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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 11 November 2019 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Aaron Washington's Bookshelf Adam Dunham's Bookshelf Alex Phuong's Bookshelf
Amy Kendall's Bookshelf Andrea Kay's Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf
Beth H. Cox's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf
Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf Christian Sia's Bookshelf Christina Francine's Bookshelf
Clabe Polk's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf Evan Mantyk's Bookshelf
Helen C.'s Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf
Jen Lis' Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf
Kacey Vanderkarr's Bookshelf Katherine Kleffner's Bookshelf Katie Mitchell's Bookshelf
Kirk Bane's Bookshelf Kirkus Reviews Lauren Woods' Bookshelf
Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf Melrose Books' Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Molly Martin's Bookshelf The Nerdy Girl Express
Nik Zakrewski's Bookshelf Pedro Gonzalez's Bookshelf Richard Freudenberger's Bookshelf
Ricky Brown's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Ronald Tobin's Bookshelf
Scott Whittaker's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf Theresa Rodriguez's Bookshelf
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf    

Aaron Washington's Bookshelf

The Sixth of September
Callista Bowright
9781728385143, $36.03 (hardcover), 912pp
9781728385150, $23.05 (softcover)
9781728385136, $4.99 Kindle,

The Sixth of September follows the stories of two different but significant women. Olivia and Sophie live in different worlds, pursuing different things until one day fate brings them together. We are first introduced to Olivia. She had a normal childhood in Lancashire where she rode her tricycle along the driveway in her hometown, being sent to the neighborhood shop and doing all the usual things kids her age did. Olivia adored her mother Minnie. The relationship the two had been lovely. One thing I admired in Minnie was her confidence, beauty and how she carried herself. She was a role model for Olivia and taught her a lot of life lessons. She helped Olivia in her spiritual life and understanding some life beliefs she subscribed to.

Sophie's first childhood was different from Olivia's. She had been born in wealth and did not know what struggle was. Unlike Olivia's simple life, Sophie had a nanny and a chauffeur to her service. Sophie was raised by her mother and stepfather who were barely present in her life. Even as a plain child, Sophie had some interesting traits; she enjoyed reading and loved her gramophone, which formed her personality. Their family lived largely. I loved Sophie more than anyone else in their family because she had a kind heart. Unlike her sister Rachael who was unforgiving and judgmental, Sophie was a sweet and understanding individual.

I enjoyed the themes in the book up until deaths started occurring. The deaths of Ben, Ella, and Sean moved me. I did not know one could easily get attached to fictional characters until the deaths occurred. Through the three, the author showed us how life is divine and beautiful. It is natural for humans to not move on after close friends or members of the family die. Sophie had felt the same way after the death of the three. The meeting of Sophie and Olivia made a huge and critical part of the plot. I felt deeply for the two ladies because, despite their different backgrounds, they were able to get along after the events on the sixth day of September. I would have assumed that Olivia and Sophie could have chosen to be adversaries. That, however, didn't happen. They embarked on working together and not being opponents. The two were my heroes. It was fascinating to learn that the author's name was a fusion of two names from two writers. The author's name is Callista Bowright, a pen name for the writers Alicia Wright and Stella Bowling. The two writers had a few similarities with the main characters in the book, which was a fantastic because I got to learn a lot about them. The story of the two women gives hope. Their lives are inspiring and motivating. I would recommend this book to fiction lovers who enjoy stories which have life lessons.

The book is exceptionally written, with the author using a simple language that is easy to comprehend and relatable. The stories of the main characters help the reader see life through different spectrums.

Aaron Washington, Reviewer
Pacific Book Review

Adam Dunham's Bookshelf

Not Yet
Erik Segall
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861677, $22.95, PB, 402pp

A human story told with fearless compassion, without lapsing into pedantry, Segall's novel demonstrates truths often overlooked in the age of spectacular media, escalating news-cycle and daytime drama, and escapist-entertainment-hounding.

First, we do not need talk-show-worthy circumstances to suffer deeply: living itself is psychologically dangerous. Second, that here, as in life, there is true respite to be found - in authentic interpersonal interaction. And foremost, a message not to be missed, when we own our responsibilities we create meaning; and where we find meaning, we find purpose, courage, and personal power.

Far more than simply a story surrounding a theme, Not Yet lives out distortions of time that trace a mind's path through modern mental illness - ascending anxiety and unqualified depression. Through the gradual revelation of circumstance and character, Segall offers a window opening upon the process of madness, sometimes chilling, often warm or humorous, and always believable. Plus, the Tupac skit is the da bomb.

Adam Dunham, PhD

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf

The Spectators: A Novel
Jennifer duBois
Random House
9780812995886, $27.00 hc / $13.99 Kindle

The Spectators is Spectacular!

The media tends to sensationalize the news and entertainment in order to attract more viewers and boost ratings. One of the most famous examples of media being blown out of proportions was when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton shared an epic love affair that attracted the paparazzi during the making of the 1963 historical drama Cleopatra. Even in 2019, sometimes the media still draws attention from readers and viewers because of how the news impacts the people who learn about what is going on in the world. The nature of media serves as the subject matter of one of the best novels of 2019 - The Spectators by Jennifer duBois.

The same author who wrote Cartwheel pens yet another modern work of fiction that has a shocking crime as its focal point. Without giving away major spoilers, the crime creates a domino effect that causes the media to publicize the crime itself while impacting everyone involved. On a broader scale, the media directly impacts practically everyone in Jennifer duBois's fictional world because the main protagonist is a talk show host named Matthew Miller. Since he is a fictional celebrity, his own personal life turns upside down because of the controversy that surrounds him. The novel is very bold and modern because it ultimately reflects the real world, and how the media influences everyone both in this novel and in real life.

The titular "Spectators" are also very interesting characters because of how they relate to Matthew Miller. Cel is a publicist who impacts both Matthew's life and Miller's on-screen persona as a TV personality. The nature of publicity is a major theme in this novel because it makes readers (and audiences) wonder if they really want to be famous or not. A classic notion is that an ordinary person wants to be famous, but a famous person wants the exact opposite. Jennifer duBois explores that idea with clarity and sincerity by revealing the basic humanity of Matthew Miller, and that he is much more than what the media portrays him to be.

The second spectator, Miller's former love interest named Semi, intensifies the novel by suggesting that the past is able to haunt someone, especially Matthew Miller. Despite being a fictional character, the passion and desire that these two characters share is very palpable thanks to Jennifer duBois's exquisite writing. It is also possible to say that the love that these two fictional people is just as scandalous as the Taylor-Burton affair that shook the entertainment world in the early 1960s.

Being a spectator involves much more than simply watching an event or a program on television. Sometimes viewers who watch either a television program or a film could simply be innocent bystanders as they witness chaos unfold through different forms of media. Real life is oftentimes more gritty and depressing compared to unrealistic aspects of cinema and glamorized television, but The Spectators suggests that people could do more with their lives than simply spend time "watching" both literally and figuratively.

Alex Phuong

Amy Kendall's Bookshelf

Sharing Love Abundantly In Special Needs Families
Gary Chapman with Jolene Philo
Moody Publishers
820 N LaSalle Blvd, Chicago, IL 60610
9780802418623, $11.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 176pp,

Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families is a must-have resource for all parents who have a child with special needs. So often as parents of a child with disabilities, we put our marriages on the back burner, and find ourselves struggling to keep it healthy and thriving. This book will help you discover your personal love language, as well as your mate's.

Equipped with this crucial understanding, you can implement the book's practical advice on how to love your partner through their love language, in a way only a parent with a child with disabilities would understand.

But it doesn't stop there. It also helps parents figure out the love language of their child with disabilities and the unique ways we can show abundant love to them as we become fluent in their love language.

I will be recommending this book to all of my families.

Amy Kendall, Reviewer
Disabilities Minister at Saddleback Church

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf

Dining at Dusk
Stevan Paul
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
195 Allstate Parkway, Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 4T8
9781770503380, $34.95, PB, 240pp,

At dusk, as afternoon relaxes into evening and the sun sinks towards the horizon, there is a magic moment. The work day is finally done, and it's time for food and drinks with friends. Tapas, antipasti, mezze, ceviche and aperitifs from around the world are showcased. Beautifully illustrated throughout, "Dining at Dusk" follows the golden hour around the globe from Samoa, where the sun sets first, through Australia, Japan, India, Europe, Morocco and Brazil, to the USA and Mexico, celebrating the evening with Italian cicchetti, Spanish tapas, Greek mezzes, with tacos, yakitori, ceviche and more. Simple-to-prepare recipes with roots in local culinary and cultural traditions, each paired with the ideal drink and a thoughtfully curated playlist. Compiled and showcased by Stevan Paul, "Dining at Dusk" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, and community library collections as the ideal cookbook with respect to menu planning for elegant, laid-back gatherings with friends while showcasing a range of contemporary cuisine from around the world for this beautiful and relaxed time of the day.

Air Fryer Revolution
Urvashi Pitre
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
3 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780358120872, $21.99, PB, 224pp,

Increasingly popular with American family cooks, an air fryer is a kitchen appliance that cooks by circulating hot air around the food using the convection mechanism. In "Air Fryer Revolution: 100 Crispy, Healthy, Fast & Fresh Recipes" author and culinary expert Urvashi Pitre shows how the revolutionary air fryer makes home cooking easier than ever. Thanks to the device's fan-forced heat, so there is no need for pre-heating, and food cooks with a minimal amount of oil. The recipes showcased in the illustrated pages of "Air Fryer Revolution" can all be made in 60 minutes or less, many in as little as 30 minutes, so you cut back on energy bills and avoid heating up the whole kitchen. The air fryer saves space too, making it perfect for tiny city kitchens, dorm rooms, and RVs. With Urvashi's impeccably tested recipes, aspiring kitchen cooks can start with fresh ingredients and let the cooker d the hard work, and they will never get bored with Smoky Ham and Cheese Party Biscuits, French Garlic Chicken, Russet and Sweet Potato Gratin, Queso Fundido, Korean Beef Tacos, Bang Bang Shrimp, and more! Thoroughly kitchen-cook friendly and easy to use, Air Fryer Revolution makes the perfect companion gift to the housewarming, wedding, or holiday gift of an air fryer. While very highly recommended for personal, family, and community library cookbook collections, it should be noted that "Air Fryer Revolution" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Moo the Ghost
Beth Praed
Independently Published
B00P85PG8S, $4.99 Kindle

Moo the Ghost features fun drawings by the author's father, Jack Praed, with a delightful series of full-page, colorful drawings that bring to life the simple story of a haunted house populated by ghosts that practice going "Boo Boo Boo" all day long...all except for one little ghost who can't quite pronounce the letter 'B'. Moo is teased by the other ghosts, but just can't correct his linguistic snafu. there's an advantage to not being able to be scary, and Beth Praed does a fine job of showing how a problem can lead to new opportunities in this gentle story of friendship and fun. There's also a second game for children: one involving finding elusive spiders on each spread. Kids who love games involving finding hidden items will appreciate this bonus. Moo the Ghost arrives just in time for Halloween, but will provide year-round attraction for young readers interested in the fun tale of a handicap that becomes an unexpected asset.

Andrea Kay

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

The Sun On My Head
Geovani Martins, author
Translated by Julia Sanches
Faber & Faber
9780571348244, A$29.99, paperback, 116 pages

"Fryin' at home just wasn't gonna fly. For kids like us, riding dirty's a cinch, the parley's slick.

We hit up Vitim at his place, then we rolled up to Cueball's and dropped in on Mish and Mash. So far everybody in the same boat: hard up, dopeless, wanting to chill out beachside".

"Never mind crack, you crazy, that shit's lose-lose. Sometimes I do lol? at a baile funk, but I take it easy"

It is a brave decision to begin a book of short stories with one written uncompromisingly in Brazilian favela slang. If you don't understand it, you are unlikely to continue reading.

It takes time to tune-in to the voice of young Roselin as he describe a day of blazing heat, beach life, theft, drug-taking and police harassment, all of which he and his friends experience as normal. But the rhythm and tone of the favela slang are seductive, and it is worth persevering. And whilst most other stories in the book, are written in plain English, all reflect life in the favelas of Rio de Janero, where the author grew up and still lives.

The Sun On My Head contains thirteen short stories. The voices of the narrators move between childhood and adolescence, and vividly capture the development from innocence, through growing self-awareness, to young adulthood, and the reality of living in a place where poverty, corruption and violence are part of everyday life.

Breno, a nine-year-old boy watches a butterfly which has flitted into his grandmother's kitchen. He thinks of butterfly lives compared to his own life, and he thinks of his grandmother's house, and he thinks of cookies. Then the butterfly falls into a pan of cooking oil and he tries to help it.

"He ran to see the butterfly slowly swimming through the oil. He wanted to take her out but had never put his hand in oil before. It only burned when the flame was on, he was almost sure of it. He ran to the paper towel roll, then plucked the butterfly from inside the pan".

Breno's innocence is in extreme contrast to the street-wise thoughts and behavior of adolescent Beto, who has become a minor member of his local drug-gang. In a fit of nervous panic he shoots a dealer. Then, forced by the gang boss to dispose of the body, he struggles to know how to do this but eventually finds a way to dump it in a landfill. The trauma of getting rid of the corpse, however, is nothing compared to that of his rejection by the gang. "He remembered the dreams he dreamed as a kid, what he used to think his life would be like, back then he never thought he'd be selling drugs". But one bad decision and one false move have ruined his life forever.

In another story, a schoolboy begins to notice how his school uniform sets him apart from private-school boys. People avoid him. A woman crossed the street clutching her bag to her body so that she won't bump into him. He explores this newfound capacity to scare people, by following them, and it becomes an obsession.

A different obsession grips the young man, Fernando, who has become addicted to spraying graffiti. He recognises the sound of "the metal ball dancing in the can, the sharp smell of adrenaline". But he thinks of his wife and new-born son, his resolve to quit tagging, and his three months of restraint,

"He wasn't dropping tags anymore and even avoided tracing the motions of the letters with his fingers".

Then, mistakenly caught next to a young tagger, he reacts to a woman's terrified screams - 'Thief! Catch him!':

"Next thing he knew he was on his way up to the building's rooftop terrace.... Good thing his reflexes were top-notch. He reached the terrace in a split second, caught his breath. From way up high, he hunted the spray kid with his eyes, but the son of a bitch had ghosted, hadn't even made it up the building".

He looks down on an expectant crowd and ponders his next move. Thief or tagger - either way a bullet or a beating.

Shots are fired. He jumps. We don't know if he survives but we are left with his own certainty that "tagging is his life and his story".

As with any short story collection, some stories work better than others, but Geovani Martins' ability to capture his narrators' voices, thoughts and emotions and, through them, the great variety of their lives and the colour and flavor of life in a favela, is superb. For a young self-taught writer, who supported his himself and his writing by working as a sandwich-board man and selling drinks on the beach, this book is a remarkable achievement.

Martins was 'discovered' during a creative writing workshop at the Paraty International Literary Festival of the favelas in 2018. It is no surprise that film-rights for The Sun On My Head have already been snapped up.

Simon's Cat: It's A Dog's Life
Simon Tofield
Allen & Unwin, Canongate
9781786897008, A$22.99, hardback

If you know Simon's cat from Simon Tofield's internet cartoons, you will know what a quirky, inquisitive, funny and typically cat-like cat she is (I assume it is a she, since a kitten sometimes appears). So, now that she is learning about dogs for the first time, you can imagine what might happen. Things are unlikely to go smoothly.

Dogs, as Simon Tofield shows in the end-papers of the book, come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Some are alert and eager; some, like the happy poodle covered in bits of ripped pink balloon, are crazy; and some are happily comatose, flat out on the floor. Simon's cat, almost hidden in the middle of them looks confused and apprehensive. Her kitten, between a Scottie-dog and a big, eager mongrel, just waits for the fun to begin.

At first, it is a love affair. Simon's cat smooches with an amiable dog and love, in little hearts, is in the air. The dog clearly loves Simon's cat, too, and gives her a nice sloppy lick. End of romance!

From there on, it is all a learning experience on both sides. Simon Tofield (who now appears to own a dog and puppies as well as his cat and kitten) has clearly learned a lot from his cats and dogs and he uses their characteristic differences to create some wonderfully funny situations.

I especially love the results when he decides to take his cat and his dog for a walk, each of them on a lead. Their reactions are typical cat and dog behavior and anyone who owns a cat or a dog will recognize it. But clearly, a few pages later, Simon has solved the problem.

Simon's cat encounters poodles, bulldogs, big dogs, small dogs, annoying puppies, energetic tail-wagers, long-eared hounds, dumb dogs and smart dogs. She camouflages herself to join a pack of Dalmatians racing across a double page, and she invents various doggy methods of transport - some more successful than others.

Tofield shows her trying to puzzle out what on earth dogs are thinking when, for example, they catch balls, fetch things, and jump through hoops. Often she uses this behaviour to her own advantage. But sometimes the dog wins.

Once again surrounded by dogs on the end-page and inside back cover of the book, and confronted by an alert King Charles Spaniel wearing a crown, Simon's cat still looks confused, but her kitten is ready to play ball.

Tofield gives each of his cats and dogs a distinct and recognisable personality, and they are full of life and full of fun. This is a delightful book.

The Dutch House
Ann Patchett
9781526614957, A$29.99, paperback

"The Dutch House, as it came to be known in Elkins Park and Jenkintown and Glenside and all the way to Philadelphia, referred not to the house's architecture but to its inhabitants. The Dutch House was the place where those Dutch people with the unpronounceable name lived".

By the time that Danny Conroy, the narrator of this story, came to live in this grand house with its huge glass window, decorative wrought-iron work and third-floor ballroom, the VanHoebeeks were long dead and the house and contents had been sold to Danny's father to pay off their debts. Danny had lived there with is sister, Maeve, who was seven years older than him, and his father, a property developer who, as Danny comments 'was always more comfortable with his tenants than he was with the people in his office or the people in his house'. His mother, too, had been there until he was three years old. Her disappearance had remained a mystery to him and his sister. Only later in the book does he record how this mystery was finally solved.

Danny does not remember his mother. In her absence, he was lovingly cared for by family servants, first Fiona (known as 'Fluffy'), then, when Fluffy is dismissed for hitting him with a spoon (about which we learn more later), by sisters, Sandy and Jocelyn. But it was really Maeve who took up the job of mothering him, it was to her that he went when, as a child, he had bad dreams, and it is she who, throughout the book, remains his closest confident and friend, even after his marriage to Celeste.

When Danny was seven, his father brought a young, attractive woman called Andrea to the house for the first time. Danny remembers that even on her first visit she seemed more interested in the house than in meeting him and his sister. Looking back, he believes that 'It had been Andrea's goal for years to get inside the house, to loop her arm through our father's arm when going up the wide steps and across the red-tiled terrace'. Even his father once joked that she married him for the house. And once his father is married to Andrea, she turns out to be a modern version of the wicked, fairy-tale step-mother.

Andrea and her two young daughters move in and she immediately alienates Sandy and Jocelyn by reorganising the household and interfering with their cooking arrangements. Then, with Maeve temporarily away at college in New York, she 'reconfigures' the sleeping arrangements, giving Maeve's beautiful large room to her own eldest daughter, Norma. Maeve is not consulted and returns home to find that all her belongings have been moved to an attic room on the third floor.

Maeve, in shock, jokes:

It's just like The Little Princess!...the girl loses all of her money and so they put her in the attic and make her clean the fireplaces.

She does not blame Norma, who is younger than her and who is upset about the change, but begins to spend less time at the house and as soon as she graduates and has a job she rents an apartment of her own.

However, this is not Andrea's worst act. When Danny's father dies suddenly of a heart attack, she takes over the family business, displacing Maeve who has always dealt with the accounts for her father, then, completely unexpectedly, she summons Maeve to the Dutch House and tells her she must take Danny to live with her.

"'He isn't my son,' she said, and right there her voice broke. 'You can't expect me to raise him. He isn't my responsibility. Your father never told me I was going to have to raise his son'.

'No one' asking you -' I started, but she held up her hand.

'This is my house', she said. 'I deserve to feel safe in my house...'

'This is your house?' Maeve said.

'When your father died, that's when you showed yourself. Both of you. He left this house to me. He wanted me to have it. He wanted me to be happy here, me and the girls. I need you to take him - go upstairs and get his things and leave. This isn't easy for me'."

Danny was just fifteen years old. He leaves the house with just a small suitcase and two trash bags full of clothes he will soon grow out of, plus a few books from his desk. Later, he regrets that in the shock and stress of the moment he took nothing which had belonged to his father, and left behind his blanket, which his mother had pieced together from her old dresses, and the pressed-glass butter dish, which was the only thing left in the house which had belonged to her.

Andrea was now in control of everything except a trust fund for educational expense which Lawyer Gooch, a friend of Danny's father, had persuaded him to set up. Maeve determines that Danny will drain that fund. So, Danny, against his own desires, undertakes long and intensive studies and eventually qualifies as a doctor.

All of this is the bare-bones of the story, but Ann Patchett is too good a story-teller not to give her characters psychological complexities which make their decisions, actions, judgements and mistakes fully human. Maeve, who is diabetic and prone to sudden back-outs when she is under stress and omits to inject her medication, is often of great concerned to Danny. She is determined, strong, intelligence and likeable, and she shares a dry sense of humour with Danny, who still turns to her whenever he has problems. For both of them this closeness seriously impacts their relationships with others in their lives.

The story, too, moves between past and present as Danny and Maeve grow older and their lives change. Together, they sometimes drive to the Dutch House and sit outside in Maeve's car sharing their thoughts, and their memories of living there. Danny remembers being taken by his father to collect rents from tenants in the properties he owned; he remembers how much he enjoyed that, and how much he learned about speculating in property development and becoming successful at it. It is a skill he puts to use. He learns, too, how his parents met, how poor they had once been, and how his father had managed to buy the Dutch House as a surprise for his mother. Occasionally, through the large glass windows, they see Andrea.

Maeve remembers their mother and how close she had once been to her. And eventually, there are dramatic events which solve the mystery of their mother's disappearance and which lead to the Conroys re-entering the Dutch House and to a strange kind of redress for the traumas and losses they have suffered.

This may be a modern-day fairy tale for adults but it is full of Patchett's understanding of the complexities of family relationship and family loyalties. Danny's wife and children, his parents, and the former servants, Fluffy, Sandy and Jocelyn, all play their part as the story unfolds, and dramatic events reveal the very different nature of each of them. All of which makes for an absorbing and satisfying story.

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

Beth H. Cox's Bookshelf

Interview of Carol Smallwood, by Beth H. Cox
reprinted with permission

Carol Smallwood in Wikipedia as an American poet, was awarded the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Smallwood is a freelance writer and editor who has written and edited over five dozen non-fiction books through the American Library Association, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, McFarland & Company, and others on library management related topics for librarians and teachers as well as guides for writers. She has authored several books of poetry, creative writing and has had hundreds of articles, reviews, interviews, essays appear in professional and literary magazines, anthologies, such as The Society of Classical Poets. Ms. Smallwood wrote columns for The Detroit News and other newspapers and magazines and serves as a literary judge, reader, and mentor. She has written or edited dozens of librarianship anthologies for McFarland.

You're a prolific author and continue to be driven to write more. What drives the ideas about your librarianship titles?

Smallwood: The most recent McFarland librarianship anthology, Creativity for Library Career Advancement: Perspectives, Techniques and Eureka Moments,

uses the definition of creativity by Steve Jobs: "Creativity is just connecting things." My ideas for titles derive from the practical aspects that librarians deal with constantly. Anthologies use the experience of those in the field.

When was this latest work coming about in your mind?

Smallwood: I've found brooding, thinking, is the most important step no matter if the writing is a poem, story, essay, or nonfiction. The more you examine it before actual putting the words down, the better it will be.

How do you feel about collaborative works? How do you choose your co-writers?

Smallwood: Working with one or no matter the number of co-editors requires being in sync - that is, have similar goals and work ethics. Before getting a co-editor, take a long look at their track record, accuracy, interest, and willingness to do the job on time. Find out before if they have major changes coming such as moving, changing jobs, personal things that would interfere.

What did you want to achieve in your latest work and did the goals change? What has the writing process been like and does that change from book to book?

Smallwood: My most recently published book is a poetry collection, Chronicles in Passing: I just saw the hard copy last week. Working on your own has its own benefits and challenges. It can mean working faster but one also misses the personal collaboration.

What makes you feel so strongly about these librarianship issues? If asked to explain why libraries matter, could you summarize that in a sentence or two?

Smallwood: I often think of a saying of Albert Einstein: "All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual."
Libraries offer that development that doesn't have that particular lifetime match in our society.

Do you have memories of "a library experience" growing up that really got your attention?

Smallwood: It was one of those Carnegie Public Libraries that was my inspiration. As a child walking up all those stairs was awesome and the heavy doors were like castle gates. The children's section was always left with regret; first book report was on Andrew Carnegie.

What would you hope would be the biggest takeaway for readers?

Smallwood: Appreciate, own their libraries! If something isn't there you want, use Interloan.

What's next for you?

Smallwood: Homeschooling and Libraries: New Solutions and Opportunities is forthcoming from McFarland

Thank you, Beth, for this opportunity. My library experience includes school, public, academic, special, and being a consultant; I've had about four dozen anthologies published by the American Library Association, Rowman & Littlefield, and others, but McFarland has been a great partner.

Beth H. Cox
Assistant Marketing Manager
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Ridge Stories
Gary Jones
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
816 State Street, Madison, WI 53575
9780870209239, $20.00, 208pp,

Synopsis: Gary Jones has written professionally as a freelancer since the 1970s, publishing in the Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee Magazine, and several Door County publications. He taught high school English for many years and in retirement has taught college composition courses at UW - Platteville.

Raised on a small dairy farm in the Driftless Area in the mid-twentieth century, in the pages of "Ridge Stories: Herding Hens, Powdering Pigs, and Other Recollections from a Boyhood" in the Driftless" is a collection of interrelated stories in which he writes with plainspoken warmth and irreverence about farm, family, and folks on the ridge.

Readers will meet Gramp Jones, whose oversized overalls saved him from losing a chunk of flesh to an irate sow; the young one-room-school teacher who helped the kids make sled jumps at recess; Charlotte, the lawn-mowing sheep who once ended up in the living room; Victor the pig-cutter, who learned his trade from folk tradition rather than vet school; and other colorful characters of the ridge.

Often humorous and occasionally touching, Jones's essays paint a vivid picture that will entertain city and country folk alike.

Critique: In the folksy tradition of a Garrison Keeler or Jerry Apps, "Ridge Stories: Herding Hens, Powdering Pigs, and Other Recollections from a Boyhood" is an inherently entertaining read by an author with a distinctively reader engaging narrative storytelling style that will find his enthusiastic readers wanting more! While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ridge Stories" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.79).

Spiritual and Religious Tourism
Ruth Dowson, Jabar Yaqub, Razaq Raj, editors
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781786394163, $160.00, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by academicians Ruth Dowson, Jabar Yaqub, Razaq Raj, "Spiritual and Religious Tourism: Motivations and Management" reviews tourist motivations for making religious or spiritual journeys, and the management aspects related to them. It explores sacred journeys across both traditional religions such as Christianity and Islam, and newer forms of pilgrimage, faith systems and quasi-religious activities such as sport, music and food.

Demonstrating to the reader the intrinsic elements and events that play a crucial role within the destination management process, "Spiritual and Religious Tourism" provides a timely re-assessment of the increasing interconnections between religion and spirituality as a motivation for travel. Also included are applications, models and illustrations of religious tourism and pilgrimage management for converting theory into good practice; theories of motivation and why travel to religious destinations has increased; key learning points from a selection of international case study perspectives.

Providing researchers and students of tourism, religious studies, anthropology and related subjects with an important review of the topic, "Spiritual and Religious Tourism" bridges the ever-widening gap between specialists within the religious, tourism, management and education sectors.

Critique: A core and unreservedly recommended addition to both college and university library collections, and comprised of seventeen informative contributions by experts that are deftly organized into three major sections (Introduction to Spiritual and Sacred Journeys; Managing Motivational Elements of Spiritual Journeys; International Case Studies of Spiritual Journeys), "Spiritual and Religious Tourism: Motivations and Management" is enhanced with the inclusion of a complete listing of the contributors and their credentials, as well as a four page section of Discussion Questions, and a nine page Index.

Live from Cupertino
Michael Hageloh
Post Hill Press
9781642931709, $28.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: In twenty-two years with the Cupertino band, Michael Hageloh saw it all. The era of beige boxes and clueless CEOs. The company's near death. The return of Steve Jobs. Triumphs like the iPod, iTunes, and the iPhone. It was a sales operation built around music, storytelling, and passion that let Apple not only survive the hard times, but eventually change the world.

Now in the pages of "Live from Cupertino: How Apple Used Words, Music, and Performance to Build the World's Best Sales Machine", Michael (an engineer, drummer, raconteur, and closer of nearly one billion dollars in Apple sales) takes you inside the sales culture that made Apple the world's first trillion-dollar corporation.

The big secret? Music. Music has been part of Apple's DNA since the beginning, and in "Live from Cupertino", provides insights into a one-of-a-kind selling culture that's amazingly similar to the process of taking music from rehearsal to live performance. "Live from Cupertino" showcases Apple's company secrets from someone who was there from the beginning.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and impressively informative, "Live from Cupertino: How Apple Used Words, Music, and Performance to Build the World's Best Sales Machine" is an extraordinary and true insider's account that is an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Live from Cupertino" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Re-Creating Nature
James T. Bradley
The University of Alabama Press
PO Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0380
9780817320294, $39.95, HC, 408pp,

Synopsis: Many of the ethical issues raised by new technologies have not been widely examined, discussed, or indeed settled. For example, robotics technology challenges the notion of personhood. Should a robot, capable of making what humans would call ethical decisions, be held responsible for those decisions and the resultant actions? Should society reward and punish robots in the same way that it does humans?

Likewise, issues of safety, environmental concerns, and distributive justice arise with the increasing acceptance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food production nanotechnology in engineering and medicine, and human gene therapy and enhancement.

The problem of dual-use (when a technology can be used both to benefit and to harm) exists with virtually all new technologies but is central in the context of emerging 21st century technologies ranging from artificial intelligence and robotics to human gene-editing and brain-computer interfacing.

In "Re-Creating Nature: Science, Technology, and Human Values in the Twenty-First Century", Professor James T. Bradley deftly addresses emerging biotechnologies with prodigious potential to benefit humankind but that are also fraught with ethical consequences. Some actually possess the power to directly alter the evolution of life on earth including human. Specifically, these topics include stem cells, synthetic biology, GMOs in agriculture, nanotechnology, bioterrorism, CRISPR gene-editing technology, three-parent babies, robotics and roboethics, artificial intelligence, and human brain research and neurotechnologies.

Offering clear explanations of these various technologies, a pragmatic presentation of the conundrums involved, and questions that illuminate hypothetical situations, Professor Bradley guides discussions of these and other thorny issues resulting from the development of new biotechnologies. He also highlights the responsibilities of scientists to conduct research in an ethical manner and the responsibilities of nonscientists to become "science literate" in the twenty-first century.

Critique: An extraordinary and impressively informative study, "Re-Creating Nature: Science, Technology, and Human Values in the Twenty-First Century" is a thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, social activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Re-Creating Nature: Science, Technology, and Human Values in the Twenty-First Century" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $23.99).

Editorial Note: James T. Bradley is the Immediate Past W. Kelley Mosley Professor of Science and Humanities, former director of the Human Odyssey Program, and Professor Emeritus in Biological Sciences at Auburn University. He is the author of "Brutes or Angels: Human Possibility in the Age of Biotechnology".

Carl Logan

Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf

Carol Smallwood Interviews Michael Foldes, Founder, Editor-in-Chief of Ragazine

Wilderness House Literary Review Fall 2019

Scarlet Leaf Review 9-5-19

The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment appears every two months with such sections as: Literary; Art, Photography; and, columns including Politics, World, Education, Resources. Well-illustrated, the free on-line popular zine has a search option to quickly locate and welcomes submissions from artists, photographers, and a wide variety of writers.

Smallwood: You graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor's in anthropology and also attended other institutions. You've been a newspaper columnist, copy editor, and an electronics businessman. Please tell readers about your service with the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry:

First of all, Carol, thanks very much for asking me to do this interview with you. I'm most pleased you've taken an interest in what we're doing and how we do it.

The CIC is an organization founded by Dr. James Palombo to promote political and social awareness, not just to push personal issues. Jim and I became acquainted several years ago when an article appeared in the local paper about "a new zine in town," and Jim called to ask if I wanted to meet for coffee or a drink.

We have similar positions on social and political issues, and later on, when he asked if I'd be interested in working with him to help promote the group, it seemed logical to sign on.

As the political editor of Ragazine, Jim is a regular contributor. His books and columns in Ragazine explore issues concerning political, legal, and social conditions in the United States and elsewhere, which pretty much reflects the core sentiments of CIC: free and open dialog to encourage citizens to educate themselves and others to make informed decisions that will affect the future in the most positive ways possible.

Smallwood: You reside in the state of New York; how did Ragazine get its name, and how/when did you establish it? What was the most challenging part?

I was still living in Columbus, Ohio, in the early 1970s when a group of friends started an alternative tabloid, arts-oriented magazine called Ragazine, to which I contributed. Later, I moved to New York City to work for High Times, and while Ragazine continued for some time in Columbus, it eventually dissolved.

My wife Margot and I were living in Tribeca and had made a number of friends and acquaintances who were artists, writers and photographers. It seemed like a good idea to start an alternative zine that would promote their work, and hopefully fill a need that was not being met by Soho Weekly, the village Voice and other alternative zines.

I had left High Times and gone to work with a construction crew renovating lofts and apartments in the City and tried my hand at publishing another alternative variously called Extra Extra and Monitor East. The idea was to give each issue a different cover name. I've never been very good at fund-raising, and couldn't afford to independently pay for printing, typesetting, and the other expenses that go along with print publishing. I think we made three issues when it went under.

A couple of years on, I changed occupations, moved upstate and went into the electronics business. The desire to publish never left. And, in 2004, with the Internet just coming into its own, I decided to resurrect Ragazine, which was - and is - something I could do in my spare time that other people use to play golf, fix up old cars, fish or go boating. The real key was, online publishing is relatively low overhead compared with print publishing.

Fortunately, I still had contacts with a number of creative friends who were - and are - willing to share their work. We've never had a cash flow to pay contributors, or the people who have worked to bring Ragazine online. We have had some donations over the years, but selling "space" has never been a big part of our effort. Just getting the work out to a larger audience has been the reward. The zine is free online, neither contributors nor staff get paid - all our income goes to covering overhead, such as our hosting site, contact distribution program and our free online daily published through

Smallwood: Your poetry has appeared in Mobius: The Poetry Magazine; Paterson Literary Review, Rosebud, and other journals. When did you begin writing--and in what genre?

I began writing as a child. I had written a poem and showed it to one of my parents' friends, who when she read it had tears in her eyes. I didn't understand why at the time, but I did realize then that thoughts and words had power, and I've been writing one thing or another ever since. While in Ohio, after college, I published a series of poetry chapbooks, one with tipped-in prints in a special edition. I guess I've always had it in me to publish cooperative ventures - perhaps to camouflage my own work, which I've declined so far to self-publish in collections. I love the power of word and image combined, and I think that's what's helped make stand out among online publications today.

Smallwood: Please tell a bit about Fashions and Passions (Me and Utopia): How did you become involved in translations?

I came across the series by Christopher Panzner, whose Fashions and Passions is a collection of altered images based on generally well-known historical works. Chris is an American artist living in Paris. I was inspired enough by one of the images to write a poem about it, and sent it to Chris.... Soon I was writing poems for all of the series, and to my surprise, he took the poems, combined them with the images, and made a series of it. There was no translating involved. All the poems were written in English by me to go along with the specific image to which they're attached in the series.

I have had poems translated into Hungarian (by Paul Sohar, also a Ragazine contributor), Spanish, French and Slovenian.

Smallwood: What columns seem the most popular with readers?

Steve Poleskie's column, Then and Now, deals with a variety of topics of contemporary and historical interest. Steve is an artist and retired Cornell professor with wide experience in the New York City art scene. He started Chiron Press, which published fine art screen prints by a number of well-known artists in the '70s and '80s.

I would add that all the columns have - or have had - their own followings. Galanty Miller's Re-Tweets, Fred Roberts' music columns, Jim's political essays, Mark Levy's columns with free legal advice for "starving artists", Barbara Rosenthal's articles sharing her experiences as a working artist, Fabia Wong, a Canadian who writes from France, and so on. A full list of contributing columnists and editors appears in About Us, with short explanations of what each is about. We've also been fortunate to have columns by Henry Giroux, who has kindly allowed us to reprint them from their appearance in TruthOut.

Smallwood: What countries are represented by contributors and readers?

We have had contributions from Slovenia, Hungary, England, France, Spain, Japan, Germany, Canada, South Africa, and more. Our readership is global, and we espouse that the arts are a unifying ideal through which people can share in a variety of ways to gain better understanding of themselves and of one another.

Smallwood: Many magazines charge contributors fees or have ads but Ragazine does not. How does it manage?

Good question. Most of the expenses in an ongoing basis are covered by yours truly, but we do have some contributors whose names are listed on our "donors and contributors" page. Some people contribute a few times a year, and occasionally we get a large individual contribution, such as one that allowed us to incorporate, and others that seem to come in just as we think we'll never be able to pay one of our service vendors.

As I mentioned above, we've never been able to generate the cash flow needed to pay contributors - or staff - who certainly deserve whatever we would be able to pay them. It takes a very large amount of time to get out each issue, and doing it any more often than every two months with a minimal staff is out of the question without a living wage for doing it.... I don't apply for grants, as it seems to be a crap shoot who "wins" them, and I don't have the time for that...or for selling ad pages, for that matter. Occasionally we'll find a gallerist willing to kick in something, gratis for an article or just because, but that's rare. Recently I succumbed to accept a paid editorial, something I said I'd never was tough decision and just covered a six-month fee from one of our vendors to ensure we stay on line for the next few months...another "just in time."

We've always hoped that enough people would get exposure, and that enough others would appreciate what they do, to keep the circulation growing. In today's world, hope is not the answer. There's just too much competition, and while you may have the reputation as offering something different or special, if you can't make people aware you're alive, you'll be trampled.

Fortunately, the work keeps coming, and people keep reading. That's what it was about in the beginning, and it really hasn't changed.

Smallwood: Writers and readers have much to thank you for! Do you have any changes planned or a wish list for Ragazine?

Ragazine has a limited lifetime ahead. We will have one more open issue, September-October Volume 15 Number 5, and then a regional issue Volume 15 Number 6, comprised of the work of local/regional talent, and regular columns. After that, it appears we'll be closing shop. We plan to discontinue publishing in January for the foreseeable future. Word is out that Chuck Haupt, our art director, and I, will be stepping away and are looking for people to step in to take it over, but no one's come forward, yet.

Chuck and I worked at the Binghamton Press together in the early '80s, where he was as staff photographer and I was on the news desk and writing columns. He has been extremely helpful putting the zine out since coming aboard several years ago. Chuck is a Red Cross volunteer and recently accepted an expanded role there leaving him little time for Ragazine. If you know anyone.... It's been a good run, 15 years without missing an issue. You can go back and visit some of the early work at

As for a wish list? A lottery jackpot might do the trick. We'd be back in the blink of an eye.

Carol Smallwood

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs
Tony Loyd
Culture Shift Companies
9780692919040, $14.95, Paperback, $9.99, Kindle, 182 Pages

Do you want to do more than only make a living? Appropriately named, this book is full of clever ideas and inspiration for making a living while changing the world. Loyd writes with an entertaining while instructional style. He is a former Fortune 500 executive. He is now a podcaster and TEDx speaker. He says:

"In light of recent news, people just like you and me are rallying to create real and lasting change. They're taking on everything from global poverty to social justice, and they're doing it in a way that is sustainable."

Loyd describes the challenges of small businesses and helps social entrepreneurs consider their big "why" to focus their visions. He suggests crafting a "how might we . . ." great question and then start listening. Gayatri, an American student, asked "How might we improve the health outcomes in the developing world?" and found a way to design solutions for homes with dirt floors. Many other success stories from around the world are in the book. The best-known way to construct a business model is one chapter. Different sources of funding are explained. He says what the business does has to make sense, fulfill a need, and have possible customers.

The book is visually stunning with clever black and white layout. Loyd presents important facts with simple, hard-hitting, unique informational graphics, and inspirational quotes. The book is memorable and clear.

Returning Souls
Ernestine B. Colombo
Sojourn Publishing LLC
9781627472555, $15.95, Paperback, 292 pages
B079ZZ2M84, $2.99, Kindle

Returning Souls begins and ends with a woman in her 60's who falls in her kitchen, is in a coma, and finally returns to live her present life. Dreams and experiences while in the coma are described without narration and from her own viewpoint. We see what happens in her mind during this time through her eyes. She has a near-death experience because of a stroke. It lingers for five months.

This book reminds me of reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova, as the experiences are revealed through the eyes of the protagonist.

Evelyn at first experiences a past life regression (previous life) as an eleven-year-old native girl. Her arthritis is gone and she has an able body. However, she does not experience the same kind of visions as the other girls. She sees herself as a three-face and not a traditional female in her rather generic tribe, which causes problems.

Unplanned pregnancies complicate events for herself and others during her memories through time. The rather powerless lives of women in the 1950s and '60s are described through her childhood memories and perceptions. The book extends to the 1970s when women still have the responsibly for family planning. What to do when caught in a bad marriage with few options and pregnant?

This is a poignant story about meeting other returning souls in a space between heaven and earth. It is Evie's love story for those who have both passed on and those who are still living, human and animal.

Frozen in Time: Murder at the Bottom of the World (Book 1 of 3 in Antarctic Murder Trilogy)
Dr. Theodore Jerome Cohen
AuthorHouse (Print)
Wordwooze Publishing (Audiobook)
9781452002712, $25.99 hardcover, 236 Pages
B079KG6CZ9, $7.99, Kindle
B07JWFZP3Q, $7.49 or 1 credit Audiobook

Book one begins with a true crime bank theft after the Great Chilean Earthquake of May 22, 1960. Information about solving it leads the characters to an outpost on the North Antarctic Peninsula. Rodriguez fails to return from a seal hunt near base, and two Navy officers (Raul and Eduardo) become the prime theft and murder suspects.

Ted Stone's life is placed in jeopardy when he learns information that might help see justice done, but who can Stone trust? Not only are there few people living in Antarctica, but just the dangers of daily life are considerable especially when you consider all this happened before modern technology. Facts about the frozen continent are interwoven throughout the story and some actual events are included in the story.

This trilogy is about a mystery in Antarctica is fictionalized nonfiction based on the experiences of Dr. Theodore Jerome Cohen. His experience there as a National Science Foundation researcher give authenticity and insight to this well-written novel and others in the series.

Crimson Roses
Charlene Tess and Judy Thompson
Independently Published
9781695421196, $9.00 paperback, 260 Pages
B07YBJMWPK, $3.99 Kindle

Pepper Chan is a veterinarian who runs into a former secret flame when he has an appointment for his cat. He calls the cat "Devil Cat" as he is trying to help the stray be calm. Pepper has worked and stayed busy as a vet for many years while trying to avoid her past. We don't easily learn the reason for her secrecy, but Roddy's sister is a private investigator, and Roddy is a criminal defense lawyer, so they work on the mystery. Roddy cannot leave it alone.

Lance arrives at Pepper's house and finds crimson roses on the steps. Pepper arrives home and thanks Lance, but he is not the one who sent them. Lance used to work for a funeral home and knows crimson roses are sent in the case of death. Other crimson roses mysteriously appear or are moved throughout the story and become bad omens.

Because Lance is found dead at Pepper's house, she soon needs a private investigator and defense lawyer. Roddy and Kirs give her legal and moral support. Pepper's uncle lives nearby which becomes part of the story. It becomes clear that her father might not have died from a heart attack but something more sinister. Pepper becomes so tired due to the events, and Kris advises stress is the cause because after adrenaline recedes, it is "like a tire going flat."

The ending is a total surprise as all the story threads wind together to a single ending.

Murder at Scottish Mensa (Mensa Mystery Series Book 2)
Clare O'Beara
Privately Published
9780992638696, $10.95, Paperback, 370 pages
B00E78J0W0, $2.49, Kindle

Murder at Scottish Mensa is book two of a five-book series. The opening scenes are in Dublin, and people are strolling around the Temple Bar neighborhood. Due to the fact Cara is a tree surgeon, she has a trailer to haul clippings and branches. A thief tries to steal the trailer, and she bravely doesn't hesitate to catch the would-be thief in the act and stop him. She is also Irish Mensa President in this book and happens to know a Special Detective Unit employee who has also joined Mensa. Having a boyfriend (Mike) who works in technology, they are the perfect trio to solve a crime.

While in Scotland, a murder happens soon after Mike has argued with the victim. To avoid being a suspect, the three friends work to gather clues and information. Two are on the scene, and one connects through cyberspace. They have only a day to prove who did commit the murder and prove Mike innocent. While attending meetings and meals and discretely interviewing Mensa members to gather information, compare notes and soon begin to solve the crime. Some clues are red herrings, and some lead to helpful information. Throughout most of the story, the characters are unaware of the dangerous and astonishing behind the scenes activities.

Enjoyable conversations involving good books and games like chess are refreshing to readers who like a challenge when figuring out possible solutions to a story. Descriptions of the scenes and the regional accents of a few main characters give authenticity to the story by the author who is native to Ireland.

Carolyn Wilhelm

Christian Sia's Bookshelf

The Same Moon
Sarah Coomber
TouchPoint Press
9781946920621, $17.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 257pp,

The Same Moon by Sarah Coomber is a powerful memoir exploring a broken heart and the journey of one woman towards rebuilding her life after a painful divorce. Twenty-four-year-old Sarah's marriage ended quickly and badly. All she wants is to be away from home where she can forget her troubles and start life anew. Japan is the ideal place, especially since she'd spent a summer in Japan and even had a romance. So, she takes a job as an English teacher in Japan. But the Japan she expected to see is far from the reality when she arrives. She is isolated in a rural area where no one speaks English. What happens is that she finds herself doing things she never dreamed about, and then developing a romance with a local.

This is a memoir that is inspiring, a story of grit and humanity. The author does an incredible job in exploring the contrast between life in a rural area of Japan and her life back home in Minnesota. I enjoy the wonderful lessons of adapting. The protagonist set out looking for the easiest way to heal, but life threw a completely different reality at her and compelled her to do a lot of inner work and self-transformation. Sarah Coomber writes in a voice that is both strong and compassionate, exploring conflicting emotions as she faces the challenges and the difficult questions life throws at her with clarity. The Same Moon is beautifully written, and I enjoyed how the author allowed her vulnerability and her resilience to come across in the narrative.

Flirtation on the Hudson
JF Collen
Evolved Publishing
9781622536351, $16.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 288pp,

This is a beautiful story and the author brings to life a period of history with its traits and way of life.... Flirtation on the Hudson is real; a narrative that features elaborately developed characters and adventures that will keep readers entertained. JF Collen combines humor and wit in a work that is hugely entertaining. I enjoyed every bit of this story.

Editorial Note: Pioneer Passage available in late 2019. The exciting third installment in the trilogy will be available in 2020.

All of JF Collen's books are directly available through Evolved Publishing. For more information on Evolved Publishing or the Journey of Cornelia Rose series please visit

To friend JF Collen on Facebook(R) visit

To follow JF Collen on Twitter(R) visit

Christian Sia, Reviewer
Reader's Favorite

Christina Francine's Bookshelf

Gifts for the Dead, Rivers, book #2
Joan Schweighardt
Five Directions Press
9781947044234, $15.99, paperback, 352 pages
B07Y6Q4YP7, $9.99, Kindle, File Size: 2168 KB

Sometimes our best is not good enough. We make mistakes. The most painful ones are those that harm a loved one. Stress and grief leave us in agony and we play our choice repeatedly wondering if we made the right decision. We cannot let ourselves off the hook either merely because we are human.

In Joan Schweighardt's Gifts for the Dead, Irishman Jack Hopper arrives home barely alive and without his brother. What could he have done differently? Guilt ridden, he needs time to sort through the events in South America's jungle. In the meantime, his mother and brother's sweetheart, Nora, nurse him back to health. They wait patiently to learn specifics of Bax, Jack's brother. To make matters worse, Nora eased Jack's pain and he liked it. He had always secretly cared more for her more than he should have. As time passes and Jack heals, the two grow closer until they take a trip to South America where Nora then learns the truth.

Gifts for the Dead is the second book of the Rivers series, and is about the aftermath of the first book of the Rivers series, Before We Died. The time is early 1900's when the demand for rubber results in mass harvesting of rubber trees. The commercial manufacturing in Europe and the United States during the 19th Century created a need for items such as tubes, belts, and tires. Not only do harvesters hire people from the Americas with a lie of large sums of money to do so, but they also enslave multitudes of the indigenous men, women, and children. Before We Died is about two brothers who travel to South America to get a job harvesting rubber trees and soon find the conditions dangerous. The situation is a diabolical one that ensures they will never leave. Since the series is set around a historic time, the scheduling of Nora and Jack's trip also happens to be during Henry Ford's big plans for a plantation. It is estimated Ford received 2.5 million acres for free, but he would have to pay a percentage of the profits each year to the Brazilian government. Ford planned to make millions of rubber tires for automobiles each year.

Schweighardt is masterful at historical fiction and Gifts for the Dead is an example of that. Not only does she entertain with accounts that examine the perplexities of being human with its heartening moments and struggles, but she also inspires thoughts about the human condition. She has written six novels, a memoir, two children's books, and various magazine articles.

How does one justify bad choices simply because they are human? Why can we not be better than that, and what about the good that comes from bad choices as a result? Will Jack Hopper finds that good thing?

Gifts for the Dead is a thoughtful and entertaining read, especially for those who enjoy historical adventure mixed with suspense and a little romance. A wild escapade. Thoroughly entertains.

Christina Francine, Reviewer

Clabe Polk's Bookshelf

Three Graves Full
Jamie Mason
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451685039, $24.99, hardcover, 321 pages
B008J2AEQG, $7.49, Kindle

OMG! The landscaper dug up a dead body in my front shrub bed! Now, he wants to call 911. I can't let him do that. They'll find Gary Harris whom I buried in the back yard!

Thus begins the tortured psychological dilemma of Jason Getty as buried bodies begin to be unearthed seemingly right and left in his yard. Three Graves Full binds the fate of four individuals and a dog together in a single eventful night. Grammatically well written, suspenseful, and told with detailed description of police procedures, the author explores the psycho-drama playing out in multiple character's minds as they deal with the thin red edge of paranoia and obsession.

The book contains multiple well-developed characters. None of them knew each other before the night their lives collided, but each has issues from their past driving their present. Jason, a woefully inadequate man, invites manipulation and victimization until his fear and frustration explode like a carbuncle. Gary Harris is a leech who preys on the weak bleeding them dry. Leah Tamlin is a woman driven by an insatiable demand for truth. The nature of the truth doesn't matter as long as Leah knows the story. Boyd Montgomery is a man driven by self-righteousness; a self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner, but in his mind, only when others drive him to it. Ford Watts is a detective driven by a need to protect the weak and helpless. Tessa is Ford's dog, driven a need to help Ford.

The lives of all of these people collide in one big tragic calamity of errors that are as humorous as they are tragic. The dark underlying events defy laughing aloud or even openly smiling at the overwhelming stupidity driving the characters in the story. Suspense reigns as the characters live through their own little psycho-hells.

Having said that, I think the author is extremely talented, but I also think she tries much too hard. The reader is bogged down in description and vocabulary and I found myself very impatient with the author's writing style and that made this a very long book. The story could have told itself in fewer pages and in much less verbosity. Personally, I prefer verbs to adjectives and adverbs; actions to descriptions.

Lovers of thrillers, especially psycho-thrillers will love this book; but they'll need to be patient with it. 4-Stars

This book was provided by a library. The above review represents my honest opinion of the book.

You're Never the Same
Bill Bateman
Odyssey Books
9781925652628, $9.32, paperback, 276 pages
B07SX6S157, $5.99, Kindle

Dr. Vincent Hanrahan, a medical doctor currently on the outs with the Australian medical authorities in general and the Obstetrics and Gynecology Board, in particular, has been banished to a small country practice and prohibited from performing services in his specialty. Rejected by his wife, he is hanging on to his profession and his life with the help of a few close friends and colleagues. As if his personal problems aren't enough, he is faced with the suicide of his younger brother; a suicide that incites a murder all of which have far-reaching implications in Vince's life, in the local Catholic Church, and the local community.

You're Never the Same is a whodunit mystery that is a bit outside the box. There are multiple crimes, but the questions that must be answered are who among the Catholic clergy are child molesters and who is not; who drove Vince's brother to suicide...and who committed murder for revenge.

This plot delves deeply into the wide-ranging controversy over the Catholic Church's protection of child-molesting priests and its effect on a local Catholic community. It is full of twists and suggestions of sub-plots and perpetrators that will keep the reader guessing. The story develops maddingly slowly as readers must pick through the details of Vince's life and problems with the medical boards that have him teetering on the edge of failure. Although this factor slows the mystery, it also adds to the suspense and is forgivable. All in all, Vince is a likable character fallen on hard times and who is victimized by the personal animosity of some professional colleagues. His wife, Lydia ("Lids") seems shallow and more concerned for her social standing. Fortunately, he has others helping him. The characters are very well developed and believable.

You're Never the Same would be an excellent read for any lover of whodunits, especially those interested in the potential effects of the sexual malfeasance of clergymen. It is not an action-filled book, but it kept my interest, is entertaining and is a potentially accurate reflection of life for those who find themselves in similar circumstances. 4.5-Stars

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

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

The Middle Sister
Jesse Miles
Robert Peoples
9780990474043, $9.99, PB, 326pp,

Synopsis: Jack Salvo teaches philosophy one night a week at a community college, but he pays his bills by working as an L.A. private detective. A wealthy woman hires him to find her wayward daughter Lillie, who has been missing for a week.

Salvo figures the girl is probably hiding out with her friends. All he has to do is interview the friends, bust their stories, and deduce the missing brat's location. Salvo soon learns that her "friends" are somewhat parasitical.

When he finds Lillie, she is hosting different kinds of parasites - the little ones that help rid the world of rotting corpses. Salvo is then pulled into a maze of murder, arson, and blackmail. During his high-speed run down L.A.'s fast lane, he spars with grifters and gangsters, dodges the cops, and digs up a dark, deadly family secret.

Critique: A deftly crafted and riveting read with more plot twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster, "The Middle Sister" by Jesse Miles is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "The Middle Sister" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Women of the Third Reich: From Camp Guards to Combatants
Tim Heath
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526739452, $32.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: The women of the Third Reich were a vital part in a complex and vilified system. In the pages of "Women of the Third Reich: From Camp Guards to Combatants", author and historian Tim Heath examines what was their role within its administration was, as well as in the concentration camps, the Luftwaffe, and the militia units -- including how did it evolve in the way it did.

We hear from women who issued typewritten dictates from above through to those who operated telephones, radar systems, fought fires as the cities burned around them, drove concentration camp inmates to their deaths like cattle, fired Anti-Aircraft guns at Allied aircraft and entered the militias when faced with the impending destruction of what should have been a one thousand-year Reich.

Every testimony is unique, each person a victim of circumstance entwined within the thorns of an ideological obligation. In an interview with Traudl Junge, Hitler's private secretary, she remembers: 'There was so much hatred within it's hard to understand how the state functioned...I am convinced all this infighting and competition from the males in Hitler's circle was highly detrimental to its downfall'.

"Women of the Third Reich" provides an intriguing, humorous, brutal, shocking and unrelenting narrative journey into the half lights of the hell of human consciousness - sometimes at its worst.

Critique: A unique and extraordinary contribution to the growing library of World War II literature in general, and women's roles within the Third Reich in particular, "Women of the Third Reich: From Camp Guards to Combatants" is a core and essential addition to community and academic library 20th Century Military History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, military history buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Women of the Third Reich" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Editorial Note: Born in to a military family, Tim Heath's interest in history led him to research the air war of the Second World War, focusing on the German Luftwaffe and writing extensively for The Armourer Magazine. During the course of his research he has worked closely with the German War Graves Commission at Kassel, Germany, and met with German families and veterans alike.

Clint Travis

Evan Mantyk's Bookshelf

Chronicles in Passing
Poetic Matrix Press
1733702539, $17.00, 102 pages

Interview of Carol Smallwood, by Evan Mantyk
reprinted with permission

1. What is different about your newest book?

Chronicles in Passing is a collection of formal and free verse poems about the incredible, enduring power of the written word to capture and preserve thoughts, emotions, and events. The word chronicles, associated with being a factual written account of history and record keeping, is used for contrast with classroom early reader words like "see Spot run," yet both reflect the times they were written. We remember encountering Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and Hamlet--struggling to understand the strange words and culture and can but wonder what those following us will think about us. Chronicles are written by a select group (usually the winners), so caution is advised; individuals do not see things the same (remember the fable about each of the blind men describing an elephant)? And women were left out in the earliest days from the realm of scribes involved with keeping track of commerce of the Sumerians around 3200 BC and are still involved in catching up.

2. How long have you written for? How did you start writing? How have you evolved as a poet?

I began writing as a child for a children's magazine and faithfully kept a diary. It just felt natural to write after learning to read which was such a memorable happening. Most of my books are nonfiction for librarians after they asked me for classroom materials. I started finding them and found so many it was an incentive to do books and ended up with around four dozen. Then after retirement, I went back to school and took creative writing classes and wrote fiction and finally went to poetry because it was the most challenging. I eventually found writing in formal style very enjoyable and now view them like presenting a box wrapped in special paper with a bow: giving readers something extra. There are times though, that words in free verse work better in conveying the intended message. Also, what works as a villanelle will not as a triolet and as such, perhaps is better as free verse - so all one can do is try what fits like Goldilocks. I am very grateful for finding the Society of Classical Poets which has encouraged my writing over a dozen collections.

3. Where do you draw most of your inspiration from? Why?

"Creativity is just connecting things" observed Steve Jobs in his very concise definition of creativity, of which there are many and much longer ones but believe he hit on its essence. My latest poem is about having a tree cut by my driveway because it was in the way of the recycling truck. When it was cut it was wrapped in vines that held it up and investigated: that such an attractive bittersweet vine from another country kills and how it does it is full of juxtaposition.

4. Socrates said of painting that depicting good and honest things gives the painter the most pleasure. Does the same apply to poetry? Why or why not?

Poetry should reflect life whether it is good, bad, honest, dishonest and what that means to the reader has a wide field depending on their background and ability as a reader.

5. How do you think more people could learn to appreciate poetry?

Smallwood: If they can relate to the poem with some previous experience, a level of recognition, then there is interest. I believe in: "No man can revel to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge." Kahlil Gibran

Evan Mantyk, Interviewer
President of The Society of Classical Poets

Helen C.'s Bookshelf

Journey to Justice: Finding God and Destiny in Darkness
R. Gracie Murphree
Outreach, Inc (DBA Equip Press)
9781946453556, $17.81 PB, $8.69 Kindle, 288pp,

Review: A powerful and amazing book! R. Gracie Murphree's story is truly inspiring. Her journey of perseverance through adversity and overcoming is a wonderful testimony. We can see through Gracie's eyes how obedience to the Lord brings blessing to the work done in His name.

This book is an incredibly powerful account of reality that transcends what most can even imagine. It is captivating and goes so much deeper than what can be seen on the troubling surface.

Gracie is saving lives - fighting for the women and children in Honduras that are incapable of fighting for themselves.

Helen C.

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Nev and His Bare Belly
Lisa Domeny
Pet Publishing Plus
9780994323996, $12.95

Lisa Domeny's "Nev and His Bare Belly" with its adorable photographs of old Nev, short for Nevada, is a book that children will love. Besides the joy of reading and rereading the story, kids will learn an important lesson from it that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Nev (and people) are generally judges improperly, and this affects their lives.

Nev is a dog who was taken and placed in a pound when he became old and wobbly by his previous owners. He felt unloved. Many people did not want to adopt Nev because he was old and wobbly. But, then, warm people did adopt him and showed him love. Nev was also taken to a nursing home where he became friends with a 99-year-old man who was also old and wobbly.

One day, he was taken to a doctor, and the doctor needed to shave his belly to be able to examine him properly. Afterward, Nev was embarrassed because of his shaven belly, But he found out that people did not judge him because of his shaven belly.

Kids will learn from Nev not to judge an old book by its cover and when people describe you, they may only be describing your cover.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

The Graphic Art of Tattoo Lettering
B. J. Betts & Nick Schonberger
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500241530, $29.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Covering the history and context of tattoo design, as well as offering a comprehensive instruction in hand lettering, "The Graphic Art of Tattoo Lettering" is an instructional guide that is packed with enough detail to fascinate anyone interested in learning about tattoo design.

Aspiring tattoo artists can learn to recreate all of the most widely used techniques -- from embellishing West Coast letter forms to mastering calligraphic style -- with guidance from B. J. Betts who is one of today's most influential tattoo artists. Each individual chapter also includes an account of individual styles' histories, complexities, and relevant substyles, along with interviews spotlighting leading practitioners and galleries of innovative tattoo design.

"The Graphic Art of Tattoo Lettering" is as much a technical handbook for professional tattoo artists as it is an introduction to the manner in which tattoo styles inform other graphic arts. Fans of typography, calligraphy, and graphic design are sure to learn techniques that they can apply to their own projects. And for those who aspire to design tattoos or already work with them, "The Graphic Art of Tattoo Lettering" will prove to be an indispensable guide. Guaranteed to instruct and inspire, it is an essential resource for anyone interested in tattoo art.

Critique: Profusely illustrated, impressively comprehensive, expertly organized and presented, "The Graphic Art of Tattoo Lettering" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community and academic library collections, as well as a DIY curriculum textbook for aspiring tattoo artists.

Water: A Journey Through the Element
Rudi Sebastian
teNeues Publishing
350 Seventh Avenue, Suite 301, New York, NY, 10011
9783961712212, $55.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Water is essential to the origin of life. Every living entity on Earth depends on its existence. Yet in and of itself, water appears rather modest. Colorless and tasteless, it is only in its environment that water comes to life, receiving color through the reflection of the sky, and dynamism in its movement along rivers, over mountains, oceans, and plains.

Photographer Rudi Sebastian has dedicated his photographic life to water in all its forms. For the last few years he has traveled the globe to capture every imaginable facet of this essential substance in all its liquid, gaseous, and solid forms. The result is an exquisite photographic book that presents an unprecedented spectrum of this miracle substance from a pond to the endless expanse of the Pacific, from the ice of the polar regions to the salt-encrusted lakes of the great deserts.

Taking stylistic inspiration from Monet and classical modernism, Sebastian s images ripple with texture and ever-moving colors. His waterscapes are as vivid as the substance itself, a rich tribute to the planet s life force.

Accompanying texts reveal the natural history and wonders of water on earth. This photographic journey takes us all over the truly blue planet to remind us that water is never just water but a whole universe of diversity and beauty.

Critique: "Water: A Journey Through the Element" is a beautifully produced volume of memorable images showcasing the diversity and beauty of water. A simply pleasure to browse through, this coffee-table sized (9.5 x 1.2 x 12.3 inches) compendium of full color photography is especially recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections. Indeed, "Water: A Journey Through the Element" would be an excellent Memorial Fund acquisition selection.

The Tyranny of Public Discourse
David Hirsch & Dan Van haften
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611214741, $32.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Today's public discourse typically starts with a "conclusion" and goes downhill from there. If there are talking heads, argument begins instantly and typically runs in circles. This is a dangerous path for a society that depends upon civility and virtue to survive. "The Tyranny of Public Discourse: Abraham Lincoln's Six-Element Antidote for Meaningful and Persuasive Writing" by scholars David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften addresses what is one of the most important issues of our time -- and one that is vital if our Democracy is to survive.

"The Tyranny of Public Discourse" can teach anyone how to use logic and reason to create persuasive writing. A byproduct of this is the civility that will ensue with an elevated public discourse. "The Tyranny of Public Discourse" establishes the six elements of a proposition as a verbal form of the scientific method -- something Abraham Lincoln knew and used routinely. His logic and reason is so well known that it is quoted today more than 150 years after his death. Learning the six elements and how to use them to discuss any topic at any time is not only fascinating, but fairly easy to understand and implement. "The Tyranny of Public Discourse" sets it all out, step-by-step and color coded, from beginning to end.

Critique: Featuring 21 diagrams on how to structure your logic, "The Tyranny of Public Discourse" is impressively organized and exceptionally informative study that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Tyranny of Public Discourse" is also available in a paperback edition (9781611214970, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Paul C. Turney
IDW Publishing
2765 Truxton Road, San Diego, CA 92106
9781684051878, $59.99, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: The term "screwball" was coined to describe a unique facet of American culture that appeared in newspaper comic strips. Emerging from the pressures of a rapidly accelerating technological and information-drenched society, screwball comics offered a healthy dose of laughter and perspective. The disruptive, manic, and surreal verbal-visual comedy of these "funnies" fostered an absurdist sensibility embraced by The Marx Brothers (who took their names from a popular comic strip), W. C. Fields, Tex Avery, Spike Jones, Ernie Kovacs, and Mad magazine.

In "Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny" comics scholar Paul C. Tumey traces the development of screwball as a genre in magazine cartoons and newspaper comics, presenting the work of around fifteen cartoonists, with an art-stuffed chapter on each.

"Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny" offers a wealth of previously un-reprinted comics unleashing fresh views of some of America's greatest and most-loved cartoonists, including George Herriman (Krazy Kat), E.C. Segar (creator of Popeye), Rube Goldberg (The Inventions of Professor Lucifer G. Butts, A.K.), Bill Holman (Smokey Stover), and Frederick Opper (Happy Hooligan). In addition, readers will be delighted to discover previously "lost" screwball masters, such as Gene Ahern (The Squirrel Cage), Gus Mager (Sherlocko the Monk), Boody Rogers (Sparky Watts), Milt Gross (Count Screwloose), George Swanson ($alesman $am) and others.

Critique: A delightful pleasure to browse through, "Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny" is impressively organized and presented to be both an inherently humorous read and informatively educational -- making it an ideal addition to the personal reading lists of all comics enthusiasts, as well as community, college, and university library American Popular Culture collections.

Editorial Note: Paul C. Tumey is a comic scholar, writer, and designer. He co-edited and wrote for The Art of Rube Goldberg A) Inventive B) Cartoon C) Genius (Abrams, 2014). He was a contributing editor and essayist for the Library of American Comics' King of the Comics: 100 Years of King Features, and wrote the introduction to LOAC's The Bungle Family 1930. Most recently, Tumey co-edited and introduced Foolish Questions and Other Odd Observations by Rube Goldberg (Sunday Press, 2017). He writes a column for The Comics Journal.

Jack Mason

Jen Lis' Bookshelf

All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep
Crescent Dragonwagon, author
David McPhail, illustrator
Little, Brown and Company
9780316070454, $16.59,

A little kid says he isn't sleepy at bedtime (surprise!), so his mom proceeds to tell him how the animals settle down to sleep, A to Z.

As far as alphabet bedtime books goes, I really appreciated the originality of the animals included (some less common ones making an appearance such as bison, hedgehog, mole, and vole). Also, the alliterations used for each letter and animal are really fun to read (to be fair, I love alliterations, and Cap'n Turbot for them). They also have the effect of forcing some less common vocabulary for little ones with good effect. For example, "Rabbit relaxes into restful repose dreaming of ripe red radishes". Even the title is an alliteration.

The illustrations (watercolor and ink) are calming and all depict sleepy, snuggly, animals which definitely has the desired effect as a bedtime story. The use of cursive letters mixed in with the illustrations may be somewhat confusing for a kid who is starting to recognize letters, but also makes it unique.

My 3-year-old went back and back and back to this one for a stretch, and it seems to be a strong contender for kids who love animals.

Sloth Slept On
Frann Preston Gannon
Sterling Children's Books
9781454916116, $9.48,

Three kids happen upon a sloth sleeping in their tree while playing. They don't know what he is at first, so they do some research and their imagination comes alive. The adult they check with is of minimal help, and unfortunately the kids miss some pretty clear signs that would have helped them solve their mystery.

Undaunted, they eventually successfully identify him as a sloth and try their best to help him out (with questionable, but humorous, results).

This book is a fun read and cute story. Wouldn't it be amazing to find a sloth in your tree? This is an informative read for kids as it includes some interesting facts about sloths. Added bonus of course is that the sleepy sloth is so cute. Plus, sloths are simply charming; there is something about a mammal that doesn't even have enough muscle mass to shiver to warm itself that is hard not to love.

The kids are overall resourceful in their efforts to uncover what this creature they have found is, though I do wish they would have had some more assistance from the grown-up who was too busy reading the paper to help much. My kids and I do get a good laugh out of the fact that the kids miss the "missing: sloth" signs posted on many of the pages.

Though not explicitly bedtime story, I loved that this book lends itself to an excellent transition to sleep for kids ("The End. Ok, time to make like a sloth and go to sleep."). Perfect for nap and bedtime!

Tiger Queen
Annie Sullivan
9780310768777, $17.99,

I personally know this author, but that doesn't change the fact that I loved this book!

Princess Kateri is strong, determined, and rather angry when the story opens. She has a goal, to prove herself the rightful monarch of Achra to be able to save her people from a terrible drought (and to dispatch those who are to blame for it). But when things don't go as planned, she's forced to consider help from an unlikely source.

This book was a captivating, fun, yet insightful read. I particularly liked the way Princess Kateri showed growth over the course of the story. The importance of the sand and dessert and the imagery related to these really drew me into the story and captivated my imagination. It has just the right mix of action, conversation, and introspection. The narration is perfectly descriptive - enough to help the reader paint a very clear picture in the mind without being dull in the least.

The idea that preconceived notions and biases may change when challenged (or perhaps, more accurately when we allow them to be challenged) is particularly worth noting in our world. Perhaps one of my favorite things about this book is that Princess Kateri is a strong, and believable, female hero without going overboard. As I wrapped up the book, I wished there were 100 more pages; not because it didn't give a satisfactory story and ending, but simply because I wanted to keep reading it.

There is one intense kiss and several instances of violence of which parents should be aware, but overall no major concerns for the YA/adult reader.

Let 'Er Buck: George Fletcher, the People's Champion
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, author
Gordon C. James, illustrator
Carolrhoda Books
c/o Lerner
9781512498080, $18.99,

The biography of George Fletcher is told with beautiful illustrations and excellent lessons for readers. The book traces George Fletcher's life from a young kid all the way to his famous saddle-bronc ride at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up. George Fletcher was a cowboy and stellar bronc rider who eventually made it to the National Cowboy Hall of fame. But as this biography shows, it wasn't an easy road for him and he was met with challenges of racism and bigotry - which he overcame to become "the people's champion" at that 1911 contest.

I loved this biography about a famous cow of whom I had not previously heard! I enjoyed the cowboy jargon worked into the narration ("took to their ways like a wet kitten to warm brick"; "life at home was no bushel of peaches"). This had me smiling throughout and helped pull the reader right into the setting of the story. Additionally, the story of George Fletcher's life has a wonderful message about perseverance and finding something you love and doing it. Though intended for older kids (8-12 probably target), my 5 year old did enjoy this and was captivated by the idea of cowboys and bronc riding (it may have led to a few laps around the family room on parent horseback).

The illustrations are beautiful paintings and help bring the story and its complexity to life. This is one I was happy to read over and over as requested by my kids (picking up something a little new each time I did).

Cats' Night Out
Caroline Stutson, author
Jon Klassen, illustrator
A Paula Wiseman Book
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
9781416940050, $11.98,

It's night in the city, and the cats are coming out two by two to dance the night away. Kids will hear about a slew of dance styles, and counting by twos in this absolutely charming book!

My kindergartener brought this book home as his weekly pick from his school library, and I think he hit the jackpot! I truly loved this book from the first time I read it to him. The counting nature was ok, but what I really liked was that the cats were dancing in all different styles (jazz, tap, rumba, polka, and so on). The rhyming nature makes it a fun read, and I had a fantastic time seeing what the cats were doing on each page and talking to my kids about the different dances. Admittedly, only after finishing the book and reading the front flap did I realize this is also a count by twos book - which made the counting nature much cooler and unique as well. And not only that - but apparently there is the corresponding number to the number of cats hidden on each page.

So to summarize, this is a super cute count by twos book that introduces kids to various dance steps AND has a search and find for a number on every page. I seriously loved it!

The cats are adorable (even for someone who strongly prefers dogs...) and dressed in outfits appropriate for each dance style. I did find some of the pages tough to read as there was a dark font on a dark background (apparently I'm getting old), but it doesn't stop me from wanting to read this one over and over again.

Caring for Your Lion
Tammi Sauer, author
Troy Cummings, illustrator
Sterling Children's Books
9781454916093, $16.95,

What happens when the kitty you ordered is out of stock? Well, the company decides to send you a full grown lion instead. Don't worry, this book is here to help!

This was a book we picked up at the library based on the "recommendation of the week" for my 5-year-old. I'm so glad we did, because it honestly had me and my kids laughing out loud. I even caught my husband laughing when he read it to them the first time.

The manual includes mostly practical steps for caring for a lion, with some surprising and hilarious "plan b" recommendations for when things don't go as planned.

The illustrations are bright, and I personally loved the way the lion was drawn. Additionally, the expressions on the face of the poor kid who ordered a kitty and got a lion are priceless. It's clear this kid has a can-do attitude.

Highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a good laugh.

Bring Me Back
B.A. Paris
St. Martin's Press
9781250151346, $8.49,

Ten years ago, Finn mysteriously lost the love of his life, Layla, while on vacation. But he wasn't entirely honest with the police back then. Now, Finn is engaged to Layla's sister, Ellen. Just as their marriage is approaching, it seems like the past may not be what it seems.

Bring Me Backwas a thrilling read with excellent suspense and unexpected twists. Personally, I did not find Finn to be a particularly likeable character. He seemed a bit self-absorbed and controlling. Despite this, I found myself caring about what happened to him. For the anyone who perhaps recalls the series, this book felt like a grown up version of those books. Almost like a 20 year later follow up. It was fast-paced and kept me saying "just one more chapter"! A good choice for a page-turning psychological thriller.

Jen E. Lis, Reviewer

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Double Dangerous Book for Boys
Conn Iggulden, et al.
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062857972, $22.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Parents looking to reduce their children's screen time and rediscover the great outdoors can use "The Double Dangerous Book for Boys" to fill weekend afternoons and summer days with wonder, excitement, adventure, and fun with this compendium of interesting and fun things to do from building go-carts and electromagnets, to identify insects and spiders, to flying the world's best paper airplanes.

This charming and practical instructional guide is packed from cover to cover with hundreds of full-color charts, maps, diagrams, and illustrations that will ignite the imagination and stimulate curiosity, and provide grandfathers, fathers, sons, and brothers the opportunity to deepen their familial bonds.

A simply fascinating volume of fascinating historical information, and captivating stories, "The Double Dangerous Book for Boys" also teaches such skills and information as: How to pick a padlock; Making a Flying Machine; Tying a Windsor Knot; Advice from Fighting Men; Questions About the Law; Chess Openings; Making Perfume; Maps of Historic Empires including the British, Ottomans, Genghis Khan, Persians, Medes, Babylonians, and Alexander the Great; Great Speeches; Forgotten Explorers; How to Wire a Plug and Make a Lamp; Writing a Thank You Letter; Polishing Shoes, and more!

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it unreservedly recommended for family and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Double Dangerous Book for Boys" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Ocean Sailing
Paul Heiney
Adlard Oles
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781472955395, $35.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Paul Heiney is a well-known writer and broadcaster whose ocean sailing started with a voyage to the Azores which led to his participation in the OSTAR, the singlehanded transatlantic race, in a particularly grueling year. More recently, he has completed a cruise from the UK to Cape Horn and back - a round trip of 18,000 miles of which he sailed 11,000 miles alone. His account of this trip was published in his much-acclaimed book One Wild Song (Adlard Coles). He is a member of the Ocean Cruising Club and currently Commodore of the Royal Cruising Club.

In "Ocean Sailing: The Offshore Cruising Experience with Real-life Practical Advice" Paul prepares you for an ocean passage by painting a picture of what ocean sailing is really like, through the experiences of others who have gone before. Topics covered range from safety to boat kit and preparations, budgeting to staying in touch with home, equipment breakdowns to health and weather.

Additionally, members of three great cruising clubs (the Royal Cruising Club, Ocean Cruising Club, and the Cruising Club of America) share their vast wealth of experience, and by focusing on the practicalities of ocean sailing, allay the anxieties and doubts of prospective ocean cruisers to ensure a deeply satisfying ocean voyage.

Critique: Exceptional in organization and presentation, "Ocean Sailing: The Offshore Cruising Experience with Real-life Practical Advice" is an extraordinary combination of introduction, guide, and reference for anyone aspiring to sail the open ocean. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ocean Sailing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.50).

Stories in Stone: Travels through Urban Geology
David B. Williams
University of Washington Press
PO Box 359570, Seattle, WA 98195-9570
9780295746456, $24.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Most people do not think to observe geology from the sidewalks of a major city, but all David B. Williams has to do is look at building stone in any urban center to find a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. In "Stories in Stone: Travels through Urban Geology ", Williams takes you on explorations to find 3.5-billion-year-old rock that looks like swirled pink-and-black taffy, a gas station made of petrified wood, and a Florida fort that has withstood three hundred years of attacks and hurricanes, despite being made of a stone that has the consistency of a granola bar.

Williams also weaves in the cultural history of stone, explaining why a white fossil-rich limestone from Indiana became the only building stone used in all fifty states; how in 1825, the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument led to America's first commercial railroad; and why when the same kind of marble used by Michelangelo clad a Chicago skyscraper it warped so much after nineteen years that all 44,000 panels of it had to be replaced.

"Stories in Stone" is a kind of extended love letter to building stone brings to life the geology you can see in the structures of every city.

Critique: Deftly organized and presented, impressively informative, and enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a Geologic Time Scale for Building Stones, a six page Glossary, eighteen pages of Notes, and a nine page Index, "Stories in Stone: Travels through Urban Geology" is an unique, extraordinary, and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Stories in Stone" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.70).

Roman Mythology: A Traveler's Guide from Troy to Tivoli
David Stuttard
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500252291, $24.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Through the better part of the last two thousand years, it was said that all roads lead to Rome. Rome was a melting pot of peoples from across the Mediterranean and beyond, each bringing their own myths and legends of heroes and heroines, gods and goddesses. Roman myths formed the backdrop to the rituals and customs of everyday life, from the way aristocrats dressed up for a banquet to the bloodthirsty audiences thrilled to watch criminals forced to enact the roles of mythological characters.

In "Roman Mythology: A Traveler's Guide from Troy to Tivoli", author and historian David Stuttard offers an innovative approach to the subject, taking the reader on a tour of the great sites of the ancient Roman world. Each account begins with a brief, evocative description of the location and landscape, followed by its associated myths and stories, as well as any rituals performed there in antiquity.

Drawing on the great works of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Plutarch, Ovid, Horace, and Virgil, and with commissioned maps and illustrations, as well as practical information about the sites today, "Roman Mythology" is a fresh look at a subject of great fascination.

Critique: Featuring 70 two-color illustrations, maps of sites featured in the book, an informative introduction, a useful index, and compact enough to fit in a backpack, "Roman Mythology: A Traveler's Guide from Troy to Tivoli" is an ideal reference and guide for both the armchair and experienced traveler. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Roman Mythology" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

As Long As It's Perfect
Lisa Tognola
She Writes Press
9781631526244, $16.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: To Janie Margolis, "assistant contractor" sounds like the ideal job for a mom whose role raising kids has become routine -- but her perfect plan starts to unravel when she and her husband, Wim, find themselves arguing about everything from money to masonry to man caves.

Then the economy collapses, and it's hard to surmount the reality ahead: they are about to sink their entire savings into rebuilding a new house they can't afford while trying unsuccessfully to sell the one they already own. Will Janie back herself so far into a corner that she'll find herself homeless before she finds herself a home?

From crushes on contractors to frenzied shopping expeditions to the erection of a cupola that looks a little too phallic for her upscale new neighborhood (or really any neighborhood!) Janie navigates the pitfalls of building. Along the way, she deals with a con artist kitchen designer, a construction worker and architect who fight like schoolgirls, and a tile guy who turns her shower into a pornographic work of art, all while struggling to stay out of debt and keep her marriage going.

In the end, she comes face to face with her flaws and learns that dreams can be achieved -- but the only way to authentic happiness is through truth and acceptance.

Critique: An inherently engaging and fascinating page turner of a read, "As Long As It's Perfect" showcases author Lisa Tognola's genuine flair for a deftly crafted, impressively original, and a reader compelling, intrinsically entertaining narrative storytelling style. While "As Long As It's Perfect" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

Erin Wildermuth, editor
Three Rooms Press
9781941110843, $17.00, PB, 212pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Erin Wildermuth, "Womentality: Thirteen Empowering Stories by Everyday Women Who Said Goodbye to the Workplace and Hello to Their Lives" is a collection of powerful, personal essays from enterprising women around the world who came to the same realization: work shouldn't have to be painful and demeaning. Armed with an internet connection and plenty of creativity and ingenuity, they prove that it is possible to redefine the nine-to-five work paradigm and create a flourishing career that is flexible and fulfilling outside the corporate structure.

The thirteen women (drawn from diverse countries such as Uganda, Venezuela, Poland, Palestine, and the Philippines) approach independent work in different ways, but are all motivated by the same impulses -- to escape the drudgery of office life, to have control of their time, and to enjoy the freedom of working for themselves. Importantly, many discover that (outside of the office) it is possible to triumph over global pay disparities that favor men.

"Womentality" is not about people who do not work. On the contrary, these women work hard and their stories illustrate how they overcame challenges to achieve their goals -- whether they sought freedom to travel, to spend more time with the family, escape demeaning office politics, or simply to control their career.

The essays comprising "Womentality" prove that a life of independence is not reserved for elite, American workers. It is possible for anyone. As the women who contributed to "Womentality" can attest: escaping the nine-to-five life isn't easy. It takes guts and persistence -- but it's absolutely worthwhile!

Critique: As informatively thoughtful as it is inspiring and inspirational, "Womentality: Thirteen Empowering Stories by Everyday Women Who Said Goodbye to the Workplace and Hello to Their Lives" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Women's Issues collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Womentality" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

I Know What I Am
Gina Siciliano
Fantagraphics Books
7563 Lake City Way, NE, Seattle, WA 98115
9781683962113, $29.99, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: In 17th century Rome, where women are expected to be chaste and yet are viewed as prey by powerful men, the extraordinary painter Artemisia Gentileschi fends off constant sexual advances as she works to become one of the greatest painters of her generation. Frustrated by the hypocritical social mores of her day, Gentileschi releases her anguish through her paintings and, against all odds, becomes a groundbreaking artist.

Critique: Meticulously rendered in ballpoint pen, "I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi" is a gripping and inherently fascinating graphic biography by Gina Siciliano that serves as both an art history lesson and a coming-of-age story. "I Know What I Am" showcases the true life story of a fierce female artist who stood up to a shameful social status quo. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Know What I Am" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Diamond Jewelry: 700 Years of Glory and Glamour
Diana Scarisbrick
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500021507, $80.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Diamonds have long symbolized political power and authority in Europe. "Diamond Jewelry: 700 Years of Glory and Glamour" by Diana Scarisbrick (who an art historian specializing in the history of engraved gems and jewelry) deftly explores the individuals who commissioned and wore extraordinarily precious diamond ornaments from the mid-fourteenth century to the present day.

Exquisite paintings and breathtaking photography highlight the diamonds of figures as enduring as Louis XIV of France and Queen Elizabeth I of Great Britain, as well as screen icons such as Elizabeth Taylor. From Lisbon to London and Stockholm to St. Petersburg, these figures used diamond jewelry to reinforce their power. Like royal dress, diamonds were worn to dazzle and impress?at weddings, coronations, christenings, and state visits -- and were presented as gifts, which often proved remarkably successful as instruments of diplomacy.

More than three hundred illustrations capture the changing styles of diamond jewelry that mirror the trends of the time: late Gothic naturalism, the culture of the Renaissance, Baroque splendor, Rococo elegance and the imperial grandeur of the First and Second Napoleonic Empires. "Diamond Jewelry: 700 Years of Glory and Glamour" offers a fascinating overview of one of the world's most iconic gems.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read from cover to cover, "Diamond Jewelry: 700 Years of Glory and Glamour" is an ideal Memorial Fund acquisition selection for community, college, and university library systems, and unreservedly recommended to the attention of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in this unique approach to social and cultural history.

Lover's Leap Legends: From Sappho of Lesbos to Wah-Wah-Tee of Waco
Leland Payton & Crystal Payton
Lens & Pen Press
9780967392592, $35.00, PB, 352pp

Synopsis: Stories of lovers leaping to their death is a worldwide phenomenon. In America the leaping was usually done by a love-shattered Indian woman. There are hundreds of dramatic cliffs where a "dusky maiden" is said to have plunged to her death after her father, the chief, demanded she wed an unloved brave.

Thousands of poems, stories, and newspaper accounts chronicle these dolorous events. Millions of postcards and souvenirs have been manufactured picturing the often-spectacular bluffs where those princesses leaped. Folklorists have largely ignored these legends. Understandably so - they are "fakelore" and do not resemble Indian traditions.

Mark Twain found Lover's Leaps perversely amusing, and in the pages of "Lover's Leap Legends: From Sappho of Lesbos to Wah-Wah-Tee of Waco", so do Leland and Crystal Payton.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, beautifully illustrated, impressively informative, expertly organized and presented study, "Lover's Leap Legends: From Sappho of Lesbos to Wah-Wah-Tee of Waco" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and acdemic library collections.

Julie Summers

Kacey Vanderkarr's Bookshelf

Till it Stops Beating
Hannah R. Goodman
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684330805, $16.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 225 pp,

Quirky, Unafraid, and Utterly Relatable

Hannah Goodman's Till it Stops Beating is a quirky, unvarnished look at navigating a young adult's transition from childhood to adulthood. Readers will identify with Maddie's struggle to find herself, and fall in love with her as she stumbles through heartbreak and debilitating anxiety. Full of unwavering honesty, TISB is timely and relatable, unafraid of tackling mental illness, addiction, sexuality, and grief. When the last page is turned, readers will find themselves hopeful for the future even as they reach for their box of tissues.

Kacey Vanderkarr
Reviewer & Author of YA Fiction

Katherine Kleffner's Bookshelf

The Righteous One: A Cobbler's Journey into the Dreamworld and Beyond
Series: The Cobbler's Books (Book 2)
Neil Perry Gordon
Independently Published
9781732667792, $13.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 362pp,

Following less than a year after the release of his book, A Cobbler's Tale, Neil Perry Gordon follows it with the sequel, The Righteous One: A Cobbler's Tale into the Dreamworld and Beyond. The first book had focused on the Potasznik family and surrounded them in a world of mysticism and adventure as they were pushed beyond their limits to survive. This new book Moshe Potasznik, who was just a teenager in the first book, is now a cobbler himself and past middle age. He has been called to destroy the rasha and notorious New York gangster Solomon Blass and in doing so moves between the metaphysical and the real world.

This story is an examination of one's inner life and how you can transcend the present in order to go deeper into the idea of a universal spiritual truth. Gordon focuses on giving the soul a voice by revisiting elements of the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah and also exposing a darker side of it through this spiritual adventure that delves into the past, present, and future through the battles between good and evil, Moshe and Solomon, tzaddik and rasha. Moshe must rekindle his connection to the almighty in order to remove Solomon Blass from power in New York. Blass is himself also able to use elements of the metaphysical to foresee events and allow him to advance his financial interests. As he and his son, Myron, work to control Manhattan they are also in conflict with powerful people in both the real and dream worlds. Moshe must prepare himself and train with his descendants of an ancient mystical spirit in order to be ready for the final conflict between the wily Solomon and himself.

What is interesting about The Righteous One is that it not only establishes a curious battle between two men for the sake of New York itself, but the elements of the metaphysical that are blended in feel so natural. Gordon has created a story where the idea of vivid dreams and elements of the mystical are something so normal for the main characters that you will feel completely connected to the ideas being presented. Moshe has also already dealt with some elements of the darker sides of Kabbalah and he is preparing himself as best as he can for the final fight against someone who uses his gifts in a way that harms others. As someone who enjoys a crime story the inclusion of gangsters and illegal dealings was also interesting to see spread throughout the book. Even Solomon and his son are not immune from power plays and dangerous liaisons. You can get your copy of The Righteous One today.

Katherine Kleffner, Reviewer
The Nerdy Girl Express Reviews

Katie Mitchell's Bookshelf

Million Dollar Red: A Memoir
Gleah Powers
Vine Leaves Press
9781925965209, $14.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 284pp,

Genre: Personal Memoir

Gleah Powers' captivating memoir is a tale of looking for a lost home that never really existed, in people and cities, in poverty and wealth, with unwilling lovers and unloving mothers. Million Dollar Red is her compelling story to self-hood, fearlessly illustrating every raw trauma of childhood and young adulthood with an open and honest voice.

From the first page, I felt compelled to keep reading, to find out how this jaded little girl had gotten to be that way; I needed to know what had happened to her and how she would become the woman she was destined to be.

Through the transformation of a child wary of men and change, to a near-nomad looking for meaning in the hearts of lovers and almost-loves, Powers perfectly captures the distrust of an unsettled childhood and the cynicism of feeling marooned in your own life by your mid-twenties. With her, we feel the heart break of simply wanting someone to love you in return, of wanting any kind of stability to cling to, and the kind of pain trying to make something impossible work, and how sometimes we have to learn the hard way to be our own heroes, to break down our own walls and expectations.

Anyone who has felt that special kind of homesickness for an idyllic childhood that never existed, who has had to become their own lover and protector and mother, or who knows the sting of clinging too tightly to things that were never meant to be, will find a kindred spirit in Million Dollar Red.

Katie Mitchell

Kirk Bane's Bookshelf

The Civil War on the Rio Grande, 1846-1876
Roseann Bacha-Garza, Christopher L. Miller, and Russell K. Skowronek, eds.
Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest, Number 46
Texas A&M University Press
9781623497194, $45.00, hardcover, 352 pages

"This book is about a specific era in a particular place. The era is that of the Civil War in the United States. The place is the Rio Grande Valley." So begins this welcome new anthology, ably edited by Roseann Bacha-Garza, Christopher L. Miller, and Russell K. Skowronek, all of whom are affiliated with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg.

Comprised of eleven essays, this compilation includes the work of such prominent scholars as Jerry Thompson (Regents Professor of History at Texas A&M International University in Laredo), Douglas Murphy (Chief of Operations at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park), and Mary Margaret McAllen (Director of Special Projects at the Witte Museum in San Antonio). Among the various topics discussed in this groundbreaking collection are "Race and Ethnicity Along the Antebellum Rio Grande: Emancipated Slaves and Mixed Race Colonies," "Discovering America's Forgotten War Front: The Rio Grande in the Era of the American Civil War," "Archeological Insights into the Last Battle of the Civil War: Palmito Ranch, May 12-13, 1865," and "The Black Military Experience in the Rio Grande Valley."

Readers interested in the Civil War and Borderlands studies, whether academic specialists or lay historians, should add this impressive volume to their library; it is intended as a companion to the travel guide, Blue and Gray on the Border: The Rio Grande Valley Civil War Trail, also published by Texas A&M University Press.

Dr. Kirk Bane, Reviewer
Central Texas Historical Association

Kirkus Reviews

From Millionaires to Commoners: The History of Jekyll Island State Park
Nick Doms
9781546269151, $34.99, HC, $3.99 Kindle, 502pp
9781546269168, PB, $28.99 (POD),

Poet Doms (Symbiosis, 2008, etc.), in his nonfiction debut, traces how Georgia's Jekyll Island, once a playground for the rich, was transformed into a state park. The author states early on that this book aims to rectify the fact that most histories of Jekyll Island only cover its time as an "exclusive and private club" for the wealthy, before 1942.

His book starts in 1945, when a state commission was appointed that soon selected Jekyll Island as the future site of a state park. As the chronology moves toward the present day, Doms lays out the complicated history of "Georgia's Jewel" and the "continuous battle between the state park recreational side and the resort side."

The campaign to turn the island into a public park caused a slew of problems -- from difficulties involving the toll for Jekyll Creek Bridge to possible governmental corruption. Doms also highlights race-related issues related to the construction of the Jekyll Island infrastructure; African-American prisoners provided most of the labor, and individual construction sites were segregated by race.

The book continues its account up to 2015, when new renovations were still taking place on the island. Overall, Doms successfully illustrates the idyllic island's heavy history. Nevertheless, the author makes his affection for the location clear as well as his high hopes for the island's future.

This is a very thorough account of the island's later years, but readers who are unfamiliar with its earlier "Millionaires Club" era may find themselves at a disadvantage. Indeed, the intended audience for this book isn't very clear; the prose style is a bit dry for a general audience, dwelling on numbers and finer details, but the book doesn't read as traditionally academic, either. Also, some facts about general Georgian history, such as its governors' political stances, are uncited.

A detailed but confusingly constructed history.

Go Ahead!: Unleash a Contagious Customer Success Culture
Barry S. Farah
9781728313115, $18.95, HC, $8.95 Kindle
9781728311975, $13.99, PB, 172pp,

An aggressively proactive approach to finding loyal customers for one's business.

In this business guide, Farah (The Magic Wand, 2017, etc.) entrepreneur, speaker, and consultant Barry S. Farah makes a clear distinction between customer service and "customer success."

The former, he says, is by its very nature "reactionary" or "defensive," as it requires waiting for problems to emerge before one can attempt to fix them. By contrast, customer success anticipates customers' needs before they do, and dives into customer data to divine their values. This "mindset," Farah says, is more creative than reactive.

In this sequel to an earlier guide, the author limns, in admirably accessible language, the elements of customer success and describes how to cultivate it. The book covers a broad spectrum of issues with great concision, including hiring customer-service providers, training personnel, and approaching sales and negotiations to create a customer-friendly business.

The most original component of Farah's instructional manual is his discussion of different kinds of customers, how to grade them, and how to focus one's business on people who are most easily satisfied. Furthermore, the author discusses how to establish a "customer success philosophy," including basic ethical commitments.

The author speaks confidently from academic and entrepreneurial experience, and consistently communicates his message in accessible prose that's never bogged down by gratuitous jargon. Some of his counsel, though, is so conventional one wonders why it's included; the importance of integrity and innovation will hardly be news to readers, for instance. However, there are immediately actionable tips here that should interest all managers -- especially those with the power to hire and fire.

A sensible guide that's brimming with practical advice.

Kirkus Reviews

Lauren Woods' Bookshelf

Letters from Inside
Mike Maggio
Vine Leaves Press
9781925965223, $14.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 296pp,

In Mike Maggio's new collection of short stories, Letters from Inside, bizarre things happen to ordinary people. "M," while crossing Washington's Key Bridge, finds himself unwittingly at the center of a scandal that sweeps the city. Mr. Maxwell, a civil servant who wants nothing more than his pension, finds himself stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare. Then there is Dr. Pierce, a simple professor, who finds himself on the wrong end of a wave of fundamentalist fervor.

Maggio's stories, a collection written over three decades, are in turn odd, trippy, disturbing, funny. There is a talking fish, a sentient flower, a roach-to-human transformation, and one from man to a pig. Maggio not only transgresses the laws of nature. He obliterates them completely. But it's all for a larger purpose: to illustrate our society, and its systems, are corrupt. These stories often contain a dystopian twist-proof that dystopian fiction, unfortunately, has a long shelf life.

Sometimes Maggio's critique of societal systems is broad and sweeping as he tackles a deeply authoritarian society. Sometimes it targets specifics, like religious fervor run amok, or no one looking after the children in society, or a failed health care system.

The stories are compelling because somehow, the more bizarre they are, the more they illustrate something fundamentally wrong about the world we live in. Who could fail to appreciate, after all, the darkly funny symbolism of a man with swine flu, who unable to afford insurance, is treated as an animal and eventually becomes more animalistic as the story progresses?

Maggio's stories range from the downright disturbing, like "The Keepers," and "Beasts" - stories so unnerving they won't fully leave my mind - to the rare heartwarming one, placed conspicuously near the most disturbing ones, as if to give the reader a little respite.

But as unsettling as the stories are at times, Maggio never disturbs for the sake of disturbing the reader. There is always a deeper reason. His stories, nearly all political in some regard, function as a mirror to our society. They disturb because we ought to be disturbed if we aren't already.

There are nods to Kafka woven throughout, from the man known only as "M," with his own modern-day absurd fate, to Metamorphosis II, an uncomfortably close connection between a roach and a candidate for Senate - which tells you everything you need to know about Maggio's feelings about those who create the systems the rest of us have to inhabit.

As with Kafka, at times, the bizarre situations can loom larger than the characters at the center of them, leaving the characters a little underdeveloped by comparison. But for the most part, Maggio's characters are complex and compelling - particularly the characters in his stories who inhabit the grayest areas of their ethical conflicts.

There are few fully evil villains throughout these stories. There are some, but the worst of them, the majority in fact, are complex everyday people - most horrifying because they feel like real people - the sanctimonious religious fanatics who lead a charge against a local professor, the prison warden who gives a kind smile and then looks the other way. These, even more than the supernatural beasts that inhabit some of the stories, disturb us. Perhaps it's because these ordinary villains are all products of corrupt systems. It's safe to say that this concept rises to an obsession in these stories, which is what makes the stories so compelling.

Maggio's stories rarely spell it out though. He makes the reader work. Maggio rarely underestimates his audience. He expects the reader to figure it out on their own, or at least to come along for the ride if they don't fully - and I didn't always - get it. But the ones I did get, I enjoyed all the more for having figured it out myself.

As the stories progress, the real and surreal start to blend together. Are the characters living in reality, or simply paranoid? At times, it's difficult to tell. Is Caspar Crump truly hearing his name over and over from successive strangers, or is it his own unreliable mind at work? It seems Maggio is fascinated with the area between paranoia and a simply bizarre world.

I would have liked to see a little more variety in the women who inhabit Maggio's pages. There are some stronger female characters, especially the woman at the heart of "Underneath the Griffin Tree." But more often than not, the faceless bureaucrats who inhabit the pages are men, the heroes struggling against the system are men, and women often appear as jilted or wrongheaded wives, rarely having agency.

Although most of his stories focus on the larger systems, Maggio's stories also delve into the deeply personal. One of my favorite stories - and it was difficult to choose - was "Atalier," which involves an artist who seems to take the very identity away of his lover after he captures her in canvas after canvas, until he has finally exhausted his desire to capture her likeness.

Never afraid to take risks, never afraid to use his subjects to the utmost as the instruments of his genius, Collin Spears strips her bare, Catherine Whittaker, innocent country girl, goes to the very heart of her, transforms her into lines and colors, planes and shapes until the canvas becomes her - that spot a tear, that angle a heartbreak, that splash of red a deep deep passion that longs to rise up. Until Catherine Whittaker becomes the canvas, her body capsulized into the two-dimensional space, her personality deconstructed, interpreted, transformed, her soul diffused into light and shadow.

Here, as elsewhere, Maggio captures so well, and richly, the cruelties that people can inflict against one another.

Lauren Woods, Reviewer

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Barbie Forever
Robin Gerber
Epic Ink
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9780760365779, $40.00, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: Since her debut in 1959, Barbie has been breaking boundaries and highlighting major moments in art, fashion, and culture. She has been an interpreter of taste and style in every historic period she has lived through and has reflected female empowerment through the more than 200 careers she has embodied. Today, an international icon, Barbie continues to spark imaginations and influence conversations around the world.

"Barbie Forever: Her Inspiration, History, and Legacy" by Robin Gerber presents a detailed, fully authorized portrait of this beloved doll through all-new interviews, original sketches, vintage photos, advertisements, and much more. A double-sided foldout timeline showcases important moments in Barbie history. "Barbie Forever" also explores how the doll came to be, what it takes to create one of her many looks, and how her legacy continues to influence the world.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "Barbie Forever: Her Inspiration, History, and Legacy" is a 'must' for the personal reading lists of all Barbie doll fans and will prove to be a uniquely and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections.

Organic Ministry to Women
Sue Edwards & Kelley Mathews
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825446153, $19.99, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: With Millennial and Generation Z women coming of age in our churches and society, new approaches to women's ministry are required to meet their distinct needs. Drawing on decades of experience ministering to women, in "Organic Ministry to Women: A Guide to Transformational Ministry with Next-Generation Women" authors Sue Edwards and Kelley Mathews explain how their Transformation Model can energize women's ministry for all generations and in multiple settings. Individual chapters are devoted to applying the Model, which is centered on Scripture and building relationships, to ministry in the local church, the college campus, and cross-culturally in missions.

"Organic Ministry to Women" is packed with practical advice and real-life illustrations of how to implement the principles of the Transformation Model. Edwards and Mathews also profile numerous leading women's ministers like Jen Wilkin, Priscilla Shirer, and Jackie Hill-Perry, drawing wisdom and inspiration from their lives and ministries. Helpful appendixes provide additional resources including sample job descriptions for ministry leaders, a Bible study lesson, and a training guide for small group leaders.

A revised and expanded version of 'New Doors in Ministry to Women', this updated edition takes into account the latest cultural and ministry trends and is an invaluable resource for current and future leaders in ministry to women.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, impressively informative, "Organic Ministry to Women: A Guide to Transformational Ministry with Next-Generation Women" is inspired and inspiring reading and unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of all dedicated Christians, as well as ministerial, church, and seminary library collections.

Editorial Note: Kelley Mathews (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) is a freelance writer and editor. A former women's ministry leader, she is the coauthor of Women's Retreats and New Doors in Ministry to Women.

Sue Edwards (MA, Dallas Theological Seminary; D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is associate professor of educational ministry and leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has more than twenty-five years of experience teaching, pastoring, and directing women's ministries. In addition, Sue speaks at retreats, conferences, and seminars across the country, and is author of the Discover Together Bible Study Series.

Acts of Kindness: 101 Ways to Make the World a Better Place
Rhonda Sciortino
Hatherleigh Press
c/o The Hatherleigh Foundation
62545 State Highway 10, Hobart, NY 13788
9781578268153, $12.50, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: Through the simplest act of kindness, all of our lives are improved. Genuine human sentiment is best expressed through helping others, in ways big and small. It enables us to rely on one another for strength and happiness. But in the confusion and chaos of the modern world, even small acts of kindness are often overlooked and ignored. "Acts of Kindness: 101 Ways to Make the World a Better Place" by Rhonda Sciortino shines a spotlight on the best that humanity has to offer -- one good deed at a time.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Acts of Kindness: 101 Ways to Make the World a Better Place" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Acts of Kindness" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Rhonda Sciortino is an author, motivational speaker and coach for authentic success. She overcame abuse, homelessness, and poverty to become a successful entrepreneur, spokeswoman, and advocate for abused children. She currently serves as the chair for the Successful Survivors Foundation, an organization created to help survivors of adversity to create personal and professional success. Additional information is available at her web site at

What the Oceans Remember
Sonja Boon
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
9781771124232, $27.99, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: Sonja Boon's heritage is complicated. Although she has lived in Canada for more than thirty years, she was born in the UK to a Surinamese mother and a Dutch father. Boon's family history spans five continents: Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and North America. Despite her complex and multi-layered background, she has often omitted her full heritage, replying "I'm Dutch-Canadian" to anyone who asks about her identity.

An invitation to join a family tree project inspired a journey to the heart of the histories that have shaped her identity. It was an opportunity to answer the two questions that have dogged her over the years: Where does she belong? And who does she belong to?

Boon's archival research (in Suriname, the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada) brings her opportunities to reflect on the possibilities and limitations of the archives themselves, the tangliness of oceanic migration, histories, the meaning of legacy, music, love, freedom, memory, ruin, and imagination. Ultimately, she reflected on the relevance of our past to understanding our present.

Deeply informed by archival research and current scholarship, but written as a reflective and intimate memoir, "What the Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home" addresses current issues in migration, identity, belonging, and history through an interrogation of race, ethnicity, gender, archives and memory. More importantly, it addresses the relevance of our past to understanding our present. Simply stated, "What the Oceans Remember" shows the multiplicity of identities and origins that can shape the way we understand our histories and our own selves.

Critique: An inherently absorbing and intrinsically fascinating read from first page to last, "What the Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home" is an extraordinary story and one that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections. Deftly written, "What the Oceans Remember" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a sixteen page Bibliography, twenty-two pages of Notes, and an eight page Index. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "What the Oceans Remember" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Margaret Lane

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

First You Write a Sentence.
Joe Moran
Penguin Books
Penguin/Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780143134343, $16.00, Paperback, 210 Pages

I read many books on writing that explore how to structure a novel, the development of character, and techniques to raise tension and drama - all in the interest of keeping a reader turning the page well past her bedtime.

These books are usually worthwhile, reminding me of things I've forgotten and keep me on my writing toes. But only a few of them tell me much I haven't heard before. It's rare when I come across a book that makes me rethink every single sentence I have ever written.

That's the point of Joe Moran's book, First You Write a Sentence.

Both a manual of style and history of writing conventions, Moran's tidy volume comprises short - six to ten paragraphs each - essays that explore the world contained within sentences, from what a sentence is to what it does to how it works.

Moran worries little about "rules" peddled by the pedants, overzealous editors, and high-school English teachers - never end a sentence with a preposition, never use a "to be" verb, never use the passive voice, avoid words that end in "ing," never start a sentence with the words "and" or "but." What's important, he writes, is to care about what we write. "The purest form of love is just caring ... if only for a moment. ... Give your sentences that courtesy, and they will repay you." Readers won't get lost in them.

His advice is dense and useful. Put the strongest phrases, images and words at the end of the sentence where they will carry the most weight. Use the passive voice if what happens to someone or who it happens to is more important than who did it, but avoid the "euphemistic stonewalling" of bureaucratic and managerial writing. Strive to use compound rather than complex sentences, and when you do write complex sentences, opt for free modifiers over relative clauses. (And if you don't know what those are, read his book!) He makes a strong argument for words derived from Old English over those of Latin derivation; they generally have fewer "uh" (aka schwa) sounding syllables and stronger vowels. For that well-argued reason, he prefers the Tyndale Bible over the King James version.

I learned much from this short book - especially that didn't know much about what makes good writing good. I was tempted to take notes. I found that I couldn't read it at the end of the day because I was anxious to use his advice immediately, and I can't write at night. What I appreciated most was Moran's subtle sense of humor. Among dozens of examples I could share, he ends a short dissertation on the overuse of the word "of" with this: "They are the worst of both worlds." Of course.

Our Dogs, Ourselves
Alexandra Horowitz
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York 10020
9781501175008, $28.00, Hardcover, $14.99, Kindle, 311 Pages

I'm obsessed with dogs. Can't pass one on the street without talking to it, and if allowed, giving it a scratch behind the ears. I dream about my past dogs (I count 10 who have lived with me in either childhood or adulthood), and I dream about my next one (husband not yet convinced).

So of course, I looked forward to reading Alexandra Horowitz's new book, Our Dogs, Ourselves. My choice wasn't so much about wanting to learn something new about dogs, but more about wanting to immerse myself in dog-dom again. So, I wasn't disappointed to find not much new here - it is still a great read. The dog topics she explores--ranging from what we name our dogs to what we buy them, from how we coddle them to how we mistreat them - provide a broad look at our relationship with dogs and what our choices in dogs says about who we are. A short interlude on the things she's overheard people say to their dogs will not only ring bells with previous- and current-dog owners; it's also hilarious: "Go get the ball! Get the ball! Get the ... Okay. I'll get it." I didn't know she heard me!

As Senior Research Fellow and head of the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College/Columbia University, Horowitz explores our understanding of the emotional life of dogs, reaching an academically balanced conclusion that we know dogs have emotions and feelings; we just can't be sure of what they are. Those Facebook photos of dogs with signs around their necks describing their misdeeds are probably not ashamed, as their owners are alleging. Probably they just know they're in trouble.

Frequently humorous, sometimes deadly (even painfully) serious, Horowitz holds her readers' respect by interspersing her personal, dog-loving observations with her scientific research. She doesn't pull punches in detailing the crimes we've committed against our "best friends" - either through research that ignores a dog's experience of pain, and need for movement and socialization, or through the breeding of pure-bred dogs to standards that are unhealthy and even cruel.

She minces no words in describing the dysfunctional in-bred noses, skin and eyes of the AKC-approved English bulldog, the fifth-most-popular breed registered in America. American Airlines won't allow the dog to fly as luggage due to the likelihood it will suffocate, she writes. She quotes another researcher: "People don't think, 'I want to get a dog with eye problems who can hardly breathe.' They probably think, 'This type of dog is cute!'" Think of Danny, a tongue-curling, bug-eyed Pekingese in the show ring at Crufts, England, in 2003, whose breathing was so restricted by its purposely bred brachycelphalic (short-nose) face he had to be put on ice while in the ring. Nonetheless, he won best of show that year. She draws an interesting philosophical connection between the elitist and dangerous attitudes of early do- breeding enthusiasts, and the "racial purity" interests of mid-19th century phrenologists and ethnic bigots.

Meanwhile, the healthy "hybrid-vigor" of a cross-bred mutt has been devalued and denigrated since the mid-1800s when dog breeding gained status. A Dog Owners' Annual declared in 1890 that such mongrels worth is "just a trifle less than the price of the rope you would purchase to hang him." As the owner of 10 certifiably mixed mutts, I and every other dog lover in the world - even those who have opted for pure breeds - recognize the emotional viciousness and misplaced values of such a statement. As her discussion of where our dogs sleep (on our beds) and the things we buy for our dogs indicates, most of us know better. Much, much better.

The Secrets We Kept
Lara Prescott
Penguin/Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780525656159, $26.95, Hardcover, $13.99, Kindle, 344 Pages

This book - this story - held so much promise. Female spies in the Cold War? Doctor Zhivago? OSS, CIA, M16, the KGB? How could it miss? The tension must be incredible. The near-death experiences, the intrigue, the stakes, the sex, the double agents ...

We could only wish. Unfortunately, other than some rare, brief, and largely under-explored escapades, Prescott's tale is not satisfying. The story drags, the characters whine and moan, and the lesbian love story is boring. No one rises to the occasion. There's no bravery or genius at work. I kept waiting for something exciting to happen, but when it comes to espionage, not much does.

A bit of plot: The story revolves around the publication of the novel Doctor Zhivago and the CIA's efforts to disseminate the book in the USSR as a strategy to undermine support for the Communist regime. If that plot had in some way intersected with the romantic story of the novel - between two women from the typing pool - perhaps the romance would have seemed important. Maybe even interesting. Instead, it is only a weak subplot that distracts and waters down the main plot and takes up far too much space. Far more interesting is the love affair between Boris Pasternak and his mistress Olga, which the author treats as another subplot. Olga is the most sympathetic and pathetic character here, serving time in the gulag to pay for Boris's treason, and yet even her acts of bravery are blandly portrayed, evoking neither anticipation nor tension. Plenty of evil is suggested in the story - especially in distant, unseen Russian censors - but other than one rape scene and Olga's imprisonments, the evil has no sharp edges.

All of this was even more disappointing because the prologue, told by an unnamed narrator who uses the collective first-person to describe life in the CIA typing pool, set my expectations high. "Was clerical work what we had in mind when opening the fat manila envelopes containing our college acceptance letters? Or where we thought we'd be headed as we sat in those white wooden chairs on the fifty-yard line, capped and gowned, receiving the rolled parchments that promised we were qualified to do so much more." ... "...but many of us believed it would be a first rung toward achieving what the men got right out of college: positions as officers; our own offices with lamps that gave off a flattering light, plush rugs, wooden desks; our own typists taking down our dictation. We thought of it as a beginning, not an end, despite what we'd been told all our lives."

Wow, I thought. Let's go there! Let's see what happens when women push these barriers aside and live up to their potential in an exciting tale of espionage. Alas, this typing-pool narrator has no insight into either the two love affairs or the intrigue around the dissemination of the book. The narrator is superfluous in this novel; perhaps it could be a start of a more interesting, if less ambitious story.

I do commend the author's deft use of various points of view, from the collective "we" to several third-person voices to three first-person "I" narrators. This wide-angle approach provided a breadth that, if only plumbed more deeply, could have increased the intrigue that the setting and time portend.

Inland: A Novel
Tea Obreht
Random House
Penguin/Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780812992861, $27.00, Hardcover, $13.99, Kindle, 370 Pages

In 1979, a young man from South Africa came to the University of Wisconsin to join the graduate program in journalism as a teaching assistant; I was paying my way to my MA as a TA as well. I remember Guy for two reasons: he was the only man I ever knew who wore Jordache jeans, and he once bragged that, despite being a native Afrikaans speaker, he had a bigger English vocabulary than the rest of us. I doubted his boast at first, but over the year we were in the program together, I came to believe he was right.

Reading Inland provided an object lesson in the same vein. Despite being a Serbian by birth, a native of the former Yugoslavia, Tea Obreht has a very big English vocabulary and frequently uses words in contexts that at first appear to be wrong, but invariably turn out to be right - perhaps third or fourth dictionary meanings of the words, but correct nonetheless. That combined with her also invariably correct but unconventional syntax makes this book an interesting, but not smooth read.

Inland combines historical fiction, the Western, and magical realism to tell two stories - one based on true events and one a composite story of the settling of the arid West - from two protagonists, both haunted by voices of the dead. Nora's tale is told in a one-day third-person account of a woman who homesteads with her husband outside an old mining town somewhere between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1893. The decades-long first-person account is from Lurie, a (perhaps) Turkish immigrant and former outlaw who joins the U.S. Army's deployment of camels in the desert West sometime in the late 1850s, told as his one-sided conversation with a camel he names Burke. The camel story is the one based on real historical events.

Nora's newspaperman husband has disappeared while travelling to find the water delivery man during a particularly brutal drought, and eventually her two teenage sons also disappear, leaving her with a strange and supposedly clairvoyant niece and a young son who is blind in one eye. Lurie bonds with and eventually steals his camel from the Army and spends the rest of his life wandering the West with no claim to residency.

The book has been praised for testing - even poking fun at - the conventional mythology of the settling of the U.S. West. The platonic love affair between Lurie and his camel is a sweet, if tongue-in-cheek reference to the love between a cowboy and his horse. Nora's realization that the qualities that enable her to survive in the brutal Arizona desert aren't ones that draw admiration from anyone around her, not her neighbors, not the law, not the doctor - not even her husband. It's the myth of the revered, strong homesteading woman tossed in an arroyo.

Even though her unique and "poetic" style has been described as "chewy" and "impenetrable," most critics have waxed enthusiastically over the story - so much so that it even popped up on Obama's reading list this summer. Despite its pokes at convention and sometimes lyrical - if "chewy" - writing, at its conclusion, I believe Obreht leaves too many loose ends wafting in the hot, Arizona wind. Enough to make this difficult read an unsatisfactory one.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Melrose Books' Bookshelf

360 degrees Michaelmas
Roger GaRhett Burdette
Independently Published
9781793423993, $9.86 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 388pp,

360 degrees Michaelmas is a little strange, but don't be put off! Similar successful writings in this genre sound weird on the surface of it, but this is different, much different.

It is one of those books that is open to interpretation, while being easy enough to follow the plot. I love books that make you think and wonder exactly what is and was going on. Without interpretation you have no vision, no meaning. 360 degrees Michaelmas makes you question back along the path of the story as you begin as you begin to realise that little breadcrumbs are scattered throughout. This would benefit from a second or third read, the way a great film needs multiple viewings to see all the hidden details. I enjoyed this.

We open with a chap named Cliffton Breeze, waking up with a hangover in a filthy apartment. Cliffton recalls breaking up with his fiancee the night before, a diamond ring perching dismally on a leftover piece of pizza. Cliffton is a student, just taking his finals. He's quite a philosophical sort, seeing the modern day filled with headlines and social media. It appears quite a pessimistic view, one depicting the dissolution of intellect and humanity. He fills conversations with his thoughts on the neoteric world and the human condition of the digital age.

It's spooky, but Cliff keeps running into strangers that seem to get cross with him for different reasons, often speaking in strange different languages that no else but he can hear. In addition something keeps hitting him on the butt, but no one can see anything. Going off on vacation for a few days, he meets a gorgeous lady bartender in his hotel. She appears to sneak into his room and the pair have terrific sex, starting a whirlwind romance. Out on a date the next day, Cliffton is feeling on top of the world, until a car crash that appears to kill them both. His new girl taking on a horrid form before she dies. And then he wakes up as a child in the 60's in Scotland, named Walter Flannigan. Walter is only a young lad, and he's off to what seems to be a military school called Flaxden Brig. He meets some other lads there and they eventually reveal that they too arrived at the school after waking up without memory of how.

The main story of the work revolves around the friends as they endure a strict school life, with the added mysterious elements of the plot work in. There are bullies and girls, canings on the bottom and games of rugby and outdoor pursuits but they keep finding mysterious writings around coinciding with the music 'Blue Danube' playing randomly around them. They find a small disc that helps them transcribe the writings, with help from a character called Hairy Dan, which seems to point them in unusual directions. They sneak out and often, following the path laid down as they uncover more and more. Things get even stranger when Flannigan develops a strange mark on his rump in exactly the same place that Cliffton kept getting hit. On a trip home, he rides an old horse and is thrown off, hitting his head. He has brief flashbacks of the car accident. Disappearing Wigwams and unusual mishaps pace the plot with mystery after mystery. Towards the end of the work they uncover a plot to kidnap a Prince who is visiting Flaxden Brig. They manage to foil it after following the clues and developing as young men, in character and strength. At the end, Dochan Do, a Master at the Brig, speaks strange words that transport Flannigan back to his life as Cliffton, the morning the book started, hangover, pizza, abandoned by his fiancee. He does however have 1960's money in his pocket. Coincidently the page count is 360.

There is an abundance of symbolism, metaphor and allegory in this work. I think that after several reads you'd still be finding little bits carefully but innocuously, included by the author. They are like little gems, and as you come across them, you start to link between Cliffton and Flannigan's worlds. Are they the same person? What of the mysterious powers that dragged him and his buddies to 60's Scotland? Who is Dochan Do? The more you think about it, the more masterful the approach seems. There's a magic with mystery and adventure here and it's near perfect for young adults. Like I said, the interpretive quality is excellent. The plot is twisty, yes, but it is quite easy to follow. It manages to vacillate between 'Hogwarts' style boys will be boys behaviour and a true cerebral read that challenges our place and development in the modern world. The school sections bring back memories for the reader, as well as making us ponder the time between our childhood and development into adults.

Cliffton meets a new bartender at the end of this book, and I'm wondering which rabbit hole he will fall down next. Leaving the door open is always recommended. Additionally this does need a minor polish but not much. After that, I think you'd have an excellent book for young adults, 18+, (If that is the market, which I suspect it is, then sex scene may need to be toned down a little!).

360 degrees Michaelmas has it all in the right measures, action, adventure, spirituality, development, achievement, mystery and humour. I am pleased, happy and thrilled to recommend 360 degrees Michaelmas for publication.

Melrose Books

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Risk: Living on the Edge
Michael E. Tennenbaum & Donna Beech
9781948122436, $34.99, HC, 360pp,

Synopsis: Risk-taker Michael E. Tennenbaum has contributed mightily to American financial institutions, business, and society. A financier, adventurer, and philanthropist, "RISK: Living on the Edge" is his debut as an author and a work in which he delivers intriguing insider details on how "impossible" deals are completed, along with an inspiring guide to applying risk-taking successfully to your business and personal life.

Tennenbaum takes us behind the scenes at Bear Stearns, illuminating the end of that great American success story as never before disclosed. He imparts insights from investment banking, risk arbitrage, and options; how he employed risk to achieve competitive advantage after leaving Bear Stearns and starting his own firms; the inner machinations of his high-stakes deals; and the backstory to innovations he created.

A daredevil who feeds sharks and swims with humpback whales, who has lifted off from an aircraft carrier, descended in a nuclear submarine, trained with the Navy SEALs, and taken the Olympic bobsled run in Innsbruck, and driven an elephant in the Mekong River, Tennenbaum describes his theory of risk as the compelling force of some people's lives, and the trait that drives visionary pioneers toward their unending accomplishments.

He shares strategies on applying boldness and challenging the status quo to seize opportunities, face struggles that pay off, manage mistakes, and give back to one's community. Reading "RISK", you get to walk in the shoes of an unpredictable, very successful self-made man who follows his own path. Applying personal tales of pushing limits and his experiences with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard Business School, and the Joffrey Ballet, among other firms and cultural institutions, he demonstrates how to reach greater heights of performance, achievement, and contentment.

"RISK" is a fascinating look at financial industry management, non-profits and how to help them grow, civic projects and how to combat inertia, and one man's craving to move the needle of social progress.

Critique: An impressively informative, deftly written, and detailed account that will be of immense interest to anyone concerned with or curious about how highrollers operate in the world of high finance and world wide security markets, when seeking out propositions that offer maximum returns for those who are willing to take extraordinary chances in life and what life offers. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "RISK" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

The Erlau Playbook
Stephen K. Wright, translator
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985666, $60.00, HC, 186pp,

Synopsis: The five German plays now known as the Erlau Plays (Erlauer Spiele) were originally written and performed in or near the Austrian town of Gmund in the early fifteenth century. An anonymous redactor later compiled the extant collection that consists of The Play at the Cradle of Christ, The Three Magi, The Visit to the Sepulcher, Mary Magdalene in Joy, and The Jews at the Lord's Sepulcher. In addition to being noteworthy artistic achievements in their own right, these pieces provide a vivid glimpse at the wide range of poetic, musical, and theatrical techniques available to their creators.

In these remarkable examples of medieval urban theater, the central events of Christian salvation history play out against the noisy, violent, venal, and often obscene backdrop of everyday life in a fifteenth-century marketplace. The plays demonstrate that the unlikely synthesis of devout piety, absurd humor, grotesque violence, scathing satire, profane sexuality, visual splendor, and musical sophistication (all of which are so characteristic of early German religious drama) is still capable of moving contemporary readers to laughter, empathy, and moral introspection.

A substantial introduction and extensive notes by Stephen K. Wright (Professor Emeritus of English, Catholic University of America) contextualize all five plays and elucidate their dramatic analogues, production values, and textual, musical, liturgical, and iconographic sources.

Critique: A work of meticulous scholarship and one which is especially well organized and presented, "The Erlau Playbook: Five Medieval German Dramas for Christmas and Easter" is unreservedly and especially recommended for college and university library Medieval/Renaissance Studies collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists.

Michael J. Carson

Molly Martin's Bookshelf

First Day Jitters
Julie Danneberg, author
Judith Dufour Love, Illustrator
Charlesbridge Publishing
9781580890618, $7.95, Paperback, 32 pages

Julie Danneberg's - First Day Jitters narrative begins as we see Mr. Hartwell poking his head through the bedroom doorway, "You don't want to miss the first day at your new school, do you?"

Sarah Jane tugged the covers up over her head. Actually, she does not want to begin all over again, and, she hates the new school.

Mr. Hartwell was rather convinced Sarah would like her brand-new school. She did like her last one, and there were going to be lots of new friends to meet. That was the problem, Sarah doesn't know anyone at the new school yet, besides it is going to be really difficult, and she just dislikes it.

Sarah did want to remain in her bed with the covers pulled up over her head. Mr. Hartwell tried to reassure Sarah that everything was going to be okay. Sarah was not swayed. Time was passing. Mr. Hartwell lay down the law; five minutes and Sarah was to be downstairs.

Into her clothes, a hasty breakfast and into the car; Sarah's hands were damp, she couldn't breathe. Too soon Sarah and Mr. Hartwell arrived at the new school. Students seemed to be everywhere.

The principal, Mrs. Burton, rushed to the car to say hello.

And, too soon it seemed; it was hurrying down the corridor to the classroom. The principal said, 'everyone is nervous on the first day.'

Every eye was fixed on Mrs. Burton and Sarah as the principal introduced Sarah Jane Hartwell.

Author Julie Danneberg along with illustrator Judy Love have crafted a very enjoyable book for teacher reading to Primary age students on the first day of the brand new school term.

The surprise ending never fails to trigger gales of laughter from anxious Little Learners.

As I found from my earliest days of teaching; Osage County First Grade too enjoys listening to books read to them, and, they like reading books for themselves during their daily DEAR reading time.

I found First Day Jitters to be a child pleasing narrative. The book is often chosen for personal reading all through the school term. I never found a reason to reserve the book only for reading on the first day of school.

Illustrations set down by artist Judy Love are wonderful for the tale.

Sarah Jane, her gorgeous cat and goofy dog along with Mr. Hartwell are all depicted in splendid detail and color. The unending silent dispute between the cat and the dog add so much to the graphic enjoyment of the book.

As Sarah Jane and Mr. Hartwell debate whether or not Sarah is going to get up and get going; the dog and cat are involved in their own disagreement punctuated with yanks at the covers by the dog and glowers from the sharp clawed cat.

The pen and watercolor graphics include Illustrator Love's keenly comprehensive depictions of jubilant, distinctive faces having diverse personalities and are filled with movement and activity. Illustrations convincingly seizing the moment; sustain a carefree quality ideal for the text.

The entertaining subplot described in the illustrations showing the unrest carried out between the family pets and their contest of wills while their owners thrash out whether or not Sarah Jane is actually going to get out of bed and get ready for the first day of school.

The unexpected ending, as well as the joke it presents are perfect and serve to calm and reassure Little Learners that they are not alone in their trepidation regarding new circumstances including the first day of the new school term.

Happy to recommend 'First Day Jitters' for teachers of Little Learners, for children facing first day school, for gifting a special Little Learner who may be entering a new school environment, for special grandchild or niece or nephew. Julie Danneberg's First Grade Jitters is a nifty addition to the classroom and school picture book shelf, for gifting the new class as well as for placement in the public library.

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals
Ed Emberley
9780316234757, $6.99, Paperback, 32 pages

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals: By using the simplest of lines, letters and shapes Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals: Learn to Draw the Ed Emberley Way delivers bit by bit coaching for producing a menagerie of assorted animals - from bats, birds, chickens and frogs and lions to and an elephant, tadpoles, gorillas, giraffes, dogs and cats as well as porcupines, raccoons, wolves, lions, and tigers and lastly a delightful green dragon.

From the first day of usage I have found it to be super book for use with children as a tool to increase their attention and focus while building confidence in drawing.

Images re-created from the first page of the book through the last critter produced; all look like the animal the kids are trying to draw.

Ed Emberley has a delightfully basic methodology for teaching children, as well as artistically deficient adults such as myself, regarding how to produce simple, nonetheless identifiable, sketches of animals. Little Learners and I are able to use Emberley's straightforward directions and produce drawings that actually do appear as the chickens or owl, or dog we set out to generate.

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals instruct children and others how to begin seeing objects including animals as geometric shapes and how to generate identifiable animals by putting together basic geometric shapes including circles, squares, triangles, and so forth by using easy to follow directions.

Step-by-step, along with a variety of lines, dots or shapes are combined into a fi;nal creation. at each step, there is a specific instruction such as add two curved lines or make a circle, color it red.

Directions are presented by showing a illustration of the item to be added to the work in progress as well as a sample of the finished work.

Emberley's idea for drawing is basic; nearly anything can be created by means of using geometric shapes, scribbles, or letters and numbers. Starting on the first page with a single dot - an ant and finishing on the last with a ferocious dragon, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals shepherds children to generating a gratifying diversity of critters.

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals is the first Emberley tome I bought way-back-when, while I was still teaching in California. The K - 1 classes I taught back then loved the book, and enjoyed enormous fun, and pride, while creating critters everyone recognized. My present first graders show no less eagerness as we create lions and frogs, bats and gorillas.

I use the book not only to guide kids into making discernible drawings, but to also increase their capacity for paying attention, listening with understanding and concentrating upon how and what we are doing.

Because I do not tell the class what we will draw, rather I model each line, shape and stroke on my piece of paper pinned to the chart stand; the kids must really watch to see what it is that I am doing, what to add, where to add, etc., and then follow along, adding a squiggle here and a triangle there.

I enjoy watching children's mounting excitement as the Little Listener Artists begin to realize what is appearing on the paper beneath their fingers.

For most of the years of my teaching career Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals has been an enormous aid to this artistically challenged teacher. Happy to recommend.

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals is a good choice for the K-4 set, particularly for the child who may have had a bad experience in trying to draw and feels embarrassed to try now or is impaired beyond hope when it comes to setting pencil to paper.

The first recognizable critter we fashion and hang on the wall serves as impetus for all lessons to follow.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

The Nerdy Girl Express

Paper Maps, No Apps: An Unplugged Travel Adventure
Johnny Welsh
Peak 1 Publishing, LLC
PO Box 2046, Frisco, Co 80443
9780996307895 (paperback) $16.99 pbk
9780996307857 (eBook), $4.99 Kindle 224pp

Paper Maps, No Apps is a fun read that will keep you laughing as you travel along the road with the tech-free couple.

The Nerdy Girl Express

Nik Zakrewski's Bookshelf

Deep Secrets: An Amy Lynch Investigation
P. K. Norton
Stillwater River Publications
9781950339013, $13.00 PB, $5.95 Kindle, 263pp,

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

In Deep Secrets, Amy Lynch, is at it again. In this third mystery by P. K. Norton featuring the intrepid and sharply inquisitive insurance investigator, Norton has done it again - spot that "something odd, something out of place", and with a combination of intellect and intuition start to expose and finally, in a classic "running out of pages" resolution and denouement, resolve the deepening mystery.

But it's more than just a great puzzle and engaging characters that makes Norton's mysteries so much fun. There's the out-of-the-blue lightning bolts of humor, and with each new novel a deepening exposure of the "regular" relationships in Amy Lynch's life, from friends and family to professional associates to canine confidants.

If you're new to PK Norton's Amy Lynch mysteries, just dive in.

Nik Zakrewski

Pedro Gonzalez's Bookshelf

The Painted Word
Bantam Books
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
0553148435, $16.00, Paperback

Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word is a scathing analysis of the morally vacuous world of modern art. Wolfe follows the trajectory of the art scene, from the start of the twentieth century to 1976, the publication date of The Painted Word.

The Painted Word, much like other of Wolfe's non-fiction works, is an education in itself. From the rejection of nineteenth-century Realism by early Modernism, to Abstract Expressionism's rejection of Modernism, to the destruction of painting as reflective of the sensual world, to the charade of Minimalism, to the eventual annihilation of painting, canvass and frame altogether, Wolfe offers the reader a glimpse of the mayhem that proponents of art theory unleashed on art patrons and aficionados of art. All of this affectation, Wolfe tells the reader, because Modernism's tragic conceit revolved around the destruction of Realism, and the idea that art must not be allowed to represent human reality in any form or fashion.

Wolfe never minces words. Instead, the diction of his essays is geared to do battle with the nihilistic pretensions of modernity and post-modernity alike, always taking his time to cite examples of the dog and pony show that intellectual chic elites unleash on their unsuspecting, yet willing audience. Wolfe details the influence that Marxist-motivated "art theory," which was created by non-artists, the likes of Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg and Leo Steinberg has had on Modern art.

Early on in The Painted Word, the reader is treated to the suspect motives of art theory, and its ability to fledgling entrap artists who are willing to play the game in exchange for fame and financial rewards. This is the lamentable pattern of Modern art that Wolfe uncovers and presents to readers who are interested in the behind the scenes of the world of Modern art.
By the end of The Painted Word, the reader understands the power of radical political ideology, especially the many strains of Marxism that have tainted Modern art, and which Wolfe points out in great detail.

While unsuspecting art patrons, historians and lovers of art have come to describe modern painters as geniuses, etc., Wolfe exposes them as followers, mere conformers who allowed the theoretical and political motives of art theory to dictate the form and content of their creations.

The passage of time has proven The Painted Word to be an insightful and instructive testament, not only to Modern art's tow-the-line values, but also to the devastating power that radical theory has come to enjoy over Western culture. Wolfe's work is even more important today than when it was first published forty-three years ago; in that time many prescient observers of Modernity have come to the realization of the uninspiring artistic fraud that much of Modernist painting has turned out to be.

Pedro Blas Gonzalez

Richard Freudenberger's Bookshelf

Transforming Plastic: From Pollution to Evolution
Albert Bates
GroundSwell Books
9781570673719, $9.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 110pp,

Transforming Plastic unpacks the mystery of our pervasive polymers and dives into real-time strategies and solutions for building a better path forward.

Richard Freudenberger, Reviewer
Author of Alcohol Fuel: A Guide to Making and Using Ethanol as a Renewable Fuel

Ricky Brown's Bookshelf

Journey to Where
Steven Paul Leiva
Third Street Press
9781948142328, $14.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 266pp,

The novel Journey to Where by Steven Paul Leiva from Third Street Press is a fresh adventure of discovery that reads like a number of familiar SF classics, but with a hint of modern elements taken from today's headlines.

A select group of scientists gathers in the desert to conduct a ground-breaking experiment using an enormous particle accelerator. The unexpected result hurtles the team to an alternate world where humans do not exist and the dominant species view them as animals. Mixed in with the challenge of trying to communicate with the intelligent life and survive the strangeness, the desire to somehow recreate the experiment in a stone-aged world with hopes of returning to their original universe is paramount.

In the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1918 classic The Land that Time Forgot (an author also referenced by the narrator with intentional comparisons to help convince the reader of the story's fantastic plausibility), our heroes are thrust into an unfamiliar world of prehistoric wonder.

The process of teleportation has been addressed in a variety of ways throughout literature, but many leave a lot to the imagination or simply avoided the issue. John Norman's Gor series, Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and even Burroughs' John Carter stories danced around the science to simply jump right into the crux of the story. But Journey to Where takes a fresh approach by giving a nod to current events, feeding off of the growing public concern regarding the unknown potentials of particle accelerators. Though this story might add fuel to some of those fears, the inclusion of such a topical technological element is sure to bring pure joy to the hard-core fans.

The character development of the cast in Journey to Where is quick and effective, allowing the reader to immediately accept the internal conflict within the group and follow the drama within the adventure with anticipation. Though the sarcastic and sometimes humorous banter often traded between characters helps lesson some of the obvious tension, the dialog does get lost at times when trying to determine exactly who is speaking.

The author's true strength is in storytelling. The attention to detail is spot on, providing just enough visual imagery to fill the reader's perception without diluting the setting with unnecessary clutter. Throw this in with a strong cast and a nicely paced plot, and Journey to Where by Steven Paul Leiva is a fun read sure to entertain fans of the classics.

Ricky L. Brown, Reviewer
Amazing Stories Magazine

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

These Truths: A History of the United States
Jill Lepore
W. W. Norton & Company
9780393635249, $39.95

Jill Lepore's History Of The United States

At almost 800 pages of text, Jill Lepore's book "These Truths: A History of the United States" (2018) is both forbiddingly long and yet also short for its ambitious scope. Lepore covers the United States's long past beginning with Christopher Columbus in 1492 and concluding with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. It is a great deal to cover, and Lepore, a Professor of American History at Harvard and a staff writer for the New Yorker, is the first historian to undertake such a large project for many years.

In her Introduction, "The Question Stated", Lepore sets forth the purpose of her book. She begins with a question Alexander Hamilton posed in the "Federalist" about the American experiment in constitutional government and whether it would succeed. Hamilton had asked "whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force."

Lepore proceeds to discuss how the American experiment rests on three political ideas stated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. Lepore wants to develop her American history to show the development and fate of these ideas over time: how these ideas have been understood and the extent to which the United States has been able to remain faithful to them. Lepore argues that, in its written constitution, the United States indeed brought something new into the world's political realm with the ideal of basing government on knowledge, facts, and truth rather than upon mystery or force. Her book reflects upon the success of this attempt. Lepore argues for the importance of a close study of history in understanding the United States and she also argues for the importance of civics -- Americans have forgotten the underlying principles of their government and need to recover and think about them. Her book makes an important and highly worthwhile effort in this direction.

It is important to keep Lepore's purpose in mind because it is easy to lose track of it in the course of her long, wandering book. Her book is not a traditional narrative history of dates, sequences of events and facts. Much that a reader might expect to see is not covered or covered only briefly while Lepore includes a great deal of detail and discussion not found in other histories. Throughout the work, Lepore juxtaposes ideals with realities. From the outset, she shows the incongruity between the American ideas of equality, natural rights, and sovereignty on the one hand and the institution of slavery on the other hand. The theme of slavery and discrimination against African Americans pervades her study. Her aim is to show that African Americans have been part of the American experience from the outset and that their story and role deserves to be studied.

Lepore gives similar attention to women. She argues that women were excluded from the compact made by the Constitution and she argues throughout the book for the attempts of women to find equality and their place in American political life from colonial times to current day feminism. Other groups treated as having their place in the American experience include immigrants and Native Americans. Throughout the book the stories of African Americans, women, immigrants, and Native Americans are threaded into the broader narrative.

Then too, there is a near-philosophical discussion of the nature of truth throughout the book. She begins with the Enlightenment and Locke and the world of knowledge, evidence and fact as central to the understanding of truth on which the American form of government was based. Throughout the book she discusses challenges to the Enlightenment idea of truth. Some of these challenges come from post-modernism and relativism. But what Lepore mostly has in mind is propaganda and challenges to finding truth in various forms from pollsters to advertising to the Internet. The book evidences a deep skepticism about how people may and have been led astray through media and have surrendered or been deprived of the opportunity to think things through rationally.

Lepore's book is in four large sections: "The Idea" covering 1492 -- 1799, "The People" covering 1800 -1865, "The State", covering 1866-1945, and "The Machine" covering 1946-2016. In terms of space, recent American history and current events probably receive the largest share of attention: Lepore's book is geared, for better or worse, to current issues. Figures and issues that will be familiar to most readers are included in each section together with individuals and themes that often are not addressed. For example, in the latter parts of the book, Lepore gives sustained attention to advertising agencies and to the roles they assumed in supporting candidates and issues. She discusses the role of advertising and marketeers in defeating Federal health care plans from the time of the presidency of Harry Truman.

The book shows the conflict that Americans have had with what Lincoln described in his First Inaugural Address as the "better angels of our nature". There is much to praise in Lepore's account but, alas, probably even more to criticize. Lepore makes no secret of her own liberal convictions, as liberalism developed in the century from the Civil War through the mid-1960s. She spends a great deal of time discussing the deterioration of the American experiment in subsequent years. She is critical of much in the rise of conservatism but she is critical as well of the rise of identity politics and ideological rigidity on the left. Overall, the book paints a bleak picture but one not without hope. The book shows how Americans have fought with each other and endured harsh times throughout their history. Situations that look difficult may be righted with time and effort.

There are many telling anecdotes and stories in Lepore's book that will speak to individual readers. Thus, in a discussion of the alleged conformity and tediousness of American business life in the 1950s, Lepore quotes the sociologist C. Wright Mills' book, "White Collar". Mills, in turn wrote, that the conformity of American life reminded him of a passage that Herman Melville wrote in 1855: "At rows if blank-looking counters sat rows of blank-looking girls, with blank, white folders in their blank hands, all blankly folding blank paper." The quotation is from a little-read Melville story, "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids". It was effective to see Lepore make her point through C. Wright Mills and then back to Melville.

Lepore's history is a work of ideas more than a book of specific facts. Portions of the book tend to wander and to feel disjointed. I thought sometimes Lepore was too fast with her own judgments while at other times what she had to say was nuanced and thoughtful. I found myself irritated at times in reading this long book but just as often I found myself learning from what Lepore had to say. One of the lessons of the American experiment and of Lepore's book is that there is often much to be learned from positions with which one disagrees.

"These Truths" is an excellent broad-based look at the American experiment in terms of history, civics, and philosophy. It is worth the effort to read this book and to think through for oneself the issues Lepore raises.

This America: The Case for the Nation
Jill Lepore
Liveright Publishing Corporation
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
9781631496417, $16.95

Jill Lepore's Case For The Nation

The renowned historian Jill Lepore's 2018 book "These Truths" was the first single volume history in decades of the United States from Christopher Columbus' voyage in 1492 to the election to the presidency of Donald Trump in 2016. Lepore has followed-up her history with a much shorter but equally ambitious work "This America: The Case for the Nation" (2019) in which she argues for the importance of writing a broad-based national history of the type she wrote in "These Truths".

It is important to understand how Lepore's question arises. As she explains, American historians had essentially abandoned the project of writing a national history, turning instead to larger globally-based histories or to smaller-based histories of particular groups or narrower issues. Among the reasons for this shift was a strong distrust for the concept of nationalism which resulted from the terrible wars and hatreds resulting from the growth of nationalism in the 20th century. With historians moving away from thinking about the United States as a nation, Lepore argues, the way was cleared for less scholarly and thoughtful writers to appropriate a nationalistic theme for themselves. For Lepore, this result has in fact happened with unfortunate results. In "This America", more an expanded essay and a meditation than a full development of an idea, argues for the importance of thinking and writing about American nationhood.

"This America" is a fascinating, thoughtful book and a worthy successor to Lepore's "These Truths". But the book is also cluttered. It constitutes in part a short history of its own from the United States from the early days to the present focusing on the different ways Americans have understood nationhood. The book is also a historiography -- a history of the ways of writing history -- in the way American historians have approached their task beginning with George Bancroft's history written during the time of Andrew Jackson. Lepore's scope and erudition are inspiring. The treatment of many figures in the book were rushed to get to a point. I wanted to hear more about some of the ideas of the people Lepore describes before moving on. This is another way of saying that there may be more nuances to the concept of the American nation and in writing about the American nation than are explored in this short essay. And the history, historiography, and discussion of nations and states and their relationship is difficult to integrate in the brevity of the book.

Lepore finds a uniqueness and a value to the United States in the way it moved from thirteen virtually separate colonies through the formation of a confederation to the formation of a nation. She sees an America founded on Enlightenment ideals with free individuals endowed with rights irrespective of race, creed, sex or national background. America was a beacon to individuals sharing these ideals and wanting to live by them rather than a nation defined by particular religion or ethnicity and, especially, defined by the hatred of others. From the beginning, however, America fell short in many ways in living up to its commitments in its treatment of slaves, native Americans, and prospective immigrants, among other peoples. Lepore wants Americans to think of themselves as a nation and to see how we have fallen short in realizing the ideals we have professed and to work towards doing better.

As I understand her, Lepore argues for a renewed appreciation of love of country and patriotism than has been common in recent years. In short, patriotism should not be left only to the political right. Patriotism and a sense of nationhood should be based, in Lepore's account, on an understanding of the values on which the country was founded and, especially, on the ways in which the country has historically fallen well short of realizing these values. I was reminded of the philosopher Richard Rorty who made a similar point in his book "Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America." Rorty's politics may have been of a more left-leaning cast than Lepore's, but they share a commitment to the importance of country and patriotism.

Without taking away from Lepore's emphasis on the way the United States has fallen short of realizing its ideals, I found her understanding of approaching America as a country and of love of country were the central and most important themes of her book. They are too often ignored. The book sometimes is too dogmatic and brisk in taking specific policy positions with which, as Lepore says at one point, reasonable persons may disagree. Still at its most important level, Lepore's book suggests the importance of Americans loving and respecting their country while working to correct its flaws and injustices.

Robin Friedman

Ronald Tobin's Bookshelf

Bittersweet, A Coming of Age Historical Romance
Lloyd R. Free
Sugarhill Press
9781948664035, $14.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 350pp,

Bittersweet by Lloyd Free has two audiences. The older one will be overwhelmed by nostalgia as the author takes us through a San Francisco on the verge of a cultural revolution marked by sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll, followed by a year-long journey through France - Dijon, Cassis, and forever Paris. The sounds, smells, and scenes of the Latin Quarter, dramatically painted by Free, take us back to a Paris that was the center of the world. The younger readers will learn compelling lessons of history, from constant references to France's classical heritage all the way to the Algerian War and the tensions in France in the early 1960s. The style is upbeat, making the pertinent information on every page easily accessible. A great read.

Ronald W. Tobin, Reviewer
Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

Scott Whittaker's Bookshelf

From the Circle: Poetry, Prose, Art
Richard Heller
Plicata Press LLC
9780990310280, $18.00, PB, $18.00,

It is impossible to have a neutral response to the stories, poetry, and photographs presented in From the Circle. The wildness is barely held together by the binding. In consuming these pages I found myself alternately growling like the dogs and wanting to nudge my head into the author's chest like the horse, Duffy. Allow the author to stoke his forge and set your heart on fire.

Br. Scott Whittaker

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

The Furies
Kate Lowe
St. Martin's Press
175 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250297891, $26.99

In her debut novel, Kate Lowe, has created a story over-ripe with toxic female relationships. The book opens with a dead student, posed on a swing, but without an obvious cause of death. From there, an adult Violet narrates and tries to piece together her memories of the year she spent at a girls' boarding school on the outskirts of a small, downtrodden seaside town. Violet, herself, is a survivor of a car accident that kills her father and her younger sister, leaving her with undiagnosed and untreated PTSD and survivor's guilt. The suspense gradually builds in an atmosphere filled with sensual and sexual undertones ensconced in a sense of foreboding. The sense of menace builds gradually. Four girls and their teacher - misfits all - study the myths and history of women's rage - from Medusa forward - until these ideas intersect with and distort reality. "It seems that women are doomed to two fates. It is our lot to either be seen as unpredictable and irrational mortals, maligned and repressed by the actions of men; or sacred beings, goddesses of higher realm, among the Fates and Furies."

I thoroughly enjoyed Lowe's take on feminine anger and revenge as this class discusses specific works of art and classic myths. I was reminded of the works of the French feminist Helene Cixous and her The Laugh of the Medusa and Reveries of the Wild Woman: Primal Scenes. One of the students steals a book of magic, and the girls begin to dabble in the dark arts. Lowe exposes the sinister history of the school, its history, and its environs. She pulls the historic abuse of women and the rumors of female witchcraft to the forefront. Thought it remains hidden, passed down from generation to degeneration from the 15th century, it persists and grows in the midst of the patriarchal regime of the school and the town that houses it.

A Woman of Valor
Gary Corbin
Double Diamond Publishing
9780578512549, $26.99

Valorie Dawes was molested at at twelve by a family friend, "Uncle Milt." Though Val eventually reports it to her family, no one believes her except her Uncle Val, a cop. He is shot in the line of duty before he can bring Milt to justice. Valorie follows in her Uncle Val's footsteps and becomes a policewoman. As a rookie, she faces the usual harassment of any younger cop by older policemen. Val's is accentuated because of rampant sexism in the department. Corbin manages to integrate pedophilia, childhood sexual abuse, sexism, and workplace harassment into a police procedural. Our heroine is not readily accepted by members of the force, though she does connect with a few like her partner. Corbin also does a good job getting into the head of a young abused woman. There are a few other points of view he edges into, though less successfully, like that of the bad guy. These forays are brief, though, and didn't add much depth to the plot.

The book, with its emphasis on #MeToo situations, is en pointe with current events. Valerie's struggles seem real as do things like racial profiling which, along with sexism, wanders throughout the book. Social media's influence on policemen and on the population is also timely - especially lies spread by a blogger with inside information on what is going on in the PD.

When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon
Joshua D. Mezrich
c/o Harper Collins Inc
9780062656209, $27.99

I read When Death Becomes Life because it appealed to me as a physician. Mezrich has a deft touch combining his personal history as a transplant surgeon and the history of transplantation itself. He describes all-too-accurately what is expected of young surgeons-to-be as they obtain their training: endless hours in the hospital coupled with the emotional trauma of learning the histories of their patients and - inevitably - becoming attached to some of them. Mezrich walks the reader through a meticulous history of transplantation starting with the earliest experiments in animals and progressing through humans, running from days in which germs were unknown and the immune system not even imagined. Mixed into the histories (both personal and medical) Mezrich tosses in some ethical and philosophical debates. What defines death? How much risk should a person be able to take in order to donate an organ to a loved one? To a stranger? If you have abused your original body with alcohol, drugs, or other poor life style choices, should you be given a healthy organ? A fascinating read.

The Wild Impossibility
Cheryl A. Ossola
Regal House Publishing
9781947548626, $16.95

The Wild Impossibility is Cheryl A. Ossola's debut novel, but an accomplished feat it is, combing elements of mystery, historical fiction, psychological drama, and love story into a cohesive whole. Kira, the protagonist, has suffered two miscarriages. With the second she begins to have "spells" in which she feels she's reliving someone else's life. When these spells threaten her marriage and her job, she takes off on a spiritual journey to learn whose life she's reliving. Split in time between the present and the past, and in setting between California (Berkeley and Manzanar (the concentration camp for the Japanese during World War II), Ossola pulls the disparate elements together seamlessly. Her prose is adept with moments of lyricism. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of the California desert. The Wild Impossibility is a charismatic tale of family history, secrets, and tragedy covering three generations with Kira struggling to comprehend it all. An excellent read, especially for covering Manzanar, a black moment in American history, with sensitivity.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Kim Brown Seely
Sasquatch Books
1904 Third Ave, Suite 710, Seattle, WA 98101
9781632172556, $24.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Kim Brown Seely and her husband had been damn good parents for more than 20 years. That was coming to an end as their youngest son was about to move across the country. The economy was in freefall and their jobs stagnant, so they impulsively decided to buy a big broken sailboat, learn how to sail it, and head up through the Salish Sea and the Inside Passage to an expanse of untamed wilderness in search of the elusive blonde Kermode bear that only lives in a secluded Northwest forest. Theirs was a voyage of discovery into who they were as individuals and as a couple at an axial moment in their lives. Wise and lyrical, "Uncharted: A Couple's Epic Empty-Nest Adventure Sailing from One Life to Another" is heartfelt memoir unfolds amid the stunningly wild archipelago on the far edge of the continent.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and fully engaging read from cover to cover, "Uncharted: A Couple's Epic Empty-Nest Adventure Sailing from One Life to Another" is an extraordinary and thoroughly entertaining story -- and one that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Uncharted: A Couple's Epic Empty-Nest Adventure Sailing from One Life to Another" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Kim Brown Seely is the 2016 Lowell Thomas Journalist of the Year, and has worked in publishing on both coasts, including as senior editor at Travel & Leisure, contributing editor at National Geographic Adventure, and travel editor at Microsoft and Amazon. Her writing has also appeared in Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Sunset, Coastal Living, and Virtuoso Life, where she has been a contributing writer for nearly 20 years.

Frida and Me: Art, and One Woman's Triumph Over PTSD
Eli N. Weintraub
Lotus Flower Books
c/o Columbine Publishing Group
9781945422690, $22.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: In 1976 Nancy Weintraub was a rebellious teen, a child of the 60s, a free spirit. She and a friend set out, against her parents' wishes, to spend a year in San Miguel de Allende attending art school and perfecting their Spanish. Nancy was in heaven as she experienced international travel and the art scene, but a horrific accident in a lonely Mexican desert took away her life as she knew it. As her family, friends, many doctors, and complete strangers made heroic efforts to save her life, many of her hopes were dashed forever.

Unknowingly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Nancy spent the next 10 years running from one bad situation to the next. Trying to reinvent herself, she changed her name to Eli. Her healing really began after learning about the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, whose life mirrored her own in so many ways, and meeting an art therapist. Through art therapy, she came to realize that Nancy had died in the wreckage on that rain-slick road, and she didn't know the person who had emerged. It seemed her free-spirited gypsy self was gone. Gradually, the artist and writer Eli emerged from the shell of Nancy, and through art she found her way back to life and love.

"Frida and Me: Art, and One Woman's Triumph Over PTSD" takes the reader through this remarkable woman's journey, from the giddy days of her once-in-a-lifetime adventure, through the darkest abyss imaginable, putting her on a new path toward helping others recognize art as a tool to heal. Her inspiring presentations have helped trauma victims and clinicians alike, and readers of her story cannot help but be affected by her courage and determination.

As she states in the Prologue, "This book is about that journey and my proven experience in the use of art as a tool to help overcome the overwhelming patterns of PTSD. I literally have art and art therapy to thank for saving my life."

Critique: An inherently absorbing, singularly fascinating, completely compelling, and truly extraordinary memoir that is as deftly crafted as it is impressively candid, "Frida and Me: Art, and One Woman's Triumph Over PTSD" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Frida and Me" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Capitalism for Democrats: Why The Country Needs It Now
Martin Lowy
Independently Published
9781694514721, $19.95, 154 Pages

Martin Lowy writes this informative book from a lifetimes experience as a lawyer. Banker, entrepreneur and writer. A lifelong centrist Democrat he asks his readers to take a little time out of their busy lives to consider what capitalism has achieved.

He then goes on to point out that capitalism works because it puts the control of the market into the hands of millions of people allowing them to make billions of decisions for the good of the people and economy, rather than entrusting that power to a few elites.

This book examines capitalism in depth. The author, using examples, graphs and references to three of his previous publications, explains the fundamentals of capitalism, and scrutinises it in detail. In doing so he looks at how capitalism affects and the lives of everyday people, its social impact through history, assesses its highs and lows, its global impact, equal opportunities, the free market and much more, and in doing so gives his readers all the information they require to make their own informed decision on the subject.

For me before reading this enlightening book the moral basis for choosing capitalism was simply because it puts the power into the hands of the ordinary people, however, reading this book I realised that this premise is naive. Reading the author's detailed examination of the subject, I finished his book feeling empowered by the knowledge of the subject gained from its pages.

At the end of the book, it is this paragraph which for me makes a very important and true point, 'All human institutions are imperfect. The questions social scientists wrestle with are how to create institutions that work for large majorities of people to help them to live productive lives with respect and freedom from unwarranted intrusion. In creating such institutions, contradictions are inevitable. It is only through persistent good will that we can succeed in charting the best course through a changing world.' In a nutshell, this is what capitalism aims to achieve.

This is an extremely educational and helpful book which clearly explains capitalism in an easy to understand format. Highly recommended.

Available from Amazon:

Bad Love Strikes
Kevin L. Schewe MD
Broken Crow Ridge
9781950895090, $19.95, 220 Pages

This book is not only a wonderfully exciting science fiction story, it is an experience, which takes you back in time, with adventure, historically accurate facts, and probably most uniquely by the author suggesting sound tracks to listen to whilst reading it.

Set in 1974, it tells of the first adventure of the "Bad Love Gang," a group of teenagers with the world at their feet, itching for adventure, and the author kindly invites you to join them for the duration of this story.

Back in October 1939, Albert Einstein had warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that Nazi Germany was trying to make an atomic bomb, and urged him to ensure that America made one first. Because of Einstein's advice, but just in case this didn't happen, the President decided to set in place a backup plan, and in 1942 he instructed Einstein to make a time machine, code named "White Hole Project."

This project steeped in secrecy, is lost in time, lying quietly dormant, that is until one of the Bad Love Gangs summer jaunts leads them to discover it. The discovery and their resulting actions unleash a chain of events which changes them, and the lives of others in ways they could never have imagined...

The historical accuracy of this story makes it stand out above other science fiction stories, elevating it from great to outstanding in my opinion. The gang has a clear mission - to save the Jews and Gypsies at Chelmno extermination camp from the Holocaust. They use the machine to travel back thirty years to Chelmno in Poland, which was the first place that the Nazi's gassed the Jews and Gypsies in their WWII genocide. In embracing the gang's experiences, the reader, through the vividly descriptive writing of this talented author, is transported back through time, into WWII. As the story unravels and the tension mounts, our senses are aroused so much so that it is easy to imagine you are there, amongst the sights, sounds and horrors of this time. The question is, as the engines of the U.S. Air Force B-17 bomber, known as "The Phantom Fortress," drone in your ears, as it flies its rescue mission over occupied territories, will you as a fly on the wall member of the gang succeed in your quest, and if you do, and you survive, will you all be able to return to 1974?

The Bad Love Gang is the author's debut novel, it has an amazing storyline, which really draws the reader in, and listening to the sounds tracks suggested is something which I highly recommend. A real gem which stands out as a shining example of excellent storytelling. I look really look forward to their next adventure.

Available from Amazon:

The Climate Change Adventure (The Rescue Elves Book 3)
Monty J. McClaine
Independently Published
9781698412474, $11.99, 41 Pages

This is the third book in 'The Rescue Elves' series of children's books. The Rescue Elves or 'Relves' have a very important job at one particular time of the year, Christmas. They are Santa's Elves, and it is their job to ensure that Santa and his reindeer get their presents to the children of the world, however, to be fit enough for this once a year job, they are given special focused activities, in different parts of the world, throughout the year by Mrs. Claus.

The setting for this adventures activity is one of their favourite, Island Castle, which is set in the middle of a big lake. Relves Charlie, Jack, Sparkle and Holly are very excited, and are looking forward to catching up with friends who live in the lake. However, when they arrive they are greeted with a mystery, the lake water has disappeared, and not only that, but their friends lives are in danger! What could be the cause?

As parents, grandparents, and carers of the world, we have a duty to protect it for the generations who follow us. The dangers the world face through global warming are real to us, its wildlife and environments. Being very aware of this danger I was delighted to discover this book to read with my granddaughter who has just turned five. This Relves adventure in an engaging way clearly explains what global warming is, however importantly, this is not all, it also explains what we can all do to stop it.

Educating our children through wonderful story books like this, which explain very simply the effects that everyday things have on the planet, and how the introduction of new technology can reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is vital for the future of our planet, and everyone and thing which lives on it. I highly recommend this to families who wish to educate their children on the importance of environmental awareness.

Available from Amazon:

Faery: The Tiend
Igo Rab
Amazon Digital Services
B07Y66KLMW, $3.06, 150 Pages

Faeries at the bottom of your garden? Do you believe in them, some people do, some insist they have seen them, and others like Milo, the 10 year old protagonist of this excellent middle grade fantasy story have their very own tale to tell.

You see Milo has been left in the care of his Uncle Jon for a few days. Uncle Jon is a strange man, some would even say that at times he is "away with the faeries," a strange turn of phrase sometimes, but not in this story...

The first evening Uncle Jon is in charge, as night begins to fall, Milo notices the light is strange, and then the room grows cold. Condensation begin to spread across the window, and a poem starts to appear on the glass. It is a poem he knows, and as he recites the words to himself he hears a young girl's voice, and to his surprise he sees her on the other side of the glass.

The girl is unlike any other he has seen and she entices him to follow her on an adventure. An adventure which is to lead him into another world, into the land of the faeries.

However, once there he discovers he is not alone, other children have been chosen, but why? When Milo discovers the faeries terrible and dark secret, he realises that the evil underworld has them trapped in a terrible pact, and now is the time of the tiend, when a faery champion must be chosen, they have no choice.

As Milo and the other children travel across strange lands, encountering creatures only heard of in myths and legends, Milo wonders if the fate of the faeries is sealed forever, or if he can discover the inner strength to help them?

Igo Rab, the author of this spellbinding middle grade fantasy takes his readers on a wonderfully perilous journey where excitement waits at the turn of every page.

Available from Amazon:

I Believe: It Is Ok to Be Afraid and Talk About My Fears, Just Like Sparky, the Amazing Dog
Suzanne Mondoux
Balboa Press
9781982222772, $8.99, 58 Pages

In this inspirational story two horses, Carlo and Teddy, are yet again on their adventures when they hear whimpering. Being inquisitive they decide to investigate, and discover a little black dog, hiding, head in paws.

The little dog is scared, and so being caring souls they suggest that he should come with them so he is not alone and afraid anymore. Eagerly he joins them on their journey and is happy when they suggest the name Sparky for him.

Teddy explains to Sparky that although he is scared, he has in fact already taken his first brave step by lifting his head from his paws and talking to them. Teddy believes that he knows just the place where Sparky will be at home, loved and encouraged to overcome his fears by the children and animals who live there.

After hearing about this amazing place Sparky is keen to go there, and when they arrive Sparky is immediately made to feel safe, at home and loved by everyone there.

In this 'I Believe' book, through interactive drawing and positive affirmations children discover that although facing their fears is scary at first, if they can take the step to bravely talk them over, they will be able to overcome them.

At the special place Sparky is invited to, and in the book, the author invites her readers to write for 30 days about the fears they have, and things which they can do to overcome them, and then also each day they are encouraged to think what they can do to help animals.

The author, Suzanne Mondoux is an explorer, environmental professional and author, and her love for animals and her dedication to being a voice for them shines through in this wonderful series of incredibly motivational children's books.

Available from Amazon:

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Lucky Dogs Shake Paws
Cody L. Clark, author
Kate Fallahee, illustrator
Privately Published
9780578573755, $19.99, Paperback, 24 pages

You cannot judge a book by its cover...

Dogwood is a quaint town where everyone knows each other. One Sunday afternoon at Pooches Pizzeria a stranger enters and disrupts the town. His sudden appearance is alarming, and the residents of Dogwood fear his middle name is "trouble." They fear their peaceful existence is in danger of being disturbed.

Mayor Ruby was brave enough to approach the stranger to discover the reason for his visit. She learned his name was Wiley and offered her friendship. Will Wiley accept Ruby's offer of kindness or will he refuse and bring chaos to Dogwood?

LUCKY DOGS SHAKE PAWS is a beautifully illustrated by Kate Fallahee. Each scene seems to jump off the pages. There are many valuable life lessons found in the pages of this book. It's one that I predict children will gravitate towards.

Cody L. Clark is a talented author who has written a book with great substance. This book will be well received in the literary word, and this is not the last we will see of Clark's writing. I can easily see the Lucky Dogs quickly be turning into a series. I highly recommend it.

Growing Up Hollywood
Tara Botel Doherty
Pinehurst Literary Press
9780998464732, $15.00, Paperback, 197 pages

Life isn't about the destination, it's about the journey . . .

Hollywood is about bright lights, neon signs, and where people hope to become the next star. It's glossed over exterior is one that loses its luster when a person realizes how difficult it is to make it to the top.

Annie and Gracie are two sisters age 7 and 10 who live near the Boulevard in Hollywood Hills. Their home life is one where their parents are always fighting. They fear if they were to divorce, that would be in danger of being split up from one another.

Travel with Annie and Gracie as they take you on an up close and personal adventure through the streets of Hollywood. Through their eyes, you will see how fame and fortune of many often turn into risk and disappointment.

These short stories are short glimpses into the make-believe Hollywood glamor world. Readers can experience the past glory and show a side of the famous city that often is not revealed. Take a journey of a lifetime as Annie and Gracie show you their world.

Tara Botel Doherty is a writer with purpose. Her descriptive words paint the picture for the reader to revisit the days of Hollywood's past. Each story is a true work of art that shows Hollywood in a different light.

Ancient Mariners: A coming of age tale
David Burton
David Burton Writing; 3 edition
1974320928, $11.99, paperback, 310 pages

No one can escape death...

When Beth Portman loses her family to a tragic fire, she knows that she has to be strong enough to rebuild her life. Having no family or friends to support her makes her fear for her existence.

Ex-Navy Seal Silas Tufts is a family friend. When he learns of what has happened to Beth and her family, he invites her to set sail on the sea with him. The soothing sounds of the sea offer a measure of comfort to Beth.

Their voyage leads them to Mexico, where they find themselves involved in another tragedy. Will they be able to hide in the vast South Pacific from the evil force that is intent on destroying them

David Burton writes a highly compelling book that takes the reader on a high sea adventure. This book will leave you guessing up to the very last page. I highly recommend this author and feel that his voice is one that makes a solid presence in the literary world.

Suzie Housley

Theresa Rodriguez's Bookshelf

Chronicles in Passing
Carol Smallwood
Poetic Matrix Press
1733702539, $17.00, Paperback 102 pages

The thing that struck me most strongly upon reading Carol Smallwood's Chronicles in Passing is the complete command of classical forms: the Rondeau, the Cinquain, the Pantoum, the Triolet, the Villanelle, and the Sestina. Smallwood displays fine technical mastery while uniquely using classical forms to frame her focus on the mundane and commonplace. Her writing flows with ease within the structure and rhyming of the classical forms. One can clearly see, as Smallwood mentions in her Introduction, that she "finds writing in formal style enjoyable" by "giving readers something extra," "like presenting a box wrapped in a special paper with a bow."

What I could also appreciate is that she does not limit herself only to formal or classical verse but recognizes that "there are times... when words in free verse are better in conveying the intended message," in her endeavor to "try what fits." I was glad to see free verse that did "fit" the intended topics very well.

Smallwood does indeed write about the mundane and commonplace, but her treatment of these topics is anything but mundane and commonplace. She manages to deftly take the mundane and transform it into the sublime. She gives weight and dignity to topics of life that might normally be overlooked. Blue jeans, the supermarket, clothes on a clothesline, a car wash, store flyers, homemade quilts and clothing, ballroom dancing, grocery shopping, going to a restaurant, dirt roads, spools of thread, clothing fashion, and the color pink - none of these topics escapes Smallwood's decisive treatment. It causes one to be mindful of some of the ordinary things of life, things that can be shaped into works of great beauty, especially by the mind and pen of a skilled poet. It has given me an appreciation of our common world in a way I had not had before reading this volume. It has taught me to seek out the simple things and find the poetry in them. Smallwood most definitely has done this, in great measure!

I also enjoyed her sense of imagery and description which can be found throughout the volume. For instance, in one of my favorites "A Hardcover Book," Smallwood talks about being perceived as some kind of anachronism by carrying around a hardcover book as opposed to "a small electronic tool," as "quite the dinosaur, out of touch and even speckled with mold" (8). In her free verse "The Place of the Cure of the Soul," Smallwood describes "something about the feel of books, the crackle of newspapers, smell of magazines and in owning them" (14). In her Villanelle "Counting Backwards," she shares how

"...the chatter near Christmas Day
was irritating, but told it was just feminine hormone delay
and before long it would be better so wisely didn't reply when addressed" (17).

In "The Hovering," deities are "defined in other cultures as weavers of destiny upon a tapestry loom" (19). In her Sestina "A Regular" we are given a lovely image of salt on a tray:

"...I noticed its salt sprinkles made a vast night sky full of wonder
and understand why our ancestors made stories of constellations" (26).

In "There Were Only," she describes "gentle rain reinforcing the nose as the most elemental of the senses" and poignantly thinks of "computers blinking in the empty library like solitary lighthouses" (32).

My favorite, however, is the villanelle "Our Unconscious Censor, "where the subject of writing down dreams upon waking produces some excellent imagery, where one can "train" to write down dreams as soon as you wake:

"and confront the subterranean fear as if a waiting rattlesnake
coiled in a yawning cavern that's deeper, more terrifying than any hell"


"so get rid of the hoary, deep oozing fear making your tremble, shake:
but your built-in censor is a trench against shattering bombshells"

Finally, she asks:

"Is one a coward not to go ahead and capture dreams, face at daybreak
once and for all-- end the fear-- what could be that awful to dispel?
One can train to write down dreams just as soon as you wake
yet is it best to let your built-in censor block when so much is at stake?" (70)

I also found her many of her choices of rhymes to be ingenious: I have never seen rhymes for "necessary," "customary," "shade vary," "monetary," "them airy," and "arbitrary" in one poem before, but this is the quality of inventiveness we find in the Villanelle "An American Icon," a poem about blue jeans (51). I was equally impressed with the rhyming of "myth" and "Monolith" in her Pantoum "The Pleiades" (16), and "diverged," "surged," "purged," "converged," "urged," and "submerged" in her Villanelle "Two Roads" (68).

In reading her work in this volume I only occasionally see her inner life - and the moments here and there are intriguing, and make me want her to reveal more. In "The New Galaxy," she describes a date with "Mitchell," where an evening at the opera reveals understated but deep feeling:

"...I remembered smiling at the attendant when he
asked 'Did you and your wife enjoy the performance'
because it meant we looked like we belonged together"

She goes on to share how she clutched the program of Aida, "proof that the night was real" and how

"...When Mitchell walked me to my
car in the darkness, his coat blew against me,
a benediction I knew had to be lasting. Would I ever
know the new galaxy the student had said with such
excitement had just been discovered?" (33)

I like this aspect of her writing, and wish there was more of it: tenderly rendered and touching. We do find more of this revelatory aspect in "A Matter of Nightmares," where descriptions of Bob's nightmares are "terrible" and Alison's brother

"who'd returned from Nam:
unexpected sounds sent him diving under
any cover; certain smells made him shake,
his arms were infected trying to get rid of
"crawly leeches."

She then describes Lily has having

"post-traumatic stress disorder first called
shell shock: that what went on behind white
picket fences was war." (50)

I do like her understated treatment of the emotionally profound. I only wish there were more moments like this, as they intrigue and attract me. What more does this poet have inside, waiting to be revealed?

Carol Smallwood is to be praised for her skill, perspective, and philosophy over a wide poetic range. Hers is a unique set of senses, capturing sights, sounds, moments, and observations of the everyday world in such a manner that causes the reader to see what is all around him in a fresh, new way.

Theresa Rodriguez, Reviewer
Author of Jesus and Eros: Sonnets, Poems and Songs (Bardsinger Books, 2015)
Sonnets (Bardsinger Books, 2019)
Longer Thoughts (Shanti Arts, 2020)

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

The Politics of Punishment
Bruce F. Adams
Northern Illinois University Press
2280 Bethany Road, DeKalb, IL 60115
9780875802152, $38.50, HC, 245pp,

Synopsis: Despite the horrors of punishment in a society so different from Western ideologies, the Russian government hugely modernized its correctional system toward the end of imperial rule. "The Politics of Punishment: Prison Reform in Russia, 1863 - 1917" by Bruce F. Adams (Chair of the Department of History at the University of Louisville) deftly traces the development of the penal system from the Great Reforms to the Main Prison Administration.

Critique: A seminal work of meticulous scholarship, and enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an eight page Bibliography, twenty-four pages of Notes, and a twenty-four page Index, "The Politics of Punishment: Prison Reform in Russia, 1863 - 1917" is especially and unreservedly recommended for college and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Politics of Punishment" is also available in a paperback edition (9781501747748, $24.95).

Stefan Zweig
Pushkin Press
9781782274759, $16.95, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: Stefan Zweig (28 November 1881 - 22 February 1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most popular writers in the world. (Wikipedia)

For the insatiably curious and ardent Europhile Stefan Zweig, travel was both a necessary cultural education and a personal balm for the depression he experienced when rooted in one place for too long. He spent much of his life weaving between the countries of Europe, visiting authors and friends, exploring the continent in the heyday of international rail travel.

Comprising a lifetime's observations on Zweig's travels in Europe, "Journeys" is a collection can be dipped into or savoured at length, and paints a rich and sensitive picture of Europe before the Second World War.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is entertaining and insightful, "Journeys" by Stefan Zweig is written with a distinctive literary flair that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Journeys" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

All the Better Part of Me
Molly Ringle
Central Avenue Publishing
9781771681674, $15.99, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: It's an inconvenient time for Sinter Blackwell to realize he's bisexual. He's a twenty-five-year-old American actor working in London, living far away from his disapproving parents in the Pacific Northwest, and enjoying a flirtation with his director Fiona. But he can't deny that his favorite parts of each day are the messages from his gay best friend Andy in Seattle -- whom Sinter once kissed when they were fifteen.

Finally he decides to return to America to visit Andy and discover what's between them, if anything. He isn't seeking love, and definitely doesn't want drama. But both love and drama seem determined to find him. Family complications soon force him into the most consequential decisions of his life, threatening all his most important relationships: with Andy, Fiona, his parents, and everyone else who's counting on him. Choosing the right role to play has never been harder.

Critique: A deftly crafted and thoroughly reader engaging novel by an author with a distinctive and effective narrative storytelling style, Molly Ringle's "All the Better Part of Me" is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "All the Better Part of Me" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Willis M. Buhle

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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