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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 9 September 2018 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Reviewer's Choice

A Matter of Selection
Carol Smallwood
Poetic Matrix Press
9780998146980, $17.00

Alex Phuong

Michigan writer, Carol Smallwood is currently one of the most prolific authors writing today. Credited with numerous books, she continues to publish poetry on a wide variety of topics. She has also received acclaim for her artistic merit and her ability to write elegantly and eloquently while also establishing her own sense of poetic style. Her poetry resonates with readers because it dares to ask profound and philosophical questions without delivering easy answers. For example, her poetry collection entitled In Hubble's Shadow explores the humbleness of mankind within the vastness of the universe. Smallwood's poetry is very articulate because of its precise use of language and very simple, but also very powerful, ideas. It is no surprise, then, that her newest poetry collection would continue that same tradition of very deep and moving words that established her as a wonderful poet. Carol Smallwood's A Matter of Selection is a fantastic new poetry collection that features poems that remind readers about the humility associated with being natural human beings of all people while also celebrating the common humanity that unites all people.

Smallwood's collection begins with a prologue about the power of choice. Sometimes choices are hard to make because of the circumstances that can make life difficult. There is also the fundamental fear about making the wrong choice. Even with such hardship, Smallwood's poetry reveals the basic truth that sometimes things happen for a reason. Some people might believe in destiny or fate. Others would have a more humanistic outlook on life, and argue that choices really are based upon the decisions people make. In spite of such conflicting philosophies about how much people can do in their lives, one basic fact is clear throughout this poetry collection. Everyone in society really does all co-exist together on this planet called Earth, which is literally and metaphorically the only home of all people. Carol Smallwood makes it clear that selections can be difficult to make, but it would also be comforting to know that new choices and opportunities are always coming up as long as people are still alive. Therefore, there is an optimistic tone to the writing that can reassure readers that both bad times and good times must happen in order to make life what it truly is.

A Matter of Selection delves deeply into what it means to be alive while poetically examining the choices that people make. Smallwood divides this poetry collection into four main sections while also including a preface, a prologue, and an epilogue. The four sections are entitled, "Nature," "Moments in Time," "The Domestic" and "Speculations," all of which deal with common themes in creative writing that relate to life itself. The poem "Safety of Predictability," found in "Moments in Time," is a neatly organized poem that explores what life would be like if it consisted of a very simple routine. One of the best lines in this poem is, "Sleeplessness encourages losing civility, a definite increase in irritability" (3). The first line of this poem is, "A lack of sleep encourages awareness in the safety of predictability" (1), which also serves as the concluding line as well. This simple, yet profound, poem consists of twelve lines with three stanzas that are four lines each. The organization of this poem suggests that a simple and ordinary life is the most ideal life possible. Indeed, such a powerful truth can make life so much easier if people did not over-complicate their lives with issues that would only hinder their way of living. Therefore, Carol Smallwood suggests that people must enjoy their "moments in time" just because the greatest moment in time is the present moment, which truly is the greatest present of all in so many ways.

Carol Smallwood's poetry also appears to make allusions to other famous written works. For example, there is a poem in the "Speculations" section called "Prufrock Napkins," which might be a reference to the famous poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and both poems relate to that iconic character from T.S. Eliot. Interestingly, Smallwood has a similar poem within In Hubble's Shadow entitled, "A Prufrock Measurement" that also relates that same character. It is clear that poetry from different writers have influenced Smallwood to create original works of art using her own skills as a poetess.

Carol Smallwood also establishes the fact that she is a woman capable of expressing independent thought while also honoring the writing of women who came before her. That is because another poem within that same section entitled, "A Room of My Own" also appears to allude to the famous essay A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Carol Smallwood is definitely a great writer in her own right while also paying respects to other writers, especially women who had to challenge the status quo in order to prove that women can just be as creative as their male counterparts. It is a pleasure to know that Carol Smallwood is such a brilliant writer because of her way to explore profound themes about humanity while also writing about such topics with grace and elegance. Therefore, Carol Smallwood is an established writer in her own right.

A Matter of Selection is a special poetry collection because it combines the historical context and biological concepts associated with Charles Darwin and his famous "natural selection" theory, but Carol Smallwood masterfully blends scientific concepts with creative writing to form stylized poems that captivate readers. A special feature of Carol Smallwood's writing is her ability to merge scientific topics with common poetic themes. Such talent makes Smallwood a masterful writer who demonstrates the fundamental fact that interconnections form bonds between everything within the universe. Smallwood might have mentioned in her prologue that some choices are good and some are not, but hopefully readers will make the choice to enjoy her poetry so that they could learn more about what it means to be human. All that exists really is just a matter of selection because of the basic fact that choices determine character in a very diverse world.

Silent Spring - Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War
Patrick Hogan
Whatnot Enterprises, LLC
9781732547407 $TBA

Andy Jordan

Written by a Vietnam veteran who was personally exposed to toxic chemicals during his service, including Agent Orange, Agent White, malathion, and DDT, Silent Spring - Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War speaks out against the lasting harm inflicted by such poisons during the Vietnam War. Part memoir, part testimony, and part scathing attack on disgraceful bureaucratic negligence of veterans, Silent Spring - Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War shines light on a deadly serious matter and is a choice pick for public library Social Issues collections. Highly recommended. "Our government made many deliberate and purposeful military decisions that covered South Vietnam with an environmental nightmare of hazardous pesticides and chemicals. Still, as reprehensible as those choices were, they were compounded by the fact that after the war, our government developed strategies to deny the harmful impacts of those pesticides."

A Matter of Selection
Carol Smallwood
Poetic Matrix Press
0998146986 $17.00 pbk., 120 pages

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Reviewer

Carol Smallwood, a whole battery of poetry chapbooks to her credit, has written another masterpiece. By that, I don't mean something utterly impossible to decipher or something that reminds the reader of poets' sonnets from her 11th grade English Literature class. Many of the poems in Smallwood's A Matter of Selection are just as intricate, just as formulated. The thing is, you won't notice unless you make them into a puzzle to be unraveled or refigured like a Rubic's cube. And why would you want to do that?

Smallwood writes intricate poems that are easy - even lazy. We read them for the spell they create, the nostalgia, the wonder. Each is like images in the opening poem: A melody. Morning fog. A path.

Smallwood's repetitive line, " . . . it makes sense to cut up pieces to sew with needle and thread" in her poem "The Universe" lets her unraveling of the cosmos be understood with subtle sounds. "Read," "bed," and, yes "dread." You won't need a reviewer to tell you not to sweat it. You'll just go with the gentle flow.

Smallwood's A Matter of Selection are poems all the better in the moment. Save analytics for another time, another chapbook another text. Like a child listening to her mother's voice, no need to probe or dissect.

Passion of the Illuminati: A True "Work of Heart"
Sofia Lvsh
Michael Terence Publishing
9781912639007, $17.61, pbk, $9.80 Kindle

Daniel Gross

Religion, especially in the incarnation of a cult, can be a very strange and dividing concept; it often has been, and may always be. Our modern world is clearly no exception to this, as most current books about religion are meant to illustrate and defend the enlightenment and freedom that comes with fervent belief…but, on the other hand, there are also a great many books meant to identify and censure the hypocritical cruelty of religion that could hurt others. I'm pleased to say there is now one particular author, fresh on the European literary scene, who is currently adopting a bold, refreshing stance on religion which does not take one side over any other. Her debut novel instead tells a compelling, multi-layered, and tonally-diverse story that attributes religious capabilities to fate, heritage, niche, and concentrated mindset alone. This author goes by the enigmatic name of "Sofia Lvsh".

Her story is titled "Passion of the Illuminati", and it is not what you may think upon examining the Travelogue-esque cover and synopsis. It may also seem at first glance like a Dan Brown story (and, on some level, it is)...however, the first third of the book flows like a heightened, darkly-funny version of "Eat, Pray, Love", with all the sensuality that entails, before religion even enters into the equation. We find ourselves immersed in the tale of a fiercely-insightful young woman named Sabine, who is every inch the main character of this story. She rapidly cycles through many acquaintances of hers all across Europe, who each face personal/relationship/sexuality dilemmas that only Sabine can help solve (in-between her upscale "client meetings" as a businesswoman). She also endures her own personal "dramedy of errors", particularly during a trip to Mexico, and encounters some impoverished people who could stand to gain a pearl of wisdom or two.

Now, we enter the second third of the story, which gradually ramps down in its complexity as Sabine stumbles across a mysterious young man, who claims he is not only part of a powerful family dynasty (with political and societal influence to bear), but also a member of the mystical "Illuminati" movement. She finds herself being swept into love with him for the very first time in her life, as she accompanies him on many of his lavish retreats with Illuminati royalty. However, this love affair eventually causes her great angst and confusion, as everything down to her bloodline, her personality, and her friendships are disrespectfully called into question by him…and she, in turn, questions the honesty and nobility of his legacy and worldview, as well as his ultimate reasons for wanting to be with her.

And, finally, the concluding portion of the book is increasingly reminiscent of authors like George Orwell and Stephen King. Sabine, through many interactions with others, gradually comes to realize a highly-overwhelming fate for herself, which was evidently predestined long before her birth. Is this fate of hers a good or bad fate? The answer is…you'll just have to order the book and find out.

In summation, this story is very much a "work of heart", with every adventure-packed word, every pearl of wisdom and insight, every pang of sadness, every darkly-humorous laugh, and every highly-relatable emotional moment that passes. It has cultural and historical references that range from Shakespeare all the way to Superman, and it is highly recommended for those who believe that modern books simply don't have enough of a heart, on a pure and accessible level. Here is some interview-based insight from the author, Sofia Lvsh, as to where the art and heart in her book came from…

Where did you first get the kernel of the idea that became this story? About how long did it take you to develop it all the way to the book's completion?

It took me 4 years to write the main part of the book. I didn't write anything for around a year, but then I got back into it. I had sent the manuscript to various publishers and was turned down…but, two years afterwards, I found my current publisher.

What were some of your biggest literary and cultural influences throughout the crafting of this book?

I enjoy reading JK Rowling, Simon Golding, and Paulo Coelho, although I don't believe my writing style is anything like theirs. Culturally, I was mainly influenced by Egypt and Mexico.

Did you have to do a lot of religious or travel-based research in writing this book, specifically regarding the Illuminati and the Templars?

I did plenty of research into the Illuminati, and I have always been very interested in the many branches of spirituality. In terms of travel, the story of the book was "downloaded" into my mind as I was meditating inside The Great Pyramid back in October 2011.

Were there any specific real-life experiences, profession-wise, relationship-wise, or religion-wise, that inspired any of the key events of this book?

The events in Mexico actually did happen to me, but, most of the book was dramatized in order to increase the story's level of excitement. Many of the characters were based on real-life people, some of them were composites of several or more people, and others of them were created from whole cloth.

Social media seems to play a big role in this story…what are your specific views on it?

I believe social media is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is an amazing and powerful tool, which allows you to connect with people all over the world at the touch of a button. On the other hand, certain people have turned into trolls, dishing out many kinds of insults and abuse, all while hiding behind their keyboard.

This story seems to have a great many highly-personal insights regarding trauma, self-care, sensitivity, idealism, love, and sexuality…how do you believe feminism most enters into this personal dimension of your book?

Our heroine, Sabine, is a very confident and self-reliant woman. I deliberately gave Sabine these qualities because I wanted all kinds of women readers to feel empowered within themselves.

This story also seems to have a lot of complicated observations regarding the social class system, intolerance, morality, and politics (both relationship-based and otherwise)…and how religion can both heighten and subvert all of those things, sometimes quite dramatically. What is the ONE thing you most want religious-minded and spiritualist readers to take away from this story?

The one thing I want my readers to take away from this story is that our differences in religion, skin color, and creed don't need to divide us. What brings us together as people is the ability to love each other wholeheartedly. If we never fail to act from a place of true unconditional love for our fellow man, we all truly can make the world a better place. To make this change, all one must do is simply look in the mirror, and be the change.

Inspirational Verse for Those Who Hunger and Thirst: A Book of Poems to Feed the Soul
Artemis Craig
Artemis Craig Publishing
9780989087605, Paperback $15.00

Marlan Warren, Reviewer
Originally published in Roadmap Girl's Book Buzz blog


I have respect for anyone's spiritual journey. And I have a lot of respect for the poet Artemis Craig, whom I met at USC, when we were both in film school studying screenwriting. Now, a couple decades later, Craig has risen out of the ashes of Hollywood as an evangelical poet who has walked through fire, and lived to tell her story in the form of "Inspirational Verse for Those Who Hunger and Thirst: A Book of Poems to Feed the Soul."

With straightforward honesty and a gift for storytelling, Craig has arranged the poems in this anthology as an odyssey washed in the blood of heartaches, losses, and disappointments after returning home as the Prodigal Daughter. All the elements that make "inspirational verse" inspirational are there (finding and praising the Grace of God), woven into searing moments from Craig's life, told with her flair for dramatic prose and metaphor.

Her post-graduation first experience--pitching to execs at a major studio--soured her forever on staying on that track. Many film school alumni can relate (this one does). A sensitive soul, Craig stayed away from the written word until she began writing poetry in the 21st Century, finally gaining the spiritual strength to openly share it in 2013 with this book.

The poem that opens the book, "Speak Now," reflects the pain felt by many a disillusioned film student:

"Without words I became invisible which was fine by me,
Found a home for my anger and bitterness in my invisibility.
Disappointment and hatred festered inside all the while,
But none knew because through it all I wore a smile."

I felt personal resonance with her personal poems about loss. One deeply regrets missing the passing of her grandmother because Craig was busy pursuing her career on the other coast. I was at USC editing my film for class when news of my father's sudden passing came.

One of the most moving poems is "Life Not Mine to Save," remembering her futile attempts to save her father's life when he died of heart failure:

"One, one thousand, two, one thousand
Chest compressions like I'd been taught weren't enough
Formed a seal over your mouth and into it blew a quick puff.
Stay with me! Stay with me! But you refused to wake…"
Afterward she fills such bitterness, that she questions God's actions:
"Though it's hard to believe, your life was not mine to save.
Anger at God is all I can feel,
That along with the hope that somehow
This can't possibly be real."

The poem plays out like a short film. With a "resolution" that is accepting and spiritual:

"Away from me, Daddy, your body lies in the cold grave
It seems like only yesterday, try as I might,
Your life was never mine to save.
But mine to cherish in moments of panic and doubt,
To keep as memories when I feel trapped and can't get out."

I had an elderly aunt who would tell the story of her life and end it with "I didn't know they'd throw the book at me!" Here, Artemis Craig, has thrown a book out of her life for others to gain some solace as they grapple with their own journeys.

As Charles Bukowski once said: "What matters most is how well you walk through the fire."

Literary San Antonio
Bryce Milligan, editor
Texas Christian University Press
TCU Box 298300 Fort Worth, Texas 76129
9780875656878, $34.95, HC,

Dr. Kirk Bane, Reviewer
Central Texas Historical Association

Over the years, Texas Christian University Press has published an impressive series of literary anthologies covering the state's leading cities. These include Literary Forth Worth (2002) by Judy Alter and James Ward Lee, Literary Austin (2007) by Don Graham, Literary Dallas (2008) by Frances Brannen Vick, Literary El Paso (2009) by Marcia Hatfield Daudistel, and Literary Houston (2010) by David Theis. Now comes Bryce Milligan's splendid Literary San Antonio, the most recent addition to this collection.

Milligan, editor and publisher of Wings Press, divides his compilation into five sections: Historical Writing, Journalism and Political Essays, Poetry and Prose Poems, Drama, and Fiction. Among the more than forty authors he includes are Sandra Cisneros, Angela De Hoyos, Stephen Harrigan, O. Henry, Sterling Houston, Sidney Lanier, Frederick Law Olmsted, Amalia Ortiz, Zebulon Pike, and Carmen Tafolla.

In 1920, historic preservationist Adina Emilia De Zavala observed, "It has long been a dream of mine to see raised up, before I die, a school of loving and appreciative writers and artists who will do justice to the wonderful history, legends and romance of Texas, and her most attractive city: San Antonio, the beautiful." In his introduction, "Three Centuries of Writing in and of San Antonio," Milligan correctly contends that De Zavala "would be pleased with the present volume." Students of borderlands literature and history should add this outstanding compendium to their bookshelves.

Returning to Radiance
Francis H. Chun
Paschal Peace Press
9780692979020, $25.00, PR, 222pp,

Reviewers: Suzi Santili and Brenda Schwartz

Review #1 – Suzi Santilli

This book is a must have! When I was suffering from betrayal from a friend, and couldn't sleep one night, I picked up Returning to Radiance and began to read, it brought me peace and comfort. The book provides knowledge when you need to navigate through a storm in life and you want to find peace and comfort. In addition, I give it as a gift to my loved ones when they come to me and share a storm in their life. This way, I not only listen to them when they are hurting, I give them navigation to wisdom, peace and comfort, that they too can go back to time and time again.

Review #2 – Brenda Schwartz

As we travel on Life's Journey, sometimes we need a Road Map. No matter your religious affiliation, "Returning to Radiance" is a Road Map for everyone's Life Journey. This book depicts a multitude of successful routes when we are beset with roadblocks that impact our relationships with others, and the ongoing internal doubts and anxieties that sabotage our ability to love, grow and succeed. This book is like a Road Atlas. The comprehensive index provides the specific life situation that needs a course of direction. One area that I found very helpful was "Forgiveness" on page 183... " Forgiveness does not come from my feelings. Forgiveness does not come from my mind. Forgiveness comes from my will..." There is more insightful information on Forgiveness that follows, but how incredibly liberating to understand that Forgiveness comes from our will, and not how we feel, or what we think. This book is structured to allow easy access to life situations that require a constructive pathway to resolution. Everyone needs a Life Road Map and Returning to Radiance is an excellent navigational tool for our earthly journey.

A Rare Breed
Daniel S. Levine, Daniel P. Maher
BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.
9780692908419,$29.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 245pp,

Raja Krishnan

Are you curious about what it is like to work in a startup company? Do you want to understand all the challenges associated with bringing a life saving medicine to the market? Have you thought about the role that the patients play in all this?

"A Rare Breed: How people and perseverance built BioMarin into one of the world's most innovative companies" is easy to read, and does a good job of explaining the basics of developing a new drug and bringing it to the market. You do not need to be a pharmaceutical scientist to understand the story. Actually the book is a page turner and in many ways reads like a novel. The reader learns about the ups and downs of this startup, Biomarin Pharmaceuticals, and all the different players on the management team, and the personal dynamics within the company as well.

The authors do a great job of communicating how difficult it is these days for a pharmaceutical startup company to grow, vertically integrate and bring its own product to the market, rather than just being acquired by another larger pharmaceutical company.

Last and not least, it is an inspiring story about how medicines save patients' lives. It also gives the reader an insight in to how much investment and effort goes in to bringing innovative medicines to the market. It is important to understand this in a day and age, where patients want new medicines more quickly, more economical, and more innovative.

I highly recommend this book for the general public to get a better understanding of how a drug product makes it to the market, and also for aspiring entrepreneurs. I also want to note that according Biomarin Pharmaceuticals website all proceeds of purchases of this book made through the Amazon website is going to patient advocacy groups focused on rare diseases.

Uniquely Normal: Tapping the Reservoir of Normalcy to Treat Autism
Robert J. Bernstein with Robin Cantor-Cooke
Future Horizons, Inc.
721 West Abram St., Arlington, TX 76013
9781941765463, $19.95 PB, $14.99 Kindle, 336pp,

Sheila Quach, Reviewer
The Old Schoolhouse(R) Magazine, LLC, March, 2018

My son was diagnosed with autism when he was four. Up until that point we were hanging on by a thread and a prayer. I thought once I got a diagnosis, life would be different, maybe even easier. Boy, was I wrong. If anything, I was even more in the dark. Now my boy is eleven, and every single day is a struggle. When I go to bed at night, I wonder if I can do it one more day.

Recently, I added a fantastic book to my ASD arsenal, Uniquely Normal by Robert J. Bernstein. The title caught my eye, but the tag line snatched my heart (because) it reads Tapping the Reservoir of Normalcy to Treat Autism, not-to-mention that the Foreword was written by Dr. Temple Grandin, my secret superhero. I grabbed my highlighter as soon as it came in and locked myself in my bedroom until it was so late I couldn't read without a light. . .

I was given a wide awakening reading the introduction. As the author explained his childhood growing up with a not-so-typical brother, I saw very clearly the relationship my daughter has with my son. To be truthful, I cried as the stories and examples he shared were so similar to what I know she goes through every single day, (as) we all do. He went on to other stories of clients and, once again, I could relate to all, if not most, of it. (The author) wrote, "I will help you to not only look at what your ASD son is doing, but to see the possible logic from which it springs." Well, sign me up! Just reading to the end of the introduction, I already felt hope. Another thing that was a comfort was really learning that there is a reason behind some of the tics, the fidgets, and the noises my son partakes in daily. It's so he can relieve stress, to get in touch with his physical side and body awareness when he feels overwhelmed. In talking to my son about this, he explained to me that it feels like his body may float away or vanish. So, he's grounding himself in a way.

I could go on and on, because this book has changed the way I live with my son -- not just parent him but actually the way I live with him. There is so much I learned regarding seeking out the normal or typical behaviors he poses. I have always spoken normally to him, but I didn't expect normal behavior in return. I do now. I have learned how -- by just changing my timing or my chosen words-- I can get a different, more typical response. It wasn't really about changing my son but (the book) changed the way I was interacting with him. This is just the tip of a huge iceberg I climbed while reading this book. Now, I'm reading it again but, this time, with my husband. There are new gems I didn't read the first time around, so I'm still highlighting.

Most books I have read give an overall blanket for the childhood years, but this book is divided by ages and stages. You have the early childhood (2-5), childhood (6-10), early adolescence (11-14), adolescence (15-18); and young adulthood and beyond (19 and up). In each section, there are several client stories that are organized by age along with a few descriptive words to describe their ASD. This was super helpful. . . It was amazing to read how Mr. Bernstein inserted himself in the client's routine. . . how he implements key principles that allows him to see the world from the client's perspective. I'm mesmerized at the simplicity of the process.

The process is simple; it's the consistency of doing the process that's hard. . . If you have a loved one with autism, you need this book. . . I can implement these principles and see results. We can have some form of normalcy in our home, and I have felt a renewed sense of hope and determination since reading this book.

This book should be given at every single diagnosis appointment. It should be in classrooms, daycare centers, foster parents, really anyone that comes in contact regularly with a person on the spectrum. I encourage you to also seek out your own copy. You will not be disappointed, just empowered.

Running With The Wolves
J.E. Reed
BHC Press
9781947727311, Softcover, $14.95, 296 pages
9781948540087, Ebook, $7.99,

John Darryl Winston, Reviewer

I heard about this book a while back and could not wait to dig in. I was not disappointed, finding it difficult to put it down. One reviewer called Running With the Wolves (The Chronopoint Chronicles Book 1) by J.E. Reed, Ready Player One/Hunger Game's love child. I'd add to that characterization that it could have been nannied by the Maze Runner.

Kiuno is what I call a likely hero thrown into a world she's apparently destined to come out on top in. The thrill ride is in getting there. Kiuno is not your run-of-the-mill wishy-washy heroine, she's a true girl on fire, and some, that knows what she wants. Straightway, Reed successfully throws Kiuno and the reader into the game, only spattering in backstory through dialogue when needed. This one starts out fast and finishes even faster. Reed gets it all right from world-building (loved the escalation of scary creatures and increasingly elaborate structures), to imagery/description (I often times felt like I was watching a movie) to fast-paced action and fight scenes (brutal comes to mind. Watch out kiddies. PG-13 for sure).

Reed's pacing is also on point. Kiuno has a lofty goal early on in the novel. She's on a quest of sorts. Her search leads to a satisfying resolution in a big way and at a costly price. I love the characters and their development through their actions. They were both complex and contrasting. Get the names; Kikyo, Scorpios, Elite, Blade, and my favorite, Palindrome, just to name a few. The biggest bomb drops halfway through the novel when Reed makes a daring move (can't say 'cause that would be a spoiler) that's she executes brilliantly, and it plays out well in the end. Five easy stars for Running With the Wolves and impatiently, eagerly awaiting Book 2 of the Chronopoint series. Monster debut. Well done, J.E. Reed.

Alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins
Paul Goldsmith, director
First Run Features
630 Ninth Ave Suite 1213, New York, NY, 10036
$14.96; 58 Minutes; DVD

Darrel Manson, Reviewer

Every year many fourth grade students read Island of the Blue Dolphins in school. The book is a fictional account based in a historic tale of a Native American woman who spent eighteen years alone on San Nicolas Island (part of California's Channel Islands). Alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins is a documentary that gives insight into the true story behind the book.

The Newbery Award-winning book is often seen as a female version of Robinson Crusoe. It seems hard to believe that anyone could survive eighteen years alone with just her dogs for company. And yet this amazing story has a factual basis. In the early nineteenth century when all the other Nicoleños were removed from the island, for an unknown reason, the Lone Woman of San Nicolas was left behind. She survived there until a ship came to the island in 1853. Finding the woman alone, they took her to Santa Barbara when the priests christened her Juana Maria.

The film shows archaeologists, historians, and others as they try to piece together what life would have been like for her. Some of these people have been involved with the island for many years. They have answered many of the questions that arise from such a situation, such as what she would have eaten and where she got her water.

The film explores a few areas of how she came to be alone on the island. It also looks at what happened to her after her "rescue." It touches very briefly on what could be a spiritual side to her life, but really, we can't be sure about such things because she was never really able to communicate with anyone after she was brought to the mainland. The various other Native Americans in the Santa Barbara area were of different backgrounds and couldn't understand her. So it turns out that even when among other people, she was still very much alone.

In watching the film, there is a sense of seeing the detective process at work. One of the people we meet even goes by the title "historical detective." It is a matter of finding clues and then interpreting those clues to gain a better understanding.

For those who have had to do a project in school based on Island of the Blue Dolphins or are getting ready to have such an assignment soon, Alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins could be a good addition to the information that is in the book.

The God Gene Chronicles: The Secret of the Gods
Projesh Banerjea
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781717426680, $2.16 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 216pp,

Rebecca Bauer

I was honestly surprised how well this novel kept my attention. I was so worried that with the style and plotline being of a different culture and more realistic, that it would draw my attention elsewhere. But it didn't. My full attention was on this novel. The whole structure of this novel is phenomenal!

Can we talk about this cover?! Like for real, this is the coolest cover ever! The storyline was great, some of the characters could have used a bit more background, some of the places could have been developed more. But all around, this was a great read and I look forward to seeing Nikhail and Rahual's story continue.

Insights: It would have been nice to have a key that helped the reader to understand how to pronounce certain names of people, things, and places. But other than that, this was one rollercoaster of a book. (And I mean that in a good way!) I couldn't put this down, at all. The author sure has a way with words and taking a culture that is realistic, and adding fantasy aspects to it - that takes skill.

Titus Plomaritis
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477271391, $35.99 HC, 9781477271377, $26.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle

Kirkus Reviews

Plomaritis, in his debut memoir, writes of his life as a highly school football sensation turned chiropractor.

The author's life story, in many respects, encapsulates the American Dream. The son of Greek immigrants who struggled through the Great Depression, he came from humble beginnings in Lowell, Massachusetts, helping on the family farm and shining shoes for extra money.

He played highschool football, served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army in Japan during World War II, and then, amazingly enough, went back to high school to play more football.

In 1948, he played in a locally famous Thanksgiving football game in which he scored the tying touchdown and the winning extra point.

After a brief college football career, he went on to become a chiropractor. The author recounts the praise he's received throughout his life for his athletic prowess and his level headed thinking. He intersperses newspaper articles, occasional family recipes, family photos and maps of places where he's lived.

Overall, the story has the feel of sitting with a relative with an old photo album for more than a few rainy afternoons. The collection comes across as simultaneously authentic and cluttered -- at time repetitive, but always honest and spirits.

Titus has wisdom to share, even it it often gets jumbled in with detailed of golf handicaps and 60-7ear -old football statistics. patient readers who miss the days of leather football helmets may be glad they stopped to listen.

A nostalgic memoir, invaluable to friends and relatives of the author.

The Isle of Gold
Seven Jane
Black Spot Books
9780999742389, $14.99 TPB, $9.99 Kindle, 281pp,

Lindsay Nyre, Reviewer
The Tome and Tankard Inn

The Isle of Gold is a delightful, well researched and evocative historical fantasy that succeeds in bringing a fascinating era to life.

We open with our main character, Merrin Smith, and her closest friend Claudette – Merrin is (for want of a better word) absolutely shitfaced drunk and about to do something very stupid indeed. Believing that the key to uncovering her mysterious past lies on the mythical island of Bracile, she has disguised herself as a man (an act punishable by death if she is discovered) and plans to join the crew of the Riptide, helmed by the notorious and unpredictable pirate Captain Winters. He intends to sail for Bracile in search of his lost love, the wild and tempestuous beauty Evangeline Dahl, who he believes has been kidnapped by the sea gods themselves. Though he is suspicious of Merrin's disguise, Brandon Dunn, the ship's formidable quartermaster, agrees to give her a place on board the ship. At first she tries to keep her head down while she struggles to find a position within the crew, but it soon emerges that Merrin is able to read – a rare and valuable skill. This leads to her being recruited by the Captain to aid in deciphering the many texts he has gathered for his research. Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen, for the Captain has grown cruel and bitter since Evangeline's disappearance. Merrin's situation is complicated further when she finds herself drawn to the ship's kind and handsome boatswain, Tom Birch. Will she blow her cover for love? Will she find out the truth of who she really is? Will the crew of the Riptide succeed in their quest to find Evangeline? Why is the rum gone?

It's an enchanting read, reminiscent of classic tales I grew up on, such as Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. Merrin is a charismatic protagonist and a good example of a strong female lead: capable and mentally tough, yet vulnerable and constantly aware of her physical limitations in a crew manned by muscular and morally ambiguous men. The supporting characters are distinct and captivating in their own right, each one receiving a vivid description that makes picturing them very easy. Indeed, one of the great strengths of the novel is in Jane's exquisite descriptive prose. If, like me, you find that a large part of the joy in reading a nautical fantasy lies with the arresting imagery of billowing sails, turbulent seas, tropical islands and colorful characters, you'll definitely want to give this one a look.

The worldbuilding is another area in which The Isle of Gold excels. Featuring many real life sailor superstitions and details, Jane touches on everything from ghosts to sea monsters to Davy Jones himself. It's clear that she did a lot of research on not just pirates, but the day to day running of a ship – at one point she even takes a playful dig at some of the common misconceptions about life onboard a pirate ship via Merrin's inexperience. The dialogue is strong, each character given quirks, interests and a distinct manner of speaking based on their region of origin – the crew is a ragtag group made up of characters from all over the world, some having joined the crew voluntarily and others having been captured during battle. There are exciting twists and turns throughout, though the pacing does suffer a little in the latter half during some of the big reveals. The ending in particular is a little abrupt, but the epilogue does an excellent job of softening the blow and setting up for the next installment.

It is an often emotional tale of the importance of family (both blood and chosen), and of longing to find one's place in the world – while there is some grey morality, The Isle of Gold is largely a hopeful affair, and most of the characters are good people at heart. If you're looking for something purely gritty and grim, this isn't it. However, if you enjoy highly visual nautical fantasy with a healthy dose of romance and whimsy, I strongly recommend it.

For me it was incredibly enjoyable and I'll look forward to the next entry.

How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781536948370, $17.95, PB, 340pp,

James A. Cox

Full disclosure -- I have been the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review for some 43 years now and I have known Carolyn Howard-Johnson in a professional capacity as a freelance book publicist and promoter for more than two decades. I and the Midwest Book Review are mentioned quite positively a number of times in the pages of "How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically", which also includes her adaptation of our "Reviewer Guidelines". We are cyberspace pen-pals and I have given positive reviews for her two previous 'how to' books for writers and publishers: "The Frugal Book Promoter" and "The Frugal Editor".

"How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically" deftly draws upon Carolyn's many years of experience and expertise in helping writers avoid various kinds of pitfalls, misconceptions, and in dealing with the out-and-out scams perpetrated on unsuspecting authors, as well as helping them reach their dreams of great reviews, great book tours, and great launches.

Every aspect of acquiring usable reviews on a 'shoestring/no-string' marketing budget is covered. Of special note to me as an editor of reviews is the fifth section (Writing Reviews Are Powerful Platform Builders) with its instructions on writing professional quality reviews.

Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, style, commentary and presentation, I have only one little quibble with this first edition -- half the references to the Midwest Book Review are not on the page numbers cited in the Index but are to be found a couple of pages later! I know because (my ego being what it is) that's the first thing I looked at when picking up the book for review! But this is something easily corrected in what is certain to be the next printing now that I've drawn Carolyn's attention to it (she is a notorious stickler for detail!).

A fundamental and superbly organized do-it-yourself instruction manual and guide, "How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically" should be considered mandatory reading for every self-published author aspiring to a professional career and every independent press publisher seeking to achieve financial success. It could well serve as a curriculum textbook for college Writing/Publishing courses.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's "How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically" is appropriately subtitled -- The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career.

Unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Simply stated, this comprehensive, definitive, do-it-yourself guide, "How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically", is the next best thing to hiring Carolyn to personally create a review driven marketing campaign for your book.

How to be Happy Overcoming Mind Problems
C. J. Jos, M.D
Anaphora Literary Press
9781681144313, $35.00, HC, 226pp
9781681144306, $20.00, PB, 223pp,

Dr. Agnes J. Elking, PhD

Everyone will readily agree that overcoming the mental illness is absolutely essential to build up a happy life. In this book Dr. Jos puts forward the argument that even the Mind Problems, a broad range of psychological predicaments, maladaptive in nature, sandwiched between the day-to-day life experiences and the subclinical disorders can affect a person's thinking, behavior and wellbeing in profoundly negative ways and bring down the structure of harmony and health. The most studied Mind Problems are Stress and Burnout.

Throughout the book, Dr. Jos presents the convincing evidence that even without the clinical power and fortitude of a mental illness, these Mind Problems can disrupt family lives, wreck marriages, mess up education and career, precipitate suicides and even turn the school kids to mass killers. The chapter 'Nam to 'Bine (Vietnam to Columbine) clearly exemplifies the clinical dilemma faced by the psychiatric establishment in dealing with the Mind Problems. The public was surprised, the vast majority of school shooters, in spite of their horrendously confused minds, did not have a psychiatric diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic Manual, rather they were afflicted only with a cluster of Mind Problems. The book concludes by presenting a cost-effective national plan to prevent the future school-shootings.

Despite these humongous concerns, the general tendency of those with the Mind Problems is to deny or minimize it, and try to cope with it by employing the wrong coping methods: a social drinker drinking even more to relax or using drugs to get high, a smoker smoking much more to calm down the nerves, an unhappy person eating more seeking comfort, and those with restless minds approaching their physicians for nerve pills or sleeping pills to slow it down. These strategies are harmful on their own and also make the initial problems worse.

This book is intended to educate the public on the importance of overcoming their Mind Problems, first and foremost by avoiding the wrong coping methods, and employing the self-employed strategies described here. If do not succeed, they are encouraged to seek out psychotherapy and get evaluated for the medication need. For those concerned of overvaluing the life's mundane problems, thus trivializing the real medical problems, there is plenty of thought-provoking evidence throughout the book, to calm down their nerves.

Dr. Jos is a Professor of Psychiatry at St Louis University, St Louis and a Medical Director at Comtrea, a large non-profit organization in Missouri, treating ill children and adults. The book is available at and Barnes &

The Circle, A Brussels anthology
Patrick Ten Brink, editor
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861707, $22.95, PB, 354pp,

Karmen Spiljak, Reviewer
(author of A Perfect Flaw)

The Circle will surprise everyone who associates the capital of Europe with red tape. This collection of short stories, poems, fairy tales and film scripts is proof of Brussels's international talent. Entertaining takes on life, love and revenge are complemented by nuanced thoughts about everything that makes us human.

Thirty-four emerging authors from nineteen countries will likely change your image of Brussels: no longer just a city of Eurocrats and bureaucracy, but also a creative hub that doesn't shy away from critical thinking. The collection of literature dives into topics like religion, minorities, grief and terrorism and does so in a respectful and reflective manner. Its unusual mix of topics and forms reveals a usually hidden face of Brussels.

The Brussels anthology, published by Harvard Square Editions, will be out on 14th October 2018.

A Matter of Selection
Carol Smallwood
Poetic Matrix Press
9780998146980, $17.00, PB, 97 pages,

Carole Mertz

Intriguing Style and Content

In her Preface to this 2018 collection, Carol Smallwood tells us "It's the whispered that has the most impact," when she reads the work of others. She has a unique way of putting to work the whispered or unspoken in her poems (which I'll illustrate below). She cites a quotation from Octavio Paz who suggests we gain understanding not only from the words chosen by the poet, but also from elusive elements that appear fleetingly from within the poetic pauses, or even from the silences.

"We Select," a pantoum, forms the Prologue to this volume. The second and fourth lines repeat in their correct places as we move through the quatrains. I quote it in its entirety because it is so representative of Smallwood's style. It is a little masterpiece, strong in its use of suggestion, and evoking thoughts or associations that go beyond the page. When we think of a Thanksgiving dressing, aren't we likely to recall our own Thanksgiving events - the friends or family gathered, the full bellies, the communal experiences? And what bundles of associations do we attach to her selected words "morning fog," "a melody," or a "smile of a friend"?

We Select

a few - the selections random: a melody, morning fog, a path,
knowing with certainty at the time they'll be ours to the end -
an imprinting sudden as first love with no thought of aftermath:
a sunset, muffled cry, a Thanksgiving dressing, smile of a friend.

Knowing with certainty at the time they'll be ours to the end,
they return at unexpected moments, their clarity a surprise:
a sunset, muffled cry, a Thanksgiving dressing, smile of a friend.
bringing feeling from depths we cannot withhold, disguise.

They return at unexpected moments, their clarity a surprise
an imprinting sudden as first love with no thought of aftermath
bringing feeling from depths we cannot withhold, disguise.
a few - the selections random: a melody, morning fog, a path.

Many become favorites as I read through the seventy-one poems. They are organized into four sections, of which "Moments in Time" and "Speculations" include especially intriguing content, along with a variety of forms and free verse, as in the other sections.

In any Smallwood collection, it's easy to find yourself moving from as mundane an item as a button box to contemplations of the moon, or from thoughts about light to packets of salt that appear on fast food trays. These poems tell us how thoroughly she contemplates the near and the far, in the life around her. The seeming simplicity of some of her themes makes the poems appealing to the lay reader, just as her style and poetic craft are appealing to the reader who appreciates villanelles, pantoums, triolets, and other poetic forms.

An element of her style not to be overlooked is the humor she injects, often subtle, but sometimes causing outright cackles. in her "J.C. Penney Litany" she speaks of the store's offerings of "shirts on armless plastic, necks neatly chopped." In "A Dishwashing Liquid Pantoum" (p. 67) we are wondering, after "she's" spent many long minutes, which soap "she'll" select. The poet writes:

when a man came, looked a second, walked away with one.
It was time to stop wondering about ULTRA, comparing scents,
studying price per ounce, if degreasing power was overdone…

This comparison of a male's with a female's method of selecting soap formed a fun poem.

In another well-constructed pantoum, she considers the minds of soldiers in the Civil War (p.48). In "Icons" (p.49) she contemplates the Mona Lisa and the Sphinx, and in "what Does it Mean?" (p. 51) she asks what it signifies when people say "It is what it is."

Though this collection includes a near-excess of what I'd call list poems, most of them are redeemed by Smallwood's elegant style and pleasing rhyme words. "Patterns," in the Epilogue (p.97), is as satisfying as the Prologue poem. It's one that again exemplifies the elusive skill of extending thought beyond what lies on the page.

It's notable that A Matter of Selection marks Smallwood's tenth collection issued since January, 2014. Five of these are poetry volumes. I found Interweavings, (Shanti Arts Publishing, 2017), a creative nonfiction volume, particularly rewarding, as well. Smallwood has contributed notable poems and essays to the Society of Classical Poets in recent years. Many of her earlier prose anthologies have served a wide audience of readers, and librarians, in particular.

Through My Daughter's Eyes
Julia Dye
Warriors Publishing Group
9781944353148, $14.94 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 190pp,

Marc Leepson, Reviewer

Through My Daughter's Eyes is a terrific, fast-moving young adult novel that deals with the impact of war and post-war issues on a military family. It's set in the present day and told in the first person by a middle school girl named Abbie.

First-time novelist Julia Dye's father served in World War II, and she writes with authority in the voice of young Abbie as she wrestles with serious growing-up issues - as well as the tribulations all families face before, during, and after a parent is deployed to a war zone.

When things get particularly tough, Abbie has a sit down with her grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran. He tells her of his own difficulties after coming home from the war.

"It was really hard on me," he says. "I couldn't handle it. I couldn't understand why I was hated. I lost friends over there, too. Wasn't easy. I began drinking [and worse]…. It took me a long time to realize what I was doing. If it wasn't for your grandmother, I might not have ever gotten better."

What comes next is believable and poignant -- a good capsule description of this entire worthy YA novel.

Julia Dye, the Vice President and CFO of Warriors, Inc., the top Hollywood military advising company, also wrote Backbone: History, Traditions, and Leadership Lessons from Marine Corps NCOs.

20 Short Ones: 20 Short Stories
Dan Salerno
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishing
1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington, IN. 47403
978149080580105818, $1.99, Kindle
9781490805801, $17.95, PB, 197pp,

Nadine Kells, Reviewer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of fiction that makes me think, and 20 Short Ones by author Dan Salerno is a thinking kind of read with a conversational quality to the storytelling.

The short stories take an engaging look at human relationships of different kinds, and even the religious themes among the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant characters are relationship-focused. I especially liked the depictions of characters who are introverted or socially awkward; it can be easy to portray a character's shyness or introversion as a "flaw" that he or she needs to grow out of instead of a human attribute that can be appreciated as much as another person's outgoingness.

Though this is far from being a "read one story and you've read them all" kind of book, I thought there to be a little redundancy between some of the stories' themes and characters. There are minor punctuation issues throughout the book, and perhaps there are a few too many instances where children in the book speak and come off more like adults.

Nonetheless, this contemplative but still down-to-earth collection conveys plenty of hope while still leaving room for the reader's imagination, and I'd recommend it to other fans of short stories and warm, "thinking" fiction.

Checking Out of the Hotel Euthanasia
Gerard Graham
Ringwood Publishing
9780692047354, $16.00 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 345pp,

Kate Michael

The best way to describe Gerard Graham's Checking Out of the Hotel Euthanasia is to call it a dark comedy. Yes, it's definitely more humorous than anticipated, but there's a lot of very serious and antagonizing material relating to timely (and obviously quite controversial) social issues.

The book's action takes place some decades into the future, in the fictional Principality of Villadedino, where a central "grand" hotel has been turned into a holiday resort… for assisted death. Here, guests can create their own entirely private and customizable end of life experiences and "check out" (or expire) with (or without) dignity, exactly according to their fantasy.

The Hotel Euthanasia is supposed to be the ultimate refuge for those seeking an end to suffering. To participate in this free will experience, guests must pass a cognitive test… but that doesn't mean that they may not have been duped into ending their life this way.

Obviously there are those who don't like this. One of them is Rab, a Scottish man who wants revenge on the hotel for the assisted killing of his parents. He and a troupe of cohorts - assembled and financed by religious interests - plan their own hotel "check out." Theirs involves explosives and destruction of the hotel. But while they are at it, a number of complications arise, and each of them is forced to consider their own views of death, loss, anger, choice and free will.

The issue of assisted dying and the ethical dilemmas surrounding it are certainly not funny, but Swift manages to poke fun and criticize every viewpoint, identify hypocrisy on all sides, and still tell an undeniably interesting story. Readers will finish it without a clear view of how the author wanted you to feel about assisted death, but will hopefully have some deeper personal thoughts on their own views on the contentious subject.

While it has humor and heart in abundance, the book does have some rough patches. First, it is important to know that the author is Scottish, which may help to understand some of the rhythms of conversations. Also beware that there are a LOT of characters, and the reader is never sure which will intersect - or how - and many of their stories are quite complicated.

All in all, Checking Out of the Hotel Euthanasia is a thought-provoking and interesting comedy... 4 out of 5 stars

A Way Out of Nowhere: Stories
Nancy Gerber
Big Table Publishing
ISBN 9781945917370, $15.00, 91 pages,

Carole Mertz, Reviewer
Mom Egg Review

Nancy Gerber is the author of A Way Out of Nowhere, an elegant collection of nine worthy stories. She earned a Ph.D. in English from Rutgers University and a M.A. in Psychoanalysis from the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis-NJ. Her stories have appeared in The New York Times, Mom Egg Review, Adanna, and elsewhere.

Gerber writes about relationships among teenagers and young adults, and relationships between teens and their parents, especially between daughters and mothers. She writes with authority, both with regard to her subject matter and with reference to her writing skill.

While many of her stories are entertaining, they are perhaps better described as quasi-instructional, in particular, instructive for parents of teenagers. A number of the author's protagonists are young adults living within less than perfect family situations, many struggling in spite of privileged circumstances. These twenty-first century kids grapple with questions of whom to trust following deception, neglect, and their own misguided efforts at establishing a place for themselves in their worlds.

The author writes with empathic understanding of the needs that drive young marrieds or adolescents as they cope with their difficulties. Some are alert to the expectations of their parents, and choose to either honor or defy them. Many of the main characters are victims, of sorts, and most are told through the viewpoint of a female.

With economical use of words, Gerber provides brief but adequate descriptions of the settings in which we find the characters - at an ob-gyn office, at the beach, or on the campus, for example. In providing clear sense of place, Gerber also conveys added information within the brief introductory scenes that allows the reader deeper understanding of the characters.

Hannah, in the memorable "The Angry O," tries to cope with her sleep deprivation (and likely post-partum depression) during the first two months following her baby's birth. Her husband returns home to discover Hannah's unusual solution to her fatigue. In this, as in other stories, the author proffers a most plausible and surprising ending.

Gerber's well-crafted endings, in fact, are what add to the satisfactions of this volume. They are sometimes open-ended, but never hackneyed.

Two stories that fall at the opening and closing of the collection justify the book's title. In the initial story, Laura, a first-year college student, meets older student, Jake, a Vietnam War vet. Eager for a sexual relationship, Laura consults a Planned Parenthood doctor to be fitted for a diaphragm. She craves the self-affirmation she'd feel from gaining this older partner. Jake communicates his need for escape, through literature, from lingering war torments. "I feel like I'm nowhere and there's no way out," he states. (16) The reader can readily understand the needs that drive these two toward a relationship. That relationship, though, takes an unusual and unexpected turn.

In the final story, one of the most endearing, Eva is often left alone at home. Her father, divorced from her mother, goes off to live with his new family far across the country. Eva's anger and emptiness sparks her turn to shoplifting. An event, though painful, brings her new perspective and unexpected healing. In this conclusion, Gerber gives Eva and her new friend exactly what the collection's title promises: a way out of nowhere.

My only criticism of the author's technique is that she presents a sometimes too-tidy psychological understanding of her characters. The reader begins to suspect (s)he's encountered a well-constructed composite while wanting to "meet" a singular human being. However, Hannah and Eva are two figures that more than transcend any limitations of characterization.

Furthermore, an artist may surely be justified in using composites to convey intended meanings through modeling of types. It's likely Gerber had didactic purposes in mind. In sum, all of these stories are commendable for their revelations and are well worth reading.

The Choice
James Alexander
Double Dragon Publishing
9781771154093, $15.99 PB, $5.99 Ebook, 243pp

Anne King

Quirky Characters, a love story, and the clash between Jared and his evil counterpart, J-Rock, in an alternate dimension, are skillfully woven together to make The Choice an enjoyable read. The commitment between Jared and Kate provides a strong contrast to the evil of J-Rock's world. The story is fast paced, with good transitions as it moves between Jared and J-Rock's realities. The climatic ending wraps the story up nicely but keeps the reader wondering if there might be more to come. Although readers of many different genres would find something to like in The Choice, it is recommended for community library science fiction/ fantasy collections. Fun read!

Ghosts I Have Known: A Paranormal Romance
Nhys Glover
TCK Publishing
9781631610554, $14.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle,144pp,


"Greyworld took a fresh approach to an old theme. You won't have ever seen, read or heard a ghost story quite like this. The characters' abilities are unique, and both the main characters, Beth and Jake, will win you over easily. You may even find yourself caring for the other characters too, as the author manages to make even the secondary characters feel real.

The two interwoven perspectives present intriguing stories that stood alone by themselves but were, in fact, crucial to the development of the one overlapping storyline. The characters are not static, we see them growing, maturing, learning precious lessons from one another and life.

There were funny moments, tense and touching ones, passionate and romantic ones, even some action and heart-wrenching scenes where one cannot help but feel deeply for the characters involved."

Blue Collars
Catherine McLaughlin
Spinner Publications
9780932027252, $16.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 240pp,

Elizabeth Pimentel, Essayist and Freelance Writer
This review was previously published in the "New Bedford Standard Times"

"My mother is leaving home for the first time in her eighty years of life." From this opening line you know that Catherine McLaughlin's searing debut novel Blue Collars is about resilient personalities with strong ties to family and locale.

Fiona "Finn" Kilroy, the narrator raised in an Irish-Catholic family, comes of age in New Bedford, Massachusetts during the 60s. Unlike her mother, who grew up in an era when it was rare for working-class women to travel out of their surroundings, Finn lives through a time of social upheaval and changing norms.

Having previously published a collection of poetry, "Under a Circus Moon," McLaughlin has now created a powerful work of fiction. The narrator describes her extended family, their working-class neighborhood, and the town where she was raised with such intimacy and clarity that it's hard to believe this isn't a memoir. Like the fishermen from this seaport town where she grew up, the author reels you in.

Although McLaughlin and I have never met, I know her world. Finn could have been my next-door neighbor, so vividly are the characters portrayed, and so accurate is the depiction of events and the description of the South End where, as contemporaries, we both spent our childhood.

My mind teemed with memories of years spent under the stern tutelage of the sisters at St. Mary's School. I shivered recalling how I, too, learned the backstroke at Municipal Beach swim classes, held rain or shine. Once, while walking along the top of the waterfront's imposing hurricane dike, I dropped my key chain into one of the crevasses and finally retrieved it by fashioning a hook and line from a bobby pin and string. I relived trips to Gulf Hill for the tastiest ice cream ever, Saturday afternoon double features at the cinema on Water Street, bustling with activity, and hours spent at the library where Finn and I both lost ourselves in books.

The author's lyrical prose details the heart-warming, yet dark, disturbing life of Finn, a little girl residing in one of New Bedford's ubiquitous three-story tenements where both her grandparents and aunt and uncle's family also lived. She is the daughter of a hard-working and hard-drinking textile mill loomfixer and a loving, yet naive mother. Religion plays a big part in Finn's daily life. "...all come in now for the Rosary!" her mother would call out of the second-story window to her five children playing outside.

But beneath the veneer of a strong Catholic family lies a house divided. Finn's mother is constantly at odds with her alcoholic husband. "Do you have to come home drunk every night?" she laments, while he responds, "I'm not drunk. Lay off me."

Finn tells of her father's eventual unemployment, her clandestine friendship with an African-American girl, and her close bond to her adored older sister, Molly.

Against the backdrop of the demise of the Berkshire Hathaway mill, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, a secret unfolds and gnaws at Finn throughout her childhood and adolescence - one she fears would tear apart her tight-knit family.

Like the dike shielding the harbor and factories of this New England city, Finn builds a wall of silence to protect her loved ones. But the specter of guilt and shame has left its imprint.
McLaughlin captures the full array of emotion as Finn's girlhood progresses. On one page she plays blissfully at the beach with her father and siblings, on another she is shaken by the death of her best friend's brother.

The author's creative strength is getting into a troubled child's mind, uncovering the humiliation, self-loathing and self-blame, and explaining it with deep self-reflection, the way a young girl would. She reaches back to the past and relates it to the present, as when Finn recalls her father. "He was a humble man, and I've often wondered if he ever felt appreciated, or if he felt like the lonely breadwinner on the outskirts of his family's life, unthought of as we slept in our beds." The characters are our neighbors in a stunningly portrayed mill city in the midst of economic depression and changing values.

McLaughlin, a professor emerita at Framingham State University, was mentored as a graduate student by James Baldwin. The influence of his book, The Fire Next Time, is evident in her raw portrayal of racism on a national, community and personal level. Furthermore, like Baldwin, she seamlessly interweaves her poems into the novel. In the chapter titled "Origins of Shame", she begins with a verse:

"...Children hide in the hollows eating stolen apples / poisoned with their shame."

Finn's setbacks and disappointments serve as catalysts toward self-discovery. She begins as a fearful little girl dealing with her anxiety by ritualistically tearing at the plaster wall behind her bed. Yet she evolves into a teenager who defies the racism and hypocrisy of her family, a graduate student who finds romance while living abroad, a mother and writer.
This is a story of survival. But it is also a love story to a girl's family. As Finn recounts, "The connections among three generations had been forged in that tenement and our love for each other. The threads of our individual lives, while occasionally strained, were drawn from this family and this neighborhood, woven together like the fabric of the mills, the whole cloth durable and of an intricate, colorful, and comforting design."

Courage in a White Coat
Mary Schwaner
Prairie Muse Books Inc.
9781937216962, $18.00, PB, 512pp,

J. Kemper Campbell, Reviewer
Lincoln Journal Star: July 8, 2018

Lincoln author Mary Schwaner's new book, "Courage in a White Coat," commemorates the remarkable life of Dorothy Kinney Chambers, M.D., a pioneering female physician, medical missionary and devout Christian whose life spanned the twentieth century. As one of the few women graduating from an American medical school during the 1920's Dr. Chambers became an American Baptist missionary to Assam, a remote province in northeastern India where she established a hospital which successfully administered the needs of an impoverished Hindu population.

After marrying a fellow missionary, the couple was sent to an island in the Philippines just prior to the Japanese invasion after Pearl Harbor. Interned in the infamous Santo Tomas camp in Manila in 1943, the Chambers and their two small children managed to survive the war by enduring the brutal conditions there. Only Gen. Douglas MacArthur's decision to send a "flying column" of relief troops to liberate the camp saved the family from the Japanese plan to exterminate the entire camp population. Other missionaries who had elected to flee into the hills to avoid capture were beheaded.

Author Schwaner features only the 17 years of Dr. Chambers' foreign experiences in writing a biographical novel. Since Dorothy was allowed to send only two 20- word letters during her captivity, the dialogue and experiences had to be extrapolated from the later reminiscences of this naturally modest woman and the reports of other survivors of the camp.

Schwaner is skillful at interweaving Dr. Chambers' own words into her fictional interpretation of the family's wartime ordeal and the lengthy book flows more like a novel than a documentary. Vintage photographs and appropriate maps are also included in the book.

Dr. Chambers, who died at age 100 in 2001, serves as a worthy example of the sacrifices made by the civilian population as well as the military during World War II. The book emphasizes the strong religious foundation of Dr. Chambers and her family and should be a welcome addition to the shelves of any Christian book store. Certainly Dr. Chambers' role as an early feminist, medical doctor, church leader and supportive wife, mother and grandmother deserve to be remembered.

In the World War II movie, "Saving Private Ryan", the dying words of Tom Hanks' character, Captain Miller, were to admonish Ryan to "earn" the sacrifices made by his men by living an honorable life. Dorothy Kinney Chambers unequivocally earned hers.

From Deep Within: A Forensic and Clinical Psychologist's Journey
Susan J. Lewis, PhD, JD
MSI Press
17660-F Airline Hwy, #203, Hollister, CA 95023
9781942891758, $16.95, PB, 214pp,

Viga Boland, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

More than likely, you've most often seen the people that Susan J. Lewis writes about in her book, From Deep Within, in TV crime shows. Now and then, you might even have come across some of them wandering around your neighborhood. Odds are, of course, that these people are the ones you'd avoid: smelly derelicts, foul-mouthed hookers, tattooed drug users, pedophiles and though you might not recognize them as such, schizophrenics or even murderers. And it might be hard, when you see or meet one of these people, not to make assumptions or pass judgement on how or why they became who they are. But that is what a forensic and clinical psychologist like Susan J. Lewis had to do from the first day she began working with folks like these, and as you'll find out when you read From Deep Within - and you should - that is anything but easy.

The nice thing about reading psychological thrillers is being able to read the last page and think, "That was a riveting read; thank heaven it's only fiction!" From Deep Within is more than riveting: it's shocking, eye-opening, often very frightening, but sadly, non-fiction. Erin was found in her bed, covered in blood and lying next to her dead son, while her poisoned daughter lay dead nearby. Did she really kill them? She says she didn't. Susan believed her until…? Ralston, 60 years old and sexually abused as a child, abused one boy after another until he was convicted of murdering one during sex in the woods. He told Susan the boys wanted it and that he wasn't dangerous. Why then did she feel so tense and frightened when she interviewed him?

And what of all the people who find relief from inner pain by cutting themselves? Why do they do it? Or what about all the rehab and institution programs that are supposed to help these unfortunate souls who hear voices telling them to commit atrocities they don't remember or think they didn't do? Why don't they take their meds and what happens when they forget or intentionally stop? And then there are the competency hearings: is the accused capable of standing trial? If they do, will they get a fair trial? Or, if someone like Susan decides it is safe to let an inmate return to the community, how can she be 100% sure they won't hurt someone in the future?

Readers who care about people, who wonder why so many go astray while others live a good and productive lives, will gobble up the pages of this book faster than they would a psychological thriller. From Deep Within is chilling; its characters are unforgettable. More importantly, they are real: you couldn't create more complicated characters. Susan J. Lewis shares their stories, not with a clinical distance or intellectual analysis, but with compassion and understanding. An absolutely compelling and highly recommended read.

Strength for Parents of Missing Children
Marie White
Hawaii Way Publishing
PO Box 7595, Visalia, CA 93290
9781945384080, $16.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle
9781945384189, $24.99, HC, 214pp,

Jamie Michele, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Strength for Parents of Missing Children: Surviving Divorce, Abduction, Runaways and Foster Care by Marie White is a self-help and spiritual guide for parents, guardians, and loved ones of children who have been removed from their lives under a variety of circumstances. White's book details her personal journey and struggles while offering insight on how she was and is able to deal with a situation that most cannot even comprehend. With the use of scriptures and stories, White weaves empathy and hope throughout the book in a way that only a parent who can relate to the devastation of losing a child themselves could.

In the interests of full disclosure, I believe it is important for me to state that I am a foster parent myself. The children who come in and out of my life have their own issues and grief to contend with, which ultimately becomes mine. Initially, it was easy for me to blame a parent who lost their child or children to the system. Over time, with the assistance and guidance of social workers, child psychologists, and interaction with the children's parents (through contact, which some children receive), my viewpoint changed. At this juncture of my own journey, Strength for Parents of Missing Children: Surviving Divorce, Abduction, Runaways and Foster Care by Marie White is a guide that is sorely needed. It's beautifully composed and written without judgement and - most importantly - without suspicion that the situation is due to fault on the part of a parent. All reassurance given is in the form of God's plan... His plan for you, His plan for us, and His plan for the child. Even as a non-Christian, I found solace in what White provided and will keep this book on hand as a reference if and when I am ever in doubt again. Highly recommended.

The Orchard Lover
Christianna McCausland
Spring Idyll Press
9780692084038, $12.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 235pp,

The BookLife Prize

"The author weaves together the lives of multiple characters in this clear and tightly plotted novel. Each page reveals layered secrets that will keep readers turning pages. McCausland's delicate prose is poetic and deftly written. The many characters' voices shine through. Although the themes in McCausland's story will feel somewhat familiar, her treatment of each character and the entire community brings a freshness that readers will appreciate. The characters here are well developed and memorable. Even secondary characters have detailed backgrounds and feel real and vivid."

Finding Her Heart: A Christian Romance Novel
Donna Wittlif
TCK Publishing
9781631610547,$14.99, PB, 244 pp,

Harriett Ford

"A young girl, challenged by a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, is on her way to a college for aspiring artists. Does she really have this syndrome, or is it simply the isolated way in which she grew up with an aunt and uncle? The challenge of meeting new people is daunting. Yet in her heart, she longed to wear a blue dress, feel like a princess, and have the prince of her dreams turn his head and smile at her. With only a small amount of money, her art supplies, her only friend, a rescued pup she called Boots, Allison soon faces life with a determination not to go back into her "secret place." She meets grief, betrayal, thieves, cheats, but also finds real friends and one who gives her a Bible. In those hallowed pages, Allison finds much more than a friend.

This book will appeal to every person who is shy, lonely, or has had a hard time making friends. The author draws the character of Allison from experience, having taught for many years and having students who were diagnosed on the spectrum of Asperger's. Her insight and skill as a writer, plus the message of overcoming, makes this a must read."

Death in a Mudflat
N.A. Granger
Copper Ledge
9780692103470, $12.00 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 260pp,

Barb Vitelli, Reviewer
Book Club Mom

When a dead woman's body emerges from a mudflat in Pequod, Maine, it doesn't matter that part-time detective Rhe Brewster and the chief of police are at a wedding across the way. Rhe and her former brother-in-law (and new love interest), Sam Brewster, are more than willing to run over, don a set of hazmat suits and secure the scene.

Sam and Rhe can only initially guess at the whys and hows, but their expert team's careful attention to detail and Rhe's nose for making connections take the reader on an investigation that is both cozy and challenging and in which Rhe places herself in many dangerous situations. Is she reckless or is she just an ace detective? Now that they're a couple, Sam may have trouble working this out.

Death in a Mudflat is Granger's fourth Rhe Brewster mystery, a fun series set in the fictional coastal town of Pequod. In this small-town setting, Granger has developed a cast of characters and community that reflect New England values and personalities. But just like other small towns and larger communities across the country, Pequod struggles with modern problems, including the east coast's growing heroin crisis.

As the investigation continues, Rhe and Sam discover possible connections to other deaths, casting doubt on several shady characters. And when a student from Pequod College turns up dead, they must consider an even larger case. Granger does a great job introducing the second case into the story and readers won't know if they are connected until the story's exciting end.

These investigations consume a lot of time, while Rhe continues to work as an Emergency Room nurse at Sturtevant Hospital and also raise her son, Jack, an active eight-year-old. But Rhe, Sam and their friends manage to keep the fun going in their own lives. A little romance and a couple fights over Rhe's risk-taking make the story both realistic and entertaining. In addition, Rhe's close friendship with Paulette McGillivray adds another dimension to the story when Paulette joins a mystery group dedicated to solving cold cases.

Granger's extensive medical knowledge shows, as Rhe's hospital and police life forever overlap. The author also includes details about modern police procedures and technology which greatly enhance the story. Readers will also enjoy how Granger incorporates hot coffee and many tasty foods into her characters' days, often from the Pie and Pickle, Pequod's local cafe.

Themes about love, friendship, helping others and justice over the bad guys make Death in a Mudflat and the whole series great reads and I recommend these stories to mystery readers who like a good puzzle as well as others who enjoy reading about modern life in a small town.

Mud Puddlers
Shaun Bailey
Independent via Smashwords and Amazon
9781520976600, $11.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 258pp,

Kimberlee J. Benart, Review
Readers' Favorite

5 out of 5 stars

If you like well-researched novels based on some fascinating, if sometimes brutal, true American history, Mud Puddlers by Shaun Bailey is for you. On one level, it's the fictional story of William Black, a Hoover Dam worker who dabbles in union organizing and illegal gambling. One gets him arrested and brutally beaten; the other places him at deadly odds with others. On a broader level, Bailey has written a tribute to the sacrifices of those who completed this historic structure. His inclusion of the 1931 poem, "Us Old Boys on Boulder Dam," by Claude Rader conveys the spirit from that day.

I read Mud Puddlers not just as a reviewer, but as someone who lived for many years in Las Vegas and was privileged to tour parts of the dam structure not open to the general public. Bailey has done a magnificent job in providing a historical backdrop to his plot, which describes not just the feat of the dam construction itself, but also the place and the times in which it occurred, including such aspects as the union movement, the treatment of African and Native Americans, and the rise of criminal activities. His narrative is descriptive, flowing, and engaging. The characters are well developed and become real to us.

That said, some readers may struggle with keeping their interest in the story through large amounts of dialog in the vernacular. I did. But hold on! Bailey has some suspenseful and dramatic moments coming at you that you won't want to miss. Caution: there is murder and mayhem afoot. And, as far as the rumors of a body being buried in the dam go, I'll only note what one of the characters said: "Ain't paranoia if it's true." A masterfully written, informative, and entertaining read.

Ann's Bookshelf

Hell Ship
Michael Veitch
Allen & Unwin
9781760630843, A$32.99, paperback, 272 pages

Hell Ship is a history book but it reads like an action-filled novel. There are heroes and villains, dubious characters, drama, thrills, births and deaths, terrors, suspense, discovery and gold. History, when I was at school, was never this exciting.

On Wednesday, 4 August 1852, Dr James William Veitch, then aged twenty-seven, left Liverpool as assistant ship's surgeon on board the clipper, Ticonderoga. This was his first appointment at sea aboard a government-commissioned emigrant vessel which was bound for Australia, and it was to be his last. Not because he died from typhus, as one quarter of those on this voyage did, but, perhaps, because of the horrors he experienced on this journey.

Dr Veitch was the great-great-grandfather of the author, Michael Veitch. No-one in Michael's family had ever talked about his story, so there is an element of detective fiction about this book. For a ship which caused so much terror and concern when it sailed, like a ghost-ship, into Port Phillip Bay, the Ticonderoga is now all but forgotten. But Michael has researched it thoroughly, using archives, letters, naval documents, newspaper reports, and accounts left by survivors of the voyage and by those who were involved when the ship arrived in Australia. Michael Veitch, as "a comedian, broadcaster and author" brings to life the society and the circumstances which led to this emigrant voyage, and the lives of the people who lived on board the Ticonderoga for the three-months it took to make the journey.

By 1851, England's woollen industries were heavily reliant on imports of Australian wool. A gold-rush in Australia drew men from the cities and the land to the goldfields and threatened the wool-clip. At the same time British cities were struggling to cope with the influx of impoverished Irish and Scottish families who had been forced from their homes by potato famine and by landlords eager to run sheep on their land. Michael Veitch tells of a maverick character, Edward Gibbon Wakefield - ex-convict, ex-politician, persuasive talker - who was responsible not only for the establishment of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission ('the Board') but also for persuading Australian States to stop offering free grants of land to new settlers but, instead, to auction them and use the money to help impoverished emigrants. He also negotiated a reduction of the cost of the British Government's assisted passages which were designed to help emigrants desperate for a better life. So, the "£10 Pom" heading for Australia in the 1950s was long preceded by the £13 emigrant. And impoverished Scots were offered free transport.

Michael Vetch writes of the development of fast clippers like the Ticonderoga, their races to reduce the time of runs to the Far East and to Australia, and of "Bully" captains who drove their ships and their crew on these races - "Hell or Melbourne" one captain is recorded as responding when asked to slow down. Captain Boyle on the Ticonderoga was not like that but the rigours of this journey were equally hard.

Crowded conditions on the ship, the terrible heat and inertia in the tropics, and the terrors of the icy Arctic seas and their terrifying storms, all would be enough to suffer. But the outbreak of typhus, the sickness and the deaths which broke up whole families and also struck the crew, forced the passengers to help sail the ship. Dr Veitch became solely responsible for the sick when the Chief Surgeon also contracted typhus, and it was he who dealt with the authorities when the Ticonderoga finally sailed into Port Phillip Bay close to the small colonial city of Melbourne and was put under quarantine.

The threat of typhus in the city caused panic and kept the Ticonderoga and its surviving passengers, plus the sick and dying, away from the city in a remote bay where they were eventually landed and housed in tents and makeshift huts.

Truly, this was a hellish journey and a hellish reception. Dr Veitch, however, had met a young woman who became his nursing assistant on board ship and who, eventually, he married. The photograph of him and Anne which is included in this book shows a comfortable sitting-room scene and a relaxed-looking middle-aged married couple. Theirs was a tale of great courage, resilience and love and Michael Veitch tells it well.

Alone (a graphic novel)
Christophe Chaboute
Translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger
9780571332441, A$32.99, hard back, flexible cover, 368 pages

"IMAGINATION: n. The ability to form a mental image of fictional or perceived objects or concepts not actually present to the sense. The ability to invent, create or concoct."

This prefatory definition in Christophe Chaboute's graphic novel, Alone, perfectly describes both Chaboute's skills in this book and those of his main character who has lived alone in a lighthouse for fifteen years and has never left the isolated rock on which it is built.

The book is translated from the French but there is little speech to translate, the pictures alone say almost all that needs to be said. Unlike his earlier graphic novel The Park Bench, which followed the story of a number of people who visited or passed the bench, Alone (apart from one very brief scene) has only three characters - a boatman, his new deckhand and the hermit, who is the deformed son of the former lighthouse keeper.

With pictures and a few words, Charboute captures the characters of the boatman and his deckhand, and, especially, of the hermit. We see the imaginative world in which he lives We see his habitual occupation of dropping a dictionary onto his table so that it falls open at a single definition. Each definition raises images for him but they are shaped by his own lack of experience of the outside world: BATTLE: invokes vivid pictures of armies in which the soldiers are dressed and armed like those on a small model of Roman soldiers which he owns. CONFETTI: conjures pictures of people throwing Frisbee-sized paper discs.

We see, too, his regular feeding of his only companion - a small fish in a goldfish-bowl. And we see his sensitive response to expressions on the face of the fish. "I'm Sorry", he says when he notices the fish watching him eat a fish he has caught for dinner, and he props up a book so that the fish can't see him.

Each week, the boatman and his deckhand drop off supplies for the hermit but they never see him. The deckhand becomes increasingly curious about him and one day he secretly leaves a note with the supplies asking if there is anything he wants. The hermit responds with a request for pictures of the world and, along with the hermit, we view the great variety of places, people and activities which the deckhand eventually provides but for which the hermit can only imagine a context. Some of the things, like a bus or a skyscraper, he would never have seen before.

There is humour and pathos in this story. And the final pages leave us wondering what the outcome of the hermits' momentous new decision will be. We can only imagine it.

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Hope After Betrayal
Meg Wilson
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825445675, $16.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Meg Wilson is a regular speaker to women's groups, Bible studies, and conferences. Eighteen years ago she began leading Healing Heart groups then in 2013 she founded the Hope After Betrayal Ministries to bring help and hope to women whose husbands are caught in the web of sexual addiction.

Meg Wilson watched her world fall apart when her husband confessed to years of sexual addiction. She has intimate knowledge of the devastation that follows -- and she has come through the other side.

Now in a newly revised and expanded second edition of "Hope After Betrayal: When Sexual Addiction Invades Your Marriage" that includes the new lessons Meg has learned over the last decade, Meg continues to provide reassuring counsel, compassionate insight, and wise direction. By sharing her story, talking to other women who've been in a similar situation, and turning to Scripture, Wilson has helped countless readers through the steps to recovery -- and shows how you can follow that same path out of the darkness.

Of special note is a compelling final chapter by Meg's husband that sheds further light on the difficult road to healing from sexual addiction. A thoughtful new appendix addresses the effect sexual addiction has on children in the home.

Critique: Very highly recommended, especially to anyone having to deal with marital infidelity in their own lives or the lives of loved ones, "Hope After Betrayal: When Sexual Addiction Invades Your Marriage" is especially recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hope After Betrayal" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, 16.14).

Lady Long Rider
Bernice Ende
Farcountry Press
PO Box 5630, Helena, MT 59604
9781560377221, $16.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: At the age of 51, Bernice turned south into the unknown and began her first trip on her way to becoming a world-class long rider. Since that fateful decision she hasn't looked back. Accompanied by her horses and an exceptional dog named Claire, Ende has logged more than 29,000 miles in the saddle, crisscrossing North America and beyond.

She traversed the Great Plains, the Southwest deserts, the Cascade Range, and the Rocky Mountains and was the first person to ride coast-to-coast and back again in a single trek, winning acclaim from the international Long Riders Guild.

Through her rides, Bernice shares the heartfelt and inspiring story of inner struggles and triumphs. She tests the limits of physical and mental stamina, learns to cope with inescapable solitude, and ultimately finds the reward of a life well-lived. Readers will be moved as Bernice discovers a renewed sense of self, profound and lasting friendships, and an understanding that home is a concept that extends beyond any border or map.

Critique: "Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback" is the personal and deftly crafted memoir of Bernice Ende and the story of her unique goal of traveling from Trego, Montana to New Mexico in a single ride. A simply fascinating read from beginning to end, "Lady Long Rider" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections.

Go Bravely
Emily Wilson Hussem
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9781594718250, $13.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: In "Go Bravely: Becoming the Woman You Were Created to Be", Wilson Hussem (a speaker, author, and musician who travels the world sharing her faith through witness and worship) offers her readers warm and friendly encouragement as she shares her experiences with other young women as their youth minister as well as her own struggles with insecurity, relationships, loving and forgiving herself, and living her faith. "Go Bravely" challenges the reader to be a light in the world while simultaneously offering easy-to-digest advice on a series of most pressing questions.

Fresh off figuring out who she is as a daughter of God, how to cultivate healthy friendships, how to save sex for marriage, and how to develop a prayer life, Wilson Hussem gives you advice about what she learned in the midst of becoming a young woman. Aware of the information overload that young people face today, she shares simple wisdom for bravely living your faith, such as: Always be kind to other women; Work hard at what you love; Recognize God's plan for your life; Remember that nobody is perfect; Cultivate authentic friendships.

These are basic ideas, but taking care of yourself and loving others are easy tenets of the Christian faith to forget. "Go Bravely" offers encouragement and the tools necessary to living out a Christian faith with purpose and zeal.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Go Bravely: Becoming the Woman You Were Created to Be" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Go Bravely" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.51).

Love & Wisdom: 37 Timeless Reflections
Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave
9781911282297, $16.95, HC, 104pp,

Synopsis: The 37 timeless reflections in showcased in the pages of "Love & Wisdom" by Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave have survived through space and time, offering inspiration. An heartening, emotive and enchanting volume, "Love & Wisdom" offers contemplative comfort and hope. The uplifting, inspirational quotes, that are as relevant today as they were centuries ago, are each framed by an extraordinary combination of exquisite sixteenth century art from the Smithsonian Institution's Freer|Sackler Gallery, and stunning contemporary images of the heavens -- many from National Geographic Creative.

Critique: For those new to the writings of Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave, her web site at will prove to be of particular interest and value. Beautiful, inspired and inspiring, "Love & Wisdom: 37 Timeless Reflections" is an ideal gift book selection and is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Physical Disobedience
Sarah Hays Coomer
Seal Press
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781580057738, $17.99, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Even as a wave of renewed feminism swells, too many women continue to starve, stuff, overwork, or neglect their bodies in pursuit of paper-thin, media influenced, ideals of feminine beauty and fitness. Essentially, the concept of 'Fitness' has been co-opted by the beauty industry. We associate it with appearance when we should associate it with power.

Grounded in advocacy with a rowdy, accessible spirit, "Physical Disobedience: An Unruly Guide to Health and Stamina for the Modern Feminist" by self-proclaimed 'diet abolitionist' Sarah Hays Coomer asserts that denigrating our bodies is, in practice, an act of submission to inequality. But when we strengthen ourselves by taking broad command of our individual physicality we reclaim our authority and build stamina for the literal work of activism: the protests, community service, and emotional resilience it takes to face the news and stay engaged.

"Physical Disobedience" introduces a breathtaking new perspective on wellness by encouraging nonviolence toward the human body, revitalizing our physical selves through diet and exercise, fashion and social media, alternative therapies, music, and motherhood. The goal is no longer to keep our bodies in check. The goal is to ignite them, to set them free, and have a mighty fine time doing it.

Critique: If you are a woman from 16 to 86 and only have the time to read one self-help, self-improvement book, make it Sarah Hays Coomer's "Physical Disobedience: An Unruly Guide to Health and Stamina for the Modern Feminist"! Exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Physical Disobedience" is a life enhancing, inspired and inspiring read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Physical Disobedience" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

50 Do-It-Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens
Janet Garman
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510731752, $19.99, PB, 168pp,

Synopsis: With the fully illustrated instruction manual "50 Do-It-Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens: Chicken Coops, Brooders, Runs, Swings, Dust Baths, and More!" by farmer Janet Garman (who blog can be found at, now anyone can embark into the world of raising chickens, one DIY project at a time. Owning and raising chickens doesn't have to be an expensive hobby. With imagination, simple tools, and salvaged or bargain materials, you can make everything your flock needs for their health and safety.

Buying a chicken coop can be a major expense. Follow the steps provided in this comprehensive and step-by-step instructional guide to retro fit an existing structure into a chicken palace fit for the fanciest hens. Brooders, grow out pens, and chicken runs can easily be pulled together and give your feathered family a safe place to scratch and peck.

If your chickens want fun activities, create boredom busters there are DIY directions for building a chicken swing, a dust bath, outdoor roosts, front porches, and resting perches. Also featured are the building of a nesting box area fit for the best broody is included. With this DIY instructional you can even set up a maternity ward and brooder pen in the coop. Dropping boards to dust baths, feeding stations to first aid, read and learn the simplest ways to provide the infrastructure and fun that your chickens need to grow and thrive. After all the project building, and chores are done, treat your flock to a delicious seasonal recipe with one of the recipes included.

Critique: Practical, comprehensive, profusely illustrated, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "50 Do-It-Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens: Chicken Coops, Brooders, Runs, Swings, Dust Baths, and More!" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal and community library collections. It should be noted that "50 Do-It-Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

What You Must Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Jeffrey Anshel, OD & Laura Stevens, M.Sci
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004490, $17.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most commonly diagnosed eye disorder in people over fifty. Well over two million Americans have been told they have AMD, and that number is expected to grow substantially. While this is a frightening statistic, over the last several years, medical researchers have shown that a number of effective treatments can slow, stop, and even reverse the progress of AMD. Now, Dr. Jeffrey Anshel and Laura Stevens, who herself has been diagnosed with this condition, have joined forces to produce an up-to-date guide to what you need to know to combat and even prevent AMD.

"What You Must Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration: How You Can Prevent, Stop, or Reverse AMD" is divided into four parts.

Part One explains how the eye works and how AMD develops, in both its wet and its dry forms. It then looks at the most common risk factors and explains how each of these factors negatively affects the structures of the eye.

In Part Two, the authors look at the specific nutrients that affect the various cells of the eye. Included is a discussion of AREDS?the National Eye Institute's study that showed which supplements help protect the eye from disease.

Part Three offers an additional weapon against AMD. It explains why diet matters and offers advice on selecting foods that promote eye health while eliminating those that do the most damage.

Part Four provides practical suggestions and easy-to-follow tips on how to incorporate this valuable information into your life.

If AMD runs in your family or you have been diagnosed with this potentially life-altering condition, it is important to know that there is not only hope, but a real path to a better, healthier life. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more likely you are to avoid the consequences of AMD.

Critique: An ideal explanatory and instructive presentation that is impressively informative and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "What You Must Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration: How You Can Prevent, Stop, or Reverse AMD" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Macular Degeneration supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for medical students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "What You Must Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Ben Thompson: Portrait of a Gunfighter
Thomas C. Bicknell & Chuck Parsons
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574417302, $34.95, HC, 688pp,

Synopsis: Ben Thompson (November 2, 1843 – March 11, 1884) was a remarkable man, and few Texans can claim to have crowded more excitement, danger, drama, and tragedy into their lives than he did. He was an Indian fighter, Texas Ranger, Confederate cavalryman, mercenary for a foreign emperor, hired gun for a railroad, an elected lawman, professional gambler, and the victor of numerous gunfights.

As a leading member of the Wild West's sporting element, Thompson spent most of his life moving in the unsavory underbelly of the West including saloons, dance-houses, billiard halls, bordellos, and gambling dens. During these travels many of the Wild West's most famous icons such as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, John Wesley Hardin, John Ringo, and Buffalo Bill Cody, became acquainted with Thompson. Some of these men called him a friend; others considered him a deadly enemy.

In life and in death no one ever doubted Ben Thompson's courage; one Texas newspaperman asserted he was "perfectly fearless, a perfect lion in nature when aroused". This willingness to trust his life to his expertise with a pistol placed Thompson prominently among the western frontier's most flamboyant breed of men -- the ones called 'gunfighters'.

Critique: An impressively detailed and comprehensive biography, "Ben Thompson: Portrait of a Gunfighter" is the collaborative work of historians and biographers Thomas C. Bicknell and Chuck Parsons. A solid work of impeccable scholarship, "Ben Thompson: Portrait of a Gunfighter" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of illustrations, an informative Foreword by Robert K. DeArment; five appendices, seventy-nine pages of Endnotes, a twenty-six page Bibliography, and a seventeen page Index. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Ben Thompson: Portrait of a Gunfighter" is especially recommended for community and academic library 19th Century American History & Bibliography collections -- as well as being of immense interest to both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the famous gunfighters of the Old West.

The Shadow Emperor
Alan Strauss-Schom
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250057785, $32.50, HC, 512pp,

Synopsis: Considered one of the pre-eminent Napoleon Bonaparte experts, in "The Shadow Emperor: A Biography of Napoleon III", historian and biographer Alan Strauss-Schom has turned his sights on another in that dynasty, Napoleon III (Louis-Napoleon - 20 April 1808 to 9 January 1873) who has long been overshadowed his more romanticized forebear.

In the first full biography of Napoleon III Strauss-Schom draws upon his years of primary source research to explore the major cultural, sociological, economical, financial, international, and militaristic long-lasting effects of France's most polarizing emperor. Louis-Napoleon's achievements have been mixed and confusing, even to historians.

He completely revolutionized the infrastructure of the state and the economy, but at the price of financial scandals of imperial proportions. In an age when "colonialism" was expanding, Louis-Napoleon's colonial designs were both praised by the emperor's party and the French military and resisted by the socialists.

He expanded the nation's railways to match those of England; created major new transoceanic steamship lines and a new modern navy; introduced a whole new banking sector supported by seemingly unlimited venture capital, while also empowering powerful new state and private banks; and completely rebuilt the heart of Paris, street by street.

Napoleon III wanted to surpass the legacy of his famous uncle, Napoleon I. "In The Shadow Emperor" now sets the record straight on Napoleon III's legacy.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "The Shadow Emperor: A Biography of Napoleon III" is a truly extraordinary study and a critically important addition to both community and academic library 19th Century French History & Biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Shadow Emperor" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Comic Book Implosion
Keith Dallas & John Wells
TwoMorrows Publishing
10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614
9781605490854, $21.95, PB, 136pp,

Synopsis: Things looked bleak for comic books throughout the 1970s because of plummeting sell-through rates. With each passing year, the newsstand became less and less interested in selling comic books. The industry seemed locked in a death spiral, but the Powers That Be at DC Comics had an idea to reverse their fortunes.

In 1978, they implemented a bold initiative: Provide readers with more story pages by increasing the price-point of a regular comic book to make it comparable to other magazines sold on newsstands. Billed as "The DC Explosion," this expansion saw the introduction of numerous creative new titles.

But mere weeks after its launch, DC's parent company pulled the plug, demanding a drastic decrease in the number of comic books they published, and leaving stacks of completed comic book stories unpublished. The series of massive cutbacks and cancellations quickly became known as "The DC Implosion".

With the publication of "Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978" by Keith Dallas and John Wells, TwoMorrows Publishing marks the 40th Anniversary of one of the most notorious events in comics with an exhaustive oral history from the creators and executives involved (Jenette Kahn, Paul Levitz, Len Wein, Mike Gold, and Al Milgrom, among many others), as well as detailed analysis and commentary by other top professionals, who were "just fans" in 1978 (Mark Waid, Michael T. Gilbert, Tom Brevoort, and more) -- examining how it changed the landscape of comics forever!

Critique: "Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978" is an impressively informative and welcome study that is a 'must' for any and all dedicated comic book fans on the history of their favorite literary format -- the American comic book. Profusely illustrated throughout and a simply riveting read from cover to cover, "Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.

The Handy Forensic Science Answer Book
Patricia Barnes-Svarney & Thomas E. Svarney
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Road, #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578596218, $21.95, 400pp,

Synopsis: Forensic science is the application of science to criminal and civil laws, mainly (on the criminal side) during criminal investigation, as governed by the legal standards of admissible evidence and criminal procedure.

Covering the fundamentals, science, history, and analysis of clues, "The Handy Forensic Science Answer Book: Reading Clues at the Crime Scene, Crime Lab and in Court" provides detailed information on crime scene investigations, techniques, laboratory finding, the latest research, and controversies. It looks at the science of law enforcement, how evidence is gathered, processed, analyzed, and viewed in the courtroom, and more.

From the cause, manner, time of a death, and autopsies to blood, toxicology, DNA typing, fingerprints, ballistics, tool marks, tread impressions, and trace evidence, "The Handy Forensic Science Answer Book" takes the reader through the many sides of a death investigation. Arson, accidents, computer crimes, criminal profiling, and much, much more are also addressed.

"The Handy Forensic Science Answer Book" gives real-world examples and looks at what Hollywood gets right and wrong. It provides the history of the science, and it introduces the scientists behind breakthroughs. An easy-to-use and informative reference, it brings the complexity of a criminal investigation into focus and provides well-researched answers to over 950 common questions.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Handy Forensic Science Answer Book: Reading Clues at the Crime Scene, Crime Lab and in Court" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Forensic Science collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist readers with an interest in the subject that ""The Handy Forensic Science Answer Book: Reading Clues at the Crime Scene, Crime Lab and in Court" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Building the Modern World
Michael H. Hodges
Painted Turtle
c/o Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814340356, $39.99, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Albert Kahn (March 21, 1869 – December 8, 1942) was the foremost American industrial architect of his day. He is sometimes called the "architect of Detroit". In 1943, the Franklin Institute awarded him the Frank P. Brown Medal posthumously.

"Building the Modern World: Albert Kahn in Detroit" by journalist and historian Michael H. Hodges tells the story of this German-Jewish immigrant who rose from poverty to become one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. Kahn's buildings not only define downtown Detroit, but his early car factories for Packard Motor and Ford revolutionized the course of industry and architecture alike.

Employing archival sources unavailable to previous biographers, "Building the Modern World" follows Kahn from his apprenticeship at age thirteen with a prominent Detroit architecture firm to his death. With material gleaned from two significant Kahn archives-the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library and the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution-Hodges paints the most complete picture yet of Kahn's remarkable rise.

Special emphasis is devoted to Kahn's influence on architectural modernists, his relationship with Henry Ford, his intervention to save the Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts (unreported until now), and his work laying down the industrial backbone for the Soviet Union in 1929-31 as consulting architect for the first Five Year Plan.

Kahn's ascent from poverty, his outsized influence on both industry and architecture, and his proximity to epochal world events make his life story a tableau of America's rise to power. Historic photographs as well as striking contemporary shots of Kahn buildings enliven and inform the text. Anyone interested in architecture, architectural history, or the history of Detroit will relish this stunning work.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "Building the Modern World: Albert Kahn in Detroit" is an extraordinary study of an extraordinary man and an essential, core addition to community, college, and university library Architectural History collections in general, and Albert Kahn supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of architectural students, practicing architects, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Building the Modern World: Albert Kahn in Detroit" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.49).

Never Stop Learning
Bradley R. Staats
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781633692855, $30.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: The reality of today's economy is that the only constant is change.

Technological automation is making jobs less routine and more cognitively challenging. Globalization means you're competing with workers around the world. Simultaneously, the internet and other communication technologies have radically increased the potential impact of individual knowledge.

The relentless dynamism of these forces has created a new imperative: everyone must now strive to become dynamic learners if they are to live satisfying lives and labor in satisfying jobs. In every industry and sector, dynamic learners outperform their peers and realize higher impact and fulfillment by learning continuously and by leveraging that learning to build yet more knowledge.

In "Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive", behavioral scientist Bradley R. Staats (Associate Professor of Operations at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School) describes the principles and practices that comprise dynamic learning and outlines a framework to help you become more effective as a lifelong learner.

These steps include: Valuing failure; Focusing on process, not outcome, and on questions, not answers; Making time for reflection; Learning to be true to yourself by playing to your strengths; Pairing specialization with variety; Treating others as learning partners

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Never Stop Learning" is an extraordinary and thoroughly 'reader friendly' study that can change the lives of fortunes of its readers. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Never Stop Learning" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Never Stop Learning" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.49).

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

The Grave Above the Grave
Bernard Kerik
Humanix Books
9781630060992, $26.99, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: New York City Police Commissioner Rick Raymond was a captain back in 2001 when terrorist planes struck the Twin Towers, killing thousands -- including fellow police officers and Raymond's wife. Ever since that awful day, as he climbed the ranks, Raymond vowed to protect his city, his police force, and citizens. For Raymond this means an uncompromising dedication to his duties, while at the same time juggling the political demands of his office – the grandstanding mayor, the ever-questioning press, and oh yes, his torrid (but secret) romance with District Attorney Sheilah Dannis.

During the aftermath of a shooting in Times Square that left on cop dead and one gravely wounded, Raymond finds himself at the center of the drama when he confronts and takes out cop killer. When the cop killer is revealed to be a radical Islamic terrorist, Raymond's vow takes him on a dangerous mission to save and protect New York City from another devastating attack -- a mission that will take a very personal toll.

Critique: A deftly crafted and simply riveting thriller of a read from first page to last, "The Grave Above the Grave" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Grave Above the Grave" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.64) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781974919529, $29.99, CD).

The Naked Communist
W. Cleon Skousen
Izzard Ink
PO Box 522251, Salt Lake City, UT 84152
9781630729233, $32.95, HC, 452pp,

Synopsis: W. Cleon Skousen (January 20, 1913 – January 9, 2006) is best remembered as an author, speaker, and teacher who lectured in every state and province in North America, and in more than sixty countries worldwide. He was a student of history and a scholar of law, specializing in the principles of freedom, the U.S. Constitution, economics, and ancient history and scriptures. Professor Skousen was invited to write a new constitution for Canada and the proposed United States of Latin America, and he published a model constitution that could be adopted by nations everywhere. He served in the FBI for sixteen years, as Chief of Police in Salt Lake City for four years, and as a professor at Brigham Young University from 1951-55.

After searching unsuccessfully for a concise literature on the communist threat, Professor Skousen saw the urgent need for a comprehensive book that could guide the American conversation. So he distilled his FBI experience, decades of research, and more than one hundred communist books and treatises into one clarifying, readable volume that became a touchstone of American values and earned praise from the likes of President Ronald Reagan, Glenn Beck, and Ben Carson. "The Naked Communist" draws a detailed picture of the communist as he sees himself: stripped of propaganda and pretense. Readers gain a unique insight into the inner workings of communism, including its appeal, its history, its basic and unchanging concepts, even its secret timetable of conquest.

Soon after its quiet release during the height of the Red Scare in 1958, "The Naked Communist: Exposing Communism and Restoring Freedom" was an extraordinary success, finding its way into the libraries of the CIA, the FBI, the White House, as well as community libraries and personal reading lists all across the United States.

From the tragic falls of China, Korea, Russia, and the UN, to the fascinating histories of Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers, Elizabeth Bentley, and General MacArthur, "The Naked Communist" lays out the entire graphic story of communism, its past, present, and future.

Critique: Now in an updated edition, "The Naked Communist: Exposing Communism and Restoring Freedom" is remarkable timely for a new generation of readers -- especially in view of the puzzling relationship President Trump seems to have with Vladimir Putin and his Russian oligarches. While communism as an economic system is now pretty much defunct, it has been replaced by a Russian Mafia system, making it a continuing danger to the stability and freedom of the world. While highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Naked Communist" is also available in a paperback edition (9781545402153, $19.88) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Real Trump Deal
Martin E. Latz
Life Success Press
c/o Brisance Books
9781944194475 $27.95

Synopsis: Understand why Donald Trump's negotiations prevailed and failed. Learn from internationally recognized negotiation expert Marty Latz as he analyzes over 100 Trump negotiations and guides you through dozens of Trump's strategies, highlighting which to use and avoid. Trump's dealmaking past provides insight as to how he will negotiate with the rest of the world-and what it means for everyone's future.

Trump considers himself one of the world's best negotiators. But is he? Learn how he succeeded and failed in his 50 years of negotiating deals. Then evaluate his negotiations as president. Our safety rests on his skills.

Donald Trump has provided unprecedented transparency into his business negotiations. His counterparts have also not been shy (including in over 4,000 lawsuits). We know what he did. Trump Tower. Taj Mahal. The Apprentice. President Trump has also now negotiated with Congress and the world. Does this require different strategies?

Find out how to use his effective strategies-and avoid his counterproductive ones. That one new tactic you gain may make the difference between walking away a winner and leaving empty-handed.

Critique: The Real Trump Deal: An Eye-Opening Look at How He Really Negotiates is a guide to understanding and learning from the negotiation tactics of billionaire, businessman, and American President Donald Trump. Author Martin Latz, who has studied and taught negotiation for over 25 years, has analyzed more than 100 Trump negotiations and distilled insights, salient points, tips, tricks, techniques, and more. Eye-opening, informed, and informative, The Real Trump Deal is highly recommended for any businessperson seeking to learn from Donald Trump, regardless of their personal views on politics.

The Whistling Factory
Jesse McManus
Uncivilized Books
9781941250297 $29.95

Synopsis: Imagine comics created from the DNA of John Kricfalusi, Charles Burns with a dash of Jim Woodring. You'd end up with animated, visionary comics by Jesse McManus. His fluid, hyper-kinetic, and lush brush strokes delineate a surreal visionary world of feral children, rubbery animals, and constantly-mutating monsters. The Whistling Factory is an audacious debut from the sui generis frenetic imagination of Jesse McManus.

Jesse McManus has been drawing comics for a long time. He was the youngest contributor to the now legendary oversize Kramer's Ergot #7. His comics were featured in many different publications including Vice Magazine. Jesse lives and works in Portland, OR.

Critique: The Whistling Factory is a graphic novel partly in color and partly in black-and-white, that crosses boundaries with its uncaged, passionate, and shocking art. The story, told with long stretches of wordless scenes in between sections with text balloons, depicts a surreal situation of children gone wild and consumption compounded by further consumption. The Whistling Factory revels in the bizarre and unfathomable to the very last, twisted dreamscape page.

Clint Travis

Duncan's Bookshelf

Lost Light
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780759527898, $34.95, hc, $9.99, Kindle, 2003, 368 pp

Lost Light is one of twenty novels in the Harry Bosch series. The lead character Harry Bosch is, at this point, a retired member of the 'What Do I Do Now?' club. He served 25 years on the LAPD, grew to respect his fellow cops, and is newly separated from his wife. Harry remembers a victim who lay dead on cheap tile with her arms raised, as if she was asking for his help. The case is four years old; his memory nags at him.

The novel is written from first person viewpoint; you know what Harry is thinking. You also experience his pain when he visits Lawton Cross, the detective who is a paraplegic in a wheelchair. You will stop breathing when four men try to kill Harry. There is a surprise in the last chapter; it brought a tear to my eye when I experienced Harry's hesitant happiness.

Lost Light is a crime novel with a savvy detective. Lots of easy reading and action (Yes, cliche, cliche). This was my first experience (no cliche, the truth) with crime fiction. Thank you, Mr. Connelly.

We Were the Mulvaneys
Joyce Carol Oates
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0452282829, $7.98, hc, 454pp.

Respected in the community until a Valentine Day's 'incident' that the Mulvaneys refuse to acknowledge or discuss. The beautiful daughter Marianne is raped by a 'no-good-trash' of a boy. Father Michael (Sr) refuses to talk to his only daughter. Michael (Jr) joins the Marines. Patrick (P.J.) throws away a career in biogenetics. Their mother Corinne sees the family disintegrate.

This is a story of a family who were the respected Mulvaneys until their village shunned and ignored them. The father's business declines; he turned to alcohol. Michael J. could not tolerate the family tension; he rejected his family. Patrick turned to science to 'propose' how humans evolve; he rejected all contact with his family.

The business is lost; the farm is lost; the Mulvaneys are lost. This family will get under your skin as you absorb their pain. You will suffer when Muffin (Marianne's cat) is dying. You will mourn the loss of the vibrant family leader (Michael Sr) as he rejects his family. Oates gave us the Mulvaneys; her portrait of the family describes the hope and compassion that exists in the hearts of us all.

World Without End
Ken Follett
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street; NY/NY 10014
9780525950073, $24.95, 2007,1054 pp.

World Without End is fiction surrounded by English history of the 14th Century. For all the novels in the world Follett has spent three years creating a masterwork. This is the story of Caris, Gwenda, Merthin and Ralph in the years before England (and Europe) were devastated by the Black Death. They were four young people living in Knightsbridge; they dealt with religious persecution, medical mythology, aristocratic mistreatment of serfs and the prejudice of monks who strove to preserve their power.

Merthin (a carpenter's apprentice) must overcome older carpentry myths to build a new Knightsbridge 'two lane' bridge. Caris becomes a leader among the nuns; she sees ways to improve medical treatment. Ralph becomes a knight and believes the world owes him respect. Gwenda leads a life of poverty and supports her husband who is hated by Ralph. The lead monk at the Knightsbridge cathedral works to preserve his position and easily subverts common sense medicine and new architecture.

The Black Plague almost destroys Knightsbridge. The people survive, Caris 'finally' weds Merthin, Gwenda's husband is no longer a serf. The 14th Century: we can have some confidence that Follett's novel illustrates how the people lived. The word 'masterwork' was used by this reviewer with deliberate caution; it is inadequate to the scope of World Without End.

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

The Crescent Stone (The Sunlit Lands)
Matt Mikalatos
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496431714, $15.99,

Oregon author, Matt Mikalatos releases his new fantasy series "The Crescent Stone" August 7 with a story set in "The Sunlit Lands" where the sun never sets.

It's a young adult tale of adventure, magic and fantasy wrapped in the lure of promises, bargains and healing for Madeline, a high school senior whose been given three months to live. The story is very good; however, the underlying theme of socialism often intrudes and overtakes the story.

The two-part adventure opens with Madeline clinging to a garden trellis "straining to breathe." The doctor had told her to "enjoy her last spring" and she had snuck into the back garden "without telling anyone," also without a way to call for help. She didn't want her boyfriend Darius to feel sorry for her and had broken up with him and left her phone inside because he wouldn't stop calling and texting.

That's when Madeline saw a strange appearing older woman, "her grey hair sticking out like straws of an overworked broom." A coughing episode had left Madeline gasping for air as the woman approached and asked for a moment of her time.

The woman ignored her distress and instead showed Madeline three items she'd found in the garden and asked if she could borrow them. If Madelina agreed she would give her "three favors and one piece of advice" in return. The items were trash to Madeline and she told the woman to "take them," but please call her mother to help her and the adventure begins.

Madeline couldn't know how valuable the women's promises would become. She didn't yet know she would soon meet a mysterious stranger named Hanali, the hidden cost of a bargain she would soon make or the price her best friend Jason Wu would pay. She had yet to learn who the Scim were and why she was recruited to war against them alongside other young humans in crisis or the rules of magic that brought life or death and the ability to make little things big and big things small.

The story is captivating, the setting and characterizations believable and well done, however the heavy-handed message of socialism on pages 299, 300, 319 and 369 pull the reader into the world of politics which shatters the mystique of the story.

Otherwise the story would be a nine on a scale of one to ten.

Hidden Among the Stars
Melanie Dobson
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496417329, $15.99,

Melanie Dobson, award-winning author of more than fifteen historical romance, suspense and time-slip novels, releases "Hidden Among the Stars" September 4. This time her multifaceted story is one of romance and suspense wrapped inside a mystery that unites past and present with an extraordinary story of castles, lost dreams and hidden treasures.

The picturesque castle of Herr and Frau Dornbach and their seventeen-year-old son Max sets against the backdrop of Austria's beautiful Lake Hallstatt. The time is 1938 when "Hitler's troops swept into Vienna" and the Gestapo terrorized the Jewish population and robbed them of their dreams.

The hidden treasures were recorded in code on the back page of a German book titled, Bambi: A Life in the Woods, a book found by a young woman almost a century later in America.

With alternating past and present chapters, the story opens in Austria on the Dornbach estate in the spring of 1938. It's late in the evening when Annika, the caretaker's daughter was awakened by someone sneaking "by the cottage she and her father shared in the woods." She was alarmed because the family only came for Christmas. Annika went out and hid in the trees only to find Max, her one-time playmate, friend and new romantic interest "looking straight at her."

Seventeen-year-old Max, still a year away from conscription into the Third Reich, had been stunned by the Nazi's taking of the Jewish people, their finances and lands, many of whom were childhood friends. Determined to help he hid many of their precious treasures in a secret place on the Dornbach estate for when the insanity of the Third Reich ended. Then he recorded where to find the treasures in a cryptic code inside a children's book.

Callie Randall, blogger and co-owner of the "Magic Balloon Bookshop" found the book eighty years later and saw what appeared to be a coded message in the back of the book and listed it on the store's website in the "lost and found" section. She couldn't know the life-changing events she had just unleashed or how they would lead to travel, new relationships and the solving of a here-to-fore unsolvable mystery.

Thus, begins a story of faith that captures Hitler's reign of Austrian terror and heartache with a story that highlights the cost of loyalty, friendships and love. But, it's also a romantic tale of castles, lost dreams and hidden treasures wrapped inside a captivating and suspenseful mystery complete with an unpredictable, unforeseen and unexpected ending. Not a book to miss!

A Treacherous Mix: #3 of 3 Ozark Mountain Trilogies
Kathy Herman
David C Cook
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408059, $14.99,

"A Treacherous Mix" by Pacific Northwest author Kathy Herman completes her Ozark Mountain Trilogy with an intriguing story of moral failure that leads to conspiracy, deception and murder. It's also a story of moral compromise and faith lived out against the backdrop of the Cummings family, twenty-four-year-old Hawk Cummings, a secret affair and a mysterious young woman.

The story opens with Brody Armison pretending to watch "the sailboat races on Beaver Lake" from a vantage point high up on Sure Foot Mountain. However, his spy glass was really trained on a classy appearing woman and "rugged" looking man on the blanket next to her. Brody was surprised such a mismatched couple were so obviously smitten with one another.

That's when Brody saw a "cool looking hexacopter drone" approach and hover only to spray a "reddish appearing vapor" over the unknowing couple before two men "wearing gas masks and black coveralls" ran out of the neighboring trees. They ignored the now comatose man, grabbed the woman's limp body and ran toward a "huge house visible through the trees" where a black Suburban sat in the driveway; slid the body into the back of the vehicle and quickly sped away. Brody had no idea that what he'd just seen would soon put him in extreme peril.

Thus, begins a roller-coaster mystery of danger, intrigue and suspense where twenty-four-year-old Hawk Cummings wakes in a meadow feeling as if "a giant spider had spewed venom onto him!" The beautiful woman he knew as Taylor had disappeared. Hawk, his head pounding, feeling dizzy and disoriented, stumbled to his feet and walked slowly through the trees toward Taylor's house.

He found the home completely empty, stripped of all furniture and wall hangings as if Taylor had never lived there. Still confused and disoriented he wondered if Taylor had dumped him yet he knew it would take planning to empty a house of this size so quickly. That's when he realized he knew very little about Taylor other than their secret times together.

He'd broken his otherwise strong moral code just to be with a beautiful woman even though he was shamed and embarrassed by his actions - now his secret would come out. What he couldn't know was the danger he had put himself, his family and friends in.

Although Herman's well-developed plot and setting are enhanced by realistic characters that show the consequences of sin, the prayers and religious references seem heavy-handed at times as if the author were preaching instead of building a story line. Still the plot, the story and the surprising, unexpected ending are exceptional with characters that capture the intricacies and far-reaching consequences of moral failure which makes "A Treacherous Mix" a book not to miss.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Grace's Bookshelf

Four books not reviewed but listed as AUGUST'S BEST BOOKS for summer reading.

Horn Section All Day Every Day
Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow
Salmon Poetry
90 pages

Atmospheric Embroidery
Meena Alexander
Triquarterly/ Northwestern University Press
89 pages

Someone Is Breathing
J. Morris. Dos Madres
81 pages

Bliss In Triple Rhythm
Martin Bidney
Dialogic Poetry Press
444 pages

Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems
Ted Kooser
Copper Canyon Press
9781556595332, $30.00, 228 Pages

If kindness and love are advanced into poetry, time after time, Pulitzer-Prize-Winner-Ted Kooser is probably the author. Now we have poems selected from nine books published 1980 – 2017, plus 49 new poems.

A new art can be made any moment where Ted Kooser observes human behavior, or nature, or a shift in the weather; especially when he identifies the harmony of inter-relationality. His voice is instrumentation that can be heard in every line, clear, crisp from a life rooted in the Great Plains. His structures are meaningful because the form matches content; and he sees no other reason for innovation and ornamentation. And so, Kooser's welcomed into homes and classrooms as a poet who integrates daily life into elevated thought.

It's a complicated world and Kooser knows this well so he likes to untie the knot of complexity and see how far it can extend to the reader. He comes from the material he writes – the poetry is from his blood, not from an intellectual debate. The postcard poems to his lost lifelong friend, Jim Harrison, are among my favorites; they stay with me after the book is closed because together they shared a big life - each an original talent exchanging the best of himself.

Kooser once said he had 'a happy childhood.' That doesn't explain everything but it may contribute to the goodwill in these poems, lasting images, and writing that will not be erased.

(From Winter Morning Walks (100 Postcards to Jim Harrison)

March 20
The vernal equinox

How important it must be
to someone
that I am alive, and walking,
and that I have written
these poems.
This morning the sun stood
right at the end of the road
and waited for me.

Esperanza and Hope
Esperanza Snyder
Sheep Meadow Press
9781937679750, $17.95, 102 pages (plus a bonus poem in dialogue with the book by Stanley Moss.)

A great idea begins the book. Esperanza (Hope) Snyder writes a 12-page precis disobeying usual formats, to give us an honest conversation as context for the poems. This fine-grained exposition of a life strongly lived reads with energy lifting the page. Had this not served as intro, the poems might be appreciated as illuminations, but maybe more like fireflies that need a backdrop to be seen exactly.

What strikes me most is that this isn't a dream journey as with many other poets. It's a real journey from Columbia, Madrid, Italy, West Virginia – a strange progression you might think but you'll see Snyder's storytelling forms as barrages of truth. A poem is only as good as the poet, only as thoughtful, as meaningful. Snyder is an accomplished poet and consummate scholar, speaker of languages, on a constant quest for meaning. This makes up the tumult beneath each poem leveled by spices of earnest emotion.

Page after page, I kept going as if in a fairytale/drama - such an inveterate woman on her own, as child, as young person, as single mother and wife. How she delivers this true hearted passage is completely without self-pity. It's a strong expressionistic commitment to tell each piece of the puzzle. The sensuality of place, taste, scene and color is a gift from the author and innate in her nature. I'm completely taken with this book, worthy of our best attentions. It's bold and reaches deeply. Rilke says, "I was seeking who I was …" Snyder has found herself, handsomely, in this collection.


That year, I traveled five thousand years to Tuscany,
to live with a man from Fiesole who sold door handles
to Ferramenta stores. We went to Assisi, San Gimignano,
Milano, Ferrara, drove to Arezzo through cypress trees-lined
roads, saw Petrarch's home, drank brunello, decanted
and slightly warmed. One weekend in February
we walked along paths on top of city walls
that Ercole d'Este commissioned in Ferrara.
From our hotel balcony I watched a woman bike
along the Po, her legs hidden by fog. I remember
her long hair, red bike handles, torso floating on clouds.
We hadn't been together centuries, the lying had not
started yet, though I already felt like getting on an eagle
and flying home, except there was no "nest" for me,
not with my mother and her second husband, not
with my first husband and his anger. The lying
had not yet started, but part of me, like the woman
on the bike - felt invisible, polluted like the waters of the Po.

If You Have to Go
Katie Ford
Graywolf Press
9781555978112, $16.00, 61 pages.

The book has several sections, but it's section ll that fascinates most. 39 perfect sonnets of three stanzas with an end couplet. And, oh what she does with that form. The content contains (as form always" contains") the end of a marriage despite the book's tentative title. These are not exactly a "crown" of sonnets where the last line of one poem begins the first line of the next; although it's in the tradition of a single theme spoken to a single person. These poems are some variation, where a word or more is carried from the last line to the next poem - making music without disruption. This is nothing less than a full dramatic monologue with innuendo, philosophy, interior soliloquy. The spectrum of emotions ranges from dispassion, to passion, to acceptance, to inquiry, and disbelief, and more. A lesser poet would have descended into pity but Ford will have none of that when, instead, she can build a home from a kingdom of words to live in and rule magnificently.


My room is small, but not too small -
my room is green, green, succulents and sea,
the green of a peony so red it pinkens
the comb-y light-string I hang now in my room.

Not cavernous and no space to fear:
my room.
No dank closet where someone may have died
(or buckled carefully her shoes, then died).

I make my bed every morning.
I don't know where to start so I start with the bed.
Then I fall to my knees against it.

Without knowing what I'm falling to,
no mind makes it do it, my body just falls.

Sing Silence
Le Hinton
Iris G. Press
$TBA 80 pages

Cotton. How can book of nearly 90 pages address one word: Cotton. Hinton does, because each poem shows a stain on American history. Cotton becomes the antecedent for anger, the main character in a play; cotton speaks for itself; it's reviled, described, and chillingly said. There are interviews with cotton, uses, remembrances – but beneath it all are the backs broken under scorching suns for an economy built on that breakage. Hinton lyricizes the mantle of what's been endured – this element from nature that transformed a world. The true strengths in the writing are fact and fury. And, sadly, what still separates us in this world is cotton – how each of us, with unlikely connections, see the world differently through experience. These poems are words that work for Hinton. Passion and progress make up the only coherence we can hope for. The fabric of the past is a letter to the future, signed by Le Hinton.

Uses of Cotton (Eraser)

When my brother tells the story,
he forgets to mention the sock, black
and worn. Mom darned it in three places;
Dad used it as an eraser.

I never leave out the part
about his teaching
us numbers. When to add.
How to subtract.

He set up a blackboard in the back-
yard and wrote problems on it. Even invited
the neighborhood kids. We earned a piece
of candy for each one we got right.

Four and five-year-old black boys
standing at the blackboard doing math
and hoping never to need the eraser,
hoping to taste a Tootsie Roll.

Back then I didn't know the whole story:
How Mom and Dad sat at the Formica table
in our yellow kitchen as he counted his jobs
and the money from each one while Mom mended

the holes in our socks. We slept upstairs
and never worried or counted sheep
knowing they'd always fix the holes,
at least until we learned to do the math ourselves.

Blue Mistaken for Sky
Andrea Hollander
Autumn House Press
9781938769337, $17.95, 80 pages

We hear Hollander through the language she's mastered. We notice she's created the best possible titles for your poems – an art where few excel. We love her pathos and the truth of it. Each poem is an entirety, with reverent detail, tailored to hold emotion. The impact is sometimes unwanted, because it ramifies the credibility of the heart; and so it's not without pain. The dignity of craft provides seamless control. Then there is the integration of sound and movement, color and sight. Some days I think that hope is such a long way away, and then I read a poet like this –and life is in full gear. The book means so much to me. And will be saved to read again.

The Laws Of Physics

First from the porch, then the driveway
I shouted his name, its single syllable
a stone I believed I could heave
far enough to stop him
as he walked and walked
with that purposeful slowness
I'd come to recognize, his back
a shield against my voice.

At the end of the block he stopped
like that ocean wave in the footage
we'd seen together on TV,
its pinnacle pausing
just before it breaks,
before the wall it has become
swallows the shore, the houses,
and of course the people,
no matter how fast they run.

A stone is denser than water
and I hurled it at his back.
Didn't I understand
the simplest laws of physics?
Throw a stone at her wave –
at its apex when it looks
most fierce – and the stone
will pass right through.

Enter Water, Swimmer
Mary Morris
Texas Review Press
9781680031546, $15.95, 55 pages

Morris's sweet natural voice has already won her a fan base – fact and reason are turned to compassion and lyric. The impact of her work comes from a lack of adornment and artifice; you can trust every word. How does she do this? By allowing the thought to be the wellspring of language and not the other way around. In this way a pure tone is achieved contrasting itself into form. Morris celebrates existence even with its dangers. She finds the emotional differential to focus on in each situation turning the mere act of living into a matter of success. There are no elaborate outpourings or moral lessons here – just the privilege to pay homage to life under the banner of poetry.

In the Center of Night, the Heart Slips
Out of Its Socket

builds a nest in the solar plexus,
squirms there.

Now and then it dresses up,
ventures out, dances

to the music of vespers
and Latin guitars, or murmurs

with water under a bridge
in an ancient Chinese painting.

Sometimes there's arrhythmia,
that erratic short circuit of loneliness,

but tonight the heart is an organ of joy,
of love's circulation, valves opening

for tiny boats of happiness.

The Carrying
Ada Limon
Milkweed Editions
9781571315120, $22.00, 91 pages

"A Name:" When Eve walked among/the animals and named them - /Nightingale, red – shouldered hawk, /fiddler crab, fallow deer - /I wonder if she ever wanted/them to speak back, looked into/their wide wonderful eyes and/whispered, Name me, name me."
Limon names everything in her poems from the red mailbox of suburbia to the satire of dining with funders. This poet can turn any subject into a lively presence – she can symbolize a tattoo to reveal a loving mother and daughter – nature is hers, also, whether it's the muddy Mississippi or watching goldfinches. These different worlds are channeled into a fusion of voice that carries a distinct and individual force. It couldn't be imitated for every page is a new picture with a special touch bringing it alive. She can speak of subjects where another would turn it to intellectual debate. But not Limon. The heart, not the head, is at the center of the line, and in the issues, and we can hear it beating.

It's Harder

Not to unravel the intentions of the other -
the slight gesture over the coffee table, a raised
eyebrow at the passing minuscule skirt, a wick
snuffed out at the evening's end, a sympathetic
nod, a black garbage can rolled out so slowly
he hovers there, outside, alone, a little longer,
the child's thieving fingers, the face that's serene
as cornfields, the mouth screwed into a plum,
the way I can't remember which blue lake
has the whole train underneath its surface,
so now, every blue lake has a whole train
underneath its surface.

Jos Charles
Milkweed Editions
9781571315052, $16.00, 63 pages

If you live between countries, you have to make up your own language. Jos Charles is a trans poet and expresses life with words invented to describe both alienation and freedom. "… bieng tran is a unique kinde off organe…/ I am speeching…" (XXIV.) Chaucerian in appearance, the altered language, read aloud, still maintains lyric recognition and strong meaning. The story has fierce moments, for instance, with what the world sees and distorts as porn. Being trans is described as being broken horse (brocken hors) as well as horseman (horseman). The poems are about expressing/ demonstrating/ wishing to speak of experience as truly as possible, even if the only way is to manufacture hieroglyphs that are closer to the soul than the appropriated language that belongs to all.


next inn line
at the feemale
depositrie room / mye
jossled eggs
inn a witen sack /
were that i were goldenne
mye rayte / the tayste off gold
inn eggs / cravyng a room
just emtied enuff
2 curl myeself
inn / thees the dreggs / the grl beguines

Nancy Miller Gomez
$TBA 26 pages

Thank you, Nancy Miller Gomez, for taking us behind bars, for sharing searing stories relayed beyond guards – Lorenzo, we will never forget you - Thank you also, Gomez, for the essays telling how saving lives saved yours. 'Growing Apples' in Cell C is reason for all of us to go on. How do we get this book to every appointed official? How do we get this book to everyone?


They used books as weapons.
This is not a metaphor.
Because there were no blankets and they were cold,
the men in cell block L threw books
with intent to do bodily harm.
They rained down from above.
Rained down from the cells.
Guards shielded themselves
with dinner trays and mop buckets.
The men tossed entire libraries. A rage of books.
Lobbed in high arcs like footballs,
or pitched overhand like grenades.
Hardcovers shattered on cheekbones
or exploded on the back of someone's head.
Paperbacks spiraled down, loose pages fluttering.
Thin ones skipped across the shiny tile like stones on water.
There was mayhem. There was blood.
Words littered the floor. Guards ran for their lives.
The men had spent years collecting -
biographies, mysteries, histories, science fiction,
even poetry books, their spines fine and reedy,
or thick with free verse.
One man threw his grandmother's leather Bible.
Inside the front cover in elegant script
she'd noted the date and time of his birth.
Now it lay face down, back broken.
Another man hurled his family album.
It fell from the third floor, the photos scattering
on impact. His wife, his son, his daughter
smiled up from the chaos.

Wild Side of the Window
Irene Fick
Main Street Rag
$TBA 35 pages

"…Wild…" is funny and sweet. Fick has the gift for saving the finest features from an Italian American family with idiosyncratic and loving details. Epitome loves poetry and Fick knows how to stretch a glide so that writing is vivid and the growing-up-experience is indelible.


An inverted triangle settles into place each night,
straight lines linking three divergent points
in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania.
Aunt Adeline, Aunt Bernice and me, each of us
swathed in flannel, each of us slanting back

into our leather recliners, cradling mugs of cocoa,
cider, tea, each of us are aligned with Jeopardy,
primed for the math teacher from Texas,
the musician from Maine, the physicist from Utah,

Evolved, high–speed brains crammed with data.
Not at all like us: scattered spectators angling
our remotes, holding on to what little we know,
making do with small, finite connections.

New Poets of Native Nations
Heid E. Erdrich, editor
Graywolf Press
9781555978099, $18.00, 267 pages

Ojibwe member, Heid Erdrich, presents 21 poets published after 2000, making this the only anthology of really new Native American writers. What takes the eye right away is the amount of innovative poetry introduced here. It's a startling array of every poetic form known, plus some not named yet. The authors' bios are unintended works of historical significance for these poets wish to name their ground before stamping it with poetry's pride. We have concrete poetry, language poetry, narrative, poetic prose, anecdotal and lyrical.

Gwen Nell Waterman writes in her own voice ("Theory Doesn't Live Here:") My grandparents never talked/about theory, decolonization, or/post–colonial this or that./They talked about/good times and bad times./Their self– determination was/not a struggle against/colonialism affecting their/self–imagination./They worked hard to survive./They didn't imagine themselves/through story./They knew themselves/through the stories they heard/as they sat under the kitchen table/listening to the old people talk./They didn't need theory/to explain where they came from –/they lived it.

Layli Long Soldier shows every skill in a piece of long line extensions, first saying he doesn't consider the six-pager "a creative piece" - yet it is, in spite of the disclaimer -
describing the story of the Sioux uprising and the subsequent hanging of "The Dakota 38." This poetic prose is followed by pictorial poems that use the page artfully. I call attention to show the latitude given the poets by their editor; and the merit of the word new poets – not only in chronology and lineage but performance. This book is a Republic of Truth with history via prosody.

Heart Butte, Montana

The unsympathetic wind, how she has evaded me for years now,
leaving a guileless shell and no way to navigate. Once when I stood
on a plateau of earth just at the moment before the dangerous,
jutting peaks converged upon the lilting sway of grasslands, I almost
found a way back. There, the sky, quite possibly all the elements,
caused the rock and soil and vegetation to congregate. Their prayer
was not new and so faint I could hardly discern. Simple remembrances,
like a tiny, syncopated chorus calling everyone home: across
a thousand eastward miles, and what little wind was left at my back.
But I could not move. And then the music was gone.
All that was left were the spring time faces of mountains, gazing down,
their last patches of snow, luminous. I dreamed of becoming snow melt,
gliding down the slope and in to the valley. With the promise,
an assurance, that there is always a way to become bird, tree, water again.

Ozark Crows
Carolyn Guinzio
Spuyten Duyvil Press
9781947980228, $TBA, 70 pages

I love crows! They're as smart as our most advanced primates. They can be trained; they judge and assess us; they have great communication skills within their flocks. Caroline Guinzio has done something with her crow love/obsessions. Her words take flight not only releasing information but creating visual works of art with crow 'verbiage.' Words swirl and lift and define their space like line drawings. Each page is different in figure and story. It's entertaining, original and captures how imagination and reality make everything fresh with beautiful black crows. They bring thoughtful moments into our world with an interplay of poetry and art.

Stephanie Pressman
Illustrations by Lydia Rae Black
Frog On The Moon Press
9781719588195, $18.00, 58 pages.

This is a delightful combination: the present day, fairytale, folklore, and myth. At the heart of the details is a real sensibility and a bit of biography sweetly said –also, fantasy must be tethered in reality to be meaningful. Misery and loss are prevalent in each of our worlds but made better by imagination and a fanciful way of seeing. We're never too old to wish for the magic garden.

The Goldfish Window
Lisa Beech Hartz
Grayson Books
9780998258898, $15.00, 93 pages

This book could be taught as an exemplar of ekphrastic poetry. Great paintings from the 19th and 20th century are memorialized in luminous writing with three-dimensional vision. Textures are felt and seen by an extraordinary poet. What Hartz adds is her own empathy, understanding and reverence that heightens the idea behind every work of art. We also have painters in their own words. Take this to the classroom and show them how to do it.

Georgia O'Keefe Recuperates in Bermuda, 1933

Her dreams are rashes of color, a heart
stream of crash and weep. In the pastel

morning she considers the banyan tree, naked
roots reaching. Last year, Camaguey

threatened to take the canopies off all the trees
in the Caribbean, but these are the knitted limbs

a hurricane couldn't undo. The banyan,
that strangler fig. Ghosted host missing from its center.

Who lives there now? Black rat, feral cat. Soon
she will return to her body. The breezing leaves

are whispering. Soon the forsaken mind
will widen like an eye and the light will steal

its way in again. But for now there is the banyan tree,
the banana flower, the hot pick hibiscus, and in

the violet dusk the staccato sandpipers along the shore -
a bruising seduction back to the living world.

Our Hands A Hollow Bowl
Sharron Singleton
Grayson Books
9780998258881, $15.00, 77 pages

A gorgeous heart wrote this book. An exegesis of children, family, a dying mother, the ongoing wars, but how to make them new? Singleton does with a unique perspective of patience and lingual harmony. The poem "Thanksgiving" is unlike any other holiday poem although there must be thousands by that name, because the poet's singular view is from her particular wisdom. To be this aware - interior world and outward life - is to be awake.

And the Two Shall Become…

Your tongue a spoon
my hips a cup your
fingers dip my
back an arch my
breast a dune our
legs a vine your
root my bloom my
sap the wine my
thighs a stream
your hands the oar
my throat a grape
your mouth the fox
my cry a pearl
your flesh the lock.

Grace Cavalieri, Reviewer
Washington Independent Review of Books

Julie's Bookshelf

Painters of the Northwest
John Impert
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806160344, $45.00, HC, 220pp,

Synopsis: From its sweeping coastlines to its soaring inland mountains, verdant valleys, and volcanoes standing in splendid isolation, the Pacific Northwest has long inspired artists to capture the unique spirit of its varied landscape. Yet the early years of twentieth-century Pacific Northwest painting remain shrouded in mystery. In the wonderfully illustrated pages of "Painters of the Northwest: Impressionism to Modernism, 1900–1930", art historian John Impert introduces readers to the rich and varied array of artists and works of art that defined the region's artistic transition from a nature-bound impressionism to the arrival of modernism.

Focusing on nine artists (Paul Morgan Gustin, C. C. McKim, Clyde Keller, J. Edgar Forkner, Clara Jane Stephens, Dorothy Dolph Jensen, Eustace Paul Ziegler, Mark Tobey, and C. S. Price) "Painters of the Northwest" organizes his work around the landscapes, people, and city scenes they painted. "Painters of the Northwest" informatively identifies the influence of impressionism, in particular the singular way in which each artist's biography, style, and iconography contribute to a distinctive northwestern sensibility.

"Painters of the Northwest" shows for the first time how a spectacular natural environment, one that conformed aesthetically to nineteenth-century ideals of romanticism and transcendental reverence, combined with an emphasis on subject over style to create a body of work far more concerned with the natural environment than with the socioeconomic issues that occupied city-bound artists of the day. Establishing a chronology, history, and art historical canon for this little-studied place and time, "Painters of the Northwest" is a long-overdue foundational history of early twentieth-century painting in the Pacific Northwest.

Critique: A stunningly beautiful and impressively informative study, "Painters of the Northwest" is an extraordinary and welcome volume that is a specifically and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community and academic library American Art History collections and supplemental studies lists.

Your Brain on Plants
Nicolette Perry & Elaine Perry
The Experiment
9781615194469, $16.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Nicollete Perry, PhD, specializes in pharmacognosy, the study of the medicine produced from plants. She has published and frequently gives talks on medicinal plants for brain health. Elaine Perry, PhD, is professor emeritus of neuroscience at Newcastle University and founder of Dilston Physic Garden, which Nicolette directs.

In "Your Brain on Plants: Improve the Way You Think and Feel with Safe and Proven Medicinal Plants and Herbs" by this mother and daughter team draw upon an ever-growing body of scientific research (some of which they themselves pioneered) on how medicinal plants can help you sleep soundly, reduce stress, improve your memory, and simply feel better in both body and mind.

Organized to showcase the best remedies for individual needs, "Your Brain on Plants" includes: Calming Balms; Cognition Boosters; Blues Busters; Sleep Promoters; Pain Relievers; Extra Energizers; Mind-Altering Plants; and Plant Panaceas.

Within each of the individual chapters are detailed entries for the medicinal plants and herbs suited to the task, including what scientists know about them, their active ingredients, and guidelines regarding their safe use. Also included are do-it-yourself, make-it-at-home recipes for foods, teas, tinctures, balms, and cordials demonstrate how simple it is to benefit from everything these plants have to offer.

Additionally, foods naturally containing ingredients proven to alleviate symptoms appear throughout "Your Brain on Plants", along with complementary wellness practices such as meditating (on a chamomile lawn), qi gong (in a wildflower meadow), and walking (in woodland).

Critique: Beautifully illustrated, deftly organized, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, "Your Brain on Plants: Improve the Way You Think and Feel with Safe and Proven Medicinal Plants and Herbs" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Alternative Medicine collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Your Brain on Plants" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Shakespeare and the Resistance
Clare Asquith
Public Affairs Books
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 West 57th Street, #1321, New York, NY 10107
9781568588124, $28.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: The 1590s were bleak years for England. The queen was old, the succession unclear, and the treasury empty after decades of war. Amid the rising tension, William Shakespeare published a pair of poems dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton: Venus and Adonis in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece a year later in 1594.

Although wildly popular during Shakespeare's lifetime, to modern readers both works are almost impenetrable. But in "Shakespeare and the Resistance: The Earl of Southampton, the Essex Rebellion, and the Poems that Challenged Tudor Tyranny", Shakespearean scholar Clare Asquith reveals their hidden contents: two politically charged allegories of Tudor tyranny that justified (and even urged) direct action against an unpopular regime.

These two poems were Shakespeare's bestselling works in his lifetime, evidence that they spoke clearly to England's wounded populace and disaffected nobility, and especially to their champion, the Earl of Essex.

"Shakespeare and the Resistance" unearths Shakespeare's own analysis of a political and religious crisis which would shortly erupt in armed rebellion on the streets of London. Using the latest historical research, it resurrects the story of a bold bid for freedom of conscience and an end to corruption that was erased from history by the men who suppressed it. This compelling reading situates Shakespeare at the heart of the resistance movement.

Critique: A brilliantly researched, exceptionally well written, deftly organized and effectively presented study, "Shakespeare and the Resistance: The Earl of Southampton, the Essex Rebellion, and the Poems that Challenged Tudor Tyranny" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Shakespearian Studies collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Shakespeare and the Resistance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Long-Term Care
Elizabeth Best-Martini, Mary Anne Weeks, Priscilla Wirth
Idyll Arbor, Inc.
PO Box 720, Ravensdale, WA 98051
9781611580617, $50.00, PB, 490pp,

Synopsis: Elizabeth (Betsy) Best-Martini is a Recreational Therapist specializing in the field of gerontology. Mary Anne Weeks has worked as a Social Worker (SSC) in nursing facilities since November of 1982. Priscilla Wirth is a Health Information Consultant for long-term care facilities.

Together, these three professionals draw upon their extensive years of experience and expertise to write an ideal instructional and informational reference book specifically intended for activity directors working in long-term care, assisted living, and adult day programs -- and is ideal as an instruction manual and textbook for training new professionals.

Now in a newly updated and expanded seventh edition, "Long-Term Care for Activity Professionals, Social Services Professionals, and Recreational Therapists" is thoroughly 'reader friendly in organization and presentation, answering the difficult questions about working with different resident groups, meeting standards, working with team and family members, and managing your department.

"Long-Term Care" shows how all the parts of a long term care facility can fit together to make an empowering, healthful, person-centered environment for everyone.

"Long-Term Care" also shows how to provide care that satisfies, and even exceeds, health care regulations, while giving practical suggestions on how to stay sane, at least most of the time.

This new seventh edition also includes information the new F-Tag codes, changes to the survey process, cultural sensitivity, and details on successful person-centered programming.

Critique: An ideal and comprehensive instructional textbook and manual, "Long-Term Care for Activity Professionals, Social Services Professionals, and Recreational Therapists" is unreservedly recommended for long-term care facility, community, college, and university library Health/Medicine collections and will prove to be of immense value for medical students, social workers, facility administrators, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

The Woman's Herbal Apothecary
J. J. Pursell
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781592338207, $24.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: "The Woman's Herbal Apothecary: 200 Natural Remedies for Healing, Hormone Balance, Beauty and Longevity, and Creating Calm" by master herbalist and naturopathic doctor J. J. Pursell is specifically intended to teach non-specialist general readers just how to effectively prevent, soothe, and heal without resorting to medical remedies, -- which are often harsh, costly, and include unpleasant side effects.

"The Woman's Herbal Apothecary" is comprised of some 200 natural remedies, covering the topics of menses, pregnancy, menopause, aging, fibroids, bladder infections, and low libido, among others.

"The Woman's Herbal Apothecary" is conveniently divided into the major cycles of a woman's life: pre-childbirth, reproductive years, menopause, and beyond. Each section discusses specific physical complaints and how to treat them. "The Woman's Herbal Apothecary" reveals which herbs are the most helpful for each phase of life and which are contraindicated or to be avoided.

Pursell also provides her own herbal solutions and do-it-yourself herbal remedies. The concluding section is divided by specific common health issues in women, such as cardiac disease, thyroid disease, and adrenal dysfunction.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Woman's Herbal Apothecary" is an ideal instructional reference that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Alternative Medicine and Herbal Medicine collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for medical students and non-specialist general readers that "The Woman's Herbal Apothecary" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.00).

Edward Weston: The Early Years
Karen Haas, author
Margaret Wessling, author
Edward Weston, photographer
MFA Publications
c/o Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
9780878468508, $50.00, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: One of the most innovative and influential American photographers of the 20th Century, Edward Henry Weston (March 24, 1886 – January 1, 1958) enjoyed a 40-year career in which he increasingly expanded his set of subjects to include landscapes, still lifes, nudes, portraits, genre scenes and even whimsical parodies. He had a particular focus on the people and places of the American West. In 1937 Weston was the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, and over the next two years he produced nearly 1,400 negatives using his 8 x 10 view camera. Some of his most famous photographs were taken of the trees and rocks at Point Lobos, California, near where he lived for many years.

"Edward Weston: The Early Years" has as its particular focus his early years in the field which coincided exactly with the height of the Pictorialist movement in America, and while he was never a typical practitioner, he did make photographs that borrowed themes from paintings and other media, and experimented with soft-focused imagery that sometimes looks more like graphite drawings or inky dark prints than photographs.

Introducing rare surviving prints from the unplumbed holdings of the Lane Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, "Edward Weston: The Early Years" offers new insights into Weston's working methods and his evolution as a photographer. By taking a longer and more nuanced view of his early years, and by reinserting his first experiments back into the larger story of his artistic production, it reveals the variety of ways in which the paths he took as a young man led him to become the mature modernist master. Beautifully reproduced examples of Weston's most important early work, essays explaining its place in his oeuvre and the history of photography, and a section dedicated to the variety of Weston's early materials and techniques make "Edward Weston: The Early Years" will prove of particular interest to the photography student.

Critique: The collaborative work of Karen E. Hass (Lane Curator of Photogarphy, Museum of Find Arts, Boston) and Margaret Wessling (who is the former Claire W. and Richard P. Morse Fellow for Advanced Training in Conservation of Works of Art on Paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), "Edward Weston: The Early Years" is an impressively informed and informative study that is a 'must' for all serious students of 20th Century American Photography. Simply stated, this elegant, superbly produced volume is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library American Photography collections in general, and Edward Weston supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Whatever Happened To Party Government?
Mark Wickham-Jones
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
9780472130887, $90.00, HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: In 1950, the Committee on Political Parties of the American Political Science Association (APSA) published its much-anticipated report, "Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System". Highly critical of the existing state of affairs, the report became extremely controversial: before publication, scholars attacked the committee's draft and suggested it should be suppressed. When released it received a barrage of criticisms. Most academics concluded it was an ill-conceived and mistaken initiative.

In "Whatever Happened To Party Government?: Controversies in American Political Science", Mark Wickham-Jones (Professor of Political Science at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom) provides the first full, archival-based assessment of the arguments within APSA about political parties and the 1950 report.

Professor Wickham-Jones details the report's failure to generate wider discussion between media, politicians, and the White House. He examines whether it was dominated by a dogmatic attachment to "party government," and charts the relationship between behavioralists and institutionalists. He also discusses the political dimension to research during the McCarthyite years, and reflects on the nature of American political science in the years after 1945, the period in which behavioralism (which privileges the influence of individuals over institutions) became dominant.

Detailing APSA's most direct and significant intervention in the political process, Wickham-Jones makes an important contribution to debates that remain in the forefront of discussions about American politics.

Critique: A seminal and critically important contribution college and university library American Political History & Political Science collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted that "Whatever Happened To Party Government?" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a list of abbreviations; 'A Note on the Text and Sources'; seventy-six pages of Notes; a twenty page Selected Bibliography; and a ten page Index. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Whatever Happened To Party Government?" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $74.95).

Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry (Jack Mason)
Joan McArthur-Blair & Jeanie Cockell
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781523082551, $34.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Leaders often cannot predict the complex challenges they are called on to face.

The collaborative work of Joan McArthur-Blair and Jeanie Cockell (Co-Presidents of Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, a company specializing in designing strategies to surface the wisdom of individuals, groups, and organizations to build positive futures and the authors of many articles on leadership and AI), "Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry: A Leadership Journey through Hope, Despair, and Forgiveness" shows that Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an invaluable tool to build resilience.

AI is a widely used change approach that emphasizes identifying what's working well in a given system. Leaders can use AI to increase their ability to weather the storms they'll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

A profound guide, "Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry" features personal accounts from leaders across a variety of settings describing how they've practiced appreciative resilience in the ongoing cycle of hope, despair, and forgiveness.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry: A Leadership Journey through Hope, Despair, and Forgiveness" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to corporate, governmental, community, college, and university leadership instructional reference collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of business management students, corporate executives, governmental policy makers, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99) and as a complete, unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781520099354, $19.99, CD).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Campfire Stories: Tales from America's National Parks
Dave Kyu & Ilyssa Kyu, editors
Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781680511444, $24.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Co-editors Dave and Ilyssa Kyu spent five months traveling and researching the stories comprising "Campfire Stories: Tales from America's National Parks". They gathered each of these stories from public libraries, historical societies, arts and cultural organizations, museums, research centers, and national park archives. They interviewed park rangers, historians, artists, curators, educators, and local residents, who all offered insights and guidance into the essence of each place, which was than used to select entertaining, diverse, and engaging writings that reflected each park and best told around a campfire.

Campfire Stories focuses on these six iconic national parks: Acadia National Park; Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Rocky Mountain National Park; Yellowstone National Park; Yosemite National Park; Zion National Park.

Each story includes an "About this Story" reflection, offering insight into how Dave and Ilyssa discovered the tale, why they selected it, and some background about its writer. Dave and Ilyssa also share their own thoughts on each of the parks they visited, as well as tips on how to be a compelling storyteller.

Critique: An engaging, entertaining, unique and simply fascinating read from cover to cover, "Campfire Stories: Tales from America's National Parks" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections, as well as the personal reading lists of anyone who has every experienced America's national parks for themselves -- or would like to!

The Duck and the Butterfly
Natalie Michael
Trifold Publishing
9780995995833, $16.99, PB, 210pp,

Synopsis: An a well-timed question can transform a life, a team, or a company. If you are seeking to improve yourself, coach high-potential talent, boost the value of a team meeting, or energize a strategy session, all the is simply needed is to ask just the right question.

After a decade of executive coaching, Natalie Michael (who has worked in private practice developing executives for the last fifteen years) has drawn upon her years of experience and expertise to provide more than 1,000 handpicked, developed, tested more and powerful coaching questions and showcase them in "The Duck and the Butterfly: Coaching Questions for Leaders at Work".

In this unique volume readers will discover queries to help them lead their lives, lead others, lead organizations, and create a positive difference in the world. Throughout "The Duck and the Butterfly", readers will also find ducks (tips on how to be a better listener) and butterflies (tips on how to deliver questions in a transformative way).

"The Duck and the Butterfly" is more than just coaching questions. It's a tool kit for changing lives for the better.

Critique: Expertly written and professionally organized with a thoroughly 'user friendly' and effective presentation, "The Duck and the Butterfly: Coaching Questions for Leaders at Work" is a very highly recommended leadership instructional guide and manual that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, corporate, and academic library collections. It should be noted for business management students, corporate executives, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Duck and the Butterfly" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Suddenly Single
Kathey Batey
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434711724, $16.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: "Suddenly Single: Rebuilding Your Life after Divorce" by Kathey Baty (who is a corporate trainer, life coach, and domestic mediator specializing in group therapy) is a compassionate guide through grief, fears, and the challenges of divorce, encouraging readers to see this painful time as potentially one of the most powerful.

Kathey Batey understands the trauma of going through a divorce and deftly guides her readers with compassion and hope in how to: Grieve the death of your relationship, expectations, and dreams; Develop a network of experts for your legal, financial, spiritual, and emotional needs; Navigate parenting decisions; Prepare yourself to fulfill your potential as a single, successful person; Give yourself structure through boundaries and wise decision-making.

Divorce can be one of the most painful times of our lives. But it can also be one of the most powerful. Though feeling broken in heart and spirit, anyone can heal and move forward into a life full of possibility.

Critique: Combining 'real world practical' advice, insights, information, and explanations concerning the trauma of divorce and its aftermath, "Suddenly Single: Rebuilding Your Life after Divorce" is written with a palpable compassion and effective consolation, making it ultimately inspiring. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections -- and a 'must read' for anyone having to deal the issue of divorce, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Suddenly Single: Rebuilding Your Life after Divorce" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.11).

Forgive Your Way to Freedom
Gil Mertz
Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802418203 $14.99 pbk / $11.40

Synopsis: Are you carrying unresolved pain? Maybe you try to push it away. Maybe it consumes you. Maybe you tell yourself, "it's fine," you're "over it," or "it's no big deal." But no matter how you fight it, bitterness holds you back, putting added stress on your body and soul, and weakening your ability to connect with God and others. But forgiveness can help you break free.

Gil Mertz learned the power of forgiveness firsthand when God led him to reconcile with his distant and difficult father. Gil now teaches others the astounding benefits of forgiveness, and how to begin the hard work of actually forgiving. He walks you through each step of the process and helps you identify forgiveness myths, let go of past pain, and rediscover your purpose and hope. Begin your forgiveness journey today. Your future is waiting.

Critique: Forgive Your Way to Freedom: Reconcile Your Past and Reclaim Your Future lives up to its title as a guide to using forgiveness to break free from bitterness, negativity, and misery. Although Forgive Your Way to Freedom speaks especially to Christian readers, as it discusses how to "Let Go and Let God", readers of all faiths can learn from the wisdom within. "Venting at God doesn't help us resolve our pain of the past." It should be noted for personal reading lists that Forgive Your Way to Freedom is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.40).

Beowulf for Cretins
Ann McMan
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612941172 $16.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: English professor and aspiring novelist Grace Warner spends her days teaching four sections of Beowulf for Cretins to bored and disinterested students at one of New England's "hidden ivy" colleges. Not long after she is dumped by her longtime girlfriend, Grace meets the engaging and mysterious Abbie on a cross-country flight. Sparks fly on and off the plane as the two strangers give in to one night of reckless passion with no strings attached and no contact information exchanged.

Back home at St. Albans, the college rocks Grace's world when it announces the appointment of a new president, the first woman in its 165-year history. Cue Abbie - and cue Grace's collision course with a neurotic dog named Grendel, a fractious rival for tenure, and a woman called Ochre, in what very well might be Grace's last real shot at happiness.

This full-length novel reimagines and expands on the short story "Falling from Grace", which was originally published in the award-winning story collection Sidecar, by Ann McMan.

Critique: A whirlwind blend of philosophical rumination, dry humor, lesbian romance, and slice-of-life pursuit of happiness, Beowulf for Cretins is an unforgettable novel from award-winning author Ann McMan. Adventurous and free-spirited, Beowulf for Cretins is a pleasure to browse from cover to cover. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Beowulf for Cretins is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

The Two-Plate Solution
Jeff Oliver
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610882231 $25.00 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: A James Beard Award-winning chef stands atop a 50-foot-high diving platform having just plated a competition-winning culinary masterpiece. He looks down, faints from fear of heights, and careens into the water below. Worst of all? He knocks over his dish on the way down.

So begins The Two-Plate Solution, and it only gets better from there. Follow a diverse cast of young talented chefs as they compete in a high-stakes TV cooking competition set in Israel. Their culinary foes: fake "terrorists" brought in by the producers?that is, until some actual terrorists show up on set, and the producers must scramble to either integrate them into the show, or risk death.

Mysteries deepen, romances bloom, and chefs cook for their lives in this laugh-out-loud culinary adventure from Jeff Oliver, a major force in TV cooking shows the past fifteen years. His talented pen will have you caring about each character . . . and wondering how the many unforeseeable story twists will turn out.

Critique: The Two-Plate Solution: A Novel of Culinary Mayhem in the Middle East is a hilariously irreverent novel in which a group of young, talented chefs match wits in a competitive cooking show in Israel. Their opponents are supposed to be fake "terrorists" to punch up ratings - until actual, real-life terrorists crash the set! Witty, funny, and at times surreal, The Two-Plate Solution holds nothing sacred but satire, and remains a riveting page-turner from beginning to end. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Two-Plate Solution is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Women Who Flew for Hitler
Clare Mulley
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781250183903, $20.00, PB, 496pp,

Synopsis: Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauffenberg were talented, courageous, and strikingly attractive women who fought convention to make their names in the male-dominated field of flight in 1930s Germany. With the war, both of them became pioneering test pilots and were awarded the Iron Cross for service to the Third Reich. But they could not have been more different and neither woman had a good word to say for the other.

Hanna was middle-class, vivacious, and distinctly Aryan, while the darker, more self-effacing Melitta came from an aristocratic Prussian family. Both were driven by deeply held convictions about honor and patriotism; but ultimately, while Hanna tried to save Hitler's life, begging him to let her fly him to safety in April 1945, Melitta covertly supported the most famous attempt to assassinate the Fuhrer. Their interwoven lives provide vivid insight into Nazi Germany and its attitudes toward women, class, and race.

In the pages of "The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition and Searing Rivalry", biographer Clare Mulley gets provides documented insights into these two distinctive and unconventional women, giving a full (and as yet largely unknown) account of their contrasting yet strangely parallel lives, against a changing backdrop of the 1936 Olympics, the Eastern Front, the Berlin Air Club, and Hitler's bunker.

Critique: A personal and professional history of two extraordinary women, "The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition and Searing Rivalry" is an inherently fascinating and impressively informative study that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library 20th Century Biography collections, as well as 20th Century Aviation History supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Women Who Flew for Hitler" is now also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

Hildur Sif Thorarensen
Antonov Publishing
9789935243669, $9.99, Paperback

Despite its title, Loner, Hildur Sif Thorarensen's first novel in a planned Oslo Mysteries series, is full of unlikely pairings and teamwork devoted to solving a series of complex murder cases.

The plot starts as a jumble of seemingly unconnected scenes: a man collapses in an Oslo neighborhood, Alexander, a criminal psychiatrist, moves back to Oslo from the States to be near his ailing mother, a mentally ill woman visits the Tromsø police about her missing daughter, a girl wakes up in a cabin in the woods outside Norway's capital and two Witnesses proselytize at an apartment. As suspenseful and tantalizing as detective work, the pieces come together bit by bit, through unexpected twists and turns.

A serial killer is at large in the relatively peaceful country, but humor keeps the spirit of the book buoyant. Alexander is a quirky, clumsy main character into video games and travel. In contrast to his elegant and reserved partner, Julia, he blurts and sputters and makes people laugh. Their colleagues Eric and Hercules are also opposites: one brawny and brash, the other gay and proper. But they manage to get along as well as Abbott and Costello. The police force finds itself investigating martial arts masters, Jehovah Witnesses, Wiccans, and archers in their chase for the psychopathic killer, leading to entertainingly awkward encounters between different strata of society.

Translated from Norwegian, the language is at times stilted or unexpected. Phrases like "he... saunters toward the kitchen in an awkward sort of dancing step," and "he leans up against a stack of outer garments" might be worded differently by a native speaker, adding to the overall effect of the book - to enter a completely foreign realm, be it a criminal mind, a counter culture or the masterful puzzle of a murder mystery.

Alongside the chilling tactics of the elusive murderer, Thorarensen's crime thriller is a funny cliffhanger that belongs in the ranks of other well known Nordic Noir books of late.

Rice Girls
Emily Kim
Amazon Digital
9780692131855, $3.99, Kindle, 2018

To the Korean influences on our current culture - K pop, Korean barbeque, martial arts, to name a few - Emily Kim, in her new novel Rice Girls, adds the power of rice. Featuring two Korean sisters trying to make it in L.A., it celebrates the family bonds and individual grit that give them "rice power."

Sallee (Mehee) Lee's has successfully repressed memories of living in poverty under Korea's military dictatorship in the 1980s until her sister Jinhee's presence in her L.A. apartment brings to the surface her past as well as her present nightmares. Cocktail waitressing and auditioning for movies, she supports Jinhee in addition to her laborer/screenwriting fiance. As pressures mount, Sallee will either drown under it all or overcome her obstacles.

Written in the first person from Salle's perspective, the style is laid back, conversational. The short novel flows quickly and is hard to put down. Past and present episodes deftly dovetail each other, making a balanced and insightful composition.

The characters are anything but cardboard; none is good or bad and all are colorful and well developed. Morally questionable characters, like Sallee's female, single neighbor's who make money off the American soldiers living in their Korean neighborhood, have generous hearts, as do the soldiers themselves. The movie men in L.A., albeit ambitious and hardworking, take advantage of women as a matter of course. Sallee's Korean male friends stand out as heros, as do she and Jinhee, who bounce back from numerous setbacks.

Through their girlish antics and streetwise strategies, Sallee and Jinhee model bravery and love not only for other Korean women but to all attempting to live our dreams. Rice power is stick-to-it-iveness and heartiness, sweet and filling: universal values.

Farther Along
Donald Harington
The Toby Press
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781592642175, $24.95, 2008

The title of Donald Harington's 2008 novel, taken from an old shape note hymn, "Farther Along," is played out by a harmonica, hair-comb-and-tissue, french horn and dulcimer in quirky, cacophonous outsider liaisons and philosophical contexts.

First, a solo: Bluff-dweller, or, comb-and-tissue player, leaves his Boston position as lead curator at a Restoration Foundation after his wife divorces him. Outside an abandoned Ozark town he, along with his dog and his liquor, makes a cave his home.

A duet: The post mistress of the town, with the voice of a harmonica, talks to herself, or, rather, a French horn sounding Kind speaks to and through her, revealing her history and the history of the town to the Bluff-dweller.

Finally, a quartet: The Bluff-dweller, having almost died, is revived under the care of The Woman (post mistress) and a beautiful visiting historian, second to the first of the town bearing the same name - Elizabeth Cunningham. She plays dulcimer.

Harington embodies his characters in complex first person. Bluff-dweller's friend and moonshine provider is multiplied by his fingers, to whom he converses, each with his or her own name and personality. Bluff-dweller finds this neither odd nor distracting, having only himself, a dog, and a stuffed woman-doll for company. The Woman's voice is not only her own, but belongs equally to Kind, as well as to their instruments. Elizabeth Cunningham's voice comes through in letters to her dear friend back at the university where they teach. These characters, together and separately, complete each other's sentences and stories, and thereby rounding out one another's lives. This is a novel about loneliness cradled in harmony with similarly kooky singularities.

The tone of the book croons and haunts a mix of mountain music and jazz. All the characters are highly sexual, yearning and groping for attention in their own ways. The women seduce toward the past, persuading men to keep memory alive, while the men drive ever forward. Instead of working against each other, this tension results in a tantalizing irony: farther along all will become clear, all will be understood, AND it never ends. The past keeps informing the present and the future keeping pulling it all along. The point is the lyrical movement, not the destination.

Farther Along, in the middle of a loose series written by Harington over a 40 year span, dances its way into our subconscious, playing with limits and categories and delighting from beginning to "end."

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Letters to Mother
Monte Engelson
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781543449143, $22.99, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: Monte Engelson was only 3 years old when his father joined the royal Canadian Air Force and saw action in World War II. Upon discovery of the letters his parents had sent one another during that time of war torn separation, Monte set forward on a journey to learn more about his father's squadron, along with the challenges and losses they experienced. What he found was an account of bravery and love to be shared with the world.

"Letters to Mother" is that personal story told through letters written to Harold's mother.

Harold was a police officer in northern British Columbia. Even before the war was declared with Germany in 1939, he wanted to join and do what he could for freedom. He was one of the lucky ones in active combat and managed to come back. His service in the air force left him with lasting memories that changed his life and those around him.

Critique: Intimate, personal, engaging, informative and ultimately inspiring, "Letters to Mother" is very highly recommended reading for anyone with an interest in understanding the impact and consequences World War II had on those who lived through it. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Letters to Mother" is also available in a paperback edition (9781543449150, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market
Charles R. Knight
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781932714807, $29.95, HC, 360pp,

Synopsis: "Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market" by Charles R. Knight (Military Curator at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh) is the first full-length account in more than three decades to examine the combat at New Market on May 15, 1864 -- the battle that opened the pivotal 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who set in motion the wide-ranging operation to subjugate the South in 1864, intended to attack the Confederacy on multiple fronts so it could no longer "take advantage of interior lines." One of the keys to success in the Eastern Theater was control of the Shenandoah Valley, a strategically important and agriculturally abundant region that helped feed Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

Grant tasked Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, a German immigrant with a mixed fighting record, and a motley collection of units numbering some 10,000 men to clear the Valley and threaten Lee's left flank. Opposing Sigel was John C. Breckinridge, a former vice president and now Confederate major general who assembled a scratch command to repulse the invading Federals. Included within the ranks of his 4,500-man army were cadets from the Virginia Military Institute under the direction of VMI Commandant of Cadets Lt. Col. Scott Ship, who had marched eighty miles in just four days to fight Sigel.

When the two armies faced off at New Market, Breckinridge boldly announced, "I shall advance on him. We can attack and whip them here and we will do it!" As the general rode by the cadets he shouted, "Gentlemen, I trust I will not need your services today; but if I do, I know you will do your duty." The sharp fighting seesawed back and forth during a drenching rainstorm, and was not concluded until the cadets were dramatically inserted into the battle line to repulse a Federal attack and launch one of their own.

The Confederate victory drove Union forces from the Valley, but they would return, reinforced and under new leadership, within a month. Before being repulsed, these Federals would march over the field at New Market and capture Staunton, burn VMI in Lexington (partly in retaliation for the cadets' participation at New Market), and very nearly capture Lynchburg. Operations in the Valley on a much larger scale that summer would permanently sweep the Confederates from the "Bread Basket of the Confederacy."

'Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market' is based upon years of primary research and a firsthand appreciation of the battlefield terrain. Knight's balanced and objective approach includes a detailed examination of the complex prelude leading up to the day of battle. His entertaining prose introduces a new generation of readers to a wide array of soldiers, civilians, and politicians who found themselves swept up in one of the war's most gripping engagements.

Critique: Detailed, insightful, comprehensive, exceptionally well documented, and featuring eight appendices, eleven battlefield maps, and black/white historical photos, "Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market" is an essential, core addition to personal, community, college, and university library American Civil War History collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, Civil War history buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market" is also available in a paperback edition (9781611214222, $22.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Jack Mason

Messenger's Bookshelf

Welcome to Saint Angel
William Luvaas
Anaphora Literary Press
9781681143200, $20.00, pbk
9781681143217, $35.00, hbk
9781681143224, $2.99, eBook

Appropriately, this review of William Luvaas's rollickingly farcical Welcome to Saint Angel was written in the swelter of a global heatwave that broke temperature records around the world, killed thousands and brought drought and disaster. The future, it seems, has already arrived, bearing in its arms the promised gifts of environmental Armageddon and political barbarism. Within the span of a few decades, humanity has moved from a vague awareness that something wicked this way comes, to a confrontation with Earth's sixth great extinction. We need to relocate to a better place where the water is pure and the grass green, where we can breathe clean air and raise our families in peace. But there's nowhere left to go.

With its descriptions of a collective madness sparked by mendacity and greed disguised as irresistible 'progress', Welcome to Saint Angel has literary antecedents in the cynical realism of Sinclair Lewis and the paranoid desperation of Nathaniel West, plus a liberal dose of Gore Vidal in his Duluth mood. The urban and suburban sprawl of Los Angeles into the surrounding desert – shorn of its remaining Joshua trees – is the outcome of financial skulduggery and shady dealing, the appropriation of land and water, culture in the service of big money, and the trampling of indigenous rights. People need places to live, but this, this is

'Unbelievable … Out here in the middle of nowhere.'

Mona frowned. 'Nowhere's the middle of nowhere anymore, don't you realize?'

Al Sharpe, the central character and resistance leader of Welcome to Saint Angel, is marvelling at the rapid spread of McMansions over the high desert surrounding his Southern California home of Second Chance Acres, bulldozers and trucks making smooth the hills and eradicating the flora and fauna. Here, in the wilderness, a golf course will be built, its greens and lakes fed by stolen water authorized at unpublicized planning meetings held at ungodly hours. Al and his oddball neighbours will band together and fight the corporations and developers in a battle that escalates into brutal violence and comically ludicrous confrontations and tactics. The conflict is desperate for the defenders of Nature and common sense, who know that the land and the climate cannot support vast housing developments, shopping malls and highways to nowhere in particular, especially as the buildings are thrown up in such haste that they immediately begin to fall apart.

Al, shutting his eyes to promises and threats, believes at first that it will never happen. 'They must be shooting a movie,' he comments when he sees a hoarding for 'Canyonlands Rancho Estates.' 'Raise your children under the cheery high desert sun in friendly Saint Angel.' This is indeed movie talk, specifically Curly Bonner talk: the lure of instant community and fresh air for city-types desperate for escape, whose flight to freedom denies freedom to others, whose paradise eventually becomes a hell from which their children will wish to escape. And so it goes and so it goes.

Paradise is for those who can afford the green fees; those unfortunates who really do need a roof over their heads are not the kind of clientele the unscrupulous Ches Noonan and his co-conspirators are looking for. As Welcome to Saint Angel declares, 'There has to be some place for the ne'er-do-wells and misfits to go' but, depend upon it, that place is always elsewhere and far away. There is no room in Canyonlands Rancho Estates for people like Tinkerspoon, Al's neighbour and hackerwizard, who believes anything is possible: 'Tinkerspoon leaned conspiratorially over the fence, believing his place bugged (convinced the NSA can read our brain waves).' It seems the secretive and all-seeing NSA has replaced the CIA as the bête noire of US conspiracy theorists: similar convictions are aired in Cathy Adams' A Body's Just as Dead, also to be reviewed here. 'The fact that none of this could be proven confirmed it.'

Often, however, conspiracies really are true, especially when it comes to making money fast. Boosterism is highly selective in its boosting, so that Ches is set to make millions while native Americans and others who stand in the way of progress risk losing everything.

Welcome to Saint Angel is a rich blend of outlaw pursuit and (Nature's) revenge tragedy, its families and communities disintegrating, reintegrating, somehow abiding. People and machines get swallowed by bottomless sloughs that spread across the land almost as rapidly as the new houses; Al's improvised community of partisans operate like guerrillas, setting up camps in canyons and holes in the ground, their superior knowledge of the terrain their greatest weapon.

William Luvaas writes with immense verve and imagination, and has a gift for humour: Al's pet pig Wallers possesses a genius for comic timing and porcine know-how that makes him one of the finest characters in the novel. The author is also able to describe the flora of the desert and the ways of dust and stone, water and mud, with microscopic precision. Some of this beautiful description feels excessive and occasionally repetitive in the second half of the book, so that one finds oneself skimming at times, impatient with its dazzle. Certainly, Welcome to Saint Angel sags in the middle, burdened by a welter of similar incidents when it really needs to push forward with the story a little more emphatically.

Al's relationships with women – the how and the why of them – are entertainingly realized and tortuously complicated. One warms to Penny and Mona; there is something about them and the behaviour of their social set around the swimming pool that puts one in mind of John Updike's Couples. Al is a widower with a close relationship with his daughter Finley, but the remote possibility that Al's wife might still be alive puts them at odds, reinforcing the themes of distrust and suspicion that sift through the novel like dust borne on the desert air. The past is never dead; it bubbles to the surface and wreaks havoc; there is no solid ground for anyone.

Comedy, humour, farce, satire: whatever you want to call it, at its best, much of it floats on a slough of despair and fury, and thus has a serious engagement with the world. Family and community are reaffirmed by the end of Welcome to Saint Angel, but there is a warning: 'Everywhere, the bleached bones of houses stood as monuments to greed and human folly.'

They would knock down the mountains and fill the oceans; there would be one endless city covering all the continents and Oceania between. They would name it New Atlantis or Globetown.

Welcome to the Now.

A Body's Just as Dead
Cathy Adams
SFK Press
9780997951868, $16,99, pbk
9780997951875, $2.99, eBook

At the current dismal juncture of US social and political history, it is dismaying to witness the ignorance and prejudice, the violence and demagoguery, the greed and stupidity worn as a badge of honour by so many politicians and their supporters. Whence comes their rejection of truth, science and rationality? Why such disdain for intelligence, compassion and empathy? Why the obsession with guns?

Wisely, Cathy Adams' admirable novel A Body's Just as Dead chooses not to tackle these issues head-on; instead, it addresses the social and economic contexts in which they flourish. Set in Drayton, Alabama, the novel follows the many troubled members of the Hemper-Boyd family as they struggle to stay afloat in a sea of debt, joblessness, criminality and recurrent tragedy. Yet this is by no means a depressing story. It is frequently very funny indeed and often moving. Adams' deft handling of comedy and pathos is interleaved with significant little details and interludes of interiority that invite us to revise our opinions of individuals whose histories she discloses. This is a difficult and beautiful achievement for any writer.

As so often in real life, claims to rights in A Body's Just as Dead – particularly misinterpreted Second Amendment rights – go hand in hand with the denial of rights to others, dishonesty and phony patriotism:

Pete-O had told a few people he had lost his legs in the Gulf War, and besides that, he always wore a 'God Bless America' cap with a flag pin stuck in the side. Nobody was going to tell a man who'd had his legs blown off in Afghanistan that he couldn't bring his dog with him into Waffle House or Kroger's.

Pete-O actually lost his legs to diabetes. He and many millions of his compatriots have genuinely been betrayed and marginalized by political and economic elites, but they have been persuaded that the fault lies with immigrants and others intent on depriving them of their rights (there are only so many rights to go around):

We still live in a free country, or at least we're supposed to. But all people like you can do is to take our rights away one by one that men fought and died for, and you think we'll just sit back and take it.

In the United States a great deal of rights talk is wedded to the love of readily available firearms. 'Pete-O bought a double-action autoloader, and [nephew] Jack was so enamoured he could hardly take his eyes off it.' At the firing range, Pete-O regularly proclaims:

'Here's yours, you son of a bitch,' right before he squeezed off a few rounds. One day Jack asked him who he was talking about, and he said, 'Jack, there's a new one every week.'

This week's 'son of a bitch' turns out to be a harmless store manager:

Pete-O cocked his pistol. 'Here's yours, you son of a bitch,' and fired …

He was smiling the way he did at the shooting range, like he was in charge of everything and somebody was going to get his.

Guns intervene at critical moments throughout A Body's Just as Dead, whether in the hands of a child who thinks it's a toy – 'Grinning, Rob Jr. held his grandmother's Smith and Wesson in both hands, pointing it up at his mother' – or by the red-haired young man who insists on bringing his AK-15 with him to the Tomahawk Diner. That one's grandmother owned a Smith and Wesson, or that 'AK-15' requires no explanation, is astonishing enough for non-Americans, but then we learn this:

Kelley and supporters were recently seen carrying guns on the sidewalk in front of the Glencoe McDonald's. Open carry laws in Alabama reserve the right for citizens to carry licensed weapons in public venues.

Later on, not entirely unsurprisingly, a chaotic family Thanksgiving dinner erupts in violence.

A Body's Just as Dead is sprinkled with illuminating asides that touch the heart and reveal character. 'Janeeca', the stage name of a stripper at the T&A Lounge, says, 'People are more interested in what they want to believe about you than in the truth.' 'She took a breath and forced a smile again.' And Lilith Ann's sudden tears 'spilling onto the periwinkle sleeve that lay across her lap' reveal an unexpected tenderness in a matriarch who has had to be tough all her life and is now aware of her encroaching frailty.

Guns are also a signifier of the structural violence that underpins and constrains individuals and communities, whether it be the Monsanto factory that poisoned waterways, the closed steel mill and the empty shops, or the recurring need for warfare to justify national ideologies and the nation's vast military. Jack's Uncle Baxter, for instance, 'After [his] stint in Vietnam … spent time in a VA hospital before being referred to a home for people who were "not right in the head."' Baxter once 'insisted that he had a microchip in his neck, implanted by his dentist during a tooth extraction at the behest of the NSA.' He is also much given to uttering cryptic quotations: 'The woods are lovely, dark and deep'; 'Humour is a distancing mechanism for the emotionally insecure.'

There are no jobs for educated young women like Magda, Lilith Ann's acerbic daughter, no matter what her mother claims:

Of course the jobs [Lilith Ann] was referring to were cashier at Dollar General or Walmart, and baker's assistant at the Piggly Wiggly. 'I know you've got yourself a college degree, but your daddy and I didn't pay for it so's you could take it all the way to China.'

On top of everything else, there is a characteristic distrust of government and anything that smacks of concerted attempts to assist those in dire need of help.

'Yeah, but you know we don't have insurance,' said Kimmy. 'Robert said he wasn't going to have that Obamacare the government forced down his throat. Said he'd rather pay the penalty than have the government telling him what to do.' Kimmy sat back with a smug expression.

'And that's exactly the attitude that put him in jail,' said Magda … 'So Robert refused to buy something that his family needs that he couldn't afford before Obamacare made it available just so he can say he's not going to buy it? And now you can't get the medicine you need for your kids? Do you hear how asinine that is?'

While A Body's Just as Dead is thoroughly immersed in its Alabama milieu, it also takes time to broaden our sympathies and place it in wider context:

When people in Pete-O's country were dumping tea in Boston Harbor and attempting to annihilate the indigenous peoples of what would become the United States of America, Liu Peng's ancestors were rooted in their central Chinese village, growing their own tea.

In the United States, Peng adjusts as best she can and even takes pleasure from her uncomprehending appreciation of His Girl Friday on television.

Recent controversies about the removal of Confederate war memorials, along with the continuing refusal to acknowledge the genocide of native Americans and the legacies of slavery, are all part of the selective amnesia that grips a deeply troubled culture. And this is exactly how history gets forgotten:

Anniston was known by some as the place where a Freedom Riders bus was fire-bombed by a mob of whites when it tried to pass through the town. When the bus was ablaze, the mob held the doors shut in an attempt to burn the riders alive, but then some say the fuel tank exploded and the mob dispersed. It was a story Robert had never heard before, and he had no idea it was part of Anniston's legacy. His mother remembered the burned bus, but she never spoke of it to any of her children. This is how the chapters of a town's history begin to die. People just stop talking about the parts that aren't nice, and soon what people claim as their history becomes a rag full of holes.

Cast adrift from the untidy realities of the nation's bloody history, living a life of Target cards, unpaid bills, daily humiliations and frustrated masculinity, men like Robert can only wonder where it all went wrong:

I've had the life squeezed out of me everywhere I go. I get shorted every time I get work, and most of the time I can't get no work. It's not supposed to be this way. It was never supposed to be this way. Daddy worked at the steel plant all those years and everything was fine. What happened, Mama? Why can't things be like they were then?

A Body's Just as Dead has a wonderful, unemphatic ending that hints at the resiliency of people tied together in a family that threatens always to break apart but never quite does. '"Can't you put aside your little hate mail-writing business long enough to put baby Joseph, Mary and Jesus in your window?"' Kimmy asks Magda at one point. Yes she can.

For many years, much 'serious' American fiction – particularly from authors trained by programmes in creative writing – has followed the tiresome trend for microscopicity, whereby the steady accretion of tiny data-packets of description is (presumably) intended to build a world, or at least supply atmosphere. In the wrong hands this exhausts the patience of readers, especially when the writing is stuffed with unlikely adjectives and freighted with 'significance'. Mercifully, Cathy Adams eschews this practice and writes with a refreshing directness that doesn't waste time pursuing special effects. Her work seems effortless, which means it takes a great deal of effort, artistry and intelligence. Without exception, her characters are fully realized, interesting and complex; each has his or her own voice. They are from the working class and the underclass, and occasionally the criminal class. Their tragi-comic story is engaged with our times and resonates precisely with the national zeitgeist. A Body's Just as Dead entertains us, enlightens us, moves us. It is a fine novel and a joy to read.

A Thing of the Moment
Bruno Noble
9781912618361, $TBA, pbk
9781912618378, $3.99, eBook

The power 'to see ourselves as others see us' is described as a gift by Robert Burns, but it is easy also to imagine it a curse. Self-identity is an elusive and shifting construct; anyone with a penchant for introspection quickly finds themselves in a hall of mirrors that reflect different versions of who they are, depending on time and circumstance. Besides, are other people's perceptions of ourselves any more accurate or any less imposed than our own? Perhaps it is better to be misunderstood from the inside than it is to be misperceived from the outside.

Bruno Noble's ambitious novel A Thing of the Moment engages with the topic of identity formation via the lives of three young women whom we follow from childhood to adulthood. Sharon has no self-worth and little sense of self; Mie is confident of who she is and occasionally tramples on others' sensibilities in her march through life; Isabella tends to see herself as if from the outside, her soul or psyche floating like a butterfly out of her body in times of extreme stress. These three separate women – fleeing, respectively, parental rejection, conformism and sexual abuse – eventually encounter one another in the city of London, where each of them eventually finds her own kind of resolution.

The first third of A Thing of the Moment is by far the most successful part of the novel. Its gradual unfolding of the children's individual lives is compelling and increasingly disturbing, particularly Isabella's bizarre and horrifying family. Injustice, unfairness, evil – seen through the eyes of a child, these things have an existential weight and determining force that can distort a life forever. Children are often vulnerable and resilient in equal measure, and we are left to wonder which is harder to overcome, specific acts of dreadful physical abuse or a lifetime's subtle wounding at the hands of the very people who are supposed to care for us the most.

Recent scandals involving the falsification of examination results so as to exclude women from medical school have shown just how patriarchal, conformist and overbearing Japanese society can be. Mie's ambitions are thwarted by expectations of women's servanthood to their overworked salarymen, much of which is inflected with sexual licence on the one hand and repression on the other. Later reference to an unnamed film that can only be Kaneto Shindo's 1964 masterpiece Onibaba, which shares with the novel its theme of the destructiveness of sexual desire, upending it so that the women are the predators, suggests how totalizing cultural norms go to the very heart of who we are.

The remainder of A Thing of the Moment, despite many good things, never quite lives up to its opening, for various reasons. While it is undoubtedly interesting to follow how Sharon, Mie and Isabella come to meet and interact, the alternations between their first-person accounts become choppy and confusing, so much so that, at times, the reader's attention flags. More damaging, the women's individual voices tend increasingly to sound the same, and their observations invariably have to be invested with significance or stand for something else, even when it is simply a matter of description:

We strode London's pavements shoulder to shoulder, occasionally parting company momentarily … and converging again once an obstacle had been circumvented in a reflection of life's encounters, separations and reunions.

This strikes one as awkward and unlikely, a curious blend of perfunctoriness and overprecision which leads one to suspect that long words are summoned solely to plug holes in meaning and cover over lapses of purpose: 'I glanced at Sebastian now as he strode insouciant against the stream of ambulatory traffic'; 'I took satisfaction in the successful collimation of the tree branches with the common's tangential roads.' One could argue that because much of this prose comes from Japanese Mie it is excusable (I am reminded of the German nurse in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp [1943]: 'My name is Nurse Irma and I speak really excellent English'). However, Mie speaks quite normally in conversation, and many other similar passages are narrated by others.

Sometimes the writing appears to coast or be in a hurry. 'The sun lit a canine tooth that rested on his lip,' for instance, is one of several references to teeth that unintentionally suggests a dog's incisor has come to rest at the corner of someone's mouth, rather like a morsel of food. In addition, the male character Sebastian (he of the straying tooth), who links the three women, is comparatively sketchy: it is hard to understand who he is and why he is so damnably attractive.

Despite these problems, some of the more provocative aspects of A Thing of the Moment are nested in its second half. Materialism and idealism – in their philosophical meanings – rub shoulders amid the bloody apocalypse of Smithfield meat market. The body and the soul, the outer and the inner, the visible and the hidden, coalesce in sexual promiscuity and the performativity of dancers and clients alike in lapdancing clubs. A reader's response to an attractive young woman's claims to liberation, control and freedom discovered while dancing naked for the pleasure of men has to be cautious because, after all, that is what many men find it expedient to believe. To the novel's credit, dancers do move on in their jobs and opinions, especially when human trafficking seeps into the profession.

The novel's faltering steps ensure that it is the aqueous and menacingly real opening to A Thing of the Moment that lingers in the mind. John Fowles' The Collector (1963) has taught us to beware collectors (especially collectors of butterflies), for their obsessions can mask unhealthy desires and dark secrets. It is our own lifetime's work to flesh out our cookie-cutter selves. Nobody else has the right to do it for us.

Jack Messenger, Reviewer

Molly's Bookshelf

It Starts With You!: Every Woman's Guide to Personal Growth and a Successful Love, Revised edition
Julia J. Austin
Jackie Paper Publishing
9781432713591, $TBA, Paperback 184 pages, September 13, 2007

[Review first published in Word Weaving]

Julia J Austin's It Starts With You! Every Woman's Guide to Personal Growth and a Successful Love Relationship provides an instructive Table of Contents.

Section one summarizes ideas for The Reader to consider re How to be the right person. Opening with a questionnaire as a starting point to assist The Reader toward making self-discovery for which she may not have recognized about herself sets the tone for the work.

On the pages of Chapter Two, The Author encourages women to justly care for themselves. Austin points out, "it is more complicated to instigate or put together a connection with others when you don't really understand or think about yourself."

For those who find reassurance in Biblical reference; The Writer offers; a Biblical amplification regarding what love actually is: accommodating, caring, not aggrieved, not self-important or boastful, not discourteous or narcissistic, does not become easily incensed, does not dwell on actual or illusory wrongs from others, is not joyful with malice, is joyful with truths, pleasantly admits all things, trusts and anticipates and endures.

It Starts With You is not a frothy, 'feel good' little text set forth to add emollient to smoldering self-deception for the notion that The Reader is but a vulnerable ragdoll in the hands of the world as a whole nor is she a scheming partner on a personal level. The book IS anticipated to serve as a specific aid to guide readers toward gaining understanding regarding how to take proprietorship of their own lives, and how to be effective partners in nourishing personal relationships.

Throughout the text, The Reader is provided positive ideas for becoming an enhanced person in addition to gaining understanding for how to go about discovering the compatible person for her and how to determine if a seemingly perfect person is truly like-minded with The Reader's specific uniqueness.

The Author puts forward suggestions for how to go about forging a lasting relationship and centers her belief that relationships initiated in authenticity and not on pie in the sky or a notion toward reshaping the potential partner into what The Reader wants that partner to be are more likely to be successful, than are the relationships not grounded in reality and acceptance of potential partners as they are.

As The Reader investigates the book there is a discernibly well-defined approach methodology presented for learning how to unify philosophies and behaviors toward creating successful pairings. The Writer's approach is amplified with specific skills, as well as recommendations re learning from them and then setting down consequences for the reader who may find themselves engaged in similar circumstances.

Offering resilience and direction for readers; poise and self-assurance is drawn from matter-of-fact leadership to provide readers with usable methods essential for dealing efficaciously and completely with unacceptable or alarming experiences including consequence for lack of caution that follows disregarding hazard signals or even the self-destructive need to remain with enervating relationships. The Writer points out that in order to embark on a path leading to satisfied, evocative relationships hard choices may need to be made.

It seems, at times, that many members of our culture as a whole, as well as for many persons in particular, have established a penchant for trying to lay blames for behavior on others; whether parents, ethos, rearing, partner; anything but concentrating on self regarding how interrelating with others, or behave in particular settings is performed. Rather than taking a hard, cold look at the self to learn what is going on to cause sequential negative relationships, or self-destructive behaviors; it is much easier to lay blame elsewhere.

I found The Author's friendly writing technique to be very readable. It Starts With You! is a down-to-earth guide jam-packed with information, clues, views and simple tactics for how to enliven and preserve a relationship far into the future. Using sensible attitudes for identifying assets and weaknesses in one's self in order to enter into and grow an affiliation will assist readers toward making positive changes in themselves.

It Starts With You! Every Woman's Guide to Personal Growth and a Successful Love Relationship is a good choice for the therapist's book shelf, as well as for the woman who may have had a succession of damaging relationships, and for those for whom happiness seems vague and even for those who enjoy a good relationship and are hoping to lengthen and advance upon that already good relationships they now enjoy.

Happy to recommend Julia J Austin's It Starts With You! Every Woman's Guide to Personal Growth and a Successful Love Relationship.

Dream Stalker
Mari Bailey
9781587491849, $12.95, Paperback, 112 pages, March 14, 2002

Mari Bailey's Dream Stalker focuses the tone for what will be an unanticipated escapade when Heather Morgan and her best friend Tara Leonard sets out on the high school commencement gift excursion from their parents.

The trip is a special treat to visit New York City; she is resolute that nothing is going to spoil her holiday.

Heather has plans to take in as many galleries, exhibition halls, and museums and take in as much of the city as she can conceivably visit during the time she and Tara will have in the city they have long dreamed of visiting, but, have not gone to before.

The one solitary blemish on her fervor are chilling nightmares that have unexpectedly begun disturbing Heather. It is always the same, petrifying dream in which she is trying to escape from something scary, something unseen.

Upon their arrival, two euphoric girls plan to spend a complete week for their first ever jaunt to the exhilarative city. Shortly after their arrival, the girls encounter Curt Bonner, a fellow about their age, who tells them he is from the Boston area.

In a short time, the girls start to apprehend Curt Bonner seems to be popping up everywhere they go.

The notion that the seeming agreeable young man may be a stalker is shocking to the girls. While Heather and Tara are loathe to take their of leave New York, they do, nonetheless, look forward to leaving their ostensible stalker behind.

Heather's nightmares have not diminished, in fact, if anything, they are much worse, at the moment, for the reason that the scary unseen something has become discernable! And, the terrifying something is Curt Bonner.

On the pages of her preliminary offering; Mari Bailey has fashioned a chilling, roller coaster ride of a novel for her target audience, upper middle grade and young adult readers.

Dream Stalker is sure to hold Middle Grade and Young Adult Readers enthralled while reading this spellbinding suspense occupied page turner. Readers will find the work difficult to set aside as they gulp passage after captivating passage.

The alarm Heather experiences is inimitable, Tara is faultless as the trustworthy, feet-on-the-ground comrade. Curt Bonner will likely cause many a shiver. Aunt Delilah is a wonderful charmer.

Bursting with much of the tension found in Melinda Rucker Haynes' YA novel Ghostly Acts, Dream Stalker is a fast-paced, thought-provoking read having a surfeit of commanding situations and a rich textured fabric of New York neighborhoods and sights, fragrances, resonances and characters.

Credit to writer Bailey, she has created a well thought out novel certain to please those who enjoy a good unsettling thriller.

Keep the lights on and the doors locked.

Watch prompts, intimations and red herrings.

The surprise ending may catch the non-observant unaware!

Dream Stalker is a fine YA thriller.

Leslea Newman
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
9780385734059, $TBA, Paperback, 256 pages, December 12, 2006

Leslea Newman's Young Adult novel Jailbait introduces Readers to Andrea Robin Kaplan, and her teenaged musings. Andi's life is unbelievably tedious, dreary, and just plain boring.

The time is September 1971. The narrative is focused upon a teen beginning her Sophomore year in High School. Her only friend has moved, her brother is off to college, she has no real goals, loathes her egocentric, clueless parents, believes herself fat, and, nothing ever happens out in the mind-numbing suburbs of Long Island, anyway. To avoid class mates who tease her; Andi commences walking home alone.

One day a car passes, and it passes the next day, and the next, and again the next. The man driving the vehicle IS older than she, however, the lonely teen begins fantasizing meeting and taking part in a fulfilling relationship with him in her head following her seeing the vehicle over a period of days. And, one day, the car stops, and she meets Frank.

Frank, a cunning, deceitful person, is a good bit older and certainly more experienced than is she. It is during their after-school meetings, that Frank helps Andi feel beautiful, valued and desirable. What she doesn't comprehend is that Frank is only saying what she urgently needs to hear in his plan to get what he wants. Desperate for love, Andi is ripe to have faith in virtually anything Frank will tell her.

More than that, Frank does something that no one to date has done; when Andi is with him she feels herself to be both extraordinary, and gorgeous. Frank calls Andi a woman, heady words for a girl who is at the age where she does not want to be thought of or treated as a child.

As the story progresses the reader is very aware that Frank is a malicious and spiteful, he is manipulative and he is taking advantage of Andrea. The reader is caught up in the frustration as we can clearly see what Andrea is failing to see.

But Frank does something that no one has done, when she is with him Andrea feels special, and beautiful. He calls her a woman, and that is heady, Andrea is at the age where she does not want to be treated or thought of as a child.

Andi's parents are unmindful, self-centered and oblivious that their daughter has begun spending intimate afternoons with a ne'er-do-well, who is more than twice her age. Frank, by turns is a man who calls Andi lovely and buys her beautiful underthings, and, a vicious verbal and emotional tyrant who will eventually force Andi to participate in numerous sexual acts with or without her permission.

For a budding young woman who desperately craves to be loved; the relationship is definitive in what is not positive, or good, or encouraging or healthy. Andi understands that she must keep their affiliation hidden; she is underage, Frank could go to jail for the things that he does with her.

Jailbait is meant to be a thought-provoking tale. Readers, especially mature by years or maturity, become agonizingly aware that there really is nothing enthralling or loving or good regarding the contacts between Andrea and Frank. As an adult, school
teacher, it is a simple thing for me to identify how Andrea was caught up in the situation portrayed. Andi's main stay, her older brother with whom hers was a good relationship is gone off to college and is no longer living at home. Her parents are constantly busy, caught up in their own interests and importance, and, her only close school comrade has moved away. It is a formula for disaster; Andi's descent into a destructive relationship is one often repeated when self-image is low.

Through Andi, Readers are provided a peek into what it is that causes some young teens to enter into a affiliation with someone who is totally wrong for them, and, will then do almost anything to continue the relationship.

Jail Bait is a chronicle jam-packed with hurt, aching and pathos.

Novelist Newman has done an estimable job on the pages of Jail Bait. The narrative targeting the upper high school group, is filled with gross language as is often portray by the age. Characters are detailed, well-drawn and convincing. Situations and scenarios are nicely completed, draw the reader into the work and maintain Reader interest throughout the reading.

While not for everyone, Jailbait is sure to interest the target audience. Language may offend some, on the other hand, I was pleased there were no graphic sex scenes.

Happy to recommend for target audience of mature and older teens, parents, counselors and adults in general who want a better understanding regarding what makes teens tick.

Available as paperback, library binding, kindle

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Nevermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre
Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles (ed.)
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
9781770530850, $15.95, 260 pages

Here is a group of contemporary stories inspired by the writing of Edgar Allan Poe. They could be thought of as modern retellings of some of his most famous tales. Poe was a pioneer in several different literary genres, including detective stories, science fiction and, of course, horror.

The stories are mostly short (only a few pages each), and they are very easy to read. They are spooky/macabre stories, as opposed to actual horror stories. As with any Poe story, these stories will keep the reader awake, so don't read this book in bed.

Horror fans will love this anthology, and Poe fans will especially love it. All of these tales are really good.

Quista - Book One: Danay
Aviva Bel'Harold
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
9781770531086, $12.95, 344 pages

Quista is a very strange star system. It has three suns, a dozen planets and over fifty moons. The Emperor holds it all together with magic.

Danay is an outcast on the mostly water planet of Uma'Three. It is literally a piece of a larger planet, along with Uma'One, Two and Four. She is too tall, too thin and she doesn't have a second set of lungs, like everyone else.

Danay wears a Coming of Age bracelet, which, in the local language, says "Precious One". In another language, it says something totally different. Phillip, a boy that Danay secretly likes, suddenly returns after being away for a long time. He now won't leave her side.

The Emperor's troops arrive to perform loyalty tests. Phillip tells Danay that she has to leave now, but can't answer her questions. Eventually, Danay learns the other translation of her bracelet, and she learns the real identity of her mother, who she never knew. Danay finds herself in the middle of a growing rebellion.

The author does and excellent with this Young Adult novel, from the characters to the story to the society-building. Young people will love this story; adults will, too.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Polk's Bookshelf

Extinction Countdown; Ancient Origin Series, Book 2
James D. Prescott
9781926456249, $13.99, paperback, Page Count:356
B07CBJPCL7, $2.99 Kindle

After a near fatal expedition in the Gulf of Mexico where alien influences on the human genome affecting human evolution are discovered, Dr. Jack Greer is now faced with two things: one, an alien space ship has been photographed in space approximately thirteen days out from Earth; and two, a pyramid-like shape believed to be a similar ship has been located under a glacier on Greenland. The race is on…against the aliens, against human fear, against political conspiracies, and against competitive militaries…and once again, Jack Greer is in the middle of it.

Although Extinction Countdown contains elements of genetics and alien contact that are clearly in the realm of science-fiction, it much more about political intrigue, human panic and limited military action at a remote location in Iceland than about genome manipulation per se. While genome manipulation provided the motive for the action, there was practically no science related action in this book; it was mostly military and terrorist activity. There characters largely remained the same as in Extinction Code with the addition of a young female reporter that is easily manipulated by Sentinel agents into achieving their agenda for them.

Although I felt this book was more military than sci-fi, it was entertaining and a worthwhile addition to the series. It should appeal to all fans of action adventures regardless of genre. 4-Stars.

Red Ground: The Forgotten Conflict
Ken Fry
9781545059906, $13.00, paperback, Page Count: 289
B06W572FYV, $2.99, Kindle

Sgt. Alex Dalloway had spent considerable time fighting in African conflicts when he and two of his men were captured and tortured by a madman, "Body Chop" Walker. Dalloway was rescued by a mystery woman, but not before succumbing to torture in a futile effort to save his men from an agonizing death. The encounter with Walker left Dalloway deeply scarred and fate would once again throw them together in a dance with destiny.

Red Ground is a grim and unapologetic reminder of the senseless and brutal conflicts tearing Africa apart over politics and often driven by commercial interests backed by the governments of major nations. It is a frightening look into the power of money and madness.

A brutal story, Red Ground is not for every reader. The characters seem realistic, believable and act in a manner one might expect from people cast into the same real life roles. Readers may wonder, however, if anyone could be quite as crazy and brutal as Walker…until they review the facts of history of the region and understand that such brutality is not merely the purview of fiction.

Red Ground is stirring read for readers of action adventure, military adventures, historical fiction and anyone else with a love of action books and a strong stomach.

On the whole, despite a few proofreading errors that are not overly distracting, Red Ground is a fine story easily worth 5-Stars.

White Birch Graffiti; White Birch Village, Book 2
Jeff Van Valer
B07F9ZGDP2, $0.99, Kindle, Page Count: 274

Thirty years after that fateful summer at White Birch Camp, the subject of The Light in the Trees, Ted Gables is an emergency room doctor haunted by the trauma of the events surrounding cabin seven during that summer and the memories of the other boys who shared the experience with him. For thirty years, Gables has kept a secret; a secret shared by six other boys from cabin seven; boys who Gables knows only by their nicknames.

Denton McDaniel, one of the other six, is running for president. Paul Weatherby, another of the six is his campaign manager. The secret shared by the six from the summer of 1970 concerns Denton; it's a secret that would forever deny him the presidency. Weatherby, and Denton's Uncle, Hugh McDaniel, are determined the secret Denton shared will never surface. The only way to guarantee the secret remains buried is to bury the remaining four of the boys from cabin seven.

White Birch Graffiti is, in my opinion, an excellent action suspense novel. It is both a better story and a much better written story than its predecessor, The Light in the Trees. Although the theme of using murder to protect political campaigns is often seen in conspiracy novels, the idea that the motivation for this plot arises in a summer camp experience more than thirty years old sets this novel apart and makes it more interesting. I found myself on the edge of my seat reading well into the wee hours; something that doesn't happen all that often anymore.

White Birch Graffiti is a superb follow-up to The Light in the Trees and is a good demonstration of the author's imagination and ability as an author. It a riveting story that would appeal to anyone who likes action, conspiracy, murder, intrigue and suspense; a fine thriller well worth 5-Stars.

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Sloan's Bookshelf

Flying Jenny
Theasa Tuohy
Kaylie Jones Books
9781617756214, $13.94, PB
B076QD9W1P, 288 pages, $9.99 Kindle

Laura Bailey doesn't want much. Just a front page byline in her New York City tabloid about something more substantial than the quality of the finger sandwiches at a Ladies Auxiliary luncheon.

Oh, well, maybe it would also be nice to know who her father was. But for that to happen, her mother would need to show a compassionate side -- something she hasn't done in all of Laura's 22 years living with her in the cramped little apartment they share in The City.

That's just one of the deceptively subtle backstory threads underlying standout author Theasa Tuohy's superb new historical novel, Flying Jenny.

The book ostensibly is about the heady late 1920s, when the public went crazy every day over barnstorming pilots and their heroic stunts. And, most significantly, it's about a petite young eighteen-year-old named Jenny Flynn, whose outrageous feat of flying under each of the four Manhattan bridges begins the book.

But look deeper, past the well-written dialogue that captures perfectly the swell lingo of the day. And the expertly rendered scenes detailing early aviators' seat-of-the-pants flying style. These are real people a reader can care deeply about -- they're never cliched or stereotypical. It takes superb writing skill to skirt the temptation to render some minor characters two dimensional. But Tuohy succeeds, page after page, delivering a fresh narrative that never fails to entertain.

The main source of tension in the story derives from Laura's headstrong, stubborn drive to prove herself worthy to report the news in an overwhelmingly male newspaper market. And serving as counterpoint is Jenny's breezy ability to excel effortlessly, executing the most complicated aerobatic maneuvers as well as any man, without comment or fanfare.

This sets up inevitable conflict between the two lead characters, Laura goading Jenny to push past what's easy, and Jenny genuinely perplexed at Laura's need to prove herself. That, and Laura's achingly vulnerable naivete about men, which leads predictably to trouble.

The story winds its way through the Midwest, as the troupe performs its aerobatic routines for a breathless public, and a slowly simmering subplot involving Laura's father gains momentum toward a climactic confrontation in which many things are revealed.

We give Flying Jenny five plus stars for its ambitious themes and flawless writing. We seldom see such wonderful storytelling skills among the dry, dusty tomes that make up so much of the historical fiction genre. Flying Jenny goes well beyond the norm and delivers a spectacular summertime read. A superb piece of storytelling. First-class historical fiction.

War World
Rod C. Spence
Gallant Press
B07B6P9H4T, 387 pages, $4.99, Kindle,

Six teenagers square off against impossible odds and remorseless aliens in a desperate attempt to rescue parents marooned on a distant planet in War World, one of this year's most creative and entertaining novels.

Author Rod C. Spence has created a frighteningly plausible scenario in which titanic biotech companies battle viciously for control over mankind's future. And a half dozen so-called "TerraGen Kids" -- so named for their parents affiliation with the company that created the Portal to the planet Genesis -- are right in the thick of things, dodging death across space and time in a highly cinematic storyline.

Early on, Jeremy Austin and best friend Patrick Korrapati narrowly escape the hungry maw of a genetically engineered super soldier, only to find there are still more fearsome creatures willing to deal out torture and death in a heartless quest to get what they want -- an invaluable scientific diary belonging to Jeremy's dad.

As the book unfolds, Jeremy, Patrick and the rest of the TerraGen Kids -- Marissa, Selene, Leo, and Alex -- pack their gear for a trip through the Portal -- a wormhole to the planet Genesis, where TerraGen officers went to set up shop months ago, away from prying government eyes. It didn't turn out well, as the teens and a small army of mercenaries hired as "protection" quickly discover.

They cross the celestial void to find a world that is terrifyingly hostile and teeming with its own primordial conflicts.

Perilous adventures abound on Genesis, where the teens quickly become separated from their protectors and move into survival mode. They fight against a dizzying mix of eerily intelligent Neolithic monsters, predatory aliens, and an evil Gnome-King who answers to an even darker lord.

The teenaged wisecracking dialogue is spot-on, never lagging or stereotypical. These are kids straight out of any high school in America, with the same vulnerable issues that are the province of that age. They care deeply for each other -- even in the midst of withering sarcasm and rapier ripostes often uttered in the throes of a dangerous encounter with prehistoric beasts or vicious alien predators.

And much of the author's turns-of-phrase in the book are priceless as well:

"Their experiments made the Nazis look like compassionate health care workers." And,

"If the Grim Reaper wore a suit, this man would be his twin." And,

"He looked like a little boy who just found out Santa Claus was a serial killer."

There's a surprise in just about every chapter of this spellbinding novel, and many of them send the story careening down completely new paths. It is deliciously unpredictable fiction from an expert storyteller who has the unsettling talent to create -- and then snuff out -- characters readers come to care deeply about. Between the fast-paced sci fi action, the unrelenting violence, and the superb, character-rich narrative, the book is two parts Michael Crichton and one part Stephen King.

This first installment in the War World franchise ends on a tantalizing, cliff-hanging note that's sure to line up readers for the next book -- or big screen adaptation, whichever comes first.

Five-plus stars to War World. It's a well-written winner.

Don Sloan

Suanne's Bookshelf

To The Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder
Nancy Rommelmann
Little A
9781542048422, $24.95

I was asked to review this book by Ms. Rommelmann's agent. As I sometimes detour into true crime books, particularly enjoying those like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood that meld journalism with literary fiction, I agreed. Rommelmann delves exhaustively into the lives of Amanda Stott-Smith and her ex-husband, Jason Smith, to determine why Amanda on May 23, 2009 dropped her son Eldon and her daughter Trinity from the Sellwood Bridge into the frigid waters of the Willamette River seventy-five feet below. The daughter survived; the son did not.

To The Bridge brings filicide, the murder of one's children to light much as Capote brought adult violence to the forefront back in 1966 when In Cold Blood was first released. To The Bridge is unified by being told from primarily from the author's point of view as she investigates the crime. This technique leads to events being related somewhat out of order. For example, readers learn about Amanda's college days after they learn of the crime itself which occurs years later. Thus the reader is required to use a few brain cells to stitch events together.

Despite all her research, Rommelmann does not pinpoint the exact reason Amanda tossed her children over the bridge. Towards the end of the book, having discovered Jason's narcissism, Amanda's mental health issues, their mutual physical and mental abuse, she states that she could "no longer differentiate between Jason and Amanda's pathologies." She comes full circle to an idea that she presented early in the book, that sometimes the human brain has to hold multiple truths, and any or all of the truths she discovered about this toxic couple could have caused Amanda to snap.

Ms. Rommelmann has also written about serial killer John Wayne Gacy who was found guilty of thirty-three murders and executed by lethal injection in 1994. Her stories have been published in the LA Weekly, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal among other publications.

Between Earth and Sky
Amanda Skenandore
9781496713667, $15.95

I read this book because with the resurgence of racially motivated hatred in the United States, looking back at times when such prejudice was even more prevalant seems important.

Amanda Skenandore's debut novel, Between Earth and Sky, looks at those deplorable Indian residential schools established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States and Canada. In these schools, children were forced to abandon their Native American identities and cultures, forbidden to speak their own languages. Many cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse - atrocities performed in the guise of assimilating young Native Americans into "white" culture while committing cultural genocide of the Native American language and customs.

While Between Earth and Sky blends the "past" of the 1880s with the "present" of the 1900s, there is not sufficient a time difference to expect "white" cultural attitudes towards Manifest Destiny to change. So there is some projection of twenty-first century perspectives here onto the said Manifest Destiny prevailing at that time.

I would have liked to have seen a greater depth of response from Alma towards the two Native American deaths she experiences first hand. The level of her reaction seems less than warranted for the violent deaths of a lover and a dear friend. At the same time, Stewart, her husband's reaction to learning that his wife was not the pristine woman he'd assumed, but that she'd had sexual intercourse with what he considered a sub-human male, was resolved overnight - again, a depth of emotion that seemed insufficient for the situation.

Freyja's Daughter
Rachel Pudelek
City Owl Press
9781944728687, $14.99

Intrigued by the idea of a matriarchal supernatural race of women, I decided to read Rachel Pudelek's debut novel. Freyja's Daughter is based on an interesting premise: groups of supernatural women have been forced into submission. A group of men called Hunters control these women, terming their care as "protection" but more truthfully, keeping the women "tame". These women are subjected to punishments if they don't adhere to monthly and random check-ins and follow the Hunters' rules. The women are forced to suppress their abilities.Any use of their powers is revealed on their monthly check-ins, and if positive, the Hunters won't hesitate to punish them.

Worse, their history and much of their past has been expunged by the Hunters, so in many ways, like human women, they have lost their rightful place in the world as well as their trust of each other.

Pudelek does a great job giving each of these tribes of women - huldras, mermaids, succubae, rusalki, and harpies - different personalities and traits. The protagonist, Faline, a huldra and one of these wild women, and her journey to self-realization and her growth as a leader of the various tribes is well-developed in this book.

I recommend this book despite the fact that I can't figure out how a tribe that reproduces with men and can only bear female children (the huldra) hasn't died out over the centuries.

Blood-Bound (Ace Assassin Book 1)
Kaelan Rhywiol
NineStar Press
PO Box 91792, Albuquerque, New Mexico
9781948608916, $17.99

Note: this book comes with a trigger warning for sexually explicit, rough sex/willing partners, reference to tickling as coercion, graphic violence, talk of depression, suicidal ideation and past attempt, panic attack, ableist language as self-ID, allusion to rape, blood letting and exchange, reference to self harm. If these things disturb or offend you, please stop reading now.

I was intrigued enough by the write-ups and other reviews I'd read about Kaelan Rhywiol's Blood-Bound to read it. Heavily based in Welch mythology, the world-building is superb. Ultimately it combines this rich mythology with erotic romance, a mystery involving a serial killer of non-humans, and crises of identity and connection. Though the sexual acts were sometimes rather graphic and involved rough sex (albeit with willing partners), the acts are the culmination of loving consensual relationships and result from tenderness and connection.

Rhywiol describes sexual identities that many cisgender and cissexual people may be unaware of. If you, as I did, need a reference, go to this website. For example, the heroine, Rhian is demisexual, giving her a unique perspective, one I've never read before. Her inability to desire another person without being in a loving relationship colors her world view and her relationships, creating a tension between her and people she may or may not desire. Rhywiol includes other queer and gender-fluid characters in their circle of friends and support network across the queer spectrum, from ace (the subtitle of the book refers to this ace as well as "ace" in terms of being an expert at something) and biromantic Rhian to bi Kai. Polyamory is also present and influences the often-fraught relationship between Rhian and Kai, her estranged husband whom she hasn't seen for three-hundred years.

The characters and their relationships were intriguing. The book was action-packed with the serial killer story laid over the romance. At times, I wished during the segue scenes after the action scenes, the relationships were delved into more deeply and with more emotional complexity. At well-under 300 pages, Rhywiol had ample room to follow these rabbit holes.

Hunt the Moon
Kari Cole
Carina Press
c/o Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
B07CBNTSMW, $3.99

I enjoy a good shifter romance with good world building, whether that setting be contemporary or fantasy. I also look for a sexy but plausible-feeling Hero and heroine. Hunt the Moon comes close. Luke is the arrogant alpha of his wolf-shifter pack, though his cockiness disguises his feelings of inadequacy. On the other hand, Isabel his mate, is a genuine plucky female with a horrific childhood that has scarred her mentally and physically. The plot combines two storylines, suspense set on top of romance. There are some incomplete plot points and jarring point-of-view shifts that hampered its quality.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Modern Real Estate Investing: The Delaware Statutory Trust
Mbt John Harvey Cpa, Trawnegan Gall, and David Kangas
Page Publishing Inc
9781642983425, $31.98, 330 Pages

The authors of this book have over a decades experience in the real estate private placement industry, and they have also asked several trusted colleagues from real estate sponsors and attorneys to qualified intermediaries to contribute in various ways. In doing this they hope to achieve their goal of not only introducing the DST concept for real estate investing to all, but also to provide for the reader a balanced view from the whole industry.

So what is DST?

DST (Delaware Statutory Trust) is a trust formed under Delaware statutory law which allows a person to own a fraction of a piece of real estate as an investment. This is made possible through a securities private placement offering, and it gives the individual the opportunity to join with other accredited investors in owning a real estate that they would not individually have been able to afford.

This book provides an extensive guide for everyone, from the beginner to the more experienced investor, and the information is divided into four section. The first gives a comprehensive introduction to alternative real estate investing using DST, with the aim of encouraging private investors to consider private placement investing.

Then in the second section, DST is looked at in more detail for those who are unfamiliar with the concept, and this section also provides the reader with insider information on how to choose trusted business partners, whether they be qualified intermediaries, sponsors or brokerages. The authors hope that this information will give private real estate investors the confidence to utilize the effectiveness of § 1031 exchange tax deferral and expand their personal portfolio of institutional grade real estate.

For the experienced investor DST is analysed and greater insight is given as the book progresses. This should aid the more seasoned investor in their selection of properties with a view to minimising risk and meeting their investment aims. Examples are given of real investment portfolios, and explanations of each provided to enable the reader to see the real potential of this type of investing.

At the end of the book in order to provide a balanced viewpoint, the authors have provided information on the alternatives to DST, and discuss their individual pros and cons. Because this is a high risk industry, throughout, the authors have tried to provide fair and balanced information and there is a separate chapter committed to potential risks.

This book is essential reading for anyone who is considering DST. The wealth of experience provided by the authors and contributors, provides invaluable information, presented in a way which is easy to read and understand. A very useful guide which enables the reader to make informed decisions on whether or not this type of real estate investing is for them.

Available from Amazon

One Sip at a Time:Learning to Live in Provence
Keith Van Sickle
Dresher Publishing
9780998312002, $8.99, 192 Pages

Can a two-career couple really pick up stakes and move to Provence?

When Californian Keith Van Sickle accepted an overseas work post to the French speaking Neuchatel in Switzerland, he and his wife could have believed that this event would be the stimulus which would change their lives forever.

You see, they loved their time abroad so much that on their return to America they decided to become self-employed as consultants. This decision gave them the flexibility and freedom to follow their dream of living in Provence France for periods of time.

So, together with their dog Lucca, they headed for Provence, and in springtime, for three years they stayed in three different locations, Molleges in the Bouches-du-Rhône, Ventabren in Aix-en-Provence, and Le Thor in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.

They were keen to learn the language, make new friends, and immerse themselves in the culture and customs of this beautiful region of France.

Keith's wonderfully descriptive writing brings alive for his reader the amazing scenery, majestic mountains, incredible chateaux, beautiful villages and culinary delights which they sampled on their visits, and gives a real feel for living there.

As an expat his experiences made me smile as he so eloquently describes the so very unique ways of the French people. There are many examples of how in many different ways they differ so much from the English, some make you smile and some are downright frustrating, but all are interesting to observe, unless of course you are waiting for something or someone to arrive, when their manana sense of time isn't funny at all.

Reading this book you get a true sense of how important time spent with family, and friends is in France. They are very patriotic and loyal to their country and region, indeed each department has its own culinary specialities, and festivals to celebrate the harvesting of the local produce.
Who could not be amazed at the incredible range of breads, pastries and gateaux which are offered in the boulangeries, and the wide range of produce which can be bought at the markets which are in all the villages however large or small. These markets really are wonderful to investigate, there you can find everything you need from fruit, and fresh goats cheeses direct from the farm, to chickens ready to lay your breakfast eggs.

I highly recommend this fascinating and entertaining book. Whether you love reading about other people's lives, want to know more about 'real' France, or would like to live or holiday there, this very interesting book will captivate and amuse you.

Available from Amazon

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

Through the Old Trellis Arch
Marvin D. Vallier, author and illustrator
Independently Published
9781521911013, $12.00, 164 Pages

Moving to a new home is a little frightening, depressing when leaving friends behind, and a little exciting with looking forward to a new life, perhaps a better one.

Early in the 1960s, Jennie Willard, along with her dog Willie, is beginning a new life in a quiet midwestern town. Moving from the apartment in the city to a spacious farmhouse is exciting for the family. Her parents, Jake and Pam are delighted with the change of lifestyle and her father's new job.

The Willard's are thrilled with the country living. The open spaces, room to move, Willie is roaming and exploring this immense new world seems like a 1dream come true. What is even more special, is that Jennie can now have a best friend. The city life of the apartment wasn't convenient for friendships. Being eleven-years-old, Jennie always imagined a best friend. Fortunately, on the neighboring farm, there is also another eleven-year-old girl with little brothers. Helen seems like the perfect person to introduce the family into the community.

Predictably, the girls become the best of friends.

Jennie discovers an old, run-down farmhouse not far from her new home. It looks uninhabited. When Jennie and Willie decide to explore, Jennie slowly opens the gate, hanging by one hinge under the old trellis arch. She assumes that Willie will follow her. He refuses, even when coaxed. Jennie decides to explore by herself.

She sees a young girl about her age named Sylvia who lives with her Grandfather. Strangely, when Jennie leaves, the house looks abandoned again.

Jennie mentions the farmhouse to Helen. Helen is very reluctant to go into the house, believing the rumors that it must be haunted. Also unusual is that Helen doesn't know Sylvia. Why? What is the secret of the house with the old trellis arch?

Every time Jenny opens the rusted gate under the trellis, she enters into what seems like another life, or is it?

Author and illustrator, Marvin D. Vallier is multi-talented as a graphic artist, painter, illustrator, poet as well as novelist. Since he retired in 2009, Mr. Vallier has now the time to spend with his passion for the arts.

Through the Old Trellis Arch is a wonderful tale of the historical tale for young adults, especially girls.

The story is historical in the settings and involves possible supernatural non-frightening events. Could it really happen? Could it happen to you?

Heir of Ra
M. Sasinowski
Kingsmill Press
9781732446700, $5.99

At the Giza Plateau during the year of 1913 in Egypt, Lord George Renley explored under The Great Sphinx enters a dark chamber with an unusual carving on a door. The legendary Hall of Records is believed to be located at this location. Is it legend or fact? Soon after, Hazim, his Arab guide, started bleeding from his nose. Lord Renley became dizzy and collapsed. The only reminder of the event was a notebook that a young Arab boy stole from the dying hands of Hazim.

Alyssa is not your typical 17-year-old girl. She spends her time working with her father, Kade, who is an archaeologist. Her education is working as one of his assistants. Currently, she is left in charge of a dig in Peru while her father is on a dream assignment in Egypt, exploring a room under The Great Sphinx and is only allowed this privilege for 24-hours. Leaving Alyssa in charge in Peru, is a great responsibility for someone so young. She feels honored, but also deprived. Why can't she be on this once-in-a lifetime dig with her father?

Her father, Kade follows the steps of Lord George Renley in searching for The Hall of Records. Just like his predecessor, he also became ill. Nothing seems to help him, every day leads him one step closer to death. No one seems to be able to medically help him. Will he die?

Alyssa decides to immediately travel to Egypt to be with her father. Unfortunately, that is not easy for a seventeen-year-old. Will she ever see her father alive?

Heir of Ra is fast paced adventure of life with Alyssa. She does not have the safest career choice. Since her mother died a few years ago, her attachment to her father is precious, even though she calls him by his first name, Kade.

The intended audience is young adults, especially girls; and anyone who enjoys a fast-paced story which winds up all the multiple strands of the story at the end. Heir of Ra is the first book in the Blood of Ra series featuring Alyssa.

The author, M. Sasinowski is a Polish-born American who fashioned the main character, Alyssa after his own 15-year-old daughter. According to his daughter, he also possesses a PhD in physics as well as an MD. For fun, he enjoys building computer, music jam-sessions, science debates, martial arts, Star Wars and Star Trek as well as archaeology.

Heir of Ra is a thrilling adventure for explorers of all ages.

The Last Mrs. Parrish
Liv Constantine
HarperCollins Publishers
9780062667588, $16.99, Paperback, 400 pages

At some time in your past, you probably have looked at a celebrity and imagined yourself as that celebrity. After awhile, most of us realize that no matter how hard we try, we just cannot become that person. Even with a makeover and dieting, it just will not work. You won't become that person.

Amber Pattinson obsesses over Daphne Parrish. She sees Daphne as perfect. To Amber, Daphne is who she wants to become. The beautiful, blond socialite and philanthropist exists with designer clothes including jewelry, travels extensively in their private jet and has a nanny For her two supposedly perfect daughters. She even has a charismatically handsome husband who happens to own his real-estate company. Of course, the family lives in their elegant homes, complete with servants and everything a woman could buy or desire.

Amber can only find one imperfection in Daphne. Daphne's sister passed away twenty-years ago from cystic fibrosis. In her honor, she created a charity for those suffering from the disease. However, she still misses her sister.

Amber has dreams. She is ambitious but looks plain and dowdy. She did not come from a background of wealth. How can she possibly enter the world of Daphne Parrish? Could Amber ever become like Daphne.

The Last Mrs. Parrish is a novel of envy, jealousy and even revenge. The characters are expertly developed into authentic people with flaws revealed as the story unfolds.

One of the strengths of The Last Mrs. Parrish is the daughters, Bella and Tallulah. From afar, the daughters seem perfect, but are revealing each to become an individual with their own challenges and realizations.

As the story progresses, you find yourself categorizing the characters into good vs. bad. Each character seems to evolve to someone you would not recognize by the end. This slow unveiling is what makes this book so unique.

This thrilling novel alternates perspectives from Amber in the first half of the book to Daphne in the second half of the book. The story continues to develop as a page turner with twists up to the last page. To state that this is a fast-read is an understatement. You don't want to put the book down.

The author, Liv Constantine is two sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine who collaborate to become Liv.

The Last Mrs. Parrish is a thrilling, fast-paced page turner. I look forward to the next book by the duo of Liv Constantine.

Teri Davis

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

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