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

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 11 November 2022 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Carl Logan's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf Harini Nagendra's Bookshelf
Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf Kirk Bane's Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Miriam Calleja's Bookshelf R.K. Singh's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Sarah Book's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf  

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Primitive Living, Self-Sufficiency, and Survival Skills
Thomas J. Elpel
The Lyons Press
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
9781493069286, $21.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Primitive Living, Self-Sufficiency, and Survival Skills", author and outdoors enthusiast Thomas J. Elpel shows how to discover nature by using it with the same techniques employed by the first people to wander the earth.

Illustrated with over 350 photographs, Elpel thoroughly describes every aspect of how to: Stay warm and comfortable even without a blanket; Start a fire using friction; Make bows and bone arrowheads; Butcher a deer, tan the hide, and make soft buckskin clothing; Identify edible plants of the Rocky Mountains; Cook in the wild without a pan; Make birch bark canisters, willow baskets, and primitive pottery; Create and use simple stone knives.

"Primitive Living, Self-Sufficiency, and Survival Skills" includes dozens of skills and techniques that anyone can learn to meet the needs of clothing, shelter, fire, and water.

Critique: Simply stated, "Primitive Living, Self-Sufficiency, and Survival Skills" is a must read for any serious outdoors enthusiast, doomsday prepper, and wilderness camper. Informatively illustrated, "Primitive Living, Self-Sufficiency, and Survival Skills" is expertly organized and impressively presented for the novice -- making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Wilderness Survival collections.

Editorial Note: Thomas J. Elpel ( grew up in Virginia City, Montana. Under the instruction of his grandmother Josie Jewett, he learned how to identify and use the local herbs and plants, find arrowheads, and appreciate wildlife and the outdoors. Elpel received formal training from the Outdoor Survival School and the Tom Brown's Tracker School. He is now the director of the Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School (HOPS) in Pony, Montana.

Heaven on the Hudson
Stephanie Azzarone, author
Robert F. Rodriguez, photographer
Empire State Editions
c/o Fordham University Press
45 Columbus Avenue, Rm 312, New York, NY 10023
9781531501006, $39.95, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: To outsiders or East Siders, New York City's Riverside Park and Riverside Drive may not have the star status of Fifth Avenue or Central Park West. But at the city's westernmost edge, there is a quiet and beauty like nowhere else in all of New York. There are miles of mansions and monuments, acres of flora, and a breadth of wildlife ranging from Peregrine falcons to goats. It's where the Gershwins and Babe Ruth once lived, William Randolph Hearst ensconced his paramour, and Amy Schumer owns a penthouse. Told in the uniquely personal voice of a longtime resident, "Heaven on the Hudson: Mansions, Monuments, and Marvels of Riverside Park" by Stephanie Azzarone is the only New York City study that features the history, architecture, and personalities of this often overlooked neighborhood ranging from the eighteenth century down through the present day.

Combining an extensively researched history of the area and its people with an engaging one-on-one guide to its sights, "Heaven on the Hudson: Mansions, Monuments, and Marvels of Riverside Park" sheds new light on the initial development of Riverside Park and Riverside Drive, the challenges encountered (from massive boulders to "maniacs") and the reasons why Riverside Drive never became the "new Fifth Avenue" that promoters anticipated.

From grand "country seats" to squatter settlements to multi-million-dollar residences, "Heaven on the Hudson: Mansions, Monuments, and Marvels of Riverside Park" follows the neighborhood's roller-coaster highs and lows over time. Readers will discover a trove of architectural and recreational highlights and hidden gems, including the Drive's only freestanding privately owned villa, a tomb that's not a tomb, and a sweet memorial to an eighteenth-century child. Author Azzarone also tells the stories behind Riverside's notable and forgotten residents, including celebrities, murderers, a nineteenth-century female MD who launched the country's first anti-noise campaign, and an Irish merchant who caused a scandal by living with an Indian princess.

While much has been written about Central Park, little has focused exclusively on Riverside Drive and Riverside Park until now. Featuring the photography of Robert F. Rodriguez, "Heaven on the Hudson: Mansions, Monuments, and Marvels of Riverside Park" is dedicated to sharing this West Side neighborhood's most special secrets, the ones that, without fail, bring both pleasure and peace in a city of more than 8 million.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative New York City community history, "Heaven on the Hudson: Mansions, Monuments, and Marvels of Riverside Park" is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a eight page Glossary, a two page listing of Acknowledgments, twelve pages of Notes, and a twelve page Index. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99), "Heaven on the Hudson: Mansions, Monuments, and Marvels of Riverside Park" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Local, Urban and Architectural History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Stephanie Azzarone ( is a native New Yorker who has lived on Riverside Drive most of her adult life. A former journalist (freelancer for the New York Times and New York magazine, among others), she also ran an award-winning Manhattan public relations agency. Currently, she is studying for her tour guide certification to share her knowledge of Upper West Side life along the Hudson River with natives and tourists alike.

Carl Logan

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Death in the Reeds
John Gibson
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781951473853, $15.95, PB, 302pp

Synopsis: At the start of the Iraq War, a priceless antiquity is stolen from the Iraq Museum. The three thousand year old Death in the Reeds that once decorated an ancient throne. There are only two in the world, and billionaire collectors will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to secure it. The thief escapes Iraq with his prize, but is murdered before he can sell it. And now the missing antiquity becomes the object of a frantic chase.

In San Francisco, sexy TV star Cass Popadop (close friend to Mickey Judge, recently hired by one of the local stations after being fired from New York) finds out about the stolen art and tries to score a multi-million dollar commission. She tempts the brother of the dead thief to fly to the Mideast, track it down and bring it back to San Francisco.

All the while, hired killer Pete Grand is stalking the object himself, dispatching anyone who gets in his way with a quick toss from a fatal height.

And in the midst of all this grasping greed, by crooked politicians, media moguls and rich eccentrics, Mickey Judge finds himself becoming the ultimate bait in a chase for the billion dollar prize.

Critique: Another inherently riveting suspense thriller of an action/adventure novel from the imagination and storytelling skills of author John Gibson, "Death in the Reeds" is the latest addition to his outstanding 'hard boiled' Mickey Judge mystery series. A deftly crafted and compulsive page turner from cover to cover, "Death in the Reeds" is unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "Death in the Reeds" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Over four decades John Gibson ( was a television news reporter, a network news correspondent, a cable news anchor and a radio talk show host. He lives in Texas. OJ's Knife was his first novel, also published by Stark House. He previously published non fiction titles The War On Christmas, Hating America, and How the Left Swiftboated America.

Luda: A Novel
Grant Morrison
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780593355305, $28.00, HC, 488pp

Synopsis: Luci LaBang is a star: For decades this flamboyant drag artist has cast a spell over screen and stage. Now she's the leading lady in a smash hit musical. But as time takes its toll, Luci fears her star is beginning to dim.

When Luci's co-star meets with a mysterious accident, a new ingenue shimmers onto the scene: Luda, whose fantastical beauty and sinister charm infatuate Luci immediately -- and who bears a striking resemblance to Luci herself at a much younger age.

Luda begs Luci to share the secrets of her stardom and to reveal the hidden tricks of her trade. For Luci LaBang is a mistress of the Glamour, a mysterious discipline that draws on sex, drugs, and the occult for its trancelike, transformative effects.

But as Luci tutors her young protegee, their fellow actors and crew members begin meeting with untimely ends. Now Luci wonders if Luda has mastered the Glamour all too well -- and exploited it to achieve her dark ambitions.

What follows is an intoxicating descent into the demimonde of Gasglow, a fantastical city of dreams, and into the nightmarish heart of Luda herself: a femme fatale, a phenomenon, a monster, and, perhaps, the brightest star of them all!

Critique: A deftly crafted and impressively original novel by an author with a definite gift for the kind of imaginative storytelling style that keeps the reader fully and compulsively engaged from cover to cover, "Luca" by novelist Grant Morrison is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Literary and Fantasy Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists for dedicated psychological thriller fans that "Luca" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Grant Morrison ( is best known for his innovative work on comics, from the graphic novel Batman: Arkham Asylum to acclaimed runs on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the X-Men, as well as their subversive creator-owned titles such as The Invisibles, Seaguy, The Filth, and WE3. In television, he has developed adaptations of his comic series Happy! for Syfy and Netflix and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World for Peacock. In addition, Morrison is an award-winning playwright, a musician, an occult practitioner. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Supergods. Morrison was awarded an MBE for services to film and literature.

Homo Novus
Gerard Cabrera
Rattling Good Yarns Press
9781955826013, $16.95, PB, 258pp

Synopsis: Piety, compassion, lust, love -- feelings all the more potent to a Catholic priest confined to his hospital bed by an AIDS diagnosis, being comforted by the seminarian he sexually abused as an adolescent.

It's Holy Week 1987. The priest is Fr. Linus Fitzgerald, and the young seminarian is Orlando Rosario. Both are shocked and shaken as they reflect on their desires and dreams, secrets and sins, hopes and faith, and the paths that brought them together.

With the publication of "Homo Novus", novelist Gerard Cabrera illuminates with deep empathy and stark emotional honesty the journey these two men take separately and together -- a journey that began with a violation of trust and leads them to places (sacred and profane) that they never imagined.

Critique: A simply riveting and original novel that will have a special appeal to readers with an interest in Hispanic/American Literature, "Homo Novus" is populated with deftly crafted characters, an fascinating storyline, and the kind of narrative driven eloquence that will keep the reader's attention riveted from cover to cover. While recommended for community and academic Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Homo Novus" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.95).

Editorial Note: Gerard Cabrera ( grew up Puerto Rican in Springfield, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the first American dictionary, Dr. Seuss, and basketball. His writing has been supported by the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Camargo Foundation and has appeared in Acentos Review, Angel Rust, Apricity, JONATHAN, and Kweli.

Clint Travis

Harini Nagendra's Bookshelf

Being in Nature: 20 Practices to Help You Flourish in a Busy World
James Farrell & Lee Evans
Nature Connection Books
9781739840402, 9.99 Brit. pounds / $13.49 pbk / $4.99 Kindle Page Count 56pp

Being In Nature is a real antidote to urban stress, offering a restorative set of activities that you can do any time to reconnect with nature, and heal yourself from within. Each of the twenty mindful practices the book suggests is grounded in scientific evidence. Perfect to dip into during a short break, or take on a long rambling hike - one thing is for sure, you won't regret having picked this one up.

Professor Harini Nagendra

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Questions about Sukkot

Judaism has dozens of meaningful customs and ceremonies, but most people, even Jews, do not know all of them, their origins and their rationale. Rabbi Abraham Chill (1912-2004) gives readers of his book "The Minhagim," Hebrew for customs and ceremonies, a very readable discussion of many Jewish practices. He focuses on 27 holidays and events: synagogue, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot, Tisha B'Av, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Tu B'Shevat, Purim, marriage, birth, pidyin haben, bar mitzvah, tallit and tzitzit, tefillin, keriat shema, shemoneh esreh, birkhat kohanim, tahanun, Torah reading, ein k'elohenu, meals, mezuzah, and death and mourning. He includes the views of famous Jewish sages such as Shulchan Arukh, Tur, Abudraham, Arukh Ha-Shulhan, Hayye Avraham, Sefer Ha-Manhig, Sefer Ha-Minhagim, and others. He gives a short bio of each of the sources that he quotes.

The following are some, but not all, the questions that Rabbi Chill addresses regarding Sukkot. Leviticus 23:33-44; Deuteronomy 16:13-17 calls Sukkot the "Festival of Tabernacles" and "Feast of the Ingathering of the Fruits." He raises the questions to make us think. I do not include Rabbi Chill's answers.

Sukkot begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month Tishrei, five days after Yom Kippur, which occurs in the fall, and continues for seven days in Israel and eight days outside Israel. The seven days in Israel are immediately followed by another holiday called Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, two holidays with different purposes occurring on the same day. A day is added outside of Israel, the eighth day is Sukkot, and the ninth added day is called Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Questions to make us think

What do Sukkot and dwelling in sukkahs teach Jews? Why sit in the Sukkah in the fall and not spring when the weather is more comfortable?

Since one purpose of Sukkot is to remind Jews of the exodus from Egyptian slavery, why doesn't it coincide with Passover when the exodus occurred?

What does Shemini Atzeret teach? Why is it added to Sukkot and not another holiday?

Whereas Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret are biblical holidays, Simchat Torah (meaning, Joy over the Torah) is post-biblical and began in the Common Era. Why was it invented? Why have it joined to another holiday? (I would add, why isn't Simchat Torah connected to Shavuot, the holiday that recalls the giving of the Torah?)

The day before the last day in Israel and before the last two days outside Israel is called Hoshana Raba. The day is not mentioned in the Torah. Why was it instituted? What is its purpose? In synagogues, Jews walk around the bima, the podium from where the cantor leads the service, holding the lulav and etrog seven times. Later, one beats the aravot (willows) five times. Why walk seven times and beat five times? What do the acts teach?

Why on Simchat Torah do Jews circle the bima with Torahs seven times? Why are children called up to the reading of the Torah on this day but no other day? What is the purpose of giving one man the honor of Hatan Torah and another man Hatan Bereshit? The first means "Bridegroom of the Torah," and his honor is to read the end of the Torah. The second is "Bridegroom of Bereshit," the beginning of the annual reading of the Five Books of Moses. What is the significance of "bridegroom"? Why begin reading the Torah after Sukkot and not Simchat Torah?

What are we taught by using the four species over which a blessing is made, the lulav, etrog, hadas (myrtle), and aravah (willow)? Why does the blessing only mention the Lulav? Why are the four species waved after saying a prayer (we do not waive the Shabbat candles or the challahs or wine and other items for which we make a blessing)?

Why did the rabbis require the three species to be tied together, but not the etrog?

Is the notion of the visit of seven long-dead ushpizin (guests visiting the Sukkah, such as Abraham and King David) a superstition? Why was it instituted? (I would add, why is the number seven repeated so often in the practices of these holidays?)

Why did the ancient rabbis say that the pouring of water on the Temple altar, a ceremony called Simchat Bet ha-Sho'evah, was the most joyous occasion in the Temple on Sukkot? Why did the Sadducees oppose it? Why was it done? Why water, usually wine is poured on sacrifices on the altar?

These questions prompt answers that help us understand Judaism better. Rabbi Chill gives answers in his easy-to-read book.

The Unknown English Torah Commentator, revised and re-edited
Marcus M. Kalisch, author
Revised and re-edited by Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel
First Edition Design Publishing
9781506909769 $19.95 pbk

The Rabbi and scholar Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel has made a significant contribution to Jewish scholarship with his book "The Unknown English Torah Commentator: Marcus M. Kalisch, Genesis 1-22" the first in a series of books introducing readers to the thinking and teachings of Marcus M. Kalisch. This first volume focuses on the first half of Genesis. A second book on Genesis will follow. Samuel's book is easy to read. It is not only a clear presentation of Kalisch's thinking. It is also full of comparisons of his ideas with those of other scholars, Jewish and non-Jewish, religious people and atheists, ancient and modern. Therefore Samuel's book can be read and enjoyed by scholars and non-scholars, Jewish and non-Jewish, people of all religions.

Kalisch was born in 1828 and died in 1885. He was born in Pomerania and studied at Berlin University and Rabbinical College. He received a Ph.D. It is unknown if he was ordained as a rabbi. He served as the secretary to the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, M.M. Adler. He was recognized as being highly intelligent, with vast knowledge of Judaism and Jewish texts.

Kalisch wrote commentaries on the first three books of the Pentateuch, Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, as well as works on the non-Israelite prophet Balaam, Jonah, a Hebrew grammar, and a book on human destiny. Many Christian scholars widely acclaimed his books as works of art. His Bible commentaries included the views of non-Jews. He gave rational explanations of what the Bible stated. He felt that the Hebrew Bible is a moral and ethical work and identified moral lessons that could be derived from the text. He compared biblical stories with those found in other ancient cultures. He took the position in his Bible commentaries that the Bible was composed of more than a single source and that the documents were written at different times and assembled by an editor long after the death of Moses.

Yet, and this is significant, Kalisch felt strongly that although the Torah went through a human redacting process, this does not make the narratives and the laws less sacred. The Bible, in his view, is filled with significant teachings that will encourage people to act appropriately and help them attain happiness and improve. Thus, even people who question, as did Kalisch, the origin of the Torah will benefit by reading why and how Kalisch shows the Bible is beneficial and sacred.

The following sample of Kalisch's ideas, which Michael Leo Samuel discusses in detail, will serve as examples of his thinking and prompt readers to think about these ideas. Among much else, readers will come to realize that even if one is convinced that God did not reveal the Torah, one can, like Kalisch, still have enormous respect for the Torah and see momentous and meaningful insights and lessons in it:

The rabbis deduce that God created the world with ten commands, the final being the seventh day, the Sabbath, an important day.

The Sabbath reminds us that the spiritual is both the aim and the reward of material life.

We should not ask how vegetation could grow on the third day of creation when the sun was not created until the fourth day. By stating that vegetation grew before the sun was created, we should understand that all creation was a miracle from God, not a natural phenomenon.

The amazing parts of the human body and how they function and their abilities are our surest proof of an eternal and omnipotent divine creator.

Is the snake the emblem of the evil principle, the symbol of disobedience, a demon that possesses power independent of God for Judaism as it is in many cultures?

Folk notions aside, is superstition part of Judaism?

Although in Genesis 1:30, humans are given dominion over animals, fish, and birds, he is the master, not the tyrant. He may use them, not mistreat or annihilate them.

According to the Bible, as Pythagoras also taught, it is a hideous crime to murder animals for human food. Vegetable and fruit provisions are abundant. While humans eat the flesh of animals today, it is the aim of the Bible for humans to stop doing this. Kalisch states that permission to kill animals is an example of the deep-rooted depravity of the antediluvian generations. It is a concession the Bible makes to humans, an inheritance from the age of violence.

Monogamy was strictly observed among the early biblical people, except Lamech, who Genesis 4:23 indicates had two wives.

Why, if God did not want people to murder animals, did God prefer Abel's sacrifice of an animal over Cain's vegetation offering?

Similarly, shouldn't we expect God to prefer the vegetable offering produced with sweat and toil to the firstlings of the flock, which is bred in a life of ease?

Why is the word "brother" stressed in the episode of Cain killing Abel? Is the Torah revealing that the most faithful companion in life will, in the future, frequently turn into the enemy? The Talmud, in another discussion, states that the second temple was destroyed and Israel exiled because of the Jewish civil war.

Men and women were created with equal rights. They share the government of the earth. They are both in the image of God.

Enoch died at the early biblical age of 365, the current number of days in a year. Is there meaning in this number? Is a sudden premature death a sign of divine anger?

The Torah uses the words God "took Enoch." Should we understand that this is simply a metaphoric way of saying that Enoch died, or do we agree with Kalisch's surprising view that this usage proves that there is a brighter existence after the transitory sojourn on earth?

When scripture indicates that the early individuals lived hundreds of years, is it referring to a tribe, not a person? Were there other tribes that the Torah does not mention, just as it generally does not mention women?

Non-Judaic ancient thinkers placed the golden age in the remote past; happiness is forever forfeited. In contrast, the Bible speaks of a life of joy that we can obtain by obedience to the precepts that it dictates.

Remarkably, all ancient cultures believed humans were created from the earth.

Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden "to till it and tend it," thereby teaching humanity the dignity of work.

By having God state, "It is not good for man to be alone," the Bible is teaching that humans are sociable beings.

Eve receives three punishments for violating God's command not to eat a certain fruit: being ruled by her husband, having pain in childbirth, and "your desire will be for your husband." Why would Eve, after suffering pain, eagerly want to have relations with Adam?

Why, after causing death upon herself, Adam, and their children, does Adam call her Eve, the Hebrew meaning life?

Why are not only humans but even animals punished with death because of the misdeed of two humans?

Kalisch felt that the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Jacob's sons, were flawed individuals.

The first century CE general and historian Josephus felt that the long life that scripture states the early humans lived should be understood literally. He wrote that God loved them and gave them longevity. Is he right?

Why does the onset of the patriarch stories tell us of the incestuous marriage of Abraham to his half-sister, forbidden in Exodus 2:1 and 6:20? Similarly, why did the parents of Moses, Amram and Jochebed, nephew and aunt, marry in violation of Leviticus 18:13? Additionally, rabbis recognize that there were no other humans than Adam and Eve's family. They say that the males, such as Cain, married their sisters born with them. Why did God create a situation where people had to marry incestuously?

When the Torah states that "men began to invoke the name of the Lord" in the time of Seth, does it mean that they began to pray to God, with some people substituting prayer for sacrifices?

The three children of Noah - Shem, Ham, and Japheth - are named because they became the ancestors of many important nations; their names prepare us for the extraordinary incidents that follow.

Genesis 6:12 states that not only humans but even animals engaged in behavior that corrupted the earth. How did animals do so?

Genesis 6:19-20 ordered Noah to take one pair of every species into the ark, but 7:2-3 has God say to take seven pairs of clean animals and one pair of unclean animals. Kalisch feels that this discrepancy has never been successfully explained. Additionally, we do not know what "clean" and "unclean" mean.

The numbers associated with the flood are not significant. We must abstain from forcing meaning on them, religious, mystic, or astronomical.

The civil laws of Moses reform old pagan institutions and bring them to reasonable limits rather than create new ones because it was impossible to radically change the laws and expect the people to accept the change.

Kalisch felt that the number ten reflects completeness, totality, and perfection. Therefore the Ten Commandments are a complete code, and the ten plagues represent the idea that all the terrors of nature were exhausted against the terrible tyrant.

Readers will be impressed to find, as previously stated, that Rabbi Dr. Samuel has made a significant contribution to scholarship, how laypersons understand the Bible, and how his book can help readers improve. Most important is the realization that even if one thinks that God did not reveal the Torah and that it is a human document, it contains valuable and helpful information.

Maimonides' Hidden Torah Commentary: Volume 4 - Numbers
Michael Leo Samuel
First Edition Design Publishing
9781506910604 $16.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

"Maimonides' Hidden Torah Commentary: Volume 4 - Numbers" is another of the many brilliant, learned, eye-opening, easy-to-read, and understood books by the brilliant scholar Rabbi Dr. Michael L. Samuel. It is another of his excellent contributions to scholarship.

Rabbi Samuel was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area. He is the child of a Holocaust survivor; his late father, Leo Samuel, was descended from a long line of rabbis who lived in a part of Europe that used to be a section of Czechoslovakia. He is also a descendant of highly regarded rabbis of the 19th century, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan. His rabbinical education benefited from studying at several Orthodox seminaries, graduating from the Lubavitch Seminary with advanced rabbinical degrees in Yoreh Deah, and an advanced rabbinical ordination, becoming a rabbinical judge (Yadin Yadin). In the early years of his career, he taught Talmud and Bible at various Torah u'Messorah Day schools in New York and New England. Teaching at all levels and ages is one of his great passions. He became a pulpit rabbi in 1988, first serving an Orthodox congregation for several years, but later established his rabbinate within the Conservative tradition, where he has served for more than two decades. In 1995, he completed his doctoral degree in pastoral counseling at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.

He is an avid student of the Greek and Latin classics. His ideas combine those of Talmudic literature, Maimonides, Aristotle, Philo, Augustine, Thomas Merton, Levinas, Buber, Abraham Isaac Kook, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Erich Fromm, Rashi, Nachmanides, and a legion of Jewish and non-Jewish classical Bible commentators. It has long been his personal belief that Judaism honors the great questions humankind has asked since the dawn of civilization. All traditions deserve to be questioned if they are to be correctly understood. He follows the teaching of Maimonides, "The truth is the truth no matter what its source." His philosophy is simple: "We possess a wonderful tradition that reflects diversity and creativity. God did not place us in this world simply to be pious automatons. The human mind is a wonderful gift. To properly worship God, we must engage in critical thought and self-reflective thinking."

This book completes his series of volumes in which he explains the views of Maimonides on what scripture writes in the 36 chapters of the fourth book Numbers while comparing and contrasting Maimonides' opinions with those of other thinkers. He focuses on the contents of each of the ten parashas in Numbers, the ten weekly biblical portions read in synagogues and studied at home.

The following are samples of Rabbi Dr. Samuel's incisive analysis of Numbers:

He gives us information about the book's name. The name "Numbers" derives from the Vulgate's Numeri, which is a Latinization of the Greek (Arithmoi). This name might have been chosen due to the numerous censuses in the wilderness (see Num. 1, 3-4, and 26). But the Hebrew name of the fourth book tells an altogether different story, ____ (Bamidbar) - "In the Wilderness." True to the book's title, the ancient Israelite figures are prominently concerned about the "numbers" of their ranks. Although the biblical text did not furnish details about how Moses conducted the process for his census of the Israelites, it is evident that he had to have several assistants who compiled the statistics of the Israelite army. In Numbers 11:16-18, Moses made use of the____, who kept the records of the Israelite people. This term is related to the Akkadian verb sataru, implying record keepers or administrators. It has the sense of a civil servant. These individuals played a significant role in helping Moses and the priests maintain meticulous records of every event. Rabbi Samuel also gives us facts about the Hebrew name and its meaning for us today.

In Numbers 12, Miriam, Moses's sister, challenges Moses being God's exceptional prophet. The text does not disclose what bothered Miriam. Was she only using Moses' relationship with his wife as an excuse to assert her importance? It seems Miriam instinctively knows where to attack her brother, and she viewed his marital relationship as his Achilles' heel. The fact she was dark-skinned apparently made her doubt her brother's choice of spouse, but at the heart of her complaint aims to shatter Moses' credibility as a prophet - as the preeminent prophet of God. Did she attack out of a sense of personal jealousy toward him?

In Ch. 10 of his Epistle to the Jews of Yemen, Maimonides accepts the possibility of non-Jews attaining prophecy. Rabbi Samuel writes that Gersonides and others agreed: "Gersonides pointed out several instances of prophecy among non-Jews. God's conversations with Noah were of a prophetic genre. The same applies to the three messengers who visited Abraham in Gen. 18, bearing the prediction of Isaac's birth are prophets (CT, p. 26c). Similarly, the angelic messenger who rescued Hagar in Gen. 21:17 was also a prophet, according to Gersonides' understanding of the story (CT, p. 30b). Gersonides also regarded Balaam as a genuine prophet - even though Balaam's behavior demonstrated how non-Jews often misuse their prophetic gifts."
Maimonides states in his Guide of the Perplexed 3:23 that the Book of Job is a parable; Job never existed.

There is a discussion about moderation which includes the obligation to enjoy what God made available. Maimonides stresses that people should follow the dictates of nature, eating, drinking, enjoying legitimate sexual intercourse, all in moderation, and living among people in honesty and uprightness, but not dwelling in the wilderness, in the mountains, or clothing themselves in garments of hair and wool, or afflicting the body. The Torah even warns us against these practices if we interpret it according to what tradition tells us is the meaning of the passage concerning the Nazirite, "And he (the priest) shall make an atonement for him because he has sinned against the soul." The Sages wondered, "Against what soul has he sinned? Against his soul because he has deprived himself of wine. Is this not then a conclusion a minori ad majus? If one deprives himself merely of wine must bring an atonement, how much more incumbent is it upon one who denies himself every enjoyment."

Samuel writes: "Maimonides teaches us a cardinal rule in how we understand the Torah: Torah never contradicts a fact. When we find ourselves in a situation where Torah and science appear adversarial to one another regarding a fact, there are only two alternatives to consider - either the scientific view is incorrect, or we must reinterpret the Torah in a manner that is in harmony with reality."

Maimonides teaches that it is not proper for a man to accept as trustworthy anything other than one of these three things. The first is a thing for which there is clear proof from man's reasoning, such as arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. The second is what a man perceives through one of the five senses: when he knows with certainty that this is red and black. The third is what man receives from the prophets or the righteous. Every reasonable man ought to distinguish in his mind and thought all the things that he accepts as trustworthy and say, "This I accept as trustworthy because of tradition and this because of sense-perception and this on grounds of reason." Anyone who accepts as trustworthy anything that is not of these three species of him, it is said, "The simple believes everything" (Prov. 14: 15).

Maimonides taught that while the laws of the Torah derive from a divine origin - in contrast with the social laws defined by society - every effort ought to be expended to understand the law's rational purpose and inner conceptual structure. But such an intellectual approach to the observance of the mitzvoth did not set well with the traditionalist camp. Not only did they reject this exposition because of their disdain toward rationalistic thought, but they also felt that rationalism could ultimately undermine religious faith and behavior altogether.

Maimonides recognizes that humans are imperfect, even Moses. Numbers 20:10-12 tells how Moses and Aaron gathered the Israelite assembly before a rock and, angered by their failure to maintain trust in God, said to them, "Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; the water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank - But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them." Rabbi Samuel explains: "For Maimonides, Moses' sharp censure - 'listen you rebels...' - reflects an inappropriately angry tone that caused a "chillul Hashem" (a desecration of God's Name and acts in a manner most unbecoming of a person of his stature."

In three excurses, Rabbi Samuel explores and clarifies the ancient and medieval opinions concerning the unusual story of the non-Israelite prophet Balaam, including why it is inserted in Jewish scripture in such detail and what it is meant to inform us. In the second, he addresses the oft-raised question of whether God is speaking to all humanity in the Torah or exclusively to Jews. In the third, he focuses on the role of women in Jewish law.

These are just some of the information and a few of the many interpretations Rabbi Dr. Michael L. Samuel gives readers in his splendid, very informative book.

The Yeshiva - Part One
Chaim Grade, author
Curt Leviant, translator
9780672522642 $TBA

I wrote in past reviews of Chaim Grade's books that I and many others are convinced Grade deserves the Nobel Prize for literature. Most readers of his book published in Yiddish in 1967 titled Tsemakh Atlas and translated into English in 1976 as The Yeshiva in two parts will agree. The first part is 387 pages, and the second is 394. Many consider The Yeshiva his crowning achievement. Tsemakh Atlas is the name of the principal person in the drama. He is a scholar and rabbi and, for a time, the Rosh Yeshiva, the head of a Jewish Yeshiva, which teaches the Bible, Talmud, and Ethics, called Musar in Hebrew. Yet, he is in spiritual turmoil. He doubts God's existence and the Torah's divinity, basic principles for most Orthodox Jews. The novel is set in six Jewish towns in Lithuania after the First World War.

Regarding Musar, he rejects the generally accepted view that people should act according to the Golden Mean, in moderation, between extremes. An example of the Golden Mean is courage. A proper courageous hero is not cowardly, fearful, hiding away from danger, or fearlessly rushing into unsafe situations without care. He assesses the difficulty, plans how to overcome it, and faces and overcomes it. Tsemakh rejects caution. He insists that people should behave most strictly, even if it provokes anger, which it usually does. Grade knew this extreme view of Musar since he, born in 1910, attended a Musar Yeshiva as a student until he was 22 in 1932, when he left the rabbinic world and Orthodox Judaism and began his writing career as a poet and later as a novelist. But, unlike Chaim Atlas, Tsemakh Atlas did not abandon Orthodoxy as he understood it. Although, despite his insistence on stringency, Tsemakh is flawed, inconsistent, and attracted by female beauty.

I have seen no explanation of Tsemakh Atlas' name. The Hebrew word tsemakh means "growth." The word atlas is used in English and Hebrew to indicate a map or chart, but also one who bears a heavy burden, as the Titan in Greek mythology whom the Greek god forced as punishment for betraying him to carry the heavens on his shoulders. It is possible that Chaim Grade gave him this name because the rabbi attempted to improve and grow to control his emotions and carry his heavy emotional burdens.

Besides the overall story and his outstanding writing, what stands out for me is his treatment of the many people in the novel. I read a lot. But I cannot remember any writer who tells us so much about every character in the book. When a person is introduced, whether male or female, young or old, Jewish or non-Jewish, even if the person appears for a very short time, interesting information is given about that person, which is so detailed that it is like a story in brief.

The translators of Book one devote three pages to "Cast of Characters," telling us their names, when they appear in the six cities where Tsemakh travels, and a few words about them. This listing shows us how many people populate this novel, people whose character is told in brief tales. There is one in Navaredok, Tsemakh's teacher; two in Nareva, Tsemakh himself and the head of the Musar yeshiva; three in Amdur, Tsemakh's fiancee, her father, and an innkeeper; nineteen in Lomzhe, including members of Tsemakh's family and people associated with the yeshiva; sixteen in Vilna, town people and a brilliant young man, Chaikl, who becomes Tsemakh's pupil; twenty-six in Valkenik, including students of Tsemakh and a renowned scholar, rabbi, and sage who saves Chaikl from Tsemakh. It is significant that despite the vast number of people in the drama, sixty-eight people, readers do not confuse them with other people because of Chaim Grade's skill. It is like a loving father selecting dissimilar strands of colored silk and weaving them into a single coat of many colors as a gift to a cherished child.

Tsemakh, in this drama, breaks his engagement to a lovely young woman from a religious household and, because he doubts God and the Torah, marries a beautiful woman from a freethinking family, stops being religious and doing the mitzvot, praying, and studying. He tells his friends who try to persuade him to return to Orthodoxy that a Jew does not have to believe in the Torah as long as the Jew loves his neighbor as himself, uses his reasoning ability, and does good deeds. However, he leaves his wife, moves to Valkenik, and with a friend, establishes a yeshiva, but becomes infatuated with a married woman.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Progressives and Prison Labor
Jeffrey Alan John
The University of Akron Press
30 Amberwood Parkway, Ashland, OH 44805
9781629221403, $60.00, HC, 126pp

Synopsis: During World War I Ohio Governor James M. Cox accepted pleas from the federal government to initiate a road-building project that would make the National Road suitable for military vehicles. A lack of workers threatened the plans, however, so in a controversial move hundreds of convicts, almost all African American, were pulled from Ohio's prisons to comprise the labor corps.

The multi-million-dollar undertaking, completed just as the war ended, created what was reputed to be the world's longest stretch of continuous brick road. Today, the enterprise serves as an excellent example of how racism and plain old-fashioned politics permeated good intentions of one of the last Progressive Era endeavors.

Drawing on archives, contemporary records, and many previously unpublished photos, "Progressives and Prison Labor: Rebuilding Ohio's National Road during World War I" by Jeffrey Alan John recalls the National Road background, the personalities, and the massive construction project that consumed southeast Ohio through the spring and summer of 1918.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of Images; an Introduction & Epilogue; ten pages of Notes, an eight page Bibliography, and a three page Index, "Progressives and Prison Labor: Rebuilding Ohio's National Road during World War I" is the newest addition to the University of Akron Press 'Ohio History and Culture" series. Of special value to readers with an interest in 20th Century Ohio History and Criminology/ Penology, "Progressives and Prison Labor" is an especially recommended addition to professional, 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 "Progressives and Prison Labor" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $59.99).

Editorial Note: Jeffrey Alan John experienced journalism as a daily newspaper reporter, editor of a motorcycle magazine, and writer for a state historical society before entering the teaching and research life of academia, which he continues as a Professor Emeritus at Wright State University. Jeff is the author of the sci-fi Lab Rats Can't Say No: A Story in the Future, and co-author with the late Frank L. Johnson of A Bird in Your Hand: A Story of Ambiguous Justice, a true crime tale. (

Wanderings of a Wayward Woodcarver
Gerry Holzman
Linden Publishing
9781610353847, $18.95, PB, 250pp

Synopsis: It's said that life is a merry-go-round and for Gerry Holzman, this has been literally and figuratively true. A master figure carver who has restored over 100 pieces of antique carousel art, created 250 pieces of original carousel carving, and was the head carver and executive director of New York's landmark Empire State Carousel Project, Holzman has devoted the past 50 years to woodcarving, and his skill has taken him around the world as a student, teacher, craftsman, and artist. Throughout this giddy merry-go-round of a career, he has encountered many intriguing ways to use our brief time on earth and invites us to accompany him as he strives to understand and appreciate them all.

With the publication of "Wanderings of a Wayward Woodcarver: Stories from a Life in Wood", Holzman presents a record of his lifetime spent in the craft and the many lessons it has taught him about what it means to be a carver and what it means to be a human being, plus a recounting of the many memorable characters he has met along the way.

From master carver Gino Masero, who taught Holzman much about carving, life, creativity, and decency, to Holzman's students who touched his life deeply, to a sign carver who could not read, a witch who invited Holzman to visit her coven, and the mafioso who showed Holzman how to prevent his carvings from being stolen, "Wanderings of a Wayward Woodcarver" also shows how a life in craft is the perfect viewpoint to see the whole of the human condition.

Critique: A simply fascinating memoire from first page to last, "Wanderings of a Wayward Woodcarver: Stories from a Life in Wood" will have a very special appeal to anyone with an interest in woodcarving as a profession in this modern era. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "Wanderings of a Wayward Woodcarver: Stories from a Life in Wood" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir and Woodcarving Craft collections.

Editorial Note: Gerry Holzman has been a professional woodcarver since 1971, a carousel restorer since 1976, and a collector of New York State folklore since seventh grade. He learned his woodcarving trade by studying in England with the late Gino Masero, one of England's 32 master carvers. During his career, Gerry has restored over 100 pieces of antique carousel art and has created approximately 250 pieces of original carousel carving. He was the head carver and executive director of the Empire State Carousel Project. He has written two books: Us Carvers, a memoir of sorts; and The Empire State Carousel, a lavishly illustrated guidebook to his extraordinary merry-go-round.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture
Mark Voger
TwoMorrows Publishing
10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614
9781605491158, $43.95, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Remember when long-haired British rock 'n' roll band members made American teenage girls swoon and drove their parents go crazy? With the publication of "Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture", pop culture historian Mark Voger plunges into the period when suddenly, America went wild for All Things British.

This profusely illustrated full-color pop culture study also explores the movies (A Hard Day's Night, Having a Wild Weekend), TV (The Ed Sullivan Show, Magical Mystery Tour), collectibles (toys, games, trading cards, lunch boxes), comics (real-life Brits in the DC and Marvel Universes) and, of course, the music!

"Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture" is further enhance for the reader with interviews with members of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, the Kinks, Herman's Hermits, the Yardbirds, the Animals, the Hollies and more!

Critique: A pure piece of 60s nostalgia that will be of immense and special interest to the Babyboom generation, "Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture" is profusely illustrated with both black/white and full color images. Impressively informative, inherently fascinating, remarkable well organized, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, "Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, college, and university library 20th Century American Pop Culture collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Mark Voger ( is also the author of "Holly Jolly: Celebrating Christmas Past in Pop Culture"; "The Dark Age: Grim, Great & Gimmicky Post-Modern Comics"; "Hero Gets Girl!: The Life & Art Of Kurt Schaffenberger"; "Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture"; and "Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze In America, 1957-1972".

Coats of Arms: An Introduction to The Science and Art of Heraldry
Marc Fountain
Modern History Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615996964, $34.95, HC, 42pp

Synopsis: Featuring full-color pages accessible to readers of any age, "Coats of Arms: An Introduction to The Science and Art of Heraldry" (written and illustrated by Marc Fountain) is a how and why quick-start guide that explains knighthood and nobility and royalty, what coats of arms mean, how to create your own, and how to assemble those of your ancestors.

Heraldry is the art and profession of creating designs within shield-shaped outlines meant to identify important individuals and their descendants, as well as organizations (towns, schools, corporations) and nations. These designs often come surrounded by additional symbols such as helms, crowns or crests. Although few of us bear actual shields in the modern world, many today print their ancestors' armorial symbols onto paper, engrave them into jewelry or tableware, and carve them into wood and stone.

Readers will learn about: Symbols of Identity (where Heraldry came from, and how it can still empower people today); Within the Shield (the symbols which identify a person or family or organization); Beyond the Shield (the symbols which identify social rank (gentry, knight, noble, royal); Ancestry (where last names came from, and where you come into the story).

Critique: An inherently fascinating and exceptionally informative study that is impressively organized and presented, "Coats of Arms: An Introduction to The Science and Art of Heraldry" is especially recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Medieval History & Heraldry collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Coats of Arms: An Introduction to The Science and Art of Heraldry" is also available in a paperback edition (9781615996957, $21.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.95).

Editorial Note: Marc Fountain has been a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators ( since 2016, and a member of the organization for crime writers since 2015, during which time he served for two years as co-President of SinC's North Carolina Triad chapter. He wrote this introductory book about heraldry because, not quite half a century ago at age 11, He found a book in my grandfather's library about coats of arms. He was enchanted, but trying to learn from its dense text and colorless line art felt like trying to swim through peanut butter. That book had been written for scholarly researchers. But with the publication of "Coats of Arms: An Introduction to The Science and Art of Heraldry" the different parts of this book will prove useful to readers at different ages. Those interested can learn more at

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Value and Transformation of Corals
Christine and Margaret Wertheim, authors
Udo Kittleman, editor
Wienand Verlag
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9783868326888, $50.00, HC, 229pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Value and Transformation of Corals: Catalogue for the exhibition at Museum Frieder Burda 2022", Australian-born, California-based sister artists Margaret and Christine Wertheim draw on a unique fusion of mathematics, marine biology, traditional handicraft methods and collective art practice to create large-scale coralline landscapes both beautiful and blighted.

Responding to anthropogenic crisis, their soft sculptures and wall-mounted reliefs simulate living reefs using crochet techniques to mimic in yarn the curling, crenelated forms of actual marine organisms. Initiated in 2005, the Crochet Coral Reef project has been exhibited at the 58th Venice Biennale, Helsinki Biennial, Andy Warhol Museum, The Smithsonian Institution and other international venues.

In addition to their own reefs, the Wertheims have collaborated with communities in 50 cities and countries to create local Satellite Reefs, to which more than 20,000 people have contributed, constituting one of the largest, longest running participatory art happenings on the planet.

This newly published volume accompanies a museum-wide retrospective at Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden, Germany, which gathers the Wertheims' work over the past 17 years alongside a new Baden-Baden Satellite Reef, the largest to date, encompassing over 40,000 individual coral pieces.

With commissioned essays about the scientific, social, environmental, mathematical and communal dimensions of the project, "Value and Transformation of Corals" provides a critical in-depth look at a stunning example of the power of art and community in the face of climate change. Collaborative, figurative, material, conceptual, artistic, feminist and playful, the Wertheims' Crochet Coral Reef alerts us to the reality that life on Earth is nothing if not entangled.

Critique: Informative enhanced with the contributions of five expert contributors, including a listing of their credentials in a listing of Artist biographies (and vibrantly illustrated throughout with full color photography), "Value and Transformation of Corals: Catalogue for the exhibition at Museum Frieder Burda 2022" is an impressive coffee-table style volume (8.25 x 1 x 10.75 inches, 2.7 pounds). Exceptionally informative in organization and presentation, "Value and Transformation of Corals" is an extraordinary, memorable, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Art, Needlecraft, and Artist Monograph collections.

Editorial Note: In 2003, Margaret and Christine Wertheim founded their Los Angeles based art-practice, the Institute For Figuring, as a framework for engaging audiences with ideas from scientific fields such as physics, logic, and computation. Margaret (a science writer), and Christine (a poet and former painter), are driven by a belief that concepts which are usually described by equations and algorithms can also be made accessible through playful physical activities. Hyperbolic geometry can crocheted; fractals can be built from business cards; and the logic underlying computers can be represented in drawings. The sisters aim to make "abstract" concepts understandable and pleasurable through "material play."

The Next Great Step: The Parents' Guide to Launching Your New Grad into a Career
Beth Hendler-Grunt
Merack Publishing
9781957048154, $24.99, HC, 234pp

Synopsis: In our currently volatile economy the competition for finding a good job after college can be fierce. Complicated by the Covid pandemic, inflation, and geopolitical confrontations, the straightforward college-to-employment pipeline that we once followed no longer exists. When the internship doesn't happen, or graduation is nearing, and your young adult hasn't figured out their career or job search strategy yet, what next?

With the publication of "The Next Great Step: The Parents' Guide to Launching Your New Grad into a Career", career expert Beth Hendler-Grunt bridges that gap. With 20 years of experience and expertise, she guides parents through a simple, step-by-step approach that demonstrates what it takes for their new grad to land that first internship, job, and beyond.

Comprised of tips, job aids, and insightful stories about how to successfully guide young adults through the transition from college to career, "The Next Great Step" should be considered required reading for every parent (and every job hunting grad student!) looking to help their student launch from college to the real world.

Critique: Real world practical, impressively comprehensive, exceptionally well organized, and thoroughly 'parent friendly' in presentation, "The Next Great Step: The Parents' Guide to Launching Your New Grad into a Career" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Jobs/Careers & Vocational Guidance collections. It should be noted that "The Next Great Step" is also available in a paperback edition (9781957048130, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Beth Hendler-Grunt ( is the sought-after thought leader in the college-to-career space. She leverages techniques and insights of guiding CEOs and brings those secrets to students to help them stand out and get the job. She has enabled hundreds of clients to achieve success where 90% of clients land the job of their choice.

Fairy Tale Wisdom: Stories for the Second Half of Life
William L. Randall, author
Barbara Lewis, author
W. Andrew Achenbaum, author
ElderPress Books
9780973631333, $18.95, PB, 218pp

Synopsis: Later life, for all the challenges and changes that come with it, is a time to embark upon a uniquely exciting adventure. It is, in many ways, an inner journey, one of deepening our understanding of our lives and our selves by tapping into the rich cache of experiences that have assembled silently inside of us through the years. When viewed with insight, openness and wonder, aging is an adventure in truly growing older, rather than (passively, resignedly) getting older.

With the publication of "Fairy Tale Wisdom: Stories for the Second Half of Life", the team of authors Bill Randall, Barbara Lewis, and Andy Achenbaum crawl inside an assortment of fables, parables, and other stories that they recall from their childhood and revisit them as older adults. They re-read (and re-member) timeless tales like Hansel and Gretel, The Ugly Duckling, The Tortoise and The Hare, plus many others, through the lens of the still-unfolding stories of their own lives, with all the losses and loves, the layers and learning that 70+ years involve.

Reflecting on these stories with a blend of playfulness and seriousness, the authors find themselves asking questions, making out patterns, and stumbling onto truths (not always comfortable) to which they might otherwise be blind. "Fairy Tale Wisdom" is a welcome invitation to see these old tales with fresh eyes and celebrate the wisdom that lurks between the lines of your own life.

Critique: A simply fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read, "Fairy Tale Wisdom: Stories for the Second Half of Life" is an extraordinary approach to appreciate the applicability of traditional fairytales and folklore to the latter stages of life. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99), "Fairy Tale Wisdom: Stories for the Second Half of Life" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Gerontology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: William L. (Bill) Randall ( is Professor of Gerontology at St. Thomas University, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. W. Andrew Achensbaum is a professor of history and social work at the University of Houston ( Barbara Lewis is a 'seventy something' psychoanalyst.

Julie Summers

Kirk Bane's Bookshelf

The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters
Leon Claire Metz
Checkmark Books
0816045445, $19.95, paperback

Sadly, popular Old West historian Leon Claire Metz died of COVID-19 complications in November 2020 (El Paso Times, November 16, 2020). Author of numerous books on frontier law enforcers and desperadoes, and past president of the Western Writers of America, Metz also worked as an archivist at The University of Texas at El Paso Library. His studies include John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas, Pat Garrett: The Story of a Western Lawman, and Desert Army: Fort Bliss on the Texas Border.

Metz also wrote The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters, an outstanding reference work that covers "key events and geographical locations" and profiles numerous gunmen, both the iconic and lesser known. It boasts, as well, more than sixty photographs, an impressive bibliography, and an insightful essay, "The Way of the Gunfighter: An Introduction."
Metz provides lengthy entries on such legendary figures as Clay Allison, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Dalton brothers, Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrett, John Wesley Hardin, Doc Holliday, Frank and Jesse James, Bat Masterson, and Bass Reeves. Moreover, he addresses such topics as Boot Hill, the Colt Revolver, dime novels, Dodge City, the El Paso Salt War, the Gunfight at the OK Corral, the Lincoln County War, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, and the Texas Rangers.

Old West devotees, especially those intrigued by crime and law enforcement, will enjoy Metz's superb encyclopedia. You can nearly smell the gun smoke!

Dr. Kirk Bane

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Field Guide to Stains
Virginia M Friedman, Melissa Wagner, and Nancy Armstrong
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781683693260, $16.99, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Virginia M. Friedman, Melissa Wagner, and Nancy Armstrong are freelance writers living in Philadelphia. They have many decades of combined experience studying stains in their natural environment. With the publication of"Field Guide to Stains: How to Identify and Remove Virtually Every Stain on Earth" they have collaborated to provide homemakers and cleaning staff workers with effective step-by-step techniques for rescuing clothes, upholstery, carpet, and wallpaper from stains caused by:

Fruits and vegetables
Dairy products
Household items
Office supplies
Sauces and condiments
Beauty products
Bodily functions
Wine to wiper fluid -- And more!

Critique: Informatively enhanced with the inclusion of a glossary of cleaning techniques and the basic products any would-be clean person should have on hand, "techniques" is the perfect DIY instruction guide for the laundry room, kitchen, nursery, garage, or any other place where stains might (and inevtiably will) occur. While also readily available for personal 'how to' reference collections in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "Field Guide to Stains: How to Identify and Remove Virtually Every Stain on Earth" is unreservedly recommended for personal, family, professional, and community library Home & Household Cleaning collections.

Daughter of Spies: Wartime Secrets, Family Lies
Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop
Pact Press
9781646032747, $17.95, PB, 242pp

Synopsis: As a child, Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop, along with her five brothers, was raised to revere the tribal legends of the Alsop and Roosevelt families. Her parents' marriage, lived in the spotlight of 1950s Washington where her father, journalist Stewart Alsop, grew increasingly famous, was not what either of her parents had imagined it would be.

Her mother's strict Catholicism and her father's restless ambition collided to create a strangely muted and ominous world, one that mirrored the whispered conversations in the living room as the power brokers of Washington came and went through their side door. Through it all, her mother, trained to keep secrets as a decoding agent with MI5, said very little.

"Daughter of Spies: Wartime Secrets, Family Lies" is candid memoir in which Elizabeth explores who her mother was, why alcohol played such an important role in her mother's life, and why her mother held herself apart from all her children, especially her only daughter. In Elizabeth's journey to understand her parents, particularly her mother, she came to realize that the secrets parents keep are the ones that reverberate most powerfully in the lives of their children.

Critique: An extraordinary and riveting true life story, "Daughter of Spies: Wartime Secrets, Family Lies" by Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop is a unique, absorbing, and fascinating World War II era memoir. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library American Biography/Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Daughter of Spies: Wartime Secrets, Family Lies" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop ( is the author of over sixty works of fiction for all ages, including the novels Island Justice and In My Mother's House. Robert Stone selected her short story, "The Golden Darters," for Best American Short Stories. Her fantasy novels for children, The Castle in the Attic and The Battle for the Castle, are considered classics of the genre.

Mary Gillick: Sculptor and Medallist
Phillip Attwood
Spink Books
9781912667758, $35.00, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Mary Gillick, nee Tutin (1881 - 27 January 1965), is probably best remembered for the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II that appeared on UK coins from the beginning of her reign until decimalization in 1971. With the publication of "Mary Gillick: Sculptor and Medallist", author Philip Attwood focuses on her career as a sculptor and medallist -- a career that had begun at Nottingham School of Art and the Royal College of Art and had already spanned more than fifty years when she experienced the sudden burst of national fame that came with the royal commission.

Gillick's work combines the influence of early Italian Renaissance medals with an appreciation of modernism and shows a readiness to adapt as she responded to changes in the art market. Her experience also adds to the debate on the impact on women of marriages between artists (she was married to sculptor Ernest Gillick from 1905, until his death in 1951) and the choices open to women sculptors of her time.

"Mary Gillick: Sculptor and Medallist" is the very first study of such an iconic British artist to be published, and is sure to attract the attention of both numismatists and anyone interested in the history of British art alike.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "Mary Gillick: Sculptor and Medallist" is a seminal biography of a gifted and remarkable artist by Philip Attwood and is a jointly published project by Spink Books and The British Museum. Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a three page listing of References, ten pages of Notes, and a seven page Index, "Mary Gillick: Sculptor and Medallist" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Artist Biography collections.

Editorial Note: Philip Attwood ( was Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British Museum from 2010 to 2020, having worked in that department from 1979, principally as curator of medals. On his retirement in 2020 he was made an Honorary Research Fellow. His many books and articles include the British Museum exhibition catalogue Artistic circles: the medal in Britain 1880-1918 (1992), the major collection catalogue Italian medals, c.1530-1600, in British public collections (2003), and more recently Hard at work: the diary of Leonard Wyon 1853-1867 (2014). For many years he has been editor of The Medal, the journal of the British Art Medal Society, and was president of that society from 2008 to 2018. Since 2012 he has been president of the Federation Internationale de la Medaille d'Art (FIDEM).

COOL: Women Leaders Reversing Global Warming
Paola Gianturco, author
Avery Sangster, author
PowerHouse Books
9781576879542, $39.95, HC, 186pp

Synopsis: Women are especially effective leaders when it comes to combating global warming. Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement, report that "Nations with greater female representation in positions of power have smaller climate footprints. Companies with women on their executive boards are more likely to invest in renewable energy and develop products that help solve the climate crisis. Women legislators vote for environmental protections almost twice as frequently as men, and women who lead investment firms are twice as likely to make investment decisions based on how companies treat their employees and the environment."

For "COOL: Women Leaders Reversing Global Warming", Paola Gianturco and her 12-year-old granddaughter and co-author, Avery Sangster, interviewed and photographed heads of grassroots organizations, activists, politicians, corporate executives, scholars, and presidents of nonprofits in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Tanzania, Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Canada and Hong Kong. All of them are using intelligence, creativity, and courage.

"COOL: Women Leaders Reversing Global Warming" tells their important, inspiring stories in their own words and suggests action steps so the reader can join them on this existential journey.

Critique: Impressively informative and profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography, "COOL: Women Leaders Reversing Global Warming" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Women's Studies and Environmental Conservation Studies in general, and supplemental curriculum Australian, Oceania, and Canadian Women in Politicals studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Paola Gianturco (, author and photographer, has documented women's issues in 62 countries for six powerHouse Books. Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon (2012) won four first place literary awards in categories as diverse as multicultural nonfiction and women's studies. Wonder Girls: Changing Our World is third in a triptych. Women Who Light the Dark described women activists; Grandmother Power told about grandmother activists. Paola's images have been exhibited at the United Nations, UNESCO, The US Senate, The Field Museum/Chicago, The Museum of the African Diaspora/San Francisco, The Norton Simon Museum/Pasadena, The Grand Rapids Public Museum and more.

Editorial Note #2: Avery Sangster is Paola's granddaughter and co-author. Avery interviewed and photographed women leaders across the United States and Tanzania. She is used to thinking about global issues; she and her sister created a children's program at an annual international poverty conference, and led it for seven years. Passionate about reversing global warming, she mobilized her classmates to create an environmental website. Avery's Invitation to Action, the final chapter of the book, is a powerful call for all of us to engage with the issue.

Margaret Lane

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Suppressing the Truth in Dallas
Charles Brandt
Post Hill Press
9781637583159, $27.99, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Suppressing the Truth in Dallas: Conspiracy, Cover-Up, and International Complications in the JFK Assassination Case ", Charles Brandt, who handled over fifty-six homicides as the chief deputy attorney general of Delaware, in charge of all homicides and a private homicide defense attorney in the 1970s, has now used his hands-on professional experience in murder investigation and his analytic skills to conclusively solve every secret of the homicides of JFK, Officer Tippit, and Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas in 1963.

Brandt also proves that "but for" the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Mafia would not have authorized any of these 1963 murders that form the basis of "Suppressing the Truth in Dallas". Brandt solves the mysteries of Dallas for all time and exposes all the motives of those, such as Chief Justice Earl Warren, who intentionally attempted to suppress the truth.

Critique: Fascinating, provocative, iconoclastic, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Suppressing the Truth in Dallas: Conspiracy, Cover-Up, and International Complications in the JFK Assassination Case" is an impressively informative and exceptionally well organized and presented study that is highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library 20th Century American History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Suppressing the Truth in Dallas" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Charles Brandt ( attended Stuyvesant High School on 15th Street in Manhattan. His uncle, Professor Frank Zozzora of Sassano, Italy, helped him make it through the University of Delaware. Upon graduation, Brandt taught English in Queens, then worked as an investigator for the Welfare Department in East Harlem near Fat Tony Salerno's Mafia headquarters. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1969 and became a prosecutor and homicide investigator in Delaware. He was promoted in 1974 to the chief deputy attorney general, in charge of all homicides. In 1976, he became a medical malpractice lawyer. By 2000, with the help of his cousin Carmine Zozzora, he had become a professional writer in Ketchum, Idaho, where he resides.

Journey to the Better Place
Brian Barnes
Grosvenor House Publishing Limited
9781803811505, $34.99, HC, 612pp

Synopsis: Joshua and Jericho -- From the moment he read the two names in the newspaper, he knew that the demons from his past had found him. In the steaming jungle of Guatemala, Raymond Coulter had killed a man, and it had destroyed him. But now, those two names had returned, dragging his darkest memories into his present life - was it a coincidence or, perhaps, a message?

Whatever it was, the first step in a long journey of death and survival, of hatred and love, had been taken - and he was powerless to alter the course of his own destiny. A moral dilemma on a global scale had to be confronted, the trail of murder had already begun.

Watching the man throw himself from the apartment window to a certain death on the concrete far below, she accepted that it was a necessary part of all this. His death was not important to her, but the manner of it was crucial. The willful act of self-destruction had been the key factor, and it now meant their revenge could finally become a reality.

But the old man's visions had told him there was a problem - one man stood in the way of their pursuit of vengeance, and Lucia Cortez had to find him and then she would destroy him. It didn't matter who the man was; nothing and no-one would be allowed to prevent their revenge. Then, and only then, her dying grandfather could start out on his Journey to the Better Place.

Raymond and Lucia were each plagued by the horrors of the past, each searching for the key to the future, but they are being followed by people who will stop at nothing to get what they want. These killers are professional, and they will wait patiently for the right time.

Critique: A deftly crafted saga by an author with a genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that keeps the reader's compulsive attention from beginning to end, "Journey To The Better Place" by Brian Barnes is one of those memorable novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Journey To The Better Place" is also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781803811512, $22.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.62).

Michael J. Carson

Miriam Calleja's Bookshelf

Miracle Strip
Matt Layne
Privately Published
$TBA digital album

Gratitude for this strange, strange life.

An empathy for things, for moments, for the fragility of human connection. In his latest collection Miracle Strip, Matt Layne invites us to circle the paths of nostalgia, gratitude, and strangeness.

May the feeling of walking barefoot in a broken-bottle world
become vague memory, and when the world squeezes you,
as surely it will, do not despair, but burn, fiery and fierce,
lest it forget your sting.

In their specificity, these works embody the significance of place. In their universality, they invite us to face inevitable truths. But let us not forget how truly wonderful life can be:

Beneath the bark, spiritus mundi pumps sap heavenward
to where peach blossoms unfurl luscious truths,
and there, my firm friend, past the pluck,
past the fuzz, flesh, nectar, and pleasure,
turning and turning, beyond the world's
widening eye, is the grooved pit of it all

Starting to write this review on the anniversary of Miracle Strip Amusement Park's closing in 2004 felt like an omen. I was interested in the contents of such a collection because for me amusement parks hold conflicting representations. The more I thought of different rides, of frights and amusements, of their entire atmosphere and appearance that changes so starkly from night to day, the more I found it fitting for a poetry collection.

My tongue slips
banana peel
and the words
land in a jumbled heap of white
on a black screen.

The main attraction of this theme park which was once located in Panama City Beach, Florida, was The Starliner, the first roller-coaster built in Florida in 1963.

Learning a new term "mono no aware" meaning "the pathos of things" I finally put my finger on the feeling the whole cacophony a place such as an amusement park emits. And where does it all go? Echoes of laughter haunt the wind.

Every kiss but the last kiss is a lie.

But that is not all, such a collection requires the involvement of the senses. And Layne delivers this. Each poem in Miracle Strip has been recorded in the voice of the poet himself, an intimate rendering that is easy on the ear and accessible via a QR code on the page. Such a treat to have poetry be accessible like this! And how important it is, nay essential, to do this as much as possible. Listen to Miracle Strip on bandcamp.

Praise to all audacious enough to rise.

Poet, librarian, raconteur; Matt Layne has been poking hornet's nests and looking under rocks for lizards and snakes since he was knee-high to a peanut peg. His work has appeared in Birmingham Arts Journal, Steel Toe Review, B-Metro, and elsewhere. A founding member of the 1990s improvisational poetry collective, The Kevorkian Skull poets, Layne believes in the radical transformative power found in the intersection of poetry and art, and he wants you to write your truth and share it out loud.

Miriam Calleja

R.K. Singh's Bookshelf

From the Banks of Phalgu
Prabhat K. Singh
Authors Press
9789355294463, Rs. 295, #25 Paperback 80 pp.

Prabhat K. Singh (b. 1952) is a notable poet with considerable contribution to Indian English Writing from Bihar/Jharkhand. A distinguished professor of English literature, now retired, he has authored seven books of literary criticism, six books of poetry, including one in Hindi, and three books of translation into Hindi. From the Banks of Phalgu, his fifth book of poems in English, is a striking collection of 46 poems, offering a luminous in-look on nature, life, aspirations, culture, and community with a spiritual and philosophical viewpoint. As the opening poem 'You and I' reminds the readers a la Indian scriptures:

"You and I,
the part and the whole, manifestations
of the same Being complementing life.
struggling to be at home
with the changing tunes." (p. 13)

He boldly asserts: "Isn't life an opportunity/to realize limitlessness/within our limited consciousness?"

Professor Singh seeks "to harmonize reason with impulse" (p.14) in his lofty quest to unite (the Upanisadic and the Biblical) "earth with heaven," negotiating conflicting legacies of the past and the contemporary. Like every poet he is aware of the troubled time we live in just as he notices various changes in the contemporary socio-psychological mind and expresses his concern about the widespread degeneration:

"Egotism, affectations, and callousness
are natural shadows of the green-eyed
God bless the edgy minds, the threats
to neutrality, though kept close.
There are fires
that last until the pyre." (pp. 17-18)

Yet, he is not negative nor does he try to give up; he is rational and believes in continuing to move ahead:

"I pause, think, make myself at home,
and join the forward march of Time
under the fresh morning dome." (p.20)


"Weathering uncertainties, how long
can I wait to grind the sky?
The present hard, the future terrifying,
mind is enveloped in a rage, I feel
the snort of anger on my nose.
Against all oppressive weight
rise like air
mixing enthusiasm with fury." (p.22)

One smells romantic sentimentalism when he tries to placate his emotional outburst and says:

"But be calm, brave heart, and cry not out,
just attend to your grief patiently.
You will not fall like autumn leaves
withered from your sorrow,
howsoever brutality inflicted." (p. 30)

Prabhat appears upset over the "weird pattern of the ordinary" that celebrates instability, rejoices villainy, glamorizes adultery, promotes messy relationships, and seeks to survive on sheer consumerism that constructs a panorama of anarchy with "dissonant realities in fragmented utterances" (p. 33).

Obviously the poet is alive and trying to touch everything, even that which is sickening and worrying everyone, but not digging deep to make a difference. He raises several meaningful questions, and tries to answer them too, but the universe is too complex to yield to a poet's brief journey within and without: "I find it easier to say when you hear/without listening," (p. 30), he declares.

The formal echoes of T S Eliot, Wordsworth and others notwithstanding, the poet from the bank of the river Phalgu in Gaya (Bihar) offers a personal, critical, at times satirical, and realistic overview of what he has experienced or observed closely and passionately. The poems in the latest collection of Prabhat K. Singh are essentially humane, empathetic, and friendly. These are highly readable, enjoyable, and worth sharing with poets and researchers interested in recent Indian poetry in English.

Dr. R.K. Singh, Reviewer

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

The Symphonies and Selected Orchestral Works
William Schuman, composer
Gerard Schwartz, performer
Seattle Symphony, performer
Naxos Special Products
B003NEQATA, $32.41

The Symphonies Of William Schuman On Naxos

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the American composer William Schuman (1910 -- 1992), the budget priced Naxos label has released this 5 CD set of the composer's eight symphonies together with several other orchestral works. (The symphonies are numbered 3 -- 10 because Schuman withdrew his first two efforts in the form.) Gerard Schwarz, long a champion of Schuman and of American music conducts the Seattle Symphony in these recordings which range in date from 1991 through 2008. The recordings originally were released as individual CDs from 2005 -- 2010. Naxos has done a service by compiling this set to allow listeners to explore the breadth of Schuman's symphonic accomplishment. Joseph Polisi, the president of the Juilliard School of Music and the author of a biography of Schuman, "American Muse: The Life and Times of William Schuman" has written detailed program notes for the compilation.

Schuman's earliest musical interest was in jazz, and he did not decide to devote himself to becoming a composer until the age of 20. In a productive life, Schuman combined his calling as a composer with a career as an administrator. Among other things, he served as the director of publications for G. Schirmer, president of the Juilliard School, and president of the Lincoln Center. His goal in his educational and administrative activites was to make business and academia more receptive to the needs of creative musicians. It is as a composer, however, that Schuman wished to be remembered.

Schuman's eight symphonies date from between 1941 and 1976. Some of the symphonies, such as nos 3, 5, and 7, have been recorded frequently by conductors including Leonard Bernstein and Eugene Ormandy. Other have been performed and recorded only rarely. Since his death, Schuman has received only sporadic attention. His symphonies as a group constitute a major accomplishment. This set may bring them the attention they deserve.

Schuman changed as a symphonist over time, but listening to this set shows that his works have some common characteristics. The symphonies make heavy use of counterpoint. They are strongly rhythmic and have a distinctive orchestration which makes great use of brass and percussion. Themes in each work tend to be tightly integrated. The musical language tends to become progressively more dissonant and dense, but it always remains tonal. Most importantly, the symphonies are clearly the work of an American composer in their brashness, boldness and basic optimism.

The symphony no. 3, composed in 1941, remains Schuman's best-known and most accessible symphony. It is in two movements, each of which is in two parts, named after baroque, rather than classical forms: a Passacaglia and Fuigue and a Chorale and Tocatta. The symphony no. 5 called the "Symphony for Strings" composed in 1943 is also a well-known, simpler work, which also features detailed counterpoint and a lovely slow movement. The symphony no 4, dating from 1942, is an optimistic lyrical work composed during the difficult early days of WW II.

The next 4 symphonies, nos. 6 -- 9 are denser, more difficult works. The symphony no. 7 (1970), consisting of four large interconnected movements is the best-known of these works, but I think the best of them is the massive, large scale symphony no. 8 composed in 1962. It is a somber, intense composition. The rarely heard Symphony no. 6 (1949), is a single movement granitic work full of counterpoint and shifting perspectives that gradually grew on me. The ninth symphony "le fosse adreatine (1967), is difficult music which commemorates a Nazi atrocity at the Adreantine Caves in 1944. It is a meditative work which moves to a prayer for forgiveness. Schuman's final symphony, the "American Muse" was composed for the National Symphony Orchestra in 1976 in celebration of the bicentennial. It is an optimistic, brassy work which seems to me to revert to an earlier style of the composer.

In addition to the symphonies, this compilation includes a variety of Schuman's shorter orchestral compositions, including his famous "New England Triptich: Three Pieces for Orchestra after William Billings" (1956) and his arrangement of Charles Ives's "Variations on America" (1964). These two works are Schuman's most familiar compositions. I enjoyed more hearing hearing lesser known works such as Schuman's ballet "Judith" (1949),the patriotic "Prayer in a Time of War" (1943) and the dance poem "Night Journey for fifteen Instruments" (1947) composed, as was "Judith" for Martha Graham. Several short accessible works round out the set.

I hope this set will encourage listeners to explore Schuman's music and other music by deserving American composers.

Jack Kerouac: Road Novels 1957 - 1960
Jack Kerouac, author
Douglas Brinkley, editor
Library of America
9781598530124, $40.00, Hardcover

Jack Kerouac In The Library Of America

This review dates from 2007 and is republished here for the 100 anniversary of Kerouac's birth,

September 5, 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's (1922 -- 1969) most famous novel, "On the Road". The Library of America has aptly commemorated the event with its newly-released volume of Kerouac's "Road Novels." The works in this collection were published between 1957 -- 1960, although most of them were written considerably earlier. This volume includes four Kerouac novels, a collection of essays called "Lonesome Traveler", and selections from Kerouac's journals. This volume offers the opportunity for readers to revisit and reassess Kerouac and for new readers to get to know his work. Kerouac amply deserves to be included in the Library of America series which is devoted to honoring the best of American literary achievement.

Kerouac, for all his personal failings and his difficulties with alcoholism and substance abuse, had a better understanding of what his work was about than did some of his critics. In his introduction to "Lonesome Traveler", Kerouac wrote: "Always considered writing my duty on earth. Also the preachment of universal kindness, which hysterical critics have failed to notice beneath frenetic activity of my true-story novels about the 'beat' generation. -- Am actually not 'beat' but strange solitary crazy Catholic mystic."

Kerouac's novels are autobiographical in character. His works lack artistic distance, but they more than compensate for this lack with their immediacy and sense of honesty. They describe a complex and torn individual whose life had been riddled with failure but who was driven to succeed as a writer. Part of Kerouac rejected mainstream American conformity and materialism in favor of a bohemian life of spontanaiety, sex, and wild experience. Yet Kerouac's deepest ambition was to be a successful writer and to enjoy a stable quiet life. Kerouac's work sometimes seems to show a spirit of hedonism and sensuality; but he was greatly influenced by Buddhism and wrote extensively about it; and all his work shows a religious and introspective sensibility. I think Kerouac properly described himself as a writer as a "solitary Catholic mystic".

Kerouac developed a style of writing that he described as "spontaneous prose", and it is amply on display in this volume. It features long, stringy sentences and paragraphs with the feel of jazz and of improvisation. Kerouac's "spontaneous prose" is an erratic technique, which works brilliantly at its best but which can sometimes deteriorate into mere wordsmithing. ("That's not writing -- its typing!" as Truman Capote scornfully, and unfairly, said of "The Subterraneans".) Kerouac was a descriptive writer who could spend pages on detailed portrayals of places and people -- as in the scenes of mountain climbing in "The Dharma Bums" and in the description of Tristessa's living quarters in the novel of that name. His writings, particularly "On the Road" and "Lonesome Traveler" show a deep love of the places, landscapes, and character of the United States. Kerouac was the child of immigrants, and maintained a high and self-conscious spirit of patriotism throughout his life.

In rereading the Kerouac in this volume, I found that "On the Road" remains his most impressive work and a book that should keep Kerouac's place in American literature. The book tells the story of Kerouac's friendship with Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty in the book), a young man who had spent much of his life in poolhalls, reform school, and prison. The book has a restless energy, and a spirit of passion as Kerouac (Sal Paradise in the book) and Moriarty ride back and forth across the United States and Mexico. "On the Road" leaves tantalizingly ambiguous the nature of the characters' wanderings. Are they looking simply for "kicks" and for sex, or does their search have a spiritual dimension as well? Similarly, Kerouac leaves ambiguous his attitude towards Moriarty and his rootless, wild way of life. For all the attraction Moriarty/Cassady held for Kerouac, "On the Road" can be read as a critique of his wildness and as a search for a life that is full and rich, but also settled.

The remaining works in this collection each have their admirers, and they are all worth reading. My favorite is the short novel "Tristessa" which, in difficult, jagged prose tells the story of Kerouac's relationship with a Mexican prostitute and drug addict during two trips to Mexico City. It includes long passages of detailed descriptions of rooms and streets, reflections on Buddhism, religion, and sex, and a sad but ultimately hopeful story. "The Subterraneans" also tells of a failed romance between Kerouac and a young black woman, Mardou. The book is set in San Francisco (the relationship on which it is based took place in New York City) and it features descriptions of bohemian life in San Francisco, and an astonishing passage related by Mardou in which she finds herself wandering naked over the streets of San Francisco.

"The Dharma Bums" differs from the other books in this collection in that Kerouac wrote it on commission from his publisher after the success of "On the Road." It is written in a much more accessible, popular style than either "Tristessa" or "The Subterraneans" and might be the best book after "On the Road" for the reader new to Kerouac. This book tells of the friendship between Kerouac and the poet Gary Snyder, as they climb mountains, discuss Buddhism, wander cross-country, and have wild parties. Some readers who like Kerouac's other books find "The Dharma Bums" rather tame. I find the book highly thoughtful, in its portrayal of Snyder and Kerouac, in its picture of American Buddhism in the 1950s, and in its depiction of California.

"Lonesome Traveler" is the one work in this collection that was new to me. It is a series of eight travel essays, including an essay on "The Vanishing American Hobo", some of which had been published separately. Kerouac writes that "its scope and purpose is simply poetry, or natural description". Many of these essays cover places and events that Kerouac describes in his novels, but they have a force and continuity of their own in their portrayal of romming houses in San Francisco, pierfront dives, and work on the railroad. The best part of this book is "New York Scenes", an unforgettable portait of "beat" places in New York City.

Kerouac's work remains to be discovered, savored and pondered by a new generation of readers. The Library of America deserves high praise for making his works accessible in this volume.

World War II Memoirs: The Pacific Theater
E.B. Sledge, author
Samuel Hynes, author
Alvin Kernan, author
Elizabeth Samet, editor
Library of America
9781598537048, $40.00, Hardcover

Pacific Theater Memoirs In The Library Of America

This 2022 volume from the Library of America consists of the memoirs of three young men who served in the Pacific Theater late during WW II. Elizabeth Samet, Professor of English at West Point edited the volume and prepared a lengthy introduction exploring the writings of memoirs in the United States's many wars. Samet has written extensively on the literature of warfare and on WW II. She is the author most recently of "Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Pursuit of Happiness" (2021) which also involves WW II in American memory.

The three memoirs in this volume are not battle histories but instead reflect the individual experiences of the authors under the trying circumstances of war. Each is beautifully written to reflect the character of the author. Each memoir is a personal history of combat and a coming of age story. Each work was written late in the life of the author and each combines reflections on extraordinary youthful experience with the distance of age. Each memoir shows the United States on the home front during the War, coming out of the Depression with busy railroad stations and crowded alcohol and sex filled cities for military personel on leave. Each story tells of its author's introduction to sex, both romantic and sexual, while under the age of 21. And each has a theme of comradeship and reflection on the war and its meaning. Each of the three memoirs in this compilation is available separately. I enjoyed and reviewed each memoir on its own, but a great deal is to be gained by having them in a single LOA volume with Samet's introduction and with biographical information on each author. I will offer some comments on each memoir.

E.B. "Sledgehammer" Sledge (1923 -- 2001) was the son of an Alabama physician and a college dean of women students. He served as a private in the Marines and described his experiences in "With the Old Breed and Pelilu and Okinawa" written in 1981. "Sledgehammer" Sledge describes his decision to join the marines and his demanding training, followed by his combat experiences on Peleliu and Okinawa. The book emphasizes the bonds Sledge formed with his fellow marines under the harshest of conditions. The tone of the book is bleak, but it stresses the author's love for his comrades and his patriotism for the United States.

Samuel Hynes (1924 -- 2019) lived with his poor Minneapolis family and briefly attended college before volunteering in 1943 for the Navy Flight Program. His 1988 memoir, "Flights of Passage" is both a story of his military experiences and a coming-of-age story. Most of this memoir focuses on Hynes' arduous journey to becoming a pilot rather than to his service in the final months of the War. Hynes tells a great deal of the tedium of military life and of the bouts of sex and alcohol virtually forced upon young men under the stress of war before they reached the age of twenty-one. The memorandum also describes how Hynes became "a true believer in the religion of flight" and how he came to love, even under the stresses of war, doing something for which he had a gift and was born to do.

Alvin Kernan's (1923 -- 2018) memorandum "Crossing the Line" was written in 1994 and revised in 2007. In 1943, young Kernan borrowed five dollars to leave a Depression-plagued Wyoming ranch to enlist in the Navy. He had three lengthy tours of duty at sea including participation at Midway and at Okinawa and received many decorations for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. His memoir discusses his relationship with his comrades, his combat experiences, his early introductions to sexuality, and periods of boredom punctuated by alcohol and gambling. As do the other two memoirs, Kernan shows a reflective turn. He wrote:

"[W]ars cruelty and randomness, its indifference to human life, and the speed and ease with which it erases existence are not aberrations but speeded-up versions of how it always is. The evidence is there, I went on to reason, to anyone who will look and see the plain facts his senses including common sense offer him-- and what else is there to trust, fallible though they may be?-- that men and women, like everything else in the world, are, in the poet's words, begotten, born, and die. A young man's desire to live made me avoid worrying about the bleakness of total extinction, but we all knew it; it was in our faces, it was the basis of our shared attitude toward one another and life."

After their youthful combat experiences, the three authors each went on to long, distinguished careers in the academy and in the life of the mind. "Sledgehammer" Sledge earned a Ph.D in biology, wrote scholarly articles, led birding expeditions, and became a beloved teacher. Hynes became a Ph.D in English Literature and served as Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature at Princeton until his retirement in 1990. Kernan also earned a Ph.D in English Literature and became an authority on Shakespeare and the English Renaissance. He also taught at Princeton and acquired the nickname "The Socratic Bulldog" from his graduate students.

I was especially fascinated by Kernan because of his philosophical cast of mind. In 2000, Kernan wrote a memoir "In Plato's Cave" which follows his life after military service, his decision to pursue an academic career in literature, and his thoughts on education and of the changes in educational standards he experienced in the years following WW II. I was moved to read "In Plato's Cave" together with "Crossing the Line". Kernan there wrote of his decision to pursue the life of the mind following the War:

"I was one of those who feel that the most satisfactory end of life is knowledge, not money or power or prestige but an understanding of people and the world they inhabit. I assented to Socrates's view that the unexamined life is not worth living. I had in my innocence developed a view of life that will seem laughable in our skeptical days. Read the right books and listen to the right people, think in the most intense and logical fashion, I believed, totally and without question, and all the darkness of Plato's cave of illusions would burn away in the bright sun of understanding. I did not think that truth remained to be discovered; I believed that in the main it had already been found and that I had just not yet been informed of the results. The true nature of evil and of good, the structure of the cosmos and what existed beyond it, the workings of cause and effect, the laws of history, the nature of the mind, the rules that governed social life, what distinguished good art from bad, these were all, I believed, lying about like golden nuggets on the American campus, just waiting to be picked up."

I enjoyed all three memoirs and their authors, but I felt closest to Kernan.

This book is an outstanding addition to the Library of America. I was moved by the wartime experiences of these three young men and I admired their accomplishments during both wartime and peacetime. The memoirs encouraged me to reflect on the United States and its history during our current time of difficulty.

Philosophy of Brand Blanshard (Library of Living Philosophers)
Brand Blanshard, author
Paul Arthur Schlipp, editor
Open Court Publishing
9780875483498, $TBA or Internet Archive

Brand Blanshard In The Library Of Living Philosophers

The Library of Living Philosophers series (LLP) was founded in 1938 by Paul Arthur Schlipp to promote critical discussion and analysis of the works of great philosophers while they were still alive. The series takes a broad approach to philosophy and is invaluable in preserving the thought of philosophers whose work may be out of fashion. Last year, for example, I read the LLP volume on Paul Weiss, a systematic large-scale metaphysical thinker whose work has long fascinated me. I followed-up the volume on Weiss with "The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard", published in 1980 as the 15th book in the LLP. Weiss and Blanshard are connected. Both taught at Yale for many years, and Blanshard was instrumental in supporting a tenure-track position for Weiss. Blanchard and Weiss were both speculative, metaphysical thinkers albeit of different kinds and with different temperatments. The works of both Weiss and Blanshard were out of the philosophical mainstream during their lifetimes and remain so today. I have long had an interest in American metaphysics and was glad at last to have the opportunity to read the LLP volumes on Weiss and now Blanshard.

Brand Blanchard (1892 -- 1987) was a rationalist both in his philosophy and in his life. He also was a philosophical idealist, although he modified his idealism late in life. He searched for an underlying reason unifying and giving an explanation for the apparent diversity and plurality of things. His philosophy includes strong elements of logical necessitarianism which he found was the source of causality. He argues for a philosophical Absolute and for what is known as the coherence theory of truth and for the doctrine of internal relations under which everything is related to everything else in a necessary fashion. Blanshard wrote prolifically. His books include "The Nature Of Thought" (1939) and a trilogy, "Reason and Analysis", "Reason and Goodness" and "Reason and Belief". He also wrote about the role of philosophy and the liberal arts in education. Blanshard was an unparalleled writer, with grace and clarity, and the author of an outstanding book on writing, "On Philosophical Style". The British idealists, with whom he studied, make the closest philosophical parallel to Blanshard together with the work of an earlier American idealistic thinker, Josiah Royce.

Blanshard was an astute critic of most contemporary philosophical movements which he found were based on an antipathy to reason. He wrote extensively about his reasons for rejecting movements such as logical positivism, linguistic philosophy, pragmatism, emotivism, and existentialism. These philosophical movements were dominant in 20th Century thought.

The LLC volume offers an outstanding overview of Blanshard. The highlight of the volume is the autobiography of nearly 200 pages in which Blanshard explores his life and his thought. It is a pleasure to read in both its depth and its modesty. The first part tells of Blanshard's life. Blanshard was born a fraternal twin and his brother Paul became well-known in his own right. His mother died before Blanshard was one, and he hardly knew his minister father. Blanshard attended the University of Michigan and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Blanchard describes his intellectual experiences primarily but gives some details of his personal life as well. The second part of the Autobiography gives an overview of Blanshard's thought, its development and its primary themes. Blanshard endeavors to display and explain what he calls "the rational temper" while describing the course of his thinking as "a budding rationalism". The Autobiography describes Blanshard's relationships with many of the famous thinkers he met during his life including John Dewey, G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, T.S. Elliot, and others.

Blanshard says that the need to think about religion drove him to study philosophy. While Blanshard was not religious in any conventional sense, religious themes pervade the Autobiography and the contents of the LLP volume.

The second part of the LLP volume consists of "Descriptive and Critical Essays on the Philosophy of Brand Blanshard with Replies". Each of the thirty detailed examinations of Blanshard's thought is followed by Blanshard's reply. The essays are divided into seven groups: "The Office of Philosophy" (one essay), "Ethics" (six essays), "Political Theory" (one essay), "Philosophy of Education" (two essays), "Theory of Knowledge" (nine essays), "Metaphysics" (five essays), and "Philosophy of Religion" (five essays). Blanshard's responses to each essay are unfailingly well-written and courteous and help to join and explain philosophical issues. The essays vary in accessibility with some of the essays in Metaphysics highly difficult, as might be expected.

The contributors to the volume are scholars in their own right, many of whom, as was Blanshard, were on the margins of most 20th Century philosophy in the United States. A partial exception is Richard Rorty who contributed an outstanding essay, "Idealism, Holism, and the 'Paradox of Knowledge'" which attempts to bridge the apparent divide between Blanshard and various themes in analytic philosophy. Some of the other participants whose essays and interchanges with Blanshard I found valuable include Sterling McMurrin (the nature of philosophy), Henry Margenau (ethics), Richard DeGeorge (political philosophy), Andrew Reck (rationalism), Nicholas Rescher, Peter Bertocci, Charles Hartshorne, John Smith, Robert Fogelin (all important and varied philosophers writing on Blanshard's epistemology), Ervin Lazlo and future LLP volume editor Lewis Hahn (metaphysics),Frederick Ferre (reason and religion), and Eugene Freeman and James Gutmann (philosophy of education). There is much to learn from these and other participants and from Blanshard himself.

To summarize these essays and Blanshard's significance is difficult. But here is a brief sentence from Ervin Lazlo's contribution, "Blanshard's Rationalistic Realism". Lazlo writes: "[T]he kind of systems-oriented holistic position maintained by Blanshard is greatly in need of serious consideration today as the atomizing analytical trends of contemporary philosophy face bankruptcy and young thinkers search for new paradigms."

The third and final part of the LLC book consists of a bibliography of Blanshard's many writings through 1980. Blanshard would continue to write up to the time of his death.

I was grateful for the opportunity to think about Blanshard and his interlocutors through reading this volume. His views deserve to be heard and, I think, philosophical thought is returning to a position somewhat more receptive to metaphysics than was the case during Blanshard's life.

Robin Friedman

Sarah Book's Bookshelf

Of Poseidon (The Syrena Legacy #1)
Anna Banks
Hardie Grant Children's Publishing
9781760502478, $21.99

The start of Anna Banks series "The Syrena Legacy" a YA fantasy romance

"Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen - literally, ouch! - both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom..."

5 stars!

One of the best books I've ever read, and the quickest (a few hours). I loved the story, loved everything, and am eager to read the second book, but this book is amazing and I will keep re-reading it. i still love this book, and I recommend this book, and thanks to hardie grant books for the review copy!

Of Triton ( The Syrena Legacy #2)
Anna Banks
Hardie Grant Children's Publishing
9781760502485, $21.99

The sequel to Of Poseidon,

"Emma has just learned that her mother is a long-lost Poseidon princess, and now struggles with an identity crisis: As a Half-Breed, she's a freak in the human world and an abomination in the Syrena realm below. Syrena law states that all Half-Breeds should be put to death.

As if that's not bad enough, her mother's reappearance among the Syrena turns the two kingdoms - Poseidon and Triton - against one another. Which leaves Emma with a decision to make: Should she comply with Galen's request to keep herself safe and just hope for the best? Or should she risk it all and reveal herself - and her Gift - to save a people she's never known?

Once again, Anna Banks infuses Emma and Galen's points of view with humor, intrigue, and waves of romance"


5 stars

This sequel picks up where Of Poseidon left off.

Nalia, the mother of Emma, has fled because she believes Galen is attempting to apprehend her for killing Grom, her brother. When Grom and Nalia finally reconnect after a very long time apart, their love is instantaneously reignited.

Grom has already wed, and Emma is a Half Breed, so everyone knows that returning to the water won't be simple, especially given that there is a rebellion taking place. Loved it though.

This sequel was a fun read, but short.

Of Neptune (The Syrena Legacy #3)
Anna Banks
Hardie Grant Children's Publishing
9781760502492, $21.99

5 stars

" Emma, who is half human and half Syrena, and her Syrena love, Galen, need time together. Alone. Away from the kingdoms of Poseidon and Triton. Emma's grandfather, the Poseidon king, suggests the two visit a small town called Neptune.

Neptune is home to both Syrena and Half-Breeds alike. But Emma and Galen didn't sign up to be peacemakers between the ocean-living Syrena and the land-dwelling, freshwater counterparts. They didn't bargain for meeting a charming Half-Breed named Reed, who can barely disguise his feelings for Emma. And they especially didn't expect to find themselves in the middle of a power struggle that threatens not only their love, but their ocean kingdoms.

In this stunning conclusion to her bestselling Syrena Legacy, Anna Banks thrills fans with more action and romance than ever"

5 stars

Can't really put anything into words, but I'm recommending it to anyone who reads in these genres.

If The Shoe Fits (Meant To Be #1)
Julie Murphy
Hyperion Avenue
9781368053372, $15.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

"After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America's favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.

Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn't expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn't fit, maybe it's time to design your own"

4.7 stars

a new adult contemporary romance, loved this one, but its a little slow, loved that it was only in one POV (Cindy) love the way it describes better then some books i've read, Basically a modern re-telling of Cinderella

A short fast-paced read, really loved it, read it in about 4 hours total, a little slow,
And I have not read anything like this, and Julie Murphy has a way of words, and a theme (I'm guessing is one) is body positivity, i loved that and I loved the plot, the story, I don't know about a few things though, I did put it down a few times so that's only why it's a 4.7 star, but it is a really great book, and i recommend to anyone looking for a short romance.

Thank You Scholastic Australia For The Review Copy! I enjoyed the book

The Bushrangers Daughter
Michelle Worthington
Big Sky Publishing
9781922765420, $14.99

"An adventurous, fast moving middle grade historical fiction about survival, second chances and searching for your place in the world.

As a young girl growing up in an unforgiving land, Connie learns that sometimes good people need to do bad things to survive.

When her pioneering family travels to outback Queensland to try and rebuild their lives, as their only surviving daughter, Connie struggles to fit into society's expectations of her.

The challenges keep mounting as the unforgiving climate threatens their happiness. Devastating drought is followed by a flood that wipes out their entire flock. And then Connie uncovers the real reason behind why her father had to leave Scotland.

When her father's past finally catches up with him, can Connie find the courage to find her own path forward and rewrite the future for her family?"

5 stars

Pretty good, the writing was good, the style YES, the only thing I would change if I was writing it would be the way it shows how Connie thinks, sometimes it seemed a little like she was a lot younger than 12, but I mean it's not that much bothering but I just wanted to say, I loved it, it's set in Australia, and 1960's I'm guessing since their using pound currency which was moved to Australian dollar, anyways, I'm going to write a more detailed review for medium, and maybe update this one later, but I do recommend readers pick it up
Thanks Sharon at big sky publishing for the review copy

Christine Bernard
Boolarong press
9781925877458, $32.99

5 stars

"Is it possible to live in the world without speech? How much would you change if you had to live only in your head? This is exactly what thirty-three-year old Rebecca Marley is about to find out, as she embarks on this self-induced nine-month no talking challenge.

Will it be the peaceful reprise that she so desperately seeks? Or will she be forced to face aspects of herself that a noisy world helps hide so well? Join Rebecca on this humorous and poignant journey."

5 stars

So, what this book is about, THE POV is Rebecca, who basically has a meltdown at work (she's a writer) and comes up with this CRAZY idea, that she takes a year away from the world, it eventually goes down to 9 months, she is muted, she will not speak, write, interact, to anyone, including family, so rest of stuff I want to put down may contain spoilers, I don't want this review marked for spoilers, so everyone can read it!

So, at the start, I think it could have been better if like the first chapter called 'before' didn't give away the ending (MINOR SPOILER: that she finished) Like there could have been a little mystery, but around chapter 2 it seemed a little.... crazy, I didn't touch it for a few days but I never want to DNF a book, so I pushed, and around chapter 8, it got better, and I could easily read around I think it's about above 100 pages in a few hours, so this is now one of my favourite reads, I might re read a couple more times, 2 favourite reads so far, more than friends, and mute, At the end it was like it felt like it was real, but as once quoted "You Know You've Read A Good Book When You Turn The Last Page And Feel A Little As If You Have Lost A Friend" like I highly recommend, it's a contemporary novel, like I'm hoping there's a sequel.

But thanks to boolarong press for the review copy!

And... yeah there are a lot of sequels.

Happily ever island
Crystal Cestari
Disney Hyperion
9781368075473, $18.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle

Welcome to Happily Ever Island, the most pixie-dusted vacation a Disney fan could ever imagine.

Head-in-the-clouds romantic Madison and driven pragmatist Lanie are unlikely best friends, but the two would do anything for each other. So when Madison's life starts to fall apart, Lanie agrees to join Madison for the test run of Disney's newest resort experience during their first college spring break: Happily Ever Island - an immersive vacation destination, where guests can become their favorite Disney character for a week. Madison decides to go as the iconic princess herself, Cinderella, with Lanie as bow-wielding Merida. It's not Lanie's idea of fun, but she knows Madison needs her, and besides, she could use the break from her strenuous courseload anyway. Plus, maybe she'll get to shoot things.

But once on the island, Lanie and Madison begin to drift apart. Madison finds herself either missing out or messing up all the enchanting moments she has dreamt her whole life about, and is forever running into their annoyingly perfect (and distractingly cute) vacation's coordinator, Val. Meanwhile, Lanie unexpectedly finds herself swept up in the magic of it all. She strikes up a secret romance with Prince Charming - but there's no telling whether he's just playing a part.

In this delightful YA rom-com inspired by Disney fandom, get swept up in a whirlwind of laughter, tears, and more than just a touch of Disney magic"

3.5 stars

honestly I'm still not sure, in the beginning for me it was slow, and i kept putting it down, i don't know, but i got through it, and yes so just slow in begging for me, but after reading the book, I'm pretty sure it's like a okay read for me, other people seemed to love it, but i just don't know why, Maddison did seem very Un-Mature, but i might re-read, maybe it will be better this time?

Let It Go (A Disney Twisted Tale)
Jen Calonita
Igloo Books Ltd.
9781838526153, $TBA

"What if Anna and Elsa never knew each other? When a magical accident erases Anna and Elsa's memories, not only of magic but of each other, the

sisters are separated for protection. But when Elsa unexpectedly finds herself as a young queen, mysterious magic begins to happen and questions of her past start to form. Will the sisters ever be reunited?"

5 stars

this book has so many twists in it, but i'm not going to spoil or try not to, but it was a fun read, since there are a lot of twist in it, there are a lot of similar scenes, quotes, that have happened in the movie.

Thank You Scholastic Australia For The Review Copy

Margot Mertz Takes It Down (Margot Mertz #1)
Carrie McCrossen and Ian McWethy
Hardie Grant Children's Publishing
9781760509712, $21.99 712

5 stars

"Veronica Mars meets Moxie in this hilarious and biting YA contemporary novel following Margot Mertz, a girl who runs an internet cleanup business and embarks on a quest to take down a revenge-porn site targeting the girls in her school.

Margot Mertz is a secret sleuth - okay, not really, but she does run an internet cleanup business helping students and teachers alike clear their internet presence of anything they don't want anyone else to see. From secret embarrassing DM's to viral videos and more, Margot cleans it all. After her parents foolishly lost her college fund, this is the only way she can make it to Stanford.

But when a fellow student comes to her asking her to take down a website that's gathering nude pics of fellow Roosevelt High girls, things get personal. Margot must delve into the depths of her school to take down the culprit. The seedy underbelly of Roosevelt High is not unfamiliar to Margot - but somehow this case is stumping her at every turn - until she figures out that the only way to reach her suspects is to get close to perfect boy Avery Green. His access to every club, volunteer opportunity, sports team, and popular party is the key to solving her case.

When the case takes a shocking turn, Margot's ready to burn the whole world down. No one targets the Roosevelt High girls on Margot's watch. Mertz Clean Your Filth is on the case."

Read, I loved it, to any of the readers, it does like have mentions of sexual assault, which can be a trigger to other readers, so basically about a teenage girl in high school, after she loses her college fund, she then starts cleaning up other people's mistakes as a job (pictures, videos) after she takes a case of a revenge porn site, and not being able to tell her friend, it's destroying her, that's all I think I can say about the story without that many spoilers, but It was a great read, you might cry, it's a journey, and I am wanting to start the second soon
Thank you Hardie Grant Publishing For The Review Copy!

Margot Mertz For The Win (Margot Mertz #2)
Carrie McCrossen / Ian McWethy
Hardie Grant Children's Publishing
9781760509750, $21.99 50

The sequel to the YA series Margot mertz coming 16th November 2022

"Veronica Mars meets Moxie in the hilarious and thought-provoking sequel to Margot Mertz Takes it Down.

Margot faces senior year working on a campaign for local election while helping a fellow student run for class president - but when a mysterious blackmail plot emerges, and a loathesome opponent rises in the class race, Margot might have to return to the cleanup job she thought she'd left behind.

It's senior year. And Margot's on a mission to be a better Margot. Which means saying goodbye to her old cleanup ways - and their inherent moral ambiguities - and saying hello to... more yoga maybe? (Probably not, Margot hates exercise.)

To fill her time and round out her college application, Margot volunteers for Shep Green's state senate campaign and in a twist, finds she actually enjoys being part of a team. She loves her new boss/mentor Priya. And of course it doesn't hurt that the candidate is Avery Green's dad. Yes, Avery and Margot are just friends, but it's still nice to see his too perfect face from time to time.

Meanwhile at Roosevelt High, Margot finds herself roped into a second election, this one for school president. Melanie Jenkins is running against one of the monsters who created the revenge porn site Margot took down last year. Needless to say, Margot is #teamMelanie.

With Margot rocking both campaigns and maybe even making friends, it seems like she's well on her way to being a better person. But when Priya asks her to look into an anonymous email threatening Shep Green, one that could potentially torpedo his entire election, Margot finds herself slipping back into her old habits.

She's tried to keep her hands clean. But politics is a dirty job."

5 stars

Loved this one as much as i did for the first, it was sad the way it ended, there a few twisty chapters, this review is spoiler free hopefully, am hoping to see a 3rd book in the Margot Mertz series, it left a lot open, a easy to read POV, i do recommend this book.

Thank You Hardie Grant Children's Publishing For The Review Copy

Sarah Book

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Disappearing Earth
Julia Phillips
9780525520412, $26.95

Julia Phillips's debut novel, Disappearing Earth, is structured somewhat akin to Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. Phillips writes multiple story lines each with its own narrator, and the full account plays out over the course of a year. It opens with disappearance of two young sisters, Alyona and Sophia Golosovskaya, ages eleven and eight, from their hometown of Petropavlovsk in far eastern Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, the territory's only metropolis. The novel follows the ripples and echoes of their disappearance in various people's lives. The large cast of characters is well-defined in a helpful list of families and their members given at the beginning of the book.

More than anything, the novel looks at females: the sisters who vanished, their single mother, a college student stuck in an abusive relationship, another single mother who lives with her boyfriend in his dump of a house, a twice-widowed woman, the mother of another, older girl who also disappeared. It also looks at the misogyny which seems bred into the society. In addition, Disappearing Earth evokes life in the isolated area with its harsh weather, beautiful landscape, latent violence, cultural complexities, and the movement of reindeer herders into the twentieth century. The disappearance of the three girls ties the various stories together in a quiet thriller. The prose is tight and delightful, though the ending seems a bit of a coincidental stretch.

The Sea Queen: A Novel (The Golden Wolf Saga, 2)
Linnea Hartsuyker
9780062563729, $16.99

I read The Half-Drowned King, the first in this series, because I had embarked on a spree of reading Viking/Norse related books. I liked it so well I decided to complete the series. Some time ago, I read all thirteen of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon series, and more recently, I've read The Real Valkyrie by Nancy Marie Brown, The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec, The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, Erik the Red by Tilman Roehrig, Odin's Child and The Rot by Siri Pettersen. I then binged The Last Kingdom on TV and followed that with The Vikings and Vikings Valhalla. So this novel fits right in.

Inspired by Icelandic Sagas, author Linnea Hartsuyker, in The Half-Drowned King and The Sea Queen, takes major and minor Norse history characters and weaves their lives in a dense tapestry. She creates a strong, though flawed, protagonist in Ragnvald Eysteinsson, and fully realizes even her minor characters, many of whom would be considered villains nowadays. She faithfully recreates the Nordic world as documented in the sagas. Hartsuyker shows Svanhild, Ragnvald's sister, as she finds her own way in Viking society and attempts to avoid a political marriage.

I enjoyed reading and getting a new take on characters I recognize from other works like Uhtred, Alfred the Great, and Harald Fairhair. The Half-Drowned King is the first in the Golden Wolf saga and The Sea Queen the second. I look forward to reading the third, The Golden Wolf, which is being delivered any day now.

Unwieldy Creatures
Addie Tsai
Jaded Ibis Press, LLC
9781938841361, $17.99

I have been on a bit of a horror binge (and I rarely read horror) starting with Kris Waldheer's retelling of Frankenstein, Unnatural Creatures, told from the points of view of three women in Victor Frankenstein's life; followed by Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein; Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian (a modern retelling Bram Stoker's Dracula); and now Addie's Tsai's Unwieldy Creatures, a contemporary retelling of Frankenstein. The latter is so contemporaneous that it brings IVF (in vitro fertilization) and other enhancements to human fertility to the equation as well as being a queer, gender-swapped variation of Frankenstein.

As a physician, I am fully cognizant of the ethical and moral issues that must be considered in the creation and ending of life and was pleased that Unwieldy Creatures didn't set those aside but brought them to the forefront with two brilliant - but morally bankrupt - scientists "duke it out" with the feelings and lives of others, including ones they have created in test tubes. Unwieldy Creatures takes a long, hard look at who is monster and who isn't.

This book also deals with family issues: what does a family consist of? is a family made or created? In addition, it handles in a sensitive way the issues of gender norms and differences: what does being male or female consist of? are genders made or created? from nature or nuture? In addition, the novel deals with the struggles of being from a mixed background: which race is dominant? the one whose genes are strongest? the one the child is raised as? As the mother of a mixed-race child, I find this line of thought very intriguing.

Tsai's characters are vivid and compelling, their personalities ranging from the extreme narcissism of Dr. Frank to almost all-accepting Pine. The writing was stylistically unique enough that I underlined a lot of choice lines starting on the second page.

Symbol Maker's Daughter
Clare Gutierrez
River Grove Books
9781632995384, $23.95

Symbol Maker's Daughter is a historical romance set in the time just before the emergence of Henry Tudor who will become King Henry VII, the sovereign who ends the War of the Roses, forms the Tudor dynasty, and becomes the father of Henry VIII. The protagonist is Nicola, a young woman whose father, a jeweler as well as a lord, tasks her with delivering a message to Henry Tudor. The problem is that the message is from the occult, and witches are feared in the times in which this book is set, so she faces not only the warring factions of the Tudors and the Lancasters and Yorks, but the potential for being burned at the stake as a witch. She is assisted by a young prince, Drue, from a fictitious country near the Papal States, who is running around England incognito.

At 434 pages, Symbol Maker's Daughter is far too long and too slow. Some judicious pruning of historical events would have made it more readable. Also, it is not particularly romantic with little to no sexual tension between Nicola and Drue. There are too many repetitions of Nicola's objective. She is a TSTL heroine - one who is too stupid to live, endangering not only herself but others as she races off to complete her task without fully thinking things through and never seeming to learn from the consequences of her prior similar acts. A large cast of characters and a distant point of view keeps the reader from establishing a relationship with any of them, including the protagonist and her love interest.

There is a wealth of historical detail, however, that sets the scene quite well.

Hardland: A Novel
Ashley E. Sweeney
She Writes Press
9781647422332, $17.95

Hardland is one of several books I've read recently that topple the Western genre, first by being from a woman's point of view and by not romanticizing the American Old West. The novel follows the life of Ruby Fortune from her early teens, though her rise as an Annie Oakley type sharpshooter in a Wild West show, losing both her parents, her marriage in her mid teens, the four sons she births, and her survival of the spousal abuse she endures - and its aftermath. Gutsy and painfully aware of her flaws, she cusses like a sailor and carries a two-shot Derringer at her waist. She develops into a hard-working capable woman.

Hardland is set as America's Gilded Age winds down, in Jericho, a fictional town situated near Phoenix, Arizona. Sweeney captures the heat and dust of the physical locale as well as the mores of a small mining town populated by drunken miners, grifters masquerading as nuns, a prim school marm, and a love-sick marshall - plus the man Ruby falls in love with. Even among these many oddballs, Ruby struggles to fit in as she tries to raise four boys while running a boarding house.

Written in present tense, the novel draws the reader into a most intimate look at a staunch heroine.

The Fourteenth of September: A Novel
Rita Dragonette
She Writes Press
9781631524530, $16.95

As a contemporary of the protagonist of The Fourteenth of September, Private First Class Judy (named Judy Blue Eyes by her friends, after the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes") Talton, I felt transported to my last year of high school. We protested the war, protested the treatment of Mother Earth, celebrated the first Earth Day, and expanded our consciousness with everything from drugs to Buddhism. Like Judy, I come from a conservative family who hated that I questioned the political situation in the U.S.

As Judy cannot otherwise afford to go to college, she accepts a military nursing scholarship, though she doesn't particularly want to become a nurse. Her first year is a crucial time as she searches for meaning and tries to become informed about politics so she can make an intelligent decision about what to do with the rest of her life. Despite her military scholarship, she finds herself against the war. As she seeks enlightenment, she discovers the proverbial "sex, drugs, and rock and roll." She loses her virginity in her first adult relationship with a young man with rather strident anti-war rhetoric, who wants to lead their college's anti-war movement. With the advent of second-wave feminism, she learns that women shoulder huge burdens yet are unappreciated. She confronts the deaths of her friends both within and outside the military. Her growth over time is well-depicted in a nice character arc. The lyrics of pivotal songs like the Beatles "Let It Be" and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" are woven in to good effect.

It is nice to see the anti-war struggle through a female point of view. The repetition of the weekly body count in the newspaper is a poignant display of how many young American men were butchered, but it also calls to mind the current pandemic with its ever-increasing body count.

Landslide (A Mason Hackett Espionage Thriller Book 1)
Adam Sikes
Oceanview Publishing
9781608095049, $27.95

Landslide is author Sikes's debut novel and the start of a series involving U.S. Marine veteran Mason Hackett. After being deployed in Iraq and losing his best friend in a disastrous military maneuver, he moves to London, goes to business school, and tries to start his life over. His PTSD and survivor's guilt, though, get in the way of his full recovery and any potential relationships. When Mason sees the image of his long-dead best friend on TV, he seeks the truth about his friend's death and ends up involved in a journey into eastern Ukraine.

Though Sikes previously worked for the CIA, oddly, his protagonist is not trained in spy techniques. However, Mason is not entirely naive: he has a good sense of self-preservation gained from his tenure in the military. He is honorable, willing to sacrifice his life to rescue his friend. Though touted as good for those readers who like Daniel Silva and Brad Thor, this book lacks the sophistication of a Daniel Silva novel. The writing style, with its short chapters and tense prose, are more consistent with Thor than Silva. I like the novel's premise: one man's mission to save a friend against impossible odds. The locations seem authentic. Not all the supporting characters are well-developed, but Alex had dimension, and Ike has the potential to be a recurring character.

Sweet Slow Sizzle: Bangers Tavern Romance 4
Sadira Stone
Privately Published
Kindle only, $3.99

This book, being a romance, is heavy on the romance, but this one is one of the slowest-burn love stories I've ever read. If not for the hot thoughts the two lovebirds have for each other, you might even call it a simmer. Hunky half-Hawaiian Jojo Williams is Bangers Tavern's bouncers, and he's had the hots for server Lana Lopez since she started to work there three years earlier. She is barely holding on to her life, such as it is, working at Bangers at night and caring for her brothers after their parents die in an automobile accident. Jojo has the sense to hold back, not to add more to her plate than she can handle.

As in Sadira Stone's other novels, her themes go beyond those found in a typical romance. The situations she depicts are realistic. There are no perfect knights in shining armor or peerless princesses. Stone's use of every life day situations brings a deep humanity to her novels that is lacking in most romances.

Stone also brings diversity into her stories without hitting readers over the head with it: she includes bisexuals, heterosexuals, Hispanics, Hawaiians, whites, blacks, and bodywise everything from hefty to scrawny, bodybuilder to couch potato. Her characters are bound in a loose-knit family of Bangers Tavern employees that augments the characters' own families - or lack thereof.

Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women
Kris Waldherr
Muse Publications
9798985351224, $28.99

It's been years since I've read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, an amazingly masculine novel authored by a very young female. You might get a bit more out of Unnatural Causes if you've read Frankenstein recently, but the book does stand well on its own.

Unnatural Creatures is a feminist reimagining from the perspective of three female characters - Caroline Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza, and Justine Moritz. All are outsiders brought into the Frankenstein family: first, Caroline, a poor girl married by the father, Alphonse; second, Elizabeth, a poor girl found and adopted by an older Caroline and Alphonse and who becomes the fiancee of Victor Frankenstein; and finally, Justine, a poor hunchback discovered by Caroline and Elizabeth and brought into the Frankenstein home as a servant, but treated well and even educated. These three women become, in turn, the three protagonists in Unnatural Creatures. Strong and complex in their own rights, they wrestle with the philosophical ideas of fate versus self-determination; whether they are responsible for themselves or are victims; whether love or duty is the greater need to fulfill; whether female-based procreation is better or worse than the male-based procreation espoused by Victor Frankenstein.

Waldherr's prose was delightful, so fully akin to that of Mary Shelley I felt I was reading the original novel. She weaves in historical tidbits occurring in the late 18th century as the French Revolution makes its way to Geneva, thus upping the stakes for the wealthy Frankenstein family. I am not a horror reader, but loved this book. It will definitely go on my keep-forever shelf.

Many Are Invited
Dennis Cuesta
Celestial Eyes Press
9781957885001, $22.00

Set in the late 1990s, Many Are Invited starts as a sort of buddy story. The two male leads, Steve and John, both in their mid thirties, work for the phone company, trying to resolve the Y2K problem of what will happen to the world's computer systems when 12/31/1999 shifts to 01/01/2000. They become fairly close until John leaves the company and joins a dot-com. He becomes wealthy, meets his future wife, Mary, and lives a prosperous life. Steve stays in the same old phone company job, dates around without meeting a significant other, and develops such an envy of John's life that Steve ultimately falls in love with Mary but doesn't act upon it.

This book is supposedly a retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and there are a number of mentions of Gatsby and other characters, and there is even a Many Are Invited character named somewhat after Fitzgerald because of his very vague distant relationship to F. Scott. That said, the characters are not particularly likable. Steve is envious of John and always feels out-classed. The women are archetypal "good" or "bad" women without much substance. The more lush the body, the worse the personality.

The title, Many Are Invited, refers to an invitation to an open house party given by John and Mary as they settle into their first house. The story is fairly slow until the tragedy set up in the first few pages finally strikes at the open house. The denouement seems overly long in proportion to the rest of the novel, and the ending feels rather abrupt.

Linda Moore
She Writes Press
9781647422530, $17.95

Art history graduate student Cate Adamson struggles to place herself in the male-dominated world of art history. Her doctoral advisor, the misogynistic Professor Herat Jones, has not only turned down every dissertation topic she's broached, but has given her scut work like cataloguing all the artworks at NYCU. While performing the latter chore, she discovers a painting hidden in a mildew-infested antique chest. The painting, with rich vivid colors, is not listed on the university's list of known paintings. She attempts to discuss her finding with Jones, but he shuts her down yet again. She feels deeply that the painting is a Spanish Baroque masterpiece, so she risks her career, takes every cent she can scrape together, skips the Christmas holidays with her family, and takes the painting to Spain to be authenticated. When Cate discovers documents that call into question the newly-authenticated painting, she must juggle her ethics and her future career to resolve a sticky situation and potentially rewrite art history.

Author Linda Moore, a gallery owner and international traveler, fills Attribution with superb descriptions of Spain, its cities and museums, and seventeenth century art - as well as the often cut-throat world of graduate school. The ensuing intrigue is fast-paced, fun to read, hard to put down. Attribution takes on the sexism prevalent in the field. The characters are compelling and each undergoes a believable character arc.

A Fearsome Moonlight Black
David Putnam
Level Best Books
B0B34BLDH8 Kindle only, $5.99

A Fearsome Moonlight Black reads like a memoir. At the end of the book, in the author's notes, Putnam states, essentially, that the novel is a memoir based on his early years as a policeman with an added fictional love interest, so this qualifies as "autofiction," which combines two seemingly-inconsistent narrative forms, fiction and autobiography.

Author Putnam does a good job getting into the mindset of a 21-year-old rookie cop working the beat in a small Southern California town. As the protagonist, David Becket, ages, the reader sees the effects his career has on him and his family, but there's little show of emotional growth over time. After over-reaching his job description for the umpteenth time, he's assigned to track down cold cases and thus becomes a "bone detective." Putnam puts in plenty of twist and turns, at least one of which I didn't catch until the bitter end. That said, the protagonist wasn't particularly well-nuanced and the prose a bit simplistic for my tastes. The "ah-ha" moment I expect in a good memoir was also missing - that point that demonstrates how the author's life differs from the lives of others in the same predicament, that point where he shows what he's learned. There's a lot of physical action but little emotional process here.

The Color of Ice
Barbara Linn Probst
She Writes Press
9781647422592, $17.95

Having read Barbara Linn Probst first two novels, I was excited to read her third, The Color of Ice. Probst's brand is writing about art and the ups-and-downs of an artist's life, and The Color of Ice continues her explorations of these themes. Coming from an artistic family, I'm particularly drawn to books that deal with artists and their works.

A freelance photographer, Cathryn McAllister, accepts an assignment in Iceland to document the glassblower, Mack Charbonneau, as he attempts to recreate the iconic blue icebergs in glass. While there, she plans to take her first solo vacation in years and has a careful minute-to-minute plan to explore the island. When she photographs the enigmatic, gruff artist, she finds parts of herself awakening, parts abandoned in her search for professional success and the well-being of her two children.

As Cathryn and Mack become involved, she slowly abandons her itinerary and even commitments awaiting her back home. She fears she'll lose the feeling of awakening if she leaves Iceland. But Mack is foremost an artist, and secondly a mysterious man, wounded in his past, and reluctant to open himself to the possibilities offered by their relationship.

Probst's lyrical prose takes readers into the lives of two artists, their search for themselves, and a glimpse of the art they create together and separately. There are twists and turns throughout as Cathryn is pulled toward home and toward her new love. This is a lovely book and will become part of my permanent collection.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Frankly Feminist
Susan Weidman Schneider, editor
Yona Zeldis McDonough, editor
Brandeis University Press
9781684581269, $28.95, PB, 344pp

Synopsis: Short story collections focusing on Jewish writers have typically neglected women writers. That's why it's refreshing to note that with the publication of "Frankly Feminist: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine" collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Susan Weidman Schneider and Yona Zeldis McDonough, we are presented with a new volume of short stories by women that represents the best Jewish feminist fiction that was originally published in Lilith magazine -- and does what no other collection has done before in terms of its geographic scope, its inclusion of twenty-first-century stories, and its Jewish feminist focus.

This collection showcases a wide range of stories offering variegated cultures and contexts and points of view: Persian Jews; a Biblical matriarch; an Ethiopian mother in modern Israel; suburban American teens; Eastern European academics; a sexual questioner; a Jew by choice; a new immigrant escaping her Lower East Side sweatshop; a Black Jewish marcher for justice; in Vichy France, a toddler's mother hiding out; and more.

Organized by theme, the stories comprising "Frankly Feminist: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine" emphasize a breadth of content, and will have the reader appreciating the liveliness of the burgeoning self-awareness brought to life in each tale, and the occasional funny, call-your-friend-and-tell-her-about-it moment.

Critique: Original, entertaining, thought-provoking, "Frankly Feminist: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine" will prove to be of special appeal to readers with an interest in Jewish themed literature and short story fiction. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Jewish literature fiction and short story collections, it should be noted that "Frankly Feminist: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.50).

Editorial Note #1: Susan Schneider ( is Lilith's editor-in-chief and was one of the magazine's founding mothers. She is also the author of three acclaimed books, among them the groundbreaking Jewish and Female: Choices and Changes in Our Lives Today.

Editorial Note #2: Yona Zeldis McDonough's literary works cover a broad range of subjects, from biographies and chapter books for young readers to both fiction and nonfiction for adults. (

Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self-Discovery
Linda Kohanov, author
Kim McElroy, illustrator
St. Martin's Essentials
c/o St. Martin's Press
9781250823649, $34.99, PB Book/Card Deck, 400pp

Synopsis: The collaborative work of author Linda Kohanov and artist Kim McElroy, this new second edition of "Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self-Discovery" is a profound book-and-card set that invites readers to explore our sacred connection with horses in an entirely new way. This revised and expanded edition of the timeless deck features new cards along with a completely redesigned and updated guidebook.

Forty-two beautifully designed cards introduce readers to the hidden world of equine wisdom. Each chapter explores key concepts surrounding the corresponding cards, leading readers on a journey of discovery and exploration. Cards like The Keeper of Mysteries and The Silent Way capture the unique wisdom of the equine spirit. "Way of the Horse" reveals the practical meaning behind horse behavior as well as the powerful symbolic and spiritual significance of these amazing animals. "Way of the Horse" offers profound insights into the human-equine relationship.

Critique: With a particular appeal to anyone with an interest in and who are fascinated by horses, "Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self-Discovery" is a 'must' for anyone with an equine companion of their own -- or who would like to have one. An ideal gift for horse owners and enthusiasts, "Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self-Discovery" is also available for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections in a hard cover edition (9781577315131, $72.99, 292pp).

Editorial Note #1: Linda Kohanov ( speaks and teaches internationally. She established Eponaquest Worldwide to explore the healing potential of working with horses and to offer programs on everything from emotional and social intelligence, leadership, stress reduction, and parenting to consensus building and mindfulness.

Editorial Note #2: Kim McElroy ( is known for her exquisite equine artwork, which reveals the horse's powerful spiritual and emotional presence.

Ordinary Wonder Tales
Emily Urquhart
9781771965057, $16.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: A journalist and folklorist explores the truths that underlie the stories we imagine and reveals the magic in the everyday, "Ordinary Wonder Tales" author Emily Urquhart writes "I've always felt that the term fairy tale doesn't quite capture the essence of these stories, I prefer the term wonder tale, which is Irish in origin, for its suggestion of awe coupled with narrative. In a way, this is most of our stories."

"Ordinary Wonder Tales" is impressive and memorably original collection of essays in which Urquhart reveals the truths that underlie our imaginings: what we see in our heads when we read, how the sight of a ghost can heal, how the entrance to the underworld can be glimpsed in an oil painting or a winter storm -- or the onset of a loved one's dementia.

In her essays on death and dying, pregnancy and prenatal genetics, radioactivity, chimeras, cottagers, and plague, Urquhart reveals an essential truth -- that if you let yourself look closely, there is magic in the everyday!

Critique: A collective masterpiece of literary criticism, insights, observations, perceptions, and appreciation, "Ordinary Wonder Tales" by Emily Urquhart is an extraordinarily thoughtful and thought-provoking read. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Ordinary Wonder Tales" is highly recommended as an addition to community, college, and university library Folklore/Mythology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Emily Urquhart ( is a journalist with a doctorate in folklore. Her award-winning work has appeared in Longreads, Guernica, and The Walrus and elsewhere, and her first book was shortlisted for the Kobo First Book Prize and the BC National Award for Canadian Nonfiction. Her most recent book, The Age of Creativity: Art, Memory, my Father and Me, was listed as a top book of 2020 by CBC, NOW Magazine and Quill & Quire. She is also a nonfiction editor for The New Quarterly and resides in Kitchener, Ontario.

Timeless Love
Stella M. Gioacas
Maple Publishers
9781915492852, $12.20 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 205pp

Synopsis: Time is a very strange thing. We all believe that once it's gone, it's gone forever and the past will always stay in the past. But what would you do if all of a sudden you woke up in a time you didn't belong? How would you react? Adjust? Interact with the people and the world around you?

One day as Emily was trying to make sense of her life while struggling with the ultimate betrayal, a twist of fate placed her in this exact position. There she is, this modern, independent woman with a stubbornness to match, who suddenly finds herself in the 19th century.

Her first encounter Henry, the sexy stranger with the old-fashioned ways, in time turns out to be her pillar, her guide and so much more in this strange new world.

Critique: A very special combination of time travel science fiction and historical romance, "Timeless Love" by Stella M. Gioacas is a unique and fun read from cover to cover. Showcasing the author's impressive knack for the kind of narrative storytelling style that keeps the reader's riveted attention from first page to last, "Timeless Love" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Timeless Love" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Stella M. Gioacas ( dreamed of becoming a writer ever since she learned how to write and read at the age of 8 and had finally made that dream come true when she published her first book at the age of 38. She quickly became a fan of romance and horror books at the age of 13 before expanding to other genres, she has collected so many books over the years she now has a small library of her own.

Susan Bethany

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Christ Centered Healing of Trauma
Norm Wielsch
Vision Group, Ltd
9781951648060, $39.99, HC, 478pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Christ Centered Healing of Trauma", Norm Wielsch teaches his readers the foundational principles and tools for dealing with issues related to overwhelming life events from a Christian perspective.

"Christ Centered Healing of Trauma" reveals how trauma affects the heart and body, the biblical laws and principles that keep you in the pain go your trauma, as well as those that heal you, how to recognize your poor responses to the initial wound. This involves tracing back the root causes or initial wounds that lie beneath the surface of most events to understand how bitter roots are formed and how broken hearts can be healed through the biblical process of repentance, renunciation, and forgiveness.

Critique: "Christ Centered Healing of Trauma" begins with Norm Wieisch's story of being a narcotics agent and his resultant trauma and break down. The addresses in comprehensive detail what the Bible and Christianity teach about the process of healing. Other subjects address are the age old question of why God would allow suffering and trauma, the use of journaling as a trauma healing technique, obstacles to healing, and more. Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an appendix offering fourteen sample prayers, an succinct biography of the author, and an image glossary, "Christ Centered Healing of Trauma" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of clergy, seminary students, and non-specialist general readers throughout the Christian community -- especially those having to deal with trauma in their own lives and/or the lives of loved ones.

Editorial Note: Norm Wielsch was a law enforcement officer for over 26 years. Sixteen of those as an undercover narcotic agent. He experienced many traumatic critical incidents during his career. In 1998, he was diagnosed with PTSD and an incurable neuro-muscular disease that caused the loss of feeling, mobility, and strength in his hands and feet. After over 30 surgeries on his feet, he became addicted to opioids. Due to his lack of skills to properly respond to his trauma, Norm made a series of poor decisions that landed him in federal prison.

It was during the most intense trial of his life that he answered the calling of God who was calling him to minister to people who were suffering from trauma. While in prison, he obtained a master's degree in Theology, a Doctorate Degree in Christian Counseling, and a California Alcohol and Drug Counseling Certificate. During this time, he realized that no one book covered Christ-Centered approach to counseling, so Norm wrote one himself. He utilized biblical principles God teaches to heal his own PTSD.

Norm counseled inmates, preached God's word, taught bible studies, and counseled many inmates who were oppressed by their past trauma. They experienced God's healing power and transformation through the biblical principles taught in the Christ-Centered Healing process.

Norm now works as a Registered Addiction Counselor and is a credentialed/ordained Chaplain.

Winning at Home
Dan Seaborn
Salem Books
c/o Regnery Publishing, Inc.
300 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001
9781684513079, $17.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: As a Christian parent your home should be a place of victory and sanctuary for your family. But all too often, it feels like it's not.

Parents today are raising kids in a secular culture that not only disagrees with their Christian faith -- it strongly opposes it at every turn. We know our faith must inform every aspect of our parenting, but the Bible doesn't always offer cut-and-dried answers on subjects like parenting a child with mental health problems, helping your kids develop good interpersonal skills and boundaries, understanding sexual identity, or successfully parenting adult children. Nor does the Church always address them -- and for that reason, parenting can be both messy and frightening.

With the publication of "Winning at Home: Tackling the Topics that Confuse Kids and Scare Parents", Dan Seaborn teams up with several of the credentialed members of his ministry's staff to dive into the mess and help parents seeking a faith-based perspective on some of our culture's most complex topics find firm footing.

Readers are invited to bring along their parenting questions as the read through "Winning at Home: Tackling the Topics that Confuse Kids and Scare Parents", where they will discover a wealth of wisdom and resources to help them navigate the challenges of twenty-first-century parenting. It's time to turn your losses around and start winning at home!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, deftly organized, and thoroughly 'parent friendly' in presentation, "Winning at Home: Tackling the Topics that Confuse Kids and Scare Parents" is especially and unreservedly recommended reading for any parent trying to reconcile Christian expectations with the parenting of children who are personally troubled or confronted by the often hostile secular world in which they must live out their lives -- including someday being parents themselves. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Oasis Audio, 9781685922054, $27.99, CD), "Winning at Home: Tackling the Topics that Confuse Kids and Scare Parents" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, community, and church Parenting instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note: Dan Seaborn ( is the founder of Winning At Home, a non-profit organization that seeks to support marriages and families through speaking, counseling and coaching services, community events and other media resources. Dan is an engaging and powerful speaker and a thoughtful and practical writer. He has a comfortable and humorous communication style that allows him to connect easily with audiences of all ages. Through energetic and memorable live presentations or through his books, Dan talks openly about family life -- often by revealing his own struggles or failures.

Willis M. Buhle

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design