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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 5 May 2019 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Charlier's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf Duncan's Bookshelf
Julie's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mari's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Polk's Bookshelf Robin's Bookshelf Suanne's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Die Again, Mr. Holmes
Anna Elliott and Charles Veley
Wilton Press
9780999119167 $18.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Andrea Kay

Die Again, Mr. Holmes is part of the "Sherlock Holmes / Lucy James" mystery series of original tales by the team of Anna Elliott and Charles Veley, in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic sleuth Sherlock Holmes has an independent, modern-minded, daughter - Lucy James, an American actress living in Victorian London. Lucy has inherited Holmes' brilliance, lionhearted courage, and knack for solving difficult cases. In Die Again, Mr. Holmes, Sherlock and Lucy each must confront a missing persons case fraught with hidden dangers. Connoisseurs of the classic Doyle mysteries will relish this exciting new saga! Highly recommended, as are the previous novels in the series: "The Last Moriarty", "The Wilhelm Conspiracy", "Remember, Remember", "The Crown Jewel Mystery", "The Jubliee Problem", "Death at the Diogenes Club", and "The Return of the Ripper". It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Die Again, Mr. Holmes" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

African Americans in Central Texas History: From Slavery to Civil Rights
Bruce A. Glasrud and Deborah M. Liles, eds.
Texas A&M University Press
TAMU Press
200 Lewis Street, College Station, TX 77840
9781623497477, $40.00, HC,

Kirk Bane

Readers interested in African American history and the Texas heritage will welcome the publication of this excellent new compendium, skillfully edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and Deborah M. Liles. Dr. Glasrud, professor emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay, is a prolific scholar. His books include Black Women in Texas History (2008), African Americans and the Presidency (2009), Tracking the Texas Rangers (2013) and Discovering Texas History (2014). Dr. Liles is the W. K. Gordon Endowed Chair in Texas History at Tarleton State University in Stephenville. Her studies include Women in Civil War Texas (2016) and Texas Women and Ranching (2019).

Comprised of sixteen articles, book excerpts, and new essays, African Americans in Central Texas History covers the pre-Civil War period to the 1960s. The editors divide their volume into three parts: Slavery and Its Aftermath, In Pursuit of Freedom, and Striving for Success and Civil Rights. Glasrud and Liles have also written a helpful introduction, "Betwixt Old Ways and New Freedoms." Among the topics addressed in this compilation are "Slavery on the Frontier: The Peculiar Institution in Central Texas," "Black Trail Drivers of Caldwell County," "The African American Military Experience in Central Texas, 1863-1900," "The 'Waco Horror': The Lynching of Jesse Washington," and "Texas Voices: The 1963 Civil Rights March on Austin." Contributors include such leading scholars as Rebecca Sharpless (Texas Christian University), William Dean Carrigan (Rowan College), James M. SoRelle (Baylor University), and Donald G. Nieman (Binghamton University).

African Americans in Central Texas History deserves a prominent place on the bookshelves of those students interested in the black experience in the Lone Star State. Glasrud and Liles have done an admirable job in assembling this superb anthology.

Apocalypse TV
Thomas Allbaugh
eLectio Publishing
9781632134288, $17.99, Paperback

Marlan Warren, Reviewer

"His whole life has been a sham because he can't accept responsibility for his failure to live by his own convictions." - APOCALYPSE TV

What do reality TV game show contestants, religious fanatics, true believers, atheists, zombies, quarreling siblings, an FBI agent, Elvis impersonator, and an almost-fired English professor at a Christian college have in common? They all come together to interlock as essential players in Thomas Allbaugh's tightly wound, often hilarious, debut novel, APOCALYPSE TV.

Shakespeare today might muse that "All the world's a reality TV game show, and all the men and women merely players in their quest for prizes amid layers of illusions and media hype." It is upon this slippery platform that Allbaugh has built a metaphor for our contentious world as viewed through the lenses of good vs. evil, secular religion vs. spirituality, and love vs. indifference.

The story kicks off when Christian intellectual, Walter Terry, takes a leave of absence from his conservative college in California to visit his dying father in Michigan. Walter has just been put on notice for allowing students to express non-conservative viewpoints, and fears his job is on thin ice.

Walter and his sister are approached in a Midwestern diner by a talent scout for a new reality TV show that claims to be "an investigation into American religious ideas." He describes himself to the pretty interviewer as an "outsider in terms of religion," but sees her write down "soft and vulnerable." This pigeon-holing is exactly what makes these shows maddening, but also makes them fun for the fans.

Seduced by the promise of money and his own rationalization that perhaps a show like this could use an educated analytical thinker, Walter embarks on what will turn out to be a character-building odyssey. After he is entrenched in "Race for the Apocalypse," Walter hears the producer refer to him as the show's "sacrificial lamb." And after that…all bets are off.

APOCALYPSE TV gradually amps up its madness, expanding reality until it pops with an outrageousness that is not quite Marx Brothers, but a fun romp nonetheless.

Allbaugh treads a fine line between crafting a thoughtful, moving plot with three-dimensional characters and satire. He keeps the humor subtle and deadpan, in the vein of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22," while never straying far from the book's serious themes which examine secular religion vs. spirituality, truth vs. fiction, loyalty vs. betrayal.

Nothing turns out to be what it seems, the innocent must suffer, guilty baggage must be unloaded, and once a gun is introduced, it must eventually be used in the finale (with a nod to Chekhov). It is Allbaugh's incredible juggling act that keeps the comedy, drama, and religious debates lightly airborne until they come back down to Earth, not with a bang or a whimper, but with the hard truths of Life and what it means to slog willingly through it.

APOCALYPSE TV will appeal to open-minded faith-based readers, as well as those who have no affiliation with a religion or belief. It argues against the extreme notion that only members of a certain faith are favored by God, while making a case for spiritual salvation through love, faith, hope, service…and the willingness to persevere. Even when the chips are down.

40 Days
Joe Lee
Dogwood Press
PO Box 5958, Brandon MS 39047
9780997569742, $24.95

Niles Reddick, Reviewer

I had no idea that 40 Days was the eighth in a series, but 40 Days stands completely on its own. I imagine reading the series would likely be as entertaining. 40 Days was extremely well written and for me, it was a quick-paced and entertaining read.

Like most fiction written in postmodern times, 40 Days was chock full of references to Facebook and texting. In fact, these devices seem to really help tether the long distance and complicated web of relationships that main character and photojournalist Duane Key has created in his almost fifty years.

The small Mississippi community of Oakdale has its share of secrets, and Duane Key is central among them. What I loved is that the story actually covers forty days of Key's life, the first chapter is forty, chapters are counted backwards, and the numerical symbolism is important to the plot of 40 Days because as time covers Lent up to Easter, and simultaneously moves closer to his birthday, so does the need to clarify life matters, to get things in order, and to make things right.

40 Days is a story of redemption and certainly one that will make readers think about their own lives.

Dark Energy
Robison Wells
Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway, New York NY 10012
9781338102444, $7.99, 278 pages

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Contact with an alien race has finally happened. A mile-long spaceship has crashed, putting a 300-mile-long gouge in the American Midwest, killing thousands of people. Alice has been put into a local boarding school, because her father, who works for NASA, has to be at the crash site.

After several days, a hole is cut in the side of the ship, and the aliens start coming out, by the thousands. They call themselves the Guides, and they sure do look human. A bit of secret genetic testing shows that they really are human. They also speak a version of an old Native American language from the American Southwest. The humans get a look inside the ship, and see large rooms with lots of spilled blood. Perhaps the ship crashed because of a major battle or mutiny on board.

The Guides are not the only inhabitants of the ship. These other aliens are gray-skinned, much taller than the Guides, with lots of horns and claws and a nasty disposition. It seems that the Guides were practically slaves, and that a mutiny did cause the crash, and that the "bad guys" are not going to let the Guides go that easily.

Alice and a couple of friends have been taking care of a couple of the Guides. They suddenly find themselves racing across America, to a supposed sanctuary, knowing that, at any moment, they could be blasted into atoms.

This is a really good Young Adult novel. The author does a first-rate job from start to finish. It has plenty of action, and is very much worth reading.

Charles Strickler
Koehler Books
210 - 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
9781633937796, $16.95 PB; $7.99 Kindle
9781633939103, $27.95 HC, 232pp,

Melleny, Reviewer

This book sounded like it was going to be a wild adventure. I love that the synopsis gives me heist vibes and honestly, I want to know what happens to Miles and the Stutz.

The writing pulled me in from the first page. The dialogue is light and entertaining from the first page. The writing also creates the perfect atmosphere whether it is for a heist or for a small swoon moment here or there. The writing does a great job of creating an immersive experience and I found myself looking for pages.

The Plot starts off with a bang. The beginning helps to set up for all the events that are about to follow. The plot was not only interesting but I found that it was flushed with depth and individuality. I loved how everything was well laid out and that I found myself turning the pages faster after each chapter.

Miles is well developed and jumps off the page along with Bramley and Wic. The three of them make an interesting trio and I loved the relationship that West and Bramley have from the get-go. Their relationship is filled with movie references and snarky comments. Bramley is a lively character and she isn't afraid to show that she can defend herself. In between her moments of proving her toughness you can see a someone who cares very deeply for the people in her life. It also doesn't help that she is super resourceful.

Overall, I really liked this book. It was fun and pertaining. I found myself wanting to read more about Miles and the other characters. The writing creates the perfect atmosphere and the plot keeps the readers engaged whilst the characters leap off of the page. If you are looking for a quick and interesting read, then this is definitely the book for you. Thank you so much to Smith Publicity Inc. for providing me with a copy!

The Six Gifts Part I: Secrets
Christie K. Kelly
Book Baby Publishers
9781732565203, $17.95 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 362pp,

Heather, Reviewer
Openly Bookish

Olivia has an NDE when she is three by almost drowning. She sees this white light, feels peace and love, but then she's rescued out of the pool. Through the years she longs to discover that peace again. Olivia is so desperate for this peace she felt she attempts to drown again, but it doesn't work.

When Olivia marries Marco they build a life in NJ until she becomes mysteriously sick. At first her husband feels she's exaggerating, but when he starts to get the same symptoms they go to the doctor. After many visits they find out their was a pipe leak and they were being slowly poisoned. This leads them to move to a new state for a fresh start, but to Olivia she begins to feel caged. Olivia and Marcos have two sons. One still close with them and the other estranged.

Via social media Olivia discovers her old high school boyfriend was in a fatal crash. Even though she's long over this ex, Olivia decides to go on a cross country adventure with one of her dogs to his funeral. Marcos is leery of her going alone due to her health, but Olivia feels she has to go. Not only to pay her respects to her ex, but to do some healing regarding her family's past before Marcos came into the picture.

This is Olivia's adventure with her dog Tucker. Will she come to terms with her past? Will Olivia ever feel better? What really is ahead for her?

I received my complimentary copy of The Six Gifts Part 1: Secrets by Christie K. Kelly from Bruce Farr Publishing, care of Smith Publicity. The views expressed are of my own free will and strictly mine. This novel is rich in characters, location description (who doesn't love the beauty of Colorado?) and a story that will have you begging for more. I know I'm wanting to continue reading more. This novel is fiction with a possible dose of magic.

The Shattered Oak
Sherry Genga
Safe Goods Publishing
9781513644493, $14.95, PB, 116pp,

Colin Harrington, Reviewer
The Berkshire Eagle

"The Shattered Oak: Overcoming Domestic Abuse and a Misdiagnosis of Mental Illness", by Sherry Genga and published by Safe Goods Publishing in Sheffield, is based on a true story. It is a story of open and honest reflections of personal experience with domestic abuse, the profound realities of recovery and a startling, and ultimately triumphant, resolution.

The story ends well through the interventions of a therapist, a very sharp nurse and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Or. as the story's hero describes it, "a little slice of heaven carved out just for me." This is a story of straight-forward disclosure in the first-person narrative that informs, inspires and provides one person's path through the wilderness of family dysfunction, abusive hardships in the extreme and extraordinary insights.

Narrator Barbara's "whole life changed" when she married the charming, intelligent and talented man named Innocent. Barbara could not have predicted how horrendously violent and abusive Innocent would become, in spite of how he provided so well for her and her three daughters and created a lovely, upscale home for them. Barbara is "drawn to putting (her) thoughts down on paper." Her journal entries are a solace and a method of keeping track of reality. With her husband's lies and her discovery of shocking secrets of his past life, Barbara recalls her past in order to fathom how she finds herself in a relationship with a man who brutally beats her regularly. The fact is, she remembers a childhood without love, extreme poverty and want, and with these revelations, a deeper understanding of herself. She is also well aware that her husband, too, suffered torment and abuse himself while growing up in an alcoholic family.

In spite of the kindness of a therapist and a courageous divorce in which she attains freedom from abuse for herself and her daughters, Barbara cannot shake a profound depression that leads to three suicide attempts. Deeply religious and spiritual, Barbara prays for enlightenment, or at the very least, a release from mental torment. But when she is committed to a mental hospital, she experiences a jolting loss of personal freedom and brutal treatment. It seems that she has gone from a life of torment to a life of torment in a new kind of hell. But through the attentive and kind professionalism of a nurse named Nancy, who notices markings on her body that seem to indicate Barbara has an undiagnosed medical condition, just recently discussed in medical journals, Barbara is released on medical advice to an NIH hospital in Bethesda, Md. It is at that point that her story mercifully changes for the better in her climb to effective treatments for Cushing's disease, pituitary cancer and a chance to recover her life.

Barbara's treatments at that time were part of a ground-breaking clinical study. The effects of high degrees of stress are just now being understood when it comes to trauma and abuse. New insights into Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Cushing's disease are important medical aspects of domestic abuse situations. This book is a good resource for those in need of help and it tells of how one heroic soul faced down extremes of abuse and trauma with love and determination to recover her life.

In her post script, the author writes, "Some stories are meant to be a secret and some stories are meant to be forgotten. Some stories need to be heard to help the survivor live. There is help for women battling domestic violence, child abuse, suicide and Cushing's disease." There are links and resources for that kind of help at the end of the book.

From Depression to Contentment
Bob Rich
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615994366, $27.95 HC, 156pp, $5.95 Kindle
9781615994359, $16.95 PB,

Kevin Richardson

This is one of the best instructional books I've ever read. I've not only learned much from it, but discovered so much about my own life. "From Depression to Contentment" is not in any way a religious book, but it gave me the same kind of solace many people get from the Bible and its equivalents in other religions. After dealing with relieving depression, which Bob understands because he has suffered the pain himself, he explains concepts such as Hedonic Adaptation. This is that whatever happens around us, people return to their customary level of happiness or misery. He teaches how to improve our resilience, and eventually even explains how to be a therapist through unconditional love, empathy and genuineness. The book should be compulsory reading in schools, for students of all ages, up to mine, which is older than most.

Let me explain how it relates to my life. I went from Australia to Thailand, supposedly for two years, but ended up staying permanently. The lifestyle of the poor farmers exactly illustrates what Bob Rich is talking about in this book. They know they will forever be poor and downtrodden by the extremely rich who work hard to keep things that way. And yet, the farmers stay contented, following the philosophy I find in "From Depression to Contentment:" the principles of Buddhis m. They have never learned envy or want, so are simply content with their lot. It's a relief after my life of business. I see this book as "How to Enjoy Life Even if You Have Been Depressed." 5 stars indeed.

Kevin Richardson says he is a historian, novelist and world traveller. A retired journalist, he has written several exciting historical adventures set in Australia's past. Every review of every book has been 5 star. I've reviewed a number of his books, and yes, had to assign 5 stars to each. Do look him up.

Women Can Find Shipwrecks Too, second edition
Margaret L. Brandeis
Brandeis Book Publishing
9780970076724, $18.76 PB, $10.99 Kindle, 308pp,

Michael Howell

I really enjoyed it from start to finish. Highly entertaining and a great read.

This book gives an honest look at treasure hunting for lost treasure ships. Margaret had a wild and crazy ride during her treasure hunting days. The story pulls you into her emotional rollercoaster journey. Her journey ended with a different treasure than silver or gold. This story had a much different ending than I expected which turned out to be fantastic.

It was refreshing to read a treasure story that painted things in a true life perspective. The story kept my attention from beginning to end. I highly recommend this book for an enjoyable read.

I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway.

An Eternity In A Moment
K. Carothers
Luminare Press
9781643880341, $28.95 HC, $24.95 Audio Book
9781643880020, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 433pp,

Kirkus Reviews
October 31, 2018

A tragedy brings a physician back to her small hometown, where life changes await.

Readers of this debut novel first meet Dr. Erin Pryce when she's the calm center of a catastrophe. A massive highway pileup has swamped her hospital, Boston General, filling every available space and bed with desperate, injured people and stretching the facility's resources to the breaking point.

Erin is matter-of-factly trying to direct the chaos (including delivering a baby from a nonresponsive mother) when she briefly encounters her ex-husband, Peter (he's answered the all-hands-on-deck call for help in the emergency room), whose mistress also works at the hospital. Erin brushes it off, and by the end of the day, she's back at her apartment, exhausted, when she gets a phone call from her old friend Jenna Godfrey, who lives in their tiny hometown of New Dublin, Wisconsin.

Jenna delivers some bad news: She's dying of cancer. Erin had already decided to leave Boston General, and now she impulsively resolves to return to New Dublin and care for Jenna until the end, however long that takes. When Erin makes the decision, she's only thinking of Jenna's needs. But also living in New Dublin is Luke Mathis, now a very busy and upstanding detective and a man who's always been in love with Erin.

Homecoming is bittersweet for the doctor; she has complicated memories of her grandparents; her mother is dead; and she associates the town with her father, who's been in prison for years.

In richly atmospheric and smoothly written chapters, Carothers shows Erin's life in New Dublin as it quickly begins to change. She learns, for example, that her father has been released from prison and lives in town; she's gently confronted by Jenna about her lack of faith in God; and most of all, she falls into a surprisingly heated relationship with Luke ("Let me help you find yourself, Erin," he tells her).

The author is very skilled at crafting characters and convincingly raising the emotional stakes; this is eminently satisfying reading. A powerful tale of homecoming and redemption.

Mamma's Moon: The Hoodoo of Peckerwood Finch
Jerome Mark Antil
Little York Books
9781732632103, $14.95, PB, 270pp,

Kirkus Reviews

In two intersecting tales set in Louisiana, an elderly black veteran kills his attacker and faces a murder trial while his Cajun French best friend tries to discover the truth about the mother he never knew.

Gabriel Jordan, an "aging army captain" and "veteran of Korea and Vietnam," is threatened by a young white man, Kenneth Bauer, at a Walmart in New Orleans, and as a result buys a cane for a future act of self-defense. Later, Kenneth hunts the vet down and threatens him with a knife, and Gabe beats him to death with that cane. He's arrested for second-degree murder, a charge that could stick, especially because the knife is nowhere to be found. And Gabe, despite his advanced age, is known to be an "experienced, highly trained, battle-savvy army captain."

Gabe is less haunted by the prospect of prison time than he is by the enormity of what's he done, a poignant moral nuance characteristic of this thoughtful drama: "Let me work it out in my mind….I'm an old man. I need to make it right in my head and with God." Meanwhile, his best friend, Boudreau Clemont "Peck" Finch - who overcomes illiteracy and gets accepted into college in under a year's time - decides he needs to track down his real mother, a woman who remains a mystery to him. But as his relationship with his girlfriend, Millie, becomes ever more serious, he worries that she won't be able to accept his inauspicious beginnings.

He travels to the Louisiana swamps that he fled when he was only 9 years old, the victim of morbidly dark abuse. Antil's (One More Last Dance, 2017, etc.) touching sequel draws heavily from the plot established in the first novel, but remains an "entirely self-contained story." The author palpably re-creates the electrifying energy of New Orleans, a combination of old-world merriment and lurking danger ("The velvet sax was an offer of promise and calm for the old man, jazz aficionado, dancer, and troubled soul").

Further, Peck is a memorable character - surprisingly deep and boyishly innocent simultaneously, he provides both comic levity and some of the book's most moving moments.

An affecting novel that richly captures the inimitable spirit of Louisiana.

The Elegant Warrior: How To Win Life's Trials Without Losing Yourself
Heather Hansen
Page Two Books
9781989025260, $25.95, PB, 140pp
9781989025765, $7.99, Kindle,

Bonnie Davis, Review

There are books I wish I had when I became an adult and this is one of them. The advice from the author is both practical and compelling because life is a battlefield and no one gets out alive. Your job is to both survive and prosper while keeping your sense of self intact and this book will help you with that.

The author, Heather Hansen, is an award winning trial lawyer of 20 years who specializes in medical malpractice cases. You may have seen her on television shows like CNN, NBC, Fox News Channel, and Good Day Philadelphia when she is invited to provide expert analysis of current cases in the news. Currently she travels the country as a communication consultant and professional speaker.

In this book Hansen offers stories from her time as a trial attorney along with the lessons she learned along the way. The stories themselves are both interesting and heartbreaking because in every trial there is a winner and a loser and in some cases the difference is not that clear. The author takes you by the hand and teaches you how to get through life and be an elegant warrior who isn't afraid of difficult situations but looks forward to the challenges. You'll learn how to battle doubt, fear, guilt and uncertainty while remaining true to yourself. These lessons apply to both men and women and to your personal and business life.

My favorite chapter is "Pick People Well". It made me laugh because I remember a family member saying he always took one of his engineering books to jury duty so that if he was selected for voir dire the attorneys would think he was smart and therefore dismiss him. I don't know if this is true but I do know in real life we make these choices every day. You'll learn the criteria to consider when you choose a babysitter, a gardener, a doctor or a date.

Life is messy and difficult but it can be joyous and fulfilling. Follow the author's advice and you'll find the path you need to make life easier and less difficult.

Miens of Existence
Alan M. Weber
Palmetto Publishing Group
9781641112055, $9.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 110pp,

Review by "bookworm"
(Amazon verified purchaser)

These are two stories, both deep, both touching and both very well written. If they remind me of anything it would be the best episodes of the Twilight Zone, but they are altogether unique and unpredictable. Without giving away too much, I can say that they describe journeys, of the mind, the heart and the spirit. Beyond that, I highly recommend that you discover and interpret them yourself. -- "Remarkable book."

Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust
Ellen Korman Mains
West Lake Books
9781641840170, $18.99, PB, 320pp
9781641840187, $9.99 eBook,

Dan Ruby

How does Buddhism Speak to the Holocaust?

Early on in Ellen Korman Mains' compelling account of her spiritual journey as the child of survivors to make sense of the Holocaust, she observes the irony that one schooled by Buddhism to live in the present could make it her life's work to grapple with demons of the past.

It is one of many contradictions she resolves during seven years of investigations into Poland's past and present. In discovering the details of her own genealogy, and of her family members' experiences in the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and other locales, she illuminates broader issues of responsibility and reconciliation that will be of interest to any student of the Holocaust.

I'll admit I approached the book with some trepidation about the Buddhism focus. I was interested in learning a Holocaust family story, but wasn't sure how I would respond to Mains' spiritual quest. But my skepticism ebbed away as I began reading, drawn in by the author's vivid descriptions of inner and outer landscapes and her skillful weaving together of multiple narrative strands.

Soon I arrived at a tacit agreement with the narrator to suspend disbelief and experience her visions and insights as written, including claims of spiritual communication with ancestors and unnamed murdered Jews seeking closure for their interrupted lives. The first such encounter occurs aboard a train in Germany, when she is touched by their troubled spirits and is compelled to seek a deeper understanding of the Holocaust.

This sets in motion her long quest not just to understand her family's Holocaust experience but in some ways to make peace with it. Guided by a few pages of Holocaust testimony left by an uncle, her journeys take her back to Poland for repeated trips, each time unraveling more details of her family's story and opening new ideas for further inquiry.

She also travels back through the personal history that led her to this quest: her Montreal Jewish childhood, her rebellion as a young woman, her relations with her two parents and uncle, and then the deaths of these three founding influences in her life.

Despite my preconceptions, it is precisely because of Mains' Buddhist training and outlook that the book is so interesting. She applies skills of intentional observation, awareness, and introspection, honed from a lifetime of meditative practice, both to interrogate the terrible events of the past and to reach an accommodation with them in the present.

Editorial Note: Dan Ruby is a freelance writer and blogger who contextualizes family facts with historical narrative at "Buried Rivers" has earned both a 2018 Nautilus Silver Book Award and a 2019 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Bronze Medal.

Almost A Murder
Jody Seay and Jim Lloyd
Koho Pono, LLC
9781938282218, $32.00, HC, 388pp
9781938282201, $19.99, PB,

Kirkus Review

"A novice attorney struggles with one of the most challenging and melodramatic cases of his young career.

For this serpentine, true-crime dramatic depiction, novelist and essayist Seay (Dead in a Ditch, 2011, etc.) effectively collaborated with debut author Lloyd, an Oklahoma litigator who, in distinctive detail, describes the year long, first-degree murder case that would shake up his early days in the courtroom. Escorting Seay to the Oklahoma locations crucial to the events and drawing from a memory bolstered by a trove of newspaper articles and court transcripts, Lloyd engrossingly pieces together a story of crime and blame.

The case began in 1982, a time when Lloyd, a cub lawyer having only tried (and lost) one jury trial, became propelled by grief after losing his newborn son. He channeled great effort into examining a homicide involving Noi Kanchana Mitchell, a wife charged with the ruthless murder of her husband, Bobby, in a case that, in Lloyd's words, would take "all of the energy and physical reserve I could muster" as well as endangering his marriage and jeopardizing his financial stability.

Thankfully, this enticing setup delivers on all of its promises as readers are immediately thrust into the story of Bobby Mitchell and his Thai wife, Noi, and the nagging feeling Lloyd experienced that she was innocent of his murder, even though the odds were stacked against her. The primary evidence, which pointed to her direct involvement in her husband's strangling, shooting, and corpse disposal, included the statements of an accomplice and Noi's audiotaped confession. Upon questioning her, the attorney discovered a language barrier and some emotional trauma, which became problematic to sleuthing the case.

Lloyd, clever and determined, discounted Noi's confession, believing it to have been coerced by police, and through preliminary hearings, courtroom dramatics, key witnesses, misled speculation, and cruel accusations, the truth, while untidy, finally emerged in grand fashion.

Despite three trials, fluctuating self-confidence, and numerous roadblocks, Lloyd triumphed while creating tantalizing, exhilarating fodder for Seay to mold and craft into a rollicking murder trial that moves swiftly despite a surfeit of heavily detailed events and many supporting characters.

Besides enticing Perry Mason fans, this book should please readers devilishly curious about the intricate workings of the justice system and the trial-by-jury process.

A bracing, spirited true-crime narrative that reads like fiction but is very much real and rooted in the brutality and injustices of contemporary life."

Ann's Bookshelf

Mac and His Problem
Enrique Vila-Matas
Margaret Jull Costa, Sophie Hughes, Translators
Penguin Random House
9780143788454, A$32.99, paperback, 320 pages

Mac is 60-plus, his family business has gone bust and he is "embarking on a new path". He would like, he tells us, to write a fake, posthumous, unfinished novel but should he die in the process it would ruin his "great dream of being a falsifier". So, being a complete novice at writing, he has chosen to write a diary, in part "to ascertain if, as Natalie Sarraute once said, writing really is an attempt to find out what we would write if we wrote".

Mac's concerns - the obsessions and problems which he explores in his diary - are repetition: "we come into this world in order to repeat what those before us also repeated"; and the incomplete - mostly books and art works but actions, too. His vocation, he writes at one point, is "as a modifier of things". But he is also interested in the origins of story and the art of novel writing and at times his ramblings explore these things, and his diary is his practical exploration of them.

Mac's diary allows him to write about his obsessions with constant reference to his everyday experiences, memories, random thoughts and opinions. He has always been a voracious reader and his reading has clearly been extensive and his taste eclectic. He makes casual use of ideas and quotations from the works of a diverse range of writers, including Petronius, Baudelaire, Agatha Christie, Marcel Schwob, Philip K. Dick, David Mamet, and many other writers from many different eras and cultures. Being so interested in repetition, Mac is well aware of the novelist's fear that repeating oneself is "the slippery road to ruin", but it is a fear he can't understand, since there is really "not a soul on the planet who doesn't repeat himself". Even Stanley Kubrick's work, varied as it is said to be, is in Mac's opinion, "all built around the same closed circle of obsessive repetitions".

Mac's concern with the unfinished, too, leads him to memories of an exhibition of unfinished artworks and a digression about Walter Benjamin's thoughts on ancient carpet patterns and the cracks in an unfinished masterpiece which open up paths and "set the imagination working".

One constant theme in Mac's diary is the work of his neighbour, Sanchez "the celebrated Barcelona writer", whose novel, Walter's Problem, Mac begins to comment on chapter-by-chapter, intrigued by its inconsistencies, mistakes and its "occasional absurd change of pace, and all kinds of twaddle". Mac's diary itself exhibits these same characteristics as he ponders, digresses, drinks, and wanders his neighbourhood. And he has trouble deciding what real events from his days he can include in his diary:

If you ask me, reality doesn't need anyone to organise it into a plot, it is itself a ceaseless Creative Centre. But there are days when reality turns its back on the aimless Centre that is life and tries to give events a novelish turn. I resist then, because I don't want anything to interrupt my work as a diarist. I resist with the same sense of horror that Jekyll does in the presence of Hyde....This is what happened today when reality insisted on revealing to me, with the best and brightest light at its disposal, its own ruthless novel-writing machine...

Whilst Mac examines and explores the nature of novel-writing and story-telling, he also reminds himself, "this is a diary, it's a diary, a diary".

So, we hear something of Mac's marriage to Carmen, his daily peregrinations, and his opinions of the people he meets. His comments and his whole approach to writing are often wryly funny but the humour is muted and ironic and often an unintentional result of Mac's character as revealed through his writings. However, although his creator Enrique Vila-Matas is well-known in Spain for his humorous and erudite writings I found the book too rambling and repetitious (no-doubt deliberately so) for my taste and Mac's diary often seemed as mundane and boring as his life:

"Once inside our apartment, I poured myself a glass of ice-cold water. I then deliberated over whether or not to put this trivial gesture in my diary. The answer wasn't long coming. I absolutely must write it down if I didn't want to lose the sense that what I'm writing is a diary and not a novel"

In the end, I lost patience with Mac, although I am aware that my reaction to the book is purely subjective and other readers may thoroughly enjoy his company. He does have a distinctive voice and character and the book is well-written and thought provoking. But, as Mac says, "the motto of many German writers was always this: may heaven grant the reader patience". I was not patient enough with Mac.

Max Porter
9780571340286, A$27.99, hardback, 224 pages

Lanny is a wonderfully imaginative, innovative and unusual book and it is hard to write a conventional review of it without destroying the impact of its strange, often zany, nature. Max Porter is superbly able to capture the character of each of his people in brief passages where each is recognisable by their thoughts, words and concerns. This is true of his main characters, which are named, but also of his un-named villagers. And there is a playful disordering of some lines of type; plus, between section 1 and 2, a strange scattering of small crosses across white pages. Porter, however, weaves magic and reality together so skilfully that the book will delight imaginative readers, although it may puzzle those who expect a conventional layout and a straightforward story-line.

The first shock to the reader is meeting Dead Papa Toothwort as he 'wakes from his standing nap an acre wide and scrapes off dream dregs of bitumen glistening thick with liquid globs of litter'. He is exactly what his name implies - a devouring, parasitic, root of the earth. He lives in the woods and fields and shape-shifts through the village feeding on its detritus, its small deaths, its sounds, smells and gossip. This is his 'English symphony'- random fragments of thought and speech which sometimes flow across the book's pages like music: 'blocked drains'; 'Dylan needs a dimmer switch on his temper'; 'all pumped up and shiny like a greased pig'; 'PlayStation's bust'----.

Dead Papa Toothwort has been in the village since before it began. He is ever-present 'as a cyclical reliability, as part of the country curriculum'. He is there in the Green Man carved in the village church: 'grinning at the baptised and married, the bored and the dead, biting down on limewood belladonna'. He is there at every summer fete, 'amongst the folk who dress up as Toothwort'. He haunts the villagers and frightens the children:

Say Your Prayers, and be Good Too.

Or Dead Papa Toothwort Is Coming For You.

And he has a special liking for the boy, Lanny. Which is dangerous, because every hundred years or so he feels 'a tightening itch' that he can't resist and has to 'put on a show', intervene, 'change the nature of the place'. The flow of italicised fragments of village talk across the pages becomes tangled, congested, overprinted and confused as Dead Papa Toothwort's disturbance grows. And a terrible thing happens. Lanny goes missing.

Dead Papa Toothwort dominates the first section of the book but we also meet Lanny, Lanny's Mum, Lanny's Dad, and Pete, an artist who was once famous and who now lives quietly in the village, working on small commissions. Pete has reluctantly agreed to teach Lanny about art and they slowly form a story-telling, art-sharing friendship. For Pete 'Lanny is good. Different, and bloody wonderful'.

Lanny is different. He sings, 'part song, part chant', disappears and reappears suddenly, does strange unpredictable things, empathises too strongly with the world's ills and has a strong affinity with nature. 'Our little mystery', his mother calls him. His father notes that Lanny's school report says that Lanny 'has a gift for social cohesion. He will often calm a fraught classroom with a single well-time joke or song'. But Lanny puzzles and sometime irritates his father:

What, Lanny?

Which do you think is more patient, an idea or a hope?

I'm suddenly really annoyed. He's too old for shit like this. Or too young. It's fucking silly.

Go to sleep Lanny, and don't get out of bed. We'll talk about this in the morning.

I lie awake worrying, picturing my son lying on the cold grass whispering to a tree. Which do you think is more patient, an idea or a hope? What's wrong with him?

But for Dead Papa Toothwort, 'The boy understands' - he is 'Like me',

The boy knows me.

He really truly knows me

In the second part of the book, when Lanny is missing, we are gradually immersed in the emotional turmoil which pervades the village as the police arrive and conduct interviews and searches, and the media turn up looking for sensational stories. Hopes and fears, worries, gossip, loves, hatreds, bigotry, desire for notoriety, and suspicions fill the thoughts of family, friends and villagers. No-one is named but we recognise Lanny's Mum, Dad, Pete and Old Peggy (the village mystic), as well as pub gossipers, a pretentious neighbour who has long harboured grudges against Lanny's family as newcomers to the village, and others. Pete, who lives unconventionally and imagines a snooty neighbour googling him and discovering that he 'once filled a gallery with painted wooden dicks', becomes a scapegoat.

Tension builds throughout this section, and it is a relief when Old Peggy kneels in front of her ancient, carved, oak chest and whispers directly to Dead Papa Toothwort:

Look after him….

I know you.

I know what you're up to.

Give the boy back.

But Lanny remains missing.

Only in the final section of the book does the magic become seriously weird as Dead Papa Toothwort appears in a sort of game show to challenge and test Lanny's Dad, Old Pete and Lanny's Mum. For me, this worked, and the final pages of the story are, maybe, as Old Peggy suggests:

False things, endings. Sustenance for fools and never what they claim to be.


She tells us of her vision of the future and it is sad, funny and satisfying, and we want to believe it.

Those who read and loved Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers will recognise something of his Crow in Dead Papa Toothwort, and will be attuned to Porter's imaginative story-telling. Lanny is a story which taps into an ageless flow of folk-lore, feelings, fears and superstitions, and Porter tells it beautifully.

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Pie Lady
Greta Isaac
Herald Press
P.O. Box 866, Harrisonburg, VA 22803
9781513804217, $14.99, PB, 202pp,

Synopsis: What is a Pie Lady moment? For one family, it's breakfast on the patio. For another, it's Mom serving up creamy chicken and noodles. These are Pie Lady moments: times of goodness and glamour in the middle of ordinary days.

In "The Pie Lady: Classic Stories from a Mennonite Cook and Her Friends", Mennonite homemaker Greta Isaac ushers readers into the kitchens of Velda, Shyla, and other Pie Ladies as they whip up confections and concoctions that please the mouth and nourish the soul.

Fans of Ruth Reichl, Sherry Gore, and Ree Drummond will love Isaacs intimate, delectable writing. Home cooks will love the recipes that appear in each chapter.

Maybe you drop grapefruit slices in a glass of water. Maybe you brown the gravy and salt it from eighteen inches up. (Forget for now the sink full of dishes.) Each cook has her own Pie Lady moments. Each has a story to tell.

Readers of "The Pie Lady" will hear straight from Amish and Mennonite people themselves as they write about their daily lives and deeply rooted faith in this latest addition to the 'Plainspoken' series from Herald Press.

Editorial Note: Greta Isaac is a Mennonite writer and homemaker who lives on a farm in Kansas with her husband and four children. She writes for her friends and her family, and occasionally for Purpose and other magazines. Isaac and her family are members of a Mennonite church near their home.

Critique: "The Pie Lady: Classic Stories from a Mennonite Cook and Her Friends" is heartwarming blend of faith, the joy of cooking, and slice-of-life humor. The stories frame taste-tested recipes sure to delight the whole family! "The Pie Lady" is very highly recommended, and makes an excellent addition to community library culinary shelves. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Pie Lady" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy: A Yoga and Fitness Plan
Desi Bartlett
Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 5076, Champaign, IL 61820-5076
9781492569800, $24.95, PB, 279pp,

Synopsis: Desi Bartlett is the founder of the popular Mothers Into Living Fit program which deftly guides a woman through a pregnancy.

Now any woman who has become pregnant can feel confident and capable as a mom-to-be with her new instruction manual and guide -- "Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy: A Yoga and Fitness Plan".

With the 3 + 1 Total Body Fitness philosophy, Bartlett combines yoga, resistance training, cardiovascular training, and nutrition. The emphasis on yoga improves posture, increases flexibility, and relieves low back pain and tension throughout your body. You'll discover the techniques to nurture your mental well-being, allowing you to manage the emotional highs and lows of pregnancy and motherhood.

"Your Strong, Sexy Pregancy" offers an effective plan for each stage of pregnancy and postpartum recovery, as well as: Over 100 exercises and yoga poses with appropriate safety guidelines; 16 ready-to-use practices for various stages of pregnancy; Desi's quick tips and advice, including features like Mommy Move, Information No One Tells You, Love-Your-Baby Visualization, and Fun Foods.

A truly fit, confident mom is created from the inside out. Let Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy teach how to prioritize health and happiness while pregnant.

Editorial Note: A CE exam available. For certified professionals, a companion continuing education exam can be completed after reading this book. "The Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy Online CE Exam" may be purchased separately or as part of a "Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy With CE Exam" package that includes both the book and the exam.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout, "Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy: A Yoga and Fitness Plan" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections, as well as a 'must' for any woman who is pregnant or contemplating becoming pregnant. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

Literary Places
Sarah Baxter, author
Amy Grimes, illustrator
White Lion Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781781318102, $19.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: In "Literary Places", travel journalist Sarah Baxter provides comprehensive and atmospheric outlines of the history and culture of 25 literary places around the globe, as well as how they intersect with the lives of the authors and the works that make them significant.

Full-page color illustrations by Amy Grimes instantly transport the reader to each individual location where they will find that these places are not just backdrops to the tales told, but characters in their own right.

Readers will armchair travel to the sun-scorched plains of Don Quixote's La Mancha; roam the wild Yorkshire moors with Cathy and Heathcliff; view Central Park through the eyes of J.D. Salinger's antihero; Explore the lush and languid backwaters of Arundhati Roy's Kerala; the imposing precipice of Joan Lindsay's Hanging Rock; The labyrinthine streets and sewers of Victor Hugo's Paris, and more!

Critique: Showcasing some of the world's most fascinating literary places and the novels that celebrate them, "Literary Places" is certain to be an enduringly popular, informative, and entertaining addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Literary Places" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The View from Alameda Island
Robyn Carr
Mira Books
195 Broadway, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10007
9780778368953, $27.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: From the outside looking in, Lauren Delaney has a life to envy -- a successful career, a solid marriage to a prominent surgeon and two beautiful daughters who are off to good colleges. But on her twenty-fourth wedding anniversary Lauren makes a decision that will change everything.

Lauren won't pretend things are perfect anymore. She defies the controlling husband who has privately mistreated her throughout their marriage and files for divorce. And as she starts her new life she meets a kindred spirit - a man who is also struggling with the decision to end his unhappy marriage.

But Lauren's husband wants his "perfect" life back, and his actions are shocking. Facing an uncertain future, Lauren discovers an inner strength she didn't know she had as she fights for the love and happiness she deserves.

Critique: Another gem of a novel from the gifted pen of Robyn Carr, "The View from Alameda Island" is an entertaining delight from cover to cover. While an absolute 'must' for all community library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of Robyn Carr's legions of fans that "The View from Alameda Island" is also available in a paperback edition (9780778369790, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Widows' Words
Nan Bauer-Maglin, editor
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813599533, $24.95 HC / $17.28 Kindle, 282pp,

Synopsis: Becoming a widow is one of the most traumatic life events that a woman can experience. Yet, as the personal stories comprising "Widows' Words: Women Write on the Experience of Grief, the First Year, the Long Haul, and Everything in Between" reveals, each woman responds to that trauma differently. Here, forty-three widows tell their stories, in their own words.

Some were widowed young, while others were married for decades. Some cared for their late partners through long terminal illnesses, while others lost their partners suddenly. Some had male partners, while others had female partners. Yet each of these women faced the same basic dilemma: how to go on living when a part of you is gone.

"Widows' Words" is arranged chronologically, starting with stories of women preparing for their partners' deaths, followed by the experiences of recent widows still reeling from their fresh loss, and culminating in the accounts of women who lost their partners many years ago but still experience waves of grief. Their accounts deal honestly with feelings of pain, sorrow, and despair, and yet there are also powerful expressions of strength, hope, and even joy.

Whether you are a widow yourself or have simply experienced loss, you will be sure to find something moving and profound in these diverse tales of mourning, remembrance, and resilience.

Editorial Note: Nan Bauer-Maglin has worked at City University of New York for almost forty years as a professor and administrator. She now volunteers for Girls Write Now and The Whitney Museum. She is also the editor or coeditor of many books, including Cut Loose: (Mostly) Older Women Talk about the End of (Mostly) Long-term Relationships.

Critique: Expertly compiled and deftly edited by Nan Bauer-Maglin, "Widows' Words: Women Write on the Experience of Grief, the First Year, the Long Haul, and Everything in Between" is a unique and very highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Widows' Words" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.28).

Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams
Robert Black
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988
9780898247053, $12.50, PB, 124pp,

Synopsis: Florence Nightingale is known for her revolutionary impact on medicine. She transformed the hospital system and dramatically reduced the death rate from infection and disease. She reformed the nursing profession from a job fitted only for women of low repute to one that employed dedicated, educated women who wanted a career in nursing.

She was known internationally as the woman with the lantern who visited sick and wounded soldiers at night to soothe and comfort them. But what most people don't know is that Nightingale's influence went far beyond the medical profession. In an effort to make the results of her research on disease and death rates accessible to people, she began creating diagrams-visual tools to allow people to see beyond the simple numbers they were reading in order to understand the true nature of what those numbers conveyed.

She invented an array of circular diagrams and bar charts, many of which are still in use today or which have evolved to become commonplace to our modern eyes. The "Lady with the Lamp" can also be credited as the "Lady with the Diagrams" for her work in pioneering a way for mathematicians and statisticians to present bare facts as intelligible truths.

Critique: Part of the Royal Fireworks Press biographical series 'Mathematical Lives', Robert Black's "Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented -- making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to personal, school, and community library collections. Also very highly recommended in this simply outstanding series is Robert Black's "Pascal and Fermat: The Probability Pen Pals" (9780898247060, $12.50, PB, 124pp).

The Sect of Angels
Andrea Camilleri
Europa Editions
214 West 29th Street, Suite 1003, New York, N.Y. 10001
9781609455132, $16.00, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: The lawyer and journalist Matteo Teresi discovers the existence of a secret sect whose members include priests, politicians, and regional VIPs. During the early morning hours, when the town's churches are closed, the "Sect of the Angels" meets in the sacristy to carry out their holy office: initiating devout virgins into the rites of married life.

Preying on their victims' naivete, the hooded "elect" commit ignominious acts while promising the young women divine grace.

In 1901, at a time of immense changes in Sicilian society, the scandal breaks nationwide. But far from being hailed as a hero, Teresi is accused of disrupting the status quo and irrationally blamed for an outbreak of disease and a series of calamities.

Critique: "The Sect of Angels" by Andrea Camilleri (who is widely considered to be one of the greatest living Italian writers) is a simply riveting, deftly written, page-turner of a read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Sect of Angels" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

More for Mom: Living Your Whole and Holy Life
Kristin Funston
Abingdon Press
2222 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., PO Box 280988, Nashville, TN 37228-0988
9781501879715, $16.99, PB, 225pp,

Synopsis: "More for Mom: Living Your Whole and Holy Life" by Kristin Funston will encourage women to stop believing the lie that more is needed from them, and start living with the truth that more is available for them.

With real-life talk, humor and convicting biblical truths, Funston helps hard working mamas to look at each day and each facet of their life to discover what happens when they believe God has more for them than what they think the world needs from them.

And what He has available is a whole and holy life, just waiting to be claimed - a salvation and day-to-day reality complete just as it is. The pieces of each mom's life (work life, mom life, social life) are mended together through Christ to complete her one whole life, set apart because of Him.

"More for Mom" is a stepping stone to help working mothers reset their spiritual and emotional health, habits, and relationship with God. There are performance pressures at work, home, and mind-sets that affect a mom's ability to feel complete and live more closely aligned with God. This book includes the beginning steps for moms to walk in wholeness and holiness by asking God for more.

Editorial Note: With a passion for writing, Kristin Funston encourages women in a way that is relatable and practical, with a healthy dose of humor. Passionate about helping and encouraging women to embrace their current season and experience God in the everyday, she is a regular contributor to multiple blogs and has been featured on sites such as The Better Mom, City Moms Blog, FaithIt, TODAY Parenting, and Scary Mommy. She is a member and employee of Hope Presbyterian Church and works as the Marriage and Family Coordinator and a leader in the women's ministry. Funston resides outside of Memphis, TN with her husband and three daughters. She has a master's degree in Communication Studies from New Mexico State University. You can find out more about her at and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Critique: Deftly written, inspired and inspiring, "More for Mom: Living Your Whole and Holy Life" is an extraordinary and compelling read from cover to cover. A life enhancing, life changing, insightfully encouraging, biblically based self-help book within a Christian context, More for Mom" is very highly recommended reading for any woman trying to deal with the complexities and demands of contemporary life. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "More for Mom" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Setting the Rising Sun
Kevin A. Mahoney
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780811738422, $32.50, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: By the summer of 1945, Adm. Bull Halsey's U.S. Third Fleet had fought its way far enough in the Pacific that its carrier-based fighters could launch attacks on Japan itself in preparation for the invasion of the home islands, planned for the fall of 1945. This mission U.S. Navy fighters, fighter-bombers, dive-bombers, and torpedo-bombers (Hellcats, Avengers, Helldivers, and more) carried out with a vengeance, striking airfields, industrial targets, and coastal facilities while flying into the teeth of Japanese air defenses.

Meanwhile, the fleet's aircraft continued to attack the Japanese navy (sinking a submarine from the air, attacking but not sinking the famous battleship Nagato, and attacking other ships), interdict enemy merchant shipping, and defend against kamikaze attacks on Third Fleet.

As late as the morning of August 15 -- the day the ceasefire took effect (before the formal signing on September 2) -- the fighters saw hard fighting, downing Japanese fighters making last-ditch, almost literally last-minute attacks on the U.S. fleet.

Numerous books have covered the American bomber war against Japan in World War II, from the Doolittle Raid to Curtis Lemay's strategic bombing campaign, the firebombing of Tokyo, and the dropping of the atomic bombs. But other than memoirs and bit parts in air war histories, fighter and fighter-bomber operations have received short shrift.

"Setting the Rising Sun: Halsey's Aviators Strike Japan, Summer 1945" corrects that oversight, zooming in on fighters during the war's final two months. In this carefully researched narrative history, military historian and author Kevin Mahoney recounts this vital period of the Pacific War with drama and attention to detail. He draws on both American and Japanese perspectives to reconstruct intense combat missions and place them in the context of a war that was hurtling toward its conclusion in two mushroom clouds in Japan.

Critique: A meticulously researched, exceptionally well written, deftly organized and presented work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Setting the Rising Sun: Halsey's Aviators Strike Japan, Summer 1945" is an impressive and important contribution to the growing body of World War II - Pacific Theatre history and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and military history buffs that "Setting the Rising Sun" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.74).

A Machine-Gunner in France
Ward Schrantz, author
Jeffrey L. Patrick, editor
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574417531, $34.95, HC, 536pp,

Synopsis: Despite their extensive service in World War I, few members of the Kansas-Missouri 35th Division left lengthy memoirs of their experiences in the American Expeditionary Forces. But Ward Loren Schrantz filled dozens of pages with his recollections of life as a National Guard officer and machine gun company commander in the "Santa Fe" Division.

In "A Machine-Gunner in France: The Memoirs of Ward Schrantz, 35th Division, 1917-1919", Schrantz extensively documents his experiences and those of his men, from training at Camp Doniphan to their voyage across the Atlantic, and to their time in the trenches in France's Vosges Mountains and ultimately to their return home. He devotes much of his memoir to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, in which the 35th Division suffered heavy casualties and made only moderate gains before being replaced by fresh troops. Schrantz provides a valuable "common soldier's" view of why the division failed to live up to the expectations of the A.E.F. high command. Schrantz also describes the daily life of a soldier, including living conditions, relations between officers and enlisted men, and the horrific experience of combat. He paints literary portraits of the warriors who populated the A.E.F. and the civilians he encountered in France.

Schrantz's small-town newspaper experience allowed him to craft a well-written and entertaining narrative. Because he did not intend his memoir for publication, the Missourian wrote in an honest and unassuming style, with extensive detail, vivid descriptions, and occasional humor. Editor Jeffrey Patrick combines his narrative with excerpts from a detailed history of the unit that Schrantz wrote for his local newspaper, and also provides an editor's introduction and annotations to document and explain items and sources in the memoir. This is not a romantic account of the war, but a realistic record of how American citizen-soldiers actually fought on the Western Front.

Critique: Deftly edited by Jeffrey L. Patrick (who is the museum curator at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Republic, Missouri), "A Machine-Gunner in France: The Memoirs of Ward Schrantz, 35th Division, 1917-1919" will prove to be an enduringly valued and prized addition to the growing library of World War II battlefield memoirs and military biographies. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library World War I Military History collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of military buffs that "A Machine-Gunnier in France" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.96).

Handbook on Growth and Sustainability
Peter A. Victor & Brett Dolter, editors
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781783473557, $260.00, HC, 592pp,

Synopsis: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Peter A. Victor (Professor Emeritus, York University, Canada) and Brett Dolter (Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Regina, Canada) This Handbook assembles new contributions from influential authors such as Herman Daly, Paul Ekins, Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Jeroen van den Bergh, William E. Rees, Peter Bartelmus and Tim Jackson, who have helped define our understanding of growth and sustainability, as well as new thinking on topics such as degrowth, the debt-based financial system, cultural change, energy return on investment, shorter working hours and employment, and innovation and technology.

Explorations of these issues can deepen our understanding of whether growth is sustainable and, in turn, whether a move away from growth can be sustained.

With issues such as climate change looming large, our understanding of growth and sustainability is critical. The "Handbook on Growth and Sustainability" offers a broad range of perspectives that can help the reader decide: growth? Sustainability? Both? Or neither? Contributions are drawn from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives including economics, sociology, political science, philosophy, engineering and journalism, placing the work of established luminaries alongside emerging scholars who offer fresh new perspectives.

A special section dedicated to exploring 'growth imperatives' that make transitioning away from economic growth difficult is provided, and the book includes a focus on cultural change and economic growth.

Editorial Note: The contributors to the "Handbook on Growth and Sustainability" include: P. Bartelmus, B. Bartkowski, H.S. Brown, H. Daly, B. Dolter, P. Ekins, K.-H. Erb, M. Fischer-Kowalski, T. Green, H. Haberl, M. Hadjikakou, C. Hall, A. Hayden, T. Jackson, G. Kallis, A. Levy, R. Matthais, J. Meadowcroft, M. Paez-Victor, S. Pressman, S. Quilley, W. Rees, H. Schindler, F. Schneider, R. Scott, F. Sekulova, J. Steinberger, S. Strunz, P. Timmerman, J. Van Den Bergh, P.J. Vergragt, P.A Victor, T. Wiedmann

Critique: Expertly presented with its twenty-three erudite articles being deftly organized into five major sections (What is Growth? What is Sustainability?; Can Growth Be Sustainable?; Is the End Night? Sustanability Constraints on Growth; Are There Imperatives for Growth; Is It Possible to Move Beyond Growth Culture?) the "Handbook on Growth and Sustainability" is an ideal textbook for scholars, students and practitioners with interest in ecological economics, sustainability and environmental studies. While unreservedly recommended for college and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that the "Handbook on Growth and Sustainability" is also available in a paperback edition ( 9781783473571, $69.95).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Statistics in Engineering
Andrew Metcalfe, et al.
Chapman & Hall
c/o CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781439895474, $99.95 HC / $94.95 Kindle, 810pp,

Synopsis: Engineers are expected to design structures and machines that can operate in challenging and volatile environments, while allowing for variation in materials and noise in measurements and signals. Now in a fully updated second edition "Statistics in Engineering: With Examples in MATLAB and R" covers the fundamentals of probability and statistics and explains how to use these basic techniques to estimate and model random variation in the context of engineering analysis and design in all types of environments.

The first eight chapters cover probability and probability distributions, graphical displays of data and descriptive statistics, combinations of random variables and propagation of error, statistical inference, bivariate distributions and correlation, linear regression on a single predictor variable, and the measurement error model. This leads to chapters including multiple regression; comparisons of several means and split-plot designs together with analysis of variance; probability models; and sampling strategies.

Distinctive features of this new second edition of "Statistics in Engineering" include: All examples being based on work in industry, consulting to industry, and research for industry; Examples and case studies include all engineering disciplines; Emphasis on probabilistic modeling including decision trees, Markov chains and processes, and structure functions; Intuitive explanations are followed by succinct mathematical justifications; Emphasis on random number generation that is used for stochastic simulations of engineering systems, demonstration of key concepts, and implementation of bootstrap methods for inference; Use of MATLAB and the open source software R, both of which have an extensive range of statistical functions for standard analyses and also enable programing of specific applications; Use of multiple regression for times series models and analysis of factorial and central composite designs; Inclusion of topics such as Weibull analysis of failure times and split-plot designs that are commonly used in industry but are not usually included in introductory textbooks: Experiments designed to show fundamental concepts that have been tested with large classes working in small groups

Of special note is a website for "Statistics in Engineering" with additional materials that are regularly updated.

Editorial Note: The authors of "Statistics in Engineering", Andrew Metcalfe, David Green, Andrew Smith, and Jonathan Tuke, have taught probability and statistics to students of engineering at the University of Adelaide for many years and have substantial industry experience. Their current research includes applications to water resources engineering, mining, and telecommunications.

Mahayaudin Mansor worked in banking and insurance before teaching statistics and business mathematics at the Universiti Tun Abdul Razak Malaysia and is currently a researcher specializing in data analytics and quantitative research in the Health Economics and Social Policy Research Group at the Australian Centre for Precision Health, University of South Australia. Tony Greenfield, formerly Head of Process Computing and Statistics at the British Iron and Steel Research Association, is a statistical consultant. He has been awarded the Chambers Medal for outstanding services to the Royal Statistical Society; the George Box Medal by the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics for Outstanding Contributions to Industrial Statistics; and the William G. Hunter Award by the American Society for Quality.

Critique: Part of the Chapman & Hall/CRC Press 'Texts in Statistical Science series, "Statistics in Engineering: With Examples in MATLAB and R" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended textbook for college and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Statistics in Engineering" is also available in a Kindle edition ($94.95).

American Hemp
Jen Hobbs
Foreword by Jesse Ventura
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510743298, $17.99, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: In Jesse Ventura's Marijuana Manifesto, the former Minnesota Governor teamed up with Jen Hobbs to explain why it's time to fully legalize cannabis and end the War on Drugs. Through their research, it became clear that hemp needed its own manifesto. Now Hobbs once again takes up this torch in "American Hemp: How Growing Our Newest Cash Crop Can Improve Our Health, Clean Our Environment, and Slow Climate Change".

December of 2018 marked a largely unprecedented victory for cannabis. The 2018 Farm Bill passed and with it hemp became legal. What the federal government listed for decades as a schedule 1 narcotic was finally classified as an agricultural crop, giving great promise to the rise of a new American hemp industry.

Based upon exhaustive research, "American Hemp" examines what this new domestic crop can be used for, what makes it a superior product, and what made it illegal in the first place; the book also delves into the many health and medical benefits of the plant. Hobbs weighs in on how hemp can improve existing industries, from farming to energy to 3D printing, plus how it can make a serious impact on climate change by removing toxins from the soil and by decreasing our dependence on plastics and fossil fuels.

"American Hemp" lays out where we are as a nation on expanding this entirely new (yet ancient) domestic industry while optimistically reasoning that by sowing hemp, we can grow a better future and save the planet in the process. If there ever was a time to build an American hemp industry, the time is now.

Critique: American Hemp: How Growing Our Newest Cash Crop Can Improve Our Health, Clean Our Environment, and Slow Climate Change extols the virtue of hemp - a plant that, while closely related to marijuana, cannot be used as an intoxicating drug. Instead, industrial hemp has a wealth of other valuable and productive uses, which have long been underutilized. Chapters discuss how hemp can improve industries from farming to energy to 3D printing. A timely and informative contribution to our on-going national dialogue, "American Hemp: How Growing Our Newest Cash Crop Can Improve Our Health, Clean Our Environment, and Slow Climate Change" is an exceptionally well written, organized and presented study that is unreservedly recommended for community, academic, and governmental library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of social activists, students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "American Hemp" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Rosebud, June 17, 1876: Prelude to the Little Big Horn
Paul L. Hedren
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806162324, $34.95, HC, 496pp,

Synopsis: The Battle of the Rosebud may well be the largest Indian battle ever fought in the American West. The monumental clash on June 17, 1876, along Rosebud Creek in southeastern Montana pitted George Crook and his Shoshone and Crow allies against Sioux and Northern Cheyennes under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. It set the stage for the battle that occurred eight days later when, just twenty-five miles away, George Armstrong Custer blundered into the very same village that had outmatched Crook. "Rosebud, June 17, 1876: Prelude to the Little Big Horn" is a definitive account of this critical battle, from its antecedents in the Sioux campaign to its historic consequences.

"Rosebud, June 17, 1876" also explores in unprecedented detail the events of the spring and early summer of 1876. Drawing on an extensive array of sources, including government reports, diaries, reminiscences, and a previously untapped trove of newspaper stories, the book traces the movements of both Indian forces and U.S. troops and their Indian allies as Brigadier General Crook commenced his second great campaign against the northern Indians for the year.

Both Indian and army paths led to Rosebud Creek, where warriors surprised Crook and then parried with his soldiers for the better part of a day on an enormous field. Describing the battle from multiple viewpoints, Hedren narrates the action moment by moment, capturing the ebb and flow of the fighting. Throughout he weighs the decisions and events that contributed to Crook's tactical victory, and to his fateful decision thereafter not to pursue his adversary. The result is a uniquely comprehensive view of an engagement that made history and then changed its course.

Rosebud was at once a battle won and a battle lost. With informed attention to the subtleties and significance of both outcomes, as well as to the fears and motivations on all sides, Hedren has given new meaning to this consequential fight, and new insight into its place in the larger story of the Great Sioux War.

Editorial Note: Paul L. Hedren is a retired National Park Service superintendent residing in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the author of "Fort Laramie and the Great Sioux War" and "Great Sioux War Orders of Battle: How the United States Army Waged War on the Northern Plains, 1876 - 1877".

Critique: Impressively informative and meticulously researched, "Rosebud, June 17, 1876: Prelude to the Little Big Horn" is an extraordinary work of simply outstanding scholarship and a welcome and valued contribution to 19th Century American Western History in general, and Native American Studies supplemental reading lists in particular. While an unreservedly recommended as an enduringly valued addition for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rosebud, June 17, 1876: Prelude to the Little Big Horn" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Rufus: James Agee in Tennessee
Paul F. Brown
The University of Tennessee Press
110 Conference Center UT, Knoxville, TN 37996
9781621904243, $34.95, HC, 422pp,

Synopsis: James Rufus Agee (November 27, 1909 - May 16, 1955) was an American novelist, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic. In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S. His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won the author a posthumous 1958 Pulitzer Prize. (Wikipedia).

Paul F. Brown teaches music at Coalfield School in Morgan County, Tennessee. As an independent researcher, he has published articles and lectured on James Agee at various forums and is a consultant for a forthcoming Agee documentary.

In "Rufus: James Agee in Tennessee" Brown draws upon his years of meticulous research to deftly traces Agee's ancestry, discusses his childhood in Knoxville, the death of his father, and his roots in East Tennessee.

Brown also reflects on Agee's childhood events and their effects on his writing, film work, and legacy as an artist. Of special note is Brown's argument that Agee's formative years in Knoxville and East Tennessee were highly influential, even beyond the natural connection to his award winning novel "A Death in the Family".

In addition to an informative Introduction, "Rufus: James Agee in Tennessee" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a two page List of Abbreviations, fifty-eight pages of Notes, a ten page Selected Bibliography, and a seventeen page Index.

Critique: A seminal work of simply outstanding and documented scholarship which is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as college and university library collections, "Rufus: James Agee in Tennessee" is an extraordinary and comprehensive contribution to understanding James Agee, his life and his work.

Hitler's Death: The Case Against Conspiracy
Luke Daly-Groves
Osprey Publishing
4301 21st St, Suite 220B, Long Island City, NY 11101
9781472834546, $22.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: In "Hitler's Death: The Case Against Conspiracy", author Luke Daly-Groves rigorously looks at the question: Did Hitler shoot himself in the Fuhrerbunker or did he slip past the Soviets and escape to South America?

Countless documentaries, newspaper articles, and internet pages written by conspiracy theorists have led the ongoing debate surrounding Hitler's last days. Historians have not yet managed to make a serious response. Until now.

"Hitler's Death: The Case Against Conspiracy" is the first serious attempt by an academic to return to the evidence of Hitler's suicide in order to scrutinize the most recent arguments of conspiracy theorists using scientific methods. Through analysis of recently declassified MI5 files, previously unpublished sketches of Hitler's bunker, personal accounts of intelligence officers along with stories of shoot-outs, plunder and secret agents, this rigorously researched study takes on the doubters to tell the full story of how Hitler died.

Editorial Note: Luke Daly-Groves is a Ph.D. researcher based at the University of Leeds, England. His doctoral research analyzes Anglo-American intelligence relations in occupied Germany. In 2015 he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree with First Class Honours in History from the University of Central Lancashire and was awarded the Sydney Lee Prize for History. In 2016 he was awarded the degree of Master of Arts in Modern History with Distinction from the University of Leeds. His M.A. dissertation won the Marion Sharples Prize.

Critique: Exhaustively researched, expertly written, impressively organized and presented, "Hitler's Death: The Case Against Conspiracy" is an inherently fascinating and exceptionally informative read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hitler's Death: The Case Against Conspiracy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Knifemaking for Beginners
Stefan Steigerwald & Dirk Burmester
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764357343, $24.99, Spiral Bound, 128pp,

Synopsis: Stefan Steigerwald is one of the most prominent knifemakers in Germany. Dirk Burmester is a professional translator of technical information who has for many years been on the quest for "the" knife. To

The best way to start in making a knife is usually to make a fixed-blade knife. "Knifemaking for Beginners: StepbyStep Guide to Making a Full and Half Tang Knife" is a photo-rich guide and manual with carefully detailed instructions offers a full tang knife and a hidden tang knife. Aspiring knife makers can create these two projects by simply following the indicated individual construction principles and by doing so will learn all phases of the knife making process.

A few simple tools and a suitable workplace are all that are needed. The materials are inexpensive.

Aspiring knife makers will enjoy clear answers to the questions by frequent beginning students, such as "Is the steel hard yet?" or "What kind of wood works best for the handle?"

Critique: A superbly illustrated, sturdily spiral bound, and complete step-by-step do-it-yourself guide, "Knifemaking for Beginners" is the perfect introduction to knifemaking as a hobby, making it unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections.

Correspondence: 1927 - 1987
Joseph Campbell, author
Dennis Patrick Slattery, editor
Evans Lansing Smith, editor
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608683253, $26.95, HC, 464pp,

Synopsis: Joseph Campbell was an American author and teacher best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology. He was born in New York City in 1904, and from early childhood loved to read about American Indians and frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History, where he became captivated by the museum's collection of totem poles.

From those days onward, Campbell's interest in mythology grew and deepened. He was educated at Columbia University, where he specialized in medieval literature, and, after earning a master's degree, continued his studies at universities in Paris and Munich.

Throughout his life, he traveled extensively and wrote prolifically, authoring many books, including the classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the four-volume series The Masks of God, Myths to Live By, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, and the Historical Atlas of World Mythology. Although Campbell died in 1987, in 1988 a series of television interviews, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, introduced his views to millions of people.

Part of 'The Collected Works of John Campbell' series, "Correspondence: 1927-1987" is a new collection of letters features illuminating conversations between Joseph Campbell and a fascinating cast of correspondents, ranging from friends and cowriters to renegade scholars and fellow visionaries.

Including letters from both Campbell and his correspondents, and spanning the course of his entire adult life (1927 - 1987), the collection demonstrates the lasting influence of Campbell's work, which inspired creative endeavors and radical shifts in so many people's lives. Included are exchanges with artists such as Angela Gregory and Gary Snyder; colleagues including Alan Watts, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, and Maud Oakes; editors of his books, from The Hero with a Thousand Faces to The Mythic Image; and many others who engaged with Campbell in his exploration of humanity's "one great story."

In selecting the letters, editors Evans Lansing Smith and Dennis Patrick Slattery discovered that the dynamic exchanges formed themselves into what Smith describes as a "narrative, with multiple voices and points of view, dramatic conflict and resolution, character development, and even mystery." In the end, they found "a portrait not just of Campbell but of a remarkable generation of artists, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, spiritual seekers, poets, and novelists, all engaged in the creative powers unleashed by mythology."

With crucial historical context provided by the editors, this compelling volume provides vital new insight into Campbell's personal life and mythological vision.

Critique: A critically important and unique volume showcasing the thoughts, insights and commentaries of the late John Campbell, "Correspondence: 1927-1987" is a core and essential addition to personal, community, college, and university library collections in general, and John Campbell supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Michael J. Carson

Charlier's Bookshelf

Women Rowing North
Mary Pipher
Bloomsbury Publishing
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781632869609, $27.00, Hardcover
B07FLDP872, $10.58, Kindle

Mary Pipher became a fabulously successful, best-selling author in 1994 with the publication of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, an examination of the "Ophelia complex" - defined by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard as a dissolution of self (as through drowning in Shakespeare's Ophelia). Pipher used the concept to explore how adolescent girls lose their individuality and identity as they pass through puberty and enter a male-dominated world.

The book, which I did not read, stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for three years, an indication of its widespread appeal and critical acceptance.

Women Rowing North, on the other hand, stayed on the list for seven weeks (a feat most writers would be ecstatic enough about!), but dropped off by the end of March - probably a quick exit by Pipher's standards. I think I am not alone if I suggest this as the reason: it's not a very interesting book.

I'll admit that I'm not much of a reader of self-help, and if I'd known that's what this book really is, I would have skipped it. I bought the book after reading a New York Times review that made me think there might be some real science and psychological or neurological research in it. The NYT review quoted one of few statistics in Pipher's book: "Recent census data from the United Kingdom finds that the happiest people are women aged 65-79." An avid reader of non-fiction science books, from astrophysics to genetics to neurology, I was looking forward to learning the science behind that phenomenon. Why are older women (at least in the UK) the happiest people on earth?

I read the book and learned no such thing. Disappointed, I decided to try to get what I could out of the book anyway. What could I glean, even if it wasn't advice I was looking for?

After a first section that enumerates the challenges that face women over the age of 50 - a list that every one of us could compile on our own - Pipher titles her second-section chapters with gift-store book advice: Understanding Ourselves, Making Intentional Choices, Building a Good Day, Creating Community, Crafting Resplendent Narratives, and Anchoring in Gratitude (the latter rather passe advice about writing down things you are grateful every day). Nothing new here, folks. Nothing to see. Keep moving along.

All of these challenges and trite aphorisms are illustrated through anecdotes about real women (with fake names) in the cheery, upbeat language of self-help literature, the very rhythm of which can give one seasickness.

The final two sections comprise a discussion of the people in our lives who can make us happy (Grandchildren! Surprise!) and three final bits of wisdom: becoming and accepting our "authentic" self, taking the long view, and seeking bliss and awe. For an idea of how deeply these are explored, consider this quote from the text: "Not everyone experiences bliss as they age, but it is never too late to look for it."

Boy, why don't I feel better already? Maybe it's because I spent $27 to buy this book.

Small Fry
Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Grove Atlantic
154 W. 14th St., 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802128232, Hardcover, $26.00
B07D9W7ZYS, Kindle, $12.82

If one could tally all the books ever written by women about their adolescense - both memoirs and novels - I imagine that two obsessions would dominate the count: will I ever look like a real woman, and will I ever earn my daddy's love?

I too, suffered self-image issues as a child and an adolescent, but I have to admit that daddy love has not been my struggle. I had a father who was present and responsible, but he was difficult. When I was young, I knew he loved me and liked me. Early in my teens, my personal philosophies veered from both his politics and his attitude toward women, and I lost both his favor and my interest in it. At the end, we didn't speak, and I didn't care. For that reason, I have difficulty identifying with protagonists - real or fictive - for whom daddy is the primary obsession.

That, alone, should have been enough reason for me to dislike Small Fry, a memoir by Steve Jobs' daughter, the main motif of which is "why doesn't daddy love me?" But I found it engaging despite her obsession with trying to win over her both difficult and often absent father. She's a master of setting, whether her mother's early abodes, her father's grand homes, or her dorm rooms. And she brings the peripheral people in her family's circle alive.

Also, it taught me a valuable lesson. I have often thought that my major mistake in life has been choosing the wrong parents. With all those successful and wealthy moms and dads out there to choose from, you'd think I could have done better. But Brennan-Jobs makes it clear that, while having a founder of Apple as a father granted her significant advantages in life, it wasn't all fun. I'm not the first to suggest this family put the "dis" in disfunction.

In mostly linear telling, she describes her father's early denial of paternity and then his critical and mercurial parenting during her teens in emotional and descriptive detail so visceral that can make a reader squirm. We all know that Jobs was a difficult CEO, a tough boss, an enigmatic personality. But knowing that and living through it are two different things. Brennan-Jobs brings him up close, and he doesn't look any better for it.

In his last days, Jobs tried to get Lisa's forgiveness, and the author largely allows it. I admire her for that. But I do think she gives short shrift to the extent to which her advantage - however painfully gained - from having him as her father played to her eventual success. Growing up in the intellectually charged environment of her household and her community was a tremendous gift that is easily overlooked by one who has had no other experience. For one thing, not being Steve Jobs daughter would have made it far more difficult to be a best-selling author in her life. Trust me. I know.

Mama's Last Hug
Frans de Waal
W.W. Norton & Co.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393635065, $27.95, Hardcover, $14.99, Kindle

I call myself an animal enthusiast or aficionado, not an animal lover, for the simple reason that my "love" can be easily disproven. I eat meat. I don't like some animals (snakes in particular). My contributions to animal welfare organizations are nothing to brag about. Therefore, I won't award myself with the high regard of "love" - even though I can't pass a dog without getting a big "hug" and like many people I know, I'd rather read a book in which people are mistreated than one in which animals are hurt.

I read Frans de Waal's The Bonobo and the Atheist when it was published in 2013. I found its central argument compelling: that morality and moral behavior don't rise from religion, but are inherent in humans and in many of our vertebrate relatives. And in reading it, I discovered a primatologist who can make his science accessible to non-scientists and wears his heart on his sleeve while doing so. His is not dry, unaffected prose!

Mama's Last Hug is even more evocative and convincing as it argues for better treatment of all animals (even if we continue to eat them) on the basis of our shared emotions, sentience, and mental states. He describes in detail and in storytelling fashion (both) how research has shown that animals - in particular our closest relatives, the great apes - share our experiences of humor, empathy, sympathy, disgust, shame, and guilt; our reasons for and tendencies for murder and war; and our sense of fairness and illusion of free will. In chapters that explore each of these shared emotions, he is careful to not step over the line and propose we know what animals are "feeling," while making a convincing argument that we can tell they have emotions because they react to them in the very physiological and behavioral ways humans do. He's clearly frustrated and impatient with those psychologists and ethologists who continue to opine that animals only react to stimuli from instinct and don't experience true emotion. Anyone who has ever had a pet - whether parrot, rat, dog, cat, chimpanzee, or duck - knows better, but often without proffering any evidence, many animal researchers refuse to acknowledge the obvious and provable.

In a world where we are assaulted daily by declarations of American exceptionalism - proven or not - de Waal's exploration of the fallacy of "human exceptionalism" is fascinating and enlightening and perhaps allegorical. While some readers may reject the notion of a book of science that lends some insight into our poisoned politics, I found his willingness to extend some of his analysis of emotion into the political realm a relief. The more we understand where hate, jealousy and tribalism come from, the better we can fix things.

The Friend
Sigrid Nunez
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Random House
9780735219441, $25.00, Hardcover, $16.00, Paper, $11.99, Kindle

This book was my first introduction to Sigrid Nunez, and it makes me want to read more of this author. The book won a National Book Award, which for me is generally a big turn-off (blame my rebellious streak), and I might not have read it if it hadn't been accepted by my book club as our May 2019 read. I'm glad it was.

Nunez's personal prose at first confused me. In a stream-of-consciousness unfolding, she wanders from observation to confession to speculation or conclusion from the very beginning, and the story doesn't start to reveal itself in any detail until about a quarter of the way through this thin (212 pages) novel. What kept me going was her wit. She sounds like someone I can hang out with, trading quips and jabs with and at other people.

The unnamed protagonist (characters are unnamed, except for the dog, Apollo) has lost a good friend (and one-time lover) and fellow writer to suicide. His third wife dumps Apollo, his Great Dane, on her, and she morphs from reluctant, temporary custodian of the huge, smelly creature, to a true admirer of the gentle animal. He becomes in many ways the stand-in for her late friend, absorbing her love and devotion as she adjusts to life without him. The dog, too, wends his way through his grief into old age with eventual resignation, and we sense, some mutual affection.

All of this is less morbid than you might think, peppered as it is with Nunez's sense of humor. Consider this stand-alone paragraph: "Your whole house smells of dog, says someone who comes to visit. I say I'll take care of it. Which I do by never inviting that person to visit again."

Meanwhile, in her wonderful meandering, Nunez riffs on animal behavior, movies about dogs, literary and cultural appropriation, death, and aging.

To some degree, this novel stands alongside those written by novelists who are obsessed with their own business - writing novels. As a writer, I may be more tolerant - or even pleased - with this aspect, as, no doubt, are those who award National Book Awards. But I'm not sure this is a novel that will speak to everyone, especially given how long it takes the reader to discern some semblance of plot. Nevertheless, I recommend it. It's a quick read, and quite fun.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Clint's Bookshelf

The Bus Ride Back
L. A. Carastro
Palmetto Publishing Group
9781641111881, $12.99, PB, 121pp,

Synopsis: "Bus Ride Back" is the personal story of L. A. Carastro, who woke up one morning in Miami, Florida to find that his career, his passion, and his sanity sudden extracted from beneath him.

Rogue cops manipulated the media and destroyed Carastro's own police career to cover up their deception and their official misconduct, while attorneys and state prosecutors sought to understand if their behavior actually rose to the level of an illegal/criminal act.

At the end of the day, one glaring question remained: Who are the good guys? And who are the bad guys?

Carastro continued on with his life while emotionally distraught. Not long afterwards, he regained his bearings and launched a new career deeply embedded in the nightlife of the Miami bar business.

Carastro flourished for the next twelve years until fate and bad luck found him locked up in a federal prison on drug trafficking charges.

The title of his memoir, "The Bus Ride Back" refers to the twenty-hour Greyhound bus ride he took back to Miami after completing his federal prison sentence. Sitting in his seat and watching the night move past prompted flashbacks of his life and caused him to relive the events that brought him to that moment.

The magic in this journey home brings to light startling revelations that act as a catalyst to transform Carastro back to the person he always was. His passion, his drive, his perseverance, and any good traits he ever had that drove him at a young age to protect and serve the citizens of his city returned as he walked off that Greyhound bus in the early morning hours wielding a newfound hope, desire, and perseverance that would ultimately propel him to a life he could have only imagined.

Critique: The synopsis is a restated account of a remarkable life as described by L. A. Carastro in a simply riveting memoir. Unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, "The Bus Ride Back" is one of those life stories that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Bus Ride Back" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Guilty at Gunpoint
Paul Singh
Science Literacy Books
9781949454062, $74.95, HC, 326pp,

Synopsis: Providing insight into widespread corruption in our criminal justice system, in "Guilty at Gunpoint: How the Government Framed Me", author Paul Singh cites various statutes, case laws and books by top-level insiders to prove how laws were broken by corrupt prosecutors.

Singh shows how our vision of America based on ideals of our founding fathers, and the reality of American justice are no longer aligned. When he left India to flee a land filled with corruption, he chose America to make his home, a country he admired for its freedom and justice. Decades after his arrival, his idealistic vision of our nation died while being targeted and framed by the very government he trusted.

Assured by the FDA that the most widely used IUD in Europe was approved for use here, he continued using it for two years while the FDA and DOJ tracked his every move to build a case against him for using the device. Singh knew nothing about this until a team of armed agents raided his office and expelled undressed female patients from their exam rooms.

The FDA then fabricated documents, destroyed and suppressed evidence, intimidated witnesses, and coerced him into signing a plea deal by threatening to imprison his wife, as well, giving him two hours to sign it -- or else.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Guilty at Gunpoint: How the Government Framed Me" is a critically important contribution to our current and on-going national dialogue regarding our judicial system, and unreservedly recommended reading for law students and practicing attorneys, justice department policy makers, social activists, and non-specialist general readers interested in the way justice is administered in the United States. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Guilty at Gunpoint" is also available in a paperback edition (9780997054187, $24.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.64).

The Girl With 39 Graves
Michael Beres
Book Baby Publishers
9781543957976, $17.50, PB, 376pp,

Synopsis: While Rose Buckles was murdered near the Wyoming-Utah line in 1939, she wasn't quite buried. Decades later, men from an FDR CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp find Rose Buckles' dismembered body along a riverbank.

Legends surrounding Rose's death surface in, of all places, Ukraine during the Chernobyl disaster's 25th anniversary. Deaths of old men and relatives researching what happened in 1939 have bizarre connections: Murder-suicides in retirement communities, so-called single vehicle accidents, a Chernobyl serial killer, a safe deposit box in one of the Twin Towers in 2001, heroin as a cough remedy, competition between crime families, and even agents working for Putin.

The Six-degrees-of-separation theory from Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy's 1929 short story "Chain-Links" comes to life, connecting past and present. In 1939, young men at an isolated Utah CCC camp include an immigrant returning to his birth country via the Fourteenth Amendment and an organized crime young man being groomed for mob power.

Are the CCC men involved?

Lazlo Horvath from Chicago and Niki Gianakos from Detroit, with feelings of deja vu, become targets of a contract killer when they try to solve the 1939 puzzle. CCC men blasting roads left clues leading Lazlo and Niki, federal and international agencies, and organized crime figures back to the Flaming Gorge. Before being dammed, Green River flowed fast like blood in a high desert wild horse. Afterwards the river submerged evidence, but Rose's legend lived on.

Exactly what happened in 1939? In "The Girl With 39 Graves", inherently fascinated readers will follow the deadly history of a decades-long vendetta as it returns home in this historical suspense thriller.

Editorial Note: Michael Beres has published short fiction in literary and commercial publications, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Amazing Stories, Cosmopolitan, New York Stories, Playboy, Twilight Zone, and many others. The Sierra Club honored his environmental writing and his suspense has been compared to The Manchurian Candidate. The Cold War, Eastern European roots, fairness to all living creatures, and environmental concerns shape his novels. His background includes a top-secret security position for a US government agency and management and editorial experience in the computer software industry. He uses details from family history, graduate school projects, extensive research, and his security and scientific background in his writing. Michael holds degrees in mathematics, literature, and engineering. He is a member of, and has been on panels at MWA, ITW, and Bouchercon, and has judged for the Thriller Awards. Michael's writing has received praise from writers including Jeffery Deaver, Gayle Lynds, Harry Hunsicker, John Lutz, and others.

Critique: Impressively written with all the flair and style of a suspense thriller novel, and with more plot twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster, "The Girl With 39 Graves" showcases author Michael Beres' genuine flair for originality, attention to detail, and an engagingly distinctive narrative storytelling style. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Girl With 39 Graves" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

The Coed Murder Club
Ken Salter
Regent Press
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587904172, $14.95, PB, 202pp,

Synopsis: Mindy Rohnert is bored while studying for an exam. She accepts an offer to have a drink from a good-looking fellow she meets in the university library. She has a good time knocking back a few beers with her new friend and his companions at a local watering hole near campus.

Feeling comfortable and safe with her new friends, she drinks too much and allows herself to be driven to a secluded house in the hills where she meets two more friends of her new acquaintance. Mindy loves the charades and contests she plays with her three new companions. Unwisely, she continues to drink with them until she passes out.

When she regains consciousness, her new acquaintances are stimulating her sexually. She is unable to resist their advances. Have they seduced her cleverly or was she forcibly raped? The police refuse to find the men who gang-banged her and infected her with the H.I.V. virus because it's a weak case to prosecute. Mindy expects detective R. C. Bean to find the men who abused her and bring them to justice.

Thus begins a dangerous hunt for a diabolic group of sadists who prey on naive and susceptible college coeds. As R. C. Bean unravels the nefarious motives and identities of the murder club members, he and the dazzling women he employs to entrap the sadists become the club's new targets.

Critique: With more plot twists and turns than a carnival roller coaster ride, "The Coed Murder Club" by Ken Salter is a wicked good read from cover to cover. This superbly crafted thriller will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "The Coed Murder Club" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.95).

Howard & Debbie
Max Mobley
Rare Bird Books
453 S. Spring Street, Suite 302, Los Angels, CA 90013
9781947856837, $17.95, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: Lonely loser Howard Feck has just fallen in love over the internet. His online paramour, the sexy and vivacious Deborah Fairchild, seems to be every man's dream girl. Howard sure lucked out.

But when he arrives in Deborah's small town to consummate their digital relationship, he learns a dangerous truth: Deborah Fairchild is actually the fictitious online persona of violent sociopath Debbie Coomb. If only he had learned this before Debbie kidnapped him!

Normally Debbie kills the men she lures into her isolated farmhouse, but Howard's innocence and kindness has disarmed her. Soon their relationship evolves from hostage and kidnapper to husband and wife. Everything seems to be working out fine until a major event in their relationship unleashes painful memories of severe past abuses. She returns to her horribly violent ways, forcing an ill-prepared Howard to defend himself and save Debbie from herself.

Packed full of hope, horror, and humor, along with surprising twists, "Howard & Debbie" casts a strange and sensitive eye toward love in the digital age, domestic violence, and the dual price of loneliness and revenge.

Critique: A unique, unusual, riveting, page-turner of a read from cover to cover, "Howard & Debbie" showcases author Max Mobley's impressive and distinctive storytelling style. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Suspense/Thriller Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Howard & Debbie" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.55).

Clint Travis

Duncan's Bookshelf

The Crossing
Michael Connelly
Little Brown & Company
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316225885, $7.98, HC, 388 pp.

Connelly has brilliant assistance from members of the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) when he creates another Harry Bosch detective novel. The plot is tight with pertinent actions that lead Bosch to a conclusion about who actually committed the 'brutal' murder of Lexi Parks, a public figure and wife of an LA County Sheriff's Deputy.

Connelly postulates what would happen should Bosch 'cross' to the defense side of legal cases. Bosch has retired under duress and is suing LA County for forcing him to retire. He also knows if he investigates a murder for the defense, he will become a pariah hated by law enforcement agents.

Crossing is an excellent example of the detective novel. Fast reading with just enough detail to "display" the action for the reader. In fact, this reviewer intends to rewrite his first novel using the short, to-the-point style of Michael Connelly. Crossing was a fast read. That's a compliment.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Thornton Wilder
Harper Perennial Modern Classics
9780060757502 $14.99 pbk / $10.99 Kindle

In the 'Prolog' an innocent, concerned Brother Juniper sees the collapse of the bridge and the fall of five persons into the deep gorge. Was it an accident? Or the deliberate decision for a higher Authority? Brother Juniper sets out to investigate the lives of those five unfortunates and what might have caused them to be on the bridge at precisely that moment.

Wilder tells the stories of the Marquesa de Montemayor, Esteban, Uncle Pio and other local characters. The reader sees their dreams, their mistakes and their hopes for the future when they step onto the bridge. We see the duplicitous nature of humans. And we are left to wonder? What did Wilder try to say?

This reader was puzzled. Our society seems to be 'hell-bent' for destruction. The writers in social media take delight in demeaning and castigating others. Our national leaders rant and attack the qualities of others. It would be so easy to slip into cynicism. And despair is just around the corner. Our major power companies 'sing' about a carbon free future. But their boards will not even admit there is a radiation free alternative to uranium power. It is called 'molten salt' power. As for me, I believe Wilder wanted us to hope for the future of our race. However, why Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize for 'Bridge' is beyond my comprehension.

The Whole Truth
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
9780446195973, $26.99, 401pp

From the Author's Note: "The term 'perception management" has finally entered the public lexicon. The Department of Defense even defines perception management in one of its manuals…"

In The Whole Truth a veteran 'black ops' agent (Shaw) faces the death of his one true love (Anna). Her death is part of an evil scheme to create a false perception that Russia executed thirty innocent scholastic researchers as retaliation against China. The Whole Truth centers on the reality that a perception management team can create a story that the public will readily latch onto, while not investigating the veracity of the distorted falsehoods.

There is an evil character (Creel) who uses PM to convince Russia and China to issue new contracts for eight years of arms purchases (from Creel's Ares Company). And in the basic novel there is the love story between Anna (a researcher) and Shaw. There is a scene which brought this reader to tears, watching Shaw stand alone at Anna's grave. And the perceptive reader will wonder: Will Shaw ever recover from the death of Anna?

Mr. Baldacci - there were scenes I enjoyed with real empathy for Shaw. Thank you.

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

The Making of Us
Sheridan Voysey
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780718094232, $17.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: After infertility, an international move, and a professional change shook Sheridan Voysey's world, he realized that he couldn't reconcile his expectations with the life he was living. Feeling lost, he decided to pair his spiritual journey with a literal one: a hundred-mile pilgrimage along the northeast coast of England.

Inspired by the life and influence of the seventh-century monk Cuthbert, Sheridan travelled on foot from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to Durham. Taking his friend DJ along for the journey, and keeping a journal by his side, Sheridan discovered not resolution but peace. Not ambition but purpose. Not shouts of convictions but whispers of the presence of God.

In "The Making of Us: Who We Can Become When Life Doesn't Go As Planned", Sheridan invites us to join him as he walks along England's shores and we trace the borders of our own hearts. Part pilgrim's journal, part call to reflection, "The Making of Us" eloquently reminds us of the beauty of journeying into uncertainty, the freedom of letting go, and the wonder of losing our identity only to discover who we really are.

Editorial Note: A writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality, Sheridan Voysey is a presenter of Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Breakfast Show (heard by 10 million people each day), and writes for Our Daily Bread, a devotional read by 90 million people daily. He has been featured on BBC Breakfast, BBC News, Day of Discovery, 100 Huntley Street, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, the ABC, Moody Radio, and in publications like The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail, and Christianity. His website is

Critique: A deftly written, inherently fascinating, inspired and inspiring personal story, "The Making of Us: Who We Can Become When Life Doesn't Go As Planned" is unreservedly recommend reading for anyone who feels their own life expectations have gone awry and have lost confidence in what the future might hold for them. While highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Making of Us" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 978-1721346684, $21.99, CD).

Women's War
Stephanie McCurry
Tantor Media, Inc.
6 Business Park Road, Old Saybrook, CT 06475
9781618039101, $34.99, CD,

Synopsis: When the war broke out, Union soldiers assumed Confederate women would be innocent noncombatants. Experience soon challenged this simplistic belief as author Stephanie McCurry reveals the vital and sometimes confounding roles women played on and off the battlefield.

For example there was Clara Judd, a Confederate spy whose imprisonment for treason sparked heated controversy, defying the principle of civilian immunity and leading to lasting changes in the laws of war.

Hundreds of thousands of enslaved women escaped across Union lines, upending emancipation policies that extended only to enslaved men. The Union's response was to classify fugitive black women as "soldiers' wives," regardless of whether they were married - offering them some protection but placing new obstacles on their path to freedom.

In the war's aftermath, the Confederate grande dame Gertrude Thomas wrestled with her loss of status and of her former slaves. War, emancipation, and economic devastation affected her family intimately, and through her life as McCurry helps us see how fundamental the changes of Reconstruction were.

Critique: Deftly narrated by Teru Schnaubelt, this Tantor Media audio book production of "Women's War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War" by Stephanie McCurry is a seminal work of historical scholarship and a groundbreaking reconsideration of the American Civil War, revealing that our bloodiest conflict was not just as pitting brother against brother but a woman's war as well. Impressively informative, "Women's War" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library American Civil War collections and supplemental studies lists.

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do
Amy Morin
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062847621, $26.99, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: In the time of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, author, leading global expert on mental strength, prominent psychotherapist, and licensed clinical social worker Amy Morin turns her focus to feminism, explaining what it means (and what it takes) to be a mentally strong woman in "13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joy"

The emergence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have awakened society and encouraged women to find their voice and claim their power. But to do this, women must learn to improve their own mental strength. Contending with a host of difficult issues ranging from sexual assault on college campuses, to equal pay and pay gaps, to mastering different negotiation styles, demands psychological toughness. In this crucial study, Morin gives women the techniques to build mental muscle -- and just as important, she teaches them what not to do.

What does it mean to be a mentally strong woman? Delving into critical issues like sexism, social media, social comparison, and social pressure, Morin addresses this question and offers thoughtful, intelligent advice, practical tips, and specific strategies and combines them with personal experiences, stories from former patients, and both well-known and untold examples from women from across industries and pop culture. Throughout, she explores the areas women (and society at large) must focus on to become (and remain) mentally strong.

"13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do" reveals that healthy, mentally tough women don't insist on perfection; they don't compare themselves to other people; they don't see vulnerability as a weakness; they don't let self-doubt stop them from reaching their goals. Wise, grounded, and essential, 13 Things "Mentally Strong Women Don't Do" can help every woman flourish -- and ultimately improve our society as well.

Critique: Impressively written, deftly organized, effectively presented, "13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joy" is critically important reading, as well as a valued and timely contribution to our on-going national dialogue on such subjects as gender equality and equity. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0062911070, $22.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

The Herbal Kitchen
Kami McBride
Conari Press
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950-4600
9781573247450, $18.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: Herbs are a gift from nature. They not only help to create aromatic and delicious food, they also support overall health and wellness on a daily basis. Using dried and fresh herbs in your cooking boosts your intake of vitamins and minerals, improves digestion, strengthens immunity, and increases energy. Using plants as medicine is an ancient and powerful tradition that connects you to the earth, helps treat common ailments, promote restful sleep, relaxation, and more.

"The Herbal Kitchen: Bring Lasting Health to You and Your Family with 50 Easy-To-Find Common Herbs and Over 250 Recipes" by Kami McBride will help you recognize the extraordinary pharmacy that probably already exists in your own kitchen. With 50 easy-to-find herbs and spices, information and tips for preparing, storing, and using them, and over 250 simple, flavorful recipes, it will empower you to care for your health.

Whether you are already familiar with herbs or are just starting out on the herbal path, "The Herbal Kitchen" offers recipes for everyone. Mix up refreshing drinks, infuse oil, vinegar and honey, learn how to make tinctures and cordials, salts, sprinkles, and more.

Editorial Note: Kami McBride has helped thousands of people learn to use herbal remedies as the centerpiece of their pro-active health care plan. She has taught herbal medicine at the University of California School of Nursing and the California Institute of Integral Studies. Kami teaches online courses that help people bring the healing power of herbs into their daily lives to create self-reliance and revitalize our relationship with the plant world. She can be visited at her web site

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, accessibly organized and presented, "The Herbal Kitchen: Bring Lasting Health to You and Your Family with 50 Easy-To-Find Common Herbs and Over 250 Recipes" is unreservedly recommended for personal and community library collections. It should be noted that "The Herbal Kitchen" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris
Helen Burnham, author
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, artist
MFA Publications
c/o Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
9780878468591, $29.95, HC, 112pp,

Synopsis: "Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris" offers a guided tour of fin-de-siecle Paris at night, bringing a group of its legendary protagonists to life.

The six performers at the center of this book?Yvette Guilbert, Jane Avril, Aristide Bruant, Marcelle Lender, May Belfort and Loie Fuller?were all depicted by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and in some ways defined by his iconic renderings. Actors and actresses, comedians, cabaret singers and dancers, these figures were the stars of the new entertainments of 19th-century Paris.

This booming nightlife scene coincided with new developments in modern printmaking. Lautrec immortalized the performances and personas of the city's entertainers in colorful lithographs, elevating the advertising poster to the status of high art. Artist and performer collaborated to exploit a new culture of entertainment and mass media, creating a new kind of celebrity in the process.

Lavishly illustrated with high-quality, full-color reproductions of Lautrec's iconic images alongside some of his rarely seen sketches, and illuminated by insightful essays, this volume shines a spotlight on the stars of the Paris stage, the birth of modern celebrity culture and the brilliance of the artist who gave them enduring life.

Editorial Note: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 - 1901) was the descendant of an old and distinguished aristocratic family from the south of France, but he found his true home in the bars and nightclubs of the Montmartre distinct in Paris. In a brief mature career of only 15 years (Lautrec died at age 36 from complications of alcoholism and syphilis), the artist was stunningly prolific, producing approximately 1,000 paintings and watercolors, nearly 5,000 drawings and more than 350 prints and posters.

Critique: Beautifully reproduced images showcasing the artistic genius of one of Europe's most enduringly and beloved 19th Century artists, "Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library 19th Century European Art History collections in general, and Toulouse-Lautrec supplemental studies lists in particular.

Brilliant Burnout
Nisha Jackson
River Grove Books
c/o Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781632992109, $18.95, PB, 372pp,

Synopsis: Occupational burnout is most commonly the result of long-term, unresolvable, job stress that can result in depression, physical ailments, and spill over into all other aspects of life and the ability to enjoy it.

In the pages of "Brilliant Burnout: How Successful, Driven Women Can Stay in the Game by Rewiring Their Bodies, Brains, and Hormones", nationally known hormone expert and functional medicine specialist Nisha Jackson reveals proven and successful testing and treatment strategies, with step-by-step instructions for optimal hormone, brain, and body balance and compelling insights that have helped women all around the world change their lives and step up their game.

Editorial Note: Nisha Jackson founded and is the director of Peak Medical Clinics, which specialize in functional medicine, hormone balance, age management, and disease prevention. For 28 years Nisha has sub-specialized in hormone balancing for men and women. With in-depth testing and balancing of the adrenals, thyroid, brain chemistry, gut, and sex hormones, she has successfully helped thousands of men and women reverse chronic problems such as fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, and depression and regain focus, stamina, drive, and optimal mood and energy. Nisha is a renowned lecturer, motivational speaker, radio host, columnist, and author. She is the founder of Peak Medical Clinics in Oregon, Texas and California and the founder/owner of Balance Docs Inc., a nutritional supplement company, and Peak Laboratories, a full-service laboratory for in-depth specialized testing and research.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "Brilliant Burnout: How Successful, Driven Women Can Stay in the Game by Rewiring Their Bodies, Brains, and Hormones" is packed from cover to cover with 'real world practical' insights, commentary, and instructional advice for overcoming emotional and intellectual 'burnout'. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Women's Health collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Brilliant Burnout" is also available in a digital book format ($8.69).

PLUS+: Style Inspiration for Everyone
Bethany Rutter, editor
Andrews McMeel Publishing
1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64106-2109
9781449493578, $14.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Bethany Rutter, "PLUS+: Style Inspiration for Everyone" showcases 100 of the very best plus-size street style images drawn from fashion influencers and tastemakers from around the world.

Plus-size fashion is daring, experimental, and deeply personal. There's no longer any shame in not fitting the traditional ideals of beauty, as proven by Gabi Gregg, Tess Holliday, Beth Ditto, and thousands of bloggers and models around the world.

The online plus-size fashion community is loud, international, and confident. Millions of #ootd photos are shared every day, showing off amazing style and beautiful people. "PLUS+: Style Inspiration for Everyone" gathers together the very best, and celebrates all shapes, sizes, and aesthetics in a beautiful, sharply designed, glossy collection that will inspire everyone who pages through it, plus-size or otherwise.

Critique: Profusely illustrated, impressively organized and presented, inspired and inspiring, "PLUS+: Style Inspiration for Everyone" should be a part of every community library collection and a 'must read' for anyone with a Plus+ body and wanting to dress successfully for any and every occasion. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "PLUS+: Style Inspiration for Everyone" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.87).

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Tools to Change the World
Dada Maheshvarananda & Mirra Price
Proutist Universal
9788789552002, $14.95, PB, 134pp,

Synopsis: Those who learn about the suffering and destruction in the world soon discover that these problems do not exist in a vacuum -- that they are interconnected and caused by a broken political system and global economy that makes a few individuals very rich at the expense of both people and the environment.

"Tools to Change the World: Study Guide Based on the Progressive Utilization Theory" is an instructional manual comprised of proven techniques that unlock our capacity to educate, to build collective power, and to make a change. The 'tool box' includes: telling your story, journaling, meditation, public speaking for activists, one-on-one interviews, consciousness-raising groups, choosing winning words and slogans, starting successful cooperatives, capturing media attention, leadership training, critical study, and unpacking privilege.

The many resources, activities, and links to articles and videos showcased in the pages of "Tools to Change the World: Study Guide Based on the Progressive Utilization Theory" will deepen your activist experience. The companion Facilitation Guide includes discussion questions, cooperative games, exercises, and more to excite and inspire a democratic study group and to encourage positive activities to transform both you and the world.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Tools to Change the World: Study Guide Based on the Progressive Utilization Theory" is impressively well written and extraordinarily 'real world practical', making it an ideal and instructive read for aspiring social activists seeking to improve themselves and the world around them. As informed and informative and it is inspired and inspiring, "Tools to Change the World: Study Guide Based on the Progressive Utilization Theory" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.

Rocket Propulsion
Stephen D. Heister, et al.
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781108422277, $74.99, HC, 586pp,

Synopsis: A modern pedagogical treatment of the latest industry trends in rocket propulsion, developed from extensive experience in both industry and academia by the authors (Stephen D. Heister, William E. Anderson, Timothee L. Pourpoint, and R. Joseph Cassady), "Rocket Propulsion" guide students along a step-by-step journey through modern rocket propulsion.

"Rocket Propulsion" begins with the historical context and an introduction to top-level performance measures, and the progresses on to in-depth discussions of the chemical aspects of fluid flow combustion thermochemistry and chemical equilibrium, solid, liquid, and hybrid rocket propellants, mission requirements, and an overview of electric propulsion.

Featuring a wealth of homework problems (and a solutions manual for instructors online), real-life case studies and examples throughout, and an appendix detailing key numerical methods and links to additional online resources.

Critique: "Rocket Propulsion" is an expertly organized and presented curriculum textbook and guide for senior and first year graduate students looking to gain a thorough understanding of the topic along with practical tools that can be applied in industry. While very highly recommended for college and university library collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rocket Propulsion" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $60.00).

Waterproofing New York
Denise Hoffman Brandt & Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, editors
UR (Urban Research) / Terreform
9780996004121, $40.00, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Denise Hoffman Brandt (Director of Landscape Architecture and an Associate Professor at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York) and Catherine Seavitt Nordenson (Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the City College of New York), "Waterproofing New York" gathers some of the most influential and thought provoking municipal leaders, engineers, planners, social scientists, and designers to explore the impact of past and future storms on New York City's infrastructural systems: Water/Waste, Power/Data, Circulation/Fuel, Parks/Recreation, and Shelter.

The essays and projects comprising "Waterproofing New York" use urban operating systems to open speculation on the possibilities not simply for waterproofing the city but for thinking beyond it to seek wider means of coordinated yet opportunistic, pragmatic, and inventive city design.

"Waterproofing New York" is intended to support an emerging skepticism of a singular "big fix," as well as of the unplanned, uncoordinated, shoring up of individual enterprises and discrete sites that will ensue in the absence of design and civic leadership.

Critique: Already experiencing as an ocean siding city the deleterious effects of climate change with respect to rising sea levels, "Waterproofing New York" is a timely, relevant, and valued contribution that will prove invaluable for personal, professional, corporate, community, and governmental policy maker collections and supplemental studies lists on the subject of dealing with this looming crisis.

Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come To Life
Ivan T. Sanderson
Adventures Unlimited Press
PO Box 74, Kempton, IL 60946
1948803038, $19.95, PB, 525pp,

Synopsis: In "Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come To Life", by one of the world's leading naturalists, Ivan T. Anderson, directly addresses the question of whether or not "Abominable Snowmen" truly exist.

It is Anderson's opinion that not one, but possibly four kinds of these ancient hominids still walk the earth!

Then there are those that live on the fringes of the towering Himalayas and the edge of myth-haunted Tibet? Others reside in Northern California and its almost impenetrable Klamath Forests. They are reported as being on every continent with the exception of the Antarctic!

Sanderson has been accumulating material for 30 years on this subject, deftly explains why no "Snowman" has ever been captured and kept for a zoo or a museum (with the exception of one that was caught during the last century in Canada).

What has Established Science had to say on the status of the "Snowman"? Why have the scientists played down the story? Why is the press so confused? Sanderson clearly explains the confusion of both, some of it deliberate.

"Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come To Life" presents the true story of the continents, and above all, the vegetation which covers them. Why many areas thought to be well known are less known today than a hundred years ago. Why maps are so deceptive, and frequently entirely useless. What the Native Americans knew about this problem.

Uniquely fitted by both intensive scientific training and his superb writing ability, Sanderson tells this astonishing story and breaks down the barriers of Time and Space, showing in a bright light both how and why Mother Earth still clings to her ancient mysteries, and that the Age of Discovery has never really ended.

Critique: This detailed and comprehensive study on the subject of 'Abominable Snowmen', 'Sasquatch', and 'Yeti' is enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Foreword, numerous illustrations and maps, five appendices, and a thirty-four page bibliography. "Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come To Life" is an absolutely recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library collections, as well as a core addition to college and university library Cryptozoolgy collections.

Ninja: The (Unofficial) Secret Manual
Stephen Turnbull
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500021996, $19.95, HC, 200pp,

Ninjas are well known around the world as Japan's famous black-clad spies, saboteurs, and undercover fighters, equipped with superb martial arts skills and an uncanny aptitude for sneakiness.

Ninjas are the stuff of myth and legend and in the present day to be found in movies, comic books, theme parks, and computer games. Folklore and entertaining tales concerning ninjas remain immensely popular as the Ninja has captured a central place in the cultural imagination, both in Japan and in the West.

"Ninja: The (Unofficial) Secret Manual" by Stephen Turnbull takes the reader to Japan in 1789, conveying the excitement, danger, and subterfuge of the period. Based on original ninjutsu training manuals, it teaches precisely what is required to become a ninja.

With some 100 illustrations throughout with contemporary artifacts, documents, and prints taken from the original manuals, as well as modern reconstructions, this lighthearted but informative guide covers every aspect of what it was really like to be a ninja in Japan.

Editorial Note: Stephen Turnbull is a writer and historian specializing in military history, particularly that of Japan. He is a lecturer on Japanese religion at Leeds University and a visiting professor of Japanese studies at Akita International University in Japan. He is the author of many other books on Japan and warriors, including "Samurai: The Japanese Warrior's (Unofficial) Manual" (Thames & Hudson, 9780500251881, $19.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 208pp) and he presented the inaugural lecture for the International Ninja Research Center at Mie University, Japan.

Critique: Expertly organized and presented, "Ninja: The (Unofficial) Secret Manual" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections -- and a 'must' for the legions of Ninja fans! Also very highly recommended for Ninja buffs is Stephen Turnbull's "Ninja: Unmasking the Myth" (Frontline Books, 9781473850422, $32.95 HC, $19.77 Kindle, 240pp).

Larry A. Nielsen
Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781579229696, $35.00, HC, 402pp,

Synopsis: A provost is the senior academic administrator at many institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada. "Provost: Experiences, Reflections and Advice From a Former "Number Two" on Campus" is the informal and autobiographical account of Larry Nielsen who offers a highly personal account of his tenure as Provost of North Carolina State University, from his unexpected invitation by the Chancellor to act as interim Provost, to the events that forced his resignation four years later, and brought him unwanted notoriety.

In a fast-paced, self-deprecating style Nielsen invites the reader to share the activities that crowded his schedule, the symbolic character of the role, its opportunities to shape policy, and its limitations, as well as the joy and satisfaction he derived from making a difference in people's lives and the institution. We see him in action, and get a sense of the role, as he addresses problems large and small. He shares insights on the governance of a large public institution, on how monies are allocated, and funds made available for strategic initiatives. By the end of the book, we gain an understanding of the myriad roles of the "number two" position of the institution, responsible for the direction and functioning of all its academic and curricular affairs, that Larry Nielsen characterized for himself as "the University's stay-at-home Dad."

Nielsen concludes his account with a look back at the Provost's job from his renewed perspective as a faculty member, further demonstrating the truth of his assertion that "where you stand depends on where you sit."

An entertaining and insightful read for anyone who wants to get a glimpse of how a large university functions, as seen through the eyes of an ultimate "insider", "Provost" will be of particular value to those who are interested in taking on the highest administrative positions in higher education by offering a window into that world, including the perils to which incumbents can be exposed when their actions become front-page news.

Critique: A unique, informative, and deftly presented account, "Provost: Experiences, Reflections and Advice From a Former "Number Two" on Campus" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Provost" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.40).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Flower Expert
Fleur McHarg
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500501245, $39.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Fleur McHarg has been creating glorious and unique oral arrangements for over twenty-five years and is known as the go-to orist for celebrity clients. Her floral designs have been featured in many high-fashion and design magazines in her native Australia, as well as internationally.

In "The Flower Expert: Ideas and Inspiration for a Life With Flowers" she draws upon her more than twenty-five years of experience in creating unique floral arrangements for every kind of event imaginable, to demonstrate just how breathtaking floral displays are created.

Her astute flower philosophy reveals her unique synesthetic take on color and the personalities of each flower. She explains why certain arrangements work while others don't, offers tips on color selection and color blending, and reveals her favorite flowers to use for each occasion.

Through McHarg's guidance and color inspiration readers learn how to showcase flowers for startling impact.

"The Flower Expert" is a stunning celebration of color and the artistry behind contemporary and classic floral arrangement styles.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "The Flower Expert: Ideas and Inspiration for a Life With Flowers" is the ideal introduction to flower arranging for the non-specialist general reader. A repeated pleasure to browse through again and again, "The Flower Expert" is packed with tips and ideas from cover to cover. Simply stated, "The Flower Expert" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly valued addition to personal and community library collections.

The Consolation of Philosophy as Cosmic Image
Myra L. Uhlfedler
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985277, $52.00, HC, 120pp,

Synopsis: In "The Consolation of Philosophy as Cosmic Image", the late Professor Myra L. Uhlfelder articulately argued that in portraying his literary persona as an exemplum of man in his quest for self-knowledge, Boethius has made the whole Consolatio a cosmic image representing man as microcosm.

The mental faculties of sensus, imaginatio, ratio, and intellegentia are arranged as a proportion suggesting both Plato's famous "divided line" at the end of Book 6 of the Republic and, at the same time, the four elements of the physical cosmos which, according to the Platonic Timaeus, are connected with one another so as to form a geometrical proportion.

The philosophical argument of the Consolatio in books II through V comprises another cosmic image with III. M.9 at its exact center; in addition, the other three cosmic depictions, revolving as concentric circles around III. M.9, may be viewed as forming an image of cosmic order.

In its structure, then, Boethius' work is an anagogic eikon which formally depicts its content.

Critique: A seminal work of impeccable scholarship that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an informative Introduction by Margaret Jennings, a six page Bibliography, and a three page Index, "The Consolation of Philosophy as Cosmic Image" will prove to be an enduringly valued and appreciated addition to college and university library collections.

Motivate THIS!
Steve Rizzo
Sound Wisdom
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950696, $15.99, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: One of the biggest challenges we face today in business and in life is staying motivated to be at our best for more than just a few days at a time. Every time a setback occurs, it is tempting to let it affect our outlook on life and diminish our excitement about our dreams as well as our willingness to take action on our goals.

"Motivate THIS!: How to Start Each Day With an Unstoppable Attitude to Succeed Regardless of Your Circumstances" gives the tools needed to discover increased productivity, greater enthusiasm, and new levels of success. Rather than allowing circumstances, events, and people to drain energy and dampen mood, "Motivate THIS!" showcases techniques for taking control of life in such situations and forging ahead in a state of feeling good.

The common-sense success strategies offered in "Motivate THIS!" will enable the reader to: Develop greater resilience to bounce back from life's challenges; Cultivate a positive mentality attentive to and grateful for the good in your life' Improve focus and commitment to achieving goals; Enhance "humor insights" and learning to laugh in difficult moments; Understand the importance of work-life balance and make choices that contribute to a greater overall degree of happiness; Reignite passion for personal and professional pursuits; And enjoy oneself on a journey toward success!

The action items and reflection questions at the end of each chapter help in the implementation of the 'Common-Sense Success Strategies' and retrain the mind to think more positively to attain your goals. With author Steve Rizzo's unique brand of humor, insightful stories, and mindfulness techniques that can elevate our level of motivation, help to overcome self-criticism, and transform our mindset regardless of our circumstances, "Motivate THIS!" is an indispensable tool for maximizing personal and professional happiness.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented for the benefit of the non-specialist general reader, "Motivate THIS!: How to Start Each Day With an Unstoppable Attitude to Succeed Regardless of Your Circumstances" will prove to be an effective addition to personal motivation reading lists and an enduringly popular inclusion for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "Motivate THIS!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Waiting for Fitz
Spencer Hyde
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629725277, $17.99, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Addie loves nothing more than curling up on the couch with her dog, Duck, and watching The Great British Baking Show with her mom. It's one of the few things that can help her relax when her OCD kicks into overdrive. She counts everything. All the time. She can't stop. Rituals and rhythms. It's exhausting.

When Fitz was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he named the voices in his head after famous country singers. The adolescent psychiatric ward at Seattle Regional Hospital isn't exactly the ideal place to meet your soul mate, but when Addie meets Fitz, they immediately connect over their shared love of words, appreciate each other's quick wit, and wish they could both make more sense of their lives.

Fitz is haunted by the voices in his head and often doesn't know what is real. But he feels if he can convince Addie to help him escape the psych ward and get to San Juan Island, everything will be okay. If not, he risks falling into a downward spiral that may keep him in the hospital indefinitely.

Critique: A compelling story about life and love, forgiveness and courage, and learning what is truly worth waiting for, "Waiting for Fitz" is an original, entertaining, and skillfully presented novel by an author with a genuinely distinctive storytelling style. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Waiting for Fitz" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.35) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982652203, $29.95, MP3 CD).

Story of a Soul
John Clarke, O.C.D.
ICS Publications
c/o Discalced Carmelite Friars
9782950883711, $13.95, PB, 306pp,

Synopsis; Two and a half years before her death in 1897 at the age of 24, as Therese Martin began writing down her childhood memories at the request of her blood sisters in the Lisieux Carmel, few could have guessed the eventual outcome. Yet this Story of my soul, first published in 1898 in a highly edited version, quickly became a modern spiritual classic, read by millions and translated into dozens of languages around the world.

Decades later, in response to growing requests from scholars and devotees of the Saint, a facsimile edition of the manuscripts appeared, along with more popular French editions of what the Saint had actually written. Here, expressed with all of Therese's original spontaneity and fervor, we rediscover the great themes of her spirituality: confidence and love, the little way, abandonment to God's merciful love, and her mission in the church and world today.

Father John Clarke's acclaimed translation, first published in 1975 and now accepted as the standard throughout the English-speaking world, is a faithful and unaffected rendering of Therese's own words, from the original manuscripts. This new third edition, prepared for the centenary of the Saint's death, includes a select bibliography of recent works in English on Therese, along with a new referencing system now widely used in studies of her doctrine.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux" is a deftly presented memoir drawn from her own original writings and is unreservedly recommended for church, seminary, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Story of a Soul" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Divorcing Mom: A Memoir of Psychoanalysis
Melissa Knox
Cyren Press
9781947976054, $28.00, HC, 218pp,

Synopsis: Psychoanalysis was the religion of Melissa Knox's family. Instead of wafers and wine, there were Seconals, Nembutals, and gin.

Baptized into the psychoanalyst faith at fourteen, Melissa endured her analyst's praise of her childlike, victimized mother who leaned too close, ate off Melissa's plate, and thought pedophile meant silly person. Her analyst gaslighted with the notions that she'd seduced her father, failed to masturbate, and betrayed her mother and therefore Melissa must shoulder the blame.

Melissa's personal story of a family pulled into and torn apart by psychoanalysis exposes the abuse inherent in its authoritarianism as she learns (with a startling sense of humor and admirable chagrin) that divorcing Mom is sometimes the least crazy thing to do.

Editorial Note: A writer and an educator living in Germany, Melissa Knox holds a Ph.D. in literature from Columbia University, has studied at several psychoanalytic institutes, and writes a blog, The Critical Mom. While "Divorcing Mom" is her first memoir, Melissa Knox has authored books on Oscar Wilde, scholarly articles on nineteenth-century writers, and numerous personal essays on disturbed family life.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read that is particularly notable for both its candor, it's detail, and it's iconoclasm, "Divorcing Mom: A Memoir of Psychoanalysis" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of pschoanalysis that "Divorcing Mom" is also available in a paperback edition (9781947976061, $16.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

The Distance Home
Paula Saunders
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780525508748, $27.00, HC, 304pp,

In the years after World War II, the bleak yet beautiful plains of South Dakota still embody all the contradictions - the ruggedness and the promise - of the old frontier. This is a place where you can eat strawberries from wild vines, where lightning reveals a boundless horizon, where descendants of white settlers and native Indians continue to collide, and where, for most, there are limited options.

Rene shares a home, a family, and a passion for dance with her older brother, Leon. Yet for all they have in common, their lives are on remarkably different paths. In contrast to Rene, a born spitfire, Leon is a gentle soul. The only boy in their ballet class, Leon silently endures often brutal teasing. Meanwhile, Rene excels at everything she touches, basking in the delighted gaze of their father, whom Leon seems to disappoint no matter how hard he tries.

As the years pass, Rene and Leon's parents fight with increasing frequency - and ferocity. Their father - a cattle broker - spends more time on the road, his sporadic homecomings both yearned for and dreaded by the children. And as Rene and Leon grow up, they grow apart. They grasp whatever they can to stay afloat - a word of praise, a grandmother's outstretched hand, the seductive attention of a stranger - as Rene works to save herself, crossing the border into a larger, more hopeful world, while Leon embarks on a path of despair and self-destruction.

Critique: A deftly written, emotionally complex, and with uniquely entertaining narrative storytelling style, "The Distance Home" showcases author Paula Saunders as an impressively skilled novelist. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Distance Home" is also available in a trade paperback edition (9780525508762, $17.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

The DIY Style Finder
Kari Anne Wood
Harvest House Publishers
2975 Chad Drive, Eugene, Oregon 97408
9780736972284, $29.99, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: KariAnne Wood writes the award-winning lifestyle blog Thistlewood Farms, a tiny corner of the internet where all her stories and DIY's hang out and drink sweet tea. She also writes, photographs, and styles for several national magazines including Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Ideas, Country Women, and Flea Market Decor.

In "The DIY Style Finder: Discover Your Unique Style and Decorate It Yourself", KariAnne Wood draws upon her years of experience and expertise to talk knowledgeably about the colors, textures, and patterns that would make your heart sing. About the creative ideas to try in your own home. About finding your own one-of-a-kind style and then just going for it.

Featuring her own home and those of four of her blogger friends -- Yvonne Pratt (StoneGable), Bre Doucette (Rooms for Rent), Laura Putnam (Finding Home Farms), and Carmel Phillips (Our Fifth House), "The DIY Style Finder" takes the reader on a tour representing five major design styles -- Farmhouse, Traditional, Coastal, Transitional, and Contemporary.

From the entryway to the living room to the kitchen to outdoor spaces, there are a wealth of tips and decorating inspiration for each of these different styles, encouraging do-it-yourself enthusiasts to create a home that's amazingly, wonderfully, uniquely for them.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "The DIY Style Finder: Discover Your Unique Style and Decorate It Yourself" is an inspirational pleasure to simply browse through and 'real world practical' to draw do-it-yourself ideas from -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Interior Design instructional reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The DIY Style Finder" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Triple Jeopardy
Anne Perry
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780525620952, $28.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Daniel Pitt, along with his parents, Charlotte and Thomas, is delighted that his sister, Jemima, and her family have returned to London from the States for a visit. But the Pitts soon learn of a harrowing incident: In Washington, D.C., one of Jemima's good friends has been assaulted and her treasured necklace stolen. The perpetrator appears to be a man named Philip Sidney, a British diplomat stationed in America's capital who, in a cowardly move, has fled to London, claiming diplomatic immunity. But that claim doesn't cover his other crimes. . . .

When Sidney winds up in court on a separate charge of embezzlement, it falls to Daniel to defend him. Daniel plans to provide only a competent enough defense to avoid a mistrial, allowing the prosecution to put his client away. But when word travels across the pond that an employee of the British embassy in Washington has been found dead, Daniel grows suspicious about Sidney's alleged crimes and puts on his detective hat to search for evidence in what has blown up into an international affair.

As the embezzlement scandal heats up, Daniel takes his questions to intrepid scientist Miriam Fford Croft, who brilliantly uses the most up-to-date technologies to follow an entirely new path of investigation. Daniel and Miriam travel to the Channel Islands to chase a fresh lead, and what began with a stolen necklace turns out to have implications in three far greater crimes - a triple jeopardy, including possible murder.

Critique: Another deftly crafted and original mystery by a true master of the genre, "Triple Jeopardy" by Anne Perry is ideal reading for all dedicated mystery buffs and certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of Anne Perry's legions of fans that "Triple Jeopardy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Short Strolls in Faith
B. A. Brightlight
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781490815466, $35.95, HC, 252pp,

Synopsis: Readers are invited to let their hearts and minds take a pleasant journey of faith with a copy of "Short Strolls in Faith". Readers will travel along in forty-two separate trips with the writers, each of whom who find God's presence in the ordinary moments of their lives.

One author see the imprint of God's hand in a game of golf, where the endless process of perfecting one's shot is reminiscent of the never-ending struggle to rid oneself of sin. Another recalls childhood stories and the unconditional trust that children tend to place in their friends, knowing that this is the very same kind of trust they must strive to place in God. A third author describes the difficult journey of being diagnosed with terminal cancer and compares it to a cab ride with the Lord and the amazing peace that he has in his heart to trust God -- ther He takes him to his home or God's home.

"Short Strolls in Faith" offers insightful and humorous commentary of applying the tenets of scripture into everyday life.

Critique: Tom McAllister (Chief Operations Officer with Growth Ministries International) is the primary author of "Short Strolls in Faith". Inspired and inspiring, this anthology of faith stories is very highly recommended for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliations. It should be noted that "Short Strolls in Faith" is also available in a paperback edition (9781490815459, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

I Died Yesterday
Pamela Norton Docken
Independently Published
9781520873169, $12.99, PB, 181pp,

Synopsis: One of the universal questions asked by all human beings down through the corridors of time is -- What happens after you die?

"I Died Yesterday" by Pamela Norton Docken tells of the continuum of life -- that as one life passes another begins. It is the story is of how one woman died on a cafe floor only to come to the realization that life after death is a not always a pleasant journey but one we must all take asking the more immediate question for the reader -- Is her journey one you are ready to take?

Critique: An absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "I Died Yesterday" is a unique and highly recommended addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Died Yesterday" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

To Air the Laundry
Krysta MacDonald
Privately Published
9781775046936, $9.99 paperback, $4.99 e-book

A day in the life of a 1960s housewife encompasses a lifetime of dreams and decisions in To Air the Laundry, the precursor to Krysta Macdonald's first novel.

Sharon's day is like any other: making breakfast, cleaning, volunteering at the hospital, afternoon tea with a neighbor, dinner and drinks over putting together a puzzle with her husband. But amidst her routine tasks, the dream from the previous night haunts her. She must choose what to reveal to her husband.

The book captures Sharon's inner life in symbols. The whites of her wedding, birds, water, puzzles - these recurring images carry forward the feelings from Sharon's dream. What she does during the day triggers her back to the dream, filled with memories she wishes to silence. The people she interacts with notice her anxiety and invite her metaphorically to "air her laundry." But she doesn't. As understated as quiet Sharon, the writing conveys the power of suppression. It becomes a force larger than her life, reaching out of the book to touch our pasts, our secrets.
Sharon's character development is rich and layered. On one hand, she is a model wife to whom her husband looks forward to returning every evening. On the other hand, she is intrigued with the hippie culture of her time. Her cousin and closest friend, a hippie, speaks impulsively and swears off marriage and family life. Sharon admires her from afar. In the end, though, she adds up the pieces of her life and chooses her own path.

A literary historical fiction, To Air the Laundry conveys with sensitivity and grace a struggle common to many women, through one woman's experience.

The Dodo Knight
Michelle Rene
Annorlunda Books
9781944354442, $9.99 paperback, 117 pgs

Have you ever wanted to analyze Alice in Wonderland? It's been picked apart by Freudians and other critics who look through its fantasy and fancy searching for deeper meanings Carroll likely didn't intend. Still, there remains an aura of mystery surrounding Alice in Wonderland and its enigmatic author that compels us to dig into the story. In the Dodo Knight, Michelle Rene imagines the real Alice Lidell's perspective on Lewis Carroll, known to her as Uncle Dodo.
Mr. Dodgson, a math professor at Oxford University, stuttered, so his name often came out Do-do-dodgson. For short, his many child-friends called him Dodo. He was a frequent playmate at the Liddell household. Mr. Liddell, Alice's father, was dean of Dodgson's college. But after a boating trip on July 4, 1962, Alice and her beloved Dodo hardly saw each other.

Oxford's majestic setting and the subjects, whimsical Lewis Carroll and his young muse, Alice, make a perfect pairing for this imaginative tale. Oxford's famous haunts and quirky characters are ripe with intrigue. Rene's descriptions of places and people are pithy and clear, leaving room to picture and feel what's going on without using too many words. "There is a space, however small, that provides a window to their mind. The tiny space behind Dodo's eyes spoke of stress not discussed" (38). Such tantalizing hints at Dodo's inner life, as detected by Alice, make the pages easy to turn.

The most pleasurable parts of the read - scenes of Dodo making up games he and the children play, and stories for them to hear - render the rift between Dodo and the Liddells all the more heartbreaking. The book is in part a coming of age story, about the pain of putting away childhood and becoming an adult. In some ways, Lewis Carroll, in his writing, got to remain a child while Alice didn't.

The helpful author's afterword sets fact apart from fiction. It invites further creative inquiry into other historic figures. Check out Michelle Rene's other historical fiction.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Beating Guns
Shane Claiborne & Michael Martin
Brazos Press
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9781587434136, $19.99, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: Parkland. Las Vegas. Dallas. Orlando. San Bernardino. Paris. Charleston. Sutherland Springs. Newtown. These cities are now known for the people who were shot and killed in them.

More Americans have died from guns in the US in the last fifty years than in all the wars in American history. With less than 5% of the world's population, the people of the US own nearly half the world's guns. America also has the most annual gun deaths (homicide, suicide, and accidental gun deaths) at 105 per day, or more than 38,000 per year.

Some people say it's a heart problem. Others say it's a gun problem. Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin, the authors of "Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence", believe it's both.

For people who believe the world doesn't have to be this way, "Beating Guns" is inspired by the prophetic image of beating swords into plows and provides a provocative look at gun violence in America while offering a clarion call to change our hearts regarding one of the most significant moral issues of our time.

"Beating Guns" transcend stale rhetoric and old debates about gun control to offer a creative and productive response. Full-color images show how guns are being turned into tools and musical instruments across the nation. Charts, tables, and facts convey the mind-boggling realities of gun violence in America, but as the authors make clear, there is a story behind every statistic.

"Beating Guns" allows both the victims and the perpetrators of gun violence to tell their own compelling stories, offering hope for change and helping us reimagine the world as one that turns from death to life, where swords become plows and guns are turned into garden tools.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, timely and 'real world practical', "Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues collections in general, and Gun Ownership supplemental studies curriculums in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Beating Guns" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.03).

The Grand Food Bargain
Kevin D. Walker
Island Press
2000 M Street NW, Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610919470, $30.00, HC, 344pp,

Synopsis: When it comes to food, American grocery stores are overflowing with countless varieties of convenient products. But like most bargains that are too good to be true, the modern food system relies on an illusion. It depends on endless abundance, but the planet has its limits. So too does a healthcare system that must absorb rising rates of diabetes and obesity. So too do the workers who must labor harder and faster for less pay.

Through beautifully-told stories from around the world, "The Grand Food Bargain and the Mindless Drive for More" by Kevin Walker reveals the unintended consequences of our myopic focus on quantity over quality. A trip to a Costa Rica plantation shows how the Cavendish banana became the most common fruit in the world and also one of the most vulnerable to disease. Walker's early career in agribusiness taught him how pressure to sell more and more fertilizer obscured what that growth did to waterways. His family farm illustrates how an unquestioning belief in "free markets" undercut opportunity in his hometown.

By the end of the journey, we not only understand how the drive to produce ever more food became hardwired into the American psyche, but why shifting our mindset is essential. It starts, Walker argues, with remembering that what we eat affects the wider world. If each of us decides that bigger isn't always better, we can renegotiate the grand food bargain, one individual decision at a time.

Editorial Note: Kevin D. Walker grew up farming and has seen almost every facet of agriculture firsthand, working in agribusiness, at the US Department of Agriculture, overseas with international nonprofits, and as a professor at Michigan State University. He has served on committees with the National Academies Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, and as a consultant to foreign governments and the World Trade Organization.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Grand Food Bargain and the Mindless Drive for More" clearly showcases a looming problem in view of the continuing problems of Climate Change as it affects global agriculture in general, and American food supplies in particular. While highly and urgently recommended for both community and academic library Agriculture & Food Science collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, social and environmental activists, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Grand Food Bargain and the Mindless Drive for More" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.39).

Between East and West: A Gulf
Bukhamseen Hamed, author
Ali Ismail Karimi, author
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers
355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781945150784, $34.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: "Between East and West: A Gulf" by the team of Hamed Bukhamseen (who is an architect and educator based in Kuwait City, Kuwait) and Ali Ismail Karimi (who is a Bahraini architect and educator interested in social housing, public space, and infrastructural re-imaginings of the GCC countries) looks towards the contested hydrography of the Arabian/Persian Gulf and proposes a new master plan for the region.

In an area of physical, religious, and political division, "Between East and West: A Gulf " tells the story of the Gulf's islands and the possibilities they hold for a joint territorial project. This study was an accompaniment to the third Kuwaiti participation at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 2016 with a pavilion that shares the same title.

Hundreds of islands dot the waters between the Arabian and Persian shores. An afterthought in the political maneuverings of their respective coasts, these islands tell an alternative narrative to the one which drives conceptions of the region. They represent a possibility greater than spaces of political contestation and hesitant demarcation. These islands are the sites of identity in formation, places of experimentation and architectural invention. Their historical roles were as varied as places of leisure, spirituality, planning, war, exile, and health. The island is an entity both isolated but also crucially connected through the waters of the Gulf, and thus not an exception to the national but the rule which defines it.

Commissioned by the National Council for Culture, Art and Letters (NCCAL), the Kuwait Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 2016 looks beyond the shores of the country and argues in favor of a masterplan for a united Gulf. By presenting the untold history of the region and proposing an alternate future, the pavilion casts the hydrography as a singular entity of neither East nor West, but as an untapped archipelago which defined the region and offers the greatest possibility for its reconciliation.

Critique: Nicely illustrated and impressively informative, "Between East and West: A Gulf " is an extraordinary study that is well organized and accessibly presented, making it a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, governmental, college, and university library Contemporary International Issues collections and Gulf State History supplemental studies reading lists.

Arrowheads, Spears, and Buffalo Jumps
Lauri Travis, author
Eric S. Carlson, illustrator
Mountain Press Publishing Company
PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806
9780878426928, $15.00, PB, 92pp,

Synopsis: The primal ancestors of today's Native Americans populated the Great Plains about 14,000 years ago, about the time glaciers of the last Ice Age began melting back to the north.

The prehistoric peoples living on the dry plains east of the Rocky Mountains were hunter-gatherers who moved and migrated from place to place in search of animals to hunt and seeds, roots, and berries to gather.

Archaeologists have reconstructed the history of these hunter-gatherers by studying old camp sites and tools made of stone and antler. It is their findings and discoveries based on the science of archaeology that author Lauri Travis introduces readers to in the pages of "Arrowheads, Spears, and Buffalo Jumps: Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers of the Great Plains", thereby shedding light on how field scientists find evidence of people who did not build permanent houses and how researchers determine the age of an arrowhead and what it was used to kill.

Archaeological illustrator Eric Carlson brings to life the day-to-day activities of these early people, such as how they used drive lines to funnel animals over buffalo jumps, how sinew was used to attach points to spears, and how grinding stones were used to mash seeds into flour.

"Arrowheads, Spears, and Buffalo Jumps" also includes photographs of artifacts and excavation sites, as well as a list of archaeological sites you can visit while exploring the vast plains where mammoths used to roam.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated and impressively informative, "Arrowheads, Spears, and Buffalo Jumps: Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers of the Great Plains" is a thoroughly engaging read from cover to cover and one that is unreservedly recommended for personal, school, and community library American Archaeology collections in general, and Native American History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Early Railways: A Guide for the Modeller
Peter Chatham & Stephen Weston
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate
9781526700162, $39.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: "Early Railways: A Guide for the Modeller" by the team of Peter Chatham (Production Manager for the London & North Western Railway Society's Journal, and Researcher And Kit Designer for Parliamentary Trains' Ltd.) and Stephen Weston (who joined The London & North Western Railway Society who formed Parliamentary Trains Ltd., where he is responsible for kit Production and marketing) will encourage and support the modeling of the earliest period of railway history, from the very beginnings of steam traction at the start of the nineteenth century, up to about 1880; a period which for British modelers has scarcely been covered in book form.

Over these few decades the railways evolved from something which at the start was markedly different, into a scene that any present-day railwayman would recognize. It is a time with much to commend it from a modelers point of view.

The trains were much shorter and therefore easier to fit into the limited space most of us have available as, correspondingly, were the station layouts, especially at the beginning of the period. Modeled at 7mm to the foot scale a modern steam express would need at least 12 or 13 feet in length and a minimum curve radius of 6 feet, whereas an 1840 express of a loco and a dozen carriages might be no more than about 6 feet long and, behind the scenes at least, able to take curves of no more than 2 or 3 feet radius, as well as being able to instantly catch the eye of the viewer.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "Early Railways: A Guide for the Modeller" is a unique and extraordinary contribution to railroad modeling information and instructional reference collections, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library collections.

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change
Dennis C Flynn
Cameo Publications, LLC
1st Ed. edition
9780974414959, $17.95, Paperback: 144 pages

The narrative found on the pages of Dennis C Flynn's Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change is not a story book per se. This work is an instructive or training manual for those hoping to generate a lasting impression for their effort or business endeavor.

Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change is a work of 134 pages encompassing thirteen chapters jam-packed with important information to guide the industrialist toward refining customer relationships as well as methods for enhancing customer loyalty.

The preface clarifies the role of the CEO and others of corporate leadership. In chapter one explains the business model. Chapters 3 and 4 explicates why brand identity and brand equity is significant. Chapter 8 presents data for understanding how best to get along with customers and employees. Message and its importance is the emphasis for chapters 9 and 10. Continuous relevance is the focus for Chapter 12.

Chapter synopses and notes regarding the author are included in the work.

Bursting with diagrams, highpoints, illustrations and visuals; Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change is a well-developed work intended to serve as a training tool for business owners. Chapters are kept brief, writing is crisp, to the point and skillful.

Writer/marketing mentor Dennis Flynn has taken knowledge gained from his own business life and has turned that acquaintance into a work in which chapters are presented with an overview, explanations of terms or other words used, and easily understood methods and techniques for achieving success. Definitions of terms, illustrations, bulleted points are all used to help the reader understand the principles offered. Chapter notes reinforces the key points covered in each chapter.

The narrative is developed so that busy business owners can read a chapter at a sitting at their desk over a quick lunch or perhaps while waiting for the train to pass the intersection. Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change is meant to be read, kept at hand, and re read as needed.

On the plus side; Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance and Profitability Amidst Constant Change introduces the reader to consultant Dennis Flynn's Sonar® Model for brand expansion. Readers will learn to generate a workable procedure for gaging and recognizing technologies required for attaining competitive brand benefit, progress new viewpoints on prevailing and forthcoming association prospects for firming up existing brands, and to create augmented influence concerning brand options for competitive advantage.

Flynn converses re upcoming tendencies in brand promotion along with importance for using customer feedback effectively. Learning to ask the correct questions is essential to success in the estimation of the writer who sets out a prototypical for supporting companies in designing business models to take them to a solution share position.

The Voice of the Customer is a tool designed to be used to glean perspective and intelligence from employees, investors, current, past and prospects and others who may have a stake in the success of the venture.

Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance and Profitability Amidst Constant Change is bursting with explicit branding data and beneficial approaches and skills presented in straightforwardly read form. Writer Flynn's declared purpose for the book is to benefit business owners assess and reconfigure assets for more authoritative business and brand consequences. To advance new viewpoints on present and impending coalition prospects that can strengthen brands. In addition to creating enlarged leverage of brand options for competitive advantage. As well as generating a method for assessing and recognizing technologies that are and will be critical in accomplishing competitive brand advantage.

I found Brand Clout: Maintaining Relevance & Profitability Amidst Constant Change to be a provocative, easily read work certain to gratify those who are thinking about launching their own business, along with aiding the experienced business owner who may be in need of a bit of assistance for improving his image with his customers.

This book has a place on the home office library shelf, the catalogue of college and public library, as well as, on the desk of business owners who operate in governmental and public sector.

I appreciated having opportunity to read this informative work, and, am happy to recommend.

Osborne Russell's Journal of a Trapper and maps of his travels in the Rocky Mountains
Aubrey Haines, editor
Bison Books
Bison Book reprint edition
c/o University of Nebraska Press
233 North 8th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588-0255
9780803251663, $16.95, Paperback, 191 pages

Born in 1814 in a small Maine village, Osborne Russell ran away to sea at the age of sixteen. He gave up a seafaring life to serve with a trapping and trading firm in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

He was twenty when in 1834 Russell signed up for Nathaniel Wyeth's expedition to the Rocky Mountains and the mouth of the Columbia.

Trappers were the first to blaze a trail across the wild frontier west of the Mississippi. Osborne Russell's Journal of a Trapper edited by Aubrey L Haines is a must have, first-person account for students of the history of the fur trade whether those who read of the era or those who re-enact.

Russell's imageries and dissertation concerning the period, the countryside, first hand comments, the flora and fauna and life in general offer a once-over into the area we know today as Idaho Montana, Oregon and Wyoming, long before settlement of the area took place by the pioneers.

Russell's book delivers much material concerning many of the events taking place in the Rockies during the early 1800s. Russell was an astute observer who took care to indicate distances, directions, those he was with and names of physical locations, in addition to animals, landscape and the like in his writing. He describes other fur traders, including some of the eminent names we know from history, as well as providing portrayal of many Native People in the area; particularly the Snake also known as the Shoshones, and the Blackfeet and Crow.

The adversities faced by the first whites into the country far from the - civilized- East Coast is well-documented, as Russell offers perception regarding the Native people already residing in the area, and of course the mountain men who made their way to the Rockies.

Russell was not one of the acclaimed of history, rather he was a simple man, who described in detail the day to day life, survival, excitement and events of the time in which he lived. Russell lived the period of the 1830s and 40s as a fur trapper/trader in the Rocky Mountains he set down a journal to record his feelings, impressions and what he saw. In doing so he has provided a genuine illustration for those who have interest, but no firsthand knowledge of the time, hardships and joys.

Joining an expedition heading into the Mountains during the mid-1800's Russell developed the requisite skills indispensable for survival in the mountains, and kept his journal relating the last days of the beaver trapping era of the Mountain Men who have appeared in movies, stories and books.

Rather than the idealizing of events as is often found in movies; Russell enumerated typical everyday tasks of cleaning, cooking, and other camp chores which all Mountain Men completed while on trapping expeditions. In doing so he offers insight into what it was that caused these men to forsake the ease and wellbeing offered in the towns and homes of the Eastern Coastline to tramp out into untested, little known locations where deprivations were many and ease was hard to come by.

He told of hunting for game, laying traps, of exploration of the country, and difficulties caused by weather and terrain, and he described the rendezvous which was the highpoint of the fur trapper year as men carried their furs to be traded or sold, re-supplied their food stores, and enjoyed the company of others for a time before returning to the mountains.

Russell indicates that he enjoyed attending six rendezvous before he left the mountains for good.

He recounted tales of the journeys and the exciting episodes of the life experienced by the fur trappers. While trapping for beaver in the Northern Rockies between 1834-1943 Osborne took part in a number of outings including a number in which battles with the Blackfeet who were less than thrilled to find the white men on their hunting grounds took place.

Editor Haines has indicated the routes of travel taken by Russell using 10 maps in addition to adding illuminating notes to his account. The maps are sprinkled throughout the text.

Without chapter or paragraph divisions to aid the reader; the journal is set down pretty much as a man might do in his own note taking. At times it takes a little digging to figure exactly where or when an event is taking place.

On the other hand, a true enthusiast of the era should have no trouble muddling through, as is done when reading the originals of many of the old journals and diaries of the time. Leaving the journal pretty much intact the reader a good feel for the man and his writing than might be accomplished were the text - cleaned up- with modern paragraph breaks and the like.

The landscape of the area changed a great deal during the decade Osborne describes. Disease, in particular small pox; alcohol, and loss of lifestyle are the disheartening bequest left for the Native People.

Reading of the waning of populations of Native Americans, as well of that of beaver in particular; but all fur bearing critters in the area, and the near vanishing of buffalo leads the reader on to the last journal entries as the reader follows Osborne.

He grimly describes the plummet buffalo populations and the impending finish of the fur quest as beaver populations diminished, European craving for the fur degenerated and other furbearers were becoming more profitable.

Russell spent eight years as a trapper working for several of the big fur companies before becoming an autonomous trapper working out of Fort Hall on the Snake River. Opportunely for us, when Osborne first went to the mountains with Nathaniel Wyeth's expedition in 1834 at age twenty, he commenced keeping his journal. Following his leaving the mountains in 1843 to settle in the Willamette Valley in Oregon; Osborne used his journal to assemble a manuscript for publication. This indeed is the most valuable thing about the book.

After an abortive run for governor in 1845, Russell wrote his manuscript for Journal of a Trapper. He got gold fever in 1848 and trekked south to California, where he became a merchant. After his partner ran off with the company funds, Russell spent the rest of his life trying to pay off the creditors. He died near Placerville in 1892.

From his manuscript the present book has developed. Osborne wrote in the fashion of the day, despite Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary; spelling rules had not yet been standarized as hard and fast, and writers often used a variety of spelling in the same text.

Osborne had a tendency to run sentences together and to present unusual language usage, plus, Osborne as journalists then and now tended to abbreviate and use his own form of shorthand, all of which editor Aubrey Haines has kept in this text. Reader's quickly get used Osborne's writing style and, it is his style that causes the text to be such interesting reading.

Working from the original handwritten manuscript housed in The William Robertson Coe Collection of Western Americana at Yale University, Aubrey Haines' edition represents one man's mammoth effort for getting Osborne's work to the people.

For a step back to life as it was prior to the Interstate, McDonalds, shopping malls, and rockets in space, Osborne Russell's Journal of a Trapper can convoy the reader to the open clear sky of the Rocky Mountains and to the camp of the fur traders who were an imperative constituent of our shared history.

Excellent read, excellent resource, Happy to recommend for the history enthusiast book shelf, high school and college library and public library collections. Journal of a Trapper will make a dandy gift for history buff, reenactor and those who like an entertaining, good read .

Sonny Bono and the Beat Goes On
Sonny Bono
Pocket Books
9780671693664, $19.95, Hardcover, 274 pages

Sonny Bono And The Beat Goes On includes a dedication to Bono's wife at the time of his death. 'This is for my wife Mary, who entered my life at a most critical time. She brought with her a strength that has given me the focus and direction I had never before been able to achieve. And to the greatest gift a man could receive… to my children, Christy, Chastity, Chesare, and Chianna.'

Part 1 Needles and Pins beginning on page 3 and ending on page 18 begins with the chapter heading 'She'll Make Me Cry Until The Day I Die' begins with Bono campaigning for Mayor of Palm Spring, California. Dave Letterman asked, 'Where did it all go wrong?

Sonny's reply is poignant and moving, 'it's too hard for two people to have a marriage and be in show business. Comes a time when you lose the relationship and discover you're a business. I look at Sonny and Cher almost as two other people. I love them, like any other fan.'

Part 2 The Revolutionary Kind beginning on page 21; and ending on page 84, on Bono's 33d birthday Cher gave him a birthday present; a diary.

On the pages of the diary Bono started with his parents, their arranged marriage, beginning when his fourteen-year-old, 2d generation American mother was married to Santo recent emigre. Bono goes on to share thoughts of his life as a child, with sisters, living in Detroit, elementary school, moving to California at age 7, wanting to please his taciturn dad, learning about girls, developing an interest in music, disappointing his family with lack of interest in education beyond high school. A series of jobs, early marriage, birth of his first daughter and divorce, meeting Cher and becoming acquainted with the music business round out the section.

Part 3 I Got You Babe beginning on page 87, and ending on page 181, details some of his life with Cher, their marriage, her mother Georgia, Cher's miscarriages, birth of their daughter Chastity, Sonny and Cher, and the increasing disintegration of their marriage ends the section on a sad note.

Part 4 Bang, Bang My Baby Shot Me Down, beginning on page 185; and ending on page 236 begins on an upbeat, happy note as the stardom craved, achieved and enjoyed before waning began to return.

Sonny indicates his puzzlement that even though everything seemed to be falling into place once again, however, '(he) did not understand, what he thought he understood; was that he was on the receiving end of a complete shellacking re everything the pair had accomplished.'

The pair had gone from 'has-beens, to hot stuff', Sonny and Cher were popular on TV, strategizing for separate careers in 1974, The Sonny Comedy Revue, divorce negotiations, a trip to Greece with daughter Chastity and discovering Chas could not read ends part 4 on a somber note.

Part 5 The Beat Goes On beginning on page 237 and ending on page 274

Opens with Sonny and Suzie Coelho marrying in Aspen, 1984 Bono's restaurant opens in West Hollywood, Sonny's marriage with Suzie ends, Palm Springs, California, Sonny marries a 4th and final time, Bono's Restaurant opens in 1986 in Palm Springs, fighting city hall, Sonny runs for mayor and WINS.

Chesare and his sister Chianna cement Sonny and Mary's relationship.

The narrative is completed prior to Sonny's bid for a seat in the US House of Representatives, he won, and his death due to a skiing accident.

I enjoyed reading Bono's thoughtful chronicle of his life before, with and after Cher. I too am a Californian, of the generation growing up with Sonny and Cher and have long been a fan of theirs.

The book moves easily from page to page, situation to situation, is given in pretty straight forward prose, not a 'poor me, mean her' work, rather it is an account in which Bono makes no excuse for his own philandering, does not rant regarding what went wrong; simply sets down a narrative similar to that of many famous personalities who find personal life and business to not mix very well.

I particularly enjoyed reading of the music industry in California during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. It was a period of change and excitement especially for those of us who were living there at the time; and enjoyed the music of the time. Did then, still do.

The book has many photos of young Cher, Sonny other music and Hollywood personalities of the era, along with clips from their hit TV show. Many of the pics brought back memories of sitting with my own little sons watching the Sonny and Cher show.

Happy to recommend the book for the older generation who grew up with Sonny and Cher on TV, and for younger readers who may simply want to know more of the pair.

Interesting Read … Recommended … 4 stars

April Fool
John Neufeld
Grey Swan Press
9780980037739, $16.95, Paperback, 340 pages

John Neufeld's April Fool A Novel of Suspense, Romance, Politics, Manners and Murder narrative commences at not quite midnight. George Willetts, political campaign consultant, is a middle aged, married individual desiring one last clandestine tryst intended to carry him through recollections into old age.

Presently sitting in the bathroom, checking his pulse and brooding whether he might be in the midst of something more calamitous than simple arrhythmia; George considers his next move. Clearly, should he expire everyone would be certain to soon discover all his secrets.

And, that would not include only his spouse Peg and or perhaps Valerie his current paramour but everyone.

George is facing a greater problem than the fact that his father had died of a coronary thrombosis, and, he had. However, his father was in his eighties, declined following his doctor's instructions following open heart surgery, and he did die, didn't he, yes, he most certainly did. And, his brother Bobby died of a heart attack in his fifties. George has cause for concern.

George and Peg have moved to a new area where Peg rapidly becomes part of the local community; George becomes fixated in his hypochondria and his wish for that last fling. George keeps reminding himself that he does love his wife; and has no desire at all to end their marriage even as he hunts assignations via the internet.

Why wouldn't George ponder whether each little skipped heart beat might be his last. Before that particular event should take place; George is facing how to figure out disabling his computer. He reckons he needs to disable the motherboard in particular; so that no one would be able to become privy to what he had been doing online.

Peg, George's wife relishes her life jam-packed with communal events, happenings and instances. George, alternatively, feels as though life may be slipping by as he grows into being a consistent caller at the local hospital due to chest pains which may, or may not, actually be in his chest at all.

George starts to dream of a better middle age that does not include Peg.

George has a predicament; he has begun an affiliation with Valerie, a woman he knows through the internet. She has no longing to being 'the other woman.' George begins to persuade himself that if Peg were not in his life; he and Valerie would be able to extract pleasure in life to the fullest.

George Willett's unrealistic notion swiftly borders on anomalous as his peculiar affiliation with Valerie accompanied by those unpremeditated, apprehension driven midnight trips to the local ER depict a decadent boor who seems not capable of facing what he himself is, and, without remorse or blameworthiness he formulates tactics for ridding himself of the wife who has been with him devotedly and loyal for years.

Novelist Neufeld's menacingly comedic chronicle, concerning a man having struggle with attempting to deal with the detail that more years of his life are behind him than there are to come; does present flashes of comicalness laced with more than a little gallows humor as well as, at other moments, flashes of just plain offensive and wretched, along with characters that fenagle themselves into states of affairs they cannot handle.

George is himself not a particularly amiable person. He is one of those fellows who tends to believe things are since that is how HE wants it to be and cannot see the exploit he is considering will most probably lead only to his own collapse whether or not he does actually succeed in eradicating Peg from his life.

Illustrative of some of the Baby Boom Generation, George revels in self-pitying mood regarding his midlife predicament. George is egotistic, frequently infuriating, and habitually a noticeable valetudinarian who is not a particularly affable character. Regrettably, he is all too detectable; many, perhaps most, of us do have one such relative in our own family.

Our particular kinsman may behave in quite as ham handed as is George, nevertheless, it may be pretty satisfying to realize a relative in him and observe as George's life comes apart.

Author Neufeld's writing is lively, hard hitting, offered sans a lot of elucidation or fictional accompaniments. George and his complications, actual and imagined, are offered in unadulterated certainty. His actions, inner feelings and transgressions are all there in black and white for the world to view. The theme of gallows humor running all the way through the work is understated, at times a tad vinegary, and is crowded with the ruinous life as lived by George.

Settings are nicely established, lure the reader into the chronicle and move the narrative forward easily. Characters move through the narrative in predictable fashion, albeit, with the capacity to grasp reader interest tight without being overdone. The ending while very foreseeable; is very reader satisfying, nonetheless.

April Fool is well written work formulated to entice the reader into the action and hold reader fast from opening lines, to the last paragraph. The arc I received for review from the publicist has a list of seventeen thought-provoking discussion starters included at the back of the book; which causes the paperback to be very handy for book club use.

Happy to recommend for those who enjoy a well written, fast paced work.

Molly Martin, Reviewer
Molly Reviews Books

Polk's Bookshelf

The Lazarus Succession
Ken Fry
9781542913621, $15.00, paperback, Page Count: 374
B01N68HZWT, $3.99, Kindle

When Jesus of Nazareth raised Lazarus from the dead, there was an artist in the crowd who would record the event for posterity. As the years passed, the artist's painting was lost; ravaged in a natural disaster. A second painter picked up his brushes and again recorded the event as his inspired thoughts and feeling dictated. Again, well after his lifetime, his work was also lost. And so the succession of painters continued through the generations.

Ulla and Brodie are art thieves with a difference. They steal to right wrongs. When they seek a painting by Toledo artist Francisco Cortez rumored to have healing powers, they never imagined the conflicts they would encounter or the hand that God's will had dealt them.

Ulla and Brodie are characters with a complex relationship and a definite Robin Hood complex. While they are somewhat exaggerated, they are likable and worthy of the reader's empathy. The Condesa, a terminally ill matron, seeking Cortez's painting for its healing power, is a victim. While one's sympathy for her may waiver, I found myself hoping the painting would be found before she died of her illness. Maxwell Throgmorton is a thoroughly disgusting arch-villain bent on theft at any cost.

The Lazarus Succession is a fast paced thriller of epic proportions. More than cops and robbers, it entwines a tale of Divine will among the sordid motivations of men. It is sure to satisfy the most devoted crime action thriller reader. 5 Stars.

Rum Runner
J.A. Konrath
9781533179333, $14.95, paperback, Page Count: 322
B01BCU68MK, $4.99, Kindle

Idiot criminals-v-idiot cops, Rum Runner is a humorous, tongue-in-cheek satire intertwining the dysfunctional marriage of former Chicago cop, Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, with the revenge obsession of street gang leader, T-Nail, who Jack had imprisoned for twenty years, the politics of returning to leadership of a gang after a twenty year absence, and the waste of human talent and creativity inherent in criminal gangs. It pokes fun without discrimination at both the good guys and the bad guys while driving home the quotation often attributed to Confucius "Before embarking on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." It also points out that a trial by fire often makes or breaks a marriage. In the scenario proposed by Mr. Konrath, Jack Daniels' marriage is definitely seared in a trial by fire.

The characters were consistent with this type of slapstick story. None are particularly deep but I had no problems conjuring up empathy for Jack, and a little for Phin as well. Nothing about Jack's friends led me to believe they could provide any meaningful help. Del provided an interesting twist toward the end, but the waste of his talent in the gang was criminal in itself.

If you want non-stop action, even if it's far-fetched, violent and a bit bizarre, by all means buy a copy of Rum Runner. It's well worth the read. 5 Stars.

E.S. Ready
9781722025151, $14.99, paperback, Page Count: 336
B07K5BDNXN, $7.99, Kindle

Once again E. S Ready has proven himself to be a very talented author. This time he has produced a masterpiece of western fiction.

Arlan Crywood is a survivor of the Civil War and its aftermath. He survived for years as a hired gun for gangs of outlaws until hanging up his guns. Always a man with a conscience, he decided to marry and settling down to family life on a farm. He is a man with friends…both good and bad. Now with his family threatened with starvation he is faced with returning to his former life in order to feed his family. Soon, however, his moral dilemma becomes too heavy to bear. The question is…what can he do about it? Is he willing to face death for his beliefs? Are his friends and neighbors willing to put their lives on the line to help him?

Arlan Crywood is a conflicted, complex character masterfully portrayed by the author. All of the characters are believable and readers will have no trouble cheering for some and hoping the worst for others.

This is very entertaining book for any western fan and for anyone who loves a good, intense action read. 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.

Gutshot: The Catastrophe
Patricia Loofbourrow
Privately Published
9781944223250, $4.99, paperback, Page Count: 67 pages
B07BFH7MXM, $0.99, Kindle

Did you ever wonder what type of disaster created the world that would eventually become the world of Bridges in Patricia Loofbourrow's Red Dog Conspiracy Series? If so, wonder no longer. Gutshot is a far past prequel predating the divided world of the Red Dog Conspiracy by 1899 years relating some of the effects of that disaster and a theory of its genesis.

Imagine, if you will, Las Vegas drowned under a mile or more of water. Imagine Colorado mountain tops appearing above the waters as islands. Imagine Leadville, Colorado (elevation 10,152 ft.) as waterfront property and you begin to get the picture of the breadth and nature of the disaster. Now, imagine a small, nearly dead, group of survivors clinging to life among the rubble and their struggle to separate their feeble lives from the death trap their world has become and you begin to understand Gutshot.

Gutshot is a novella of survival and moving on; moving on in the face of adverse conditions, some of which are survivable, and some of which are not. Moving on in the face of individual differences and mental, emotional and physical deficiencies. Moving on in the face of uncertainty about what has really happened to the world as the survivors knew it.

Gutshot is a worthy prequel to The Red Dog Conspiracy Series defining a significant event from which the madness of Bridges eventually arose. More than that, it is a worthy read for fans of the Red Dog Conspiracy and anyone else who enjoys disaster/survival sagas. 4-Stars.

Indian Paintbrush
John Heldt
B07KWHMRFW, $3.99, Kindle, Page Count: 419 pages

The Carson siblings search for their time-traveling parents continues as they find themselves once again emerging from a time-warp to find themselves in Arizona in 1943…a time when most of America was deeply ensconced in the fear and uncertainty of war on an unprecedented scale. Faced with keeping a low profile in a time when young people were expected (and legally obligated) to serve their country's war effort, the Carson family find themselves forced to take part in war-related activities in order to protect themselves and their mission. In doing so, keeping their knowledge about the outcome of the war to themselves becomes increasingly difficult.

However, fate can be a cruel master. Natalie and Caitlin become aircraft maintenance mechanics at an army flight school they meet army pilots with whom they fall in love. Cody, delivering medicines to a Japanese internment camp meets and falls in love with a Japanese girl and plans to take her whole family to another time where medical care is more available. Greg attracts the attention of the FBI, both as a young draft-eligible male and as a suspect in the unsolved murder of a rancher from 1918. And finally, only a mere few moments remain before they successfully find their parents…or don't…as they prepare to flee still further into the future.

Indian Paintbrush explores the Carson family's increasing need to put down roots and become part of the times in which they find themselves. Continually disrupted relationships and continual danger are taking a toll, especially on Natalie, Caitlin and Cody. Perhaps the search for their parents isn't really worth the price…or is it? They have few remaining time windows to explore. Maybe fate will smile on them yet. 5-Stars.

Uncle Billy's Chick Hut & Salvation Emporium
Jeffrey G. Roberts
Writer's Exchange E-Publishing
9781794022904, $5.99, paperback, Page Count: 26
B07M826SH7, $0.99, Kindle

You're dead…or so they tell you. Okay, what now? Isn't there supposed to be a brilliant white or something…a big iron gate and a guy with a beard holding out a hand in greeting…a burning pitchfork in the hands of a demon? Something? Why don't you know you're dead?

Clearly, you need Uncle Billy's services. It seems you have unsettled business in this world that needs to be finished; Uncle Billy is your man. Billy can unravel any spiritual steel-traps still holding your legs in this world, salve the wounds as you move on to the next, and do it all while you enjoy a margarita and some fried chicken on the house.

Uncle Billy's Chicken Hut & Salvation Emporium is, in a sense, all things to all people. A truly unique place, in a truly unique location, with truly unique people (Uncle Billy, 6'6", 300#, red beard, bolo tie and baseball cap is just one of them!) where truly unique things happen. You could say Uncle Billy's Chicken Hut & Salvation Emporium is truly bigger than life…since it's much bigger inside than out…and since what happens inside can have ramifications throughout the universe. But whatever else you could say about Uncle Billy's Chicken Hut & Salvation Emporium, I will say it is hands-down one of the laugh-out-loud funniest books I've read in a long time. It is a truly tongue-in-cheek statement about the general spiritual consciousness of today's average man.

Kudos to Jeffrey Roberts for a funny and refreshing book with a deeper theme. 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.

In The Shadow of the House of God
Jeffrey G. Roberts
Burning Willow Press, LLC
9781947584204, $8.99, Paperback, Page Count: 100 pages
B07BJHBX6W, $2.99, Kindle

Satan has challenged God; allow all of humanity to continue killing each other in God's name until none of God's children are left. The question is…who, then, would be left?

In the Shadow of the House of God representatives of every faith on Earth (potentially more than 34,000) are placed in a supernatural arena and allowed to fight it out using the best of their understanding of the values engendered by their faith. The story brings many these people of differing faiths together in a way that results in understanding and acceptance. When the core values of each faith are considered, and the real spiritual needs of the human heart are considered, the result is not surprising.

Although much broader in scope than the "Book of Job" in the Bible, this book is much like Job in which God allows Satan to torment Job in order to demonstrate his faith. The idea of testing religious faiths against each other is similar and ultimately should get us to understand that religion is not about God or Satan, or good or evil at all; religion is the marketing face that mankind, by blending a plethora of historical bias, political agendas, beliefs, and interpretations paints on the Divine. Religions do not dictate a person's relationship with God although they try to do so; only what's inside a person's heart can do that.

Congratulations, Mr. Roberts, on a well-researched and well-written book. 4-Stars.

The Expired
Barry Smythe
Dolman Scott Publishing
9781911412724, $10.95, paperback, Page Count: 348
Kindle $6.99

If you are one of those people who is offended by coming face to face the down and dirty reality of human nature then, by all means, avoid this book. It contains parental abuse, deviant behavior, sexual, racial, and theological-political hatred, power-mongering at high levels, and many different forms of immorality and human depravity. It also touches on the political reality and immorality of psychological manipulation of government assassins as used during the Cold War.

Sir Geoffrey Pottington walks a fine line between a Home Secretary that hates him, a homosexual son with a black lover that threatens to embarrass him and destroy his political career and his embezzlement of funds from Mi5's budget to cover debts from his bad stock investments. In short, Pottington is fighting for his political life.

Having no scruples, Pottington calls upon a secretly compartmentalized research function within Mi5; a facility producing brain-washed assassins or "Manchurian Candidates" for use as sleeper agents inside foreign governments…perhaps the dirtiest of Mi5's many dirty secrets. His goal? Elimination of his political threats including his son, his son's lover and his boss…among others.

In the tradition of Barry Smythe's earlier horror-suspense short stories, The Expired is filled with characters the readers will love to hate. No one in this book is loveable, although some readers may find rational reasons for some of the character's deviant behavior. None of the characters are what they profess to be; some because of hypocrisy, some because of psychological conditioning, and some because of curiosity, personal gain or other reasons. They represent, after all, humanity at its worst portrayed by a master of the macabre.

The Expired will be appreciated by readers who love non-stop action, macabre plots and intrigue, and who like sitting on the edge of their chairs praying for a happy ending they know will never come. 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.

Quantum Space
Douglas Phillips
9781520572307, $9.87, paperback, Page Count: 362 pages
B06ZY9T5Y5, $2.99, Kindle

How does a Russian Soyuz space capsule disappear without a trace during atmospheric re-entry? How did the same Soyuz capsule suddenly re-appear and land in the American Mid-west? More importantly, where were the three astronauts that were aboard and how had they disappeared without a trace? Finally, what were the strange objects found in the capsule in lieu of the astronauts and what was their purpose?

Answering these questions is the assignment of Dr. Daniel Rice and Marie Kendrick. It is an assignment that will take them to the depths of the Fermilab particle physics accelerator and, along with Physicist Nala Pasquier, into the depths of the fourth dimension where things are not always as they seem…and they seem an unlikely place for first contact to occur. Certainly an international crisis, peppered through by the machinations of a financial conspiracy by a government contractor who would sell both his soul and that of humanity, for money.

Quantum Space is an intriguing story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. It is read through the night cutting edge science married to a storyline of both speculative science and conspiratorial fiction. Great entertainment with something to love for everyone…not to mention some food for thought. 5-Stars.

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Robin's Bookshelf

Elmore Leonard, author
Terrence Rafferty, editor
Library of America
9781598535624, $40.00

Elmore Leonard Westerns In The Library Of America

The Library of America has been commendably inclusive in its efforts to publish the best of American writing and to show the breadth of American experience. Thus, it has published popular and genre writing and relatively unknown authors in addition to classics such as Melville, Whitman, William and Henry James, and others. The LOA has published a great deal of crime fiction, including a three volume set of the writings of Elmore Leonard (1925 -- 2013). Before he began to write crime and suspense novels, Leonard wrote in the genre of westerns. This new LOA volume is a compilation of Elmore Leonard's westerns, both novels and stories, dating from 1951 to 1982. It includes four novels out of the eight westerns Leonard wrote together with eight short stories published originally in magazines out of Leonard's roughly 30 western stories. Terrence Rafferty edited the volume which includes a chronology of Leonard's life and notes on the texts.

While the LOA has published crime fiction and noir, this volume is the first devoted to the western genre. The American western has a long history in dime novels, magazines, radio and television, film, and fiction, pulp and otherwise. Much of the genre may be stereotyped and hackneyed. It is worthwhile to explore the western and some of the best efforts in the genre both for enjoyment and to see what may be learned from western writing.

Leonard's westerns are tautly and sparely written in a style he would develop further in his crime and suspense novels. They read quickly and with a build-up of dramatic tension. The works are set in the Arizona territory with an emphasis on the 1880s. They generally feature a strong male character, an individual of few words. For the most part, Leonard's westerns focus more on character and on plot than on scenery and landscape. Conflict and revenge are strong themes in Leonard's writings, as in much of the genre. Leonard also explores culture conflict between the American settlers, the Apaches, and peoples from Mexico. The writings also have frequent religious allusions. The character development, discussion of culture conflict and discrimination, and exploration of ethical issues are important parts of Leonard's western writings in addition to the drama of the plots and the ever-present violence. Each of the four novels in this compilation originally was published as a paperback original. I will comment briefly below on each novel.

Published in 1959, "Last Stand at Saber River" is set in Arizona territory at the end of the Civil War. The main character is a returning Confederate veteran who seeks to reestablish a peaceful life with his wife and three children. In his absence, his ranch has been occupied by supporters of the Union who use the property to supply the Union Army. Leonard's novel explores the continued conflict between supporters of North and South following the end of the war. Paul Cable, the tough taciturn hero of the book, is portrayed as willing to fight for his wife and children in establishing life in peacetime and for what he holds dear. This book is the most conventional of the four novels in this volume.

"Hombre" was published in 1961 and is Leonard's best-known western. In 1967, it was made into a film starring Paul Newman. Set in Arizona in 1884, the book is unusual for Leonard in that it is recounted by a first-person narrator, a technique that Leonard uses well. The main character, John Russell, 21, is a tough quiet man who goes by the nickname of "Hombre". Although not an Indian, Russell was raised by Apaches and has adopted much of their culture. During a stagecoach journey, Russell is rejected by his fellow-passengers because they believe he is Apache. Later, when the stagecoach is robbed, the passengers must rely on Russell for their lives as they are pursued through the Arizona desert by outlaws. The book develops Russell's character, and that of the other passengers, offers a criticism of racial discrimination, and shows several difficult ethical dilemmas as those on the stagecoach flee for their lives. "Hombre" is a moving, tightly told story and my favorite in this collection.

"Valdez is Coming" was published in 1970 and was made into a 1971 movie starring Burt Lancaster. It is a story set in Arizona in the 1880s, of revenge and violence with religious overtones and some highly introspective flashbacks into the lives of its characters. A town constable, Valdez, who has formerly fought the Apache, gets into a feud with Tanner, the powerful owner of an illegal business who ships weapons to Mexico. The feud involves the unjustified killing of an African American man and Valdez' efforts to provide reparations for his pregnant wife. With its exploration of character and ethical themes, the book becomes violent as Valdez is pursued through the Arizona mountains with Tanner's men. The novel works to a surprising yet appropriate conclusion.

The final novel in this collection, "Forty Lashes Less One" dates from 1972 and is set in the concluding days of the notorious Yuma Territorial Prison in 1909. The book is a gritty novel of prison life including an attempted escape as the inmates are transferred by train to a new more modern prison. The book shows sharp humor in addition to character development, a realistic portrayal of Yuma prison life, and a treatment of race. The two primary characters are an African American inmate, Jackson, and an Indian inmate, San Carlos. The two go from being bitter enemies through a term served together in solitary confinement and eventually become fast friends. The book includes a degree of religious satire in the person of Manly, a fundamentalist preacher, who becomes acting superintendent at Yuma during its final days, and who, with all his own prejudices, attempts to instill religion and to reform Jackson and San Carlos.

The eight short stories in this volume explore many of the same themes as do the novels. The most famous of these stories, "Three Ten to Yuma" also has a connection to Yuma prison as a sheriff is charged with getting a prisoner to the prison safely. The story "The Tonto Woman" is one of the few works in this collection with a leading woman character. I also enjoyed the story "The Captives" and the unusual story "The Nagual".

The genre western once was a staple of American popular writing, but it suffered from over-exposure and from too much formulaic, indifferent writing. The best works in the genre, such as Leonard's, still remain worth reading. This collection of Leonard's westerns shows the vitality of a genre that is sometimes undervalued. I am looking forward to further Library of America volumes that exemplify American spirit in westerns.

Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862
Gregory A. Mertz
Savas Beatie
9781611213133, $14.95

Commemorating Shiloh Through The Emerging Civil War Series

The timing was exquisite. My receipt of this book in the Emerging Civil War Series, "Attack at Daylight and Whip Them" by Gregory Mertz coincided with the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, fought April 6-7, 1862, at Pittsburgh Landing in Tennessee, 22 miles north of Corinth, Mississippi. The National Park Service holds battle walks and other activities each year to commemorate the battle. I was unable to attend the events but commemorated the battle and thought of the ongoing activities at the Shiloh National Park while reading this study.

The Emerging Civil War Series offers short accounts consisting of texts, photographs and maps of important Civil War battles and events geared both to new readers and to those readers with a broad background in the Civil War. Each book is written to present a fresh view of its subject together with a basic understanding. Greg Mertz, the author of this volume has long been a student of Shiloh and has 38 years experience as a Civil War historian for the National Park Service. I had eagerly awaited this volume on the Battle of Shiloh based upon my fascination with the battle, other reading on the battle I had done, and a trip to the battlefield some years ago. The book did not disappoint. It helped me understand my passion of Shiloh and for the Civil War and it increased my understanding of a complex, crucial battle.

Shiloh was the largest, bloodiest battle of the Civil War at the time it took place and was pivotal in changing the character of the war and in its eventual outcome. After serious earlier reverses, the Confederate Army of the Mississippi (later renamed the Army of Tennessee) commanded by Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T Beauregard launched a surprise attack on the Union Army of the Tennessee commanded by Major General U.S. Grant at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. The attack essentially began near the Shiloh Meeting House about three miles from the Landing. On the first day of the battle, the South carried the attack to near the river front where Grant had established a powerful last line of defense. Albert Sidney Johnson had been killed at about 2:30 in the afternoon trying to lead troops around the left of the Union defense. The first day of the battle ended at about 6:00 when Beauregard called it off in a decision that remains controversial but seems to me and to I think the majority of students correct.

Grant received reinforcements over the night of April 6 from the Union Army of the Ohio commanded by Major General Don Carlos Buell and from a division of Grant's own army commanded by Major General Lew Wallace which, for reasons which also remain controversial, was slow to reach the battlefield on April 6. On April 7, after further severe fighting, the Union Armies drove the Confederate Army from the field and back to Corinth.

Mertz offers a clear, detailed account of the Battle of Shiloh in a relatively short volume. The book offers some brief, necessary background on the prior events leading to the battle and is at its best in describing the opening Confederate attacks in the early morning of April 6 and the varied ways the Union commanders responded to and met the attacks. The terrain, heroic action by forward Union units and individuals, and cool-headed strong defense by Union General W.T. Sherman among others helped blunt the Confederate attack and buy precious time for defense.

Consistently with other recent studies of the battle, Mertz tries to downplay the significance of the fighting at the fabled Hornet's Nest/Sunken Road mid-way through the opening day of the battle. Even with this, the Hornet's Nest action assumes a large role in the book. The book gives a good discussion of the significance of the delay in the Confederate attack and of the nearly impregnable line Grant constructed to hold the Union position. Mertz also offers a discussion of the April 7 action that sometimes is slighted in earlier accounts.

The book rightly emphasizes the role of terrain in the fighting and outcome of the battle. Shiloh is crossed by many small creeks, by ravines, and by wooded hills. The terrain worked throughout to assist the Union defense. A visit to Shiloh is the best way to see and understand the importance of terrain to the battle.

The book includes maps and images that assist the reader together with a driving tour and an annotated short bibliography. In particular, I enjoyed Mertz' detailed discussion of the beautiful Daughters of the Confederacy monument to the battle. Mertz explains the symbolism of the monument and the view it presents of the battle and its outcome.

Tim Smith, who has written several books about Shiloh, wrote a moving Foreword to this book. Smith describes the "mystical" character Shiloh has assumed to those fascinated by the battle and discusses the significance of the battle to the further course of the war. Smith aptly contrasts Shiloh as a place of large violence and death at the time of the battle, with the religious connotations of the place, illustrated by the Shiloh Meeting House. Shiloh today is a place for peace and reflection. Furthermore, the battlefield is a place to relearn and to recover love for the United States, its accomplishments, and its potentialities. As Smith writes: "The patriotism unleashed when coming under the spell of Shiloh also teaches each new generation its history and what it can achieve in the future."

I was grateful for the opportunity to think again about Shiloh and to commemorate the anniversary of the battle through reading this fine study.

Robin Friedman

Suanne's Bookshelf

Designer You
Sarahlyn Bruck
Crooked Cat Books
9781722402648, $12.99

Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck is a moving story of love, loss and new beginnings. Pam makes it through college without any real plans for the future - until she meets Nate. He then becomes her plan. He is the consummate DIY guy and Pam runs the marketing and blogging aspects of their business. Nate dies suddenly in a fall from their roof, and Pam is forced to assume responsibility for their entire business while being a single mother to their daughter Grace. Designer You is told with raw emotion and honesty, and the author handles the issues of grief with compassion. The Philadelphia setting is quite accurate and "real" feeling to this former Philadelphia resident. Pam and Grace learn their new roles in life without husband and father, and their journey is revealed in candid, gut-wrenching honesty - it's not easy to recreate their life together. The ending felt a tad rushed; I would have liked to see more of Pam and Grace growing together rather than have the novel end with a whirlwind.

Every Last Breath
Juno Rushdan
Sourcebooks Casablanca
9781492686088, $7.99

Juno Rushdan's debut novel, Every Last Breath, is intense. Suspense, action, and explicit sex scenes are about equally dispersed through the book. What is missing are the quiet sequels after the action to allow the reader to recuperate.

Protagonist Maddox moves in the world of the Gray Box, a covert extra-legal ops group that does work the CIA and FBI cannot. I loved the strength of special agent Maddox. She's capable and tough cookie who remains feminine and who refuses to crumble under pressure. She mourns the death of her fiance. Though shocked when she learns he faked his death, she must team up with Cole to save the world from a mutated version of smallpox.

Cole is a total alpha male, ferocious, strong, and emotionally-wounded. The couple must put aside old - and new - feelings and sexual attraction long enough to save the world.

I enjoyed reading the author bio and learning that Rushdan is a former intelligence officer herself. This background allows the verisimilitude that jumps at the reader from every page. A great book if you like the romance trope of second chance love and unrelenting action.

Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning Products
Julia L F Goldstein
Bebo Press
9780999595626, $24.99

The release of Julia Goldstein's Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning Products is being timed with Earth Day, so it's only appropriate to review it on Earth Day, April 22.

I have a long-time interest in recycling dating from the first Earth Day in 1970. Back then I organized a clean-up of my high school's grounds - and was threatened with expulsion if us "hippies" did anything untoward. Thus I was eager to read Goldstein's book, Material Value. She is highly qualified, having a PhD in materials science and has worked as an engineer before migrating to journalism. Despite her extensive intellectual prowess, I found Material Value easy to read and follow. The book is a goldmine of information. I kept interrupting my son's TV watching to inform him of a new fact.

She also talks about how chemicals in some materials can affect humans. For instance, since the sixties, BPA (an industrial chemical) has been used to make some plastics and resins used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. Research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from those containers. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible long-term health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.

Determining what is "green" and what isn't is harder to figure out than one would think. An counter-intuitive example Goldstein gives is that plastic cartons to transport fruits and vegetables to grocery stores are actually "greener" than wood or cardboard.

I was also fascinated by Goldstein's statistics on the costs of recycling the gold in cell phones versus mining virgin gold.

If you're interested in saving our plant through greener living, this book is a good place to start your research and can guide you into further topics.

Pickle's Progress
Marcia Butler
Central Avenue Publishing
9781771681544, $27.00

The title of this book drew me in as I could only think of one other novel with "Pickle" in the title, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. The latter is an 18th century satire in which a young, self-centered country gentleman becomes alienated from his cold-hearted mother, the father who snubs him, and his dissolute brother. Little did I realize how these ideas would resonate through Pickle's Progress. Pickle and his brother Stan are such identical twins their mother dressed them differently so she could tell them apart. Though identical, the mother prefers the eldest-born (by mere seconds), Stan. who is given every imaginable opportunity including upper-crust college education. Pickle, on the other hand, drops out of community college and becomes a cop. Pickle falls in love with Karen, but through machinations of their mother, Karen marries Stan. Together they become a successful Manhattan power couple.

The opening scene is a tour deforce, setting up the power struggle between the brothers. Stan and Karen are alcoholics, who drive while intoxicated. They have an accident in the rain on the George Washington bridge and nearly run over a young woman, Junie, whose lover has just jumped over the railing. Pickle must rescue his brother and Karen for the umpteenth time as well as get a statement from Junie regarding her lover's suicide.

This book is a mass of dysfunction in both Karen's and Pickle and Stan's families and a bizarre love triangle between the three that has somehow been stable for many years. When Karen asks Junie to move into the brownstone she shares with Stan, the triangle becomes an quadrangle and the structure becomes unstable. There are issues of child sexual abuse in Karen's past that are never fully resolved. While the opening is exceptional, the middle is something of a slow muddle, then there is an unexpected twist marked by a point-of-view shift that is a bit startling. Overall, it is an unusual domestic thriller with little overt violence, but lots of psychological abuse by all parties.

The Lost History of Dreams
Kris Waldherr
Atria Books
9781982101015, $27.00

The Lost History of Dreams is an accomplished debut novel which reminded me of classics such as Wuthering Heights and the more contemporary Possession by A.S. Byatt. Set in Victorian England, the book, rich with Gothic creepiness, layers several love stories into a unified whole. Author Kris Waldherr blends mystery, grief, and brooding passion into a family history of lost loves and family secrets.

The protagonist, Robert Highstead, is tasked by his family with burying Hugh de Bonne, a famed Byronesque poet and now-dead relative. Highstead, a photographer who specializes in the Victorian tradition of post-mortem photography, must transport the embalmed body (which smells of almonds to disguise the scent of death) to a distant chapel so de Bonne can be married next to his muse - and beloved wife - Ada, in a stained-glass folly that has been abandoned since she was interred there. In exchange for permission to accomplish that goal, Highstead agrees to write Ada's story as dictated by her only living relative and who does so over a Scheherazade-like five nights. Exquisite poetry and prose, fully in keeping with the Byronesque Hugh de Bonne, evoke a dream-like atmosphere that pervades the book and sets the stage for ghosts and labyrinthine twists and turns.

The book is spooky enough for those who enjoy ghost stories, gloomy enough for those who like to wallow in books, but surprisingly light and joyous and full of enduring love who those who like love stories.

The Parisian
Isabella Hammad
Grove Atlantic, Inc.
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9781473547674, $27.00

In her debut novel, Isabella Hammad uses richly-textured prose to invoke the turbulence of the Middle East right after World War I. I have recently read Kurt Seyit and Sura by Nermin Bezmen and The Carpet Weaver of Usak by Kathryn Gauci, both of which deal roughly with the Middle East pre-, during and post the War to End All Wars.

The nineteen-year-old protagonist, Midhat Kamal, arrives in Montpellier, France, to study medicine. He stays with the a professor of social anthropology at the university, the widower Molineau. During his stay, he falls desperately in love, with Jeannette, Molineau's daughter. This poignant romance fails. When he is betrayed by Molineu, Midhat moves to Paris and embarks on a hedonist journey. He constantly walks the knife-edge between fitting in and being different, being a woman's love exotique. When World War I keeps him in France, he becomes part of a group of expatriates who debate the future of Palestine. At last recalled home by his father, Midhat faces the same dilemma of not fitting in at home, held apart by his newfound sophistication.

This book deals beautifully with big issues: personal identity, cultural identity, the struggle between self-self-fulfillment and family set against a background of a nation struggling for independence. Hammad is particularly gifted at showing both these emotions and the setting in which they occur. She deftly handles a large, complex cast (ignore the long list at the beginning of the book - you won't need it), multiple settings, and the turbulence of the times. The middle of the book drags a bit. There are many foreign terms, that while giving a sense of a different culture, also tend to clutter her writing.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Your Body's Environmental Chemical Burden: A Resource Guide to Understanding and Avoiding Toxins
Cindy Klement
MindStir Media
9781732704961, $19.99, 268 Pages

The title of this book caught my attention as a health conscious, environmental aware mother and grandmother.

Reading the preface I discovered that its content, and publishing was as a result of the author attending a lecture in the fall of 2013, where the presenter used the term 'body burden.' This choice of phrase piqued her interest and being a professor, with good access to the university online library she discovered that the body's environmental chemical burden was something she needed to know more about.

Considering herself a 'healthy and health conscious eater having been virtually organic since the late 1970's, in March 2014 she asked her friend and personal physician Dr. Lev (Ed) Linker to run a toxicant profile on her. The results of these tests both surprised and horrified her. Determined to discover more she read countless studies and her findings made her increasingly concerned for the health of future generations, as a result of worldwide environmental chemical contamination.

As I read on, I discovered at the turn of every page interesting and quite frankly extremely worrying facts about the chemical contaminants found in our food, products, and environment. This chemical exposure is present quite simply every moment of our being, dare I say it, even before we are born. What's more, despite all the 'agencies' and 'labelling' in place to 'protect' us, many of these chemicals simply don't have to be declared.

This book is very well structured. The information within is easily assimilated by non-academic readers, and it is presented in such a way that they are not only given thorough information about the chemical contaminants the author features in the book, but also much more, by highlighting pertinent subjects under subheadings such as human exposure, dietary exposure, and occupational exposure. Throughout, warnings are given on occupations and where exposure to contaminants can be excessive. Throughout the book there is advice on how we can empower ourselves, and the author suggests other resources if the reader wishes to pursue a particular subject in more detail. At the back of the book there is a comprehensive Appendix and Glossary.

I found this book extremely interesting and one which I strongly feel should be read by all. Our environment, how we live and what we put in our bodies is in our control. In this modern world well researched and factual reference books like this should be read, and available on the bookshelf of every home.

Available from Amazon

Reach for the Sky (Super Speed Sam Book 2)
Monty J McClaine
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781532814648, $6.99, 75 Pages

Can Super Speed Sam save the day?

Yet again my granddaughter was captivated by the wonderful adventures of Super Speed Sam, or Sam, as the loveable Basset Hound hero of this delightful story is called.

The self-appointed guardian of the whole family, Sam's quiet demeanour and big brown eyes hold a secret, Sam has hidden powers. My granddaughter and I discovered how, and why he got his secret powers in the Christmas Super Speed Sam book, Santa's Rescue Dog. However in this, the second book in the series we discovered how he used these powers to protect his young master Jack, save the day, and all without revealing them to his loving family.

You see, mysteriously Molly's favourite rag doll Ted has disappeared, normally it never leaves her side, and Molly always sleeps with it. Where it had gone was a mystery which her mum really wanted solved.

Playing in his bedroom with his train set was Jack, Molly's six year old brother. He is in trouble, he is being punished because of naughtiness a few days before, and of course he thinks it is quite unfair. As his frustration rises at his inability to complete a task without the things he needs, his desperation leads him into a dangerous situation. Luckily Sam, who appears to be slumbering in his bedroom notices, and saves the day. However, the big question is, will Molly's rag doll reappear, or will it be lost forever? To discover the answer you must read the book.

This series of books are wonderful for young children. Each one is beautifully illustrated, and they are a perfect length to capture a child's imagination and attention.

Available from Amazon

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

Splinter in the Blood
Ashley Dyer
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062797674, $26.99, 400 pages

Have you ever noticed that murderers who have a touch of creativity in their killings seem to be remembered by a particular nickname making them more infamous? The Son of Sam, The Zodiac Killer, and Jack the Ripper are only a few with this notorious distinction. Add to this list now is The Thorn Killer who slowly poisons his victims from a poisonous ink tattooed to their bodies with thorns, instead of needles. This unusual technique creates the Splinter in the Blood.

Imagine a murder where the hunter becomes the hunted. That is Splinter in the Blood.

Detective Greg Carver is in the sitting room of his home. He has blood on him, obviously from being shot in the chest. His partner, Detective Sergeant Ruth Lake is holding a 1911 Colt pistol. She quickly places the gun, files, posters about The Thorn Killer grabbing anything connected with the case and carrying it to the trunk of her car. All evidence is always left at the police station, not at the lead detective's home. As she wipes the house of fingerprints, she notices that there seems to be some movement from Greg's eyes. Could he be alive?

Yes, Greg Carver is alive, but for how long? What does he remember about the shooting? Ruth is off the case of The Thorn Killer. A new team is taking over the entire Thorn Killer investigation. Ruth quickly realizes that she and Greg were close to solving the case and that the replacing detectives will be new to learning all the information already discovered. Deciding that she needs to be at the hospital with Greg, she decides to take the evidence from Greg's home and continue on her own without the knowledge of the new team. As Ruth begins to wonder if The Thorn Killer is watching either Greg, herself, or both, she wonders if she can save Greg, future victims and possibly herself from this psychotic killer?

Ashley Dyer is the name created by two authors collaboratively writing this debut novel. Margaret Murphy is a published novelist of nine police procedural and psychological suspense novels as well as a Writing Fellow and Reading Round Lector for the Royal Literary Fund as well as a past-chair of the Crime Writers' Association and founder of Murder Squad.

Helen Pepper previously worked as an analyst, forensic scientist, scene of crime officer, CSI, and crime scene manager. She is also a consultant on both Shetland and Vera television series as well as co-authoring professional policing texts.

Splinter in the Blood is a superb collaboration to create the new author Ashley Dyer. The characterization is phenomenal allowing realistic people, not characters. The plot is one of the most intriguing and intricate while being entirely addicting for any reader.

Splinter in the blood is for the adult reader who can sleep comfortably without nightmares from what they read. There is violence, gore, and explicit torture. Unquestionably the book is one of the most intense thrillers of all time.

Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062684561, $29.99, Hardcover, 465 pages

A single run-down home is what combines two families about one-hundred years apart. Unfortunately, the house is in poor condition for both families. Part of the house with water for the kitchen and bathroom appears to be leaning in mid-air no foundation under this addition. Fortunately, the other part seems somewhat more substantial.

Willa Knox finds that her plans for this stage in her life as she planned. By now, she had expected herself to be a successfully published author and her husband, Iano being comfortably tenured at a college or university. Instead, Willa finds herself jobless with no prospects and her husband as an adjunct professor at a college with the two barely able to make ends meet. She believes her son is successful in life with career and family and her daughter, Tig, is just hopeless.

One-hundred years ago, Thatcher Greenwood moved into the house along with his wife and of course, his mother-in-law. Both are disappointed in Thatcher. They both expect to lead a high-class and wealthy lifestyle which could be difficult on a science teacher's salary. Thatcher chooses to teach evolution in his classroom based on Darwin's recent discoveries. Along with his neighbor, the two continue

It does seem strange with both families suffer from the uncertainty of the future, both with worry about the house, feeling of the insecurity of becoming unsheltered is a fear.

Could there be something good about feeling unsheltered?

Barbara Kingsolver has written a beautiful story about two very different families each marching to an uncertain future. Unshelved requires each one of us to think and reflect on our own choices, luck, achievements, in determining our personal and unique destiny.

The characterization is outstanding. You see a little of yourself in each character, whether good and evil or perhaps both.

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of many bestselling novels, including The Poisonwood Bible. She has won numerous awards for her writing throughout the years. She resides on her family farm in southern Appalachia.

Unsheltered is unquestionably one of Kingsolver's woven and intricate stories. The story takes a little time to read since you need to reflect along with the characters as the plot develops along two-time lines.

Unsheltered is one of Kingsolver's best novels. This is as good as her novel The Poisonwood Bible. This is for all readers, young and old, with a preference for those who are grandparents, especially women.

Unsheltered is one book that I personally will always feel as a precious memory.

Teri Davis

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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