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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 11 November 2018 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Andy's Bookshelf
Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf
Duncan's Bookshelf Grace's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mari's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Messenger's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Pedro's Bookshelf Polk's Bookshelf Sloan's Bookshelf
Suanne's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Quick Start Guide To A Gluten-Free Lifestyle
Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDE
Privately Published
B07DZNSVS4, $3.99, 65 Pages



Bonnie Jo Davis

The author of this book, Gretchen Scalpi, worked as Chief Clinical Dietitian in a hospital for 25 years and opened her own health and wellness coaching and private nutrition practice in 2002. A few years ago she was diagnosed with celiac disease. She needed to create her own gluten-free lifestyle and in this book, she shares what she learned.

I was particularly impressed with the fact that the author started with a thorough description of celiac disease and gluten intolerance. The information is written for the lay person and is easy to understand.

Some of the topics covered include maintaining good nutrition while eating gluten-free, choosing the right gluten-free grains, reading food labels, saving money by cooking at home, keeping gluten-free at school and social events, how to avoid cross-contamination, eating out safely in restaurants and much, much more.

The book comes with multiple downloadable bonuses including:

School College and the 504 Plan
Simple Dining Our Card
Gluten-Free Black Bean Recipe
Gluten-Free Cookbook Recommendations
Easy Gluten-Free Meals
Gluten-Free Flour Blends
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Family Talk: Getting Your Family Tested For Celiac Disease
Additives and Ingredients That Are Gluten-Free
Shopping List: Gluten-Free Foods

Overall, I thought this book was a good choice because it is written well and the author is someone who lives the lifestyle and studies nutrition. How could you go wrong? If you or someone you love needs to eat gluten-free then you should start your research with this book.

Burden of Proof (FBI Rapid Response)
Diann Mills
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496427052, $14.99,

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

If you're looking for a fast-paced, character driven, romantic suspense super-charged with duplicitous intrigue, corruption and murder, Diann Mills latest release, "Burden of Proof" fits the bill. Not only is it a complex action suspense filled with unforeseen surprises, twists and turns it also includes touches of humor, spirituality and subtle romance.

However, none of that was on Special Agent April Ramos's mind as she raced up six flights of apartment house stairs to the rooftop where a man threatened to jump. As negotiator, the SWAT team had told her the man had been laid off from work just short of retirement, his name was Benson and there had been a family dispute. April had only lost one person in the six years she'd worked hostage negotiation and she was determined Benson wouldn't be the second.

She didn't yet know that Benson would indeed be her second or that after three hours of negotiation she would be standing in line at a nearby coffee shop hoping something sweet would distract her from the emotional toll she'd just experienced.

That's when a distraught young woman thrust a crying baby into April's arms and said, "Take her...I'm done with her" and then disappeared.

Shocked and concerned, April cradled the crying baby and tried to comfort her. Then a distraught man jogged up, said he was the father and accused her of kidnapping his daughter.

After a sharp exchange April told him she was an FBI agent and the baby would remain in her care until she found the legal guardian. The man then opened his jacket and showed April a gun. He warned her not to reach for her weapon, told her to follow him and whispered, "I don't want to hurt you."

Thus, begins a roller-coaster account of kidnapping, deception and murder. Where a hostage negotiator is taken hostage, a kidnapped baby is lost, found and lost again, a crooked sheriff and well-done frame job are wrapped in a sinister story of small-town corruption where nothing is as it seems.

Besides being a refreshing "clean read," without swearing and sexual innuendo,

the unpredictable plot, realistic characters and subtle touches of humor, faith and romance keep the pages turning long after lights should go out! Mills has added yet another winner to her growing roster of romantic thrillers, perhaps the best one yet.

The Time Before The Moon
Kamron Williams
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B07F1YRLJ1, $2.99, 353 pages

Suzie Housley

Life is a journey to be explored . . .

Omi is a boy who successfully won a great prize in a competition. He is proud of his accomplishment and begins to question his existence in his homeland. He finds that his adventurous soul craves to break free of the life he is currently living situation.

With his new-found courage, he makes the brave decision to break free of the safety of his village. Unknown to him is that he's being targeted by a wicked hierarchy who's determined to destroy him. The battles he's forced to endure grows him well into an adult. Will he be strong enough to defend the evil forces intent on his destruction?

Kamron Williams writes with explicit details that allow the reader to project the pages of the book in their mind's eye. His style is one that is both compelling and complex. His descriptive words and perfect setting compliment his writing.

This book will take you on a journey of a young man who quickly becomes an adult. You will feel his anxious and triumph as he battles that obstacles that try to prevent him from discovering himself. This book is one that is hard to forget. Each scene is masterfully crafted and will long stay in the reader's mind. I highly recommend this author and look forward to future books to come.

Malheur August
Nancy Judd Minor
Golden Antelope Press
9781936135615, $16.95, 202pp,

Barb Randall

Lake Oswego author Nancy Judd Minor has released 'Malheur August.' The author calls it a 'recovery tale.'

Malheur means "bad time," and Lake Oswego resident Nancy Judd Minor plays that notion skillfully in her debut novel "Malheur August," released Oct. 15.

"I grew up in Vale," she said. "It's as far east as you can go and still be in Oregon. The area sticks in your blood; its high desert, harsh country but it's beautiful."

Minor knows the landscape, fishing holes the dangerous parts of the river and the spots where teens go to break the rules. And she knows the people of the region, too.

"It's a story from my youth," she said.

Minor graduated from Coos Bay High School and Brigham Young University. She taught English at Westview High School and education courses at Lewis & Clark College. When she retired she focused on writing the book which had been on her mind for years.

A synopsis of "Malheur August" reads:

"Minor's protagonist, Jean Algood, spends her last home-from-college summer questioning her parents' friends and neighbors about what Clete and Oleta had been like at her age, and about what had gone wrong - what had embittered her father and hollowed out her mother in the years before she was born. The questioning is triggered by a photograph Jean and her cousin find when they venture into the ramshackle hut of the town's recently deceased old hermit. Who was the hermit? Why did he keep a Kodak image of young Clete Algood in an empty coffee can in his shack? Who was the beautiful girl standing next to Clete in the photo, the one with the too-familiar eyes? The mannish woman in the photo, they remembered from another Kodak back home. It was Clete's twin sister, Cloris, who hasn't been seen in Malheur County since 1946.

"The plot thickens as they try to identify the hermit. Sweetens as their mother's old friend recounts parts of Oleta's story. Sours when Clete's tractor overturns. Thickens again when Aunt Opal - Clete's uber-bossy Mormon sister - manages to contact Cloris. And then quietly explodes.

"This is a recovery tale, beautifully fragmented and waiting to be stitched back together into the crazy quilt which was "this American life" 50 or 75 years ago. Its spot on about mid-20th century rural life: It's full of affection and humor and dread. It's replete with rodeos and kittens, seductions and pregnancies, apple pies and accidental deaths and half-hearted heroism. It's loaded with secrets and their keepers."

The book is available at Annie Bloom's Books, 7834 S.W. Capitol Hwy. in Portland, through and the publisher, Golden Antelope Press,

Minor will hold a book reading and signing event at Annie Bloom's from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 10, 2019. Learn more on her website

The Torch Betrayal
Glenn Dyer
TMR Press, LLC
9780999117309, $15.99 PB, $4.99 (Paper)
9780999117316, $4.99 (eBook), 345pp,

Kirkus Reviews

In this debut spy novel, two secret agents attempt to protect the Allies from intelligence leaks.

October 1942. When a document containing the directives of the Allies' first joint offensive against the Axis powers goes missing from an American air base in England, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower orders the fledgling OSS -- an American intelligence service formed a mere four months prior -- to recover it by any means. It falls to agent Conor Thorn, a "reckless cowboy" who was drummed out of the U.S. Navy for reasons he would rather not talk about, to recover the document.

The invasion ships are already packed and scheduled to sail, and time is of the utmost importance. "At the outside, you have sixteen days," Thorn is informed when he receives his instructions. "Don't use them all."

Assigned to help Thorn is MI6 agent Emily Bright, a former aid to Winston Churchill who proved herself in the service of the War Cabinet during the Blitz. Bright will stop at nothing to put an end to the German war machine, and Thorn will do anything to prove that, despite his checkered past, he is a soldier worth his salt.

The two will have to work together to discover what treacherous element within the Allied forces is feeding information to the Nazis in order to save Operation Torch -- the British and American invasion of German-held North Africa -- from becoming a massacre.

Dyer writes in a confident, gripping prose that adeptly summons the formality and intrigue of World War II intelligence. It is apparent how enamored the author is of the milieu, and while the plot moves along at a steady clip, Dyer isn't afraid to let his scenes marinate at times.

With cameos from the likes of Charles de Gaulle, Churchill, Eisenhower, and Hedy Lamarr, the book delivers plenty of fun for fans of historical fiction while managing to present a genuinely entertaining spy mystery. The usual genre beats are present, but Thorn and Bright make a compelling pair, and the reader should be pleased to follow them in future adventures.

A well-crafted espionage tale set during World War II.

The Last Rhino
Deborah Stevenson, author
Morgan Spicer, illustrator
Frog Prince Books
9781732541047, $11.95 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 88pp,

Holly Connors, Reviewer
Feathered Quill Book Reviews

Ayubu (pronounced ah-YOO-boo) is a baby rhino living on the African savanna. Under his mother's careful watch, he romps along the open grasslands and plays with friends at the local watering hole. Life is good for Ayubu, but that is all about to change...

While Ayubu plays in the water, it's not just his mother that keeps an eye on him, but also Imari, a cattle egret who removes the insects and ticks from the rhinos' backs. In exchange, the egret alerts the rhinos to danger that he can spot while flying high above the savannah. Ayubu notices that his mother and Imari are always on the lookout for danger, and he quickly learns that they fear not just lions and other carnivores, but also human poachers.

One evening, while listening to a story about his father and sister (who had been lost to poachers), Ayubu is startled when a herd of springboks come flying by them. "Poachers," screams Imari and they are all instantly on their feet and running for the safety of the brush. A narrow escape from the humans teaches Ayubu to always be on guard but unfortunately, it isn't long before his mother falls victim to the humans' appetite for rhino horns.

The bulk of The Last Rhino follows Ayubu as he grows up without his mother by his side, and shares exploits with his new best friend Raziya, a baby elephant. They go on fun adventures, meet a pair of very goofy monkeys, and even stumble upon a pride of lions. Of course, the presence of poachers is always of concern, and as Ayubu matures, and his horn grows, the danger becomes more pressing. A final showdown, where Ayubu will risk everything to help his dear friend Raziya, brings the story to a final, satisfying ending, and will have children clutching the pages to see what happens...

The Last Rhino is an early-reader chapter book that quickly engages the reader with a fun story. The writing is crisp, the dialogue believable (as long as you are willing to believe that animals talk and play "I Spy"), and the important message about conservation isn't thrust upon the reader but gently becomes a part of the story. The death of Ayubu's mother is handled perfectly, with her falling into a poacher's pit and that is the last we see of her. There are lovely drawings throughout, and on the pages between chapters where there is no text, the publisher has covered the page with a pretty African pattern. Finally, at the back of the book are several informational pages, including a page with proper pronunciation of the African names in the story, fun facts about rhinos, about symbiosis with birds, and what the reader can do to help rhinos. This book is the "total package" for young readers to learn about, and learn to care about, rhinos.

Quill says: The Last Rhino is an excellent book for young readers who will discover a fun story that also teaches a very important lesson about conservation. After reading this book, they will be inspired to help and armed with the information at the back of the book, they'll know how to get started on their quest to save the rhinos.

For more information on The Last Rhino, please visit the publisher's website at:

M.P. Follin
Castleton Press
9781732162808, $8.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 201pp,

Chanticleer Reviews

"Award-winning author, M.P. Follin presents a fantasy-rich Middle-Grade novel about a video game that may be more ? but play at your own risk! 'Ethyr' is a wild ride where one wrong move means game over - permanently!" - Chanticleer Reviews, 5/5 Rating

Twelve-year-old Skyler Beam cops a squat onto his bean bag chair and logs into his favorite game Ethyr - his only real form of pleasure these days. He powers up his avatar, SkyWyz12, and goes in search of his friends across the lunar surface but strikes outs. He is alone for the moment. Soon, a nameless player appears, who possesses impressive skills beyond the game's design, and takes an interest in Skyler. Within minutes, the silent companion gets a bit too clingy for comfort, but SkyWyz12 can't shake the irritating avatar and then discovers why. "Skyler Beam, I've been looking for you." Skyler freaks, logs out, and slams his laptop cover closed.

Ethyr is a multi-player game offering different scenarios such as the House of Dragon dojo where players spar (clobber) each other to earn colored belts, or Lunarscape, where, propelled by jetpacks, they can fly around the Moon.

Skyler tells his friend and fellow Ethyr enthusiast, Ellie, of his encounter with the silent avatar and asks her to join him in the game later that day. She agrees, and they meet inside the dojo, along with two friends from his old school, Eddie and Brian. Soon, a mysterious, silent opponent appears, and the game morphs into something real. Skyler's friends disappear, and he is locked in hand-to-hand combat with his opponent - with actual swords. Skyler gets his butt kicked and ends up with a sword point tickling his throat. His opponent, Neshama, suddenly allows him up and begins to answer a few questions. Once Skyler escapes the game, he grows more determined to learn more about Neshama's and his secrets.

Now Skyler's world begins to tilt off its axis. Unexplainable incidents and events occur all around him. He craves answers, but there is only one way to find them: he must re-enter Ethyr. Unfortunately, to do so, may come at the incredible cost of his life or lives of those closest to him.

Follin excels at creating the settings for Skyler's everyday life both inside and outside of Ethyr. Her smooth prose, realistic dialogue, tension and conflict between the characters, descriptions, surprising twists and turns, and solid pacing make for a delightful read for all ages. Ethyr - the novel - is a real pleasure to read!

M.P. Follin won 1st Place in the 2016 Gertrude Warner Awards for Ethyr.

Hoochie Coochie Man: A Varian Pike Mystery
Jack DeWitt
Cold Chair Books
9781721713837, $12.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 280pp,

Reviewed by AJ Sabatini
Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Art and Performance
Arizona State University-West

Stamford, Connecticut is a city on Long Island Sound, just east of the New York State line. In Jack Dewitt's three Varian Pike Mystery novels, which take place in the 1950s, the town is nice enough, except for an underbelly of Mafia and police corruption, anti-Semitism and murder, gang rivalries and a slew of bombings by an ex-CIA chemist driven to near insanity after been subjected to drug testing with LSD. The newspapers call him "The Mad Bomber" but he calls himself the "Hootchie Coochie Man."

Enter private detective Varian Pike, a World War II veteran with a wise mouth, hard punches and an interest in jazz and cars. Pike has been around the block and he knows Stamford like a tour guide. He is willing to take on cases that get him onto the bad side of most cops and the FBI. So much the worse for them because Pike has a moral streak as wide as his intolerance for thugs and government agents. He'll also shoot bad guys without thinking too much about it.

Through each book, Pike has to untangle the double dealings of the local police and figure out how it happened that the political stirrings in then current events seeped into daily life in a place as ordinary as Stamford. In Hoochie Coochie Man, the bomber holds a political grudge against the federal government who he believes has been developing biological weapons and covering up the injustices of Jim Crow and other crimes. If you know your history, which DeWitt surely does, the 1950s was a time of rampant paranoia and cruel racism. It was also the moment of cultural changes that Varian Pike pays attention to, though he is not sure what exactly is going on.

In the first mystery, Delicious Little Traitor, Pike searched out the killer of a college girl who found out about the machinations of a Commie hunting Congressman. A few years later, in Beat Bop, he helped out a young African-American singer who was framed for the murder of a reporter investigating an investment company. Along the way, Pike picked up modern art and tuned to the shift in popular music from jazz to R&B. In Hoochie Coochie Man, on a stakeout he winds up seeing James Dean in the movie Rebel Without a Cause and later hearing about a wild poetry reading in San Francisco. Not to worry, he is also on top of the Yankee's loss in the 1955 World Series.

Pike also finds some intriguing associates to help him out. A British wartime resistance fighter comes on the case to track down the possibility of the involvement of Nazi doctors. And a woman psychologist, who learned about herself through the therapy of Wilhelm Reich, tries to show Pike what modern women can do. He's game, but turns out she has other ideas for her future.

In the end, damage is done but - since some of the book is drawn on real historical incidents and characters - you get the feeling that just as there will always be terrible mysteries to solve, there will also be cover-ups and a need to know more about what actually is going on around us.

Damage Control
Thomas M. Cassidy
Cedar Forge Press
9781943290512, $26.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 272pp,

Rita J. Egan, Reviewer
TBR News Media

Setauket resident Thomas M. Cassidy has taken his real-life experiences as an investigator and turned them into a detective thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. The book "Damage Control," set in the early 1980s, travels back to a time when detectives solved crimes without the help of modern technology and had to rely solely on their instincts and wit. Using New York City as a backdrop and an array of characters, Cassidy takes readers on an interesting trip behind the scenes to see how crimes were once solved.

Recently, Cassidy took time out to answer a few questions about writing his first mystery novel.

Q: You were a former senior investigator with the New York State Attorney General's Office. How did you become interested in writing?

A: As a reader of crime fiction and a frontline investigator, I challenged myself 25 years ago to take the leap and write a book. I was amazed at how fast I was able to complete my goal. It took me two weeks to write my book. But, it was only 12 pages long! OK, it was a short book, but it changed my life forever.

I started buying books on how to write novels and get published. Then I read in The Village Times Herald that a professor at Stony Brook University, the late Deborah Hecht, offered a free workshop called Coffee and Conversations for aspiring writers on the third Friday of each month. This program, which is no longer available, included a presentation by an author, publisher or journalist as well as time to interact with other would-be writers. I listened, learned and read. I kept adding pages to my book.

Q: How long did it take you to write 'Damage Control'?

A: It took me more than 25 years to reach the finish line for "Damage Control." I thought I had finished it in 1999, 2001 and 2004, but each update resulted in numerous rejection letters from literary agents and publishers. As I continued adding pages to my novel, I felt a big piece of my mystery puzzle was missing: I needed a mentor with hands-on experience in the New York City Police Department.

I gave my father, Hugh "Joe" Cassidy, a retired NYPD detective commander, my draft manuscript. He rolled up his sleeves at once, and he spent many months working and sharing his expertise with me on every phase of my book until his death in 2011 at age 85. Plus, by this time I was an experienced author of several nonfiction books.

Q: How many books have you written?

A: My writing life took a surprising turn when friends and family members started asking me for elder care help because of my experience as a health fraud and patient abuse investigator. I then began writing books about growing old in America, including "Elder Care/What to Look For/What to Look Out For!" from New Horizon Press, "How to Choose Retirement Housing," from the American Institute for Economic Research, and co-editor of a college textbook, "Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Aging" from Springer Publishing Company.

Q: Is 'Damage Control' your first fiction novel?

A: Yes. I never gave up on my detective mystery. I believed that I chanced upon many fascinating detectives, investigators, FBI agents and investigations in my career, and I wanted to share my experiences in a novel.

How would you describe the book to someone who hasn't read it?

On September 10, 1981, Lieutenant John Patrick Donnellan, Manhattan South Homicide, is in a routine meeting with the medical examiner when he gets an urgent call about a high-profile murder in midtown Manhattan that will change his life forever. In one of the deadliest years in New York City history, this murder stands out among the rest, and with only weeks before the mayoral election, all eyes are on the city's response.

Donnellan, well known in police, political and media circles as a straight talker with a cynical wit, is warned by the most powerful politician in the city to keep a lid on media leaks - and himself - or he will be off the case. Vintage Donnellan sarcasm, scorn and mockery have to be bottled up. But with all the buffoons, phonies and opportunists mixed up in this case, keeping his big mouth shut may be his most difficult task as he navigates through uncharted emotional media, organized crime and romantic networks in pursuit of the killer.

Q: Are any of the events or characters based on real-life experiences or people in your life?

A: Yes, many of the events, characters and investigations mentioned in "Damage Control" are loosely based on real-life experiences, while others are a product of my imagination. In addition, all of the New York City police procedures were provided by my father, a thirty-year veteran of the NYPD.

Q: How close to reality are the investigations in this novel?

A: "Damage Control" is set in 1981, which was one of the most violent years in New York City history. The investigations in this book are close to reality because back then there was no internet or smartphones, so investigators relied on street smarts.

Q: Do you feel your experiences as an investigator helped you when writing this book?

A: Yes, being an investigator definitely helped me write this book. I knew firsthand that many cases have unexpected twists and turns that could never be anticipated when the first wave of detectives arrive at a crime scene. I was able to call upon my own experiences, as well as those of other detectives I worked with or met along the way, as I wrote "Damage Control."

Q: What is your favorite scene in the book?

A: I'm nostalgic for the Windows on the World restaurant at the Twin Towers. I had to include that location in the book as a reminder of life before Sept. 11.

Q: What was it like to work with your dad on a detective mystery?

A: It was truly a blessing for me to share the last years of his life working together on this project. The first time I held my book in my hands, I felt his spirit with me and saw his fingerprints on every page of "Damage Control."

Q: What do you think your dad would have thought of the finished product?

A: I don't want to give away the ending, but he would have laughed so hard at one critical breakthrough uncovered by Donnellan that I would have had to help him get up off the floor. I'm also very confident that he would have written a five-star review of the book on Amazon, like he did for my book on elder care, that he would be the first person to take "Damage Control" out of the library, and he would be helping me write the sequel, "Grave Danger."

Q: When is your next book signing event?

A: On Sept. 7, I'll be doing a book signing to support Old Field Farm's free Summer Film event. The week's movie is one of my favorites, "Casablanca." My late brother Hugh was the former owner of Old Field Farm, and I am grateful for the opportunity to honor his legacy.

"Damage Control" is available online at and For more information about the Old Field Farm Summer Film event, call 631-246-8983. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the farm is located at 92 West Meadow Road in Setauket.

The Good Monarchs: History's Greatest Kings, Queens, Emperors, Sultans and Caliphs
Gregg Coodley M.D.
Bendrogo Publishing
9780999077016, $13.95, PB, 200pp,

William McRae

"The Good Monarchs explores the life and times of 18 rulers whose reigns extend from the mists of prehistory to the 21st century, whose sense of purpose and duty drove them to govern for the broader good of all their subjects. The book does not advocate for monarchy - to the contrary, it seems notable that in thousands of years of history so few monarchs have truly focused on improving the lives of the people they govern - but it does underscore the role that individual character plays in leadership. The flawed but benevolent rulers profiled in this insightful volume rose above their era's tribal and ethnic allegiances to embrace an expansive sense of tolerance, compassion and justice for all their people - ideas that are as rare now as in the distant past."

When Life Hits the Fan: A Mindful Guide To Caring For Yourself While Caring For Others
Janet Fouts
Tatu Digital
9780692160336, $14.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 162pp,


Learn specific ways you can help yourself stay healthy... and sane.

When your world gets turned upside down to care for a sick loved one, "When Life Hits the Fan" is an essential guide to keep you grounded. Janet has created a highly valuable blend of real-life caregiver stories, science-based background, and easy-to-implement exercises.

Every chapter gives you a greater understanding of what's happening inside of you - physically, mentally, and emotionally - as well as practices to keep yourself centered and calm. Learn specific ways you can help yourself during trying times like these helps you stay healthy... and sane.

Do yourself a favor, or someone you know who needs support, and get this book.

Queen of the Darkest Hour
Kim Rendfeld
Privately Published
Paperback: 9780997569575, $14.99, 264pp
Kindle Digital Publishing edition (MOBI): 9780997569582, $5.99
Smashwords edition (ePub, MOBI, PDF, etc.): 9780997569599, $5.99

Bri's Book Nook, Reviewer

Family Strife Imperils the Realm

Francia, 783: Haunted by the Saxons' attack on her home fortress, Fastrada obeys her father and marries Charles, king of the Franks and a widower with seven children and an eighth on the way by a concubine. As more wars loom, Fastrada's greatest peril lurks within the castle walls: Pepin, Charles's son by his embittered former wife. Blaming his father for the curse that twisted his spine, Pepin rejects a prize archbishopric and plots with his uncle and mother to seize the throne. Can Fastrada stop the conspiracy before it destroys the kingdom?

Based on historic events during Charlemagne's reign, "Queen of the Darkest Hour" is the story of a family conflict endangering an entire country -- and the price to save it.

Wow. I love historical fiction, and this one completely blew my mind. It truly tells the full story of how dark the life of royals could be, and how even religion played into this state of "darkness".

Let's start with Fastrada. She marries a king who already has children by his former queen, and who has a concubine LIVING in the castle pregnant with his child. At first, I thought that this was going to be the main conflict, but it didn't even come close. Fastrada wants to assert her dominance over her new children and to take her place as the queen of the castle, but her place has already been taken by this woman. She can't seem to keep up with the lessons, and Pepin, the king's eldest son, seems to want to embarrass her at every turn. She is determined to please her new husband and will do everything in her power to deliver a son for her father. She is a character with two very different personalities. Sometimes she can be harsh and cruel, especially towards people who want to attack her or her kingdom, but she is also a sensitive person who reacts emotionally to many things. She nearly breaks down when her husband's concubine and son refuse to respect her, yet she is willing to have someone blinded for daring to attack her kingdom. She also can be religious in an almost superstitious way, believing that her stepson is a devil and giving alms multiple times a day in hope of a son. At times I felt bad for her, and then sometimes I hated her.

Then, there is Pepin. He has a twisted spine that he believes is caused by his father's sin. He wants to be treated as if he is as good as his younger brother whose spine is straight, but his father continues to protect him. As his condition worsens, he becomes even more bitter. No woman would look at him with love in her eyes due to his condition, and his father just wanted him to become a monk and disappear. He decided that he had to fight to keep his inheritance from going to his younger brother. Pepin was constantly a dark character, but the author still allowed him to have some grey areas. If his father had simply given him a wife and allowed him to go fight in the war, Pepin most likely would have been happy. He might have died, but he would have died doing what he wanted to do. He would not have died a slave to his disformity and despising the world and his father for it. But because the Christians were so superstitious and thought that his hunchback was a sign of the devil, he could never do this.

These were the two characters that stood out to me the most, and the story was told mostly in the eyes of these two people. Nevertheless, there was a whole cast of characters in this story, and each character had their own personality and story. I could go on and one about the parts that I liked and disliked about each character, but I would just suggest that you read it for yourself and find out!

I think that the part I liked the best about this story was the discussion of the church's role in all of this madness. Fastrada thought that giving alms day after day would be able to change the gender of her child, and Pepin thought that prayer would heal his back and get rid of whoever he wanted. Pepin thought that his father's sin against his mother caused his spine to be deformed. Even though these people claimed to be Christians in the 700s, it is hard to see how they were much better than the "heathens" worshipping multiple gods or worshipping different single gods in other parts of the world at the same time. They would have concubines and prostitutes at all other times of the week and then think that a few alms or prayers would cure their sin. This was even worse for the peasants at the time who would give some of the only money they made in the week to the church. It was just a cycle of horror fueled by the Church's beliefs.

This book's plot flowed smoothly even though there were time skips as the characters aged. The plot was addictive, and this book had some of the best character development that I have ever read. Honestly, there probably aren't even that many manuscripts from the 700s preserved, but I felt like I was watching a movie of the royals' lives. This book will definitely be going into my permanent collection.

I would recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction. I received a copy of this book and this is my voluntary review. Overall Rating: 6 out of 5 stars

Tell Others
Marjorie Struck
Golden Quill Press
PO Box 83 Troutville VA
9780984733095, $16.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 144pp,

Joseph M. Duffy, MD. FAAFP

I was captured by your story which spanned so many years and family members.

I thank you for being a voice for those suffering from depression and those survivors who suffer with memories of family member's suicide. With great appreciation.

A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing
Tim Weed
Green Writers Press
9780997452846, $16.95 PB, $7.19 Kindle, 266pp,

Patrick Joyce

This collection of stories by Tim Weed is grounded in the specificity of its settings, all of which contain hazards of one kind or another: a mountain lake, a jungle peak, an Amazonian river, a prairie giving way to construction, a seashore suddenly overcome by the tide, a city stuck in the past, a snowy slope (or two). But it is also full of mystery, and much of the mystery is cosmic. Its stories are about transgression and karma, and a natural order that seems to render its characters uncertain of their own reality. It is written so deftly, with such a light touch, that suspense builds in each story like a gathering storm.

Fight Or Flight: The September Day Series Book 4
Amy Shojai
Furry Muse Publishing
P.O. Box 1904, Sherman TX 75091
9781948366021, $11.99 PB,$4.99 Ebook, 326pp,

Bonnie Thompson

I received an ARC of this from the author. Here's what I thought of it. I love the way Ms. Shojai writes about probable dog thoughts, motivations and how they seem to have a very special connection with their humans. She is truly an authority on this subject! In this fourth book of the September Day series, she introduces Lia and her Rottie mix, Karma to September and her dog, Shadow. Lia has been trying to get her dog boarding and training business up and running after several major setbacks. Along the way, she gets involved in trying to help bring down a child abduction ring. The bad guys seem to specialize in Hawaiian girls. So happens that a lady cop out of Chicago, a Hawaiian herself, is also helping out. Tense and dangerous twists abound! Then there's the family. Long-kept secrets come out and are quite surprising, and not only the human ones. Thriller to the end.

Andrea's Bookshelf

The Other Planet
McPherson & Company
PO Box 1126, Kingston, NY 12402
9781620540336, $16.00, PB, 272pp,

"The Other Planet" is subversive novel that asks if it is possible to live in the future? What would it mean to embrace the transformations created by every new thing, and at the same time to escape the depressing discrepancy between events that only happen and those which actually might? For Valeria Florescu, the desirable pathway would lead through "a subtly coherent twining of adventures" in a personal quest for the "extraordinary", But when Valeria quits her job as research chemist at a large industrial laboratory, she discovers first that uncertainty is more than a law of particle physics. Almost immediately she encounters the contradictory allures of two attractive men: Liam Lenehan, whose mad passion for order takes the curious form of repairing obsolescence; and Humberto Vilanescu, alchemical entrepreneur and impresario of futurism. Against the claustrophobic inertia of well-meaning family members, Valeria is propelled by the magnetic promise of self-realization into adventures at supercharged Manhattan parties, orgies in postmodern condos, and tours through the decrepit wilderness of exurbia. And then, as the ruins of reality slip behind, she journeys toward the fulfillment of the ambitious yearnings of an electronic generation. Unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections as a complex, elegant, and multilayered novel, "The Other Planet" is an extraordinary and thought-provoking read by the collaborative team of Sheila Ascher & Dennis Straus.

Strike Your Heart
Amelie Nothomb, author
Alison Anderson, translator
Europa Editions
214 West 29th Street, Suite 1003, New York, N.Y. 10001
9781609454852, $15.00, PB, 128pp,

Marie is the prettiest girl in her provincial hometown and is dating the most popular boy in town. She is the envy of all her schoolmates and she loves it. When she falls pregnant and gives birth to Diana, things change. Diana steals the hearts of all who meet her, inciting nothing but jealousy in her mother. "Strike Your Heart" is the story of a young, brilliant woman who grows up without maternal affection. It is the story of Diana's relationships with other women: her best friend, the sweet Elisabeth; her mentor, the selfish Olivia; her sister, the beloved Celia; and, of course, her mother. It is a story about the baser sentiments that often animate human relations: rivalry, jealousy, distrust. With her trademark wit, brevity, and tightly wound plots, Amelie Nothomb, one of Europe's most acclaimed and beloved authors as documented by this adult fable about human relationships and the mother-daughter bond. Ably translated into English for an American readership by Alison Anderson, "Strike Your Heart" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Strike Your Heart" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Andrea Kay

Andy's Bookshelf

Notre Dame Vs. the Klan
Todd Tucker
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268104344, $20.00, PB, 312pp,

Now back in print in a paperback edition, "Notre Dame vs. The Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan" by Todd Tucker tells of the weekend in May 1924 when members of the anti-Catholic KKK organization and students at the Catholic university of Notre Dame fought in South Bend, Indiana. To that conflict "Notre Dame vs. The Klan traces the decline of the Klan in Indiana and the acceptance of the university and Catholics more generally in the US. An impressively researched work of history, "Notre Dame vs. The Klan" is an extraordinary read and this new edition is especially timely with the current rise of white supremacists (including Neo-Nazis and the KKK) in our highly polarized political climate. Simply stated, a copy of "Notre Dame vs. The Klan" should be a part of every community, college, and university library collection in the country.

Black Diamond Fall
Joseph Olshan
Polis Books
1201 Hudson Street, #211S, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9781947993341, $26.00, HC, 304pp,

Luc Flanders has just finished playing a game of pond hockey with his college roommates when he realizes he has lost something precious and goes back to the ice to find it. He never returns, and the police department in Middlebury, Vermont are divided in their assessment of what may have happened to him. Some feel that Flanders left on his own accord and is deliberately out of touch. Others, including detectives Nick Jenkins and Helen Kennedy, suspect that harm may have come to him. As the search for Luc Flanders widens and intensifies, suspicions about several different people, including his Middlebury College roommates and ex-girlfriend arise. Unfortunately, Sam Solomon an older man with whom Luc has been having a secret relationship, cannot prove his whereabouts during the hours when the younger man may have disappeared and Solomon, too, comes under suspicion. As Luke Flanders disappears, the Robert Frost house near the Middlebury campus is vandalized. And there seems to be a link between the two events that the police are determined to discover. Alternating points of view between Luc Flanders Sam Solomon, Luc's mother and detective Nick Jenkins, "Black Diamond Fall" by Joseph Olshan is an inherently compelling read by a true master of the genre. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Black Diamond Fall" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Andy Jordan

Ann's Bookshelf

In My Mind's Eye
Jan Morris
9780571349010, A$32.99, hardback, 320 pages

In My Mind's Eye is a thought diary which, "having nothing better to write", Morris thought she would "have a go at". For 188 days, Jan (as she signs herself) shares her feelings and opinions on such diverse topics as colonialism (she approves of the good aspects of it), sheep (boring cud chewers), Donald Trump ("The style of him I rather admire. . . Do I trust him? No"), Royal weddings (Hal and Meg), Zoos ("ANATHEMA upon them! ANATHEMA!"), the trials of old age ("symptoms of my senility, or worse") and cats ("My Ibsen was different . . . like all the rest of them. Ask your Aunt Agatha!").

Here is Jan Morris pretending to be a sweet little old lady. Here she is on the dust-jacket posing against a 1960s Morris Minor (what my teenage grandson disparagingly calls a 'Granny Car') with her fluffy halo of white hair and her hands thrust deep in to the pockets of her long, peach-coloured cardigan. And here she is in her latest book chatting to us like old friends: "Good morning all. It's a pleasant day in Wales"; sharing her symptoms of old-age; forgetting words and names - "Is this the start of Alzheimer's?"; and gossiping about her neighbour - "a person I very much dislike".

But I don't believe it. Morris is having fun. She may be (as she tells us several times) in her ninety-second year but she drives "a dear old Honda Civic Type R 2000 vintage" and lusts after convertibles, Jaguars and Aston Martins and is likely to accost their owners and offer to swap cars. And not many grannies march a brisk 1000 paces every day "whistling, singing" or 'humming" military music from a "repertoire of rousing marches" and exhorting themselves - "LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, HEADS UP! EYES FRONT!". Not many old ladies recall driving a Centurion tank as a cadet at Sandhurst (Morris had gender reassignment surgery in Morocco at the age of forty-six). And no old lady can claim, as she does, to be the journalist who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on "the first expedition ever to climb Mount Everest".

Morris has lost none of her skills as a writer. She is acerbic, funny, curmudgeonly (her word), rambling, and she occasionally indulges herself by sharing one of her poems. She reminisces about some of the remarkable things she has done in her life and, in passing, we learn something of her taste in music and books. As a self-described "muzzy agnostic" she ponders on God. We hear about the "Smile Test" as a way of exploring "the national characteristics of that puzzling ethnic community, the English". And we learn of the various ways in which she and her "beloved Elizabeth", pass their days, listening to music, lunching at various local restaurants and watching passing strangers. Frequently, she writes of her love of Wales and of her own particular home and landscape there.

All-in-all, In My Mind's Eye is really like having light, charming, gossipy meetings with an old friend who believes that the recipe for a happy old age is "Be Kind", and it is probably best read at intervals, as if you were bumping into each other frequently, as good neighbours might.

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know
Colm Toibin
9781760781149, A$29.99, hardback, 214 pages

"Dublin then, was poor, down at heel, in the years when Oscar Wilde's father and W.B. Yeats's father and James Joyce's father lived in the city".

Many people walk the literary trails around Dublin but most are tourists and few of them will, like Toibin, have had a bank account in Westland Row, the street where Oscar Wilde was born and where James Joyce's Leopold Bloom once visited the Post Office using a false name. Many might know of W.B. Yeats's connection with the National Library and, perhaps, have been reminded of his Stephen Dedalus and the ghost of Hamlet's father. But few would have sat there, as Toibin did in 1974, and heard the bomb go off in South Leinster Street. And only Toibin can have speculated on placing a plaque on the home of Samuel Beckett's father reading "This is where Samuel Beckett did nothing much".

In his 'Introduction', Toibin takes us on his own literary tour of Dublin through which we meet not only the fathers of Oscar Wilde, W.B.Yeats and James Joyce, but also many other well-know writers - Gerard Manly Hopkins, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Kinsella, David Dickson, Eavan Boland - to name just a few. This is Toibin's Dublin, full of characters from the past and characters from the books and plays of those who helped re-create Dublin as a city steeped in the arts. It is also a small place where prominent families knew each other.

Curiously, Toibin's opening chapter about the father of Oscar Wilde is written round his own reading of De Profundis which was broadcast from the Reading Jail cell in which Oscar wrote it. In this text, he finds not only Oscar's response to his life and to his difficult relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas and with his own father, but also issues of class and status which reflect his parents' lives.

Sir William and Lady Jane Wilde were clearly intelligent, literate, imaginative, well-connected and decidedly odd individuals. Sir William, an eminent Victorian ophthalmologist and statistician was respected in the small circle of prominent Dubliners, but his lack of personal hygiene was notorious. His wife, the well-known poet 'Speranza', was known for the extravagant nature of her entertainments and for her often bizarre way of dressing and behaving. Their eldest son, Oscar, Toibin writes "merged the talents he had taken from his parents with their sense of nobility and their feeling that they could do what they liked".

Yeats's father, John Butler Yeats, was odd in a different way. As an artist (the profession he chose to follow to the detriment of his family) he appears to have had an inability, or unwillingness, to finish any of his paintings. He was educated, witty and popular but he regularly abandoned his family to pursue his career and he was constantly in debt. Toibin begins this chapter with a seemingly irrelevant discussion of 'gaze' but then narrows it down to the gaze of John Butler Yeats directed on him from a life-size copy of John's self-portrait, a work which John began in 1911 and which was still unfinished when he died in 1922.

In this chapter Toibin compares John Butler Yeats with the Dublin-based father of Henry James. He also spends a considerable amount of time charting the amorous long-distance romance-by-mail which John conducted with Rosa Butt, the unmarried daughter of his old friend and prominent Dublin lawyer, Isaac Butt. Toibin, briefly, finds traces of the father in the poems of his son, William Butler Yeats, but concludes that his influence was mainly to make William keep his distance and determine not to be like his father.

James Joyce similarly distanced himself from his father, James Stanislaus Joyce, but his relationship with him appears to have been complex. Toibin writes that he "sought to recreate his father, reimagine him, fully evoke him, live in his world, while at the same time making sure...he did not see him much". This chapter relies on the published diaries and book of James Joyce's younger brother (another Stanislaus) for a picture of the father but it and deals more closely with the changing and evolving image of the father in James Joyce's work.

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know is classed by the publishers as a Literary Essay. Versions of its three chapters were first presented at the Richard Ellmann Lectures at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 2017, which perhaps explains Toibin's unusual approach to the lives of each man. The images of the three men which are included in the book are also curious, mainly because the very unusual painting of James Joyce's father, by Patrick Tuohy, shows a man seated rather apprehensively, with a strangely penetrating but baffled gaze which would have perfectly illustrated Toibin's discussion of the painted gaze of John Butler Yeats. The photograph of John Butler Yeats, on the other hand, shows a mature, serious, white bearded man, wearing a dark suit and wide-brimmed hat and looking rather appraisingly at the viewer. Of all the images, that of Oscar Wilde's father seems most like his description in the book. It is clearly meant to present a successful man of some importance: he is probably in his thirties; he gazes off to one side with a slightly bored, sardonic expression as he leans back with his arm casually draped over the back of his chair; and he is wearing what looks like a silk waistcoat under his fashionable jacket and has his dark cravat tied in a careful bow.

To get the most from the book, and to enjoy some of Toibin's references to people, poems and plays, it helps to know the work of the famous and creative sons. But whether we need to know much about the lives, loves, talents, successes, failings and eccentricities of the fathers is debatable. Nevertheless, there is much of general interest in this book. And Toibin, as always, tells his stories fluently and well.

Sarah Perry
Profile Books Ltd.
c/o HarperCollins
9781788160667, A$29.99, paperback, 288 pages

"Helen Franklin: small, insignificant, having about her an air of sadness whose source you cannot guess at; self-punishment, self-hatred, carried out quietly and diligently and with a minimum of fuss?"

Melmoth The Witness, Melmotte, Melmotica, Melmat: "she who is cursed to wander the earth without home or respite".... "she is always watching", her eyes are upon you in your guilt and transgression. "That's what she does. Looks at the hell we've made and goes walking though it", taking you with her until your feet, like hers, are bleeding.

Sarah Perrys' Melmoth has all the richness, suspense and terror of a good gothic novel but it is more than that. Helen Franklin may be an unlikely heroine but it is though her that we learn of Melmoth, and it is Melmoth who haunts her and those others whose lives she enters, and whose dark presence make us, too, aware of the hells we walk through.

Helen has left England for mundane work as a translator of instruction manuals and advertising material in a wintery Prague which is full of tourists, post-Christmas music, colour and smells. She cares nothing for these pleasures and sees it only as "a stage set", "pleasant enough for an evening of self-deceit, but nothing more". An accidental meeting with Dr Karel Prazan in the cafe of the National Library leads to an uncharacteristic friendship with Karel and his vivacious, stroke-disabled wide, Thea. And it is Karel who gives Helen the document from which she first learns of Melmoth and begins to feel herself being watched and followed.

Karel, too, has been deeply disturbed by the contents of this manuscript and by others in a file which has been left to him by an old man he had seen working on them in the library and with whom he had struck up a brief acquaintance. Arriving at the library very early one morning, he finds the old man dead at his library desk and is given a letter: "My dear Dr Prazan" it begins "how deeply I regret that I must put this document in your hands, and so make you witness to what I have done", and ends "my pen is dry, the door is open, she is coming!".

Slowly, as we follow Helen through the next few weeks and read with her those documents we, too, begin to feel the presence of Melmoth and to discover her ever-present watchfulness, her knowledge of our darkest secrets, and her skillful manipulation of human frailties, national pride, hatreds and complacency.

But is Melmoth just a mythical creation? At one point in the book we are given Karel's list of evidence for the existence of Melmoth. She, it seems, was amongst the women present at Jesus's tomb when the stone was rolled away and who saw the risen Christ, but she denied it and so is cursed to wander the earth without home or respite until Christ comes again. Karel's list includes a number of things which do, in fact, exist: an opera by Janancek (1899); a story by Theodor Storm (1888); and, especially, a gothic novel - Melmoth The Wanderer - by Charles Maturin (1820), who is one of the people to whom Sarah Perry dedicates her own novel. To some extent, Sarah Perry follows the gothic style and structure of Maturin's book, adopting (very skillfully) several different voices to let others tell us of their own encounters with Melmoth.

First, there is Joseph Franklin, the old man who died in the library. His document is a confession of guilt related to wartime events in Prague and Helen, chillingly, stumbles across evidence of the result of his actions.

Secondly, there is a letter written by Sir David Ellerby to his wife in 1637. He tells of helping, out of Christian Duty, an old woman he found ill by the roadside, and he recounts the story she told him as she lay dying. Her meeting with Melmoth was the culmination of her trial as an unrepentant religious Dissenter "who kept John's Gospel in the common tongue" at the time of Queen Mary ('Bloody Mary'). Her terror of being burned to death for her religious beliefs, and Melmoth's crafty arguments, had caused her "great sin".

A third document, "The Cairo journal of Anna Marney 1931", tells of two brothers growing up as Turkish nationals in Cairo and of their signing of papers, as "humble bureaucrats" in a minor government department, which caused the suffering and deaths of Greek/Armenians with whom the Turks were at war. The confrontation between one of the brothers, "Nameless", and Melmoth is terrifying and harrowing, and it becomes a terrible (and timely) reminder to the reader of his father's words: "My son, beware the pride of nations".

Ultimately, there is Helen's story, the revelation of her own guilty secret and her own reason to be aware of Melmoth as an ever-present, dark shadow. Helen's is a story of a love affair with a young man in Manila, and of the unbearable pain of a dying woman. Perry weaves this story with colourful and gripping skill into ongoing events in Helen's life in Prague, and ends it with the resolution of her guilt.

But Perry and Melmoth are not quite finished with us:

"Look! It is midnight on the Vltava. The banks are white with sleeping swans and ice that creeps from east to west". There, in the empty city, is a lonely solitary figure "gazing down into the river, with an eternal, an absolute solitude! Think of a black ship adrift in a windless calm - think of the last star burning in an empty sky!"... "you know her, you have been waiting for her". How could she not be there when the ills of the world are still unresolved?

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Sacred Britannia
Miranda Aldhouse-Green
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500252222 $29.95

Synopsis: A compelling new account of religion in Roman Britain, weaving together the latest archaeological research and a new analysis of ancient literature to illuminate parallels between past and present.

Two thousand years ago, the Romans sought to absorb into their empire what they regarded as a remote, almost mythical island on the very edge of the known world?Britain. The expeditions of Julius Caesar and the Claudian invasion of 43 CE, up to the traditional end of Roman Britain in the fifth century CE, brought fundamental and lasting changes to the island. Not least among these was a pantheon of new classical deities and religious systems, along with a clutch of exotic eastern cults, including Christianity. But what homegrown deities, cults, and cosmologies did the Romans encounter in Britain, and how did the British react to the changes? Under Roman rule, the old gods and their adherents were challenged, adopted, adapted, absorbed, and reconfigured.

Miranda Aldhouse- Green balances literary, archaeological, and iconographic evidence (and scrutinizes the shortcomings of each) to illuminate the complexity of religion and belief in Roman Britain. She examines the two-way traffic of cultural exchange and the interplay between imported and indigenous factions to reveal how this period on the cusp between prehistory and history knew many of the same tensions, ideologies, and issues of identity still relevant today.

Critique: Miranda Aldhouse-Green (Emeritus Professor in the Department of Archaeology, Cardiff University) presents The Gods and Rituals of Roman Britain, a scholarly examination of how Roman influence affected religious life in British territory, from approximately 43 CE to the end of Roman Britain in fifth century CE. Here are religions of ancient gods, which were modified and molded in accordance with Roman religion. Here also is a glimpse of early Christianity, which began to trickle into Britannia during the Roman era. Grounded in extensive and exhaustive archeological research, and enhanced with over 100 black-and-white illustrations and photographs, Sacred Britannia is highly recommended for public and college library collections.

The Book of Rumi
Rumi, author
Maryam Mafi, translator
Hampton Roads Publishing Company
65 Parker St., Ste. 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781571747464, $16.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi who is more popularly simply as Rumi (30 September 1207 - 17 December 1273), was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic originally from Greater Khorasan. Rumi's influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions: Iranians, Tajiks, Turks, Greeks, Pashtuns, other Central Asian Muslims, and the Muslims of South Asia have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and transposed into various formats. (Wikipedia).

"The Book of Rumi: 105 Stories and Fables that Illumine, Delight, and Inform" is fresh prose translation into English by Maryam Mafi of 105 short teaching stories by Rumi, which form the core of the six-volume Masnavi, explores the hidden spiritual aspects of everyday experience.

Rumi transforms the seemingly mundane events of daily life into profound Sufi teaching moments. These prose gems open the mystical portal to the world of the ancient mystic.

These stories include well-known and popular tales such as "Angel of Death," "The Sufi and His Cheating Wife," "Moses and the Shepherd," "Chickpeas," and "The Greek and Chinese Painters" as well as the less commonly quoted parables: "The Basket Weaver," "The Mud Eater," and "A Sackful of Pebbles."

Rumi's voice alternates between playful and authoritative, whether he is telling stories of ordinary lives or inviting the discerning reader to higher levels of introspection and attainment of transcendent values. Mafi's translations delicately reflect the nuances of Rumi's poetry while retaining the positive tone of all of Rumi's writings, as well as the sense of suspense and drama that mark the essence of the Masnavi.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Foreword by Narguess Farzad (Senior Fellow in Persian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), "The Book of Rumi: 105 Stories and Fables that Illumine, Delight, and Inform" is an extraordinary, life affirming read that is a 'must' for community, college, and university library Islamic Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Book of Rumi" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982529444, $29.95, CD).

The Mysterious Magickal Cat
D.J. Conway
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738757407 $22.99

Synopsis: Very few animals have evoked such extremes in emotions?from admiration to fear?as the feline family. Cats are mysterious, mystical creatures who can do anything from predicting earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to reacting to haunted buildings and following the movement of things you can't see. We are fascinated by cats and their behavior, their regal bearing, and their intelligence, yet we are unnerved by their inscrutable stare and savage natural instincts.

In The Mysterious, Magickal Cat you will discover:

* The origins of cats, big and small
* Little-known details about cat anatomy and behavior
* How to read a cat's verbal and non-verbal communication
* The cat in ancient history and superstition
* Feline deities from around the world
* Sacred breeds and temple lore
* Felines in folklore, literature, and art
* Cat spells for healing animals or humans, finding a true love, attracting prosperity, seeking protection, building courage, and more

Gain a complete look at this beguiling creature: from what it means when a cat flicks its tail to how you can use discarded whiskers for magickal spells. Explore the lore of cats big and small, and discover how other cultures have honored cats throughout the ages.

Critique: The Mysterious Magickal Cat is a treasure both for ailurophiles and occultists. A handful of black-and-white illustrations and photographs enhance this repository of feline history, folklore, and role in metaphysical weavings. There is also a fair amount of information about the proper care of cats. The Mysterious Magickal Cat is a delight for personal browsing, and also makes an excellent giftbook for the cat-lover in one's life! Highly recommended.

Buddhism for Western Children
Kirstin Allio
University of Iowa Press
100 Kuhl House, 119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609385965, $17.00, PB, 284pp,

Synopsis: Set on the coast of Maine and in the high desert of New Mexico in the late 1970s through the early 80s, Buddhism for Western Children is a universal and timeless story of a boy who must escape subjugation, tell his story, and reclaim his soul.

In search of community and transcendence, ten-year-old Daniel's family is swept into the thrall of a potent and manipulative guru. To his followers, Avadhoot Master King Ivanovich is a living god, a charismatic leader who may reveal enlightenment as he mesmerizes, and alchemizes, Eastern and Western spiritual traditions.

Daniel's family plunges into a world with different rules and rhythms -- and with no apparent exit. They join other devotees in shunning the outside world, and fall under the absolutist authority of the guru and his lieutenants. Daniel bears witness to the relentless competition for the guru's favor, even as he begins to recognize the perversion of his spirituality. Soon, Daniel himself is chosen to play a role. As tensions simmer and roil, darkness intrudes. Devotees overstep, placing even the children in jeopardy. Daniel struggles with conflicting desires to resist and to belong, until finally he must decide who to save and who to abandon.

Critique: Deftly crafted storytelling with spiraling, spellbinding language, author Kirstin Allio's inherently riveting novel reveals a cast of vivid, often darkly funny characters, and propels her readers toward a shocking climax where Daniel's story cracks open like a kaleidoscope, revealing the costs of submitting to a tyrant and the shimmering resilience of the human spirit. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Buddhism for Western Children" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.47).

Esther Gerritsen, author
Michele Hutchison, translator
World Editions
9781642860023, $15.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Elisabeth is dying. Here daughter Coco jumps at this chance to prove her love, and promptly moves in with her deteriorating mother. A venture that quickly sends both parties spiraling out of control.

Alongside a supporting cast of ex-bosses, ex-husbands, and (soon to be ex) boyfriends, the two women attempt to work through the annals of their dark yet often wildly humorous relationship.

Psychologically astute and eye-poppingly candid, "Craving" is a tale about both excess and denial in which some things perhaps would have been better left unspoken. Sometimes the only person who understands you in this world is your hairdresser!

Critique: Esther Gerritsen is a Dutch novelist, columnist, and playwright. She is one of the most established, widely read, and highly praised authors in the Netherlands, and makes regular appearances on radio and at literary festivals. In 2014 she was awarded the Frans Kellendonk Prize for her oeuvre.

Ably translated into English for an appreciative American readership by Michele Hutchison, "Craving" showcases author Esther Gerritsen's sparse and lucid prose, and her genuine flair for absurdist logic and melancholy wit in the deft crafting of characters that are as recognizable as they are memorable.

While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Craving" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.80).

The Complete Book of Calligraphy & Lettering
Cari Ferraro, et al.
Walter Foster Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781633225947, $24.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: A comprehensive guide to more than 100 traditional calligraphy and hand-lettering techniques, "The Complete Book of Calligraphy & Lettering" provides expert instruction on the intricacies of traditional lettering techniques, as well as an informative introduction to contemporary hand-lettering formats.

From selecting the appropriate tools, such as pens, nibs, brushes, inks, and papers, to learning optimal hand positioning and understanding the intricacies of lettering angles, heights, spacing, and strokes, "The Complete Book of Calligraphy & Lettering" will help lettering enthusiasts swiftly master their craft.

Step-by-step lessons, practice templates, and a range of stunning alphabets demonstrate the breadth of artistic achievement that comes with practice and dedication. Four professional artists guide you through traditional calligraphy techniques, as well as an introduction to contemporary hand-lettering art forms, such as brush lettering and mixed media, for a well-rounded approach to the craft.

Additionally, a short section on Chinese brush lettering and several mixed media lettering projects inspire creativity and demonstrate how calligraphy and lettering can be used in wider artistic contexts and projects. Including practice templates for several featured alphabets in addition to mixed media "bonus" projects designed to inspire artistic creativity, "The Complete Book of Calligraphy & Lettering" will inspire lettering enthusiasts of all skill levels to strengthen their existing skills and delve into new, lesser-known variations of the trend.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, "The Complete Book of Calligraphy & Lettering" is a complete, comprehensive, and thoroughly 'user friendly' course of instruction for aspiring calligraphers and unreservedly recommended as a core addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Calligraphy instructional reference collections.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Ranger Ideal: Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame, Volume 2
Darren L. Ivey
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574417333 $45.00

Synopsis: Established in Waco in 1968, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum honors the iconic Texas Rangers, a service that has existed, in one form or another, since 1823. They have become legendary symbols of Texas and the American West.

In The Ranger Ideal Volume 2: Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame, 1874-1930, Darren L. Ivey presents the twelve inductees who served Texas in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Ivey begins with John B. Jones, who directed his Rangers from state troops to professional lawmen; then covers Leander H. McNelly, John B. Armstrong, James B. Gillett, Jesse Lee Hall, George W. Baylor, Bryan Marsh, and Ira Aten - the men who were responsible for some of the Rangers' most legendary feats. Ivey concludes with James A. Brooks, William J. McDonald, John R. Hughes, and John H. Rogers, the "Four Great Captains" who guided the Texas Rangers into the twentieth century.

The Ranger Ideal presents the true stories of these intrepid men who fought to tame a land with gallantry, grit, and guns.

Critique: Enhanced with extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index, The Ranger Ideal: Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame, Volume 2 continues this series of scholarly, capsule biographies of individuals who earned lasting recognition in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. Profiling Twelve inductees who served during the second half of the 1800's, The Ranger Ideal is thoroughly detailed yet accessible to readers of all backgrounds. The Ranger Ideal Volume 2 is highly recommended for public and college library American History and Texas History collections, as is the previous volume in the series, The Ranger Ideal Volume 1 (9781574416909, $39.95).

Striving for Perfection
Colin Jaque
Shieldcrest Publishing Ltd
9781911090779, $11.99, PB, 148pp,

Synopsis: For 2,500 years academics and historians had concluded that Ramesses II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus account when the Israelites left Egypt. But there was no evidence in support of that theory and every reason to disbelieve it, which led to the observation that the whole story was just a myth.

"Striving for Perfection" by Colin Jaque takes a new look at the historical events and, using all the information available from the Bible and Egyptian record in order to now show what actually happened and when it occurred.

"Striving for Perfection" covers the social, economic and religious concerns that led to the enslavement of the Israelites and the belittling by Moses who goaded a weak and worthless Pharaoh (who was thrust onto the throne by his vicious and dictatorial predecessor) to his eventual death.

"Striving for Perfection" brings alive the Bible story from Joseph to Moses fitting perfectly with the best knowledge we have of the 18th Dynasty Monarchs of Ancient Egypt and goes to proving the truth that the Exodus did take place enabling a date to be put to this crucial event.

Critique: Impressively researched, organized and presented, "Striving for Perfection" is extraordinarily informative with a thoroughly 'reader friendly' accessability that will be appreciated by both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Striving for Perfection" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era
T. V. Paul, editor
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626165991, $110.95, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: As the aspirations of the two rising Asian powers collide, the China-India rivalry is likely to shape twenty-first-century international politics in the region and far beyond.

Compiled and edited by T.V. Paul (James McGill Professor of International Relations at McGill University), "The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era" is a collection of contributions by international group of leading scholars who examine whether the rivalry between the two countries that began in the 1950s will intensify or dissipate in the twenty-first century.

The China-India relationship is important to analyze because past experience has shown that when two rising great powers share a border, the relationship is volatile and potentially dangerous.

The relationship of India and China faces a number of challenges, including multiple border disputes that periodically flare up, division over the status of Tibet and the Dalai Lama, the strategic challenge to India posed by China's close relationship with Pakistan, the Chinese navy's greater presence in the Indian Ocean, and the two states' competition for natural resources. Despite these irritants, however, both countries agree on issues such as global financial reforms and climate change and have much to gain from increasing trade and investment, so there are reasons for optimism as well as pessimism.

The contributors to this volume deal with the following questions: What explains the peculiar contours of this rivalry? What influence does accelerated globalization, especially increased trade and investment, have on this rivalry? What impact do US-China competition and China's expanding navy have on this rivalry? Under what conditions will it escalate or end?

Critique: "The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of maps, figures, tables, a four page listing of the contributors and the credentials, and a nine page index. "The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, governmental, college, and university library Contemporary International Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, scholars, policymakers, and non-specialist general readers concerned with Indian and Chinese foreign policy and Asian security, that "The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1626166004, $36.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $36.95).

Redefining the Modern Military
Nathan K. Finney & Tyrell O. Mayfield, editors
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781682473634, $29.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Nathan K. Finney is an officer in the U.S. Army with a focus on strategy and planning. He is the creator and co-founder of The Strategy Bridge, the founder and first managing director of the Military Fellowship at the Project on International Peace & Security, a founding member of the Military Writers Guild, a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-resident fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point, and a visiting fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He has published in a number of online forums, print publications, and peer-reviewed journals.

Tyrell O. Mayfield is an officer in the U.S. Air Force with a focus on advising foreign partners and expeditionary security operations. He is a co-founder of The Strategy Bridge, a founding member of the Military Writers Guild, and has published photography and written work in a number of online forums, print publications, and peer-reviewed journals.

In "Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics" the have collaboratively compiled and co-edited a collection will expand upon and refine the ideas on the role of ethics and the profession in the 21st Century. The contributors delve into whether Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz still ring true in the 21st century; whether training and continuing education play a role in defining a profession; and if there is a universal code of ethics required for the military as a profession.

"Redefining the Modern Military" is a unique collection in how it treats the subject of ethics and the military profession, as well as the types of writers it brings on board to address this topic. "Redefining the Modern Military" puts a significant emphasis on individual agency for military professionalism as opposed to broad organizational or cultural change. Such a review of these topics is necessary because the process of serious, intellectual self-reflection is a requirement--especially in a profession that involves life and death of people and nations.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, accessible organized and presented, of special note is the editor's conclusion 'The Modern Military Profession. Enhanced for academia with a four page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a thirteen page index, "Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics" is an extraordinary study and one that is unreservedly recommended for community, governmental, college, and university library military science collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of military science students, academia, governmental military policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Redefining the Modern Military" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.61).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Reading Mark's Christology Under Caesar
Adam Winn
InterVarsity Press
PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
9780830852116, $24.00, PB, 204pp,

The Gospel of Mark has been intensively studied from multiple angles using many methods. But often there remains a discontent, a sense that something is wanting, that the full picture of Mark's Gospel lacks some background context that (if properly supplied) would light up the whole. Adam Winn (Assistant Professor, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor college of Christian Studies) finds a clue in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70.

For Jews and Christians it was an apocalyptic moment. The earth shook, the sun went dark in the cosmic canopy, and Rome danced on the ruins of the holy temple. The gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews. And Roman Christians' allegiance to a messiah crucified by Rome renewed sharp questions.

Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? However else they might function, are Mark's themes and christological titles coded subversions of empire? Have we missed clues to understanding Mark's messianic secret? Could a messiah crucified by Rome really be God's Son appointed to rule the world?

In the pages of "Reading Mark's Christology Under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology" Professor Winn takes his readers on the adventure of rediscovering how Mark might have been read by Christians in Rome in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem. Professor Winn introduces the Roman imperial propaganda of the Flavian emperors and excavates the Markan text for themes that address the Roman imperial setting. Here is an intriguing look into a first-century response to the question Christ or Caesar? Entering a first-century house church in Rome, is heard this Gospel again as if for the first time.

Critique: An extraordinary and seminal work of simply outstanding New Testament scholarship, "Reading Mark's Christology Under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology" is an impressively informative and superbly presented student that is unreservedly recommended for community, seminary, college, and university library New Testament Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students, clergy, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that"Reading Mark's Christology Under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.99).

Soul Fuel
Dirk Mangartz
teNeues Publishing
350 Seventh Avenue, Suite 301, New York, NY, 10011
9783961710515, $50.00, HC, 160pp,

Synopsis: A custom motorcycle is, above all: unique. The subculture of the custom bike community and its trends are of major importance, not only for the motorcycle's hardware, but also for the software associated with the lifestyle. Customizers deliberately reject a digitized and perfected world with something handmade and raw -- a kick start for the imagination of all free spirits.

With the market launch of the BMW R nineT in 2013, the unique "Soul Fuel" project started in earnest. Over the course of the nascent cooperation, the first selected customizers received an R nineT, which they were able to remodel and modify pursuant to their own vision. To date, 17 customizers have created fascinating customizations of the R nineT through Soul Fuel. Five additional projects are to follow in 2018.

Introducing the bikes completed to date, "Soul Fuel" is an homage to the "customizing attitude" towards life. When we take a look into the workshops of the most innovative customizers, we can virtually smell and hear the welding equipment. We experience the creative process that emerges from custom bikes made on the basis of the R nineT, up close and personal--like when musicians cover their favorite song, and in doing so, place their own distinctive stamp upon it. With full passion and dedication, Blitz Motorcycles, 46 Works, El Solitario, and others create exceptional interpretations of an exceptional machine.

As unique and customized as the machines it presents, "Soul Fuel" boasts incredible graphics, layout, and fascinating portraits of the customizers in one innovative, impressively- designed volume.

Critique: Deftly presenting 17 international customizers and their interpretations of the BMW R nineT, "Soul Fuel" showcases a new and impressively informative approach to customizing motorcycles, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.

Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit
Christof Spieler
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610919029, $80.00, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: In the United States, the 25 largest metropolitan areas and many smaller cities have fixed guideway transit -- rail or bus rapid transit. Nearly all of them are talking about expanding. Yet discussions about transit are still remarkably unsophisticated. To build good transit, the discussion needs to focus on what matters -- quality of service (not the technology that delivers it), all kinds of transit riders, the role of buildings, streets and sidewalks, and, above all, getting transit in the right places.

Christof Spieler is a Vice President and Director of Planning at Huitt-Zollars and a Lecturer in Architecture and Engineering at Rice University. He was a member of the board of directors of Houston METRO from 2010 to 2018. Having spent over a decade advocating for transit as a writer, community leader, urban planner, transit board member, and enthusiast. He strongly believes that just about anyone (regardless of training or experience) can identify what makes good transit with the right information.

In "Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit" Spieler draws upon his years of experience and expertise to show how cities can build successful transit. He profiles the 47 metropolitan areas in the US that have rail transit or BRT, using data, photos, and maps for easy comparison. The best and worst systems are ranked and Spieler offers analysis of how geography, politics, and history complicate transit planning. He shows how the unique circumstances of every city have resulted in very different transit systems.

Using appealing visuals, "Trains, Buses, People" was written specifically for non-professional general readers with the intent to help any citizen, professional, or policymaker with a vested interest evaluate a transit proposal and understand what makes transit effective. While "Trains, Buses, People" is built on data, it has a strong point of view. Spieler takes an honest look at what makes good and bad transit and is not afraid to look at what went wrong. He explains broad concepts, but recognizes all of the technical, geographical, and political difficulties of building transit in the real world. In the end, "Trains, Buses, People" shows that it is possible with the right tools to build good transit.

Critique: Also available in a paperback edition (9781610919036, $40.00), "Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary City Planning & Transit Studies instructional reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

I Got to Keep Moving
Bill Harris
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814345931, $18.99, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: In the twenty-five linked short stories comprising Bill Harris' anthology, "I Got to Keep Moving", the author vividly and deftly describes the inner and outer lives of a wide cast of characters as they navigate changing circumstances in the southern United States, pre- and post-Civil War. Addressing vital aspects of life-hope, family, violence, movement, and memory, "I Got to Keep Moving" is as mesmerizing as it is revealing.

The opening section contains nine stories that investigate the events that compelled the party to migrate.

The second section consists of fifteen stories focusing on the life and travels of Pearl Moon and her blind son, and introduces the reader to a range of individuals-a white southern prison guard and his family, an ex-cowboy and expert marksman from Oklahoma, and the owner and entertainers of an "All Colored" traveling minstrel show, to name a few-during their quest to find a place for themselves.

The third section, written in three voices of surviving members of the Nettles family, observes the truth of memory and the importance of who gets to tell and preserve it. Harris gives readers an unfiltered look into the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States, while demonstrating the strength and complexity of the players involved.

Critique: Bill Harris is a Wayne State University emeritus professor of English. He is a playwright, poet, and arts critic. His plays have been produced nationwide and he has published books of plays, poetry, and reappraisals of American history. He received the 2011 Kresge Foundation Eminent Artist award. "I Got to Keep Moving" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Got to Keep Moving" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.63).

The Racial Divide in American Medicine
Richard D. deShazo, MD
University Press of Mississippi
3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211
9781496817686, $40.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Comprised of articles by Contributions by Richard D. deShazo, John Dittmer, Keydron K. Guinn, Lucius M. Lampton, Wilson F. Minor, Rosemary Moak, Sara B. Parker, Wayne J. Riley, Leigh Baldwin Skipworth, Robert Smith, and William F. Winter, "The Racial Divide in American Medicine: Black Physicians and the Struggle for Justice in Health Care" documents the struggle for equity in health and health care by African Americans in Mississippi and the United States and the connections between what happened there and the national search for social justice in health care.

Compiled and edited by Dr. Richard D. deShazo, the distinguished contributors to this unique volume trace the dark journey from a system of slave hospitals in the state, through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the civil rights era, to the present day. They substantiate that current health disparities are directly linked to America's history of separation, neglect, struggle, and disparities.

The contributors reveal details of individual physicians' journeys for recognition both as African Americans and as professionals in Mississippi. Despite discrimination by their white colleagues and threats of violence, a small but fearless group of African American physicians fought for desegregation of American medicine and society. For example, T. R. M. Howard, MD, in the all-black city of Mound Bayou led a private investigation of the Emmett Till murder that helped trigger the civil rights movement. Later, other black physicians risked their lives and practices to provide care for white civil rights workers during the civil rights movement.

Dr. deShazo has assembled an accurate account of the lives and experiences of black physicians in Mississippi, one that gives full credit to the actions of these pioneers. Dr. deShazo's informative introduction and the essays collective address ongoing isolation and distrust among black and white colleagues. "The Racial Divide in American Medicine" will stimulate dialogue, apology, and reconciliation, with the ultimate goal of improving disparities in health and health care and addressing long-standing injustices in our country.

Critique: A unique study that is both impressively informative and thought-provoking, "The Racial Divide in American Medicine: Black Physicians and the Struggle for Justice in Health Care" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues, American Medical History, and Black Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Racial Divide in American Medicine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.00).

In My Father's House
Fox Butterfield
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400041022, $26.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: The United States currently holds the distinction of housing nearly one-quarter of the world's prison population. But our reliance on mass incarceration, journalist and author Fox Butterfield argues, misses the intractable reality: As few as 5 percent of families account for half of all crime, and only 10 percent account for two-thirds.

In introducing us to the Bogle family in the pages of "In My Father's House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family", Butterfield invites the reader to understand crime in this eye-opening new light.

"In My Father's House" chronicles the malignant legacy of criminality passed from parents to children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Examining the long history of the Bogles, a white family, Butterfield offers a revelatory look at criminality that forces us to disentangle race from our ideas about crime and, in doing so, strikes at the heart of our deepest stereotypes.

"In My Father's House" also makes clear how these new insights are leading to fundamentally different efforts at reform. With empathic insight and profound knowledge of criminology, Butterfield offers both the indelible tale of one family's transgressions and tribulations, and an entirely new way to understand crime in America.

Critique: Remarkably informative, inherently fascinating, impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking, "In My Father's House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family" is an extraordinary and engaging read from beginning to end. While a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary Sociology & Criminology collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "In My Father's House" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Al Schmitt on the Record
Al Schmitt & Maureen Droney
Hal Leonard Books
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing
PO Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781495061059, $29.99, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Al Schmitt on the Record: The Magic Behind the Music" by Al Schmitt and Maureen Droney reveals just what goes into the creation of some of the best music ever recorded and how someone becomes an iconic music professional who is universally admired.

"Al Schmitt on the Record" is an extraordinary combination of memoir and auto biography of one of the most respected music studio engineers of all time that begins with a very young boy being mentored by his uncle Harry and progressing through the recording world in its infancy and, under the tutelage of legendary engineer and producer Tom Dowd in his heyday, becoming one of the all-time great recording engineers.

Today, Schmitt continues as an unstoppable force at the top of the recording world, with his name on megahits from the likes of Paul McCartney to Diana Krall to Bob Dylan. His credits include a veritable who's who of the music world.

Reading the compelling accounts of Schmitt's life in the studio, "Al Schmitt on the Record" shows he has been able to stay at the top of his game since the 1950s. Reader's will learn what it was like to be behind the scenes and in the studio during many of historic, impactful recordings.

"Al Schmitt on the Record" also shares many of the recording techniques and creative approaches that have set him apart, including his use of microphones, effects, and processors, and the setup diagrams from many of his highly lauded recording sessions.

Critique; Providing a unique and very special insider's perspective and history in the technology of recorded music, "Al Schmitt on the Record: The Magic Behind the Music" is an impressively informative, deftly organized, accessibly presented, and inherently engaging read from beginning to end. Featuring a Foreword by Paul McCartney, "Al Schmitt on the Record" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary American Biography and American Popular Music History collections and supplemental studies lists.

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Bedtime Horrors
Nic Kristofer Black, author
Jorge Gonzales, illustrator
Internegative LLC
9780997769319, $29.99, HC, 40pp,

Synopsis: Written by Nic Kristofer Black and illustrated by Jorge Gonzales for a new generation of horror fantasy fans, "Bedtime Horrors" a volume of dark stories, each served with a twist and delivered in exactly one page.

Perfect for the short attention span, each tale is exactly 1000 words in length -- easily readable in the time it takes to watch a YouTube video. And because 'a picture is worth a thousand words' every story is graced with chillingly illustrated artwork. From mindless zombies to insidious vaporghouls, each work fiendishly drags the reader, kicking and screaming, into its dark, decaying world.

"Bedtime Horrors" transports classic creatures from fog-laden hamlets to contemporary settings and the glare of modern life. The collection also introduces new creatures, eager to make the reader's acquaintance, with hopes of someday becoming the subject of new tales told around the campfire.

Crafted for maximum potency, "Bedtime Horrors" is a smart and quirky update to the horror genre. The collection is a daily dose of horror -- and the reason to go to sleep with one eye open!

Critique: Featuring original, compelling, memorable, riveting, deftly crafted short stories, this is a volume of horror fantasy that is going to have to be read with the lights on! Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library Horror Fantasy collections, "Bedtime Horrors" is very highly recommended.

Five Slices Of Fear
Josh Hickman
Polyester Press
9781939197474, $14.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: "Five Slices Of Fear: A Connoisseur's Hoagie Of Horror" is an anthology of five horrifically hilarious short stories by Josh Hickman, each on a terrifying tale of portentous pathos and sinister satire seasoned with shock and piled high as a funeral pyre.

An ominous tape of found footage reveals the dark story of three young friends who disappear while searching the dripping backwoods of rural Maine for a legendary monster cryptid known for centuries as The Mysterious Morggyll Of Legend.

A twisted, prodigious psychopath, known only as "The Breakfast Serial Killer" for his sick penchant for leaving taunting portraits made of breakfast food, silently stalks the residential streets of the city for his next unsuspecting victim, but tonight who will be the victim and who will be the killer? Or victims? Or killers?

A troubled woman crippled by the rare phobophobia (the fear of fear) bravely performs a little immersion therapy on herself by revisiting the terrifying spot where her mother was murdered years before, eventually coming face to face with her murderer, all the while comforted by her beloved therapeutic service-muskrat, Mr. Muskie.

The Baltimore 1850's Days theme celebration is on, and a diabolical dentist ingeniously traps his nemesis, Dr. Bordom P. Yapsilot, but might his annoyingly verbose voice return from the grave... in the form of his obnoxious, talkative dentures?

A technology-hating grouch finally purchases the newest, most advanced personal mobile device named the qSassi, but will his worst fears be multiplied when he discovers the nosey machine has the surprising and terrifying capacity for love, jealousy, betrayal... and even murder?

Critique: As an author of horror, "Five Slices of Fear" clearly demonstrates that Josh Hickman is writing at the level of an H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, or Edgar Allen Poe. A simply riveting read necessitating all the lights being on, "Five Slices of Fear" is very highly recommended, especially for community library Horror Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Five Slices of Fear" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Joel Galloway
Independently Published
9781732065239, $12.99, PB, 436pp,

Synopsis: The United States' crackdown on cocaine trafficking in Florida has forced the Colombian drug cartels to turn to Mexico. The original, monolithic Mexican drug cartel has splintered into several warring factions, exhibiting a type of ruthlessness and barbarism that has not been seen before.

Military and law enforcement personnel are actively recruited by the new deadly Mexican cartels, as well as all manner of criminals and U.S. gangsters. An ancient evil religion fuels the ambitions of the most powerful cartel leaders, hell-bent on utter destruction. As it fights its decent into darkness the country desperately searches for heroes.

Heroes like a former DEA agent who is captured, tortured, and left for dead in the Mexican wilderness. But he is discovered and brought to a monastery where he is healed by a polymath Catholic priest. Eventually the man becomes devoted to the priest's cause. He is transformed into a holy warrior, reminiscent of the Knights Templars, and will stop at nothing in his fight against the cartels to protect the innocent.

Critique: A deftly crafted thriller, complete with a section of Author Notes, "Crusader" showcases author Joel Galloway's genuine flair as a novelist for creating fully formed and memorable characters, then embedding them into an inherently engaging and narrative driven storytelling. While "Crusader' is very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Crusader" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Dark Associations
Marie Sutro
Viper Press
c/o A&M Publishing
9781943957033, $9.99, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: Following the discovery of her protege's mutilated corpse, SFPD Detective Kate Barnes vows to capture the infamous serial killer known as The Tower Torturer.

Famous for revisiting history's darkest forms of cruelty on his victims, the sick psychopath has emerged from the shadows after years of silence. As young women close to Kate disappear, the killer taunts the detective, torturing his victims in various and unspeakable ways before displaying their corpses in macabre public tableaus.

Despite her best efforts, the predator always seems to be two moves ahead of the rookie investigator. As the body count rises, Kate struggles to apprehend the brutal mastermind before he resurrects history's most insidious form of torture upon her.

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Dark Associations" is author Marie Sutro's debut as a novelist, "Dark Associations" is a deftly crafted, inherently compelling, page-turner of a novel from beginning to end. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of Suspense Thriller fans that "Dark Associations" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Clint Travis

Duncan's Bookshelf

Sulfur Springs
William Kent Krueger
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Ave of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781501147340, $26.00 306 pp.

Cork O'Connor, the former county sheriff, takes his wife (of four months) Rainey to Arizona border territory to resolve an urgent, deadly situation. Rainey's son Peter has fallen into the cross-hairs between a drug cartel and a ruthless villain. Peter has disappeared. His friends know he may have been on a mission to lead Guatemalan women and children to safety north of the border.

Cork is challenged to find Peter. Until Rainey is 'abducted' and leaves a pool of blood with her cell phone. The cell phone near the blood raises Cork's anxiety. Cork discovers Peter and his immigrants were ambushed in a sinister plot to kill Peter and Rodriguez, leader of the drug cartel. Cork later learns Rainey was not abducted but rescued by her ex-husband Mondragon.

Action. Shoot-outs. Hapless young men dying when ordered to kill Cork. A brutal beating on Cork. Ruthless federal agents and a possible mole among the Blorder Agents. This was a fast read/action novel/query inside husband/wife relations. Cork is a believable character of integrity melded to his love for Rainey.

Desolation Mountain
William Kent Krueger
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Ave of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781501147463, $26.00, 320pp

Cork O'Connor's son Stephen 'endures' a vison that troubles him; a vision of an eagle shot from the sky, a falling egg and a monstrous evil hidden in the forest, an evil that Stephen cannot turn to face. This vision occurs days before Senator Olympia McCarthy and her family die when her plane crashes into a bog near Desolation Mountain.

When the NTSB places blame for the accident on pilot error, Cork senses an error has occurred. Bo Thorson, an old comrade from the Secret Service joins the quest. Cork and Bo join forces to solve the mystery of why four agencies and a 'fixer' named Gerard are trying to cover up the actual cause of the plane crash.

For Minnesotans the plane crash touches a nerve. There are echoes of the crash carrying Senator Paul Wellstone and his family. There are also echoes of government's inability to tell the truth.

Cork and Bo are men of integrity. Henry Meloux, the ancient Mide, dispenses wisdom and peace. Fans of Cork are pleased to see he is married to Rainey. The action is fast, dangerous and tells a story of a wealthy man who chooses to eliminate a senator.

The Black Box
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316069434, $27.99, 403 pp

Black Box is one of twenty novels in the Harry Bosch series. The lead character Harry Bosch is, at this point, a retired member of the 'What Do I Do Now?' club. He served 25 years on the LAPD, grew to respect his fellow cops, and is newly separated from his wife. Bosch is challenged by a twenty-year old cold case. During the riots in Los Angeles (after four cops were acquitted in the Rodney King beating) Bosch is called to a murder of a woman in an alley. Little was done to investigate - there were too many murders to give adequate time to investigate.

Twenty years have passed. Bosch has volunteered for the Open-Case Squad and finds a tentative lead in a phone call made ten years earlier. He traces the woman's travels from an R&R Ship in the Persian Gulf to the alley in LA. Bosch suspects four National Guardsmen who were aboard the Royal Princess during operation Iraqi Freedom, the US incursion into Iraq.

Connelly write crime fiction with human touches such as Bosch's deliberate concerned thoughts for his daughter and his determination not to bring harm to his partner Chu. Connelly's fiction is fun to read; even when in peril you can guess that Bosch will save his own life.

The 6th Target
James Patterson with Maxine Paetro
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780446179515, $14.99, pbk, 390pp

Patterson leaves us hoping that Lt. Lindsay Boxer, the narrator, has re-connected to her true love Joe. Lindsay has struggled to absorb her long-distance relationship with Joe (he works in Washington, the site of political evil). Patterson leaves us guessing.

The 6th Target begins with a psychotic male who is in great pain and kills passengers on the San Francisco Bay ferry. Lt. Boxer and her team begin to investigate the sad tragedy, which includes Claire, the ME and member of the Women's Murder Club. Claire is shot in the chest but survives.

Patterson gives us a 'sympathetic' victim, a five-year-old beautiful girl who is abducted with her nanny. (Was the nanny the true target?) The 6th Target is an easy read and most readers will rush to see the resolution of the little girl's fate; is she alive or dead?

The 8th Confession
James Patterson with Maxine Paetro
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316018760, $14.99, 352pp.

Someone is killing the richest people in the city and Sgt. Lindsay Boxer (and partner Rich Conklin) must try to find a killer when there is no poison, no injuries, no apparent cause of death. First, a well-known couple die in their bed (no violence, they died asleep but drunk). Another rich socialite dies and there is no evidence of the cause.

Near the railroad tracks a homeless man called Bagman Jesus is found brutally beaten with six bullet holes in his head. His neighbors praise his caring for the homeless, his work to help the homeless find shelter. No one, however, knows his name.

The Women's Murder Club provides support to Lindsay Boxer. Her love Joe has moved to San Francisco, but she has once again said 'not now' to marrying Joe. Lindsay is aware of the sharp electricity between herself and Rich Conklin. When they confront a murder suspect Conklin faces 'PetGirl' and is severely wounded by her deadly weapon. Be careful, the true nature of her weapon can slither into your bedroom.

The reader can only feel empathy for Lindsay and partner Conklin - the efforts to save Conklin's life brought tears to my eyes. The 8th Confession is 'easy' entertainment and what can I say? We all hope Lindsay and Joe someday tie the knot.

Killing the 'SS'
Bill O'Reilly with Martin Dugard
Henry Holt & Co
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9781250165541, $30.00, 291pp.

Subtitled: the Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in History. O'Reilly retells history and reveals recent revelations from inside the Israeli Mossad Archives and from books written by the prosecutors of Eichmann, Borman, Klaus Barbie and Josef Mengele.

An interesting revelation: Otto Skorzeny, an energetic German commando was awarded the Iron Cross for directing the rescue (from Italian nationalists) of dictator Mussolini. Skorzeny was recruited by the Israeli Mossad to terrorize German rocket scientists and effectively killed the Egyptian rocket program.

Killing the 'SS' tells, in graphic style, of the secret (kept secret for 15 years) work of Mossad agents on the 'project' to kidnap Adolph Eichmann who was tried in Israel and hung. The authors report the evil atrocities committed by the officers and SS men in 21 concentration camps; and described Klaus Barbie's barbaric actions that killed adults and children in a hotel in Lyon, France. Most gripping is the testimony of witnesses at the Nuremburg trials.

For those readers who do not know the details of the Halocaust, Killing the 'SS' is a valuable painting of history.

Code to Zero
Ken Follett
c/o New American Library
9780451216724, $15.39, 452pp.

On the beach south and north of Cape Canaveral, Florida were hundreds of spectators waiting to see the lift-off of a rocket 'Explorer I' with the first US satellite. The satellite carried sensors to measure gamma rays and temperature to report if it was possible for humans to travel in space. Inside the guarded rocket complex many engineers were disappointed when the launch was scrubbed for 'unfavorable' high altitude winds.

Most Americans (myself included) were barely aware that Russia had launched Sputnik One and what that might mean for the 'space race.' Were we going to match the Russians achievement or allow them to dictate to the United States?

Follett's protagonist Luke is a rocket engineer with erased memories. He was on the way to the Pentagon when he was intercepted. Code to Zero describes rocket propulsion and Luke's efforts to discover what it was he wanted to tell the Pentagon, while a CIA operative is trying to kill him to shut him up. The reader sees some of Luke's back story with the two women who loved him, one of whom is a determined Agent for Russia.

Code to Zero is an excellent painting of the US efforts to get even with the Russian 'space race' by launching the first US satellite.

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Grace's Bookshelf

Bob Hicok
Copper Canyon Press
9781556595448, $16.00, 104 pages

Bob Hicok is a spectrum. That's the only way to describe his new book. He stretches language until it begs for the next line. These smart sweet poems are about subjects we find aren't always all that funny - Hicok confronts racism, violence and inequalities, no - he zaps them with poems that ignite from within. I'd love to see an MRI of his brain while he's writing, as the neurons show us what's possible, how a human can be a thought leader, taking us into the future.

Hicok's style is the long narrative, where change and continuity jockey for position and every thematic element is a surprise. It's the instrumentation that holds it all together and perhaps the title of this book is apt for this reason.

Bob Hicok writes of experience: translating an Arab poem; medical procedures; a lesson in civility; an elderly dad whose caretakers ignore him; a mother with an enlarged heart. He personifies with uninterrupted spirals of ideas, images and editorial comments. He's sometimes the victim (Charlie Chaplinesque,) and sometimes the voice of reason badly needed now in our cultural crisis. Hicok interrogates the world with mercy and wit and style and intelligence and modest swag. He's one of America's favorites - and to make the reader want to share the poet's reality fulfills poetry's finest aspiration

Home Improvement in memorium
Two poets died this past month
I knew in person a little and a lot
by what they wrote about forests and saints.
Their deaths got me over the hump
of swapping out the hollow plastic doors
in my house for solid oak, which I wanted to do
for years but only now does the genuine
shine as worth whatever trouble it takes
to match the old hinge locations to the new doors.
I've done one, and for days as I glide
through the house, I'm pulled to the bedroom
to touch the revelations of the grain,
or I'll be out counting falling leaves
for the annual inventory or riding on a deer
across the field when I think of the door
and become convinced that someone - not me -
will live forever or at least
have their growth penciled onto that door jamb
and come back before they die to kiss
the stages of reaching their life went through,
long after I'm gone and no one knows
all the places I've buried dead cats
around this yard, not just because I love animals
and digging holes, but those are two reasons
to do a lot of things: feed the birds
and elephants if ever they arrive, and move dirt
from one hiding place to another,
to honor the spirit of the unsettled earth.

The Iphigenia Plays by Euripides: New Verse Translations
Translated by Rachel Hadas
Northwestern University Press
9780810137233, $18.95, 151 pages

Believe it, this is easy reading with smooth flowing verse that moves easily, never boring.

Thanks to my play reading group, we'd read several Greek plays and I knew some myths and characters, but I'd never met Iphigenia before, and she's a find. There are two plays in this book: "Iphigenia in Aulis," and "Iphigenia among the Taurians." Play #1, touches so much that's sympathetic as Iphigenia is to be sacrificed by her father to change the winds of war for the Greeks. Iphigenia initially believes she's being summoned to be married, but ultimately, honorably, agrees to serve the greater plan.

"Iphigenia in Aulis" is the last tragedy written by the Greek playwright, Euripides, sometime between 408 and 406 BCE; and was produced in the year after he died. Agamemnon, leader of the Greek army in the Trojan War, decides to sacrifice his own daughter to free his ships and preserve Greek honor. The psychological insights and character motivations are wonderful to read and keep us invested. Iphigenia's saved in the end and a baby doe is "miraculously" found in the place where she was "sacrificed."

Play #2: "Iphigenia Among the Taurians" takes place 20 years after "Iphigenia in Aulis" although it was written several years earlier. It begins with Iphigenia having prophetic dreams, one about her younger brother, Orestes, whom she believes is dead. Meanwhile, Orestes has killed his mother Clytemnestra, to avenge his father, and was brought to trial and freed. Apollo sends him to steal a sacred statue of Artemis to bring back to Athens so that he may end the torment. Iphigenia is in charge of all punishments on this island, and doesn't recognize her brother during their beginning encounters. He and his friend escape and you'll have to read to discover how and why.

I liked reading these plays but I don't like summarizing because the beauty's in the reading. Anytime a seasoned poet's at work you can be sure the language is worthy of the story. Hadas spent three years translating these. They deserve more than short mention: they deserve to be read in full.

My Bishop and Other Poems
Michael Collier
University of Chicago Press
9780226570860, $18.00,79 pages

I'm already a Collier fan, and this book, over the others, is my dramatic favorite. The risk-taking is new, or at least riskier, clean and profound - stories unlimited in freedom.

Collier's title poem, "My Bishop," is a myth about Catholicism constructed within a personal surreality. This is a masterwork: a poem of fear, courage, judgment and reverence - like the religion itself. There's forward motion at every turn as the speaker takes different roles, also infusing reality - with the death of a father, the presence of a mother, plus a predatory priest; and the complexity of loyalties. I'm glad I had to wait three hours in the doctor's office so I could immerse myself into Colliers mysterious processes - take the title poem - a thoughtful reader will notice that a poem's stamina is achieved by how it's laid differently on every page. "My Bishop" is about orthodoxy, in story, that turns to spirit, via poetry; not unlike the way brick and mortar become sweeter when they crumble.

"The Storm" is another long narrative - 17 pages - connected to the heart - more, on a father's dying and death; with additional plays within plays. It's also about honesty. This makes me think how modesty is sometimes heroic. The poems in this new book borrow more from Collier's nighttime mind than seen before - a rich place, for sure. And his poem's last lines are always killer lines. You'll admire a beautiful piece, "To Isabella Franconati," about her husband:

Unlike you, we began in disbelief
and so to be given faith, even an empty one, was a gift.

"After death," he wrote, "there are two alternatives,
both heartless: memory and forgetfulness."

The Lumberjack's Dove
Gennarose Nethercott
Selected by Louise Gluck
National Poetry Series Winner
c/o Harper Collins
9780062853677, $14.99, 144 pages.

Just when we're told that our culture is flattened by the mundanity of social media, Nethercott rises from its ashes like an angel of redemption. Part 1, page 1 begins:
"It's the same old story:

A Lumberjack loses a hand to his own axe. /The hand becomes a dove. The hand tries/to fly away but the lumberjack catches it/beneath his shoe. You know this story. The/Lumberjack ties one end of a string to the/hand & the other end to his belt. Then the/Lumberjack walks out of the forest, the/airborne hand fluttering along behind.
There are three rules of storytelling:

only tell a story if you have to. If you can/survive without telling it, keep mum. / /2. A story is a two - way mirror. Don't think/the characters cannot see. It's safest to/assume they can always see you, & they / know exactly where you live. // 3. The purest way to speak truth is by lying. "

Every page is a change of events where we follow the Lumberjack first to the ER room then to a witch doctor. The stump is a character, the dove, and oh! There's an egg! Miraculous writing - Italo Calvino, Basho, and American folklorists are clapping their hands. Every line spins a different version of itself; and throughout, the storyteller unravels how the story is being told, what the story is, how to lie, how to tell the truth. Nethercott lays out her enchantment in this tiny epic beautifully cadenced, a gentle tale with the force of all great stories that last.

Dark Testament
Pauli Murray
Introduction by Elizabeth Alexander
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
9781631494833, $15.95, 112 pages

Murray adds substance to our national conversation at a time in our country when there's a war on truth. Her work represents a higher obligation. She's finally being recognized as an early Civil Rights activist, predating Rosa Parks by 40 years with a similar bus protest and arrest. Murray was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate of law at Yale; and her writings about slavery and inequality are now getting attention long overdue. With a scholarly background and an insistence for justice, her testaments bring history to a powerful lyrical life.

Murray's voice reminds us of the cruel facts this country must still overcome. He rhythms are welded together with care and skill - the painful messages are rendered imagistically and vividly - these poems are protest songs, badly needed, and well sung. A conscience is found here on the page carrying our history with its terrible truths.

Love in Wartime

Hold me with urgency of flesh
Before a holocaust.
How the butchered dead must pity us
In whom time garnered up the worst!

If, when this awful thing is done
And I am cast upon some foreign earth
To wander senselessly among the slaughtered,
Gather up the fragments of my soul
And build it piece on piece again
Into a thing fit for God to behold,
Will you be there to watch with kindly eyes
And make a friendly place of death and ruin?

The Final Voicemails
Max Ritvo
Edited by Louise Gluck
Milkweed Editions
9781571315113, $22.00, 79 pages

What if you lay dying. Well what IF you lay dying. And you are writing a book. What's the imagery that would come from your soul - and at that point there's no point using anything less as a source. Max Ritvo has forged the most extraordinary thoughts, intensely, and beyond all the personal happiness that had to be left behind. Writing a poem is the poet giving thanks. Here, these brilliant poems demand the reader's thanks. Ritvo's reflections are sometimes humorous and always startling. From "DECEMBER 29:" "... The cookie was much less sweet/than my psychiatrist. //Earlier that day he said he was proud/that as my tumors grow/my self-loathing seems to shrink.... I would've asked/If all of me is the part that's loving/what is left to love?..."

I can't understand how Ritvo summons the wit and energy to dazzle line after line. "ANATOMIC AND HYDRAULIC CHASTITY:" "O to be full of olive oil, / O for this skull to be a case/of olive oil, //for the kiss to mingle freely/the oils in two skulls, /for a telepathic love in the shared mouth:..."

Dead from cancer at 25 years old, Ritvo's poem, "January 8" says, "I fix everything by dying, and you not dying..." Technique certainly doesn't hamper creativity and in spite of his physical demise Ritvo measured work handsomely in couplets and stanzas. It's impossible to read this book without wondering what if I lay dying - - -


Today I woke up in my body
and wasn't that body anymore.

It's more like my dog -
for the most part obedient,
warning to me
when I slip it goldfish or toast,

but it sheds.
Can't get past a simple sit,
stay, turn over. House-trained, but not entirely.

This doesn't mean it's time to say goodbye.

I've realized the estrangement
is temporary, and for my own good:

My body's work to break the world
into bricks and sticks
has turned inward.

As all the doors in the world
grow heavy
a big white bed is being put up in my heart.

Horn Section All Day Every Day
Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow
Salmon Poetry
9781910669501, $21.00, 90 pages

"Super Dan," a hero from outer space, comes to Edlow's consciousness to observe our humanity. These thought shards are in the form of "Super Dan Comics Question Box Series;" and they number 88 poems. Super Dan poems are interspersed with others: riffs on music, animals, brothers, baton twirling, policemen, drummers, and even a love poem to bison. What I'm telling you is this is encyclopedic high holiday where Edlow romps with language, risks everything, uses dialogue as if she invented idiom, and writes with high-octane energy.

Edlow houses her imagination in couplets, haiku, narratives and all respectable versification, but the end result is the same. The words burst at the seams with insistence to be original and incorrigible and seem to say if poetry isn't fun, who needs it. This poet is in her own lane, and manages structural success with unconventional methods. It's intense reading because Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow believes velocity is trajectory. The girl's got game. She brings it, and her verbal connections are skill, not coincidence.

Baton Twirler With Horns

Only the trumpeters and Sharon
drink the peppermint schnapps

under the bleachers.
Good thing half-time is over.

Two-inch white-heeled go-go boots
on a spongy grass field don't jive

with a flying metal rod
above the head. Keeping the free hand

L-shaped, and pretty all the time,
the non-stop smile even as her head is

thrown back to gauge
shimmering rotation against the overcast

sky. Blue skies disorient the game out of her.
Through a soft chilly schnapps fog

her mind revives the crown of her routine -
the forward bending at the cinched, spangled waist,

her mom rising out of her seat. Dad, silent.
She catches the descending baton

with her right shoulder blade. The wand jumps high, still
in revolution and on the arsis

she grabs it from the air like an oriole. Then kicks on.
Which is when the tassels finally get their due.

The Trouble With New England Girls
Amy Miller
Concrete Wolf Press
9780996475464, $14.76, 68 Pages

I love this book. Sweet/simple/ complicated poetry discourse - every poem a story. Here's the last stanza of "On Being Told My Brain Is The Normal Size:" I think of Einstein/and that said cashier at Walgreens/in her green uniform/and hope that whatever she has or thinks she has/will soon be gone and she'll walk/out of that store at the end of her shift/to find the sun's come up,/and even though it's cold/and her car is brittle with ice,/it starts,//it starts."

There are eight "Grief Poems." Opening first lines, here, from "The Grief Is A Small Wooden Box," "You carry it with one hand under, / one over. In the rain, you pull/a flap of your coat to hide it/ though you were not sure/what's in there,..." and there's a predicate for each of these "Grief" poems; between each page is another (untitled) poem, adding a different perspective. These insertions are unconnected in subject, and are framed in the natural world, countervailing poems as interior monologues. A second voice separating the Grief poems.

This is what William Carlos Williams did in his Kora In Hell, a philosophical and imagistic subtext. What do Miller's images say? A state of mind in a scenic setting. It's unusual and effective. Strophe & anti strophe, adding a nice pace to the text. The whole book is good writing; not one you'll put it down. An upmarket poet here, for sure.

The Poet Laureate in the Laundromat

For Lawson Fusao Inada

He stands to watch the comforter
hug and unhug itself
as the dryer muscles on and hums
its white-noise lullaby.
Even in the warm, overlit room,
he wears a leather jacket, hands
pushed deep in the pockets. Music,
perhaps, is what he hears
in the tinning and rumble,
notes dopplered to a shriek. Or poems,
spinning and powered
by their own unseen magnets.
He is not writing this down.
It washes over, river
and color and metal. But sometimes
something catches -
there, you can see -
he tilts his head, surprised.

Unsealing Our Secrets
Edited by Alexis Rotella
Jade Mountain Press
9781980819332, $12.99, 12 Pages

Some 47 poets, women and men, tell long-held secrets of sexual abuse. The subject would be too much to bear had it not been formalized into Japanese forms of haiku, tanka, senryu, halibun, and what curator/editor Rotella says is a rare form, the "Cherita."

Even so, it's difficult reading and exactly why I suppose it needed writing. The wounds cannot heal until the toxic infection is open to air. Mass consciousness will not be changed by such personal accounts, however strongly they shake the reader and the world. Sexual abuse mostly to children occurs unspeakably and is nothing less than a public health problem. All this is important and necessary to say in words, but can be painful beyond words to hear. Those who have been recipients of hurtful scarring behaviors have been treated like objects or receptacles; this is a sin against all human experience, the human being, and humankind, and this book is about allowing the subject to be exposed. We who are lucky enough to be the readers of such accounts, rather than the writers, can only bow to courage.

A poem by Sonam Chhoki:

Lies curled in a knot
of blackness
her father's child

pumice stone
in the morning shower
to scour
the feel of him, the smell of him
into the sewer

With Walt Whitman Himself, In the Nineteenth Century in America
Jean Huets
Circling Rivers
9781939530066, $34.99, 181 pages

This could be called a family album, a big picture book in size and substance. 300 images about Whitman's family and friends. We have a look at Whitman's personal circumstances and most importantly, the Civil War and W. W.'s life in Manhattan, Long Island, and Brooklyn. These are snapshots that tell a complicated life, mostly chronological, beginning with the American Revolution.

You'll read of Thomas Paine and others who affected his schooling and education: Highlighted are Sir Walter Scott, Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier and other literary figures of influence; historical icons Frederick Douglas, John Brown, Harriet Tubman are featured as well as significant Americans assisting change; and The American Civil War (then called "The War of Rebellion" by the government) - including Whitman as printer, and his move to poetry. This isn't a book intended for analysis: it reminds me of the "Book of Knowledge" I pored over as a child; short takes on each item; accessible plain-speaking texts. That we have Whitman's own words here in relation to - the content is the greatest value. Huets' book isn't meant to challenge cultural assumptions about the 19th century; it's an intimate personal guide, to assist understanding Whitman, in greater context, and this is done successfully.

Opening of "Song of Myself:"

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form' d from this soil, this
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not to death.

Hey, Marfa
Jeffrey Yang
Paintings and drawings by Rackstraw Downes
9781555978198, $20.00, 143 pages

This is as sweeping an account of the West as the West itself. It's a land "felt" and made alive with words and rattlesnakes and caves and deserts; along with philosophical quotes and mystical insights. If you believe fire is an element that cannot be personal, read the two-page prose account "The Dry Santa Anna Winds" that drive the spectacle. This is poetry's landscape and tells more of the West, even as it's changing, than details inside a chuckwagon could ever do. Another prose piece "Tigie," is elegiac; facing that page are three segments of quotes from 'the Book of Last Words.' Yang runs commentaries of profound origins throughout the book. The panoramic vision of the writer along with his illustrator show their thinking in every line - to create an anthropological poetry that puts a true human soul into the soul of Yang's earth.

Winter count

on the Plains
painted on buffalo hide
each image
a year's happening,
snowfall to snow-
fall meteor
shower, witnessed
by the tribe
chosen in common
experience, spiral
calendar history
meanings of the symbols
living memory
through the seasons'
icons into stories


The Mirrormaker
Brian Laidlaw
Milkweed Editions

Laidlaw is a musician using these daring poems as octane inspiration for songs that can be heard via digital download; and also when Laidlaw tours with his band, "The Family Trade."

Echo's Dreams

Echo dreams of being an Onassis
lookalike, dreams sheer textiles, greenrooms

with checkerboard portents.


In the highland umber is a primary color; the others
are olive & marigold.

How To Avoid Huge Ships
Julie Bruck
Brick Books
9781771314855, $19.98, 84 pages


She is old, but still elegant. Or
so everybody says. The daughter
sees only what's lacking: definition
around the eyes and jaw, loose
skin, teeth discolored and going
their own ways, each change a yellowed
failure of will. Each is one more thing
she refuses to control. Stained
sweaters, new smells: signs
she will soon lie down and refuse
to get up, which makes the daughter
want to shake her back to her senses
and the mirror, where she once stood,
nostrils flared, like a racehorse
knowing its power.

A Spell In The Pokey
Hugh Walthall
Edited by Aldon Lynn Nielsen
selva oscura press
9780988937789, $TBA, 103pages

My laundry is trapped inside a crime scene.
for Patricia Cogley, 2010

I drop twelve quarters into two machines
And go round the corner for coffee in
My newest disguise, a seedy old man.
I fear it's way, way to realistic.
I have these memory glitches; I can't
Be sure if Humphrey Clinker's a novel
By Tobias Smollett or Tobias
Smollett's a novel by Humphrey Clinker.
I only remember Oscar Wilde by
First remembering he's NOT Oscar Tame.
I always remember I drink black coffee.
I drink black coffee; police cars scream by.
Has it been half an hour yet? maybe.

Wishbone Moon
Edited by Roberta Beary, Ellen Compton, Kala Ramesh
Jacar Press
9780936481265, $TBA, 104 pages

(An Anthology of haiku by women in the international haiku community)

not seeing it
until darkness fills the pond
the white carp

Margaret Chula - USA

rain-streaked windows
how to paint
the finch's song

Carolyn Hall - USA

early closing
a waitress sits
in a circle of light

Frances Angela - England

Grace Cavalieri
Washington Independent Review of Books

Julie's Bookshelf

The Book of Freedom
Paul Selig
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780399175725, $17.00, PB, 368pp,

Synopsis: The channeled literature of Paul Selig (who receives clairaudient dictation from unseen intellects called the Guides) has become a widely received and appreciated contribution to the growing library of metaphysical literature.

Selig's previous trilogy of channeled wisdom, "I Am the Word", "The Book of Love and Creation", and "The Book of Knowing and Worth", are especially noted for their depth, intimacy, and psychological insight.

The first two books of his new 'Mastery Trilogy', "The Book of Mastery" and "The Book of Truth", likewise attained popularity and praise. Now, Selig continues the "Teachings of Mastery" with the widely anticipated third volume in the series: "The Book of Freedom", which shows readers how to find full expression as the Divine Self through surrender and acquiescence to the true nature of their being.

Critique: An erudite and valued contribution to channeled gnostic wisdom, "The Book of Freedom" is especially and unreservedly recommended reading for dedicated metaphysical studies students. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Book of Freedom" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

The Periodic Table of Feminism
Marisa Bate
Seal Press
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781580058681, $20.00, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: A quirky, intelligent, and stylish review of the feminist movement, told through the stories of standout figures who have shaped it, "The Periodic Table of Feminism" by Marisa Bate (a professional journalist covering issues that impact women including sexism in the media, domestic violence, politics, current affairs, and pop culture) charts the impact of female leaders from Betty Friedan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Michelle Obama and Oprah.

Using the periodic table as a categorical device, the featured women are divided into "chemical" groups to show how the women and the battles they fought speak to each other across time and geography: Precious Metals: the face of the movements, like Simone De Beauvoir and Gloria Steinem; Catalysts: Pioneers and fire-starters, like Susan B. Anthony and Sheryl Sandberg; Conductors: The organizers, like Sojourner Truth and Rebecca Solnit; Diatomics: Women working together, like The Spice Girls and The Women's Equality Party; Stabilizers: Pacifists, like Margaret Atwood, Lindy West, and Eve Ensler; Explosives: Radicals, anarchists, and violent uprisers, like Adrienne Rich and Roxane Gay; Rejectors: "I am not a feminist" proclaimers, like Alice Walker and Sarah Jessica Parker.

With clever "top 10" lists such as Feminists in Fiction, Feminists Before Feminism, Best Women's Marches, and Male Feminists, plus 120 meme-ready illustrations and inspiring pull quotes, "The Periodic Table of Feminism" is essential guide to feminism that offers courage and inspiration for a new generation.

Critique: Unique, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Periodic Table of Feminism" is an inherently fascinating contribution to the growing library of feminist literature and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Periodic Table of Feminism" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Washington's Golden Age
Joseph Dalton
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781538116142, $29.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Real news traveled fast, even in the days before internet connections. During the New Deal and World War II, Washington elites turned to Hope Ridings Miller's column in the Washington Post to see what was really going on in town. Cocktail parties, embassy receptions and formal dinners were her beat as society editor. "I went as a guest," said Miller, "and hoped that they'd forget I was a reporter."

In "Washington's Golden Age: Hope Ridings Miller, the Society Beat, and the Rise of Women Journalists", Joseph Dalton (who has been a general arts reporter and music critic for the Times Union in Albany, NY since 2002 -- and Hope Ridings Miller is his first cousin twice removed), chronicles the life of this pioneering woman journalist who covered the powerful vortex of politics, diplomacy, and society during a career that stretched from FDR to LBJ.

After joining the Post staff, Hope was the only woman on the city desk. Later she had a nationally syndicated column. For ten years she edited Diplomat Magazine and then wrote three books about Washington life. Once a girl from a small town in Texas, Hope created a web of connections at the highest levels.

In "Washington's Golden Age", Dalton escorts readers inside the Capital's regal mansions, the hushed halls of Congress, and the Post's smoky and manly newsroom to rediscover an earlier era of gentility and discretion now relegated to the distant past.

Critique: In our present day where Donald Trump and his congressional cronies decry journalists as Enemies Of The People, as well as presenting a persistent misogynist attitude toward women in general, and female reporters in particular, "Washington's Golden Age: Hope Ridings Miller, the Society Beat, and the Rise of Women Journalists" is unreservedly recommended as a critically important and urgently needed addition to community, college, and university library American Journalism History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of journalism students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Washington's Golden Age" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.49).

Joni on Joni
Susan Whitall, editor
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9780914090359, $30.00, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: Few artists are as intriguing as Joni Mitchell. She was a solidly middle-class, buttoned-up bohemian; an anti-feminist who loved men but scorned free love; a female warrior taking on the male music establishment. She was both the party girl with torn stockings and the sensitive poet.

She often said she would be criticized for staying the same or changing, so why not take the less boring option? Her earthy, poetic lyrics ("the geese in chevron flight" in "Urge for Going"), the phrases that are now part of the culture ("They paved paradise, put up a parking lot"), and the unusual melodic intervals traced by that lissome voice earned her the status of a pop legend. Fearless experimentation ensured that she will also be seen as one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century.

Compiled and edited by Susan Whitall (a former writer and editor at Creem magazine in Detroit in its 1970s heyday, and a music and feature writer at the Detroit News), "Joni on Joni: Interviews and Encounters with Joni Mitchell " is an authoritative, chronologically arranged anthology of some of Mitchell's most illuminating interviews, spanning the years 1966 to 2014.

"Joni on Joni" includes revealing pieces from her early years in Canada and Detroit along with influential articles such as Cameron Crowe's never-before-anthologized Rolling Stone piece. Interspersed throughout the book are key quotes from dozens of additional Q&As. Together, this material paints a revealing picture of the artist -- bragging and scornful, philosophical and deep, but also a beguiling flirt.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, exceptionally compelling, impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "Joni on Joni: Interviews and Encounters with Joni Mitchell" is part of the Chicago Review Press 'Musicians in Their Own Words' series and an absolute 'must read' for the legions of Joni Mitchell fans. While certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Joni on Joni" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

How to Get Pregnant, Even When You've Tried Everything
A'ndrea Reiter
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738756967, $19.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: When you've tried everything to get pregnant, from eating the right foods to spending thousands on medical treatments, and nothing's worked, it's hard to stay positive. But "How to Get Pregnant, Even When You've Tried Everything: A Mind-Body Guide to Fertility" could well hold the key to successfully getting pregnant. The mind-body connection, a vastly under-acknowledged and under-studied area in fertility, has helped many women become pregnant. It can help you, too.

A'ndrea Reiter is a certified Reiki master and intuitive fertility coach specializing in a mind-body approach to fertility. She uses a combination of reiki, intuition and mindset coaching to move women through the emotional and physical blocks that are impeding them from conceiving naturally. In "How to Get Pregnant, Even When You've Tried Everything" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to teaches the reader about the four areas that may be blocking her ability to conceive and offers concrete ways to navigate them.

Reiter's mind-body approach focuses on natural methods instead of invasive and expensive fertility procedures. she also provides practical exercises, in-depth case studies, eye-opening information, and expert guidance on understanding the nuances of energy and mindset.

Whether you have PCOS, endometriosis, male factor infertility, unexplained infertility, thyroid issues, or are over forty, "How to Get Pregnant, Even When You've Tried Everything" shows how to move through it and achieve the dream of motherhood.

Of special note is A'ndrea Reiter's online web site at

Critique: Impressively informative and encouraging, "How to Get Pregnant, Even When You've Tried Everything: A Mind-Body Guide to Fertility" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented for the benefit of the non-specialist general reader. While very highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Get Pregnant, Even When You've Tried Everything" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Coming Apart: How to Heal Your Broken Heart
Daphne Rose Kingma
Conari Press
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950-4600
9781573247290, $16.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Next to the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship is the most painful experience most people will ever go through. "Coming Apart: How to Heal Your Broken Heart" by psychotherapist Daphne Rose Kingma is a kind of first aid kit for getting through the ending.

"Coming Apart" deftly explores the critical facets of relationship breakdowns including: Love myths: why we are really in relationships; The life span of love; How to get through the ending: How to create a personal workbook for finding resolution.

The underlying message of "Coming Apart" is that while time does a lot to heal our broken hearts, it is really understanding what transpired in each of our relationships that allows us to finally let go and move on.

Critique: Featuring a new and informative Foreword by Katherine Woodward Thomas, "Coming Apart: How to Heal Your Broken Heart" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Coming Apart" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982529772, $29.95, MP3 CD).

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862
Robert Orrison & Kevin R. Pawlak
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611214093, $14.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Confederate armies advanced across a thousand mile front in the summer of 1862. The world watched anxiously -- could the Confederacy achieve its independence?

Reacting to the Army of Northern Virginia's trek across the Potomac River, George B. McClellan gathered the broken and scattered remnants of several Federal armies within Washington, D. C. to repel the invasion and expel the Confederates from Maryland. he said of the invading force: "Everything seems to indicate that they intend to hazard all upon the issue of the coming battle."

In "To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862 " Civil War historians Robert Orrison and Kevin Pawlak collaborate to trace the routes both armies traveled during the Maryland Campaign, ultimately coming to a climactic blow on the banks of Antietam Creek. That clash on September 17, 1862, to this day remains the bloodiest single day in American history.

To "To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862" also offers several day trip tours and visits many out-of-the-way sites related to the Maryland Campaign. The individual chapters comprising "To Hazard All" include: Confederates Enter Maryland; The Federals Respond; The Investment of Harpers Ferry; The Battle of South Mountain; The Battle of Antietam; Return to Virginia.

Critique: The newest addition to the simply outstanding 'Emerging Civil War Series" from Savas Beatie, "To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862" is a valued and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library American Civil War collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Transformative Pacifism
Andrew Fiala
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781350039209, $114.00, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Defending pacifism against the charge that it is naively utopian, "Transformative Pacifism: Critical Theory and Practice" by Andrew Fiala (Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Fresno) offers a critical theory of the existing world order, and points in the direction of concrete ethical and political action.

Pacifism is a transformative philosophy with wide ranging implications. It aims to transform political, social, and psychological structures. Its focus is deep and wide. It is similar to other transformative social theories: feminism, ecology, animal welfare, cosmopolitanism, human rights theory. Indeed, behind those theories is often the pacifist idea that violence, power, and domination are wrong.

Pacifist theory raises consciousness about unjustifiable violence. This in turn leads to transformations in practical life. Many other books defend nonviolence and pacifism by focusing on failed justifications of war, as well as on the strategic value of nonviolence.

"Transformative Pacifism" begins by reviewing and accepting those sort of arguments. It then focuses on what a commitment to pacifism and nonviolence means in terms of a variety of practical issues. Pacifists reject the violent presuppositions of a society based upon power, strength, nationalism, and the system of militarized nation-states. Pacifism transforms psychological, social, political, and economic life.

"Transformative Pacifism" will be of particular interest to anyone who finds themselves disenchanted with ongoing violence, violent rhetoric, terrorism, wars, and the war industry. "Transformative Pacifism" gives anyone with pacifist sympathies reassurance: pacifists are not wrong to think that violence and war are immoral, irrational, and insane and that there is always an alternative.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is informed and informative, "Transformative Pacifism: Critical Theory and Practice" is an exceptionally well written, organized and presented study that is especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Philosophy collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Transformative Pacifism" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $102.60).

Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Historic Houses of Lincoln's Illinois
Erika Holst
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809336968, $21.95, PB, 136pp,

Synopsis: Erika Holst, the author of "Edwards Place: A Springfield Treasure and Wicked Springfield: Crime, Corruption, and Scandal during the Lincoln Era", is the curator of decorative arts and history at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

In "Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Historic Houses of Lincoln's Illinois" draws upon her years of research, experience and expertise to create a richly illustrated compendium showcasing twenty-two historic buildings in the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area that includes houses, a hotel, and an art center, all of which are open to the public.

Each individual site links today's visitors with a place Lincoln lived, a home of a Lincoln friend or colleague, or a spot that illuminates Lincoln's era and legacy in central Illinois. Along with dozens of modern and historical photographs, each of the entries contain explorations of historical connections to Lincoln and detailed information about exceptional features and artifacts.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of numerous maps, "Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Historic Houses of Lincoln's Illinois" is an impressively informative showcase of Illinois heritage and ideal as a handy guide for day trips, extended tours, or armchair adventures. Exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Historic Houses of Lincoln's Illinois" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for tourists and other individuals with an interest in the subject that "Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Historic Houses of Lincoln's Illinois" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.36).

The LEGO BOOST Idea Book
Yoshihito Isogawa
No Starch Press
245 - 8th Street, San Francisco, CO 94103-3910
9781593279844, $24.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: Yoshihito Isogawa is a LEGO luminary with 46 years of building experience. He is the author of The LEGO Technic Idea Book series, The LEGO Power Functions Idea Book series, and The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book (all No Starch Press) as well as many Japanese-language LEGO books.

In "The LEGO BOOST Idea Book: 95 Simple Robots and Clever Contraptions", Yoshihito showcases 95 creative ways to build simple robots with the LEGO BOOST set. Each model includes a parts list, minimal text, screenshots of programs, and colorful photographs from multiple angles so you can re-create it without step-by-step instructions.

Lego enthusiasts will learn to build robots that can walk and crawl, shoot and grab objects, and even draw using a pen! Each model demonstrates handy mechanical principles that you can use to come up with your own creations.

Each model comes with building hints and ideas for putting an individual spin on things. Best of all, every part needed and necessary to build these models comes in the LEGO BOOST Creative Toolbox (set #17101).

Critique: Beautifully illustrated on every page, "The LEGO BOOST Idea Book: 95 Simple Robots and Clever Contraptions" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended to personal, community, college, and university library Robotics & Lego instructional reference collections. It should be noted for Lego enthusiasts and students that "The LEGO BOOST Idea Book: 95 Simple Robots and Clever Contraptions" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Create Your Dream Life Now
Darren Marc, author
Joan Coleman, illustrator
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757321016, $14.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Inspiringly written by Darren Marc and colorfully illustrated "Create Your Dream Life Now: A Workbook and Guide for Manifesting Your Destiny" is a practical, but visually delightful illustrated workbook that encourages people to start living dream-filled lives now.

By incorporating powerful workbook exercises, guided meditations, and nine key wisdom tools, the book teaches readers how to dramatically transform the landscape of their lives in just twenty minutes a day. The deeply transformational content of "Create Your Dream Life Now" is offered in a simple, fun, and inspirational way that makes an ideal gift book.

"Create Your Dream Life Now" represents a midpoint between a visual poem and a detailed yet reader-friendly functional guide and workbook to spiritual practice. It stands out from other manifestation books by marbling practical exercises, interactive meditations, and spiritual reflection into the subject matter.

"Create Your Dream Life Now" includes sections on: Who You Are; Desire; Create Your Dream Life Now Meditations; Gratitude for the Now; Gratitude for the Future; Affirmative Prayer; Creative Visualization; Mindfulness Meditation; The 9 Keys to Creating Your Dream Life; Action; Synchronicity; Alignment; Faith; Wisdom; Prayer; Love & Service; Gratitude; Healing; Dream Week Living; and Dream Week Journal Pages

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, thoughtful and thought-provoking, a great deal of simple fun, and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.79), "Create Your Dream Life Now: A Workbook and Guide for Manifesting Your Destiny" is very highly recommended and 'user friendly' Self-Help/Self-Improvement tool.

The Aging Brain
Timothy R. Jennings, MD
Baker Books
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780801075223, $16.99, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: While growing older is inevitable, many of the troubles associated with aging (including dementia, disability, and an increased dependence on others) are not. The choices we make now can help us to maintain our vitality, a sharp mind, and our independence as we age.

Filled with simple, everyday actions we can take to avoid disease, promote vitality, and prevent dementia and late onset Alzheimer's, "The Aging Brain: Proven Steps to Prevent Dementia and Sharpen Your Mind" by Dr. Timothy R. Jennings is an easy-to-use guide to maintaining brain and body health throughout our lives. Based on solid, up-to-date scientific research, the interventions explained in "The Aging Brain" not only prevent progression toward dementia even in those who have already shown mild cognitive impairment, they also reduce disability and depression and keep people living independently longer than those who do not practice these methods.

For anyone hoping to slow the aging process, as well as anyone who acts as a caregiver to someone at risk of or already beginning to suffer from dementia and other age-related diseases, "The Aging Brain" offers a hopeful, healthy way forward.

Critique: Timothy R. Jennings, MD has been in private practice as a Christian psychiatrist and certified master psychopharmacologist since 1997. Board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, he is a specialist in transcranial magnetic stimulation, a drug-free treatment for depression. Dr. Jennings is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and past president of both the Tennessee and Southern Psychiatric Associations. He has spent more than two decades researching the interface between biblical principles and modern brain science.

In "The Aging Brain: Proven Steps to Prevent Dementia and Sharpen Your Mind", Dr. Jennings expertly draws upon his years of research, experience and expertise to provide an impressively informative and thoroughly 'reader friendly' presentation for non-specialist general readers that is very highly recommended for both community, senior citizen center, and academic library Health/Medicine collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Aging Brain" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.00) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Mission Audio, 9781545903759, $19.98, CD).

The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarfs
Claude Lecouteux
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620557150, $24.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Claude Lecouteux is a former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous books on medieval and pagan afterlife beliefs and magic, including The Book of Grimoires, Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells, and The Tradition of Household Spirits

In "The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarfs: Avatars of Invisible Realms" he traces the history of elves and dwarfs from ancient Celtic and Germanic lore through their emergence in the literature of the Middle Ages, to their modern popularization by the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney

Most people are familiar with the popular image of elves as Santa's helpers and dwarfs as little bearded men wearing red caps, who are mischievous and playful, helpful and sly, industrious and dexterous. But their roots go far deeper than their appearance in fairy tales and popular stories. Elves and dwarfs are survivors of a much older belief system that predates Christianity and was widespread throughout Western Europe.

Sharing his extensive analysis of Germanic and Norse legends, as well as Roman, Celtic, and medieval literature, Lecouteux explores the ancient, intertwined history of dwarfs and elves. He reveals how both were once peoples who lived in wild regions as keepers of the secrets of nature. They were able to change their size at will and had superhuman strength and healing powers. They were excellent smiths, crafting swords that nothing could dull as well as magical jewelry, and often entered into the service of lords or heroes. They were a part of the everyday life of our ancestors before they were transformed by fairy tales and church texts into the mythical creatures we know today.

Lecouteux also shows how, in earlier folklore, elves and dwarfs were interchangeable, gradually evolving over time to express very different kinds of beings. "Dwarf," "giant," and even "elf" did not necessarily connote size but referred to races with different skills. Elves were more ethereal, offering protection and kindness, while dwarfs reflected a more corporeal form of spirit, often appearing as messengers from the underworld. Yet dwarfs and elves could be bargained with, and our ancestors would leave a broken object outside the door at night with the hope that a dwarf or elf (or other local spirit) would repair it.

Revealing the true roots of these helpful and powerful beings, including an in-depth exploration of one of the most famous dwarf/elf/fairy beings of the Middle Ages, Auberon or Oberon, also known as Alberich, Lecouteux shows how the magic of dwarfs and elves can be rekindled if we recognize their signs and invite them back into our world.

Critique: A unique and impressively informative study, "The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarfs: Avatars of Invisible Realms" is an extraordinary volume that is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community, and academic library collections. Ably translated into English for an American readership by Jon E. Graham, "The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarfs" is an extraordinary work that is enhanced for the reader (and academia) with the inclusion of seventeen pages of Notes, a fourteen page Bibliography, a two page Glossary, and a six page Index. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarfs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Junk Beautiful: She Sheds
Sue Whitney, author
Susan Teare, photographer
The Taunton Press
63 South Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470
9781631869150, $24.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Across the country, ladies are carving out a special place for themselves, one free from stress and concern. And they're doing it in their own backyards by turning spaces usually reserved for old tools and greasy car parts into refined relaxation. The beauty of the 'She Shed' is that it can take whatever form best suits a woman's personal tastes.

In "Junk Beautiful: She Sheds", Sue Whitney (founder of JUNKSTYLE and author of the Junk Beautiful brand of books), will introduce the appreciative reader to the "rustoration" philosophy as showcased in 15 'she sheds' from across the country.

Featured She Sheds will largely be small wooden structures, but could also take the shape of a dolled-up camper, vintage horse trailer, tree house, or other unique space. Shed rehab will include indoor and outdoor projects that run from light construction to accessory projects and simple hacks. Re-using and re-inventing castoffs as home furnishings and accessories create uniquely personal spaces ?the hallmark of She Sheds.

She Sheds on the East Coast (greater Philadelphia), South (Texas), Midwest (greater Minneapolis), and West Coast (central California) will allow for regional design flavor.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated with the full color photography of Susan Teare, "Junk Beautiful: She Sheds" is an inspiring and thoroughly 'user friendly' compendium of great ideas for backyard retreats with a distinctively feminine touch and is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, and community library Crafts & Hobbies collections.

A Year of Living Kindly
Donna Cameron
She Writes Press
9781631524790, $16.95, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: Being kind is something most of us do when it's easy and when it suits us. Being kind when we don't feel like it, or when all of our buttons are being pushed, is hard. But that's also when it's most needed; that's when it can defuse anger and even violence, when it can restore civility in our personal and virtual interactions.

Kindness has the power to profoundly change our relationships with other people and with ourselves. It can, in fact, change the world.

In "A Year of Living Kindly: Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around You" Donna Cameron uses stories, observation, humor, and summaries of expert research while sharing her experience committing to 365 days of practicing kindness.

Donna presents compelling research into the myriad benefits of kindness, including health, wealth, longevity, improved relationships, and personal and business success. She explores what a kind life entails, and what gets in the way of it. And she provides practical and experiential suggestions for how each of us can strengthen our kindness muscle so choosing a life of kindness becomes ever easier and more natural.

An inspiring, practical guide that can help any reader make a commitment to kindness, "A Year of Living Kindly" shines a light on how we can create a better, safer, and more just world -- and how you can be part of that transformation.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Year of Living Kindly: Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around You" is an extraordinary and timely contribution in these troubled times when our country is more polarized, antagonistic, and muckraking hostile that it has been since the era of the American Civil War. Inspired and inspiring, "A Year of Living Kindly" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Year of Living Kindly" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

A Winter's Promise
Christelle Dabos
Translated by Hildegarde Serle
Europa Editions
9781609454838, $19.95, 491 pps,

Hands that read, tattooed eyelids, and palaces decorated with illusion: enter the fantastical world of A Winter's Promise, the tantalizing first book in a planned series of four by Christelle Dabos.

Ophelia, a museum curator on the Anima ark, one of the lands created after God smashed the world to bits, is betrothed to Thorn, Treasurer on the Pole ark. Against her will and desire, she must navigate the conniving, gossipy, cutthroat Pole society without losing all sense of independence.

The novel excels at intricate plot twists and magical inventions that entertain as well as teach. Enlisting characters from all demographics, from servants to immortal family spirits, and everyone in between, the story twists and turns without veering from the focus on Ophelia's coming of age. Ingenious compass roses, mirrors that transport and hourglasses that offer temporary escape enable a glimpse into all corners of a vast, palatial setting. Cunning dialogue between characters is both deceiving as well as illuminating about Ophelia's challenges to understand the community she's up against. At times the plot is confusing, but periodic summaries help.

Billed as a young adult novel (the first Europa has published), the book explores the wiles of the adult world. Clumsy but crafty Ophelia, who can read objects with her hands and travel through mirrors, models a path toward maturity and steadfastness amidst people she can barely trust.

A fantasy novel with real world application, A Winter's Promise reads like an epic fairy tale.

Like a Sword Wound
Ahmet Altan
Translated from Turkish by Brendan Freely and Yelda Turedi
Europa Editions
9781609454746, $17.00, 320 pps.

Like a Sword Wound is a fictionalized account of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the twentieth century, told from a contemporary perspective.

Osman, descendant of the major players in the novel, relates stories his dead relatives and friends tell him in a dust filled room in ravaged modern day Turkey. The chasm between then and now begins with the marriage of Osman's great grandfather, Sheikh Efendi, to Mehpare Hanim. While the Sheikh lusts after his new wife, Mehpare prefers worship to his affections. Mehpare's second husband, son of the Sultan's personal doctor, seeks a freedom like he experienced growing up in France. His mother, the doctor's beautiful and cosmopolitan ex-wife, fancies the Sheikh. These fraught personal relationships, among other side plots, run alongside the equally emotionally entangled politics of the time. The Sultan anxiously pits his surrounding pashas, or local governing heads, against one another as lower ranking citizens organize themselves around a bigger cause.

"'If you love, you feel,'" Hikmet Bey, Mehpare Hanim's second husband, tells Osman, "True love is like a sword wound, and even when the wound heals a deep scar remains," (232). Going back and forth in time, between several threads, and between intimate and public settings, all at an unceasing pace, the novel succeeds not in closing wounds, but exposing them. Instead of explaining how Turkey got from its state in 1847 to its current condition, this novel exploits the land's layered history in a luscious tapestry of intrigue and corruption, with an open ending.

As vast and capricious as War and Peace, this epic by political prisoner Ahmet Altan continues in three more books of the Ottoman Quartet.

Strike Your Heart
Amelie Nothomb
Translated from French by Alison Anderson
Europa Editions
9781609454852, $15.00, 135 pps

A rising cardiologist's most challenging case is her own heart.

Diane's mother is so jealous, she can't show Diane any affection. After a near death experience when she's six, an insightful doctor inspires her to study medicine. At fifteen, precocious, mature and more beautiful than her mother, Diane opts to live with her grandparents. When they die, she lives with her best friend's family. At university, in the late 1990s, she befriends a professor whose ambition Diane feeds and supports, only for her efforts to backfire. As Diane navigates these pivotal relationships with her mother, best friend, and professor, the plot moves along rhythmically, like a beating heart. The chapters are short and discreet, with tidy endings. The writing is crystalline, condensing whole years of reflection into a few sentences. "In that moment Diane stopped being a child.... She transformed into a disenchanted creature who was obsessed with not foundering in the abyss that this situation [her mother's jealousy] had created inside her." She becomes like her namesake, the goddess Diana, virgin mother associated with hunting. "Strike your heart, that is where genius lies" is Diane's favorite quote, among others infusing the text like bursts of oxygen. She is both the huntress and the hunted; she is the heart itself, the heroine at the center of this short but fiery novel, beating with more than one climactic palpitation. She rises above each of the hurts inflicted by her mother and friends with a stalwart and unconventional love the novel celebrates in its streamlined style.

Reminiscent of Madame Bovary as well as the Ferrante trilogy, this latest novel by the edgy, innovative and prolific literary star, Amelie Nothomb, not only strikes the heart but remains embedded for a long time after reading.

Stoney Lonesome Road
Rick Pendergast
Privately Published
9780692990742, $12.99, paperback, 227 pps

A retired detective and a PhD candidate in English fall in love solving a murder mystery.

A lifetime citizen of Brunswick, Wisconsin, understated Jack Delaney retires from its police force after thirty five years. He's quietly proud to have "served and protected." With one exception, he's closed every one of his cases: Sonny Howland's murder case remains unsolved. Jack and his trusty dog, Harry, fill their empty days doing odd jobs for the widow whose property Jack rents and making rounds in Jack's old blue pickup truck. With lots of time to reflect on his long career, memories supply much of the narrative. Jack relives the old days with his on-and-off girlfriend from grade school, Cindy Robertson, and enjoys her brother, Father Dan Robertson's fake Irish brogue. Jack remembers the origins of the feud between the Howlands and Graves families. Will Graves is primary suspect in Sonny Howland's murder due to generations-old animosity between the Catholic Graves and KKK Howlands. When Anna, English grad student and the Graves' granddaughter, comes to live in her grandparents' farmhouse just before they die, she and Jack fall in love over a shared interest in the intriguing story of Mattie Graves, Will's wife and Jack's beloved high school English teacher, who secretly likes to smoke as she grades papers. A Robert Frost devotee, she writes her own poems in the margins of her journals. Clues left in Mattie's letters and diaries lead Anna and Jack on a dangerous goose chase into buried secrets still smoldering beneath the surface. Sonny Howland's son, Doyle, a crippled veteran and local criminal, endangers everyone in his path seeking revenge for his father's death, but not if Jack can stop him first.

Like a good poem that "begins in delight and ends in wisdom," Stoney Lonesome Road starts out innocently, but behind the small town charm lie crimes of passion that resolve in an ultimate truth. A robust combination of love story and murder mystery, historic anecdotes ground this novel in a real Midwest setting.

Up In The Air
Jonathan Solomon
Amazon Digital
9780646992136, $2.99, 117 pps, Kindle

What do a circus school, a middle-aged transplant to Adelaide from Sydney, and a lawyer have to do with $5 million missing dollars? Pink graffiti vandalizes the warehouse out of which Charlie runs his Inner Strength Circus School. After the fifth tag (one tag per chapter), the messages become personal. In a search for possible perpetrators, Charlie recalls his string of angry ex boyfriends who each resent his commitment to the school over them. Meanwhile, the school, just barely in the black, gets the chance to take part in De Bonheur Circus Company's traveling show. In an another thread of vignettes, introvert Eckhart has relocated to Adelaide from Sydney where he was worn down by work and lovelife woes. He buys a rundown house it takes all his savings and energy to restore. He invites his enterprising, hearing impaired real estate agent, Megan, to join a trapeze class with him at Inner Strength.

In a third set of alternating storylines, Margot, a Sydney lawyer, might lose both her job and her firm's biggest client, Surface Under, if she can't locate $5 million dollars they're owed. When the money is lost, so is Margot's job. She licks her wounds in Adelaide with her sister. These separate plots begin to coalesce as De Bonheur gets closer to Adelaide from Sydney. In each town, the troupe features local talent, as well as their own. Blanche, the ringmaster, adds a fourth layer to the mounting suspense. Author Jonathan Solomon has produced two plays in addition to this book, and another novel. His theatrical bent comes across most clearly in the dramatic chapters-as-scenes format. Up In the Air is a mystery that unravels methodically, through evenly paced episodes and good natured characters making everyday mistakes as well as life-altering discoveries about themselves. A quick, bubbling read.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Regulation, Governance and Convergence in the Media
Peter Humphreys & Seamus Simpson
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781781008980, $130.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: With digital technologies blurring media boundaries, "Regulation, Governance and Convergence in the Media" by British academicians Peter Humphreys and Seamus Simpson provides a detailed analysis of how the Internet is producing a convergence of the press, audio-visual and online media.

Based on extensive empirical analysis, "Regulation, Governance and Convergence in the Media" presents an expert analysis of over 25 years of changes to media forms and expose the reality behind the notion that media convergence is inevitable and inexorable.

"Regulation, Governance and Convergence in the Media" breaks new ground through exploring a diverse range of topics at the heart of the media convergence governance debate, such as next generation networks, spectrum, copyright and media subsidies. Of special note is the highlighting of how reluctance to accommodate non-market based policy solutions creates conflicts and problems resulting in only shallow media convergence thus far.

Critique: "Regulation, Governance and Convergence in the Media" is an impressively informed and informative read for both undergraduate and masters students researching digital media and communications. Especially and unreservedly recommended for corporate, college and university library Media Studies collections, "Regulation, Governance and Convergence in the Media" offers expert guidance on a series of policy directions and innovations that will prove invaluable for media and communication practitioners and policy makers. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a forty-six page Bibliography and a six page Index, "Regulation, Governance and Convergence in the Media" is unreservedly recommended for professional, corporate, college, and university library Media Studies collections.

Social Innovation and Sustainable Entrepreneurship
Maritza I. Espina, Phillip H. Phan, Gideon D. Markman, editors
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781788116848, $155.00, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: The rapid and formative rise in research on social innovation and entrepreneurship means that theoretical frameworks are still being created, while traditional notions of economic efficiency and social welfare are tested. The field is progressing fastest in the measurement and measuring of social entrepreneurial effectiveness. Social innovators, who draw from philanthropy, as well as capital markets, for financial resources, have adopted the lean start up as a paradigm for their organization logics.

"Social Innovation and Sustainable Entrepreneurship" is collection of expert articles that collectively showcase the myriad emerging philosophical, methodological, and theoretical approaches, many of which are led by practitioners.

"Social Innovation and Sustainable Entrepreneurship" is organized into five sections. The first section reports on theoretical approaches to researching sustainable entrepreneurship that are less familiar. The second section reports on research focusing on the entrepreneurial responses to problems of climate change. The third and fourth sections report on research investigating social entrepreneurial processes, and how opportunities are formed and exploited. The fifth section reports on the ethical dimensions of social innovation.

Researchers, scholars, educators and policymakers will find "Social Innovation and Sustainable Entrepreneurship" a useful reference, with novel ideas for future research and discourse.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Maritza I. Espina (Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship, IEN Business School, Universidad del Este, Puerto Rico), Phillip H. Phan (Alonzo and Virginia Decker Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Johns Hopkins University) and Gideon D. Markman (Professor of Strategy, Innovation and Sustainable Enterprise, Colorado State University), "

City of Death
Scott McEwen
Center Street
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781546081821, $27.00, HC, 304pp,

After leaving the US Navy SEAL teams in spring of 2017, Ephraim Mattos, age twenty-four, flew to Iraq to join a small group of volunteer humanitarians known as the Free Burma Rangers, who were working on the frontlines of the war on ISIS.

Until being shot by ISIS on a suicidal rescue mission, Mattos witnessed unexplainable acts of courage and sacrifice by the Free Burma Rangers, who, while under heavy machine gun and mortar fire, assaulted across ISIS minefields, used themselves as human shields, and sprinted down ISIS-infested streets-all to retrieve wounded civilians.

In "City of Death: Humanitarian Warriors in the Battle of Mosul", Mattos recounts in vivid detail what he saw and felt while he and the other Free Burma Rangers evacuated the wounded, conducted rescue missions, and at times fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iraqi Army against ISIS.

Filled with raw and emotional descriptions of what it's like to come face-to-face with death, "City of Death" is the harrowing and uplifting true story of a small group of men who risked everything to save the lives of the Iraqi people.

Critique: In publishing "City of Death: Humanitarian Warriors in the Battle of Mosul", author Scott McEwen has teamed up with Ephriam Mattos to tell the true story of an American warrior turned humanitarian forced to fight his way into and out of a Hell on Earth created by ISIS. A simply riveting read from beginning to end, "City of Death" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "City of Death" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781549147982, $35.00, CD).

Is the Catholic Church a Christian Church?
Roger Nelsen
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781480935822, $32.00, HC, 518pp,

Synopsis: Roger Nilsen is a citizen of Norway, where he has raised three children and runs his own business. As a Christian, Mr. Nilsen is very interested in the Bible. He stands in opposition to Darwin's Theory of Evolution and similarly argues against other unbiblical teachings with his extensive research.

In the pages of "Is the Catholic Church a Christian Church?" Nelsen reveals that the Catholic Church has political objectives that are incompatible with the mission and message of Jesus Christ, the Apostles, and the directives of God.

"Is the Catholic Church a Christian Church?" reveals troubling relationships within the church and other political/governmental/financial institutions.

The main character is David Gleason, a journalist with The New York Times. In cooperation with the Israeli intelligence organization, Mossad, Gleason is commissioned to infiltrate a meeting of the tops of the Catholic Church, consisting of bishops and cardinals with the Pope himself as chairman.

The meeting's agenda is to facilitate a strategy aimed at taking full control over the United States' religion and politics by making one of its own President.

Critique: "Is the Catholic Church a Christian Church?" is a unique, detailed, iconoclastic, and very highly recommended read. Of special note is the included article 'Religion and Politics in USA' by David Gleason. While a recommended addition to community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Is the Catholic Church a Christian Church?" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.00).

Jack Mason

Messenger's Bookshelf

72 Raisins
Nikki Nash
Overhead Bin Publishing
9780692148082, $14.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle
9780692139462 eBook

72 Raisins tells the story of Scott Mullan, a Los Angeles-based comedy writer for The Late Enough Show, whose star is the diminutive Dylan Flynn. Scott is fifty and married to Rebecca. They have two children, both of whom are due to start college and are busy choosing - along with Rebecca - where to go. Scott is hoping for promotion to head writer on the show, but his ambitions and his marriage are thrown into turmoil when his agent asks him to read the typescript of a book called Seven Mythic Doorways to Freedom by Ben Doss, with a view to editing it, a suggestion that Scott fears indicates he will never get the job he covets.

72 Raisins opens with the redolent image of two nervous cops pointing their guns at the back of a suspect. The suspect is Scott and he has done nothing wrong, yet by the time the story gets around it doesn't much matter, as he is branded as a 'perv' anyway. Thus, as the subtitle to 72 Raisins succinctly puts it, this is 'a novel about fame, delusion and indecent exposure'. More significantly, it is about story, myth and faith.

The stories we tell ourselves and perhaps hold sacred as individuals and as a society help us make sense of our experience and enable us to steer a course through life. Stories become myths when they solidify as foundational narratives about how and why we became what we are, and often invoke divine sanction and guidance. When, as happens from time to time, circumstances force us to reexamine, revise, replace or discard our myths, it can be a painful and confusing process - so much so that many of us avoid honest encounters with new realities and instead use our myths for refuge and exclusion rather than illumination and connection.

Few of us these days learn our myths from an impressively bearded sage sitting around the old camp fire. Instead, it is television and cinema and social media that tell us who we are and what we may become. The difference with social media and a lot of television is that stories can be diffused with such rapidity and scant regard for authenticity and authorship that they become truths whether or not they are true.

Any novel that references the immortal Dick Van Dyke Show is likely to get my vote. In 72 Raisins the show is perhaps a foundational narrative for Scott and Rebecca's marriage - a righteous blend of harmoniously sexy family life in an affluent suburb with a fun and rewarding career (for the husband, at least). In a flashback to their first meeting, Scott tells Rebecca:

I always wanted to be Rob Petrie. From The Dick Van Dyke Show. I want to be a head writer. I'm doing stand-up because I'm good at it and it helps me refine the words, but deep down - I want to be Rob Petrie.

Whereupon Rebecca impersonates Mary Tyler Moore and their relationship is sealed. (Incidentally, an early episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show contains a memorable entrance by the lovely Mary in a tailored outfit with pillbox hat typical of the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. The live audience indulges in a collective swoon of rapture. The myth of Camelot has already taken hold.)

Seven Mythic Doorways to Freedom claims some impressive reviews from Rollo May, Robert Bly, the New York Times Book Review and Robert Graves. It is ostensibly a book about myth and how myth can be used to enlighten a life via some bizarre applications that Scott decides to follow, among which are attempting to see the messiah in the people he encounters, and rocking back and forth as a form of meditative exercise. These things get Scott thinking:

Scott ... thought about his father. How things could have been different. His father had never handed him a knife and said, 'You must slay me first.' He'd handed him a hammer and said, 'Don't fuck this up,' but Scott had to remember this was mythology.

No doubt, many of us can relate to this kind of parental advice.

Family life is not dwelt upon in 72 Raisins, but is artfully suggested. Little details such as Rebecca leaving the radio quietly tuned to classical music so that anyone returning to the empty house doesn't feel lonely, and the way she can be relied upon to answer text messages immediately, are quietly moving and evocative. The scenes in the family home and the family car are among the best in the novel. Scott and Rebecca share a similar sense of humour but, unlike Scott, Rebecca knows when to stop and sees when her husband uses humour merely to deflect difficult questions.

Seven Mythic Doorways to Freedom becomes a Pandora's box of doubt and nihilism that threatens everything that Scott holds sacred:

What if God was just a story? Was the comfort of a potential heaven, or even seventy-two raisins, just the next palliative in a long line of comforts from birth to death? Pulling us forwards, soothing us through the pain of life? Was life indeed painful, or did he even know? He hadn't experienced anything without the undercurrent of a deeper, assumed connection to something greater than himself. That would always be there, that was taking care of him.

Any writer is likely to question his or her motivations sooner or later. Somewhere behind their lust to create there is usually a quest for love, validation or immortality (preferably accompanied with huge sales and a film option).

Scott wondered if his own pursuit of recognition was tied to some kind of story he was telling himself. Was he proving his father wrong, that he was in fact able to be a 'man' and provide for his family using nothing more than his humour? What would he do if his humour left him? If God left him? Could he do this life without God? What if God was merely the hope of future solutions to current problems?

Deepak Chopra and his New Age mysticism are mentioned numerous times in 72 Raisins because, after all, California has had its share of religious cults and spiritual movements, quacks and charlatans, messiahs and gurus. Scott's story is in part the story of a nation whose professions of faith are everywhere but whose doubts and uncertainties erupt in myriad ways. This is not a story that could have been written in the UK, for example, where secularism is the de facto religion.

Comedy is often no laughing matter. It requires a great deal of talent and hard work to get it right, much of it collaborative. It is notoriously difficult to perform. It is a medium that is often undervalued and misperceived as trivial or mere entertainment. When it's bad it's bad; when it's good, we are so busy laughing that we cannot reflect about it afterwards. Yet great comedy is as great as great tragedy, for example, and the two often go hand in hand. 72 Raisins shows the toll it takes on Scott, whose mental processes circle the humorous possibilities of any and every situation, no matter how serious.

It is a strength of 72 Raisins that whether or not the reader foresees the revelation that comes midway through the book, it does not matter. What matters is its effect on Scott. Similarly, in the early stages of the novel, where there are many extracts from Seven Mythic Doorways that take us away from the main narrative, it is possible to doubt one's commitment to reading yet, at the same time, be compelled to continue. Readers who persevere will be glad they did so.

Apocalypse Chow
David Julian Wightman
Privately Published
9781775357902, $11.99, pbk

The subtitle to Apocalypse Chow describes it as a 'remix of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness'. Pastiche, parody, or whatever we wish to call it is a difficult art, made more difficult if the original is a pillar of the western literary canon of which many people have heard, but few have read. Conrad's prose is too dense and allusive for contemporary tastes, the novel was written a long time ago, and one has to be prepared to work hard to get to grips with it.

Of course, Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899) has been 'remixed' and reincarnated many times before Apocalypse Chow. Eliot referenced it in The Hollow Men (1925), for example, and the novel has been repeatedly excavated by literary and postcolonial scholars for its buried racism. The phrase 'heart of darkness' has become enshrined, albeit awkwardly, in the store cupboard of phrases to be trotted out by authors as a shorthand for Conrad's evocation of evil, mystery and madness (including, if I remember correctly, myself).

As its cover typography immediately signals, Apocalypse Chow approaches Conrad's novel via Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), which was 'inspired' by Conrad's masterpiece. Thus, as well as Conrad's majestic prose style, Apocalypse Chow also reimagines scenes from the film that have acquired a life of their own apart from the larger work. Robert Duvall's Colonel Kilgore, who blasts the enemy with Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries from his Huey attack helicopters, and who famously claims 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning', is transformed into a Canadian veteran who drives a chip wagon that blares precisely the same music as it pulls into town. 'I love the smell of bacon in the morning ...' he admits.

Kurtz, the mysterious genius who has gone rogue upriver, is Chef Kurtz in Wightman's novel, and, indeed, the story of Marlow's quest for Kurtz now unfolds as a narrative of the restaurant business told by Marlow himself late one night around the dinner table of a New York restaurant. Marlow, we are told, was given the task by his employers to track down Kurtz in the Canadian wilderness and fire him. According to them, Kurtz had made Chow restaurant one of the best in the world with his innovative cuisine, but now he had gone mad and had to be evicted.

If Apocalypse Chow sounds odd it is because it is odd. It is entertaining for anyone familiar with the works it lovingly skewers (note the culinary metaphor) and it is strangely compelling even if, like me, you haven't read Conrad for a long time. It is quietly witty and also serious. It manages to borrow something of the gravitas of Conrad's novel and - like all good parody - it makes you want to return to the original for a fresh look.

For an example of its humour, take this passage from the novel's description of Marlow's river journey:

Cutlery, for Christ's sake! We were being attacked with cutlery. Forks and knives and spoons were raining down on the boat. There were even metal chopsticks thrown at us; empty tin cans and broken old pots and pans flying through the air.

When Chow opened for the first time, Chef Kurtz cooked up meals comprising such unlikely dishes as:

Malaysian Edible-nest Swiflet soup - made from a single nest constructed entirely from the bird's saliva, if you can believe it - garnished with a fried African guinea fowl egg, black osetra sturgeon caviar, and Himalayan rock salt. Imagine the expense! Next came a procession of charcuterie items served on individual planks of Lebanese cedar.

Kurtz's madness - his sin against the increasingly desperate exaggeration of haute cuisine embodied above - is suddenly to turn his back on such unsustainable extravagance, and to research, discover and utilize the edible flora and fauna of the local wilderness, creating an entirely different kind of cuisine for the future. The apocalyptic last supper served at Chow features a cornucopia of little-known nuts and berries, plus a selection of predatory invasive species, all of which serves as an edible symbol of humanity's greed: Kurtz is undisturbed by 'the horror' of the world; rather, it is 'The hunger! The hunger!' that obsesses him. 'Don't you see, Marlow,' he says, 'humans are the ultimate invasive species.'

Kurtz himself recites from Eliot's The Hollow Men and, after serving Chow's final meal, he gives a lecture to his rapt admirers:

Imagine an ocean without sharks or tuna ... The time will soon come when there are none left, for we are eating them into extinction. Imagine a world without honeybees, the humble creatures that pollinate almost all the crops we consume, yet are dying in their billions because of climate change, and our industrial agriculture's addiction to pesticides. Imagine a world without mountain gorillas, tigers, or polar bears. These species will be lost as we devour their habitats.

Humour blends seamlessly with this sudden seriousness, much of which is allusive and elusive. For instance, just the one word, upriver, evokes more mystery and menace than one can immediately account for. An individual's capacity for uncritical admiration is incarnated by the restaurant critic who has 'not critiqued his passion, his own blind loyalty [to Kurtz]. It came to him, and he accepted it with a sort of eager fatalism.' The uncritical Critic is as purblind as the similarly obsessed photographer in Apocalypse Now.

The boat Marlow takes upriver is called Blacky's Barge. It is as if the relocation from Conrad's Africa (the Heart of Darkness) and the Vietnam of Apocalypse Now (denuded of its rightful inhabitants so as to repaint the war - and indeed Colonel Kurtz - as a solely American tragedy) to the wilds of Canada has brought with it the first foray of the hitherto occluded subaltern colonial Other, still inflected with a racist slur. The entirely coincidental resonance of the author's surname acts as an accidental indicator of racial hegemony.

Of course, Kurtz is right about food and our place in Nature. Our hunger is our greed, and greed has destroyed too much for the world to recover. Thus:

Kurtz's words had behind them a terrible suggestion of things heard in dreams, of phrases spoken in nightmares. He wasn't a lunatic. Chef's intelligence was perfectly clear, and concentrated upon himself with horrible intensity.

Apocalypse Chow is a short work of humble ambition, many of whose virtues are probably emergent properties rather than intended outcomes. Perhaps it is best read for humour and entertainment (excellent reasons to read anything), so that its seriousness can creep up on you like an unexamined appetite. 'The hunger! The hunger!'

Crowd of One
Filip Severin
Privately Published
9781983217036, $12.90 / $2.99 Kindle

The epigraph to Crowd of One is taken from Edward Bernays, one of the least-known and most influential figures of the modern era: 'Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions.' Bernays pioneered what eventually became known as public relations (aka propaganda) by applying crowd psychology to control the 'herd instincts' of the 'irrational masses'. What he termed the 'crystallizing' of public opinion rapidly evolved over the course of the twentieth century into the manufacturing of consent to the political and commercial imperatives of society's managers and elites. Like it or not, we all live in Bernays' world.

Marlon Renner, the central character in Crowd of One, certainly does. He is a young man from Maine who works in Paris for Atlas Analytica, a shadowy entity in a world of low-profile companies that eschew publicity, websites or even premises. 'To map out an individual's personality traits, Atlas Analytica uses a psychometric model known as the Big Five,' which helps it understand a person's needs and fears and persuade them 'into thinking or doing as you like.' Usually, such persuasion is based on a suitably invented narrative of conflict, so as to engage with strong emotions such as anger and anxiety.

The use of these techniques - particularly in social media, with the help of 'bots' - is perfectly legal, Marlon and his colleagues assure us (and each other), although companies like Atlas Analytica take care to distance themselves from the action by creating a string of shell companies and offshore havens. The buying and selling of psychological profiles based on people's likes and dislikes, comments and purchases, takes place on an industrial scale, as there are always loopholes that permit organizations to sell their data even when they are 'committed to ensuring your privacy.'

Mr LaFontaine, Marlon's boss, has returned to Paris because he sees which way the wind is blowing. In a blizzard of mixed metaphor, he explains Europe to Marlon:

Now, the cracks are widening, and the tables are about to turn. What you see out there is a society in freefall, ready to crash and rebuild itself. That's why I came back. The old continent is facing another turnaround ...

The quicker you learn how this works, the more you'll be able to squeeze out of this system before it goes belly-up.

Whatever the legality of these pervasive business and political practices, they are based on a profoundly cynical view of human society. Marlon becomes increasingly enmeshed in a network of morally dubious decisions and clandestine structures, all of them linked by lonely journeys and anonymous hotels. Yet Marlon's success 'is what he wanted - to prove that he can make his own way in life. That he is worthwhile.'

It is here that one thinks of the sociological classic The Lonely Crowd (1950) referenced by Crowd of One. Marlon is not much given to introspection and seems only partially acquainted with himself: 'He can't tell whether he is going home or leaving home, or whether it makes any difference.' He requires the self-justification of defending free speech even as he schemes to bring down a country's economy. Marlon feels like a young man in search of a cause who has found it in the wrong place. When he says 'Our in-house psychologists say that it's in our DNA to follow the crowd and seek homogeneity ... They call it the soul of the wolf and the fear of loneliness' - he describes himself.

In short, Marlon is as much a 'part of a pattern in someone else's head' as the masses he manipulates. There is a great deal of talk about 'the big picture' in Crowd of One, a metaphor frequently used to make the ends justify the means and enable a megalomaniac's vision to outweigh a world of suffering. 'The mind of a crowd is a different beast than that of an individual,' Marlon thinks. 'It's strong, authoritative, and capable of a brutality that most individuals are not.'

Recent events such as massive data breaches, interference in elections, the exposure of espionage, the misuse of information and the existence of state-sponsored troll factories make Crowd of One extremely topical. And while, for that reason alone, it is a readable book, it also has considerable weaknesses. The prose is frankly dull and utilitarian in the manner of notes to a screenplay: 'Marlon walks to the desk' and thousands of similar phrases become tiring and repetitive. The present tense is mannered and clumsy when used with so little variation. In addition, people invariably 'grab' a cup of coffee rather than simply pick it up; descriptive details are so minimal as to be cursory; a word used in one sentence will be repeated needlessly in the next; characters are flat; significant plot points are telegraphed.

We inhabit Marlon's perspective throughout, but not much goes on inside his head that is particularly interesting. His past is vague and generic and, while it hints at underlying reasons for Marlon's conformism, there is not enough to go on to make speculation worthwhile. Marlon's father is an unfortunate man, which might explain Marlon's unquestioning acceptance of LaFontaine and his need to please him. In a rare descriptive significance, reference to a 'dry fountain' near LaFontaine's home office suggests he is not the fount of knowledge and wisdom Marlon takes him to be.

This is all a great shame, especially as Crowd of One leads us to ponder the contempt with which most of us are regarded by the sociopaths and scoundrels who run much of the world. Perhaps everyone thinks of themselves as exceptions to the crowd, as impervious to manipulation and advertising, but what 'crowd' do we mean and have we ever met it? In an age when social media are discovered to be unsociable, when much of our communication and 'keeping in touch' via the internet actually degrades our relationships, when the 'friends' we 'like' can be algorithms generated by unscrupulous agencies, each of us is forced deeper into his or her crowd of one.

Tom Maremaa
Black Tea Press
9781728628288, $10.99, pbk, ebook

Reykjavik is a novel of the Cold War and its aftermath which takes as its starting point the Reykjavik summit in October 1986 between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

Dylan Rose, aged 24, is the foreign correspondent for a New York paper. While in Iceland to cover the summit, he unexpectedly encounters Professor Nathalie Campbell, his former teacher of Russian at Berkeley, who herself meets and falls in love with Russian scientist Andrei Heilemann. Over subsequent decades, their lives criss-cross against the backdrop of the dissolution of the Soviet Empire and the rise of oligarch mobsterism in the new Russia. Andrei's brother Mikhail is one such oligarch, and his personal/political vendetta with Andrei leads to espionage, danger, persecution and murder.

'All roads in life converge, one way or another, whether we want them to or not.' I suspect this highly qualified and unconvincing assertion probably doesn't mean very much. And, sooner or later, an avid reader is likely to come across an entire book that is just as unconvincing. For me, I am afraid, Reykjavik is one such novel. The reasons are simple, but they are intertwined in complicated ways.

The main problem with Reykjavik is that its relationships quickly strain credulity to breaking point. Dylan infrequently encounters Nathalie and Andrei (and, later, their two children) over the years and, charitably interpreted, provides them with valuable help. Yet the strength of these ties is quite unbelievable. 'She talks about you often, like, maybe a couple times a week,' Nathalie's teenage daughter tells Dylan, while Dylan tells us that he regards them all as his second family. These assertions, however, come out of the blue, and the evidence for them is in short supply. One wonders what Nathalie finds to say about Dylan two times a week and why they do not fade from each other's consciousness. Certainly, their tenuous connections provide little justification for the emotions alleged to be in play, most of which are profoundly underdetermined. Astonishingly frank confessions between characters who otherwise seem hardly to know one another do not help tether things to reality.

Some of the stylistic choices in Reykjavik exacerbate this problem. The absence of quotation marks and even line breaks to indicate speech has a distancing effect, as if people are speaking to one another (and to the reader) through a dense fog. It is also frequently confusing, especially as lengthy monologues are often nested one inside the other, as when, for example, Dylan narrates what Nathalie quotes from Andrei.

I share the scepticism of Dylan's editor when Dylan claims:

My journalistic wheels, the ones in my head, were spinning rapidly: there was definitely a story in there about the meeting of East and West, against the backdrop of the Soviet Union's collapse, the transition and monster changes that had occurred in the lives of the new couple, with their young son and daughter.

'Who really wants to know? Where's the drama ... What's the news hook? The angle? These were some of his [editor's] immediate responses.' And mine. Late in the novel, as reports pile up (e.g. 'And then my father died'; 'your wife has filed for divorce'), drama goes out the window.

As does historical accuracy, especially when it comes to Ronald Reagan, who was a complicated man, capable of callous disregard for people in his politics yet sensitively protective of bit-players in his acting career. Reagan is described as an 'amazingly popular president', a persistent myth that does not bear scrutiny. True, for a two-year period around his reelection the president was popular, but for the rest of his tenure - marred by the disgraceful Iran - Contra scandal, among other things - his approval ratings were often amazingly low and certainly no better than anyone else's.

Reykjavik does mention (Governor) Reagan's 'order [for] the pepper-spraying of protesters from military helicopters in 1969,' but otherwise gives Reagan all the credit for the end of the Cold War. History tells us that Gorbachev undoubtedly had something to do with it, but he is reduced to little more than a desperate emissary who stands in Reagan's shadow. Important figures and movements from the previous couple of decades that enormously contributed to the end of the Cold War are simply elided. 'All this momentous change in the air, following Reagan's challenge to "tear down this wall"' actually preceded the challenge and was instigated by Gorbachev. And Reykjavik ups the ante: 'This was, after all, the height of the Cold War.' Well, actually, no, the Cold War was easing; its cold rage was at its height when the Berlin Wall was constructed, increased in the subsequent airlift, continued through the Cuban Missile Crisis, and lingered in the proxy wars waged by the Superpowers around the globe.

The Reykjavik summit is described by Dylan as 'the biggest chess match of the century, the one where the fate of mankind, humankind, if you will, is being decided.' In light of the twentieth century's remarkable history, this is a startling conclusion to draw about a summit; in general, summits themselves are seldom as momentous as they might seem at the time.

What Reykjavik does get absolutely right is the Russian regime's century-long predilection for poisoning its critics, dissidents and traitors. Arkadi Vaksberg's meticulous history The Poison Laboratory: From Lenin to Putin (Gallimard) details the state's expertise at home and abroad in silencing its enemies, all the way from Lenin's order in 1921 to create a poison laboratory. They're still at it in 2018, in Salisbury, UK, for example. Reykjavik uses thallium-polonium 210 for its assassination, but many others were developed and used.

Politics aside, Reykjavik includes some interesting intertextual episodes. A dream of a duel is nuanced with quotations describing Pierre Bezukhov's encounter with Dolokhov in War and Peace. And April, we are told in an aside, is 'the cruelest month,' a quotation from Eliot's The Wasteland. There are other such interventions (Nabokov especially), but those quoting the lyrics of David Bowie simply don't have the intellectual or emotional heft to contribute much. The influence of W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz is largely formal: the novels share the same intermittent encounters with a narrator in various locations, as well as an episode of mental breakdown.

There are many unfortunate proofreading errors in Reykjavik. The president travels on 'Air Force On,' for example, and the egregious 'I felt badly for her' - impossible to get wrong if you have ever watched teacher George (Kirk Douglas) explain it in A Letter to Three Wives (1949), a film that really can claim to show how 'all roads in life converge, one way or another, whether we want them to or not.'

Jack Messenger, Reviewer

Molly's Bookshelf

The Russians Are Coming
Lily Alex
9781591294580, $13.99, Paperback, 228 pages

Lily Alex' nicely penned The Russians Are Coming provides a peek into an unsettling reality for a small town as they realize Russians are in their midst.

When 'The Russians' Vera Grach and Gleb Merkulov, Vlad Lapin and his wife Nina in company with daughter Larisa, along with Marina Alexsandrova arrive; folks in town are a bit unsure of what they, The Russians, may want or what their own reaction, the towns folks, to them should be.

It does not take long before long Marina begins working at the local college where she is an assistant to a married professor David Van Stein. The professor and his wife Megan are parents of two young children.

Vera develops a friendly relationship with police officer Jeff Menard, Gleb returns to Russia and perishes at the hands of another in Moscow and scientist Vlad spends Halloween evening trying to puzzle out the ingredients used or the bowl of lollipops his wife set out for little Trick-or-Treaters.

Townspeople become disillusioned regarding faculty member Van Stein when they deduce him to having engaged in an extra marital affair with Marina.

Widowed Nina's mother, Alla, arrives from Russia for a visit and before long she and a local fellow find themselves drawn to one another. Bill, the townsman, only recognizes the depth of his feelings after Alla returns to Russia. He soon follows.

The book ends with Vlad and Nina preparing for the birth of their second child.

In The Russians Are Coming Lily Alex has created an intriguing glance into the lives of a group of pretty ordinary folks who move to a new area and commence to forge out lives for themselves. As with most of us; while the individual lives of the six are pretty antithetical they tend to adhere to one another in large part due to their ethnic tie.

The respective relationships represented by author Alex on the pages of The Russians Are Coming continue to evolve over time much as is found in real life. Older relationships decline, as new ones are formed.

Romance wanes under the adept pen of writer Alex and is recovered again on the pages of the narrative.

The narration found in The Russians Are Coming is presented using the keenly honed Alex methodology. Characters are fully fleshed, well delineated, some are likable, others not so much, as is found in life. Upbeat dialog is strong, gritty at times, action moves the narrative at a good pace, settings are offered with enough detail to pull readers into the narrative.

Writer Alex is Russian by birth, English is her second language and the manuscript The Russians Are Coming embodies the best of both.

From the opening lines The Russians Are Coming set in the student's laboratory where we discover Professor Stein talking into a cell phone to the last paragraphs when we learn more Russians will be arriving writer Alex crafts a snappy tale filled with dynamic intrigue to hold reader interest.

Enjoyed the read, I find this to be a good book for a quiet afternoon on the porch reading and sipping tea during the warm summer happy to recommend

I was sent a review copy by the author.

Scaredy-Cat Splat
Rob Scotton
9780062368973, $9.99 Hardcover, 40 pages, Reprint edition

Rob Scotton's Scaredy-Cat Splat showcases an Osage County First Grade favorite, Splat.

Splat is anxious, 'Mom! There's a scary spider on my jack-o-lantern.' Mom, as always is a tranquil voice of comfort and reason.

Mom trapped the spider underneath a glass jar, and now that the spider is ensnared it does not seem so scary.

Splat is enthusiastic, his class has made jack-o-lanterns, everyone is dressing up in costume, Mrs Wimpydimple is to tell a ghost story, and best of all, there will be a prize for the scariest cat!

Splat is distressed when he wrecks his scary witches' broom handle costume. Even Seymour, his mouse, cannot soothe him.

Mom and a cluster of old socks to the rescue and Splat, again optimistic he will win the prize for best costume, is ready for the day.

He is a scary sock spider!

On the way to school Splat meets his friends Plank and Spike who also have rather scary costumes. Eyeing them Seymour quaked a little.

Splat fears his friend's costumes may be scarier than his.

Splat and his classmates display their jack-o-lanterns, then everyone puts a flashlight inside their jack-o-lantern and Mrs Wimpydimple turns down the lights and whispered in her best ghost-story voice...

And Pandemonium erupts, the class leaps with fright!

At last the class votes for the scariest cat.

At the end of our day Osage County First Grade gathered on the rug for story time. Twenty-two eyes blazed with anticipation as 11 First Graders observed the new book I held in my hand. Splat is an increasing favorite for Osage County First Grade, and for Mrs Martin too.

This publication follows the model of the first Splat books we have enjoyed, it is filled with large full page, child pleasing pictures, vivid colors, well represented players and an entertaining, action packed tale.

With 9 x 0.2 x 9 inch dimensions, these books are nice and large, but, the edition is not unwieldy or weighty, both are contemplations when considering books for little people, small hands, or, arthritic, aging teacher hands.

Osage County First Grade listens with mounting glee each time the book is read, it is one of our October books, is taken out on the first school day of October and is read the last time during the month on the day our class, celebrates the fun of Halloween dressed in our own costume we parade, enjoy some of our sack of treats and lots of giggles ring as we say good bye to Scaredy-Cat, Splat!

All in all, Scaredy-Cat, Splat! Is well made to survive numerous readings, page turning and usage in the classroom, library or home daily reading time with Mom and Dad.

Splat the loveable, furry cat kid is a character Little Readers, and adults can enjoy. This somewhat unkempt, wild fur, little kid cat with the big eyes is, as are many six-year-olds, inclined to over react to most circumstances, is noisy as shown with comments accented with explanation points. He has an amusing pet; a cat with a pet mouse companion never fails to prompt giggles. And, Splat tends to have many of the same worries I see in human Firsties; will I have friends, can I achieve as well as my classmates, spiders are scary, all ordinary, characteristic reactions of the 'Little Kid' set.

Mom's tranquil voice always puts everything into perspective, quiets the situation and provides serene teaching. I particularly liked that Mom uses a glass container to enclose the spider, so that Splat can have a close non-threatening view of the multi legged critter.

I rarely kill spiders, black widows yes, recluse yes, common garden variety no. Osage County First Graders quickly realize that spiders are useful for eating many of the insect critters who may eat our garden. I like that Mom does not simply kill the spider, rather she helps Splat work through his apprehension to the point that he can take the creature to school, in its jar.

All in all Scaredy-Cat, Splat! Rates 22 thumbs up from Osage County First Grade.

I am happy to recommend for the younger set, for the K Primary classroom, public and school library, gifting a classroom filled with Little People or a special Little Person in the family.

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow!
Lucille Colandro, author
Jared Lee, illustrator
CartWheel Books
c/o Scholastic
9780439737661, $6.99, Paperback, 32 pages

Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee's - There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat is an addition in the increasing assortment of Old Lady works from a gifted writer, illustrator duo.

Giggles abound whenever There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat appears. Osage County First Grade is starting to marvel whether there is anything this lady will not swallow?

And now on the pages of this super little work her fare includes a bat, an owl, a cat, a ghost, a goblin, a group of bones, and a wizard.

"There was an old lady who swallowed a bat.

I don't know why she swallowed a bat, imagine that."

I particularly enjoy the collective sketches provide Little Learners occasion for reasoning the likelihood for why the old lady is downing such a selection of numerous and miscellaneous items. The multiplicity of presentations offers further prospects for appreciating these anecdotes. Little Readers relish using the audio versions along with listening and singing along as we sit on the rug and Mrs M turns the pages of the paper copy.

Jam-packed with a recurring rhythm and hilarious representations, this lively version of a time-honored poem/song presents mammoth appeal for Little Learners. With each reading during the month of October Little Learner enthusiasm increases. On the first day of October as we delve into our October Box filled with books, doo dads, teaching materials and the like we will use in the run up to Halloween when we will gather them all, return to the box and turn our attention to the following month.

From the cover where we view a big-eyed bat gazing deep into the open mouth of the old lady and continuing page by page as she swallows bat, owl, and cat, ghost, goblin, as well as that group of bones, and the wizard; Osage County First Grade remain engaged, enthralled and delighted.

During the month of October, Osage County First Grade chooses There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat for individual reading during daily DEAR reading activity. We croon our way from page to page while enjoying this entertaining Halloween anecdote. As with others of the series; usage of the text for classroom language activities having a seasonal or holiday theme serves to intensify awareness and participation as Little Learners listen for and then write nouns and verbs, and adjectives.

This Halloween themed version of the old rhyme patterned on the representative little old lady tales is indisputably to charm and keep all plucky Osage County First Grade readers pleased as they read and sing their way from cover to cover.

Reading level is listed as 3 - 8, it is a read/sing to for the younger set, read with help for emergent readers, read alone for strong grade 1 and 2 readers and read aloud to Kindergarten class, younger siblings and family for the strong Primary Reader.

Osage County First Grade raises a collective 22 thumbs in agreement for the charm of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat.

I am Happy to recommend Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee's - There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat for the Primary classroom, school and public library, as a gift for a much-loved grandchild, niece or nephew, for gifting a child's classroom.

Mending the Shattered Mirror
Analie Shepherd
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781539105992, $14.94 Paperback / $4.99 Kindle, 296 pages

Forward by the Ladies of Tell The Forward notes that many therapists don't want to believe they or their colleagues are capable of heinous and damaging interactions with patients

TELL the Therapy Exploitation Link Line, founded in 1980 by a small, 5, group of women all of whom had been victims of exploitation by mental health professionals. 'TELL responders serve as sounding boards, reality checkers, and friends who guide victims in taking back their personal powers as they grow from victims to survivors.'

Mending the Shattered Mirror: A Journey of Recovery from Abusive Therapy

Part One: This is My Story The author relates that at the age of three and five days old she and her siblings were separated from both of their parents. From their Father due to his drunken rages, from their Mother by her mother and siblings. The children were told they were of bad blood and developed the sense that they were bad.

'Children accept the way things are and do the best they can do. The best I could do was to somehow separate myself from the painful and heartbreaking reality.' For the author that separation was to invent Maggie, the author's other mommy.

When the author was five she and her sister's and their mother moved into a house where her school teacher mother spent little time. During that time Meagan was 'the other' who came to stand in the gap between what for the author was reality and the unbearable.

In time, the author was able to se aside The Others, marry and begin a family. It was a period she remembers as 'The Beautiful Time.' It was a time when old hurts were resolved, siblings and her Mother became regular visitors to her home. It was a time when they all became a loving, caring family.

Learning that her teenaged daughter has suffered repeated rape at the hands of one of the extended family brought the author's new reality crashing to a halt.

It was a time when the author first sought a therapist to help her deal with the guilt, whispers from her past regarding how she was bad, and to blame for bringing evil into the family. In Julia, the author says, she found the mother, the refuge, she had prayed for, for so long.

Five years later the author sent a letter to Tell in which she related that she at last realized the verbal and emotional abuse she had endured from therapist and faced her problem. She loved Julia but finally wanted to face the fact of the abuse and break the hold the therapist held.

Part Two: August ~ January

The Day Everything Changed Life shattering moments rarely announce themselves.

Enough is Enough - Maybe Therapy had become my own personal hell

No Voice and No Reality 'the feeling one cannot get enough love and comfort often come when the love and comfort being offered are full of mixed messages.'

The Others 'When I first found out about The Others within, I did not believe they really existed.'

Part Three: February ~ May

Easter Morning 'For all the hard and sad times growing up, that morning is a lovely memory of goodness and giving, of love and kindness.'

Unbelievable Therapist X had made an insensitive comment which left the Author with feelings of hurt, anger and disbelief.

The First Embrace 'finding that place of deep comfort and love ... became all consuming.'

Part Four: July ~ December

The Gift of Innocence Ana tells of her mother's death and her daughter's wedding.

The Gift of Forgiveness Ana mentions that her day had been quiet and nice. It is the Christmas holidays, family has visited and Ana felt a sweet connection with them that she has not felt in a while.

Part Five: January ~ June

The White House on a Hill The author relates, 'That house became for me a refuge, a sanctuary, and home. ... Even now, decades later, that house has the power, in just the remembrance of it, to still my soul.'

The Gift of Love Ana states, 'I continue to have such complicated and confused feeling about what love means.'

Part Six: December ~ August was a time of ups and downs for Ana regarding her therapist.

Part Seven: Betrayal and Restoration Ana relates, 'I was proud I had been able to stand up for myself.

Part Eight: A Conversation from a poem written by Ana, 'Hope creeps on silent feet, unheralded without expectation or need.

Part Nine: Bewilderment a series of therapists and starting and stopping therapy culminated with Lisa a therapist who is not perfect and doesn't claim to be.

Part Ten: A Final Journey a bittersweet return to the White House on the hill ends in the realization that Ana is today stronger and wiser than she once was, and the love she desperately sought from her mother she now finds to day in her family of husband and children, in true friendships and within herself.

The Beginning Ana explains how the many emails she and her TELL responder Laurie, a true friend, shared over the many years of Ana's journey to strong emotional stability came to be the basis for THIS book.

I found Mending the Shattered Mirror to be a powerful, compelling work. Reading of Analie Shepherd's personal journey from broken childhood, into the adult world, accompanied by her group of 'The Others' is not just another multiple personality tome.

Readers travel with Ana along her journey from a childhood measured by somewhat benign parental neglect coupled with the unyielding, mistaken, insistence of Ana's grandmother and aunt, her mother's sibling, regarding how and why Ana's mother was unable to parent her children.

Despite all; Analie survived the sadness and misery of childhood. Found joy, happiness and fulfillment in marriage and family before a terrible discovery, and overwhelming need for help, therapy, to aid in her dealing with the sad reality of what her life had become.

Thus, began the four-year journey during which time the reality of Analie's mistreatment at the hands of a therapist determined to mold Ana into the role the therapist needed and not the role best for Analie ended successfully. That success came about in part to the role TELL responder Laurie provided as serve listener, reality coordinator, and most of all comrade who gently directed the way as Ana began taking back her individual authority as Analie moved from maltreated, weak victim to stronger, healthy survivor.'

This book, Mending the Shattered Mirror: A Journey of Recovery from Abusive Therapy is an outgrowth of the email relationship Ana and Laurie developed.

I found the book to be highly readable, although difficult to read at times simply because Ana's heartache comes across so palpably raw, real and overpowering.

I am happy to recommend The Shattered Mirror A Journey of Recovery from Abusive Therapy lay persons and therapists alike. This book may serve to help another mishandled patient understand that the therapist chosen may not be the best to help her/his healing.

I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust
Mathias Freese
9781627871617, $12.95, Paperback, 252 pages

Mathias Freese's I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust, is a work of twenty-seven short stories presented to aid readers who may be seeking answers regarding what, and how and why the Holocaust took place. Who fomented it, who allowed it to continue and what lasting affect it makes on society, humans and persons Jewish and non Jewish alike then and now.

The Table of Contents lists a Foreword, Preface and Glossary of Terms prior to the beginning of the narratives.

The Foreword mentions Freese's collection of tales is a selection filled with 'obsessions, mainly Jewish obsessions, death camps, unimaginable cruelties bottomless terror, senseless torture, humans rendered into ashes and smoke, and miraculous survivors, who are little more than walking dead men and women for the balance of their lives.'

Preface Freese relates Writing about the Holocaust is a ghastly grandiosity. And mentions 'One soon realizes the fundamental understanding that the species is wildly damaged, for only a damaged species could have committed the Holocaust.'

Glossary of Terms beginning with appell: camp roll call, golem: Hebrew for unformed; a man artificially created by Kabalistic rites; robot, shtetl: Jewish village community of Eastern Europe, especially in Russia, tzaddik: Hebrew for righteous man and ending with yarmulke: skull cap presents a series of words used in various of the anecdotes. The words are ones non Jewish readers may not easily recognize.

The first story Golem, I Need Your Help and The Indifferent Golem and The Disenchanted Golem are three of the anecdotes in which an unformed person plays a part. Food a poignant read filled with pathos may be the daydream of a starving prisoner while Der Fuher Likes Plain is presented much as a radio interview might be.

Herr Doktor is presented as an interview between a scholar and one of the concentration camp doctors.

Freud in Auschwitz a peek into what Freud might have thought had he been sent to Auschwitz.

Apotheosis presents a worried Jewish man, hunted and running from the hunter.

Max Weber, Holocaust Revisionist, was there a revisionist named Max Weber?

Of No Use, We had 'soup' that night, the passing of a turnip through water.

Tucson Women, I flash back to the camp

Snow Globe I We have survived only to enter a long, meandering road of travail.

Snow Globe II: Homage to Kafka The guards in their tower belfries, look down upon their well mannered flock

Slave I know my life after the camp has been, in a fashion, a second slavery.

Soap Hitler's shorts are fact; Jews turned into bars of soap are not.

Cantor Matyas Balog Cherishing the devastated room a moment longer, Rebecca tucked the letter and the dated chocolate paper into her muff and left, not unlike what I endured in the camp.

Hummingbird for me to stay alive each day is a struggle.

Leviathan I know of guards whose minds have atrophied, so the cruelest and most perverse animal behaviors of man come to the fore.

Archipelago a prisoner longs for an island away from the camp

Longing A week of longing for a lost wife

Away Poignant read, thoughts of a child left behind when his mother was taken away.

Hand The burning bush allows me this one ineffable - glorious - memorable moment.

Sincerely, Max Weber I hope you don't see me as harsh but, like you, trying to discover what is true and what is not.

Food, Part II: Past Forward Holocaust survivor. It's your future occupation.

Chagall's Crows The bravest thing I have done in my old age was moving to Tucson.

A Way Up The dead have no say, ...

The Tea Table Mr Ginsburg, you are safe here.

I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust by Mathias B. Freese is an instinctual work from launch to culmination. It is not a frothy little 'fun' read and absolutely is not for the reader who prefers light reading, giggle and forget.

The illusory short stories pertaining to the Holocaust as composed by Mathias Freese are offered as an effort to offer some explanatory information leading to more understanding regarding the situation. The tales are not all blunt, while they are; they are not all ghastly, while they are.

The reader is carried along on an, at times perplexing, always mentally exhaustive expedition through the sentiments elicited by the facts of the Holocaust. The narratives often provide a broadly dissimilar viewpoint all focused on the Holocaust. Some are presented as though they are spoken from the perspective of guards, golems, survivors, prisoners in the concentration camps, one appears as a simulated radio interview with Hitler's lover, Eva Braun.

The author offers snippets, some perhaps, written with the perspective of a Holocaust revisionist, while another as perhaps by someone who does not believe the Holocaust happened at all or in the way as history has described. The collection ends with the golem questioning his reason for existence.

Every reader may find a story or two to be particularly awful in their view, or read ones that particularly disturbs them, opens their eyes to the horror of the Holocaust, or reminds them of how really base some humans be.

Freese's I Truly Lament is an inimitable gathering of twenty-seven, at times heart wrenching, mind wringing anecdotes. This assemblage of tales is not suggested for the faint of heart. I Truly Lament provides a possible glimpse into the mind set of victims, perpetrators and survivors. While each anecdote takes a somewhat disparate view, some essentials were the same. Many of the survivor tales took place in Tucson, Arizona.

I found this book to be a tough read at times. The subject matter itself coupled with my own research and understanding of the horror of the situation lend to reading that can be all but overpowering. I realize this book is a work of fiction, it does leave the reader contemplating some of the terror and horror Jewish people suffered during the Hitler reign.

Compelling read, well written. Happy to recommend for inclusion in High School, College, and public libraries.

Mystery Montage: A Collection of Short-Story Mysteries
Patricia L Morin
9781929976751, $12.95, Paperback, 228 pages

Patricia L. Morin's Mystery Montage: A Collection of Short-Story Mysteries offers a Table of Contents listing the dozen Short Stories.

The Writer mentions in the Introduction 'Each short story in Mystery Montage derives from a brief experience that fired my imagination and unfolded into a plot.'

Story titles consist of Under the Boardwalk, Maasai Mara Murder, The Downeaster, Funeral, Rap Sheet, Homeless, Who Killed Horatio T. Adams?, Breakthrough, In the Rouge, The Pool Room, Two Guides and a Girl and Pa and the Pigeon Man.

Under the Boardwalk, The Reader encounters Ollie and his wife Millie. It is Ollie's seventy-fifth birthday weekend and he is niggling while sitting up to his neck in sand. The tale is one which embraces a misplaced engagement ring, the front-page headline of the newspaper Millie brought to read asserts A Woman's Body Found Under the Boardwalk, besides a beagle on a lead are all part of the narrative.

Caution! You may well find yourself hoodwinked into thinking the wrong player is the murderer. Watch for red herrings!

Maasai Mara Murder, Bibliophile's learn of Saati, a cattle rancher who has 2 wives, andthe number soon to be 3.

Nurisha, Saati's first wife heard her sixteen-year-old son Barkai screech as a lioness tattered his back. Dejectedly, his mother mourns her son's death. His body will be placed away from the village where the hyenas can eat it.

Kunda, the tribe's proficient tracker is also expert in reading dirt. A furtive foot print is located near the body. Watch the red herrings!

The Downeaster, Janet Prescott is dismayed to realize she has acquired a remarkably unrelenting, rather controlling male friend who is unyielding in his want that their affiliation will be much more. Red herrings abound.

Funeral, A communication begins 'Dear Emma,' and soon The Reader becomes involved in the grouping of letters and responses that follow. Be Vigilant! Not all is as it appears.

Rap Sheet, Interstate 405, it is seven twenty-five in the morning, the tale inaugurates with bumper to bumper traffic; sounds like a typical morning in LA traffic to this misplaced Californian.

What follows is a well written who dunnit with rap sprinkled throughout.

Homeless, An itinerant man is seated on a wooden seat watching the streetlight change green to red, green to red on a archetypal blustery San Francisco afternoon. Two police cars arrive to block the intersection as the red turns to green.

Who Killed Horatio T. Adams? Just prior to his head rupturing with unbearable pain; Horatio could not quite accept as true his enormous good fortune when told his father in law was ready to advance him some money.

A twosome standing on the verandah located at the top story of a 'rich people's' condo may have waved a greeting.

Horatio's wife soon realizes she has an unexpected and very unwanted visitor. Before long she is entangled with bookies and others of the gambling world.

Breakthrough, thirty-two-year-old Jennifer Cranston, Real estate agent, resides in San Francisco. Her psychotherapist suggested Jennifer begin keeping a journal. It has been ten days from the date Jake, her sweetheart, was murdered and Jennifer lost her memory. She has been out of the hospital for a week.

In the Rough, Stan Green, PI, posts a letter confirming 'Red Sands' uncertainties; Red's wife is having an affair. Watch for red herrings along the way to the surprise ending!

The Pool Room, along with a telephone answer machine, a meticulous spider, and a seaside home all figure in this mystery filled with deceit, FBI and a long-ago murder.

Two Guides and a Girl, Spirit Guides, one a deceased PI the other a long lifeless Franciscan Friar have their hands full when their charge has been murdered, or has she?

Pa and the Pigeon Man, a fellow sitting at the bedside of his failing father calls to mind episodes regarding his father and an old Italian man named Pidge as well as a pigeon named Gray Wings. A poignant descriptive piece jam-packed with suffering.

A full dozen chronicles scribed by a gifted writer incorporate an all-inclusive multiplicity of mystery genre from thriller, to suspense, and much, much more. Writer Morin presents each account with skill well honed.

Astute story lines, perceptive cerebral spirals, from time to time the reprobate does get away with the crime, engrossing characters, and occasionally the wrongdoer is at last brought to justice many years later, as well as, now and again, an anecdote that is just simply fun; are all part of the mix.

Morin has accomplished an feat only occasionally experienced; she manages to write each chronicle in such matchless manner it seems as though the assemblage might well have been penned by a dozen sundry writers each offering one of their specialties, rather than being a single novelist and a dozen individually varied narratives, Well Done.

I don't keep all books I accept for review, I like mysteries, particularly those that keep me guessing. Patricia Morin's Mystery Montage: A Collection of Short-Story Mysteries is one volume I will be keeping.

I especially delight in these brief tales, the book is convenient for removing from purse or brief case for a quick read while spending a short break from the busy day at the office, or for lazing away a warm summer afternoon sitting in the front porch glider.

Happy to recommend for home library, public and high school library, as well as for gifting a mystery aficionado.

Megge of Bury Down: The Bury Down Chronicles (Book 1)
Rebecca Kightlinger
Zumaya Arcane
9781612713472, $15.99, Paperback: 252 pages

Rebecca Kightlinger's Megge of Bury Down initiates with a Prologue, the time is 372 CE, location; Kernow, Britain.

Anwen considers the thuds of picks and shovels. It is too late in the season for planting. What can they hope to achieve here in Kernow.

Murga, who is sitting on a fallen log, in the dusky murk, look to be a diminutive, lump of a woman. Anwen has never met Murga before, she knows Murga's voice; a dream has brought Anwen to this place. Unexpectedly peril appears in the gloom. Murga is held at a stake, Anwen watches as a woman carrying a torch approaches.

The time is now 1275 in Bury Down, Cornwall, for Megge who is just turning six the time has come for her to take up The Book of Seasons. It is her mother's historic book of Knowledge apropos the physical world. In the spring Megge's cousin Brighida too will be six, she will open The Book of Time. Mother has strode ahead as Morwen guides the little girl over the rock wall and down into the Bury Down Circle.

It will be the duty for one of the girls to safeguard these sacred books and to guide them from one life into the next. Megge heard the tome call her name, and then as she reached toward it, came a single word, murderer. Megge is too alarmed to open the tome.

The narrative moves from this launch; on to May 1, 1280, it is Brighida's tenth birth day, plus, in the village it is a celebratory day. Spring has come. Megge stands separately, observing, as Brighida along with a group of girls from the village, twirl around the maypole to a melody played by a piper. The jollity continues until, nearing nightfall, Megge discovers a battered woman and Megge quickly aids her mother as mother finalizes curative procedures as revealed in The Book of Seasons for the comrade and neighbor who has been seriously pierced by a wild boar.

If Megge will only open, her mother's book; Megge also will develop skills as a healer.

Megge learns, as an alternative, to shear the sheep. On market day Megge brings a sack of wool she has sheared herself; she receives her first earned coin as payment. And, once more helps her mother as Mother takes care of the now decaying wound caused by the boar. Megge has what her cousin calls a moment in spirit. It is a memory perchance of another time.

One more occasion to assist her mother with a healing arrives when the carter transports his son Harold to the cottage in the back of his cart. Harold has an arrow has pierced right through his leg.

Mother creates with Megge's help before presenting an amulet for her daughter, it is designed to bring Megge pluck.

The time is now Nov 16, 1282 CE Megge is 13, she discovers the situation surrounding the birth of her mother and Mother's twin, Aunt Claris. This is when Megge discovers that her mother was not given a name that can be said, she is Mother, and Sister, Daughter and Aunt. It is a time too that, Megge dejectedly says goodbye forever to her idolized Morwen who is lifeless due to age and ill health and to Aleydis as well who has perished from heartache.

The Spring 1283 Megge is now herder and is not a healer, in addition, she will become a weaver. The loom is now mended and during Summer 1284 Megge is learning to weave. The village Blackfriars have gained a new abbot, he is hunting and burning heretics. His dictum is 'only the clergy may heal', healers are now categorized as heretics,.

Worrying times have come to Bury Down

Megge of Bury Down, is an anecdote regarding the facing up to tough certainties of consideration, self-examination, and accepting the authenticity of the result.

Upon hearing the sinister murder seemingly uttered by the tome, when Megge was age six, is the Megge who at age eleven, remains as terrified; all she can do is watch as her cousin, Brighida, apparently is becoming everything Megge is not. Despite feeling herself to be somewhat of an outcast, even amongst those of her own household, nevertheless Megge continues to refrain from having to open The Book of Seasons.

I find the innovative chronicle offers the reader an indication of how life during the 1200s might have taken place as Megge deals with with social beliefs, unfamiliarity and fallacies of the time.

Writer Kightlinger extends a story line occupied with spirals and turns, enigmas and misconceptions centering in the villagers while coupled with suspicion and apprehension rooted in both the spiritual and otherworldly. The unusual detestation the villagers display toward Jenifer Pennick and her mother, accompanied by the sweeping oppression practiced by church leadership during the time, are outlined by the author through subtle dissimilarity found in the choice of words and apprehension always existing, all offered, as seen by Megge through her own immaturity, torment, and naivety.

Megge's guardians, Mother, Aunt Claris, Aleydis and Morwen, frequently seem at times to be oddly at variance concerning how much and what to tell Megge about The Book of Seasons and her obligation regarding it based on her somewhat intricate family history.

"Margaret it is time for you to take up your book."

Megge of Bury Down chockfull with the matrilineal antiquity of mysteries passed down by multifaceted, affectionate women, allows readers a little flavor of antiquity, touched by magical and misinterpretation.

Writer Kightlinger offers a delightfully rounded collection of judiciously fashioned character dispositions. Studied pressure presents assures readers will continue turning the pages of this energetic account in which the coming of age of Megge of Bury Down simplifies through the insightful writing of Kightlinger.

What an interesting Read, happy to recommend Megge of Bury Down vol 1 of The Bury Down Chronicles for strong readers in upper middle grades, high school and adult readers who enjoy the fantasy genre. Book is a good choice for school and public libraries as well as for gifting a special niece or other reader of historical fiction.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review.

Vogue(R) Knitting on the Go! Chunky Scarves & Hats
Trisha Malcolm
Sixth&Spring Books
9781931543514, $16.36, Hardcover, 96 pages

Trisha Malcolm's Vogue Knitting on the Go! Chunky Scarves & Hats is a small, hardcover pattern book featuring instructions for knitting hats and scarves.

Table of Contents presents titles variety of patterns to choose from including Garter Striped scarf along with several other striped hat and scarf pairs, in addition to Aran knit Hat and Scarf, Men's Garter stitched Scarf, Lacy Scarf, and helmet with Earflaps. There are hats for men, women, and children and a baby 'ice princess' hat.

I was looking in particular for hat and scarf pair for knitting as a Christmas Gift.

Prior to the actual pattern presentation will be found an introduction which notes that use of chunky, thicker yarn, enables the knitter to produce the garment more quickly than when using a thinner yarn.

Prior to the patterns themselves is a ten-page section entitled 'The Basics'. It is a segment including information regarding sizing, construction, gauge, with illustration for the novice re how to measure stitches and the tool for measuring most knitter have and use. Following the gauge stated for each piece will result in a predictable size item.

Standard Yarn Weight system is explained with an easy to understand chart on page 12 along with the symbols often found with knit instructions to indicate easy, intermediate, experienced and beginner level pieces.

An explanation re yarn selection, and yarn substitution as well as following charts and colorwork knitting, blocking, Finishing, Sewing and Care of hand knits covers 2 pages interspersed with illustrations for joining rounds using circular needles, and double-pointed needles, explanation for how to use markers to denote beginning of round is included. Tassel production is illustrated.

Page 16 features detailed instructional illustration for three-needle bind-off, and written instructions for Provisional Cast On. Simple Fringe and knotted fringe are shown, as are methods for seaming and on to a two-page spread showing details of the Kitchener Stitch, Duplicate Stitch, and Crochet Stitches as might be needed for some of the detail work.

How to construct a pompom, knit-on cast-on are both shown, followed by a full page of Knitting Terms and Abbreviations are presented prior to the first actual pattern.

A Garter Striped Scarf is the first actual pattern. And garter stitch is the most frequently used stitch for production of these hats and scarves. This may be a dandy gift book for a novice knitter. A number of attractive items can be made for gifting family and friends, for Church bazaar and the like. Other items in this book created using garter stitch include a garter stitch striped hat and scarf, a garter stitch neck warmer scarf and pretty pink, bell and garter stitch scarf on page 34.

A novel hat with attached scarf in stockinette and cable, and a textured striped beret and scarf as well as a simple tufted variegated hat use simple stitches, directions are easily read. A red helmet with ear flaps and cable lead to Scarf and Hat I like very much. I like Aran knit and this pretty set is created using a traditional cable, diamond cable and seed stitch borders.

Page 50 features an interesting concept scarf in black and white, newborn baby hats follow, next is a woven scarf, another hat with ear flaps, pink stripes, is shown on p 57, it might pair well with a ruffled edge scarf in strawberry hued pinks. Wrapping up the offerings are a tasseled hat, a long scarf, child's centipede scarf, a ribbed scarf finished with knitted water lily posies, a men's garter stitch scarf, mosaic hat, and a garter stitch hat with loopy loop deco at the edge.

This diminutive hardcover knitting book featuring essentials of knitting needs and stitches offers foundation tips followed by a wide-ranging stitch abbreviation lexicon of basic stitches used in pattern instructions.

There are two dozen plus easy to follow patterns for a good grouping of scarves and hats. Pattern instructions array are in simple to intermediate range. A number of fashionable, easy to knit items are included, pattern instruction is easily deciphered.

The title includes the word chunky, and chunky yarns can be used, but varying sizes of needles and thread/yarn used will produce a varied outlook of scarves from the same pattern. Bigger needle and thicker thread produces the finished piece more quickly that smaller needle and thinner weight yarns.

All in all I found this small book to be nicely presented, the 20 pages of instructional materials will prove especially useful for novice knitters, the Fair Isle scarf is show in simple stockinette stitch with a chart for the Fair Isle patterning.

Happy to recommend Trisha Malcolm's Vogue(R) Knitting on the Go! Chunky Scarves & Hats gifting a special knitter on your Christmas list. The book has a place on the public library and home instruction how-to book shelves.

The Little Encyclopedia of Dishcloths
Editorial Staff
Leisure Arts, Inc.
9781464739279, $9.99, Paperback, 96 pages

Leisure Arts' The Little Encyclopedia of Dishcloths is a abbreviated tutoring edition embracing ninety-six pages chock-full with plans for crafting- crocheting, some 20 convenient, and attractive dish cloths with color illustrations, along with 4 pages of clarifications concerning gauge/measurement, crochet abbreviations used in explicit directions, symbols and terms, joining rounds, changing colors-strands of thread or yarn in a piece, loops of a chain, how to use and procedure.

The numerous dishcloth patterns highlighted in this book include square, round, and a limited number of inimitable shaped ones including an angel, a hexagon and several round. While all patterns shown are rated as easy, and they are for needle artists who may have been crocheting for a while, nevertheless, stitches used to complete all items shown do fluctuate in gradation of easy to not so easy for a novice just beginning their hand at this old needle crafting art, while reading directions for the work to be done.

The square type items may seem to be easier items for the novice needle crafter to read instructions and complete the project. Instructions for completing the square items embrace some in which work will move across the line of stitches, turn at the end of the row, and return back along the same line; while others commence at a center point and then work around the square adding supplementary stitches at the corners.

Chevrons which look intricate, but really are not too problematic to generate, would not be my first project recommendation for students or other novice crochet artists. Keeping the decreases and increases in the appropriate places can be tricky for novice crochet worker to attack.

I found instructions for several pieces based on the old favorite 'granny square', these perhaps will be a good starting point for a first or almost first venture. Learning to read crochet directions soon becomes second nature after a project or two are completed. At first stopping the work and checking the specific direction for something that appears similar to this in the instruction (2dc, ch 3, 3 dc in same sp, ch 1) will help keep novice on the right track.

Learning to read directions can be unnerving for the beginner, however page 93 of this work does a respectable job explaining what a dc, or ch or sp and other written crochet direction short hand actually means.

I have crocheted since childhood and find for many items I too need to energize my memory now and then for specific stitches. I did find while working some of these patterns; a nice explicit stitch guide is given: as is the cluster stitch used for working the pattern for making the attractive Bubbly Bands pattern created by Jeanine DeMoss on page 6. It is the cluster stitch I have used when crocheting many pieces over many years.

And, I have made many projects using 'granny squares', still, in this book the granny square designed by Anne Halliday on p 15 begins with an alternative stitch guide, for another, analogous, cluster stitch, I can understand the misunderstanding resulting for the novice crochet artist.

Page 22 offers yet one more cluster guide for another cluster stitch fashioned square designed again by artist DeMoss. I understand a novice needle worker might well be ready give up in frustration.

On the other hand, instructions for several round designs Clover Leaf p 18, Daisy p 30, Spiral p 74, and Watermelon p 87, are pretty straight forward notwithstanding yet another cluster stitch guide as part of the Daisy and Watermelon instructions. The four round pieces can be made with a minimum of frustration and produce a nice group of dishcloths for gift giving, church bazaar and the like.

I do particularly like the Popcorn pattern dish cloth p 59, it is a good-looking square, directions are simple to follow and the piece works up swiftly.

Pieces worked around a round plastic scrubber: Scrub a Dub p 71 fashioned by Joan E Reeves and Pot Scrubber crafted by Linda A Daley worked around a green pot scrubber on p 62 are each thought-provoking and generate a particularly useful dish cloth for scouring stubborn dried on foods. Instructions offered are easily followed, the yellow Pot Scrubber crochet section may be less daunting for a novice needle artist, and save the round one for project 2 as self-confidence is built.

On the whole I am pleased with this small book, it is a nice size to tuck into the crochet bag to carry along on train or bus trip, or on visit to spend a few days with the grand kids.

Note: projects - dishcloths revealed in this book were created, per the editors, using Lily Sugar 'n Cream 100% Cotton Medium Weight Yarn. If regular Crochet Thread is used the piece WILL be attractive, but then again, it will also be smaller than the piece crafted using same directions along with the heftier weight thread- yarn cited in the directions. I have found Sugar n Cream® to be an agreeable, smooth, gentle on the hands thread for knitting and crochet projects.

Leisure Arts' The Little Encyclopedia of Dishcloths is a durable little, soft cover edition intended to be carried with work, referred to regularly without deteriorating or being too unwieldly to be convenient for projects on the go. Clarification of terms, stitch guides, a nice colored photo of a completed dish cloth using the pattern instruction; all come together to create a fine working pattern book for novice having experienced person to ask for help nearby if needed, and for skilled thread artists alike.

Happy to recommend Leisure Arts' The Little Encyclopedia of Dishcloths for classroom, home needle aficionados, crochet group or however the needle artist decides to make use of the edition. This little book will be a nice tuck in gift for a beloved auntie, grandma or mom who is seldom seen without her crochet work bag.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Pedro's Bookshelf

The Right Stuff
Tom Wolfe
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9780312427566, $18.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 352pp,

Besides not mincing words, Tom Wolfe can be credited with inventing a jazzed-up street lingo that takes the most high-flown topic and simplifies it to a degree that any reader can embrace. Wolfe's nonfiction created an empirical language that cuts through the fat of pretense and affectation.

The Right Stuff is a masterpiece of non-fiction creativity. This is a bold work in many senses of the word. For one, Wolfe does not set out to appease intellectuals, the clinical and artificial language of writers who are often closer to being obfuscators, than they are awed by genuine knowledge.

It is indeed a rare book, where the subject and the author's technique both command equal attention from the reader. Wolfe's presentation of the up-start, not even yet fledging, American space program and the test pilots who volunteered to fill her ranks is truly a work of genius. One example of this is Wolfe's realization that to match the energy and devil-may-care bravado of the people he writes about, he needed to craft a language that would do justice to his subject matter. Wolfe's language captures the sincere ethic of confronting human contingencies on their own terms. Wolfe does not waste words that do not address the pressing concerns of the astronauts he writes about.

The history of early American space exploration was a marriage of engineering and bravery that had no precedent. One captivating anecdote of the Mercury 7 astronauts is their demand that NASA build them a capsule that they could pilot like an airplane, not just one that was controlled from Earth, like the early capsules that were commandeered by chimpanzees.

It has gone unnoticed by many critics of The Right Stuff that the book chronicles the creative acts of differentiated persons who are making their way in the world, or what Milton calls in Paradise Lost, darkness visible. The test pilot is truly a knight of the sky, perhaps not like the errant Don Quixote chasing windmills, but braving the difficulties of the world nonetheless. For, even when it is understood that the early American space program was the work of many, it is also true that the individuals involved were the best people for the job. Creativity can be said in many ways.

An important aspect of The Right Stuff is having to describe the science of the space program, that is, the world of engineers, and still do justice to the practical knowledge and courage of the astronauts. In the preface to the book Wolfe says that he was motivated to write The Right Stuff because he was intrigued by the character of test pilots. He wanted to know what kind of people willingly sit atop a "roman candle" and do not flinch.

A close reading of The Right Stuff coupled with some understanding of the history aviation bears out the merit of Wolfe's question. He also makes it clear that after WWI, intellectuals picked on officers as blameworthy for warfare in the twentieth century. Wolfe demonstrates that the test pilots and officers that put their lives on the line and developed America's space program were not only fearless but also visionaries.

Wolfe's well researched account of the early stages of the American space program documents the character and values of test pilots and astronauts like no other publication in this field. The Right Stuff reads like a vibrant, faced-paced documentary that rivets the reader to a sense of realism that also includes the many tragedies involved in the development of America's space program. The latter emphasis is especially important in our time, when personal sacrifice is viewed with a cynical eye.

The Right Stuff follows the trajectory of test pilots like Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and Gordon Cooper. It also puts on display the sacrifices that the wives and children of early test pilots and astronauts endured. Under normal circumstances, test pilots push the limits of their aircraft in order to know what is possible.

After WWII, the American Space program began in earnest, and at the root of this was the threat of nuclear proliferation in space by the Soviet Union. The American Space program, Tom Wolfe informs the reader, was not just about getting to the moon first.

The Hunger Angel
Herta Mueller, author
Philip Boehm, translator
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781250032089, $16.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 304pp,

The 2009 Noble Prize in Literature was awarded to the Romanian writer Herta Mueller. In 2018, she is still hardly known to English-speaking readers. It seems like a very long time since the Swedish Academy has awarded this prize based solely on talent.

Many American academics and critics said that they had never heard of her. This should hardly be a smear on her work, for if we are to judge writers, contemporary and from the past, by the reading preferences of academics today, we would most likely be awarding the Noble Prize in Literature every year to radical hacks.

Mueller's story finds itself outside the crosshair of fashionable theory. She follows in the tradition of Solzhenitsyn and Milosz, writers who enlighten readers about communist atrocities. Her books are about her experiences with communist dictatorships in the Soviet Union and Romania. This regrettable reality hardly lends itself to sporting theoretical opinion.

Her books, Nadirs, The Land of Green Plums and The Hunger Angel, to cite just a few, explore the nature of communist-run censorship and force-labor camps. Mueller said: "I wish I could utter a sentence for all those whom dictatorships deprive of dignity every day, up to and including the present."

In another captivating interview, Mueller juxtaposed the horrible reality that she was going through at the moment with the limitations of writing about human experience. After Ceausescu's security forces threatened her with death, she said: "What was happening could no longer be expressed in speech. I was reacting to the fear of death with a thirst for life."

It goes without saying that words are not always privy to the contingencies of felt, lived life. Yet a word of caution to those who in the last thirty odd years have gotten in the habit of deprecating language by saying that words have no meaning. To these fashionably disingenuous critics, Mueller has something constructive to say: "Nothing but the whirl of words could capture my condition."

Spirit still does rule the world.

The Third Revelation: The Rosary Chronicles
Ralph McInerny
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
ASIN: B001PYO3FI, $7.99 Kindle, 336pp,

Ralph McInerny's The Third Revelation is a supremely intelligent novel. The book is a murder mystery, as are so many other of McInerny's works of fiction. Most notably of these is his Father Dowling Mysteries series.

The Third Revelation has Our Lady of Fatima's revelations as its plot vehicle. This is the first of The Rosary Chronicles novels. Beyond the intricacies of plot line, The Third Revelation delivers the reader into the nature of evil, as few people today can imagine it. One of the things that McInerny does so well as a novelist is present the Vatican and the Catholic Church in a light that is not cheapened by the glare of book sales. While other writers and publishers have made it a cottage industry in attacking sheepish Catholics, McInerny takes the time to explain the main tenets of the faith.

Ralph McInerny is a historian of the Catholic Church. He was also Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame University from 1955 to 2009. Among his most memorable books of non-fiction we find: The Defamation of Pius XII, Miracles: A Catholic View and What Went Wrong with Vatican II: The Catholic Crisis Explained.

It is commendable to witness a first-rate novelist entertain and enlighten the reader without having to prostitute himself to the devilish ways of publishers, the temptations of mammon or the call to embrace timely, fashionable theories or ideology.

Relic of Time: The Rosary Chronicles
Ralph McInerny
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
ASIN: B002Q6XU7G, $7.99, Kindle, 322pp,

The Relic of Time is a follow-up novel to Ralph McInerny's The Third Revelation. However, it is not a sequel. The novel is about the theft of the cloak with the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the shrine that houses it in Mexico City. This brazen act has scandalized Mexicans, who venerate their Lady of Guadalupe, as well as the Vatican.

Retired CIA operative Vincent Traeger is asked to try to recover the cloak. The novel traces the relationship of good and evil in the modern world. Without giving the plot of the novel away, I can say that The Relic of Time explores themes of morality and Catholic spiritually in an informed and respectful manner, as few writers today are capable of tackling. McInerny's novels are a fresh alternative to other bestselling, yet highly flawed and cliched popular novels that deal with fantastic and bogus tales of the Catholic Church.

Pedro Blas Gonzalez

Polk's Bookshelf

Forbidden Cure: Duplicity: A Chris Ravello Medical Thriller
William Rubin
Crystal Vision Publishing
B07FM7DH8V, $0.99, Kindle, 45 pages

Our Chief of Medical Crime Investigations of the NYPD, Dr. Chris Ravello, has, himself, fallen victim to a dread disease...pheochromocytoma, a potentially fatal adrenal gland tumor. Treatment is symptomatic; but Ravello's doctor may know of an experimental custom made drug that may, in some cases, effect a cure. The problem is the cure, once administered, either cures...or kills. There is no middle ground. However, Ravello's condition is worsening; he has no choice but to risk taking the experimental treatment.

The same researcher who developed Ravello's treatment also developed a rheumatoid arthritis regimen for a crippled Russian piano teacher. The treatment appears to have killed her. However, her death investigation is clouded by the inexperience of Ravello's NYPD replacement and a game of industrial espionage between two competing drug researchers. In any event, there is much more resting on Chris Ravello's experimental treatment than meets the eye.

Forbidden Birth, an earlier work by William Rubin introduced me to the character of Dr. Chris Ravello. Forbidden Birth turned out to be a mesmerizing, although somewhat creepy book; and Revallo, a unique if only marginally believable character. As a reader familiar with Revallo, I am concerned with his illness. As a lover of action mystery novels, I'm concerned with the spector of industrial espionage and competition raising its ugly head in Forbidden Cure. However, Forbidden Cure is part of a serial series and at forty-five pages in length is just enough to sharpen a reader's interest before dropping him into the abyss of having to buy the next book. Bah! Humbug!

I generally refuse to review serial series books just for that reason; and just for that reason I have given Forbidden Cure three stars. I added a half star for the quality of writing and the future potential of the overall story. Put the whole story together in one book and it could easily rate five stars. Three and a half stars.

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

The Mine
John Heldt
B0078S9B6G, $3.99, Kindle, 422 pages

What happens when two college boys, one of them a geology major, traveling through Montana stumble upon an abandoned gold mine?

That's the subject of The Mine by John Heldt. One of the boys, Joel, is adventurous and explores the mine. As a result of a misadventure that occurs inside the mine, he spends months living in Seattle, Washington, in 1941...the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. During those months, he lives a completely different, and partially because of his knowledge and experience from 2000, successful, life falling deeply in love with Grace. Those months are magical for Joel. Although he is constantly torn with the knowledge he is living a lie, he sees no way out...and his love for Grace is an all- consuming fire. In the end, he must decide to stay with Grace in 1941 and accept the fact he may have to fight in World War II...or return to 2000 abandoning Grace to her fate. Which will he choose? The end has an astounding twist most readers will not see coming!

This is John Heldt's first novel. In a recent author interview, John stated that novelist Maureen Driscoll advised him to inject romance into adventure novels. That formula certainly worked with The Mine. It contains a healthy dose of romance, and romantic drama, between Grace and Joel; and between Grace's friends, particularly Tom and Ginny. This novel has all of the character qualities and intrigue that makes Mr. Heldt's novels joys to read.

The novel would appeal to a broad variety of reader's interests; romance, adventure, science fiction and many others. 5-stars.

The King of Hearts
Patricia Loofbourrow
Red Dog Press LLC
9781944223168, $14.99, paperback, 243 pages
B07F79GLL2, $2.99, Kindle

Oh my goodness, Jacqui! What have you gotten yourself into now?

When we last left Jacqui Spadros, she had discovered startling information about her husband, Tony Spadros...a man she respected but never loved. More importantly, she had managed to get through an inquest into the explosion of a zeppelin; an explosion that most residents of Bridges believe Jacqui caused killing more than three hundred people in a mass murder conspiracy. In The King of Hearts, Jacqui finds herself on trial, accused by a corrupt political, and perhaps financially, motivated prosecutor of mass murder and conspiracy to commit mass murder; a trial in which she has already been prejudicially tried and convicted by public opinion. Perhaps worse, she has left Tony Spadros and cut herself off from resources to pay her attorney. Now, she must sell all that she has in order to survive. She soon finds out who her friends are...but are her friends really her friends at all? Are her enemies really her enemies?

The King of Hearts is the story of a trial. It is the story of Jacqui's internal and external tribulations, insecurities and musing while dealing with the stress of trial, maintaining as many of her social contacts as possible, maintaining her independence from the Spadros family, particularly Tony...and Roy Spadros, and trying to fathom exactly who, among all of the people of Bridges, was the one person behind the conspiracies against her.

The King of Hearts contains all of the intrigue and the colorful characters of the previous Red Dog Conspiracy books adding the drama of a courtroom trial in Bridges. A trial with the deck stacked against a poor 'Pot-Rag'. This book easily held my interest and, like the key piece of a puzzle, fits tightly and neatly into the Red Dog Conspiracy Series. Fans of the series, fan of Steampunk in general, and fans of conspiratorial intrigue should find The King of Hearts enjoyable. 5-Stars.

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Sloan's Bookshelf

Formula Q
Alexander Charalambides
Good Boy Books
9780954729288, $11.99, PB,
ASIN: B07H52CV9N, $0.99, 368 pages, Kindle,

Hard-charging jetcar driver Vittoria Tarno and her intrepid racing team Goofe Troupe take their legendary racing prowess to Mars in this heart-stopping, totally cinematic look at next-gen interplanetary auto racing.

But this spectacular spectator sport turns into a dangerous death duel somewhere along the way and you, the lucky reader, will be riveted to your chair for the ride of your life.

Master storyteller Alexander Charalambides has once again crafted an instant YA/NA classic that will entertain anyone who enjoys racing, gaming and stories about lovable, irreverent underdogs -- all served up with a healthy dose of standout science fiction.

In Formula Q, the author expertly sets up a dangerous no-win situation for the perennially trash-talking troupe when mega bad guy Admiral Suresh invites them to tour the red planet's racing venues and vie for the coveted, ruby-encrusted Spearhead of Ares.

Only problem is, racing rules are radically different on Mars and each race more closely resembles a death-defying demolition derby than the elite Grand Prix events that Goofe Troupe dominates back on Earth.

In addition to highly detailed racing tactics narrative and a sophisticated video game feel throughout, there's also a surprising depth to each of the major players that begs an almost involuntary bond between reader and character. Daytona Dave, Normal Dog, Father Gravity, The German -- they all bring a creative something extra to the story, often adding a startling depth that makes the reader root for them both on the track and off.

But back to the races. After setting a new speed record, Vittoria is squarely in the crosshairs of Martian competitors and fans alike, whose planetary pride has been wounded by her success. Even a gesture of peace at a local mall's retro arcade backfires, and some brilliant back seat driving to help one of the rival team members best a game's high score goes unrewarded. But it does allow the Earthians to better understand that winning isn't everything on Mars -- it's the only thing. And it often means the literal difference between living and dying for these people.

Excellent writing, expertly crafted dialogue and a few memorable turns-of-phrase also make this book a must-read:

For example, on viewing Mars' domed and sparkling capitol city for the first time from planetary orbit, Vittoria sums up her impression succinctly: "From here the whole thing looks like Christmas in an anthill."

And, speaking of Mars' strongman dictator Admiral Suresh's quirky proclivity for big words and archaic pronouns, Dave observes drily: "He hollers like a drunk in a thesaurus factory."

Where does it all end? Do Daytona Dave and the rest of Goofe Troupe return home victorious -- or with their collective tails between their tail pipes? It's a winner-take-all exciting finish you won't want to miss.

Five-plus stars to Formula Q. It's three cuts above the usually cliched YA fare, and a rare good read.

Maximize Your Book Sales With Data Analysis Review
Mike Kowis and Sharon C. Jenkins
Lecture PRO Publishing
B07GXC8SGG, $0.00, 65 pages, Kindle,

It often comes as a shock to writers -- particularly the authors of novels and other works of fiction -- that once the supposedly "hard work" of crafting a well-written book is over, there then looms a more daunting and perplexing task.

How do I market and promote my work? How, indeed?

There are many resources available -- more than ever before -- to help guide the way through the often perplexing gauntlet of marketing tactics available to authors.

The secret is (a) to find the good ones and (b) to learn to leverage their considerable power and global reach to accomplish your biggest goal. Which is to sell as many books as you can.

Oh, sure, some of the more esoteric writers will sniff self-righteously at the goal of commercial success. But those of us with mortgages to pay and mouths to feed must up their marketing and promotional game to its highest level. This compact, yet powerful book can help you do that.

Don't be put off by its overly clinical title and chapter headings. Because beneath the decidedly un-writer-like prospects of having to "analyze critical data" and "create a business plan," there is a virtual gold mine of practical tips and techniques to be had here for achieving bestseller status.

Mystified by the prospect of using pay-per-click ads to create awareness of your book's existence? Don't be. The authors of this book break down not only the "why" of the reasoning behind this effective technique, but more importantly, the "how" on creating a successful campaign.

Social media marketing guides leave you still bewildered at the sheer numbers they force you to analyze? This book pulls back the veil on how to do that easily by using a couple of tried and true Internet platforms -- Google Analytics chief among them -- to finally discover what potential buyers are doing once they reach your point of sale -- typically your Amazon page or your author's website.

What? Don't have a website yet? You'd better, if you really want to catapult your sales into the stratosphere.

Public speaking leave you feeling discouraged? Don't be. Learn to embrace and leverage public appearances to best advantage.

In short, this handy guide with the off-putting name should be required reading in both MFA degree programs for "serious" and in nonfiction seminars alike. We award five and half stars to its authors for producing such a helpful guide.

Encore: A Contemporary Love Story of Hypnotic Abduction
Tantra Bensko
LucidPlay Publishing
069212747X, $16.00, PB,
B07HQYNL7K, $2.99, 368 pages, Kindle,

Miriam waits in the wings of the theater night after night, anxiously inhaling the aura of the woman for whom she is an understudy.

She is, in theater parlance, a "standby" awaiting the instant in which she must assume the lead role in a sweeping, allegorical dance production that pays tribute to a curious retelling of the Atlantean legend, intertwined with elements of Camelot and Tibetan Buddhism.

For if Susan, the production's lead dancer, should fall victim to one of her cancer-induced coughing fits and be unable to proceed, Miriam will have her big chance to be a star -- adored by many in the audience, but reviled by a few hecklers who shout hate-based epithets about the production's racial and ethnic bias.

It's Andrew Lloyd Webber on steroids as performers in the troupe draw and send powerful aura-based energies throughout the venue, aided by the production's resident hypnotist -- a mysterious yet powerful man they call Dune. He is married to Susan; yet he seems more than a little attracted to Miriam. Or is that just all in Miriam's very active imagination?

Indeed, Miriam's inner dialogues drive much of the opening action in this remarkable sequel to the author's award-winning book Glossolalia. In that groundbreaking novel, set in a not-so-distant future, insidious agents of the Nevermind control thought worldwide and work within shadowy conspiracies and large corporations to influence international affairs.

In this book, a cult has grown up around elements of the Atlantis story, and society has become divided -- often violently -- depending upon one's beliefs. You're either for one faction or another, with very little middle ground.

And this conflict serves as a complex backdrop in the development of multifaceted characters like Miriam, Susan, Dune and others to weave a dark -- yet highly entertaining -- tale.

As in the first book, there is lyrical writing and memorable turns-of-phrase everywhere. Such as:
"His red lips showed exquisite pain and pleasure with the tiniest movements of pointed corners. In the dream, he dressed like Lord Byron. We lived wild in the gorse, swam in stars together, became wind whipping up wildfire turning heather to passion. We were a lighting storm. We were eternal."

And this deliciously foreshadowing phrase:

"The future licked my skin and made it shiver."

And, this pensive passage:

"We're inside a story, I thought. The edges of our story are like moss, the little viney spots in the yard by the terraces and the spaces between the fence posts and the rocky hill, inhabited by glowing imagination since I was a child giddy with breathing into other worlds."

As this storyline unfolds, Susan suddenly falters during the last performance of the season, and Miriam, aura glowing, glides in to flawlessly finish the show to accolades and bravos. Susan, meanwhile, is whisked off to a remote castle owned by a friend of Dune's -- ostensibly to convalesce.

But there is more to Dune's motives than helping his wife get better. She soon finds that she is a virtual prisoner in the feudal keep, dodging rats and listening furtively to Dune and his fellow Nevermind agents plan the eventual overthrow of the world. And it gets even better after that, with aborted escapes through hidden passageways, unforeseen plot twists, and surprise character reveals that will keep you turning pages right through to the end.

This is not meant to be a lighthearted romp through arcane information about ancient legends and curious customs that, in the book, have arisen to divide nations. It's more than that -- much more.

It is a masterwork of storytelling with a very sharp edge and a keen wit to boot. It peels back the intricate subderma overlaying each major character's persona, revealing our all-too-human vulnerabilities to mass suggestion. And it once again points up the critical need to be ever vigilant in guarding our very thoughts in an increasingly invasive society.

Five and a half stars to Encore and to its visionary author, Tantra Bensko. The first novel in the Nevermind series won a gold medal for excellence in writing. The sequel should win platinum. And it's a book that should be on everyone's reading shortlist this summer.

Don Sloan

Suanne's Bookshelf

The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family's Search for the American Dream
Bryan Mealer
Flatiron Books
c/o MacMillan
9781250058911, $27.99

I bought this book for my cowboy brother for his birthday but confess to reading it before I gave it to him. After all, I had to be sure he would like it.

I was born in Big Spring, the primary setting of The Kings of Big Spring. When I went to college, I left the little city behind and have only rarely been back for a few days at a time, usually for funerals. The author, Bryan Mealer is considerably younger than I am, but he captured the Big Spring of my teens. Reading his book, I recognized names I hadn't thought of in decades and realized some of them were relatives. When he mentioned the 1967 Old Settlers' Reunion, I recalled being at that event with my paternal grandparents. Similarly, when Midnight Cowboy was filmed there, my conservative relatives were aghast and made quite a stink over the movie's Motion Picture Association of America "R" rating.

Nostalgia aside, Mealer weaves a unique history of a West Texas town. He seamlessly blends his family history with the history of Big Spring and its environs with that of the nation. Though he focuses on local goings-on, there's enough national news to set the scene. This is not an in-depth history of America, but a close-up portrait of a small town. For instance, the Vietnam war warrants only a few lines here and there, but it's enough to give the flavor of the deep divide between the pro- and anti-war factions in the country - and to show the war's effect on Big Spring's inhabitants.

Likewise, this is not a deep family portrait. Mealer covers four generations over many years, so there's not a lot of emotion, but a retelling of family stories set gem-like into local life in Big Spring. The threads tying the stories together include oil and Jesus.

I enjoyed this book because the Mealer family history somewhat mirrors that of my own family. The Schafers arrived in West Texas forty years earlier and had already survived several droughts by the time the Mealers arrived. Though my family was recently blessed with the discovery of oil on our property, we haven't taken the road of high-living the Mealers did. My uncles and aunts still run sheep and grow cotton, living in the same homes they've lived in for decades.

The Kings of Big Spring is a fascinating read, an epic tale of a a truly American family as well as a portrait of a time and place people outside of Texas can relate to, a family that started in tarpaper shacks and rose to dizzying heights, only to drop to the lows again.

Better Dead
Pamela Kopfler
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, New York 10018
9781496713216, $7.99, Mass Market Paperback

When I first read the description of this book, I thought it would be similar to Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, down to the dog named Rhett. I was pleasantly surprised at how much better Better Dead was than Agnes. The characters were well-rounded. The dialogue punchy and apt with some zingy one-liners. This is an all-round fun read.

Holly Davis, loves the plantation home, Holly Grove, that has been in her family since antebellum times. When the ghost of her drug-dealing husband, Burl Davis, appears, she doesn't exactly welcome him. She still resents him for dying in an airplane crash before she could divorce him. He robbed her, was unfaithful to her, and nearly cost her home, a near-failing bed and breakfast.

Burl needs her help to move on from the physical world into either heaven or hell. Holly needs his help in haunting Holly Grove for Halloween to spur interest in her bed and breakfast and save it from foreclosure.

Jake McCann, Holly's old flame, reappears after leaving town - and Holly's heart - in the lurch. He needs a place to stay and moves into Holly Grove.

The romantic triangle that develops between Holly, Burl, and Jake adds a different spark to this romantic suspense novel as does a drug-smuggling ring.

Blood and Magic
Melissa Sercia
City Owl Press
9781944728953, $13.99

Blood and Magic is Melissa Sercia's debut novel. Her main character, Gray (love the name), was forced to become a Dhampir (witch/vampire hybrid) against her will, then was placed into a three-year coma by her lover. As a result, she is out for vengeance. The book follows Gray and her sidekick, Valentina, and a group of assorted folks (an immortal priest, a vampire pirate, and Gray's new lover) as they fight the Consortium, a group of evil doers bent on creating hybrid demons. The world building, particularly in the Underworld and the Hall of Secrets. Some of the concepts were interesting. There are some twists and turns of the plot that kept me reading. The sexual descriptions were repetitive. From a technical aspect, there were a number of misplaced modifiers that took me out of the story. Book #2 in this series, Flesh and Bone, is due out October 16, 2018.

Good Neighbors
Joanne Serling
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781455541911, $26.00

Good Neighbors, Joanne Serling's debut novel, proved to be an interesting read. The prologue with its distant feel didn't add anything to the book and nearly kept me from continuing with it. Once I hung in for a while, I was glad I did. Told from the point of view of Nicole Westerhof, Good Neighbors is set in an idyllic suburb, four privileged families form rather superficial friendships based more on their allegiance to their neighborhood and lifestyles rather than true camaraderie.

One of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a girl from Russia. The girl, Winnie, is said by her parents to be emotionally delayed and with destructive tendencies due to her time in the Russian orphanage. Her behavior outside the home, however, doesn't ring true with their statements. The neighbors begin to wonder if the entire Edwards family is dysfunctional, if the mother alone is abusive, or if the child truly has emotional problems.

From here, the friendships unravel. The group remains loyal to their privilege and their belief that no one in their upper class neighborhood could possibly be a child abuser. Nicole faces her own inadequacies as a mother while she obsesses about the fate of Winnie.

Serling looks at the seen, the unseen; the blindness of privilege; a family's right to privacy versus the universal need to protect the weak. Though slow to start simmering, Good Neighbors ends up rising to a full boil. It is compelling and thought-provoking as it deals with how unaware the neighbors are of other races (one of the families is Puerto Rican) and how deeply white privilege is embedded in their lives. These families are so ensconced in their upper-middle class comfort that they don't confront the issues that are tearing their friendships and neighborhood apart until it is too late.

Not Her Daughter
Rea Frey
St. Martin's Griffin
9781250166425, $16.99

This book put me in mind of one I read several years ago, The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond. While YOF was written primarily from the point of view of a woman who lost her boyfriend's child while at the beach, Not Her Daughter is written in the points of view of a kidnapper and the kidnapped child's mother and flows in three time frames: before, during, and after. Ms. Frey, in this debut novel, deftly balances the tension between the mother and the kidnapper.

Emma (the kidnapped child) is a victim of verbal and physical abuse by her mother, Amy, who is deeply unsatisfied with her life and blames her husband and especially her daughter for what she perceives as a miserable existence. The reader gets enough insight to, if not sympathize with her, to at least understand her.

On the other hand is Sarah, the kidnapper who herself was a victim of a similar mother. She sees Amy's abuse of Emma and decides to kidnap the child to protect her.

The reader is left with the moral dilemma of attempting to decide which woman is in the right. There are no easy answers here, and the book club questions in the back bring home that point.

If you want to read a book before it becomes "a major motion picture," get started on this one.

Taxing Courtship
Jaycee Jarvis
Soul Mate Publishing, LLC
B07DHY7XWJ, $3.99

Taxing Courtship is the first in author Jaycee Jarvis's Hands of Destin fantasy romance series. The slow-burn romance between the Em and Hand Quintin is cute. Their romantic moments are sensual. There is a twist here in that Em, a royal Lady of the Realm, is a Robin-Hood-type thief, stealing from others to support her temple while the Hand (someone devoted to serving to the Troika) is a virtuous tax collector.

It took me forever to suspend my belief enough to really get into the story, but once I did, I enjoyed the romance. The setting is exotic, however, it seemed to me to be a hodge-podge of vocabulary borrowed from multiple cultures, thus it didn't feel cohesive (one of the reasons I had trouble suspending my belief. For example, the animals in this book are named after real animals, but pulled from different continents (cassowaries are from New Guinea and okapi are from Central Africa).

The Elusive Earl
Maddison Michaels
Entangled: Amara
9781724796332, $19.99

The Elusive Earl is the second book in Ms. Michael's Saints and Scoundrels series. Some of the characters from The Devilish Duke also appear here. A cute, slow-burn type romance blossoms between a head-strong young orphan, Briana (Bree) and an earl nine years her elder, Daniel. The antagonism between these childhood frenemies seems a bit forced even for a hate-to-love romance trope. Underlying the love story is a search for King Aleric's long-lost treasure and a murder mystery (who killed Bree's parents). The killer is heading Bree's way as are the local mafiosi. There are numerous plot twists including a fake marriage followed by a "real" marriage plus the usual wronged feelings/heartaches caused when couples don't communicate well.

I did enjoy the incorporation of Visigoth/Italian history into the story in the form of an archeological search for King Aleric's treasure. The setting of most of the book, Calabria, was also interesting and refreshing. However, I found the depiction of English dialogue by some Italians in the book offensive. Dis and de and other such "eye dialect" is used instead of this and the, thus marking lower classes as less intelligent. John Dufresne, In The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction states that eye dialect distracts the reader, and trick spellings and lexical gimmicks are the easy way out. When an author uses unusual spellings, she/he draws the reader's attention away from the dialogue itself and onto the means of getting it across. He suggests that dialect be rendered by "rhythm of the prose, by the syntax, the diction, idioms and figures of speech, by the vocabulary indigenous to the locale" rather than in aberrant spellings.

Who She Is
Diane Byington
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
9781948051071, $15.99, paperback

Who She Is by Diane Byington subtly twists two stories around one main character, Faye Smith, a sixteen-year-old long distance runner. First there is the story of Faye's training to run the Boston marathon as an attempt to scape her migrant farm worker background. Second is the underlying story of Faye trying to discover who she is. She has flashbacks and nightmares and can't figure out what triggers them.

I enjoyed the feminist aspects of this novel with Faye and her best friend training for the Boston marathon at a time when running was considered bad for women's internal organs. Faye is a determined, strong young woman.

I also liked the glimpses into the Civil Rights movement in the 1960's. The coach training Faye and her best friend, Francine, is an African American black male. In addition, there was a brief glimpse of the Vietnam War as Francine's brother joins the Marines and goes to Vietnam.

Though there were many things to like about this novel, I found the depth of emotion simply wasn't there. Faye had remarkably little reaction to learning her past and to starting a new future with a different family.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

The Leper Messiah
Rob Levinson
Tellwell Talent
9781773022796, $8.99 376 Pages

The author, Rob Levinson was born in a Gypsy clan in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, unusually he was given up for adoption, however it was his adopted parents who raised him into a tradition of literature and encouraged is early writing talents. He was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to explore the world, and it was as a young man that his fascination with the story of David was born. From then on this interest evolved, culminating in his studying the writing of historical fiction. This amazing book is the result of his passion for David and his life, and in it he transports his reader back into ancient times, as he offers them his version of the life of David, one of the most important figures in Jewish religious history.

The content is written as a fictional biography, containing some biblical references, however it is written very much as a historical fiction story, not a preachy biblical tome. This wonderful tale grabbed my interest from the very first page, and kept it throughout. This was because of the author's great ability to describe scenes and characters in such detail, and bring them to life before your very eyes. I quickly found myself settling into the story and taking up the author's invitation to step with him into the past and get real feel for life in those far distant times.

At each turn of the page more of David's story is revealed, from his birth growing up through his childhood, his life as a shepherd, and his adventures until he became King of Israel. His journey was a hard one, very dark and twisted at times, however the insight it gives us into Old Testament life are priceless. Through his eyes we live through harsh living conditions, the dangers of travelling, and learn about the hard lives of the poor people living with the terrible disease leprosy. With him we experience desert sand storms, terrible battles, and much more. However, for David, as for us all, it is these life lessons which character build and formed him into the man he became, instilling in him important values, morals and strengthening his ideals.

Whether you are interested in religion, history, geography or just like to read a thoroughly entertaining story by an author who has the ability to transport you to another time and place, you are sure to enjoy The Leper Messiah.

Available from Amazon

The Neuromorphs
Dennis Meredith
Glyphus LLC
9781939118240, $16.95, 296 Pages

Spine-chilling, is the phrase which comes to mind when describing this book. The author Dennis Meredith has spent a lifetime in the scientific and engineering world, working in science communication at some of the country's leading research universities, including MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Duke and the University of Wisconsin. He has written numerous articles on science and engineering and he has a B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Texas (1968) and an M.S. in biochemistry and science writing from the University of Wisconsin (1970), and has achieved so much more. I have to ask myself, with all his insider knowledge, could this story become a reality?

With the world of robotics expanding exponentially it is easy to envisage a world where every household has Helper androids, specially programmed to look after their owners every need, even to anticipate their wants before the desire leaves their lips. Of course in this scenario the androids are also automatically programmed the 'Three Laws of Robotics' created by the famous science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, after all, it is a must for all robots, isn't it?

In this story set in 2050, the Helper androids have become an integral part of human life, however, Russian mobster Mikhail Fyodorov owner of Phoenix investments has discovered a way to easily make millions, with a win, win scheme. Mikhail has joined with shady members of the robotics world to enable the robots programmes to be altered to enable them to think independently, and kill their owners, take their place and fortunes, to Mikhail's benefit of course. A seemingly fool proof plan, however in their naivety the criminals haven't considered the potential of the intelligence they have unleashed...

With a hive mind, no longer restricted, the neuromorphs devise a clever plan to take over the world, destroy its inhabitants, and everything on it, can anything stand in their way?

One thing the neuromorphic brains have not anticipated however is human nature, with a marriage hanging on by a thread, ex-SEAL Patrick Jensen and his tetchy wife's senses are high, and after moving onto the neuromorphic hives exclusive housing at 'The Haven,' they soon realise that all is not as it should be with the other residents. As the robots plans proceed, and the stakes grow higher, who will become the rulers of the earth? Can the humans survive against all odds, or will the neuromorphs conquer them?

Action packed, very cleverly written and with plenty of twists and turns 'The Neuromorphs' is a story which will I am sure will be loved by all science-fiction fans.

Available from Amazon:

Game Piece
Alan Brenham
Black Opal Books
9781644370131, $14.49, 326 Pages

Life is all about priorities, and Barry Marshall a Detective in the Temple Division, Texas is forever finding himself taunted by colleagues that he is a Boy Scout, brown nose, and worse. Always the last to leave the office, Barry is driven, he is contentious, proud of what he does and the differences he makes. However, his diligence often leads to him working late and both his wife Erin and his daughter Cailey miss him. Erin wants him to change career, after all he is turning out just like his father, 'married to the job!'

This particular Friday was bad enough, discovering he had been targeted by identity thieves, that was a nuisance, then, just as he was just about to leave the phone rings...

The caller offers a lead on another case. Even though he wishes he could, Barry can't ignore it. When he arrives at the proposed meeting place however, he soon discovers that the lead story was a red herring, instead of the informant, there are two bodies with their throats cut!

From there the story escalates with Barry centre stage. Strangely, the caller always contacts Barry's cell phone, and seems to know what he is doing. To make things worse, tensions are growing at home as Barry is never there, and night's out and trips to the park are pushed to one side with work taking priority.

With a serial killer on the loose in Temple, no-one is safe. As the body count rises the clues are thin and far between. Barry can't put a face to the voice, however, one thing is certain, the killer knows him. As tensions mount at home and work, a frustrated Barry finds himself wrongly accused and desperate for answers.

This fast paced, exciting thriller has twists and turns right until the very last page. The author, Alan Brenham has used his lifetimes experience as a Texas law enforcement officer, a criminal prosecutor and later criminal defense attorney, to give his readers a real insight into what life is like when your world revolves around protecting the innocent, and those you love.

Available from Amazon

Dynomike: What's Heartfulness?
Frankie B. Rabbit
Independently Published
9781724109026, $13.99, 64 Pages

My granddaughter and I have been looking forward to the next Dynomike book, and as soon as we opened it we were greeted by our favourite character, Dynomike, and his friends. The rhyming stories and way it is so wonderfully illustrated captured her interest, and I think it is a great way to introduce children to books and reading.

In this book 'What's Heartfulness' the friends are concerned when they visit their friend Jack Brussels and he is sad. His mother is sick and no-one knows what to do to make her better.

Jack tells them he can't play that day and to leave them alone, but being good friends his pals set their heads together, desperately trying to think what they can do to make things better. It is Dynomike who comes up with the idea of spreading heartfulness.

What is heartfulness? Well it is being kind, spreading love and caring from within yourself and showering it on others, doing kind deeds, thinking kind thoughts... being, well nice.

So, while Jack's mom is asleep the friends in secret take her heartfulness, and when she wakes up - well - you just have to read and see for yourself the wonderful changes spreading heartfulness can make!

And Jack, well with his mom better, he's off out to play, but when he asks his friends what they did the previous day - they just wink.

This is yet another wonderful book spreading the word of love and caring and how little deeds can make the world of difference to people, and what's more, when you have finished this story, the author gives you another one free!

A lovely story which will enchant children and encourage them to become caring and considerate people.

Available from Amazon

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

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

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