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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 9 September 2020 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf Alisha Brubaker's Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf
Brandy Snow's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf
Clabe Polk's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf Donald Schneider's Bookshelf
Donna Ford's Bookshelf Elan Kluger's Bookshelf Gregory Stephenson's Bookshelf
Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf Jonah Conner's Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf K. C. Finn's Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Molly Martin's Bookshelf R. K. Singh's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Shawna Bowden's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf    

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf

The Black Cathedral
Marcial Gala
9780374118013, $13.99 Kindle, $17.39 Hardcover, $16.99 Paperback, 224 pages

Dystopian Utopia

Sir Thomas More might have written Utopia, but an idealized civilization is, in many ways, unobtainable. Modern literature and translations oftentimes display the bleakness of reality through poetic prose and elegant writing. Many modern publications also reflect modernity while providing social commentary on the modern era. Marcial Gala's The Black Cathedral is a compelling narrative that critiques hypocrisy in a world filled with uncertainty.

This translation that Anna Kushner had translated honors the themes of the original text with clarity and precision. The English text contains very symbolic meanings throughout the plot, and the titular Black Cathedral appropriately reveals that religious ideas might not really be that holy. It is actually an expose of how sometimes people are not who they appear to be. The narrators that populate this story have their own unique perspectives that are oftentimes unreliable. That level of uncertainty makes this translation as entertaining as a whodunit mystery.

The Black Cathedral is truly a representation of the twenty-first century, and the diversity that characterizes the modern world. Real life might never be ideal, but this translation serves as a warning about how there will always be a sense of illusion and fantasy that conceals reality clandestinely.

Alex Andy Phuong

Alisha Brubaker's Bookshelf

To Walk In Faith: Twenty-One Days to Walk in the Power of Faith
Sandra J. Petrusaitis
WestBow Press
9781973665786 (hardcover); $28.95, 130pp
9781973665779 (softcover); $11.95
9781973665762 (electronic); $3.99 (Kindle)

I've been hoping for a book like this one for quite some time. I've gone through several "big name" Bible studies for women, some even accompanied by a DVD, but this 112 page book packs a lot of punch.

As you can see by the cover art, this book is geared mainly towards women, but there are still truths that men can benefit from hearing - I've spent time discussing this book with my husband and he's expressed appreciation for the different perspectives offered.
Forrest Gump is famous for his comment about shoes, but the author of this book, Sandra Petrusaitis, expresses that a woman's footwear (or lack of) gives the world an idea of who she is, where she's been, where she's going, what she's about, and assists in her expression of spirituality.

From the acceptance of being a woman, something that is both loved and hated, Sandra offers examples throughout her book of women not typically noticed or focused on in the Bible. While we all have our own revelations at our own time and in our own walk with God, Sandra transparently shares some of her own.

If you're looking for a book that will help deepen your relationship with God or you want to discover who you are to God, this book is an absolute gem. I appreciate and applaud the author for her expression of faith while not disqualifying her readers. I look forward to reading more books as they become available.

Alisha M. Brubaker, Reviewer
Oh Bless It!

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

Bush School
Peter O'Brien
Allen & Unwin
9781760876807, A$29.99, paperback, 284 pages

The Last Lighthouse Keeper
John Cook with Jon Bauer
Allen & Unwin
9781760875381, A$32.99, paperback, 341 pages

By the time Easter approached, ...I was feeling quite desperate: I had no company of my own age, I had an improper diet, I spoke with other adults only on Sunday afternoons for a few hours at most, and I lived in a tar-paper cubby. (Peter O'Brien)
I played a lot of patience on that island. A lot. I tried cheating at it, too. You can't. It's too complex to know if your intervention was for better or worse. I came to realize over the years that life is like this, too, and can't be cheated. (John Cook)

These may sound like familiar accounts of being in Corona virus lockdown, but in fact they are both memories of things which happened more than fifty years ago. Bush School and The Last Lighthouse Keeper are memoirs and each records the experience of living and working in an isolated place away from family and friends. They are very different books but both are fascinating, and both recall a time when there was no internet, no mobile phones, when land-lines if they existed were party-lines, and long-distance phone calls were expensive. Modes of transport, too, were very different and often unreliable.

Peter O'Brien was a twenty-year-old city boy with a rich social life. After completing his training as a teacher, he had spent two years teaching in a busy inner-city school, but 'because of bonding arrangements that young teachers signed to receive financial support in training', he now had to complete at least two years teaching in a country school. Peter's first sight of the tiny, remote village of Weabonga was not encouraging. Arriving in the mail car with the local postman, after a circuitous drive through the high tablelands of New South Wales, mostly along gravel roads where 'traffic was spare, almost non-existent', they skirted the unfortunately named, Swamp Oak Creek, and Peter saw:

a tumbledown group of tin huts on the right, a shabby weatherboard house to the left....a largish, falling apart tin shed that might once have been a hall and, opposite, a tennis court behind sagging chicken wire.

The timber cottage where he expected to live for the next two years was in bad repair, and the 'welcome' he received from his landlady was abrupt. When she took him through the dark house to his room, he encountered a makeshift enclosure on the veranda with just a bed in it - nothing else. From then on the landlady, her monosyllabic husband, and their three children, kept away from him. He ate alone, and meals consisted of stewed rabbit and squash, daily, and stale bread and rabbit sandwiches for lunch.

Luckily, the one-room school was in good repair, and the children, 18 of them aged from 5 -15 from scattered properties around the area, wanted only 'to enjoy spending time with each other but they also wanted to learn'.

As an inexperienced teacher, devising a programme for this wide range of ages and development, and with no-one to ask for advice or share ideas with, Peter constantly worried that he might not cope. He writes vividly of the ways in which he used the energy and curiosity of the children to implemented an innovative child-centered programme, which not only kept the children interested and happy but also conformed to the Education department's curriculum. The children blossomed but, for Peter, the stress and isolation, the lack of guidance, adult company, leisure activities and intellectual stimulation, together with his terrible living conditions eventually convinced him that, for the sake of his mental and physical health, he must resign. Fortunately, a young man from a nearby farm made contact with him and invited him to join the local rugby club, then, hearing of his predicament, suggested that he come and live at the farm which he and his two sisters were running their elderly father. This turned out to be a happy solution to many of Peter's problems.

Peter's concern and affection for each of his young students is very apparent. He writes of their daily interactions, of some of the methods he used to teach them, and of his own exploration of the local area, which was once a thriving gold-mining hub; and of its history, which had shaped the people and the politics and of the area. Many of the children's parents had lived through the war and the depression and had experienced extreme poverty, and they had passed good values on to their children. Saying goodbye to Weabonga at the end of his two-year stay, Peter noted that the children had changed over the years, grown more confident and knowledgeable, but they had always been tractable and co-operative:

As country kids, they were delightful, happy people, slower in their ways than city kids might have been, more circumspect about relationships with adults. They were innocent, guileless, and mainly free of negative feelings and thoughts, developing as individuals whom, I believed, would grow to be wonderful adults.

'Well done parents', he says.

John Cook's account of isolation as a lighthouse keeper on Tasman Island is very different, and his memoir begins with an account of the breakup of his marriage and his traumatic separation from his three young children. In 1968, partly to cope with this loss, he took the job of lighthouse keeper on Tasman Island - 'a rough and trying lump in the middle of the Southern Ocean'. In his 'Prologue' he describes how

Some nights I'd lie on that flimsy balcony, almost a hundred feet above the ground, and roar for you. The sky would be doing its slow roll, the stars strewn, nothing between me and Antarctica but the raging of the ocean. I'd feel like I was in thin air. Suspended from the tall, hollow tower by just a few strips of steel.

Understandably, this is a memoir full of sadness and storms but there are also idyllic passages where Cook describes the land, the sky, the sea, and especially the birds and animals he loved. His experiences of the difficulties of living in such an isolated spot are different to those of Peter O'Brien, but equally psychologically challenging. His descriptions of the damp and mould-infested accommodation, the constant hard work of keeping the light functioning, and, especially, of the terrible weather, are so chilling that it is hard not to shiver just reading them.

Just getting to the lighthouse in the first place was dramatic - a rough sea-crossing, reaching land via a flying-fox in a basket strung on an overhead wire rigged from 'a rock jutting up from the seas, to a landing 30 metres above the water, then a near vertical ride in a trolley hauled up the side of the island on a tramway.

Cook was not alone on the island. His de-facto wife, Deb, accompanied him. To get the job, he had lied to the Lighthouse authorities, saying they were married, and they were constantly worried that his would be discovered and he would be sacked. There were also two other lighthouse keepers and their wives on the island, but these men were in a state of war with each other, so the atmosphere was disturbed and unfriendly. Work was continuous, day and night - keeping the gas-cylinders which powered the light full, winding the weights of the rotation mechanism, cleaning the prisms, making weather reports, and ensuring that everything ran smoothly - but sharing shifts with these men was an ongoing problem for Cook. All this kept him busy, but Deb was left alone much of the time, since one of the wives was suffering from mental disturbance and the other was busy with her two children.

Added to these personal problems was the terrible weather. Just one of the Cook's many descriptions of a storm gives some idea of what it was like:

It was going to be a long night waiting for the roof to come off. The wind did not abate but I had my turn on the tower to do....Well before 3 a.m. I got up and put on all my waterproofs and stepped into the hallway....Glass and rainwater was littered along the corridor. I stepped out and the doors at either end were either off or dangling from their hinges....Walking in wind of 100 knots is extremely difficult. Water was blasting me in the face, as were bits of debris....I had to crawl once I got near the tower....There was a huge increase in wind at the tower and I simply could not get there. It was like clinging to the wing of a jet.

There was dangerous hail, too, and fogs which frequently surrounded the lighthouse, although it could be a sunny day down at sea level. There are descriptions of terrible storm-damage and danger, of being cut off by bad weather so that provisions became scarce. But there are memories, too, of whale song, schools of dolphins, a troop of fairy penguins marching over his feet, 'kamikaze' mutton birds crash-landing in the scrub, and of a broken-winged bird which Cook nursed back to flight.

Toothache, hernia, appendicitis, unexplained excruciating stomach-cramps - the illness of anyone on the island was a constant worry as the boat to the mainland might have to wait days for a storm to abate. Interestingly, Cook notes that each time he went to the mainland, he got sick because he was again mixing with many other people.

Tasman Island was not the only lighthouse at which Cook worked, and later he was to witness the electrification of the lights, which he found heartbreaking, partly because it broke the isolation he had become used to but especially because it disturbed the natural ecology of the islands, which he had come to love, and which he writes of glowingly. He hated the changes which occured with electrification, but he could not tear himself away from the lights. For Deb, they were his 'other wife' and she distanced herself from them and from him. Eventually, the stresses of the job and of Cook's worries about Deb, and about his children, resulted in the authorities recommending psychiatric treatment. But he stayed in the job and by the end of the book there are hopeful signs that his life, and his relationships with Deb and with his children, were beginning to regain a happier balance.

John Cook was one of Tasmania's last kerosene lighthouse keeper.

The Wild Laughter
Caoilinn Hughes
9781786077813, A$29.99, paperback, 208 pages

There is plenty of laughter in this book. Hart (Doharty) Black's way of telling his story is unique, colourful and often very funny. But there is wild laughter, too, because sometimes the only way of staying sane in the face of distress and death is to laugh:

We never needed hope to keep us going, keep us drinking. We never needed promises or prospects like the Yanks. No, no. What we could not be without is laughter - the thing austerity couldn't touch. O-ho, the wild laughter!

The heady days when the Celtic Tiger flourished under EU subsidies and brought prosperity to ordinary Irish folk are long gone. Hart remembers the good days when, at the Offaly agricultural show, sixty thousand people the colour of rain turned out in complicated hair-dos and rosette-augmented breasts. They sashayed between alpaca-shearing competitions, pig-agility exhibitions and Herefords with weird clean arses being spruced for the stock judging.

And no one voiced a word of provocation or changed the planning legislation or sought out unbiased advice or turned down the 10K loan when they'd only asked the bank teller for directions.

Now, Hart's beloved father, Manus (The Chief ) is dying of a disease he refuses to be treated for, and the farm which he has run since his parents and young sister were 'burnt to slags in a hay barn when he was a youth' is now rented from the new owners after the bank foreclosed on the debt.

Hart's mother, Nora, is an ex-nun who left the convent to become housekeeper to a priest before marrying Manus at the age of 30. She is cold, un-motherly and unfathomable. His elder brother, Cormac, is selfish, clever and tormenting, and he and Hart spar bitterly whenever they are together. Hart introduces him as a bright young thing. My brother Cormac. His mind was a luxury. The face was rationed, it must be said, but there's not a body with everything. Part t-rex, part pelican. Picture that menace of features! ...When he was twelve he looked twenty. The mind was ahead, too, as I said.... But there was the atmosphere of it, knowing every moment something you'd said would be turned inside out like a child's eyelid to traumatise you....Early on its potential was fearsome, but he cached it away too long, and it curdled.

Cormac ensures that it is Hart who helps his father on the farm and cares for him when he needs it. He constantly belittles him and is free with 'a clobber to the head' if he asks questions. But Hart is clever in his own way. He loves plays and, at the moment, scorns 'Noel Coward or Wilde on about pomp and circumstance, celebrities with silken shirts and trust funds', and prefers to 'hear tales of people who are worse off than ourselves', like those by Beckett, about 'some poor sod getting stuck in a mound of earth for the rest of her life for she can't be bothered to dig herself out'. And, as Hart says, he has 'the looks' and can pull the girls. He takes Dolly, a young aspiring actress, from Cormac and together they enjoy a full but brief sex life before Dolly returns to her home town in Galway. From there, she writes Hart enigmatic and funny letters.

The first dark moment in the book comes when Hart, Cormac, and their friend Shane take revenge on the sheep-farming property owner who, as an old school mate of their father's, and when the good times in Ireland seemed never-ending, persuaded the Chief to invest in 'a villa in Malaga with a shared swimming pool and a dishwasher and a motorised awning and oversize tiles'. While Cormac and Shane slaughter this man's valuable spring lambs, Hart, who is terrified of dogs, stays in the car. Then Shane gives Hart a gory lesson in skinning them, and, at Hart's insistence, they leave the splattered guts for Morrigan to slip on and learn what his like done to men like our father. Seeing in Shane's gittish expression that he might not have grasped it, I added: 'It's metaphorical-like. For gutting the economy'.

What makes the most disturbing theme of the book, however, is the Chief's decision to die and to indicate this to his sons and recruit their help. Hart is torn apart by love and grief for his father, and although the process of assisting this suicide is matter-of-factly researched and discussed by the Chief and all his family, it is Hart who, at the last moment, has to ensure its success.

Hart's account of the subsequent arrest and trial of Nora, Cormac and himself, is told in his usual vivid way. And the final twist to these events, and the eventual outcome of this, are left to the last pages of the book.

I found this to be a beautifully written, funny, but disturbing book. Not just because of the way the subject of assisted suicide is handled, but also because of the continual bitterness between Hart and his brother, who unfeelingly makes use of the fact that Hart dearly loves his father and will do anything for him. In the words of the local priest during the trial, Hart

thought Manus a saint, which is a rare attitude for a child who has been overly relied upon.

In her acknowledgements, Caoilinn Hughes writes that in 2013 'Mary Fleming challenged the [Irish] Supreme Court to establish a constitutional right to die, hastening a long overdue conversation'. This book makes a powerful contribution to that conversation.

Revenge: Murder in Three Parts
Transit Lounge
9781925760583, A$29.99, paperback, 236 pages

Prologue: 'The Demon Brother': 11 chapters culminating in 'Revenge'; and an Epilogue: 'Letters from Kat' (Kat is the demon brother's daughter).

These, it seems, are the three parts of the 'Murder' as indicated in the sub-title. And it does take Yannie a long time to take revenge on her demon brother. Meanwhile, because S.L.Lim draws us into Yannie's life and charts her interactions with family and friends so effectively, we get to know and like her, and to understand her feelings, and, especially, her resilience.

Yannie is eleven when we first meet her and she is small. Her brother, Shan, is four years older, bigger and stronger, and a bully. 'Natural cold-blooded killer' thinks Yannie after he has pinned her to a wall and almost throttled her. She has learned that her mother will be dismissive if she tells her of Shan's violent attacks: 'He's always hated that you are better at maths than him', she says; or she will laugh about it with a friend - 'Did I tell you about Yannie's brush with death yesterday?'. So Yannie arms herself with a sharp paper-knife which she finds in a drawer:

Sometimes she imagines how it would feel to wield it as a weapon. Pressure at the point of contact, piercing the skin; the sick texture of flesh giving way.

She knows she'll never do it. But why?

At school, Yannie is clever and popular with her classmates and her teachers. When she isn't studying, she reads voraciously. One elderly teacher tells her she 'will go far', but Yannie knows that her parents are poor, and if she shows her cleverness at home they are dismissive, so she has learned to play dumb.

Yannie's mother is unpredictable - sometimes gentle and kind, at other times she is violent and will give Yannie 'a crack across the face' if Yannie annoys her. 'Things don't make sense when an object can change shape like that' thinks Yannie. 'A car turns into an elephant. An elephant turns into a car'. Her father will not get involved, and incidents with her brother continue. 'He is family', her father tells her. 'We need each other Yannie. As a family we must stick together'. What Yannie does not understand is why Shan's friends do not see the vicious side of him.

Lim skillfully captures Yannie's childish incomprehension and puzzlement, but as she grows older it is clear to Yannie that her brother is favoured. Money is found for his education but when Yannie's own exam results come through and she is offered a place at the National University.

There is no wild excitement at home, no celebrations the way there were when her brother qualified. The first child of the family to attend university is a triumph. The second is just anticlimax. This suits her just fine; she's not interested in anything as vaporous as praise. All she wants is cold hard cash, so she can flee this family, this city life.

Yannie's father explains that there is no money to pay for Yannie's university study, yet Yannie is not unhappy. She has been helping her father in the family shop for some time and has got to know him better. He is impressed when she explains how to adjust profits for inflation. She reorganizes the shelves so that attractive items are at eye level. She recognises regular customers and remembers their names. People have heard of her exam success and praise her for it. And all this improves the family finances.

But when she discovers that her father has used the business as collateral for a loan in order to send her brother to England to study law at Oxford University, she is furious. She challenges her father: 'Why did you lie to me?' she demands. 'Why did you tell me there wasn't any money?' He blusters:

Oh Yannie dear, I'm sorry, I really am. But there was no other choice. And it's such an opportunity for your brother. I know the two of you are like cats and dogs, but remember, he's still your family. A good thing for him is a good thing for all of us.

'But what about me?' Immediately after having spoken Yannie is sickeningly conscious of all the people, through history, who have uttered these words, usually to no effect. 'Aren't I part of this family? Why does he get his chance, two chances, and I get none? What about my opportunities?

But it makes no difference. So begin 'long years of waiting. Entropy'. Meanwhile other things have happened in Yannie's life. At school she has formed a friendship with Shuying. She finds herself dreaming of her and knows she loves her. But after a brief, unexpected moment of shared passion, Shuying distances herself and becomes close to a local boy. Yannie's sadness is 'absolute' and she can see how it will end:

Eventually Shuying will find someone who's 'husband material', as Yannie's mother says..... Someone who is a provider... She and Yannie will see each other now and then; they'll be friendly, but the walls will come down, the way they do around married people.

Yannie's mother also sees 'husband material' in one of Shan's friends and encourages Yannie to consider a relationship with him. Jan is 'a nice boy', 'He likes you' her mother says. Jan is friendly, responsible and honest, but his appearance on her doorstep fills Yannie with 'a faint sense of dismay'. Time passes. Shuying does marry. Jan, too, gets married, but not to Yannie, although after his wife dies he visits her more and more often. And Yannie's complex and changing relationships with both these friends become a large part of her story.

Yannie's brother completes his law course, marries a Malaysian girl whose family 'is rich', and moves to Sydney, where, as Jan tells her, he 'does well for himself' and is interviewed on You Tube. Jan shows Yannie the interview and 'there is her brother's face on the screen: 'all the flesh and blood and hatred of him. Exactly the same as he was, and yet still different'. Yannie wants to giggle at his bright blue tie and 'stupid clothes': 'What is a jealous child doing all dressed up like an adult?' She remembers his fingers indenting her throat, how he exulted in his power over her, remembers all the things she has given up, and thinks how different their lives are, and she wants to howl. ' 'Before I go to my grave' she says out loud, 'I will kill that man''.

Yet, after her father's death, Yannie becomes closer to her mother and is surprise one day to find herself defending Shan.

'Your brother is a no-hoper', her mother says one day, apropos of nothing. 'We can't rely on him for anything'.

.... 'I heard he came back for a visit. He stayed less than five kilometres away.... Didn't even tell us he was coming. I only heard about it from Auntie Eichoo. Didn't even bother to come for a visit'.

'He's not that bad' Yannie says mildly amazed at her own generosity. As far as she's concerned, this is totally untruthful: her brother is in every way 'that bad' and possibly worse.

When Yannie's parent die, Shan manages to acquire all their assets. Yannie, however, has saved enough money to rent an apartment, and when an uncle tells her that 'private tuition' is 'where the gold mine is', she begins by tutoring 'her aunt's son's friend' and soon has a thriving business. There is never reliable money, but occasionally parents decide to give her a bonus as a reward for their offspring's good exam results. After a number of years she can afford to buy an apartment. And she can afford to fly to Sydney to visit her brother.

So begins a new way of life to Yannie. Shan's wife Evelyn gets on well with her, so, too, does their teenage daughter, Kat, who Yannie is tutoring. Eventually, Yannie is invited to live with them, and for a while it looks as if she will get her revenge by turning Evelyn and Kat against Shan, whose suppressed violence is still evident in his responses to his family, and whose underhand and illegal business dealings Yannie finally discovers and reveals. But this is not how things turn out. Yannie does get her revenge, but in an unexpected and unplanned way.

The Epilogue of the book is different in style and in mood. Kat's letters to Yannie, written from school in England and presented in the book in bold type, are full of typical teenage exaggeration: 'Everyone is mega stressed out', 'Ughh, I am so *tired* of this shit. There's a billion assessments', but they also convey scraps of news and show Kat's continuing love for Yannie. Yannie's own thoughts and dreams are presented in italics: 'This is a memory play. It is not realistic. It is sentimental and dimly lit. It -.' And interwoven with these, the story line continues to chart Yannie's life after her revenge.

This is S.L Lim's second published novel (the first was Real Differences) and, as a writer, she has grown in confidence and skill. Revenge deals less with broad social issues and more closely with family interactions and the ways in which one person reacts to life's challenges. Lim tells a good story and she tells it fluently and well.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Brandy Snow's Bookshelf

Hungry Hearts
Julie Hoag
Month9Books, LLC
(in association with the Swoon Romance imprint)
Audio CD $24.29, Audiobook $21.41
9781951710989, $14.92 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 291pp

Julie Hoag's Hungry Hearts delves into the difficult internal dialogue of a teen being controlled by body dysmorphia and anorexia. Her inner self-loathing and struggle tears at the soul, casting light on this terrible disease and how it affects the mind.

Additionally, the novel takes you right back into the throes of high school - the peer pressure, the friend dynamics, the ups and downs of teenage love - in a very authentic voice. I don't want to give away any spoilers but I'll just say that if you like a contemporary YA with teenage angst, a dose of living with mental illness, family dynamics, and an unlikely hero/love interest that's been there all along, then this is a story for you!

Congrats on your debut, Julie!

Brandy Woods Snow, Reviewer
Author of "Meant to be Broken" & "As Much as I Ever Could"

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

The Hidden History of Monopolies
Thom Hartmann
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781523087730, $15.99, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service, a lack of viable substitute goods, and the possibility of a high monopoly price well above the seller's marginal cost that leads to a high monopoly profit. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power to charge overly high prices. Although monopolies may be big businesses, size is not a characteristic of a monopoly. A small business may still have the power to raise prices in a small industry or market. (Wikipedia)

American monopolies dominate, control, and consume most of the energy of our entire economic system; they function the same as cancer does in a body, and, like cancer, they weaken our systems while threatening to crash the entire body economic. American monopolies have also seized massive political power and use it to maintain their obscene profits and CEO salaries while crushing small competitors.

But in "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream", progressive radio host Thom Hartmann shows we've broken the control of behemoths like these before, and we can do it again.

Hartmann takes us from the birth of America as a revolt against monopoly (remember the Boston Tea Party?), to the largely successful efforts of both Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt and other like-minded leaders to restrain corporations' monopolistic urges, to the massive changes in the rules of business starting during the "Reagan Revolution" that have brought us to the cancer stage of capitalism.

Hartmann also shows the damage monopolies have done to so many industries: agriculture, healthcare, the media, and more. Individuals have taken a hit as well: the average American family pays a $5,000 a year "monopoly tax" in the form of higher prices for everything from pharmaceuticals to airfare to household goods and food.

But Hartmann also describes commonsense, historically rooted measures we can take (such as revitalizing antitrust regulation, taxing great wealth, and getting money out of politics) to pry control of our country from the tentacles of the monopolists.

Critique: A timely critique of our contemporary corporate dominated economy, "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream" is an especially and unreservedly recommended contribution to our on-going national dialogue as we seek to recover from our current economic distress imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. While an important and vital addition to community, college, and university library Corporate Antitrust, Free Enterprise & Capitalism Economic Studies collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political reform activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).

Gin: How to Drink it: 125 Gins, 4 Ways
Dave Broom
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784726638, $19.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Gin is a distilled alcoholic drink that derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries (Juniperus communis). Gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, all of various origins, styles, and flavour profiles, that revolve around juniper as a common ingredient. (Wikipedia)

"Gin: How to Drink It" by Dave Broom is about classic gins and new-generation gins, about gins from all over the world. It's about gin enjoyed with tonic and Sicilian lemonade. About the perfect martini gin and the best gin for a negroni. It's about juniper-heavy and delicate aromatic gins. About gin cocktails that ooze style and personality. Above all it's about enjoying your gin in ways you never thought possible.

With more gin brands available than ever before, it is the time to set out what makes gin special, what its flavors are and how to get the most out of the brands you buy -- and for this new edition of "Gin: How to Drink It", Dave has revised more than half of the entries to include the best gins available today.

Critique; Profusely illustrated in full color throughout, "Gin: How to Drink It" is an ideal introduction to the novice gin drinker and has a wealth of information that will appeal to even the most discerning gin connoisseur. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Alcoholic Beverage reference collections, it should be noted "Gin: How to Drink It" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: An award-winning author and whisky expert, Dave Broom has been writing about whisky for 25 years as a journalist and author. He has written eight books, two of which (Drink! and Rum) won the Glenfiddich Award for Drinks Book of the Year. He has also won the Glenfiddich Award for Drinks Writer of the Year twice and recently won the extremely prestigious IWSC Communicator of the Year Award. In 2015 Tales of the Cocktail presented Dave with the Best Cocktail & Spirits award, soon to be followed by the Golden Spirit Award in 2016. He is also actively involved in whisky education, acting as a consultant to major distillers on tasting techniques as well as teaching professionals and the public. He was also one of the developers of Diageo's generic whisky tasting tool, the Flavor Map.

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

July's Heart: A Contemporary Romantic Comedy (Texas Plains Series Book 2)
Anne Curtis
Independently Published
B08C43NHXY, $2.99, Kindle, 201 Pages

Genevieve plays matchmaker, again, as she did in book one (Christmas Candee). Genevieve only told small lies to arrange a match. Was she also trying to make a match for herself, or not? She reminds people of Auntie Mame with her eccentricities, and they are never quite sure what she is planning.

In this book, a small town near Amarillo is having a community play with some star power from Hollywood. July is local talent and is trapped into what she thinks is a problem. If she doesn't go along with Gen, the town will be disappointed and the theater's money will be lost. She becomes a reluctant participant in the plot, not wanting to break her contract.

Up to now, Clay has never met a woman who was half as glad to see him as Dolly. Dolly being his new dog. A recent date didn't like the dog. His other sly admirer is wanting him all to herself. And that is not all she wants.

After a few bumps along the road and some detective work, a small crime network is revealed. Oh, the things people can hide in a small town. And how nice when everything finally resolves so (most) people are happy.

From Depression to Contentment: A Self-Therapy Guide
Dr, Bob Rich
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105-9627
9781615994359, $13.89 paperback, $17.49 Audio Book, 157 pages
B07PGQMP4Q, $5.95 Kindle

This user's guide begins with the thought, "You need to be crazy to stay sane in a crazy world," the author immediately begins explaining his self-help information. He lists ways to help yourself that are mostly free. He also describes what people think will bring them happiness that do not necessarily help, such as material objects. The author is a universal world citizen, citing how major religions view depression.

The first part of the book is short, clear, and concise. A more philosophical discussion follows later in the book detailing the specific aspects of depression, examples of people who exhibited them, and how the people became better. The stories are easy to relate to as the writing is conversational and kind.

Facts about sleep are detailed, as sleep can be a problem in depression. Dr. Rich says too much or too little sleep can both be a problem. Relaxation, meditation, mindfulness, and flow theory are also covered.

Throughout the book, links to further explanation are provided which are usually on Dr. Bob Rich's website. In the Kindle version, a person can just click the links to easily find more discussion on the topics. He also recommends several books that will help most people. He suggests some people might benefit from in-short-term person counseling, as well.

Sublime Planet (The Celebration Series of Poetry)
Magdalena Ball and Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Independent Publishing
9781482054705, $12.95 paperback, 103 pages
B00BRLF5GA, $4.95 Kindle

Award-winning poets Magdalena Ball and Carolyn Howard-Johnson have written a Celebration series of poetry books, and Sublime Planet was written for Earth Day. The writing is deep and profound. Although I have read the book, slowly, several times, I am still impressed and seeing more meaning in the poems.

Species lost, beauty in the world, other planets, and desertification are some of the topics. Ball writes of vanishing starlings and a flight plan to extinction. She describes the tipping point as molten gold {that} melts to horizon - changing light to dark. Only an emotional response is possible.

Howard-Johnson writes of water "licking" the shore, and poppies that shed their gowns to release seeds. She writes in the Philip Levine school of poetry, which is quite journalistic. It is to be read a sentence or fragment at a time to understand and ponder.

The book is beautifully written and poignantly sad, as the reader considers harsh climate issues happening now.

Carolyn Wilhelm

Clabe Polk's Bookshelf

The Fair
John A. Heldt
B08C2RMG6Q, $3.99, 357 pages

Once again the Mark Lane family has escaped the clutches of an obsessed Robert Devereaux who is hell-bent on killing Mark Lane and recovering the two time boxes that Mark took from Janus Enterprises.

Now, it is 1893, Chicago, and the summer of the 1893 Chicago International Exposition, the 'World's Fair'. There are crowds and excitement in which the Lanes can disappear and remain free of Devereaux's hitman, Silas Bain. Jordan, still reeling from Bain's murder of his sweetheart in Virginia in 1863 (The Lane Betrayal) goes west to clear his head and lands in Virginia City, Nevada where he meets Jessie Cole. Not to be outdone, Jeremy develops a relationship with Ivy, a beautiful (but engaged) Chicago socialite, While Laura develops a friendship with Prudence, an Irish artist and a woman who is trying to make a dent in the man dominated world of 1893.

Suddenly, there are three deep relationships, involving multiple people, at risk from the Lane family's time travel and the relentless pursuit of them by Robert Devereaux and Silas Bain. When Silas Bain finally appears in Virginia City to exact retribution on Jordan, he gets the shock of his life. When the Chicago police raid the World's Fair Hotel early, saving Prudence and Laura, members of Janus Enterprises in 2021 get the shock of their lives. History is no longer what they have come to know.

Lacking the action that I found attractive in the author's preceding book, The Lane Betrayal, The Fair, nevertheless, provides satisfying reading for lovers of romance stories. Although I'm usually not a reader of romance novels, the intrigue of Jeremy's farewell scene with Ivy was satisfying as was the unexpected outcome of Jordan's encounter with Silas Bain.

The Fair should make any reader of romance happy. It includes love and loss, heartaches, close calls, and enough action and surprises to keep most readers glued to the page. 5- Stars.

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

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

The Rebel Angels Among Us
Timothy Wyllie
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591433668, $22.00, 344pp

Synopsis: An angel of Seraphic status, Georgia arrived on this world with the first of the celestial missions, over half a million years ago. During the angelic rebellion 203,000 years ago, which led to the quarantine of Earth and 36 other planets from the Multiverse, she aligned herself with Lucifer and the rebel angels. After the rebellion, Georgia was permitted to remain on this planet as a Watcher, making occasional side-trips to Zandana, a sister planet also under the thrall of the angelic rebellion. Writing together with Timothy Wyllie, in "The Rebel Angels Among Us: The Approaching Planetary Transformation", Georgia provides her personal account of Earth during the fall of Atlantis as well as accounts of her trips to Zandana.

Georgia reveals, in detail, the devolution of Atlantean life during its society's decline, the calamities that enveloped the civilization, and the migration of this sophisticated culture to other areas of the planet. She shows how the fate of Atlantis ties in with the Lucifer Rebellion and also offers us understanding of where human civilization is now in contemporary times. Her travels to the planet Zandana reveal a world at the same stage of development and facing the same problems as Earth, yet taking a very different approach to their resolution. Through her revelations, Georgia exposes the supreme significance of Earth in the larger Multiverse context and also how our planet is one of the worlds on which the rebel angels have been accorded the privilege of a mortal incarnation. She describes how this unprecedented interspecies mutation (rebel angel incarnations) started in Atlantis in the eighth millennium.

Interwoven with Georgia's narrative are her observations of Timothy Wyllie's current and previous lives, including his involvement with the Process Church and his struggle to leave it. Georgia shares her words, in part, to awaken the 100 million rebel angels currently living their human lives, most unaware of their angelic heritage. She reveals how a mortal incarnation for a rebel angel is an opportunity to redeem their past and help prepare for the imminent transformation of global consciousness as the rebel-held planets, including Earth, are welcomed back into the Multiverse.

Critique: An extraordinary and inherently fascinating contribution to the growing library of channeled metaphysical studies that is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99), "The Rebel Angels Among Us: The Approaching Planetary Transformation" will prove to be of special and particular interest to dedicated students of the metaphysical sciences and New Age spirituality.

Editorial Note: Trained as an architect, Timothy Wyllie (1940-2017) was a graphic artist and writer who specialized in the study of non-human intelligences, such as angels, ETs, and dolphins. He was also the author of several books, including "The Return of the Rebel Angels", "Confessions of a Rebel Angel", and "Secret History of the Watchers".

Slender Notions
Nicholas Antonopoulos
Independently Published
9798639949265, $11.99, PB, 397pp

Synopsis: Leo is an aspiring writer in his early-twenties living in suburban Massachusetts. He is also discreet heroin addict unable to stomach the inanity of day to day life, living vicariously through the writings of Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac.

Drug-laden trips to a local Zen Monastery and shoplifting excursions at the local bookstore occupy his idle time. After being invited to a poetry reading in Boston, he meets Cole who is a recently divorced middle-aged man, on the verge of a mental breakdown, along with a streetwise homeless man named Zanzi, unveils a plan to cure the world from the so-called virtues of stoicism and austerity, and usher in a new era of unabashed happiness.

Together, they all come up with the #laughterchallenge: a viral video challenge which encourages groups of friends to record themselves laughing hysterically together for at least a minute straight. The #laughterchallenge becomes the catalyst for the true Laughter Challenge; in which the entire city of Boston will congregate together on the summer solstice to laugh together, and otherwise lose their minds, for a few minutes, in a demonstration of free expression and communal joy.

As Leo becomes further involved in this movement, he swirls into a downward spiral of fear and anxiety whilst simultaneously trying to put an end to his agonizing opiate addiction. Likewise, Cole begins to feel the pressure of his growing celebrity, and struggles to avoid becoming a fraudulent self-help guru while preaching the paradoxical idea of being seriously committed to silliness and laughter. Is more madness the path to happiness, and if so, why is unbridled joy and silliness stigmatized in a society riddled with anxiety and depression?

Critique: An unapologetic work of fiction that scintillates with wit and vigorous honesty scouring every page, and at once both a brutal account of opiate addiction, and an inquisition into the pursuit of happiness, "Slender Notions" is a dark narrative with humor, intelligence, and a nervous tension driving the plot forward. A deftly crafted and compelling novel that is all the more impressive when considering it is author Nicholas Antonopoulos' debut as a novelist and showcases his genuine flair for originality and narrative storytelling, "Slender Notions" is an especially recommended addition for personal reading lists, as well as both community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

The Body On The Sidewalk / The Reluctant Murderer
Bernice Carey
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781944520946, $19.95, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: In Bernice Carey's mystery, "The Body on the Sidewalk" a body is found outside the Grady home, a man whom they all know, shot in the back. There is no getting around the fact that someone in the family must have done it. Then the murder weapon is found, with several different family fingerprints on it. And what was once a fairly stable group quickly dissolves into suspicion and distrust. The police decide to arrest the son, Don, who seems to be the most likely suspect. His sister Pauline believes the crime was committed by friends of Don's, a couple she does not approve of. Peggy was the last to see the victim, and is wracked with guilt. The youngest sister, Maureen, just wants to be left alone. And their mother, Mamie, is torn between them all. But which one pulled the trigger? And who will pay the price?

In Carey's story, The Reluctant Murder", Vivian Haines informs the reader that intends to commit murder this weekend. She tells us so directly, but who is her intended victim? Could it be her wealthy aunt, who is supposed to leave her half her fortune one day? Or her frivolous sister and her seemingly penniless boyfriend? Or perhaps her aunt's mousy companion, or her long-suffering chauffeur? Or Vivian's own fiance, the fastidious Cuthbert? All we know is what Vivian tells us as her efforts to plan and execute the perfect murder are constantly thwarted. Now Vivian is beginning to panic. Could one of them suspect her? Could one of them be planning to kill her before she can murder them first?

Critique: Bernice Carey (1911 - February 22, 1990) was an American writer of mystery novels, short plays, and articles. Her works of crime fiction, written in the late 1940s to mid-1950s. A true master of the mystery/suspense genre, Stark House Press has done all dedicated mystery buffs an extraordinary favor in bringing back two of her best stories for the benefit of a new generation of appreciative readers. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Body On The Sidewalk / The Reluctant Murderer" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Sleeping Beauties
Jo Spain
Crooked Lane Books
2 Park Avenue, 10th floor, New York, NY 10016
9781643853055, $26.99, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: A young woman, Fiona Holland, has gone missing from a small Irish village. A search is mounted, but there are whispers. Fiona had a wild reputation. Was she abducted, or has she run away?

A week later, a gruesome discovery is made in the woods at Ireland's most scenic beauty spot-the valley of Glendalough. The bodies are all young women who disappeared in recent years. DI Tom Reynolds and his team are faced with the toughest case of their careers-a serial killer, who hunts vulnerable women, and holds his victims captive before he ends their lives.

Soon the race is on to find Fiona Holland before it's too late..

Critique: A true suspense/thriller fan pleasing mystery by an author with an impressive mastery of the genre, "Sleeping Beauties" is a deftly crafted novel that will prove to be a welcome and popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sleeping Beauties" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Whole Story Audiobooks, 9781510076013, $86.51, CD).

Snow Country Lane
Sarah Vail
Archway Publishing
9781480886377, $39.95, HC, 378pp

Synopsis: Tim McAndrews has been through a lot. Still a top prosecutor in Seattle, his near-perfect case record has been unjustly tarnished by a self-defense shooting. Because of it, he fears his career as an assistant district attorney is doomed to go nowhere. It's not all bad, though. Legendary FBI Profiler, Elias Cain has offered Tim a job with his team.

As he weighs his options for the future, Tim is fortified by the fact that he saved his wife and lover, the beautiful Daniela St. Clair, from death. Tim takes a much-needed ski vacation with his wife and best friends to the Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort. When a young girl is abducted in front of the resort, Tim is drawn into the intrigue.

This girl isn't the only child in danger. Once the police finish their investigation, he will be assigned the prosecution's case where two six-year-old twin boys were abducted and murdered. Rainbow-colored duct tape Tim finds in the snow may be the one clue that ties these kidnappings together.

Tim's vacation is put on hold when his friend, Elias Cain, negotiates with the Seattle DA to loan Tim to his profiling team for the kidnaping investigation. As their research unfolds, Tim and his friends realize that they are chasing down a child trafficking ring that's like an octopus with tentacles reaching everywhere. To take down this monster, Tim might have to put his life on the line-again.

Critique: A simply riveting read from beginning to end, "Snow Country Lane" is a deftly scripted novel with more twists and turns than a Disneyland roller coaster ride. While certain to be an immediate and enduringly appreciated addition to community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated suspense/thriller fans that "Snow Country Lane" is also available in a paperback edition (9781480886360, $22.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Clint Travis

Donald Schneider's Bookshelf

In the Blood
David Hoing and Roger Hileman
Penmore Press
9781950585455, $18.50 Paperback
9781950686448, $5.50 ebook

Kasey (or "K.C." as she prefers to style her first name in accordance with her musical aspirations) Brown hails from a staid and conventional family of the staid and conventional city of Waterton, Iowa, a thinly veiled representation of Waterloo, Iowa, the hometown of the authors. Waterton is the main venue of Hammon Falls, a previously published novel of the writing team of Dave Hoing and Roger Hileman, and there is a minor tie-in to the former work via a character's now deceased father. Nineteen-year-old Kasey is, however, far from conventional in a place and era where and when traditional Christian morality and mores have a stranglehold over "decent society." Kasey is rather a renegade, at odds with her parents over her passion and goal in life to become a professional musician as well as her "loose" sexual habits, at least as defined by her times. Although she doesn't cohabitate, forbidden in her apartment building - and probably by law then - her boyfriend Jack occasionally spends nights with her as the building's manager turns a blind eye, less out of sympathy, as one gets the impression, than a reluctance to make waves and jeopardize the loss of a paying tenant. Complicating Kasey's seemingly serious relationship with Jack is her parents' antipathy towards him bred from a long ago high school feud between the young lovers' mothers, not to mention rumors of the young man having taken liberties with their daughter's honor, presumably having led her into a course of ill repute.

The year is 1948. Kasey and Jack work in a local grocery store as Jack, having narrowly escaped the WWII draft, attends college in preparation for becoming an economics teacher, an ambition that Kasey finds respectable yet boring as she envisions herself consigned to a lifetime of being a housewife and mother like one of her more conventional two older sisters. (The other is also somewhat estranged from their parents over her vocational choice of opening a dance studio, a profession they find less than respectable for a young woman of her background.) Such a fate is most decidedly not to the heretical Kasey's more exotic tastes. Although a gifted pianist with virtuoso potential, Kasey's first love is the alto sax, an instrument that features prominently in jazz, a musical genre developed by African-American musicians and still dominated by them. She therefore aspires to join a local black jazz band comprised of middle-aged men or near, which establishes the seemingly preposterous premise of the novel, a young white woman publicly playing with older black musicians in such a segregationist and outright racist era. This reviewer was most skeptical but read on to gradually have his doubts dispelled as the writers adroitly navigate the pitfalls of what appears to be such an absurd narrative arc.

Kasey, responding to a newspaper advertisement, auditions for a jazz band called The Bluenotes, a musical reference to a jazz technique of playing or singing a piece a tad flat for effect, in a black section of town in a club called the New Orleans, but pronounced by all as the "Narlins." It is owned and operated by a widow named Ruthie, a no-nonsense, black businesswoman with a sardonic wit who nevertheless often displays a sympathetic and compassionate underlying nature. The band is managed by Dwayne Hite, an educated and always impeccably dressed man who has retired as a performer in order to concentrate on his band and composing "charts" (musical compositions), often variations of songs he has lifted from other bands, a standard practice within the jazz scene of the era. The band's booking agent is Freddie Ross who is also its trombonist. Ross has badly mangled fingers, the source of which is the product of a misspent youth that remains a mystery to Kasey until near the end of the events related within the novel. A very talented pianist (or "eigthy-eighter" in jazz parlance) in his youth playing Scott Joplin and other greats of the period ragtime genre, Ross was forced to take up the trombone, the only instrument he could play after this great tragedy of his life which gives rise to his sobriquet of "Boneman," one of many colorful music-related nicknames of characters who populate the book. The long ago sordid incident did, however, instill within him a reflective wisdom, equanimity, and sense of empathy bred from experience, the lack of which as a young man had colored his entire life thereafter.

The band is amused at the audacity of this young woman whom they dub "White Bird," both because of her apparent youthful hubris in thinking she could play well enough to join them and her equally apparent naivete that even if she could, it would be tenable for her to join a black band in an era when racism was not only endemic, but accepted as natural by blacks and whites alike. When Kasey smugly asks if any other applicant: "Can do the changes [improvisations] in 'Ko-Ko'?" (a bebop or "bop" standard composed by genre legend Charlie Parker, Jr. ("Yardbird" or just "Bird"), Hite mockingly responds: "'Do the changes'? Ain't it somethin' how dat white girl do talk jive?" before playfully adding: "What I mean is, the young lady is impressive in her ability to express herself in the appropriate vernacular." The book is replete with such skillful dialogue tangentially addressing period stereotypical racial prejudices and nuances.

Although she inevitably fails the audition, Kasey remains persistent in her goal after receiving solace and encouragement from a sympathetic Ross, an older man who later becomes a mentor and even an uncle-like figure in the course of events. Unable to find a suitable replacement for the band's recently departed alto saxophonist (which constitutes an intriguing backstory), in desperation Hite, through Ross, offers the job to Kasey, much to her delight but to the astonishment of others in the band who fear (a not unwarranted reaction as events turn out) racial repercussions as well as those in Kasey's personal life, including Jack who, despite relatively enlightened views, bears vestiges of racial prejudices.

The remainder of the novel relates Kasey's coming to terms with her now being able to pursue her dream and navigating the inevitable consequences of it while preparing for her first "gig" with her bandmates as well as peripheral matters such as a bitter labor strike at the town's meatpacking plant which results in violence and death, an historical event lifted from real life in Waterloo. As she strives to fit in with her newfound companions, Kasey also discovers and experiences facets of black life and culture during this time period. It is in this context that she encounters Sue, another racial renegade of the period, a hardboiled, chain-smoking white woman from a prejudiced family who had nevertheless married and divorced the brother of a band member and bore a mixed race daughter. A librarian and former school bus driver, she drives the band to their out-of-town gigs and serves as a source of solace to the young Kasey needing a sympathetic ear in the unorthodox situation which she has entered.

Most of all, Kasey's relationship with Freddie blossoms into their becoming full-fledged confidants. She is horrified at Freddie's revelations concerning the traumatic past in the Deep South of his longtime wife, a former prostitute whom he had patronized as a youth, with whom he has shared a tumultuous relationship with frequent separations; and finally, the story behind his mangled fingers. Aside from exploring racial prejudices and tensions of the period, the novel also explores the seemingly endemic and existentially menacing specter of heroin in the subculture of jazz musicians then, as well as undertones of homosexuality, a taboo topic even within the white community of the era and viewed as especially depraved by blacks.

As a side story, throughout the book Kasey is almost literally haunted by her patriotic, courageous older brother who died in North Africa in the war. Kenny had also been a gifted musician who had alone, save for their high school music teacher, encouraged his kid sister's ambitions. Kasey has countless imaginary conversations with Kenny throughout the novel, though she is not mentally ill, fully realizing that she is the source of both her voice and his. She often finds refuge during her periods of stress and sorrow with such subterfuge of solace coming from such a revered and beloved figure from her recent past.

In the Blood is a tour de force that cries out to be translated into a feature film along the lines of Ray, the superlative movie based upon the life of musical legend Ray Charles. The music alone would serve as a tantalizing hook, but when combined with such a superb narrative would become fascinating viewing. I unreservedly recommend it as compelling period reading that explores a society of the not too distant past but seems so alien to many of us living today in a very different time nonetheless.

Donald Schneider, Reviewer

Donna Ford's Bookshelf

The Small Scroll: The Enlightenment of Jesus
Christopher Miller
9781532091674, $23.99 HC, 202pp
9781532061196, $13.99 PB
9781532061202, $3.99 Kindle
$13.99 (softcover); $23.99 (hardcover); $3.99 (electronic)

"I saw what I knew and did not know, and as I approached one of the circles of wise men... I felt I could learn..."

Did you ever wonder what Jesus himself thought about his birth, life, death, and resurrection? How did he feel on hearing Mary, his mother, relate details of two miraculous births in the family -- cousin John's birth and his own? Did he hope one day to marry or own a carpentry shop like his stepfather, Joseph?

This historical novel begins with Jesus learning of his special path. At twelve on the verge of manhood, his parents brought him to Jerusalem. Jesus sought answers from ancient elders who met in groups at the temple. He wished to learn what his purpose on earth might be. Was it to single-mindedly follow God's path for his life step-by-step?

He understood the Trinity when nearing the age of thirty. Jesus located his cousin John the Baptist at the Jordan river and requested to be baptized. At his baptism, he felt God's presence everywhere, and then the Spirit of God came upon him. Hurried by the Spirit, he went into the wilderness. As a Jewish scholar, Jesus was able to use Old Testament quotes to defeat his tempter.

The author claims that coming out of this 40-day wilderness test, Jesus was fresh with enlightenment. In the synagogue at Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus read aloud from the scroll of Isaiah 61. It was then that he knew and accepted his mission as anointed to fulfill those words.

Former disciples of John the Baptist followed Jesus through neighboring towns. The author provides an interesting description of his disciples, ordinary men who believed that God had called Jesus to be a Son of God.

The Old Testament is full of prophecies. Did Jesus purposely plan to follow all to the letter? As is true of any book on apologetics, Miller's 165-page work raises more questions than it seems to answer.

The author rightly assumes that many Christian readers have been taught that Jesus was fully God. Using his skill as a writer, Miller records Jesus' meditations and analytical conclusions leading up to his arriving at enlightenment. The author also amplifies this theme by Jesus telling his life story in a first-person narrative. Other teachings use the third-person, all-knowing style.

The author occasionally includes obvious anachronisms in the text, such as showing a New Testament character's concern for "hogging the stage" and trying "to think positively." These are possibly used, however, to help modern readers relate more to the story being told.

Quotations are taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible and are referenced in the extensive notes. Readers may disagree with the enlightenment theory in regard to Jesus and yet appreciate the author's taking a new look at him. There is much to admire about Miller's approach.

Jesus' willingness to be obedient to the Father's will is something that most professing Christians aspire to. Others may struggle with the concept of the Trinity, which the baptized Jesus accepts willingly. The descriptions of the resurrection from the dead and ascending to heaven may provoke thoughts of what it might be like at one's own demise. Miller has produced a masterful tale as well as an argument for Christianity.

Donna Ford, Reviewer
The US Review of Books

Elan Kluger's Bookshelf

Contending with Kennan: Toward Philosophy of American Power
Barton Gellman
9780030061929, $21.95

Many Ph.D. and senior theses are turned into books. I have read many. They are usually bad. The only traceable feature of a thesis in Hellman's wonder that it is ~150 pages long. Far from being a downside, this keeps the book on topic and always hitting it's marks.

The book is divided into convenient sections that each deal with a theme in George Kennan's work. Each claim is littered with citations across Kennan's thousands of pages of work.

Reading the book is not tedious either. That is a worry when one reads academic prose. Not so for Gellman. As someone who later on won a Pulitzer for excellent prose, Gellman has a shimmering style that can only compare George Kennan himself.

If one is even remotely interested in George Kennan, this book is where to start.

The Origin of Alliances
Stephen M. Walt
Cornell University Press
9780801494185, $25.95

Another former thesis that is also magnificent is Stephen Walt's The Origin of Alliances.

Walt contributes to the field of international politics much more than the best Ph.D. students can even dream of. His concept of balance of threat (in contradistinction to the classical concept balance of power) is particularly innovative.

A peculiar as well as brilliant feature of Walt's are the middle chapters. To test hypotheses on alliance formations Walt writes out a brilliant narrative history of Middle East alliance formations from 1955-1979 to use as a data bank. Both original and readable, this feature makes the structure more smooth than most theory heavy books and it adds more punch to many empirical claims.

For books on alliance, look no further than Stephen Walt's original masterpiece.

Elan Kluger, Reviewer

Gregory Stephenson's Bookshelf

John Slater
Grey Borders Books
9781897180778, $15.00, PB, 36pp

The first stanza of the first poem in this volume describes with concision the process by which irritants such as "grit, sand, / bits of debris" provoke in shell-bearing molluscs the formation of the lustrous concretion prized as a pearl. This bare, abrupt description - presented without context or comment - suggests, I think, both the formation of a poem in the imagination of a poet and the painful, gradual action of earthly existence upon the human spirit, the slow growth - layer upon layer - of the soul. A conjunction of opposing agencies, the pearl provides an encapsulating image for two over-arching themes in John Slater's Lean, that of the complex interconnections between world and spirit, and the deep reciprocity and complementarity of elemental forces: loss and renewal, motion and rest, condensation and dilution, life and death.

Strange to say, the simplicity of these poems compels the reader to pay close attention to them. The poems consist - in the main - of precise, objective descriptions of objects, places, situations and behaviours. It is for the reader to draw inferences from them, to grasp the implications and resonances latent in the words and images. As if to suggest their thematic preoccupation with the bare essences of things, the poems are cast in simple, direct syntax and shaped in spare lines of from one to five words, compressed, terse, engaged with the concrete and the particular. Between lines and stanzas there are often shifts, gaps and leaps, creating juxtapositions or oblique connections between images. Again, the poet selects and presents phenomena, connections are to be made and conclusions drawn in the mind of the reader.

John Slater is the pen name of a Trappist monk, living at the Abbey of Genesee in New York state, but there is in his poetry something of Taoism, a sense of the flow of the universe, a sense of the interplay and interpenetration of complementary extremes. In the poem titled "Median," we are presented with the interconnection between the cacophony created by heavy machinery and workmen shouting while digging and removing earth and grass and the quiet in which a lone worker dozes on a porch. Cause and effect are mutually reflexive. The energy and vitality of the endeavour in which the sleeping workman participates is subtly contrasted with his grizzled appearance, a reminder of eventual physical depletion and mortality. A similar relationship of natural forces is implied in "Thaw," which treats the destructive effects of winter freezing upon man-made objects (creating pot holes and cracks in asphalt, fading painted lines on the pavement) and the destruction of ice that occurs with the spring thaw.

The theme of reciprocal connection between opposites occurs again in "Treason" and "Between Displays." In the former poem, the poet reflects how a swamp in which dead plants and trees decompose acts as compost for the creation of new life, even producing lovely and fragrant flowers: "rotten black water / distilled as lilies." But Slater declines to leave the reader with that comfortable but reductive observation, undermining his own sentiment by adding that the swamp also makes "a good place to hide a body." Similarly, in "Between Displays," a dead shark on a beach provides life-saving sustenance for scavengers, and dawn even while bringing renewal of life to the world also brings death to still "dozy" Japanese beetles plucked from trees by arborists. The poem ends with what seems to be an image suggesting the cyclical to-and-fro, mutually reflexive interaction of antithetical forces in the world, their reversals and interdependence: "daylong / the ferry chugs / back and / forth across / the bay."

Other poems, such as "Hatched," "Sketch," "Intensive Care," "Observances," and "A Grave Responsibility" focus on loss of contact, loss of health, loss of life. Yet out of bleak loss, precious moments are seen to be born, their beauty a consequence of their very fragility and impermanence. The poet is ever aware of the unhappy nature of much of existence: the helplessness of fish in a drained pond, the vulnerability of poor human flesh in a hospital emergency ward, the "low-grade / boredom or grief" on the faces of passengers in a bus. The world is a "wound." ("Contact.") But it is also a place of natural beauty and human meaning. There are mountains and waterfalls, books and paintings, the delicate colors of pigeons, jasmine and lotus, conversations by candlelight or in a cafe over cappuccino, the "glitter of / moon-lit / snow in the / dark garden." And if there is death ever present in life, there is life ever present and everlasting in death. And to help sustain us as we wobble and flounder through life there is humour to be found in the unconscious absurdities of our self-serving contrivances, our wiles and devices: the incongruous blending of Buddha with Bruce Lee and neon high rise casinos in modern China; the insensible self-contradiction of a souvenir shop at Walden Pond offering $25 t-shirts with a quote from Thoreau reading: Beware of / any enterprise / that requires / new clothes; even a " Burning Bush" which turns out to be the immolation of an effigy of President George W. Bush, the barefoot (a la Moses) perpetrators of which have their rapturous political theophany terminated when they are "doused/ by fire-hose."

In the lean poems of this slim volume, there is much to admire and much to engage with.

Gregory Stephenson

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

The Nazi Menace
Benjamin Carter Hett
Henry Holt & Company
9781250205230, $29.99, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: In the city of Berlin, November 1937, Adolf Hitler met with his military commanders to impress upon them the urgent necessity for a war of aggression in eastern Europe. Some generals are unnerved by the Fuhrer's grandiose plan, but these dissenters are silenced one by one, setting in motion events that will culminate in the most calamitous war in history.

In "The Nazi Menace: Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and the Road to War", author and historian Benjamin Carter Hett (Professor of History at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York,) takes his readers behind the scenes in Berlin, London, Moscow, and Washington, revealing the unsettled politics within each country in the wake of the German dictator's growing provocations.

"The Nazi Menace" reveals the fitful path by which anti-Nazi forces inside and outside Germany came to understand Hitler's true menace to European civilization and learned to oppose him, painting a sweeping portrait of governments under siege, as larger-than-life figures struggled to turn events to their advantage.

As in "The Death of Democracy" (his previously published history of the fall of the Weimar Republic), in "The Nazi Menace" Professor Hett draws on original sources and newly released documents to show how these long-ago conflicts have unexpected resonances in our own time.

To read "The Nazi Menace" is to see past and present in a new and unnerving light.

Critique: A meticulously detailed and documented history, "The Nazi Menace: Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and the Road to War" is an impressively informative and exceptionally well organized study and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "The Nazi Menace: Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and the Road to War" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

A Korean War Odyssey
Tom Gormley
Trafford Publishing
9781490799193, $23.99, HC, 244pp

Synopsis: The picture of the young soldier with the ears sticking out had graced Tom Gormley's mother-in-law's kitchen forever. When asked, she would reply that it was a photo of her younger brother Donnie disappeared during the Korean War at the tender age of eighteen.

In 2010, Tom and his wife Sandy set out to discover what happened to Corporal Donald Matney and to bring him home. It was a journey that would take them to Washington, DC; Seoul, Korea; and many places in between.

Along the way, slowly, carefully, and step-by-step, they were able to reconstruct the short life of Sandy's uncle Donnie, identified his remains, and returned him to rest by his mother's side in Missouri. "A Korean War Odyssey: Bringing Home Uncle Donnie - Mia in Korea Since 1950" is that story.

It's a saga that begins with a Korean history lesson told through the eyes of a fictional young refugee family fleeing the North Korean invasion. Then continues from the viewpoint of a soldier on occupation duty in Japan suddenly thrust into a violent "police action". Both witness the atrocities of war until one disappears.

Through alternating perspectives, the account continues weaving what happened during the war with how we identified this missing young soldier and brought him home.

"A Korean War Odyssey" provides much needed insight into the aftermath of the Korean War and will prove to be of very special interest to readers who have friends and relatives lost to them during what has been called the 'Forgotten War'.

Anyone who desires to understand the Korean War and why the US still has a presence on this Asian peninsula today will gain a new viewpoint.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating read that is as informed and informative as it is expertly written, organized and presented, "A Korean War Odyssey: Bringing Home Uncle Donnie - Mia in Korea Since 1950" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Korean War collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: A native of Ohio and an avid history buff, Tom Gormley graduated Ohio State University with a degree in Engineering and Colorado State University with a Master's in Business Administration and has over forty years business experience in high tech industries.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Open City
Almudena Ribot, et al.
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers
9781948765459, $29.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Almudena Ribot, Enrique Espinosa, Diego Garcia-Setien, Begonia de Abajo, "Open City: Re-thinking the Post-Industrial City / Re-pensando la Ciudad Postindustrial" inquires into the future of post-industrial cities framing and speculating on different industrial contexts: archipelagos (Eibar), fabrics (Cobo Calleja), assemblies (Detroit).

Currently 55% of the world's population lives in cities, predictably reaching 70% in 2050. Cities are organisms in continuous transformation: growth, change, but also shrinking or collapse. "Open City" explores and speculates from contemporaneity about the future of the post-industrial city, where industrial archipelagoes (S), frames (XL) and obsolete or deprogrammed singularities (M/L) represent critical contexts but also opportunities for a new Open City.

Open Systems have been the research focus of CoLab since 2013. "Open City" collects some relevant and engagingly contemporary insights. It also includes new unpublished interviews and articles with international participants leading players in this field.

CoLaboratorio is a research, prototyping and production space. From the contemporary architecture project CoLab works around industrialization, flexible systems, project participation and collaborative dynamics.

With Contributions of: Pier Vittorio Aureli, Marta Catalan, Klaske Havik & Hans Teerds, Juan Herreros, Andres Jaque, Momoyo Kaijima, Maria Langarita & Victor Navarro, Philipp Oswalt, Cedric Price, Andres de las Alas & Alberto Lopez, Colectivo Berreibar, Almudena Ribot, Enrique Espinosa, Diego Garcia-Setien, Begonia de Abajo, Gaizka Altuna, "Open City" is a seminal work in the field of Urban Studies.

Critique: This bilingual edition (English & Spanish) of "Open City: Re-thinking the Post-Industrial City / Re-pensando la Ciudad Postindustrial" is an impressive, unique and seminal work of collective scholarship that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, college and university library Contemporary Urban Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

A Passion For Israel: Adventures of a Sar-El Volunteer
Mark Werner
Gefen Publishing House
c/o Storch 255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9789657023242, $29.95, HC, 488pp

Synopsis: What would motivate a successful corporate lawyer to trade in his comfortable life in America for three weeks every year to volunteer for manual labor on Israeli military bases?

Mark Werner, son of a Holocaust survivor, is an ardent Zionist seeking a personal way to show support for Israel. Sar-el is an organization that enables thousands of volunteers from all over the world to work in a civilian capacity on Israeli military bases, freeing up IDF soldiers for more serious duties.

"A Passion For Israel: Adventures of a Sar-El Volunteer" is based on journals Werner kept during 14 Sar-el stints from 2006 to 2019. Werner describes working through a desert sandstorm, dealing with a scorpion in his bunk, taking refuge in a bomb shelter during a Palestinian missile attack, and more. Through simple activities from packing kitbags and medical supplies for the soldiers to filling sandbags and assembling tank antennas the volunteers work hard to make their contributions to the defense of Israel.

The camaraderie that develops between volunteers and soldiers as they work side by side is their greatest reward. "A Passion For Israel: Adventures of a Sar-El Volunteer" is the story of an enriching volunteer experience like no other and provides a roadmap for others to show their support for the unique Jewish state.

Critique: Impressively informative and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Passion For Israel: Adventures of a Sar-El Volunteer" is a compelling, inherently interesting, and ultimately inspiring memoir that will be especially appreciated by readers with an interest in contemporary Israeli military life and activities. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Passion For Israel" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.49).

Editorial Note: Mark Werner has volunteered on Israeli military bases for each of the past 18 years with no plans to stop. He is the author of a previous book describing his first four volunteer experiences, "Army Fatigues: Joining Israel s Army of International Volunteers" (Devora Publishing). He has also edited his father s wartime memoir, "Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance in World War II" by Harold Werner (Columbia University Press). Mark is currently the President of Volunteers for Israel, the organization that enables him and other Americans to serve as civilian volunteers on Israeli military bases.

Tourism, second edition
Peter Robinson, Michael Luck, Stephen L. J. Smith
Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781789241488, $135.00, HC, 480pp

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded second edition, "Tourism" by the team of Peter Robinson, Michael Luck, Stephen L. J. Smith, covers such critically important topics such as policy and planning, heritage management, leisure management, event management and hospitality management.

"Tourism" also tackles the practical elements of academic tourism such as infrastructure management and economic development, together with other important contemporary issues such as sustainable development and post-tourists.

Critique; A comprehensive and ideal textbook for students aspiring to careers in the tourism and hospitality industry, "Tourism" is expertly written, organized and presented. Covering every aspect, this new and expanded second edition of "Tourism" is especially timely given the difficulties imposed on the tourism industry by the current pandemic. While especially and unreservedly recommended for corporate, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that this second edition of "Tourism" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781789241495, $65.00) and in a digital book format (eTextbook, $61.72).

Editorial Note: Peter Robinson is Head of the Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Management at Leeds Beckett University. Prior to entering academia Peter gained experience in the public, private and voluntary sectors within tourism, hospitality and events management, including senior management roles with The National Trust and Derby University as Tourism Projects Manager overseeing a range of EU funded business support projects.

Peter Robinson is currently a Trustee of the Carpet Museum in Kidderminster and Elvaston Castle and Gardens Trust. He is also member of the Tourism Society and the Tourism Management Institute, and a fellow of the Institute for Travel and Tourism Management (and a member of the ITT Education and Training Committee).

Michael Luck is a professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism, and associate director for the coastal and marine tourism research program at the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute, both at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. He is founding co-chair of the International Coastal & Marine Tourism Society (ICMTS).

Stephen L. J. Smith is a Professor of Tourism in the School of Hospitality, Food, and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

John Burroughs

Jonah Conner's Bookshelf

Myth, Religion and Reason
Lansh Radau
SLA Publication
9781734346718 (hardcover), $32.00, 306pp
9781734346725 (ebook), $9.99

"Myth, Religion and Reason: answers to unanswered fundamental religious questions" is a detailed and scholarly account of Christianity and its relationship with other schools of religious thought.

The author is very familiar not only with western, but also with eastern religious thoughts. It's great to see writers with an overall view of so many strains of religious thought. Some of the basic backgrounds of eastern religions, such as, Hinduism and Buddhism, are presented in chapter 2 and their relevant aspects with various western religions are weaved-in throughout the book. The comparison between Christianity and Islam, in chapter 9, is particularly helpful. I like that the author leaves the historicity of Abraham and Moses open to debate in chapter 3, which seems the most logical stance to me. I would also agree with the author that Jesus likely existed.

Chapter 7 was particularly interesting, and the death/resurrection of Jesus have always intrigued me, since they are the foundation of all Christianity. As Lansh says, however, so much of Jesus' life/death inevitably has to be speculation, given the scant resources the historian has to work with. We will, unfortunately, never really know what happened. My personal opinion of the resurrection is similar to that of Bart Ehrman in chapters 4/5 of "How Jesus became God."

I guess the only thing negative I could say about the book is that I don't think it's very approachable for the non-specialist. The author's detailed arguments and references are likely to scare off the casual reader, but if the casual reader isn't the author's intended audience then it obviously doesn't matter. Overall, however, it's a great contribution to the field.

It certainly is a scholarly work. I personally know how much research effort and work goes into writing a nonfiction book - so, the author should definitely be proud of it. Well done, Lansh.

Editorial Note: Jonah David Conner is the author of "All that's wrong with the Bible: contradictions, absurdities, and more".

Jonah David Conner

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Calling Memory into Place
Dora Apel
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9781978807839, $29.95, HC, 264pp

Synopsis: How can memory be mobilized for social justice? How can images and monuments counter public forgetting? And how can inherited family and cultural traumas be channeled in productive ways?

"Calling Memory into Place" is a deeply personal work in which art historian Dora Apel examines how memorials, photographs, artworks, and autobiographical stories can be used to fuel a process of "unforgetting" -- reinterpreting the past by recalling the events, people, perspectives, and feelings that get excluded from conventional histories.

The ten essays comprising "Calling Memory into Place" feature explorations of the controversy over a painting of Emmett Till in the Whitney Biennial and the debates about a national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. They also include personal accounts of Apel's return to the Polish town where her Holocaust survivor parents grew up, as well as the ways she found strength in her inherited trauma while enduring treatment for breast cancer.

These essays shift between the scholarly, the personal, and the visual as different modes of knowing, and explore the intersections between racism, antisemitism, and sexism, while suggesting how awareness of historical trauma is deeply inscribed on the body. By investigating the relations among place, memory, and identity, "Calling Memory into Place" shines a light on the dynamic nature of memory as it crosses geography and generations.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking series of insightfully informative essays on the role of memory in processing personal, social, cultural and political histories, "Calling Memory into Place" is an impressive and original work that is nicely illustrated throughout in full color. While especially recommended for both community and college/university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Calling Memory into Place" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.45).

Editorial Note: Dora Apel is the W. Hawkins Ferry Endowed Chair Professor Emerita in Modern and Contemporary Art History at Wayne State University in Detroit. Her many books include "Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob" and "Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing" (both from the Rutgers University Press).

Anna Burke
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612941776, $16.95, PB, 296pp

Synopsis: Morgan Donovan had everything she ever wanted: a dream job as a large animal veterinarian, awesome friends, and a loving and supportive fiancee. But it all comes crashing down when her fiancee dumps her after realizing that Morgan's job will always come first. And, while Morgan still has the job and friends, her heart is broken into a million tiny pieces.

Emilia Russo is a burned-out shelter vet. When the unexpected death of her father triggers a mental breakdown that hastens the end of her relationship, she retreats to his house in Seal Cove, Maine. She plans on spending the summer renovating it while she figures out how to pull the pieces of her life back together. But when she runs into Morgan at the dock where her father's sailboat is moored, her plans for a quiet summer of healing and reflection sink like a stone -- the attraction is immediate and obvious, and Emilia finds herself slipping seamlessly into Morgan's world.

Each woman knows this fling will end when Emilia returns to Boston at the end of the summer, but they're unprepared for the intensity and depth of their attraction. And, as the gales of fall begin to drive leaves like spindrift upon Seal Cove, Morgan and Emilia must each come to terms with how much they're willing to give up to stay together.

Sometimes love finds you when you least expect it!

Critique: A deftly scripted novel by an author with a total mastery of the LGBT romance genre and the kind of narrative storytelling style that holds the reader's full and appreciative attention from beginning to end, "Spindrift: A Seal Cove Romance" by Anna Burke is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Spindrift" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Anna Burke graduated from Smith College with degrees in English Literature and Studio Art. She serves as the Director of the Golden Crown Literary Society's Writing Academy and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her wife and their two dogs. She maintains an informative website at:

Our Moment of Choice
Robert Atkinson, Kurt Johnson, Deborah Moldow, editors
Beyond Words Publishing
9781582707624, $26.00, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Humanity is currently facing a series of interconnected emergencies that threaten our very survival ranging from climate change, to economic inequality, global pandemic, racial justice and beyond. And yet, at the same time, a global shift towards harnessing our collective power to create a life-affirming future is flourishing.

Comprised of chapters written by forty-three leading-edge contributors, such as Gregg Braden, Lynne McTaggart, Bruce Lipton, Jean Houston, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Ervin Laszlo, Joan Borysenko, Larry Dossey, and many more, "Our Moment of Choice: Evolutionary Visions and Hope for the Future" provides eye-opening and inspirational visions for a unified, peaceful, and thriving world. The time has come for all humanity to be united in purpose.

This is our collective moment of choice, upon which our future depends.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and deftly co-edited by the team of Professor Robert, academician Kurt Johnson, and Christian minister Deborah Moldow, "Our Moment of Choice: Evolutionary Visions and Hope for the Future" is an especially timely and unreservedly recommended addition to community and college/university library Motivational Self-Help collections in general, and Ethics/Philosophy supplemental curriculum studies in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, NGO administrators, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Our Moment of Choice" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Robert Atkinson is Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern Maine, Director of Story Commons, and the founder of the Piscataqua Peace Forum.

Kurt Johnson has served on the faculty of New York's Interfaith Seminary for fifteen years. In addition, he is host for the Convergence radio series on VoiceAmerica.

Deborah Moldow is an ordained interfaith minister committed to assisting in the transformation of human consciousness to a culture of peace through her ministry, international peace work, and interfaith efforts -- and has served for more than twenty years as the Representative to the United Nations of May Peace Prevail on Earth International.

Clara Colby: The International Suffragist
John Holliday
Tallai Books
9780648684800, $19.95, PB, 354pp

"Clara Colby: The International Suffragist" by John Holliday is the story about a leader in the suffragist cause, which one hundred years ago in 1920, gave American women the right to vote.

Clara Colby was born in England, graduated as valedictorian of the first woman's class at the University of Wisconsin and became a writer, publisher, teacher, public speaker and friend of many leading figures of her day. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the founders of the suffrage movement in America, became Clara Colby's mentors.

Clara's personal journey is an epic saga of untiring and heroic endeavor, sometimes under the most adverse circumstances, across the United States, and her native England. She suffered great injustice, but she never complained, and her accomplishments contributed significantly to the successful introduction of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Critique: Redeeming from an undeserved obscurity, "Clara Colby: The International Suffragist" brings to the attention of a contemporary readership the dramatic life story of a significant leader to whom the American women of today owe their political right to vote on the issues and politicians that affect them and their families. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Clara Colby: The International Suffragist" should be a part of ever community and college/university library 20th Century American History collection in general, and 20th Century Women's Political History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, women's rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Clara Colby: The International Suffragist" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.95).

Not Created Equal
Mona Johnson
Seven Emeralds Press
9781734731705, $14.99, PB, 270pp

Synopsis: Mona Johnson dreamed of a world where a Muslim woman could be treated as an equal. After escaping a politically divided Egypt, she and her family lived in exile in Saudi Arabia before immigrating to the US in 1960. But assimilating into American culture was far from easy, as she and her family experienced unending discrimination compelling them to change their name in order to blend in with society. As a young adult, the traditional values of Mona's heritage clashed with her pursuit of being a modern feminist.

Giving in to her mother's wishes, she became trapped in a seven-year, abusive marriage. Forced to endure reprehensible acts of mental and emotional abuse, to include physical attacks, she eventually broke away with her two daughters and with her father's encouragement, began a career in the Army Nurse Corps. Defying years of prejudice and gender inequality, Johnson became most likely the first immigrant Arab-Muslim woman to serve in the US Armed Forces and rise to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

"Not Created Equal: An Immigrant Muslim Woman's Pursuit of Equality in her Family, the Army and America" is an unflinching memoir in which Johnson shares for the first time her heartbreaking and joyful journey. Drawing from her experiences as a single parent, army officer, and Muslim, she demonstrates incredible perseverance traversing Middle-Eastern and Western societies.

Critique: An absorbing, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring life story, "Not Created Equal: An Immigrant Muslim Woman's Pursuit of Equality in her Family, the Army and America" will prove to be a welcome and enduringly appreciated addition to community and college/university library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and American Muslim Women memoirs in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Note Created Equal" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Mona Johnson maintains an interesting and informative website at

Grieving for Guava: Stories
Cecilia M. Fernandez
The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
9780813178974, $24.95, HC, 152pp

Synopsis: Castro's communist regime gained control of Cuba in 1959, sparking a surge of immigration to the United States, particularly Miami, as refugees sought a better life. But for many, Cuba will always be home. The island's stories pass from refugee to refugee, immigrant to grandchild, mingling hope for the future with grief for what's lost. Yet these stories also pass down a deep, unconscious desire for the unattainable, which often results in fractured relationships and a loss of purpose for both young and old.

Comprised of ten elegant and deftly crafted short stories by Cecilia M. Fernandez, "Grieving for Guava" revels in the unbroken ties between past and future, Havana and Miami, and recounts the unintended generational costs of immigration. Individually these stories explore the lives of Cuban refugees in Miami as they grapple with a longing for the past and a fervent need to move forward.

Spanning six decades of the Cuban exile, these stories lay bare a collective struggle to overcome the destabilizing effects of migration and to reassemble splintered identities: A journalist returns to the island for a childhood toy. An investment banker leaves Miami to open a bookstore near the Malecon. A girl with cerebral palsy attempts to swim across the ocean to reach her lost home. Cecilia Fernandez artfully weaves together the complicated lives of her characters to produce an overarching sense of yearning for the past, transforming grief into an even more powerful force: communion.

"Grieving for Guava" captures and reflects the heartache and hope that are common in the immigrant experience, adding a dynamic, human voice to the politically charged dialogue surrounding immigration.

Critique: "Grieving for Guava" is an inherently absorbing, engagingly entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking collection by an author with a genuine flair for the kind of narrative storytelling that is perfectly suited to its deftly scripted cast of characters and their fictional but representative lives. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Grieving for Guava" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note: Cecilia M. Fernandez is an award-winning journalist who teaches composition and literature at Broward College and Nova University. She is the author of Leaving Little Havana: A Memoir of Miami's Cuban Ghetto, which won first place in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards and was chosen by as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2015.

Julie Summers

K. C. Finn's Bookshelf

The Cowboy & the Cheerleader
Mary Allen Redd
Cascade Books
c/o Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9780963654878, $15.00 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 420pp

The Cowboy & the Cheerleader is a work of ?ction in the women's ?ction, interpersonal drama, and romance sub-genres, and was penned by author Mary Allen Redd. In a drama that spans many years and shows us how life can deliver many unexpected twists, turns, and surprises, we follow our titular characters through the decisions they make to move apart, but which ultimately lead them back together.

As Elaine chooses the skyscrapers of Manhattan over her small-town love, Andy's ranching dreams come true in Utah. But the parts of them which they left behind can still be found once fortune brings them back to a reunion.

Author Mary Allen Redd has crafted a touching and expansive drama that will certainly warm the hearts of all who read it. One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the book was its sense of realism, from the tough decisions that coming of age brings, right through to those stark realizations that the things we wanted might not be the important ones after all.

With this deep message running through the novel's events, we are drawn closer to our central characters through intimate narration and telling speech and thought presentation.

The author allows us to emote alongside Elaine, rooting for her as her life takes unexpected turns, and feeling every beat of her heart. What results in an accomplished interpersonal drama with some truly touching moments.

I would highly recommend The Cowboy & the Cheerleader to fans of realistic women's ?ction with plenty of emotional intelligence.

K. C. Finn, Reviewer
Reader's Favorite (5 Stars)

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

The Self-Love Revolution: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color
Virgie Tovar, MA
Instant Help
c/o New Harbinger Press
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
9781684034116, $16.95, PB, 184pp

Synopsis: Every day we see movies, magazines, and social media that make young girls of color feel like they need to change how they look. This takes a toll on how young girls of color think about themselves -- and how they allow others to treat them.

While many teens feel shame about their body, being a teen girl of color can be hard in unique ways. They can feel alienated by the mainstream image of beauty, which is still thin, white and able-bodied. In addition to that, they may also feel pressure from within their community to measure up to a different (but equally unfair) beauty standard. So, how can they start feeling good about themselves when they are surrounded by these unrealistic and problematic ideas about their bodies?

In "The Self-Love Revolution: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color", Virgie Tovar (aleading body image expert and creator of #LoseHateNotWeight) offers an unapologetic guide to help young girls of color to question popular culture and cultivate radical body positivity. With this groundbreaking book, young girls of color can identify and successfully challenge mainstream beliefs about beauty; understand the unique tools girls of color have to counter negative body image; and build real, lasting body empowerment. They will also learn how to call out diet culture, and discover ways to move beyond their own inner critic and start building the unconditional love for themselves that they deserve.

Critique: A life-changing, life-enhancing, life-celebrating read from cover to cover, "The Self-Love Revolution: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, highschool and college/university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "The Self-Love Revolution: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).

The Long Grass
Lisa Rhoades
Saint Julian Press
9781732054288, $16.00, PB, 88pp

Synopsis: Comprised of the poetry of a feminist woman of faith, in "The Long Grass", Lisa Rhoades counters the losses endemic to our broken lives (so beset by climate change, childhood abuse, gender stereotype and inequity, and even death itself) with the reassuring persistence of the natural world and the enduring promise of human love.

This collection of verse reveals an urban landscape by way of its fecund gaps and the corresponding moments of connection between a daughter and her mother. "The long grass is mown but not yet raked," the title poem says, invoking Whitman's graves of cut grass, but highlighting not just the scythe to come but the chastisement we experience throughout life.

Rhoades is equally adept at ecstatic odes, full of word play and joy, that deepen these complicated looks at our crowded existences. "In the bright world" of the twenty-first century, the goddess, Demeter, commutes on the Staten Island Ferry in a sequence plaited through the collection reminding us of the lively gods we are and all that we cannot be.

In a voice at once calm and urgent, "The Long Grass" sings in the haunting psalms of our difficult days.

Critique: An extraordinary and eloquent volume of remarkable and memorable verse, "The Long Grass" by Lisa Rhoades is an elegant and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and college/university library Contemporary Feminist Poetry collections.

Outside the Lines
Ameera Patel
Catalyst Press
9781946395351, $15.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: "Outside the Lines" by Ameera Patel takes her readers on a journey through the underbelly of Johannesburg, South Africa and introduces them to the intimacy of family drama scattered across racial, religious, and class divisions.

Drug addict Cathleen is kidnapped and her distracted, middle-class family fails to notice her absence; Zilindile, who services Cathleen's drug habit, and his Muslim Indian girlfriend Farhana, struggle to make sense of their relationship despite their very different backgrounds; and domestic worker Flora and the silent Runyararo, who was painting Cathleen's house until accused by Cathleen's father of stealing, become entangled with romance and criminals, leading to the ultimate tragedy.

Critique: A deftly crafted novel that blends family drama with crime and black comedy, "Outside the Lines" is a unique and extraordinary novel by an author with an impressive flair for the kind of narrative storytelling that grips the reader's full attention and invests them in the characters and events portrayed. A riveting read from first page to last, "Outside the Lines" is an extraordinary and recommended addition to community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections and personal reading lists.

Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa
Nwando Achebe
Ohio University Press
215 Columbus Road, Suite 101, Athens, OH 45701
9780821424070, $14.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa" is the result of Nwando Achebe's unparalleled study documents elite females, female principles, and female spiritual entities across the African continent, from the ancient past to the present.

Achebe breaks from Western perspectives, research methods, and their consequently incomplete, skewed accounts, to demonstrate the critical importance of distinctly African source materials and world views to any comprehensible African history. This means accounting for the two realities of African cosmology: the physical world of humans and the invisible realm of spiritual gods and forces. That interconnected universe allows biological men and women to become female-gendered males and male-gendered females.

This phenomenon empowers the existence of particular African beings, such as female husbands, male priestesses, female kings, and female pharaohs. In "Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa" Achebe portrays their combined power, influence, and authority in a sweeping, African-centric narrative that leads to an analogous consideration of contemporary African women as heads of state, government officials, religious leaders, and prominent entrepreneurs.

Critique: A seminal work of meticulous scholarship, "Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa" is a unique and extraordinary study that is especially well organized and presented. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library African History and Women's Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Nwando Achebe is the Jack and Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor of History at Michigan State University and the award-winning author of six books, including "Farmers, Traders, Warriors, and Kings: Female Power and Authority in Northern Igboland, 1900 - 1960" and "The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe".

We Can't Talk about That at Work!
Mary-Frances Winters
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781523094264, $19.95, PB, 184pp

Synopsis: Politics, religion, race are commonly thought to be topics that cannot be talked about at work. But in fact, these conversations are happening all the time, either in real life or virtually via social media. And if they aren't handled effectively, they can become more polarizing and divisive, impacting productivity, engagement, retention, teamwork, and even employees' sense of safety in the workplace. But you can turn that around and address difficult topics in a way that brings people together instead of driving them apart.

As a thought leader in the field of diversity and inclusion, Mary-Frances Winters has been helping clients create inclusive environments for over three decades. In "We Can't Talk about That at Work!: How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics", she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to show how to lay the groundwork for having bold, inclusive, and potentially controversial conversations.

Even with the best of intentions, you can't just start talking about taboo topics because that is simply wandering into a verbal minefield. Winters offers exercises and tools to help you become aware of how your cultural background has shaped your perceptions and habits and to increase your understanding of how people from other cultures may differ from you, particularly when it comes to communicating and handling conflict.

Once you're ready (you can take the self-assessment included in the book to make sure), Winters gives detailed instructions on exactly how to structure these conversations. She emphasizes that this is a process, not a destination - you may not be able to resolve major issues nicely and neatly in just one conversation. And while the process is important, so is intent. She urges readers to "come from your heart, learn from your mistakes, and continue to contribute to making this a more inclusive world for all."

Critique: Expertly and knowledgeably written, deftly organized and impressively presented, "We Can't Talk about That at Work!: How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics" will prove to be an invaluable course of instruction for anyone wanting to effectively reduce and remediate conflict brought about by differences of opinion in a work environment. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Audio, 9781520076324, $29.99), "We Can't Talk about That at Work!" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, corporate and college/university library collections.

Editorial Note: Mary-Frances Winters is the founder and president of the Winters Group, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm whose clients include major firms like Sodexo, Disney, SunTrust, United Way Worldwide, International Monetary Fund, MassMutual, Yum! Brands, and Fannie Mae. She was named a diversity pioneer by Profiles in Diversity Journal, and she is the recipient of the prestigious Athena Award as well as the Winds of Change Award that is conferred by the Forum on Workplace Inclusion.

Dorothy and Jack
Gina Dalfonzo
Fleming H. Revell Company
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9781540900920, $29.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 - 22 November 1963) was a British writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925 - 1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954 - 1963). He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers (13 June 1893 - 17 December 1957) was an English crime writer and poet. She was also a student of classical and modern languages. She is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between the First and Second World Wars that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. She is also known for her plays, literary criticism, and essays. Sayers considered her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy to be her best work.

"Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis" by Gina Dalfonzo reveals what can happen when we push past the surface and allow real, grounded, mutually challenging, and edifying friendships to develop.

Born out of a fan letter that celebrated mystery novelist Sayers wrote to Lewis as his star was just beginning to rise, this friendship between a married woman and a longtime bachelor developed over years of correspondence as the two discovered their mutual admiration of each other's writing, thinking, and faith.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read, "Dorothy and Jack" is an absolute 'must' for the legions of Dorothy Sayers and C. S. Lewis fans. While an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dorothy and Jack" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780801072949, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: The author of "One by One", Gina Dalfonzo is also a columnist at Christ & Pop Culture, as well as the founder and editor of Dickensblog. Her writing has been published in The Atlantic, Christianity Today, First Things, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Guideposts, Aleteia, Sehnsucht: The C.S. Lewis Journal, In Pursuit of Truth: A Journal of Christian Scholarship, Literary Life, and OnFaith, among others.

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

Blood and Silver
Vali Benson
Tellwell Talent
9780228827542, $3.99 Kindle, paperback, April 3, 2020

Tombstone, Arizona, setting for Blood and Silver, doesn't sound like a great place for a fresh start. But life in San Francisco, where Lucille and her "ladies" come from, couldn't have gotten much worse, especially for one of the ladies, Lisette, and her daughter Carissa. Lisette, an ex-Southern Belle, ends up with Lucille after losing everything, except Carissa, in the Civil War. Carissa is determined to get her mother and herself into better conditions in friendly Tombstone.

Blood and Silver's backbone is its powerful female characters. Most formidable is China Mary, based on one of Tombstone's actual first Chinese inhabitants in the late 1800s. China Mary helps Carissa to heal Lisette and brokers employment for the enterprising young Carissa. Lucille is more ruthless of a businesswoman than China Mary. Carissa and her new friend Mai-Lin model a devotion to their female elders and to the noble ethics their role models instill.

Like a movie, dialogue and interaction propel the action in this short novel. Characters develop through their differing accents, choice of words and level of impassioned tone. Scenes are set with colorful descriptions of period dress and silver mining practices. The Wild West grabs attention in its wily personalities, harshness and renegade ethos. The writing is appropriate for middle grade readers.

Blood and Silver is a moral as well as an entertaining tale for younger audiences. Through Carissa's quest for an improved life in a frontier town, history teaches about the timeless benefits of good friends, hard work and family ties.

The House Is a Body
Shruti Swamy
Algonquin Books
9781616209896, $25.95 hardcover, 208 pps, August 11, 2020

Shruti Swamy holds readers taut and watchful like the dog and cobra staring at one another in the final story in her debut collection, The House Is a Body. Some stories capture single moments, like this one. The title story happens in the five minutes a mom has to evacuate with a feverish daughter because of a forest fire. Other stories emphasize vigilant waiting. Artists in two stories drink while they work. Their lives drift past in moments they compose as they can catch them.

The stories themselves also seem to observe their characters. In one story, Krishna makes several unexpected but timely appearances in a painter's life. Two mythical queens in Siege perform a secret rescue maneuver away from guards' eyes. The effect is a sigh of relief. Even if everything is not right with the world, an omniscient narrator beholds it as beautiful.

The stories speak hope. In the first story, a bride reveals her feeling of emptiness to her husband. Then she becomes pregnant. In this and other stories, despair and joy make room for each other. In Mourners, four family members remember a loved one who passes, leaving a baby. A young lesbian in Wedding Season watches wedding ceremonies, realizing the weight of her life choices. In the midst of the ordinary, an epiphany becomes more luminous.

Characters reverse roles or take on each other's identities in a sobering display of empathy. In My Brother at the Station, a girl sees who she thinks is her long lost brother. She wishes to put herself in his shoes, to ask him, "what is it you see, that I cannot?" (42). In other stories, mothers notice ways they become their own mothers. Wives wonder what life is like, unattached, or in the hands of another man.

The collection explores interconnectedness in a celebration of senses. Turmeric and clove baths, the milky smell of babies, frangipani flower musk, the smell of sex, the sounds of laughter, Krishna's blue skin - these lift objects off the page and into noses, mouths, eyes and ears. The House Is a Body is a full frontal exposure of detail. The result is a reality in which to revel, no matter the cost.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

Spindle City
Jotham Burrello
Blackstone Publishing
9781982629373, $25.99 $25.99, Hardcover, 288 pages, 2020

Spindle City, Jotham Burrello's debut historical novel, covers an eight-year period from 1911 to 1919 that witnessed the beginning of the end of the dominance of the textile town Fall River, MA, a town that was once the country's epicenter of cotton-cloth manufacturing and printing. Burrello's tale weaves together rise and fall of the industrial Northeast, the suffering exacted by the first world war, the struggles of the nation's new immigrants, the strife and gains of the early 20th century labor movement, and the grievous economic inequalities of the age of the robber-barons.

Joseph Bartlett, an immigrant's son, inherits the fictional Cleveland Mill when its proprietor dies in a mysterious fire, throwing him into a position he doesn't want - as mediator encumbered with both the demands of the wealthy aristocrats who own the town's mills and a visceral empathy for the unskilled and unionized labor forces whose bodies are sacrificed to make that wealth possible.

(Spoilers in this paragraph.)
It is possible that no protagonist in historical fiction has ever carried a greater burden of guilt. Bartlett struggles to reconcile his good fortune with his culpability in the fire that killed the mill owner. Even as his wife is dying from cancer, he pursues an affair with the widow of a talented engineer, also killed in the fire. After one of his sons nearly kills a young Portuguese immigrant, Bartlett sends him to a military academy and into the trenches of Europe, where he suffers severe mental, emotional and physical injury. Another son, disheartened by his father's myriad sins, leaves town and refuses to join the family business. A labor organizer and suffragist leads Bartlett on a tour of the town's ghettos, where he witnesses the abject poverty and dehumanizing existence of the low-level workers that power the town's industry.

I found the novel deeply affecting. Burrello's own family history is tied to Fall River, and perhaps that is why he cultivates such deep sympathy for so many of the characters of this novel - excepting the most rapacious mill owners, their narcissistic wives, and the conniving labor leaders for whom personal power and position are more important than the workers they represent. The opening chapter can be a bit of a hurdle to get over, as the author introduces nearly two dozen characters in several short vignettes that require a bit of perseverance and patience on the part of the reader. The payoff is in the complex weaving of all of the stories of all these people, representatives the diverse actors responsible for the success and the eventual decline of Fall River.

The Lives of Edie Pritchard
Larry Watson
Algonquin Books
c/o Workman Publishing
9781616209025, $27.95, Hardcover, 360 pages, 2020

I was first introduced to Larry Watson's work when I lived in Montana and worked at the Billings Gazette as a business reporter. On my move to the state in the early 1980s, my Montana-native friends there insisted I read Watson's debut novel, Montana 1948. I don't remember much about it other than I thought it deserved its designation as a classic.

About three years ago, in a novel-writing workshop I attended at the University of Iowa, I was reintroduced to the author when we were assigned to read Let Him Go. It was beautifully constructed, the characters were unique and strong, and I thought highly of the author's skill once again. So, I was excited to see his new book, The Lives of Edie Pritchard, released this summer.

Those who have read Let Him Go will recognize familiar themes in Edie Pritchard: mean brothers who stick together and whose purpose in life seems to be to terrorize honest and peaceful citizens; children caught in the crosshairs of failed marriages; guns, guns, guns; and physical violence. There are no cowboys, and the Indians live in city condos just like the Caucasians, but it's a Western, through and through. Watson rarely makes a misstep with his prose - if he ever does. His dialogue is so realistic that his characters pop off the page. His settings are vivid and his action scenes perfectly timed. So, don't get me wrong if I now pan this book: it's not because it's not beautifully written.

My complaint with Edie Pritchard is that it feels like it is set back in the 1948 of his first novel, even though it ostensibly represents three years in Edie's life: 1967, 1987 and 2007. I'm about as old as Edie would be today. I live in the West. I know women from the Dakotas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and western Oregon and Washington - rural and urban. And none of us is like Edie.

The publisher's description of the book, given to the Library of Congress for cataloguing purposes, is this: "A woman whose looks have always defined her, who spends her lifetime trying to prove that she is allowed to exist in her own sphere, tries to be herself even as multiple men try to categorize and own her." Well, I didn't find much of that in this novel. First, I never see who Edie thinks she is and how that differs from the way men "categorize her." Every decision she makes, every move she makes is a reaction to the men around her - either running away from them or running to them. Even when she takes up the cause of her granddaughter, Lauren, her actions are solely in response to the men who are trying to dominate Lauren. There is no sense of an independent, self-directed persona in Edie (or Lauren, for that matter). Watson gives us no sense of who or what she wants to be. This book is about the men who surround her. Perhaps there still are women in Montana (and elsewhere) who allow themselves to be bounced around and manipulated by the men in their lives as if they're caught in the bumpers of a pinball machine. But I don't know any. At least none my age or younger.

I am not suggesting that this book is misogynistic. If anything, it's the male characters who are almost uniformly despicable. But it certainly doesn't speak much for the character of today's Western women.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf

Illuminating History: A Retrospective of Seven Decades
Bernard Bailyn
WW Norton and Co.
9781324005834, $28.95, $38.95 Can, 2020, 274pgs

Collections of essays are often the culmination of a career well-spent in academia. They can provide a sense of fulfillment and a culmination of a distinguished career. Illuminating History: A Retrospective of Seven Decades, (New York: WW Norton and Co., 2020, 274pgs, $28.95 US, $38.95, Can) by Bernard Bailyn, is just such a culmination. Bailyn, (who died a week previous to this review), was a historian first introduced to the American academic world and reading public with his The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century (1955) and famously, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967). This brief collection of essays, written fully in the vein of those earlier works, is a welcome addition to the world of historical literature and professionalism. It would serve well as a graduate school seminar selection or an introduction to the world of Colonial America.

Illuminating History, $16.95 on Amazon, is a collection of essays dealing with a variety of themes related to Colonial America. There is an essay on Thomas Hutchinson, who Bailyn argues was misunderstood, as well as a German religious commune built in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Bailyn also describes the work of historians and especially how important the work of supporting burgeoning historians should be to the academic world. It is this reviewers' humble opinion that a majority of the academic institutions in the United States have forgotten that idea, and instead continue to isolate themselves through their unrealistic entrance requirements to their horrible treatment of most adjunct instructors. Historians should Illuminating History with an eye to improving their own practice and supporting the success of others.

Illuminating History is a fitting end to a wonderful career. There should not be an historian practicing in America today who is not familiar with Bailyn's work. His work was narrative in nature but technical in style. The same interesting prose is present here as was present in 1955. I dedicate this review to Professor Bailyn's memory, to his career, and his impact on generations of fellow practitioners. Read it with a sense of respect but also a sense of wonder.

Matthew W. McCarty, EdD.

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Tech Stress
Erik Peper, Richard Harvey, Nancy Faass
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781583947685, $19.95, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: Evolution shapes behaviors -- and as a species, we've evolved to be drawn to the instant gratification, constant connectivity, and shiny lights, beeps, and sounds of our ever-present smartphones, laptops, and other devices.

In earlier eras, these hardwired evolutionary patterns may have set us up for success, but today they confuse our instincts, leaving us vulnerable and stressed out from fractured attention, missed sleep, skipped meals, and all-over aches and pains.

So how can we avoid the evolutionary pitfalls programmed into modern technology use? In the pages of "Tech Stress: How Technology is Hijacking Our Lives, Strategies for Coping, and Pragmatic Ergonomics", the team of Erik Peper, Richard Harvey, and Nancy Faass offer real, practical tools to avoid the evolutionary traps that trip us up, helping us reduce physical strain, prevent sore muscles, combat brain drain, and correct poor posture.

They first describe some of the problems associated with technology overuse, then offer strategies for mitigating technological stress, like how to: Increase patience and calm while working at a computer; Improve communication with spouses, children, and co-workers during digital device usage; Arrange your work environment to best match your individual needs; Reduce hypervigilance and excessive cortisol production while using digital devices; Limit the bracing and freezing responses under stress that lead to 'blanking out' or not remembering details: Cultivate a sense of safety under conditions of workplace threat.

Critique: Expertly written and presented, "Tech Stress: How Technology is Hijacking Our Lives, Strategies for Coping, and Pragmatic Ergonomics" is deftly organized into three major sections (How Technology Is Hijacking Our Lives; Coping Strategies; Practical Ergonomics), and includes two Appendices (Checklist & Evolutionary Tips), a twenty-eight page listing of Stress Reading and References, and a five page Index. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $99), "Tech Stress" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Repetitive Strain Injury, Industrial Ergonomics, and Exercise & Fitness Injury Prevention collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists.

Editorial Note: Erik Peper is Professor of Holistic Health Studies at San Francisco State University and President of the Biofeedback Foundation of Europe. He received the 2004 California Governor's Safety Award for work on Healthy Computing. He's authored numerous scientific articles and books and was featured on, GQ, Glamour, Men's Health, the San Francisco Chronicle, Shape, and Women's Health.

Richard Harvey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Education at San Francisco State University, served as president of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback and the Western Association for Biofeedback and Neuroscience. He was recently honored in 2019 by the Biofeedback Federation of Europe's Biofeedback Educator Award.

Nancy Faas, MSW, MPH, is the founder and director of Health Writers' Group. A writer and editor in San Francisco, for over twenty years she has worked with clients to develop books, articles, and web content in the field of integrative medicine.

The Death of the Artist
William Deresiewicz
Henry Holt & Company
9781250125514, $27.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: There are two stories commonly told about earning a living as an artist in the digital age. One story comes from Silicon Valley. There's never been a better time to be an artist, it goes. If you've got a laptop, you've got a recording studio. If you've got an iPhone, you've got a movie camera. And if production is cheap, distribution is free: it's called the Internet. Everyone's an artist; just tap your creativity and put your stuff out there.

The other story comes from artists themselves. Sure, it goes, you can put your stuff out there, but who's going to pay you for it? Everyone is not an artist. Making art takes years of dedication, and that requires a means of support. If things don't change, a lot of art will cease to be sustainable.

So which story is true? Since people are still making a living as artists today, how are they managing to do it?

In the pages of "The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech", William Deresiewicz (who is a leading critic of the arts and of contemporary culture), set out to answer those questions.

Based on interviews with artists of all kinds, "The Death of the Artist" persuasively argues that we are in the midst of an epochal transformation. If artists were artisans in the Renaissance, bohemians in the nineteenth century, and professionals in the twentieth, a new paradigm is emerging in the digital age, one that is changing our fundamental ideas about the nature of art and the role of the artist in society.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech" should be considered mandatory reading for anyone who aspires to support themselves as an artist. Enhanced for academia with a three page Bibliography, fifteen pages of Notes, and a fourteen page Index, "The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech" is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: an award-winning essayist and critic, William Deresiewicz is a frequent speaker at colleges and other venues, and former professor of English at Yale. His writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, Harper's, The Nation, The New Republic, The American Scholar, and many other publications. He is the recipient of a National Book Critics Circle award for excellence in reviewing and the author of "Excellent Sheep" and "A Jane Austen Education".

Michael J. Carson

Molly Martin's Bookshelf

The Witches of Vegas
Mark Rosendorf
The Wild Rose Press
9781509232116, $15.99 Paperback, 272 pages, August 5, 2020

Mark Rosendorf's THE WITCHES OF VEGAS is a 272 page, fast paced read filled with mystery and the mysterious.

Prologue Based on a true story from a different reality... Six years ago

The Reader is first introduced to nine-year-old, Isis Flores Rivera, a sad foster child, beaten, locked in a dark basement, not fed for days, and is now running for her life away from her foster parents, and neighbors and friends of theirs.

Isis has no doubt the armed crowd does intend to kill her.

From that astounding opening we trail Isis as she encounters and is protected by Sebastian Santell and his small coven of witches; who with Luther, their vampire counselor, only want to live in harmony with their non-enchanted fellow citizens.

The account picks up six years later as fifteen-year-old Isis is considered ready to take her place with her coven family as she completes her first deed of levitation for an audience. Isis has been painstakingly taught to regulate her emotions and her level of magic.

Over confidence is almost her undoing.

Living in Las Vegas; the coven relishes a dandy place to each perfect their own performance while executing deeds of magic for spellbound audiences who suppose the group must be the finest magicians ever. No one has a clue how the supposed magician stunts are undertaken, and fill seats in the Sapphire Resort for each show.

Zack Galloway and his actual, non-magical, magician uncle Herb, Victoria Hunter a supposed news columnist who often reveals secrets magicians employ, Luther, a centuries old vampire, and secretive Valera make up the rest of the characters moving the story forward.

Las Vegas appears as a faultless setting for an assemblage of non-lethal witches, rather the coven is determined in their wish to live in harmony and provide assistance as needed; while they can perform feats of magic for the amusement of the human audience. The coven has purpose for their lives and appreciates the happy, amazed expressions on the faces of their audiences.

Luther is a thought-provoking vampire, and is not at all the average, fanged menace as is so often portrayed.

Mysterious Valera is an ominous, human loathing 400-year-old witch determined to wipe out all humans.

Only the combined efforts of the coven and Herb, the genuine, last remaining magician, and his assistant nephew in Las Vegas bring Valera's dishonorable plan to naught.

THE WITCHES OF VEGAS is a Dandy Read, Happily Recommended especially for the young adult target audience, and all who enjoy a well written, 'who dunnit' yarn having overtones of magic, 5 stars

AMAZON BIOGRAPHY Mark Rosendorf's writing is based on the personalities and experiences he has come across throughout his life, coupled with his own wild "if only I could do that" imagination. He is the author of the young adult series, The Witches of Vegas. He is also credited with The Rasner Effect series, a suspense/thriller trilogy published between 2009 and 2012.

Born November, 25th, 1974, and raised in Queens New York, Mark holds a Master's Degree from Long Island University's Human Development and Leadership program. He is a licensed Guidance Counselor for the New York City Department of Education's special education district. He began his counseling career in September, 2001. Prior to that, he worked in the hotel industry.

Mark has also moonlighted as a professional magician. Today, he teaches magic and Illusion to his students in order to teach teamwork while developing their confidence.

Having accomplished his goals of becoming an author, Mark decided on an early retirement from writing. Then, one night, at two a.m., a new and unique story shot into Mark's brain like a lightning bolt, screaming for him to write it. Mark found himself spending several nights taking notes on the characters and their stories. That is how The Witches of Vegas was born.

This is Mark's first young adult novel.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

R. K. Singh's Bookshelf

History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry: An Appraisal (2 volumes)
P C K Prem.
9789389110111 (Vol. I), $150.00, HC, 740pp
9789389110128 (Vol. II), $125.00, HC, 680pp

Today there are more poets writing and publishing than readers. Everyone seems to be vying with other in seeking prominence for themselves rather than for others who deserve to be read patiently, explored deeply, and evaluated in a broader perspective. At such a time poet-fictioneer-writer-critic Prem Katoch undertakes the challenging task of writing a History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry. The 2-volume massive appraisal (740+680 pages) is a record and criticism presented with no prejudice except an honest, authentic, and objective appreciation of poets both in the centre and on the margin.

The pattern of presentation or the norms of inclusion of the poets is historically positive enough to help future researchers and historians follow a balanced critical perspective than what we have noticed so far.

PCK Prem discusses the works of over 135 male and 50 female poets to highlight the contemporary trends, the native poetic ethos, and the essential secular makeup of the Indian mind as reflected in their works.

Prem's intuitive approach, "appraisal and analysis sans prejudices, specific and predetermined notions from various perspectives take one to the conclusion that poetry defines and construes life in totality".

Prem accords fresh life to some of the poets whose excellence has been ignored by the mainstream academia professing expertise in Indian English Writing. I would like to mention in particular Maha Nand Sharma, Rachakonda Narasimha Sarma, Srinivas Rangaswami, Keshav Malik, R. Rabindranath Menon, D S Maini, H S Bhatia, VVB Ramarao, R C Shukla, S L Peeran, T V Reddy, R K Bhushan, P K Joy, P Raja, Manas Bakshi, Kanwar Dinesh Singh etc. I have, however, reservations about certain names as critics, but Prem might not have had access to works of others who have contributed as critics.

Kudos to PCK Prem for his large-hearted support and commitment to the cause of Indian English Poetry.

Professor R. K. Singh, Reviewer

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

The Western: Four Classic Novels of the 1940s and 50s
Ron Hansen, Editor
Library Of America
9781598536614, $39.95

The Western In The Library Of America

The Library of America Series preserves and introduces readers to the best of American thought and writing. It has helped show the breadth of American literature and American experience. In addition to classical works by writers such as Melville, Whitman, Faulkner, and the like, the series has published a wide variety of genre literature, including crime novels, noir, and science fiction. The LOA, however was slow in covering the Western genre. In 2018, the LOA published a volume of Westerns by Elmore Leonard to accompany its three earlier volumes of Leonard's crime fiction. The LOA has now gone further in giving the Western its due with this new volume, "The Western: Four Classic Novels of the 1940s and 50s", edited and with a short Introduction by novelist Ron Hansen. This outstanding volume will introduce readers to thoughtful and moving novels that transcend the stereotypes associated with the Western genre.

Westerns, of course were everywhere in the 1940s and 50s, including novels, film, radio, and later television. The genre suffered from over-exposure. More importantly, I think, the Western suffered from a change in cultural values in the 1960s with a strong sense of skepticism about the United States. An important virtue of this book is the opportunity it affords to think freshly about the portrait of the United States and the West offered in these four novels. The books feature much more than violence and shoot-outs. I have found much of value to be learned about the ideals of our country and about the development of the West into a place of community during the past few years while I have been exploring the genre. Perhaps other readers will as well.

Western novels and Western films are inextricably tied together. Each of the four novels in this collection was interpreted and adapted into film. Walter Van Tilburg Clark's "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1940) which opens this anthology became a 1943 film directed by William Wellman and starring Henry Fonda. Jack Schaefer's "Shane" (1949) became an iconic 1953 film directed by George Stevens and starring Alan Ladd. In 1956, John Ford directed and John Wayne starred in the celebrated film "The Searchers", adopting the 1954 novel by Alan Le May. Oakley Hall's 1958 novel "Warlock" was filmed in 1959 under the direction of Edward Dmytryk and featured a large cast of stars, including Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda. These novels included in this anthology are valuable in their own right, separate from the excellent films they inspired.

There follows brief comments on each of the novels in this volume.

Clark's "The Ox-Bow Incident" is set in a small fictitious Nevada town in 1885. The novel is a philosophical meditation on the nature of justice and on the dangers of jumping to conclusions. A posse sets out to find a group of cattle rustlers and alleged murderers. They summarily hang a group of three innocent people. Written during the rise of fascism in Europe, the book suggests the dangers of mob action and poses questions about the nature of community, responsibility, and justice in addition to telling a good story.

Jack Schaefer's short novel "Shane" offers a sense of promise and change in the development of the West and a sense of vision and myth-making, qualities our country needs in the current difficult times. The book is set in Wyoming in 1889 and involves the encounter between a struggling family of homesteaders and the mysterious stranger who comes passing through. The romantic gunfighter, Shane, comes symbolically to usher in a new more settled way of life in the West. The change comes with its costs. Shane and his mystery becomes a symbol for the romance and individualism of the American way of life while the homesteaders that Shane assists show an idealized version of settlement, education, the value of hard work, and restraint.

Alan Le May's "The Searchers" tells an epic story of wandering in the Texas and New Mexico of the 1870s in search of home and of a woman. Two radically different characters, Amos, 40, Martin 18, set out on a six year search in pursuit of a young woman who has been carried off by the Comanches during a raid. The long search carries the searchers away from the possibility of happiness and a settled home life. As the search continues, the reader comes to feel more sympathy for the dispossessed Comanches. The older searcher, Amos, is motivated primarily by hatred for the Indians while Martin is dedicated to recovering the young woman and ultimately to pursuing a life of peace. Le May's thoughtful novel differs from the iconic film in several respects and is more than worth reading on its own.

The final novel in this anthology, Oakley Hall's "Warlock" is also the longest and the most demanding to read. The book is set in the fictitious town of Warlock in the Southwest from 1880 -- 1881. The primary character, the gunman Clay Blaisedell, is loosely based upon Wyatt Earp, and a scene in the novel brings to mind the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral. But the novel includes much more than this frequently rehashed gunfight as Hall introduces a variety of characters, including cattle rustlers, stage coach robbers, miners, gamblers, business people, prostitutes and others. The journal of a town businessman, Henry Holmes Goodpasture also is quoted extensively in reflection on the actions and characters in the story. The book is a mixture of harsh realism and of idealism in its portrayal of the West. For all their human frailties and for all the violence of the story, the characters and the Old West are portrayed affectionately and as larger than life. The book suggests that Warlock and its inhabitants are worth the effort to understand, difficult as that understanding may be, and to learn from and celebrate.

The Western novel often has been slighted by serious readers. This fine collection shows, as Hansen points out in his introduction that the best Westerns are "intellectual, literary, and classic". The Library of America has done a service in its exploration of American literature with the publication of this volume of Westerns.

City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit
Elmore Leonard
William Morrow Paperbacks
c/o HarperCollins
9780062191359, $14.99

A Western In Detroit

The American novelist Elmore Leonard (1925 -- 2013) began his career as a writer of genre westerns but achieved greater renown as a writer of crime fiction. Leonard's crime novels have many different settings but none more so than Detroit, his beloved home. Leonard's is a poet of Detroit streets in much that same way that the noir writer David Goodis has become known as the poet of the underside of Philadelphia.

Leonard's 17th novel, "City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit" (1980) captures the streets of Detroit, the city's corruption and violence, and its law enforcement officers. The subtitle "High Noon" of course refers to the famous 1952 western that starred Gary Cooper as the aging Marshall Will Kane of the small town of Hadleyville, Territory of New Mexico who has cleared the town of its outlaws. Marshall Kane is forced to confront a gang of thugs that have returned for vengeance after their release from prison. Kane is about to be married and retire and he seeks help from the townspeople. With everyone cowed and afraid, Marshall Kane must confront the outlaws alone in a large gunfight in the climactic scene of the movie. With the killing of the outlaws, the town is able to move on and to prosper as a cohesive community.

As is "High Noon", "City Primeval" is a story of law and community. Leonard wrote the novel after spending time following the Detroit Police Department and writing a favorable newspaper article about its efforts in fighting crime. With its communal, self-effacing efforts in protecting a large, troubled city, the Detroit Police Department is the hero of Leonard's novel. The book has some characteristics of a police procedural but is deepened by the conflict between a police office and the criminal.

In Leonard's book, the major police officer, Lieutenant Raymond Cruz, takes the fight against evil personally and outside the law in his pursuit of the crazed but fascinating killer Clement Mansell, the "Oklahoma Wildman". Leonard's novel is a confrontation between Cruz and Mansell, as "High Noon" was a confrontation between Marshall Kane and the outlaws who have returned to plague the town of Hadleyville. Cruz kills the Oklahoma Wildman but in the process goes outside the law and throws away the careful police work done by his staff and others in the police department. The Wildman was deprived of his life and of the opportunity for a fair trial. The course of the law, not the actions of a committed but vigilante police officer, is the manner, the novel suggests, in which law and peace may be established and Detroit, the "City Primeval", may overcome its difficult days and become a thriving, united community whose citizens may pursue their own paths for life and happiness.

In addition to the conflict between the vigilante lawman and the bad outlaw, the book focuses the the characters' relationship to women. Mansell is involved with the sexy 23-year old Sandy Stanton, a lost individual and a marijuana user who is also the girlfriend of an Albanian immigrant that Mansell wants to hit for his money. Cruz is divorced. As the novel proceeds he becomes involved with Carolyn Wilder, the seemingly cold and brilliant criminal defense attorney who has been representing Mansell. These relationships, and the backstories of the characters, receive development in Leonard's telling.

The streets, places, and music of late 1970s Detroit are at the center of the story as Leonard describes the toughness and violence of his city. The book illustrates Leonard's inimitable writing style, with its sharp observations, preciseness, and, especially, has ear for speech patterns and dialogue. The characters come to life through their words.

The western influence is strong in "City Primeval". The book differs from the later works of Leonard in its sharply gritty, menacing focus and its portrayal of a tense struggle between the police department, the lawman acting outside his duty, and an outlaw. Many of Leonard's later books involve crime and low life, but they also have a lightness and sense of humor about them that (with the exception of some sharply funny dialogue passages) is largely absent from "City Primeval". This book takes the fight between good and evil more seriously and tensely. I enjoyed the lightness of Leonard's later writings but I found "City Primeval" more gripping.

I have been enjoying getting to know Leonard's writings and think "City Primeval" and its portrait of Detroit, the police department, and of good guys and bad guys is among his better works. There is a good deal to be learned in our current troubled times from this book in its discussion of the nature of law and community. The book is included in a Library of America compilation of four Elmore Leonard novels from the 1980s.

Inland: A Novel
Tia Obrecht
Random House Trade Paperbacks
9780812982756, $18.00

A Camel in the Old West

I took the opportunity during the pandemic to revisit some of the episodes of "Have Gun Will Travel", a 1950 television western I loved when I was young. Among these episodes, was "The Great Mohave Chase" from 1957. Paladin has come into an unusual resource -- a camel surplussed by the United States Army -- which he uses to win a bet and to bring water to a parched California town. The show aptly makes use of the Army's failed effort in the 1850s and 60s to use camels in patrolling the deserts.

Tea Obrecht's 2019 novel "Inland" involves the Army's use of camels to a much greater degree than the show on the exploits of Paladin. An immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, Obrecht carries on a tradition of non-native born Americans becoming fascinated with the uniquely American genre of the Western and making valuable contributions to it. Among other sources, this tradition includes Puccini's opera, "The Girl of the Golden West" the "Spaghetti Westerns" on film, and the western novels of the German writer, Karl May. Obrecht's "Inland" is a worthy contribution to the literature of the American West and shows the potential for depth and varied interpretation in this frequently slighted genre.

Obrecht weaves together two stories. The first involves the Army's experiment with camels. The story soon breaks off from the arrival of the camels in San Antonio to focus on a single camel and its rogue rider with a criminal past. The rider is a killer named Lurie who runs away from the Army camel procession when he is pursued by a sheriff who knows his unsavory history. Lurie recounts most of his story while talking to his camel mount, Burke, to whom he becomes greatly attached.

Obrecht's second story is set in the Arizona Territory in 1893 in the small, fictitious homesteader community of Amargo. It centers around a tough, persistent family, the Larks, including Nora, her husband Emmett, the couple's three sons and their daughter who died in infancy, an aged grandmother and a young woman related to Emmett, Josie, who works as a domestic, and is able to communicate with the dead through seances. The story of Amargo involves a lengthy drought, a conflict between the longstanding homesteaders and the cattle barons in the adjacent community for control of the county and the track towards statehood, and difficult personal issues arising in part from the harshness and loneliness of life in the developing community.

The two stories are told in lengthy alternating sections and for the most part are seemingly separate until Obrecht brings them together in the latter part of the book. Each story has a detailed complex texture with many characters and sub-stories. The author offers a broad portrait of the American West both in its beauty, expanse, and harshness. Her perspective is gritty and hard but also verges on the mystical. I felt the book showed a love and understanding of the West and of the United States with all their challenges, a critical quality for a Western. In its combination of the realistic and the mystical a perspective sometimes called "magic realism" I was reminded of a wonderful National Book Award winning novel, "Sing Unburied Sing" by Jesmyn Ward. which is set in Mississippi and also explores spirituality and realism.

The writing sometimes flags but is often beautiful. The author shows a gift for quotable aphorisms. that bring out the meaning of the story better than the lengthy chapters. For example, here is a portion of a discussion between Lurie and a fellow camel driver.

"There are wounds of time and there are wounds of person, [Lurie]. Sometimes people come through their wounds, but time does not. Sometimes it's the other way around. Wometimes the wounds are so grievous, there's no coming through them at all."

"Why not?"

"Because man is only man. And god, in His infinite wisdom, made it so that to live, generally is to wound another. And He made very man blind to his own weapons, and too short-living to do anything but guard jealously his own small, wasted way. And thus we go on."

The book has its flaws. It is long in terms of number of pages and its density makes it feel much longer. The two stories are ultimately not fully integrated. The long lengths of the chapters with no apparent connection between the stories makes the novel difficult to follow. The details and side stories were frequently evocative but they were also distracting and confusing.

With the book's difficulties, I was glad to find this work. I have become attracted to the Western in recent years, and Obrecht's book carries on and adds to a venerable tradition. There is much more to the best works in the genre than violence and shoot-outs.

The Library of America has recently published a volume "The Western: Four Novels from the 1940s and 50s" that might interest readers wanting to explore classic works in the genre. On of the works in the collection is "Warlock" a 1958 novel by Oakley Hall. "Warlock" is set in the Arizona Territory in the early 1880s about ten years before "Inland" and involves some of the same issues, including the conflict between ranchers and townspeople and conflicts between adjacent communities going different ways. The book includes a character loosely based on Wyatt Earp, but it doesn't include camels. It is also a dense, thoughtful work. Readers fascinated by "Inland" might be interested in "Warlock" or in other classic American Westerns.

Robin Friedman

Shawna Bowden's Bookshelf

Passed Down From Mom: A Collection of Inspiring Stories About Moms & Motherhood
The Unapologetic Voice House
Privately Published
9781734569322, $12.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 131pp

I lost my mom earlier this year and when I heard about this book I had to purchase it for myself for Mother's Day. It took me a little time and courage to open it and begin to read as I felt it may hit my core and wow did it ever. These story's are filled with gentle reminders that we are all human, perfectly imperfect. This book has made me smile, cry and it has filled my heart with love and joy. I highly recommend getting your copy and maybe an extra for a gift!!! Thank you to the authors for sharing your stories

Shawna Bowden

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

After Kilimanjaro
Gayle Woodson
She Writes Press
9781631526602, $16.95, October 8, 2019

After Kilimanjaro is Gayle Woodson's debut novel, and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Her descriptions are so accurate I sensed we'd stood in one another's footsteps in parts of the Serengeti. Like Woodson, I am a physician, so I can attest to the accuracy of the medical aspects. I can also assure readers of the accuracy of the medical problems that threaten to overwhelm the medical structure of Tanzania such as poor prenatal care, female genital mutilation, HIV, malaria, African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), and malnutrition. She blends these medical aspects seamlessly into her novel along with a slow-burn romance.

The protagonist, a young female physician, accepts a one-year research position in Tanzania but finds herself far more involved with the medical than the research aspects. Also unexpected is her interest, despite being engaged to a physician in Philadelphia, in a Dutch physician also working in Tanzania. Woodson fully develops even her minor characters, and this book is a joy to read.

Everyone Knows How Much I Love You: A Novel
Kyle McCarthy
Ballantine Books
c/o Penguin
9781984819758, $27.00, June 23, 2020

Everyone Knows How Much I Love You is Kyle McCarthy's debut novel. He handles Rose, his unreliable narrator, quite well. She is intelligent, awkward, weird, and obsessed with Lacie, her former best friend from high school. Despite Rose's intelligence, she cannot maintain a regular job. She has been writing a novel for years under the guidance of her agent and has received awards for her work, like time as an artist-in-residence.

Rose and Lacie had been best friends since they were ten years old. In their junior year of high school, Rose betrays Lacie, and they drift apart. When Rose "accidentally on purpose" runs into Rose when they are thirty, Rose finagles her way into Lacie's life and begins the destructive cycle all over again. Rose has all the sociopathic tendencies of Amy in Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, and McCarthy makes Rose believable. This is women's fiction at its best - when women's foibles and failings create the novel's conflict.

Fire and Vengeance
Robert McCaw
Oceanview Publishing
9781608093687, $26.95, May 26, 2020

Fire and Vengeance is the third in the Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery Series. I have not read the prior two, yet was not at a disadvantage while reading the third. I will backtrack and pick up the first two volumes in the series.

This is a well-written, complicated crime story with a marvelous sense of place - Hawaii. It involves political scandals, bribes, greed, and fraudulent property developments which evolve into a criminal conspiracy to cover up why an elementary school was built over a fumarole, a volcanic vent. Political transgressions pile on top of each other, and it's up to policeman Koa Kane to unwind the skein of deceit.

Though building schemes and land transfers don't sound very interesting, the multiple twisting story lines have enough human elements to keep the reader involved, particularly the relationship between Kane and his younger brother, a criminal, who is facing a long-term prison sentence because of his recidivism.

Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary
Jody A. Forrester
Odyssey Books
9781922311054, $13.95, September 1, 2020

Back in 1969, Jody A. Forrester and I led similar lives, though I was never as radical as she was. She lived on the West Coast and I in mid America, yet we both moved from being Age of Aquarius love children to activism to pacificism. In the 1970s, she shifted to a more radical stance, leaving behind her beliefs that love could conquer all and turn the world into a just place. She became a member of the Revolutionary Union, a Communist organization advocating armed overthrow of the ruling class. Her ex-lover brought guns home, and she slept with them under the bed, fully prepared for a shoot-out with the Feds and equally prepared to die for her beliefs.

Jody captures the spirit of the late 60s and early 70s, the movement against the war in Vietnam, the feeling that capitalism, racism, and anti-semitism were running rampant in America and destroying the values the US was founded upon.

Jody's journey to militancy began in her childhood, and she delved deeply into the memories of what made her what she became. She learned that her politics were not merely politics but expressions of the woman her childhood made her. Part coming of age story and part political tract, Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary tells of Jody's struggle to find a place where she belonged, a security not offered by her genetic family. A tall, gangly woman, she's not the perfect daughter her mother wishes for. With the Revolutionary Union, Jody begins her search for self-acceptance.

In the Canyons of Shadow and Light
Emily Donoho
Gypsum Moon Publishing
9781838035709, $16.99, May 15, 2020

In her debut novel, In the Canyons of Shadow and Light, author Emily Donoho transports the reader into the psyche of a jaded Manhattan police detective. Though the book frequently references the television program Law & Order, the book is more a psychological drama than a police procedural.

The protagonist, Alex Boswell, has been a homicide detective for seventeen years. He's suffered multiple emotional traumas on and off the job, having suffered a gunshot wound on duty with the resultant loss of the right lower lobe of his lung and fractured ribs as well as an injury to his lower back. Despite all his physical problems he remains on the job, toughing it out.

On top of the stressors of his profession, he is part of a dysfunctional family, shattered by his long-ago extramarital affair and subsequent divorce from his wife. Since then, he has been unable to sustain a long-term relationship with a woman. As he battles his internal demons, his fellow officers - his partner, in particular - feel he is "losing it." Despite his foibles, Alex has an underlying likability, and this reader rooted for him.

Though I never felt like putting the book aside and read it in two sittings, I did feel it was a bit too long. At times, the details threatened the story. At the beginning of the chapters, the details of the cityscape defined the tone and setting of the book, but I really didn't need a countdown of streets as the detectives moved through Manhattan from 48th to 49th to 50th Street. A wry humor runs through the book as well, which I enjoyed.

Nowhere Near Goodbye
Barbara Conrey
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
B08CHMXFMY, $2.99, August 4, 2020

Nowhere Near Goodbye is Barbara Conrey's debut novel. It delves deeply into the age-old challenge women face: career versus family. I read this book because it looks at some of the same choices I, as a physician, had to make.

When Emma Blake was eleven years old, her best friend, Kate, died of a brain tumor, a glioblastoma. Unable to save Kate, Emma vows to spend her life combatting that tumor and spends years training as a surgeon and an oncologist. A childhood accident left her unable to have children, and she's for the most part been fairly okay with that as it leaves her ample time for the long days she puts in at the hospital. Her world tilts on its axis when she finds herself pregnant. Once the baby is born, Emma remains torn between being a mother and wife and being a physician.

Nowhere Near Goodbye is thoughtful women's fiction that examines the tightrope women walk to balance love, family, ambition, and their purpose in life. Can women ever fully reconcile those choices? It also looks at how our pasts shape our futures.

Road Out of Winter
Alison Stine
9780778309925, $17.99, September 1st 2020

Stine does a great job setting up the dystopian world of an Ohio holler where the protagonist, Wylodine (Wil for short), lives with her mother and her mother's boyfriend, Lobo. The family lives with constant paranoia that their marijuana-growing operation will be shut down by the police. It is their major source of income in a poverty-stricken area of the country. As if that setting wasn't bleak enough, due to some unspoken catastrophic world weather event, winter sets in. When spring doesn't return for the second year, things start getting really bleak. Wil's mother and Lobo leave her to care for the crop on her own while they head to California for a fresh start.

Eventually, Wil puts the grow lights in her truck and, pulling a travel trailer, sets out to follow her mother. She carries with her a leather pouch filled with seeds - her hope for the future. Along the way, she picks up strangers and forms a family of sorts with them. The people they encounter along the way are desperate for warmth and food. Some retain a faith that the world will right itself while others form cult-like groups waiting for the rapture.

Road Out of Winter is a near future that is possible enough to be genuinely frightening. Yet Wil and her "family" retain hope. The book is well-written and well-thought out. The ending is a bit abrupt, as though a sequel will be coming, but Wil does achieve some closure at the end.

The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir
Sara Seager
Penguin Random House/Crown
9780525576259, $28.00, August 18, 2020

The author of The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir, Sara Seager, is a pioneering astrophysicist and a professor at MIT. She also led NASA's Probe Study team for the Starshade project and earned a MacArthur grant. Since childhood she's loved astronomy and the possibilities that lie beyond our own planet. She's always been a socially awkward loner. She is on the autism spectrum but isn't diagnosed until adulthood.

As a child, her life balanced between two extremes. Through the week she lived in a dysfunctional family that included a stepfather she called "the monster" - whose vicious mood swings kept her on tenterhooks - and an enabling mother. Sara spent weekends with her father, a physician who understood and cared for her.

As Sara moves through college, she meets her first husband - another loner - named Mike. They blend because they feel comfortable being alone together. They share the same love of sports and Canada's wide-open spaces. They marry and have two sons. Mike assumes the stay-at-home parent role, working as an editor, to allow Sara time to search for the stars. Suddenly, he is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and they are forced to deal with his impending death, chemotherapy, and preparing their sons for a life without their dad. Sara finds herself a widow and single mom at age forty and must pick up the pieces of their shattered life and learn to deal with home repairs, car repairs, and the other flotsam and jetsam Mike dealt with.

This memoir is a luminous look at how this successful professional reinvents herself after this loss. She moves from being a loner to "collecting" people who provide support for herself and her family as they adjust to live without Mike. Among these are a group of women, the Widows of Concord, who take Sara in and offer emotional support and advice on the above mentioned home repairs, dating, letting go of the lost loved one, and preparing to let a new love into her life. Along the way, Sara - like all working mothers - must learn to balance work and home life.

A lovely, deeply emotional memoir - I sniffled through parts of it - by an astrophysicist who love for the stars provides a glue that holds her life together.

Until I Find You
Rea Frey
St. Martin's Griffin
9781250241580, $16.99, August 11, 2020

Until I Find You is an emotional, poignant novel written in the points of view of Rebecca, a nearly-blind woman, a recent widow, and a new mother, and that of Crystal, a friend of Rebecca's who lives nearby. Crystal is also a recent widow but is dealing with a child prodigy of a ten-year-old daughter.

Rebecca is exhausted from trying to survive without her considerate husband who helped her navigate her world as she loses more and more of her vision. Raising a baby while seeing is difficult, but while blind infinitely more so. She's felt for several weeks that she's being followed, that things in her house are being rearranged, that doors she knows she locked are unlocked, but she - and everyone else in her life - attribute her paranoia to fatigue. But one day, she faints in the park. Friends take her home and watch her baby while Bec gets some rest. When she awakens, she knows the baby in her arms isn't her son. The police seem more interested in maintaining the pretense that their community is free of crime instead of helping Bec.

In Until I Find You, Frey pulls the reader through every emotion Bec has: her confusion, paranoia, grief, love for her child, and the horror she experiences when she realizes the baby she's holding isn't hers. She suspects everyone, and the plot twists keep the reader guessing until the end.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

The Treasure Tree
Bruce Ewing & Vernae Ewing
High Bridge Books
9781940024608, $12.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: Matt Loman was a young man looking for a way to help his parents and village find a way out of a severe famine. What he didn't know was that his selfless demeanor would lead him into a supernatural world where he would discover his life's destiny.

Along the way Matt receives guidance from a sage named Jedidiah, the mentor who offers the choice between honor and dishonor. Matt's opportunities and potential are limitless, but will he choose the pathway to greatness or settle for a wasted life? Will he pass the tests of the Treasure Tree?

"Many have attempted to find the Treasure Tree, but only the diligent will discover its secret."

Critique: An absorbing fable with an important underlying message, "The Treasure Tree" is an inherently fascinating, thought-provoking, and impressively entertaining novel by the father and daughter team of Bruce and Vernae Ewing. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Treasure Tree" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Of Lovers, Lonely Hearts, and the Psychotic Spell Called Falling in Love
Voltis Press
9781735375809, $17.99, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Talzoya is a nuclear physicist by education and the author of numerous scientific publications. Talzoya takes pride in distilling knowledge from fields as distinct as sexology, biology, biochemistry, evolutionary psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience into a readable format accessible to all, so that we may all benefit from the findings of science.

"Of Lovers, Lonely Hearts, and the Psychotic Spell Called Falling in Love" is an exploration of the intersection of love and brain science in which Talzoya deftly articulates how biochemical changes in our brains can transport us into a world where everything from creativity to hope, beauty, sexuality, and belief in oneself is enhanced, affected, or sometimes destroyed by the human experience called falling in love.

Love evolved in humans to ignite an obsessional desire for another person and a compulsion to take reproductive action for the sake of perpetuating the human species. But, in modern times, is the notion of love and falling in love worth the toll it can take on our emotions, psyches, and self-esteem? Have humans evolved past the need to fall and remain obsessively in love? Could a more modern approach to the notion of falling and remaining in love lead to healthier, longer-lasting relationships?

"Of Lovers, Lonely Hearts, and the Psychotic Spell Called Falling in Love" will prove to be of particular interest to any reader that has ever felt burned by love as Talzoya explains the science behind what happens in our brains when we fall in love, who we are most likely to fall for, when we're likely to fall for them, and for how long we're scientifically likely to remain in love.

"Of Lovers, Lonely Hearts, and the Psychotic Spell Called Falling in Love" is a must-read to understand the reasons for the life-altering decisions we may have made as a direct result of being in love, and arms readers with the knowledge they'll need in order to more successfully navigate their own romantic encounters.

Critique: Expertly written, impressively informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Of Lovers, Lonely Hearts, and the Psychotic Spell Called Falling in Love" is a extraordinarily thoughtful and thought-provoking read and will prove to be a welcome addition to both community and academic library Behavioral Psychology collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of psychology students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Of Lovers, Lonely Hearts, and the Psychotic Spell Called Falling in Love" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Basilicata: Authentic Italy
Karen Haid
Hiller Press
9781734832204, $17.95, PB, 236pp

Basilicata, (which is also known by its ancient Roman name of Lucania), is an administrative region in Southern Italy, bordering on Campania to the west, Apulia (Puglia) to the north and east, and Calabria to the south. It has two coastlines: a 30-km stretch on the Tyrrhenian Sea between Campania and Calabria, and a longer coastline along the Gulf of Taranto between Calabria and Apulia. The region can be thought of as the "instep" of Italy, with Calabria functioning as the "toe" and Apulia the "heel".

The region covers about 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi). In 2010 the population was slightly under 600,000. The regional capital is Potenza. The region is divided into two provinces: Potenza and Matera.

Basilicata is an emerging tourist destination, thanks in particular to the city of Matera, whose historical quarter I Sassi was designated in 1993 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2019 it was designated as the European Capital of Culture for that year. The New York Times ranked Basilicata third in its list of "52 Places to Go in 2018", describing it as "Italy's best-kept secret".

But with the publication of "Basilicata: Authentic Italy" by Karen Haid it will be a 'best kept secret' no longer!

Ideal for both the armchair traveler and the on-site visitor, "Basilicata: Authentic Italy" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Impressively informed and informative, "Basilicata: Authentic Italy" deftly showcases both the famously well known and the obscure off-the-beaten-path sights to see, places to visit, and people to meet. Especially recommended reading for anyone contemplating or embarking on a visit to Italy, "Basilicata: Authentic Italy" will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Italian Travel Guide collections and reading lists.

Your Ad Could Go Here: Stories
Oksana Zabuzhko
Amazon Crossing
9781542019422, $24.95, HC, 241pp

Synopsis: In her anthology of short stories, Ukraine author Oksana Zabuzhko strives to make sense of the unthinkable reality of our times. In this breathtaking short story collection, she turns the concept of truth over in her hands like a beautifully crafted pair of gloves.

From the triumph of the Orange Revolution, which marked the start of the twenty-first century, to domestic victories in matchmaking, sibling rivalry, and even tennis, Zabuzhko manages to shock the reader by juxtaposing things as they are (inarguable, visible to the naked eye) with how things could be, weaving myth and fairy tale into pivotal moments just as we weave a satisfying narrative arc into our own personal mythologies.

At once intimate and worldly, these stories resonate with Zabuzhko's irreverent and prescient voice, echoing long after reading.

Critique: An impressive, original, entertaining, and thought-provoking body of work, "Your Ad Could Go Here: Stories" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction & Short Story collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Your Ad Could Go Here: Stories" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781542022521, $14.95), in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781799759980, $24.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Oksana Zabuzhko is one of Ukraine's most celebrated contemporary writers and the author of more than twenty books. She graduated from the Department of Philosophy of Kiev's Shevchenko University and obtained her PhD in philosophy of arts. Since publishing her influential novel Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex (1996, published in 2011 in English translation by Halyna Hryn), she has been working as a freelance author. Zabuzhko lives in Kiev, where she and her partner, artist Rostyslav Luzhetskyy, operate a small publishing house. Zabuzhko's books have been translated into fifteen languages. Among her numerous acknowledgments are a MacArthur Grant (2002), the Antonovych International Foundation Prize (2008), the Order of Princess Olga (2009), and the Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine (2019). Her magnum opus, The Museum of Abandoned Secrets (2010, published in 2012 in English translation by Nina Murray), won the Angelus Central European Literary Prize (2013) for the best novel of Eastern and Central Europe.

A Journey Toward Hope
Victor Hinojosa, author
Coert Voorhees, author
Susan Guevara, illustrator
Six Foot Press
9781644420089, $19.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "A Journey Toward Hope" tells the story of Rodrigo, a 14-year-old escaping Honduran violence; Alessandra, a 10-year-old Guatemalan whose first language is Q'eqchi'; and the Salvadoran siblings Laura and Nando. Though their reasons for making the trip are different and the journey northward is perilous, the four children band together, finding strength in one another as they share the dreams of their past and the hopes for their future.

Co-written by Victor Hinojosa and Coert Voorhees (and in collaboration with Baylor University's Social Innovation Collaborative), "A Journey Toward Hope" is enhanced throughout with illustrations by Susan Guevara. It includes four pages of nonfiction back matter with additional information and resources created by Baylor University's Global Hunger and Migration Project.

An ode to the power of hope and connection even in the face of uncertainty and fear, "A Journey Toward Hope" is the story of four unaccompanied migrant children who come together along the arduous journey north through Mexico to the United States border.

Critique: Informative, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "A Journey Toward Hope" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Contemporary Social Issues picture book collections for young readers ages 5-9. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Journey Toward Hope" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Every year, roughly 50,000 unaccompanied minors arrive at the US/Mexico border to present themselves for asylum or related visas. The majority of these children are non-Mexicans fleeing the systemic violence of Central America's "Northern Triangle": Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Urban Forest School Adventure
Naomi Walmsley & Dan Westall
The GMC Group
9781784945633, $24.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: "Urban Forest School Adventure" as an instructional guide and DIY manual, anyone can scavenge and forage for raw materials from their surroundings and then extend the fun with creative makes and recipes to do back at home such as leaf printing, stick boats and stinging nettle crisps.

"Urban Forest School Adventure" will enable children (and their parents!) to get to know the wild parts of their city or town with handy bug, plant and tree ID sections, plus a scavenger hunt and cloud-spotting game that can be done when out and about. Games to play with organized groups or with family and friends adds another dimension to "Urban Forest School Adventure" that is bursting with ideas for urban outdoor adventures.

Critique: An ideal and instructive guide for family nature craft projects with children, "Urban Forest School Adventure" is unique, profusely illustrated and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. While especially recommended for family and community library instructional craft collections for children, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Urban Forest School Adventure" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Dan Westall and Naomi Walmsley run Outback2Basics from their patch of the woodland in Shropshire, UK. Specializing in bush craft and Stone Age skills, they provide unique experiences for school children and teachers to connect to nature. Dan has been a bushcraft teacher for many years and has also acted as a medic and survival consultant on various TV shows. Naomi is a qualified bushcraft instructor and Forest School Leader and believes that every child should be able to safely light a fire and have at least ten uses for a stick by the age of ten. She has also written about bushcraft and parenting for many magazines.

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Soaring Through Silent Skies: Deaf and Life ~ Sport and Success
Brian Ehlers
Independently Published
9798655419209, $15.99, 204 Pages

Genre: Sports Biographies

In this inspirational book the author, Brian Ehlers, really proves that Eleanor Roosevelt's quote 'life is what you make it,' can be true. In revealing his story the readers get a glimpse into what it is like living life severely-hard-of-hearing and becoming a volleyball star.

Brian and his older sisters Debbie and Laurie were born in Minnesota, but the family moved to Southern California, and this is where he grew up. His childhood memories are happy as part of a loving and supportive family, however very early on his parents noticed him not responding to his name and it was discovered that he was severely hard-of-hearing. They decided to enroll him in the nearby John Tracy Clinic which was one of the world's most acclaimed private providers of audiology diagnostics education and family support for pre-school to young hearing-impaired youth. Here he learned to master lip reading without a hearing aid, and this empowered the young Brian, enabling him to attend mainstream schools. As a child he embraced life, traveling with his family, enjoying adventures and this established his positive thinking attitude, allowing him to believe nothing could stop him from achieving his dreams.

He went to Chadwick private school and learned there that it takes commitment and dedication to succeed at sport. His two favorites were basketball and volleyball, however, it was volleyball which was to become his focus. After Chadwick, he went to Pepperdine and during the following years had an extremely successful sporting career.

It is through following his career the reader discovers the sacrifices and dedication required when training for the Olympics and major sporting events. Although in time, an injury forced retirement from playing professionally, his love of volleyball continued.

As husband to Gracie and father to Jake and Laney, his focus in life changed to being a good father, and a successful businessman. He discovered other ways of supporting his favorite sport and was eventually to accept an offer to come out of retirement and successfully coached volleyball at TCA. However, over time he realized his true passion was to focus on helping players at all levels get better, and achieve their own personal best, and teaching them that it was not all about winning, and as in with other avenues in life, you grow by facing adversity.

This attitude has helped the author face challenges in his own life, and as the book draws to a close we find him offering an important piece of advice to his readers, and this is, "Live your story, make a positive impact on the world, and leave a legacy that is yours."

There is no doubt that the author has had an incredible impact on those around him throughout his life. His resilience, positive attitude, his impact on the people he has coached and the volleyball scene, and his passion for his children, make this memoir a truly unforgettable read.

Cross Winds: Adventure and Entrepreneurship in the Russian Far East
Steven Myers
Bletchley Press
B08DZDHLV7, $6.99, 344 Pages

Genre: Entrepreneurship

Steven Myers, the award-winning author of this awe-inspiring book has had an unparalleled career. He graduated from Stanford University with a BS in Mathematics, is a serial entrepreneur, director of public and private company boards, CEO, coach, author, public speaker, and aviator. He has achieved astonishing success with his company SM&A, which is an international management consulting firm serving aerospace and defense, aviation, telecommunications and other high-tech industry clients, he is a two-time US Air Force veteran, and a loving husband and father.

In this incredible story which is accompanied by amazing photographs, the author pays homage to the famous Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator who made the first non-stop transatlantic aircraft flight in 1927. He does this by sharing with his readers his own incredible adventure when in 1992 he became the first American aviator to pilot an aircraft into the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula, since Charles and Anne Lindberg's flight in 1931.

Steven Myers amazing adventure was an incredible aviation feat, and one which had to be completed adhering to the three basic rules of aviation: Don't crash, don't run out of gas, and don't get lost. The latter was a challenge as in 1992 the Air Force had a few satellites in orbit, but although GPS was being created and was starting to appear for land and boat use, there was nothing available for the aviation market.

With fortitude and attention to detail, this serial entrepreneur, called upon his knowledge, meticulous planning, and determination and then on the 4th July 1992 he began this epic journey, flying out of US airspace, across the Bering Strait, into former Soviet Union airspace, through Siberia, and into the Kamchatka peninsula. He was accompanied by Tom Heinsheimer, space scientist and Vice President of SM&A, Tom's wife, Julie, an expert in Russian cultural affairs, Ed Beall, a Torrance architect and urban planner, Mike Stoner, 31, of Palos Verdes, a photographer and documentary film producer. When they eventually touched down at Russia's Provideniya airport, they were joined by Viktor Shlyaev who had been assigned to fly with them whilst they were in Russia. This likable man was their interpreter, navigator, companion, and, of course, the eyes of the State.

The journey for all concerned was amazing and the book has wonderful photographs. Through the author's incredibly descriptive writing the diverse landscapes they viewed comes alive. From Icebergs in Alaska to the scenery of the Kamchatka River Valley, which runs south between the two ranges and contains twenty-nine active volcanos. He also treats us to fly-on-the-wall glimpses into the everyday lives of the people he visited, from remote villagers to mighty Heads of State.

For those interested in aviation and technology the details throughout the book will provide an in-depth insight into aviation and space technology.

With this flight Steven Myers also helped create a union between the United States and the governor of Kamchatka being pivotal in establishing one of the first successful Russian-American ventures. He helped create a refueling base for carriers with international cargo near the city of Petropavlovsk and introduced entrepreneurship into post-Soviet Russia. In doing so he pioneered expansive business enterprises with the potential to transform the lives of the people of the Russian Far East.

I have never read a book which can come anywhere near this one as a real-life adventure, an expedition into unknown territory, facing dangerous situations, and throughout told by the man himself, 'the real deal.' In this book the author reflects on what makes people like Lindberg go on to live exceptional lives, and where do they get the courage from? For me, he answers this question by telling his readers his own near-death experience at the bottom of a crevasse on Mt. Rainier. He reveals that during the experience he never considered he would not survive, perhaps it was his ability to face adversity with courage, and discovering his inner strength which led him to go on to live his own remarkable life and has made him the man he is today. Highly recommended!

Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table
Book Two Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Normandy, Brittany, Loire and Auvergne
Savoring the Olde Ways
Carole Bumpus
She Writes Press
9781631528965, $16.95, 376 Pages

I have eagerly awaited this, the second part of Carole Bumpus' culinary tour searching for family and traditions at the French table, and I was not disappointed.

Carole and her good French Californian friend and translator Josiane Selvage begin this adventure by heading to the Somme, a now beautiful area which was the site of some of the most horrendous battles in WWI and WWII, and indeed even now, dotted throughout the countryside and coastal towns are the remains of the wartime bunkers, along with the memorials to the thousands who died there.

Then they carry on through the Nord-Pas-de-Calais to Dunkirk to meet with an old friend Veronique, and her mother, and thus their culinary journey begins as they discover the delights of cuisine pauvre or peasant food of France.

For those of us who love France and also who have a deep respect and interest in the tales of the older generations, this book is a real gem. Carole and Josiane are invited into many households on their travels, and they provide wonderful snapshots of the families, their history and that of the regions. The book is overflowing with descriptions of the wonderful regional produce and tales of times gone by.

Following the coast, the pair travel west, driving through Normandy and catching up with old friends. Near Mont St. Michel they stop off at the Manoir and are lucky enough to obtain an interesting interview with M. Barreaux, its owner and head chef. It is there that they are able to savor the delicacy of pre-sale d'agneau. These lambs (agneau) graze by the bay, consuming the salt-encrusted marsh grasses, and this is what gives their meat its unique flavor. Just one of the many exceptional local products they are lucky enough to sample on this amazing journey as they travel on through picturesque Brittany, with its breath-taking coastal views, wonderful architecture, and of course the delicious cuisine, before heading down to the Pays de la Loire.
The Pays de la Loire and the Loire Valley hold a special place in my heart because it has been my home for the last 16 years. Sampling its wonders is a daily pleasure, and I have enjoyed visiting the tuffeau cave homes, and the mushroom caves, in the area, taking home their produce to cook. However, I was fascinated to read about the truffle farms, with their truffle dogs (and pig,) and discover some of the uses of this world-renowned delicacy. The majestic chateaux and beautiful landscape of woods and vineyards truly comes alive through the author's wonderfully descriptive writing, and it is no wonder that this incredible area steeped in history is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

However France has a diverse landscape and soon the pair find themselves noticing that it has changed, first to rolling hills, and then more mountainous, as they arrive in the Auvergne region, the Massif Central. Here, as in all over France local produce is celebrated, from the scallops and oysters of the coast to the Auvergne's Fête du Cochon where each year a pig is slaughtered and is the center of celebrations, as this is an important time of the year and a traditional part of village life.

This book captures the French people, their love of family and friends, their generosity, and their passion for sharing good quality fresh local food. The author has generously ended the book with a collection of some of the wonderful recipes for us to enjoy making in our kitchens, whilst embracing the flavors and traditions of French family life.

Throughout it, however, the devastating effect the World Wars have reeked on families, and communities is heart-breaking. Yet despite this these people have survived and carried on with fortitude. The tragedies have given strength to this nation, emboldened them with incredible comradeship, and inspired the bravery of the resistance.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this excellent book, and I am sure it will be enjoyed by anyone loving, France, cooking, traditions, and history.

Lang Fafa Dampha
Independently Published
9798675367580, $6.99, 140 Pages

In this interesting story we follow the immigration, hopes, and dreams of the protagonist Sainy as he leaves his native Gambia, in search of a better life in Paris. This migration is seen as a way of securing a better future, however it is still a courageous thing for the young Gambian man to do.

The story begins with Sainy's plane descending to Roissy, Paris Charles De Gaule. Immediately he discovers how different Europe smells, how dull it is, and how wet. Yet, this is the place where his future lies, and he is soon to learn that life in Europe is very, very different from his native Africa.

He manages to find lodgings in Paris with Janneh, a friendly African who is extremely generous and is very caring, and his wife Kaddy. However life amongst the African community in Paris is very different from back home. He discovers that the women benefit from the famous French "Allocation familiale" - Child Benefit monthly, free medical care, and transport on the buses and the metro. In this promised land of Liberte Egalite Fraternite the role of the woman is very different from in Gambia, and this is something the women and their husbands find it difficult to adjust to.

Sainy manages to secure a temporary residents permit for three months and spends his time watching how his people live and behave in this other country, comparing in very thought-provoking ways, the lives they lead now to how their lives would have been, had they stayed in Africa. He discovers the 'Peculiar' attitude of his people living in this very different country, noticing their anger and how the roles are different. His people may be in another country, far from Gambia, but their heritage and roots still stand firm in their hearts and outlook, especially when they feel there is injustice. He discovers that some traditions like the replacement of wives if one dies are still maintained even though they are out of their own country, and realises that it is impossible for his people not to compare the differences in the cultures and how it affects them. It is interesting that as he watches it doesn't seem to occur to him that he might adjust the same, and that under the umbrella of Europe he may adapt, and adopt these different values himself.

He falls in love with the beautiful Gambian divorcee Fatou. She had admired him since they first met at Kaddy's, and they got to know each other more. A mother of a young son, she looks after him well and eventually they become engaged and married. The icing is truly on the plate when Sainy receives his residency permit, now nothing can stop him following his dreams...

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

This fascinating story gives its readers a true look into the lives of Gambian immigrants to Europe, showing the adjustments they have to make, and what drives them to succeed.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

The War on Mars
J. Krebs Services LLC
B08D6ZSXPH, $2.99, 112 pages, July 28, 2020

Life as we know if can change in a blink of an eye...

Erica's perfect world is on the verge of being destroyed. She lives in the memories of how she once had a husband and two loving children. All of that changed when a virus was announced and spread across the world at a rapid pace.

Peter is a natural-born leader and Erica's husband. The two of them share a love and devotion that's envied by many. As a leader, he tries to help solve the world's problems. His intent puts himself in harm's way, which results in the enemy capturing him and the children.

Erica knows it's up to her to rescue Peter and her family. She uses her background in the military to help combat those intent to destroy her and her world. Will she be strong enough to find the real reason beneath the virus, and save not only her family, but the world?

THE WAR ON MARS presents real-life events that are haunting to our current 2020 world situation of living in a pandemic environment. It allows the reader to see how one family is affected by its invasion and how one eccentric billionaires mind could shape the entire course of history. The descriptive words she uses allow each scene to have the ability to be projected in a person's mind's eye.

J. Krebs writes with a fiery passion for providing a realistic and high action novel. The exciting part of this book is there is another soon to follow. This author has broken into the literary world at a fast pace that has taken readers by storm. I predict her name will be one that readers will quickly commit to memory, for they will be counting down when her next novel is released.

Sincerely Speaking Spiritually
Joseph S. Spence Sr.
WestBow Press
9781973683919, $11.95, Paperback, 134 pages, February 21, 2020

Let the words from a higher power be your guide...

The world, as we know, it is in a chaotic state of turmoil. Political injustice has divided a country once strong and united. In this turbulent atmosphere, our souls cry out for healing salvation. We seek calming words to assure us that a sense of normalcy will one day return to our lives.

Hope comes in the form of these poems. They offer a wide variety of topics whose words are powerful and meaningful. Each one provides a spiritual awakening to the reader. It's as though a higher power uses Joseph Spence, Sr. to communicate their message they want to send out to the world.

SINCERELY SPEAKING SPIRITUALLY provides the salvation of redemption that your body is seeking. These poems penetrate deep into your heart and have the ability to restore your faith in humanity. Each one offers their unique theme that will quiet your mind and restore a sense of calmness that has been missing.

Joseph S. Spence Sr. has proven he's a masterful poet and a spiritual intelligent. His work will leave a deep and lasting meaning that can carry over to future generations. I find it an honor to allow my mind to become spiritually refreshed in this state of world crisis.

Suzie Housley

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Migrant Dreams: Egyptian Workers in the Gulf States
Samuli Schielke
American University in Cairo Press
200 Park Avenue, Suite 1700, New York, NY 10166
9789774169564, $19.95, PB, 154pp

Synopsis: A vivid ethnography of Egyptian migrants to the Arab Gulf states, "Migrant Dreams" By Samuli Schielke is about the imagination which migration thrives on, and the hopes and ambitions generated by the repeated experience of leaving and returning home.

What kind of dreams for a good or better life drives labor migrants? What does being a migrant worker do to one's hopes and ambitions? How does the experience of migration to the Gulf, with its attendant economic and legal precarities, shape migrants' particular dreams of a better life? What do those dreams (be they realistic and productive, or fantastic and unlikely) do to the social worlds of the people who pursue them, and to their families and communities back home upon their return?

Based on ten years of ethnographic fieldwork and conversations with Egyptian men from mostly low-income rural backgrounds who migrated as workers to the Gulf, returned home, and migrated again over a period of about a decade, "Migrant Dreams" is a fine-grained study explores and engages with these questions and more, as the men reflect on their strivings and the dreams they hope to fulfill.

Throughout "Migrant Dreams", Samuli Schielke highlights the story of one man, Tawfiq, who is particularly gifted at analyzing his own situation and struggles, resulting in a richly nuanced account that will appeal not only to Middle East scholars, but to anyone interested in the lived lives of labor migrants and what their experiences ultimately mean to them.

Critique: An inherently interesting work of original scholarship, "Migrant Dreams" is an extraordinary study and one that should be a part of every college and university library Contemporary Egyptian Social Issues collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of six pages of Notes, a twelve page Bibliography, and a four page Index, it should be noted for personal reading lists of students, faculty, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Migrant Dreams" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Samuli Schielke is a research fellow at the Center for Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin, Germany. He is the author of numerous publications including most recently, "Egypt in the Future Tense: Hope, Frustration, and Ambivalence before and after 2011" (2015) and "The Perils of Joy: Contesting Mulid Festivals in Contemporary Egypt" (2013).

Your Origin and Destiny: Explore the Meaning of Life, Time and Creation
Ivan Rudolph
Bublish, Incorporated
9781647040475, $19.99, HC, 226pp

Synopsis: "Your Origin and Destiny: Explore the Meaning of Life, Time and Creationd" by Ivan Rudoph is about the meaning of Life, Time, Evolution and Creation.

Do you ever wonder who you are and why you're on this Earth? Harnessing science and faith, Rudolph offers unique revelations and research that will lead to you expanding your own perspectives in all these areas, even if you have thought them through in the past. You'll find that Time itself is different and far beyond our assumptions and experiences. Finding answers to life's most pressing questions will leave you touched, satisfied and excited.

Have you ever wondered whether the fundamental Evolution vs. Creation disagreements can be resolved? They can, and Rudolph analyzes why our own beginnings are entrenched in this issue, and how the confusion and distress of this redundant debate has caused many to abandon belief in an eternal God and an afterlife.

An easy-to-read study, "Your Origin and Destiny" offers a unique and poignant approach to life's most important questions. You will be inspired by your fresh understanding and vision to pursue a fulfilling life of purpose and love, leading you into an eternal future.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Your Origin and Destiny: Explore the Meaning of Life, Time and Creation" is an extraordinary study that will have a special interest for students of Christian Spiritual Growth and anyone with an interest in the Physics of Time. A book that will linger in the mind and memory long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf, "Your Origin and Destiny" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, seminary, and college/university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Your Origin and Destiny" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781647040468, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99)

Willis M. Buhle

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