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

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 5 May 2021 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf Allan Jenkins' Bookshelf Barbara Scott's Bookshelf
BookLife Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf
Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf Christina Francine's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Elan Kluger's Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf
John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Monika Kosman's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf

Klara and the Sun
Kazuo Ishiguro
9780593318171, Kindle $14.99, Hardcover $28.00, Paperback $22.35, 320 pages

Redefining Science Fiction

Kazuo Ishiguro has once again proven his skills as a contemporary author! After earning the Nobel Prize, he wrote this novel that really is no ordinary science fiction novel. In fact, it is almost like a combination between writing with Aldous Huxley (the author of Brave New World), and the science fiction classics that Jules Verne had written. Furthermore, this new novel has cinematic qualities that could potential earn Oscar recognition from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Finally, this novel is very different in comparison to The Remains of the Day, but it is still a modern masterpiece in its own special way.

Alex Andy Phuong

Allan Jenkins' Bookshelf

The Broker: A Novel
John Grisham
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780385510455, $35.00, HC, 368pp
9780345532008, $9.99, PB, 448pp
0099537060, $8.99, Kindle

This is a book called "The Broker". It is written by a very famous author named John Grisham who is also the author of several other fiction novels one of which that people might recognize is called the Pelican Brief. The other book that some people may recognize is called the rainmaker. Both of which were also very good movies. Still another novel that people may recognize is called "The Racketeer".

John Grisham has lived his entire life in Virgina and Mississippi. This is the first time I have had the chance to read one of John Grisham's novels. I have had always wanted to do that is because I have heard from many of my friends and family relatives, including people like my father that John Grisham is a very good author, after reading "The Broker", I can see why they have said that.

When I first started reading "The Broker", I thought I might not like reading it that much is because "The Broker" looked like a long fiction novel, before reading this book, I had always thought that I liked reading nonfiction books more because they told stories about true events that had happened in are county, or in are world, and they were much shorter to read. That is why before I started reading "The Broker" I thought that the book might be too long to read. But I began to change my mind as I started to read "The Broker" more.

The story that was told in the book "The Broker", was an exciting and well written story that was great to read about. "The Broker" became a kind of a book that i could not put down, for example there were lots of times when I started to read the book at 9:30 at night and told myself that I would read for an hour and then wanted to keep reading it for another half another or an hour. I have not had a chance to mention the great fiction story that was told in this book, that made "The Broker" so exciting to read about so here it is.

"The Broker" begins by mentioning a president of the United States whose name is Author Morgan. The story continues by mentioning a controversial last-minute pardon to a Washington power broker named Joel Backman. The story continues by mentoring the background of Joel Backman who had spent the last six years hidden years in a federal prison. What no one knew is that the president had issued the pardon only after enormous pressure from the CIA.

In conclusion, I would say that the best way to finish the book review for this month is to say that "The Broker" Is about a very interesting fiction topic. It makes you want to read more fiction novels. After reading "The Broker", I can definitely see why you might want to read another one of his novels, especially because he has written about 18 of them. If I had to rate "The Broker", I would give it an A!

Allan Jenkins

Barbara Scott's Bookshelf

My Life Journey from Darfur, Sudan to Boston, USA
Victor Zaki
1663 Liberty Dr #5161, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781664145627 (softcover); $16.95, 336pp
9781664145610 (hardcover); $30.99
9781664145634 (e-book); $3.99

"Now I saw God helping me. It was not a story but real life. God was in action!"

A man of faith finds many miracles in his long, adventurous life. Author Zaki was born in Sudan to a family of Coptic Christians. The country of his birth, as he recalls it, was then a friendly place imbued with religious tolerance. Zaki vividly describes his childhood friends, foods, games, and experiences of church and school. He progressed quickly through school but was unable to attend Khartoum University because of English difficulties. Instead, he applied to college in Egypt. He now sees this as evidence of the divine plan for his life.

In Egypt, he would learn medicine, opening the way for a lifelong career in ophthalmology, and would meet his future wife and fellow physician, Leila. She agreed to marry Zaki based on a letter from him raising the possibility. They and their four children would live in many places, including England and the U.S., working and pursuing studies.

Fortuitously, when Sudan was in political upheaval, and Christians were being violently oppressed, the family was able to emigrate to the U.S., where they attained professional employment and now live contentedly.

Zaki includes many photographs within his lively narrative along with footnoted facts regarding the history and culture of Sudan and Egypt. His writing is clear and succinct, with biblical quotations infusing the story as he has seen, and continues to see, God's oversight for his life.

His book concludes with ten pieces of advice based on his seventy-five years, each supported by Christian scripture. Though he is a scientist and has organized his memoir in a logical chronology, his feelings come through when he speaks of Leila and their long love and mutual support.

His book provides both local color and religious inspiration that could offer hope to anyone seeking a new, fulfilling path.

Barbara Bamberger Scott, Reviewer
The US Review of Books


Juror Number 2: The Story of a Murder, the Agony of a Neighborhood
Efrem Sigel
The Writers' Press
9781723425521, $19.00, HC, 144pp
9781732425507, $9.95, PB
9781723425514, $9.95, Kindle

Category: True Crime; Audience: Adult

Novelist Sigel (The Kermanshah Transfer) turns his sharp eye for detail to a beautifully written hybrid of true crime and memoir. After serving as a juror on a 2017 Manhattan murder trial, The People v. Abraham Cucuta, Sigel was moved to examine the societal ills that cause underprivileged youth in New York City to turn to selling drugs and joining gangs. He soon learned about decaying public housing projects, poorly run schools, and a broken criminal justice system, all of which fail to equip the children of poor families to compete in higher education or in the workplace. The only legacy these institutions bestow, he found, is generational poverty.

Sigel's incisive reporting examines sadly common situations - such as children growing up in impoverished single-parent (often mother-led) households or relegated to foster care because their parents are incarcerated or found "unfit" - that provide a fertile breeding ground for gangs, violence, and ruined lives. The news is not all bad. Sigel ably profiles formerly incarcerated individuals who turn their lives around and then return to their old neighborhoods in an attempt to dissuade younger men from getting caught up in the losing game of guns, crime, and jail. One of these men, Omar Jackson, founded SAVE (Stand Against Violence East Harlem), which counsels youth to de-escalate precarious situations by finding ways to "quash the beef."

Sigel's gift for choosing evocative details immediately captivates readers. One of his fellow jurors "works nights at the Penn Station McDonalds and arrives pasty-faced and sleep-deprived." When they're shown photos of the shooting's aftermath, "it looks as if most of the contents of a can of red paint had spilled onto the cement." He adeptly recounts the events of the murder, making clear the gravity of the crime without resorting to sensationalism. Rather than dissect details from a lofty perch, Sigel shows empathy to everyone and sincerely examines his own privilege. Any reader will relish Sigel's gripping and enlightening work.

Takeaway: True crime buffs and fans of memoirs will be enthralled by Sigel's irresistible mix of clear reporting, empathy, and thoughtful examination of the link between poverty and violence.


Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Managing Generation Z
Robin Page & Kat Clowes
Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
9781610354004, $18.95, PB, 326pp

Synopsis: A new generation is entering the American workforce. It's called Gen Z, the age cohort born after 1996. Having grown up with smartphones, social media, emoji-speak, helicopter parenting, and no expectation of privacy, Gen Z has a unique culture and working style that can be baffling to their Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer managers.

In "Managing Generation Z: How to Recruit, Onboard, Develop, and Retain the Newest Generation in the Workplace", Robin Paggi (a veteran HR manager) and Kat Clowes (an educational consultant who has worked with hundreds of Gen Z'ers), join forces to give employers and managers a practical, easy-to-understand guide to the new generation defining the future of work.

Based on Clowes's in-depth knowledge of Gen Z habits and Paggi's real-world experience of how generational miscommunications can cause expensive personnel problems, "Managing Generation Z" gives managers at all levels a plan for getting quality work from Gen Z employees while avoiding cultural clashes at the office.

Gen Z is highly educated, extraordinarily tech-savvy, eager to meet expectations, and loyal to employers, but many Gen Z workers have never been trained in the basics of professionalism, workplace communication, and the unwritten social rules older generations instinctively expect. "Managing Generation Z" teaches managers how to bridge the communication styles between Gen Z and older colleagues, how to train Gen Z staff to make work objectives clear, and how to evaluate and correct Gen Z employees so they will listen, accept, learn, and improve.

The next best thing to having an expert HR manager at your fingertips, "Managing Generation Z" is essential reading for both front-line supervisors and C-level executives who want to get the most from the newest generation in the workforce.

Critique: Exceptional informative, impressively well written, throughout 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Managing Generation Z: How to Recruit, Onboard, Develop, and Retain the Newest Generation in the Workplace" is a comprehensive course of insightful instruction and essential reading for anyone with a management responsibility for this new and on-coming generation of employees. While highly recommended for corporate, community, college and university library Business & Personnel Management collections and supplemental studies curriculums, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Managing Generation Z: How to Recruit, Onboard, Develop, and Retain the Newest Generation in the Workplace" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Robin Paggi is the Training & Development Specialist at Worklogic HR, a human resources outsourcing company. She is also a certified professional coach and provides individual counseling to supervisors and employees who need to improve their supervisory and communication skills. She has professional certifications in human resources, training, coaching, industrial & organizational psychology, conflict resolution, investigations, emotional intelligence, and administering the Myers-Briggs and DiSC personality assessments.

Editorial Note #2: Kat Clowes is the founder and CEO of March Consulting, a company that helps students with the college application process and planning out their career path. She has a BA in Communications with an emphasis in Television and Film from Santa Clara University, an MBA with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship from Mt. St. Mary's University, and holds a certificate in Educational Consulting from the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Put College to Work: How to Use College to the Fullest to Discover Your Strengths and Find a Job You Love Before You Graduate (Quill Driver Books).

The Scars of Eden
Paul Wallis
O Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
9781789048520, $14.95, PB, 200pp

Synopsis: Do our world mythologies convey our ancestors' ideas about God? Or are they in reality ancestral memories of extra-terrestrial contact? How do ancient stories of contact, adaptation and abduction relate to people's experiences around the world today?

In the pages of "The Scars of Eden: Has humanity confused the idea of God with memories of ET contact?", author Paul Wallis will take his readers around the world to hear first-hand from ancestral voices alongside contemporary experiencers and world-renowned researchers.

Recent revelations from US Navy, the Pentagon, and French Intelligence bring the reader right up to date in examining what has been forgotten and remembered, hidden and disclosed. If world mythologies, including the Bible, have confused the idea of God with ancient ET visitations, what difference does it make? How does it impact society today? And why is this cultural taboo so widespread and, for the author, so personal?

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, original, iconoclastic, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "The Scars of Eden: Has humanity confused the idea of God with memories of ET contact?" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended study and will have a very special appeal for readers with an interest in the subjects of Paleontology and Mythologies in general, and the possibility of Ancient Aliens in particular. While especially recommended for community, college and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Scars of Eden" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Canberra, Australia, Paul Anthony Wallis is a researcher, speaker and author on spirituality and mysticism. He is also a healing practitioner and has worked as a theological educator and as an Archdeacon for the Anglican Church in Australia. Paul researches the world's mythologies for how they speak to our origins as a species and our potential today as human beings.

Sensing Injustice: A Lawyer's Life in the Battle for Change
Michael E. Tigar
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583679210, $89.00, HC, 512pp

Synopsis: By the time he was 26, Michael Tigar was a legend in legal circles well before he would take on some of the highest-profile cases of his generation. In his first US Supreme Court case (at the age of 28) Tigar won a unanimous victory that freed thousands of Vietnam War resisters from prison.

Tigar also led the legal team that secured a judgment against the Pinochet regime for the 1976 murders of Pinochet opponent Orlando Letelier and his colleague Ronni Moffitt in a Washington, DC car bombing. He then worked with the lawyers who prosecuted Pinochet for torture and genocide.

A relentless fighter of injustice (not only as a human rights lawyer, but also as a teacher, scholar, journalist, playwright, and comrade) Tigar has been counsel to Angela Davis, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), the Chicago Eight, and leaders of the Black Panther Party, to name only a few.

Critique: It is past time that Michael Tigar wrote his memoir. "Sensing Injustice: A Lawyer's Life in the Battle for Change" weaves powerful legal analysis and wry observation through the story of a remarkable life. The result is a compelling narrative that blends law, history, and progressive politics. Very highly recommended for community, college and university library Contemporary American Biography collections, and essential reading for lawyers, law students, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in advocating for social, economic and political justice, "Sensing Injustice: A Lawyer's Life in the Battle for Change" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781583679203, $29.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Michael E. Tigar has worked for over fifty years with movements for social change as a human rights lawyer, law professor, and writer. He has taught at law schools in the United States, France, South Africa, and Japan, and is Emeritus Professor at Duke Law School and American University Washington College of Law. He has authored or co-authored fourteen books, three plays, and scores of articles and essays. His book, Law and the Rise of Capitalism, first published by Monthly Review Press, has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Turkish, and Chinese.

Carl Logan

Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf

Color and Line
Carole Mertz
Kelsay Books
9781952326806, $16.00, Paperback, 75 pages

Carole Mertz is a graduate of Oberlin College with a concentration in fine arts. The widely respected Midwestern writer is Book Review Editor at Dreamers Creative Writing, a Member of the Prize Nominations Committee at The Ekphrastic Review, and a reader for Women's National Book Association. Carole judged (in formal verse) the 2020 Poets and Patrons in Illinois International Poetry Contest. Color and Line is a collection of ekphrastic poems inspired by works of art on canvas.

Smallwood: When did you begin writing poetry? Do you write fiction, nonfiction?
Mertz: I began writing fiction and nonfiction 15 years ago when I wrote the first third of a novel about a Vietnam vet. (My main character stays with me and still intrigues me.) I started on poetry about 10 years ago. Writing and reading poetry is my favorite genre, though I regard essay as a more strenuous and more commendable endeavor.

Smallwood: What attracted you to ekphrastic poetry which can be traced back to the days of Homer? Please include a definition and some advice for others wishing to write it:
Mertz: I submitted my first piece to The Ekphrastic Review in the fall of 2018. Drawn to Lorette Luzajic's wonderful site, I soon began responding to her bi-monthly challenges. She offers a given photo of the artwork, and one must respond within two weeks. For me, these challenges became an exciting new opportunity for self-expression. Somehow this approach freed something in my writing style. Poets, young or old, will be rewarded by visiting this inspiring site.

I'm aware of the definition of ekphrasis derived from the Greek as a "writing out" or better, an "out-writing." For me it means interpreting what I see in the visual art or recording my emotional responses. Luzajic invites the writer to study the painting, to free-associate, to research the era or influences of the artist, or simply to have fun interpreting and inscribing what you see. Some poets write in the person of the painter, some address the painter as if living; such a variety of responses come forth. This, too, is stimulating, to see your piece next to the responses of others, to consider forms they chose, whether essay, rhyme, or prose poems, whether shorter or longer descriptions.

If desired, at The Ekphrastic Review one can also submit an artwork of one's choice, accompanied by your ekphrasis. I did this with my writing on "Lapin Agile," an extant cabaret in Montmarte with its interesting history.

Smallwood: Why is ekphrastic writing important to you?

Mertz: I think it strikes a deep chord in me. When I travelled in Europe as a student, I felt my world expanding as I viewed the great artworks we students viewed, visiting museums, cathedrals, galleries, etc. A trip to Italy, at that time, remains a highlight of my life. I can recall the excitement, for example, of discovering a tiny painting by Fra Angelico hung in an alcove in a monastery where we students stayed one night just outside of Siena. These fine arts interests were sparked by my studies, also by the fact that I had three sisters, two of whom were juried artists who inspired me. It's only now, decades later, that I've experienced the joy of valuing their artwork and others' works through written expression.

Reading Barnes's Keeping an Eye Open, Chevalier's Girl with the Pearl Earring, and White's Travels in Vermeer, was also a stimulus.

Smallwood: Besides the cinquain, do you use other formal poetry in the 42 poems composing Color and Line?

Mertz: The collection includes several other forms: a haibun, several haiku, a meta-poem, a hymn, several surreal poems, and one or two rhymed or written in strict meter. In the short poem "Waiting" I decided to use litotes as part of the poetic form.

Smallwood: How do you select writing a poem in prose, formal style, or another?

Mertz: If writing ekphrastic, I try to capture quickly my first impressions. I do very little editing. If I sense rhymes forming, I incorporate them. For better or worse, I value the immediacy of my response. I find if I work too hard trying to make a poem fit a form, I'll lose the poem. I do work a lot, however, with line breaks and how a poem appears on a page, once completed. I love enjambment when I can get it to work effectively. Overall, I'm a "water colorist," not an "oil painter."

Smallwood: Do you have favorite paintings you selected in Color and Line?

Mertz: I like the formality of Sofanisba Anguissola's "The Chess Game." (I'd die for a name like hers!) Who today would play chess dressed in stiff up-to-the-neck brocades, as her 'learned ladies' did? But I love the painting for the way it elevates the mind of females. She painted in a milieu dominated by men. Even with a father who was an artist, she had difficulty establishing support and a following. Yet she persisted and succeeded, for we know her and her works to this day. Many of her self-portraits have also survived the 500 years.

Another painting, Franz Kline's "Vawdavitch," returned me to a segment of my own past. In the 60s a lot of injustices were occurring - from civil rights abuses, to the Vietnam War, "flower children", etc. Remembering the first time I saw a Jackson Pollock up close triggered something that showed me how to relate to Kline in a personal way. His indignation was far different from mine, but his works were created in the era I alluded to.

Pippin's "The Domino Players" of 1943 pleases me for its beautifully balanced blacks, reds, and whites. Though it depicts deep poverty, it presents to me a scene of deep familial harmony; hence its title "As a Father Shows Compassion to His Children."

Smallwood: Why are some poems not single spaced such as, "A Dark and Rainy Night"?

Mertz: I think there was no conscious reason. But the way "Lethe's Slim Threads Caught" is laid out echoed some of the geographic space I envisioned. The layout seemed to enlarge the air, as the persona clutched after the taunting creatures.

Smallwood: The cover by Nancy Boileau is so fitting. Was it especially created for Color and Line?

Mertz: Last July Boileau was in a highly creative phase. She kept sharing photos of works she'd produced. I became interested in them as possible book covers, but I had to call her to see if her "Music of the Spheres II" was done specifically for my book. She said no. But she readily set the piece aside for me.

Smallwood: Are you working on another collection?

Mertz: Nothing in the works, yet. But I'd like it to be a book of essays. I suspect it will be years in the making.

Smallwood: Do you have sites about you to share?

Mertz: Viewers can see my Writer Profile at Poets and Writers
I haven't set aside time for my website which is still in the design stage.

Carol Smallwood

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

U.P. Reader -- Volume #5: Bringing Upper Michigan Literature to the World
Mikel Classen and Deborah K Frontiera
Modern History Press
9781615995714, $17.95 paperback, $28.95 hardcover, 308 pages
B09253976L, $5.95 Kindle

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is also known as Upper Michigan or the UP, with people native to the area known as Yoopers. Hear it? Yooper and UP? Michigan has two peninsulas. The authors of this anthology are from the upper peninsula (don't confuse it with the lower one with the Trolls, that won't do). The area has a rich local culture, rough terrain, and myths. Lake Superior shipwrecks are still being discovered. Historical photos were shared by many of the writers.

Stories, poems, and interviews in this volume revolve around hunting, fishing, mining, boats, long stretches of rural roads, pasties, writing obituaries, long winters are described with humor or sad details. One story says, "mosquitoes back here could flay the flesh and the deer flies circle[d] nearby with fork and knife ready to finish off the scraps."

I read this laughing out loud at parts that caused my husband to ask what was so funny. I had to buy him a book to finish mine in peace.

Writers, listen up! Advice for writing and a story about one author's book currently in production to become a movie are included. People young and old alike who have lived in the U.P. learn how to enter the contests for inclusion in the next anthology.

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Christina Francine's Bookshelf

Always Magnolia
Dianna Dann
Wayward Cat Publishing
9781938999123, $16.99, 331 pages, 2014
B00ND8SZ12, $2.99

"He sits beside her," you said. "She's naked. He's ashamed because he's starring at her - he wants to touch her, feel her skin, put his hands on her breasts and between her legs, but then she turns her head to face him and he sees in her eyes that she is now prey and he is a predator" (313).

A disturbingly dark tale where monsters are real and a young girl named Magnolia desires a man like the one who beats her mother. Alarming. Tangled minds and torture are real.

Dann's novel is a psychologically dark account of a girl named Magnolia. Environment makes a difference for her and the other young people who live in the trailer park. They struggle to climb out of the clutches of poverty and the sin wriggling around them, but treachery seems normal. Magnolia can't stand how her mother continues loving her father. How can she allow him back in the trailer after he beat her time after time to within inches of her life? Always excuses. Her mother forgave him and said it wasn't his fault just as Magnolia forgives Jack, one of the most troubled boys in the park. She rationalizes his beating others in their group, refuses to acknowledge his behavior of wrapping duct-tape around one of the girl's mouths, tying her hands, cutting off her clothes, and dragging her next to barking dogs as alarming. He'd told the girl, "No one can hear you screaming." Magnolia believed she could love Jack into changing. Even when she hears her sister tell her mother, "[Y]ou've been telling her since she was born - that love is punishment. It's torture. By God, Ruby, are you going to tell her it's murder?" (245), her vision is clouded.

A haunting story that will make you study your neighbors more closely. A tragic reality you'll not want to witness, but you can't help but turn the page. Dann grips readers with surprising twists until the very end.

Christina Francine, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

How to Betray Your Country
James Wolff
Bitter Lemon Press
9781913394516, $15.95, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: Disgraced British spy August Drummond is on his way to Istanbul when he sees a passenger throw away directions to a cemetery just moments before being arrested. August can't resist the temptation to go in his place. But when he comes face to face with a terrifying figure from Islamic State, he realizes he's about to confront the greatest challenge of his career!

Critique: A masterfully composed political/espionage/terrorism thriller of a read, "How to Betray Your Country" by James Wolff is an inherently riveting read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Betray Your Country" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Last Thing to Burn
Will Dean
Emily Bester Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781982156466, $27.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: On an isolated farm in the United Kingdom, a woman is trapped by the monster who kidnapped her seven years ago. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to protect her child no matter the cost, and starts to meticulously plan her escape. But when another woman is brought into the fold on the farm, her plans go awry. Can she save herself, her child, and this innocent woman at the same time? Or is she doomed to spend the remainder of her life captive on this farm?

Critique: An inherently riveting psychological thriller of a read from cover to cover, "The Last Thing to Burn" is a breathtaking, compulsive page turner of a thriller. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense/Thriller collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Last Thing to Burn" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797121451, $34.99, CD).

Linda L. Richards
Oceanview Publishing
1620 Main Street, Suite 11, Sarasota, FL 34236
9781608094202, $26.95, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: What would it take for you to kill someone for money? And if you did, who (or what) would you have become? In Linda Richard's new novel, "Endings", these are the questions one woman faces when she loses everyone she loves and everything she has. When the opportunity arrives to reinvent herself as a killer for hire, she takes it. She's good at it -- and if she doesn't do it, someone else will.

Then everything changes when she learns about a serial killer so horrible she vows to find him and kill him until, overcome by self-doubt, she seeks redemption rather than vengeance.

Critique: A skillfully written and carefully crafted novel showcasing serial killer psychology that which makes for an inherently absorbing read from cover to cover, "Endings" is the kind of fully engaging thriller that makes for memorable movies and will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated suspense/thriller fans that "Endings" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Clint Travis

Elan Kluger's Bookshelf

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
Maryanne Wolf
9780062388780, $17.99

Nicholas Carr warned us in The Shallows about the damage done to your brains by the internet. Maryanne Wolf, a scientist who studies what goes on when we read, found that after spending ten years writing a book about what goes on when we read, the process had fundamentally changed with the internet age. In her series of "letters", she agrees with Carr's assessment. As a scientist, she goes beyond Carr. She helps us understand how we move past this great issue.

For Wolf, reading is a magical process. Man was not made to read. It is a skill that needed to be learned, just like any other. Wolf then makes a distinction between superficial internet reading, which involves scanning pages, looking for anything to gather, and deep reading. Deep reading has many elements, for example, there is imagery, the capacity to form images while we read. Another aspect of deep reading is the capacity to empathize with what one reads, the very act of reading allows one to simulate another's life. Deep reading also involves background knowledge, bringing to bear everything one has read, and then adding this next book to the mental collection. Finally, especially for reading difficult books, deep reading involves the use of the brain in many capacities.

Wolf then spends a few pages lamenting what we have lost. This description of deep reading has been missing for the past hundreds of years that we have been able to read, likely as a fish in water, one does not realize what is around. The power of deep reading only becomes apparent after it is gone.

Wolf is most worried about the children, who grow up with Ipads and smartphones, who instead of losing the ability to deep read, never gained it in the first place. A quarter of the book is devoted to how to teach them, which is mainly to segment their lives and untie the distinction between internet reading and the much more important deep reading.

For those who have lost the deep reading ability, Wolf tells the story of her inability to read a Herman Hesse novel that she had loved while in college. Eventually, though, she does regain that ability by having concentrated blocks, focused on reading more slowly.

Reader Come Home is not for everyone. There are many who view the advent of the internet with glee, allowing them to absorb the information they need, much faster than anything else. This book is exactly the opposite. The rise of digital technology to Wolf is damaging one of the crucial aspects of modern man: deep reading. For those who worry about that, this book is for you.

Elan Kluger, Reviewer

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Moral issues raised by Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure"

There are Shakespearian scholars who feel that "Measure for Measure" is Shakespeare's greatest play. This is very possible. It certainly is one of his best. It is very thoughtful. It addresses ancient unresolved problems of human nature that still exist today, and it prompts us to think: the good verses the evil inclination, male dominance over females and the frequent male harassments, the power of the sex drive over the intellect, morality and the inability to control it, hypocrisy, irony, religion, and other human conflicts that invade all humans at times and are often unresolvable. The title is based on the Hebrew Bible's "an eye for an eye" and for its wording of "measure for measure" on Matthew 7:1 and 2, in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

In the play, the Duke of Vienna, the country's ruler, negligently allowed Christian standards of morality to laps. He decides to change his country and make its citizens moral. Realizing that he does not know how to do it, he selects an honest and pious man, Angelo, to lead the country while he takes leave of it for a short time and roams the country as a friar. (Ironically, by acting as a friar and hearing confessions and absolving people of their sins, the Duke who wants his people to be moral is acting immorally.)

The Duke's replacement Angelo announces a new law. Men who make a woman to whom he is not married pregnant will be killed. Isabella who is a very righteous nun, goes to Angelo to beseech him not to execute her brother Claudio who made a woman pregnant outside of marriage. Angelo is attracted to Isabella and proposes that if she has sex with him, he will pardon Claudio. She refuses. She prefers to remain a virgin even if this results in her brother's death. (Is this sensible? Isn't life more important than being a virgin?)

The Duke appears in his disguise as a friar and suggests that she accept Angelo's proposal, but at the last moment have Mariana enter the bed with Angelo. (Similar to what Laban did to the patriarch Jacob in the Torah. We should note that the Duke who is interested in having his citizens be moral is making an immoral suggestion and is telling Isabella take part in an immoral and, under the new law, an illegal act.)

The play is called a comedy. Shakespeare's comedies are those plays where no one dies and people get married at the end. There are scenes in the play that are funny, but most of the play is quite serious as can be seen in the list in my introductory paragraph. Additionally, the Duke in the play while addressing the issue of male dominance over females, such as Angelo's proposal that Isabella have sex with him, ironically exerts his regal power and twice tells Isabella that she should marry him. She does not respond either time, and we recall that she even preferred her brother to die than give up her virginity, leaving us in doubt whether she would agree. So, despite no one being killed and others getting married and making the play a comedy (Angelo is forced to marry Mariana, the woman who replaced Isabella), her failure to respond and the Dukes exerting his authority cast doubt on whether this is indeed a comedy. But what is certain is that the play prompts us the think. Can people be taught or forced to be moral?

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Missions Impossible
John Waterbury
American University in Cairo Press
200 Park Avenue, Suite 1700, New York, NY 10166
9789774169632, $70.00, HC, 344pp

Synopsis: None of the momentous challenges Arab universities face is unique either in kind or degree. Other societies exhibit some of the same pathologies including insufficient resources, high drop-out rates, feeble contributions to research and development, inappropriate skill formation for existing job markets, weak research incentive structures, weak institutional autonomy, and co-optation into the political order. But, it may be that the concentration of these pathologies and their depth is what sets the Arab world apart.

"Missions Impossible: Higher Education and Policymaking in the Arab World " by John Waterbury seeks to explain the process of policymaking in higher education in the Arab world, a process that is shaped by the region's politics of autocratic rule. Higher education in the Arab world is directly linked to crises in economic growth, social inequality and, as a result, regime survival. If unsuccessful, higher education could be the catalyst to regime collapse. If successful, it could be the catalyst to sustained growth and innovation -- but that, too, could unleash forces that the region's autocrats are unable to control. Leaders are risk-averse and therefore implement policies that tame the universities politically but in the process sap their capabilities for innovation and knowledge creation. The result is sub-optimal and, argues John Waterbury in this thought-provoking study, unsustainable.

Skillfully integrating international debates on higher education with rich and empirically informed analysis of the governance and finance of higher education in the Arab world today, "Missions Impossible" explores and dissects the manifold dilemmas that lie at the heart of educational reform and examines possible paths forward.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of figures, tables, and Appendix to Chapter 1, a four page listing of Interviews, twenty-two pages of Notes, a forty-six page listing of References, and a sixteen page Index, "Missions Impossible: Higher Education and Policymaking in the Arab World " is an impressive and meticulously detailed work of outstanding scholarship that will prove to be a particularly welcome addition to college and university library Middle Eastern Policy, Middle Eastern Political Economy, and Middle Eastern Higher Education collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Missions Impossible: Higher Education and Policymaking in the Arab World" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $50.96).

Editorial Note: John Waterbury is former president of the American University of Beirut (1998 - 2008). Before that he was a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, a faculty associate of the American Universities Field Staff in Cairo (1971-77), visiting professor at the Universite Aix-Marseille III in France, and for twenty years a professor of public policy and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. In 2011 he was senior advisor on higher education to Abu Dhabi's Executive Authority and from 2012 to 2015 visiting professor at NYU Abu Dhabi. He has published widely on the political economy of the Middle East as well as on the politics of transboundary resources.

Albion's Secret History
Guy Mankowski
Zero Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
9781789040289, $16.95, PB, 152pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Albion's Secret History", author Guy Mankowski has compiled snapshots of English pop culture's rebels and outsiders ranging from Evelyn Waugh, to PJ Harvey via The Long Blondes and The Libertines. By focusing on cultural figures who served to define England, Guy Mankowski looks at those who have really shaped Albion's secret history, not just its oft-quoted official cultural history.

He departs from the narrative that dutifully follows the Beatles, The Sex Pistols and Oasis, and, by instead penetrating the surface of England's pop history (including the venues it was shaped in), throws new light on ideas of Englishness. As well as music, Mankowski draws from art, film, architecture and politics, showing the moments at which artists like Tricky and Goldfrapp altered our sense of a sometimes green but sometimes unpleasant land.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, iconoclastic, and informative read from cover to cover, "Albion's Secret History: Snapshots of England's Pop Rebels and Outsiders" is an original work of impressive research and highly recommended for community, college and university library 20th Century English Cultural History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Albion's Secret History" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).

Editorial Note: Guy Mankowski was singer in the signed band Alba Nova, and went on to play guitar in bands like The Beautiful Machine. His novels include 'The Intimates' (a 2011 Read Regional Title), 'Letters from Yelena' (winner of an Arts Council Literature award & featured in GCSE training by Osiris Educational), 'How I Left The National Grid' (written as part of a PhD in Creative Writing) and 'An Honest Deceit' (winner of an Arts Council Literature Award and a New Writing North Read Regional Award). He is also full-time lecturer at The University of Lincoln (a public research university in Lincoln, England).

President John F. Kennedy & Marilyn Monroe's Son, in his own words
John F. Kennedy
Kilonova Press
9781642375206, $33.95, HC, 500pp

Synopsis: President John F. Kennedy had a son with Marilyn Monroe before he was forced to marry Jacqueline Bouvier in order to win the presidency. The boy was pushed to keep his identity a secret as an adolescent,

Their son, Jack, sought to learn as much as he can from his father without letting on who his parents are to the public. After two tragic deaths, Jack must switch gears from being safe, learning politics, and meeting celebrities, to simple survival in a world that does not know he exists -- and some of the few who do, do not want to see him thrive.

"President John F. Kennedy & Marilyn Monroe's Son, in his own words" is a revelatory and groundbreaking autobiography that follows the life of Jack Kennedy, Jr., a child endowed with his father's intelligence and his mother's charm. Uncovering what life was like in the 1950s and '60s.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and exceptionally well written memoir, "President John F. Kennedy & Marilyn Monroe's Son, in his own words" will significantly alter our understanding of these two famous American Icons. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "President John F. Kennedy & Marilyn Monroe's Son, in his own words" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781642375213, $23.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Off: The Day the Internet Died
Chris Colin, author
Rinee Shah, illustrator
Prestel Publishing
9783791386874, $14.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: We all dream about it: a life free of scrolling, tweeting, liking, faving, streaming, replying, apologizing for not replying, and other assaults on our poor, saturated brains. But what would an analog world actually look like?

In the pages of "Off: The Day the Internet Died: A Bedtime Fantasy", author and storyteller Chris Colin paints a picture that's a little Edenic and a little demented. Un-barraged by celeb gossip and political news, we begin to notice nature again. We take walks, stare at the clouds, and listen to podcasts consisting of our own thoughts. Snapchatting gives way to endless rounds of Go Fish. Minecraft is a game involving sticks and leaves. We talk to our neighbors (and not about the TV shows we're streaming!) and occasionally we fall in love.

Artist Rinee Shah's playful illustrations perfectly capture the absurdity of life reflected in our screens. Delivered in a pitch-perfect, tongue-in-cheek biblical style, "Off: The Day the Internet Died: A Bedtime Fantasy" imagines an alternate reality that will hit home in our tech-addled worlds.

Critique: Original, iconoclastic, witty, thought-provoking, whether you're addicted to tech or not, you'll see something of yourself when you put down your phone and pick up a copy of "Off: The Day the Internet Died: A Bedtime Fantasy". This smart, funny, entertaining little volume is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community, college and university library Internet/Social Media/Humor collections.

Circumcision Scar
Jay J. Jackson
Hookona Books
9781734555806, $35.00, HC, 388pp

Synopsis: Did you know amputated foreskins are sold to cosmetic companies for $100,000, or that circumcision was alleged to cure brain tumors? It also has a history of megalomania - doctors believed it would cure black men of their predisposition to be rapists, and the more children they circumcised, the higher they'd ascend to god.

Most parents circumcise their sons without giving it a second thought. They have no clue what the risks are because doctors never offer "informed consent", that is, the legal obligation to educate patients on the risks and alleged benefits of any procedure so they understand what's being asked of them.

"Circumcision Scar: My Foreskin Restoration, Neonatal Circumcision Memories, and How Christian Doctors Duped a Nation" by Jay Jackson reveals circumcision facts doctors never tell parents: Circumcision can permanently change your son's temperament; Circumcision reduces penis sensitivity and causes erectile dysfunction; Circumcision can result in amputation, disfigurement, or death; Your newborn son will be given an erection to facilitate the procedure; Circumcision has no genuine health benefits; America has one of the highest HIV rates in the world despite circumcision.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Circumcision Scar: My Foreskin Restoration, Neonatal Circumcision Memories, and How Christian Doctors Duped a Nation" is an iconoclastic reveal on one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented, yet religiously sanctioned medical procedures practices in this modern era. While highly recommended, especially for community, college and university library Health/Medicine collections, it should be noted for medical students, practicing physicians, parents, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Circumcision Scar: My Foreskin Restoration, Neonatal Circumcision Memories, and How Christian Doctors Duped a Nation" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.29).

Editorial Note: Jay J. Jackson is a freelance writer in Los Angeles and a member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Jay is the caregiver for his husband of 30 years and hopes his story will inspire parents to prioritize protecting children over protecting religion.

Raging Waters in the South China Sea
Rachel A. Winston & Ishika Sachdeva
Lizard Publishing
9781946432049, $78.95, HC, 380pp

Synopsis: The world's wait and watch strategy has ended. As China increasingly militarizes islands that the U.N.'s international court ruled did not belong to them, a patient effort of diplomacy has been met by China's brash incursions, provocations, and illegal activity to the astonishment of countries who have watched land, sea, and air rights be threatened. China's "Might Makes Right" policies and naval build-up is alarming as they use high-pressure tactics, promissory loans, and insist that they are the rightful "Middle Kingdom" with historic rights to the region.

However, in 2016, the court ruled against China, saying that its "historic right" to the South China Sea is invalid and the littoral states have sovereignty over their land as well as the islands and natural resources in the surrounding seas. China ignored this ruling and, especially while states were grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, China has taken extensive measures to ensure other states' oil was not drilled and fishermen could not catch fish. All the while, the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), paramilitary, and fishing militia prevents claimant states from developing the islands in their UNCLOS-defined Exclusive Economic Zone domain.

Beijing's determination to exert control has been unprecedented. The seven military bases China has constructed in the South China Sea now serve as launching pads to threaten every country in the region, including their access to trillions of dollars in trade, billions barrels of oil, and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.

Critique: The collaborative project of authors Rachel A. Winston and Ishika Sachdeva, "Raging Waters in the South China Sea" is a contemporary study that is packed with more than a hundred color illustrations, maps, and timelines. This enlightening and provocative history of the South China Sea conflict is an impressive compendium of information expertly organized and presented. While there are hundreds of footnotes to lead interested readers to further investigate topics, this is not meant to be restricted to the academic community as much as it is written to inform the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library International Diplomacy and Southeast Asia History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Raging Waters in the South China Sea" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781946432056, $48.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life
Sophia A. Nelson
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757323980, $16.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Every woman lives by a code, whether she realizes it or not. It informs how she treats others and herself, how much she expects of herself, and how far she is willing to go in order to find success. But is the code we're living by truly helping us create the lives of purpose and fulfillment we desire? Or are we sacrificing the deeper things for mere achievement?

An inspiring book by Sophia A. Nelson, this new edition of "The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life" is fully updated with new insights from the profound economic and societal shifts that have changed our world with the advent of the global pandemic. "The Woman Code" calls women to live out a powerful life code that will lead them to purposeful and successful lives.

With the wisdom that comes from experience, "The Woman Code" reveals to women: The true meaning of "having it all"; How to take better care of their minds, bodies, and souls; How to discover new reserves of strength; The importance of having courageous conversations to build relationships; How to achieve professional excellence without compromising their values; How to find lasting love and purpose in life beyond their accomplishments; How to navigate the sisterhood of women, to build collaboration rather than competition; How to heal from past hurts, rejection, and life's inevitable storms.

"The Woman Code" is a way of living, of navigating life's challenges, and of interacting positively with other women. It's a way of pursuing our dreams and our deepest desires. It reveals a universal and timeless set of principles of the mind, body, and spirit that help women balance the demands of work, home, family, and friendship. "The Woman Code" not only calls on women to practice purpose in their lives, it shows them how to do it with grace.

Critique: Exceptionally 'reader friendly' in commentary style, organization and presentation, "The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life" is a life-enhancing, life-changing, life-celebrating read and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections for women. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Author and journalist Sophia A. Nelson can be regularly seen on CNN's Inside Politics and Newsroom as a legal and political analyst. Nelson is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. She is a former investigative counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, and senior counsel with the international law firm of Holland & Knight, LLP. She had the privilege of covering former First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House from 2010-2012. She is also the author of "Black Woman Redefined", and "E Pluribus ONE".

The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here
Susanne Paola Antonetta
Mad Creek Books
c/o Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814257807, $22.95, PB, 260pp

Synopsis: At their family's New Jersey seaside cottages, Susanne Paola Antonetta's grandmother led seances, swam nude, and imaginatively created a spiritualist paradise on earth. "In the pages of "The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here", Antonetta chronicles how in that unique but tightly controlled space, she began to explore the questions posed by her family's Christian Science beliefs, turning those questions secular: What is consciousness? Does time exist? And does the world we see reflect reality? A compendium of essays, In "The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here" presents scientific research, family story, and memoir that all intertwine to mimic the indefinable movements of quantum particles.

Antonetta reflects on a life spent wrestling with bipolar disorder, drug dependency, and the trauma of electroshock treatment -- exploring these experiences alongside conversations with some of the world's leading neuroscientists and physicists, and with psychics. The result is a meditation on the legacy of family, on thought and being, and what we humans can actually ever really know about our world.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively insightful, exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.49).

Editorial Note: Susanne Paola Antonetta is also the author of "Make Me a Mother", "Curious Atoms: A History with Physics", "Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir", "A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World", a novella, and four books of poetry. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Orion, the New Republic, and elsewhere.

Why Are There Monkeys?
Brooke Jones
Luminare Press
9781643885216, $24.95, HC, 136pp

Synopsis: When breast cancer warrior, political satirist, and former San Francisco and Los Angeles radio personality Brooke Jones died -- her death was short-lived. Eight minutes passed here on Earth while she was busy being dead, but she wasn't on Earth, she was at Heaven's Front Door, having a Question and Answer Session with God!

"What is the meaning of life?" "What religion is God?" "Is God male or female?" Brooke asked every question she could think of, and God provided the answers, and the first thing she learned was that God has a sense of humor! (Well of course God has a sense of humor -- have you ever seen a Platypus?)

Was she returned to The Land Of The Living because of the startling final question she asked? Did all that she experienced really happen, or was it just the hallucination of her dying brain? She didn't know, until she was given absolute proof that she could not possibly deny.

"Why Are There Monkeys? (and other questions for God)" is the absolutely true, inspirational, laugh-out-loud funny story of one woman's 'Near Death Question and Answer Session with God'.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, humor laden, insightfully entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover. Simply stated, "Why Are There Monkeys? (and other questions for God)" by Brooke Jones is one of those books that will linger in the mind and memory long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Why Are There Monkeys? (and other questions for God)" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781643884646, $9.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

With Liberty and Justice for Some
Susan K. Williams Smith
Judson Press
PO Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851
9780817018139, $23.99, PB, 248pp

Synopsis: "With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America" is timely new book from Susan Williams Smith (prophetic preacher, pastor, and founder of Crazy Faith Ministries) who tackles the truths that the church in the United States has long held to be self-evident -- that ours is one nation under God, that our U.S. Constitution is (almost) as infallible as the Holy Bible, and that democracy and its principles of justice for all are sacrosanct and protected by both God and government.

Yet, history and headlines alike expose the fallacy of those assumptions, particularly when viewed in the light of a national culture of white supremacy and systemic racial injustice which intensified during the four years of the Donald Trump administration. In fact, Smith argues, the two texts we count as sacred have not been merely impotent in eliminating racism; they have been used to support and sustain white supremacy.

"With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America" is important study that examines how our foundational documents have failed people of color and asks the questions: Can those whom a nation has considered "we the problem" ever become "we the people" who are celebrated in the Preamble to the Constitution? What will it take to reclaim the transforming and affirming power of God and government to secure liberty and justice for all?

Critique: Erudite, revelatory, compelling, informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America" has a detailed and documented message from a Christian perspective that is both timely and timeless. While highly recommended for community, college and university library Contemporary Social Issues collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Birth of a Unicorn: Six Basic Steps to Success
Heather Wilde
Sunbury Press
PO Box 548 Boiling Springs, PA 17007
9781620063347, $29.95, HC, 158pp

Synopsis: Have you ever dreamed about creating your own company? Have you wondered what it takes to make it to that elite, inner circle of the "Unicorn Club"? In the pages of "Birth of a Unicorn: Six Basic Steps to Success" by Heather Wilde, you will find the true story behind one of Silicon Valley's famous companies on its rise to the top. Peek behind the curtain as you see the highs and lows from an insider perspective, on the roller coaster that is the startup life. What emerges is a lasting friendship, a billion-dollar company, and an understandable framework of success for you to replicate.

"Birth of a Unicorn: Six Basic Steps to Success" shows: How to find the balance between your career and personal life; Why emotional awareness and critical thinking are as important as specialized knowledge; How to identify the real skills you need to build a "Unicorn" team.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Birth of a Unicorn: Six Basic Steps to Success" is an extraordinary and motivationally inspiring read throughout. Especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Business/Entrepreneurship collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of MBA students, academia, aspiring entrepreneurs, business managers, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Birth of a Unicorn: Six Basic Steps to Success" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Heather Wilde is an award-winning CTO, Coach, Author, and Speaker. She was an early employee of both Spirit Airlines and Evernote. She writes for Forbes, and Inc Magazine. Currently the CTO of ROCeteer, she oversees the development of software platforms in the US, Asia and the Middle East.

Don't Lose Your Head
Harriet Marsden
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley CA 94703-3440
9781646041299, $16.95, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Don't Lose Your Head: Life Lessons from the Six Ex-Wives of Henry VIII" by Harriet Marsden, readers will enjoy getting the inside scoop from some of the toughest women in English history, as ex-wives, mothers, and daughters of King Henry VIII dish out all their survival secrets in this humorous guide to life. With a bit of sarcasm and friendly charm, each of these legendary ladies explains how their 16th-century hard-earned lessons (from living with unstable men to stifling Tudor traditions) apply to 21st-century dating, marriage, and feminism.

Written from the perspectives of each of the different women around Henry VIII, readers will get the facts from the Queen Mother and the less-remembered but no less important Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and more.

With must-know historical trivia alongside wise life advice, "Don't Lose Your Head" is the perfect survival guide for fans obsessed with Broadway's latest historical pop musical Six, as well as anyone fascinated by British royalty and culture.

Critique: Replete with wit, wisdom, and insider information, "Don't Lose Your Head: Life Lessons from the Six Ex-Wives of Henry VIII" is an extraordinary compendium that will have special appeal to non-specialist general readers with an interest in British History and Broadway Musicals. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Don't Lose Your Head: Life Lessons from the Six Ex-Wives of Henry VIII" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Don't Lose Your Head: Life Lessons from the Six Ex-Wives of Henry VIII" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Harriet Marsden is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously a sub-editor at The Times, she now works for a variety of publications, including The Independent, HuffPost, the Guardian, and Foreign Policy. She is also a feminist commentator and contributing author to DK's The Feminism Book.

Julie Summers

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

From Farms to Incubators
Amy Wu
Craven Street Books
c/o Linden Publishing
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721-9875
9781610355759, $24.95, PB, 230pp

Synopsis: We cannot afford to take the food we eat for granted. Farmers today face huge challenges in keeping our food supply secure when considering climate change, precarious water and soil supplies, and a growing global population projected to reach 10 billion people in 2050.

Women innovators are tackling these problems to create a secure and sustainable food supply for the future. Using drones, artificial intelligence, sophisticated soil sensors, data analytics, blockchain, and robotics, these women are transforming agriculture into the growing field of agtech, the integration of agriculture and technology.

"From Farms to Incubators: Women Innovators Revolutionizing How Our Food Is Grown" by Amy Wu presents inspiring stories and practical case studies of how women entrepreneurs from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds are leading the agtech revolution. Each agribusiness leader profiled in "From Farms to Incubators" tells her own story of how she used agtech innovation to solve specific business problems and succeed.

The women profiled speak frankly on the advantages and drawbacks of technological solutions to agriculture and offer lessons in making technology productive in real work. These business cases demonstrate the influence of female innovation, the new technologies applied to agribusiness problems, and the career opportunities young women can find in agribusiness.

Essential reading for everyone interested in tech innovation and food security, "From Farms to Incubators" offers exhilarating role models for young women, a thought-provoking glimpse into the future of food production, and a fascinating investigation of how women leaders are profitably disrupting the world's oldest industry.

Critique: Nicely illustrated and informative throughout, "From Farms to Incubators: Women Innovators Revolutionizing How Our Food Is Grown" is exceptionally well organized, unique, and presented study, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Agricultural, Horticultural, Entrepreneurship, and Contemporary Women's Studies collections and supplemental studies curriculum lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "From Farms to Incubators: Women Innovators Revolutionizing How Our Food Is Grown" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Amy Wu is an award-winning writer for the women's ag and agtech movement. She is the producer and director of the documentary film From Farms to Incubators, which has been presented at South by Southwest and Techonomy. Wu has spent over two decades as an investigative reporter at media outfits including the USA Today Network and Time magazine, and she has contributed to The New York Times, HuffPost and The Wall Street Journal. She has reported on agriculture and agtech for The Salinas Californian in Salinas, California. Worth magazine listed Wu on their "Groundbreakers 2020 list of 50 Women Changing the World." In 2020 Wu received the Women in Agribusiness Demeter Award of Excellence.

I Love You My Dear
Chaya Baron, author
Nancy, Munger, illustrator
Hachai Publishing
527 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY 11225
9781945560385, $10.95, HC, 20pp

How do we build healthy self-esteem in our children? How do we let them know that they are a treasured part of our family -- an indispensable part of Hashem's world? We can start with words!

The beautiful text in "I Love You, My Dear" expresses the deepest connection between parent and child. Our family's been chosen to cherish and love Your precious neshama'le sent from above. And we can use pictures -- soft, sweet depictions of a family showing how blessed and happy they are with the children in their lives.

Together, the words and pictures in this sensitive book combine to create a bonding experience for parents and children to share. Perfect for a new baby gift, "I Love You, My Dear" is just right for reading to newborns on up. Children will never tire of hearing words of appreciation and closeness -- I kiss you and hug you and hold you so near, I'll love you forever and ever, my dear.

Especially and unreservedly recommended, "I Love You, My Dear" is a timeless, entertaining, and unreservedly recommended addition to family and community library parenting picture book collections.

Reading Ruth
Leon Kass & Hannah Mandelbaum
Paul Dry Books
1700 Sansom Street, Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5214
9781589881587, $16.95, PB, 125pp

Synopsis: Through close reading and responsive commentary, "Reading Ruth: Birth, Redemption, and the Way of Israel" by the team of Leon Kass and Hannah Mandelbaum vivifies this much-loved biblical text, enabling readers to imagine how a widowed woman from an alien nation becomes the ancestress of the greatest Israelite king.

As the authors (granddaughter and grandfather) also show, the Book of Ruth is about much more than the Cinderella-like rise of a woman from misery to glory. Ruth's story sheds light on certain enduring questions of human life, and on the Hebrew Bible's answers to those questions: the meaning of national membership and identity; the nature and limits of female friendship, marital love, and familial obligations; the importance of attachment to the land; and, especially, the redemptive powers for human life of childbirth, loving-kindness, and loyal devotion.

Critique: An impressively informative and deftly written study, "Reading Ruth: Birth, Redemption, and the Way of Israel" is an especially 'reader friendly' and insightful approach to one of the most beloved books comprising the Old Testament. Engaging, enlightening, thought-provoking, "Reading Ruth: Birth, Redemption, and the Way of Israel" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, clergy, seminary, synagogue, community, college and university library Biblical Studies collections in general, and Book of Ruth supplemental studies curriculum reading lists.

Editorial Note #1: Leon Kass is the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought at the College at the University of Chicago and Scholar Emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute.

Editorial Note #2: Hannah Mandelbaum has lived in Jerusalem since the age of seven and has long been an avid student of the Hebrew Bible. Having recently completed her army service in the Education Division of the Israeli Air Force, Hannah is preparing to enter university to major in Jewish Studies and Education.

Stop Fixing Yourself: Wake Up, All Is Well
Anthony De Mello
Beyond Words Publishing
9781582708362, $19.99, HC, 216pp

Synopsis: Antthony De Mello's central message in "Stop Fixing Yourself: Wake Up, All Is Well" is to stop trying to fix yourself. That you are fine just as you are. Don't interfere. Don't fix anything. It's enough to simply watch. Observe. These things in you that you struggle to fix just need to be understood. If you understood them, they would drop. Then you would discover the one thing all the saints and mystics are unanimous about, that all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. You are already happy and at peace right now, but don't understand it. You are already free, but don't know it. You are surrounded by a reality of joy that is within your grasp, that would make your life meaningful and beautiful and rich, but you don't see it.

Life is a banquet, de Mello states, and the tragedy is that most people are starving to death. He likens it to the news story of people adrift on a raft off the coast of Brazil, perishing from thirst, but who had no idea that the water they were floating on was fresh water. The river was emptying into the ocean with such force that it extended out to sea a couple of miles. In truth, they had freshwater right where they were -- but had no idea.

In the same way, we're surrounded with joy, happiness, and love, but most people have no idea about it whatsoever. They have been hypnotized, like a stage magician who hypnotizes someone so that the person sees what is not there and does not see what is there.

Critique: Deftly written from a Christian perspective, "Stop Fixing Yourself: Wake Up, All Is Well" is an extraordinary, life affirming, life enhancing, life appreciating read and especially recommended reading for anyone having 'self-help' fatigue from the seemingly endless onslaught of self-help books. While highly recommended, especially for community, college and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Stop Fixing Yourself: Wake Up, All Is Well" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Anthony De Mello was a Jesuit priest born in Bombay, India, in 1931. He is regarded as one of the foremost spiritual teachers of the twentieth century, respected widely for his groundbreaking and enduring work that integrates Western and Eastern spirituality. De Mello founded the Sadhana Institute in India and is the author of the bestselling masterpieces Awareness and The Way to Love, along with eleven other books that have been translated into twenty-one languages and have sold more than two million copies worldwide. His large body of work continues to have impact beyond his untimely death in 1987. Of special note is the De Mello Spirituality Center website at

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

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

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

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

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Journey Together: Turn Your Marriage into the Adventure of a Lifetime" is an especially inspired and motivating DIY (with the Lord's help) guide to a successful marriage from a Christian perspective, and is an especially recommended addition to personal and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Journey Together" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.72) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Christianaudio, 9798200527168, $19.99, CD).

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

Take Back What the Devil Stole
Onaje X. O. Woodbine
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231197168, $30.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Donna Haskins is an African American woman who wrestles with structural inequity in the streets of Boston by inhabiting an alternate dimension she refers to as the "spirit realm". In this other place, she is prepared by the Holy Spirit to challenge the restrictions placed upon Black female bodies in the United States. Growing into her spiritual gifts of astral flight and time travel, Donna meets the spirits of enslaved Africans, conducts spiritual warfare against sexual predators, and tends to the souls of murdered Black children whose ghosts haunt the inner city.

"Take Back What the Devil Stole: An African American Prophet's Encounters in the Spirit World" by Onaje X. O. Woodbine focuses on Donna's encounters with the supernatural to offer a powerful narrative of how one woman seeks to reclaim her power from a lifetime of social violence.

Both ethnographic and personal, Woodbine's portrait of her spiritual life sheds new light on the complexities of Black women's religious participation and the lived religion of the dispossessed. Woodbine explores Donna's religious creativity and her sense of multi-religious belonging as she blends together Catholic, Afro-Caribbean, and Black Baptist traditions. Through the gripping story of one local prophet, "Take Back What the Devil Stole" offers a deeply original account of the religious experiences of Black women in contemporary America: their bodies, their haunted landscapes, and their spiritual worlds.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, exceptionally well written, thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout, "Take Back What the Devil Stole: An African American Prophet's Encounters in the Spirit World" is a seminal and unique study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library collections. Of special interest to students of Gender & Sexuality in Religious Studies, as well as Tribal & Ethnic Religious Practices, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Take Back What The Devil Stole" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.44).

Editorial note: Onaje X. O. Woodbine is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at American University. He is also the author of :Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball" (Columbia, 2016) and co-producer of a forthcoming documentary film on sacred space in New York City playground basketball, "Hallowed Ground & Cracked Concrete".

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

At The End of the Matinee
Keiichiro Hirano
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
Amazon Crossing
9781542005180, $24.95, 333 pp.

In this probing love story, together, a musician and a journalist navigate personal and international traumas in the first years of the 21st century.

Yoko meets Makino at one of his classical guitar concerts. Makino is immediately smitten with Yoko's articulateness, grace and beauty. She admires his music and his easy-going charm. They begin a 3 years long conversation over Skype, e-mail and a few in-person encounters. Although they talk about most everything, they withhold their struggles: Yoko experiences PTSD after her near escape from a 2003 hotel bombing in Baghdad, where she worked as a reporter. Makino goes through an unprecedented and mysterious lapse in his playing. Despite these gaps in their knowledge of one another, the two declare their love and make plans to continue as a committed couple, until a miscommunication ends their contact - forever?

Conversations form the backbone of this novel. The seminal dialogues between Yoko and Makino, an equitable back-and-forth, are fed by internal conversations they have with themselves. They think separately and together about how past, present and future relate. Traveling to destinations around the globe, they muse about diplomacy and social responsibility. Yoko unpacks her estrangement from her father and attraction to war-ravaged places. Makino thinks about his relationship to silence as a musician. He often fills uncomfortable social silences with funny anecdotes.

One provides a metaphor for the novel's conceit. Makino tells of following the alluring scent of perfume, hoping to meet the woman wearing it, only to discover the person is a man and the perfume is cologne! Like his disappointing discovery, the side conversations, philosophical discussions, and Yoko and Makino's other relationships, can seem like disappointing diversions from the love story. But, like the cologne leads Makino to recalibrate his biases, Yoko and Makino's private affairs profoundly affect their unexpected and enduring connection. This contemporary story provides hope that love and individuality can exist hand-in-hand.

Sacha Naspini
Europa Editions
9781609456665, $16.00, 144 pp.

From a screen writer and art director comes a performative piece of short literature starring a recent widow, Nives.

Nives doesn't cry after her longtime husband dies suddenly. Struck by loneliness, she invites a lame hen from her farm's chicken coop to keep her company inside. When this hen goes numb watching a Tide commercial, Nives reaches out to the vet. The two reminisce in the middle of the night. During the course of their confessional conversation, the hen revives, and so does Nives.

A whole history unveils, packed in one dialogue. Entangled relationships in a hardscrabble Tuscan town get exposed. What delights isn't just the juicy skeletons in the closet, but how they come out. Nives relates her stories with barbs and innuendo. As her conversation partner parses out her point in voicing tales she's held in for so long - asking her to repeat herself, to her irritation, and arguing with her interpretations to -one notices how the effects of wounds come out sideways, how it's impossible to tell a bald truth. Truth gets wrapped in anguish and warped in ensuing dramas. Everyone has a Rosa, Nives says. A Rosa is a ghost, a hurt one gnaws on throughout life, that feeds other hurts and incites revenge. And maybe even, if told to the right person at the right time, leads to forgiveness.

Nives' ribald Rosa declarations inspires readers tell our stories with humor, passion, and gratitude.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

Klara and the Sun
Kazuo Ishiguro
9780593318171, $28.00 Hardcover, $14.99 Kindle, 302 pages

It seems almost sacrilegious to write anything but praise for anything Ishiguro writes. The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, winner of the Booker Prize, and knighted in his long-adopted home in the United Kingdom, he's an intimidating writer to criticize. One of my favorite novels of all time (although I wasn't fond of the movie) is his Remains of the Day, which I found profound, surprising, and beautiful.

Klara and the Sun certainly displays Ishiguro's incredible literary talents, by which I mean his ability to create intriguing characters, set up beautiful plots, and compose elegant sentences. The world the author created in Klara is both not that much different from ours - no aliens, no time travel, no teleporting - and yet different - cyborg "artificial friends" powered by advanced artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering employed to make children smarter, if socially awkward. I was fascinated by his examination of what it means to be human, and what kinds AI will force us to consider as a society as it is inevitably advanced. In reading this novel, I was pleasantly captivated by the voice of the narrator, Klara, a cyborg, and the dire challenges faced by Josie, Klara's human friend. I also was intrigued by his allegory of religious belief and the power and folly of religious faith, especially since it was the cyborg, not the human, who explored this aspect - but more on that later.

As I was about two-third of the way through reading the novel, it was getting late at night, and I had to stop reading. Things were getting creepy. Great! I thought. Great, but better to tackle this in the morning and not have nightmares. So, I waited until the next morning to finish reading, and for me, at about three-quarters of the way, the story deteriorated. At this point, much of the focus shifted from the two characters who drove the story, and Ishiguro introduced an old love affair between Josie's boyfriend's mother and a man who might hold the key to the boy's future. While the connection to the main story wasn't invisible - the boyfriend wasn't genetically engineered, and thus had little chance of competing in the world without help from his mom's old beau - the thematic core of the novel was set aside, giving the entire section a tangential feel. And that continued to the end of the book.

But the main problem I had with this story is Josie's transformation, which in the end has nothing to do with a lesson learned or agency gained. It's due to a deus ex machina (act of God). Suddenly plot and theme are detached from each other and the resolution never comes to terms with the thematic issues raised in the novel - what is unique about individual persons and what it means to be human; and what happens when humans or cyborgs rely on an imagined supernatural being, or deity, to solve earthly problems.

I was disappointed. I thought the issues Ishiguro raised in setting up this not-quite-science-fiction were as profound as those in Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, two of his novels where plot and theme stay entwined, even if the questions they raise aren't fully answered. I wish he hadn't reached here for an easy plot solution, one that leaves his big questions abandoned and unanswered.

I Thought You Said This Would Work
Ann Garvin
Lake Union Publishing
9781542022330, $14.95 Paperback, $4.99 Kindle, 301 pages

I tell myself this: There's nothing wrong with reading a little chicklit now and then, especially if it's well-written, has good characters, and includes dogs.

Ann Garvin delivers on all three with I Thought You Said This Would Work. I needed a break after reading a number of non-fiction and literary fiction tomes in a row. Sometimes, girls just want to have fun.

Samantha's friend Katie's cancer has come back, and she desperately needs to have Peanut, her big Great Pyrenees, by her side in order to even dream of recovery. Peanut was absconded by Katie's ex-husband who now lives in California, thousands of miles away from Wisconsin. Samantha is suffering the onset of empty-nest syndrome as her daughter leaves for an internship for the summer, and when Katie asks her to retrieve Peanut and drive the dog back from California, Sam sees it as a way to postpone dealing with her own anxieties.

Immediately, the task is complicated when competitive Holly, the third of their tight threesome in college, decides to go along, even though she doesn't like dogs. Holly and Sam haven't spoken for years, although Sam, the narrator of this novel, has no idea what she did to break them apart.

The drive back from California promises to be tense, difficult and no antidote to Sam's anxieties, but Katie insists Holly and Sam go together. I was worried about how I could abide this difficult two-some together in a car with a big dog for the bulk of the novel, but the story is saved by the sudden and weird appearance of Summer, a B-list (and that's an exaggeration) celebrity with lots of chutzpah, style, a bit of unexplained clairvoyance, and questionable ethics.

Sam hasn't had a serious male relationship since her husband died 18 years before (before the birth of her daughter), and she doesn't paint herself as a very attractive target. But she is suddenly and somewhat inexplicably the object of much romantic interest from both Griff, a veterinarian at the animal sanctuary where they find Peanut, and Drew, a doctor at the hospital where Katie is being treated. Their romantic entreaties serve up a great deal of the novel's intrigue, even as they seem to have come out of left field.

I see Garvin has quite a following among readers, and I can see why. The story is laugh-out-loud funny at times, and the characters are likable and (perhaps with the exception of Summer) believable. I found the novel irresistible once I'd started it, and I recommend it for readers of this genre.

Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature
Angus Fletcher
Simon & Schuster
9781982135973, $30.00 Hardcover, $14.99 Kindle, 449 pages

Do you ever get the feeling as you're reading a book that the author is trying a bit too hard to seem erudite? To prove he is a polymath? An author who ties in extraneous material just to prove that he can?

That's how I felt when I read this book.

I was intrigued by the central idea of Wonderworks: that there have been 25 inventions that authors have engineered over time that have made literature more penetrating, more effective, and better at telling a story. Even after reading this book, I believe that's true, even though this author, in proving how impressive is his range of academic and neurological interests, beat the subject to death.

I had no issue with his process of first choosing certain plays and later novels to showcase the literary devices that playwrights and novelists have used over time to serve their thematic ends. When he expands that concept to examine the emotional and intellectual effect certain themes have on an audience, it seems like a logical extension of his arguments. I found these first couple of steps helpful for another reason: it reminded me of so many books I haven't read for a long time, or that I have never read but feel I should have.

But ... (yes, there is a but). I didn't buy the idea that these literary devices are "technologies." Come on, they're literary tactics. Technology implies that a scientific discovery is behind the development of tools to solve a particular problem. (I attended the Iowa State University of Science and Technology, so perhaps my impression of what "technology" means is old school.) In most cases, there's no evidence that the author had any concept of the science behind their techniques or literary innovations. Even if a conscious application of science to a problem isn't required to create a "technology" solution, there should be some tangential connection between a scientific concept and the solution that one can suggest was inferred or intuited.

Further, Fletcher tries to argue that in many instances there was an author - just one - who invented this "technology," and that it was more or less developed by that author in a vacuum. He argues that the author knew he/she was solving a particular problem and seeking a technological solution. Frankly, I don't think authors work that way. Whether they write from the seat of their pants or from a long, detailed outline, their concern is not to solve a literary problem. Their concern is writing a great screenplay or novel that touches readers' emotions. The idea that there was one author who developed this solution even goes against his own caution to avoid the "great man theory of history" - that is, the idea that if it weren't for Edison, we never would have had electricity.

Bad enough. But then the author tells us what part of our brain is activated when we experience the purported emotional problems that these authors are fixing. This comes across as pedantic and tangential - not a great combination - and leads me to double down on my feeling that this author is trying too hard to impress us with how much he knows. It bloats this book. Does anyone care whether their frontal cortex or amygdala is causing their discomfort as they face the question of their own mortality?

Perhaps one word sums up my impressions of this book and its author is this: overreach. I imagine that it will appeal to some readers - maybe in particular neuroscientists who will be thrilled that their study will be seen as relevant in another sphere of our lives and culture. But I'm not sure it succeeds in speaking to either writers or readers - even erudite, well-read, serious ones.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

Free Fall
Nina Atwood
Nina Atwood Enterprises
B08TV97PHB, $1.99 eBook

Free Fall is a page turner with character development not usually found in a suspense thriller.

Free Fall is a well-written novel full of intriguing, psychologically complex characters who keep you guessing what will happen next. The protagonist, Hanna Lee, isn't the typical heroine of the suspense and mystery genre. She's very human, good at some things and particularly bad at others. As a professional woman, Hanna Lee is extraordinarily well organized and very successful. She is also a woman who demonstrates great empathy for her employees, so much so that she sells her company in order to share the monetary riches of its success with them. But in her personal life, she is challenged in her relationships with men and with herself. Suffice it to say, and so as not to be a spoiler, her pick of a husband is dismal. These challenges created by her psychological struggles complement the mystery in the novel's plot and are a creative component in the development of its suspense. Hanna Lee's good and bad choices lead to a wreck from which she barely walks away. These choices continually throw up barricades to her happiness that she must surmount, both emotionally and physically.

The plot of Free Fall is excellently managed and laid out to make for exciting reading. The story is a page turner. The brilliance in the story comes from the character development. The characters are well constructed and layered with subtle personality traits, which add an element to the novel that a reader doesn't ordinarily find in a suspense thriller. It is not surprising that the author is a psychotherapist. Free Fall is a rewarding read. One can enjoy the fast paced and thrilling plot at the same time that one can identify with the difficulties presented to a professional woman by modern life.

Address Unknown
Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
9781518869761, $16.99, Paperback

The reminder of what happened in Address Unknown reopens the wound inflicted upon humanity by Hitler.

Address Unknown was first published in 1938. It is an epistolatory novel, written in the form of letters between two friends, one in Munich and one in San Francisco, between November, 1932, and March, 1934. Both men were German, but both had moved to San Francisco years before, perhaps after World War I, it is unclear, and started a business, the Schulse-Eisenstein Galleries. Martin moved back to Germany in 1932 and Max remained in San Francisco to run the gallery with Martin, ostensibly, buying art for the gallery in Germany.

Max, who was Jewish, wrote the first letter in the novel, and then the last. The tone of their letters was in the beginning one of dear old friends. At the end of 1932 and in early 1933, Martin referred to Max as "Uncle Max." And then Hitler was mentioned, and Martin's writing began to depict the cry of the National Socialists that Germany must fulfill its destiny. In July of 1933, Martin asked that Max cease his personal letters on account of German censors, and said to Max, "I have loved you, not because of your race but in spite of it." Max persisted, sending a letter to Martin through a friend traveling to Germany, and Martin's response, a picture of propaganda, ended with his observation that the two friends were "no longer in sympathy." And then came the turning point. Max's sister was killed by stormtroopers at Martin's house, and Martin's letter that delivered the news to Max began with "Heil Hitler." How Max reacted in early 1934 brought the story to a brilliant, yet troubling, conclusion.

The beauty of Address Unknown is its making human the horror in Germany during those times. The epistolary format helps with this, and it is the experience of the two old friends that brings the horror home for the reader, each of them having become a person next door through the very personal milieu created by the author in the early letters. In historical time, the events in Germany moved at lightning speed, something easy to capture in letters weeks apart. One's first impression from the letters is that Martin undergoes the biggest transformation, from a kind friend to a Jew hating Nazi. Upon reflection after reading the story, one can't miss that Max's change is as great, and similarly as horrible as Martin's, despite the tug of sympathy for the sister's murder. It is appropriate that Address Unknown be republished. What happened in Germany must always be remembered in such a personal manner and not simply relegated to historical text. The retelling in the present day of the events in the novel reopens the wound inflicted upon humanity by Hitler. It is appropriate that a reminder of those events stab the younger generation in a manner not easy to forget.

Miljenko Jergovic
Translated by Russell Scott Valentino
c/o HarperCollins
9781939810526, $25.00, Paperback

A moving Baltic Aeneid that tells a century-long story of a family's struggle through wars and political chaos.

In true epic fashion, KIN begins in media res, in the middle of things, with a reference to a high school in Sarajevo that the narrator's father and two uncles attended, the older uncle, Mladen, in 1934. At that time the city was a part of Yugoslavia, a synthetic nation created at the end of World War I, which disolved in 1992 after the Yugoslav Wars, when Sarajevo again became the capital city of the separate country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mladen is a central character in the century-long story in KIN, even though he lived only a short 19 years, killed during World War II as a German soldier. The time and location of the story are quickly set. It begins with Mladen's grandfather, Karlo Stubler, a Swabian German from Banat, Romania, before the turn of the century. Karlo also lived in Serbia, Hungary, and Austria before settling in Dubrovnik, Croatia, only to be deported to Bosnia in 1920. And so began the saga of the extended Stubler family, complete with a changing cast of countries and languages until the story's conclusion in Zagreb, Croatia in 2012.

The narrator of KIN observes in the early pages, "It is possible for language to determine a person's destiny." Karlo spoke German with his children, Croatian with his daughters' husbands, and both those languages with his grandchildren, including the children of the narrator's grandmother Olga, but only after they first address him in German. This was the environment in which Mladen grew up, and it was this family dynamic in 1942 that made him report for conscription in Hitler's army rather than join the Partisans. Olga and her husband hated the fascists but decided that Mladen's chances of survival were greater with the German army. They were tragically mistaken. Mladen was killed in 1943, the central event in KIN, around which the destinies of all family members would thereafter orbit, a tragic sphere of influence that would suck into its gravitational pull even the older ancestors from Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria. The narrator, Miljenko, widen the sphere to the younger generation when he moves to Zagreb at the beginning of the 1990's Bosnian war. It is a return to the country from which his great grandfather was banished, but amid the geographic hatred of those times he remained to the Croatian artistic hierarchy a "Bosnian piece of shit." In effect, the novel's theme is one of nationalities, religions, and hatred, a contrast in some respects, but perhaps only a modern rendition of, Virgil's "Of arms and the man I sing."

KIN is a long book - 500 pages - and its reading takes persistence and care. The events are not presented in a clear chronological order, and the author often takes leaps forward in the story and at times regresses to fill in family history, on occasion even repeating what has been said before. Jergovic's story, being a family history, includes the author as a character, the youngest and last of the direct Karlo descendants, as it turns out. Miljenko is the story's Aeneas. He recounts, almost relives, the hardships of the Stublers, particularly his mother, by wandering through their lives, in some places even giving the reader the impression that he is present in those decades before his birth. There are railway workers, doctors, beekeepers, pilots, book keepers, and even a match-stick juggler, more than fifty persons in all. And what the narrator doesn't report, he imagines, in short digressions like the one about Sarajevo's dogs. Unlike the Aeneid, the end of Miljenko's story brings despair, not rage, although the two emotions for the Stublers are much alike. Javorka's pain is Miljenko's fault, just as Mladen's death had been her fault. In the end Miljenko has made his story with concentric circles widening outward around his Opapa, Karlo Stubler, describing the people he "and his family knew well, of their fates in life, how their fates were entangled with his, and of the fates of all their offspring, up until the present day." Yet, Miljenko cannot show mercy to his family. His mother's death at the end of the story is for him almost a relief, as well as the end of the Stublers. They leave nothing behind for the city of Sarajevo, which, like Troy, was ravaged by war.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptionalism
John A. O'Connor
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781663210951, $33.99, PB, 138pp

Synopsis: Artist/art professor John A. O'Connor characterizes his series 'White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptionalism' as "a history of American hypocrisy". Using the image of the slate as a consistent base, "White Lies Matter" ranges across historical and contemporary America, touching down at flashpoints of inequality, misunderstanding, and conflict.

From the gradual decay of national institutions to more immediate political crises, O'Connor's project traverses a list of illegalities and cover-ups, oppressions and suppressions, tracing links between individuals and institutions in positions of influence. It begins with Christopher Columbus and the First Thanksgiving-mythologies that crumble very easily by now-and moves on through the contradictory and belated embedding of religion in the nation's founding documents, to the calamitous installation of Donald Trump as its 45th president.

"White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptionalism" reveals the deceptions, lies, and cynicism of America and the "fake news" and "alt- facts" that permeate contemporary society.

Critique: "White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptionalism" is a unique and compelling contribution to our understanding of how political operatives (including elected officials) manipulate the general public through the use of lies, exaggerations, misinformation, disinformation, and what has commonly come to be called Fake News. A timely and impressively presented expose and study, "White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptionalism" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college and university library Political Science collections.

I've Seen Dead People: Diary of a Deputy Coroner
Donna Francart
Independently Published
9798708092793, $17.99, HC, 189pp

Synopsis: In the pages of her memoir, "I've Seen Dead People: Diary of a Deputy Coroner", the reader will enter the mind of Donna Francart, a former Deputy Coroner, as she describes her years of Medicolegal Death Investigations. What began as her personal diary, written to herself, her way of debriefing, began to form a heartbeat of it's own as she shares her life experiences.

She has allowed her innermost thoughts to be shared, including the fears, tears, and anger she battled, and the profound lessons she learned, not only from the dead but also from the living.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "I've Seen Dead People: Diary of a Deputy Coroner" is an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover -- and one that will have special appear to non-specialist general readers with an interest in forensic medicine and investigation. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "I've Seen Dead People: Diary of a Deputy Coroner" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798708268082, $9.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.78).

Making Sergeant: The Biggest Leap in Law Enforcement
Gerald W. Garner
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398093587, $29.95, PB, 170pp

Synopsis: Gerald W. Garner is a veteran police chief with over 50 years of law enforcement experience, 15 of them spent as a sergeant, and draws upon his decades of experience and expertise ti write "Making Sergeant: The Biggest Leap in Law Enforcement". This invaluable instructional guide and manual contains practical advice for (1) deciding on whether you are ready for the job and (2) getting it and succeeding at it if you are.

Short on theory and long on pragmatic advice, the text also will help the already-promoted supervisor successfully meet the challenges of this complex but vital position.

As most law enforcement agency CEOs will acknowledge, first-line supervisor or sergeant is often the single most important position in the police organization. Without the best efforts of the highly competent man or woman wearing the stripes, the organization is destined to flounder in relative ineffectiveness. In the worst-case scenario, the agency may fail. In other words, the sergeant has got to get it right.

"Making Sergeant: The Biggest Leap in Law Enforcement" will help you decide if you want to be that sergeant. If you do, it will help you be him or her. If, at least at this stage of your career, you decide that the answer is no, that's fine, too. There is not a law enforcement agency anywhere that has enough talented first-line officers. Your goals may change later. But if you choose to go for it, the tips contained in this book will help you get there.

Critique: Whether you are just pondering if you should go for the gold or are already radar-locked on getting there, this book, "Making Sergeant: The Biggest Leap in Law Enforcement, is for you. If you are already a supervisor, "Making Sergeant: The Biggest Leap in Law Enforcement will help you get better at what you are already doing. Given the current national dialogue regarding police performance and reforms, "Making Sergeant: The Biggest Leap in Law Enforcement" is especially timely and highly recommended for community, police training school, police precinct, college and university library Law Enforcement collections and supplemental studies curriculum reading lists.

Michael J. Carson

Monika Kosman's Bookshelf

I Can't Breathe
Mohammad Elsanour, author
Manuela, translator
Independently Published
9798725040708; $4.85 (Kindle Edition); $13.87 (Paperback Edition), 201pp

Every war novel must at some point encounter a central contradiction. Truth alone has any real value, but the truth about war is that it contains almost unbearable levels of repetition, boredom, and meaninglessness. To write honestly about the war, you must make your readers feel that they have put up with these things as well. However, no sane novelist wants to cause an audience so much discomfort. And so we read novels (and watch movies) that are full of the kind of courage and drama that makes the war seem entertaining at least, if not impressive. Many of these works are colossal artistic achievements. But they are not a war.

Elsanour last novel, "I Can't Breathe," is about a The war that took place in Syria and the Syrians' refuge in the different countries around them, such as Turkey, Egypt and other countries. According to the Author, Al Halabi- - a highly professional Syrian doctor - continued through the war period to treat the wounded and injured in Syria after he smuggled his wife and daughter Amal to Turkey, while his youngest son Asaad died by war bullets.As for his other son Ziad, he decided to stay with his father in Syria. He had a beautiful dream and he found an old currency that was used between Egypt and Syria between 1955 and until 1961, and the dream of uniting the Arabs again began his hope, which he wants to bequeath to future generations through his child Ziad.

The story is told from the point of view of Firas Al Halabi, who He is the protagonist of the novel, and he was persuaded to write his own book by his Nigerian friend Musa - who met him on the plane going to the United States - to translate his book into many languages and send it to his daughter Amal in Turkey after his previous wife Rana married a Turkish man after she mistakenly knew the news of the death of her husband, Firas Al Halabi, so Amal acquired a father other than Firas Al Halabi, and also she didn't recognize her real father, Firas, or even speak in Arabic.

Elsnour's novel "I Can't Breathe" remains the core of his work so far. It is a powerful reflection on the way in which the victims of racism. In mid-2020, he and his Nigerian friend moved to live in the United States of America, then discovered the great racism and unjustified violence against blacks that caused the death of many black victims along with white supporters and protesters, among them the death of his friend, a Nigerian doctor who died of racism.

While I Can't Breathe was set in early 2020, the questions it raises have a deep resonance today. Among them: What if African Americans respond to the profound violence directed against them with revenge rather than non-violence? And what if the president or the government did not succeed in easing the tension between everyone at the time of the spread of the Corona pandemic?

I Can't Breathe reminds readers that people are not always what they seem, and that buried beneath the surface of submission may be a thick layer of malice and an absolute thirst for revenge. We do not need a new planet to live in safely with new rules above it that protect humanity from the wrong laws we set earlier. Rather, we can exploit many deserted areas, develop our planet and protect it from racism, hatred and wars, so that everyone can live in peace and tranquility.

I Can't Breathe stresses the need to reconsider the violence to which African Americans were subjected and the ways in which this language falls short of portraying its full scale. Feras Al-Halabi weaves terrible backdrops that push each of the black characters north, bringing to life the dark side of the Great Migration. The novel also explores whether anyone is really what they look like, and moreover, whether people can really know themselves and their intentions. Feline characters and their stories indicate that we are less terrible than we think, and that our view of events is directly related to our role in them.

Among the wonderful personalities that no one discovered, Abu Shihab, who supported his friend Al-Halabi a lot and opened his restaurant in partnership with Al-Halabi in Egypt until his death from infection with the Corona virus, and he is the son of Al-Halabi.

I Can't Breathe is a remarkable achievement, a one-volume history that should find the approval of readers fully immersed in the issues of wars, asylum, poverty and racism, especially in the Middle East, Africa and even the United States, and those approaching the topic for the first time. As the ranks of those who fought in the war weaken, the elegantly written and balanced feline prose should help ensure that the bloodshed, courage, poverty and racism in this tragic conflict in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic are not forgotten.

Monika Kosman

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Justin Steinberg and Valtteri Viljanen
Polity Press
9780745664903, $24.95 paperback

A New Study Of Spinoza

The philosophy of Spinoza has been receiving sustained scholarly attention for the past forty years. The increased philosophical interest in Spinoza is probably due in part to the willingness of some philosophers to reengage with large metaphysical and religious questions that had in the earlier part of the 20th century been marginalized. With many books to chose from on Spinoza, together with the complete translation of his works by Edwin Curley, this new book, simply titled "Spinoza" (2021) offers an outstanding overview of this thought that will be useful to both new students and scholars. Justin Steinberg and Valtteri Viljanen, two distinguished Spinoza scholars, collaborated on this book. Steinberg, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College and SUNY Graduate Center, is the author of a recent study, "Spinoza's Political Psychology: The Taming of Fortune and Fear". Viljanen, Senior Research Fellow in the School of History, Culture, and Arts Studies at the University of Turku, Finland, has written extensively on Spinoza's metaphysics. The book is part of a series of studies titled "Classic Thinkers" published by Polity Press. Polity kindly sent me a review copy of the book.

The book is concisely and clearly written and offers an integrated approach to Spinoza's thought. At one time, consideration of Spinoza focused on the metaphysics and epistemology set out in the first two books of the "Ethics". More recent studies, for example Steven Nadler's recent book, "Think Least of Death"give close consideration to Spinoza's ethical theory as well. Steinberg and Viljanen commendably follow in that direction and place a great deal of emphasis on Spinoza's ethical thought.

Similarly, relatively little had been written on Spinoza's "Theological Political Treatise" ("TTP") when I studied the book in graduate school in the 1980s. Since that time, the TTP has been the subject of extensive study, including another book by Nadler titled "A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age.". The TTP gets its well-deserved due from Steinberg and Viljanen as it is considered, together with the "Ethics" in exploring Spinoza's religious philosophy and again, together with the "Political Treatise" in considering Spinoza's political philosophy.

In addition to integrating the various parts of Spinoza's thought into a whole, the book performs a more important service. It shows why Spinoza remains important and worth studying. Put less formally, it made me fall in love with Spinoza all over again, perhaps for better fuller reasons with age. The book shows the radical, sweeping character of Spinoza's thought, with a focus, for me, on its religious character and on its monism. The authors argue that Spinoza supplanted traditional theology with a "revisionary alternative, the core of which consisted in the promotion of love and of freedom of mind." They find that Spinoza is "not merely a critic of ordinary religion but also a profound -- if profoundly unorthodox-- religious thinker." With respect to the monism of Spinoza's thought, the authors find that "for many present day readers, the idea that we are all part of a vast nature, thoroughly integrated to an infinite universe is likely to strike a deep chord."

The book begins with a brief biographical chapter which emphasizes the precarious political situation of the Dutch state during Spinoza's lifetime. The political tensions of the day inform the author's treatment of Spinoza's work, particularly as it involves the treatment of religion and the separation of theology from governance, and its treatment of community, which the authors find a crucial theme of Spinoza's work. The following two chapters explore Spinoza's metaphysics -- his view of reality -- and his view of religion, followed by a chapter on his understanding of the nature of knowledge and of the human mind. The next two chapters consider Spinoza's understanding of the emotions and his understanding of ethics and the good human life. A careful consideration of Spinoza's understanding of politics and democracy in the TTP and the late Political Treatise is followed by a short concluding chapter on Spinoza's historical influence.

While short, the book offers careful, nuanced readings of Spinoza. It considers the many ambiguities in his writings and possible alternative interpretations that have been offered. It shows some ot the telling criticisms that have been offered of Spinoza's philosophy and considers possible responses and ways of rehabilitating or restating his basic insights. Each chapter concludes with a short list of suggestions for further reading, and the book concludes with an extended list of references.

For most of my life, I have felt close to the thought of Spinoza. This study helped me engage with him again. This book will be valuable to serious readers who wish to learn about or deepen their understanding of this great philosopher.

The Idealist: Wendell Willkie's Wartime Quest To Build One World
Samuel Zipp
Harvard University Press
9780674737518, $35.00

An American Idealist In Politics

I learned about Wendell Willkie many years ago in high school where I was inspired to read his book "One World". I have continued to think about Willkie over the years and am gratified that he is getting renewed attention. David Levering Lewis' biography "The Improbable Wendell Willkie" (2018) helped rekindle my fascination with Willkie as did this new book, "The Idealist: Wendell Willkie's Wartime Quest to Build One World" (2020) by Samuel Zipp, a cultural and intellectual historian at Brown University. Willkie (1892 -- 1944) was the surprise Republican candidate for president in 1940. After a hard-fought campaign, he was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt who secured a third term.

The focus of Zipp's book is not on Willkie's 1940 presidential candidacy but instead on his activities as leader of what Willkie termed the "Loyal Opposition" during the last four years of his life. (Willkie died before Roosevelt's third term was completed.) In August 1942, with Roosevelt's support and encouragement, Willkie undertook at his own expense a seven week journey to war-torn areas around the world. When he returned to the United States, Willkie told the story of this trip and the meaning he found in it in his book "One World", which became an instant best-seller. Zipp's study tells the story of Willkie's journey and its aftermath.

Willkie was an "idealist" as Zipp aptly describes him because he tried to find a moral purpose in the United States participation in WW II and in its aftermath. He tried to explain this purpose with unmistakable commitment and moral fervor. Willkie followed and expanded upon the Atlantic Charter and Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms". He taught a broad internationalism and the interdependency of nations and peoples in the world, particularly in ending colonialism and racism, both internationally and domestically. Willkie followed and expanded upon the ideals of Woodrow Wilson, his boyhood hero in Indiana. As Zipp notes, Willkie, a wealthy corporation lawyer and executive, was an "unlikely figurehead for dreams of world order." He was "neither statesman nor philosopher nor revolutionary" but instead "thrived in the pragmatic and popular arena of electioneering and public opinion polling, middlebrow magazines and radio networks, newsreels and syndicated columns." Nevertheless his vision of world cooperation and interdependence captured and brought to life a sense of historical vision that was not realized but continued to inspire, even when Willkie faded into obscurity after his death.

In successive chapters, Zipp follows Willkie's 1942 journey to Egypt, Turkey, Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Tehran, the Soviet Union, and China. Willkie met with world leaders, saw many fronts of the war, and was careful to meet with many people outside of positions of power and to hear their concerns. Zipp does much more that document Willkie's trip; he offers a careful and valuable history of each country on the tour. Willkie is shown as a charismatic, idiosyncratic individual who could be both endearing and frustrating.

On his return home, Willkie gave a well-received radio address, met with President Roosevelt, and wrote "One World". He also mounted a failed presidential campaign in 1944. Zipp develops Willkie's idealist vision of one world and world interdependence and shows how it was compromised by resurgent nationalism and, ultimately by the Cold War. Zipp also is critical in part of Willkie's vision. He sees an unresolved tension between Willkie's internationalism and commitment to one world on the one hand and his strong commitment to American patriotism, perhaps including American exceptionalism, and the free market on the other hand. Zipp also proceeds to develop his own thoughts on the nationalism and compromises that have continued since Willkie's time. There is a great deal to be considered in this book, in thinking about Willkie and in thinking about Zipp. I wasn't convinced by Zipp's position that Willkie's internationalism couldn't be squared with his American patriotism. I also wasn't convinced by some of Zipp's own positions, including his pro-Palestinian -- anti-Israel stance.

An important lesson to be learned from Willkie and from this book is that it is possible to learn from and to deeply admire an individual even while not fully agreeing with him. This is how I see Willkie with his internationalism and his patriotism. Zipp's book is well documented and thoughtful. It shows how Willkie's moral idealism has remained alive and is a source of inspiration even while it encourages readers to think for themselves. I learned a great deal from the book in unexpected ways, including Zipp's discussion of the philosopher Ralph Barton Perry whose book "One World in the Making" (1945) was dedicated to Willkie's memory.

I was grateful to Zipp for giving me the opportunity to revisit Willkie through "The Idealist". There is much to be learned from thinking with Zipp about Willkie, about the extraordinarily difficult period of history in which he lived, and about his idealism with its challenging combination of patriotism and one world interdependence.

Heroism and Magnanimity: The Post-Modern Form of Self-Conscious Agency
Robert Brandom
Marquette University Press
9780874621938, $15.00

Robert Brandom In Milwaukee

Beginning in 1937, the Philosophy Department of Marquette University has presented an annual Aquinas Lecture in which a distinguished philosopher is invited to deliver a lecture in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas. Many famous thinkers have appeared on the series over the years such as Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Emil Fackenheim, Paul Ricoeur, Paul Weiss, and Nicholas Rescher. Each annual lecture has been published and made available in a uniform series of beautifully formatted books from Marquette University Press. I grew up in Milwaukee, majored in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee, and attended an Aquinas Lecture as an undergraduate. These lectures bring to mind my youth and interest in philosophy together with a longstanding feature of intellectual life in my home town.

On February 24, 2019, Robert Brandom, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Fellow of the Center for the Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, delivered the annual Aquinas Lecture, which was subsequently published in this book, "Heroism and Magnanimity: the Post-Modern Form of Self-Conscious Agency". The lecture was adapted from Brandom's then about to be published book, "A Spirit of Trust: A Reading of Hegel's Phenomenology" (2019) which offers what Brandom describes as a "pragmatist semantic" reading of Hegel's great work, "The Phenomenology of Spirit [Geist]". "A Spirit of Trust" has been widely read and acclaimed among philosophers. The book is lengthy and difficult as befits its subject. The book illustrates how questions of metaphysics and the history of philosophy, including the study of the once-rejected Hegel, have again become important in philosophical thinking.

Brandom's Aquinas Lecture is also highly difficult and seems to me long for a lecture of one hour. Those fortunate to hear the lecture in person were undoubtedly moved but also puzzled. As is the longer book, the focus of the lecture is on Hegel. Brandom obviously is fascinated by Hegel and describes him as "the first to see modernity whole, the first to see those new Enlightenment modes of understanding as of a piece with the massive rolling changes in social, political, and economic institutions that gave rise to them and to which they gave voice, the first to see the Enlightenment as the form of consciousness and self-consciousness appropriate to a new world and a new way of being in the world."

Brandom discusses broadly who Hegel understood what he termed "Geist" in changing understanding of normativity and of intentional agency. Normativity was initially viewed as a part of nature. Human beings endeavored to conform their conduct and thought to objective standards. With Enlightenment, normativity came to be viewed as a human, social product, leaving open the questions of how norms were viewed as binding and leading to a sense of alienation between persons and their norms. Hegel's project is to combine these two views of normativity and agency into a third, the view of modernity, which includes the best features of both. The explanation of modernity, norms, and intentionality is the burden of Brandom's Aquinas Lecture.

The Lecture is highly allusive. It draws most heavily, of course, on Hegel. The discussion of agency, however, draws extensive parallels with the work of the 20th century American philosopher, Donald Davidson. Kant receives attention in the lecture as does Thomas Aquinas. In the latter sections of his lecture, Brandom discusses changing understandings of agency and responsibility through an exposition of two allegories developed by Hegel. The first is a consideration of the saying that "no man is a hero to his valet." The second is a story of a hard-hearted judge who comes to understand and pass judgment on a prisoner before him in the dock. Brandom develops a communal concept of normativity based upon trust and an understanding of forgiveness when in history and in the present members of the community fall short in reaching their communally adopted ideals.

While this lecture is obscure, as befitting a consideration of Hegel, it is also wonderfully thoughtful and provocative. With all its technicalities, the lecture has broad things to say about the nature of reality, about the individual human action, and about political, communal life in our fractured, difficult time. Brandom concludes his lecture as follows.

"The temporally extended, historically structured recognitive community of those who are alike in all confessing the extent of their failure to be norm-governed, acknowledging their responsibility to forgive those failures in others, confessing the extent of their efforts at recollective and reparative forgiveness, and trusting that a way will be found to forgive their failures, is one in which each member identifies with all the others, taking co-responsibility for their practical attitudes. It is the 'I' that is 'we'; the 'we' that is 'I'. [PG 177]"

Brandom's Aquinas Lecture reminded me of my much deferred project to read his "A Spirit of Trust." The Lecture is worth reading and struggling with in its own right. I was moved to think of the Aquinas Lectures again and of my old beloved city of Milwaukee and of an example of its life of mind and spirit.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

A Song for the Road
Kathleen Basi
Alcove Press
c/o Penguin Random House (dist.)
9781643856902, $13.99

Genre Women's Fiction, Road Trip

Miriam Tedesco's husband and teenage children were killed by a drunk driver who crossed the median. A year later, she's still in a tailspin, dealing with regrets and loss of faith. The arrival of a bouquet of flowers - one like those her husband always sent on their anniversary - she becomes completely unwound. She, at the urging of her best friend, starts to move on. When she opens her daughter's computer, she finds an app that her kids made, detailing a cross-country trip for Miriam and her husband to take while their children were at band camp. On hearing and seeing the videos of her children, she determines to make the trip solo for their sakes. Thus, armed with a cello and a guitar, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage from their home to the beach in California near the site where they were killed. She picks up an unlikely companion, a pregnant young woman, along the way.

This book was funny and sad - enough that I sniffled through most of it. But as a woman of a certain age, I enjoyed reading about another woman of a certain age pulling her life together. That Miriam faces flat tires, tornados, rainstorms, and the near-death of her companion and survives is empowering, as empowering at that fabulous movie, Thelma and Louise.

A Summer to Remember
Erika Montgomery
St. Martin's Press
9781250274083, $27.99

Genre: Women's Fiction, Women's Friendship Fiction, Romance

Erika Montgomery, in her debut novel A Summer to Remember, does a superlative job binding multiple points of view and dual timelines, the present and the 1980s. Frankie and her mother, Maeve, run a Hollywood memorabilia shop. Maeve never told Frankie much about Maeve's past or who Frankie's father might be. After her mother's death, Frankie begins looking for answers as to who her father is. When she finds two letters that her mother left for a famous actor and his son, she goes to Cape Cod to deliver the letters and finds her life unexpectedly intertwined with several others. This is an excellent book, bringing together these multiple threads. Some people are running from the truth while others, like Frankie, are looking for the truth. Secrets - and past betrayals - are revealed, and the answers to all questions are unexpected.

A Summer to Remember evokes both the Golden Age of Hollywood and modern day Cape Cod. There is nostalgia for the glamour of Hollywood, and I enjoyed the movie references and quotes at the beginning of each chapter. It takes the tropes of looking for oneself and looking for one's parents and puts a nice spin on them.

Jennifer Saint
Flatiron Books
9781250773586, $22.99

Ariadne looks at the many ways women are subject to men (and to the gods, both male and female). All women face one or more of these at the hands of men: domestic physical and emotional abuse, rape, infidelity, being treated as chattel, forced childbearing. In addition, Saint gives glimpses of those things women do enjoy: domestic joy, happy marriages, maternal bliss, pride in one's own accomplishments. Saint looks at these through the lens of Ariadne, granddaughter of Helios the Sun God, daughter to King Minos and Queen Pasiphae, sister to the Minotaur, sister to Phaedra, and wife of Dionysius.

Ariadne is best known in Greek literature for helping Theseus defeat the Minotaur. When Theseus arrives in Crete, Ariadne falls in love with him. The infatuation Ariadne feels for him falls a bit flat here. In fact, many of the sexual unions, lusty though they may have been, are essentially sanitized, including rape.

Ariadne proved to be a compelling character who underwent a nice character arc. At times, the novel was written in such a distant point of view that it was difficult to engage with the characters. The characterization of Dionysius makes him out to be almost too human as he doesn't demonstrate the arrogance of the gods until late in the book. Theseus, on the other hand, was almost too arrogant and

While I enjoyed the novel and had hoped to see it join the ranks of Circe and The Song of Achilles, but the prose didn't rise to the epic, poetic quality that Madeline Miller does in those two books.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and impartial review.

Arsenic and Adobo, Book One of the Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery Series
Mia P. Manansala
9780593201671, $15.99

Genre: Asian American Literature, Cozy Culinary Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Own Voices

Arsenic and Adobo is a cute cozy mystery with an ever-increasing body count. It stars Lila Macapagal who leaves the big city to return home to Shady Palms to help out at her failing family restaurant. The supporting cast includes her grandmother, Lola Flor, and many other members of an extended family plus those who are family by custom and/or acquaintance, like the Calendar Trio, three spunky women coincidentally named after months: April, May, and June. Lila's best friend is a vegetarian Pakistani Muslim with a to-die-for brother, Amir, who Lila has had the hots for for years. The characters are genuine - with hints of those relatives you love, but who can sometimes be a bit possessive and restrictive.

There's a bit of romance too - a failed one with Derek (one of the accumulating bodies), Amir, and a dentist, Jae. Conflict comes when Lila starts to like-like Jae, but his brother is the infamous Detective Park, out to convict Lila of murder and drug-running.

The descriptions of food are amazing and read as good-enough-to-eat, with recipes in the back of the book.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and partial review.

Madam: A Novel
Phoebe Wynne
St. Martin's Press
9781250272041, $27.99

Genre Gothic Fiction, Women's Fiction, Boarding School Fiction

I must admit I read this in one sitting, pulled along by the mysteries that were slowly unveiled. This is a modern gothic novel - which doesn't read like a debut novel - with elements of the The Stepford Wives, a satirical thriller written in the early 1970s by Ira Levin in which a young mother who suspects the compliant one-dimensional housewives in her suburban neighborhood are robots constructed by their husbands. There are no robots in Madam, but lots of suspense.

Caldonbrae Hall, a girls' boarding school was built on top of the ruins of an old Scottish castle and rides high above the rocky cliffs. The reviews of the school are always spectacular, and the school purports to graduate women who are ready to serve society - but only the upper crust, naturally. To this exalted place comes Rose Christie, a classics teacher just twenty-six years old. She is the first new hire in the school in over ten years. She's overwhelmed at first, feels inept, and wonders why she was chosen for such a prestigious academy. She also wonders what happened to the woman she replaced.

The school's polished veneer is founded on a traditional culture that hasn't changed in the 150 years the institution has existed. Rose, raised by a bra-burning feminist mother and an intellectual father (also a teacher), struggles to balance her middle-class upbringing with the rituals of the upper class school. Eventually, Rose must confront the darkness of Caldonbrae which is slowly revealed (trying to avoid spoilers here) and determine whether or not she can fit in and perpetuate its heinous motives.

I particularly enjoyed the interspersing of the lives of women and goddesses of antiquity such as Medusa, Medea, Diana, and Antigone.

I received a copy of Madam in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Storm and Shelter
Grace Burrowes, Mary Lancaster, Alina K. Field, Cerise DeLand, Caroline Warfield, Jude Knight, Rue Allyn, Sherry Ewing
Caroline Warfield
9781733245029, $22.99

A great anthology of novellas from some of my favorite romance authors. Each story centers around a storm-of-the-century blowing off the North Sea, sufficiently severe to beach ships and wreck others. Roadways along the cliffs collapsed as well as the roofs of home. The Queen's Barque Inn provides sustenance and shelter for a multitude of people driven by the storm and arriving as refugees. Each story stands alone, but all are interwoven. I particularly enjoyed Mary Lancaster's story of Simon and Letty, an unlikely pair of lovers (she running away from an abusive guardian and he a spy/mercenary. The story of Patience and Zach dealing with her charges, little boys she's trying to teach in a school of her own making by Caroline Warfield. Cerise DeLand's story of Jo and Russell as they try to keep supplies flowing to British troops fighting Napoleon. Each story can be read as a nightcap after a long hard day.

Whiskey When We're Dry
John Larison
Penguin Books; Reprint edition
9780735220454, $17.00

It was interesting reading Whiskey When We're Dry in relatively close proximity to Outlawed by Anna North. Outlawed is an amazing speculative Western that really shakes up the Western genre by tackling the patriarchy, gender roles/identity, race, religion, fertility, and medicine in a unique way. The protagonist is irresistible: a no-nonsense, determined heroine, who has the gumption to teach herself medicine from old textbooks. The voice here is unique and fresh. What is most captivating about Outlawed is the refreshing amount of LGBTQ+ representation.

In contrast, Whiskey When We're Dry is more of a typical western novel with the exception of being written in a unique and unforgettable woman's point of view. That said, the woman, Jessilyn Harney, finds herself orphaned at age seventeen. Desperate to salvage her situation, she chops off her hair, binds her breasts, and enters the world as a man named Jesse Harney. She leaves the family homestead to search for her outlaw brother. Like Outlawed, Whiskey When We're Dry deals with the legends of the American West and the gangs of outlaws like Billy the Kid and the Doolin-Dalton gang. Also like Outlawed, Whiskey touches on gender roles/identity, race, and religion. Jesse becomes a sharpshooter and works for the state governor while searching for her brother. There are mentions in passing of homosexuality and Jesse herself seems asexual.

Rising and Other Stories
Gale Massey
Bronzeville Books
9781952427183, $28.00

Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories, Stories set in Florida

This collection of thirteen short stories is to be savored. They deal with loss in one form or another, from the death of a parent to the loss of innocence. The first, "Glass", deals with a girl's first experience with racism. The story is understated but makes the point. There are also some spectacular views of childhood with remembrances of a father and doing things like fishing. These are poignant yet not sappy. I have similar memories of fishing with my dad and his friends. He quit taking me when I caught a minnow and said, "Throw the little bastard back."

The last story shows a woman who finds herself only by leaving her husband and children and journeying to Michu Picchu. The emotions displayed throughout are sparse yet full of understated meaning. Truly a marvelous collection of short stories.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence
Nimmi Gowrinathan
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807013557, $24.95, HC, 152pp

Synopsis: Though the female fighter, the female warrior, the female soldier is often seen as an anomaly, women make up nearly 30% of militant movements worldwide. Historically, these women (stereotypically viewed as victims, weak-willed wives, and prey to Stockholm Syndrome) have been deeply misunderstood. In "Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence", Professor Nimmi Gowrinthan holds the female fighter up in all her complexity as a kind of mirror to contemporary conversations on gender, violence, and power. The narratives at the heart of the study are centered in the Global South, and extend to a criticism of the West's response to the female fighter, revealing the arrayed forces that have driven women into battle and the personal and political elements of these decisions.

Professor Gowrinathan, whose own family history is intertwined with resistance, spent nearly twenty years in conversation with female fighters in Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Pakistan, and Colombia. The intensity of these interactions consistently unsettled her assumptions about violence, re-positioning how these women were positioned in relation to power. Professor Gowrinathan posits that the erasure of the female fighter from narratives on gender and power is not only dangerous but also, anti-feminist.

Professor Gowrinathan persuasively argues for a deeper, more nuanced understanding of women who choose violence noting in particular the tendency of contemporary political discourse to parse the world into for - and against - camps: an understanding of motivations to fight is read as condoning violence, and oppressive agendas are given the upper hand by the moral imperative to condemn it.

Coming at a political moment that demands an urgent re-imagining of the possibilities for women to resist, "Radicalizing Her" reclaims women's roles in political struggles on the battlefield and in the streets.

Critique: A seminal and original work of simply outstanding scholarship that will be met with substantial appreciation by both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, "Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Women's Studies, Societal Violence, and Feminist Theory collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781662083617, $24.99, CD).

Editorial Note: A professor and the director of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative at the City College of New York, Nimmi Gowrinathan is a writer whose work on the female fighter has been featured in publications as varied as Vice, Harper's Magazine, Foreign Policy, Freeman's Journal, and The New York Times. She is also the publisher of Adi Magazine, a literary magazine aiming to rehumanize policy, and the creator of the Female Fighters Series at Guernica Magazine. For more information readers can visit her website at

Getting Baked
Barb Webb
Viva Editions
c/o Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781632280718, $18.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: Today there is no longer a basis upon which to deny the potential of hemp and CBD as a powerful solutions to a myriad of modern ailments including chronic illness, insomnia, inflammation, and stress.

In "Getting Baked: Everything You Need to Know about Hemp, CBD, and Medicinal Gardening", sustainable living expert Barb Webb takes you on an in-depth journey through everything you ever wanted to know about CBD, including the science, side effects, dosages, and benefits. You'll also take a deep dive into herbs and botanicals that complement CBD and complete your medicinal garden.

Part scientific research and part firsthand know-how, Webb rounds out her authoritative guide with dozens of recipes to enhance your experience ranging from smoothies and teas, to CBD bath bombs and hemp body butters.

Critique: "Getting Baked: Everything You Need to Know about Hemp, CBD, and Medicinal Gardening" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' combination of informed textbook, instructional guide, and DIY manual about how CBD, hemp, and herbs can work for your body. Basically, how to grow it and how to use it. While an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college and university library collections, it should be noted that "Getting Baked: Everything You Need to Know about Hemp, CBD, and Medicinal Gardening" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Barb Webb is a freelance writer, author, blogger, and sustainable living expert residing in Appalachian Kentucky. She was an early adopter of hemp and first in line to try CBD products when they first entered the sustainable living scene. A master gardener with twenty years of growing medicinal herbs and spices, and a recognized leader in the online homestead community, she maintains an informative website at

Growing Slow
Jennifer Dukes Lee
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310363132, $25.99, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: We all long to make a break from the fast pace of life, but if we're honest, we're afraid of what we'll miss if we do. Yet when going big and hustling hard leaves us stressed, empty, and out of sorts, perhaps this can be our cue to step into a far more satisfying, sustainable pace.

"Growing Slow: Lessons on Un-Hurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl" is deftly crafted and inspiring read in which author Jennifer Dukes Lee offers a path to unhurried living by returning to the rhythm of the land and learning the ancient art of Growing Slow.

Jennifer was once at breaking point herself, and in the pages of "Growing Slow" tells her story of rude awakening to the ways her chosen lifestyle of running hard, scaling fast, and the neverending chase for results was taking a toll on her body, heart, and soul. But when she finally gave herself permission to believe it takes time to grow good things, she found a new kind of freedom.

With eloquent truths and vivid storytelling, Jennifer reflects on the lessons she learned from living on her fifth-generation family farm and the insights she gathered from the purposeful yet never rushed life of Christ. "Growing Slow" charts a path out of the pressures of bigger, harder, faster, and into a more rooted way of living where the growth of good things is deep and lasting.

Following the rhythms of the natural growing season and from a Christian perspective, "Growing Slow" will help the reader: Find the true relief that comes when you stop running and start resting in Jesus; Learn practices for unhurrying your heart and mind every day; Let go of the pressure and embrace the small, good things already bearing fruit in your life; Engage slow growth through reflection prompts and simple application steps.

Critique: Especially timely given the additional stresses upon daily life that have come with the current pandemic and its familial, social, and economic impact, "Growing Slow: Lessons on Un-Hurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl" is an extraordinary and life enhancing read that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. Inspired and inspiring, it should be noted for all members of the Christian community that "Growing Slow: Lessons on Un-Hurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Jennifer Dukes Lee lives on the fifth-generation Lee family farm in Iowa, where she and her husband are raising crops, pigs, and two beautiful humans. She writes books, loves queso, and enjoys singing too loudly to songs with great harmony. Once upon a time, she didn't believe in Jesus; now he's her CEO. She maintains and informative website at and can be followed on Instagram at @JenniferDukesLee

Bee a Good Human: A Pollinators' Guide to a Better Life
Ali Beckman
Red Lightning Books
9781684351329, $16.00, HC, 216pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Bee a Good Human: A Pollinators' Guide to a Better Life", Ali Beckman's witty comics (which use actual insects in everyday situations) brilliantly illustrate the importance of pollinators as well as body positivity and mental health awareness.

Using creatures that are donated, purchased, or found dead to create amusing cartoons, "Bee a Good Human" highlights the integral role of insects in our environment while also demonstrating we all have a part to play in this world. Beyond bugs, Beckman's art speaks to the value of self-love as she shares a narrative of growth and finding confidence within.

Critique: "Bee a Good Human: A Pollinators' Guide to a Better Life" nicely and uniquely showcases the best of Beckman's @SoFlyTaxidermy Instagram art. Enhanced with the inclusion of 106 color illustrations (many of which have never appeared online), "Bee a Good Human" will make the reader consider the bigger picture -- and enjoy a little humor along with insight. Original, fun, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Bee a Good Human: A Pollinators' Guide to a Better Life" is highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community, college and university library Biology and Graphic Novel collections and reading lists. It should be noted that "Bee a Good Human: A Pollinators' Guide to a Better Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Positively Wealthy
Emma Mumford
Watkins Publishing
9781786784360, $18.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: A 33-day guide to manifesting sustainable wealth and abundance in all areas of your life, "Positively Wealthy" by Emma Mumford is a guide to manifesting abundance for those who want to redefine the meaning of wealth in their lives. An immanently practical book, "Positively Wealthy" is specifically designed to help you step out of your comfort zone, fearlessly manifest the life of your dreams and find fulfilment and sustainability using Law of Attraction methods.

With her fresh, relatable approach, Emma Mumford provides simple, no-nonsense advice that has been proven to work in her own life. She will guide you through daily challenges to complete over 33 days, culminating in a journey that you can share with the Positively Wealthy community online. Along the way, Emma describes her own experiences and the lessons she has learnt with wealth, money and manifesting throughout her career and personal life.

"Positively Wealthy" will create sustainable success in all aspects of your life and provide you with valuable tools that can be used time and time again.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, and while especially recommended for community, college and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Positively Wealthy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99). It should also be noted for personal use that there is also an accompanying DIY "The Positively Wealthy Journal" (9781786784988, $18.95, Spiral Bound, 192pp).

Editorial Note: Emma Mumford is an award-winning life coach, blogger, YouTuber, speaker and author, and host of the popular Podcast "Spiritual Queen's Badass Podcast". Emma started her savvy savings journey in 2013. After finding couponing in her hour of financial need, Emma set up her popular business brand The Coupon Queen. In 2016, she underwent a spiritual awakening and became a spiritual life coach.

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Amendment Seventeen: A Blessing? Or a Curse?
Michael James Geanoulis Sr.
Palmetto Publishing
9781649901255, $17.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle, 336 pages

The author Michael James Geanoulis Sr.'s, primary mission in writing this book was to improve understanding about why it was thought there was a need for Amendment Seventeen, and the repercussions of this amendment on the economy and society of America. However, he also ponders what the thoughts of the founding fathers would be if they returned now, and discovered that although it was their intention for America to be a republic, instead it is now a democracy.

In the Constitution, signed on September 17, 1787, Article 1, Section 3. Stated that "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote. ... The Senate shall have sole Power to try all Impeachments."

However Article 17 was amended in 1913, when it was decided to give the people, instead of the state legislature the right to vote for their Senator, in other words, the Senator is chosen by the people.

The author openly admits at the beginning of the book that he hopes for a repel, however he realises that, "Only a low level repair is even remotely likely." And so, he has laid before you his readers, an incredible amount research carried out through the years, accompanied by studies, documents, letters, graphs, and photographs, so as to enable you to form your own opinion on the subject.

From an early age Michael James Geanoulis Sr.' has had a keen interest in economics and social issues, and for many years he served on agencies involved with these matters. He holds a degree in electronics technology from DeVry Technical Institute, a business degree from Southern New Hampshire University and is otherwise a self-appointed, self-taught Jack of all Liberal Arts, but master of none. He published his biography 'The Big Gorge' in 2018, and lives in historic New Castle, New Hampshire with his wife, Norma, two cats, and three horses.

This is a fascinating and informative book which will appeal to those interested in the political, social, and economic history of America. The question is, what do you think after reading it? Was Amendment 17 a blessing, or a curse?

Donk and the Stubborn Donkeys
K.A. Mulenga
9780620909150, $9.99 pbk / $3.47 Kindle, 24 pages

My two granddaughters just loved this bright and inspirational children's book. It tells the story of Donk, a little donkey who's a bit of a loner. He's the youngest in the family, and nobody has time for him. All he hears the farmer saying is that donkeys are stubborn. Why does he say that? Are donkeys really stubborn? And, if they are, why?

Well Donk, like all young animals is curious, and tries to discover the answer. He asks everyone, his mother, his brothers and sisters, even the magical purple fairy donkey Jack. "Why are donkeys stubborn?" Everyone just says, "That's just the way it is," but that's not good enough for Donk, he wants to know the reason why.

Children need to ask questions to grow as people, and develop their understanding of their world, and it's the same for all creatures. In this bright, and beautifully illustrated children's book, the author, using the cute and endearing character of Donk, has cleverly demonstrated to children that it is good to question things, and search for answers. Just because they are told "That's just how it is," that's not a reason to accept it, or indeed believe it is true! This book empowers them to believe that they can stretch boundaries, and open new horizons, not only for themselves, but for others too.

Writing truly runs in the blood of Kalenga Augustine Mulenga, the author of this Amazon #1 Bestselling children's book, and others. His father was the first black editor of the Zambia Daily Mail, and his brother was a poet. He started writing aged 10, but his passion has been reignited by his 11 year old son.

A wonderful inspirational children's book which will be enjoyed by children either by it being read to them, or reading it themselves when they are able. Highly recommended!

Chains Across the River - A Novel of the American Revolution
Bevis Longstreth
Honeycomb Publishers
9780578750507, $29.00 print / $9.99 Kindle, 278 pages

This powerful and historically accurate book by retired international lawyer Bevis Longstreth tells the story of the incredible Machin Chains. Bevis Longstreth has previously authored three books of historical fiction, Spindle and Bow, Return of the Shade, and Boats Against the Current. Father to three children, and grandfather to nine, he lives in New York with his wife Clara, and dog McKenzie.

The protagonist, British born Captain Thomas Machin, was a brilliant engineer, enlisted in the British Foot, and posted to Boston, Massachusetts. However, disgruntled and disillusioned, the redcoat deserted, and like many others joined the patriots of the Continental Army.

Hearing of Thomas Machin, and impressed, in 1776 General George Washington summoned him and instructed him to design and install obstructions to stop the British Armada gathering in New York Harbour. This was an important commission because the Hudson River was an essential transportation route for the British. The waterway enabled the New England colonies to receive essential supplies, and therefore its obstruction would disunite them from their other colonies.

Thomas Machin, rose to the challenge, and the Machin Chains were conceived. However, their construction and installation proved to be a mammoth task. It is through the transportation and installation of these, and other events, that the readers learn a lot about the hardships and life of the Continental Army soldiers. Notwithstanding the adversity and obstacles involved, 'The Great Chain' at West Point, was never breached, and remained in place until the end of the American Revolution.

Thomas Machin had two important women in his life, Elizabeth Van Horne (Lisa,) and Caroline Filippante. It is through his relationships with these women that the readers discover more about the women of this era. Certainly these two add spice to the story, and definitely dissolve the image of demure young ladies. They were strong, scheming, fearless females, and their antics and those of their families provide interesting insights as to how the upper classes 'survived' the revolution.

'Chains Across the River,' is the exciting tale of how a British deserters engineering accomplishments were an important contribution towards the American War of Independence. It will appeal to lovers of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

4 Ideas With Actionable Wisdom
Bob Boylan
9781098361563, $10.95 pbk / $6.49 Kindle, 100 Pages

Sometimes you come across a book and think, "Everyone needs to read this!" Well for me this little gem is one of those. The author is a photographer, and owns God's Gift Photography. He lives in Woodland Park, Colorado, with his wife Linda. When asked, "What do you do, Bob?" Bob responds by saying, "I am a seed planter of ideas to creatively encourage and inspire others." And he certainly does that!

There are lots of self-help books which delve deeply into how you improve yourself in various ways, however, the author in this one, had a unique approach. Firstly he plants the seed of each of his ideas, then he sprinkles it with fertilizer, this being examples of how others have helped him see the advantage of the particular suggestion. Next the idea is nurtured, with ideas on how to go forward in a positive way, and then encourages the reader to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

He covers, as the title suggests, four ideas which he incites his readers to adopt. He believes these will enable them to live better, more fulfilled, and peaceful lives. The first is one he was taught by his father, and it is one which resonates with me, as my father told me much the same. His father told him to give 110% to everything, because that way you would have given your best and know you couldn't have done more. As his father quite rightly said, "Because that's all you can do, and you will sleep really well!"

In this busy world his second recommendation is, in my opinion essential. This is to always incorporate quiet waters in the busy white waters of your life. Or in other words find a peaceful, reflective time in your day. Here he first suggests journaling, something he considers very important, and quickly the reader will understand why.

The third is the importance of gratitude for what you have, and here he has given some lovely quotes, my favourite being "Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices. - ROBERT BRAATHE."

And the last is a very pertinent one for the world today, and that is to think outside the box. As he points out, corporations always worked in offices before the coronavirus, now, all of a sudden people are working from home. Throughout the centuries necessity has forced change, but we can instigate change ourselves, changes which although they may be scary at first, enrich our lives, give us new priorities, and enable us to dream.

In this troubled and uncertain world, take charge. Do not lead a "woulda, coulda, shoulda life," embrace this incredibly motivational authors ideas, and be the best you, for your physical and mental wellbeing. Highly recommended!

There are lots of self-help books which delve deeply into how you improve yourself in various ways, however, the author in this one, had a unique approach. Firstly he plants the seed of each of his ideas, then he sprinkles it with fertilizer, this being examples of how others have helped him see the advantage of the particular suggestion. Next the idea is nurtured, with ideas on how to go forward in a positive way, and then encourages the reader to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

He covers, as the title suggests, four ideas which he incites his readers to adopt. He believes these will enable them to live better, more fulfilled, and peaceful lives. The first is one he was taught by his father, and it is one which resonates with me, as my father told me much the same. His father told him to give 110% to everything, because that way you would have given your best and know you couldn't have done more. As his father quite rightly said, "Because that's all you can do, and you will sleep really well!"

The author, in this cleverly written self-help book sows the seeds of ideas in his readers minds. Then he carefully nurtures them, encouraging personal growth and development.

An inspirational book which should be embraced by all.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Joab, King David's Top General: Essential Lessons On Character
Adeyinka Adegbenle
Ways of Excellence LLC
9781736220702, $12.99, PB, 112p
9781736220719, $7.99 Kindle

We cannot lead anyone farther than we have been ourselves...

Being a leader in today's modern world is a challenging position. Leaders find themselves caught between the web of their management and the people they support. Good leaders are the backbone of any corporation. They must build upon their skills to develop themselves professionally to promote and inspire their employees.

This book will help build a solid foundation for any leader's career. Regardless of how long you have been in the position, it will fill your mind and soul with knowledge and guidance that will allow you to enhance your future outlook. It provides in-depth information of Joab, who was a great biblical leader and commanded a great army. Joab was well respected by those that he commanded and won several major victories for the Kingdom of Israel.

Seeing Joab's success as a leader will have the power to jumpstart any leader's desire to change themselves for the better, regardless of how long they have been in their position. This book allows you the opportunity to step back and look at your character. It will help you analyze aspects that require a change in your leadership style. It will show you how to overcome temptations that seem like selling your soul to the Devil.

Joab: King David's Top General Essential Lesson on Charter is a life-changing book. By investing in this knowledge, you will receive high dividends on character development. In a short time, you will see yourself comparing your leadership style to Joab. His success will inspire you to want to change yourself and your leadership style.

Adeyinka Adegbenle is an author who has done a magnificent job in bringing Joab's story to light. This book highlights a great Biblical leader and shows how he could be successful and win many victories in war. Reading these passages will inspire you to walk in Joab's footsteps and want to change your mindset. As you progress through this book, you will see yourself growing as a great leader. The advice provided in this book is life-changing and priceless. I predict this author is about to enter the literary world by storm!

Suzie Housley

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Liberty for All
Andrew T. Walker
Brazos Press
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9781587435331, $39.99, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Christians are often thought of as defending only their own religious interests in the public square. They are viewed as worrying exclusively about the erosion of their freedom to assemble and to follow their convictions, while not seeming as concerned about publicly defending the rights of Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and atheists to do the same.

In the pages of "Liberty for All: Defending Everyone's Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age", Professor Andrew T. Walker (an emerging Southern Baptist public theologian) argues for a robust Christian ethic of religious liberty that helps the church defend religious freedom for everyone in a pluralistic society. Whether explicitly religious or not, says Walker, every person is striving to make sense of his or her life.

The Christian foundations of religious freedom provide a framework for how Christians can navigate deep religious difference in a secular age. As we practice religious liberty for our neighbors, we can find civility and commonality amid disagreement, further the church's engagement in the public square, and become the strongest defenders of religious liberty for all.

Critique: An especially timely publication in view of the recent and current political hostilities and divisions in our country today that seemingly fuel religious hypocrisy on the part of some in the Evangelical Christian community, "Liberty for All: Defending Everyone's Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age" is an articulate, erudite and informative study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, seminary, church, college and university library Church & State Religious Studies collections and supplemental curriculum lists. It should be noted for clergy, seminary students, political activists, and all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations that "Liberty for All: Defending Everyone's Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781587434495, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Andrew T. Walker is an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement in Louisville, Kentucky. He has written for National Review, Time, The Gospel Coalition, Public Discourse, First Things, and Christianity Today and speaks frequently all over the country.

The Bearded Marvel: A True Life Story of my Nonno, an American WWII Hero!
Staci Alayvilla
Americas Publications
9781736335604, $9.95, PB, 32pp

Synopsis: Written for children, in the illustrated pages of "The Bearded Marvel: A True Life Story of my Nonno, an American WWII Hero!", Stephen 'Tebers' Swidarski tells his granddaughter the harrowing story of his time in WWII.

Tebers, a grateful and hard working family man, was held as a prisoner of war for 14 months before he returned home to America. "The Bearded Marvel: A True Life Story of my Nonno, an American WWII Hero!" is intended to inspire the American patriot inside all of us from 8 to 80 with each page beautifully and effectively imaged to teach the valuable lesson of gratitude and honor for our America!

Critique: Giving the divisive politics rending our nation today with the rise of armed insurrectionists, American Nazis, white supremacists militiamen, Q-Anon fanatics, and corrupt politicians betraying their oaths to protect and defend the American constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic, "The Bearded Marvel: A True Life Story of my Nonno, an American WWII Hero!" by Staci Alayvilla (the granddaughter of Stepehn Swidarski) is a timely and timeless reminder of what true patriotism is -- and what it can cost to maintain it. While very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Bearded Marvel: A True Life Story of my Nonno, an American WWII Hero!" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Point After
Sean Conley
The Lyons Press
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
9781493042760, $29.95, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Against seemingly impossible odds, Sean Conley became the starting kicker for the University of Pittsburgh in his senior year. A year later, he suited up for the Detroit Lions. But when he joined the New York Jets soon after, Conley's injuries caught up to him, and his lifelong dream came crashing down in a crisis of denial and fear.

"The Point After: How One Resilient Kicker Learned there was More to Life than the NFL" is an all-access look at the NFL, one of the most intense workplaces in sports. Conley describes pushing through pain at NFL training camps, surrounded by rookies, All-Pro veterans, and long-shot undrafted free agents, all hell-bent on staying in the game. He recounts the insecurities he dealt with on and off the field, and the despair that overtook him when his career ended.

But while Conley thought life was over, it was just beginning. Transcending football, this is the story of an ex-football player who discovered the true meaning of sports and life, and found happiness in the most unexpected way. Embodying the spirit of the underdog, "The Point After" is a moving tale of strength, determination, and spiritual grit.

Critique: An inherently engaging, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and exceptionally well written memoir, "The Point After: How One Resilient Kicker Learned there was More to Life than the NFL" by Sean Conley will prove to be of special interest to sports fans in general, and football fans in particular. Impressively informative, and while unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Sports Biography collections, it should be noted be noted for personal reading lists that "The Point After" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.04) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781721354962, $29.99, CD).

Willis M. Buhle

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design