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

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 5 May 2018 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Reviewer's Choice

Healing With Hemp CBD Oil
Earl Mindell
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004551, $16.95, PB, 160pp,

Andrea Kay

The health benefits of marijuana are now getting a good deal of attention. Yet hemp (a close relative of marijuana) is actually a far richer source of CBD, the compound responsible for effectively treating dozens of disorders, and contains very little THC, the substance responsible for marijuana's highs. But the US government, which holds the patent for CBD specifically because of its healing abilities, has unfairly classified hemp as a Class 1 drug, thereby banning people in the United States from growing it commercially. "Healing With Hemp CBD Oil: A Simple Guide to Using Powerful and Proven Health Benefits of CBD" by registered pharmacist, master herbalist, and college educator Earl Mindell looks at the important role the hemp plant has played in both Eastern and Western societies as a source for paper, textiles, rope, and so much more. This is followed by a discussion of the science behind CBD's medical benefits. Mindell then provides a consumer's guide to buying hemp products (especially its oil and its CBD supplements) and offers an eye-opening examination of hemp's legal status in the United States, from the 1900s to now. Finally, based on up-to-date studies, Dr. Mindell presents an A-to-Z guide to the many uses of hemp oil and CBD for various health conditions, from arthritis to depression to heart disease. Although the United States has given CBD-rich hemp a problematic legal status, fortunately, this product (sourced from other countries) is readily available. "Healing with Hemp CBD Oil" guides the non-specialist general reader in using this all-natural substance as a safe, side effect-free remedy, making it very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Healing With Hemp CBD Oil" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.10).

Marital Advice to My Grandson, Joel
How to be a husband your wife won't throw out the window in the middle of the night
Peter Davidson
Sweet Memories Publishing
9780692998151, $10.95, 137 pages

Christina Francine Kennison, Reviewer

"Just treat her like one of the guys" (4) is what Davidson's well-meaning friends told him prior to being married. Advice like this is not what Davidson wanted his grandson to receive, especially with divorce rates what they are today. So, what began as a few words of wisdom soon developed into a light-hearted book that helps all men and not only Joel. Men begin to realize the misunderstandings that can occur because "Women are different than men" and men's natural sense of humor is appreciated by most women. Marital Advice to My Grandson, Joel takes an amusing and entertaining view of four important areas men need to know about if they don't want the woman they love to run for the nearest exit.

In the first section, Davidson offers "Settling into Married Life" (13), which contains eleven sub-headings: "Compatibility or Compromise," "Sharing," "Mommy's Little Helper," "Bragging Rights," "Bedroom Bliss," "Does this Dress Make Me Look Big?" "The Look," "Shut Up and Eat It," and "Let the Training Begin" (13-15). This section attempts to remind men they are part of a couple now and making decisions based on their needs and thoughts only is in the past. As part of a couple, they need to consider what their partner needs and thinks too. For example, if a man decides to buy a banana for himself and not one for his lady because she doesn't like them, men will soon realize "sharing in a marriage is not the same as sharing in kindergarten" (16-17). Though Davidson leaves his reader to "figure it out" (17) the message is clear: the question isn't whether or not a man's lady wanted a banana or not.

In the second section, Davidson offers "Understanding Your Wife, and Other Myths" (53), which contains these headings: "Female Shopping Logic," "There's No Stopping the Shopping," "Look at That!" "Your Wife, The Entrepreneur," "Your Wife the Addict" and "Her Silence, But Very Loud Language." It is in this area Davidson attempts to explain as best as he can how to read women and what their logic is and when he doesn't know an answer, he simply says he doesn't. For example, he shares his experience on why women sometimes are silent: "Researchers have determined that there are one hundred sixty-seven different reasons why a woman may be silent," he says. "Some of which are good[,] some of which are bad, and some which are neutral." He cautions men to not even try to figure it out because they can't (72). As much as men want a roadmap in understanding their partner, Davidson enforces the reality that there is no such thing, and when a woman is too quiet sometimes, the best a man can do is "consider everything, and then....GUESS!" (78). Davidson explains that in reading a woman and "her arms are crossed in front of her chest, [understand] she is probably feeling negative and is blocking out what you are saying, or worse yet, blocking you out" (77).

In the third section, Davidson offers areas that cover "Becoming Even More Exemplatory" (79) and contains these headings: "Unpredictable You," "The Perfect Greeting Card," "Eating Etiquette," "Chivalry," "Keeping Your In-Laws From Becoming Out Laws," and "The Wind Beneath Her Wings." It is with these topics Davidson continues his recommendations. In case his readers still don't understand, he adds a sobering chapter for male readers that spells things out. He explains that men should also know about themselves that even as fabulous and wonderful [as they] are, there may room for improvement (79). He reiterates women like to be thought of. He explains men should try and remember special anniversaries and holidays, especially Valentine's Day and her birthday. That is what warms a woman's heart. Davidson's message is that if a guy grabs any card off the shelf, the results may not be ideal. Just because a man is a "Rocket Shopper" that isn't a plus to most women because they see shopping as different. Instead, many women see shopping as something to be savored. Davidson even helps readers by supplying over a half of a page of "wonderful words" to put inside greeting cards (89). He even offers sentence starters too (89-90).

Yet another topic Davidson brings in that adds extra charm is chivalry. "It's not dead," he says. A chivalrous man shines. Remember, women are impressed by thoughtfulness and if the man adds a little extra act of kindness, his lady will see him as her perfect knight. He adds a chivalrous man also supports his lady's goals too, even if she doesn't do them well.

The rest of Davidson's marital advice concentrates on financial security, investment, and few final words to consider when his lady is too quiet. When she says "nothing," he warns, that almost always means "something."

Men and women are different and a book such as Davidson's illustrates the likelihood misunderstandings will arise. Like many men, Davidson uses humor to help him deliver his message, something most women appreciate. Humor is one of men's best natural tendencies. At a time when divorce is more the exception today statistically, Davidson's book is appreciated. A note to women: the idea that a book like this exits shows men want to get "things" right, even though they may not. Why else would a book like Davidson's exist? Maybe Mrs. Davidson needs to write a marital advice book for women.

The Light in the Trees
Jeff Van Valer
Privately Published
B07BD655K5, $1.99, Kindle, 392 pages

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

This is fine example of a coming of age novel and an excellent first novel for this author. The generally well written, and although I found it to be long, detailed and analytical for YA novel it is suspenseful and entertaining. The story is well imagined down to minute conversation; it struck me more like a memoir than fiction. Although I could never articulate what there was about it that appealed to my interest, it stuck like superglue to my fingers for a reason I didn't understand.

The characters are well developed and believable. A lot of emphasis is placed on confusion about roles and political pecking orders. I suppose that to be expected as part of the confusion of that age; figuring out individual roles in the scheme of things. Along with that, the characters face many other confusing issues; whether or not to break the rules, and how to deal with feeling engendered by friendship with the opposite sex.

Readers will find the plot to be thrilling, satisfying and well put together. The book is very suspenseful and although the action seems slow there is an air of weight that overhangs every decision and conversation. Perhaps because of the age of the characters and the situation, every action seems weighted with importance.

Overall, an excellent entertaining read and a book to be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys thrillers, coming of age novels or mysteries in general. 5 Stars

This book was provided free by the author in hopes of receiving an honest review. The above review represents my honest opinion of the book.

State of Fear
Michael Crichton
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd St; New York, NY 10022
0066214130, $16.68, 567pp

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Legacy: this is Crichton's legacy; he warns the reader: Our society exists in a state of fear and hastily has 'adopted/accepted' the theory of global warming. Crichton provides tons of resources to suggest the reverse: the environment is not a system that can be computer modeled with predictability. He also states that our scientists conduct research funded by governments and foundations where the outcome is expected and the true results are ignored by the media.

This novel is notable for its conclusion that global warming is politicized science. Resources and graphs show the reader the true science. Crichton wrote an annotated bibliography that deserves to be read and studied and absorbed.

State of Fear is a novel of ecoterrorism and describes well-meaning, dedicated environmentalists and mercenaries who are prepared to harm others to 'prove' our Earth is in a crisis. An exciting story. State of Fear reminds us that non-scientists do not know how to interpret data. Sometime in the future, when mankind realizes the fallacy of easily adopting mis-interpreted data 'we' will see this as Crichton's legacy.

Seeds of Hope
Debbie Tremel
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B079DZ8TZ3, $2.99, 333 pages

Suzie Housley

A light of salvation can be found for those who believe...

The world as he knew it was gone in its place was a mound of mass destruction. His family no longer existed and now it was up to Daniel to pick himself from the ashes and rebuild his life.

Daniel focuses on hope and salvation, it becomes the beacon that guides him to the healing light. He finds Sophie and others who have survived. It is their mission to get past this horrific event and find peace and tranquility in a new life.

The harsh elements threaten their existence. Their lives are constantly in danger. Will they be able to get past this darkness that has engulfed them to find a seed of hope grows in all the devastation?

The Waste-Wise Kitchen Companion: Hundreds Of Practical Tips For Repairing, Reusing, And Repurposing Food: How to Eat Better, Save Money, and Utilize Leftovers Creatively
Jean B. MacLeod
Privately Published
9780997446401, $14.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 194pp,

Kirkus Reviews

A home cook shares her thrifty, ecologically conscious tips for reducing kitchen waste.

Americans have been known to waste an astonishing amount of food, pitching usable food scraps, salvageable kitchen disasters, and other edible items into trash bins by the ton. Jean B. MacLeod (The Kitchen Paraphernalia Handbook, 2017, etc.) aims to help change that with this easy-to-use reference book, which she describes as "a food first-aid kit".

In it, she catalogs alternative, creative ways to use a bevy of common food items, from dried-out almond paste to surplus zucchini. This isn't a cookbook, however; instead, it's as a handy guide for amateur chefs who might wonder about how to salvage a watery tomato sauce, what to do with leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, or whether limp lettuce can be revived. But although there are diverse suggestions here, readers will have to consult their favorite cookbooks or the internet for specific recipe instructions.

Still, for a slim book, it's remarkably comprehensive, and the author isn't afraid to suggest uses for foods that many might ordinarily toss out. There's guidance on what to do with fish heads, for instance (make fish stock, or deep-fry the bones), the whey left after making homemade cheese or yogurt (use it as a substitute for whey powder in smoothies or as an alternative to buttermilk), and flat champagne (put it in waffle batter).

Nor are the secondary uses limited to cooking: she notes that empty coffee pods can be used as seed starters; flat cola works as slug bait in a garden; and juiced lemon halves can clean copper pans. Even the vinegar used to descale a coffee pot, she asserts, can be used to freshen drains. After browsing through this book, readers will likely feel inspired -- and perhaps even a bit guilty over all the food they've wasted in the past.

A successful book that makes reducing food waste seem fun and easy.

Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil
Charmaine Mullins-Jaime
Sea Salt Press
Amazon ISBN: 9780692789841
Ingram ISBN: 9780999505007
$12.99 paperback; $2.99 eBook; Page Count: 267

Kaye Lynne Booth

"Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil": A delightful middle-grade fantasy

From the very start, Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil, by Charmaine Mullins-Jaime, grabs readers interest and holds it, no matter their age. The characters are colorful, likable and fully developed. The plot is easy to follow and easy to buy-in to.

Scarlett is special from the day she was born and Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil takes us on the magical journey of her coming of age. At the age of thirteen, Scarlett learns about the magical world which is and has always been around her, but now she is able to see beneath the veil which hides it. Who would have guessed that three fairies, a leprechaun and a bogey all lived under the Wrigley roof with Scarlett and her family, or that a bad elf would try to trick her into going with him to meet an evil goblin.

As Scarlett learns more and more about this strange other world, which she's discovered exists alongside her own, her own world is turned upside down, but in a good way, as she learns how to awaken her powers. And she also learns that someone wants her mother dead and she holds the power to save her.

Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil is a well-crafted story that will delight readers of all ages. I give it five quills.

Amie Cut for Life
Lucinda E. Clarke
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781974607396, $11.99, PB, 328pp,

Lesley Hayes

I reviewed Amie, An African Adventure, several years ago, and felt regret at leaving Amie at the point in her life she had by then valiantly struggled to reach, mingled with relief that there would be further adventures. This is the first of the subsequent books I have found time to review, and I feel compelled to share my immediate response to it.

The story kept me enthralled for a week, as I sank deeper and deeper into Amie's world. It's a tribute to Lucinda E Clarke's skillful writing that I was so engaged, as I never stay with a book unless I'm truly captivated by the plot, the characters and the dialogue. This book lived vividly for me - the richness of the African landscape and the people, the building tension of the storyline, the deeply affecting subject matter, and Amie herself... I became increasingly aware of the evolution of her character since the first book about her adventures.

I found myself drawn to Amie in a deeper way in Amie Cut for Life, as once again she demonstrated all the qualities that make a well-rounded and utterly believable and loveable woman: strong and fearless and determined to follow through and do the right thing, while also vulnerable and capable of making misguided errors of judgement when beguiled by false friends. Although there is a specific focus on the vile practice of FGM, Lucinda E Clarke has cleverly brought to the reader's attention the stark reality of the various atrocities visited on innocent children through ignorance and exploitation born of greed. She has achieved this by invoking empathy in her reader, and a first-hand insight into the clumsy desperation and unwise choices that can lead to betrayal and a futile and barbaric wastage of lives.

I came away from this book feeling wiser, and deeply touched by Amie's journey which had taken me to places I never expected to go. I'm grateful to the author, and greatly admire her work, which I unreservedly recommend to other readers.

The Ticket
Fred Shackelford
Black Opal Books
PO Box 504, Parkdale, OR 97041
9781626945708, $15.49, PB,

Lawrence McConnell, Reviewer
Copyright, The Roanoke Times, republished by permission

Fred Shackelford's first novel adheres to some of Elmore Leonard's 10 rules for good writing. For those new to crime fiction, Leonard was its master in the 20th century, primarily for his economy of prose and his gift for dialogue that revealed character and propelled plot in books such as "Get Shorty," "Out of Sight" and nearly 40 more.

The odds are in Shackelford's favor that he'll build on his experience from writing "The Ticket." It is a novel about improbabilities, including odds, as in the Virginia Lottery's odds of about 259 million-to-1 for the winning ticket held by the book's central, unsavory character, Channing Booker.

Consider, too, the astronomical odds of timing. To avoid having to share the $241 million prize with a spouse he's aiming to divorce, Booker hides the winning ticket from his wife, placing it inside a book at his home. To his horror, it disappears the very next day, along with his wife, who's shipped the book along with other personal effects from their house to an undisclosed location.

As the clock ticks to the deadline to cash in the ticket, Booker draws various associates and henchmen into a web of schemes to hide his dealings from his law partners, locate his wife and recover the winning ticket before it's worthless. The surprises along the journey to a showdown are as improbable as winning the lottery but satisfying nonetheless.

This is a breezy read that is well-plotted, with more than the requisite number of twists to keep readers entertained. Shackelford, a lawyer by trade, lives in Charlottesville. For a first novel, this is a wise choice for the setting, because of his familiarity with the area and, more importantly, the legal system, specifically divorce laws. He's also faithful to a number of Leonard's rules for good novel writing, including:

No. 1. Never open a book with weather. Check. Shackelford dives right into the moment Channing discovers he has the winning ticket.

No. 2. Avoid prologues. See No. 1.

No. 3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. Check.

No. 5. Keep your exclamation points under control. Check.

No. 7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Shackelford resists this temptation.

No. 10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. The author accomplishes this moderately well.

Odds are, based on his first novel's 60 percent compliance with Leonard's rules, Shackelford is headed for greater things, provided he continues to conjure up plots like this one and sharpens his dialogue to a fine Leonard-esque edge.

Spooky Twisties II
Terri Bertha
MuseItUp Publishing, Inc.
9781771279642, $9.95 PB, $1.99 Kindle, 132pp,

Patricia Bell, Reviewer

Spooky Twisties II, the second installment in the Spooky Twisties series continues the collection of "Spooky" stories by Terri Bertha. With thirteen chapters of the creepiest stories about the strangest things. This segment is loaded with strange unexplainable happenings. My favorite being The Magic Set in which a little girl is accidently turned into a poodle. And is there a succubus among us! I do believe so.

Get your blanket out, close your doors, lock your windows and get ready to settle down with your pre-teen for a little scarefest...or two. And while you are at it, don't forget to laugh. Spooky Twisties II will creep you out and tickle your funny bone at the same time. Yeah that's creepy, I know. Awesome Job to Terri Bertha. Once again you do not disappoint. Ready and waiting for the next installment. Spooky Twisties III!

Ann's Bookshelf

The French Girl
Lexie Elliott
Atlantic Books
9781786495549, A$29.99, paperback, 296 pages

Kate Channing is a young lawyer who has recently set up her own legal head-hunter agency. This, and her freedom, are threatened when the body of a French girl is found in a well on a property where Kate and her university friends had holidayed ten years earlier.

Kate tells this story. She tells of the events which led up to the disappearance of nineteen-year-old Severine, the French "mademoiselle next door". She tells of the developing investigation by the French police, in particular, of Modan, the French detective who comes to interview her and her friends. And she tells of her growing fear as she becomes the main suspect in a murder investigation. The five friends are all suspects but because of a lovers' quarrel between Kate and Seb at the end of the holiday, Kate is seen as the most likely killer. Motive? Jealousy.

Kate's friends are a disparate, mostly likable, bunch. Her closest friend, Lara, is a sexy Swedish blonde. Tom and Seb are cousins who have always lived close to each other on the estate owned by Seb's wealthy father. Theo, who was with them on that holiday, was killed in Afghanistan. And Caro, the least likable of them all, is the daughter of a man who is presently Kate's most important business client.

Severine disappeared on the last night of their holiday. Evidence of her boarding a bus and CCTV images of her at the bus station suggested that she chose to disappear, but alterations on the French property have now discovered her body in a well and her skull shows that she had received a severe blow to the head. The bus station evidence has proved unreliable. There is some dispute about the exact date at which the well in which the body was eventually found was filled in. So, the case is reopened.

The pace at which events and revelations occur make this a gripping book. It is easy to like Kate and to share her feelings, doubts and emotions. She is an outspoken Yorkshire lass with a sharp mind and (sometimes) a sharp tongue. Clearly she did not murder Severine. Nor did her friend, Lara. But what about the others? All of them have secrets. Kate becomes increasingly distracted by the investigation and by the rumours which someone has spread amongst her potential clients, threatening to ruin her business. And Severine, to Kate's initial concern, becomes her ghostly companion. She knows Severine is a figment of her imagination, but she begins to find her sudden, silent appearances quite comforting.

Lexie Eliott creates believable and articulate characters. She writes well and she holds the reader in suspense until the final pages. This is a fine debut novel.

A Feast of Fools
Terry Gifford
Cinnamon Press
9781788640084, 8.99 Brit. pounds, paperback, 71pages

Matt Howard
The Rialto
9781909632080, 10.00 Brit. pounds, paperback, 68pages

Here are two poetry books by two very different poets, each with their own strong individual voice and each with their own special interests.

Terry Gifford's poems reflect his life as a traveller, a climber and an environmentalist. You travel with him to California, Spain, Scotland and many other places, noticing the natural wonders but also the environmental degradation. The title of his book suggests a book of foolery and Terry begins his first poem as "the fool" who addresses "an audience of fools" - "well-travelled fools" and "well-informed fools" but fools who, like him, are confounded by "the simplicity / of the hairbell" and the song of the blackbird. Amongst poems of great joy and beauty Terry writes, too, of the degradation we foolish humans cause.

At a cultural festival in Spain, he immerses us in the family traditions - "the long years of hands and feet crafting cooking / and dances and music and designs and techniques for / growing well with garlic and oil and an unspoken love". Here are the musicians "not at all nervous, tuning and toasting a dram to Aurora". Here is the doctor "smoking, bold with fiery hair", and the priest "whose interests are food and fun and people". And here, too, is "the poet", pulled into this joyous celebration, as is the reader. But at Lawson's Fork Creek in South Carolina, he sees not only "the pawprint of a passing coyote" but also the detritus caught in the once crystal-clear waters - the basketballs in a logjam which "bob thick as frogspawn", and he hears the "chainsaw sound" of a "neighbouring / kid's quad-bike phase" from across the river.

The changes to life and country surface in other poems, too. In the Tuscan town of Seg?briga, traces of an ancient Greek and Roman life (the theatre in which "a whisper on the platform... / still carries to the gods") exist alongside the harsh present-day realities of wind turbines "slowly saying Y? Y? Y?", "a grid of solar panels", and a motorway winding down through fuel crops of "sad sunflowers" into modern Madrid. And in seven sharp lines, the notorious, polluting run-off from the Hinkley G Gas and Electricity Station in California becomes sun-drenched "rippled sand" and "old energy" but the poem ends with an abrupt, damning phrase which comes like a punch to the stomach.

Nature, in other poems, is rich, detailed and seen as closely as only one who can immerse themselves in it can see it. "The deer in the mist" may be almost a cliche but at a 'Wordsworth Winter School, it "can make a poem". More interesting are the snowdrops "a bank of stars / somehow thrusting through / spoil"; "the wild hill, blown brown / wind-trammelled and wet"; and, month-by-month, the birds which mark the changing seasons.

There is humour, too. A wandering donkey is captured and tied to a tree but turns out to belong to a local man "leatherjacket, scarred brown face, wild hair", who was following it along the valley. "What Valencian curses carried on the wind / that night?" wonders the poet, "And in the talk at the next market,/ how many donkeys were in this story?". The poem 'Slug', too, might seem like a joke but is in fact a deft and witty recreation of D.H Lawrence's 'Snake". In the rhythms of Lawrence's poem, a slug comes to the poet's wine cup "on a dark wet evening", but the poet is not "in pyjamas for the heat", as was Lawrence in Taormina, but in "shorts for the summer / and a fleece". This slug, like Lawrence's snake, leaves the poet feeling he has "missed his chance" with "one of the lords of life".

Terry is an amiable and alert travel companion and he tells his stories in simple, easy-flowing lines.

Matt Howard's poems are very different but equally good. Matt works in nature conservation. He, too, is a close observer of plants and animals but he looks closely, too, at the human animal and the ways in which we fit into the natural world. He also has a wonderfully wry sense of humour. "You know this just might work", thinks the wasp, "arse-end backing up to an oak bud / to lay its egg"; and "I must get this down", says the scribe who has invented the recipe for ink from the resulting oak-gall. The bureaucratic speech of the "Wasp in a Bowler Hat', perfectly parodies a human managerial pep-talk and is given to workers who are his fellow-drones in the wasp nest. He even gives them a motivating slogan to spur them on: "Buzz with risk".

This first published collection of Matt's work shows a more thoughtful, serious side, too. The opening poem, 'A Jar of Moles', describes a curious love-gift which could be a metaphor for this book of poems. An empty vessel created by one man (a blown-glass jar or a book) contains a collection of specimens carefully arranged by another man. The wild faces of the moles, the bared teeth of one of them, and "each earth-swimming hand", all are there in different ways in this collection of poems. They are there in the beautifully articulated exo-skeleton of a crayfish; in the child who "cried with grief's voice" and was buried "with eyes beautifully open" in the poem inspired by Miguel Hernandez; and in the sequence of poems about the hard work of nature conservation in the dykes and acres of the Norfolk land. There, hand-clearing the dead undergrowth ("brashing"), you hear the "suck and plop of sedge-roots tearing from bog" as you wield a heavy scythe; and to deal with an "old dog-rose / all scrambled up and through the sallows / at the choked dyke", you must "bring your roughest gloves and drink" and suffer the "sunburn, each ache, scratch and sting".

There are human specimens here, too. 'Making Evelyn's Tables' moves from a dead criminal, to the felling of an evergreen pine for boards to make the tables, to the blood-vessels and nerves dissected and preserved so that we can "behold a man / for ourselves; trace the inner workings" - everything "stripped into lines of his feelings", all humanity gone. Similarly, in 'Acquired deformities: Constriction of Female Thorax: presented by Sir Erasmus Wilson 1884', the poet observes "the curvature in the spine", the "concertina of bones" and "wicker ribs" which remind him of an empty basket, and he wishes he "could hold you now, ease this organ box / free each reed, feel you breathe".

Matt also tells some wonderful stories - of wolf-children; of a man creating a book of Adders in revenge for the snake-bite death of his twin brother and mother; of an asthmatic boy, "Half-Lung", who kills an albatross on an early sailing ship; and a dark, witchy sequence of poems, 'The House of Owls', in which an owl-woman who comes "with a heavy scent of hawthorn" and "owl-white skin", takes a human mate and leaves a legacy of owl spirits which, over the years, haunt this house.

There are poems inspired by history and war, poems about collectors and collections, and poems about nature. Altogether this is a fine debut collection in a distinctive voice.

My only complaint about these books of poetry has nothing to do with the quality of the poems. It is that I frequently wanted to know more about the background to the poems. I did not want an explanation of the poems but, perhaps, a map to show me where these places are; an historical note to tell me a little about, for example, James Allen's historical cross-breeding of snowdrop and about the significance of Mari Chaves' door with its magical carvings. For one of Terry's poems, 'The Wearing of Motley: The Cioch Nose of Sgurr a Chaorachain', his prose version at, allowed me to understand some of the climbing terms in the poem and explained more clearly why the climbers felt that they were wearing a fool's motley.

Similarly, in Matt's book, 'Dr Evelyn's Tables' assumes that the reader knows a little bit of science history. And it helps to know that 'Gorilla Gorilla' refers to the much loved zoo gorilla, Guy, whose taxidermy body is now on display at the Natural History Museum in London. There are dialect words, too, in 'Backwater Carr' sequence which would benefit from a translation; and a note about the ruined baptistery at Madron, where "clouties" (scraps of cloth) are still tied to branches above the 'holy' well as charms, would have been fascinating.

There is resistance from editors and poets to adding informative notes because, or so it is widely held, good poems should "work by themselves" without any need for an "explanation". Meanwhile, poetry is not widely read and many people are intimidated by pages on which words are laid out in strange patterns according to unfamiliar, arcane conventions, and where (as they have probably been told at school) what is written cannot always be taken at face value. I am not suggesting that a poem be explained, only that given some brief pieces of information the poems can not only become clearer and more interesting but also acquire more depth. Perhaps a change of format, too, would make the pages of poetry look less forbidding and attract more readers.

The Jade Lily
Kirsty Manning
Allen & Unwin
9781760294733, A$29.99, paperback, 443pages.

Alexandra is an ambitious, very successful, commodity trader. She is used to constantly watching the markets, leading a professional team and clinching highly profitable trades. We meet her as she is about to relocate from London to Shanghai but has been called to the bedside of her dying grandfather in Melbourne, where she grew up.

The family has a very mixed and traumatic background and it is Alexandra's search for information about her mother, an orphan brought from China by her Austrian Grandmother, which is the theme of this book, and the jade lily pendant which she has inherited from her mother which gives the book its title.

Much of the book, however, is about her grandmother, Romy, who escapes from Vienna with her Jewish parents after the horrors of Nazi inspired Kristallnacht. Romy's brother, Benjamin, was shot; her other brother, Daniel, was taken away to imprisonment in Dachau. Romy and her mother and father manage to flee to Shanghai, along with many other Jewish refugees, and their constant wish that Daniel might join them there (release from Dachau under certain circumstances was possible), underlies some of the traumas in the book.

We see the horrors through Romy's teenage eyes. And we share her experiences as she and her parents land in Shanghai and learn to live an unfamiliar Chinese culture. There is much here about the squalor and beauty of old Shanghai and much, too, throughout the book, about Romy's experiences of Chinese customs, Chinese medicine and, especially, Chinese food and cooking. Romy, helping her doctor father in a hospital in Shanghai, studies medicine but also learns much about Chinese herbal medicine, which she continues to use throughout her life.

War-time Shanghai is an unstable and divided city with French and British enclaves, wealth and extreme poverty. As the war in Europe escalates and the Japanese become involved, their presence in Shanghai becomes more powerful and controlling and life there for Romy and her closest friends, Nina and Wilhelm, becomes so dangerous that they must escape. Romy and Nina, as adoptive mother and carer for a baby (Sophia, Alexandra's mother) whose papers show no parental details, travel as refugees to Australia where they are reunited with Wilhelm. Romy and Wilhelm eventually marry and years later, Alexandra, as a baby, survives a car crash which kills her mother, Sophia, and her Australian father, so she is brought up by Romy and Wilhelm.

After the death of her beloved grandfather, Alexandra moves to take up her position in modern Shanghai. It is, of course, vastly changed since Romy lived there but the culture, customs and food are still uniquely Chinese. The descriptions in the book are vivid - the colours, the flavours, the pace of life are all strongly present. Alexandra sees it through different eyes to Romy and she comes to love it but the secret of her mother's birth is deeply embedded in the story of Romy, Nina and Wilhelm and in their lives in old Shanghai.

There are love stories here, especially that of Romy and Wilhelm. Alexandra's break up with her London partner and her growing involvement with her Chinese neighbour in Shanghai are woven into the matrix of the book, but the history and culture of old and new Shanghai pervade the book and make it more than just an ordinary romantic novel.

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Asking for a Friend
Jessica Weisberg
Nation Books
116 East 16street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10003
9781568585345, $27.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Americans, for all our talk of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, obsessively seek advice on matters large and small. Perhaps precisely because we believe in bettering ourselves and our circumstances in life, we ask for guidance constantly. And this has been true since our nation's earliest days: from the colonial era on, there have always been people eager to step up and offer advice, some of it lousy, some of it thoughtful, but all of it read and debated by generations of Americans.

In the pages of "Asking for a Friend: Three Centuries of Advice on Life, Love, Money, and Other Burning Questions from a Nation Obsessed", award-winning writer and producer Jessica Weisberg takes her readers on a tour of the advice-givers who have made their names, and sometimes their fortunes, by telling Americans what to do. You probably don't want to follow all the advice they proffered. Eating graham crackers will not make you a better person, and wearing blue to work won't guarantee a promotion. But for all that has changed in American life, it's a comfort to know that our hang-ups, fears, and hopes have not. We've always loved seeking advice -- so long as it's anonymous, and as long as it's clear that we're not asking for ourselves; we're just asking for a friend!

Critique: Why have advice columns been popular throughout American history, and what does this say about American culture? An inherently fascinating, intrinsically entertaining, deftly written read from cover to cover, "Asking for a Friend" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Asking for a Friend" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Think Happy to Stay Happy
Becca Anderson
Mango Publishing Group
9781633537316, $12.95, PB, 170pp,

Synopsis: Happiness may well be just around the corner, but every once in a while we need a guide or map to find it. "Think Happy to Stay Happy: The Awesome Power of Learned Optimism" is an ideal 'positivity' guide filled from cover to cover with ideas and inspiration to help you learn how to be happy.

Joy unites all people and words are often how we best express our joy. "Think Happy to Stay Happy" is the perfect collection of power thoughts and insightful quotes and affirmations that express some of the best ways to "stay happy". The secret to being happy could be as simple and direct as a personal "gratitude adjustment".

One thing the world's wisdom traditions all agree on is that all states of "higher being" are not attained by stumbling around an unmarked road to "blisstown", but result from inner work and self development. Bliss means connecting with your true self more deeply and arriving at a place of ease and awareness. As author Becca Anderson puts it: "If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living."

"Think Happy to Stay Happy" reveals just how we can: Learn to be happy; Learn about how a "gratitude adjustment" can help you stay happy; Attain a state of bliss.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Think Happy to Stay Happy: The Awesome Power of Learned Optimism" is as inspired and inspiring as it is 'real world practical' and 'user friendly'. While very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted that "Think Happy to "Stay Happy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.58).

The Five Gifts
Laurie Nadel
HCI Books
c/o Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757320446, $15.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: As the frequency and intensity of catastrophic events continue to surge, organizations provide guidelines for how to pack a "Go-Kit" in case of emergency. "The Five Gifts: Discovering Hope, Healing and Strength When Disaster Strikes" by expert on mental health and climate change Laurie Nadel is like an emergency 'Go-Kit' for the mind, packed with information and insight that can minimize and prevent long-term psycho-spiritual damage from a traumatic event. It's a field guide for the heart and soul to guide you through to cycles of damage and recovery that can be useful before, during, and after a tragic loss, trauma, or disaster.

In a nationwide Google survey Dr. Nadel commissioned for this book, 33% of those surveyed identified their greatest fear as a terrorist attack, followed by displacement from their homes. As this upsurge in violent episodes continues, the numbers show a greater likelihood that you, or someone close to you, will be directly affected by a traumatic event.

But what if you had access to a mind-body-spirit 'Go-Kit' before disaster strikes? In The Five Gifts, Dr. Nadel wisely maps out a path integrating what she has learned from over two decades of working with people damaged by a trauma event. Her own life was impacted by the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. The Five Gifts contains interviews with people whose lives were directly impacted by such major news events as the Rwanda genocide, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the tsunami in Bali, and the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing.

Although you can never be fully prepared for a shocking, traumatic event, "The Five Gifts" will provide information, ideas, insight and tools to build the emotional stamina and clarity needed to cope with acute stress responses and emotional aftershocks.

Critique: An ideal resource for dealing with the stresses and emotional perils of our conflicted times, "The Five Gifts: Discovering Hope, Healing and Strength When Disaster Strikes" is a compelling, inspiring, practical, and relevant read from first page to last. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Five Gifts" will prove to be an especially appreciated and highly valued addition to community library Self-Help / Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Five Gifts" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.56).

What Are We Doing Here?: Essays
Marilynne Robinson
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
175 Varick Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10014
9780374282219, $27.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Marilynne Summers Robinson (born November 26, 1943) is an American novelist and essayist. During her writing career Robinson has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, the 2012 National Humanities Medal, and the 2016 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. In 2016 Robinson was named in Time Magazine's list of 100 most influential people. Robinson began teaching at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1991, and retired in the spring of 2016. (Wikipedia).

"What Are We Doing Here?" is a compilation of her new essays on theological, political, and contemporary themes

In these 15 inherently thoughtful and thought-provoking essays she trains her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith. Whether she is investigating how the work of great thinkers about America like Emerson and Tocqueville inform our political consciousness or discussing the way that beauty informs and disciplines daily life, Robinson's peerless prose and boundless humanity are on full display.

"What Are We Doing Here?" is a clarion call for Americans to continue the tradition of those great thinkers and to remake American political and cultural life.

Critique: An absorbing, compelling, intellectually stimulating read throughout, "What Are We Doing Here?: Essays" is a lustrous addition to an already impressive literary legacy and very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Are We Doing Here?: Essays" is also available in a paperback edition (Picador, 9781250310385, $18.00), in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, $29.95, MP3 CD).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Road Rules for Retirement
Mark Fried
Advantage Media Group
65 Gadsden Street, Charleston, SC 29401
9781599327976, $19.99, HC, 174pp,

Synopsis: Mark Fried is president of TFG Wealth Management, LLC, and has over twenty years' experience in the financial services industry. He specializes in working with retirees and pre-retirees to develop and implement financial strategies that provide financial security to and through retirement. In "Road Rules for Retirement: Set Your Destination Enjoy The Journey" he draws upon his impressive expertise to write an instruction manual and guide for non-specialist general readers who are approaching retirement.

Although there is no crystal ball that can predict the future, with the help of "Road Rules for Retirement, anyone can begin plotting an effective course to a financially secure retirement. "Road Rules for Retirement",shares the many challenges to be faced with respect to approaching and entering retirement including: The many risks you must know about and account for to make sure you never outlive your money; Why creating a Wealth Strategy is the best approach to prepare for retirement; The importance of diversifying your investments and how the wrong investment strategy can drain your savings in just a few years; When to start collecting your Social Security benefits; The risks of not having a complete long-term care plan and estate plan; and so much more!

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Road Rules for Retirement: Set Your Destination Enjoy The Journey" is a fundamental and unreservedly recommended addition to community and senior center library Money/Finances instructional reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Road Rules for Retirement" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Holy Name: Art of the Gesu Bernini and His Age
Linda Wolk-Simon & Christopher M. S. Johns
Saint Joseph's University Press
5600 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131
9780 916101008, $50.00, HC, 639pp,

Synopsis: The Holy Name: Art of the Gesu. Bernini and His Age is the most significant book available in any language on the Church of the Gesu in Rome -- the mother church of the Society of Jesus. It is a permanent record of the landmark exhibition, mounted at the Fairfield University Art Museum (1 February & 19 May 2018), that featured artistic treasures, never before seen in the U.S., with artifacts ranging from the Gesu: Bernini's bust of St. Robert Bellarmine; Gaulli's monumental painted wood model of the apse; a gilt bronze altar sculpture by the versatile painter, draftsman and sculptor Ciro Ferri; and the sumptuous jeweled cartegloria from the altar of St. Ignatius of Loyola; to the magnificent embroidered chasuble of the Gesu's great benefactor, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.

These masterpieces were joined by more than fifty paintings, sculptures, rare books, precious objects, drawings, prints, and historical documents by Bernini, Domenichino, Gaulli, Ciro Ferri, Carlo Maratta, and Andrea Pozzo, among other Italian baroque masters, on loan from U.S. museums and private collections.

Richly illustrated with 246 color images, "The Holy Name: Art of the Gesu Bernini and His Age" tells the fascinating and intertwined stories of the Gesu's early history and splendid interior embellishment, together with the foundational chapters of the Society of Jesus. The narrative threads of these stories include the enviable patronage of the powerful Farnese family, who championed the cause of the new order and funded the building of the Gesu; the long and at times challenging campaign to suitably embellish its austere and barren interior and dedicate its principal altars; and the imperative to formulate a new imagery exalting and promoting the Order's founders, Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, following their canonization in 1622.

The catalogue of the works of art included in the exhibition is preceded by fourteen essays by an international team of specialists in Italian baroque sacred art and religious culture.

Critique: Deftly edited by Linda Wolk-Simon in collaboration with Christopher M. S. Johns, "The Holy Name: Art of the Gesu Bernini and His Age" is an impressively written, profusely illustrated, exceptionally informative body of work that is unreservedly recommended for personal, church, seminary, community, and academic library collections.

The Zapatistas' Dignified Rage
Nick Henck, editor
Henry Gales, translator
AK Press
370 Ryan Ave #100, Chico, CA 95973
9781849352925, $19.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: For over two decades, Mexico's Zapatista indigenous movement has stood as a beacon of hope for activists around the world working against the havoc that capitalism is wreaking upon the earth. Subcommander Marcos was their military leader and spokesperson, a poetic advocate who was, for many, almost indistinguishable from the movement he championed. On May 25, 2014, in the town of La Realidad, deep in the Zapatistas' heartland, Subcommander Marcos delivered a speech before thousands of supporters in which he declared that he would henceforth "cease to exist", a change that made way for the movement's indigenous members to assume a more prominent role.

Readers will find that speech in The Zapatistas' Dignified Rage", along with fourteen others he gave between the end of the "Other Campaign" in 2007 and his farewell announcement in 2014. While he made fewer public appearances during this period, he simultaneously increased the depth of his analysis.

Collected here in English translation for the first time, these talks include some of his most explicit, detailed, and inspiring criticisms of capitalism, political parties, vanguards, electoral democracy, gender and racial discrimination, disingenuous solidarity, and much more.

Critique: A unique and critically important contribution to community and academic library Mexican Political History collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Zapatistas' Dignified Rage: Final Public Speeches of Subcommander Marcos" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.26).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Black Prince: England's Greatest Medieval Warrior
Michael Jones
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781681777412, $29.95, HC, 488pp,

Synopsis: Michael Jones is a military historian, battlefield tour-guide, and documentary film presenter. In "The Black Prince: England's Greatest Medieval Warrior" he presents the remarkable and inspiring story of Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III, one of the greatest warrior-princes of the Middle Ages, an icon of medieval warfare and chivalry in the fourteen century.

As a child Edward was given his own suit of armor; at the age of sixteen, he helped defeat the French at Crecy. At Poitiers, in 1356, his victory over King John II of France forced the French into a humiliating surrender that marked the zenith of England's dominance in the Hundred Years War. As lord of Aquitaine, he ruled a vast swathe of territory across the west and southwest of France, holding a magnificent court at Bordeaux that mesmerized the brave but unruly Gascon nobility and drew them like moths to the flame of his cause.

But what was the true nature of the man behind the chivalric myth, and of the violent but pious world in which he lived? Michael Jones biography, "The Black Prince", is exemplary new history that uses contemporary chronicles plus a wide range of documentary material (including the Prince's own letters and those of his closest followers) to tell the tale of an authentic English hero and to paint a memorable portrait of society in the tumultuous fourteenth century.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of 5 pages of maps and 8 pages of color illustrations, "The Black Prince: England's Greatest Medieval Warrior" is a deftly crafted, exceptionally well presented, and inherently fascinating biographical history that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Black Prince" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

The Dark Angel
Seabury Quinn
Night Shade Books
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781597809443, $34.99, HC, 492pp,

Synopsis: Seabury Quinn (December 1889 - 24 December 1969) was a pulp magazine author, whose popular stories of the occult detective Jules de Grandin were published in Weird Tales between 1925 and 1951. Quinn penned ninety-two short stories and one full-length novel featuring 'the occult Hercule Poirot,' which were enormously popular with readers.

Quinn's short stories were featured in well more than half of Weird Tales's original publication run. His most famous character, the supernatural French detective Dr. Jules de Grandin, investigated cases involving monsters, devil worshippers, serial killers, and spirits from beyond the grave, often set in the small town of Harrisonville, New Jersey. In de Grandin there are familiar shades of both Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, and alongside his assistant, Dr. Samuel Trowbridge, de Grandin's knack for solving mysteries -- and his outbursts of peculiar French-isms (grand Dieu!) -- captivated readers for nearly three decades.

Collected for the first time in trade editions by Night Shade Books, "The Dark Angel: The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin - Volume 3", is edited by George Vanderburgh includes all of the Jules de Grandin stories from "The Lost Lady" (1931) to "The Hand of Glory" (1933), as well as "The Devil's Bride", the only novel featuring de Grandin, which was originally serialized over six issues of Weird Tales.

Critique: A true 'time lost literary treasure' brought back into print for the benefit of a new generation of appreciative readers, "The Dark Angel" is an extraordinarily entertaining read from cover to cover. While unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Dark Angel" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Exceptional Homes
Ralf Schmitz
teNeues Publishing Group
7 West 18th Street, New York, NY, 10011
9783961710959, $65.00, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: Architectural mastery with handcrafted details, enhanced with all of today's modern conveniences, is on full display in the elegant residences of Ralf Schmitz's extraordinary portfolio entitled "Exceptional Homes". Whether urban villas or townhouses, Wilhelminian style or Art Deco, glimpse refined classical architecture combined with state-of-the art finishes as the reader is provided with an impressive and informative tour an array of luxury interiors in this opulent volume.

"Exceptional Homes" shows a variety of distinctive, newly constructed buildings and ultra-stylish homes in prime locations. The showroom apartments in Berlin, Dusseldorf, and Hamburg feature exquisite furnishings and tasteful color combinations that make them truly inspiring. Traditional architectural layouts are skillfully re-imagined and re-designed for modern living, allowing for light-flooded floor plans with harmonious room sequences to create beautiful, upscale home environments.

Even the common areas of the unique properties are splendidly accentuated including lavish lobbies and elaborate elevators that make the mere arrival to a building or residence a memorable experience. Exclusive cooperative projects with prestigious interior design professionals, such as Jacques Grange and Tomas Maier from the Italian luxury label Bottega Veneta, demonstrate the exceptional standard upheld by this historic company. All structures are designed by renowned, highly sought- after architectural firms.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "Exceptional Homes" is an extraordinary and inherently fascinating read from first page to last and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Architecture collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The 100 Hour War
Mario Overall & Dan Hagedorn
Helion and Company
c/o Casemate
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781911096504, $29.95, PB, 104pp,

Synopsis: In July 1969, while the world was expectant about the upcoming first manned landing on the moon, two little-known Central American States crossed sabers in what was derogatorily coined by the media as 'The Soccer War'.

Far from a simple out-of-hand sports passion, this conflict had its complicated origins back in the early 20th century when the North American companies United Fruit and its rival, Standard Fruit, operated in Honduras - and both deemed it necessary to import workers from El Salvador, since the locals were insufficient in numbers. What followed was an exodus of more than 300,000 Salvadorans who settled in Honduras - and for a while, the latter country's government saw this with good eyes. That is until the early 1960s, when political changes and the liberalization of the region's commerce through the Common Market Treaty made it painfully evident that the country that benefitted the most from it was El Salvador, while Honduras would be destined to carry a heavy economic burden.

Inevitably, it chilled the relations between the two countries and had a direct bearing in the treatment from the Hondurans towards the Salvadoran peasants. Amidst sporadic violence against the immigrant peasants, the two governments began negotiations aimed at solving the immigration problem and signed three agreements. However, while the negotiations were taking place, clandestine armed groups were organized in Honduras with the purpose of harassing and controlling the Salvadoran people living in that country. This situation was worsened by a coup d'etat that brought to the presidency the Honduran General Oswaldo Lopez Arellano, who had a very different point of view than his predecessor regarding the immigrants' situation.

Shortly after, the expelling of thousands of Salvadorans began. The return of the peasants to El Salvador brought a series of problems for that country, since all were returning unemployed and needing food, clothing and some kind of shelter - all of this in the midst of an economic crisis that not even the advantages obtained through the Common Market Treaty had been able to alleviate. Thus, it didn't take long for the Salvadoran society to begin clamoring for some sort of military response against Honduras.

With this delicate political background, the eliminatory rounds for the Jules Rimet World Soccer Cup (to be held in Mexico the next year) began - and during these, the national teams of El Salvador and Honduras would have to face each other in order to obtain a classification. During those games, the violence against Salvadoran immigrants in Honduras increased and caused strong protests from the Salvadoran Government, which ended in the rupturing of diplomatic relations and followed by additional border incidents, which included the strafing of a Honduran airliner while it was taking off from Nueva Ocotepeque. Eleven days later, the war began.

Critique: The collaborative work of Mario Overall (co-founder of the Latin American Aviation Historical Society) and Dan Hagedorn (Curator and Director of Collections at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington), "The 100 Hour War: The Conflict Between Honduras And El Salvador In July 1969", is the result of more than 20 years of research, and meticulously presents the actions undertaken by both countries in the air and on the ground during this short but intense confrontation, -- a confrontation that saw the last dogfights between World War II-era piston-engine aircraft in the world. Besides an impressive selection of photos, "The 100 Hour War" also features a section of color profiles and markings, and a set of tables detailing the identities of the aircraft operated by both countries during the conflict, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library 20th Center International Studies collections in general, and Honduras/Salvador supplemental studies lists in particular.

Basements Complete
Steve Cory
The Taunton Press
63 South Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470
9781631868467, $24.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: The stereotypical image of a basement is a room below ground level that is dark, dank, and depressing -- and one of the most challenging spaces in a home to remodel. But the rewards of tackling a basement remodel are potentially enormous -- the transformation of an otherwise ignored space, usually designated for storage, into a bright, open, and usable asset, perfect for a spare bedroom for guests, a game room for the kids, or a den for the adults.

"Basements Complete" is a profusely illustrated instruction manual and guide by Steve Cory that covers the most popular remodeling approaches and projects for basements, including information on preventing mold and mildew, moving pipes up or over to make more headroom, bringing more light into a dark space, mitigating radon, and sealing floors and walls. Additionally, some of the projects (such as flooring, plumbing, and wiring) apply to other rooms in the house, but are treated here with an eye towards basement needs.

Though "Basement Complete" is largely how-to instructional, it also explores some design and planning issues, making it the truly complete reference title for all things basements. Enhanced with more than 700 photos, 35 illustrations, and clear step-by-step instructions, "Basements Complete" is the only do-it-yourself instructional that homeowners, remodelers, and builders will need to transform a damp basement into a warm addition.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and step-by-step presentation for even the most novice do-it-yourself homeowner, "Basement Complete" is a comprehensive and unreservedly recommended addition to personal and community library home remodeling instructional reference collections.

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Warlock Holmes: My Grave Ritual
G.S. Denning
Titan Books
9781783299751 $14.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: G.S. Denning returns reimagining eight new stories in this riotous mash-up starring Warlock Holmes (bungling detective), Violet Hunter (brave adventurer), Irene Adler (wicked adventuress) and John Watson (lovestruck).

As they blunder towards doom, Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson find themselves inconvenienced by a variety of eldritch beings. Christmas brings a goose that doesn't let being cooked slow it down; they meet an electricity demon, discover why being a redhead is even tricker than one might imagine, and Holmes attempts an Irish accent. And, naturally, Moriarty is hanging around... in some form or other.

Critique: Warlock Holmes: My Grave Ritual is the third fantasy-mystery-hilarity alternate interpretation of the famous detective and his companions, set in a world brimming with magic, monsters, and demons! Riotous from cover to cover, My Grave Ritual takes black fantasy-comedy to new heights (or sundry depths?) and is a "must-read" for connoisseurs of wild fantastic. Also highly recommended are the previous two novels in the Warlock Holmes series, "Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone" (9781783299713) and "Warlock Holmes: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles" (9781783299737). It should be noted for personal reading lists that all three Warlock Holmes books are available in both paperback ($14.95 each) and Kindle editions ($7.99 each).

The Pleasure Model Repairman
Ruuf Wangersen
Montag Press
9781940233499, $18.95, PB, 392pp,

Synopsis: Problem with your pleasure model? Did you come home after a hard day to find your Metrixa Sugar Girl just isn't as sweet as the day you unboxed her? Has your Rebel Cause 900 lost its bullwhip snap? Call Fant Fixers now!

It's not easy being a pleasure model repairman. The hours are rough, the pay's nothing to write home about, and there's the ever-present danger of falling for the equipment. But Garl "Cupidwrench" Motts has proved untouchable.

The best in the game, seven years at the top of the heap, that is, until the day Garl finds himself dispatched to fix what ails the exotic Grushenka. In the presence of her sultry, synthetic charms, Garl has a "deal." Tech pidgin for falling in lust. If he doesn't find a way to undo the amatory damage (and fast) he's sure to be fired. And yet, love and termination may be the least of Garl's worries; as it turns out, the scariest people on Famous Original Earth now want him dead!

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "The Pleasure Model Repairman" is author Ruuf Wangersen's debut as a novelist, this original, entertaining, and deftly crafted work of science fiction is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated science fiction fans that "The Pleasure Model Repairman" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Clint Travis

Gail's Bookshelf

Miriam: A Treasures of the Nile Novel, #2
Mesu Andrews
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601426017, $14.99,

Pacific Northwest author, Mesu Andrews once again brings the biblical past to life with "Miriam," book two in "Treasures of the Nile." While the first book, focused on Pharaoh's daughter Anippe and her adoption of the baby Moses, book two is the story of "Miriam," Moses's older sister and the role she played during the Israelites slavery in Egypt; Moses's return to free God's people and the ten plagues God visited on Egypt.

The story begins with Miriam who describes herself as "...the watcher of Israel...the messenger of El-Shaddai...old but of use...a slave, a midwife, a healer with herbs. This is what I do, but El-Shaddai makes me who I am."

Miriam knew the Lord as the Almighty God who spoke to her in dreams, equipped her to deliver babies, heal, interpret dreams and prophesy. She was a humble woman and serving the Lord gave her life extraordinary meaning and purpose.

That is until Moses returned saying he was on a mission from God to deliver His people from the cruel taskmasters who enslaved them "proclaiming God's secret name - Yahweh..." Miriam believed Moses was assuming her long-held role as God's messenger and she was devastated and could only cry out "El-Shaddai, are you there?"

Andrew's portrayal of the times, events and characters give added depth, dimension and insight into an extraordinary Bible story. From Miriam's twinges of jealousy over God's silence to Moses' trust in the Lord and his confrontations with Pharaoh as Egypt's plagues increased in frequency and intensity.

I especially liked the inclusion of Sattir, the dog who first belonged to Moses and then Miriam, because it added an unusual element of warmth to the story. I also thought Moses's response to a question Miriam asked captured the essence of the story. When he said: "This isn't about you or me isn't even about Israel or its's about Yahweh showing the world he is the one true God."

Andrews's painstaking research, realistic details and rich characterizations that include intriguing palace politics bring the miraculous events, the peoples and especially the Lord into memorable focus. Anyone who appreciates biblical fiction will especially enjoy "Miriam."

Tracking Jesus: Step by Step through the Gospels
Kimmie S. Landsberger
Seek Ye First Publishing
9780692625392, $69.64,

Pacific Northwest author Kimmie Landsberger admits she is not a Bible scholar and has never attended seminary yet she took on an enormous task - to harmonize the Gospel accounts. Which means to present the Gospel stories of Jesus from the different perspective of each disciple, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in chronological order.

Her motivation was twofold. To better understand God's Word and enable her to teach her son Austin about Jesus. Throughout the project she relied on Scripture, the Holy Spirit and prayer while she trusted the Lord to direct her steps.

The result of Kimmie's well-researched and I believe Holy Spirit inspired work are these three books bound into one large volume, "Tracking Jesus, Step by Step Through the Gospels." In addition to Scriptures from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) the chronological account is enhanced with extraordinary pictures and detailed maps courtesy of "Gospel Light Publications."

The book begins with an extensive "Table of Contents" that includes a few of Kimmie's personal notes on various Bible stories. Such as the who, when, where and how of Jesus appointing the twelve disciples, each disciple's account of the "Sermon on the Mount" as well as the "Woman who Anointed Jesus with Perfume" among others.

Each segment of Jesus' journey begins with a detailed map, pictures of the location people or items and each disciple's perspective of the story. All of which offer a unique view of the New Testament.

The book concludes with an alphabetized "Summary Table" of each book and an "Index of Book Order" that offers brief descriptions and page numbers for ease of lookup.

Kimmie's painstaking research has provided the reader with a detailed account that includes images, maps and Scriptures that show Jesus' chronological travels through ancient Israel and what those places looked like then and today. Her unique work presents a harmonized gospel account useful for any student of the faith who wants to understand more about Jesus. It's a unique presentation of the Bible and on a scale of one to ten is an eleven.

NKJV and KJV, Minister's Bibles
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9780785216575 and 9780785216469, $79.99,

If you're looking for a new Bible or gift for an ordained minister, lay minister or church leader Thomas Nelson's new editions of the Ministers Bible released March 27 are the perfect choice. These gift-boxed Bibles include the King James (KJV) translation and the New King James (NKJV) translation.

Either Bible is ideal for pulpit use due to their black LeatherSoft comfort covers, three satin colored ribbon markers and no-glare paper when used in direct light. With their slim size and sewn, lay-flat bindings they are also a perfect choice for one-handed use if preaching.

Their font is a 9-point ComfortPrint with a larger font size and darker ink for headings. While the font is easily readable because of the dark print on opaque paper some might like a bit larger font size.

Both translations include the complete 192 page "Nelson's Minister's Manuel" set between the old and new testaments marked by a single thumb index tab. Besides a wealth of traditional Scripture verses and prayers "covering a wide range of pastoral care situations," there are formats for weddings, funerals, baptisms, dedications, the Lord's Supper, worship, the salvation message and so much more. All of which equip busy pastors and church leaders to meet the needs of their congregations.

Also included are seven, detailed, colorful maps on semi-gloss paper, a one-year reading plan and a thematic "30 days with Jesus" with related passages. For example, if you're looking for "When Jesus' coming is predicted" the passage references are Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-9; and Luke 1:26-38. Or when "Jesus ascends to heaven" which is referenced in Matthew 28: 16-20; and Luke 24: 36-53.

The King James translation is verse-by-verse, while the New King James is double-column paragraph style. Neither Bible has commentaries, but the New King James Bible has footnotes at page bottoms that reference the Septuagint and Vulgate as well as some words in italics which were added for clarity.

I love Bibles and these gift-boxed Bibles are especially nice due to their detailing and the comprehensive resources packed into them! Not only do either one make wonderful gifts, if you're a Bible lover like me, they are a great addition to your library of Bibles!

Joey: How a Blind Rescue Horse Helped Others Learn to See
Jennifer Bleakley
Tyndale Momentum
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496421753, $15.99,

Debut author Jennifer Marshall Bleakley's heartwarming story of "Joey," a blind rescue horse who helps others learn to see, releases May 8. The moving account of love, loss and healing reveals God has a plan and purpose for all His creation. Whether a blind horse, a troubled child or a rescue volunteer named Sarah, who fears the truth will come out.

However, it's also Joey's story. Joey was once a magnificent leopard Appaloosa show horse and a champion jumper until an injury cost him his show career. Up until then Joey had been a "well-decorated competitor in show hunting and dressage," on his way to qualifying for the Olympics.

Nevertheless, his injuries caused him to be sold and he moved from one owner to the next. With each move he experienced more neglect and abuse until the Equine Rescue League rescued him. And that's where we meet Joey. At a "sprawling Virginia farm" owned by Tom Comer, a horse lover who agreed to foster Joey until a permanent home could be found for him.

During Joey's rehabilitation it was discovered he was blind, and everyone Tom contacted assumed he would be "too much work." Still Tom saw his own kids ride Joey bareback and he believed the magnificent Appaloosa belonged "somewhere he could make a real difference." That's when he called Kim Tschirret who ran "Hope Reins," an equine therapy ranch "dedicated to pairing horses with troubled children." She was his seventeenth and final call.

After Kim heard Joey's story she "agreed to take him, sight unseen, something she'd never done before." The other horses at "Hope Reins" had all been carefully chosen after weeks, sometimes months, of discussion and observation by the staff. But for reasons she couldn't put into words Kim knew "Hope Reins" needed Joey and she said yes, trusting the Lord for the money to care for his special needs.

Thus, begins a touching true story of broken and wounded people, children and horses that learn to trust again. Who despite previous abuse, injury or neglect, despite feeling emotionally wounded and unwanted, are in desperate need of hope. And hope is what each one finds in a broken and wounded horse who teaches them "how to live," how to walk by faith and ultimately how to heal.

The story will make you laugh, make you cry and make you wish you were there. It's a magical, unforgettable story destined to touch readers hearts.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Complete Teachings of Wicca: Book One: The Seeker
The Witch of Oz
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504311755, $28.99, PB, 446pp,

Synopsis: The woman known as The Witch of Oz has been studying and practicing Wicca for more than five decades, making her the perfect person to explore how the ancient pagan system can lead to a reawakening. Having traveled the world, she has studied shamanism, witchcraft (both modern and traditional), herbal medicine, and magick.

In "Complete Teachings of Wicca: Book One: The Seeker", she highlights how to: Improve communication and move into the Age of Aquarius; Embark on a journey of self-exploration by studying the oldest religion in the world; Carry out training that will leave her reader with deep insights about the mysteries of Wicca and our Goddess, Mother Earth; Identify the eight paths to Enlightenment.

The changes of the Dawning Age are inevitable, but individuals will determine whether they carry us forward or throw us back. With "Complete Teachings of Wicca: Book One: The Seeker" anyone can find their own truth and tune into all that nature is telling them by learning the secrets of Wicca.

Critique: Exceptionally informed and informative, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Complete Teachings of Wicca: Book One: The Seeker" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Wiccan Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of aspiring wiccans, metaphysical studies students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Complete Teachings of Wicca: Book One: The Seeker" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Ashes on the Moor
Sarah M. Eden
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629724027, $15.99, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: Though she has no training as a teacher, Evangeline must prove herself successful before her grandfather will release her substantial inheritance to her and allow her to be reunited with her younger sister, the last remaining member of her family after a fever claimed the lives of her parents and brothers.

Evangeline's sudden change in circumstances is complicated when her aunt (a woman who values class distinctions more than her family relationships) forbids her from acknowledging any connection to her or to her grandfather, Mr. Farr -- the man who owns nearly the entire town. For the first time in her life, Evangeline is truly alone.

Heartbroken, she turns to the one person in town who has shown her kindness -- an Irish brick mason, Dermot, and his son, Ronan. Despite the difference in their classes and backgrounds, Evangeline and Dermot become friends, due in part to her ability to connect with Ronan, whose behavior requires special attention. The boy is uncomfortable around strangers and rarely even speaks to the other children in town. He often fixates on details other people ignore, and he adheres to specific, self-made rules that give his life order and structure; for example, Dermot's coat must be hung on a specific peg next to the door.

Evangeline attempts to prove herself a worthy teacher and earn the respect of her hard-to-understand students. Determined to find a way to introduce them to "proper English" while still honoring their unique language and culture, she enlists the help of a local family to write down familiar stories in the Yorkshire vernacular. Because of her efforts, the students and their families warm to Evangeline and she continues to look for ways to give the children a chance to become more than factory workers in the local cotton mill.

When the town learns of her upper-class status, Evangeline must work twice as hard to win back their trust--especially Dermot's. In the end, Evangeline and Dermot discover that, even though they come from different social spheres, together they can overcome social prejudices, make a positive difference in the lives of even the humblest people, and enjoy the strength that comes when two hearts find each other.

Critique: Another deftly crafted gem of a romance novel by a true master of the genre, Sarah Eden's "Ashes on the Moor" is an inspiring love story of one Victorian woman's courage to fight against all odds, and the man whose quiet strength gives her the confidence to keep trying. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ashes on the Moor" is available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.79) and in a complete and unabridged audio book format (Blackstone Audio, 9781538545003, $34.95, CD).

Death Rides the Ferry
Patricia Skalka
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299318000, $24.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: It's a sparkling August day on Washington Island and the resonant notes of early classical music float on the breeze toward the sailboats and ferries that ply the waters of Death's Door strait. After a forty-year absence, the Viola da Gamba Music Festival has returned to the picturesque isle on the tip of Wisconsin's Door County peninsula. Sheriff Dave Cubiak enjoys a rare day off as tourists and a documentary film crew hover around the musicians.

The jubilant mood sours when an unidentified passenger is found dead on a ferry. Longtime residents recall with dismay the disastrous festival decades earlier, when another woman died and a valuable sixteenth-century instrument (the fabled yellow viol) vanished, never to be found.

Cubiak follows a trail of murder, kidnapping, and false identity that leads back to the calamitous night of the twin tragedies. With the lives of those he holds most dear in peril, the sheriff pursues a ruthless killer into the stormy northern reaches of Lake Michigan.

Critique: Another deftly crafted gem of a mystery novel by Patricia Skalka, "Death Rides the Ferry" is a simply riveting read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections (especially Wisconsin libraries as the story unfolds against the background of Door County), it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "Death Rides the Ferry" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Confessions of a Bone Woman
Lucinda Bakken White
Wild Woman Books
9780997648256, $16.00, PB, 152pp,

Synopsis: Lucinda White is a happy-go-lucky nature child raised by a young single mother in the 1960s. In a dramatic turn of events, her wild nature is broken. She is shaped into a yuppie and becomes the wife of a prominent Silicon Valley CEO and a glamorous socialite.

Successful by all accounts of external measure, she feels trapped by the shallow values of a dominant culture and ever more alienated from her true nature. Something primal awakens in Lucinda when she unearths and touches an ancient buffalo bone, and the experience impels her to secretly collect dead animal parts and learn the art of curing their decomposing flesh.

As Lucinda challenges convention, her curiosity about the animal kingdom leads to wild and unlikely adventures rescuing road kill, tracking wolves, and encountering lions face to face. "Confessions of a Bone Woman" is one woman's story of how she recognizes and learns to express her authentically wild nature in order to heal bone by bone and become her full self, redefining what it means to be a modern woman.

Critique: A deftly presented autobiography of an interesting life lived in interesting times, Lucinda Bakken White writes with an impressive candor and exceptional perception. A consistently engaging and inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "Confessions of a Bone Woman" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Confessions of a Bone Woman" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Yokai Wonderland
Yumooto Koichi
PIE International
9784756249739, $39.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Yokai are a class of supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore. In the Edo period (1603-1868), many artists, such as Hokusai Katsushika or Kuniyoshi Utagawa, created works featuring yokai that were inspired by folklore or their own imaginations. Compiled with commentary, "Yokai Wonderland: More from YUMOTO Koichi Collection: Supernatural Beings in Japanese Art" contains a lot of art works of Japanese yokai from the Edo period to today and includes not only paintings but also wood block prints, scrolls, ceramics, kimonos, wooden sculptures, magazines, toys for children, such as board games, and more.

"Yokai Wonderland" is the second series from the Yokai Museum (the first was "Yokai Museum: The Art of Japanese Supernatural Beings from YUMOTO Koichi Collection") and showcases a new collection of works, including never-before-seen works. All of the works featured in "Yokai Wonderland" are from the personal collection of Koichi Yumoto, who will be opening the Yokai Museum in Hiroshima in 2018. Yumoto's own commentary on the works and the history of yokai are also included.

"Yokai Wonderland" will have a very special appeal to Japanese art lovers, fans of yokai and also to those who are new to these fascinating supernatural creatures. It is also a valuable reference and source of inspiration for designers and illustrators.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated, this bilingual (Japanese/English) edition of "Yokai Wonderland" is a fascinating and informative study that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library Japanese Art & Culture collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual
Nathan Abrams
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813587103, $34.95, HC, 340pp,

Synopsis: Stanley Kubrick is generally acknowledged as one of the world's great directors. Yet few critics or scholars have considered how he emerged from a unique and vibrant cultural milieu: the New York Jewish intelligentsia.

"Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual" by Nathan Abrams (who is a professor of film studies at Bangor University in Wales, and the founding co-editor of Jewish Film and New Media: An International Journal) reexamines the director's work in context of his ethnic and cultural origins.

Focusing on several of Kubrick's key themes (including masculinity, ethical responsibility, and the nature of evil) "Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual" demonstrates how his films were in conversation with contemporary New York Jewish intellectuals who grappled with the same concerns. At the same time, it explores Kubrick's fraught relationship with his Jewish identity and his reluctance to be pegged as an ethnic director, manifest in his removal of Jewish references and characters from stories he adapted.

As Professor Abrams digs deep into rare Kubrick archives to reveal insights about the director's life and times, film scholar he also provides a nuanced account of Kubrick's cinematic artistry. Each individual chapter comprising "Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual" offers a detailed analysis of one of Kubrick's major films, including Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut.

Critique: An impressive work of original scholarship, "Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual" presents an exceptionally informative study of one of the twentieth century's most renowned and yet misunderstood film directors. Enhanced with the additional inclusion of twenty-eight pages of Notes, a ten page Select Bibliography, and a thirteen page Index, "Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Cinematic History collections in general, and Stanley Kubrick supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of film students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.60).

Stan Brakhage in Rolling Stock, 1980-1990
Jerry White
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781771123037, $64.99, HC, 379pp,

Synopsis: "Stan Brakhage in Rolling Stock, 1980-1990" by Jerry White (who is the Canada Research Chair in European Studies at Dalhousie University) is a collection of writings by the giant of experimental cinema, Stan Brakhage, that shows him in a completely new light, as part of world cinema. For the duration of the 1980s, Brakhage contributed to the Boulder literary magazine Rolling Stock, mostly publishing reports from the Telluride Film Festival. These reports show that Brakhage was keenly interested in world cinema, anxious to meet and dialogue with filmmakers of many different stripes.

"Stan Brakhage in Rolling Stock, 1980-1990" also contains substantial discussion of Brakhage's work in light of the filmmakers he encountered at Telluride and discussed in Rolling Stock. Long chapters are given over to Soviet filmmakers such as Andrei Tarkovsky, Larissa Shepitko, and Sergei Parajanov, as well as the German filmmaker Hans-Jurgen Syberberg. Brakhage was a keen viewer of these filmmakers and their contemporaries, both at Telluride and in his role as teacher at the University of Colorado, and Stan Brakhage and Rolling Stock attempts to place his work alongside theirs and thus reclaim him for world cinema.

"Stan Brakhage in Rolling Stock, 1980-1990" includes appendices of reprint letters Brakhage wrote to Stella Pence (Telluride's co-founder and managing director), as well as summaries of his work for Telluride and a brace of difficult-to-find reviews.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Stan Brakhage in Rolling Stock, 1980-1990" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Film & Media Studies collections in general, and Stan Brakhage supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers that "Stan Brakhage in Rolling Stock, 1980-1990" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.99).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

From Santa Anna to Selena
Harriett Denise Joseph
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574417159, $29.95, HC, 400pp,

Synopsis: In "From Santa Anna to Selena: Notable Mexicanos and Tejanos in Texas History since 1821", Harriett Denise Joseph (Professor of History at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) relates biographies of eleven notable Mexicanos and Tejanos, beginning with Santa Anna and the impact his actions had on Texas.

Professor Joseph discusses the myriad contributions of Erasmo and Juan Seguin to Texas history, as well as the factors that led a hero of the Texas Revolution (Juan) to be viewed later as a traitor by his fellow Texans. Admired by many but despised by others, folk hero Juan Nepomuceno Cortina is one of the most controversial figures in the history of nineteenth-century South Texas. Preservationist and historian Adina De Zavala fought to save part of the Alamo site and other significant structures. Labor activist Emma Tenayuca's youth, passion, courage, and sacrifice merit attention for her efforts to help the working class.

Professor Joseph reveals the individual and collective accomplishments of a powerhouse couple, bilingual educator Edmundo Mireles and folklorist-author Jovita Gonzalez. She recognizes the military and personal battles of Medal of Honor recipient Raul "Roy" Benavidez. Irma Rangel, the first Latina to serve in the Texas House of Representatives, is known for the many "firsts" she achieved during her lifetime. Finally, we read about actress and musician Selena Quintanilia-Perez's life and career, as well as her tragic death and her continuing marketability.

Critique: Impressively informative, "From Santa Anna to Selena: Notable Mexicanos and Tejanos in Texas History since 1821" is an extraordinary and deftly written work of impeccable scholarship showcasing nine truly extraordinary people. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "From Santa Anna to Selena" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.16).

The Shape of a Hundred Hips
Patricia Cumbie
Bedazzled Ink Publishing
9781945805646, $14.95, PB, 226pp,

Synopsis: Patricia Cumbie writes about women's lives, dance, food, and travel. She is also the author of a young adult novel, Where People Like Us Live, and the winner of the Carol Bly Award for Nonfiction.

In "The Shape of a Hundred Hips" she offers an insider's perspective into the world of belly dancing that goes beyond the glitz factor of the art form to challenge assumptions people may have about it as suggestive or exotic.

"The Shape of a Hundred Hips" is a memoir that juxtaposes dance and sexual assault recovery that takes the reader into the living room, bedroom, and dance class. Patricia aptly promotes the idea that people can gain insight and take greater control of their lives through intentional movement and artistic connection.

Critique: Extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, "The Shape of a Hundred Hips" is an inherently fascinating read that is as informative as it is thoughtful and thought provoking. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Shape of a Hundred Hips" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Ghosts of Gombe
Dale Peterson
University of California Press
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 400, Oakland, CA 94612 - 3758
9780520297715, $29.95, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: On July 12, 1969, Ruth Davis, a young American volunteer at Dr. Jane Goodall's famous chimpanzee research camp in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania, East Africa, walked out of camp to follow a chimpanzee into the forest. Six days later, her body was found floating in a pool at the base of a high waterfall.

With careful detail, "The Ghosts of Gombe: A True Story of Love and Death in an African Wilderness" by Dale Peterson (who is also Jane Goodall's official biographer, and that biography, "Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man") reveals for the first time the full story of day-to-day life in Goodall's wilderness camp, including the people and the animals, the stresses and excitements, the social conflicts and cultural alignments, and the astonishing friendships that developed between three of the researchers and some of the chimpanzees during the months preceding that tragic event.

Was Ruth's death an accident? Did she jump? Was she pushed? In an extended act of literary forensics, "The Ghosts of Gombe" deftly examines how Ruth's death might have happened and explores some of the painful issues that have haunted two of the survivors for the rest of their lives.

Critique: An impressively detailed and painstakingly documented study, "The Ghosts of Gombe: A True Story of Love and Death in an African Wilderness" offers an inherently fascinating forensic perspective that is enhanced with the inclusion of a four page listing of 'Dramatis Personae', ad two page listing of illustrations and credits, and a seven page index. An exceptionally informative, chronologically presented account, "The Ghosts of Gombe" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Ghosts of Gombe" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.62).

Bagels & Salsa
Lara Reznik
Enchanted Indie Press
9781938749384 $12.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Summer 1977. As the Son of Sam and a scorching heat wave plague New York City, Laila Levin, a Jewish sociologist from Long Island, meets Dr. Eduardo Quintana while giving a speech on the epidemic problem of teenage pregnancies. Laila is relationship-shy after a disastrous marriage, and Eduardo has never completely recovered from his high school sweetheart's desertion. He is finishing up a residency in New York City and plans to open a family practice near his hometown in New Mexico. The unlikely pair share strong family values and an interest in helping prevent teen pregnancy. Their mutual passion is so intense it stuns them both. After a brief courtship, Eduardo persuades Laila to accompany him to his family ranch near Espanola, New Mexico, a rural area with one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in North America.

Once in New Mexico, Laila is blatantly rejected by Sylvia, Eduardo's controlling mama. Sylvia desperately wants Eduardo to marry Violet, his high school sweetheart. Violet has just returned to New Mexico after a failed flight attendant career, and a walk on the dark side of Hollywood. Her mama and Sylvia cook up a plan to get rid of Laila and reunite their children. The Quintanas hold a large pig roast and invite a menagerie of tattooed cousins, rodeo stars, and mariachis, where the drop-dead gorgeous Violet makes a grand entrance. In the midst of the pandemonium that results, a shocking family secret is revealed, and Laila and Eduardo's love for each other is severely tested.

Can their relationship survive the fierce clash of cultures, the murderous intentions of a Son of Sam copycat who has stalked Laila from New York City, and their own uncertainties about the upheavals that their union will cause in their lives?

Critique: A masterful blend of romance and drama, Bagels & Salsa captures the highs and lows of the late 1970's era in its intertwined tale of love, family agendas, dark secrets, and the lurking threat of a murderous stalker. The result is engrossing from cover to cover, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Bagles & Salsa is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

J.H.M. Okthos
Privately Published
B07BHV8WQV, $16.00 on Amazon, $3.00 e-book, 390 pps

"I think the things we do make us what we are - so the things we use change us," (31) says Kelly, the instigator of a bike-ride-cum-epic-adventure in J.H.M Okthos' novel, OMO. In this book, the bike isn't just an invention or a mode of transportation or form of exercise, but an experience that transforms how those who ride it understand themselves and the world. The story itself is a taste of what it means to engage with the tools at hand.

The book begins with a crash, a collision of bikes and people. Once they're all upright and acquainted, one of the bikers, Kelly, invites the four others to join her on a trip to Scotland. Each goes his or her separate way, entranced, reliving the incident. They meet up again in Oxford, ready to give up boring jobs, listless routines, and give in to the unknown - on bike. Their group of three heading north quickly becomes ten, then twenty, then hundreds across the globe, until, when it's front page news for days, it splinters and explodes as the riders disagree what OMO means. OMO, the shape of a bike with a diamond frame between two wheels, becomes the code word for this movement the bike ride has become. Tightly wrought, the structure of the book also follows the OMO shape, beginning with a slow, churning, gathering of riders, followed by jagged, tumultuous middle parts, and ending with a pensive, but inconclusive, denouement, like a wheel that resists inactivity.

OMO is a splendidly ironic conceit; a complex exploration of simple ideas, a narrative about the inadequacy of language and the animalistic nature of very thoughtful humans. The action never stops, even when the group camps at the end of the day, sharing food, smokes and conversation. There are dramas between factions, witch hunts for those suspects of sabotaging the group to the media and otherwise disrupting its purpose, law enforcers and criminals. There are love triangles and unrequited passions, endearing friendships and grudges never resolved. The ride is not a means to an end; it is the monster-force driving its participants into new realms, new ways of being, sometimes in spite of the riders' intentions.

OMO is the story behind politics. The reader is not outside the action, doomed to fail the book's ethic: to understand by DOING. Rather, in a brilliant literary perspective on the place of narrative in a world full of opinions, the reader is most like Craig, the rider first introduced, out to beat his own time on the stretch of London road where the crash occurs. He chooses not to join the group to Scotland, but, more than halfway through the book, he returns, reading about the OMO movement in the news and shaking his head. Craig, like readers, bikes along with the others, but at a distance, on his own.

Songs to New York
Myrtle Brooks
Black Rose Writing
9781612969541, $16.95

Songs to New York is a collection of stories from New York, for New York. Beginning with an inscription, "My dear, yet, far more than a dream to me/ I love you, and that is the reality/ Which, pervading your soul and breath as you do mine/ Transcends the temporal and touches the Divine," the ten tales that follow tell of miracles connecting people to each other and their city.

Be amused by a bicycle-riding cat, take a trip to Heaven, take a celebratory ferry ride, recover a lost balloon, send a letter to God, befriend a bug, take dreams seriously, and immerse yourself in music -- these stories present a perspective on New York life that is eye opening and gracious, healing and full of wonder. In a clever twist, the last story is called "The 10th Story," about getting to the top floor of an apartment building only by going through the other nine floors. This tenth and final chapter suggests the book is to be taken as a whole, not just as isolated stories but invitations to look for the spirit of the place in which we live.

The tone of the book is religious, although non-denominational. Multiple nationalities and generations are authentically represented. A true, light-hearted, concrete-defying, picture of New York.

Anthony Quinn
Europa Editions
9781609454159, $19.00, 560 pps

Anthony Quinn's Freya Wyley is wiley, provocative, alluring, sexy, as well as "a right good chap" (119); she promises to become all of the above and more. Through her relationships and writing career, she forges a life all her own. She is, simply, Freya.

VE Day celebration in London sets the hopeful tone of the beginning of the novel, where Freya becomes best friends with Nancy Holdaway, with whom she spends the night drinking and dancing. To Freya's boxing, swearing, out-spokenness, Nancy is demure, private and soft-spoken. Dashing Robert Cosway attracts both friends at Oxford, where they all meet as first year students shortly after VE Day. After publishing an expose on a war correspondent she admires, Freya leaves Oxford to begin a career in journalism instead of completing Oxford degrees with Nancy and Robert. After graduation, Freya and Nancy share a flat in London. Nancy works at a publishing house, writing novels on the side, while Robert and Freya work as colleagues with a London newspaper. When a headline story Robert writes undermines a friend of Freya's, his career launches forward at the sacrifice of his friendship with Freya. She escapes the scandal to a newspaper job in Italy.

When she returns to rapidly growing London, she renews friendships with several illustrious artists. Nat Fane, an unapologetically conceited actor and playwright with a sado-masochistic fetish, is a friend from Oxford. Another former Oxford friend, chivalrous, mysterious Alex McAndrews, resists Freya's overtures for romance due to a dangerous secret. Jerry Dicks is a "Soho Jester," a photographer with a keen eye for portrait and trouble. Jocelyn Philbrick is Freya's stalwart editor and boyfriend, until he wrongs her, like Robert. Meeting young model, Chrissie Effingham, ostensibly to do a feature on her, Freya comes to adore her like a mother. Freya and Nancy reconcile slowly over a tragedy in Freya's life. These colorful characters and others, as well as city haunts and its music, reflect Freya's many facets, her preferences and distastes, strengths and weaknesses, ambitions and vulnerabilities, while remaining solid personages each in his or her own right.

Freya sets out to make a splash in the literary world, but, in the end, her piece de resistance is not a piece of writing; not what she says, but what she doesn't say. In the final chapters, Freya refuses to publish an article that could damage someone's future. Her decision cinches her abiding relationship with Nancy. The novel's conclusion is that people, not words, get the final say. Freya's genius is Freya herself, unapologetic and not to be forgotten in all her modern complexity.

How We End Up
Douglas Wells
Touchpoint Press
9781946920386, $16.99

Sometimes what saves us is also the beginning of our demise. In How We End Up, Douglas Wells follows Jackson Levee and Hadley and Haley, the nine year old twins he saves from drowning on a Florida beach, from the trio's near fatal incident into their tragic-comic adulthoods. The book illustrates that the reverse is also true: sometimes what tries to kill us, saves us, too.

The novel begins auspiciously. The girls saved, Jackson enjoys a home cooked meal and after-dinner cavorting with their mother. A poet and English teacher, he writes a poem about the event and includes it in a collection he publishes, which becomes so popular that he, along with the twins and mother, appear on a tv show. After the show, the book sells like wildfire. Jackson get a new job teaching as a Poet in Residence at a college. He marries the woman of his dreams and has a child.

Meanwhile, instead of growing up to marry princes as they hoped, Hadley gets married to a womanizer and Haley gets depressed. Hadley leaves her husband and finds works as an exotic dancer, spending her money on drugs and alcohol. Two different girlfriends see Hadley back to health only to end the relationship. Haley pulls herself out of her funk with therapy and medication, has an affair but ends it when she finds Mr Right, Philip. When Philip returns from a tour in Iraq, disabled and traumatized, he becomes paranoid and violent. Through it all, the girls and their stalwart mother support one another.

The narrative takes a turn when Jackson and girls are invited back to the tv show for a special edition before the show ends. At this point, Jackson has been through "the three Ds. Death, Discontent, and Divorce." Bushmills gin is his best friend. Hadley is sober enough, but hooked on pain pills. Haley is trying to leave Philip. All at their wits' end, Jackson invites the girls to stay at his beach condo for a while. Their domestic peace does not last long. The conclusion is open ended; not hopeless, but resigned.

Jackson advises Hadley, who wants to write her way into the future, "just don't write a fairy tale." Douglas Wells' fourth book is anything but a fairy tale. It is the sordid truth of how they become, not what they turn into. It conveys the twists and turns of modern life, the mistakes and consequences and the facts over which there is no control except acceptance. As dismal as the cast is at the end, the book threatens to be about this reflective outlook on life more than about the characters themselves. Jackson is drawn best, developed most through details: the forelock of hair that dangles down his forehead, the books he reads, birds he sees on walks he takes, his lovers' gestures. The twins don't get this kind of thorough attention. However, all the characters have a lasting effect. In a poetic turnaround, characters from the early portion of the book come back in the final chapter to share memories of Jackson, Hadley and Haley.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Jeep Wrangler JK 2007 - Present
Don Alexander & Quinn Thomas
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613253595, $26.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Since its release in 2007, the Jeep Wrangler JK has become wildly popular and nearly 1 million units have been sold in North America. With a wider track and longer wheelbase, the Wrangler JK is roomier, more comfortable, and delivers better on-road performance than its predecessor. However, it needs serious chassis, suspension, and drive-train upgrades to tackle demanding off-road terrain and rock crawling.

A full complement of heavy-duty suspension, chassis, steering, drivetrain, and high-performance engine parts has been developed for this platform. Co-authors and Jeep Wrangler enthusiasts Don Alexander and Quinn Thomas offer comprehensive guidance for making key modifications and selecting the best parts to transform your JK into a superior off-road performer. Lift kits from 1.75 to 5 inches are available, so you can fit off-road wheels and tires for exceptional traction. Suspension springs, specially calibrated coil-over shocks, and sway bars must work in concert to provide the correct suspension articulation and ride quality to scale obstacles and negotiate terrain.

To increase durability and essential reliability, pitman arms, drop links, driveline parts, steering boxes, and skid plates are examined. Because the drivetrain must be ready for off-road service, the authors cover the most rugged and reliable axle assemblies available. Exhaust, intake, and electronic engine mapping upgrades make the Jeep 3.6- and 3.8-liter V-6 engines much more potent. It also includes how to swap GM LS and new Hemi engines into the JK for vastly improved performance.

Critique: "Jeep Wrangler JK 2007 - Present: Performance Upgrades" showcases vital information to convert any mild-mannered street vehicle into an all-conquering off-road rig with respect to lift kits, wheels, tires, drive-train, or suspension and engine parts. Comprised of impressively detailed information, insightful guidance, and installation instructions, "Jeep Wrangler JK 2007 - Present: Performance Upgrades" is profusely illustrated and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it a "must read' for anyone seeking to upgrade and maintain their own Jeep Wrangler JK.

American Snakes
Sean P. Graham
The Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-4363
9781421423593, $29.95, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: 125 million years ago on the floodplains of North America, a burrowing lizard started down the long evolutionary path of shedding its limbs. The 60-plus species of snakes found in "American Snakes" by Sean P. Graham (Assistant Professor of Biology at Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas) have this ancestral journey to thank for their ubiquity, diversity, and beauty.

Although many people fear them, snakes are as much a part of America's rich natural heritage as redwoods, bald eagles, and grizzly bears. Found from the vast Okefenokee Swamp to high alpine meadows, from hardwood canopies to the burning bottom of the Grand Canyon, these ultimate vertebrates are ecologically pivotal predators and quintessential survivors.

In this revelatory and engaging meditation on American snakes, Professor Graham: Explains the everyday lives of American snakes, from their daily routines and seasonal cycles to their love lives, hunting tactics, and defensive repertoires; Debunks harmful myths about snakes and explores their relationship with humans; Highlights the contribution of snakes to the American wilderness; Tells tales of "snake people" ? important herpetologists (snake biologists) with inspiring careers

Neither a typical field guide nor an exhaustive reference, "American Snakes" is instead a fascinating study of the suborder Serpentes. Brimming with intriguing and unusual stories of hognose snakes that roll over and play dead, blindsnakes with tiny vestigial lungs, rainbow-hued dipsadines, and wave-surfing sea-snakes, the text is interspersed with scores of gorgeous full-color images of snakes, from the scary to the sublime. This proud celebration of a diverse American wildlife group will make every reader, no matter how skeptical, into a genuine snake lover.

Critique: An extraordinary and impressively informative introduction that is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "American Snakes" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general reders with an interest in the subject that "American Snakes" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $25.49).

Mike J. Sparrow
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432835903 $25.95 hc / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The first book in a dramatic fictional trilogy set in the old west. Takoda, a young Lakota warrior, is compelled to fight for his life after his father is killed in a hunting accident, facing murderous beaver trappers and brutal treatment at the hands of a ruthless band of buffalo hunters. However, his future is to become defined by the dark influence of Theodore Winthrop, a Minnesotan senator who wants to rid the plains of the native tribes. Takoda's survival depends on a chance encounter with a wagon train, where he meets Carla Kopp, with whom he is destined to unveil the scope of Winthrop's political and military subterfuge, a plan to steal four hundred million dollars in gold, and strategies designed to challenge the Lakota's very existence.

Critique: Book One of the "Manifest Destiny" trilogy, Native is a novel following a young Lakota warrior's struggle to survive, not only individually, but also to resist a political machination designed to expunge his tribe's existence. Although Native is fiction, the story is grounded in the documented, historical reality of the American government's often brutal ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from desired lands. Riveting from cover to cover, Native is highly recommended for personal and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Native is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Jack Mason

Messenger's Bookshelf

The Water Rabbits
Paul Tarrago
Mistral Studios
9781326986674, $7.92, (pbk)

Reading The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarrago is something like the literary equivalent of touring an exhibition of contemporary art, at which we are made to confront the unfamiliar, the secretive and the inscrutable. We wander through the galleries, alternately perplexed and intrigued, distracted and stimulated, occasionally consulting our watches and wondering if that fire extinguisher attached to the far wall in magnificent isolation is in fact an exhibit. Afterwards, probably over a meal and a drink, we struggle to process the experience and find things to say that sound remotely insightful and intelligent.

Reviewing books is an odd occupation and a presumptuous one. Subjective responses and evaluations can be dressed up as objectivity (whatever that is), while the reviewer poses as a kind of invisible Everyman who speaks for us all. Alternatively, subjectivity can be allowed to strut its stuff, the reviewer parading his or her feelings and awarding merit stars on the basis of sublimely unexamined preferences and prejudices. Perhaps neither of these extremes is preferable to the other: context is all, and what works one day will fall apart the next.

The Water Rabbits exposes the limitations of the review process to an embarrassing extent. It is entirely artificial to read this book from cover to cover more or less in one sitting. It is doubly artificial then to sit down and think of things to say about it. The Water Rabbits needs to be read in small doses; indeed, its stories, dialogues and occasional poems and photographs are arranged in small doses. Sense needs to be made of each individually before the collection can be grasped as a whole. Even then, that grasp will probably prove elusive, requiring another attempt later in life.

Fortunately, Paul Tarrago 'heartily believe[s] that a reader can assume a substantial and active role in the meaning-making process ... so any difference in understanding seems quite reasonable.' Reading is certainly a highly creative act involving a wide range of seemingly contradictory means and ends. We forget how miraculous it is and just how big: most of the time, the hard work it entails is hidden from our own sight, so that all we see are our immediate emotional responses. The Water Rabbits brings to consciousness our search for meaning while we read, rewarding and frustrating that search in equal measure.

If anything unites the pieces in The Water Rabbits it is humour. 'The Bombardier', for instance, is interspersed with user-reviews of the Bombardier slow-cooker, pitch-perfect in tone and faulty orthography:

Technically, it cooks to fast on a high setting. Very bubble mixture when cooking. So the glass lid is always misty. Therefore, you cannot see the food clearly, as advertised. I have also noticed that my phone is 'tingly to the touch' when placed near (though am not definitely sure whether phone or cooker is doing this).

In the eponymous story/dialogue, a police officer has been assigned to a teaching programme:

Henry has realized by now that keeping order in class is very different from the streets. There you could draw from a range of implied threats - incarceration, arrest, fine, forcible detention, even shame - but in school it was more like dealing with embassy officials: everyone had some kind of diplomatic immunity and was operating under a different Rule of Law, one which he was only hazily aware of.

Hazy awareness - the feeling one has when one intuits something just beyond one's capacity to perceive or understand it - is another major concern, and is perhaps representative of the reading experience itself. In the same story we are told:

The enigmatic turn of the image sequencing suggests there are links that we have missed, or allusions that have been badly articulated.

Appropriately, one of the pieces in The Water Rabbits is called 'Pattern Recognition'. Throughout the collection, characters - insofar as they are characters at all - strive to find patterns, to hang on to understandings, clarity, details, while constantly assailed by doubts and distractions. They participate in conversations that stalk agreement but are continually sidetracked by stray thoughts and random interruptions. Even the apparatuses they use to record and create - particularly cameras and the very fabric of film itself - eschew technical certainties and open themselves to multiple interpretations with each tiny adjustment of the equipment, each micro-decision of the user. Truth may be socially determined, but that determination is hard to come by.

Here and there, and most importantly in 'The Water Rabbits' and 'Absence of Monster', a focus on the mutability and indeterminateness of human systems of classification and appraisal suggests that what we call monsters can be something else entirely, or else two things at once. The morphology of the monstrous varies according to proximity: if this particular rabbit does not possess webbing between its toes then it cannot be a water rabbit and, hence, cannot be dangerous; if these monsters are microscopically small and unthreatening when clinging to our clothing, how dangerous do they become when they grow large and run off to hide in the woods? And are they still a threat when they send us considerate letters containing helpful advice? Systems of classification are culturally inflected, as is the very vocabulary of our taxonomizing (cf. Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings 1957).

The Water Rabbits will not find a vast readership. It is too wilfully absurdist, too playful, too unconventional. It refuses to compromise and rebuffs our friendly overtures. It even resists assessment: like it or loathe it, or like some of it and loathe the rest of it, it keeps its secrets so well that we are unable to tell whether or not they are worth the keeping. Is it really about anything at all? Does it have to be? Our answers will depend on our monsters.

Paul Hoffman
Red Opera
9781911195351, $24.99, (hbk)
9781911195436, $19.11, (pbk)
B0752P8TZM, $6.40, (ebook)

The cover (designed by MECOB) to Paul Hoffman's Scorn is an adaptation of Velázquez' magnificent portrait of Pope Innocent X. The pope's gilded throne and the rich fabrics draping his body speak frankly of wealth and ease, while the man himself is unsettlingly shrewd, calculating and worldly, his watchful eyes already hinting at the existential anguish and capacity for horror depicted in Francis Bacon's wonderful series of studies of a caged and screaming pope.

We should never judge a book by its cover, of course, but in this case we might wish to bend the rule: a figure of immense authority and power is seated within a blood-red void, seemingly unaware of the angel of death perched confidingly against the crown of his head, as if eating into his brain. The image is arresting and hyperbolic, and it prepares us for what is to come.

To call Scorn a work of righteous anger would barely do justice to its earth-shattering rage, its apocalyptic howl of protest, its caustic humour, irony and indignation. The power of these emotions literally cannot be contained; the novel overspills its own boundaries, spreads outwards into the world by means of its copious epigraphs and epilogues, illustrations, quotations and allusions - even mixing genres and providing external links. 'Real people,' such as Tony Blair and the Queen, converse with outlandish fictional characters; reality intrudes at every moment. Conventional storytelling alone, it seems, is not enough to carry the burden of the novel's scorn.

'Come here, Your Grace. I want to chastise you,' says one of Scorn's principal characters, quoting Lt. Harry Kello's chillingly playful request of doomed Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), a film whose theme - the slow death of the soul - is shared by Scorn. The souls in Scorn, however, are murdered rather than eroded. They are the souls of children starved of just about everything that makes life worthwhile, among them decent food and shelter, freedom from fear, love and fellow-feeling.

In Scorn, to begin with, those who scorn are the nuns and priests in Catholic churches, schools and institutions, aided and abetted by the silence and concealment mandated by the Vatican itself. To be clear: Paul Hoffman is not primarily addressing the worldwide scandal of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Rather, his ostensible focus is on the mundane cruelties and deprivations that were inflicted by nuns and priests on a daily basis, and what that does to individuals who then have to make their way in the world.

Or so it seems, for Scorn is full of unexpected juxtapositions and misdirections. Soon after an episode of exceptional cruelty endured by little Aaron Gall (the nearest to a hero the novel has to offer), Scorn wrongfoots the reader by enlarging the scope of wickedness:

While he was being branded on his little soul ... Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward was creating the conditions for thirty million people to starve to death. While a few dozens of children were living in fear of Mother Mary Frances, some parents in Xingyang were eating theirs.

This exhilarating and audacious manoeuvre is typical of Scorn's exploration of power and injustice, which are so imbricated at times as to be mutually indistinguishable. All injustice, every abuse of power, every concealed crime, are interlinked and intimately connected. 'The spirit of the times,' we are told, 'moves through everyone,' so that a love affair, for example, can perish on the rocks of a historical injustice, the profits from which are still enjoyed by the privileged few.

Appropriately, Scorn's many adversions to historical iniquities are paralleled with references and allusions to historical fictions, among them Samuel Butler's Erewhon (1872), William Morris's News from Nowhere (1890) and Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (1859). The personification of Evil, it appears, is a film buff who can quote with ease from works ranging from Double Indemnity (1944) to Pink Flamingos (1972).

In Scorn the story of Aaron Gall's experiences is coupled with a police investigation into a series of grotesquely bizarre murders. We listen in as victims engage in a verbal battle of wits with their murderer for the higher ground of self-exculpation, offering reasons and excuses, even defiance, each successive victim increasing in sophistication and sophistry. The investigation itself is inflected with issues of class and privilege, antagonism and deceit.

The story becomes increasingly fantastic as the novel progresses, which will enthrall many readers and perhaps puzzle or disappoint others. Much depends on expectations. The novel takes a big risk right from the start by promising (quite literally) that it has an astonishing twist in the tail. Said twist is entirely predictable, however, very early on, so it might have been better left unsaid - not that this a serious flaw, but readers who count on such things are bound to feel cheated.

Otherwise, Scorn is a wildly anarchic, countercultural phantasmagoria of a novel, reminiscent at times of Jonathan Coe's Number 11. Its unquenchable outrage and its marked preference for form over character can be exhausting as well as compelling. Its nuances of argument about power and morality are hardly matched by nuances of characterization: persons are more-or-less representative types moved around like billiard balls. This is not a novel of rounded individuals confronting one another in a fully realized world. That isn't a weakness, but it is a particularity of a book immersed in its own moral purpose. Scorn is often funny even as its purpose is intensely serious: we are called upon to grasp the perfidy of power, the depth of the world's structural violence, our limitless capacity for self-delusion and hypocrisy.

In other words, Scorn is a witty and acerbic novel that tells the truth, that seeks to animate rather than console. That in itself provides reasons to rejoice, particularly in an era when humanity's gargantuan appetite for cruelty and stupidity is draped in dazzling robes of blood-red splendour.

Jack Messenger, Reviewer

Molly's Bookshelf

Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share
Martha Stewart Living Magazine
Clarkson Potter; 1st edition
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307394545, $26.00, Paperback, 352 pages

During recent visit to KC Kansas to visit son and family I noticed a new cookbook on the kitchen counter. Martha Stewart's COOKIES The very best treats to bake and to share is a trove of appealing recipes.

Divided into 6 sections comprised of Cookie Recipes, Tools and Techniques, Packaging and Giving, Sources, Photo Credits and Index I find a usable and interesting work.

Cookie Recipes at 300+ pages comprise the largest of the sections. Recipes feature their own Unique Table of Contents, rather than text, the chapter heading is followed by photos of many of the cookies in the section. I like this novel approach, it allows the reader to quickly see and locate a possible recipe to use for the particular moment.

Included in the recipe Table of Contents are light and delicate beginning on page 20, soft and chewy pages 56 - 103, crumbly and sandy 104 - 163, chunky and nutty 164 - 187, cakey and tender 188 - 217, crisp and crunchy 218 - 263, rich and dense 264 - 305

Prior to the recipes themselves Stewart offers a bit of sage commentary gleaned from years of practical application for some of the particular recipes including the delicious cooky on the cover of the book, Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread, haven't tried the recipe yet, but a winning combination for every Chocolate and Gingerbread aficionado! Some hints regarding the ingredients list for particular types of cookies is followed a how-to including photos of Meringue Porcupines and Amaretti Crisps.

I like the basic format for presentation of recipes across a two page spread, with a large graphic of the finished product appearing on one page, and the ingredient list and complete directions for preparing the dough including oven temp at the top of the list. Step by step directions for order to add ingredients, mixing and the like will be helpful for experience and novice cooks alike.

From Fortune Cookies, to Chocolate Meringues, to Coconut Cookies with Passion Fruit Curd, and Gingersnap Palmiers the first section, light and delicate, is replete with pretty, and delicious reading, baking and eating possibilities.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars stir memories of childhood and the favorite PBJ sandwich waiting for sisters and I as we entered the kitchen to share our day with Mama!

Coconut Macaroons, Chcolate Malt Sandwiches, Snickerdoodles and the cover photo Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread are some of the offerings prior to the wrap up Iced Hermits and Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches closing out the Soft and Chewy selections.

Hazelnut Orange Shortbread, and Almond Horns begin the Crumbly and Sandy selections. Mexican Wedding Cookies, gorgeous Springerle, Lime Meltaways and Chocolate Almond Marsala and Lemon Apricot Sandwiches are some of the possibilities here.

Cakey and Tender Lemon Madeleines, Lebkuchen, Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing, Carrot Cake Cookies, Orange Cardamom Madeleines, and Fresh Peach Drop Cookies each sound delicious.

Note: Oatmeal Bars with Dates and Walnuts will be as tasty when made with Pecans for those with Walnut allergy, myself included.

A snappy sound generally accompanies the breaking in half of the cookies comprising the Crisp and Crunchy type cookies. This section offers a range of treats beginning with Chocolate-Orange-Espresso-Thins, before continuing with Striped Icebox Cookies, Chocolate Sandwiches, Sugar Cooky Cutouts and Sweet Cardamom Crackers. I even found a recipe for Homemade Graham Crackers in this section!

Rich and Dense sets the scene with one of my all time favorite treats, LEMON SQUARES. The squares are soon followed with another of my personal favorites RUM BALLS. I considered: My Daughter in law may need to check my suitcase as I prepare for the trip home at the end of this visit. Also in this section; SARA BERNHARDT Cookies, my 3 personal favorites all in the same section in the same book!!

Lemon Tassies, Key Lime Bars, Chocolate Cherry Crumb Bars, finish out the Martha Stewart's COOKIES The very best treats to bake and to share recipes.

Tools and Techniques is a section for the novice and experienced baker alike with suggestions including ingredients called for in recipes, tools to use to make the preparation less chore and more delight and fun and perhaps lead to more baking at home and less shopping for bags and cartons at the local big box store.

Preparing drop cookie dough is described with photos accompanying each step, Tools for shaping dough offers a selection of commonly available and used items for bakers, Shaping cookies by hand is pretty self-explanatory, and how to for Icebox Cookies offers suggestion for storing wrapped dough in Paper Towel Rolls in the freezer.

I personally like slice and bake cookies, and prepared many recipes as slice your own when raising my own children.

Rolling dough explains, with pictures, how to roll dough and use cutters for special occasions.

Tools for baking dough lists 12 commonly used and generally available tools to make cooky baking go smoothly.

From having a good Timer available to spatulas, cooling rack, thermometer, pans and cooky sheets and use of parchment paper Stewart offers a nice basic selection novice bakers may want to follow and experienced bakers may want to note regarding their own supplies on hand.

Tools and ingredients for decorating, and decorating are shown with graphics to aid the baker who may want to decorate but are not sure where to begin.

Packaging and wrapping includes both text and photos for methods of getting cookies intact from here to there. Crumbs are good as any GI who has received a box will attest, unbroken are easier to share and devour.

Sources acquaints the reader re where and who may be good spot to note for supplies, Photo Credits lists the photographers who provided the wonderful photos, and the index lists cookies alphabetically.

I found while turning the pages of Martha Stewart's COOKIES The very best treats to bake and to share a marvelous selection of cookies to fit nearly any situation. Pages are sturdy, covers are hefty, book is good size, print is large enough that even my old eyes can read without difficulty.

I like the recipe presentation format across the two page spread, accompanied with a large color graphic I like knowing what the end result should look like. I was amaze to find when several of us teachers were to bake for a particular situation, preparing cookies for the retirement get together for a beloved superintendent of schools, while we all used the same recipe the cookies we carried to the celebration varied greatly. All were nice, however, as a much younger cook then I was astounded that even when using the same recipe the results could be so varied.

Step by step directions for preparing the dough are written clearly and while especially helpful for novice cooks can certainly be helpful for those of us who may have left the novice group many years in the past.

The one drawback I found with the cookbook, is the difficulty I experienced holding the book open as I was reviewing, which tells me that I will face the same problem when trying to prepare batter using a specific recipe.

From the Inside Flap

The ultimate Martha Stewart recipe collection. All the recipes from Martha's original books--more than 1,400 in all--have been gathered into one convenient reference book for everyday use in the kitchen.

From the Back Cover

The year was 1982, and Martha Stewart published her first book, Entertaining. This immediate best-seller, based on Martha's experience as a professional caterer, introduced readers to a new style of entertaining and a new style of cookbook - one that was gloriously photographed and filled with a wealth of information on the art of hospitality. In the years following, Martha wrote eight more books on food and entertaining, continuing to inspire a growing legion of fans with beautiful food, simply but elegantly presented. This book is the culmination of those years of publishing. More than 1,600 recipes and variations - all the recipes from Entertaining, Quick Cook, Pies & Tarts, Hors d'Oeuvres, Quick Cook Menus, Gardening, Weddings, Christmas, and Menus for Entertaining - are gathered together in a single volume. Thoroughly revised and updated, The Martha Stewart Cookbook includes a new introduction by Martha, new step-by-step illustrations, new menus, and sidebars and tips on subjects as varied as freezing pastry, selecting the best fruit, and setting the table.

Happy to recommend

The COMPLETE Step-By-Step 501 Delicious DIABETIC Recipes: Kitchen-Tested, Dietitian-Approved Family Favorites
Editor Anne C Cain
Photographers Jim Bathie, Brit Huckabay, others
Series: Complete Step-By-Step
Oxmoor House
c/o Time Inc. Books
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780848730529, $19.95, Spiral-bound: 480 pages

The COMPLETE Step-By-Step 501 Delicious DIABETIC Recipes: Kitchen-Tested, Dietitian-Approved Family Favorites

Letter From the Editor

The Editors note their mission for The COMPLETE Step-By-Step 501 Delicious DIABETIC Recipes to help (the reader) enjoy wonderful food while living with diabetes

The Staff of registered dietitians and cooking experts have put together 500 recipes that will help control diabetes while eating wonderful food.


How to Use This Book because meal planning is essential for diabetes management dietitians recommend use of individualized meal plan based on lifestyle and food preferences as much as is possible

Nutrient Analysis Each recipe presented is offered with nutrient analysis and exchange values. A handy chart is offered to explain the how to for the reader to use when preparing foods using the recipes in the book

Read the Label explains how to use the Nutrition Facts panel printed on most packaged foods to aide in making healthy choices

Sugar Substitute Tips editors note that sugar substitutes do not have the same cooking properties as is found when using table sugar. Editors provide a guide indicating what type sugar substitute they used when preparing specific recipes

Several pages listing popular brands of sugar substitutes and their properties, form, base formula and substitution table are included

Recipes appear generally as a single recipe per page, ingredient list at the top of the page, steps to use in preparing the recipe and a notation in the margin indicating how many of the item is produced per recipe along with Exchanges: Calories, Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat, Cholesterol, Fiber, Sodium

Appetizers & Beverages pp 13 - 54 includes recipes using prepared mixes and materials: Sesame Wonton Chips, Poppy Seed Pretzels, Salsa, Dips, Snack items, in all 41 items meant to increase options for the diner.

Breads 55-96 recipes run the gamut from Herb Seasoned French Bread, Italian Flatbread, French Toast, a diversity of pancakes, and another of biscuits, Currant Scones, Blueberry Muffins, Cornbreads, Spoonbread, and loaves all bring interest to eating and mealtime.

Desserts 97- 138 for many diabetics the notion that all desserts must be given up is eradicated with addition of 41 pages filled with recipes for Ambrosia, Layered Fruit Dessert, Compotes, Parfaits, Ice Milk, Sundaes, Cookies, Applesauce Spice Cake, Carrot Cake, Tarts and Turnovers.

Fish & Shellfish 139 - 178 recipes included for these entrees include Baked Fish and Chips, Flounder, Catfish, Grouper, Orange Roughy, Salmon, Snapper.

Meatless Main Dishes 179 - 218 Breakfast Scramble using egg substitute, Potato Cheese Frittata, recipes for several Quiche and others for Stratas rich in veggies, old favorites Mac and Cheese are not forgotten, Lasagnas, Pizzas and Burritos are sure to tempt the most jaded, picky eaters.

Meats 219 - 258 lovers of Mexican Foods will be happy to see first Beefy Tortilla Pie, other favs include meatball, Steak, Meat Loaf all prepared using reduced calorie, substitution, less sodium, etc than non-diabetics may enjoy, but nicely spiced to insure flavor and pleasure when eaten. Recipes include Beef, Pork, Lamb to provide variety.

Poultry 259 - 298 old time family favorites, Chicken Casseroles, Chicken Pies, Stir Fry have been reworked to help meet the diabetic need and maintain flavor. Other recipes are offered using Cornish Hens, Turkey, sausage and ground Turkey as well as breast and breast cutlets.

Salads & Salad Dressings 299 - 342 Salads need neither be tasteless, blah or unappealing. Congealed Salads, Fruit Cups, Mixed Greens, BLT, Spinach and Onion, Mexican Coleslaw and a broad array of Veggie Salads all insure lots of diversity, and tasty dishes that are eye and palate pleasing. There are even several main dish salad offerings for those who enjoy their meat and salad mixed.

Soups & Sandwiches 343 - 384 Cold Soups and Hot using a diversity of veggie or fruit as the base along with Chowders, and even old favorites, Cheese, French Onion and Pasta and Vegetable will be found to serve alongside Egg Salad Sandwiches, and Cheese Sandwiches, Tuna Melts are not forgotten, Sloppy Joes using ground turkey as well as Beef Pockets are certain to provide the variety and nutrition needed for healthy living.

Starch Side Dishes 385 - 428 beginning with Granola, recipes offered include some made with Couscous, others with Rice, Risotto, Mexican Beans N Rice, Pilaf, Pasta and Veggies, Beans, Corn Casserole, Potato Casseroles, and Bakers, and culminates with a Bake Acorn Squash dish for fall.

Vegetable & Fruit Side Dishes 429 - 472 Artichokes, Asparagus, Green Bean Casserole, Cabbage, Snap Peas, Spinach and Squash, Tomato, Hot N Spicy Veggies ad Winter Veggies all provide the diversity to tempt even the most picky of diners. Included in this section is a personal fav of mine; a recipe for making chunky applesauce an old family favorite for years, in a good for you and tasty presentation.

Recipe Index Listings are alphabetized by Category i.e. appetizer, soup etc, and specific recipes found in the category as well as by ingredient name; bean, corn and the like to aid the searcher toward a specific recipe.

I found much to like about this particular book, while my husband is not diabetic, he is overweight and has recently suffered a serious bout of diabetic wounds on both legs knee to ankles, my son has developed diabetes, so the book is particularly meaningful for both his wife, and to myself.

Both fellows are eating better foods for them, are losing weight and are stabilizing their metabolism as daughter in law and I prepare foods with clearly delineated health values on the page.

Meal planning is indispensable for both simple weight loss and diabetes governance. Preparing meal plans based on both lifestyle and food preferences of the persons we are preparing meals for is imperative IF we want the meals to be eaten.

I particularly like that recipes are offered with nutrient synthesis and exchange values for the diabetic.

I have long read labels, and am often surprised that many people do not. This book helps to clarify how to use the Nutrition Facts panel printed on most packaged foods to aide consumers to make healthy choices.

While sugar and/or sugar substitute is not something with which I am personally concerned, I do know that it is something diabetics must consider. The book has excellent guides regarding sugar substitutes.

Changing or improving eating habits in my own house has not been terribly hard, husband is not a big eater of sugars, and neither of us uses much sodium. That is one hurdle we do not need to cross.

I especially like using this cook book the washable hard cover, having a beautiful photo of tasty peach chicken dish, is spiral bound assuring the book will lay flat for food prep ease. Page papers are sturdy enough to withstand repeated usage, however are not washable, print is clean font, large enough to view without a telescope, wide margin leaves enough room for notes below the yield and Exchanges notes.

I have found a number of recipes to use, substituting ground Turkey, or preparing a meatless main dish has not proven that difficult, now that husband can see result of the weight loss.... he is wearing shirts again that were much too tight in the recent past, he is buoyed, and the wounds on legs are healed.

Husband and I both enjoy Mexican foods, and pastas, this cookbook has nice recipes for both.

Happy to recommend The COMPLETE Step-By-Step 501 Delicious DIABETIC Recipes: Kitchen-Tested, Dietitian-Approved Family Favorites.

Danny and Life on Bluff Point: Lost in the Dark
Mary Ellen Lee
Four Seasons Publishers
9781891929878, $12.95, Paperback: 181 pages

Mary Ellen Lee's Danny and Life on Bluff Point: Lost in the Dark, is the another in the series of historical novels written for children, especially the middle grade audience and those young adult and adult readers who enjoy historical fact driven works. Danny in the series is based on childhood memories and journals written by the author's grandfather as he set down the situations, happenings and events of his childhood in the Finger Lakes

This component of the Danny escapades takes place in February of 1895 with winter playfulness and family chores continuing for Danny and the whole of his family. Lost in the Dark begins immediately after the adventure closes in the second book. Miss Spaulding, the school teacher, is still living with the Lee's, but Danny has accepted her presence as a way to gain more responsibility. They are living in a time when much of what a family uses is of their own making. Times are difficult, simple and filled with hard work as the whole family pitches in to eke out a living in a time when electricity, modes of travel and life in general is much different than today.

During winter water freezes allowing Danny to enjoy ice fishing. He also works with the men during the annual ice harvesting before the day of electric freezers and refrigerators ice was cut in blocks from frozen lakes, packed in sawdust and used later in the year during warmer weather to cool foods.

Danny is given the task of driving the horse team pulling the wagon stacked with ice. His quick wit actually makes him a bit of a hero.

All is not only work and toil; Pa and Uncle Henry race their spirited teams and sleighs along the Ridge Road. And, this book is full of ice adventures. The adults enjoy the thrill of racing across the ice in ice sail boats. The biggest surprise in the story is when Pa, Danny's father, and Uncle Jerome build a smaller sized ice sail boat, especially for Danny. Danny is pleased to be given his own small iceboat, which is to be shared with Cousin Jay for use on the nearby lake.

While enjoying the ice sail boat, Danny starts to daydream, gets distracted, and realizes himself in a really frightening situation.

Danny and Life on Bluff Point: Lost in the Dark is the third book of the Danny and Life on Bluff Point series. This semi fictionalized series is based upon the real journals of the author's grandfather.

Ten year old Danny dreams about becoming tall and strong like his father. The boy has an older sister Ruthie who used to be a lot of fun but is now more interested in girly stuff and he has two younger sisters Mary and Carolyn who at the time are still just a little young to be a friend to Danny.

In each book, Danny shares his dreams and adventures as well as his challenges and successes. Thus, each book actually contains several smaller stories that lead up to the main dramatic event.

With the childlike thinking of a youngster his age, fails to pay attention to what is happening around him and spends a cold windless night, alone on Keuka Lake ice. Danny chooses the wrong direction in the moonless night and walks further away from home. He decides to try to hide his ice boating mistakes from Ma and Pa.

With his parents guidance and patience, Danny comes to realize falsehoods are actually of no help when a mistake or carelessness has taken place and accepting responsibility for his actions is the best policy.

Family dynamics, chores, responsibility, expectations, parental guidance, all are a part of family life today as it was in 1895; many aspects have changed some, however, today's kids are allowed a peek into the life lived in our country over a century ago.

I received several of the series during the two years I taught fourth grade; Social Studies, History, came alive in our classroom as I began reading the Danny books. As I began reading, the class, five girls and five boys were not at all sure they would find the books to their liking. Soon the 15 minute period I set aside for reading aloud to the class following our noon recess was thought not nearly long long enough by those ten middlers.

The series became one of the most favored of the class for reading during their DEAR drop everything and read daily reading activity, and for taking home to read with family during the evening.

I too enjoy history, have read a good many journals written by others and now available for our reading many years after the scribes have expired and their memory is kept alive in part by the journals they kept.

Enjoyed the thought provoking, entertaining, inspiring reading, happy to recommend 5 stars .

Pencil Drawing Step by Step Master the art of drawing in graphite pencil
Cynthia Knox
Illustrator Cynthia Knox
Series: Artist's Library
Walter Foster Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9781600583698, $9.95, Paperback, 64 pages

Cynthia Knox' Pencil Drawing Step by Step Master the art of drawing in graphite pencil is one of the detailed drawing books offered by the Artist's Library Series.

The Artist's Library Series offers instructional works filled with serious instruction for serious artists per the front inside flap.

A detailed Table of Contents begins with an Introduction wherein the artist author indicates why she feels fundamental drawing skills are critical, she relates her early endeavors drawing portraits, animals and buildings in addition to still lifes. Following the Introduction next is the list of subjects for refining artistic talent, followed with the culminating Closing Thoughts.

Subjects include

Tools & Materials 5, Drawing Techniques 8, Lighting 11, Sketching & Transferring 12, Pear Still Life 14, Lion Cub Portrait 18, Foal Portrait 22, Window Box 28, Sunflower Still Life 34, Bike & Barn 40, Dog Portrait 46, Sports Car 52, Vintage Carriage 58

Closing Thoughts is found on page 64.

Tools and Materials shown are the pencils available for graphite artwork. She mentions that drawing skills can be learned easily through a few lessons and lots of practice.

Knox describes the pencils used hard leads to soft including which are used for particular work. She mentions that she prefers mechanical pencils, advantages include they lay down consistent graphite, have textured rubberized section to keep fingers from slipping, no sharpening necessary - pencil holds extra leads. Mechanical pencils come in several widths to accommodate diverse sizes of lead.

Paper, Blending Tools and Erasers, Drawing Boards and various pencil sharpeners to use with wooden pencils round out the supplies.

Drawing Techniques Includes pictoral samples of the strokes and methods blending, lifting out, and the like. Negative Drawing is described. Value refers to shades light to dark existing in a composition, shading is detailed.

Lighting is explained and pictoral samples are included to illustrate the critical nature of lighting to success of the composition.

Methods for Sketching & Transferring are described including Freehand with Transfer Paper, Grid Method, Projector Method, are described in some detail, pictoral images help further elucidate the text.

Pear Still Life presented step by step with text and graphic to illustrate each step helps student put into practice the techniques introduced to date.

First is shown the finished still life followed with text and graphics beginning with the initial strokes on the paper, step 1 followed with steps 2,3,4,5,6 and at last step 7 and the final blending and building wood detail. 'After blending all my edges and cleaning up the drawing, I spray it with workable fixative.'

The final graphic is a nearly page large illustration of the Pear Still Life .

Each of the next projects including Lion Cub Portrait, Foal Portrait, Window Box, Sunflower Still Life, Bike & Barn, Dog Portrait, Sports Car and Vintage Carriage are presented using the basic instruction format i.e. small finished product graphic followed with step by step instructions using paper, pencils, tortillon and kneaded eraser as needed and chamois and fixative.

Knox, award winning artist specializing in works of traditional realism, is a signature Member of the Colored Pencil Society of America, as well she is a juried member of the International Guild of Realism, and a commissioned portrait artist and occasional instructor.

Her closing thoughts include 'once you've learned and practiced even a small set of techniques, there is no limit to what you can draw in pencil.'

It is the notion that there is much to be accomplished as an artist using pencils that drew me to purchase this particular book.

I do not expect to become particularly proficient at my age, however, during the last year I was in the classroom one of my duties was to work with grades K - 5 as their art instructor.

I had long used Ed Emberley's simple techniques to guide K-1 students into producing recognizable critters, vehicles, and the like, however that has long been the extent of my personal expertise.

Knox presents her expertise in a straight forward manner with clearly elucidated text and pencil produced illustrations.

Sadly, I do not know whether I might have used Knox' book to guide my grades 1-5 into producing some nicely detailed pencil productions.

I taught 4 days, that last term for me, three years ago. Had fallen the day before the school term was to commence, landed on knees and palms, I do have osteoporosis, and began first a short term then long term leave of absence until the close of the school year.

Much therapy, MRI, and all of the attendant situation surrounding my own personal physical condition has convinced doctor, and myself, that retirement is here and teaching is done.

I do use the book a bit as I sketch, like pencil artistry and while I may never become an artist of renown, when Husband recognizes the rabbit and doesn't have to appologize that he had thought it might be my sketch of our german shepherd, I feel pleased and will continue to use and recommend the Cynthia Knox' Pencil Drawing Step by Step Master the art of drawing in graphite pencil.

I do like the technique presented in simple terms and illustrated, to solidify the instruction, to be an excellent methodology for helping build confidence, and guide a budding pencil artist of any age and stage of development.

I personally appreciate greatly Knox' Tools & Materials pages, there are so many pencils, papers and the like on shelves in our local art supply aisle at the mall, I had no idea which I might need, should buy, lay down money for, and the like.

Following Knox' guide I have a nice supply of necessary materials, can add others now and then, and fill my sketch books with pencil strokes that please me whether any one other than myself ever sees them or not.

One of the Artist's Library Series, happy to recommend Cynthia Knox' Pencil Drawing Step by Step Master the art of drawing in graphite pencil.

Battles of the Vietnam War
Patrick Jennings
Bookthrift Co; 1st Ed. (U.S.) edition
9780671069858, $TBA Hardcover 192 pages

Lecturer, Historian, Author Patrick Jennings' Battles of the Vietnam War is a sizeable work of 192 pages. Packed with many photographs, text and information The Table of Contents lists an Introduction, 7 Chapters and an Index.

1 Dien Bien Phu

2 Junction City

3 Rolling Thunder and the Air War

4 The Tet Offensive

5 Hue

6 Khe Sahn

7 Saigon Succumbs

Author Jennings notes in the Introduction that 'most wars, modern and ancient, have their great battles, the moment in the conflicts which were seen contemporaneously or subsequently as turning points that decided the course of the war. ... The War in Vietnam has no such parallels, at least in the more recent past.

The author tells Readers that 'Some wars cannot be avoided. Most can. The war in Vietnam is one of them, and it is hoped that the description of what happened in Southeast Asia in a military sense will help bring about an understanding of the tragedy that the Vietnam War inflicted upon the people of both Indochina and the United States, and the price the entire world has yet to pay for that ultimate failure of judgment.

The path to Dien Bien Phu was set in motion long before it began. In 1941 Nguyen Ai Quoc set up a political/military known as the Viet Minh. The group fought against the occupying Japanese, however their ultimate goal was elimination of all foreign domination.

With the defeat of Japan many Vietnamese hoped the French would relinquish their dominance, that did not happen. Soon Allied troops replaced Japanese and the French re-established their colonial rule. By this time Nguyen had changed his name to Ho Chi Minh and the ultimate resulting Dien Bien Phu action was in place.

Text and photos showing fighting men, training activities, French Paratroopers, patrols on the Saigon River, bunkers, transport of supplies, captured weapons, Viet Minh prisoners in Tonkin 1954, wounded French and sout Vietnamese after attack on Eliane, Montagnard 'mountain commandos' on patrol in the jungle, French hospital helicopter, French forces movement south of Dien Bien Phu protected by Air Force, march 1954, French troops watching napalm bombardment, French defenders during battle, French medics and evacuation of wounded during shelling, a double page photo of helmeted Viet Minh troops in Hanoi after the French armistice, Oct 1954, a French underground command post, cheering crows in Haiphong, 1955, as well as a map of Vietnam at the time of the French withdrawal in 1954 help clarify understanding of the

Dien Bien Phu action.

2 Junction City tone is set with a double page photo of soldiers advancing toward a Viet Cong bunker. Author Jennings notes that 'Operation Junction City is a microcosm of what the average American soldier faced, and faced down, in Vietnam.'

Fighting carried out primarily by infantrymen in gruelling jungle or wetland terrain never received the media attention focused on elite forces like the Green Berets or the Marines up on the DMZ.

Following arrival of US troops in 1965 to succeed the advisory role with regular combat operations, they found it was very difficult to engage the elusive Viet con or NVA they had come to battle.

Oct 1966, the first decisive engagement came pretty much by accident; US forces attacked elements of the 9th Viet Cong Division as the opposing forces stumbled into one another. Before it ended 29 Nov, 22,000 US allied South Vietnamese troops were engaged. Gen'l Westmorland mounted the first multi division operation of the Vietnam War - Operation Junction City.

The operation beginning early February 1967 included moving 9 infantry battalions into position, repairing mine damage, flushing out Viet Cong from camouflaged tunnels, constructing command post and tank bridge, search and destroy missions, and close quarter skirmishes. At last 1 April, the enemy was demoralized, the remnants of 3 battalions of the 271st Regiment, 9th Viet Cong Division, and 2 battalions of the 70th Guard Regiment were in full flight. Fire Base George as the last major battle of Operation Junction City, typified much of the war in Southeast Asia.

Again, an abundance of photos taken in the field and text help Readers formulate a pretty good notion of some of the activity carried out by US fighting units. From a full page filled with 155mm shells, to scene of a Mike Force near Ban Me Thunot, a M113, the standard armored personnel carrier of the Nam war, a scene of soldiers hacking vines covering a tank, a pic of an M48-A3 tank being pulled out of the mud by M-113, and another tank being maneuvered up the hill, while the one on the opposing page has bogged down in vines, a 2 page spread in full color of helicopters moving personnel into assault area, followed by a scene of machete in hand soldier preparing a landing zone for resupply, shots of combat, and 'Wolfhounds' cheering after a successful operation as Gen'l Westmorland praises his men, help Readers understand some of the activity, problems and situations faced by the US fighting forces sent to battle in Vietnam.

Each of the battles showcased in this edition follow the basic format as that used to explain the action at Junction. Pages are filled with text, along with maps and photos taken of the area during the action .

Rolling Thunder and the Air War begins on page 70, text beginning with a bit of background, leads into discussion of the action per se, reveal early targets were often controlled by the White House, with some areas, port facilities, air defense systems to be left unscathed. Initial Rolling Thunder operations during 1965 were under command Lt. Gen'l Joseph Moore.

The author mentions various air power used by US troops, text is augmented with large and small photos including an aerial look at the 4th Cav Div Army encampment.

Much damage was wreaked during the period 1965 - 28 December 1972, when air supremacy was established by U.S. leading to a willingness by the Northern Vietnamese to come to the negotiating table.

Discussion of The Tet Offensive begins on pages 98/99 with a 2 page photo spread showing Troops, Co G, exploring near the DMZ, Nov 1967. The Offensive was not a single skirmish, action or battle, but was rather a series of coordinated actions fomented by Gen'l Vo Nguyen Giap in the hope to drive the Americans from Vietnamese soil.

The build up toward battle began in earnest during Jan 1968 with activity near and around the old Special Forces camp at Marine fire supported Khe Sanh.

The author notes that Tet was intended more to cause the feelings in the United States to become disenchanted with the warfare being carried out in S. E. Asia.

Attacks extending from near the DMZ in the North and extending South to Saigon included actions along the Laotian border at Khe Sanh, Lang Vei, A Shau, and near the middle of the country at Kham Duc, Dak To, Kontum, Pleiku, Ban Me Thout, Dalat, and in the South at Bien Hoa, Saigon, My Tho, Ben Tre, Vinh Long, Can Tho, Ca Mau and near the Camboia Southern border at Chau Doc, while other attacks were in play along the East Coast at Quang Tri, Hue, Da Nang, Duy Xuyen, Quang Ngai, Qui Nhon, and Nha Trang are detailed in text, BW and colored photos, and maps.

With the final days of Feb 1968 The Tet Offensive was over; 27 days of intensive battle left thousands were dead, many more were homeless, Lang Vei, Special Forces, camp was the only area of Khe Sahn to actually be over run. The actual battle activities for Khe Sahn were waged later in March and April.

The battle for Hue is regarded by some military minds to have been the most successful of the attacks launched during Tet.

The battle for Hue is detailed between pages 126 and 141. Again, the author relies heavily on text and BW Photos, to aid Reader understanding of the situation and outcome of of the battle.

Fierce fighting raged house to house, air mobility helped keep casualty rates down as helicopters moved in quickly to pick up wounded soldiers whenever they could. Tank support was crucial during the heaviest fighting. The battle for Hue was officially over 25 Feb, Hue bore heavy cost for the civilians, 100,000 were made homeless, 6000 were lost to retaliatory beheading, shooting, being buried alive and other means of making a statement and instilling fear.

The battle for Khe Sahn, Marine fire support base, near the Laotian border in the North West area of the DMZ in Quang Tri Province, garrisoned nearly 4,000 Marines. The US Special Forces camp, Lang Vei, sited on Route 9, the major east west road between the coast and Laos was intended primarily as a site for Long Range Reconnaissance activities

along with training of the local indigenous population.

The fall of Lang Vei on 8 Feb with help of a dozen or so Russian PT-76 tanks added a new element to military equation.

BW and Colored photos are used along with text to clarify for The Reader the elements of the battle for Khe Sahn.

By the end of March the siege was drawing to a close, Operation Pegasus, designed to clear Highway 9 launched with little resistance.

US/South Vietnamese control of Quang Tri Province including the Special Forces Camp at Lang Vei was resumed.

Khe Sahn base structures were dismantled, and the base closed June 1968.

The thriving seaport of Saigon and center of commerce in South Vietnam, Saigon had become a refuge location for many refugees from the North, many in the US were becoming increasingly weary with the daily news reports of body counts and young American lives lost. Growing political fervor for an end to the situation was growing in the US.

Communist encroachment across Vietnam was growing.

Saigon Sccumbs tells of the last days of the South Vietnamese war effort. Hue fell to the Communists on 26 March 1975. Frightened Refugees streamed south toward Saigon as the Communist forces were making their way to the same area.

3 April President Ford announced that American military transport would be used to evacuate children, as it became evident that Saigon would indeed fall other countries joined in what became 'Operation Baby Lift,' American Citizens and Vietnamese refugees waited anxiously for the helicopters to carry them out of danger, away from the city and hopefully to the US.

29 April 1373 US civilians, 6000+other nationals, and 1000 US Marines who had secured the landing zone were air lifted to safety.

Author Patrick Jennings notes that on the whole, Vietnam Veterans were not welcomed home to the US, and, were often reviled by much of the populous. At the least they have been ignored for many years until more recent times.

Alphabetized Index is located on the last 3 pages of the work.

I found this large book to be an elucidative work filled with information, photographs and maps all outlining some of the military actions carried out by our military fighting force in South East Asia.

While every action of the war would result in many volumes or one single text so large and unwieldy it would be impossible to heft.

This particular volume fills a need for those who know little of the war, and want to learn something of the time and men who answered our country's call; many of those fighting were drafted into service.

Well written, font size large enough to enable aging eyes to read with little difficulty, I fond the maps in particular to be helpful, photos help clarify what the location was like as - jungle, etc.

Well written, language straight forward, very readable, good reference for the serious student, or reader who may want to read only one or two books on the subject.

Happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

The Transference Engine
Julia Verne St John
Daw Books
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9780756409531, $7.99, 320 pages

This steampunk novel is set in 1830's London. Madame Magdala has reinvented herself many times. Several years previously, she destroyed a machine called a transference engine. Lord Byron was totally obsessed with being able to transfer his soul into another body, thereby becoming immortal. Magdala's fear is that Byron's fanatical followers will kidnap her and Ada Byron Lovelace, his only legitimate daughter, and force them to rebuild the transference engine.

During the day, Magdala runs a fashionable coffee salon and reading room while living on the edge of polite society. She and Ada use the massive library stored there to keep an eye on political and business activity around the world. An army of street urchins keeps Magdala informed about what's going on around London.

The coronation of Queen Victoria is coming in a few days. An all-black hot air balloon that shoots searing light from a hidden cannon suddenly appears above London. Is Victoria the target? Does this have anything to do with the disappearance of a number of young women from all walks of life? Lord Byron died a few years previously, or did he?

I enjoyed reading this book. It's just weird enough, and it is very easy to read and comprehend. I am looking forward to reading a sequel.

It Happened One Doomsday
Laurence Macnaughton
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228
9781633881877, $18.00, 280 pages

Dru is a young woman who runs a New Age shop. She can use crystals to see enchantments, and she can brew the occasional potion. Dru does well enough to not get evicted.

Things get very interesting when a very handsome man, with unnaturally red eyes, and driving a possessed, black muscle car, enters her shop. The man, named Grayson, has been having bad dreams where he has turned into a demon. Along with three other demons, they are about to destroy the whole world. Grayson also has little nubs growing on his forehead; the beginning of actual horns.

Dru realizes that Grayson is not just turning into your average demon. He is turning into one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The other three Horsemen, looking like creatures right out of an H.P. Lovecraft story, are looking for their "colleague." Dru's crystals can slow, but not stop, Grayson's transformation. The only choice is for Grayson to fully become one of the Horsemen, and hope that Dru can find some way to not kill him.

A group of seven fallen sorcerers called the Harbingers want to rule a new magical realm where humanity is out of the way, permanently. An ancient scroll called the Apocalypse Scroll has been unearthed. It has seven seals on it; four seals have been broken, for the Four Horsemen. If all seven seals are broken, very bad things will happen to humanity. Along with her friend Rane, who has a very unique ability, can Dru save the world? Can she rescue Grayson, which whom she has fallen in love?

This is a really good story. It has first-rate writing, good characters and plenty of action. The reader will learn a lot about crystals, and will not go wrong with this novel.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Billy Gogan, American: A Novel
Roger Higgins
Travelers' Tales/Solas House
9781609521158, $16.95, 416 Pages

Lose yourself in the pages of this exciting historical novel as you follow the adventures of Billy Gogan, an Irish orphan sent to America on the eve of the 1844 Irish Famine. Discover the dangers he faces as he lives by his wits, and does what he has to, to survive....

The author of this exciting adventure story, Roger Higgins was born in Cheshire, England, and he emigrated to America with his parents and younger brother just before he was seven. Today he lives with his wife in Chicago, Illinois and is immensely proud of his four children.

He served on a guided missile destroyer and other ships as a naval officer, he then became a lawyer, and had various other jobs, eventually becoming a partner at a firm with the grandest bankruptcy practice of them all. He still practices law on a smaller scale and enjoys writing novels.

It is this diversity of knowledge, and life experiences which the author has used to full effect in writing the story of Billy Gogan - American.

The book begins with the 15 year old Billy Gogan in school, however, suddenly his life changes forever when he learns that his father has died in mysterious circumstances in prison. Following this devastating news he is informed by Father O'Muirhily that he must leave his native Ireland and start a new life in America. Passage has been arranged for him on the Maryann.

Forced to travel in steerage he meets in the boarding queue Mary (Maire) Skiddy a young widow, and her young daughter Fiona. When a sailor mistakes them for a family they are bunked together, and a firm friendship is formed. However the voyage hasn't even begun before Billy witnesses the death of Father O'Muirhily on the quay, but was he pushed, or did he fall?

The vividly descriptive historical writing of this author enables his reader to really get a feel for the lives of his characters. The harshness of life on board ship, the living conditions, and the terrible weather they endure during the voyage, are acute reminders of what travel used to be like.

When the Maryann eventually docks in Gotham, New York, Billy Gogan is distraught to discover that he has become separated from Mary and Fiona. Despite various attempts to find them, he is unlucky, the Five Points district of New York is a dangerous blend of ex-slaves, Americans, and Irish refugees, he can only hope they are safe.

Straight away he manages to find board and lodgings, and after starting work as a brick carrier, being quick to learn, he soon finds himself working as a bookkeeper for the notorious Magee. There, as if by fate, he is reunited with Mary and Fiona, and they begin to plan a future together...

Through Billy we discover what it was like in those times not only to travel to and survive in a foreign country, but also to make a new life, and learn about love, hate, and the myriad of emotions in between.

I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful historical novel and am looking forward to discovering what happens next in the life of Bill Gogan - American.

Everything is Different
Ann Morris
Mascot Books
9781620866870, $14.10, 32 Pages

Brett and his dad visit England where so many things are different, and in this lovely book he learns that different is not necessarily wrong.

From the moment Brett stepped onto the plane he knew he was in for a great adventure. He and his dad had been invited to England, and that was a long way away from his home in America. There are lots of things for him to discover, and the first was that the clouds were under his feet, not over his head.

Then he discovers that the English drive on the 'wrong side of the road' and not only that, they 'speak funny' too. Whatever next?

Arriving in the Midlands Brett is in for a treat when dad tells him that they are going to visit Bolsover Castle, and he immediately looks it up on his laptop to find out more.

"Wow, this big stone castle definitely looks like a great place to explore, but why aren't they made of wood like ours are?" He asks his dad.

He soon discovers the answer to this question and many more when he arrives at the castle. Everyone can dress up, and Brett decides it would be cool to become a knight for the day. And wow what a fantastic day he has as he steps back in time and relives history. He has learnt so much in just one visit!

However the day is not over, there are other places to see, and different food to try.

Sadly, soon it is time to go home, their brief holiday is finished. Brett has had a wonderful time and has learnt a very important lesson from his trip, which is that different definitely isn't wrong, and having an open mind to new experiences opens a world of wonderful opportunities to you.

I loved the way that this book highlights positively the differences between England and America. I found its message to children inspiring, because like the author, I feel is very important for our children to be able to experience new things, and realise that things are very different in other places.

This book is beautifully illustrated by Melissa Wright.

The Adventures of Anuk: The First Leap
Suzanne Mondoux
Baico Publishing
9781772161199, $9.99, 352 Pages

As this amazing adventure story opens we are with Anuk, it is her sixteenth birthday and her life is about to change forever!

Adopted by Julea and Lucca, who are mammal beings, Anuk has had a wonderfully happy childhood, at the hostelry they run. However, on this, her birthday, she has been given a book of poems, and told that she must leave behind everything she holds dear, and follow her destiny back to her homeland the island of Roese.

You see Anuk is an Assisi Human, a very special being, half animal half human. What's more, Assisi Humans have a very important responsibility, and this is to keep the harmony between the humans and the other beings.

As well as the book of poems, she also has around her neck two medallions with magical powers, there for her protection. The journey is a very scary prospects for one so young, however Anuk decides that she could be a protector, and so she takes up the mantle and her adventure begins. Accompanying Anuk is Aye, a primate being, and two other beings, an owl called EagleOwl, and a golden brown furry animal being called Kinkajou.

From the beginning their path is hazardous, across fetid swamps, ruins, desolate areas and seas. Even in the beautiful partems (or lands) there are hidden dangers, however they are resolute in their determination to travel the dangerous route to Gibo, and then onwards to Roese Island.

Had they realised that perils they were to face, or the strange beings they would encounter, I am not sure they would have been brave enough to stay the course. However, they didn't know that they were going to meet fairies, mermaids and many other creatures from myths, legends, and the author's incredible imagination. Neither did they realise that they would be imprisoned by evil people, tested and deceived, or ride on a dragon's back for that matter!

To go with them on this amazing adventure, discover if they did reach Roese Island, and what the future held for Anuk and her friends, you will have to read this wonderful book. I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed. Throughout it I was reminded very much of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, a classic and a childhood favourite of mine.

The author has woven two very clear messages into this story, the first reminding the reader of the devastation the human race has reeked on the earth, and the second is the strong message of the importance of kindness, acceptance of others unlike yourself, and living in harmony. After all there is a place for everyone, and thing, on this wonderful planet.

Young or old, anyone who loves to be transported into a magical world, where anything is possible and incredible creatures exist will love this book!

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design