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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 10 October 2020 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf Blanca Flores' Bookshelf
Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf
Clabe Polk's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf David Witter's Bookshelf
Elan Kluger's Bookshelf Gigi Langer's Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf
Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf
Kaitlyn Kennedy's Bookshelf Lillington History Society Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf Mark Walker's Bookshelf
Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Self-Publishing Review Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf William Krueger's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf
Wine Business    

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf

Inside the O'Briens
Lisa Genova
Gallery Books
9781476717791, $11.99 Kindle, $13.96 Hardcover, $16.00 Paperback, 368 pages, 2015

Take a Look Inside the O'Briens

Lisa Genova is one of the most innovative writers within the modern era. Her novels are raw, emotional, and also very relatable. She is the author behind the critically acclaimed novel Still Alice, and Julianne Moore won an Oscar for starring in its film version. Inside the O'Briens is a compelling novel about how Huntington's disease directly impacts a fictional family.

Lisa Genova reveals how illnesses can affect entire families, and not just ill individuals. Genova's realism is genuinely heartbreaking as it explores what it means to human. Even though this particular novel involves an entire family struggling, the novel offers hope because of the love that people share with one another, especially familial bonds. This novel might not exactly be an example of leisure reading, but it can still inspire readers to genuinely care for themselves, their families, and the people around them.

All Adults Here
Emma Straub
Riverhead Books
9781594634697, $13.99 Kindle, $16.34 Hardcover, $21.36 Paperback, 368 pages, 2020

Being an Adult

Within the United States, people usually become adults once they reach eighteen years of age. Nevertheless, age is simply a number because behavior separates the adults from the kids. Unfortunately, fully grown people could still behave childishly. That is one of the realities within the novel All Adults Here by Emma Straub.

In this compelling novel, Straub exposes the nature of human behavior with humor, wit, and eloquent writing. The novel delves deep into what it means to be an adult. Without major spoilers, the novel implies that all grown-ups are adults, but only the ones who demonstrate maturity actually contribute to a constantly changing world.

This dazzling novel is a potentially great summer read (or a work that readers could read at any given time) that encompasses what it truly means to be an adult. The review will hopefully encourage readers to hold themselves accountable while also encouraging responsibility.

Alex Andy Phuong

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story
Kate Summerscale
9781408895443, A$29.99 (paperback) 335 pages

"'GHOST' WRECKS HOME... FAMILY TERRIFIED". Sunday Pictorial 20 Feb. 1938

Alma Fielding was 34 years old and living with her family in a modest house in the London suburb of Thornton Heath when strange things began to happen.

Towards midnight one night, she and her husband, Les, were woken by something shattering in their bedroom. Alma turned on the bedside light and saw shards of a broken tumbler on the floor. Suddenly, another glass flew past and shattered against the wall and their eiderdown lifted and swam up at them and fell on their faces. Alma and Les were terrified and shouted for help. Their son, Donald, came from his room and as he opened their bedroom door a pot of face cream flew across the room at him. George, their lodger, also came to see what was happening and was hit by two flying coins.

Things calmed down and the family eventually went back to sleep, but next morning, in the kitchen, an egg suddenly smashed and a saucer inexplicably snapped.

The local newspaper, the Pictorial, had been running a series on the supernatural and invited readers to contribute, so Alma called them. The two reporters who came to the house saw ornaments topple, an egg and a tin-opener flew across the room, crockery spun out of Alma's hands and smashed mid-air, and a chunk of coal lifted from the grate, shot across the room, and smacked into the wall behind them. The reporters could see no human intervention in these occurrences.

A crowd had gathered outside the house and a clairvoyant gentleman, invited into the house, saw strong 'carrier ectoplasm' around Alma and told her that the disturbances were a warning from a malevolent spirit. The Pictorial ran the story the next morning, other reporters began to turn up at the house and the news spread.

Nandor Fodor, who for four years had been Chief Ghost Hunter at the International Institute for Psychical Research in South Kensington, was fascinated by Alma's story. Fodor was a Jewish Hungarian who had studied law in Budapest. He had narrowly escaped conscription in the 1914-18 war and the subsequent 'terrors', and had fled to America, where he became a journalist. When a chance interview with the British newspaper magnate, Lord Rothermere, discovered a mutual concern for the land-rights of the Hungarian people, Rothermere offered Fodor a well-paid job with Associated Newspapers in London. So, Fodor and his wife moved to London, and Fodor, who had long been making a serious study of psychic research, threw himself into the thriving psychical scene there:

Spiritualism was big business in Britain. Three quarters of a million Britons had been killed in the Great War, and another quarter of a million in the influenza pandemic that followed. Thousand of spiritualist seance circles were established by their widows, widowers and sweethearts, mothers and fathers and children. The faith offered 'something tremendous', said Conan Doyle, 'a breaking down of the wall between two worlds...a call of hope and of guidance to the human race at the time of its deepest affliction'.

Fodor wrote articles about famous hauntings and started to write a guide to supernatural research. Lord Rothermere disapproved of this activity so, when in 1934 Fodor's Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science was published, Fodor applied for a job at the new International Institute for Psychical Research. The Institute 'aimed to combine the spiritualist and scientific approaches to the super-normal'. This suited Fodor and he travelled the country to investigate all manner of psychic happenings. Occasionally he would take his wife and daughter with him on ghost hunts:

They stayed overnight in haunted houses, surrounded by cameras, flashbulbs, switches and timers. Andrea looked forward to these trips, partly because she hoped to see a spook, but chiefly because she adored her clever, good-looking, sociable father....[Fodor] modelled himself, he said, on the boy in the Hungarian folk tale who plays games in a haunted house, throwing skulls to the resident ghost, whooping with joy as his bed flies up and down the stairs.

At the Institute, Fodor conducted strictly monitored experimental seances, used animals to test the theory that vapours rise from the body at the moment of death, and, in order to experience an altered state, tried mescaline and 'felt bereft when the drug wore off'. He did much to establish the scientific credibility of the Institute, but his success in revealing frauds and tricksters was not universally popular. The Psychic News refused to publish his articles and claimed that 'Fodor was harsh towards his experimental subjects, excessively skeptical, and obsessed with sexual theories and technological gadgets'.

In 1937, Fodor sued the Psychic News for publishing 'malicious falsehoods' about him. He now 'urgently needed to prove himself' to the Board of the Institute, and Alma's haunting seemed to offer him the perfect opportunity to do this. He visited Alma, saw some of the strange things which happened around her, and convinced her to let him conduct strictly monitored experiments with her at the Institute.

Alma's 'happenings' became more and more bizarre. She could materialize objects - flowers, brooches, ancient coins, a live exotic bird. She began to experience possession by a spirit called Bremba, who spoke through her, and other members of the monitoring group experienced tremors when Alma went into a trance, smelled strange odours, and sometimes fainted. Fodor's testing of Alma became more and more rigorous. She would be searched by Institute women before an experiment began, sewn into garments designed to prevent her secreting objects about her person, and closely watched by several people every minute of the experiment. Yet she still managed to materialize objects, and Bemba spoke of things which it seemed impossible that he could know.

A few times Fodor did find that Alma was tricking them, but there were still many occasions when he and the experimental group could find no explanation for what they witnessed. Fodor 'had to prove himself as a scientist', so he remained skeptical. He had been reading widely in the literature of the new 'science' of psychology and had come to believe that 'psychic gifts were rooted in psychological disturbance'. 'There is a door which leads from the mind we know to the mind we do not know', he told the Daily Mirror. 'Now and again that door opens. Strange things happen...Who or what opens that door? The mind itself? Or some outside agency?'

Kate Summerscale tells all of this in fascinating detail. At the same time, she skillfully captures the disturbed events going on in the world in which these people lived. The newspapers were full of Hitler's growing power in Europe, Britain was hoping for peace negotiations but was preparing for war. Twenty-five million gas masks had been manufactured, 'schools were being commandeered for air-raid training, and trial blackouts were being staged throughout the land'. Mosley and his confederates were marching through London shouting 'Down with Jewish warmongers!', and psychic mediums 'were channelling the elders of other races':

In Queen's Hall, off Oxford Street, more that 2,000 people gathered in March to hear the prophecies of White Hawk, the spirit guide of the well-known medium Stella Hughes. 'There will be no war', the chieftain assured his anxious audience.

Disturbed times fostered disturbed spirits: ghosts, poltergeist, spirit voices and messages from the other-world proliferated.

Summerscale weaves literature, history and the occult together in this book to good effect and the 'true ghost story' of Alma Fielding's haunting is a curious tale, well told. In the end, however, Fodor's investigation of Alma's haunting was terminated by the Institute. War began, and Alma and Les moved out of London to a Devon village where Alma ran occasional seances for the villagers. Fodor moved back to the United States, trained as a psychiatrist, ran a successful psychiatric practice, and presented papers about 'poltergeist psychosis' which suggested that childhood trauma might explain why some people experience paranormal happenings. His study of the four months in which he investigated Alma's haunting was published in 1958 as On the Trail of a Poltergeist.

Summerscale concludes that 'uncertainty continues to haunt the subject' and, perhaps suggesting that ghosts and ghouls are still active in our own disturbed times, her Prologue and Epilogue tell of her own brush with the paranormal. Unusually, the same taxi driver twice picked her up from the railway station when she was researching the book. Hearing what she was researching, he told her that he had vampires attached to his spirit.

He had summoned them, he said, on the recommendation of his spirit guide. 'Go for vampires', the guide advised. 'Stay away from fluffy bunnies and fairies. You're more suited to the darker side'. Two psychics had told him that he had vampires in his bloodline. 'Not that I do anything dark and horrible,' he assured me. The vampires, like the two-headed snake that had dangled from his neck in January, came to relieve him from suffering.

It seems that the vampire which once left 'two blood-clotted punctures' on Alma's neck has not gone away.

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

Blanca Flores' Bookshelf

Into Africa
Kerry McDonald
Level 4 Press
9781933769943, $18.95, Paperback
9781933769950, $9.99, eBook

Kerry McDonald's debut novel, Into Africa¸ offers an unexpected and thrilling re-imagining of How I Found Livingstone. The original follows the real-life journey of Sir Henry Morton Stanley as he travels across the African jungle in search of the famous explorer/missionary, David Livingstone. In this updated version, the protagonist is Janet Livingstone, sister to David Livingstone.

Janet hasn't heard from her brother in years. When she receives a small package with the necklace she gifted to him, Janet knows David is alive. With the egotistical Henry Morton Stanley leading the expedition, Janet sets off to find her brother.

This is an era of strict gender roles. Janet is a quiet, humble woman who has never been outside of her small Scottish town. As the physical journey into Africa is underway, so is Janet's emotional journey. Janet faces her prejudices and opens her heart to the African people. Kerry does an excellent job at balancing Janet's ignorance with a nuanced and well researched Colonial Africa.

Visually stunning, the imagery on these pages transports readers into the villages. It is as if Kerry disguised a book detailing African colonialism with an entertaining narrative. The various issues of colonialism in the 1800s are addressed and portrayed accurately. Kerry doesn't shy away from vividly describing the brilliant landscapes or even the slave market. This book highlights the difficult and strenuous journey while exuding hope for progress.

Into Africa offers a thoughtful examination of gender and race within the Colonial British Empire - a book written to be watched.

This book is for readers that enjoy historical fiction, or movies like The Lion in Darkness.

666 Gable Way
Dani Lamia
Level 4 Press
9781933769622, $18.95, Trade Paper, 10/20/2020
9781933769639, $9.99, eBook

Witchcraft, psychic powers, human sacrifice, what more could you ask for? In a hauntingly fresh take on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, author Dani Lamia re-imagines the world with Phoebe Pyncheon as the protagonist. A chilling follow-up to Lamia's debut novel, Scavenger Hunt, 666 Gable Way is a modern witch tale that inspires readers to unleash their inner strength.

The book opens with the cutthroat coven sacrificing a virgin. The color red pops out and spills onto the pages, creating a faultless setup. Following the blood-drenched prologue, we jump to present day and meet Phoebe. She's a young writer who's down on her luck. She's resisted her psychic ability her entire life, always chalking it up to coincidence.

Phoebe finds herself on the doorsteps of her great-aunt Hester's Victorian boardinghouse. It is known as The House of the Seven Gables. As Phoebe gets to know the mysterious residents and explore the decrepit house, tension ebbs and flows through the dining hall and private rooms. The boardinghouse is just as much of a character as the residents, and the antique aesthetic and gothic charms work well to hone this story. Lamia brings readers right into the house, and they share the creeping feeling that someone is breathing down their neck. Sure to keep you awake all night.

Lamia creates a witch tale that follows you home, is relatable, and stands as an empowering symbol for women everywhere. Excited to see what else Lamia has in store.

Chilling and deliciously horrible, I couldn't put this one down.

If you liked Penny Dreadful or The Craft, you'll love this book.

Blanca Flores

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Food and Beverage Magazine's Guide to Restaurant Success
Michael Politz
John Wiley & Sons
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781119668961, $30.00, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Even before the pandemic, each month countless new restaurants open their doors as others closed in failure. Despite continuing industry growth, many new restaurants struggle to succeed. Even established restaurants are challenged to stay open. These businesses may have great food and amazing service, yet some still face uncertain futures. Now, help has arrived for restaurant owners and managers!

"Food and Beverage Magazine's Guide to Restaurant Success" is written by Michael Politiz, an industry expert who has opened numerous restaurants and provided valuable restaurateur guidance in the role of a trusted consultant.

This restaurant success guide provides vital information on how to protect the significant investment (sometimes ranging from $250,000 to $425,000) that's required to open a restaurant and keep it running during the first six months.

Michael Politz started his career with an ice cream business and went on to found a number of restaurants, a frozen food distribution business, a restaurant consulting service, and a respected online magazine for the food and beverage industry. Politz shares his extensive knowledge gained through both success and failure.

With his indispensable guide, restaurant entrepreneurs can easily double-check to make sure they are doing things right. This is an ideal instructional resource to: Get guidance from a restaurant owner's handbook of what to do and not do; Refer to handy tips and checklists that help to launch a successful restaurant business; Discover insight into the triumphs of Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, and more; Gain food industry knowledge with a comprehensive restaurant how-to guide.

Whether you want to open a burger joint or a fine dining restaurant, "Food and Beverage Magazine's Guide to Restaurant Success" is a seasoned advice-filled resource covers all the details that make the difference between failure and success.

Especially with the catastrophic impact that the pandemic has had on the food and beverage industry, The "Food and Beverage Magazine's Guide to Restaurant Success" may make all the difference for a restaurant's survival -- and must be considered absolutely essential reading for anyone considering establishing a restaurant of their own in these perilous times. While especially and unreservedly recommended for culinary school, community, and college/university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Food and Beverage Magazine's Guide to Restaurant Success" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

The Battle Between Honesty and Deception: A Grand Debate
Herman Kagan
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781620237540, $19.95, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: Whether we like it or not, deception is something we have to deal with almost every day. We are bombarded with advertisements for great deals, but the catch is always in the fine print. Deception has become a norm but does that mean honesty has ceased to exist?

In "The Battle Between Honesty and Deception: A Grand Debate", Herman Kagan takes a look at honesty versus deception by delving deeper into research done by professionals in the scientific and medical fields. Written in a conversational style, two people go head to head in a discussion to prove which is more prevalent in society today. -- Who will win the final battle?

Critique: An absorbing and inherently fascinating read that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Battle Between Honesty and Deception: A Grand Debate" is fully engaging and highly recommended for both community and college/university library Philosophy & Ethics collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Battle Between Honesty and Deception: A Grand Debate" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).

Editorial Note: Herman Kagan is a retired California licensed clinical psychologist, who specialized in treating abused children and their families. He worked for a private psychiatric hospital, the California Youth Authority and the Mental Health division of Ventura County. He has a Ph.D. from The University of Arizona in Tucson and taught classes at The University of California in Santa Barbara.

Carl Logan

Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf


Driving through Paintings
Poems by Leslie Klein
Shanti Arts Publishing
9781951651343, $12.95, softcover, June 2020, 82 pages

Liza Gyllenhaal Bennett, past president and current executive board member, Academy of American Poets, noted: "Leslie Klein writes with the eye of an artist and voice of a poet."

Smallwood: How has where you live influenced being a writer and artist?

Klein: I have been fortunate to live throughout the northeast - from Vermont, the Hudson Valley in NY, and here in the Berkshires. The natural world - its colors, shapes, sound, light, plants, animals inspire both my writing and art. Each day is a visual feast. At night the owls serenade!

Smallwood: Please share with readers any formal, academic training you've had:

Klein: Bachelors from State University of New York at New Paltz in Sociology/Education.

Smallwood: What types of writing have you had published?

Klein: Most of my published writing has been op-ed, feature stories and some poetry for newspapers and magazines.

Smallwood: What are some galleries and juried exhibitions you've taken part?

Klein: A sampling includes:

510 Warren Street Gallery, Hudson, NY
Lauren Clark Fine Art, "Small Works," Great Barrington, MA
Gallery 35, Great Barrington, MA, Guild of Berkshire Artists
Boston 2000, Inc., Boston, MA;
Created sculpture for "The Boston Freedom Award," presented by Coretta Scott King and Boston Mayor, Thomas M. Menino to Dr. Charles Jacobs, Founder and President of The American Anti-Slavery Group

Smallwood: Please share your affirmation expressed in "Magic":

Klein: If we open our eyes to really see all that surrounds us in the natural world, we would be in awe of its complexity and beauty.

Smallwood: Another lovely poem that caught my eye was "Library". What was your first visit to one and how do you use them now?

Klein: Though the memory of my very first visit is vague, I always remember feeling like I was in a peaceful space with so much to see and touch. Just about every book I read is borrowed from the library. Even now, with the virus, it is great to be able to order books and movies online, and pick them up at my local library. I do miss being able to go inside. I often use their computer and printer. All librarians are wonderful, and have all the answers!!!!! My love of the library, is also very much influenced by my travels. I am inspired when a library in a small town comes into view. They are so architecturally beautiful and solid - reminiscent of ancient structures holding sacred texts - truly, works of art.

Smallwood: You make many references to birds. Have you always been so aware of them and what do they mean to you?

Klein: I "discovered" birds when I was in my late 20's, after seeing a flock of cedar waxwings land on a tree to share berries. They actually fed each other. They were so exotic looking, with black eyeliner and feathers like Chinese silk. That was the beginning. I am fortunate to live in a lovely, rural area, with a small brook. I am surrounded by birds and their melodic songs. Many are familiar and have personalities. They are truly beautiful, delicate creatures. Though, considering the perils of migration or just daily survival, they are so strong. Their ability to fly makes them seem so free and happy.

Smallwood: One of your poems says: "We are all artists": when did you come to this conclusion and please explain:

Klein: That poem was the result of one of those long, into the evening, conversations with a friend. That's why it is titled "Letter," because I wrote it for him later, restating what was said about art and creativity. He was lamenting that he was not an "artist." I was trying to explain to him that even though he was not a painter, sculptor, writer, his life path was one that would leave its mark, and inspire others, just as a painting or a poem.

Smallwood: Has there been subjects you wanted to work on as an artist that ended up as a form of writing or the other way around - or didn't fit either?

Klein: Not that I can think of. I have, however, created numerous sculpted trees (including The Boston Freedom Award) which are perceived by each viewer with their own impressions. I think my poem "Trees" is more descriptive of the feelings that I have for them, than the actual sculpted pieces can convey.

Smallwood: Are you working on a new collection of poems?

Klein: Yes, I do have more poetry that I am compiling and changing and changing some more!!! ha! I also have an idea for a book on libraries, and two children's books that have taken a back seat of late.


Sweating It Out
Deborah Turner
Finishing Line Press
9781646622566, $14.99, softcover, 30 pages, September 2020

Smallwood: What is your educational background?

Turner: I earned successive degrees from the Universities of California, Berkeley, Michigan, and then Washington, respectively. I majored in English and minored in Native American Studies and moved on to library studies. I eventually earned my doctorate in Information Science, focusing mainly on library management and talking as a way to exchange information.

Smallwood: When did sports become an important part of your life?

Turner: Very early on. My transition from playing to competing in sports went fairly easily. Likely this reflects how I benefited from Title IX. As a kid, I was very active and played sports. I've always been tall for my age. A coach once looked across the school yard and spotted me, head and shoulders above the other sixth-graders. He recruited me for a relay race. Basketball, rowing, softball, and track coaches would later repeat this gesture right up through my undergraduate years.

Smallwood: How did you come up with the theme for Sweating It Out?

Turner: A mentor and later a fellow member of my feminist writing group, Akasha (Gloria) Hull, heard my first sports poem and encouraged me. It used softball to explore the experience of becoming the family matriarch. "Five poems make up a series," she'd said. Her words motivated me to write additional jock poems, as I called them. That series has become Sweating with its sports poetry.

Smallwood: Some lines in the first poem in your chapbook, "Juneteenth," caught my attention:

And the children run free
like schools of sardines
lacing the kelp-like crowd in jubilee.

Please share some other imagery lines using your sports background.

Turner: Ah, thank you for mentioning that line. I do love having been fortunate to have spent several hours mesmerized by marine creatures at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Such experiences provide wonderful metaphors for poetry.

When elders step in to help right a situation, I feel a reverence that reminds me of the rhythmic tension involved in watching a tennis match (from "Something from Nothin"):

...a cautious serve, slow and inviting, a volley ensued smooth as a grandfather clock tocking...

There's another instance of imagery in "Double Dutch," perhaps a symbol of Me Too despite it having been written before that movement began:

...she pretends
It's her turn to twirl
and the game ends
with rain.

I first experienced and expressed real anger while playing in a basketball game. An 8th grade teammate prevented me from scoring. For the good of the team, I shook a fist at and then one-armed hugged her, tight. Next, I let go of the intense feelings rushing through me and kept playing, certain we could still win. Sports helped me learn how to remain grounded when emotional, while remaining present during challenging situations ("Sidelined"):

She parents like she's coming in off the bench.
Been coached forever, but the real thing - well...

It can be an incredible sensation to enter into a sporting event tentatively and come out confident - just as it is in life.

Smallwood: In the poem, "My Son's Avatar" please comment on these very relevant lines:
And I try to recall what a decade of burning bras
and another of fighting, to make our lives matter,

Turner: Each generation does what it can, we hope, to make the world a better place. Yet, we have no idea how the next generation will make sense of our efforts. We strive so earnestly. Meanwhile, children are born; young people get old. When working to make sense of the moments we have, I'm moved to anger, sadness, laughter, and - of course - the unexpected. This poem emerges from watching a beautiful, mixed-race boy passionately select a cartoonish, stereotypically sexual girl from among all the available avatars to be his online game piece. His choice gave me pause and reminded me to make careful wishes. It results in a poem that, among other things, conveys a warning and a wish that we work to ensure our ethical and social practices keep pace with our technological advances.

Smallwood: When did you become conscious of feminism?

Turner: Hum, what a good question. It's hard to pin down an answer. I studied it in college. Yet, I lived it as a kid. My mother was a hippie and a feminist. So, looking back, I recall being introduced to feminist ways of being from how she modeled it with her life choices. But I had no word for it back then. While studying it, I felt a sense of familiarity while reading classical works, like those in Cherrie Moraga's This Bridge Called My Back. I once shared a stage with her. That was a real honor.

Smallwood: There are not that many librarians who also are accomplished poets. How did it influence you?

Turner: Yes, that's true. I'm happy to be following in your accomplished footsteps. There's an interesting anthology on this theme, Poet-Librarians in the Library of Babel: Innovative Meditations on Librarianship. I really relate to one of its poems about finding an especially moving letter in an archival collection and getting completely distracted from my professional responsibilities! As a librarian, I worked mainly in library public services. Doing so allowed me to watch. I've listened to Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, and many other poets describe how writers need to observe. I find helping and watching how people learn how to get much-desired information very satisfying. I relate to the showing/teaching side of library work. Enjoyment in such educational activities led me into the library and information science professorate. Since, I've realized there is a strong teaching and learning element in poetry. In that way, librarianship enhanced my career as a writer, which predates mine as a librarian.

Smallwood: Distinguished Professor of English Education, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm (Boise State University) observed that your poems deal with "...deep issues of identity and transformation." Please share some of these lines:

Turner: The concepts of identity and transformation easily bring to mind how we come of age into adulthood. Yet, life is full of many moments in which we fully realize and accept who we are and use it to inform a different way of being.

A professional arrives at a new place of peace and ambition in "Time Out":
one by one, lessons of assimilating
fly up and out the mediation retreat window,
taking with them the good sense your mama made you
promise to use

Some lines explore lovingly choosing oneself over others you love ("From the Lighthouse"):
May you know my love even as I leave the lighthouse.

Other lines reflect accepting one's parents ("Black Patriarch"):
She used to think him snake-like, shedding families like skin

Still others focus on changing roles with one's parents ("Switch Hitting"):
This time
who has permission
to grant, to deny?
Pondering, she feels eight again
awkwardly switch hitting...
in the last inning
of her mother's final season.

Smallwood: Please comment on your contributions to two anthologies: Philadelphia Says: Black Lives Have Always Mattered, and Testimony:

Turner: I have a poem and a prose piece in these works. In Philadelphia Stories, my poem, "Young, Gifted, and Back," speaks to life after completing college. The title plays on Lorraine Hansberry's famous play. The second work Testimony has quite a sub-title... Young African-Americans on Self-Discovery and Black Identity. My prose contribution to the volume, "Letters to My Sister," provides a window into the lives of two young women, one in college; another, a mental institution.

Smallwood: What are you working on now?

Turner: I am working on a novel and a memoir. My first novel, Harvesting Her Own Cranberries is set in 1983. Harvesting tells the story of 12-year-old, mixed-race Tink, who goes missing. Readers follow Tink and her blended family, working to get her home safely. As readers learn what becomes of Tink, they'll journey with her through a cranberry farm that nurtures more than what first appears. It also touches on a theme I mention above, coming of age at different times throughout one's life. I'm also working on a memoir based on my life in West Philadelphia.

For a reading and discussion guide for Sweating It Out, or to learn more about Turner and her works, please check:


Against Forgetting: War, Love, and After War
Denise David
Shanti Arts LLC
1951651316, $15.95, May 5, 2020, Paperback, 78 pages

The year 2020 marks seventy-five years since the end of World War II.

Against Forgetting: War, Love, and After War is a poetry collection about people living the war - a legacy of first-hand memories preserved by a researcher scholar, the daughter of a war bride.

Smallwood: What is your literary background, and education?

David: I am a teacher and a writer. I taught writing and literature for over twenty-five years at a community college in upstate New York. As meaning-making creatures, our stories help us understand who we are and allow us to make sense of the world. My formal education includes earning a Ph.D., but I have never stopped learning from my students and from my own writing. I have published a number of academic articles as well as poetry and narrative non-fiction.

Smallwood: Your preface shared you did research and interviews about World War II war brides. How did you get in touch with them?

David: Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with people whose mothers were war brides. My mother had several friends from England, women who had married soldiers during the war, but when I was a child, it did not occur to me that it was strange that all of these English women were living in a small town in upstate New York. As I grew older I was more and more fascinated with the experience of war brides. The estimates, while hard to verify, suggest that more than a million women married soldiers and left their homelands after World War II. As I began writing and researching the history of the times as well as my mother's experiences, I wanted to understand the fuller context of the experience for other war brides as well. I read anything related to the subject - history books, stories about war brides, accounts written by war brides, old newspaper articles. I drove to meet war brides or their children whenever I could to speak with them about their experiences. But the most important connection I made was when I discovered a national organization, the World War II War Brides Association, a group consisting of war brides from over fifty countries. My mother and I began attending the annual reunions held in a different American city each year.

Smallwood: Your forty-nine poems are divided into War: Love, After War. Please comment about the role of women then and now that you've observed:

David: The role of women during the war years is fascinating. It differed for women living in different countries, and I have tried to capture some of that in the poems, but since my grandmother and my mother lived in England during the war, I will speak a little about their experience. The war was fought in their back garden in a sense. My mother grew up in a large industrial city, Birmingham, England, which suffered nearly as much bombing as London, an enormous amount in other words. When we think of the Battle of Britain, we do not think of the women working in the factories that ran twenty-four hours a day building Spitfires, Hurricanes and bombs. So many of the men were away fighting overseas so it was left in large part to the women. I don't think we fully understand the tremendous burden on the women to hunker down in shelters with their children through long nights of bombing and then get up and go to work in the morning. When we speak of the home front, women were a huge part of that. And then, of course, for the war brides there was the issue of falling in love with a man from a foreign country and giving up all that was dear to them--country, family and friends to take a chance on the future. The war brides, women now in their eighties and nineties, were in so many ways creators of the peace after a devastating war.

Smallwood: Your poems includes such fascinating bits such as in "Tea Time" is noted: "In 1942, the British government purchased in order of weight: bullets, tea, artillery shells, bombs, and explosives." Please share with readers another:

David: Yes, my research has led me to all sorts of little stories, the smaller details that make history fascinating. For example, after the final bombing that demolished the British Museum, there were stories of ancient seeds stored inside the museum that sprouted into life after they were drenched with water used to put out the fires.

Smallwood: The era becomes so real by including such details as the wearing of lipstick (when available) in defiance of Hitler, and bombs in back gardens on Sunday dinnertime "against an azure sky." How were you able to select them?

David: The story of the plane in the back garden was told to me first by my grandmother and later by her son, my uncle. Neither of them ever forgot that story, and neither have I. My mother has talked often of how they all wore red lipstick to keep their spirits up in those days. To this day, my ninety-three year old mother does not go out without "a bit of lipstick." She is strong and resilient and carrying on.

Smallwood: In "Seeing the Same Place for the First Time" as a nine year old, you "see the enormity of my mother's decision." Please share with readers what you realized:

David: Until that moment, I had not realized how hard it must have been for my mother to choose between the love of her family, with whom she was very close and the love of a man, my father, an American soldier. When I saw my grandmother crying I understood a mother's sadness in a way I never had before. I knew this grief was something my mother always carried with her. In those days, America was a world away. It was not easy to get back to England, although in my mother's case, she was able to get back after about eighteen months when I was born, but many war brides reported that it was many, many years before they could return "home" for a visit, frequently as many as ten years. Air travel was very expensive and travel by ship was not cheap either and it took nearly a week one way. Phone calls were rare if people even had a phone. For so many years, my mother stayed in touch with her family through letters, which she often cried when she received. Now, all these years later, my mother has managed to remain close to her family, with weekly phone calls and daily emails, but she still remembers her devastating homesickness at first.

Smallwood: What are you working on now?

David: Currently, I am working on my mother's story, the life of a girl who grew up in the midst of a war and married a man from across the sea. Life would not be as she expected it, but she, like all of us, had to find her own strength. My book pieces together the shards of experience that connect to form a life. When I began the book, my question was whether or not my mother had made the right decision, but I have come to realize that the real story is who we become because of the decisions we make.

Carol Smallwood

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

Ascending Spiral: Humanity's Last Chance
Dr. Bob Rich
Marvelous Spirit Press
9781615991860, $19.95 paperback, 248 pages
B00BZW54N0, $4.95 Kindle

The theme of this book is how people can learn from past lives and hopefully do better each successive lifetime. The book may be taken figuratively or literally. Reading happens in the mind of the reader, as each reader brings his or her own experiences to books. Whatever it is interesting to consider how humankind might improve through the centuries to the present day.

The author shares several different lives from Ireland to New South Wales he feels he lived. He shares what he learned from each life. Difficulties were present in each one, even when he lived as a plant. He applies lasting life lessons as he moves forward (ascends). The beliefs of several religions are considered to help broadly illustrate what is viewed to be a good life.

Characters and settings are detailed and realistic. Vivid stories are told. The author feels the earth is living like a toddler with greed as the enemy. We all must improve to help climate change issues and problems. At the end of the book, Dr. Rich asks us to join his team to maintain a decent life on planet Earth. If humanity can pull together, and live simply so we may simply live, Dr. Rich will have achieved his goal for writing this book.

Kacey Kells
Independently Published 2020
9798615294631, $17.00 paperback
B084WRR7FK, $3.99 Kindle, 352 pages

Note: The copyright page also says Bruno Munier published the book, and Olympia Publishers, 60 Cannon Street London, UK. But Amazon does not have this information on the sales pages.

Part beautifully described travel book (Victoria, Vancouver, and London), part the emotional life of a teenage girl, and also part informational italicized text that explains what is happening to the heroine - right through her rape, therapy, and long-lasting effects, this book had a powerful impact on me.

Kellcey takes place over the heroine's high school years and start of college. She is a gorgeous teen who is bright, happy, doing well in school, and seems to have a nice boyfriend. With a strong teen voice detailing her daily life, we get to know Kacey and enjoy how she explains her life where many things are of paramount importance! Thoughts of her first kiss, make-up, fashion, and prom are her main concerns.

Meanwhile, in italics, we see a broader understanding of girls, dating, and the responsibilities women have in sexual relationships due to their biology. Since we know what is coming (and why I put off reading this book for weeks), we notice the subtle warnings that foreshadow the event.

Previously, her sister passed away, leading to parental discord. Her parents get a divorce at the time she graduates from high school. The mother plans a move to London. Her father has moved away already. At first, Kacey is not going to move from Canada. She cannot leave her friends and boyfriend. However, the terrible event causes her to change her mind, and she agrees to move. She doesn't even tell her mother until two days before the international move, although her behavior reveals how much she is suffering. In a new country, she must face individual and group therapy. Quickly! Before college begins!

Kellcey dreams of a world where trust, confidence, fears would be nonexistent, and girls would be respected and treated the same as boys. The book ends:

"It should be obvious to all and each of us that a balanced and strong society cannot rely 'only' on those among us who are supposedly stronger."

I feel the book should be required high school reading for all teens, boys, and girls, to understand what is involved in sexual relationships and why they must be respectful. Sex ed classes often have students babysit an egg for two weeks between two students. This book has so much more to offer in the way of real understanding.

Kingdom of Souls
Rena Barron
Harper Teen
9780062870964 $10.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

Rich with magic and based on the Yoruba religion and culture, Kingdom of Souls has witchdoctors, orishas, and strong family ties. Other Western African cultures are also included as the Yoruba people descend from a variety of communities. The beauty and complexities of cultures are expressed through storytelling. Arrah, the strong female protagonist, does not begin with having the same magic abilities as others in her family and people and struggles as she wishes she could succeed at magic. Her ancestors are seemingly unable to help her. She is so disappointed, year after year, until (with good reason) she trades years of her life to be able to have special abilities. She hopes to help with the problem of children who are disappearing with her new skills.

Family and friends are tested throughout the story. News did not travel quickly through Africa long ago, so Arrah is never sure what might be happening. Beings change identities, return from the dead, and suffer even though magic is available. She is unable to help her father when he is under a spell, which causes her grief. Her mother turns out to be more complex and challenging to understand than would appear during the beginning of the story.

This book is the first in a planned trilogy. The author, Rena Barron, found it easy to find books with magical and fascinating YA characters who were white, but not black (like her). She decided to write some books to fill this gap. She never saw herself in science fiction and fantasy books available. She feels children should be able to see themselves in the stories they read.

Gary Roen
Legacy Book Publishing
9781937952075, $18.49, paperback, 252 pages
B07BYXB76Z, $9.99 Kindle

A book of imaginative and science fiction-based short stories reminiscent of flash fiction that will appeal to the reader open to new thoughts. The style was unexpected and full of surprises. Chapter length or as short as just 66 words, each story seems to end on a zinger. As the reader wonders how Roen thought of a story, he tells you. The author shares information about how he arrived at each story idea, which may inspire others to apprentice themselves to his style. You, too, might be writing on napkins and attending science fiction conventions in short order.

The Slotshi Bear shorts might have you driving around looking for a large teddy bear in trash heaps. Ugly and frightening in appearance, he is actually an angel in disguise. He doesn't stay long, moving on to where he is needed next. He somehow knows what to do and takes care of problems reasonably quickly. "He is only a stuffed animal," think the police, and no innocent people are ever blamed. Yet, somehow, a few bad guys get what they deserve. Funny and clever!

The book almost predicts the quarantine situation as far as being able to shop, bank, work, and be entertained from home. Synchronicity? Deja vu? I had an eerie feeling while reading as if the author knew what the future would bring.

The Pod: An Epic Told by Summoned Whales
Andy Graham
B07693L7WY, $4.99 Kindle, 329 pages

A pod of whales is summed and led by a Narwhal. Narrated by a Beluga, this is an epic spiritual tale. Twenty species of whales are included in the story: Narwhal, Beluga, Bowhead, Blue, Humpback, Pygmy, Orca, Pseudorca, Bottlenose, Beaked, Melon-Headed, Strap-Tooth, Pilot, Gray, Bryde, Minke, Right Whale, Fin, Sei, and Sperm. Each whale's personality reflects their physical strengths. The whales must solve one situation to move to the next as they journey to find Khizr, the Green Man. Very interesting. Epic tale.

Diversity is essential to the story, as, without twenty different whales, the mission will fail. The Green Man said, "Without diversity, you won't learn." Seven ocean trenches must be found. The whales discuss historical information world-wide and religions of the world.

The author includes vignettes of real life-travel experiences between chapters, which are as enjoyable as the story. The cover art was also created by the author and is stunningly beautiful.

Carolyn Wilhelm

Clabe Polk's Bookshelf

The Hainan Conflict
D. M. Coffman
9798619963670, $9.95 paperback, 254 pages
B082WMGYF9, $1.99 Kindle

Yi and Sarah are Chinese administrative law judges in training, but now on vacation on Hainan Island, a luxury beach resort area in southeastern China. Yi is more than he appears and soon he realizes that Hainan Island is more than it appears as well; it is a staging area for a powerful Islamic terrorist organization with ambitions of creating fatal chaos on a worldwide scale. Can Yi disrupt their plans and destroy their Hainan operations base? Can Sarah resolve her loyalty conflicts and stand behind the man she is falling for?

The Hainan Conflict is a reasonably plausible suspense scenario with a serious action component. The characters are likeable and although Yi's character is slightly exaggerated, he is certainly not beyond the realm of belief. The conflicts Sarah's character endures are believable and I found myself hoping she would find herself in Yi's side.

The Hainan Conflict is a fine, straight-forward, action novel that will surely be enjoyed by action readers everywhere. 4-stars.

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

The Queen of Swords (Stone Wielder's Legacy, Book 1)
Karelynn A. Spacek
Kando Creative Solutions
9798630009722, $16.99 paperback, 280 pages
B086Y3ZWQF, $4.99 Kindle

Azulyria, the island home of Ivyssa, the newly ascending Queen of Swords, ruler of the Stone Wielders, is destroyed by turning to stone and sinking into the sea as the result of a magic incantation gone wrong. Did any stone wielders survive? Do stone wielders still live among us?

Alex, a retired FBI criminal profiler believes so. Her former supervisor, Katherine, had shared that she was one. Therefore, Alex knows of the stone wielder's existence and some of their characteristics. Although the last thing she is expecting, she is not overwhelmed to find out that her new romantic interest is a stone wielder bent on redeeming his legacy.

A romantic fantasy, The Queen of Swords is an entertaining tale that will delight many fantasy readers. 4-Stars

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

The Enigma Cube
Douglas E. Richards
Paragon Press
9798600753341, $13.49 paperback, $21.99 audio, 424 pages
B083YYT6GD, $6.99 Kindle

The Enigma Cube is a first-class story. Imaginative, with action and suspense, it should be a favorite among action book lovers and is clearly a story that most science fiction readers would love. I am both a reader of science fiction and reader/author of action books. So why do I not love The Enigma Cube?

The reason is excessive verbosity. The book is much longer than it needs to be to tell the story. The story struggles among a dung heap of excessive explanation, buried in piles of awkward, unrealistic dialog. The efforts to make the characters "cool" under fire, backfires terribly and they merely come off as being abnormal. In addition, under the circumstances of the scenarios, the moral dilemmas caused by the killing seemed exaggerated and unbelievable. Finally, there's the issue of the "super-soldier". I admit a personal bias against super-heroes masquerading as normal humans.

While I liked the idea of the story, I found it tedious, excessively long, and skipped large blocks of endless superfluous dialog, agonizing, and explanation. Readers, who are focused on the story, will as well. This is a five-star story told in a three-star way, so call it an average of four-stars.

The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood
Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt
9780385490818, $15.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, $21.99 audio, 325 pages
B003JFJHTS, $9.99 Kindle

Offred lives in a twisted theocracy resulting from wars between factions of varying religious beliefs among other human differences. From the effects of the past ongoing wars, human fertility is rapidly declining and cannot be assured. Therefore, husbands and wives become desperate for families, and the Gilead faction ruling Offred's life is desperate for offspring to maintain its power and presence in the world. Yet, they are not so bold as to openly condone sex outside marriage; that would be sinful. So, as humans have done throughout the centuries, they bury their sins in hypocrisy and a new cast of women is created solely for the purpose of being fertilized by married men and bearing children for them to be raised by them and their wives as their own family...surrogacy carried to the level of sexual slavery; in many ways, the ultimate hypocrisy.

Offred is a likeable, pitiable character. She has a backbone and would love to fight if only she knew how could see value in it. Fred, "the Commander", and his wife are caught up in a society, that, it turns out, is partially of his making. Serena Joy, the Commander's wife is aging, getting older by the day, and has no children. Her hopes, pinned on Offred, are being dashed, so she is forced to suggest a "sinful", illegal and ultimately desperate solution, one that though dangerous, works to Offred's benefit. But as she watches others die in social purging, her hopes of pregnancy dwindle, and one regular contact disappears, she melts deeper into despair and hopelessness until...

I guess you'll have to read the book to find out. Those who love reading about dystopian societies and about women's struggles will love The Handmaid'sTale. Many others have found it fascinating, captivating reading. I did. You will too. 5-Stars.

The Tube Riders; Underground (The Tube Riders Trilogy 1)
Chris Ward
9781973265986, $12.99 paperback, $21.83 audio, 466 pages
B007LVFSP8, $4.99 Kindle

Okay, folks! Climb aboard because The Tube Riders; Underground hits the road running and never stops for the next 400-plus pages. I love reading action and the non-stop action in this dystopian delight never lets up.

Leo Banks, brother to Marta Banks founded the recreational sport of riding the outsides hanging from the rain drainage gutters on the London underground railcars. In their future dystopian world, many of the London tube stations have been closed for decades providing fertile ground for street-wise young adults to indulge their dangerous sport. Many tube passengers who see them clinging to side of train cars believe them to be ghosts. Never one to keep a good thing to himself, Leo some recruited a loose gang known as the "Tube Riders"...until he disappeared without a trace. Then, de facto leadership of the Tube Riders fell to Marta, Leo's sister, and tube riding remained entertainment until they accidently witnessed a murder; a murder that threatened the foundation of the government. Now, their lives are forfeit...if they can be caught.

The Tube Riders are characters who are well developed with distinct personalities and backgrounds. Readers will easily relate to them and their situation, laughing and crying with them and readily mourning their losses. Even the characters of the bad guys are well developed with personalities and backstories hinting at the influences that made them what they are. Readers will initially hate the "Huntsmen" in every respect, but will find empathy and understanding of the treachery that turned them into monsters.

This is a tight, fast-moving novel that will keep every reader of action, adventure, dystopia and those who just like fast-paced entertainment and edge of the seat excitement enthralled until the end. 5-Stars.

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Thomas H. Carry
Koehler Books
3705 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
9781646630363, $24.95, HC, 142pp

Synopsis: Professor Daniel Waite is in a funk. He has a brilliant wife, tenure at the fabled University, and is well liked by colleagues and popular with students, who flock to his film studies courses. And he hates his life. He can't bring himself to write, disdains academia, barely gets through his class lectures, and spends a lot of time hiding in his office in a stupor, pondering his collection of movie posters.

All that changes when his new teaching assistant shows up at his door. At first, he's thrown by the eccentric and intense Stacy Mann, but he soon finds in her a kindred spirit of sorts: an outsider, a cynic who shares his antipathy for the University, someone receptive to his alienation and resentment. And, most importantly, her knowledge of movie trivia rivals his own. But he soon suspects she is not who she appears to be, that there may be a hidden agenda, one that threatens his very standing.

What begins as a tantalizing connection soon spirals into a three-day frenzy of murder, evasion, and deceit-all against the backdrop of the University, an absurdist place where privilege, hierarchies, and campus politics reign.

Critique: Written with the kind of narrative storytelling style that rivets the reader's total attention, "Privilege" by Thomas Carry is an original, extraordinary, and fully entertaining novel that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Privilege" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781646630349, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.49).

Biofeedback and Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Inna Khazan
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393712933, $22.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Biofeedback is the process of training your body to control its involuntary actions, such as breathing and heart rate. Minor changes to these actions can significantly improve physical and emotional well- being. In "Biofeedback and Mindfulness in Everyday Life", Harvard Medical School faculty member Inna Khazan pairs biofeedback techniques with mindfulness practice to address some of life's most common ailments ranging from anxiety and fear, to stress and insomnia.

Khazan begins Part One with a description of basic physiological information, explaining concepts such as breathing and overbreathing. In Part Two she dives into the practice of mindfulness. And in Part Three she zeroes in on applying this mind-body approach to an array of common problems.

Khazan's approach outlines simple solutions for readers who want to improve the way they respond to challenges. She guides them through increasing their resilience and emotional flexibility while empowering them to take back control of their overall health.

Critique: An ideal introduction to biofeedback as a diagnostic and treatment approach to wellness and mental/physical performance in daily life, "Biofeedback and Mindfulness in Everyday Life: Practical Solutions for Improving Your Health and Performance" by Inna Khazan is a complete and comprehensive DIY instructional guide and manual that would be an ideal selection as a curriculum text on the subject. Expertly written, organized and presented, "Biofeedback and Mindfulness in Everyday Life: Practical Solutions for Improving Your Health and Performance" is thoroughly 'user friendly' and highly recommended for both community and college/university Health & Medicine collections in general, and Biofeedback supplemental curriculum studies in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Biofeedback and Mindfulness in Everyday Life: Practical Solutions for Improving Your Health and Performance" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Highbridge Audio, 9781684574896, $39.99, CD).

Clint Travis

David Witter's Bookshelf

John A. DiMaggio
Crossroad Press
9781949914740, $16.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 370pp

Mad bombers, axe-wielding rapists, serial killers, slashers, snipers, kidnappers, drug dealers and robbers. These are some of the crooks and creeps that Officer John A. DiMaggio grappled with and arrested during his three decades in the Chicago Police Department. All of that and more is documented in the book "Sarge: Cases of a Chicago Police Detective Sergeant 1960-1980."

A memoir written throughout his career and later life and brought to press by his family after his death, "Sarge" could easily be serialized into a long-running and no-doubt wildly popular TV police drama, with one important exception. While TV often reduces characters to stereotypes played by actors who look like models, DiMaggio's three-dimensional denizens populate the real, gritty world of Chicago.

Written in a rapid-fire, "Dragnet"style prose, the book takes you on twists and turns that few fiction writers could dream up. In the second chapter, police superintendent Matt Rodriguez states that DiMaggio, "always seems to be where it's happening." While many police officers seldom draw their service revolvers throughout their careers, DiMaggio not only had a nose for crimes in the making, but often took action to stop them, risking his life in the process.

In one instance, he walked unarmed into a room to negotiate with a shotgun-wielding killer who had been holding hostages for hours. In another feat of extraordinary bravery, he single-handedly wrestled a sawed-off shotgun from a suspect and brought him into custody. DiMaggio was also part of a team that subdued a war-crazed veteran who had taken another officer's life. The tormented soul had booby trapped the area, fending off police for hours by tossing hand grenades and dynamite and firing automatic weapons.

While DiMaggio was a man of action, he also brought his powers of deduction, reflection and psychological analysis to bear. This was especially true with the many cases DiMaggio solved involving serial rapists. Over the course of days, and sometimes weeks or months, DiMaggio was able to discern patterns and motives, opening a window into these criminals' demented minds and eventually arresting men who were terrorizing the city. The book also sheds a fascinating light on the city of Chicago, especially during the tumultuous '60s and '70s.

Key figures from the city's past like O.W. Wilson, Richard J. Daley, James M. Rochford and Mayor Jane Byrne spring to life. DiMaggio's account of trying to solve the brutal murder of Valerie Percy, daughter of U.S. Senator Charles Percy, will conjure memories for many. He also gives a firsthand account of the Martin Luther King marches from a police officer's perspective, and of shielding himself from bricks, bottles and sniper fire during the riots that followed Dr. King's assassination. In the 1970s, he survived similar assaults while policing the Cabrini Green housing projects.

Recently published in print and audio form, the book was a long time in the making. "He wrote it over many years, both while he was working and after he had retired and was living in Las Vegas," says the author's daughter, Debra DiMaggio. "He asked me and others to help get it published. I'm a divorce attorney and although we reached out to a few friends, we didn't have contacts in the publishing and entertainment industries at the time. When dad passed away in 2008, my brother sent me the typewritten manuscript and I added the photos. From there, contacts started to develop organically."

Eventually, the manuscript made it into the hands of Raymond Benson, an internationally acclaimed author, who helped refine the text and shepherd it into publication. The result is a taut, action-packed police drama that will leave you both turning the pages and occasionally stopping to reflect on the Chicago that once was.

David Witter, Reviewer
Fra Noi Magazine

Elan Kluger's Bookshelf

Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude
Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin
Bloomsbury USA
9781632866318, $24.30

One of the more original books that I have read this year is that of Sixth Circuit Court Judge Raymond Kethledge called Lead Yourself First. Ostensibly the book is about leadership and its value which is quite banal. The book gets interesting when it starts to talk about solitude. Kethledge uses a novel definition of solitude "a subjective state of mind, in which the mind is isolated from other minds." Going on a walk with a podcast blaring in your ears is not solitude by that definition. Neither is sitting alone reading a book. In fact, sitting in a crowded place yet not talking to anyone, but just thinking would count. The book is especially important now with everyone attached to screens, avoiding the hard work of reflecting.

Politics is for Power
Eitan Hersh
9781982116798, $27.00

Politics is often a source of entertainment. Eitan Hersh calls this "political hobbyism." Hersh asserts that political hobbyism is bad for democracy. Hobbyism is bad because it creates bad incentives for politicians and breeds political polarity. In the book, Hersh says that instead of using politics as a form of entertainment, use it to gain power. He gives all sorts of examples that collate into an argument that defends machine politics, and attacks small dollar donations. This book is crucial to read as many nowadays would prefer complaining to the demanding task of gaining power and working for what you believe to be right and just.

Elan Kluger, Reviewer

Gigi Langer's Bookshelf

Ballad of a Sober Man: An ER Doctor's Journey of Recovery
J. D. Remy
Annelise Publications
9781735481302, $12.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 336pp

This is no typical sobriety book ("quit lit") because its tale is told with humor and candor, while still spelling out the gruesome and deathly aspects of alcoholism. If you were going to offer a book on alcoholism to anyone struggling with the disease, I would highly recommend this one. It is more comprehensive and entertaining than any other book of its nature.

Gigi Langer, Reviewer
Author of 50 Ways to Worry Less Now

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Three Creeks
Ken Farmer
Timber Creek Press
9781734176575, $14.95

Ken Farmer's "Three Creeks" is delightful. I read all of Ken Farmer's books cover to cover, usually without the ability to put them down but needing to read them in a single day, and I enjoyed them all. I think that this one is his best. As I read it, I thought it compared very favorably with the excellent books by Mark Twain "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn," and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

I enjoyed the language, the wit, the development of the characters, the loving and respectful relationship that the three generations had with one another, grandma's food, the bond between the eight-year-old white boy Foot Lee and the black boy Hutch, life in 1949 southern Arkansas, the plot, the involvement of a World War I Medal of Honor recipient, and the way the plot advances with humor, twists, and suspense.

Foot Lee, his mother and dad visit southern Arkansas and Foot lee discovers a good friend and adventures he never expected. Three murders of young teen-age girls are discovered and a fourth girl is missing. Foot found the first girl. The sheriff is wounded in a gunfight during a moonshine bust, and Foot's grandpa, who was a deputy in the past, needs to take over the investigation. Boys are killed during the bust and their father swears revenge. Soon shots are fired at Foot's dad and granddad.

Who killed the three girls? Where is the missing girl? What attempts will the father continue to take in revenge?

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Firefighters in the Hot Seat
Lance J. LoRusso
9781610059671, $14.99, PB, 182pp

Synopsis: "Firefighters in the Hot Seat: A Firefighter's Guide to OPS Investigations" by Lance LoRusson was written to be of immediate and practical value to both the novice and the experienced firefighter.

At some point in any firefighter career, he or she is bound to find themselves in the hot seat and must be prepared for it. OPS and discipline cases are complex, challenging procedures in which your livelihood may hang in the balance. With "Firefighters in the Hot Seat: A Firefighter's Guide to OPS Investigations", firefighters can arm themselves with essential and current advice to navigate each step of the process.

Firefighters are public servant leaders of our society and the building blocks of the future of any urban, suburban or rural fire department. When firefighters protect their careers, they protect their fellow firefighters and their whole community.

Critique: Expertly written, deftly organized, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in presentation, "Firefighters in the Hot Seat: A Firefighter's Guide to OPS Investigations" should be considered a 'must' for all active duty firefighters. While especially and unreservedly recommended for Fire Department, community, and college/university collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Firefighters in the Hot Seat: A Firefighter's Guide to OPS Investigations" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: With over thirty years of public safety experience as an EMT, cop, and trainer, Lance J. LoRusso is an attorney focused on public safety issues including critical incident response, OPS/IA investigations, employment appeals, and state licensing inquiries. Lance represents first responders injured on and off duty and is a sought-after instructor at public safety training seminars across the country.

The Warrior's Meditation
Richard L. Haight, author
Edward Austin Hall, editor
Hester Lee Furey, editor
Nathaniel Dasco, illustrator
Shinkaikan Body, Mind, Spirit LLC
9780999210093, $17.99, PB, 197pp

Synopsis: Samurai were the hereditary military nobility and officer caste of medieval and early-modern Japan from the 12th century to their abolition in the 1870s. They were the well-paid retainers of the daimyo (the great feudal landholders). They had high prestige and special privileges such as wearing two swords. They cultivated the bushido codes of martial virtues, indifference to pain, and unflinching loyalty, engaging in many local battles. During the peaceful Edo era (1603 to 1868) they became the stewards and chamberlains of the daimyo estates, gaining managerial experience and education. In the 1870s samurai families comprised 5% of the population. The Meiji Revolution ended their feudal roles, and they moved into professional and entrepreneurial roles

To get a picture of the Warrior's Meditation, imagine a battlefield scenario with a single Samurai stands surrounded by multiple opponents. A novice's attention would jump from opponent to opponent in an anxious attempt to defend himself. Such a strategy soon tires the warrior, who will be defeated. An expert warrior will spread his attention evenly in all directions but still experience anxiety as he mentally plans his strategy. His thought and anxiety may be his downfall if his opponents are truly skilled. A master's attention, like the expert's, is spread evenly, but he remains as calm as the surface of a still lake. With no predetermined idea of what his actions might be, his body takes the right action without a single thought.

You may wonder how the Samurai's experience bears any resemblance to your modern life. After all, no armies or assassins seem to be trying to attack you or your town. In one way, we modern people are not so different from the Samurai. With our busy lives, we don't have time to spend hours a day in meditation. Instead, we need a meditation that allows our actions in a high-pressure, fast-paced world to flow from a depth of awareness. "The Warrior's Meditation: The Best-Kept Secret in Self-Improvement, Cognitive Enhancement, and Stress Relief, Taught by a Master of Four Samurai Arts" will help you to access and express from that depth naturally.

Surprisingly, a significant body of scientific research verifies the benefits associated with regular meditation practice. Below are some of the benefits that one is likely to experience through daily meditation: Boosts health through improved immune function, decreased cellular inflammation and pain; Boosts happiness by increasing positive emotion while decreasing anxiety, depression, and stress; Improves your ability to introspect, which provides a more holistic, grounded life perspective; Improves your social life as it increases emotional intelligence and compassion while reducing feelings of insecurity; Improves your brain by increasing grey matter in areas related to paying attention, positive emotions, emotional regulation, and self-control: Reduces emotional reactivity: Improves memory, creativity and abstract thinking.

"The Warrior's Meditation" is unlike any meditation. This method is flexible in application, which allows it to blend with whatever your day has in store. Through short daily sessions, these benefits will open up to you through your active life. No longer do you need to retreat from life to meditate, for with the Warrior's Meditation, you can bring calm, clear awareness and vibrant life with you wherever you are. Eventually, you will fully embody meditation as a way of being, not just a doing.

Critique: Offering a unique and effective approach to a DIY self-improvement/self-help approach for dealing with the stresses and pressures of modern life with an ages old system of coping with what life will inevitable inflict upon us all, "The Warrior's Meditation: The Best-Kept Secret in Self-Improvement, Cognitive Enhancement, and Stress Relief, Taught by a Master of Four Samurai Arts" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and college/university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Warrior's Meditation: The Best-Kept Secret in Self-Improvement, Cognitive Enhancement, and Stress Relief, Taught by a Master of Four Samurai Arts" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Richard L. Haight is the founder of the Total Embodiment Method (TEM), which is an awareness training system designed to integrate meditation into one's daily life. Richard is a master-level instructor of martial, meditation and healing arts. Richard began formal martial arts training at age 12 and moved to Japan at the age of 24 to advance his training with masters of the sword, staff, and aiki-jujutsu. During his 15 years in Japan, Richard was awarded masters licenses in fours samurai arts as well as a traditional healing art called sotai-ho. Richard is one of the world's foremost experts in the traditional Japanese martial arts. Through his books, his meditation, and martial arts seminar, Richard is helping to ignite a world-wide movement for personal transformation that is free of all constraints and open to anyone of any level.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Rise and Fall of the Future
Gordon Arnold
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476677446, $45.00, PB, 210pp

Synopsis: Mid-20th century America envisioned a wondrous future of comfort, convenience and technological advancement. Popular culture (including World's Fairs, science fiction movies/novels, and advertising) fed high hopes even when war and hardship threatened.

American ingenuity and consumer culture promised to deliver flying cars, undersea cities, household robots and space travel. By the 1960s political assassinations, the civil rights and women's movements, the Vietnam War and the "generation gap" eroded that optimism, refocusing attention on the issues of the present. The nation's utopian dream was brief but revealing.

Based on a wide range of sources, "The Rise and Fall of the Future: America's Changing Vision of Tomorrow, 1939-1986" by Gordon Arnold (who has taught at several colleges, including Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts, for many years) takes a fresh look at America's precipitous fall from futurism to disillusionment.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking study, "The Rise and Fall of the Future: America's Changing Vision of Tomorrow, 1939-1986" is a work of meticulous and seminal scholarship. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library 20th Century Popular Culture collections and supplemental curriculum studies, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Rise and Fall of the Future: America's Changing Vision of Tomorrow, 1939-1986" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.99).

A Living Islamic City: Fez and Its Preservation
Titus Burckhardt, author
Jean-Louis Michon, editor
Joseph A. Fitzgerald, editor
Jane Casewit, translator
World Wisdom
1501 East Hillside Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
9781936597666, $22.95, PB, 104pp

Synopsis: The Moroccan city of Fez, founded in the ninth century CE, is one of the most precious urban jewels of Islamic civilization. For more than 40 years Titus Burckhardt worked to document and preserve the artistic and architectural heritage of Fez in particular and Morocco in general.

"A Living Islamic City: Fez and Its Preservation" is comprised of newly translated lectures that Burckhardt's delivered while he was living and working in Fez, explore how the historic city can be preserved without turning it from a living organism into a dead museum-city, and how it can be adapted and updated using the values that gave birth to the city and its way of life.

Aided by photographs and sketches made during the course of his lifetime, Burckhardt ably conveys what it means to be a living Islamic city.

Critique: Profusely illustrated with elegant and historic photography throughout, "A Living Islamic City: Fez and Its Preservation" is an impressively informative and deftly presented study that is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Historic Architectural Preservation and Museum Studies & Museology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Titus Burckhardt (1908-1984) was a leading member of the "Traditionalist" school of comparative religious thought and an expert on Islam, Islamic arts and crafts, and its spiritual dimension, Sufism. Burckhardt lived for many years in Fez, Morocco and was an integral part of the Moroccan government's successful preservation of the ancient medina of Fez as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. In 1999 the Moroccan government sponsored an international symposium in Marrakesh in honor of Burckhardt's distinguished work. His writings include Fez: City of Islam and Art of Islam.

You're in the Wrong Place
Joseph Harris
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814348086, $18.99, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: "You're in the Wrong Place " composed of twelve short stories by Joseph Harris with the first story beginning in the fall of 2008 with the shuttering of Dynamic Fabricating-a fictional industrial shop located in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale. Over the next seven years, the shop's former employees-as well as their friends and families-struggle to find money, purpose, and levity in a landscape suddenly devoid of work, faith, and love.

In "Would You Rather," a young couple brought together by Dynamic Fabricating shares a blissful weekend in Northern Michigan, unaware of the catastrophe that awaits them upon their return home.

In "Acolytes," a devout Catholic clings to her faith as her brothers descend into cultish soccer violence. In "Memorial," an ex-Dynamic worker scrapes money together for a tribute to his best friend, lost to the war in Afghanistan.

In "Was It Good for You?" a cam girl deconstructs materialism with her aging great aunt, a luxury sales associate, and an anxious, faceless client.

And in the title story, "Would You Rather", simmering tensions come to a boil on a hot summer day for a hardscrabble landscaping crew, hired by the local bank to maintain the lawns of foreclosures.

In turns elegiac and harrowing, "You're in the Wrong Place" blends lyric intensity with philosophical eroticism to create a singular, powerful vision of contemporary American life.

Critique: Showcasing author Joseph Harris' impressive flair for an elegant and effectively engaging kind of fully entertaining narrative storytelling style, "You're in the Wrong Place" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "You're in the Wrong Place" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.14).

Editorial Note: Stories by Joseph Harris have appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Midwest Review, Moon City Review, Great Lakes Review, The MacGuffin, Third Wednesday, Storm Cellar, and have won the Gesell, Tompkins, and Detroit Working Writers Awards for fiction. He holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota, an MA from Wayne State University, and a BFA from Emerson College. He lives in Oak Park, MI. He maintains a web site at:

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Diversifying Power
Jennie C. Stephens
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781642831313, $35.00, PB, 200pp

Synopsis: With America's west coast burning and its east coast under water, while it's southwestern in the ever tightening grip of drought, the climate crisis is exacerbated because of a lack of effective political leadership. For too long too many leaders have prioritized corporate profits over the public good, exacerbating climate vulnerabilities while reinforcing economic and racial injustice. Transformation to a just, sustainable renewable-based society requires leaders who connect social justice to climate and energy.

During the Trump era, connections among white supremacy; environmental destruction; and fossil fuel dependence have become more conspicuous. Many of the same leadership deficiencies that shaped the inadequate response in the United States to the coronavirus pandemic have also thwarted the US response to the climate crisis. The inadequate and ineffective framing of climate change as a narrow, isolated, discrete problem to be "solved" by technical solutions is failing. The dominance of technocratic, white, male perspectives on climate and energy has inhibited investments in social change and social innovations. With new leadership and diverse voices, we can strengthen climate resilience, reduce racial and economic inequities, and promote social justice.

In "Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy", energy expert Jennie Stephens argues that the key to effectively addressing the climate crisis is diversifying leadership so that antiracist, feminist priorities are central. All politics is now climate politics, so all policies, from housing to health, now have to integrate climate resilience and renewable energy.

Stephens takes a closer look at climate and energy leadership related to job creation and economic justice, health and nutrition, housing and transportation. She looks at why we need to resist by investing in bold diverse leadership to curb the "the polluter elite." We need to reclaim and restructure climate and energy systems so policies are explicitly linked to social, economic, and racial justice.

"Diversifying Power" offers hope and optimism as Stephens shows how the biggest challenges facing society are linked and anyone can get involved to leverage the power of collective action. By highlighting the creative individuals and organizations making change happen, she provides inspiration and encourages transformative action on climate and energy justice.

Critique: Expertly written, impressively informative, insightfully thoughtful, and ultimately inspiring, "Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy" is a timely volume that deserves as wide a readership as possible. While an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to community and college/university library Contemporary Environmental Issues collections and supplemental curriculum lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, environmental and social reform activists, corporate executives, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.49).

Editorial Note: An educator, a social justice advocate, an energy expert, and a sustainability science researcher, Jennie C. Stephens is the Director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University in Boston, where she is also the Dean's Professor of Sustainability Science & Policy, Director of Strategic Research Collaborations at the Global Resilience Institute, and a member of the Executive Committee of Northeastern's Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.

How to Do It Now Because It's Not Going Away
Leslie Josel
Zest Books
9781541581579, $32.32/$27.99, HC, Library Binding, 152pp

Synopsis: Procrastination is especially tough for young adults. Getting started is overwhelming, it's hard to get motivated, not knowing how long things take messes up planning, and distractions are everywhere. We are all wired to put things off, but we can learn tools and techniques to kick this habit.

"How to Do It Now Because It's Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done" by Leslie Josel is a user-friendly guide to help teens get their tasks done. Simple, straightforward, and with a touch of humor, it's packed with practical solutions and easily digestible tips to stay on top of homework, develop a sense of time, manage digital distractions, create easy-to-follow routines, and get unstuck.

In her breezy, witty style, internationally recognized academic and parenting coach Leslie Josel opens the door to a student's view of procrastination, dives deep into what that really looks like, and offers up her Triple Ts (tips, tools and techniques) to teach students in grades 8-12 just how to get stuff done -- now!

Critique: Exceptionally well written and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "How to Do It Now Because It's Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, family, and community library collections for young readers. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Do It Now Because It's Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done" is also readily available in a paperback edition ( 9781541581616, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.24).

Editorial Note: Leslie Josel launched Order Out of Chaos(R) in 2004 after her son was diagnosed with ADHD, executive dysfunction, and other learning differences. Originally focusing her practice on working with the chronically disorganized (ADHD, students with learning challenges, hoarding behaviors); she expanded her business in 2010 to include coaching services and educational products for both students and parents. In 2016, Leslie expanded the company's product division and officially launched "Products Designed With Students in Mind".

A respected resource on ADHD and Executive Functioning in students, Leslie writes a weekly column called "Dear ADHD Family Coach" for ADDitude Magazine, the premier resource for adults and children with ADHD and LD. Leslie, until recently, was a contributing parenting writer for Family Circle Magazine. She writes on a wide variety of topics facing parents and students today for such publications as Diabetes Self-Management, Lifehacker, and more.

Seen. Known. Loved.: 5 Truths About God and Your Love Language
Gary Chapman & R. York Moore
Northfield Publishing
c/o Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802419903, $9.99, PB, 96pp

Synopsis: In a world of varying beliefs and endless opportunities, determining how to spend our lives can seem impossible. And even more difficult than finding direction can be finding meaning. Perhaps we know what we're most interested in, but how do we know if it has purpose? These longings our rooted in our desire to feel God's presence in our lives, which begins when we know how He communicates with us.

"Seen. Known. Loved.: 5 Truths About God and Your Love Language" examines how God (the Creator of the universe) intimately communicates with each of His people. Relationships expert Gary Chapman and coauthor R. York Moore effectively collaborate to offer practical insights for how to know your own love language and how God uses it to communicate with you.

When we come to understand our own unique love language, we discover how God both speaks and listens. And, therefore, how He is intimately involved in our lives in ways we have never before identified. The first step to living with meaning is living in union with our God -- the source of meaning.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "Seen. Known. Loved.: 5 Truths About God and Your Love Language" is an extraordinary and spiritually enhancing little volume that can have a deep and lasting effect on how we view God, relate to God, communicate with God. While highly recommended for church and seminary library Contemporary Christian Theology collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students, clergy, and non-specialist general readers within the Christian community that "Seen. Known. Loved.: 5 Truths About God and Your Love Language" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Author, speaker, and counselor, Gary Chapman has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is the author of The 5 Love Languages series and director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. For more information visit his website at

Speaker, revivalist, and abolitionist, R. York Moore serves as National Evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA. York became a Christian from atheism while studying philosophy at the University of Michigan. He also has an MA in Global Leadership from Fuller Seminary. York is the author of several books and maintains a website at and can be followed on social media channels as @yorkmoore.

Julie Summers

Kaitlyn Kennedy's Bookshelf

Tsalix Silverthorn and the Scepter of Destiny
Richard M. Siddoway
Cayelle Publishing/Dagger
9781952404184, $14.99 PB, $4.99, 228pp

Diving into the Kingdom of Sodizen, author Richard Siddoway launches the first book in a brand-new fantasy series: "Tsalix Silverthorn and the Scepter of Destiny". Crafting an inventive storyline with elements of adventure, action and fantasy, Siddoway's first installment features the courageous Tsalix as he leads a dangerous quest to restore peace and order in the tiny village of Aravah.

With King Elosha close to death, his twin sons Princes Abadon and Johona are engaged in a battle over the throne of Sodizen. Hoping to put an end to the bloody chaos that ensues as one noble son fights his madman brother, the King summons three village men, and tasks them with the incredible feat of retrieving the prophesied talismans that will unlock the Scepter of Power on Mount Destiny.

To aid them on this treacherous quest, the King bestows each with a vial of elements only to be opened when needed most. When the men find their hometown torched to the ground and their surviving family and friends imprisoned by Prince Abadon, they are faced with either choosing to rescue loved ones or complete their mission. After bravely choosing to obey their King, they go on to battle dangerous weather and terrain, and encounter both threatening and friendly mythical creatures. With the odds stacked against them, Tsalix heroically continues to guide them on the challenging journey across the kingdom to retrieve the Scepter that will restore peace in the realm.

Appealing to adult and YA audiences alike, fans of epic fantasy and action books will devour this one and will be eagerly awaiting the next three installments.

Kaitlyn Kennedy

Lillington History Society

Infinite Stakes: A Novel of the Battle of Britain
John Rhodes
Roundel House
9781735373607, $19.95 PB, 335pp

"Many books have been written about the early years of World War 2, when only the Royal Air Force stood between Britain and a German invasion. John Rhodes new novel Infinite Stakes has earned a place at the top of the pile for its compelling story and meticulous historical accuracy."

CDMR: Lillington History Society

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Dignity in Death
Barbara Frandsen
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781620237588, $19.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: It is the one fundamental reality of life that effects every human being -- death is inevitable and unavoidable -- and few of us will be able to avoid the anguish of living through a loved one's death.

In "Dignity in Death: Accepting, Assisting, and Preparing for the End of Life", lifelong educator Barbara Frandsen, a woman who lost her own mother as a child, shares her observations and thoughts including: How does the death of a parent impact a child?; Does losing an older parent differ from other losses?; Is it more courageous to fight for life or to accept death?; What words and actions tend to comfort as we transition?; How can we prepare for an end on our own terms?

Especially timely in this era of global pandemic, "Dignity in Death" is a welcome invitation to release fear and embrace acceptance, opening new and limitless opportunities for knowledge, adventure, and unconditional love.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in commentary style, organization and presentation, "Dignity in Death: Accepting, Assisting, and Preparing for the End of Life" is truly exceptional and will prove to be an enduringly valued addition to community, senior center, and college/university library collections on the subject of death and dying. Extraordinarily informative and helpful it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dignity in Death: Accepting, Assisting, and Preparing for the End of Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).

Journey from Life to Life
Krishna Bhatta
Redwood Publishing
9781947341685, $15.95, PB, 248pp

Synopsis: "Journey from Life to Life: Achieving Higher Purpose" by Dr. Krishna Bhatta demystifies the underlying principles of life and death, one of the world's most thought about existential questions. In these pages Dr. Bhatta provides Western readers an accessible, easy entry into even the most sophisticated aspects of eastern teachings.

Dr. Bhatta offers: Insights into the nature of the human soul and its journey; Practical advice on what to do with our spiritual understanding; An understanding of the importance of planning for a successful life, smooth transition to end of life and the journey beyond; Answers to the question, "Can I plan for the next life too?"

Critique: Informative, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking throughout, "Journey from Life to Life: Achieving Higher Purpose" is an extraordinary and inspiring introduction to basic elements of eastern philosophy, effectively laid out for a western reader. While very highly recommended for both community and college/university library Indian Eastern Philosophy collection in general, and Reincarnation and Consciousness supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Journey from Life to Life: Achieving Higher Purpose" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Krishna Bhatta, MD, FRCS IS an author, surgeon and an inventor, currently practicing as chief of urology at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine. Dr. Bhatta began his life in a small Indian village, attended Patna Medical College in India, continued his education in the UK, and then completed his research & medical training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston before settling down in Maine. His wife, Nayantara, is an OB/GYN and their two children are also physicians. Dr. Bhatta is former president of Maine Medical Association and Maine urology Society.

Renewed: Women's Bible Study Participant Workbook with Leader Helps
Heather M. Dixon
Abingdon Press
2222 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., PO Box 280988, Nashville, TN 37228-0988
9781791006174, $14.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: Few things make us feel as helpless as living with a story we don't like. Maybe one that involves the loss of a loved one, an unwanted transition, a difficult diagnosis, or a dream that fell through. At one time or another, we all deal with disappointments and feelings that life is unfair or that we are being punished.

"Renewed - Women's Bible Study Participant Workbook with Leader Helps: Finding Hope When You Don't Like Your Story" by Heather M. Dixon is a four-week DIY study of the Book of Ruth. Women will glean wisdom from Naomi's biblically recorded perspective as a woman who lived a story she didn't choose or like. Forced to chart a new path as she mourned the loss of her husband and two sons, Naomi learned that the journey from bitterness to renewed hope and joy was rooted in God's promise of redemption.

With insight from her own journey of living with a story that is not easy, In the pages of "Renewed", Heather teaches women to flourish even as they live hard stories through a willingness to trust that God can transform them and trade their heartache for hope. They will learn to rely on God's movement in the details of their story, even when it can't be seen, gain confidence to act in the part of their stories that they can change, and watch expectantly for God to redeem the parts they can't.

Components for this four-week Bible study are available separately, including a Participant Workbook with Leader Helps and a DVD with four 20 to 25-minute segments (with closed captioning).

Critique: Ideal for personal and small group biblical study curriculums, "Renewed - Women's Bible Study Participant Workbook with Leader Helps: Finding Hope When You Don't Like Your Story" is especially recommended for all Christian women regardless of their denominational affiliations and is highly recommended for both personal and church library collections.

Storytellers at the Columbia River
Nancy Danielson Mendenhall
Far Eastern Press
9780967884240, $15.00, PB, 429pp

Synopsis: Five newcomers arrive at the 1998 Settlers' Reunion at the mid-Columbia River: two anthropologists drawn by the storytelling, two on special missions from their elders, and a Siberian shaman intent on river healing. A Wanapum Indian bus driver angry over salmon losses takes them into the devastated area around the defunct Hanford atomic plant, the scene of the 1943 settler evictions. That view, and the growing threat of nuclear waste from the plant, spark new insights, friendships, and loves. Decades-old anger is swept into vows of action to save the wild salmon, the Columbia, and the world beyond.

Critique: Given the growing global threat of climate change, the Trump administrations undercutting of conservation and environmental protection laws, promotion of the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries, "Storytellers at the Columbia River" by Nancy Mendenhall (her debut as a novelist) is more than a simple work of entertaining and engaging fiction, it is a clarion call for the support of Native American rights with respect to the land and the waters and the wildlife and people that depend upon them. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Regional American Literature Criticism, Shamanism, and Native American Literature collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Storytellers at the Columbia River" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Nancy Danielson Mendenhall grew up on Puget Sound in Washington State and spent her childhood summers until 1943 at her grandparents' Willowbank Farm just north of the White Bluffs townsite on the Columbia River. She earned a Masters in English from Western Washington University. An Alaska resident since 1961, she taught in the public schools, then for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, retiring as campus director at Nome. She coordinated a three-year Rockefeller Foundation oral history project for the Nome, Alaska area, and has published various poetry and nonfiction including: Beachlines: A Pocket History of Nome; Rough Waters: Our North Pacific Small Fishermen's Battle; social history Orchards of Eden: White Bluffs on the Columbia 1907-1943.

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

L.M. Brown
Fomite Press
978194791583, $15.00, October 13, 2020

Can a once stable household, turned upside down by trauma, regain composure?

Nicholas, Kathleen and their young daughter Kate had routines. Kate played quietly so as not to upset her mother. If Nicholas and Kathleen fought, a neighbor would take Kate to play. Nicholas distracted Kate from her mother's moods with outings, stories and conspiratorial smiles. But conflict comes to a head and Kathleen is taken away, just around the time a beloved matronly neighbor falls. Her daughter, Ina, Nicholas' childhood best friend, comes home to help. Caught up in a confusing mystery surrounding her mother, her love for Ina, as well as a disturbing mix of feelings as she grows older, Kate distances herself from family. Nicholas must find a way to bring her back, with Ina's help.

Hinterland's characters teem with pathos. Nicholas struggles with a violent past. Ina is childless, Kathleen fails to belong, wherever she is. Kate, for much of the book, is an angsty teen. Each, in his or her frailness, is beautifully realistic to behold. The way they hold each other, tragic and salvific at the same time. Brown weaves their threads sympathetically, touching on mental illness, social media, litigation and other topics that affect modern lives. The tone is somber yet loving, concluding on a hopeful note.

L.M. Brown crafts palpable tension through slow burning contrasts. The quiet Boston neighborhood contrasts its troubled inhabitants. A settledness, suggested by still life interior scenes, juxtaposes turbulent fights. Long stubborn silences are punctuated by confrontational dialogue. The up-close perspective at the start of this psychological drama contrasts the more sweeping timeline of the second half, stretching time. The effect is a hinterland, a strangeness, a "secret frontier" (Carlos Fuentes, from a quote at the start of the book) within each of us, the meeting of which can make or break us.

With Hinterland, Brown expands her short story prowess to the novel's reaches.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

The Weekend
Charlotte Wood
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin/Random House
9780593086436, $27.00 Hardcover, $13.99 Kindle, 2019, 260 pages

Three women and a dog gather over the Christmas weekend at a beach house on the coast of Australia to empty out a fourth friend's house - that friend having died recently, leaving cleaning up the detritus of her life to them. The three women are an aging trio, mismatched in personality, retired from radically different careers, who don't really like each other much. (Put simply, Jude plays the ego; Wendy, the superego; and Adele, the id. But of course, it's not quite that simple.)

Jude, haughty and all-business, was a restaurateur who clearly thinks she's the superior woman. Setting tension in the novel early on, she assigns herself the toughest task of cleaning the kitchen, even before the others arrive. She's such an efficient adult that she never married, preferring instead a decades-long relationship with a wealthy married man who has delivered just what she needs and asks no more from her than she wants to give.

Wendy is an intellectual, a writer of famous philosophical texts, and has just been kicked out of the house of her most-recent lover, Liz. She's just newly homeless, penniless, and ashamed to ask the others for money to tide her over until she can set her affairs right again. She still thinks lofty thoughts and composes new intellectual treatises in her head, which she plans to inscribe as soon as she gets home - wherever that turns out to be.

Adele is an aging, overweight actress, still dreaming of returning to stardom, a stardom that never quite reached the heights she had hoped for or expected. Vain and a bit lazy, Adele is like a child, the one who doesn't yet get it - "it" being that their lives are over. From now forward, there's only one inevitable, sad trajectory, and fighting for a happier ending is not only foolish, but embarrassing. She's Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.

Wendy brings along her ancient dog, clearly her best friend in the world, a giant, old creature on his last legs who adds to the tension with his constant, confused pacing and the chance that he might do something to trigger Jude's temper.

None of three women approaches the task of cleaning up after the late Sylvie with cheer, and that raises the question left unanswered in this slim novel by the award-winning Aussie writer, Charlotte Wood: Why don't they tell their friend's partner, a woman who has conveniently gone on elsewhere for Christmas, to pick up the mess herself? She's the one that is going to benefit from the sale of the old, creaking cabin on stilts, but for a reason not explored, she's off the hook and on vacation.

Even more perplexing is why these women were ever friends. Indeed, less than half of the way through the story, one of the women asks herself: "Why did they still come together, these three?" At first, they all tell themselves that it was Sylvie that held them together, and without her, their tenuous relationship could implode. But what kind of glue Sylvie provided is left to our imagination. In fact, Sylvie seems to have sown as much discord as cohesion to the one-time quartet.

The women do, however, come together and circle the wagons whenever one of them is attacked from the outside. And by the end of the weekend, each woman has faced one or more humiliating setbacks, giving each of them a reason to come to the others' defense, if not for love, then out of habit. Perhaps friendship has less to do with what we have in common or even how much we like each other, and more to do with some unspoken, deeply felt and inescapable loyalty, developed unconsciously, defying explanation, and only on display in the raw light of adversity. And nothing delivers more adversity than aging.

What Are You Going Through
Sigrid Nunez
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin/RandomHouse
9780593191415, $26.00 Hardcover, $13.99 Kindle, 210 pages, 2020

I loved The Friend, Sigrid Nunez's 2018 National Book Award winner. Of course, there was a dog, a big dog, an old dog. All the kinds of dogs I love. But there was also a suicide, and having recently lost a close family member to suicide, I found the book thoughtful and cathartic. And, without a question, there was Nunez's perfect prose and a narrative that pulled you along by the heart as much as by the mind.

But I remember some members of my book club who found the book hard to get into, and others who objected to the very subject of suicide. To both those groups of members: you probably aren't going to like What Are you Going Through, then. First, it starts - the first half, actually - with seemingly randomly selected stories that appear to have no logical connection, all told second hand for no apparent purpose. It would be easy for a reader to wonder: where are we going here?

Half-way through this short novel, a story starts to develop when the woman contemplating killing herself asks the narrator for help. With nothing keeping her tied down - her means of supporting herself somehow hinging on some kind of writing - she picks up and travels to an upstairs vacation rental near the ocean with her friend, and their time there provides a bare skeleton of a narrative. Every encounter, every venue, every memory, however, gives our narrator the excuse to digress into past stories and past relationships, although again, there seems to be nothing that holds the collection together.

It's possibly obvious: I'm not a fan of this book. Its theme seems to be that everyone has a story that they are desperate to tell, and our poor narrator ends up having to be the medium by which these stories get told. Even the cat in the B&B she rents for a time has a story that our narrator records in perfectly fine human words and sentences.

There is one truly devastating and heart-stopping passage in the book - from page eight to page sixteen - when our narrator's ex-husband gives a speech about how we are nearing the end of the world as we know it, and it won't make you feel fine. It's excruciating and hard to refute and will put you in a funk - if current events don't already have you there. When our narrator relays that formidable story so early in the book, she sets us up for disappointment. Nothing else that comes along has its potency. Nothing else seems important. After all, we're doomed.

Midway Bravery
Dennis Gaub
Treasure State Heritage Press
9781733873604, $24.99 Hardcover, $9.99 Kindle, 287 pages, 2019

Full disclosure: I worked with the author about a million years ago at the Billings Gazette, back when dinosaurs still roamed the low swamps of tropical Montana. Dennis was a sports reporter and editor, and I was the business editor.

The air strike by the U.S. Army Air Force that is the reason for and the central action of this book takes up fewer than 20 of its nearly 230 pages of prose, giving a reader the indication that this is less a book about military strategy, and more of a story about a Montana boy who became famous - at least Montana famous.

When I worked in the state, old-timers would tell me that Montana is a big state inside a very small town. Everyone on one side of the state knew everyone on the other side of the state and everyone in between. So, it no surprise that a man who flew one of the notoriously unmanageable B-26s into a battle that was seen as pivotal to the war effort would become a hero statewide - even if his torpedoes never scored a hit on a Japanese vessel. Lt. James P. Muri and his crew took part in the Battle of Midway, an air strike on the Japanese Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor that apparently set the Japanese Navy back on its heels, preventing another attack on Midway, an important air base in the Pacific in WWII. He flew a risky maneuver over a Japanese carrier, and returned safely to Midway, although his plane was so damaged and full of bullet holes, it was pushed into the ocean for a loss.

But much of this book is about a small-town, Eastern Montana boy who grew up in the Depression, yearned to learn to fly, and came home from the war a hero, eventually invited to receive the Distinguished Service Award for his bravery. The second half of the book is filled with an examination of the historiography of the battle; and the story of what Muri and the rest of the crew did after they came home from the war, photos, and a long bibliography that indicates extensive research into Lt. Muri on Dennis's part.

Dennis, an award-winning journalist, is a fine writer, and Midway Bravery is an easy read, in spite of the book's unattractive, Microsoft-Word-like interior layout. I applaud my former colleague for taking on this project, and I'm certain Montana historians and military history buffs will not only find his research impressive but will also enjoy the story.

Sue Miller
c/o HarperCollins
9780062969651, $28.99 Hardcover, $14.99 Kindle, 2020, 338 pages

I have read many Sue Miller novels - I see five of them on my bookshelves--and I have to confess something awful: I remember the titles, but I don't remember much of anything about them. Even as I read the publisher's synopses of them today, I don't recognize most of the stories. However, I can't help but recall the disturbing and seemingly irrelevant scene at the end of The Senator's Wife involving an old man and a young, lactating protagonist.

So, if they're so forgettable, why do I keep reading them? Perhaps it's because, by and large, Miller's books go down so easily. The subject matter is domestic life and relationships, and there's nothing to fear going into her books (the lactating protagonist an exception). And after a month of much more challenging reads, I was in search of a little "beach" read.

Monogamy - now the sixth Miller novel on my shelves - is a decent novel, easy and quick to read, not "experimental" or "innovative" or any of those other things that get critics excited these days. Graham and Annie have been married for about thirty years, and their marriage - by today's standards - seems successful and sanguine. Graham's a bookstore owner, every writer's favorite gentle protagonist. Annie is an almost-professional photographer, artsy, not too successful, always wondering if she could have made more of herself and her profession if it weren't for the outsized personality of her husband. There's something odd and distant in Graham's recent behavior, but the night before he dies, he seems to have come out of it, and Annie is hopeful that they'll rebuild their frayed bond. (Mention of his death is not a spoiler - it's on the book jacket.)

We get to the middle of the novel, before Annie finally asks herself the big question: what independence and success did she forego by being "absorbed" by Graham's physical and social expansiveness. Why didn't she try harder to make a career of her photography, or hone a personality and presence apart from his? Discovering the secret that had infected the last few months of their marriage, Annie begins to reexamine what monogamy has cost her (and not him), and what of their marriage was real and what was facade.

What's unsatisfying about it, though, is that she doesn't seem to come up with anything to do about it once she's realized it. She doesn't pick up her camera again and start to work, even though in the end she does start taking pictures of family and friends. She's raised the question of "what could have been" but she never strives for an answer.

What is lasting in its effect, is the book's exploration of female friendships and forgiveness, and perhaps that, not monogamy, is really what the book is about. Hence, the novel ends with an understanding that what will make Annie happy and "successful" from then on is not what she knows or learns about herself, but the people who surround her and support her.

Sad Janet
Lucie Britsch
Riverhead Books
9780593086520, $27.00 Hardcover, $13.99 Kindle, 2020, 273 pages

The only problem with this book is that summer (in most parts of the country, not where I live) is over. This is a perfect summer read, funny and profane. But, what the heck. Read it in the fall. Read it before Christmas.

Janet is sad and therefore perpetually prodded by friends, family, and an ex-boyfriend to take drugs for it. Janet actually likes being sad, and in fact she likes her sadness better than she likes most people. She also harbors a particular fondness for dogs, especially when compared with her feeling for humans. What's not to like here?

Janet is trying to decide what to do with her life (aren't we all?), and while she's figuring it out, she's working at a run-down dump of a dog shelter. Her boss, Debs, is a bi-sexual woman not terribly tolerant of men, and that sentiment Janet shares, having just broken up with a long-time live-in boyfriend who left because she was sad and didn't want to do anything about it. It was all about him, you see. Melissa, the other employee at the dog shelter, is a young, heterosexual, cheerful woman who loves Christmas, and for all of those traits, is obviously the weird one.

The year-end holidays are approaching in that most American way - in October. Before Halloween. Janet's stress level is rising as she anticipates another season of cheer that will put her sadness in sharp relief, as usual. She's not crazy about Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanza), and like many people, finds it always falls far short of expectations. Lo and behold, dear angels, a pharmaceutical miracle appears - a drug formulated specially to help people enjoy the holidays.

A prescription for the drug comes with a mandate to attend six group therapy sessions moderated by one of the pharmaceutical company's employees and surveilled by another. These sessions bring a bunch of like-minded (anti-social Christmas haters) together, and the meetings are hilarious in a quiet, sad sort of way.

I think this novel is a triumph. Although I had problems with the rather cheerful ending - perhaps "upbeat" is more correct - I couldn't put it down. I am, in many ways, like Janet. Don't tell me I'd look prettier if I'd smile, or I'm likely to signal my disapproval in that most anti-social, digital of ways. But even if you're more like Melissa than Janet, the lively prose and spot-on social criticism it conveys will keep you smiling. And if you're one of us who is more agnostic about Christmas than the people around you, you might find this story - like the Christmas pill? - gets you to look forward to the holidays for the first time in a long time.

Before We Were Yours
Lisa Wingate
Ballantine Books
c/o Penguin/RandomHouse
9780425284704, $17.00 Paperback, $13.99 Kindle, 329 pages, 2017

I may be the last woman in America to read this book, and it's not really my fault. My excuse is that I was going to buy it when it first came out, but was going through a busy stretch at my publishing company, and when I got back to the bookstore, it was already in paperback. I figured that rush to paper meant it wasn't so great.

Wrong. It's a great read, and I'm very happy I finally got around to it.

The story is revealed slowly in two time periods - 1939 when the country was heading into war and millions were still mired in the misery of the Great Depression, and the present day when young professionals have the time, money and talents to dig up old family history that their ancestors may have preferred stay buried.

In the earlier period, five siblings aboard a Mississippi River shanty boat have their poor but free gypsy childhoods shattered when they are kidnapped from their parents and taken to a squalid orphanage run for profit where they are starved, tortured - even murdered - with impunity. The novel is based on the true story of the horrors committed against families and children by Georgia Tann and the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children's Home Society, which she operated. It's a bit of Southern history and ugly Americana many socially prominent figures who donated to and supported the Society would have preferred never to have been uncovered.

The modern story is of Avery, a young lawyer, successful but not thrilled with the way she's using her education and credentials, who stumbles across the story of her grandmother - one of the lost children of the shantyboat family. She and Trent, an appropriately aged real estate agent, end up working together to uncover their mutual family history, his grandfather having been another of the children abused by the society. His wife has died recently, and she's engaged to a man she's not really interested in marrying, giving the author an opportunity to set up a satisfying romance subplot with attractive and likeable people. Together, they do battle with other members of their family who would prefer not to uncover such difficult pasts.

A thoroughly engrossing (even though difficult to stomach, at times) read, the book deserves the praise that was showered on it, and the many weeks it has remained on best seller lists in America. Wingate's descriptions are rich without laboring the narrative and her dialogue - both internal and between characters - believable. I highly recommend the book.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

White Fragility, reprint edition
Robin Diangelo
Beacon Press
9780807047415, $16.00, Paperback, 192 pages, June 26, 2018

With the brutal and very public killing of George Floyd, and some 26 million people around the world who have joined the Black Lives Matter protest, this seemed like a good time to better educate myself about racism and my own privilege. Move out of my comfort zone and join with the Black and White communities ready to promote improved education, healthcare and fair wages for all Americans. Given the numbers and diversity of people participating in the protests, this could be a pivotal point in our history, especially with elections on the horizon.

I was brought up in Plainfield, New Jersey and, although many of the students were Black in middle school, I rarely saw only a small number who were part of the "advanced" classes, and these kids seemed very scholastically motivated. My family moved to Littleton, Colorado when I was 16 and from there to Evergreen in 1963.Shortly after we arrived in Colorado, all hell broke loose in New Jersey with violent race riots, burning property, shooting and looting. And, I remember thinking, "What was that about? Boy, did we get out of there just in time!" By 1967, Newark, New Jersey riots were one of 159, including one four-day tirade in which 26 people died.

I'd go to school on the Western slope of Colorado and didn't see many Blacks, and then went overseas where I was exposed to a more diverse population, including three years working in West Africa. But when I returned home, I ended up in Scottsdale, Arizona and found a home in what we considered the best school district, Paradise Valley, which is predominantly white, as schools are basically funded by property taxes in this country, so those who can purchase the best homes often have the best schools.

This New York Times bestselling book attracted me because the author is a recognized trainer and educator on racial and social justice issues. She deals head-on with white people who ignore race and are dealing with emotions like anger, fear and guilt, which often leads to argumentation and silence. More importantly, the author not only explains the phenomenon, but also explains how it protects racial inequality and what we, as a society, can do to engage more constructively.

The author starts with, "White people in North America live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race, and white people are the beneficiaries of that separation and inequality." What she calls "White Fragility" is born of a feeling of superiority and entitlement. "Discrimination is action based on prejudice. These actions include ignoring, exclusion, threats, ridicule, slander and violence....When a racial group's collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism..."

The facts are not friendly:

Ten richest Americans are all white
U.S. Congress: 90% white
U.S. governors: 96% white
People who decide which TV shows we see: 93% white
Full-time college professors: 84% white

Her statistics on the level of inequality in this country are no less revealing:

Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet owns.
Eight men own the same amount of wealth as do the poorest half of the world.
The income of the poorest 10% of people increased by less than three dollars a year between 1988-2011, while the incomes of the richest 1% increased 182 times.

The author's overall goal is expressed in this quote, "White people, I don't want you to understand me better: I want you to understand yourselves. Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it's required your ignorance." Ijeoma Oluo

The author points out that, "Life in the United States is deeply shaped by racial segregation. Of all racial groups, whites are the most likely to choose segregation and are the group most likely to be in the social and economic position to do so. Growing up in segregation (our schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, shopping districts, places of worship, entertainment, social gatherings, and elsewhere) reinforces the message that our experiences and perspectives are the only ones that matter."

The author provides some "color blind statements," which indicate that people do not see race:

I was taught to treat everyone the same way
I don't see color
Everyone struggles, but if they work hard...
I'm not racist, I'm from Canada

She also provides some "color-celebrate" claims that the person embraces racial differences:

I work in a very diverse environment
I was in the military
I have people of color in my family/married a person of color/have children of color
I was in the Peace Corps (ouch!)
I was on a mission to Africa

She goes on to analyze some of the assumptions that prevent recognition of the problem:

Racism is simply personal prejudice
I will be the judge of whether or not racism has occurred
My learning has finished

Most importantly, the author provides some clear instructions on how to personally become an anti-racist, "We can follow the leadership on antiracism from people of color, and work to build authentic cross-racial relationships. We can get involved in organizations working for racial justice. And most importantly, we must break the silence about race and racism with other white people." Well, I have my marching orders!

The book has been a New York Times best seller and here is a thoughtful critique from The New Yorker: "The value in White Fragility lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance."

The table of contents will provide an idea of how the book is organized:

Introduction: We can't get there from here
The challenges of talking to white people about racism
Racism and white supremacy
Racism after the civil rights movement
How does race shape the lives of white people?
The good/bad binary
Racial triggers for white people
The result: white fragility
White fragility in action
White fragility and the rules of engagement
White women's tears
Where do we go from here?

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Isabel Wilkerson
Random House
9780593230251, $32.00, Hardcover, 496 pages

The lock down caused by COVID-19 has laid bare the growing inequalities and injustices in our social and economic systems today and yet offered a good opportunity to understand its foundations. As well as why so many white Americans seem willing to ignore the needs of their fellow citizens in order to maintain a system which benefits them so mightily, while ignoring and explaining away the suffering of others.

The public, excruciating murder of George Floyd sparked an awakening among many white people and our nation's systemic racism and offered an opportunity to better appreciate its power and longevity of over 400 years on this continent. This Pulitzer Prize bestselling author examines the often unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives are still impacted by a hierarchy of human divisions, which damage not only the Blacks at the bottom, but also the dominate the white population at the top of society today. And by understanding this insidious system, I fully agree with Albert Einstein, "If the majority knew of the root of this evil, then the road to its cure would not be long."

The author clearly delineates that caste is " artificial construction, a fixed and embedded ranking of human value that sets the presumed supremacy of one group against the presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and often immutable traits.." And in the U.S., the author refers to a shapeshifting, unspoken, race-based caste pyramid, which justifies the dehumanization necessary to keep the lowest-ranked people at the bottom and to rationalize the protocols of enforcement..."

"American slavery, which lasted from 1619 to 1865, was not the slavery of ancient Greece or the illicit sex slavery of today. American slavery, by contrast, was legal and sanctioned by the state and a web of enforcers.." "For the first time in history, one category of humanity was ruled out of the "human race" and into a separate sub-group that was to remain enslaved for generations in perpetuity."

The author broadens our perspective of caste by comparing systems in the U.S. with India and the Nazis in Germany. Of India and the U.S., "Their respective hierarchies are profoundly different. And yet, as if operating from the same instruction manual, translated to fit their distinctive cultures, both countries adopted similar methods of maintaining rigid lines of demarcation and protocols. Both countries kept their dominant caste separate, apart and above those deemed lower...."

The author goes on to say, "...the caste lines in America may have at one time been even starker than those of India. In 1890, "85 percent of black men and 96% of black women were employed in just two occupational categories, agriculture and domestic or personal service. And forty years later, only 5% were listed as white-collar workers - many of them ministers, teachers and small business owners..."

Dehumanization was a basic aspect of U.S. and Nazi caste systems. "Both Jews and African-Americans were subjected to gruesome medical experimentation at the hands of the dominant-caste physicians. "We know about the experiments of SS doctors, but well into the twentieth century in the U.S., "doctors used African-Americans as a supply chain for experimentation, as subjects deprived of either consent or anesthesia, injecting plutonium while not treating diseases like syphilis."

And according to the German press agency, when the Nazis were solidifying their grip on the country, "For us Germans, it is especially important to know and see how one of the biggest states on the world with Nordic stock already has race legislation, which is quite comparable to that of the German Reich."

Yet more recently, "In Germany, displaying the swastika is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. In the United States, the rebel flag is incorporated into the official state flag of Mississippi. It can be seen on the backs of pickup trucks north and south, fluttering along highways in Georgia and the other former Confederate states..." The author goes on to point out that, "In Germany, restitution has rightly been paid, and continues to be paid, to survivors of the Holocaust. In America, it was the slaveholders who got restitution, not the people whose lives and wages were stolen from them for twelve generations." Narcissism plays a role in promoting the caste system on an individual and country level. It's "a complex condition of self-aggrandizing entitlement and disregard of others, growing out of a hollow insecurity. In 1964, at the height of the civil rights movement in the US, social theorist Eric Fromm said that, "the racial narcissism which existed in Hitler's Germany, ... is found in the American South."

The author sums up the evils of caste as, "...more than rank, it is a state of mind that holds everyone captive, the dominant imprisoned in an illusion of their own entitlement, the subordinate trapped in the purgatory of someone else's definition of who they are and who they should be."

The Epilogue of the book offers some sobering final thoughts, such as the 2016 study which found that, "if disparities in wealth were to continue at the current pace, it would take black families 228 years to amass the wealth that white families now have, and Latino families another 84 years to reach parity." "Caste is a disease, and none of us is immune. It is as if alcoholism is encoded into the country's DNA and can never be declared fully cured. It is like a cancer that goes into remission, only to return when the immune system of the body politic is weakened..."

"Wilkerson's book is a powerful, illuminating and heartfelt account of how hierarchy reproduces itself, as well as a call to action for the difficult work of undoing it." - The Washington Post

Table of Contents
The man in the crowd

Part one: Toxins in the permafrost and heat rising all around. The afterlife of pathogens; An old house and an infrared light; An American untouchable --

Part two: The arbitrary construction of human divisions. A long-running play and emergence of caste in America; "The Container We Have Built for You"; The measure of humanity; Through the fog of Delhi to the parallels in India and America; The Nazis and the acceleration of caste;

The Evil of Silence

Part three: The eight pillars of caste. The foundations of caste: Pillar number one: Divine will and the laws of nature; Pillar number two: Heritability; Pillar number three: Endogamy and the control of marriage and mating; Pillar number four: Purity versus pollution; Pillar number five: Occupational hierarchy: The Jatis and the Mudsill; Pillar number six: Dehumanization and stigma; Pillar number seven: Terror as enforcement, cruelty as a means of control; Pillar number eight: Inherent superiority versus inherent inferiority

Part four: The tentacles of caste. Central miscasting; Dominant group status threat and the precarity of the highest rung; A scapegoat to beat the sins of the world; The insecure Alpha and the purpose of an underdog; The intrusion of caste in everyday life; The urgent necessity of a bottom rung; Last place anxiety: Packed in a flooding basement; On the early front lines of caste; Satchel Paige and the illogic of caste

Part five: The consequences of caste. The Euphoria of Hate; The inevitable narcissism of caste; The German girl with the dark, wavy hair; The Stockholm Syndrome and the survival of the subordinate caste; Shock troops on the borders of hierarchy; Cortisol, telomeres and the lethality of caste

Part six: Backlash. A change in the script; Turning point and the resurgence of caste; The symbols of caste; Democracy on the ballot; The price we pay for a caste system

Mark D. Walker, Reviewer

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

The Lions of Fifth Avenue
Fiona Davis
c/o Penguin Random House
9781524744618, $27.00

The Lions of Fifth Avenue tells a story as formidable as the stone lions at the New York Public Library's entrance.

Fiona Davis puts her whole self into her stories, which makes her writing so wonderfully accessible to her readers. The plot of The Lions of Fifth Avenue has an odd shape. It darts between decades and weaves together the many sides of a mystery that is solved through a beautiful exposition of the personal struggles of two women, generations apart. Laura, the grandmother, lived in the superintendent's apartment in the New York Public Library in 1913 and in 1993 her granddaughter, Sadie, was a curator at the library. The two never met. The reader learns of Laura's struggle as it happened, and in a brilliant use of narrative technique by Davis, Sadie learned about her grandmother as a mystery unfolded regarding the disappearance of rare books from the library, including one that was lost in 1913. It is a layered approach to telling a story that is rich and complex with all its twists and turns performed in and around the storied halls of the New York Public Library.

Many writers would not be capable of creating two heroines as diverse as Laura and Sadie in the same novel because two characters are not conducive to setting a hook and reeling a reader in, what a blockbuster novelist aspires to do. While telling her story, Davis puts the development of her characters before a trendy mystery plot. The action sometimes moves fast and other times shuffles along. It isn't very different from running up the stairs to an exhibit in the library and later strolling through the stacks. Discovery of the self doesn't move at convenient pace. Laura must experience harsh lessons from her journalism pursuits before she can become a renowned essayist. Also, she must detour into the love of a woman before she understands a difficulty of a husband. And, of course, there's the tragedy of learning it too late. Sadie's story has no overlap. She is her own woman and struggles with romance and trust in an entirely different manner. Although her travails occur in the same library halls, they are of a different kind. Both women are extraordinary, but in different ways. That the story is told by two such different heroines makes it hard to put down. The clues are spaced eighty years apart.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue is probably not for every reader. Those who are looking for a clever plot line, snappy dialogue, and dynamic events involving easily comprehended characters may be disappointed. One could recommend many TV movies that will satisfy them. Davis does not write for the impatient reader. Her style is old fashioned and her characters will reward old fashioned, deep thinking readers with nuance and revelation. One needs to ruminate about these two women, and make a personal assessment of the unique place in the world inhabited by them, whether that be today's library or wartime London. The Lions of Fifth Avenue is filled with beautiful detail and contrast regarding two complex women living in very different times. Sorry, no trendy stuff here. Fiona Davis has not written a story that can be laid out in a Facebook post.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Collecting Drag Racing Model Kits
Tim Boyd
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613255650, $36.95, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: Model expert Tim Boyd, (and the author of "Collecting Muscle Car Model Kits", has now turned his attention to the fantastic drag racing model kits available from the late 1950s through today with the publication of "Collecting Drag Racing Model Kits".

Some racing model kits were actually 3 in 1 kits, where the builder assembled the drag-race version of the car in lieu of the street or custom version. Boyd starts by covering the options, collectability, variety, availability, and value of these wonderful kits and then concentrates on the highly detailed drag racing-only kits that became available starting in the mid-1960s through today. He also shows the differences between original kits, older reproduction kits, and new reproduction kits that many enthusiasts find at swap meets and through online sources today.

Many of these great kits were from the 1960s, an era when building model kits was a widely popular, serious hobby, similar to video games today. Not only was it fun to build the kits but it was also a great way to learn about all the different race classes and categories because there wasn't regular TV or online coverage during that era. The artwork on those kits was fantastic, and many collectors today seek original kits largely because of it.

The classes of racing covered are Gassers, Rail Dragsters, Stocks and Super Stocks, Funny Cars, Pro Stocks, Exhibition Racers, and more. Drag racing cars that never actually existed but were created by model companies are also covered.

Nostalgia drags are some of the most popular events around the country today. People can't get enough of these old race cars that were built in an era when variety, innovation, and home building ruled the day. This book is great for modelers in general, model-kit collectors, and drag-racing fans young and old alike.

Critique: Illustrated with 400 full color photographs, "Collecting Drag Racing Model Kits" is a 'must have' compendium of DIY drag racing car model building kits and a genuine treat to simply browse through one informative page at a time -- making it an ideal and enduringly popular addition to personal and community library collections.

Editorial Note: Tim Boyd is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on model cars and model car kits. After achieving regional and national model car contest wins, he became a model car journalist, eventually authoring more than 500 published works during the next 40 years. His monthly "Modeler's Corner" column was a highly popular feature in Street Rodder magazine for 17 years, and he is by far the longest running and most prolific contributor to Scale Auto, the world's most popular model car magazine.

Liberty Brought Us Here
Susan E. Lindsey
The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
9780813179339, $45.00, HC, 280pp

Synopsis: Between 1820 and 1913, approximately 16,000 black people left the United States to start new lives in Liberia, Africa, in what was at the time the largest out-migration in US history. When Tolbert Major, a former Kentucky slave and single father, was offered his own chance for freedom, he accepted. He, several family members, and seventy other people boarded the Luna on July 5, 1836. After they arrived in Liberia, Tolbert penned a letter to his former owner, Ben Major: "Dear Sir, We have all landed on the shores of Africa and got into our houses... None of us have been taken with the fever yet."

Drawing on extensive research and fifteen years' worth of surviving letters, In "Liberty Brought Us Here: The True Story of American Slaves Who Migrated to Liberia", author Susan E. Lindsey illuminates the trials and triumphs of building a new life in Liberia, where settlers were free, but struggled to acclimate themselves to an unfamiliar land, coexist with indigenous groups, and overcome disease and other dangers.

"Liberty Brought Us Here: The True Story of American Slaves Who Migrated to Liberia" explores the motives and attitudes of colonization supporters and those who lived in the colony, offering perspectives beyond the standard narrative that colonization was driven solely by racism or forced exile.

Critique: An inherently engaging and impressively informative study, "Liberty Brought Us Here: The True Story of American Slaves Who Migrated to Liberia" is a seminal work of meticulous scholarship. Expertly written, organized and presented, "Liberty Brought Us Here: The True Story of American Slaves Who Migrated to Liberia" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Black Studies collections and supplemental curriculum lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Liberty Brought Us Here: The True Story of American Slaves Who Migrated to Liberia" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.99).

Editorial Note: Susan E. Lindsey is coauthor and editor of Speed Family Heritage Recipes, a historical cookbook of recipes from the Speed family, who built Farmington Plantation in Louisville. Lindsey has several published essays and short stories to her credit.

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Collected Essays
James Baldwin, author
Toni Morrison, editor
Library Of America
9781883011529, $37.50

James Baldwin's Essays In The Library Of America

The Library of America published this large volume of James Baldwin's essays in 1998 together with a volume of his early novels and stories, both edited by Toni Morrison. In 2015, the LOA published a volume of Baldwin's later novels edited by Darryl Pinckney. With the continuation of what Baldwin described in "The Fire Next Time" as America's "racial nightmare", his writings have been receiving increased attention.

This anthology allows the reader to follow Baldwin (1924 -- 1987) from his early book reviews beginning in 1947 through his late essays of 1985. It includes his five books of essays together with a collection of thirty-six essays ranging over Baldwin's career. The volume is lengthy and demanding but rewards reading through for the understanding it gives of the author.

I found Baldwin highly personal, subjective, intense, and passionate in his essays. His overriding theme, stated many times, is the search for identity, first his own before that of his country, and finding what he was born to do as a writer. His writing is beautiful and expressivist. Baldwin is searching for what gives life meaning; and everything he writes, from large discussions of racism, history, sexuality, and book and film reviews is intertwined with his own sense of self.

Baldwin was raised in a Harlem slum, and he emphasized throughout his difficult relationship with his father, a preacher and a laborer. A young white woman teacher nicknamed Bill took an interest in Baldwin and took the precocious child to films and plays, encouraging his intellectual development. Baldwin left this mentoring relationship at the age of 13 as a result of a religious experience. When he told Bill he was joining the church and not going to the movies and theaters she told him "I've lost a lot of respect for you". Baldwin would be a preacher through the age of 17 when he left the church for good. While Baldwin always remained distant from Christianity, his writing and themes have a distinctly religious fervor and use heavily religious expression. He was formed by his experience in the church as well as by his exploration of literature, theater, and film with Bill. In addition to their subjective, experiential character, erudition and religious tone, Baldwin's essays are preoccupied with sexuality -- his own both in male-female relationships and in his homosexuality. Baldwin was concerned throughout with masculinity and its nature.

Baldwin is most often remembered for his writings on civil rights and on the position of African Americans in the United States. These are the crucial concerns of his writing. But it is valuable to see how these concerns were a product of Baldwin's own broad search for identity and meaning. He found his search limited by the marginalization and exploitation of African Americans in Harlem and by the hostility he experienced as a result of his color. He had to address these considerations to get at himself. So too, Baldwin left the United States in 1948 for France as a result of the impossibility he found of coming to an understanding of himself when faced with racial prejudice. Baldwin spent the larger part of his life abroad while returning frequently to the United States.

Baldwin wrote about his search for himself through the lens of American racism many times. In the early Autobiographical Notes included in "Notes of a Native Son" he said "I suppose the most difficult (and most rewarding) thing in my life has been the fact that I was born a Negro and was forced, therefore, to effect some kind of truce with this reality. (Truce, by the way, is the best one can hope for.)" In the same essay, Baldwin continued:

"It is part of the business of the writer -- as I see it -- to examine attitudes, to go beneath the surface, to tap the source. From this point of view the Negro problem is nearly inaccessible. It is not only written about so widely; it is written about so badly. It is quite possible to say that the price a Negro pays for becoming articulate is to find himself, at length, with nothing to be articulate about."

Baldwin concluded his "Autobiographical Notes" with the observation: "I want to be an honest man and a good writer."

One other source from Baldwin about his search for himself, for meaning, for the end of loneliness, and for shared human love deserves mention. In a 1962 essay, "The Creative Process", Baldwin described his view of the role of the artist. He wrote:

"Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone. That all men are, when the chips are down, alone, is a banality -- a banality because it is very frequently states; but very rarely on the evidence believed. Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge which can paralyze all action in this world. There are, forever, swamps to be drained, cities to be created, mines to be exploited, children to be fed; and none of these things can be done alone. But the conquest of the physical world is not man's only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The role of the artist, then, precisely, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest; so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place."

Baldwin's sense of himself and of his role as a writer are central to each of his five collections of essays included in this volume and to his exploration of racial issues. The first collection "Notes of a Native Son" (1955) includes ten essays, including the famous biographical essay of the same name and describes the Harlem of Baldwin's childhood, his experiences in Paris and Switzerland, and thoughts on works of literature and film, including the works of his friend Richard Wright. The second collection "Nobody Knows My Name" (1961) includes further discussions of Baldwin's Harlem experiences and of his experiences in the south, where he traveled and met Martin Luther King upon his return from Europe. Baldwin also continues to explore other authors, including William Faulkner.

Baldwin's most famous essay in probably "The Fire Next Time" (1963) which in a short space is both highly personal and highly universal. Baldwin writes to his nephew and then writes an extended essay about his early life, his meeting with Elijah Muhammad, and his fears for the United States if the racial divide or "racial nightmare" is not resolved through a redirection of values and through a search for love. These themes are continued in "No Name in the Street" (1972) in which Baldwin describes his life in the late 1950s and 1960s. including his experiences with the Black Power movement. This lengthy essay has a harsher, more foreboding tone than the earlier works.

Baldwin's final published essay collection, "The Devil Finds Work" (1976) weaves together Baldwin's own experiences with film reviews and reflections, beginning from his early days with Bill. Baldwin is a remarkable film critic because he draws from himself no less than from what he sees on the screen. In a 2014 article in the "Atlantic" Noah Berlatsky called Baldwin "the greatest film critic ever" He wrote that "what makes ["The Devil Finds Work"] sing is its sheer power of description, and its audacity in treating self, society, and art as a whole, to be argued with and lived with and loved all at once." "The Devil Finds Work' is one of the highlights of this collection.

We discussed earlier, the essay "The Creative Process", one of many fine works from the final section of this anthology. The other essays in this part that I enjoyed include "A Talk to Teachers", "Nothing Personal", "On the Painter Beauford Delaney" (one of Baldwin's several moving tributes to this artist) and the final two highly personal essays, "Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood" with its reflections on sexuality and the introspective autobiographical concluding essay "The Price of the Ticket."

Baldwin's Collected Essays will reward slow and repeated readings. They have a timely message for the present day United States. But more importantly, they show the mind and heart of a highly gifted and thoughtful individual, part of the tradition and canon of American literature.

The Fire Next Time
James Baldwin
Vintage, reissue edition
9780679744726 $13.95

Ending The Racial Nightmare

James Baldwin's (1924 -- 1987) 1963 book "The Fire Next Time" consists of two highly personal and provocative essays arising from his life and experience. The essays are beautifully and passionately written. They involve the African American experience while expanding to consider sexuality, religion, the nature of America, and the meaning of life.

The first and shorter essay, "My Dungeon Shook" is a letter written to Baldwin's near-15 year old nephew and namesake on the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The letter is eloquent in its intimacy and its breadth. Baldwin's root of his dispute with his country, he tells young James is that "you were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason." Baldwin urges his nephew to be strong, to stay within himself, and not try to meet the expectations of white people. He argues passionately that white society suffers and has had difficulties finding an identity due to its treatment of African Americans. Young James is to understand this situation and to respond with an understanding that the white society not less than the former slaves must come to understand the meaning of Emancipation and freedom.

The longer essay, "Down at the Cross" offers deep reflections on the author's life with a focus on religion and race. The essay is in three parts. In the first, Baldwin discusses his adolescence and how he came to be saved and to preach from ages 14-- 17. This part of the essay offers insight into Baldwin's wonderful semi-autobiographical 1952 novel "Go Tell it on the Mountain". Baldwin explains poignantly his early attraction to Christianity in face of the sexual and other temptations of the Harlem streets and the reasons for his abandonment of Christianity. Baldwin came to conclude that "whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being .... must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church." The concept of God, if of any use at all, is to make people "larger, freer, and more loving", traits which Baldwin finds are to be developed outside organized religion.

The second part of the essay recounts Baldwin's meeting with Elijah Muhammad. This portion of the book expands the lessons Baldwin took from his youth and from his rejection of Christianity. Elijah Muhammad had invited Baldwin to dinner in an effort to convert him to the Black Muslim separatist movement. Baldwin offers a persuasive portrayal of Muhammad, his retinue, and of his belief in a black God who had made white people devils. There is a highly revealing conversation between Muhammad and Baldwin. Showing a great deal of understanding of Muhammad, Baldwin rejects him and his God and his separatist teachings.

The third part of this essay is involved and difficult. Baldwin develops his own understanding of race, of America, and of religion separate from the Christianity of his youth or the teachings of the Black Muslims. He finds that the appeal of the Black Muslims lies in the centuries of abuse and degradation African Americans have suffered in the United States. The error of Muhammad's teachings, for Baldwin, was its separatism. African Americans and white Americans need to come to understand the meaninglessness of distinctions based upon color. African Americans are part of the fabric of the United States and have been so from the beginning. This openness of the United States is part of its nature and its promise, unlike the cultures of Europe which Americans too often try to imitate. More fundamentally, the African American-white relationship requires, for Baldwin, a redirection of meaning and of what is spiritually important in life. While rejecting religion, Baldwin is a spiritual thinker. "Perhaps the whole root of all our trouble", he writes, "is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have." America offers the unique, difficult opportunity to overcome race hatred and to move forward with meaningful lives of love, comradeship, and appreciation of sexuality. "If we", Baldwin concludes, "and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create the consciousness of the others -- do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world."

I found "The Fire Next Time" beautifully written and provocative. It is a short difficult book which will bear repeated readings. The work is available separately and in a collection of Baldwin's Collected Essays published by the Library of America.

The Thirteen Petalled Rose: A Discourse On The Essence Of Jewish Faith And Belief, expanded and updated edition
Adin Steinsaltz
Basic Books
9780465082728, $16.99 paperback

Rabbi Steinsaltz Rose

The great scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz died in Jerusalem on August 7, 2020, age 83. A person of formidable intellect and learning, Steinsaltz is best-known for his translation and commentary on the long, difficult Jewish text, the Talmud, a project which occupied him for 45 years. When I learned of Steinsaltz's death, I was moved to revisit his short book, "The Thirteen Petalled Rose: A Discourse on the Essence of Jewish Existence and Belief" which I read long ago during a time when I was interested in Jewish mysticism and which had retained a prominent place on my bookshelf. The book was first published in 1980 and reissued in a slightly expanded edition in 2006. I read the original version.

"The Thirteen Petalled Rose" offers a beautiful, committed discussion of the breadth of Jewish belief from the standpoint of Jewish mysticism or Kaballah. The most important work of Jewish mysticism is known as the Zohar. The phrase "The Thirteen Petalled Rose" derives from the opening words of the Zohar.

Steinsaltz plunges immediately into the heady spiritual and metaphysical world of Jewish mysticism in his opening chapter "Worlds" which begins: "The physical world in which we live, the objectively observed universe around us, is only a part of an inconceivably vast system of worlds. Most of these worlds are spiritual in their essence; they are of a different order from our known world."

Steinsaltz proceeds to describe these worlds and their interactions with our physical world, known roughly as the "world of action". He follows this difficult discussion with a related metaphysical, mystical discussion of Divine Manifestation or emanations and with a discussion of the human soul, its place in the world, and the purpose of human life. The reader finds himself immediately and deeply in the world of the Jewish mystic. Many readers may be surprised to learn of the teachings of rebirth in some Jewish mysticism with parallels to the doctrine of karma. Steinsaltz writes that when souls fail to achieve their proper end in life they must return. "The sins of man are not eliminated so long as this soul does not complete that which it has to complete. From which it may be seen that most souls are not in the world for the first time. Almost every person bears the legacy of previous existences."

The following chapters of the book become somewhat narrower in focus in applying the teachings of Jewish mysticism. Steinsaltz discusses the nature of holiness, the Torah, the nature of human good, and the nature of repentance. These chapters include much that is specific to traditional Judaism but much as well that will have a broader spiritual appeal, including an appeal to spiritually inclined non-Jewish readers. The final chapter of the book "Mitzvot" is the one most closely concerned with Jewish law as it examines subjects including Jewish prayers and holidays, dietary rules, and principles governing sexual conduct.

During much of the book, particularly the more mystically-oriented sections, Steinsaltz speaks in his own voice with a minimum of citation to sources. His discourse is effective in its obviously deep sincerity and in its wisdom.

The book is overtly traditionalist in character. Many Jews are not traditionalist or Orthodox, and many of the Orthodox are not mystics. And of course there are many non-Orthodox forms of Judaism including some in which mysticism makes a broad appeal. I am far from being a practicing Jew and was still deeply moved by this book on my rereading after many years.

In the years following my first reading of the book, I went on to study Neoplatonism idealistic philosophy, Buddhism, the works of the German mystic Meister Eckhart, and some other forms of both mysticism and Judaism. Readers inclined to a spiritually oriented philosophy would gain a great deal from reading Steinsaltz. His book is a form of spiritual idealism which concludes that "every human being is a part of the single soul that is the spirit of the entire universe." Then too, Steinsaltz sees every individual person as unique with his or her own role to play in furthering the Divine plan. The book emphasizes that every person carries within a divine spark (which Meister Eckhart called a "funkelin") and had to work to find his or her own way to God. In addition to the opening chapters on mysticism, the chapters of the book which best bring this out include "The Way of Choice: An Answer to Ethics" and "The Search for Oneself". In the latter chapter, Steinsaltz emphasizes that the search for oneself requires looking without rather than within. He writes:

"The seeker is caught in a paradox. He is dismayed to learn that the resolution of the search for the self is not to be found by going into the self, that the center of the soul is to be found not in the soul but outside of it, that the center of gravity of existence is outside of existence."

"A person my therefore stray as far as possible, infinitely far, from God, and there he can find the source of his deepest self, the point of the meaning of his soul. He orients himself on the map of his world and is startled and pained to learn that he is not necessarily its center. But recognizing that he is part of a larger existence that does go to the heart of the world, he can begin to take the path to this existence."

I was glad to remember Rabbi Steinsaltz's life by rereading "The Thirteen Petalled Rose", I am not an observant Jew, but much in his book and in his thinking is valuable to me.

Robin Friedman

Self-Publishing Review

The Kurdish Episode
Joseph E. Fleckenstein
One Ingram Blvd, La Vergne, TN 37086
9781532398599, $11.50, PB, 320pp

The Kurdish Episode by Joseph E. Fleckenstein is a sparkling example of the "everyman with a shadowy past" who proves his mettle. What begins as a simple, yet mysterious task for an everyman quickly swells into an emotional rollercoaster of love, loyalty, and the determination to survive.

Running a small gun shop in the backcountry of Pennsylvania is exactly the type of slowed-down life Sean McDougal is looking for after his recent tour in the Army. At least, that's how he feels at first, but as the weeks run into months, his old hunger for action and adrenaline creeps to the fore. When he is offered a lucrative opportunity from the government to accompany a shipment of weapons overseas to the Middle East, he agrees, eager for a bit of adventure.

What he doesn't realize is how controversial and potentially deadly this protection gig will be, nor what he will eventually be forced to do. Quickly sucked into an escalating conflict, Sean must put his old training to good use to save himself and the soldiers who will soon be looking to him for guidance.

Many novels have the protagonist's past affect his or her abilities and emotional stability in the present, but Fleckenstein drops McDougal right back into an older part of his life, a battlefield, so it's a good thing he knows how to use guns, not just sell them. It is this element of the book that provides so much of the depth and intrigue to the story - the novel patiently reveals the protagonist's hidden secrets and then drops him right into the action. McDougal proves himself to be a fierce fighter and a natural leader, and the action scenes peppered throughout this book have the echoing boom of authenticity.

Fleckenstein knows what a battlefield looks and sounds like, he articulates military strategy with ease, and draws readers directly into the firefight. The depth of research or background knowledge of the military and cultural groups represented in this book, including the Kurds and ISIS, make this story even more compelling and timely. This may be a work of fiction, but the setting and historical context are all too real.

Over the course of the book, Fleckenstein tends to put more effort into action and plot progression than patient character development, but there are the occasional moments of vulnerability and humanity that make the hero of this story a bit more relatable to readers. The writing does get a bit procedural at times, with a lot of declarative, expositional sentences telling readers directly about the action. There is also a dearth of emotional depth for much of the book, although the action manages to keep the energy and interest up. Delving deeper into some of the characters would make for a richer reading experience, and broaden the appeal for such an action-heavy book.

As a whole, The Kurdish Episode is a well-crafted and believable military thriller, highlighting a violent and confusing conflict still raging in the headlines today.

Journey to Your Summit
Dave Vetta
Palmetto Publishing Group
9781641118309, $14.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 148pp

A holistic blend of self-help, financial advice and abstract philosophy, Journey to Your Summit by Dave Vetta is a unique guide to finding balance and satisfaction in life. Bouncing from anecdotal stories about positive mindset and perspective to extended musings on purpose and strategies to improve productivity, there is a bit of everything in these pages. Some of the advice veers into the overly vague, and the matter-of-fact tone used by author can be a bit too confident at times, but the large-scale messages and directness of the prose are excellent. Ideal for those who are new to self-improvement books, this widely relatable read is an accessible starting point for personal growth.

Self-Publishing Review

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

A Nickel's Worth of Road Measles
S.L. Funk
9780578647364, $16.99

A Nickel's Worth of Road Measles is author S. L. Funk's debut novel. She's created an interesting, if somewhat unlikeable protagonist and unreliable narrator in Gerry Lee Donahue. She alternates chapters of his boyhood with his present as an alcoholic mechanic. A childhood traumatic brain injury has left him with a scar on his head and a bizarre ability to visualize past events and to read people's thoughts. He tries to keep his abilities under control because of the anxiety the sensations produce within him. He comments on how he's lucky to have a sense of smell because he was told brain injuries such as his often cause anosmia. It's never mentioned that frontal lobe injuries of the brain can often cause problems with executive function and the ability to tell right from wrong. He's raised in a horrible family situation, so it's the old nature versus nurture question: did his alcoholism and his prickly personality stem from the brain injury or the poor upbringing. He's picking up a car for resale when he picks up the vibes of a serial killer from an automobile. The setting, in "near upstate New York" with its gritty salted winter roads, mirrors the "noir" tone of the book nicely.

Number 10
Robin Hawdon
Brown Dog Books
9781839520006, $13.04, April 9, 2019

Number 10 provides a look at 10 Downing Street, the offices of the British Prime Minister through the eyes of junior staffers there. Paul Gunter is a young intelligence officer who finds himself framed for treasonous crimes.

The story pulls together proposed British laws that will restrict the capability of such entities as Russian organized crime to use their ill-gotten gains and middle eastern terrorists who recruit young men in London to become terrorists.

The novel is action-packed, and it's nice to see this David versus Goliath story in which two naive young people fight against Russian mafia and win.

The Organ Thieves
Chip Jones
Gallery/Jeter Publishing
9781982107529, $28.00, August 18, 2020

Chip Jones is a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist who brings to life an amazing story a succinct synopsis of which is drawn straight from the subtitle of his book, The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South.

To give readers some background into the story, Jones provides an extensive history, running from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century, of physicians and artists utilizing the services of "resurrection men" to provide bodies for surgical practice and anatomical research. As a physician myself, I know how important these cadavers are for medical study. Because there were so few cadavers available at my medical school, each was shared by seven students, and we practiced suturing techniques on chickens and pork feet rather than humans.

Complicating this practice are moral, ethical, economic, and racial issues. When the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) was opened, one of the primary reasons for its location was the availability of plenty of cadavers - drawn from the slaves that made up one-third of the community's population as well as poor whites.

Jones highlights the shameful history of systemic mistreatment of black people in America. People were sometimes kidnapped off the streets, killed, then used for medical research. One of the more blatant examples is the US Public Health Service's Tuskegee Study which ran from 1932 to 1972 in which 600 impoverished black men, sharecroppers in Macon, Georgia, were told they were getting free health care from the government. Without appropriate written consent, they were instead followed for 40 years as researchers sought to study the natural history of syphilis. And even when penicillin became the standard of care to treat syphilis, these men were denied treatment.

Jones shows how pervasive racism was even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Bruce Tucker, an African American male, was admitted to MCV after sustaining a serious head injury. Unbeknownst to the family, his heart and kidneys were harvested with his heart being transplanted into the chest of a White businessman. Tucker's family was not properly contacted regarding his admission to the hospital nor approached about donating his organs. Only when the mortician prepared Tucker's body for burial did the family learn of his missing organs.

As a physician, I'm sad to say, I've seen blatant racism from my peers directed toward persons of color. Even now racial and ethnic minorities receive substandard health care compared to Whites - even with similar ages, incomes, insurance status, and severity of conditions. Covid-19, for example, disproportionately affects black communities; African Americans die at a rate more than double that of other ethnic groups (50.3 per 100,000 people), compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans. Native Americans in New Mexico comprise 11% of the population, but account for 57% of the deaths.

For people wishing to read more about the endemic racism in American medicine, I recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

For those interested in transplant medicine, try When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon by Joshua D. Mezrich.

For those interested in racist ideas in America, read Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and other books by Ibram X. Kendi. It is amazing that these outdated ideas of the white race as supreme can be dated back to Aristotle.

The Best Part of Us: A Novel
Sally Cole-Misch
She Writes Press
9781631527418, $16.95, September 8, 2020

The Best Part of Us is a powerful novel about family dynamics and the human need to be true to one's inner self. Beth is a tweenager - she feels left out in her family. Her older brother and sister get to do everything like go to the bonfires traditionally held around the lake where her family vacations, and she's too old for kid stuff and too young for everything else. Cole-Misch draws her characters with a fine paintbrush, adding layer upon layer until each character is fully realized and integrating them into a timeframe that spans the past and present.

One of the strongest aspects of this novel is its sense of place. The descriptions of the land and water of the lake are dazzling. The reader can almost smell the forest and the lavender brought over from Wales by the grandmother; feel the pine needles carpeting the ground and the rough granite stones; and hear the keening of bald eagles and the mournful lamentations of the loons; see the sunlight sparking off the water and feel the chill of the air in the forest.

Readers who enjoy nature walks, birding, camping, or just communing with nature in their backyard will enjoy this book.

Unfettered Journey
Gary F. Bengier
Chiliagon Press
B08D7SMRR1, $5.93, September 7, 2020

Unfettered Journey is set in the future, after the Climate Wars. It's the story of a scientist, Joe, who works for the AI Ministry and specializes in artificial intelligence, specifically looking at creating robot consciousness. He hits a wall in his research and decides to take a sabbatical at Lone Mountain College, a small California college. Rather than the former caste system, a system of "levels" exist, and people cannot marry outside of their level. At the college, Joe is unwittingly drawn into an anti-level movement.

The world is as richly imagined as the Bladerunner movie. Robots hover everywhere and provide all services humans need. Personal Intelligent Physical Assistants (Pipabots) are assigned to each person and take care of the mundane issues humans face daily. People, due to the shortage of actual jobs (caused by the proliferation of robots), work only 12 hours a week. They have a corneal connection call the NEST, which functions as a computer screen and brings up "the latest fashions from Chicago. A rising-star painter from Atlanta." The leading story, though, is about a "woman tragically killed in Texas, the seventh accidental death this year."

There are long passage of philosophical discussion, and I was torn by these. I enjoyed reading about ideas I hadn't thought about since studying philosophy in college. On the other hand, I skimmed some of them, feeling they slowed the pacing of the novel.

Overall a book that kept me reading and the story was fascinating.

Good Morning, Monster: A Therapist Shares Five Heroic Stories of Emotional Recovery
Catherine Gildiner
St. Martin's Press
9781250271488, $27.99, September 22, 2020

Good Morning, Monster is a fascinating look at the therapeutic psychological practice of Catherine Gildiner, a fascinating memoir of how she dealt with five clients, all so severely emotionally damaged that they had to be superheroes to survive their early lives. Gildiner charts her own course, beginning with her very first patient, as she learns the things she didn't learn in her formalized schooling. She gradually becomes able to modify her approach to handle the specifics of a client's case and writes about their growth and her own with grace, humor, and humility.

In this compilation, the reader meets five of Gildiner's most difficult cases. She expertly grapples such diverse and difficult topics as child abuse, neglect, abandonment, gender-based violence, sexual abuse and trauma. These people have been so psychologically traumatized that they developed maladaptive behaviors such as trauma-based triggers, denial, and shame to compensate, yet their spirits remain indomitable. They choose to deal with these internal issues, to heal themselves, to grow emotionally, to become "whole."

These stories are about recovery from childhood trauma with the requisite emotional recovery and growth; thus they are both difficult to read because of the subject matter, yet heartwarming, heartbreaking, and inspirational. Gildiner offers a glimpse of the role of the psychotherapist: to become involved in a reciprocal relationship to help clients resolve their innermost issues.

As a family practice physician, I enjoyed this glimpse into a practitioner of a related field. Many times, as a primary care physician, I've had to refer patients to therapists, and it was interesting to see the inner workings of psychologist and patient.

Adventure by Chicken Bus
Janet LoSole
Resource Publications
9781532684869, $23.00, December 11, 2019

Adventure by Chicken Bus is a travelogue/memoir written by Janet LoSole, the mother of a family of four Canadians who become disenchanted with their lives. Caught up in making money to support two cars and a house, they rarely see each other and long for more time together. So they sell all their possessions and head to Central America for a backpacking adventure that lasted nineteen months. Janet and Lloyd took their two home-schooled children on what was essentially a very long field trip, starting in Costa Rica. To save money and to support themselves on their savings from selling all their worldly goods, the family determined to live and travel as the locals did. Along the way, they took long journeys on un-airconditioned "chicken buses", old worn-out American school buses shipped south and recycled in Latin America. The parents were both experienced travelers and back-packers and wanted to instill in their children a love of travel and an awareness of the interconnectivity between cultures. The kids had a ball as they "studied by doing" turtle conservation, bird and monkey rehabilitation, plus cheesemaking and chocolate making.

I too have traveled extensively and lived abroad for a number of years. I took my then-fifteen year old son to Africa for an expensive safari. But we also spent at an home for children orphaned when their parents died of HIV, an elementary school, and a medical clinic. Then on our way home after "glamping" in the Serengeti, we stayed in a youth hostel in Amsterdam so he could see the high- and low-ends of travel. So I enjoyed the book both as a memoir and as a travelogue - and as a glimpse into different regions and cultures.

People who enjoy travelogues, travel guides, and memoirs will enjoy this book. It is funny, tender, and warm in turns. Kudos to these parents who realized that their children would learn far more from traveling than they would ever learn from school books. This free-style education will continue to affect their lives as they relive memories created in their "chicken bus travels" while learning about other cultures, ecology, geography, geology, history, and learning a second language. Though my son underplayed his reactions at the time, ten years later, he still talks about the things he experienced in Africa - not so much to me, but to his friends and wife. So our trip had a much more profound effect than he let on. I'm sure, as time goes on, Janet LoSole's children will have similar revelations about their travels.

Wild Land
Rebecca Hodge
Crooked Lane Books
9781643852928, $26.99, February 11, 2020

Wild Land is Rebecca Hodge's debut novel. I read it in part because I had read parts of it in a writing class months ago and wanted to see how the novel had turned out. Also, I was intrigued that Hodge had chosen a middle-aged female with breast cancer as her protagonist.

When her cancer recurs, Kat Jamison wants time for self-reflection and decides to spend a month in the cabin where she and her husband once stayed. Her time for herself vanishes almost immediately when her daughter, Sara, appears with a dog named June that she wants her mother to foster. Kat also picks up a stray dog, Tye, along the way. Then, Malcom a neighbor down the road appears with his newly adopted son, Nirav. Later she meets Scott and his daughter, Lily. When asked to babysit Lily while her father works on a last-minute work project, she agrees and also invites Nirav. When lightning starts a wild fire, Kat must save both children, both dogs, and herself. The two fathers, Scott and Malcom, team up to try to rescue their children. What ensues is an incredible story of survival.

Hodge's characterizations are spot-on. There is plenty of action to keep the reader enthralled. The novel is women's fiction at its best, with a flawed, but heroic woman with deep internal issues to deal with as well as a cast of complex supporting characters who also must deal with their own issues. Each of the supporting cast has a full character arc.

Master Class
Christina Dalcher
9780440000839, $27.00, April 21, 2020

Master Class is a dark look at how a near-future America slides into totalitarianism and eugenics. The system relies completely on a system of Q scores which encompass each person's intelligence, economic status, etc. The higher one's Q score, the more privileges are available: from better schools to special lines in the school cafeteria to special lines in the grocery store. The system was largely designed by a man named Malcolm Fairchild. Unfortunately, the protagonist Elena is married to him. At one point, in high school, she was completely in step with his beliefs. Her devotion to him and his system begin to fail when she gets pregnant and refuses to do the prenatal testing that would determine her fetus's first Q score. If it's not high enough, Malcolm will insist she abort the fetus. She fakes the test results, and they have a daughter, Frederika (Freddie) who is possibly on the Asperger's spectrum. When nine-year-old Freddie fails her standardized test for the month, she is taken from her parents and sent to a farm in distant Kansas, never to return. Even teachers face monthly testing, and the quality of the schools in which they can teach drops if they fail their tests. The book is essentially Elena's struggle to save her daughter while revealing the horrors the Q system has wrought.

The world-building is great. Elena has a full character arc in which she moves from believing in Malcolm's views on education to standing up for herself and her children - in fact, standing up for all children. I loved the book except that the ending seems a bit rushed. Despite the hurried ending, I'd give this a full five stars because of its subject matter and its dystopic look at a potential American future.

This is a disturbing, thought-provoking look at a near-future America at its worst. A world concerned only with the bottom line in education, which has deconstructed all the efforts to promote diversity in schools and education for all. There is no quality of life for those with low Q scores. I read it in one night, then stayed up all night thinking about it. Like Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments, Master Class will change your views on education, power, and politics.

A Star Is Bored
Byron Lane
Henry Holt and Co.
9781250266491, $26.99, July 28, 2020

A Star Is Bored is Byron Lane's debut novel. He once worked as a personal assistant to Carrie Fisher. Though he prefaces his work with statements that A Star Is Bored is fiction, it does seem to be a thinly disguised tell-all about Ms. Fisher. It does have a wealth of insight into America's infatuation with stars. It's amazing that the uber-famous can live at such altitudes and attitudes that they can emotionally abuse their hired help.

The protagonist, Charlie Besson is a Louisiana boy who moves to LA and works writing the news for an overnight news program. He has no personal life as he works while everyone else is sleeping and vice versa. He's massively in debt from student loans and lives in a dump of an apartment. He's turned on to a job possibility as a personal assistant to a fading star, Kathi Kannon.

He gets the job, but has no clue what it entails. Gradually he learns that he must dole out her medications, take care of her groceries, arrange her spontaneous trips to various locales around the world, put out fires as Kathi wreaks havoc with her reputation. Again, he has no life as he is at Kathi's beck and call 24/7/365.

Charlie slowly realizes that, despite the attraction of being with Kathi, propping her up as she flits into mania and sinks into depression, he has needs of his own. He eventually has to decide whether he is living for her or for himself.

Kathi's insanity gets to be a bit too much in her stream of consciousness texts, but the book is amusing at times, horrific at others, and definitely an indictment of the American star system.

James Jennings
Greenpoint Press
9780990619451, $36.95, July 30, 2019

Mirador is set between the United States and Mexico. The time is 1993. The North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is waiting to be ratified by the three countries involved: Canada, Mexico, and the US. To open the way to the potential economic expansion, Mexico has started to take land from the indigenous population to sell/lease it to foreign entrepreneurs. When the peasants protest, they are either killed or "disappeared" in a cultural genocide that's been slowly happening since the conquistadors invaded Mexico. If you think this is an exaggeration, remember in the 1990s genocides occurred of Bosniak Muslims in Bosnia, the Tutsi in Rwanda, a reverse genocide of the Hutu by the Tutsi in Rwanda, the Hazaras in Afghanistan, the Pygmies in the Congo, and the Isaaq in the Somalian Republic.

The premise of Mirador is that Sarah and Nate Hunter are going to Mexico for a two-week church-sponsored mission to rehab a centuries-old mission. Nate does a lot of research on Chiapas, Mexico, and decides it's too dangerous to go. Sarah, a nurse and strong-willed "do-gooder" feels that its only for two weeks and they are Americans and nothing bad can happen to Americans. They have been married for only a short time, and Nate capitulates to the woman he adores. Of course, everything goes wrong as they have run-ins with El Piton, leader of the local paramilitary group who runs amok in the area, committing atrocities.

Mirador is a carefully crafted story of large-scale relationships established in social upheaval as well as the the extraordinary personal relationships fashioned in a political revolution. Unlike Jeannine Cumming in her book American Dirt, James Jennings doesn't make the mistake of being an outsider trying to write as an insider. Instead he takes the view of an outsider looking into the inner world of the political struggle of the indigenous people in the Zapatista uprising. Books like this, as well as books of insiders looking inside, must be written to spread the word about poverty, virtual slavery, and genocide.

Never Have I Ever
Joshilyn Jackson
Raven Books
9780062855329, $24.49, August 8, 2019

Never Have I Ever is a sinister read in the domestic thriller genre. Amy Whey is holding a bookclub meeting in her house when a stranger from the rental down the road knocks at her door to join the group. Roux is yoga-slim, sexy and gorgeous. She soon gets the book club drunk and playing the teenagers' game of Never Have I Ever. Soon Roux is hinting that Amy herself has secrets to reveal.

As she threatens more explicitly to expose Amy's secrets, Amy feels threatened and soon takes drastic measures to keep the new life she has made for herself with a husband and step-daughter she loves and an infant son.

The characterizations are spot-on. Roux and Amy's cat-and-mouse dialogue is fascinating. The plot is a tale of guilt and greed with devastating secrets being divulged. Blackmail ensues.

Secrets drop like bombshells with ensuing blackmail and dangerous gambles occurring as each player digs up skeletons in their opponent's closet. The reader, like the protagonist and antagonist do detective work - but the reader will fail at discovering the secrets revealed in the final chapter.

Out of Uganda in 90 Days
Urmila Patel
Independently Published
9781500774295, $16.99, August 18, 2014

I read this story because of my personal interest in Africa and the intra- and interracial turmoil on that continent. Ms. Patel writes somewhat simplistically, but that is in keeping with the voice of her narrator, Mila, a preteen girl. Mila is born in India, but when she is very young, her family moves to Uganda, which becomes the only home she has ever known. She depicts the paradise she considers Uganda to be with its lovely landscape and the idyllic environs of her home which she and her sisters explore largely unsupervised. When Idi Amin, who was crazy enough to call himself the "King of Scotland," takes over, things change dramatically. His presidency is marked by crimes against humanity, with the deaths of 500,000 of his own countrymen. Anyone who is from Asia, even if they've lived for multiple generations in Uganda, are forced from the country. Patel puts a face to all these nameless people. She gives enough of a description of the horrors that readers can visualize it but doesn't overplay that aspect. The book follows her journey from Kampala back to India with her family.

Sins of the Mother: A Caitlin Bergman Novel
August Norman
Crooked Lane Books
9781643854366, $26.99, September 8, 2020

August Norman continues the Caitlin Bergman series with book two, Sins of the Mother. If you're a bit shy about picking up the second book in a series, Norman does an excellent job developing Caitlin psyche further without getting bogged down referring back to book #1, Come and Get Me. Book #2 works well as a stand-alone novel.

Caitlin Bergman has told everyone that her mother is dead as, after giving Caitlin up for adoption, the woman dropped out of sight. When Caitlin receives word from a police department in Oregon that her mother has died, Caitlin travels to Oregon to identify the body. This turns out to be rather complicated as the tips of the corpse's fingers have been amputated and all her teeth pulled. She gives a DNA sample to confirm the woman's identity and while Caitlin awaits the final results, she uncovers a free-love cult, a small but politically powerful clan of white supremacists, the kidnapping of a teenager who's the victim of parental sexual abuse, and a web of deceit that dates back many years and covers ground from LA to Oregon.

This story is written by a male from the first person female perspective, and Norman does a good job of doing so. Award-winning journalist Caitlin Bergman is tough, has a good sense of humor, laced with a bit of charm and humility. She's beginning to learn that family is less about breeding and more about the people she surrounds herself with. The cult is well written and interesting, brining to mind the Jonestown Commune in Guyana with its mass suicide and the Branch Davidians.

L.M. Brown
Fomite Press
9781947917583, $15.00, October 13, 2020

Set in present-day Massachusetts, Hinterland is stark and poetic, with far more beneath the surface than the words indicate. It is the third book I've read by L.M. Brown, and as in her others, melancholy runs like a ribbon through the pages as does (it seems strange to say this of a book filled with words) silence. The characters populating the story are blunt and taciturn to a fault, even with loved ones - so silent that what dialogue there is resonates. There's a paucity of visible emotion, but underlying loneliness, rage, love, grief, depression. The desire to escape conflicts with the desire to remain. These are small folks, with small, ordinary lives, befuddled by life's circumstances. Hinterland is a slow-burn novel, replete with atmosphere.

Nicholas spent years in jail for beating up a fellow student and leaving him with brain damage - a violence Nicholas learned from his father. When Nicholas is released from prison, he gets a woman (Kathleen) pregnant and, while he doesn't marry her, refuses to abandon his child. The mother's schizophrenia slowly reveals itself as she hallucinates, gets mood swings, and loses contact with reality. When her daughter is five years old, Kathleen does an unthinkable, evil act. After that, she disappears, and Nicholas is left to raise his daughter alone - with the help of his next-door neighbor, Ina. The daughter, Kate, is shattered when her mother vanishes, and her personality changes from being a shy but likable youngster to being a wayward young woman.

The book does a great job showing the difficulties of living with a schizophrenic and the constant need to anticipate the schizophrenic's mood. is filled with ambiguity and mystery, of a type that will weigh on your heart rather than slap you in the face. The plot twists are interesting, with the major one happening in the second half of the book. The characters ring true to life, and as ambiguous as most humans are, and the prose, as in all of Brown's works, delightful.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Side Trip
Kerry Lonsdale
Lake Union Publishing
9781542016964, $14.95, PB, 333pp

Synopsis: With her deceased sister's Route 66 bucket list in hand, California girl Joy Evers sets out on a cross-country road trip to meet up with her fiance, checking off the bullets along the way.

Singer-songwriter Dylan Westfield has a serious case of wanderlust and a broken-down car. Stuck at a diner between LA and Flagstaff, he meets Joy, his complete opposite. She's energetic. He's moody. She's by the book. He's spontaneous. She believes in love at first sight. He thinks love is a complicated mess. But Joy has a brand-new convertible.

They strike a deal. She'll drive him to New York. He'll pay for gas. Only three rules apply: no exchanging of last names; what happens on the road, stays on the road; and if one of them wants to take a side trip, they both must agree.

A heart-stirring love story that spans a decade, "Side Trip" explores what-if. What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he'd told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn't made that second deal when they couldn't say goodbye?

Critique: A deftly written and inherently fascinating read, "Side Trip" wonderfully showcases author Kerry Lonsdale's impressive storytelling skills and flair for originality as a novelist. While certain to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Side Trip" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781799759171, $14.99, CD).

Chile Peppers: A Global History
Dave DeWitt
University of New Mexico Press
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
9780826361806, $29.95, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: For more than ten thousand years, humans in the western hemisphere have been fascinated by a seemingly innocuous plant with bright-colored fruits that bite back when bitten.

Ancient New World cultures ranging from Mexico to South America combined these pungent pods with every conceivable meat and vegetable, as evident from archaeological finds, Indian artifacts, botanical observations, and studies of the cooking methods of the modern descendants of the Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs.

In his historical study, "Chile Peppers: A Global History", world expert on chiles Dave DeWitt, travels from New Mexico across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia chronicling the history, mystery, and mythology of chiles around the world and their abundant uses in seventy mouth-tingling recipes.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated in full color throughout, "Chile Peppers: A Global History" is an impressively comprehensive and informative study tracing the domestic cultivation of wild chili to the development of heat indexes and ratings for the chili, and so much more. "Chile Peppers: A Global History" will prove to be a welcome and valued addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Food History collections in general, and Chili Peppers studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Dave DeWitt is a food historian and one of the foremost authorities in the world on chile peppers, spices, and spicy foods. He has published more than fifty books, including Precious Cargo: How Foods from the Americas Changed the World, which won the IACP Award for Best Culinary History. DeWitt is also the producer of the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as well as the founder of the Scovie Awards, which recognize the best fiery foods and barbecue products in the world.

Choose Joy: A Coloring Book of Gratitude and Wonder
Ink & Willow
WaterBrook Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780593232200, $14.99, PB, 96pp

Synopsis: In today's hectic, economic stress-filled, pandemic afflicted and home-bound world, taking stock of our blessings and truly experiencing gratefulness isn't always easy, but "Choose Joy: A Coloring Book of Gratitude and Wonder" is coloring book from Ink & Willow that offers a beautiful and unique way to find moments of peace and quiet to meditate on gratitude. Each beautifully illustrated, single-sided coloring page features an original design from one of seven talented artists that illustrates a corresponding quote from the Bible, hymns, and variety of inspirational writers, such as Charles Stanley, Henry Ward Beecher, Maya Angelou, Louisa May Alcott, Martin Luther King Jr., Shauna Niequist, Bob Goff, G.K. Chesterton, Mr. Rogers, and more.

This is a unique coloring book for adults will take you on a journey towards deeper gratitude. Whether you are embarking on this journey by yourself or in a group, pick up your favorite art supplies and with "Choose Joy" you can color your way to a new understanding of what it means to be truly grateful.

Critique: Offering hours and hours of quiet contemplative relaxation and inspiration, "Choose Joy: A Coloring Book of Gratitude and Wonder" is especially and unreservedly recommended for anyone having to deal with the inevitable stresses and pressures of life in a time of pandemic, economic collapse, racial unrest, and political divisiveness.

Editorial Note: A new imprint from the Warterbrook/Multnomah publishers, Ink & Willow products like "Choose Joy" are intended to infuse contemplation and inspiration into the regular spiritual practice of creative-minded Christians, wherever they are in their faith journey. Each thoughtfully curated gift product is based in biblical truth and sparks a reminder of how God reveals beauty in the midst of our ordinary.

Aged Out
Lanetta N. Greer
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480879973, $30.95, HC, 182pp

Synopsis: Owning and operating a nonprofit, group home for teenage girls has given Dr. Lanetta N. Greer a keen understanding of the challenges that they face.

Her facility, Home 4 the Heart, has helped almost two hundred girls over ten years. But assisting, supporting, and advocating for the girls that live at its three facilities has required lots of creativity.

While Child Protective Services wants children to do well, the youth that they place in out-of-home care often have negative life outcomes. The lack of daily intimate contact with a caregiver causes somewhat of a constant disconnect-and normal daily relationships and activities with supportive caregivers are not always possible for youth in out-of-home care.

In this qualitative study of young women who aged out of out-of-home care, the author describes family life, growing up in out-of-home care, and life after aging out. The results of the study will better inform service providers working with youth in foster/group homes, schools, juvenile justice placements, and community programs.

Dr. Gereer's study, "Aged Out: Narratives of Young Women Who Grew up in Out-Of-Home Care" is comprised of findings and insights that offer more effective ways of assisting, supporting, and advocating for youth to ensure a more successful transition to independence after aging out.

Critique: Impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Aged Out: Narratives of Young Women Who Grew up in Out-Of-Home Care" is an extraordinary and seminal study and very highly recommended for both community and college/university library Sociology and Women's Studies collections and supplemental curriculum lists. It should be noted for students, academia, women's rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Aged Out: Narratives of Young Women Who Grew up in Out-Of-Home Care" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781480879980, $13.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lanetta N. Greer has served as the director of Home 4 the Heart, Inc. since she started the nonprofit organization in October 2007. She earned a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a BA and MSW from Washington University in St. Louis.

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

A Reason to Be: A Novel
Norman McCombs
Greenleaf Book Group
9781626347335, $17.95, 216 Pages

As this compelling story begins we find the protagonist Douglas McCombs distraught, having nursed his wife Hope, the love of his life, with Alzheimer's for the last 5 years, she has died. Grief-stricken he falls into the deepest of despairs and goes to that place only those who have lost love ones will know. Unable to remain in the family home he moves to an apartment and there gives up on everything, his reason to be lost...

Luckily his good friend called Mark calls to see him and is devastated by the shadow of a man Douglas has become. Gently he reminds him that he is an accomplished man with hundreds of patents and inventions to his credit, and reflects of the time when he was at the White House receiving the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his inventions and advances in health science technology from the President, reminding Douglas about his own incredulity that he was actually there, and how he asked himself, was it his upbringing, his wife Hope, or his Scottish ancestry?

Finally, Mark wins him over and thus beings his re-emergence into normal life, catapulted forward by a chance incident which is just the catalyst he needs, the meeting of librarian Suzy Hamilton. Encouraged by her love of research, suddenly he finds himself rekindling his need to discover himself through his genealogy, which traces back to Scottish clans with their fierce pride, and loyalty. His journey takes him across the world, places his ancestors at important historical events, and introduces him to the determined and strong men, and women, whose blood flows through his veins.

Coming from Scottish roots, I know first-hand of the deep pride the Scottish feel in their family, its roots, and the glorious country which is their home. No matter where in the world they are, you can't take Scotland out of a Scot, and I should know, living in France. This feeling and strength grows steadily in Douglas as he begins to understand more, and more, his family and how it has evolved including the sacrifices each generation has made for their children.

With these revelations come other more personal ones, as he slowly begins to permit himself to feel again, he learns anew how to smile, look forward to life, and yes, he even rediscovers his reason to be.

At the beginning of this incredible story there was heartrending sorrow, and then slowly the pages like petals unfurl, and with them so does Douglas. Emotions grow and events unfold until eventually, having feverishly been unable to put it down, I discovered with great sadness that I had reached the end of the most incredible story, I have ever read. Highly recommended!

The Starlight Club 12: The Golden Spike Casino
Joe Corso
Independently Published
9798679095144, $16.95, 220 Pages

For those lovers of gangster stories set in the early 1960's New York, where tough men played for high stakes and the old values still held high, then there doesn't get better than the Starlight Club series.

Set in Queens, the stories are told by Bobby, who now lives with his daughter Lynn. He may be aging, but the good old days are still clear memories, and she loves to hear his stories. Big Red Fortunato is the owner of the famous Starlight Club and the boss. With his captains Trenchie, and Tarzan, and their loyal employees, this is their territory and only the foolish go up against them.

However, there are always fools who think they can take over, or dupe the boss, and sometimes they have to learn the hard way...

This is the case in this exciting story where a gang of young thugs think they can disrupt the status quo in Queens, and learn very quickly that vandalizing vending and slot machines on Red's turf is a BAD idea. However Red knows they're not the brains behind the petty behaviour and, there's more to it than meets the eye. It doesn't take much leaning on them to turn them into quivering wrecks who are only too keen to rat on the person whose put them in the situation. However, when they spill the beans, Red quickly realises that their contact is only small fry too, one in a chain. Deeper investigations reveal that there's a take-over plan is being hatched by someone further afield with grandiose ideas.

Indeed, Haiti is a long way away from Queens, there Bernard Levey is safe, scheming with the islands voodoo dictator Poppa Doc. However when Levey steps onto Red's home turf he discovers he has not only Red to answer to, but there is also a little matter to be dealt with concerning millions which went missing in his other life, a time when he was known as Ira Goldblum.

It's action at every turn, and as this story evolves, the plots cascade into each other. The author, Joe Corso's fans already know the wonderful tales he can tell through Bobby, however, it's not just the storylines and fantastic plots which make this author's stories shine out from the crowd, it's his characters. Through his writing readers get a real insight into the close knit community which is the gangland mobs, their loyalties, their taboos and the mind-set of these men who will take a bullet if necessary for what they believe in.

Whether you read the Starlight Club stories as they are published, or pick them to read randomly, it doesn't matter. The characters, the settings, and the action make this series one every fan of crime, adventure and gangland dealings will love.

Lang Fafa Dampha
Independently Published
9798674401568, $6.99, 101 Pages

Genre: Fiction

This interesting book follows the life of Sainy Kanteh, who the readers met in the author's previous book 'Peculiar.' He is the protagonist in both stories, and through him, and his wife Fatou, we are able to gain very thought-provoking and enlightening insights into how life is in Europe, and Paris in particular for African immigrants.

Before going into more depth, I must stress that it is not necessary to have read 'Peculiar' to enjoy reading this book. For those who have not, it tells of Sainy's arrival in Paris as a young man from his native Gambia. Through his experiences and observations the readers discover his reactions to this new city he is to call his home, and gain insight into the African community there, their customs, and traditions which they continue away from their homeland. In this book he also meets and falls madly in love with Fatou, a divorcee with a young son.

Now this their story continues with Fatou adoring her man, doing everything she can to please him. They have a happy and fulfilled life, and in return he tries to provide for his family, and to do so he gains employment in a restaurant.

The strong bonds of the African community shines through in this book, where we learn about the traditions which are still carried out in Europe as they were in Africa, and their importance. However, it is also clear that life in France with its Child Benefit and other social help changes the thoughts of the African women. These changes in attitudes do affect both sexes, and can and do lead to unrest both in families and amongst the people, the cultures clash sometimes and we see the reasons clearly portrayed within these pages.

As in relationships throughout the world, temptations rise and people are human, and this is the case when Sainy falls for Stephanie a white woman who is deeply attracted to him. As the relationship develops, Sainy like many men before him change, and Fatou as his wife notices. However Fatou has also to deal with comments from the community, other women, and an accident suffered by her son which leads to trouble in the family.

As an English woman moving to France the changes in culture have been different and take adjustment, however I cannot pretend to understand how it must be for someone whose cultures differ so much in their homeland.

The author was himself born in the Gambia, and as a young man migrated to Paris, where he earned a B.A. in English Language and Literature, and a Ph.D. in English Studies (Society and Culture). He also taught Legal English (Law and Politics - UK/USA) and Economic English, for two years before returning to Africa and working as a Senior Research and Programme Officer at the African Union office (the African Academy of Languages) in Bamako, Mali, from November 2009 to July 2015, and as Acting Executive Secretary from August 2015 to December 2018, and from then to now as Executive Secretary of the same institution.

This book is openly and skillfully written, and gives the readers an unbiased opportunity to understand the life of Gambian immigrants in Paris and Europe. Highly recommended.

The Elixirist: A Novel
Avraham Azrieli
Privately Published
9781953648037, $9.99, 321 Pages

Avraham Azrieli is a graduate of Columbia Law School in New York and an award-winning author. In this incredible tale, he takes his readers back through the centuries into Old Testament times and reveals a story steeped in mystery and intrigue. It stands alone, however, it is the prequel to 'Deborah Rising,' the first in the author's epic historical 'Deborah' series, which tells the journey of the biblical prophetess Deborah in her quest to fullfil her destiny.

Traditionally, in many countries, your career is dictated by your family heritage, and this is the case for the protagonist in this story, Sall, who is an apprentice healer, under the instruction of his father, in Edom. Although highly respected, and essential, his career is not a glamorous one, yet, his father assures him, it is his destiny

Sall, on the day this book begins, falls under the spell of the beautiful but unobtainable daughter of the High Priest, and this fires a desire to be so much more in the heart of the young man, but how can this happen?

Well, the answer lies in the advice of a magical dwarf, Sall must leave his home and take a dangerous journey to find the elixir of love. The elixir will not only enable him to win her heart but also achieve greatness as the savior of his people.

So, fired with determination, Sall sets off with his donkey and dog. Advised by a merchant to talk to the dream reader, the merchant shows him the way, and her wise words and the secrets she reveals, open his mind and strengthen his resolve to continue his journey. It is a journey fraught with danger, he suffers terrible injuries, trickery, and deceit, yet he also makes friends and alliances and discovers a lot about himself. Over time, these events change the boy into a man, giving him morals and the kind of wisdom which can only be gained through experiences. Until ultimately, as the story reaches its climax, Sall discovers his true destiny and self.

Throughout the story, the characters each have their own vital part and weave their way through his life. It is a true coming-of-age story and wonderfully illustrates how, whatever century or time we are in, every element and person in our lives impacts us in varying degrees. Yet, it also illustrates how, with determination we can make our dreams come true. Highly Recommended!

Let's Talk: ...About Making Your Life Exciting, Easier, And Exceptional
Art Rios
Rios Talks Media
9781735459905, $14.99, Pages 164

Art Rios, the author of this motivating and inspirational self-help book is not only an author, and lawyer, but he also teaches at Stetson Law and enjoys spending time with his wife Sharon and two daughters Maria and Alondra.

You can feel the author's enthusiasm for life pulsing from the pages as he, through them, fulfills his dream of helping people live exciting, easier, and exceptional lives. The emphasis throughout the book is to live your life to your best and happiest you can now, not to plan for later, but now, because as we all know tomorrow is not guaranteed.

As a trial lawyer, he has had plenty of time over the years to 'people watch,' study how they behave in good and bad situations and has used these experiences as a 'student of humanity,' to follow his dream, which he believes is his calling, to inspire people in positive ways.

A self-confessed talker he has used this talent to reach into the hearts of his readers. He allows them opportunities to peep fly-on-the-wall into his life and uses examples to encourage others to follow their dreams and be better people.

Cleverly he reveals how everyday life events can be altered to make them special, and how important it is to take time to share our lives with our loved ones. He encourages us all to discover ways to make our lives easier and more enjoyable, and reminds us that whether we are 18 or 80 it is never too late to make the most of your life and make it fun!

Always keen to engage in conversation, we are encouraged to contact him through his website, email, and other forms of social media and tell him what we think. He wants to know, whether the comment is good or bad.

No subject is taboo, and as long as no harm comes to anyone, we are motivated to enjoy all we can, from sex to food, wine, traveling, and much more. However, this book is not all light-hearted, the responsibility we have to do the right thing for ourselves, and to others is clearly emphasized. Written very much in the now, the subjects of racism and COVID 19 are discussed from a humanitarian standpoint, and the emphasis is very much on the need to look after each other, have thought and care for our neighbors and family, and be aware.

In a world where being online is expected he encourages his readers to turn off the screens, and iPhones, take time away from them and reconnect with the outside world, or read, or meditate, just take time for you, because you matter!

The power of this author's positivity shines through in this life-changing book, and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to improve their lives and learn to enjoy every day to its full potential.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

William Krueger's Bookshelf

Rainy Lake Rendezvous
Janet Kay
Kindle Direct Publishing
9798630656995, $15.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 220pp

Rainy Lake Rendezvous is a tale that begins with obsession and madness but becomes, in the end, a journey with something quite different in mind. Janet Kay offers readers a rich tapestry of intrigue, history, Ojibwe lore and culture, and even of ghosts set against the stunning backdrop of the border country between Minnesota and Canada. If you're in search of a true taste of the North Country and a diverting tale to take you there, then look no further. Rainy Lake Rendezvous is the perfect ticket.

William Kent Krueger

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife
Stephen R. Matthews
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526764072, $34.95, HC, 248pp

Synopsis: A Belgian Congo debacle of massive ethnic cleansing coincided with Steve Matthews's first police posting near the Northern Rhodesia border with the Congo, at the age of 21. In "Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife: Police Investigations at the Heart of Africa", Steve graphically describes being knifed, ambushed, stoned, wounded by bow and arrow and shotgun, and having his hand being broken in the line of duty several times.

Steve also saved the life of President Kaunda from a potential assassination attempt and acted as a driver and bodyguard to President Tsombe of the breakaway state of Katanga. Steve was solely responsible for exposing and tracking down a dangerous British Army deserter and communist spy working in the Congo and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), seeing him neutralized and his operation disbanded. Throughout "Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife", he gives full credit to his African police colleagues for their immense courage, humor, loyalty and total dedication.

"Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife" recounts true stories of dealing with witchcraft murders and cannibalism in all its repugnant forms. Steve, personally thwarted an ambush on a group of famous Congo mercenaries known as the Wild Geese. He describes incidents of black magic, kidnapping, arson, gunrunning and people trafficking. He successfully detected the first computer fraud in the territory, and later for the first time, brought back a European fugitive in a series of fraud cases to face justice, from the atrocious apartheid country of South Africa; of being given a government award for his part in combating the slaughter of wildlife and in taking part in the search for the downed aircraft of the United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld -- still the subject of much controversy today.

Steve's life was saved several times by his courageous Doberman, Alex, a canine that was regarded as a witch doctor by local tribes. "Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife" is the true, action-packed, unadulterated stories of those frantic and dangerous years, where a young police inspector found himself confronted by fearsome actions and events well beyond his complete understanding while serving in the elite police force in Northern Rhodesia now Zambia, which was then a British Protectorate prior to independence.

Steve's life and career reveals that the police were fighting on two fronts: 1. Trying to protect the vulnerable citizens. 2. At the same time endeavoring to stop the slaughter of the country's wildlife.

Critique: An deftly written, impressively informative, and inherently riveting read from first page to last, "Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife: Police Investigations at the Heart of Africa" is an extraordinary and detailed memoir that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and college/university library Environmentalist & Naturalist Biography; Biology of Wildlife; and African Law Enforcement Biography collections and supplemental curriculum studies. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Stephen R. Matthews was born in Guernsey, Channel Islands shortly before the outbreak of W.W.II and later illegally deported to concentration camps in Germany with his family. He describes these horrendous events in his book 'The Day The Nazis Came'. Following liberation by Free French Forces in 1945 the family returned to Guernsey where he was educated at Elizabeth College. He undertook his business training with Maple & Co Ltd of Tottenham Court Road and later joined the Northern Rhodesia Police (A British Protectorate) in 1959, with the express purpose of helping to Africanise the force prior to independence. He underwent a series of intensive courses in Criminal and Civil Law, African Languages and Para-military training. Stephen was twice threatened with a Court Martial, however, he gained a plethora of awards and commendations and was finally granted early promotion as the youngest officer ever so promoted in any British Colonial Police Force.

The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation
Abram Leon
Pathfinder Press
PO Box 162767, Atlanta, GA 30321-2767
9781604881165, $16.99, PB, 372pp

Synopsis: During the opening years of the 21st century, anti-Semitic venom and incidents of violent assault on Jews have begun spreading around the world once again. These Anti-Semitic incidents are not an historical aberration. They are fueled by today s capitalist crises and fracturing of the post World War II imperialist order, described in recent decades as globalization.

At every turning point in history from antiquity through feudalism, to capitalism's rise and the imperialist death throes of the past century Jews have been targets of persecution. Including the genocide cold-bloodedly touted by Hitler as the Final Solution.

Why is Jew-hatred still raising its ugly head? What are its class roots? Why is there no solution to the Jewish question under capitalism, just as there is no solution to other problems before humanity, without revolutionary struggles that transform us as we fight to transform our world?

Abram Leon was killed in October 1944, at age 26, in the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz. He left us "The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation" to help answer those questions.

This new 4th edition includes new introduction by Dave Prince, 32 pages of photos and illustrations, 7 pages of maps, a glossary, expanded index and revised translation.

Critique: Simply stated, this new edition of "The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation" from Pathfinder Press should be a part of every personal, community, college, and university library Judaic Studies, Holocaust Studies, and Anti-Semitism Studies collections and supplemental curriculum reading list.

Willis M. Buhle

Wine Business

Wine And The White House: A History
Fredrick J. LRyan, Jr.
The White House Historical Association
1610 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
9781950273072, $55.00, HC, 456pp

One can't speak about wine and the White House without acknowledging Thomas Jefferson's influence. The third president of the United States, and second to live in the White House, Jefferson was the first to establish many of the White House's enduring traditions, including lavish dinner parties with many courses of food and wine. Known by many as the "First Father of Wine," Jefferson understood wine's ability to oil social interaction by putting guests at ease and breaking down barriers. He also happened to have a deep interest in and passion for wine, which he developed prior to becoming president, and was responsible for the creation of the first wine cellar at the White House.

While not all presidents had the knowledge and interest that Jefferson did, all - with the exception of an abstemious President Rutherford B. Hayes - understood its influential role in diplomacy. For instance, the administration of President Ronald Reagan saw wine service in the White House reach a level of interest unmatched since the time of Jefferson. Reagan understood the value of wine in entertaining and diplomacy, especially during the 1980s when wine was rapidly growing in popularity in the United States.

WINE AND THE WHITE HOUSE is divided into three sections.

Part One: Focuses on the evolution of wine in the White House, starting with Jefferson's seminal role and 19th century presidential interests and social customs and moving on to diplomatic traditions from Theodore Roosevelt to present day. It also includes toasts and first-person reflections from presidents and guests throughout history.

Part Two: Provides an overview of how wines have been selected and purchased for the White House. It also reveals how and when American wines were added to the White House menu and dedicates chapters to California, French, and Italian wines.

Part Three: An unparalleled look at hospitality via a richly illustrated history of the glassware and service pieces used at the White House from 1800 to today as well as a photo-essay featuring table settings, service, images of State Dinners, receptions, holidays, and other events at which wine was served and enjoyed.

About Frederick J. Ryan, Jr.

Fred Ryan is Chairman of the Board of the White House Historical Association. He is Publisher and CEO of the Washington Post and has previously served as a senior official in the Regan White House. He serves as Chairman of the Ronald Regan Presidential Foundation, and Co-Chair of the National Archives Advisory Committee on Presidential Libraries, and is on the Board of several other organizations.

About the White House Historical Association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. In 1961, the White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion's legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association's mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the White House Historical Association has contributed more than $50 million in fulfillment of its mission. To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit

Wine Business

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

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