best as a commentary on the illustrations.

Parents and teachers will enjoy reading this short book with their children. The book reads quickly. Adults may wish to work with the children in relating the pictures to the text. They also may discuss Shiva and the Hindu concept of the gods with their young readers and explore them as they see fit and as appropriate for the children.

This book is published by Wisdom Tales, a press which specializes in children's books providing a view of religion and spiritual traditions from all over the world. I have enjoyed reading and reviewing many books from Wisdom Tales., and I was pleased to receive a review copy of this book on Shiva from the publisher.

Spirit of the Cheetah: A Somali Tale
Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, authors
Julia Cairns, illustrator
Wisdom Tales Press
9781937786854, $16.37 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Coming Of Age In Somalia

In this time of national difficulty, I was grateful for the opportunity to read and review this new book, "Spirit of the Cheetah: A Somali Tale", suitable for children 4-8 years of age. The book tells the story of Roblay, a young Somali, and how he perseveres and learns in order to succeed in a race and, in his eyes, become a man. Karen Lynn Williams, an American author of children's books, and Khadra Mohammed, a Somali native and former director of the Pittsburgh Refuge Center, collaborated on this book. Williams and Mohammed had earlier collaborated on another children's story, "Four Feet: Two Sandals", which tells of the experiences of two young friends in a refuge camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The artist Julia Cairns illustrated "Spirit of the Cheetah" with beautiful, colorful, and joyful images.

Roblay is disappointed due to has lack of success in the annual race for budding adolescents in his village. His grandfather advises him to improve his running skills by relaxing and by learning from the cheetah and from the mighty, swift-flowing river Shabelle. The grandfather advises Roblay to "leave his thumbprint on the cheetah's coat."

The book follows Roblay to the Shabelle River where he finds a cheetah and slowly improves his running skills and his attitude by watching the cheetah and the Shabelle. Although he does better in the next year's race, his grandfather wisely suggests to his grandson the earlier actions that deserve more praise: "You became a man even before the race began."

This book will encourage children to think about a culture with which they are likely unfamiliar. It teaches the value of hard work, of living with nature, and of community. The illustrations of the cheetah, the Shabelle, and the village enhance the story. Roblay also has his own pet cat. The book is a delight.

Children and their adult readers will enjoy discussing this book. The discussion might start with a map, so that the children may learn the location of Somalia.

This book is published by Wisdom Tales, a publisher of children's books from around the world with spiritual, ethical themes. Wisdom Tales kindly sent me a review copy of this endearing little Somali story.

The Generous Fish
Jacqueline Jules, author
Frances Tyrell, illustrator
Wisdom Tales Press
9781937786793, $16.95 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Cast Your Bread Upon The Waters

Ecclesiastes 11:1 says "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you shall find it after many days." These Scriptural words become the inspiration for "The Generous Fish" a book for children between 4 and 8 years of age, that teaches the importance of generosity, of protecting the environment, and of not demanding too much of others. Jacqueline Jules, the author of over 40 children's books wrote this tale based on two Jewish stories and Frances Tyrell did the lovely watercolor illustrations.

The story is set in a little Hasidic village by the sea. A father about to go on a long journey teaches his son, Reuven, the value of generosity and kindness using the Ecclesiastes text. Reuven begins sharing his daily bread with a small fish. Soon the fish, Nissim, grows large and strong. Nissim, a talking fish, befriends Reuven, and the two romp and play in the waters every day. When it is discovered that Nissim's fins are made of gold, each of the villagers naturally want Reuven to pluck them off. Nissim is only too happy to comply. But soon he becomes weak and dispirited and nearly dies. Reuven courageously stands up for his friend and, with the assistance of the town rabbi, gradually is able to nurse Nissim back to health.

The story is simply and poignantly told with lovely illustrations of the golden fish, of the East European townspeople and their clothing, and of the sea.

Children and their adult readers will enjoy this tale and find much to discuss about generosity and about not overburdening nature and one another. When the villagers at last realize the error of their ways, the rabbi tells Reuven, "you reminded us", "all creatures are important".

Wisdom Tales Press publishes children's books from religious and spiritual traditions around the world. It has published two earlier books by Jacqueline Jules, "Feathers for Peacock" and the award-winning "Never Say a Mean Word Again". I am always inspired when I have the opportunity to read Wisdom Tales children's stories. Wisdom Tales kindly sent me a review copy of this book.

Story Of The Mongolian Tent House
Dashdondog Jampa and Anne Pellowski, authors
Beatriz Vidal, illustrator
Wisdom Tales Press
9781937786816, $16.95 hc / $9.99 Kindle\

A Children's Tale From Mongolia

Reading opens up the world, even for young children. Children ages 4-8 may read a tale from Mongolia in this lovely picture book, "Story of the Mongolian Tent House". Even for children, this book works on two levels. First, it introduces young readers to Mongolia, a land most children will find unfamiliar. Adults reading this book with children would do well to begin by pointing out this large, landlocked country on a map. Second, the book tells interlocking fables about the value of harmony and cooperation.

The book introduces Mongolia to its readers through its setting and its illustrations of sparsely populated steppes, mountains and valleys. It shows a land where many people are wanderers and herders. Children will benefit from seeing this culture, markedly different from their own.

The story itself is a fable which begins with the people and the animals of the earth separating and going their own ways when they found they could not get along in peace. A "wise old man" teaches his seven sons to build a dwelling, called a ger, and to "use as our model the earth itself." The ger is built for the family, but the wise old man soon dies. His sons begin to quarrel and each goes on his own path with near-disastrous results. The sons then relearn the value of cooperation and family. They work together to rebuild the ger which becomes for the Mongolian people a "symbol of friendship and harmony."

This book is based upon a story by the Mongolian author Dashdonog Jamba who dedicated his life to preserving Mongolia's folk heritage. He co-edited a book called "Mongolian Folktales" which is still in print. His story was retold by children's author Anne Pellowski and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal.

Wisdom Tales Press publishes children's books with spiritual and religious themes from many religious traditions and from places around the world. This is the first book I have seen with a setting in Mongolia, and it will appeal to parents and teachers wishing to broaden the reading experience of their young children. I was glad to read this delightful book and to learn a little about Mongolia. Wisdom Tales kindly provided me with a review copy.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Our Child of the Stars
Stephen Cox
Jo Fletcher Books
9781786489968, $16.99 pbk $3.99 Kindle

Genre: Science Fiction, Historical Science Fiction, Family Drama

Our Child of the Stars is another book that's been lingering on my Kindle, and having now read it, I wonder why it took me so long. I would have read this book in one sitting, but my Kindle died at 92%. I raced to my back-up Kindle only to find I'd failed to recharge it. So I had to finish the last 8% book on a second day. It is a gem of a book, a quiet, emotional story filled with a low-key tension, a poignant look at the life of one particular, peculiar family. It is enchanting and hopeful.

In the 1960s, Amber Grove, a small town in New England was stuck by a meteor on what started out as a run-of-the-mill day. People were killed and injured, and fires devastated the area. Author Cox does a splendid job of recreating the tensions of the 1960s: the long-haired, pot-smoking hippies; Woodstock; the straight folks who toed the line; the Cold War; the Vietnam war; the constant fear of atomic bombs; the protest marches against the war; the marches for racial equality; the first moonwalk.

What is hidden from the people of Amber Grove is that the so-called meteor was an alien space ship, and survivors were found: an alien mother and her child. The mother dies, thus all attention focuses on the child. Several people decide to protect him, he must be sheltered from contact with all but a few humans. Despite these restrictions, his nurse, Molly Myers, bonds with him and names him "Cory" for the cor-cor-cor sound he makes.

Cox manages to capture the youthful exuberance of this alien child down to his voice, that of a boy so eager to get the words out that they come out in a staccato rat-tat-tat. The physical description is vague enough readers can draw their own versions of the boy in their minds. He is smart, curious, and adventurous - and utterly entering. As he's confined to the space between the four walls of the Myers household, he has no other children to play with. Thus, under this lovable appearance, lies a lonely child. Not only isolated from humans, he is from a planet in which there is communal sleeping - and communal dreams. His own kind, who is supposed to come rescue him, is millions of miles away.

Towards the end of the book, the action picks up dramatically. Cory and his family are running for their lives, trying to escape from the FBI, the American military, Russian spies, curious reporters, and thugs who want to sell him for a profit.

Our Child of the Stars is a poignant portrait of an American family, the ties that bind this family, and the strength of those ties. It's a story of a nearly-broken couple brought back together by the random twist of fate when an alien child lands in their life. The novel looks at how far this family will go to protect the ones they love.

The Girl from the Mountains
Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger
9781800191617, $10.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Genre: Historical Fiction, World War II historical fiction, Jewish historical fiction, Women's Fiction

This is a World War II story about a young girl, Magda, who lives on a farm with her parents and brothers. Born with a large birthmark on her cheek, she's been teased mercilessly her entire life, eroding her self confidence. During World War II, a German family takes over the farm. The sons are forced into the German Army, and Magda is suddenly homeless. Eventually she is hired as a nanny by a Jewish family, the Taubers, who continue to live in the area under special dispensation. When the Gestapo arrests them, Magda hides their new baby until the local resistance rescues him. Magda continues to work with the villa under the thumb of a German family and passing information to the resistance. After she makes a critical error, she escapes but has a price on her head.

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger gives the reader the story of a remarkable young woman. Magda has a wonderful character arc moving from a simple village maiden who lacks self-confidence; as her role in the resistance increases, she realizes her own strength and becomes brave and accomplished at her various positions within the resistance. Lucyk-Berger also provides an in-depth look of the roles women played during the war and what they were able to accomplish. Similar books I've read show the French resistance at work, but this book looks at the Czechoslovakian resistance, something I've never read about before. The horrors of war, neither glossed over nor sensationalized, have enough depth to allow the reader to see them yet not be grossed out.

Daytime Drama
Sarahlyn Bruck
TouchPoint Press
9781952816208 $15.99 pbk
B08KWF7PF4, $4.99

Daytime Drama is Sarahlyn Bruck's second novel. In it, Callipe Hart, who's been an actress since her teens, sees her world crumble when the network cancels her long-running daytime soap opera. She wonders if she's too old to continue in television, but - with no other skills - what else can she do? Bruck transports us to the world of daytime television and readily handles the five points of view that tell this story.

Hart must make a number of hard choices: 1) whether to allow her son to continue the auditions he's been secretly doing for television spots, 2) whether to allow her ex- to see the son he's ignored for years, 3) whether to introduce her long-term beau to her family at last, 4) whether to leave her network politely, or 5) whether to embrace similar roles for an aging starlet or break out into new roles and media.

This is a perfect beach read with a compelling women's fiction story with heartfelt moments between mother and son, child and parent.

The Sky Worshipers
F.M. Deemyad
History Through Fiction LLC
9781732950863, $17.95 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

Genre Military Fiction, Historical Fiction, Far Fiction, Middle Eastern Fiction

The Sky Worshipers is billed as "a stunning saga". I was eager to read it to see the Mongol invasion through the eyes of someone native to the Middle East (I believe Ms. Deemyad is from Iran) and also to see the Mongols from a female perspective. Unfortunately, the point of view was so distant that I never really became invested in the characters, and the level of emotion is quite sparse. The story of Lady Goharshad seems more fairy tale than history. Ms. Deemyad's research is certainly present, yet I was never transported as I was with William Napier's Attila series or the endless TV series Dirili?: Ertu?rul.

Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love
Marylee MacDonald
Grand Canyon Press
9781951479299, $16.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love is beautifully-written, engrossing, and emotional journey through a woman's search for her own identity. Throughout the memoir, Ms. MacDonald's choices have rippling effects on herself and her family. Adopted at birth, the protagonist, Marylee, has an adoptive mother who tells her she's a special child, chosen to be their daughter. These words fail to satisfy MacDonald's longing for her roots. Her parents' divorce leads her to find solace in her high school sweetheart. Unfortunately, a sixteen-year-old girl lacks the emotional or mental capacity to understand future consequences. When she becomes pregnant, she's sent to a home for unwed mothers in Arizona where she hides out for the rest of her pregnancy and gives up her son for adoption. Eventually, pregnant again by the same sweetheart, she marries him.

Surrender is the compelling story of MacDonald's search for herself, her family history, and the son she gave up. As a woman who adopted a child, I fully understand part of this journey. How much do you tell a child about their past? Their family? In my son, I often search for what is his underlying nature and what I contributed to him in terms of nature.

This book would be well read in the company of the novel, The Sound Between the Notes, by Barbara Linn Probst. Both deal with the feelings tied up in their adoption, their search for their families, and for themselves.

The Windsor Knot
SJ Bennett
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
9780063050006, $27.99 hc / $14.99 Kindle

The Windsor Knot was an interesting set-up of a mystery, somewhat akin to an Agatha Christie. The switch is that the detective is the Queen of England. As a queen and a nonagenarian, she has limitations on what she can do, both in terms of protocol and her advanced age, so she delegates specific investigations to her underlings, especially her Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a British Nigerian and recent officer in the Royal Horse Artillery. The queen's input, via whispers into the ears of the actual MI6 investigators, leads them to pursue certain lines of thought related to the crime in question (a young Russian man is killed in his guest rooms in Windsor Palace). The list of suspects is enormous including the thousands of employees of Windsor Palace, the guests who were present the night the Russian was killed, the Russian mafia, plus the Russian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern governments.

I enjoyed the character of Rozie and appreciated that she was a POC, yet that was not the primary aspect of her character. The views of the inner workings of Windsor Palace seemed quite rich and appropriate and adds a definite flare to the read. The voice of the queen seemed spot-on, with a bit of a "pip, pip, one must carry on", "chin up", and "stay calm and solve the mystery." Overall I found it a tad slow, though not enough that I quit reading. .

A Feigned Madness
Tonya Mitchell
Cynren Press
9781947976207, $21.00 pbk / $5.99 Kindle

Writers seem to be rediscovering the feminist and ace reporter Nellie Bly. A vibrant, stubborn young woman thirsted to become a female journalist during the 1890s when women were relegated to the home. Bly was truly an independent woman, one of the early pioneers of feminism. I'm thrilled that she is seeing such a resurgence of popularity.

I have read Bly's own version of her descent into a madhouse, Ten Days in a Madhouse, as well as the 2018 novel What Girls Are Good For: A Novel of Nellie Bly by David Blixt and the 2019 novel, The Girl Puzzle: A Story of Nellie Bly by Kate Braithwaite. In 2020, author Tonya Mitchell gives us A Feigned Madness. The Girl Puzzle, I found, is much like reading Ten Days in a Madhouse with interspersed with additions written by Beatrice Alexander, a fictional secretary to Ms. Bly. It seems more factual and less novel-like. A Feigned Madness seems as well-researched, but with the addition of some filling in of the gaps in Bly's life. Mitchell turns a mention of George McCain in the historical record into an unrequited love between Bly and McCain. The two communicate with unsigned cards illustrated with flowers, the "meaning was in the flowers themselves" as given in a Victorian book, The Language of Flowers, which listed the symbolism of various blossoms. I found this little detail charming. Somehow, I preferred the "looser" style of Mitchell's work.

Mitchell manages to convey the horror Bly encountered when she infiltrated Blackwell's Island in New York City's East River. At the time (and even now) there is such little understanding of the human psyche that it is frequently difficult to tell whether a person is sane or not. Women, due to their lack of social, financial, and political standing, were at risk for being institutionalized for frivolous reasons such as excessive masturbation, laziness, and unspecified female problems.

I also enjoyed reading about Bly's time in Mexico.

The Sculptress
V. S. Alexander
Kensington Books
9781496720405, $15.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle / $20.99 Audible audiobook

Genre: Women's Fiction, Art Fiction, World War I Fiction

I generally enjoy books about art and artists, so I was intrigued by The Sculptress, which is based on the life of the real-life sculptress, Anna Coleman-Ladd. It is set in post-Gilded Age, pre-World War I America, later moving to France in World War I.

The protagonist, Emma Lewis, has enough "wobble" in her personality to be interesting; however, some readers may be uncomfortable with her as she is quite calculating and not particularly likable. I also found her character to be rather inconsistent. In late adolescence, she and Kurt, a young man on whom she's had a crush since she was fifteen. When he realizes she's a virgin (after their first sexual encounter), he bluntly states he's not interested in marriage as he has college and law school to get through. They compromise: no marriage, yet she bargains with him, telling him he has to be available for sex whenever she desires him (as the horse is already out of the barn, so to speak).

During this time, at fifteen, she begins to study under Daniel Chester French, the world-renowned sculptor. Later, she moves to Boston and studies art there, hobnobbing with such notables as Isabella Stewart Gardner and John Singer Sargent. Beyond this, there is little about her growth as an artist. She marries Thomas Swan, a physician. He's a good provider, but a lackluster lover. She has a studio at home but is rarely seen working in it. We hear nothing about her studies, and her artistry seems more like a side note as opposed to something that truly drives her. Rather, she spends most of her time bemoaning her love life (or lack there of), the baby (Kurt's) she aborted, and her infatuation with the young blind painter, Linton Bower. Before she takes off to France, only three works of art are mentioned: the faun she lets melt in a rainstorm, her Diana which finally sells to an unknown buyer, and the Narcissus which she sees as a symbol of modern nations driving themselves to war, for which she plans to use Bower as a model.

This book seemed to be more about social issues (her pre-marital sexual experiences), infidelity, women's issues (women weren't felt to have the necessary range of artistic ability to become sculptors), and discrimination (Emma took her Irish housekeeper to a social event just to rile her hostess); however, I never saw her development as a sculptress.

Emma goes to France at her husband's request. He describes how an English physician is making masks for soldiers with damaged faces, and Thomas feels her skills as a sculptress might help her help them (this despite her lack of skill with faces). There she further explores her sexuality.


Sarah Mollo-Christensen, the narrator of The Sculptress, has a very pleasant speaking voice. She is able to assume different voices for each character, though her male voices tend to all sound alike. She does a great job on Emma's voice, that of Emma's best friend, and the Irish maid.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Where Wonder Lives: Practices for Cultivating the Sacred in Your Daily Life
Fabiana Fondevila
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644111741, $17.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Where Wonder Lives: Practices for Cultivating the Sacred in Your Daily Life", Fabiana Fondevila invites you on a journey, an expedition through your own inner landscape to reawaken to the mystery of life. The travels are by way of an imaginary map through 9 distinct territories. In each, you explore the terrain, then are led to a rich set of contemporary and time-honored practices ranging from mindfulness to dreamwork, cloudscapes, and working with plants, that will help you rebuild a life of vitality, connection, and enchantment.

There is no prescribed order in which to explore the map. Rather, the invitation is to begin at the territory that calls to you, or perhaps that which is most challenging. Each territory reflects and amplifies the others, and you will instinctively arrive at the practices that you need most.

The Jungle delves into our original deep kinship with Nature and helps you rekindle your inner wildness. The Garden takes you on a journey through your senses, and the River unfurls your imagination. The Mountaintop presents a bird's-eye view of your life, while the Swamp delves into your inner shadow and delivers gold. The Village helps us deepen our bonds and relationships, the Lighthouse teaches us to quiet our minds, and the Fire inspires us to create meaningful ceremonies and personal rituals. The Ocean looks into the topography of the heart and offers practices to awaken the heart's most powerful emotions: awe, joy, compassion, gratitude, and love, the mother of them all.

Throughout the journey you are immersed in a world of wonder and awe, discovering new possibilities for learning and expansion in ordinary life. Face to face with the mystery of life, "Where Wonder Lives" makes you feel at once both infinitely small and part of a vast, unfathomable universe -- all while helping you to see the world anew.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, inherently motivating and impressively informative, "Where Wonder Lives: Practices for Cultivating the Sacred in Your Daily Life" is a life affirming, life fulfilling, life enhancing, life embracing read. While especially recommended for community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Where Wonder Lives: Practices for Cultivating the Sacred in Your Daily Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Fabiana Fondevila is an author, storyteller, ritual maker, activist, and teacher from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fabiana's seminars weave together nature exploration, dreamwork, mythic consciousness, archetypal psychology, social work, and essential emotions such as awe, gratitude, and enchantment.

The Remote Work Era
Rhiannon Payne
Independently Published
9798582471141, $9.99, PB, 217pp

Synopsis: How can a high school dropout start a business that earned over $250K in its first year, all while living her dream of traveling the world? The answer lies in the new possibilities of the pandemic driven 'Remote Work' phenomena.

After interviewing over fifty women remote workers globally, including leaders at organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation, Buffer, and Basecamp, tech entrepreneur Rhiannon Payne has developed "The Remote Work Era: The Guide for Women to Go Remote & Thrive", a step-by-step guide to help women find and grow on their remote paths. In this timely DIY instructional guide and manual, Rhiannon shares insider tips and insights to help you design a fulfilling and flexible life that prioritizes your passions and goals -- and not just your job.

"The Remote Work Era" examines the dramatic changes happening in the workforce and how you can benefit. Whether you want to be a top-earning remote employee, a successful freelancer, an entrepreneur, a digital nomad, or simply work from home, Rhiannon and her interviewees provide the guidance you need to thrive in this new age of work as a remote employee, a freelancer, and an entrepreneur.

Critique: Timely and timeless, "The Remote Work Era: The Guide for Women to Go Remote & Thrive" is an essential and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional DIY reference for anyone wanting to work from home both in this time of pandemic and afterwards. While highly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library Jobs/Careers and Business Management collections it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Remote Work Era: The Guide for Women to Go Remote & Thrive" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: In 2015, Rhiannon Payne went remote full-time almost by accident. In the years since, she has: Founded and worked for startups across Silicon Valley, Europe, and Japan; Led product development for software used by the Ritz-Carlton and other five-star hotels; Started a remote business that grew to over $250K in revenue in its first year; Managed globally distributed teams in almost every time zone; Spoken at conferences around the world, including at the United Nations in Geneva.

Sally Bellerose
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612941899, $17.95, PB, 350pp

Synopsis: Eighty-nine-year-old Regina and ninety-year-old Jackie met in 1955, an era when women were rounded up and jailed simply for dancing together or dressing like a man. On a cold winter day they manage to get themselves out of the house with the help of TJ and Ramon, two young men from their working-class neighborhood in Western Massachusetts. They tie their long-dead Christmas tree to the top of their car and, using a screwdriver in place of a broken gearshift, slowly make the drive to the dump.

This is also the day when everything changes.

During the course of their adventure, memories are triggered. Their history as a passionate and devoted, but troubled couple at the intersection of historic cultural and political change unfolds via scenes from the past -- including their first meeting during a police raid on a bar and Regina's epiphany that she could truly love another woman.

In the early years, they often live apart as they flee landlords who discover their secret. As their journey leads them to seek jobs and a sustainable life, they are sometimes separated -- but always find their way back to each other.

Featuring a truly memorable cast of diverse characters, "Fishwives" chronicles an LGBTQ lifetime through the eyes of two old women 'behaving badly'.

Critique: Another superbly written work of fiction that also reflects and reveals a genuine history of LGBTQ experiences in a hostile, anti-gay society and dominant culture, "Fishwives" by Sally Bellerose is an extraordinary read and a novel that is especially recommended for community, college, and university library LGBTQ Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fishwives" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Sally Bellerose is the author of The Girls Club, which was awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA. As an author, Sally loves to mess with rhythm, rhyme, and awkward emotion. She is also drawn to humor and transcendence, and writes about class, sex, sexuality, gender, illness, absurdity, and lately, growing old.

The Tender Grave
Sheri Reynolds
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612941936, $16.95, PB, 220pp

Synopsis: Dori, at age 17, participates in a hate crime against a gay boy from her school and runs away to escape prosecution -- and her own harrowing childhood. In her pocket, she carries the address of an older, half-sister she's never met. She has no idea that her sister Teresa is married to another woman.

When Dori and Teresa finally meet, they're forced to confront that, while they don't like or really even understand one another, they are inextricably bound together in ways that transcend their differences. Together, the sisters discover that shifting currents of family and connection can sometimes run deeper than the prevailing tides of abandonment and estrangement.

In "The Tender Grave", novelist Sheri Reynolds weaves complex themes of parenting, forgiveness, guilt, and accountability into a lyrical and lushly-woven tapestry that chronicles our enduring search for heart, home, and healing.

Critique: Although a work of deftly crafted fiction, "The Tender Grave" explores relationship themes that will be instantly recognized by a LGBTQ readership. An inherently absorbing and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "The Tender Grave" is especially recommended for community, library LBGTQ fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Tender Grave" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Sheri Reynolds is the author of the seven novels and the full-length play, Orabelle's Wheelbarrow. She teaches creative writing and literature at Old Dominion University, where she serves as its Department Chair of English and is the Ruth and Perry Morgan Chair of Southern Literature. Her novel, The Rapture of Canaan was an Oprah Book Club Selection and a New York Times bestseller. She and her wife live in Cape Charles on Virginia's eastern shore.

Best Bondage Erotica of the Year: Volume 2
Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627783026, $18.95, PB, 260pp

Synopsis: Erotica is any literary or artistic work that deals substantively with subject matter that is erotically stimulating or sexually arousing but is not generally considered to be pornographic.

Deftly compiled and edited by Rachel Kramer Bussell, "Best Bondage Erotica of the Year, Volume 2" is comprised of nineteen adult erotica stories of teasing, tantalizing, and begging for more. Mature readers are invited to shamelessly delve into their forbidden desires ranging from the most innocent to the truly deviant. These sexy tales include a double-dom three-way in a locked escape room, an outrageous kitchen tryst, a couple discovering their penchant for the perverse, kinky commands in space, and a range of role-play scenarios, each wilder than the last.

Critique: Showcasing nineteen writers who have truly mastered the not-so-gentle erotic arts of sexual power and erotic restraint, ""Best Bondage Erotica of the Year, Volume 2" from Cleis Press is very highly recommended recreational reading for mature readers with an interest in the subject.

Empowered: A Motivational Journal for Women
Michaela Renee Johnson, MA, LMFT
Rockridge Press
c/o Callisto Media
9781647390525, $11.99, PB, 156pp

Synopsis: Any woman can create positive change in their life -- and journaling is a powerful tool and a way to start. "Empowered: A Motivational Journal for Women" created by Michaela Renee Johnson will enable you discover, define, and embolden yourself through inspirational writing prompts, exercises, and quotes. It's packed from cover to cover with tools to help you manifest your goals, along with plenty of space for reflection.

Dozens of thought-provoking prompts and exercises encourage you to expand your mind and embrace your dreams. Connect with your deeper self through writing, and visualize intentions through creative exercises. Go beyond this DIY journal to meditate, listen to music, or enjoy nature -- and then return to its pages in order to contemplate your experiences. There's no right or wrong way to use this motivational journal -- the important thing is to begin.

"Empowered: A Motivational Journal for Women: includes: Creative freedom (Explore out-of-the-box ideas like drawing and coloring, creating a vision board, or crafting a reflective poem); Your own space (The colorful, beautifully illustrated modern layout gives you abundant room to express yourself directly in the pages of this motivational journal); Inspiring words (Cultivate a positive mindset with quotes from influential women like Alice Walker, Amelia Earhart, and Michelle Obama).

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it inspired and inspiring, "Empowered: A Motivational Journal for Women" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended DIY journal for women of any age or background who are seeking to obtain a better understanding of themselves and their aspirations.

Pinned!: Farm Accident -- Our Walk in Faith
George Topp & Kaye Topp
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
9781973680482, $19.99, PB, 168pp

Synopsis: George Topp believed in God but often relied on himself when making and carrying out decisions. He was not inclined to ask God for help but May 3, 2004 was the day that he found out he powerless.

That day on his farm near Grace City, North Dakota, started out like any other. He had a half-dozen cows left to calf, and he was also seeding barley. Everything was going fine until his truck would not start. He had the bright idea to pull the truck with his small loader tractor and a chain to get it started. While the idea itself was sound, it was a bad call trying to do it himself without having someone drive the truck. The bumper of the truck ended up landing on the top of his legs, and he was immediately pinned.

Before long, he began writing goodbyes to his wife and his family on his calving notepad. But miraculously, God intervened and saved George Topp's life, not only rescuing him but also healing his wounds and restoring him to wholeness in Jesus Christ.

In pages of "Pinned!: Farm Accident -- Our Walk in Faith", George and his wife, Kaye, share the incredible love of Jesus and the unbelievable grace of God in this true story that will ignite your faith and convince you of God's love.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Pinned!: Farm Accident -- Our Walk in Faith" is especially recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pinned!: Farm Accident -- Our Walk in Faith" is also readily available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

50 Years in the OR: True Stories of Life, Loss, and Laughter While Giving Anesthesia
Ron Whitchurch
Loon Lake Press
9781736065006, $18.95 pbk / $8.99 Kindle 332 Pages

Ronald Whitchurch, the author of this fascinating book, is now retired and living in Florida with his wife Lonni. As an already qualified RN he went on to graduate from the Minneapolis School of Anesthesia, and began working as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in 1971.

I have to admit that I have only been anesthetised once, when I had my daughter, so I hadn't really thought very much about what an anaesthetist does. I suppose I thought they just put people to sleep when they had operations, and then ensured they came around afterwards. I really didn't appreciate how varied, hands-on, and difficult their work was. And, I must admit having that one and only experience of anesthesia, I asked the same question as the lady in the entertaining chapter titled 'Worried I Won't Wake Up.'

The author really does tells a lovely story. Immediately he captivated me, and drew me into his world as an anesthetist, and I can tell you, it was a real eye-opener. There were so many incredible stories to read about, some were of the 'you'd have to be there to believe it,' variety, others were rather graphic, and some made you laugh. It was very difficult to pick a favorite, but one of mine had to be the 'Three Tattoo Stories.' You'll have to read it to understand why, but it will make you smile...

I was also to discover that there were some life lessons thrown in to the stories, the one which most surprised me was the very sad and unpleasant chapter named 'Brushing Teeth.'

The author doesn't pull his punches. In this revealing book, the readers are treated to graphic descriptions of real events, and their outcomes, good or bad. However, I have to say that if you, like me, enjoy reading 'true stories,' and are interested in other people's lives and careers, then this book is a real treat, and there's even a glossary of terms at the back. Highly recommended!

Deborah Slaying (Book of Deborah 3)
Avraham Azriel
Self Published
9781953648075, $11.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 271 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

The stories of the Old Testament have been, and will forever, be a source of inspiration, comfort, and strength to those who read them. They tell of, for the most part, ordinary men, and sometimes women, who have through their faith, and God's guidance achieved incredible things.

This 'Deborah' series of books is a fictional telling of the life of the first female prophet Deborah. A woman who, in a male dominated world believed her father's prediction that she was going to become a great prophet.

In modern times a goal like this would be considered, although incredibly difficult, possible. However in the Old Testament era, women had a very different life, being married young, she would bear children, and look after the household, this was the way it was in those times...

Yet Deborah, with incredible fortitude and bravery became renowned as a prophet, and judge. She was also a wise military leader who liberated her people from the Canaanites.

'Deborah Slaying' is the third book in this enthralling series. In the previous two, 'Deborah Calling,' and 'Deborah Rising,' we have followed her fortunes, and seen a young girl leave her home, and face incredible dangers, as she went against her expected future, to pursue her calling.

Believing she would only be able to achieve her destiny as a male, she took on a male persona, and was known as Borah. In this, the third book, we see her as Borah, accepting a mission to rescue the kidnapped Princess Needa from the hands of her Hebrew abductors, and return her back to her brother the king.

As we travel with her on this dangerous journey, we experience the harsh realities of life in those times. Also, we watch Deborah/Borah grow as a person and warrior. Her life experiences, her conversations with Yahweh, and her faith in his infinite wisdom, give her the strength and fortitude to make her own judgements wisely, and learn to forsake her own desires for the good of others.

In writing the 'Deborah' series, Avraham Azrieli has used his remarkable talent for storytelling to take his readers back through the centuries, into the ancient lands of Mesopotamia in the northeast, through to the River Nile in the southwest. Once there he not only tells the story of this incredible female prophet, but he also allows his readers to discover what life was really like for the people who lived in those times. I highly recommend this series to lovers of biblical stories and historical fiction.

The Broken II: Tainted Trail
A. L. Frances
Ruby Rose Publishing
9780960105113, $11.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle, 202 Pages

A broken man, the once charismatic, successful businessman, Matthew Honey is a drunkard who has lost everything. Well nearly... Back in the dark reaches of his mind, he knows his beautiful daughter Eve, possessed by an evil entity, is still alive, and he is determined that he will find her.

However, not everyone agrees, Chief Inspector Lamont is equally convinced that Matthew killed both his wife Lauren, then years later his daughter, and is intent on proving it.

Time has moved on, and so have the entities formerly known as Jess, and Eve. Their plans are growing and it is the unlucky family of Alice Parkinson who are their new prey.

Newly widowed Alice has been wooed by Jesse. He has quickly won her heart, and moved in with her and her children, becoming part of the family. Then the household dynamic changes again, with the arrival of Jesse's daughter. However, not everyone is pleased, Alice's mum Dorothy is not keen on Jesse. Is it just too soon, or is a mother's instinct kicking in?

The vividly dramatic writing of British born A. L. Frances, the author of this enthralling horror story, takes her readers deep into their terrified minds.

A father, determined to find his daughter, and a family in peril. As the horrors unfold, twists and turns mask the plot of this exciting story.

If you are a lover of deep terrifying stories which leave a prickle at the back of your neck, then this is the story for you. Highly recommended!

Memories Live Here: A Novel
Marc Sheinbaum
Independently Published
9798552235629, $10.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 292 Pages

This extraordinary work of fiction cleverly blends intrigue, mystery, and science fiction, leaving its readers pondering on the future of mankind, the kinds of technology it may produce, and their uses.

The story has three protagonists, and they are brothers. Josh, is a brilliant academic, a hermit geek who is leading a revolutionary secret AI project "CHERL" (Computerised Human Experience as Real Life,) which aims to bring back historical leaders to aid in modern decision making. Louie is all about appearance and trappings. He is an investment banker who lives in a high powered world, the proverbial swan serenely floating above water, whilst paddling like fury underneath. And then there is Donny, who was destined to become a star athlete, however life doesn't work like that, instead he's a twice divorced, fifty-two-year old programmer.

When their eighty-seven year old mother Ruth dies, it is Louie and Donny whose job it is to arrange the funeral, and closure of her life. Where is Josh? Well he has missed the whole thing, his important project is nearing completion, his bosses are demanding, and as many people are, he is too preoccupied in his life to even think of others, let alone pick up the phone when it rings.

Like most families there are skeletons in the cupboard, and during the house clearance Donny reflects on his obsession that their fathers death 30 years previously was suspicious, but how do you find the truth when everyone who was involved is now dead?

So many questions, yet even more disaster is set to throw the brothers personal lives and careers into turmoil. With their worlds set to implode, will the appearance of their mother's secret diaries provide the answers?

This modern day world is steeped in technology. Everyone has become insular, with the pressures of modern day life, keeping up with the Joneses, and "having all the trappings of success" becoming all consuming. This thought-provoking story looks at humans as a race, delving into the frailties of our species, those things which make us human, and asks the question "Is there is a place for technology like CHERL in our future?"

This is such a clever story, not only will it keep its readers on the edge of their seats from the very first page, but at the end it will leave them reflective, and wanting to know more... Highly recommended!

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Open Heart: The Transformational Journey of a Doctor Who, After Bypass Surgery at 61, Ran Marathons and Climbed Mountains
Akil Taher, MD
Independently Published
9798594945234, $16.99 pbk / $1.99 Kindle, 132 pages

There is more to life than increasing its speed.

~Mahatma Gandhi

Akil had come to America with the hope of becoming a prominent name in the medical field. He felt he had to prove himself to the medical fraternity, which involved working long hours and agreeing to speak at conferences. The schedule he set for himself was robust, and he found himself exhausted when his day ended.

The pursuit of the "American Dream" led to the reckless pursuit of success and fame, for he was determined to become recognized as a leading physician. Nafisa, his wife, never voiced how lonely she felt. She faithfully stayed by his side as she watched him pursue his goal.

Akil's fast pace world came crashing down when he experienced chest pains while in London. Being a physician, he recognized the seriousness of his chest pains. His options included having stents put in or open-heart surgery. He opted for the stents and hoped for the best.

At the age of sixty-one, his heart failed him once again, and he had no choice but to have open-heart surgery. Waking up from the procedure was like Akil saw the world with new eyes. He knew he had to change his life, which began by slowing down and investing more time on health and family.

Akil's story will inspire others to stop and think if they allow their career to rob them of the ability to live a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. It will show how one man was faced with a severe health condition and turned it into a reason to start living a new mindset that included investing in a healthy lifestyle.

Akil Taher, MD's story will inspire others to see even physicians can suffer the most serious health conditions. His story will empower others to want to make changes to their own life. This book provides hope and encouragement to see how one man's tragedy can become a life-changing experience. His descriptive words allowed me to feel the depth of what he was enduring. I found myself celebrating his victory at the end. This author has proven to me his voice will be well received in the literary world.

Suzie Housley

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Wetlands, Streams, and Other Waters
Paul D. Cylinder, et al.
Solano Press Books
9780923956769, $50.00, PB, 420pp

Synopsis: This newly updated and expanded edition of "Wetlands, Streams, and Other Waters" offers an overview of the complex laws and regulations that govern our nation's waters. In clear and understandable language, "Wetlands, Streams, and Other Waters" describes the processes required and options available to comply with federal regulation of wetlands, streams, and other waters throughout the United States. It is a practical, comprehensive guide that will prove invaluable to permit applicants, public agencies, environmental organizations, and attorneys confronting these issues.

Written by technical and legal experts Paul D. Cylinder, Kenneth M. Bogdan, April I. Zohn, and Joel B. Butterworth, carefully and effectively "Wetlands, Streams, and Other Waters" guides the reader through the permit process for projects in wetlands and streams, suggesting strategies to plan and protect resources. Drawing on extensive personal experience, the authors unravel the intricacies of the regulatory programs, suggesting how to navigate the regulatory process effectively and efficiently.

"Wetlands, Streams, and Other Waters" exhaustively dissects Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. It also introduces other related federal laws, and comprehensively summarizes regulations in all 50 states. An indispensable desktop reference, "Wetlands, Streams, and Other Waters" not only answers day-to-day questions about regulatory compliance, but directs the reader to a wealth of additional resources.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "Wetlands, Streams, and Other Waters" is an essential, core addition to professional, community, governmental, college, and university library Ecology/Environmental Studies collections in general, and wetlands regulation, conservation, and mitigation collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Heavy Ground: William Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam Disaster
Norris Hundley Jr., author
Donald C. Jackson, author
University of Nevada Press
Mail Stop 0166, Reno, NV, 89557-0166
9781948908887, $45.00, PB, 440pp

Synopsis: Minutes before midnight on March 12, 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed, sending more than twelve billion gallons of water surging through Southern California's Santa Clara Valley, killing some four hundred people and causing the greatest civil engineering disaster in twentieth-century American history.

Newly published by the University of Nevada Press, "Heavy Ground: William Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam Disaster" is a carefully researched work in which Norris Hundley Jr. and Donald C. Jackson collaborate to provide a riveting narrative exploring the history of the ill-fated dam and the person directly responsible for its flawed design -- William Mulholland, a self-taught engineer of the Los Angeles municipal water system.

Employing copious illustrations and intensive research, "Heavy Ground" deftly traces the interwoven roles of politics and engineering in explaining how the St. Francis Dam came to be built and the reasons for its collapse. Hundley and Jackson also detail the terror and heartbreak brought by the flood, legal claims against the City of Los Angeles, efforts to restore the Santa Clara Valley, political factors influencing investigations of the failure, and the effect of the disaster on congressional approval of the future Hoover Dam.

Underlying it all is a consideration of how the dam (and the disaster) were inextricably intertwined with the life and career of William Mulholland. Ultimately, this thoughtful and nuanced account of the dam's failure reveals how individual and bureaucratic conceit fed Los Angeles's desire to control vital water supplies in the booming metropolis of Southern California.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read and a seminal work of meticulous, detailed scholarship, "Heavy Ground: William Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam Disaster" is an extraordinary account that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an informative Prologue; two Appendices (How Fast Could the Reservoir Have Been Lowered? / Was Failure Inevitable?); seventy-eight pages of Notes; and a thirteen page Index. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Heavy Ground" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $42.75).

Editorial Note #1: Norris Hundley (1935 - 2013) was an author and leader in the history of the American West and in the nascent field of water history. He was a was long time member of the History Department at UCLA and served as president of both the Western History Association and the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association.

Editorial Note #2: Donald C. Jackson is the Cornelia F. Hugel Professor of History at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. He has authored many books and articles on the history of dams and hydraulic engineering.

Willis M. Buhle

James A. Cox
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