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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 9 September 2022 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Ann Skea's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf
Clint Travis' Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf
John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf Kirk Bane's Bookshelf
Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Mark Walker's Bookshelf Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Sarah Book's Bookshelf
Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf    

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris / Mrs Harris Goes to New York
Paul Gallico
9781526646620, A$22.99 PB, 306 pp

This is an old-fashioned book. Not just because the two stories in it were first published in 1958 and 1960, but because the world has changed so much since then. The likes of Mrs Harris, a typical London char-lady of the late 1950s, no longer exist. Her 'profession' and her way of 'making a living and keeping body and soul together', was drudgery. She worked daily for her middle and upper class customers - cleaning up, as Paul Gallico puts it:

the litter of dirty dishes and greasy pans in the sink, acres of stale, rumpled, unmade beds, clothing scattered about, wet towels on the bathroom floor, water left in the tooth-glass, dirty laundry...and of course, cigarette end in the ashtrays, dust on tables and mirrors, and all the other litter that human pigs are capable of leaving behind them when they leave their homes in the morning.

The 'daily woman', with her scarf-turbaned hair, overalls and mop and bucket, is now just the stuff of 1960s sit-coms and has been replaced by professional cleaning services, small-business house-cleaners, robotic vacuum-cleaners and dishwashers.

Novels and novellas, too, have changed. Paul Gallico was a hugely popular short-story writer, perhaps best known for his war-time story The Snow Goose, which was made into a popular film, has sold over a million copies, and is still in print. Gallico once described his writing as 'not even literary. I just like to tell stories and all my books tell stories'. He is also unashamedly sentimental in his story-telling. So, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is not literary but it is a good old-fashioned, sentimental story, which has just been made into a film; so the book has been republished as a film tie-in.

Gallico's characters are caricatures, his plot is simple, and the world of Mrs Harris is one where BEA Viscount aircraft have 'wholesome' British stewards, who serve you a 'wholesome British breakfast' on the short flight from London to Paris, where a British European Airways assistant will offer you friendly advice and will order a taxi for you.

In the process of cleaning up Lady Dant's house, Ada Harris (who pronounces it as 'arris'), opens a wardrobe and sees two Dior dresses:

as she stood before the stunning creations ... she found herself face to face with a new kind of beauty - an artificial one created by the hand of man the artist, but aimed directly and cunningly at the heart of woman. In that very instant she fell victim to the artist; at that very moment was born within her the craving to possess such a garment.

There was no rhyme or reason for it, she would never wear such a creation, there was no place in her life for one. Her reaction was purely feminine. She saw it and she wanted it dreadfully.

Lady Dant cannot refrain from boasting that the dress cost 'around four hundred and fifty' pounds. Mrs Harris is shocked -'Four hundred and fifty quid...'ow would anyone ever get that much money?'- but her craving for the dress grows. All that 'damp, miserable, and foggy day' the thought of the dress warms her, and that evening on her regular visit to her fellow char-lady friend, Mrs Butterfield, preparing for their 'threepence a week' ceremony of 'making out their coupons for the weekly football lottery', she feels particularly lucky and shocks Mrs Butterfield by announcing, 'This is for me Dior dress'.

She wins only 'one hundred and two pounds, seven and ninepence halfpenny', not enough for the dress, but after her initial disappointment she determines to scrimp and save until she can afford it. Finally after two years of 'work, sweat and self-denial', plus a little bit of luck, she has enough. Currency restrictions in the UK mean that only ten pounds can be taken out of the country but Mrs H is resourceful:

[her] code of ethics was both strict and practical. She would tell a fib but not a lie. She would not break the law, but was not averse to bending it as far as it would go. She was scrupulously honest, but at the same time was not to be considered a mug.

She solves the problem with the help of a 'not-too-bright' American client of hers, who agrees to pay her in American dollars and to exchange British cash for her. These dollars, she thinks, are being sent to Mrs Harris's 'conveniently invented', 'constitutionally impecunious' nephew, who lives in America.

So, finally, Mrs H arrives outside the House of Christian Dior in Paris, and is shocked to discover that it is not a store 'like Selfridges in Oxford Street or Marks and Spencer's' but a mansion with no display windows or wax figures showing off the clothes. Gathering her British courage, she pushes opens the door, is 'almost driven back by the powerful smell of elegance', and ascends the grand staircase but, ultimately, is confronted by Mme Colbert, the manageress, who apart from being in a bad mood, surveys Mrs Harris and concludes that she looks like a cleaning lady and should have gone to the back door.

Ada Harris is standing for no nonsense: she has the money and she is determined. After many misunderstanding, many unusual encounters, and with the help of a distinguished elderly gentleman (who has fond memories of the char-lady who brightened his life in his gloomy college room when he studied at an English university) she attends a Salon presentation of the latest 'collection', and sees the dress she wants to buy.

Nothing is simple, but her unabashed friendliness, her concern for others and her naivety mean that she ends up spending a week sightseeing in Paris, aids one of her new-found friends in his love life, helps to solve Mme Colbert's unhappiness, and attends fittings for her dress. Finally, she manages to smuggle the dress through British customs without having to pay duty (for which she has no money) by dispensing with the elegant Dior dress box, carrying her treasure in a her 'large well-worn plastic suitcase', and telling the truth to the customs official: The customs man grinned. This was a new one on him. The British char abroad. The mop and broom business must be good, he reflected.... It was not the first time he had encountered the London char's sense of humour.

There are still a few more adventures associated with the dress, and Mrs Harris is a changed woman.

it had not been a dress she had bought so much as an adventure and an experience that would last her to the end of her days. She would never again feel lonely, or unwanted. She had ventured into a foreign country and a foreign people whom she had been taught to suspect and despise. [the French: 'for all she had ever heard of them, were immoral, grasping, ate snails and frogs, and were particularly inclined to crimes of passion and dismembered bodies in trunks]. Had found them to be warm and human, men and women for whom human love and understanding was a mainspring of life.

As a novella, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris shows its age and has, at times, outdated and cliched opinions about class and foreign cultures, but it is an unusual story with a spirited, humorous and likeable heroine. As a film, her tour of Paris will provide an exotic, colourful setting, there are gorgeous dresses, beautiful models, a love-interest, and enough glamour and adventure and fun to suggest that the result will be lighthearted and enjoyable.

Mrs Harris Goes to New York, in which Ada Harris and Violet Butterfield become the unlikely kidnappers of the young lad they hear being abused by his foster parents in the house next door to their London flats, has the same attractions. Instead of a flight to Paris, there is an eventful voyage to New York aboard the Ville de Paris, a tour of New York and other parts of America, and Mrs H's adventures as she tries to track down the vanished father of 'young 'enry', certain that he will welcome his lost son with open arms.

Paul Gallico eventually wrote two more stories about Mrs Harris, both of which suggest that she was never one to sit back in London, however homesick she might have become for it when she and Mrs Butterfield were living in New York. Mrs Harris MP (1965) and Mrs Harris Goes to Moscow (1974) are both still in print and attest to the continuing popularity of Mrs Harris.

Old Rage
Sheila Hancock
9781526647450, A$29.99 PB, 306 pages

In November 2020, having just been told that she had been recommended to the Queen for a damehood, and convinced that she didn't deserve it, Sheila Hancock felt 'sick with inadequacy':

What if the Queen rejects me?

Prince Philip: It is all going a bit downmarket isn't it?

The Queen: Well, she is very good in Just a Minute.

Prince Phillip": But what about Wildcats of St Trinian's?

Sheila, however, is not an 'also-ran' actor or just 'an elderly woman, and a silly actress to boot', as she has sometimes described herself. However, she may well be considered eccentric. Not many women in their eighties, and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, would accept a job which involved climbing a 750 metre, steep-sided mountain in Scotland, and being filmed doing it. This is what she did for the title role in the film, Edie. Having accepted the job, she went to the gym and trained hard for the climb, but even getting to the foot of the mountain was not easy:

It was a challenge. Stumbling over a bog full of horrific Scottish beasties, one minute falling flat on my face over a tussock, the next up to my knees in mud, is not what a nice English girl from Hammersmith is used to.

Not many women of her age, too, would be willing to publicly and frankly express their views and their rage about British politics, politicians, religion, class, the education system, Brexit, and other controversial topics ( all taboo in polite British conversation), as she does in this book.

Sheila, as she admits, has always been outspoken. After a taking part in a gala performance to celebrate the eightieth birthday of Harold Pinter, she and he chatted about their past experiences when they were unknown actors (he was still David Baron) and had toured run-down theatres around England together in a repertory company, 'doing a new play every week, rehearsing one during the day whilst performing another at night' and dreaming of 'rosier' lives in the future:

Suddenly he said, 'Are you still angry, Sheila?'

'More than ever', I said.

'Good girl'. And he kissed my forehead.

He died a few months later.

Old age, as Sheila notes is like that: you reach the age where your friends are 'more likely to be buried than wed'. After yet another funeral, John Geilgud, she reports, was reputed to have said that 'It's hardly worth going home'.

Old Rage is a book full of rage and at times this is akin to ranting but Sheila is still good company and can be very funny. She began this book as something she hoped would be 'a gentle record of a fulfilled old age. An inspirational journey'. But her own world and the world in general 'descended into chaos'. So, the four-and-a-half years of almost monthly journal entries here record not just her own serious health problems but the breast-cancer diagnosis of one of her daughters, the shock and dismay she felt over Brexit, and her experiences during the pandemic lockdowns, but also her memories of growing up in the post-war years, of gaining scholarships to grammar school and to The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, her early acting years when she worked with some of today's best-know actors and directors before they became successful, reflections on acting techniques and styles, retreats to her beloved small house in France, and her meditations on being a Quaker and the way that influences her life. Contemplating Quaker teachings after a Quaker Zoom meeting for worship, which entailed sitting in silence, slowing down and relishing nature, she writes:

For an angry old woman like me, the Peace Testimony is especially difficult, but Advice 27 - 'Live adventurously' - guides my old age. I have tried Catholicism, Buddhism, Congregationalism, Atheism and Humanism, eventually finding a home in Quakerism for which, especially in these troubled times, I am truly grateful'.

Then, on the next day:

Well, that didn't last long. So much for Quaker silence, The rage keeps returning.

Sometimes, too, the rage is valuable. Infuriated by watching Donald Trump on TV, she vents her 'incandescent' fury on 'a poor chap who made the mistake of climbing onto my balcony', trying to force his way into her house. Later she reflects that confronted by 'this raging old dervish, leaping about shaking her fists' even Trump would have 'backed-off and slunk away'.

Some of her most moving memories are of life with her husband, fellow-actor, John Thaw, his own troubled past and his death from oesophageal cancer. She also writes lovingly of her older sister Billie, whose career as a variety and cabaret artist living in Paris was memorably described by Sheila's daughter in a eulogy at Billie's funeral in Antibes:

My extraordinary, exotic, extravagant, energetic, eccentric, exasperating Auntie Billie....

Uncle Roy used to be on stilts, and she pretended to be his puppet, but now they both put their heads on top of small puppet bodies, and do the cancan in between the strip acts.

Sheila too, had a brush with the alternative side of acting. She was offered a job as a Bluebell Girl -'these tall showgirls worked at the Lido in Paris' - but the principal at RADA heard about it and intervened. In an' out-of-work period', she also began training as a Bunny Girl at the Playboy Club, but 'found the corseted leotard, fishnet tights and teetering heels agony'. She was thrown out but kept the bunny ears and regrets having lost 'the fluffy pom-pom tail that decorated our bums'. She did, however, work for a while as a Hostess at The Pheasantry Club in Chelsea, where her 'respectable working-class upbringing' inhibited her from providing the 'extra services' which could have been lucrative for her. That's what students did to supplement the subsistence grants which funded their acting studies.

Sheila, whose father described her as always rushing around 'like a blue-arsed fly', was especially affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns. Repeatedly told that she was 'extremely vulnerable', constantly hearing the mantra 'Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives', she found being confined to her home, frightening and lonely. In the space of two months she had mastered the Internet - WhatsApp, Zoom, Face Time, YouTube - so that she could communicate with her daughters, her grandchildren and her book club friends - but wandering about an empty house took its toll, at times she feared she was going mad, and she found herself scared of emerging when lockdown ended. Her journal entries record all this, but also her resilience and, determination.

One advantage of an acting career, as she notes in an early journal entry, is that there is 'no retirement age' and she can continue to work for as long as she can remember her lines and 'stumble across the stage without bumping into the scenery'. So, in her last entries she is again working to 'pay the bills' and 'earn a crust'; and she is also busily involved with the various organisations she supports. One of her after-Covid jobs was been to join fellow actor, Gyles Brande, in the Chanel 4 filming of two episodes about a couple travelling the canals in a narrowboat. It is another adventure, and an old spinal injury ensures that Gyles 'does all the crouchy things on the boat, grovelling around on the floor, while I stand looking noble at the tiller'.

In her final journal entry, in June 2021, she wonders what she has done with her 'numerous years' worth of living' and concludes that she and John had both achieved more than their working-class parents could ever have imagined. She hopes that she may have 'intentionally or inadvertently, passed on something that will contribute to the future'.

She may be, as she notes in one entry 'a grumpy old woman'; she may at one time have felt inadequate and that grammar-school educated people like her did not write books; but here she is with five published books to her name, still a very successful actress, and, now, a title to her name: well done Dame Sheila Hancock!

The Paris Mystery
Kirsty Manning
Allen & Unwin
9781760879907, A$32.99 PB, 304 pages

Drums rolled. The orchestra struck opening chords as the elegant hostess, Lady Eleanor Ashworth, stepped into the spotlight dressed in a black tulle Chanel gown draped with a cobalt cape. Behind her, the outline of Ch teau de Versialle shimmered in the distance.

The Prologue of this novel is so full of glamorous exoticism that I almost decided that this book was not for me. The cream of Parisian society are enjoying a masked Circus Ball in the last halcyon days immediately before the start of World War II and there are fireworks, acrobats, a tight-rope walker, and ponies carrying 'burlesque dancers in matching burgundy masks and under-bust corsets'. Then, there is a melodramatic scream which interrupts proceedings, ends the Prologue, and begins the mystery.

Chapter 1, however, establishes a rather more realistic scene as Charlie (Charlotte) James, newly arrived from Australia, alights from the Night Ferry train to begin her new job as news correspondent for the Paris desk of the London newspaper, The Times.

Charlie, who has forged a successful career for herself at a Sydney newspaper, speaks French, thanks to the efforts of her French mother. She has also learned good investigative skill through helping her Australian barrister father with some of his work.

As a child Charlie would fold herself into the sofa at the far corner of her father's office, sketching his face or practicing the French verb conjugations her mother insisted on, while he pieced together criminal cases for the Crown. One of Sydney's leading prosecutors, he hunted convictions....He'd often discuss them at length with his eldest daughter; he encouraged her input... and challenged her to help him step through evidence.

Charlie was 'the most studious of her siblings' and preferred to do this rather than play outside. It was her father who had encouraged her to apply for a job as a cadet journalist. Her upbringing, too, had convinced her that she was 'as capable as any man' and that, unlike other young ladies in Sydney society at that time, she could pursue a career. So, she arrives in Paris, confident, familiar with blunt-talking newspapermen, and well equipped to tackle her new job.

The first assignment her new boss, George Roberts, gives her is to cover Lady Ashworth's Circus Ball, which the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson are expected to attend. Lord Rupert Ashworth, George tells her, used to have close contacts in Downing Street but had been 'posted to Paris as a diplomat' by the Prime Minister when King Edward abdicated, because he was 'too close to King Edward - backed the wrong horse'. Charlie's job is to 'hook' the Ashworths, get access to their network', and 'write a cracking feature'.

Thanks to the help, friendship and well-established society network of Violet Carthage, George's surprisingly elegant office manager, Charlie makes an excellent start, interviews Lady Ashworth to discuss the forthcoming Circus Ball, and is there at the ball when the murder which prompts the terrible scream occurs.

Violet, with George, meets Charlie when she gets off the train, takes her to her accommodation and helps her to settle in. Charlie marvels at her beauty and her elegance:

Violet had brown skin, twinkling dark eyes and jet-back hair courtesy of her Malay mother, and she wore a spectacular zebra-print pencil skirt and matching jacket that would have swallowed anyone else. She sashayed around with a Hermes bag slung on her wrist, dressed head to toe in couture, chin held high as if she were about to lunch with the president rather than run errands for her curt bureau chief.

She is also efficient, and has organised the interview with Lady Ashworth, who treats Charlie in a friendly way (choosing to call her 'Just Charlie' when Charlie corrects her use of 'Charlotte'), introduces her to the young 'up-and-coming' American photographer, Conrad Mackenzie, and invites her to the ball:

Wear something fabulous. Don't be late, Just Charlie. Trust me, you won't want to miss a thing'.

Looking at Conrad's portfolio, Charlie finds the 'emotional range' of the images beautiful and unusual. 'I like to capture people's 'inner world', he tells her, and Charlie is impressed enough to suggest that she will take the portfolio to her boss and Conrad could be offered a contract to work with her. It is agreed that he will take photographs for her at the ball and, as it turns out later, he becomes an important witness, and a suspect, when the police begin their investigation of the murder.

Dressing for the ball poses a dilemma for Charlie, who has only her plain work clothes with her. Violet, however, solves the problem by taking her to the atelier of her Russian lover, Aleksandr Ivanov, who is one of the foremost couturiers in Paris. Aleksandre approves of Charlie's figure and her auburn curls, and insist of making a dress for as a gift: because 'In my dress, you'll stand out and also attract attention to my design, so I benefit, too'. He also suggests that

You and I, Charlie James, are in the same business. People tell us their secrets. I see diplomats' wives, aristocrats, even royalty. I came to Paris to meet such people, da. Interesting people wear my dresses. C'est compris?

Through Violet and Aleksandre, Charlie meets all the people who will become suspects in the murder, and there are a number of them who have the motive and the opportunity. There are also diplomatic concerns involved, so the plot is suitably complicated. To keep her job, Charlie needs to write up-to-the-minute news reports of the murder for The Times, so the fact-sharing arrangement she comes to with the police officer in charge of the investigation becomes very valuable and provides her with information which fuels her fascination with the murder. As part of her own journalistic investigations, she is busy trying to sort through the facts: 'Be truthful, check the facts...then check them again', her father would say. It helps that Inspecteur Benolt Bernard takes a liking to her, invites her to join him for lunch to discuss their mutual involvement (Charlie has immediate access to Conrad's photographs whilst the police would have to get through time consuming 'official channels') and agrees to keep her informed of any proceedings not subject to confidentiality in his investigation.

Charlie's personal life intrudes at times when she remembers the good times and the sex she had with her husband, from whom she is in the process of getting a divorce. She remembers, too, the shock of discovering his adultery. She is an attractive woman, but does not yet feel totally free, although, as Lady Ashworth tells her:

The magic of Paris, my dear, is that you can let go of whatever dreariness you left behind and be whatever you damn well please.

In Paris, Charlie finds that many people, married or not, have romantic liaisons, but those between the people she meets serve to complicate the mystery she is trying to solve.

Kirsty Manning handles this murder mystery, the multiple suspects, the twists and turns of the plot, and the exotic setting skillfully and well. There is a sense of escapism, as she suggests in her 'Acknowledgements', because lockdown gave her the urge 'to write something a little lighter, sexier and more mysterious'; and pre-war Paris seemed to offer 'joy and delight', 'panache', 'heavenly food, masses of couture, elegant houses and Champagne'. Consequently, there is plenty of glamour, lots of Belle Epoque champagne, beautiful clothes, aristocratic people, and unusual characters, but there is also a solid mystery to keep the reader guessing and, finally, an unexpected revelation which leaves questions to be pondered.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Conspiracies and Secret Societies
Brad Steiger, author
Sherry Hansen Steiger, author
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Rd., #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578598045, $74.95, HC, 496pp

Synopsis: Claims and counterclaims. Stunning allegations. Suppressed evidence. Missing witnesses and rogue operatives. Threats, cover-ups, and assassinations. Brazen lies and startling truths. Documented connections and worrisome coincidences to even deeper intrigue. American history is replete with warnings of hidden plots by shadowy groups and nefarious power brokers.

Separating fact from fiction, "Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier of Hidden Plots and Schemes" is compelling and comprehensive compendium that provides gripping details and presents the information without bias, including facts about hundreds of individuals, organizations, and events in which official claims and standard explanations of actions and events remain shrouded in mystery.

Up to date with the latest research and findings into historical topics plus current issues, "Conspiracies and Secret Societies" examines the many subjects discussed by conspiracy theorists, probing and analyzing the dark doings of secret societies.

"Conspiracies and Secret Societies ranges from government cover-ups, to powerful secret societies and groups, classified backgrounds on U.S. Presidents, terrible secrets, historical riddles, and science mysteries.

Originally published in 2006, this new and updated third edition of Brad and Sherry Steiger's masterwork gets an update with more than 50 new entries, and a complete review and revision by a panel of experts to incorporate the latest developments and newly uncovered conspiracies.

Whether confirming or debunking a conspiracy or secret group, "Conspiracies and Secret Societies" cites sources to let you do your own research and draw your own conclusions. This important book brings the facts to light and provides insights into conspiracies and the world of conspiracy theorists.

Knowledge is our best weapon against these people, groups, and their nefarious schemes. When some of the nation's highest leaders, their wives, and followers promote (and even believe) false conspiracies, knowing which conspiracies are actually real and which you should not trust is more important than ever!

Critique: With the advent of social media we have come to live in a world riddled with conspiracy theories. From UFOs to accusations of a stolen presidency, what was once obscure and fringe has now become mainstream and common place. Illustrated throughout, "Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier of Hidden Plots and Schemes" is a massive compendium of conspiracy theories laid out in historical detail and an inherently fascinating read. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier of Hidden Plots and Schemes" is also available in a paperback edition (9781578597673, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note #1: Brad Steiger (February 19, 1936 - May 6, 2018) has devoted his life to exploring and examining unusual, hidden, secret, and otherwise strange occurrences. Steiger first began publishing articles on the unexplained in 1956; since then, he wrote more than 2,000 paranormal-themed articles. He authored more than 200 titles including Real Encounters, Different Dimensions and Otherworldly Beings; Real Aliens, Space Beings, and Creatures from Other Worlds; Real Visitors, Voices from Beyond, and Parallel Dimensions; Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places; Real Monsters, Gruesome Critters, and Beasts from the Darkside; The Werewolf Book; and many more. He has a Wikipedia entry at

Editorial Note #2: Sherry Hansen Steiger (April 24, 1945 - March 7, 2020) has authored or coauthored more than 40 books, including the inspirational and best-selling "Miracles" series. She was married to Brad Steiger.

Editorial Note #3: Kevin Hile has had a long career as an author, editor, and researcher. He authored several books, including Visible Ink Press' The Handy California Answer Book, and he has edited many other of Visible Ink Press' meticulously researched reference titles.

Culture Work: Folklore for the Public Good
Tim Frandy, editor
B. Marcus Cederstrom, editor
University of Wisconsin Press
728 State Street, Suite 443, Madison, WI 53706-1418
9780299338206, $44.95, HC, 440pp

Synopsis: How do culture workers construct public arts and culture projects that are effective and transformative? How do we create public humanities projects of the community, for the community, and with the community? How can culture work make a concrete difference in the quality of life for communities, and lead to the creation of a more just world? Why do the public humanities matter?

With the publication of "Culture Work: Folklore for the Public Good" explores these questions through real-world examples of cultural and public humanities projects. The innovative case studies analyzed in "Culture Work" demonstrate the vast numbers of creative possibilities in culture work today -- in all their complexities, challenges, and potentialities.

Thematically arranged chapters embody the interconnected aspects of culture work, from amplifying local voices to galvanizing community from within, from preservation of cultural knowledge to its creative repurposing for a desired future. These inventive projects provide concrete examples and accessible theory grounded in practice, encourage readers to embark on their own public culture work, and create new forward-looking inspiration for community leaders and scholars in the field.

Critique: A seminal work of impressively informative scholarship, "Culture Work: Folklore for the Public Good" is the collaborative work of co-editors Tim Frandy and B. Marcus Cederstrom. Comprised of 34 erudite and insightful essays contributed by an impressive roster of scholars, "Culture Work: Folklore for the Public Good" is further enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Introduction, twenty-eight pages of Works Cited, a six page listing of the Contributors and their credentials, and an eight page Index. With particular relevance to readers with an interest in Social Studies, Arts & Humanities, Folklore & Mythology, "Culture Work: Folklore for the Public Good" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note #1: Tim Frandy is an assistant professor of folk studies at Western Kentucky University and the editor and translator of Inari Smi Folklore: Stories from Aanaar. He has a page on the Western Kentucky University website at

Editorial Note #2: B. Marcus Cederstrom is the community curator of Nordic-American folklore in the department of German, Nordic, and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He is the coeditor and translator, with Thomas A. DuBois, of Songs of the Finnish Migration: A Bilingual Anthology. He has a page on the University of Wisconsin-Madison website at

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

Que aburrido es ser un arbol (Spanish Edition)
Oxana Cerra
Independently published
B0BBMP1JQ7, $11 Kindle
9798847614399, $4.99 Paperback, 29 pages

Written in Spanish, Little Tree thinks he is living a life of isolation and loneliness. He sees friends playing together, people talking, Carnival with costumes he cannot wear, and his life is full of nos. Cloud comes and eats the negative thoughts, and then blows yes thoughts. Little Tree learns he can move in the wind, is decorated at Christmas, can communicate with other trees through his roots, turn bright autumn colors, and his friends come to him by sitting in his branches. He becomes able to do things and is happy.

This book is so perfect for young children who wish to be older and more able to do things their siblings can already do. It is the universal wish of childhood to be "big" and capable. This book is reassuring to frustrated children who need to know better days are coming.

I recommend this book, especially for Spanish immersion schools as well as primary science classes

Picture books have a special touch when the author is also the illustrator, which is true in this case. Beautiful!

Mayo Clinic on Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias: A Guide for People with Dementia and Those Who Care for Them
Author Senior Director Paula M. Marlow Limbeck
Graff-Radford, Jonathan; Lunde, Angela M.
Mayo Clinic Press
9781893005617, $21.49 Paperback, 304 pages, $24.99, Audio Book
B08KH53VDY, $11.99 Kindle
9780795352928 ePub

As you would expect from any Mayo Clinic Press health topic book, this book is exceptionally well-written for the reading audience, is non-fiction with patient stories to help explain situations, and a wealth of in-depth information for both the caretaker and caregiver. The result is a positive approach to dealing with memory deficits professionally while at home.

Beginning with a story of a man who had dementia at age 52, a wide variety of types of memory loss, ages, and charts explaining the differences are presented. Clearly and quickly, the reader may determine which situation they are facing. How to handle it and what to expect differs depending on which type of memory loss is present. Then, reading the sections on which type it may be will be more helpful than reading the entire book.

What is typical aging and what is not is part one of the book. That is the conundrum for most people. "I am just getting old" may be the thought. Also, friends might not see the changes and close family. A good doctor will evaluate the heart, Vitamin B12 levels, and a series of things before sending the person to the neurologist. Even if it is depression which can be involved with memory loss, only a neurologist can evaluate to see what is going on. Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential.

Planning for the end of life is also a chapter as dementia is terminal.

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease and Other Dementias, seventh edition
Nancy L. Mace & Peter V. Rabins
Johns Hopkins University Press; 7th edition
2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21218-326
9781421441702, $9.49 Paperback, $17.99 Audio Book, Page Count 360 pages
B08TT9RMCY, $2.99 Kindle

The highest rated memory loss book available and recommended by the Alzheimer Society is now in its 7th edition. "Everyone" says to read this book for any type of memory loss. The title helps prepare the reader as days with memory deficit people seem longer than 24 hours. The book begins by explaining what dementia is (a variety of problems) and explaining the complications. Diagnosis is a long process. Some illnesses may be reversed, but true dementia is irreversible and leads to death. There are no social, ethnic, economic, level of education, or racial divisions for having the disease. The book explains it is nothing to be ashamed about having. Normal aging never includes severe memory loss. Taking vitamins, treating depression, some medications, and dealing with thyroid conditions may help slow the progress, but there is no cure.

One chapter discusses problems with independent living for those with memory loss, another talks about problems with daily care. As the person's brain shrinks or develops white matter, activities of daily life are affected. The person's brain seems to be younger and younger ages until round-the-clock care is required. The book explains all this.

Medical problems arise, such as dehydration, pneumonia, and pain. There may be seizures and inappropriate behavior. Hallucinations are part of not only Lewy Body dementia, but other forms of memory issues as well. Caregivers will find much support and helpful information in this text. Caring for a person with dementia takes a toll on the caregiver as well, so a chapter discusses what to do for support as emotional reactions develop.

Long-term care, financial concerns, legal matters, care facilities, and even current research are all covered in depth.

This book is a reference book and an important read for both caregiver and patient (if the patient can still read and comprehend text).

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Winnie M Li
Atria Books /Emily Bester Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781982190828, $27.00, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: A Hollywood has-been, Sarah Lai's dreams of success behind the camera have been put to the wayside. Now a lecturer at an obscure college, this former producer wants nothing more than to forget those youthful ambitions and push aside any feelings of regret -- or guilt.

But when a journalist reaches out to her to discuss her own experience working with the celebrated film producer Hugo North, Sarah can no longer keep silent. This is her last chance to tell her side of the story and maybe even exact belated vengeance.

As Sarah recounts the industry's dark and sordid secrets, however, she begins to realize that she has a few sins of her own to confess. Now she must confront her choices and ask herself, just who was complicit?

Critique: A timely and emotionally engaging novel of power, privilege, sexual assault and justice, "Complicit" will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in domestic psychological thrillers. With its adult theme and while unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Complicit" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797142043, $49.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Winnie M Li is an American author and activist living in the UK with her partner and young son. A Harvard graduate, Winnie worked as a film producer in London before her career was disrupted by a violent rape. Inspired by that experience, her first novel was "Dark Chapter" which was nominated for an Edgar Award and translated into ten languages. She is the founder of Clear Lines, the UK's first-ever festival addressing sexual assault through the arts and discussion. She has a dedicated website at

OJ's Knife
John Gibson
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781951473433, $15.95, PB, 268pp

Synopsis: Detectives never found the knife used to murder Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. They thought it was in a small backpack dumped at LAX the night of the murders. They assumed it disappeared in an LA County landfill.

"OJ's Knife" by novelist John Gibson tells a different tale. Two airport workers found the backpack in the trash. Unaware the murder weapon was inside, they planned to return the "lost" backpack to OJ. When OJ was arrested the next day, LAX workers Gordon Grove and his friend Luther Malcolm realized they had the murder weapon. So what now?

Enter a cast of characters determined to secure the key piece of evidence -- a South Central LA drug dealer desperate to escape an indictment, an Armenian crime boss intending to sell the knife to the highest bidder, and a TV reporter chasing the knife to save his job. They all want to get their hands on OJ's knife!

Critique: A fictionalized account inspired by the real life O. J. Simpson murder case, "OJ's Knife" is another Mickey Judge Mystery from John Gibson. A riveting read from cover to cover, "OJ's Knife" is all the more impressive when considering that it is Gibson's debut as a novelist (although he has previously published non fiction titles The War On Christmas, Hating America, and How the Left Swiftboated America). A compelling read that is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, 6.99), "OJ's Knife" will prove to be a popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Clint Travis

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

The Old Testament and the Truth
S. Seth Haas
9781664153752, $31.99

Obscure items in the Bible

I enjoyed "The Old Testament and the Truth" by S. Seth Haas. His book deserves five stars. I did not agree with all of Haas's conclusions from his study of the Five Books of Moses. But this did not detract from my enjoyment. I found, as his readers will, that whether I agreed or not, what he wrote made me think. And thinking improved my mind as well as my understanding of the Bible. The brilliant pagan Greek Aristotle (384-322 BCE) explained that what distinguishes humans from plants and animals is that humans think. He stressed that people who do not use their minds are no better than plants and animals. The brilliant Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1138-1204) agreed. In the first two chapters of his highly acclaimed "Guide for the Perplexed," he wrote that the human mind is the "image of God" that the deity placed in people. He also stressed that we must use our minds. Haas' book stimulates the mind.

I mailed a book to Gefen Publishing House to be published in the next few months, in which I described over 400 obscure items in the book of Genesis. I wrote that this is very good because it prompts us to think and draw conclusions about what the Bible is saying and wants us to understand. S. Seth Haas list many obscure Biblical items in his book. This is why I liked it. It made me use the divine gift to think.

I am convinced that we cannot understand anything unless we also understand the opposite. Light, for example, is better understood when we realize that it is not darkness. Sweet is enjoyed because we know that it is not sour. Acting correctly makes the most sense when we recognize why we should not misbehave. That is why I even liked reading the few ideas in Haas' book that I can't entirely agree with. They made me think.

The following are some examples from Haas's book.

He notes that when Pharaoh kidnapped Abraham's wife in the Biblical book Genesis "the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues" He recalls that another Pharaoh later enslaved Israelites and tormented them, and God again brought plagues to Egypt. Of course, God punishes people and nations in various other ways - such as the burning of the cities Sodom and Gomorrah and the flood in the time of Noah. Why plagues here twice? When I read Haas' observation, I was reminded of Maimonides's statement in his Guide 2:48 that whenever the Bible says God said or did something. God did not do it; it was a natural event; the Bible attributes the event to God only because God created the laws of nature. I thought that the plagues being inflicted upon Egypt support this view; it was the atrocious actions of the country - most likely the mistreatment of women and the diseases their sexual acts caused during the lifetime of Abraham and the tossing of murdered blooded children's bodies into the Nile River in the days of Moses - is what caused the plagues.

Genesis also states that the more the Egyptians worked the enslaved Israelites, the more they multiplied in numbers. This is counter-intuitive. Exhausted enslaved people do not have more children than when they are free. A possible answer is that we should interpret the phrase as the Egyptians feared the increasing number of Israelites in Egypt and attempted to stifle the number by exhausting them. Or this is one of the many examples where the Torah exaggerates to make its point.

Why did Moses, the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, fear that two lowly enslaved Israelites saw him kill an Egyptian taskmaster who beat a Hebrew man and cause him to flee Egypt? We can imagine many different solutions, but the fact remains: the text does not indicate why he acted as he did.

Why did Moses kill the taskmaster; he was only doing his job?

Why does the Torah define Moses' name as derived from a Hebrew word? The Egyptian princess who named him did not speak Hebrew? Why not tell us its meaning in Egyptian?

Why does the Torah state that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, forcing Pharaoh to continue enslaving the Hebrews and then punishing Pharaoh for what God did? See the first item above regarding 2:48; Pharaoh's nature led him astray.

When Moses set out to return to Egypt to rescue the Hebrews, the Torah states, "And it came to pass on the way at the lodging place, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him." This episode seems to make no sense. Why did God, who sent him to Egypt, want to kill him? Why at a "lodging house"? Why did Moses' wife and not him circumcise his son? Which son?

When Moses told the Hebrews about his mission to save them, "they bowed their heads and worshipped. Why bow one's head? Why, how, and where did they worship?

How did Moses and Aaron gain entrance to speak to Pharaoh?

God tells Moses that he plans to give the Hebrews "the land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning, wherein they sojourned. Why is "sojourn" repeated? (Such repetitions frequently appear for emphasis and the beauty of the language, as in another verse, "And Moses and Aaron did so. As the Lord commanded them, so did they.")

Why doesn't God speak to Aaron directly? Again, 2:48 answers this question.

Why did Pharaoh tolerate so many visits by Moses?

Why are so many Egyptians killed because Pharaoh enslaved the Hebrews, including seemingly innocent people? Is this an appropriate punishment even for those people involved in the enslavement?

The number of Hebrews who left Egypt during the exodus is enormous. Including women and children, the count exceeds two million. Why didn't they revolt?

Who were the "mixed multitude" that the Torah writes left Egypt with the Hebrews? Are present-day Jews descendants of both Hebrews and non-Hebrews?

Before the revelation of the Decalogue, commonly called "The Ten Commandments," men were told to sanctify themselves, wash their garments, and "come not near a woman." Why? Do women ruin sanctification?

Are women excluded from the revelation? Are they even addressed in it?

Why do we call the revelation "Ten Commandments" when it is clear there are more than ten commands? The Torah does not use this title. It calls them "Ten Statements."

Why wasn't Aaron punished for his involvement in creating a calf, an idol?

Why, when Aaron and his sister Miriam critiqued Moses, God only punished Miriam?

God tells the Hebrews to be holy "for I the Lord your God am holy." How does one become holy? How can humans be as holy as God? What is "holy"?

Haas, who questions whether Moses wrote the Torah, ends his book with the following statement: "These conclusions are meant to inspire rather than give an opinion. It makes little difference who the writers were and when the Torah was written. Truth is more precious than gold, and the search for it is never easy. However, if one perseveres, finding truth opens the door to a world the Creator of all wanted us to pass through in our search for the betterment of life on Earth and in the Universe."

I agree and repeat that the obscurities in the Bible benefit us. They make what is said more interesting, and most importantly, the obscurities and ambiguities make us think, and thinking is the "image of God" that Genesis states God implanted in us, and we must use it and not act as plants and animals who lack this image.

Be like The Moon: A Chassidic memoir
Levi Welton
Break Out Press
9798985799507, $22.99

This book is better than Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer

Although virtually all readers of Tom Sawyer did not live or think as Tom, they enjoyed and still enjoy his adventures, Mark Twain's sterling writing, his humor, and insights. The same applies to Levi Welton's magnificent memoir, "Be Like the Moon." Welton's book does this and more.

In 1989, the US Army called me, a lawyer and rabbi, to serve on active duty at the Pentagon to help win the legal challenge that the military chaplaincy violates the first amendment to the US constitution. It allegedly defies the requirement that the government cannot be involved with religion. We won the case by defining a military chaplain as a clergy who provides for the religious free exercise of all members in the command. This does not mean they provide the services themselves - for example, a protestant chaplain does not have to render Catholic services - but they make sure that the religious needs of every military person are secure. Civilian clergy do not do this. I was awarded by being promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General. I retired from the Army after 31 years in 1988. However, I was recalled several times during my retirement to handle sensitive issues. One concerned the military's attempt to forbid service personnel to practice all aspects of their religion.

A Jewish soldier wanted to wear a yarmulke but was forbidden to do so by his commander. The case went to the US Supreme Court. The military argued that "military necessity" required service personnel to conform to what it considered correct. The military won the case despite the obvious fact that "military necessity" means "whatever I say is needed is needed." A New York congressman proposed a law allowing Jewish service personnel to wear yarmulkes. The military requested that he wait until a committee of military officers investigated the matter. I was recalled to duty to serve on the committee with others.

One of the issues the committee faced was beards. Those who supported the military demand that disallows beards argued that a beard would prevent the protection of a face mask in the event of a gas attack. I argued that the State of Israel allowed its soldiers to have beards and gave bearded men a mask that could protect them. Without going into other details, I can summarize the results as winning some fights and laying the ground for further allowances.

After this experience, I advised the Chabad organization of bearded rabbis, a group known as Lubavitch, Hasidic Jews, that they could organize a system to bring bearded Chabad rabbis into the military as chaplains. I suggested that they hire retired chaplain Colonel Sandy Dresin, no relation to me, as its leader. Chabad accepted my suggestion. Today, the various military bodies have many bearded Chabad chaplains. They care for Jewish and non-Jewish personnel providing for their first amendment to the US Constitution, its Free Exercise of religion clause, and do so brilliantly. Levi Welton is one of them. He serves in the US Airforce.

Chaplain Levi Welton's book shows how he is a perfect clergyman who will help all people practice their religion and live a full and satisfying life. As I said previously, his book is a joy to read. I will not summarize it. But I will give some of the many ideas the rabbi mentions in his book. These ideas show that wearing a beard does not hurt the military. In the case of Chabad chaplains, it helps. The US is better for having chaplains such as him.

My father taught me that davening (praying) is not a time to ask for what you need but to discover what you're needed for.

My tatty {dad) taught me that what is greater than being a Superman is being a mench (a decent human being).

As the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Hasidic movement) advised a father who complained that his son had forsaken G-d: "Rabbi, What shall I do? The Baal Shem Tov replies, "Love him more than ever."

As my father taught me, G-d did not create us to be creatures, but to be glorious creatures."

Many people want to win for G-d, but how many are willing to lose for G-d.

Perhaps this is my spiritual favor to you to show you that even a rabbi struggles with darkness like you and that underneath it lies our light which has been there all along.

Love starts with acceptance. For your neighbor. For yourself.

My prayer for those who need it is that we create a space where someone who thinks they have nothing can give someone else something.

How can you work with Muslims and Christians if their people have a long history of persecuting yours? Find the common thread.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked by an elderly woman (younger than him) how he could stand and greet people for hours on end without tiring. The Rebbe replied with a smile, "Every soul is a diamond. Can one grow tired of counting diamonds?"

Life is short. I can either spend my life pontificating G-d's existence or spend my time doing G-d's work.

We don't aim for a culture of tolerance. We create a culture of mutual respect.

I believe that seeing good is seeing G-d in our fellow human beings.

My parents taught me that unity is not conformity but a celebration of diversity.

Small acts of goodness and kindness can be just as heroic as running faster than a speeding bullet.

My heroes taught me that I must be like the moon, deriving my strength by mirroring the light I receive from another.

How Should One Read a Book?
Virginia Woolf
Laurence King Publishing
9781786277527, $9.99

What should we read and why?

Virginia Woolf's principal suggestion in her excellent essay "How Should One Read a Book" is to try to understand what point or points the author wants to make and enjoy what you are reading. She adds a clever idea that God is jealous of humanity because humans can get enjoyment from reading, while God cannot do so. Woolf is correct that one benefit we get from reading is enjoyment.

However, I believe that there is a more significant benefit. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) wrote that humans are better than plants and animals because humans can think. He stressed that a person who does not think is no better than a plant or animal. The Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1138-1204) agreed but took one step further. He added that when the Bible states that God placed the image of God in humans, this image is the ability to think. The main benefit of reading is acquiring information about the world, how it functions, how humans behave, and how we can use this information to improve ourselves and society.
My favorite books are the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, and Maimonides' "Guide for the Perplexed," also translated as "Guide of the Perplexed." I have written dozens of books about them. But I also read many other kinds of books, even fiction and children's books. I am convinced that I can learn much from most literature.

For example, I write reviews for Amazon. I have now written close to 10,000 reviews. I enjoy doing so. Amazon pays me by giving me some items for free. On the Amazon website, I wrote that I read about 200 books a year. This was true in the past. The number today is over 1,000. Most of the books, over 800, are children's books. I can read and write a review of a children's book in less than five minutes. I mention this to emphasize that a reader can even learn about the world and humans from many children's books. Many describe how children behave and think, properly and improperly. If one considers their behavior, they will realize that it is good and even needed for children, but is inappropriate and harmful as one ages. Yet, the behavior and ideas frequently continues in some form in some people into adulthood, as humorously dramatized in J.M. Barrie's classic "Peter Pan," and should be recognized and modified.

Another example. Today is Sunday. Yesterday, I read the 2022 novel "The 6:20 Man" by David Baldacci, the Woolf essay, and a hundred pages of Jack Carr's thriller "In the Blood," which I plan to finish. I enjoyed all three, as Virginia Woolf suggests, and I learned something from each of them, a deeper understanding of ideas I already had. I did what Aristotle and Maimonides advised. I thought.

The Baldacci novel gave me more insight into the massive tragedy in society today. Many people are led to believe that misbehaviors tarnish the soul, as depicted in this novel, where the protagonist gives up his dream job because he feels guilty, takes a drab position he hates as self-punishment, lives in near poverty, and agonizes daily over his past behavior, his "sin." The foolish idea is also sensationalized in Oscar Wilde's wonderful classic "The Picture of Dorian Grey." This misunderstanding of "sin" and its consequences has destroyed many lives. It is wrong. It is not a Jewish concept, although many Jews think it is. Maimonides taught that when you do something wrong, you should correct it, not agonize over it and let it destroy you. You should realize your mistake, decide not to repeat it, and develop habits that assure you will not repeat it. Errors are not remedied by the pronouncements of a cleric or the chanting of a religious prayer. Nor are they annulled by another person accepting them upon themselves or a cleric making a declaration of annulment.

There is no concept of "sin" in the Hebrew Bible as a distorting stain upon the soul that requires a kind of supernatural atonement process, as the idea is understood today. On the contrary, wrong behavior is seen in a rational, natural way. The Hebrew Bible speaks of three categories of wrongs that are not synonyms. There is chet, the misstep, literally meaning "missing the mark," as if one were shooting an arrow and hitting the outer rims of the target and missing its center. The Bible mentions it 34 times. The second pesha, occurring 93 times, is a conscious rebellious act such as taking revenge, stealing, and murder. The third avon, cited in 233 instances, is an error, an unintentional act that nevertheless has harmful consequences. Understood in this natural way, it should be clear that the misdeed is something that shouldn't provoke passive feelings of guilt and prayerful recitations; individuals should recognize what they did wrong, think about why they did the wrong, take actions that remedy the consequences, and assure that there will be no repetition.

Virginia Woolf's book reminded me of Aristotle's and Maimonides' teaching and prompted me to think deeper about their ideas, as I wrote above. Jack Carr's thriller started me to think again, even deeper, about the misdirection our great country is taking.

In short, while I agree with Virginia Woolf that we should read to enjoy what others reveal to us, I add that we should think about the ideas in the books and improve ourselves and society.

The Koren Selihot Minhag Lita
Jacob J Schacter & Jonathan Sacks
Koren Publishers
9789657766682, $39.95

The importance of Selihot

The comprehensive 1229-page "Koren Selihot Minhag Lita, Hebrew and English Edition" contains a wealth of information about many aspects of Judaism. Since reciting Selihot is done before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and is a significant, often repeated part of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, and these holidays teach essential lessons, Jews should read this book to become knowledgeable about what tradition understands Selihot is designed to accomplish. Non-Jews will also benefit from this book, especially its easy-to-read, very informative 69-page "Introduction to Selihot," along with the extensive explanations of the 100 Selihot, often as long as half a page, by Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, one of the Orthodox Jewish leading rabbis and scholars. They, like the Jewish readers, will gain insights into Jewish thinking and practices.

Meaning of Selihot

Selihot, also spelled in English as Selichot, is defined as forgiving and, by extension also, gracious, merciful, clement, pardon, and leniency. It occurs 47 times in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, meaning forgive, as when Moses petitioned God to forgive the Israelites for making the Golden Calf, God replied, "I have forgiven (salachti) them as you requested" (Numbers 14:20). The term is used nowhere in the Bible to suggest a Penitential ceremony or hymn as it is used in the Selihot ceremonies.

When did the recitations of Selihot begin?

We have no evidence of when the practice of Selihot began. Some scholars suggest that it started to develop after the destruction of the first Jewish Temple in 586 BCE, when Jews felt God was punishing them for misdeeds and decided they must atone for their wrong behaviors. This idea is pure speculation.

Just as the New Year is considered a good time in many cultures to reflect on behavior and make resolutions to improve, Judaism does so today by having Jews engage in various practices that remind them to change and improve or squash past misdeeds. These practices include transferring guilt to animals, going to water during Rosh Hashanah, giving charity, saying prayers, reciting confessions, and more. The Selihot service around the time of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and during these holidays and its recitations is one of them. Different communities engage in it in different ways and times.

For example, there are different practices among Ashkenazi (Jews generally from European counties), Sephardim (Jews mostly from Muslim lands), and Hasidim. This book follows the practice of the community Lita. From the first day of the Jewish month Elul, the month before Tishre when Rosh Hashanah occurs, many but not all groups of Jews blow the shofar (ram's horn) every morning to awaken people to repent and improve. Sephardim and many Hasidim add a prayer L'David Hashem Ori from the first day of Elul until the day after the holiday of Sukkot, which has the same goal. Ashkenazi Jews do not do so. From 2 Elul until the day before Yom Kippur, Sephardim wake up early and say Selihot. Ashkenazi Jews start to recite Selihot on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah until the day before Yom Kippur. If Rosh Hashanah occurs two days after Saturday, Selihot begins on a Saturday night a week earlier. We do not know why each group decided how to behave, but Rabbi Schacter offers several suggestions.

What does this book contain?

There is a wealth of material and information in the 1229 pages. Along with the Introduction and many explanations and commentaries, there are the Selihot in Hebrew and modern English for seven days, the Fast of Gedaliah, which occurs the day following Rosh Hashanah, Selihot for the second day of repentance, as well as the third, fourth, and fifth day, and Erev Yom Kippur. There is also the Ceremony of the Annulment of Vows, when a petitioner appears before three men, and all four say certain things. The book also has an index in Hebrew and English of the 100 Selihot, the biblical source of quotes in the hymns are identified, and there is some biographical information about the authors of the various hymns.

What are Selihot?

Rabbi Schacter identifies, explains, and reveals the relevance today of many of the themes that appear and reappear in the Selihot. He does so with his ideas and more often by referral to the opinions of many ancient sages and writings in Midrashim and the Talmuds.

One theme is the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:4-5.

Another is the story in Genesis 22 called the Akeida, Isaac's binding and near sacrifice by his father, Abraham.

Also, Zekhut Avot and Berit Avot, the effect of the lives of ancient Jews on Jews today.

So too, Tzidduk Hadin, a review of some past calamities that occurred to Jews and how a human should understand the disasters and the involvement of God in them.

Likewise Confession, the recital of wrongs we committed or might have committed.

There are as well considerations of the connection between God and the Jewish people, the power of repentance, the desire to fulfill God's will, handling the derision and persecution by non-Jews, the use of intermediaries to God such as angels and deceased sages, our search for God, and more.

In short, Koren Press has given us a treasure of meaningful thought-provoking information in Rabbi Schacter's excellent and informative book.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

America Goes Modern: The Rise of the Industrial Designer
Nonie Gadsen, author
Kate Joy, author
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
9780878468850, $45.00, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: During the 1920s and 1930s, the speed of modern life in the United States, accelerated by advances in transportation, communication, technology and advertising, changed how people lived their lives, and the objects they chose to live with.

A new profession emerged to help American manufacturers and consumers navigate the overwhelming transitions of the era. Through the power of design (form, color, ornament and materials) the earliest industrial designers created a modern aesthetic that came to represent American hopes, dreams and fantasies.

The collaborative work of Nonie Gadsen (the Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and Kate Joy (freelance designer and collaborator), "America Goes Modern: The Rise of the Industrial Designer" explores these designers' achievements through close examination of selected masterworks. Each of these exceptional objects offers a window into the social, cultural, technological and economic world in which they were made and used. "America Goes Modern" features sleek furniture, vibrant ceramics, streamlined metalwares and innovative plastics from the leading designers of the era.

The Featured designers include: Norman Bel Geddes, Manning Bowman Company, Jules Buoy, Donald Deskey, Paul Frankl, Earl Harvey, Ianelli Studios, Belle Kogan, William Lescaze, Erik Magnussen, Peter Muller Munk, Gilbert Rhode, RumRill Art Pottery, Victor Schreckengost, Walter Dorwin Teague, The Hall China Company, Harold Van Doren, John Vassos, Kem Weber, Western Coil and Electric Company and Russel Wright. Whilte the photographers and painters include: Berenice Abbott, Arthur Dove, Archibald Motley, Alvin Langdon Coburn, M. Murray Lebowitz, Norman Lewis, Max Weber, Margaret Bourke-White, Henry Callahan and Alfred Stieglitz.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout and informatively enhanced with the inclusion of an eight page listing of Illustrations, nine pages of Notes, and a five page Index, "America Goes Modern: The Rise of the Industrial Designer" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Industrial & Product Design History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Designing Peace: Building a Better Future Now
Cynthia Smith, editor
Cooper Hewitt / Smithsonian Design Museum
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9781942303329, $45.00, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: How can design can help foster the conditions for global peace? How might we collectively put our creative forces together to envision a future we want to live in and take action to create it now?

"Designing Peace: Building a Better Future Now" is an intersectional snapshot of the actions (culturally diverse and wide-ranging in scale) that are currently in play around the world.
Offering perspectives on peace through essays, interviews, critical maps, project profiles, data visualizations and art, this book conveys the momentum that design can gain in effecting a peace-filled future.

From activists, scholars and architects to policymakers and graphic, game and landscape designers, "Designing Peace" flips the conversation: peace is not simply a passive state signifying the absence of war, it is a dynamic concept that requires effort, expertise and multidimensional solutions to address its complexity.

Designers engage with individuals, communities and organizations to create a more sustainable peace ranging from creative confrontations that challenge existing structures, to designs that demand embracing justice and truth in a search for reconciliation. "Designing Peace" aims to expand the discourse on what is possible if society were to design for peace.

Critique: Compiled and edited by Cynthia Smith, "Designing Peace: Building a Better Future Now" is an intersectional visual conversation between activists, designers, architects and theorists. This profusely illustrated, thought-provokingly informative, coffee-table style paperback (8.75 x 0.75 x 12.25 inches, 1.95 pounds) is an especially and unreserved recommendation for personal, professional, community, and academic library Sustainability & Green Design collections and supplemental curriculum Design History & Criticism studies reading lists.

Editorial Note #1: Contributors include: Michael Adlerstein, Pablo Ares and Julia Risler, Merve Bedir, Everisto Benyera, Nadine Bloch and Andrew Boyd, Lee Davis, Toni L. Griffin, Kristian Hoelscher, Dillon Horwitz, Michael Kenwick, Jason Miklian, Michael Murphy, Binalakshmi Nepram, Caroline O'Connell, Chelina Odbert, Tone Selmer-Olsen and Havard Breivik, Beth Simmons, Cynthia Smith, and others.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

A Conservation Notebook
Paul Spencer Sochaczewski
Explorer's Eye Press
9782940573394, $18.95, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: More than a memoir, more than a history of the modern conservation movement, "A Conservation Notebook: Ego, Greed and Oh-So-Cute Orangutans - Tales from a Half-Century on the Environmental Front Lines" is a highly personal account by Paul Spencer Sochaczewski, the former head of Creative Services for WWF International, who allows the reader to wander through crowded UN conference rooms in Rio, to engaging with simple farmers in Bhutan, to visiting coral reefs in Micronesia and the Philippines, to encountering the wild regions of Indonesian New Guinea (where outsiders want a piece of a poor farmer's soul), to the rainforests of Borneo -- where indigenous tribesmen are fighting for their land.

From a mythical sacred mountain in India, to holy groves in Burma, to an ecological war zone in Zimbabwe, and from brave people with good intentions to nasty folks with greed tarnishing their hearts, "A Conservation Notebook" contains no finger-wagging lectures, not too many depressing statistics, and no easy solutions. Rather it is a collection of more of than 100 personal photos and illustrations enriching a personal account adventures, encounters, traveler's tales, outlying ideas, commentaries, and observations reflecting on five decades of work in the nature conservation wonderland -- all linked by the theme that nature is simply too important to ignore.

Critique: "A Conservation Notebook: Ego, Greed and Oh-So-Cute Orangutans - Tales from a Half-Century on the Environmental Front Lines" is an inherently fascinating and informatively engaging read that will have a special and particular relevancy for readers with an interest in travelogues, environmental pollution engineering, 'Green Business', and endangered species. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Conservation Notebook" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Environmental & Conservation collections and supplemental curriculum lists. It should be noted for students, academia, environmental activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Conservation Notebook" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.95).

Editorial Note: Paul Sochaczewski's highly acclaimed nonfiction books of personal travel include the five-volume Curious Encounters of the Human Kind series, An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles, The Sultan and the Mermaid Queen, Soul of the Tiger (with Jeff McNeely), and Distant Greens. Gary Braver, bestselling author of Tunnel Vision, said Paul's work is "in the great tradition of Asian reporting. The humanity of Somerset Maugham, the adventure of Joseph Conrad, the perception of Paul Theroux, and a self-effacing voice uniquely his own." Paul's handbook for people who want to write their personal stories, Share Your Journey, is based on the personal writing workshops he runs in more than 20 countries. Redheads is his eco-thriller, set in the rainforest of a mythical sultanate in Borneo.

A writing coach, conservationist, and communications advisor to international non-governmental organizations. Paul lives in Geneva, Switzerland, and has lived and worked in more than 80 countries, including long stints in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. He served in the United States Peace Corps from 1969 to 1971, working as an education advisor in Sarawak, Malaysia. This exposure to Asia informed his writing, and as a result most of his work has a Southeast Asian theme. He was also founding creative director of J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in Indonesia and Singapore.

As head of creative services at WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature, 1981-1994, he created international public awareness campaigns to protect rainforests, wetlands, plants, and biological diversity, and managed the WWF Faith and Environment Network. With a MacArthur Foundation grant, from mid-1992 to mid-1993 he took a leave of absence from WWF to write articles on environmental problems

Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture
Jon Lewis
University of California Press
111 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94607
9780520343733, $85.00, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: By 1967, the commercial and political impact on Hollywood of the sixties counterculture had become impossible to ignore. The studios were in bad shape, still contending with a generation-long box office slump and struggling to get young people into the habit of going to the movies.

With the publication of "Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture", film historian and academician Jon Lewis examines a ten-year span (from 1967 to 1976) rife with uneasy encounters between cinematic artists caught up in the counterculture and a corporate establishment still clinging to a studio system on the brink of collapse. Out of this tumultuous period many among the young and talented walked away from celebrity, turning down the best job Hollywood (and America) had on offer -- that of being a movie star.

"Road Trip to Nowhere" also elaborates a primary-sourced history of movie production culture, examining the lives of a number of talented actors who got wrapped up in the politics and lifestyles of the counterculture. Thoroughly put off by celebrity culture, actors like Dennis Hopper, Christopher Jones, Jean Seberg, and others rejected the aspirational backstory and inevitable material trappings of success, much to the chagrin of the studios and directors who backed them.

In "Road Trip to Nowhere", Professor Lewis details dramatic encounters on movie sets and in corporate boardrooms, on the job and on the streets, and in doing so offers an entertaining and rigorous historical account of an out-of-touch Hollywood establishment and the counterculture workforce they would never come to understand.

Critique: A unique and seminal contribution to the history of American Cinema, "Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture" is an impressively researched and meticulous work of deftly crafted scholarship. Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of Illustrations, twenty-four pages of Notes, and a twenty-page Index, "Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture" must be considered an essential and core addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Cinematic History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, cinema historians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in movie history and film criticism, and American popular culture, that "Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture" is also available in a paperback edition (9780520343740, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Jon Lewis is the University Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at Oregon State University. He is the author of over a dozen books, including Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles. He has a dedicated web page on the Oregon State University website at

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

The World of Urban Sketching
Stephanie Bower
Quarry Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9780760374573, $27.99, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: The remarkable work of the vibrant, international urban sketching community was first documented in "The Art of Urban Sketching" by Gabriel Campanario. In the ten years since its release, sketching on location has grown into nothing less than a worldwide phenomenon.

A visual feast of more than 700 images from over 150 sketchers, "The World of Urban Sketching: Celebrating the Evolution of Drawing and Painting on Location Around the Globe - New Inspirations to See Your World One Sketch at a Time" by Stephanie Bower unveils the latest developments and innovations in the creative and rewarding pursuit of on-location drawing and painting.

"The World of Urban Sketching" is comprised of: New Artwork (Discover the stunning and informative work of both established and emerging urban sketchers, from Seattle to Santiago, from Singapore to Sydney); New Techniques (Consider new styles and approaches in color and linework, including digital, through artists' tips and step-by-step demonstrations); New Stories (Learn what inspires sketchers, even during a pandemic, and get invaluable insights into creating artwork on location through artists' observations and advice.)

Whether you draw during your travels or in your own backyard, the beautiful work in "The World of Urban Sketching" will expand your skills and inspire you to pick up a pencil and sketch your world!

Critique: A unique, informative, fun and fascinating combination of art and travel, "The World of Urban Sketching: Celebrating the Evolution of Drawing and Painting on Location Around the Globe - New Inspirations to See Your World One Sketch at a Time" is as instructive as it is inspiring. This compendium from award-winning urban sketcher and accomplished author Stephanie Bower is comprises an all-new collection of sketchers and their art drawn from 39 countries in a kind of city-to-city tour around the world. "The World of Urban Sketching" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Art collections.

Editorial Note: Stephanie Bower worked as a licensed Architect in New York City before gravitating to professional architectural illustration and concept design. She taught the how-to's of architectural location sketching for over twenty-five years in New York City at Parsons and in Seattle at the University of Washington and Cornish College of the Arts. She has two online sketching classes at, and she travels and teaches perspective and watercolor workshops internationally, including at six Urban Sketchers symposiums. She is an international blog correspondent for Urban Sketchers and is the author of The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective (2016) and The Urban Sketching Handbook: 101 Sketching Tips (2019), and co-author of The Urban Sketching Art Pack (2017) and The Complete Urban Sketching Companion (2020), all published by Quarry Books. She has a website at and an Instagram account @stephaniebower

Natural Beauty Reset
Dr. Trevor Cates
BenBella Books
9781637741269, $28.95, PB, 264pp

Synopsis: "Natural Beauty Reset: The 7-Day Program to Harmonize Hormones and Restore Radiance" by Dr. Trevor Cates is the essential guide for women to wanting to restore radiance and hormonal harmony from the inside out. Dr. Trevor Cates informatively guides her readers toward revitalized health with a root cause and seasonal approach.

In Part 1, Dr. Cates dives into the root causes of women's health concerns, including hormonal fluctuations and skin issues (like those experienced with pregnancy, menstrual irregularities, perimenopause, and more), the foods we eat, the health of our microbiome, environmental toxin exposures, and other lifestyle elements like sleep and stress.

In Part 2, Dr. Cates presents her practical, customizable 7-Day Reset for each season, specifically designed to address root causes and support optimal nutrition, gut health, and mindfulness, focusing on four aspects crucial for lasting beauty that glows from the inside out: Food; Movement; Mindset; Skin Care.

Combining traditional wisdom with credible scientific research, Natural Beauty Reset is the ultimate holistic resource to help women feel empowered (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and to step fully into the dazzling beauty they have possessed all along.

Critique: A complete and comprehensive informatively instructional guide, "Natural Beauty Reset: The 7-Day Program to Harmonize Hormones and Restore Radiance" features a nicely illustrated section of palate-pleasing, appetite-satisfying, health-promoting recipes. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99), "Natural Beauty Reset: The 7-Day Program to Harmonize Hormones and Restore Radiance" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Women's Health/Medicine collections.

Editorial Note: Dr. Trevor Cates is author of "Clean Skin From Within" and founder of She received her medical degree from the National University of Natural Medicine and was the first woman licensed as a naturopathic doctor in the state of California. She has been featured on various TV shows, including The Doctors and Extra TV. Dr. Cates is host of the Hormones, Health and Harmony Docuseries and The Spa Dr. podcast and hosted the Public Television special, Younger Skin From Within. She has a dedicated web page at

Living Water to Refresh Your Soul
Tracy L. Smoak
Redemption Press
9781646457229, $39.99, HC, 82pp

Synopsis: God is in the details and can be found in even the smallest elements in nature ranginf rom a flower as intricate as a marigold to a lake reflection of guardian trees --- both as mysterious as their Creator. Yet God cares deeply for you, the only creation made in his image.

In this world of shifting sand, we need something beautiful to ground us in the present, and author/photographer Tracy L. Smoak brings tranquility with the publications of "Living Water to Refresh Your Soul".

If you love nature, then browsing through the pages of "Living Water to Refresh Your Soul" will indeed refresh your soul. A compilation of thirty photographs of inspiring water scenes in Lake County, Florida, you'll revel at the beauty of God's design. The accompanying affirming Bible verses, prayers, and faith steps will calm and comfort you.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Living Water to Refresh Your Soul" will have a very special appeal to anyone with an interest in the combining of biblical verse, insightful commentary, and color photography to evoke their spiritual awareness and contemplation. Simply stated, "Living Water to Refresh Your Soul" is especially and unreservedly recommended to all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation.

Editorial Note: Tracy L. Smoak has a dedicated website for her for devotional blogs at

Heavenly Homos, Etc.
Jan Haen
Apocryphile Press
9781955821964, $24.50, PB, 107pp

Synopsis: Saints and heroes of the LGBTQ community come alive through bold artwork in "Heavenly Homos, Etc.: Queer Icons from LGBTQ Life, Religion, and History" by Dutch priest Jan Haen. In this graphic novel style book Jan portrays a diverse people of faith, courage, and love who can inspire readers with new models of queer holiness. The clear, concise style packs a whole pantheon of saints into a single user-friendly volume.

Dozens of saints and historical figures from all over the world are presented, including popular favorites such as Sebastian, David and Jonathan, Joan of Arc, Sergius and Bacchus, Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard. Less famous but richly deserving people are also canonized by Haen's paintbrush.

A short and accessible text lets the pictures tell their own stories in a deceptively simple style that conveys sophisticated understandings of sexual orientation and queer Biblical scholarship. Large, colorful illustrations on every page present a fresh, unsentimental perspective on saints and other uplifting people. Intended for an adult readership, Heavenly Homos, Etc." naturally includes the occasional nudity that is needed to tell this LGBTQ history.

Critique: What must be considered essential reading for all members of the LGBTQ community (and those who love them), "Heavenly Homos, Etc.: Queer Icons from LGBTQ Life, Religion, and History" is a singularly original, informative, and effective way to learn about the history of homosexuality and religion/spirituality. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Heavenly Homos, Etc.: Queer Icons from LGBTQ Life, Religion, and History" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.50).

Editorial Note: Jan Haen is a Dutch visual artist and Redemptorist priest who has ministered in the Netherlands and South Africa. He painted murals in schools, churches and public places in Africa and across Europe. Haen is an active member of the Werkverband van Katholieke Homo-Pastores, an association of gay Catholic pastoral leaders.

Julie Summers

Kirk Bane's Bookshelf

The Essential Directors: The Art and Impact of Cinema's Most Influential Filmmakers
Sloan De Forest, author
Forewords by Peter Bogdanovich and Jacqueline Stewart
Running Press
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780762498932, $25.99, paperback

"Perhaps the most subversive filmmaker to ascend the ranks in 1950s Hollywood, Nicholas Ray was a trained Method actor who brought a dark urgency to midcentury movies. With such titles as his remarkable debut They Live by Night (1948), the introspective noir In a Lonely Place (1950), and the quintessential delinquent drama Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Ray became the reigning king of misfits, outsiders, and tortured souls." So asserts cinema scholar Sloan De Forest in this impressive study of important directors. In addition to Nicholas Ray, she profiles more than fifty iconic filmmakers, including Frank Capra, Francis Ford Coppola, John Ford, D. W. Griffith, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, George Lucas, Sidney Lumet, Elaine May, Otto Preminger, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Stevens, Orson Welles, and Billy Wilder.

Thoroughly researched, clearly written, and generously illustrated, The Essential Directors is divided into six chapters: "Artists of Shadow and Light," "The Studio as Auteur," "A Threat to the System," "The Director as Star," "The Revolution Begins," and "A Whole New Hollywood." In addition to providing brief biographical information on each director, De Forest offers succinct overviews of their most significant films. Moreover, she includes quick summaries of "Silent Pioneers," "The German Expressionists," "New Wave Notables" (such as Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut), and "The Outsiders," which highlights maverick directors like John Cassavetes, Roger Corman, and Mario Van Peebles. De Forest calls Corman "the godfather of independent film, a veteran purveyor of low-budget cult classics from the 1950s through the 1980s, including Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The Wild Angels (1966), and Bloody Mama (1970). As a producer and mentor, he has launched the careers of A-list stars, and some of the greatest filmmakers in modern times, from Martin Scorsese to Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola to Jonathan Demme."

De Forest's commendable volume is part of the Turner Classic Movies Library, which includes Hollywood Victory: The Movies, Stars, and Stories of World War II (2021) by Christian Blauvelt, Rock on Film: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen (2022) by Fred Goodman, and John Malahy's Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics (2021). Cinephiles, especially those fascinated by filmmakers, will relish The Essential Directors. Two thumbs up!

Kirk Bane

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Geek Girls: Inequality and Opportunity in Silicon Valley
France Winddance Twine
New York University Press
9781479803828, $30.00, HC, 296pp

Synopsis: Why is being a computer "geek" still perceived to be a masculine occupation? Why do men continue to greatly outnumber women in the high-technology industry? Since 2014, a growing number of employment discrimination lawsuits has called attention to a persistent pattern of gender discrimination in the tech world. Much has been written about the industry's failure to adequately address gender and racial inequalities, yet rarely have we gotten an intimate look inside these companies.

With the publication of "Geek Girls: Inequality and Opportunity in Silicon Valley, Professor France Winddance Twine provides the first book by a sociologist that "lifts the Silicon veil" to provide firsthand accounts of inequality and opportunity in the tech ecosystem. This work draws on close to a hundred interviews with male and female technology workers of diverse racial, ethnic, and educational backgrounds who are currently employed at tech firms such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, and at various start-ups in the San Francisco Bay area.

With Professor Twine's sharp eye for detail and compelling testimonials from industry insiders, "Geek Girls" fully captures what it is like to work as a technically skilled woman in Silicon Valley. Professor Twine shows how the technology industry remains rigged against women, and especially Black, Latinx, and Native American women from working class backgrounds.

From recruitment and hiring practices that give priority to those with family, friends, and classmates employed in the industry, to social and educational segregation, to academic prestige hierarchies, Professor Twine reveals how women are blocked from entering this industry. Women who do not belong to the dominant ethnic groups in the industry are denied employment opportunities, and even actively pushed out, despite their technical skills and qualifications.

While the technology firms strongly embrace the rhetoric of diversity and oppose discrimination in the workplace, Professor Twine argues that closed social networks and routine hiring practices described by employees reinforce the status quo and reproduce inequality. The myth of meritocracy and gender stereotypes operate in tandem to produce a culture where the use of race-,
color-, and power-evasive language makes it difficult for individuals to name the micro-aggressions and forms of discrimination that they experience.

In the pages of "Geek Girls", Professor Twine offers concrete insights into how the technology industry can address ongoing racial and gender disparities, create more transparency and empower women from under-represented groups, who continued to be denied opportunities.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of two Appendices (A Timeline of Notable Women in Computer Science and Engineering and Struggles against Discrimination; Timeline of Significant Moments in Technology Innovation and in Silicon Valley), fourteen pages of Notes, a twenty-two page listing of References, and a six page Index, "Geek Girls: Inequality and Opportunity in Silicon Valley" is an exceptionally well presented expose of workplace discrimination in the computer and technology industry. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format, "Geek Girls: Inequality and Opportunity in Silicon Valley" is seminal and unreservedly recommended addition to community, corporate, college, and university library collections and supplemental curriculum workplace discrimination studies lists.

Editorial Note: France Winddance Twine is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author and a co-editor of ten books, including Outsourcing the Womb: Race, Class and Gestational Surrogacy in a Global Market and A White Side of Black Britain: Interracial Intimacy and Racial Literacy. She has a dedicated website at

The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils
Bevin Cohen
New Society Publishers
9780865719637, $29.99, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils: Growing, Foraging, and Pressing", Bevin Cohen presents a comprehensive, beautifully illustrated and photographed, full-color guide to growing, foraging, and pressing nut and seed crops to produce high-quality oils for culinary and other uses.

"The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils" includes: A brief history of seed oil extraction; Culinary and health benefits of home-pressed oils versus factory produced oils; Presses and other equipment options for ease, cost, and convenience; A how-to guide for growing, harvesting, processing, and pressing nuts and seeds; Profiles of over 40 nuts and seeds to grow, forage, or source including hempseed, flax, peanuts, sunflowers, walnuts, okra, and more; Oil processing, storage, and culinary and other uses; Scaling up for community or small-scale commercial production.

Whether you want to produce oils for cooking, balms and salves, self-sufficiency and resiliency or for small-scale commercial or community production, "The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils: is a single source instructional guide and 'how to' manual to get you started.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout, "The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils: Growing, Foraging, and Pressing" is comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. An ideal and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library gardening, agriculture, and horticultural instructional reference collections, it should be noted that ""The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils: Growing, Foraging, and Pressing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.32).

Editorial Note: Bevin Cohen is an herbalist, gardener, seed saver, educator, and author of The Artisan Herbalist. Owner of Small House Farm, he offers herbal products and oils as well as leading workshops and lectures nationwide on the benefits of living closer to the land. He has a dedicated website at

Margaret Lane

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

An Indian Among Los Indigenas: A Native Travel Memoir
Ursula Pike
9781597145275, $26.00

I first became aware of the author when she made a presentation at the Phoenix Writers Network. I had an opportunity to share some similarities in our experiences since Guatemala and Bolivia have a high percentage of the Indigenous population. I learned that she was from a Native American community, which gave her a perspective most volunteers couldn't understand or appreciate. Like many volunteers, I was focused on just learning Spanish and surviving, so I wasn't prepared to know one of the 22 Mayan languages in Guatemala.

When the author revealed that the pages of her copy of Moritz Thomsen's book, Living Poor were "dog-eared," I realized we had another area of common interest. I've written multiple articles on Thomsen and have many of the essays from fellow writers who knew and were inspired by Thomsen, which I plan to make into an anthology, Moritz Thomsen: The Best American Writer No One Knew About.

When the author began research for writing this book, she didn't find anything examining the experience of a Native volunteer serving in an Indigenous country. "I wrote this book because the story of an American Indian Peace Corps volunteer who struggled while serving in an Indigenous country - my story was missing from the library." And yet, Bolivia had four million Indigenous people, almost twice as many Natives as in the United States. And she learned Quechua as a volunteer.

The author is from the Karuk tribe in Oregon, which posed unique challenges, as she asked herself, "Couldn't the Bolivians see that we shared a connection? Couldn't they see that my commitment was more meaningful because I was Native?" The answer was no.

But the author brought many insights into the challenges of cultural assimilation for Native Americans. Her great-grandmother never went to school and spoke little English. Her grandmother learned English in school and, as a teenager, went to Arizona to the Phoenix Indian School but spent most of her life in the Bay Area. The further away she moved from her family and culture, the more she rarely spoke Karuk. So, the author appreciated the downside of some development as Indigenous groups in Bolivia also began to lose their language and culture.

The author used her experiences of a lifetime of adapting to the rules of the dominant society in the United States, which taught her to watch and mimic how people dressed or spoke, and used that skill in Bolivia to fit in. While many of the other volunteers in her group did whatever they wanted, "making no attempt to comport themselves to reflect Bolivian norms... Maybe I was the stupid one for attempting to dress or act like the Bolivians. But it was the only way I knew how to survive...When I was around other volunteers like this, I often had the feeling of not wanting to be associated with them...."

During the initial training, the author and her group watched "Blood of the Condor" or "Yawar Mallku," a 1969 Bolivian film about Quechua villagers and an agency called the "Progress Corps." The training director told her group, "This movie changed the history of the Peace Corps in Bolivia." It was totally in Quechua, and the volunteers from the U.S. spoke "laughable and barely understandable" Spanish. The film showed the worst of cultural imperialism, horrid development work, and the practice of forced sterilization, which the volunteers seemed to be unaware of. The author points out that native women were forcibly sterilized, "starting with full-blooded women."

The author showed an enviable level of transparency relating to alcohol, drugs, cheap cocaine, and the sexual norms of volunteer life. "Among the male volunteers, getting together with Bolivian women was a competition. How many parties had I attended where a gorgeous Bolivian woman arrived on the arm of some short, pale volunteer with stringy hair?... For the female volunteers, it was different. A female volunteer involved with a Bolivian man was assumed to be weak and insecure or else just passing time. But our dating options were limited..." The author tells of her relationship with a Bolivian married man and the isolation she often felt, eventually leading to a suicide attempt.

At the end of the book, the author reveals that the Peace Corps was asked to leave, and the value of the Peace Corps was seriously questioned. The author returned to Bolivia with her husband. They were impressed that under Evo, a new constitution made the country's thirty-seven Indigenous languages official national languages for the first time. Other changes included nationalizing foreign companies making money from gas and oil resources, which the country's economy depended on. The author ends her book with the wish that it will open opportunities for black, Indigenous, and others of color to publish their Peace Corps stories.

The author and her RPCV Bolivia husband, although they weren't there at the same time, participated in a revealing webinar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2021, which is worth viewing on YouTube:

The Author

Ursula Pike lives in Austin, Texas, and writes about identity, Native American issues, economics, travel, and powwows. She graduated from the Low Rez Creative Nonfiction MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is a member of the Karuk Tribe and grew up in Oregon. Her debut memoir, AN INDIAN AMONG LOS INDIGENAS: A NATIVE TRAVEL MEMOIR, about the two years she spent in Bolivia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, was published by Heyday Books. Her work has appeared in Ligeia Magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, World Literature Today, and O'Dark 30. For more information, visit

Mark D. Walker, Reviewer

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

Die Around Sundown
Mark Pryor
Minotaur Books
9781250824820, $27.99 HB

The misophonic detective.

A Paris detective in 1940, during the occupation, must find the murderer of a German SS Officer or face severe consequences, i.e. a firing squad. Die Around Sundown is a fast moving mystery during which Henri Lefort, the detective, turns over one surprise after another on his way to a stunning discovery of the identity of the perpetrator. For success, he must not only be clever but must also endure the distractions of crunching celery, fingernails tapping on a wine glass, gum chewing, and a secret from his past that haunts him.

Mark Pryor has a straightforward and engaging style that makes his stories compelling. A reader isn't obliged to wade through bombastic prose that distracts from the tight plots from which his mysteries develop. Readers of Pryor's Hugo Marston novels will be thrilled to learn that Die Around Sundown is as thrilling as The Bookseller and its sequels. And Pryor's writing has evolved to a higher plane; his protagonist in Die Around Sundown, Henri Lefort, is a more complex character than Hugo Marston. Lefort has a troubled past. He has made mistakes, and is full of enough guilt and anxiety that he makes an easy candidate for a psychotherapists couch. This brings a depth to the novel that is literary, putting Pryor into the good company of writers like Joseph Kanon. Lefort is certainly a literary character commensurate with Martin Keller in Kanon's recently published The Berlin Exchange. Readers of Die Around Sundown will remember Henri Lefort and the story's other characters as well as they will remember the novel's brilliantly plotted ending.

In Die Around Sundown, Pryor has further honed his skills as a master of dialogue. His characters' interactions are never a distraction from the plot, which is so complicated as to involve murders decades apart. In a scene near the end of the story, Lefort is asked whether with respect to one crime, " . . . you feel all right looking the other way?" And Lefort responds, "I'm not . . . I'm looking right at it . . . I rather like the irony." The interaction demonstrates that Lefort is a multi-dimensional character, not just a detective who judges everything as right or wrong. And it is the gateway to an observation by Lefort concerning his service in the trenches in World War I: "Ironic, then, that the moments of actual peace, of real respite, in this awful blood-soaked war would come at sundown, both sides tired of raining bombs and bullets on each other all day, grateful for that still beautiful moment when the blood stopped flowing and the only red we saw spread itself across the horizon as a signal that we managed to live a little longer." There is a magnificent coupling of the trenches in the first world war and the German occupation in Paris in the second world war, both of them horrendous in their own ways, and a fitting basis for the novel's title.

There are two stories in Die Around Sundown that Pryor carefully melds together. As suggested earlier, the novel contains a backstory that takes place during Lefort's experience in the first world war. The two stories move in tandem toward two stunning outcomes, all brought together in the novel's final pages. The imagery used by Pryor is extraordinary. He describes how the Nazi occupation of Paris had "sucked the vitality out of Paris herself, left behind like an abandoned woman - still beautiful, but sullen without that which fleshed out her spirit." And there is a well in no man's land between the trenches years before; Lefort observes that an "Image of gray, rotting and water-logged flesh hung in my mind like a ghastly tapestry, slowing rippling in the breeze like something alive."

Henri Lefort has his demons, what one would expect for a man surviving such perilous times. A reader should not be surprised that Mark Pryor is an Assistant District Attorney. He has many years of experience looking into crime. Perhaps it is that career that has made him such an astute observer of the human condition. Henri is a nuanced character, highly developed from a mix of small foibles and dark regret for past actions. He knows that small occurrences annoy him. A woman's fingernail clicking on a wine glass is for him like shards of a broken bottle poking into his brain stem. More serious are the nightmarish memories of the death of his brother. So the careful reader isn't surprised that Henri has the perspective to see that, "Life and decency were cheapened by war, and if a group of patriots had killed a traitor, either to help France through this war or just so they could survive another day, I was able to leave it at that." This makes him a detective who understands that in some cases a crime has a place. A reader can only hope that Henri will soon start work on his next case.

An Honest Living
Dwyer Murphy
9780593489246, $23.40 HB

A character driven novel reminiscent of Hemingway.

Can this possibly be an honest story with a lawyer as a narrator? It must be fiction! Yet, the characters in the story sweep the reader into a compellingly honest story, albeit a slow-paced one. No thriller here, or surprising revelations leading to a combustible ending. The novel is genre bending in its combination of romance, a bit of mystery, and interesting characters. All the hype about Murphy's novel, and there is a lot of it, is only big publisher and media collaboration to sell books. By the way, what exactly is "electricity and dimension," why would a discerning reader "covet 'reading in a bar with lousy lighting and good air conditioning?'" The only sincere endorsement is that the book "is a superb debut novel by a supremely gifted writer." For readers of literary fiction, that is the clue that An Honest Living is a novel worth getting your hands on.

The narrator of An Honest Living, whose name is the same as the author's, begins his story by introducing Newton Reddick, a character around whom the plot revolves. This is not dissimilar to the introduction of Robert Cohn on the first pages of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. There are no real similarities in the plots of the two novels; what is notable is the way that the two narrator's view themselves. Jake in Hemingway's novel states up front that "I mistrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together." The narrator in Murphy's novel says, "A lawyer is the last person I would tell my memories and troubles to. That's what bartenders and parole officers are for." Both narrators have a knack for describing seemingly unconnected things during events in the plot. Murphy, while standing on a sidewalk with Anna, observes, "across the street, a woman in the second story of a row house opened her window and dropped a bag. It landed in a garbage can and she stayed there a moment, leaning on the windowsill looking pleased with herself, then waved to us and went back inside." In Hemingway's novel, Jake swims out to a raft and notes that "a boy and girl were at the other end. The girl had undone the top strap of her bathing suit and was browning her back. The boy lay face downward on the raft and talked to her. She laughed at things he said, and turned her brown back in the sun."

Dwyer's characters are flawed persons, although in many instances clever. The female antagonist, Anna, is an unsteady woman, sometimes as practical as a pencil (she's a writer) but often skipping between volatility and distractedness. And then there is Ulises, the Venezuelan poet, who appears when a catalyst is needed the get the plot moving, or, in the end, to stop it altogether. All of them have their foibles and their passions. That's what keeps a reader turning the pages, to find out what will happen to them. What appears is, of course, nothing definitive. And that's what makes this novel compelling. It's a very honest peek into a strange mingling of city dwellers, whose paths have crossed in random ways, a law partner leaving a prestige job to hang up a shingle, a novelist trying to escape her husband and her father, and a poet just looking for things to do. Must it all make sense in the end? The narrator at one point mentions that he "dreamed about horse thieves and a posse of old men who were riding after them. I was part of the posse and all we had to go riding on were donkeys and mules, but we were going to do it anyway and that was where the dream ended, with all of us standing around the animals trying to figure out how to saddle them appropriately." Perhaps Dwyer Murphy intended this as an honest synopsis of what happens in the novel.

The writing in An Honest Living is casually straight-forward, much what one would expect from a former lawyer or a reporter. Murphy has a wonderful style, always getting right to the point when choosing his words, and his imagery is precise, never gaudy. With a single, short sentence Murphy nails down his narrator's character in a brilliant observation that "There's a strange satisfaction in quitting a job you shouldn't." Jake Barnes expressed a similar succinctness when he said of himself, "It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing." A devoted reader of Hemingway will recognize that Murphy's style is much like Hemingway's. Murphy's writing is marked by a vigorous brevity, and one can't help believing his characters are real people about whom he is giving a rather pithy account. But Murphy is not yet the great master of language that Hemingway was. After all, An Honest Living is his debut novel. Still, a natural talent is revealed in this first of what everyone hopes is the first of many brilliant works.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

The Kushnameh: The Persian Epic of Kush the Tusked
Iranshaw, author
Hee Soo Lee, editor
Kaveh L. Hemmat, translator
University of California Press
111 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94607
9780520385306, $24.95, PB, 432pp

Synopsis: The great Persian epic known as the Kushnameh follows the entangled lives of Kush the Tusked, who is a monstrous antihero with tusks and ears like an elephant, descended from the evil emperor Zahhak -- and Abtin, the exiled grandson of the last true Persian emperor.

Abandoned at birth in the forests of China and raised by Abtin, Kush grows into a powerful and devious warrior. Kush and his foes scheme and wage war across a global stage reaching from Spain and Africa to China and Korea. Between epic battles and magnificent feasts are disturbing, sometimes realistic portrayals of abuse and oppression and philosophical speculation about nature and nurture and the origins of civilization.

A fantastical adventure story stretching across the known world and a literary classic of unparalleled richness, this important work of medieval Persian literature is a valuable source for understanding the history of racism and constructions of race and the flows of lore and legend from the Central Asian Silk Road and the Sahara to the sea routes of the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

"The Kushnameh" is a treasure trove of Islamic and pre-Islamic Persian cultural history and a striking contemporary document of the "global middle ages", and is now available to English-speaking readers for the first time.

Critique: The first English translation of a strange and unusual Persian epic, "The Kushnameh: The Persian Epic of Kush the Tusked" is an action-packed and ancient tale of an evil, monstrous king. This fabled saga explores questions of nature and nurture and brings the global middle ages to life. Ascribed to Iransha as the author, edited by Hee Soo Lee, and ably translated into English by Kaveh L. Hemmat, "The Kushnameh: The Persian Epic of Kush the Tusked" this edition from the University of California Press is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Islamic Literary Fiction collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Kushnameh: The Persian Epic of Kush the Tusked" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note #1: Iranshah ibn Abu'l-Khayr (sometimes written as Iranshan) was a poet active at the turn of the twelfth century, in the Seljuq empire. His other known work is the Bahmannameh (Epic of Bahman). He is on Wikipeida at

Editorial Note #2 Hee Soo Lee is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Hanyang University and Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies at Sungkonghoe University, Seoul. He is the author of numerous books and articles focused on the history of relations between the Middle East and Korea. He has a Google Scholar web page at

Editorial Note #3: Kaveh Hemmat is Assistant Professor of History, Professional Faculty, in the Department of History, Philosophy, and Theology at Benedictine University. His research focuses on perceptions and representations of East Asia in pre-modern Islamicate culture. He has an informative web page on the Humanities Commons website at

Flipping Houses QuickStart Guide
Elisa Zheng Covington
ClydeBank Media LLC
9781636100326, $34.99, 330pp

Synopsis: Flipping is a term used to describe purchasing a revenue-generating asset and quickly reselling (or "flipping") it for profit. Within the real estate industry, the term is used by investors to describe the process of buying, rehabbing, and selling properties for profit.

Whether you want to house flip as a side hustle or are starting a new career, "Flipping Houses QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's Guide to Finding and Financing the Right Properties, Strategically Adding Value, and Flipping for a Profit" by Elisa Covington is a complete and comprehensive instruction guide and 'how to' manual for buying, fixing, and flipping property with less cash, less time, and less effort than trying it on your own with knowledge or previous experience with buying and selling real estate.

Critique: "Flipping Houses QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's Guide to Finding and Financing the Right Properties, Strategically Adding Value, and Flipping for a Profit" is especially recommended to the attention of current or new homeowners who want to create an additional income stream, current or new real estate investors looking for a quicker return on investment, nine-to-five professionals looking for a second career as their own boss, Anyone minimal investing experience or cash on hand, who is interested in the financial independence house flipping can provide. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Real Estate Investing collections, it should be noted for the non-specialist general reader that "Flipping Houses QuickStart Guide" is also available in a paperback edition (9781636100302, $24.99), a spiral bound edition (9781636100333, $32.99), and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Elisa Zheng Covington, MBA is the founder and CEO of Transform Real Estate Investments LLC. She is an author, real estate investor, developer, and real estate influencer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She flips as many as ten houses every year with a profit target of six figures or more on each flip. Using proven tactics to maximize profits while flipping on a budget, Elisa is a leading real estate investor and fix-and-flip educator with a dedicated following. She can be followed on Instagram (@transformrealestate) and subscribed to on her YouTube channel, Transform Real Estate, for even more fix-and-flip content.

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics
David Nichols, author
Minnesota Historical Society Press
9780873518758, $19.95 paperback

A Chapter In A History Of Sadness

This is a paperback reprint of a book first published in 1978. The message today is as timely as it was then -- or, for that matter as it was during Civil War America. Professor Nichols' book is a good overview of Indian policy during the Civil War-- an often overlooked part of the Lincoln story.

The book begins with an overview of the system of Indian administration as it had developed by 1860. It was dominated by the political spoils system and by corruption resulting from the power accorded to the Indian agents. As a master of the art of pragmatic politics, Lincoln used the system -- as he needed to do--to hold the Union together-resulting in tragedy for too many of our country's Indian wards.

The book discusses the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma (then Indian territory) and their relationship to both the Union and the Confederacy. The story picks up focus, though, in the discussion of the Minnesota Sioux rebellion, the summary trials and capital sentences of over 300 Sioux Indians, and Lincoln's remission of the death sentence in all but 39 cases. Nichols tells this story well, perhaps giving Lincoln's actions less credit and less courage than they may deserve.

The book discusses Lincoln's attempts in 1862 to reform Indian policy, which were defeated by War exigencies and by Congressional inaction. Nichols discusses a famous meeting held between Lincoln and the Indian chiefs in 1863 in the White House, again perhaps undervaluing Lincoln's intentions and the difficulties he faced.

The book considers the policy resulting from the Sioux war of concentrating the Indians under the control of the military with unsuccessful and inhumane results in Arizona and New Mexico. The book also includes an account of the too little known Sand Hill Massacre in Colorado in 1864.

The treatment of the American Indians does not constitute one of our nation's or of President Lincoln's prouder accomplishments. Professor Nichols is correct that this story deserves to be known as part of our history. The book ties Lincoln's treatment of the Indians to prevailing ideologies at the time involving a disrespect of cultural differences, to westward expansion, industrialization, the political patronage system, and, first and foremost, the Civil War. Even Nichols appears to acknowledge that given the War, there was little that might have been done differently at the time in the way of systematic reform.

As is unfortunately the case with most histories of Indian affairs, it is easier, as Nichols does, to find a great deal of deserved fault than it is to develop answers, as he does not. This book is worth reading as a good history of Indian affairs during the Civil War era.

Jefferson and the Indians: The Tragic Fate of the First Americans
Anthony F.C. Wallace, author
Belknap Press
c/o Harvard University Press
9780674005488, $33.01 paperback

The Beginnings Of America's Indian Policy

Many works on early United States history tend to give Indian affairs less attention than it deserves. There are two recent books with which I am familiar that help correct this situation. The first is Robert Remini's study of Jacksonian American, "Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars". The second is Professor Wallace's book on Jefferson's relationship to the Indians, which I am discussing here.

Remini's and Wallace's book can be read together because both tell parts of the same sad story. Expansionist pressures from settlers and the fear of the United States of Indian attacks, particularly when incited by hostile European nations led to a policy of land cessions, wars, and forced removal westward of the Indian tribes. The process culminated with Andrew Jackson's Indian wars and presidency, the subject of Remini's book, but it was effectively put in place by Thomas Jefferson, as shown by Wallace.

Jefferson and his Indian policy, however, seem to me to present a more complex case than Jackson. As Wallace's book shows, Jefferson was indeed a polymath, a scholar and intellectual as well as a, paradoxically, man of power and position. Jefferson took a genuine interest in Indian archaeology, culture and language and made himself or encouraged others to make, scholarly and enthnological contributions that are still important towards understanding the Indians.

Jefferson, even on Professor Wallace's account, had compassion for the Indian tribes and an interest in their well-being, even if this interest was overshadowed, as it was, by his desire to obtain Indian land for the new nation and even though his view of Indian interests was misguided and partial.

Wallace's book traces Jefferson's early relationship with Indians beginning before the revolution when Jefferson was a land speculator in the then Western United States. He explores in detail Jefferson's writing on Indians, particularly his writing on the Indian chief Logan in his "Notes on the State of Virginia." Jefferson's partial reading of the fate of this "Noble Savage", according to Wallace, shows the ambivalent character of Jefferson's approach to the Indians.

Wallace describes in detail Jefferson the politician approaching Indian affairs in the original United States territory and in the Louisiana purchase, which doubled the size of the United States. The announced goals of the policy were peace, land cessions and civilization for the Indians. Too often, these policies became simply the means for tribal destruction and deprivation and for the removal policy, for both the southern and the northern tribes, that culminated in the administration of Andrew Jackson. (again, see the Remini book.)

There are some fascinating quotations in the book that illustrate Wallace's points that are set aside and emphasized in blocked-type and quotes. It is a good way of gaining focus. The book has a wealth of documentation and is not simply a political history. As I indicated Jefferson was a complex individual and this book shows him, focusing on Indian affairs, in all his personal and political variety.

Wallace has a clear feeling for the tragedy of the American Indian. Yet his book is balanced in tone and does not degenerate into ideological or special pleading. His opinions are stated clearly and eloquently in his introduction and conclusion and in his discussions of the events described in the text. The book has the measure of a scholar and encourages the reader to reflect for him or herself on the record.

There are those who are skeptical of the public's recent interest in American History, an interest shown by the success of David McCollough's book "John Adams" as well as other popular historical works, on grounds that it is a new attempt to promote American exceptionalism and to avoid considering the tragedies of our past. I disagree. I think, this interest in history shows a renewed love and interest in our country with no desire to minimize its failings. Wallace's book to me shows both love of our country and a sense of one of its major tragedies.

Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars
Robert Remini
9780670910250, $21.00 hardback

Sharp Knife

Although Americans are prone to refer to Jackson as "Old Hickory" or, in his day, as "the Hero", the Indian tribes of his day gave him the nickname of "Sharp Knife". This nickname was based upon Jackson's unrelenting warfare against the Creek Indians, particularly at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. The distinguished American historian, Robert Remini, shows in this careful and thorough study of Jackson and the Indians that the sobriquet was indeed well deserved. His book is a thorough and careful exposition of the cruelties practiced on the Indians during the Jacksonian Era culminating in their removal from their homes and their relocation west of the Mississippi River during and subsequent to Jackson's Presidency.

Remini is a master of his materials. He has written a National Book Award winning biography of Jackson together with many other works on the Jacksonian Era of our history.

After a brief introductory chapter summarizing Jackson's early years, Remini plunges into the story of Jackson's Indian wars. Prior to his Presidency, Jackson conquered the Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws and Seminoles in fierce no-quarter fighting. Jackson was resolute in his wish to remove the Indians from the Southeastern United States.

In addition to his leadership on the battlefield, Jackson was a participant in many treaties with the Indians in which the ceded large portions of their ancestral domain in return for small tracts of land and small sums of money. Here too, Jackson was a domineering, seemingly irresistible figure intent on opening the Southeast to the onrush of white settlement, with little regard for the effect of his actions on the Indians.

As a national hero based upon his victory at the Battle of New Orleans and his conquests of the tribes, Jackson narrowly missed the Presidency in 1824 but was elected in 1828 and 1832. He was able to implement the policy of Indian removal he had conceived in his years as a general and a treaty negotiator. He secured legislation from Congress authorizing the removal of the "Five Civilized Tribes" -- the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Creeks, Choctaws, and Seminoles -- and implemented this policy at great cost and suffering to the Tribes. It is a story all too little known today.

Jackson was a man of determination, strength, and will. He was also, in Remini's account, an American patriot. Shocking as was his treatment of the Indians, Jackson was moved by considerations of American Nationalism. In particular, he wished to protect the coastal areas of the United States from intrigue and invasion by England and France. The European powers tended to use the Indians as a means to threaten the United States.

Although he is properly critical of Jackson's cruelty, arrogance, and deceit towards the tribes, and of the horrors they underwent during the removal, Remini argues that there was no good alternative to the removal policy. If the tribes had not been removed they would have been overwhelmed by onrushing white settlement and lost entirely their tribal identity, as was the case with many northeastern tribes. Paradoxically, Jackson proved right in that the removal policy saved the southeast tribes from extinction. Of course, none of this excuses the cruelty with which the process was implemented; and Remini is far from trying to excuse it.

I came to Remini's book after reading an earlier study of Jackson and the Indians: Michael Paul Rogin's book " Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian." I wasn't entirely happy with the Rogin because of its hypercritical tone and because of its psychologizing. Remini's book constitutes a more thorough, thoughtful, and balanced consideration of this sad period in our history. This is a good book for those who wish to try to understand Indian policy and its role in our country's development.

Carnival Strippers -- Revisited
Susan Meiselas, author
Steidel/C/O Berlin
9783969990025, $76.28 hardback

Carnival Strippers Revisited

Susan Meisalas' book "Carnival Strippers" has had a long history and several iterations.

Meiselas (b. 1948) is a renowned documentary photographer and the recipient of a MacArthur "genius" award. As a young woman age 24 just out of school, Meiselas formed the project of getting to know and photographing the women who performed as strippers in carnival girl shows. From 1972 -- 1974 she spent her summers following small carnivals that performed largely in rural New England. She got to know the women who performed as strippers as well as the carnys who operated the shows and the men who patronized them, most of whom, like the women, were unsophisticated from the working class both rural and from small towns.

In 1976, Meiselas published the book resulting from her efforts, "Carnival Strippers". The book featured grainy, raw, black and white photographs, shot by hand, of the women both while they performed and off stage. It featured as well excerpts of interviews with the women as well as with the managers and the customers or "marks". The book documented a tawdry and fast-fading way of life in a way that, Meiselas, hoped, would show its character and allow the reader to understand it for him or herself.

Meiselas wrote in her 1976 introduction to the book:

"Any book allows its reader to distance himself. The curtain closing on the girl show stage is replaced by the page turning over. Like the show, the book represents coexistent aspects of a phenomenon, one which horrifies, one which honors. If the viewer is appalled by what follows, that reaction is not so different from the alienation of those who participate in the shows."

The book went out of print and in 2003, a new edition of "Carnival Strippers" was published based upon a retrospective of Meiselas' work in 2000 at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. The 2003 edition included some additional photographs and removed some photos from the original volume. It included a short CD of the barker making his pitch and of interviews with some of the women. The volume also included essays by Sylvia Wolff and Deidre English.

The 2003 edition in its turn went out of print. In 2021, "Carnival Strippers" was published in this third edition in a two-volume box set titled "Carnival Strippers Revisited". The first volume consisted of the original, 1976 edition of the book with a revised essay by Wolff and an new essay by Abigail Solomon- Godeau. The second volume "Making of", consisted of selections from Meiselas' extensive archival material gathered from her project of fifty years earlier. The book presents some of Meiselas' working notes and interviews for her project. It includes a selection of photographs, many of which are in color, that were not included in the published volumes, all of which are in black and white. The book includes transcriptions of audio interviews, correspondence and photographic proofs which show alternative versions of the photographs which ultimately were selected for inclusion. There is a map showing the locations of the carnivals Meiselas followed and an appreciative retrospective essay on Meiselas' now historic work.

In her short introduction, titled "Looking Back" Meiselas wrote of her early project:

"Recognizing the limits of what photography alone could do, I had to imagine a different form to engage readers in the nuanced experience of the girl shows. I chose to portray the women, their working lives, and clients with a filmic approach inviting total immersion."

I have loved this book for a long time. I was familiar with the original 1976 edition from the time I saw it on the shelves of a small independent quality bookstore of the type that is now uncommon. I thought of the book often and purchased the 2003 edition, which apparently is now rare, and reviewed it. When I learned of this new edition, I was eager to read and review "Carnival Strippers" again in tandem with the 2003 edition.

The carnival girl shows that Meiselas portrayed have disappeared. This book documents a way of life and a culture that for all its shabbiness got into the blood of those that followed it. Meiselas became remarkably intimate and up-close with her subject, presenting it in a way that in her words both "horrifies" and "honors". Some of the essays and supportive materials on the book approach the work from a strongly feminist perspective. While this approach is understandable and insightful, it does not exhaust the book or the world of the girl show. As I wrote in my review of the 2003 edition: "The women in this book are not beautiful air-brushed models and the book has little to offer in the way of titillation. Meiselas tries to show the viewer and the reader the carnival life for what it was. The book shows a dark corner of the theme of sexuality and of love between men and women in all its difficulty and ambiguity".

Meiselas' book deserves to be preserved and remembered through this new edition. The book captures something universal in the particular experience of the carnival girl show. It has always been special to me.

Robin Friedman

Sarah Book's Bookshelf

Throne of Glass
Sarah J. Maas
9781599906959, $19.99

My favourite character if I had to choose would be Celoana. To me she is more likeable than other characters Celoana Sardothian is a 18 year old assassin, she was put to slavery for murders, then she is offered to fight in duels with other criminals if she won, she would be the king's champion for four years then she would be granted her freedom, she accepts, that's what the story follows, for me the most interesting part, exciting is the ending the final battle, but this book, I didn't really connect with the characters, it seemed a little cringey and the ending was just rushed, 95 percent it was really slow, then the ending just rushed, it was hard to understand what was even happening, the only thing I would want to change in this book, is that she isn't a witch.

Who would I recommend to: anyone interested in slow then fast endings, magical elements,

My rating: (2 Hearts) ok but not for me

Destroying Avalon
Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press
9781925163414, $19.99

What was this book about you ask? basically this book follows a girl in Australia it switches from Grace Point to Perth the girl, Avalon, is a 14 high school student (please be warned there are minor spoilers ahead) but when her mom and dad make her move from Grace Point to Perth with her sister Ruby, on her first day of high school she feels confident her parents had kept trying to comfort her as she lost her best friend 'Jake' but when she goes to her first day of high school in year 10, one of the teachers asks a student to give Avalon a tour, Alice, a student offers the teacher to tour Avalon, Alice then takes Avalon for a tour, but then the next day, Avalon started receiving emails DragonGirl, and some other pervs a user on a blog site had been spreading rumors about Avalon (Content warnings below) she then finds herself a group of friends, she and her friends deal with cyberbullying, then deal with physical attacks, that's what the story follows, what was my review?

it was an okay read, to me the book did seem a little bit over the top, would i recommend to anyone? that depends on your interest.

my rating: 4.5/5 for me, it was a good read but there were some disturbing content

content warning: teenage girls spread rumors about avalon being a slut, there is a lot of mentions of it, one of the characters appear to be gay, suicidal content.

Sarah Book, Reviewer

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Sign of the Eight
Benjamin Lebert
c/o Simon & Schuster (dist.)
9781646900091, $17.00

Sign of the Eight is a teen/young adult epic fantasy. I felt at times it was closer to horror than fantasy with vampirelike creatures from the past, Tristan Nightsworn and Martha von Falkenstein, arising from a lake and feeding on humans. He is the messenger of doom; she is the messenger of preservation. Former lovers, they have become adversaries. They must find their swords, Xanas and Aurin, as well as allies, then fight until only one remains (shades of the Highlander?), sealing the fate of humankind.

The novel dragged in the beginning and felt erratic with sudden shifts of point of view, and I had a hard time getting into it. Later it seemed rush, with the epic battle scene was so brief as to be disappointing. The chapters are short with many changes of perspective, and it is a quick read at 304 pages. The prose is atmospheric, relatively dense and, on occasion, near poetic. This is labelled as Young Adult, but some of the topics may not be appropriate for that audience. For instance, there is a scene in which a 25-year-old policeman has a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old as well as mention of rape.

Our Own Little Paradise
Marianne Kaurin, author
Olivia Lasky, translator
c/o Simon & Schuster (dist.)
9781646900183, $14.99

Sixth grader Ina definitely doesn't fit in with her fellow sixth graders: she lives in the worst possible apartments in her school district; her mother is suffering from depression and has lost her job; the family is having financial difficulties; Ina's got some obsessive-compulsive problems in that she counts everything; plus she's shy and geeky.

During the last class of the year, their teacher asks what they'll be doing over the summer break. All Ina's classmates are traveling to Spain, Portugal, etc. When her turn comes, she announces that she's going to the "tropics." Her lie grows when she copies images from a tropical resort's website and posts them on social media.

Wilmer, a boy who'll be joining Ina's seventh grade in the fall, is also present on the last day and introduces himself. It turns out he lives in the same apartments as Ina, but she avoids him because he isn't cool. When the two finally get together, they are amazingly creative and make a previously boring summer fun by building their own little paradise in a vacant apartment.

Marianne Kaurin is an award-winning children's author. Our Own Little Paradise is a low-key, believable story about friendship, making the most of what you have, first love, and the ills of social media. It tackles serious topics: wanting to fit in, who we want to be friends with, disparate social classes, and the struggle to fit in. It takes place over one summer, so it's fast-paced. It is perfect for fourth through sixth graders.

Wild Is the Witch
Rachel Griffin
Sourcebooks Fire
9781728229454, $18.99

Wild is the Witch is set in the Pacific Northwest, the perfect place for an atmospheric novel about witchery and its connection with the Earth. It is a genre-blending confection that pulls off a young adult enemies-to-lovers trope well. Both the protagonist (Iris) and her romantic interest (Pike) are flawed and hurt. They turn to each other - eventually - to find a solution and heal. This is a story about Iris's quest to deactivate the curse she inadvertently places on Pike. Their emotions and relationship seem real as they learn to move forward and toward each other and deal with their pain. There is some mild sexual interest but no consummation, so this is a safe book for younger YA readers.

A Venom Dark and Sweet (Book 2 of The Book of Tea Series)
Judy I. Lin
Feiwel & Friends
c/o Macmillan
9781250767103, $18.99

A Venom Dark and Sweet is the second book in Judy Lin's duology, The Book of Tea. It stands alone, but to get the full sense of the world building and to fully understand the complex relationship between the two main characters, you should read them in consecutive order.

Lin develops a truly original system of magic and carries it through both books. She lovingly blends in Chinese and Taiwanese mythology and tosses in court intrigue and dastardly plots - and a bit of romance. Two courageous young people, Kang and Ning, embark on a hero's journey to save the world as they know it. The kingdom of Dxi is threatened by a great evil serpent, a banished prince of the days of the earth's formation. He has been torn apart by other gods and his organs buried separately. He wants to reclaim his body parts and seize power. Ning is a powerful shennong-shi, using magic derived from the ancient art of tea-making. She escorts the Princess Zhen into exile. Together with the princess's body guard Ruyi and Ning's little sister Shu, they travel through the kingdom searching for allies to take back Zhen's throne. Kang is the son of the man who has taken over Zhen's throne and has mixed feelings about being his father's heir.

A Venom Dark and Sweet picks up where A Magic Steeped in Poison left off. It's the finale of an amazing fantasy for young adults. The world-building is exceptional as are the historical and cultural influences. There is a bit of enemies-to-lovers romance between Ning and Kang with just a touch of sexual tension, safe enough for those parents who worry about what their children read.

My Secret to Keep
Barbara Conrey
Red Adept Publishing
9781958231012, $17.99

My Secret to Keep is the second novel by Barbara Conrey, who writes lovely women's fiction. The book spans decades in the life of Maggie Bryan. She expects to follow the route of virtually every woman in her old-fashioned hometown: finish high school, marry, perhaps work in a factory, and eventually have children. Her plans go astray at age sixteen when she falls in love with Niko and gets pregnant. When she confides in her parents, they immediately disown her. Maggie is determined to be a good wife to Niko and a good mother to their baby. Fate intervenes, and a freak accident changes her life again. With no other options, she turns to her much-older brother, Sam. Against his wife's wishes, Sam brings Maggie home to the heart of rural Pennsylvania Dutch country, an area even more conservative than where she grew up.

Maggie again revises her life plan. While awaiting the birth of her child, she navigates the tension in her new home, wards off the pressure to give the baby up for adoption, and takes GED classes at the local high school. Her volunteer educator, Anne Phillips, is an architect. Maggie quickly develops feelings for Anne similar to those she felt for Niko. But after Sam and his judgmental wife have a "talk" with Maggie, she must hide those feelings.

The rigidity of the town's mores separate Maggie from the other residents. Gossip and insinuations follow her through her difficult life. For decades, Maggie's true self remains submerged by her secrets, until she is redeemed in Conrey's vivid prose.

The Silence in the Sound
Dianne C. Braley
Koehler Books
9781646637744, $29.95

The Silence in the Sound is a dual timeline novel that vividly portrays the effects of addiction on families. George (short for Georgette) has an alcoholic father and a mother who enables his behavior. George's fondest memory is of a weekend trip she and her father took to Martha's Vineyard. When her father gives an impromptu speech at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting there, she begins to understand his character better.

She returns to Martha's Vineyard after completing nursing school and eventually begins working for a Pulitzer Prize winning author, Mr. S. She also falls in love with an enigmatic man, Dock. She has conflicting emotions about him, particularly because she senses an inherent danger about him and because of his erratic behavior. Deciding love will conquer all, though, she marries him.

The dual timelines twist to form the DNA of George's behavior. Later, a third component arises as George reads Mr. S's novel about a woman in the Holocaust. I found the book difficult to put down and found myself dreading George's inevitable return to behaviors she's worked hard to overcome. The scenes showing Dock detoxing were particularly devastating. Dianne C. Braley has taken knowledge she derived from her own profession as a nurse and braided it with her own love of writing.

Where Wild Peaches Grow: A Novel
Cade Bentley
Lake Union Publishing
9781542031219, $10.99

Where Wild Peaches Grow is set in Natchez, Mississippi and depicts the dissolution and resolution of the Davenport family, primarily through the eyes of Nona. Thinking she has been betrayed by her family, she leaves them and heads to Chicago. There, she becomes a professor of African American studies and has a boyfriend, Eli. She's forged a promising future in Chicago as a professor of African American Studies. Nona even finds her once-closed heart persuaded by a new love. She never returns to Natchez - until she's notified of the death of her father. On her return, she must confront all the people she left and learns that the assumptions she made, those that made her abandon her family, may not have been true.

The characters, (Nona; her sister, Julia; their parents; new and old boyfriends; childhood friends; and neighbors), are often deeply flawed but very human. They are well developed and seen from multiple points of view. When secrets, miscommunication, and misunderstanding are revealed, and the characters must rethink their lives, their choices, their inner selves, and their relationships with each other. The miscommunications are not a mere plot device but depict a complicated reality. The characters withhold information and tell outright lies for multiple reasons.

Bentley handles racial issues with grace, not focusing on them, but working them into her story at an oblique angle. In particular, the character, Sanganette, is a white teacher who wants children to learn the white-washed version of the Civil War to the point of teaching that slavery wasn't so bad and most Negroes were content with their lot. Overall, this is a compelling story blending familial relationships, family history, southern history, and African American cultural heritage.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Older Autistic Adults: In Their Own Words
Wilma Wake, Ph.D., LCSW, author
Eric Endlich, PhD., author
Robert S. Lagos, author
AAPC Publishing
9781942197515, $16.99, PB, 244pp

Synopsis: "Older Autistic Adults: In Their Own Words" is a seminal and groundbreaking contribution to our understanding of autism in adults and is based upon original research that examines the data retrieved from a survey given to 150 older autistic adults worldwide. The insight into the lives and experiences of these individuals from a time before support groups, school-based interventions, and even the autism diagnosis is important and fascinating.

Comprised of a brief history of autism, an overview of The Nine Degrees of Autism by Wylie, Lawson, & Beardon, in relation to older autistic adults, and personal stories from the survey's participants, "Older Autistic Adults: In Their Own Words" is essential reading for professionals and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Critique: Exceptionally informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Older Autistic Adults: In Their Own Words" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Autism/Asperger's Syndrome collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for medical and psychology students, researchers, academia, and caregivers that "Older Autistic Adults: In Their Own Words" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Wilma has been a licensed clinical social worker for almost 40 years. She has worked with addictions and many other issues. She has increasingly been working with autistic adults and families, since being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2014 at the age of 66. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Eric Endlich has a web page on the Disability News Wire at

Editorial Note #3: Robert S. Lagos holds a BS degree from UCLA and is a computer programmer analyst and statistician. He has presented at events and workshops for AANE, Sweetser, and Southern Maine Autism Conference and has mentored teens and young adults with autism.

Autism and Us: Old As Time
Eustacia Cutler
Future Horizons, Inc.
107 W. Randol Mill Road, Suite 100, Arlington, TX 76011
9781949177909, $19.95, PB

Synopsis: Autism refers to a range of neurodevelopmental conditions generally characterized by difficulties in social interactions and communication, repetitive behaviors, intense interests, and unusual responses to sensory stimuli.

Autism is old and unruly. It has been a part of our human race since we first left handprints on cave walls 40,000 years ago. With the publication of "Autism and Us: Old As Time", author Eustacia Cutler covers a long-stretch view of its neurological history and how society has judged it. With quotes from old medical records, folk-tale beliefs, and Victorian literature, "Autism and Us: Old As Time" conjures up the 19th century mix of ignorance, cruelty, fumbling knowledge, and surprising love that led to the first medical recognition of autism as a social disorder.

From that medically significant recognition has grown our present day neurological and cognitive understanding.

Basically, "Autism and Us: Old As Time" is a collection of essays written to take the reader on a journey through history, examining the impact of autism on the opinions and solutions of writers, poets, and other prominent individuals from the early 19th century through today.

Critique: Exceptionally well written for the benefit of both medical, psychological, educational professionals, as well as parents and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the history and nature of autism, "Autism and Us: Old As Time" is impressively informative and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in both organization and presentation. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and Parenting Disabled Children collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Eustacia Curler's research on autism and retardation created the script for two WGBH television documentaries: The Disquieted and The Innocents. Her book, "A Thorn in My Pocket" (2006), describes raising her autistic son, Temple Grandin, in the conservative world of the '50s when autistic children were routinely diagnosed as infant schizophrenics and banished to institutions.

If You Lived Here You'd Be Famous by Now: True Stories from Calabasas
Via Bleidner
Flatiron Books
120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271
9781250753939, $25.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: For Via Bleidner, transferring to Calabasas High from the private Catholic school she's attended since second grade is a culture shock, not to mention absolutely lonely. Suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar world of celebrities, affluenza, and McMansions, Via takes a page from Cameron Crowe and pretends she's on a journalism assignment, taking notes on her classmates and jotting down bits of overheard gossip.

Getting through high school in Calabasas is something else -- from Kim Kardashian endorsing the students' favorite hidden lunch spot, to the theater program hiring a famous dog to play Elle Woods' Chihuahua in its production of Legally Blonde, and Kanye trying to take control of your school to make it the very first YEEZY institution.

But instead of floating through high school detached from her peers, Via finds that putting herself out there (for her writing, of course) just might have been exactly what she needed. She unexpectedly finds an eclectic group of friends to call her own, including a multi-millionaire, a wild-card throwback intent on going viral, a former Disney actor, and a doughnut-dealing madman.

Critique: A unique memoir that is replete with wit, candor, humor, and sharp observations, with the publication of "If You Lived Here You'd Be Famous by Now: True Stories from Calabasas" by twenty-one-year-old Via grounds the surreal glamour of Calabasas with reflections on her own coming-of-age, sharing her teenage misadventures as she struggles to fit in, faces crushing social pressure, and eventually makes her own way. A fun, fascinating, and thought-provoking read from first page to last, "If You Lived Here You'd Be Famous by Now: True Stories from Calabasas" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "If You Lived Here You'd Be Famous by Now: True Stories from Calabasas" is also available in a paperback edition (9781250753946, $17.99), and in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Via Bleidner is studying Writing and Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has a dedicated website at

The Intimate Herbal
Marie White
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623176631, $18.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: "The Intimate Herbal: A Beginner's Guide to Herbal Medicine for Sexual Health, Pleasure, and Hormonal Balance" is an empowering, accessible, and inclusive guide with which herbalist Marie White shows readers of all genders how to enhance sexual and reproductive health through plant medicine.

A must-have for those looking to revitalize intimacy with the special touch of medicinal herbs (and a few selected seaweed and fungi) "The Intimate Herbal" includes tried-and-tested protocols rooted in an intersectional, non-binary approach to holistic health, herbal healing, and supporting the body through physical stress.

Readers will learn: How to address and treat specific conditions (What not to try at home and the foundations of intimate herbalism); The history of herbalism for sexual and reproductive health (and why it works); Becoming an intimate herbalist (an introduction to terminology, types of extracts and remedies, solvents and ratios, and the art of extraction and delivery); Building an intimate herbal pharmacy (All about intimate herbs and full-spectrum aphrodisiacs -- and how to make infusions, decoctions, syrups, powders, herbal baths, oils, salves, and extracts); Intimate health conditions and herbal protocols (herbal remedies for breast health, contraception, endometriosis, erectile dysfunction, fertility, hormonal imbalances, libido, lubrication, menopause, menstrual cycles, PCOS, ovarian cysts, prostate health, urinary health, and the vaginal microbiome).

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a thirteen page Bibliography, eighteen pages of Notes, and an eight page Index, "The Intimate Herbal: A Beginner's Guide to Herbal Medicine for Sexual Health, Pleasure, and Hormonal Balance" is an extraordinarily informative and exceptionally well written, organized and presented volume that will be of particular appeal to readers with an interest in Women's Health, Herbal Medicine, and General Sexual Health. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, medical school, and academic library Health & Medicine collections, it should be noted that "The Intimate Herbal: A Beginner's Guide to Herbal Medicine for Sexual Health, Pleasure, and Hormonal Balance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Marie White is a leading expert on herbal medicine, healing herbs, and fungi. She is passionate about nature connection, community building, holistic eros, and the reclaiming of sexual and reproductive wellness. Her website is:

The Complete Guide to Living by the Moon
Stephanie Gailing
Wellfleet Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9781631068454, $23.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Complete Guide to Living by the Moon: A Holistic Approach to Lunar-Inspired Wellness", Stephanie Gailing presents everything you need to map and chart the phases of the moon and determine exactly what each phase means in relation to your short-term and long-term goals. Following the phases of the moon, Stephanie teaches you how to set and manifest long-held intentions -- whether in your personal or professional life.

Additionally, the second half of "The Complete Guide to Living by the Moon" dives into the depths of your astrological Moon Sign, the side to you that you do not easily show to others. When you are processing your emotions, what feels most intuitive to you? That is what your Moon Sign reveals. By understanding your Moon Sign, you will have a better grasp of how you personally handle emotions and the best ways to pamper yourself.

Harnessing the energy of the moon to improve and understand all aspects of your life is a strength that anyone can achieve with the helpful guidance of "The Complete Guide to Living by the Moon".

Critique: The newest addition to the Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia series from Wellfleet Press, "The Complete Guide to Living by the Moon" is elegantly designed, beautifully illustrated, impressively written, organized and presented DIY instructional reference guide and 'how to' manual that offers a comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' course for harnessing the power of the Moon for personal self-improvement. Informative and inspiring, "The Complete Guide to Living by the Moon" is strongly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections.

Editorial Note: Stephanie Gailing is a wellness consultant and modern mystic with more than 25 years of experience. She is also the author of The Complete Book of Dreams, The Complete Guide to Astrological Self-Care, The Astrological Self-Care Journal, and The Moon Book. Her unique approach weaves together compassion-based coaching, wellness strategies, dreamwork, and astrological insights to provide her clients with stellar life guidance. She has a dedicated website at

Susan Bethany

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

The Many Marvelous Mazes of P is for Phoenix a Maze Book
Chris Mason
Series: P is for Phoenix, Book 5
Words: 740

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle, you have to see the whole picture, then put it together piece by piece!
-Terry McMillan

Life is full of many stressful obstacles. To help combat these unexpected events, a person must set aside time for themselves to relax and recharge to be able to continue to move forward. There is no better way to find rest and happiness than in the pages of The Many Marvelous Mazes of P is for Phoenix a Maze Book.

A unique aspect of this book is that it features an alphabetic format. Each letter is connected to a word and is then associated with a maze. The puzzles are both fun and challenging. It will help your mind focus on an activity that doesn't cause any distress. A bonus includes the beautiful illustrations that you will find with each puzzle. I was amazed at how these beautiful backgrounds brought peace and calmness to my life.

Chris Mason is a very talented author with a long list of intriguing books. Each one of his books contains a significant part of his loving heart. There is no other author like Mr. Mason's work; it's fresh, appealing, and will make you want to experience more of his writing talent.

Suzie Housley

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Quote Acrostic Favorites: Volume 11
Charles Preston, editor
AKA Associates
9781734048384, $9.95, PB, 70pp

Synopsis: Selected by former USA Today crossword puzzle editor Charles Preston, "Quote Acrostic Favorites: Volume 11" is comprised of 50 favorite acrostics that reveal wise and witty sayings on topics from business and humor to life and politics. Acrostic puzzle fans will enjoy cracking the clues in the word column; transfer them to the diagram; and discover quotations from people like Scott Adams, Dave Barry, Peter Drucker, Margaret Thatcher, George Will, and more.

Critique: Charles Preston has been the Crossword Puzzle Editor of USA Today and Dow Jones's National Observer for over a decade. A distinguished crossword puzzle expert, Charles is also America's foremost acrostic expert. He has compiled more than 100 puzzle books and a number of best-selling anthologies of cartoons. Some of his best-sellers include: "Puzzle Treasury," "Crossword Connoisseur," "Puzzles in Large Type," and "Quote Acrostic Favorites". Simply stated, no truly dedicated acrostic puzzle fan will want to miss out on the compendium of word play fun that is the eleventh volume in the "Quote Acrostic Favorites" series from AKA Associates.

Open at the Close
Cecilia Konchar Farr, editor
University Press of Mississippi
3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211
9781496839312, $99.00, HC, 270pp

Synopsis: Despite their now phenomenal and decades long success, the Harry Potter novels have attracted relatively little attention from literary critics and scholars. While popular books, articles, blogs, and fan sites for general readers proliferate, and while philosophers, historians, theologians, sociologists, psychologists, and even business professors have taken on book-length studies and edited essay collections about Harry Potter, literature scholars, outside of the children's books community, have paid few serious visits to the Potterverse. Could it be that scholars are still reluctant to recognize popular novels, especially those with genre labels "children's literature" or "fantasy," as worthy subjects for academic study?

Compiled and edited by Professor Cecilia Farr, "Open at the Close: Literary Essays on Harry Potter" is an inherently fascinating and informative collection of essays that challenges that oversight, assembling and foregrounding some of the best literary critical work by scholars trying to move the needle on these novels to reflect their importance to twenty-first-century literary culture.

With the publication of "Open at the Close: Literary Essays on Harry Potter", a roster of contributors consciously address Harry Potter primarily as a literary phenomenon rather than a cultural one. They interrogate the novels on many levels, from multiple perspectives, and with various conclusions, but they come together around the overarching question: What is it about these books? At their heart, what is it that makes the Harry Potter novels so exceptionally compelling, so irresistible to their readers, and so relevant in our time?

Critique: A simply 'must read' for the legions of Harry Potter fans, "Open at the Close: Literary Essays on Harry Potter" is a compilation of 15 erudite, informative, thought-provoking essays on and about the very special world of magic and storytelling originally envisioned by British author J. K. Rowling. An especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library Literary Criticism collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and Harry Potter fans that "Open at the Close: Literary Essays on Harry Potter" is also available in a paperback edition (9781496839329, $25.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note #1: Cecilia Konchar Farr is Professor of English and Dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at West Liberty University in West Virginia. Among her publications are The Ulysses Delusion: Rethinking Standards of Literary Merit; Reading Oprah: How Oprah's Book Club Changed the Way America Reads, a student-generated collection of essays about the Harry Potter novels, A Wizard of Their Age: Critical Essays from the Harry Potter Generation. She has also taught a magical three-week study abroad in the UK that was all Harry Potter all the time and was, among other roles, assistant headmistress of the Gryffindor Tower Residential Learning Community at St. Catherine University in Minnesota. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: The contributors include: Lauren R. Carmacci, Keridiana Chez, Kate Glassman, John Granger, Marie Schilling Grogan, Beatrice Groves, Tolonda Henderson, Nusaiba Imady, Cecilia Konchar Farr, Juliana Valadao Lopes, Amy Mars, Christina Phillips-Mattson, Patrick McCauley, Jennifer M. Reeher, Jonathan A. Rose, and Emily Strand

Willis M. Buhle

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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