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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 1 January 2017 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf
Micah's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf  

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Recipe Hacker Confidential
Diana Keuilian
BenBella Books
10300 N. Central Expressway, Suite 400, Dallas, TX 75204
9781942952756, $19.95, PB, 250pp,

Synopsis: In today's era of rampant food allergies, gluten-free popularity, and the rise of paleo eating, putting together a meal that will satisfy everyone at the table is easier said than done. With Diana Keuilian's unique approach for "hacking" recipes, however, her latest culinary compendium "The Recipe Hacker Confidential" shows even the most novice of kitchen cooks how to easily recreate beloved, traditional comfort foods without the grains, gluten, dairy, soy, or cane sugar.

The long-awaited follow-up to her first cookbook, "The Recipe Hacker", this profusely illustrated edition of "The Recipe Hacker Confidential" is showcases more than 100 new recipes ranging from: Stuffed Cabbage; Roasted Veggie Pockets; Pumpkin Bread; and Asparagus Soup; to Rose Apple Pastries; Slow Cooker Lamb Dinner; and Winter Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Dressing.

Critique: In addition to palate pleasing, appetite satisfying, kitchen cook friendly recipes, in the pages of Diana also shares stories and musings throughout "The Recipe Hacker Confidential" that will inspire, encourage, motivate, and propel us toward the achievement of weight loss, the acquisition of better health, and the total enjoyment of culinary-based happiness. Simply stated, "The Recipe Hacker Confidential" is enthusiastically and unreservedly recommended for personal, family, and community library cookbook collections.

Love at First Fight
Carey Dyer & Dena Dyer
Shiloh Run Press
c/o Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781634097802, $14.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of the husband and wife team of Carey and Dena dyer, "Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples" is the kind of example laden instruction guide that will give any troubled marriage encouragement and hope through finding those once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that originally attracted us to our spouses and which have now become a source of stress and conflict. In sharing humorous, personal stories from both the male and female perspective,"Love at First Fight" will help the reader to discover that a fun, resilient, fulfilling marriage can be realized through hard work, forgiveness, God's grace, and a sense of humor. "Love at First Fight" shows how to strengthen marriage with these fifty-two conversational meditations that begin with scripture, end with prayers, and include practical action steps to develop a deeper connection with your spouse.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Love at First Fight" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Love at First Fight" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.03).

Where Two Hearts Meet
Liz Johnson
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800724504, $14.99, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: In her kitchen at the Red Door Inn, executive chef Caden Holt is calm, collected, and competent. But when her boss asks her to show off their beautiful island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the inn, Caden is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen--and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful. Journalist Adam Jacobs is on a forced sabbatical on Prince Edward Island. He's also on assignment to uncover a story. Instead he's falling in love with the island's red shores and Caden's sweets.

When Caden discovers Adam isn't who she thought he was, she realizes that the article he's writing could do more than ruin the inn's chances for survival--it might also break her heart. Readers will discover hope for the hurting, joy for the broken, and romance for the lonely at the enchanting Red Door Inn.

Critique: Another carefully crafted novel by a master of the romance genre, "Where Two Heart Meet" is a consistently engaging and unfailingly entertaining read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections, it is also available for personal reading lists in a Kindle format ($9.47). Librarians should note that "Where Two Hearts Meet" also comes in a large print edition (Thorndike Press, 9781410494320, $30.99) as well.

Annie Laura's Triumph
Milinda Jay
Mercer University Press
1400 Coleman Avenue, Macon, GA 31207-0001
9780881465952, $16.00, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: In 1915 Grassy Glade, Florida, just across the bay from Panama City, Annie Laura's birth daughter, Viola Lee has a good life. She keeps house while her adoptive mother runs a successful dry goods store, and is the apple of her adoptive father's eye. She is only a week away from her dream wedding -- the church is ready, and the dress is nearly complete. But things begin to unravel when her fiancee, James, does not return from his lumber camp deep in the piney woods of North Florida. A stranger interrupts Viola Lee's long-awaited and much hoped for reunion with Annie Laura, revealing a secret that could threaten Viola Lee's happily ever after. Despite struggles of her own, Annie Laura must go on a harrowing quest to right past wrongs and uncover the truth about James.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and a compelling read from cover to cover, "Annie Laura's Triumph" showcases novelist Milinda Jay's impressive storytelling gifts of being able to deftly craft truly memorable characters and deftly place them within the framework of tragic family secrets, love, longing, redemption, and ultimate triumph. While unreservedly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Annie Laura's Triumph" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.00).

The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan
Lavender Line Press
9780998149219 $TBA

Synopsis: In Chicago, a secret L train runs through the mythical East Side of the city. On that train, you'll find a house-cat conductor, an alcoholic elf, a queen of the last city farm, the most curious wind, and an exceptional girl by the name of Francesca Finnegan.

When we first encounter Richard K. Lyons, he is a man who has long forgotten the one night, when he was still a boy called Rich, when Francesca invited him aboard the secret L for an adventure though the East Side. The night was a mad epic, complete with gravity-defying first kisses, mermaid overdoses, and princess rescues. Unfortunately for Rich, the night ended like one of those elusive dreams forgotten the moment you wake. Now, Rich is all grown up and out of childish adventures, an adult whose life is on the verge of ruin. It will take the rediscovery of his exploits with Francesca, and a reacquaintance with the boy he once was, to save him.

Critique: The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan is an imaginative, modern-day adventure-fantasy for readers of all ages. Offering a view askew of the mundane and the magical, The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan is a lighthearted joy to read, highly recommended! It should be noted that half the proceeds of The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan will be donated to Chicago public schools.

Home on the Range
Ruth Logan Herne
Multnomah Books
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601427786, $14.99, PB, 320pp,

Nick Stafford stayed in central Washington, working his family's large ranch after his brothers left to pursue other passions - but his toughest job is being a single dad. As a child he watched his father fail at marriage and parenting, so Nick was determined to show him up. He'd be a better husband, father, and ranch manager than Sam Stafford ever was. Despite that commitment, three years after Nick's wife left him, he has a daughter in trouble at school and both of his girls are facing issues that force him to rethink his stubborn plans.

For Dr. Elsa Andreas, life fell apart when tragedy caused her to abandon her family therapy practice and retreat to the backwoods of Gray's Glen. Her school principal sister believes Elsa can guide the Stafford girls and that working with kids will draw Elsa out of her protective bubble. Summer on the Double S teems with life and adventure. Amid the bounty of God and land, will Nick and Elsa find the courage to build futures based on faith rather than fear?

Critique: "Home on the Range" is still another terrifically entertaining novel from Ruth Logan Herne and highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Home on the Range" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99), in a library binding edition (Center Pont Publishing, 9781683242390, $35.95), and as a complete and unabridged CD audio book (Recorded Books, 9781501938597, $24.95).

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells
Sarah M. Eden
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629722191, $15.99, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: Paisley Bell knows the eccentric people of Savage Wells. From the absentminded shopkeeper who always thinks she's been robbed to the young man who has returned shell-shocked from the war, Paisley has compassion for them all. When the sheriff up and leaves town, Paisley steps up and assumes the responsibility, partly because she loves the work, but also because she needs the income to take care of her sick father. So when the town council decides that the position of sheriff should really go to a man, Paisley finds herself fighting to prove that she's the perfect candidate for the job, even though she wears a skirt.

Cade O'Brien is heartily sick of shooting people. In his many years as a lawman, Cade has seen his share of blood and violence. So when he answers an advertisement for a sheriff job in the sleepy town of Savage Wells, he believes he's found the peace and quiet he's always desired. But when he discovers that his biggest competition for the job is a woman, he begins to question his decisions.

Tension between the two begins to sizzle when both Cade and Paisley realize the attraction they have for each other, but when Paisley's former beau shows up in town, along with a band of bank robbers, the blossoming relationship between the two sheriffs is tested. They will have to work together to thwart the bank robbers and keep the town safe.

Critique: Sarah Eden's "The Sheriffs of Savage Wells" is another deftly crafted and unfailingly entertaining novel by an author who is a master of the historical romance genre. While very highly recommended for community library fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Sheriffs of Savage Wells" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99) and as a complete and unabridged CD audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781504742054, $29.95).

The Ghost Daughter
Maureen O'Leary
Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603812870, $14.95, PB, 238pp,

Synopsis: In 1971, a wounded young man runs with his daughter in the woods at night. As he collapses, he tells the little girl to run, and she does. Eighteen years later, in October 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake buries twenty-two-year-old Angel Kelley under a collapsed building. Her adopted mother Judith is diagnosed with cancer while her deepest secrets surface in national news. In nearby Silicon Valley, Reese Camden loses her husband in an accident that kills him and critically injures their five-year-old daughter Madison. As news images of Angel's rescue emerge, Detective Laura Redleaf recognizes Judith from an unsolved missing child case. She travels to Santa Cruz and learns from Judith that Reese is actually Angel's biological mother Teresa, who has always known that Judith had her child. But Teresa has already fled and reinvented herself yet again, leaving her second daughter Madison in the hospital. Facing a kidnapping charge, Judith refuses medical treatment and bars Angel from visiting her in prison. For life to move forward, Teresa must reclaim her identity and confront her terrible past. In the end, it will take more than tons of rubble to crush the spirits of these four strong-willed women as they fight for their families, seek redemption, and find love.

Critique: A remarkable and deftly crafted read from beginning to end, "The Ghost Daughter" showcases author Maureen O'Leary's impressive flair for creating truly memorable characters and embed them in a riveting and complex storyline. While highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Ghost Daughter" is also available in a Kindle format ($6.95).

Krystyna Mihulka & Krystyna Poray Goddu
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613734414, $17.99, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Born in 1930, Krystyna Mihulka was deported from Poland to a remote village in Kazakhstan in 1940, where she lived as a political prisoner under Communist rule for nearly two years. After several years in refugee camps in Iran and Africa, she settled in Zambia, where she married and had three children. In 1969 she and her family migrated to the United States. She lives in Pleasant Hill, California, under her married name, Christine Tomerson. With the help of Krystyna Goddu, Milhulkawas has written her personal story of harrowing experiences as a Polish girl during World War II as her beloved father was forced into hiding, a Soviet soldier's family took over her house, and finally as she and her mother and brother were forced at gunpoint from their once happy home and deported to a remote Soviet work farm in Kazakhstan.

Through vivid and stirring recollections Mihulka details their deplorable conditions -- often near freezing in their barrack burled under mounds of snow, enduring starvation and illness, and witnessing death. But she also recalls moments of hope and tenderness as she, her mother, her brother, and other deportees drew close together, helped one another, and even held small celebrations in captivity. Throughout, the strength, courage, and kindness of Krysia's mother, Zofia, saw them through until they finally found freedom.

Critique: Deftly written for young readers ages 10 and up, "Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II" is exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an unreservedly recommended addition to school and community library Contemporary Biography collections for children. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Adwoa Badoe
Groundwood Books
c/o House of Anansi Press
110 Spadina Ave., Suite 801, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5V 2K4
9781554988167, $16.95, HC, 192pp,

For eighteen-year-old Charlotte, university life is better than she'd ever dreamed -- a sophisticated and generous roommate, the camaraderie of dorm living, parties, clubs and boyfriends. Most of all, Charlotte is exposed to new ideas, and in 1981 Ghana, this may be the most exciting (and most dangerous) adventure of all.

At first Charlotte basks in her wonderful new freedom, especially being out of the watchful eye of her controlling and opinionated father. She suddenly finds herself with no shortage of male attention, including her charismatic political science professor, fellow student activist Banahene, and Asare, a wealthy oil broker who invites Charlotte to travel with him and showers her with expensive gifts, including a coveted passport.

But Ghana is fraught with a history of conflict. And in the middle of her freshman year, the government is overthrown, and three judges are abducted and murdered. As political forces try to mobilize students to advance their own agendas, Charlotte is drawn into the world of student politics. She's good at it, she's impassioned, and she's in love with Banahene. "The struggle continues! Aluta! Aluta continua!" she shouts, rallying the crowd with the slogan of the oppressed. But her love of the spotlight puts her in the public eye. And when Asare entrusts her with a mysterious package of documents, she suddenly realizes she may be in real danger.

But it's too late. As she is on her way to a meeting, Charlotte is picked up by national security, and her worst nightmares come true. And in the end, she must make a difficult and complicated decision about whether to leave her education, and her beloved Ghana, behind.

Critique: "Aluta" is a simply riveting read from cover to cover and clearly documents author Adwoa Badoe as an impressively gifted novelist with an exceptional ability to crafted a compelling story populated by deftly crafted and memorable characters. While highly recommended for high school and community library collections YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Aluta" is also available in a Kindle format ($10.46).

Jane Alvey Harris
Privately Published
9781944244163, $9.99, PB, 254pp,

Synopsis: Seventeen year-old Emily's dad is in prison for securities fraud and her mom's strung-out on pain meds, leaving Emily to parent herself and her younger brothers and sister. She's got things mostly under control until a couple weeks before Dad's release, when voices start whispering in her head, and Gabe, the hot lifeguard at the pool, notices the strange brands engraved on her arm -- the ones she's trying desperately to hide. Emily doesn't know how the symbols got there or what they mean. They appeared overnight and now they're infected and bleeding. She's pretty sure she's losing her mind. Stress, insomnia, and her wounded egos drive Emily to self-medicate, which has to be why the nightmares from her childhood have resurfaced, why they're commandeering her conscious even when she's awake. It has to be why the fairytale creatures she created as a little girl insist they need her help. Triggered by the return of her childhood abuser and unable to cope with reality, Emily slips completely inside her elaborate fantasy world. She's powerful in the First Realm, maybe even more powerful than her attacker. It would be so easy to stay there, to lose herself in enchantment -- to lose herself in love. But something sinister lurks in the forest shadows. Emily soon discovers her demons have followed her inside her fairytale. They're hunting her. With the help of the Fae, she frantically searches for the weapons she needs to defeat her greatest fears and escape back to reality before the man who tortured her can prey on her younger brothers and sister, too. Time is running out.

Critique: A fully engaging and unfailingly entertaining novel, "Riven" clearly demonstrates author Jane Alvey Harris as a genuinely gifted novelist who is able to deftly craft memorable characters and create a truly compelling story of unexpected twists and surprising turns. While very highly recommended for school and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Riven" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Pumpus Has a Flowing Idea!
Praba Soundararajan
9780997480931 $14.99,

Pumpus Has a Flowing Idea! is directed to 4-7 year old elementary school readers (Pre-K - 2nd grade) and tells of a precocious young inventor whose fascination with Einstein, Tesla, and other scientists helps him craft science-based solutions to problems.

In this case, the problem stems from a lack of batteries for the flashlights they brought for their treehouse sleepover, and the solution lies in an invention easy to duplicate.

Definitions and explanations for axles, dynamos, and how electricity is generated are embedded into a short tale that highlights innovation and creative thinking. A concluding section reviews the science involved in the story (via a catchy 'Pumpusville Times' newspaper article), provides a bibliography and a suggested science project, and reviews electrical safety.

Illustrations (initial rough drafts reviewed here) promise bright and fun characters that help walk kids through the science, creating whimsical characters as well as clear illustrations of the projects and science involved.

As a picture book illustrating both science principles and how kids can duplicate electricity discoveries, this story will enhance classroom discussions and could serve as a fine reproducible handout for young experimenters taking courses that introduce basic electrical concepts.

Dark Twin
Veronica Dale
Nika Press
9780996952125, $3.99 ebook, $14.99 print edition

Dark Twin is Book Two of the Coin of Rulve series, and begins with the promised birth of twin grandsons who are called to save their land from the despotic Spider-king. Shortly thereafter, their mother is forced to flee with one of the twins in order to protect them both. The double portents of her absence and the boys' as yet unknown powers conclude an introduction that leads to the young Teller's evolution in the next chapter. There, his encounter with a snake is just one of the dangerous Spider-king threats he faces.

Teller is closely watched by the adults around him, who are well aware of his heritage and its dangers. But the boy himself has only vague intimations of this ("At times he felt like a disturbed seed in the ground, as if people were constantly brushing away the dirt above him to see if anything was sprouting yet."). Teller evolves into a compassionate young man who faces his world with curiosity, courage, and determination. But will these qualities be enough to defeat the evil force that has controlled his world long before his birth?

Veronica Dale's Dark Twin excels in its portrait of how a cruel overseer becomes an intrinsic part of a boy's evolutionary development after he is snatched into the Spider-king's lair. In an intense process that changes and challenges his very memories of everything that was good in his life, Teller becomes a young adult torn between his commitment to a despot and a deep inner call. Only gradually does he begin to understand what he must give, what it would cost, and what he would get in return.

The juxtapositions between darkness and light, lies and truth, and choices that hold the power to change many lives are deftly woven into a story line that holds as much spiritual and political insights as it does the struggle of an oppressed people desperately in need of hope.

Familiarity with Book One, Blood Seed, is recommended for a smooth transition to the settings and powerful influences on Teller's world. Even though Blood Seed held different protagonists, its dark metaphysical background and depth provide a firm foundation for this continuation of the theme, which offers the same solid approach to spiritual and psychological insights as its predecessor.

Firmly rooted in the fantasy genre yet laced with elements of intrigue, political purpose, and moral and ethical issues, Dark Twin is especially recommended for readers who like their fantasies complex and thought-provoking.

Write to Influence!
Carla D. Bass
Orlean Press
9780997593006, $18.95,

Write to Influence! is a gem -- much more hard-hitting than the typical "how-to" book on writing. It's more specific in its approach, teaching writing skills to purposefully craft words to present a powerful message, intended to influence readers.

Interested in powerful, super-charged writing? With Write to Influence! you will produce attention-grabbing pieces in all kinds of business and professional, real-world scenarios where standout writing means the difference between success and failure.

This stand-out, strategy-oriented book analyzes specific examples and passages to allow readers plenty of insight into the basics of not just composition, but rhetoric, arguments, and the kinds of critical thinking skills that apply to creating and presenting the written word.

Write to Influence! is directed to the business professional who may not have a talent for writing, but is required to write effectively as part of the job. This book is specialized and important -- translating to a host of business and professional pursuits, from personnel appraisals and grant applications to reports, bid proposals, marketing efforts, and more. Therein lies the core difference between this how-to guide and general books on writing. Plenty of examples accompany exercises designed to reinforce the teachings in Write to Influence!

Write to Influence! is a powerful tool for individuals wanting to get ahead, as well. Why? Selections for jobs, scholarships, fellowships, and more are often made based on the strength of the written application or resume. This book teaches writing skills to put forth the strongest possible case needed to edge out the competition.

Chapters focus on a series of "word sculpting" tools that tailor one's writing to achieve a clear, strong, and unambiguous message. Write to Influence! then presents valuable strategies that help the writer define the core message, identify what facts to include, and organize information for maximum impact. Chapters also reveal how to translate written words to public presentations, offering keys to a process that expands upon the main objective of writing and speaking: producing standout results.

The ultimate goal of writing is to inspire, influence, and craft precision communications. All too often, however, the very professionals who could most benefit from these approaches receive dry writing books that focus only on basic mechanics of grammar.

Write to Influence! is unique in its genre. In short, it is a winner!

The Frog Prince: The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella
Mike Klaassen
9781483586366, $3.99

When seventeen-year-old Prince Gerit slips away from his castle duties to enjoy a little relaxation and recreation in the forest, hunting and fishing, he doesn't know that his desire to escape responsibilities will lead to a vast change in his life. Thus opens Mike Klaassen's retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm story from quite a different perspective, embellishing the theme until the satisfyingly rich take-off moves far from its original rendition.

Those familiar with Klaassen's prior retelling of Hansel and Gretel will anticipate his similar attention to wide-ranging detail here, while newcomers will be delighted and surprised by the twists of tale The Frog Prince takes in its new incarnation.

The arrogance of a young prince untested by the world quickly comes to light when he falls into a bog and commands a passing old woman to help him: "Of course. Of course. Of course, you are an important young man," said the woman. "But if I save your life, what will you do for me?"Gerit was shocked. As a prince, he expected people to do his bidding without argument. But this contemptuous crone intended to bargain for terms."

Missing from the original story was the essence of a life transformed from that of an entitled prince to a lowly frog. Missing from the original is the psychology of this transformative process which challenges the revised prince with a strange new life. And also absent from the original are the nuances of betrayal, love, adapting to a life that requires different reactions to the world, and a questionable quest to return to what was.

All these facets weave into a version of The Frog Prince which is hauntingly familiar yet compellingly different. As Prince Gerit lives, learns, adapts, and struggles, readers receive quite a different perspective of all the characters involved in his story. It moves beyond frogs, princes, and romance and deftly into the give-and-take and sacrifices of politics, kingdoms, and young adults who inherit the issues of their elders. Lessons on how to be a responsible ruler and the lingering effects of life as a frog make for a thought-provoking exploration of Gerit's evolving world.

While fairy tale fans who look for retellings will be the obvious enthusiasts of Mike Klaassen's original novella, it's the student of fairy tale forms intent on contrasting this version with its Grimm original who will be especially delighted.

Moki Steps
J. Reed Rich
Arete Book Group
PO Box 260722, Denver, CO 80226
9780997635201, $19.99,

Mackenzie Campbell has better things to do than stand in front of a class of reluctant young learners begging them to properly diagram a sentence. She's a professor of linguistics at a fine university who has built a reputation as an expert in Uto-Aztec languages. Why is she wasting her time participating in a failed educational experiment with a group of reticent eighteen-year-olds?

The call from an ex-boyfriend comes out of the blue and promises a big discovery that will change everything; but just as sudden are a series of events that cause him to go missing, leading her on an expedition to a slot canyon which holds more than a few questions. Can an old Navajo woman's letters lead to a cache of gold hidden by the Aztecs as Cortes massacred them?

Predictably, there's a treasure map - and equally inevitable are the reasons why Charlie's discovery are certain to lead straight into danger. Less clear, at first, is Mackenzie's role in this process; but motivated by the promise of a research trip of a lifetime and a discovery that would add to her credentials, the professor soon finds that love and achievement in this case run hand in hand, straight into deadly danger.

One of the strengths of Moki Steps lies in its ability to build fine tension right from the start with a series of logical events. Take a self-proclaimed "nerdy" professor who feels stuck in both career and personal choices, take her out of her familiar world of academia and on the field trip of her life, and add romance into escalating intrigue. Stir. Then capture the culture and sense of place of the slot canyon lands of Arizona and add an elusive enemy. The result is an exploration that excels in vivid descriptions of place ("He placed one foot in front of the other, testing each step. She didn't look down but continued following him, aware that Vic was right below her. The ledge was almost two feet wide and level. To reach the cave, they had to pass through a thin stream of water that had been diverted by a cleft in the rocks next to the bigger waterfall. Getting wet was a given.") as it leads readers step-by-step through Mackenzie's adventure.

The physical challenges of a rugged journey are well described, the psychological makeup of a band of explorers is probed ("Henry had taken on Sandy's role, becoming the whiner of the group. There always had to be one, even in a group this size. There were only six of them now. What was Sam doing? If he'd come with them, he would have stayed back with Sandy. Been patient with him. But if Sandy hadn't left them, she realized, they might have voted to go back. Now they had to get to the end of the canyon, and with luck, find Charlie."), and tension escalates into ambushes, gunmen, and confrontations between different special interest groups.

The result is a fast-paced, vividly realistic adventure story that tests character connections, motivations, choices, and chance. It's never a good idea to go into the canyons alone. But Mackenzie has an entire support group behind her: J. Reed Rich's readers of Moki Steps.

The Illiterate Investor
Rene Pineda
Tellwell Talent
ISBN (paperback) 9781773023755, $17.95
ISBN (hardcover) 9781773023779, $22.95
ISBN (ebook) 9781773023762, $9.95

There are many, many 'how to invest' books on the market today, directed to varying degrees of reader financial expertise; but how many are written with the bare-bones "illiterate investor" in mind? Only one.

When author Rene Pineda lost his job and couldn't replace it, he decided to investigate the lucrative world of investing in the stock market. Like so many others, he lacked any experience in the process; but, unlike many others, he then embarked on a learning process that clarified the many puzzling terms, ideas, and investment strategies of the stock market.

His studies revealed hidden fees, expensive broker arrangements with other "illiterate investors", and also uncovered the path revealed here: one involving becoming an independent, self-managing stock market investor through understanding strategy choices, comfort zones, overall market and individual stock trends, activities and indicators, and more.

This process is clearly explained in a chatty presentation that juxtaposes admonitions and warnings with clear approaches novices can take when entering the stock market for the first time. The Illiterate Investor explains, using plain and simple English, the basics about investing in the stock market which every investor needs to know in order to insure financial freedom.

Quotes from financial advisors, websites and articles, clear definitions and discussions of topics such as charting and how to identify trends, and explanations that include cautionary points both clarify the entire stock market investment process and forge a guiding path for complete novices who might otherwise place their hard-earned monies in the hands of expensive or unscrupulous brokers.

The result is clear, winning learning processes that provides the foundation for encouraging would-be investors to get their feet wet in the stock market and then develop a learning process and overall strategy that, like the author experienced, leads to financial success and well-reasoned investment choices.

The Illiterate Investor is highly recommended; especially for those who know nearly nothing, but who seek an especially accessible method for absorbing the basics of how to begin; but also for people who lost money or tried before, and want to get back into trading. It's timely, necessary, and easy to understand: a "must read" basic.

Brake Failure
Alison Brodie
Amazon Digital Services
ISBN: 9780995456822
ASIN: B01MRQVFGA, $3.99 Amazon.canada

It's hard not to continue reading when a story's opening paragraph starts with a blend of humor and angst injected into virtually the same set of words: "'There's a dead man at the door,' Mrs Whitaker hissed, leaning over the desk. Nurse Betty sighed, took a bite of donut, closed the magazine on "How to get Slim for the Millennium" and heaved herself out of her swivel chair." What a way to start a New Year's Eve!

Events only get hotter from there as a crazy, out-of-control scenario becomes replete with characters as diverse as an English debutante in control of her life until she finds herself dumped in Kansas and decides to join a survivalist group, the savvy people-reader Sheriff Hank Gephart, whose unexpected inability to stop a careening life places his own in jeopardy, and an unlikely romance that explodes on the cusp of the new Millennium.

With such a disparate set of characters and special interests, one might expect that encounters in Brake Failure would become a little disjointed; but the fact is that even though everyone is careening full-tilt towards disaster, nothing is set in stone, and nothing feels confusing.

Alison Brodie's ability to draw her readers to the precipice of complexity and then deftly weave all events into an evolving masterpiece of humor, angst, and disparate special interests makes for an involving and fun story where characters take unexpected turns to change seemingly-set courses in life.

While the stormy romance between Sheriff Hank and the wayward Ruby Mortimer-Smyth would seem unlikely, Brodie's ability to deftly portray and play out the impossible makes for a story line that is an emotional train wreck in some ways and a hilarious tongue-in-cheek spoof on predictability in others.

Descriptions are unusual and striking ("Her worst feature was the electric shrubbery of used-tea-bag coloured hair that framed her face.") and the ironies of life well depicted, always with Brodie's trademark injection of wit: "She glanced down at the brochure in her hand: Purdy's Pet Nutrition. This was the account Edward had to win. She leafed through pages of healthy-looking dogs with their equally healthy-looking owners. Diet for Fur Balls. Fresh Breath Right Under Their Noses. Feline Incontinence. Is this what's brought me here? She thought bitterly. Fluffy's bladder?"

Fans of romances, unexpected people, and clashing yet funny encounters of the odd kind will relish Brake Failure's ribald, rowdy tale: original, fun reading at its best.

The Juniper Wars Book 2: Killdeer Winds
Aaron Michael Ritchey
WordFire Press
9781614754350, $15.04,

Fans of apocalyptic survival stories who like their futuristic sagas on the dark side will relish Book 2 of The Juniper Wars, which is set in not-too-distant 2058 after the Sino-American War has decimated several generations of men and the Sterility Epidemic has rendered 90% of survivors sterile.

In this world, five Western American states are now territories, barely functioning. Cavatica and her sisters (introduced in the first book of the series, Dandelion Iron), are still struggling to save their ranch. Prior familiarity with Dandelion is recommended, because Killdeer Winds picks up where Dandelion left off and continues the story, focusing on the mysterious boy Micaiah, the evil forces who are searching for him, and the sisters' increasing involvement in an elusive search for the truth.

There is a range of disparate forces at work in Killdeer Winds that keeps the tale fast-paced and unpredictable. Just as readers start to predict that a series of events will take place, Aaron Michael Ritchey gives the story a twist to take it in an entirely new direction - and that's one of its greater strengths.

Another surprise is a Western frontier theme that runs through a chronicle replete with action and adventure. Think of a darker side to the Wild Wild West TV show, whose characters operated on the borderlines of a familiar Western theme with some odd, otherworldly influences thrown in.

The aftermath of war and its futuristic enactment is particularly well done in passages that are grippingly thought-provoking: "You can't imagine the Sino, Cavvy. It was a journey into the heart of darkness. Apocalypse Now. In the end, it all fell apart. The whole thing. It was years of chaos and bloodshed as the hierarchy and discipline of the troops fell apart. The United States armed forces turned into a killer robot, headless, mindless. Only slaughter mattered. Murder on a scale undreamed of. It made World War I look like a Weller family fight. The generals thought our technology and drones could do the work but it takes people on the ground to do the actual slaughtering because in the end, people are far cheaper than technology, and we are far better at murdering than machines are."

Soldier clones, confrontations between disparate groups and special interests, and a journey that takes Cavatica and her band through the remnants of Western America creates a moving adventure that is vivid. Replete with observation on the various processes of social survival, this also makes the novel hard to put down: "We dropped down out of the Rockies and roared through Salt Lake City in the morning light. The SLC hadn't been salvaged as much as re-colonized by the Mormon folk. It looked rather pleasant. The Mormon women had torn up the streets to plant crops. Funny to see avenues of green, tilled by women with their hair covered. Mormons in the Juniper had gone back to polygamy, which made sense I guess, given there weren't many men around. I still couldn't imagine sharing my husband with a dozen other women. Both Sally Browne Burke and the Archbishop Corfu hated the Mormons and discounted their religion as heresy. But what if people were people, doing the best they could? Sharlotte had accepted Nikki and Tenisha's gillian love. Could I hate them for something that was beyond their control?"

This juxtaposition of intense battle scenes and struggles for survival, combined with an overall mystery and a journey towards truth, makes Killdeer Winds a powerful, absorbing, and highly recommended read, especially for fans of post-apocalyptic survival narratives who seek an uncommon tone and touch.

Halcyon Summer
G. V. Loewen
Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Co.
9781681818634, $TBA,

When a lonely thirty-something man encounters a band of young trespassers on his property (including a feisty fifteen-year-old girl) trouble begins to brew. James is well aware of the dangers of courting forbidden flesh, but even a friendship with someone underage is better than nothing - or so he thinks.

As the events of Halcyon Summer unfold, however, James and the reader are about to find that wisdom and savvy can fail in light of other forces which occur when two lonely souls of any age encounter one another. James lives on an estate of heirlooms and treasures, but his inheritance is empty without interpersonal connections. The coquettish young Jill, wise beyond her years, injects herself into his staid life, seemingly effortlessly. And for all his hesitations ("He couldn't possibly let a fifteen-year-old constantly get the better of him. The other sensibility, that he couldn't possibly let a fifteen year old stranger become a fixture, was neatly elbowed aside."), James finds himself succumbing to forces outside of his control and intentions.

When friends turn to lovers in a hedonistic party atmosphere, despite the fact that neither initially wished for these events to take place, a sexual and emotional journey evolves that will test both their personalities and abilities.

"We never attend to the full horror of the possible." But the point is that Halcyon Summer achieves this goal as its story unfolds, provoking readers to think past the specter of a forbidden relationship and into realms of moral and ethical conundrums and, ultimately, faith.

One doesn't expect the story to wind up where it does, from its rootsy beginnings. From the impact of aging on decisions made in youth to a parent's sneaky interventions and exceptions to long-standing rules, Halcyon Summer turns from a steamy story of sexual exploration to a serious survey of how relationships grow despite great differences and even (perhaps, especially) under conditions of adversity.

Readers should expect strong sexual scenes, challenging definitions of what constitutes 'home' and 'family', and revised perceptions of relationships between those of vastly different ages whose maturity levels sync in unexpected ways.

Halcyon Summer is about these transition points and is especially recommended for leisure readers interested in how romantic connections are made and evolve.

Hugo Duchamp Investigates: Les Noms Sur Les Tombes
G.N. Hetherington
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781535219693, $16.00,

Hugo Duchamp Investigates: Les Noms Sur Les Tombes is the third volume in the series revolving around feisty detective Hugo Duchamp and his cases and returns the newly-injured detective to the spotlight in a new adventure. Hugo is still recovering from injuries sustained during the last case, but there's no rest for the weary when Dr. Irene Chapeau finds her life and career in turmoil and under threat.

But the real action takes place not on the political playing field but in Montgenoux's graveyard, where "rest in peace" is about to be thwarted by a man intent on making the entire town pay for what it's done to him.

Friends lie, mirrors lie, and sometimes the scars of psyche and soul that are so well hidden from the world finally erupt in unexpected ways. Dr. Chapeau discovers this as danger escalates - and so do Hugo, Miriam, and others who become involved in her world as events edge ever closer to catastrophe.

As Irene probes conspiracies, dubious associations, the death of men who may have known what the mayor was up to, and apparent suicides that are less easily identified as murders, Hugo and Irene find themselves caught in a web of intrigue and danger that increasingly casts them as prey in a dangerous game.

Political whitewashing and efforts by Hugo and others to keep the investigation in Montgenoux on track create a satisfying series of encounters between investigators, politicians and special interests forces. Hugo's personal life offers him a safe harbor against these disparate forces ("Hugo wrapped his arms around Ben, his left hand going instinctively towards the curl on his forehead, the right wrapping around the scar on his hand. This was his safe place, when all the pieces between them became one.") - but how safe will it remain?

Fans of detective sagas will find Hugo a savvy, unique character whose investigative prowess is equaled only by the changes affecting his personal relationship, which moves onto more solid ground even as his professional life seems to be dissolving: "...the reason neither of us look to the past or look to celebrate it is probably the same reason that brought us together in the first place. But we aren't children anymore, it's time to put our phantoms to bed and look to the future. I'm tired of being alone. I'm tired of surviving my past. It's all irrelevant now, it doesn't matter anymore that my mother deserted me, or my father hates me, or even if I decide to see either of them again. I'm a man now. I'm an adult and it's only really since I met you that I've realised I've been hiding behind it all, using it as an excuse to keep people away from me. I don't need my father to love me. I don't even need to know why my mother deserted me anymore, she just did, the problem was hers, not mine, and I'm not even sure I care to know why anymore,' he pulled Ben to him. 'I want to be truly happy, not just to believe I am. This house is a good place to start, I think.'"

It's these personal moments and their presence within a murder mystery that challenges Hugo's standing in his new home which makes for a riveting plot about different kinds of commitments, including those that last beyond the grave. As the threats begin to strike closer to home, Hugo is on track to experience some of the greatest changes not only in his career, but to his set course in a life he's only finally committed to fulfilling.

One of the most striking features of Hugo Duchamp's mysteries is the dual focus on his life and personal struggles, which juxtapose nicely with each mystery he's involved in. In Les Noms Sur Les Tombes, just when everything seems to be coming together, they fall apart. A striking investigative pursuit wound within the struggles of a different kind of personal life make this a standout addition to the series, with a conclusion that leaves the door wide open for more, pulling readers in with a gripping emotional feel throughout that builds to a shocking crescendo and yet another twist in Duchamp's never-singular course in life.

The Zoo of Impossible Animals: Into the Underzoo
Rob Crisell
De Portola Press
9780692473634, $15.00,

The Zoo of Impossible Animals: Into the Underzoo introduces readers ages 9 to 13 to Jake and his sister Miranda, who have been shaken by their family's move from urban Washington, D.C. to rural New Mexico. But a new environment isn't going to be the only challenge they face: the appearance of an ink-eating monkey at their house leads Jake and Miranda to the Zoo of Impossible Animals, a secret facility that finds and captures semi-mythical animals called "cryptids." And this is where the adventure really heats up.

Rob Crisell adds mystery into the formula when animals begin to vanish, leading Jake and Miranda to stumble into even more deeply-held secrets holding wider-reaching implications than the zoo itself.

This adds an extra layer of intrigue to the story, elevating the tale from one about a zoo with amazing animals to include elements of intrigue, espionage, and special interests that segue into diabolical intentions.

Part of the attractiveness of Rob Crisell's story lies in its attention to depicting exotic animals that allegedly live throughout the world, while the rest lies in teen protagonists who find themselves grappling with not just impossible creatures, but impossible odds of survival.

With an Indiana Jones-style series of adventures (albeit resting upon purposeful teen protagonists) The Zoo of Impossible Animals: Into the Underzoo specializes in a brand of adventure that is reminiscent of the heady action and science-gone-awry feel of Jurassic Park, and will delight any tween to middle-grade leisure reader looking for an adventure especially crafted for their reading abilities.

The Theory of Talking to Trees
Karl Dehmelt
Apprentice House Press of Loyola University Maryland
9781627201211, $14.99
Ordering Link:

The Theory of Talking to Trees tells of Stephen Christiansen, who has moved past the tragedies of his youth to become a successful author involved in an eight-year engagement with a wonderful woman. His life is coming together and he's affluent and well-respected - until he attempts to stop a robbery on the street, and is shot.

This pivot point in his life careens him into an unusual friendship with the would-be victim Isaac, who shares Stephen's love of writing (but very little else), and involves a descent into madness that translates into surreal scenes and the stark reality of the chasm between entitlement and privilege and poverty and despair.

In many ways, The Theory of Talking to Trees arrives at the quintessential point in time in American history where change is in the wind, with Stephen's perspective and life changes mirroring those in this country.

Even his most minute lifestyle choices and decisions are closely examined against the microscopic prism of change that is to follow ("Stephen refers to abundances of un-used time as the dead periods of the day, which he's minimized since he learned the value to be found in living."), while the fraying emotional connections between Phoebe and Stephen are precisely dissected in passages that contrast not only different perceptions, but vastly changing values systems: "You spend your time focused on climbing ladders, and you make it seem like you take my feelings into account. You take me around to all of your gatherings, your events, and you would love to be able to say I'm your wife so you can show everyone exactly how much you've gotten your life back together. You're obsessed with confirming the two of us because that's how you show you've changed from being who you were before. You're motivated by advancing your own self-interest."

As Stephen descends into a world that initially seems far from what he's built, quickly moving into dangerously familiar territory, he finds himself facing the reasons for his love of writing, his love of the life he's carefully constructed, and the forces that would bring everything crashing down around him as he confronts losing the two most powerful influences in his life.

The Theory of Talking to Trees is no easy leisure read, and is best digested slowly. Its particular brand of angst and its probe of models for pain and change are thought-provoking and don't lend to hasty reading. That said, readers who seek complex psychological stories of evolution and change will relish the engrossing saga of a man who has everything and then nothing, and who is forced to re-evaluate his path in life and the meaning of everything he professes to love because of a single circumstantial encounter with a stranger.

Such audiences will find the psychological developments and tension in The Theory of Talking to Trees makes for an exquisite, unique story that's compellingly hard to put down.

The Gift-Knight's Quest
Dylan Madeley
Matador Books
c/o Troubador Publishing Ltd.
1784621412, $18.99 pbk / $4.61 Kindle

Chandra takes the throne when the King and Queen die, but her reign is heavy, requiring her to lead an empire suspicious that instead of being a leader, she's an assassin. The burden of proof falls on her to prove both her innocence and, simultaneously, her ability to be a ruler.

Derek is her personal guard, but he's no different than the rest of the populace in suspecting that his new queen isn't all that she says she is - especially since her family's ancestors once ruined his own chances at leading a very different, more privileged life.

Take two disparate individuals; one struggling to prove her innocence; the other convinced of her guilt but bound by order and convention to help her. Add a plot that moves from past to present influences as Chandra struggles with mandate, an unwanted and unexpected new role, and her own suspicions. Then stir in Derek's own struggles with his past for a fantasy story filled with subplots, special interests, and two very different individuals struggling with heritage and coming of age.

The Gift-Knight's Quest may sound like an entertaining read, but it's replete with complexity. There's much background and underlying influences to transmit in the course of the story, so readers expecting a linear read might find themselves unexpectedly immersed in the flashbacks and dialogue required to fully explain the setting and influences of the past and why the characters are at different pivot points in each of their lives. The dialogue between various characters at both upper and lower levels of society offers many insights about the kingdom and its rulers, however, and is not extraneous to the story, but supports it nicely: "We're taking control of our lives and careers." She replied. "Why should either of us worry about that?" Lucen had a swig from his own chalice. "I sometimes wonder if our advisors don't think it's prudent to control people who are becoming more like them."

Where other writers might have glossed over details or injected and revealed them later in the story's progression, Dylan Madeley takes the time to build a firmer foundation than many fantasies hold - and this means that readers expecting nonstop action and adventure could feel that the attention to detail is too slow and steady.

It's only after this foundation is built that the real action begins to build, and suddenly - having absorbed the personalities and backgrounds of individuals and kingdoms - readers are hooked.

What aspiring youngster doesn't believe him/herself to be unique, holding the ability to make a difference in the world - especially one born to privilege or to a clan with a set mission in the world? Readers who take the time to absorb the full-bodied social and political structure of this world will be more than rewarded with a rich, multi-faceted story line that draws one into a realm replete with struggle and change, laying the foundation for a series recommended for fantasy fans who like their stories complex and well-detailed.

The Year of Loving
Traci L. Slatton
Parvati Press
Print ISBN: 9781942523062, $19.99
EBook ISBN: 9781942523079, $4.99

Sarah's personal life is unwinding: her art gallery is struggling to stay solvent in a tough market, her parents are dead, both her marriages have ended, her children are a mess, and her best friend has cancer. What else could go wrong in her life?

Change is the last thing she wants in her stormy world; but it assumes the guise of two very different men who enter her life, seeking a relationship with her. Each brings something to an already-full table. Should Sarah even be thinking about imbibing?

In many lives, tribulations hit all at once. A year of emotional hell and change is not an unusual occurrence in the course of life; but what is unusual in The Year of Loving is that two very different ways of giving and receiving love and support are added into a life already poised on the brink of disaster.

As readers follow Sarah's transformative process, past influences, and present challenges, they come to realize the options always inherent in the opening or closing of any door and the self-driven opportunities that can be faced even at the age of 50. As Sarah discovers she's never too old to forge new paths in life, so she enters into heady romantic possibilities that differ from any choices she's made in the past.

The Year of Loving chronicles an independent woman's struggles for achievement in many different ways. Don't expect a knight in shining armor to sweep into her world: her romantic interests are flawed, only human, and anything but dominating controllers. Do expect a sassy, candid tale of emotional and physical scars, distraction and commitment, conversations that reflect real-world experiences, a healthy dose of humor ("Why can't I sleep over?" "We're not at that stage," I said. "What stage are we at?" "The booty call stage."), and a learning process that links choices of the past to realities of the present ("I shrugged and returned to the present, to the warm and solid man standing so close to me. "All I had to do was accept being a third class citizen; accept their condescension. Listen to George continually telling me that I was crazy and incompetent and a rage monster and that no one else but him would ever want me." "You didn't get out of that marriage soon enough," Carl observed, his blue eyes scanning my face. "It does explain a few things. To be clear, Sarah, I'm nothing like the Calhouns.")

The result is a lively, fun romp through life that carries readers through the options and choices of a heady year in which everything changes and Sarah learns how to live the life she chooses not just in response to, but in spite of, the swirl of relationships around her. Women will find it the perfect leisure or beach read.

A Deep Thing
A. K. Smith
The Wild Rose Press
9781509210480, $16.99 print / $5.99 e-book
Nook: http: //
The Wild Rose Press:

It's not every wife whose husband has something buried in the jungles of Mexico, prompting her to embark on a journey of discovery that tests both her diving skills and her courage. Not every widow finds herself saddled with both an angry adult stepson who offers little solace after a tragic accident and the promise of a diving trip that was her husband's last gift to the boy, which becomes her duty to fulfill for him. And not every journey will reveal a series of dangerous choices that hold the power to change both of their lives forever.

But, that is the legacy Tim Jackson has left for them: an uncertain adventure that will ultimately and posthumously reveal who he really was, and which threatens to embroil those he loved and left behind in a game just as dangerous as the one that took his life.

Think an Indiana Jones-type thriller with the nonstop staccato beat of jungles, dangerous dives, and a treasure hunt like no other. Think of a series of surprises set in the Yucatan jungle that continually test the characters and surprise the reader. Then wrap this adventure in the cloak of a mother's struggles with grief and a conspiracy that reaches out to replace her husband's memory with something beyond anything she's ever known.

A. K. Smith's prose embraces a combination of fast-paced action and psychological revelations, giving it a juicy blend of tension and insight that makes for a well-done story. A better edit job might have caught the light peppering of grammatical errors throughout ("...she desperately wished she grabbed the strange maps and papers out of Tim's briefcase."), but don't significantly dent the plot.

Another plus is the attention given to detail and the rationalizations behind Kendall's actions. Readers aren't left to wonder about either her options or why she makes the choices she does: "How could anybody know about the briefcase? She wanted to tell them, but instinct silenced her. First, she needed to understand the contents of the briefcase and what they meant."

Finally, the entire piece is drawn together by the threads of disparate special interests that embrace corporate espionage, high-stakes adventure, and an evolving relationship between a stepmother and a son left grieving after his father's untimely death.

Add little acts of heroism and big steps out of comfort zones for a gripping story that is attention-grabbing on many levels, highly recommended for fans of world-hopping, multi-faceted adventure thrillers who look for an added bonus of psychological depth and human emotion in their adventure reads.

Fool Whiskey Hero
JT Blundell
New Pulp Press
9781945734052, $14.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook

Buy Links:;jsessionid=B57B955654990DB7CDACED0FC0C2074D.prodny_store02-atgap04?ean=2940156730940

"Hawaiian Shirt Guy" is scared out of his mind, cowering as deeply as he can into the plastic upholstered booth of The Dirty Pickle, a pub which lives up to its name. Why he's afraid and what's to come opens Volume 1 of the "Drunken Fool Thrillers" with a bang as Shirt Guy is threatened and an ex-Army Corporal well into his cups reluctantly decides to take action. His reward for stopping a murder? Arrest.

Pair an alcoholic ex-military soon-to-be-divorced man who struggles to help his addicted brother with a teen witness on the run who is sought by cops and killer alike, add a liberal dose of alcohol into the story line, and shake them up for a story of murderers and vengeance which moves well beyond singular purposes to involve an entire city in a desperate hunt and a cat-and-mouse game.

Fool Whiskey Hero's point of view alternates between third person observations of teen Nyla's life and purposes and first-person Grady's experiences, and this not only keeps the story alive and kicking, but easily clarifies whose perspective is being featured in its alternating chapters.

As a smart wife becomes involved over her head and a video's contents link them all, tension builds in a series of encounters that clearly defines both characters and their environments using precise, immediate language: "Again and again, Nyah played the video. Maybe this time the men aren't in the alley or the other cop doesn't show up. Maybe her Father doesn't arrive or when he does he isn't betrayed. Maybe he isn't shot or doesn't die. Maybe this time, her world doesn't end. Each time she prays it turns out different.

But it doesn't, it never does. Nyah lost count how many times she watched that video while leaning against her mother's tombstone."

Driven by the nitty-gritty emotions of its characters, Fool Whiskey Hero succeeds in not only exploring events, but examining the psychology driving interpersonal interactions and choices: "I have hated and loved Reece alternately all our lives. I'd wanted to kill him at times, but there were also moments when I wanted to hug him till it hurt. He was my brother. Reece was there for all my favourite moments as a child. He was beside me for every beating the old man ever laid on me. We were linked. I knew no matter what he'd always love me and need me."

The result is more than an action thriller: it's a very real human interest piece designed to attract readers who seek more from their stories than entertaining puzzles. Ultimately it's the human psyche that drives these experiences, and Fool Whiskey Hero is highly recommended for anyone looking for that special prize of emotional connection in a cracker-jack series of confrontations.

Gibb River Road
Damian Maher
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781535041430, $9.95,

Gibb River Road is a rough road in Western Australia's outback, the Kimberley region, and is notorious for being a hellish ride even in a four-wheel drive jeep. It's also the title of a story about Jacob, an Englishman who has traveled halfway around the globe to Darwin, Australia to find (or finish) himself.

One attraction in Gibb River Road is that the two men who newly encounter one another are very different: one is heterosexual, the other "very gay". The nature of their evolving relationship will rely not on predictable patterns of same-sex interactions, but the process of bridging two disparate mindsets, experiences, and perceptions of the world.

There are some puzzles, such as those revolving around Jacob's decision to go to Australia to solve his problem, rather than traveling somewhere in England to find a different way out, closer to home. But these questions are offset by an intriguing story line that charts the evolving relationship between these two very different men.

Jacob finds himself attracted to William for the man's high energy and perspective on life, among other things. For William, it's a recovery process as he moves away from the shattered remains of his old boyfriend, who left him for a richer man, to enter the unknown of a relationship with a heterosexual man during a journey across a foreboding desert in a strange country.

A challenging trip undertaken on one of Australia's most difficult Outback roads would have been intriguing enough; but add the scenario of two men finding themselves and each other and a question about their ultimate survival for a passionate story that takes a step beyond romance to delve into the meaning of life itself.

This story of blossoming love provides a compelling saga of a journey to self-realization, acceptance, and romance, and is highly recommended for any fan of gay fiction who seeks an inviting, engrossing adventure read replete with the realistic sounds, scenes, and culture of Australia and its Outback.

East - A Novel
Peri Hoskins
Tane Kaha Publications
ASIN B01G65WXDE, $2.99

East - A Novel is set in 1994, when junior lawyer Vince decides to leave his stifling world of legal processes and issues and embark on a road trip across Australia.

His excitement at changing everything in his life is deftly captured in the very first paragraph, which will also grab reader attention and attraction; especially amongst those who relish classic road trip adventures: "The bonnet in front of me is big and white. Rain on the windscreen - the wipers sweep it away. The clouds are grey, the road is grey, the suburbs are grey and I am leaving. There is joy in that. I'm leaving it behind - a life - small, petty, viciously circular. Out in front is the road and I don't know where it will end. I am free. I'm almost young."

The life of a suburban lawyer recedes rapidly in the rearview mirror as Vince opts for a very different life and drives into it without regrets, taking readers with him in a vivid exploration of new environments, new relationships, and changing perspectives about what is valuable in life. All the small decisions have been traded for either larger ones or a "go with the flow" feel, and Vince soon discovers that part of that flow leads to something entirely unexpected.

Of necessity, there are many "goodbyes" as well as "hellos" in Vince's adventure. At times readers may wonder if what he's leaving behind to continue his journey is as important as where he is heading. But as he reflects on his changed status in a new life with a limitless horizon, he also discovers that the ties that once translated to comfort have morphed into a very different definition: "I drive all day and the barren land gradually becomes more fertile. There are golden fields of hay around me, some of it in bales. I turn the radio on and listen to the news. In the west bush fires are burning and insurance company executives are nervous. All of a sudden I don't feel so bad about being one of the property-less mob at the age of thirty. No house of mine will burn."

As Vince meets many different people, from drifters to drillers, he formulates the concept of a 'gentle god' that watches over the world and begins to realize that his choices and journey are part of something greater: "The web showed itself to me because my journey is true. There's power in those pieces of light; power to change things, to make things turn out right ..."

The result is a road tale that takes interpersonal connections and discoveries and elevates them to a new level of introspection and growth, making East - A Novel highly recommended for readers who like their stories introspective as well as adventurous, and who look at the road trip experience as one example of growth-inducing decisions.

William L. Seavey
Crisis Response Publishing
9780985419325, $19.95,

William L. Seavey is an international investor, journalist and businessman who has undertaken a daunting task: to chronicle the history and future of U.S./Canadian relations and the fluidity of the border between the two nations. That he's married to a Canadian woman and holds business interests across this border also lends a personal expertise to his blend of political, economic and social history, creating a read especially timely in its appearance during an era where America's borders and influence are being reconsidered on all sides.

Americanada? was written a year after Canada installed a new prime minister, "the relatively young son of Pierre Trudeau," and was updated just after America elected Donald Trump as President. Portions of the book and especially its concluding chapter had to be re-written to reflect the latest sentiments and affairs between the two nations in the face of these political changes.

It's surprising to note that most Americans know relatively little about Canada in contrast to their typical Canadian counterparts, who know much about America. This has led to misunderstandings, misperceptions, and the general feel in this country that Canada is somewhat an extension of America - and that perception, as demonstrated in Americanada? - could not be more mistaken.

Yes, the two nations share a border and are democracies; but much of their similarity ends there. Real political and cultural differences have evolved from historic interactions between the two nations, and continue to this day. Largely undiscussed and unacknowledged by the average American, these could evolve into a potential series of conflicts down the line which are all the more sobering given the fact that Americans still continue to view their Canadian neighbors with ignorance and arrogance.

In creating a historical and cultural probe of these two countries, William L. Seavey offers a discussion based on interviews with Canadians and an overall probe of the controversies between the two nations. While admitting that some topics - such as economics - are too complicated to tackle and offer no easy solutions, Seavey presents many concrete insights on other issues, which can serve to bring the two nations closer.

His message is intended for Canadians as well as Americans. Canadians are invited to "...consider giving thoughtful, informed and sincere Americans a chance to make an effort toward understanding you and your contributions to North American progress and diversity." while Americans face an even greater challenge: to "...take your northern neighbor seriously, remove any blinders you might have about Canadians in general, and cease being so xenophobic and quite so nationalistic."

Why should Americans care more about their northern neighbor? Because "...most of the time, Canada is simply not on American radar screens. Most of us don't know about Canada's history, politics, demographics, cultural concerns or economics--and we could care less. Even about its people. This is really very shortsighted because we can stand to benefit from each other in myriad ways and even more so in the future. This lack of knowledge is, frankly, rather shameful. And the survival of our both our countries may well depend on a more cohesive, cooperative, informed cross-border reality."

The timing couldn't be better. As it looks like President Trump is reconsidering all foreign relationships, so the average American should be re-examining their own knowledge base about the world; and where better to begin than right next door, with Canada and with Americanada?

This book also considers many practical matters for Americans threatening to relocate to Canada in the wake of Trump's election, outlining many differences between the countries that Americans should know before they pack their bags: "A Canadian, such as my wife, can continue to live in the United States indefinitely, earn income and even get Social Security and Medicare--and not live in fear that the Canadian government will require her to pay taxes annually to a country in which she doesn't have physical residency...Not so an American living in Canada, as reported in several recent stories by the Wall Street Journal. The United States, which has always required its citizens to report income regardless of where its citizens reside (one of only two countries in the world to do so), has implemented a five year campaign to hunt for undeclared accounts based on the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, which went into effect July 1, 2014. The results have been devastating for Americans living in Canada who file local taxes but generally assumed that their foreign savings and retirement accounts couldn't be dunned by the U.S. government."

Add case history examples, interviews, analysis of possible expanded trade coalitions and alliances, and issues ranging from refugees and trade barriers to cooperative possibilities between the two nations for a solid discussion accessible not just to students of political science and international relations, but to general-interest readers on both sides of the border who want to learn more about their neighbor and the options for improved relationships.

My Journey To Crazyland
Suse Wilcox
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00DAMPVP4, $2.99,

Teen Justine just doesn't fit in with her family, and is about to leave for summer camp when a raccoon leads her on an unexpected adventure to a place called 'Crazyland' where she faces an unusual task: identifying the messages that have shaped her personality and life.

If this seems like ethereal thinking for a teen novel, consider the fact that My Journey to Crazyland is anything but a light adventure or fantasy read: it embeds philosophical and spiritual reflection into its story line and invites teens to think about their values, life goals, and influences as they follow Justine's entry into a crazy world where she observes lives "...either destroyed by ambivalence or renewed by the miracle of faith." The story is all about a young teen's consideration of wisdom and how it's found ("Circumstances don't make who you are; your decisions of how to live despite your circumstances make you who you are, so choose wisely."), and as events evolve, so does Justine's consciousness and awareness of her choices in life, and their consequences.

Reasons for being, lessons to be learned, unconditional love, and a way out of Crazyland are all themes that enhance Justine's journey and educate teens about their life values and choices as Justine's adventure continues. As Justine questions everything, she reflects on words of wisdom she's heard in the past ("Grandma Jean once told me that some old people are simply old, not wise, and that true wisdom is a spiritual gift that cannot be earned from the number of degrees you have, or from anything else.")

More so than your usual leisure adventure, My Journey to Crazyland is especially recommended for teens seeking contemplative depth from their stories. It simply excels in this approach, crafting a story that should appeal to new adults, as well.

33 Traits of Successful Children
Donna Kristine Manley
Christiana Press, LLC
9780977783533, $4.99,

33 Traits of Successful Children is directed to parents who want to teach their kids how to create and focus on life goals leading to success, and outlines a host of attributes shared by successful children, from becoming tech-savvy and adopting a suitable mentor to understanding how etiquette works, creating a bucket list of goals, and even crafting a resume.

While some of these processes would initially seem to indicate an older audience's involvement, the pleasure of 33 Traits of Successful Children is that each trait is outlined with a child in mind. Thus, the discussion of the importance of etiquette is reinforced by links to Emily Post and other etiquette sites, while the admonition to "ask for help" goes beyond making a request and accepting its results to show how this action encourages a team effort and ultimately connects the child to a collaborative process with shared goals rather than operating in an isolating environment, alone.

It should be mentioned that the author's website promotes creating resumes for children, and this website branding is on every page and listed in the 'resumes' section as a key resource supporting the book.

This note aside, 33 Traits of Successful Children is not about building resumes alone; but about understanding and fostering positive relationships, attitudes, and approaches to life at a much earlier age than one might expect. The result is an accessible, simple, yet specific series of actions that invite parents to encourage the types of habits that lead to lifelong success.

C. L. Lynch
One Tall Tree Press
Print ISBN: 9780995307001, $14.99
E-book ISBN: 9780995307018, $3.99

Young adult books that start with a bang tend to follow through on their promise of being engrossing reads, but Chemistry follows this formula and takes it to a new level of tension by presenting an opening paragraph that makes what follows difficult to either predict or set aside: "I used to fear the imaginary: monsters, ghosts, mummies, things that go bump in the night. These days I focused on more realistic threats, like car accidents, social humiliation, or conservative world leaders. But here I was, facing attack from the kind of horror that I long ago relegated to child-ish nightmares. Except I was awake, and this was real, and I was probably going to be killed in a painful and gory way. Maybe I should've gained some comfort from the fact that I was loved."

This is just one indicator that Chemistry is especially recommended for high school to 'new adult' readers seeking a blend of paranormal adventure, romance, and gore in a production which isn't above peppering its story with swearing, as is appropriate for character and scene.

Teen Stella's world appears to be ending because her parents have suddenly decided to uproot her from everything familiar, dragging her halfway across the country with only a few weeks' notice in the middle of the school year.

There are a few surprises right from the beginning: Stella freely swears heavily in front of her parents, who bat not an eye at her use of foul language; but such is in keeping with her overbearing presence - and one of the reasons why she doesn't suffer fools lightly or make friends readily.

Surprise is in store, however, when she gets to her new school to discover that the geek in her chemistry class likes her - and that undead hoards will literally 'eat her alive' if she lets them. What kind of place have her parents taken her to? And can she truly have a different kind of romance with the kind of boy no parent could approve of?

Chemistry doesn't just tell a story - it roars it; between sultry language, vast psychological changes, and a process that keeps even Stella on her toes and re-envisioning the possibilities for her future self: "I could tell him, "Kiss me," and he'd do it. I paused, trying to work up the words. I was trying to reconcile who I was with who I could be. No, Stella Blunt had never been a sap for soppy romance. No, Stella had never done the kissyface stuff. Yes, Stella had always been the "ugh, get a room" type. But Stella could change, right?"

As a zombie invasion leads her to question even her newfound relationships, Stella finds herself on the business end of a chainsaw, facing possibilities she never could have imagined.

Between the spicy language and heady confrontations with death and the undead, Chemistry is not recommended for the younger teen; but for mature teens to new adults will more than appreciate its spunky heroine and parents who are willing to engage in chopping down zombies as Stella finds herself confronting love and Survival 101 at the same time.

Chemistry holds many surprises; among them the underlying themes of self-acceptance and female empowerment, which are part of Stella's personality. It also holds a wry sense of humor that permeates characters and situations as background noise in a gory set of encounters.

Mature young adults seeking something quite different in the way of zombie apocalypse and paranormal romance reads will relish the sense of the unexpected which Chemistry holds in abundance.

Jorie and the Magic Stones
A. H. Richardson
Serano Press
9780692358924, $14.95,

Jorie and the Magic Stones is a chapter book story that tells of nine-year-old Marjorie ("Jorie"), sent to live with her maiden aunt, who anticipates a staid lifestyle devoid of any adventure or excitement. What she discovers couldn't be further from the truth, because Mortimer Manor hides an entire secret world replete with dragons, magic, and a quest involving three stones. All this is further solidified by an unexpected friendship that leaves her not isolated in an old mansion with a cranky spinster, but involved in an effort that could change the world.

All the elements of a powerful adventure along the lines of the classic Narnia series is there, but tailored in such a manner that the chapter book reader just beyond the early primer stage will find much to entertain and delight them.

A.H. Richardson adds a good amount of dialogue and spicy interactions into the story line. One might not expect local dialect to enter into some of the interactions ("Why, if it isn't Master Rufus. Come in. Come in, lad. Don't be jes' standin' out there." She gave him a warm smile. "Aren't you the early one! Oi'm makin' breakfast and Oi'm sure the mistress wouldn't mind if you 'ad a bite."), but the conversations are interesting and relatively easy to understand, offering early opportunities for chapter book readers to absorb approaches typically presented in stories for more advanced readers.

There's nothing simple about the events that unwind in Jorie and the Magic Stones; but this means that chapter book readers on the cusp of moving on to more demanding reading structures will find it a perfect stepping stone towards this direction.

From powerful interpersonal connections forged against the backdrop of magic and mystery to a spunky girl's determination to succeed against all odds, Jorie and the Magic Stones is especially recommended for young fantasy readers likely to benefit from this 'bridge' between the chapter book format and the next level of full-fledged reading in an exquisitely-done story replete with atmosphere, adventure, and strong interpersonal connections.

Ocean Echoes
Sheila Hurst
Soliton Publications
ASIN: B01M23UVHM, $3.99,

Marine biologist Ellen Upton is about to embark on a research cruise that will change her life on more than one level. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world - and the discovery of a new species could certainly do that. She's given up everything - even love - in pursuit of this goal, unpredictable as romance's currents can be, and her choices counter the relentless tide of predictability of her own set course in life.

"There would always be more to know." And one thing Ellen doesn't know is that her work - and her heart - are about to change in ways she can't predict.

As readers wind through the personal and scientific discoveries of Ocean Echoes, they receive a wealth of natural history information embedded into a story line that draws intriguing personal connections between Ellen's scientific investigations and matters of the heart. From a reflection on the color red and the idea that "Love leaves that kind of a mark. Love changes us forever" to her tendency to hide from the world and bury herself in her beloved research, Ellen takes new chances and finds herself experiencing a storm of controversy. Some of her discoveries have no logical explanation, which defies her worldview and everything she's stood for.

Ocean Echoes is about a woman who continually challenges herself. Driven by events that defy everything she's studied or experienced, hers is a wild ride through nature and matters of the heart and will provide romance and women's fiction readers with more depth and density than most one-dimensional focuses on relationships alone.

Readers who enjoy multi-faceted stories of careers, science and nature, and those who love the ocean that Ellen begins to see as alive, will find that Ocean Echoes is an evocative read especially strong in metaphor and imagery, marked with the personality of a scientist who seeks her own way of becoming alive and surviving the changes in her life.

Heels Over Head
Clay G. Small
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
Print ISBN: 9781626343436, $15.95
eBook ISBN: 9781626343450, $TBA

Executive Henry is happily entrenched in a high-stakes job cutting global deals when his position vanishes, leaving him struggling not just for work, but for the source of his identity.

What could this conundrum - and the specter of his beautiful wife's affair, which simultaneously attacks his personal world - have to do with murder and revenge? Plenty, as Henry is about to discover when his attempt at rebuilding his world with a new job only sends it on a dangerous downward spiral.

Heels Over Head is about law gone awry, an entrenched, comfortable life tumbled into a strange new world, and a man's painful reminder that reality is at times on a collision course with illusion. In a war between the sexes, and between business and legal issues, who will be the winner?

And what do tattoos have to do with Henry's entanglements?

Henry's life isn't the only one being turned upside down, and Clay G. Small deftly creates a supporting cast of characters that hold their own places in a decades-long cycle of revenge and complicated relationships. Under another hand, it would have proved all too easy for Henry's story to become overly complicated; but each character plays a key role in changing Henry's life and all dovetail nicely as an atmosphere of intrigue and danger builds to a satisfying crescendo that takes readers far from what initially appears to be a simple story of unemployment and re-creating one's identity.

The result is a fast-paced, involving read that moves through many changes as protagonist Henry faces some of the biggest choices of his life, only to find that many them have come full circle from the past. Without spilling beans, suffice it to say that even with Henry's actions, all is not as it seems - and the door is left well open for further insights even as events lead to many surprises and an unexpected outcome for all.

Cubicle to Cuba: Desk Job to Dream Job
Heidi Siefkas
Privately Published
ISBN: 9780997196320 (paperback), $19.95
ISBN: 9780997196337 (ebook), $9.99

Heidi Siefkas isn't the first author to leave a corporate job for a life of writing and adventure; but she's one of the few who found this path heading to Cuba: a land exotic, forbidden, and in many ways not too far from her own familiar world. And while her adventures begin with and always seem to return to Cuba, they embrace a lifestyle that takes her on world travels which are also narrated here.

Cubicle to Cuba: Desk Job to Dream Job follows Heidi Siefkas through Cuba after she makes a life-changing decision that catapults her from a safe, secure, albeit demanding cubicle job to an uncertain, vivid life as a world-traveling writer, and it "...will teach you about Cuba, but it will also inspire you to think out of the cubicle, travel more, and embark on your own Life 2.0."

Unlike many workers, Siefkas didn't leave because her job was changing for the worse. She left because she felt 'stuck' in the choices she'd made, even though she was in a managerial position at a new start-up. The overall structure of her life was frustrating, so when an unexpected call from a friend offered the chance to travel to Cuba in a new capacity as a tour guide, she decided to take the plunge into the unknown and accept far different working conditions than the set roles and cubicle world politics that were stifling her.

Cubicle to Cuba chronicles this process of change, but what really sets it apart from a travelogue or the usual "I left my job for freedom" approach is the author's attention to detailing the daily experiences of Cuban travel and life; especially when she outlines the spirit of Cuba's peoples: "After nearly twenty trips to Cuba, I have witnessed the spirit of the entire island as turning lemons into lemonade. It's a Cuban way of life. The Cubans I've met are passionate and kind with a stoic essence of the Midwest or Scandinavia. However, it's their zest for life and living in the moment that makes Cuban culture rich and distinct. If life deals them a bad hand of dominos or worse, they move on, perhaps laughing about it. They enjoy the simple things in life such as smoking a good Cuban cigar, drinking a Cuban coffee, sipping Havana Club Reserve, or just watching the world go by with a friend, neighbor, or family member."

With passages such as these, Cubicle to Cuba deftly reveals the heart of the country and its peoples, juxtaposing cultural observations with travel tips and experiences revolving around bathrooms, water, safety, and more. After setting its foundations in Cuba, Siefkas visits and contrasts other places using a precise "you are there" feel and specific insights that allow for clear comparisons of Cuba's differences to, say, Hawaii: "With a distance of more than eight thousand miles between Cuba and Kauai, some amazing similarities struck me on my first summer on the Garden Island. First and foremost, many of the plants are the same...The second similarity between the two islands is the love of pork. Even a novice of Cuban cuisine and culture knows that pork is fabulous, succulent, and the national dish. And the same holds true for Hawaii...The third commonality is island time. Compared to the pace of the Mainland (continental United States), Hawaii takes it slow. There is no "in a New York minute" pace in Hawaii. That wouldn't be aloha. However, aloha island time is still not like in the Caribbean, and Cuba takes the cake. There, living in the moment, not being in a rush, and watching the world go by are a part of Cuban life."

Cubicle to Cuba is a lively journey that is highly recommended for general readers and, especially, for two audiences: those who want experiential accounts of Cuba, and corporate workers who dream of taking the leap into a different kind of lifestyle.

Chatur The Laundry Man
Subhash Kommuru
Kommuru Books
9781946312006, $8.99,
Ordering Link -

Chatur is a hardworking man who runs a door-to-door laundry service in India - thus his title, 'The Laundry Man'. His friend, Gadhu the donkey, carries Chatur and the laundry from the river, where it's washed, to the various houses of his clients, where he delivers the completed jobs.

Despite their cooperative arrangement, the two really have very different goals in life: Chatur wants to be a successful businessman and is driven to gain more customers and work, while Gadhu's nature is to take it easy and enjoy life.

When Chatur overburdens him, Gadhu's favorite saying is: "You gotta take it easy, man!" Is Gadhu's inherent laziness keeping Chatur from getting all the customers he can? Maybe Chatur should be thinking about a different kind of animal helper: one who likes to work.

Atal the elephant seems to better fit Chatur's needs - or does he?

Good reading skills or an adult who reads this picture book aloud will enhance a child's enjoyment of this story, which offers a fun reflection about a workaholic's obsession and its ultimate impact not only on his business, but on his values.

Kids will receive three fine messages here: the value of hard work, what happens when a push for profit supersedes quality of life, and how different approaches to work and play yield very singular results. These messages, rarely presented in a picture book for young readers, come through clearly and strongly and are a powerful feature of a well-done, fun, thought-provoking story that kids and their adult readers will thoroughly appreciate.

Use Your Words
Subhash Kommuru
Kommuru Books
9781946312013, $8.99,

Use Your Words is the picture book story of two brothers who are good students fluent in English, Hindi and French, but who decide to use gibberish to communicate. This annoys their mother, who grounds them and sends them off to bed - but what happens next is anything but expected as the two brothers embark on an unforeseen journey.

When Ramesh and Suresh get a dose of their own approach to language, they begin to understand both their mother's ire and the importance of making good decisions and communicating well.

This message is couched in a lively encounter that will delight the very young, but is best transmitted through parental read-aloud assistance, as the concepts and language will benefit from the interactive process and will make for an easier read with adult assistance.

Some of the language could have received better editing ("Suresh bust up with laughter." should have been 'busts', for example), while some requires an understanding of Indian culture and celebration ("Oh, they're playing Holi games, and he was trying to warn his us!" is rooted deep in the celebration of the festival of Holi).

The overall content and approach are well done, the large-size color drawings by Nayan Soni are interesting, and the underlying message is one that all kids should learn, making Use Your Words a fine example of the importance of communicating effectively.

Kleptomaniac: Who's Really Robbing God Anyway?
Dr. Frank Chase Jr., TH.D
Book Baby
ebook: 9780975521762, $2.99
Print: 9780975521779, $17.47

Kleptomaniac: Who's Really Robbing God Anyway? The Untwisted Truth About the Centuries Old Tithes and Offering Deception examines the history of church tithes, a practice from the early days of Christianity which takes a darker turn as its history and connections to actual Scripture are probed from its original applications to modern times. But if readers expect a supportive Scripture-based emphasis on the value of tithes, it should be advised that Kleptomaniac does not toe a party line of religious propriety but offers a sobering and critical examination of the notion of tithes and how it has changed over the centuries.

Church-goers who struggle with the idea of tithes and Church donation processes will discover that there's reason for their concerns. There is an ongoing battle for truth and orthodoxy surrounding these matters, and this too is covered as Kleptomaniac analyzes the Biblical roots and intention of tithes and how the Church has applied them over the centuries.

This book is dedicated "To those who have suffered the wrath of family, friends, pastors, churches and other Christians for changing their giving practice from mandatory tithing to New Covenant, post-tithe freewill giving, remember, this fight to reveal the truth about tithing started centuries ago. People from many denominations and religious groups have held views against tithing long before we were born and the debate still rages on in the annals of theology."

That tithing has long been a powerful controversy is reflected in the Introduction's dedication: "To those who have been excommunicated from their church, to those who feel shunned, to those who have lost friends, to those who have been cut off from fellowship and to those who want to give from their heart without a percentage mandate, your voices will echo through the pages of this book. Also, to the believers from past generations who died never knowing that a curse on their lives never existed for not tithing, may this book be a light to your descendants who are still afraid to question tithing."

Despite its fiery contentions, Kleptomaniac's approach rests firmly on a combination of historical precedent, experience and analysis, and Scriptural quotes that back Dr. Frank Chase Jr.'s scrutiny. Chapters thus adopt a scholarly tone as they pull quotes from Scripture to analyze them: "I will examine the different tithes as separate items for context. The Bible gives specific instructions on how to distribute the tithe and to whom the tithe belonged. Who did God command to receive the tithe and who paid the tithe? Numbers 18, lays out the legal legislation on tithes under the law. However, before we look at this text, let's jump forward to the New Testament. Hebrews 7:5 is the nail in the proverbial coffin that says who can collect tithes."

From keywords and comparing Bible references to how tithes were (and are) being stolen from early to modern times, Dr. Chase's scholarly analysis is precise, well detailed and reasoned, intricately researched and referenced, and yet is very accessible to lay audiences: "I think this book presents convincing doctrinal evidence that no money tithe argument can be established because it is inconsistent with Scripture, context and history. Although the Bible clearly describes that tithing took place in many verses, it does not mean that we continue the practice through commuting the tithe to money. The description of tithing food in the Old Testament does not equate to a money tithe prescription in the New Testament."

Dr. Chase's attention to detail in covering the history of tithing and his analysis of what constitutes an authentic tithe in keeping with God' Biblical directives includes a great deal of research into early Greek and Hebrew writings, creating a weighty yet authoritative, accessible piece filled with empirical evidence and discussions central to the tithe's place in Christian theology. Although its research-backed history is not light reading, its attention to well-researched detail is impeccably presented, and represents a breath of fresh air to a topic typically laden with more emotion than reasoned inspection.

The result is a thought-provoking read which is very highly recommended for any Church member interested in the history and ongoing debate over tithes, their mandate, and where and how they are spent.

Last Things
Betta Ferrendelli
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781540682475 $14.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

Last Things: A Story of Friendship, Of Love, Loss and Renewal opens with the specter of Bridgette's unborn baby girl, who may be born with Down Syndrome, and tells what happens when the father she's about to marry decides that this diagnosis is a deal-breaker.

The knowledge that he harbors some unacceptable behaviors and selfish attitudes shakes her world as much as her baby's diagnosis and so Bridgette finds her life course irreparably changed, as a result. But The Last Things isn't just about what happens next - it's about endings that bring new beginnings and new revelations to relationships: "I don't think we can do it. I've been thinking about it since you told me. It would just change our lives too much and I don't think it's something we're prepared or want to do. We've got great careers ahead of us. We're going to go on to larger and better newspapers. We're going to be a power couple. How can we be a power couple if we have a child with a disability to worry about?" Her eyes narrowed. "Elliott, we're talking about our daughter, a little life we've made together. How can you think about being a power couple right now?"

There's even more going on than a decision over an unborn child: a woman has taken her life because of Bridgette, and this different kind of loss coupled with her own emotionally wrenching situation sends Bridgette onto a path she never could have conceived of taking.

Suddenly reporter Bridgette makes an about-face in her life, her career, and her entire world, walking out of set habits only to become involved in an accident that will send her life in yet another direction - this one, ultimately and hopefully, for the better.

Last Things is about how relationships end and begin. It's about how courses in life are challenged and changed, and tells how a woman who is responsible for two deaths finds the courage to face them and change who she is. Most of all, it's about selfishness in its various forms, love in its various forms, and surviving and even thriving in a life with a handicapped child.

The choices Bridgette makes brings readers along for a thought-provoking, emotionally filled adventure through love and friendship in a story that's grippingly hard to put down.

The Fisherman's Bride: The Untold Story of the Wife of Simon Peter
Catherine Magia
KHN Press
9781540310446, $9.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle,

Imagine a woman in love with a legend: a woman whose name has "become dust" over the centuries, with nary a footnote to her name, who married a man destined to become a legendary martyr. This is the perspective of Biblical times presented in The Fisherman's Bride: The Untold Story of the Wife of Simon Peter, a spellbinding portrait of not only the conversion of one man, but the blinding light of another (Jesus), whose influence changed the world.

Right from the start, the evocative and compelling tone of The Fishman's Bride casts its line and draws in readers with a deftness that borders on enchantment: "When he called to me, he awakened something beyond the binds of mortality, beyond flesh and skin. It was the memory of light, an exquisite and perfect love embedded within the soul. He taught me to discover the raw material of divinity within the self. He taught that sin splinters the soul, and that we are broken, shards of our own darkness weighing us down."

Perhaps this is because Catherine Magia uses an uncommon perspective and outsider's view of events. And, by 'outsider,' this means observations that come from beyond Jesus' inner circle, yet are closely connected by love and association.

The protagonist is 'daughter' and 'wife' - she has no name. Being nameless, her identity is defined by title and by the men in her life: her father Ephraim, the wealthy suitor whom she rejects, and the poor fisherman she chooses instead, in just one of the bold moves that will redefine her life and highlight her defiance of convention.

But when a young carpenter enters her world and heals her dying mother, this young woman finds herself on a journey that leads her into new definitions of love, faith, and commitment.

Also included in the saga are stories of fortunes made and lost, faith thwarted and regained, fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and the impact of social and political change upon entire communities. Catherine Magia's attention to embracing the extent of daily living in Biblical times, from different methods of preserving fish to different attitudes encountered during their travels, brings the story to life: "My husband usually avoided the sojourn to the metropolis due to the multitude of pilgrimages. With every religious festival, myriad caravans traveled to the city of glittering limestone and the Feast of Unleavened Bread was approaching. I would accompany my husband, crossing out of Galilee into the unwelcoming land of Judea. Despite sharing one God, Judeans regarded their northern brethren as bumpkins, incapable of understanding the finer things in life. They were city folk, educated in Aramaic and Greek, condescending to us villagers. Even our accent was repugnant to them."

Readers of Christian literature and Biblical retellings will find this story a powerfully written, compelling account of the impact of Jesus on all layers of society, narrated from the eyes of an outsider to his central group of believers who uses the ordinary life experiences of an unnamed wife to chronicle an extraordinary journey of love, faith, and miracles.

How I Am Different
Thom Kudla
To a T Books
ebook: 9781365214455 (ebook version - available everywhere ebooks are sold), $9.99
Hardcover: 9780692687635 (only available from author's website), $35.00

In the interests of daily chronicling and analytically reflecting his life, Thom Kudla spent one whole year entering his thoughts, free verse impressions, and experiences; then spent a second year responding to each daily entry from the prior year. How I Am Different is the result of this inspection process, and delivers a disparate gathering of thoughts and impressions that swing from philosophical analysis to emotional observations.

Readers with a prior affection for free verse, philosophy, and journaling will find this an intriguing method of self-analysis and "in the moment" living which captures daily life experiences and translates them to prose poems and stanzas packed with ideas and insights: "Lonely, he sits and wonders/how he can afford/to give his love away/when he receives none."

From universal truths and altered perceptions brought about by the passage of time to the nature of insanity (repeating mistakes of the past) and reflections on the changes to humanity brought about by the computer age ("...people will forget what real human interaction is like and the slightest touch will scare them back into the barren glare of their computer screen. People will wonder why there are no children being born. The act of making children will be just as forgotten as the joy of simple human interaction. Love is virtually unheard of when life is virtual. The computer is the end of human civilization, reflected across our eyes."), the blend of initial reflection and return to the thoughts of that same day, a year later, makes for an intriguing juxtaposition of ideas, impressions and reflections over a period of time.

It should be acknowledged that this is a diverse scattering of thoughts and observations, as may be predicted by daily entries produced over a long period of time. There's no uniform theme aside from the precision and discipline involved in daily chronicling; and aside from the passage of time and the structure of re-examination each corresponding day a year later, the 'glue' that binds this collection together lies more in its evolutionary process than in any singular approach to life. There is, however, attention given to a structure that clearly juxtaposes the prior year with a continuation of the observation a year later. Clear "Year One/Year Two" title lines and only slight changes to each piece's name ("Language of Joy" in Year One and "Language of Madness" in Year Two) leave nothing to wonder about the initial entry or its continuation.

Readers receive a selection of poetry juxtaposed with short prose in a format that translates Thom Kudla's reflections on his own daily life progression to the movements experienced by many of his readers making their own journeys through life.

The result is 365 days of peaks, valleys, and ideas that deftly chronicles the difference a single year makes in one's life: a literary work that will captivate anyone interested in journaling and a uniquely precise, narrowed focus on life's progressive changes.

The Wolf of Dorian Gray
Brian S. Ference
Privately Published
9780998325200, $9.99,

The Wolf of Dorian Gray: A Werewolf Spawned by the Evil of Man is the first book of a series revolving around the classic figure of Dorian Gray and his struggles with evil, which takes the form here of the last remaining wolf in 1800s England.

As in the original Oscar Wilde Portrait of Dorian Gray, Dorian faces the temptations of wicked forces and the drive to be good; but unlike Portrait, a wolf enters the picture to grow from a persecuted, hunted beast into a dangerous, malevolent force that enters London with malevolent intentions.

In this scenario Dorian may be the only force that can stop or transform it - or, is he just another pawn in the devil's game?

From artist Sage's relationship with the enigmatic and handsome Dorian Gray and the reasons behind her attraction to him ("Dorian is my dearest friend. He is kind and has a pure soul and a simple nature. You'll try to influence him or spoil him somehow. This is the one person who adds more to my art then I could ever explain and I couldn't stand to lose him.") to Dorian's sexual exploits with Sibyl and the mirrored experiences of wolf and Dorian as they become more confident about their prowess and places in the world, The Wolf of Dorian Gray crafts a masterful synthesis of two disparate characters who find their journeys and perspectives intermingling.

Rarely does romance and revenge intersect so pleasurably and delicately, forming a dance of passion and purpose that embraces a soul search and a confrontation between choices of salvation and sin.

The result is especially recommended as a concurrent read with Wilde's original masterpiece, taking the original Portrait's complexity a step further in adding a werewolf into the evolution of an entirely new facet of Dorian Gray's persona, complete with a surprise conclusion examining who is truly monster and who is master.

Literary readers with the original in hand will relish this wide-ranging, thought-provoking extrapolation on Dorian's theme.

Learn ANY Language
Janina Kilmas
Real Life Language
ASIN: B01ITRQ5VI, $6.99,

Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency is directed to novice language learners with no experience in learning languages; not to those who have mastered several already. As such, it begins with the basics of what language is, how it is learned, and the author's own experiences growing up in an English-speaking household with little to no contact with foreign languages.

Mastering Spanish in school still didn't result in any real fluency in the language, so Janina Kilmas embarked on a journey to gain these skills; the results of which are posted on her blog and here in her basic primer.

The first thing to note (besides its audience: the bare-bones, non-linguist) is its method. You don't have to be a child with uncommon abilities to absorb a language, nor do you have to be surrounded by a language's native speakers in order to gain fluency. What is required is an attention to detail and a method of quick comprehension.

Pages of introductory detail encourage newcomers to learn a new language, pairing an overview of common myths and misconceptions about the process with a light historical review and survey of what defines 'fluency' in any given language.

Later chapters hold more specifics about technique, from close, deep reading and workbook notes to understanding word patterns in other languages, listening to books on tape in foreign languages, and navigating different levels of language learning to build a progressive foundation of knowledge.

It should also be advised that this is no quick process: readers who look to gain fluency in a short period of time should know that fluency and quality language learning commonly do not translate into 30- or even 90-day time frames.

All this said, beginners new to the idea of learning a foreign tongue from scratch will find Learn ANY Language offers a delightful start to the process and provides much encouragement and basic methodology.

The Actress
Michael Hicks Thompson
Shepherd King Publishing
9780984528240, $18.00,

Christian readers who love a good mystery are in for a treat with Michael Hicks Thompson's The Actress, the second book in the Solo series, because it peppers Scripture quotes and a diverse cast of characters from all walks of life into a lively story replete with intrigue, humor, and religious inspection.

It's not an easy job to keep all these facets in balance while juggling a series of puzzling events, but The Actress performs in a lively manner, enriched by the fact that it is inspired by a true story.

The tale is narrated by Martha McRae, a newspaper publisher (and its only writer), Mississippi boarding house owner, and community member in a 310-person small town which is facing a celebrity in its midst.

One wouldn't expect a famous movie star to shoot a local farmer in the middle of the night in Solo, Mississippi, but it happens - and Martha's investigative hackles are raised by the sobbing wife of the dead husband. Of course she becomes involved, because: "I'm the only reporter for The Bethel County Gazette. The knowing is easy. It's the unknown that takes time to uncover. In a small town like Solo, we know everything about everybody. It's strangers who keep us up at night. And crickets."

The actress has been involved in a death before, with unresolved conclusions; but this one seems fairly straightforward: she saw a man attempting to break into her bedroom, and shot him. The problem lies in a note found in his hand, and the only possible conclusion is that more is going on than meets the eye.

Was it self-defense? Murder? Or something else?

What sets The Actress apart from most murder mysteries is a wry sense of ironic humor that permeates events seen through Martha's eyes, paired with a Christian perspective that keeps the story line clean, reflective, and delightfully revealing - all this tempered with passages about Mississippi culture that include social insights, as well: "Mississippi already had its fair share of negative publicity, what with the Ole Miss riots a few weeks ago. Segregationists were still protesting the enrollment of James Meredith, a black military veteran. Two civilians and a French journalist had been killed. The negative stories would set us back for years."

The subtlety of these approaches belies any belief that the story will become preachy, staid, or predictable. These characters are firmly rooted in their small-town traditions and beliefs; but this doesn't mean they are inflexible, prejudiced, or single-minded: in fact, these beliefs ground them and enable them to examine their world and its events with a solid foundation of faith mixed with social consciousness. Are there coincidences, or does God have a purpose in mind even in a murder? Watch for the clues that ultimately lead to real answers.

The result is a delightfully lively, clear, clean production filled with a fun group of disparate characters whose choices and decisions affect and reflect a small town's God-fearing approaches to life, justice, and death. Christian mystery readers will be delighted with its wry observational style and the humor which is embedded into a search for the truth.

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services

Dunford's Bookshelf

Shadow of Victory
David Weber
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476781822 $28.00 hc / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Sometimes things don't work out exactly as planned. The Mesan Alignment has a plan - one it's been working on for centuries. A plan to remake the galaxy and genetically improve the human race - its way.

Until recently, things have gone pretty much as scheduled, but then the Alignment hit a minor bump in the road called the Star Empire of Manticore. So the Alignment engineered a war between the Solarian League, the biggest and most formidable interstellar power in human history. To help push things along, the Alignment launched a devastating sneak attack which destroyed the Royal Manticoran Navy's industrial infrastructure.

And in order to undercut Manticore's galaxy-wide reputation as a star nation of its word, it launched Operation Janus - a false-flag covert operation to encourage rebellions it knows will fail by promising Manticoran support. The twin purposes are to harden Solarian determination to destroy the Star Empire once and for all, and to devastate the Star Empire's reputation with the rest of the galaxy.

But even the best laid plans can have unintended consequences, and one of those consequences in this case may just be a new dawn of freedom for oppressed star nations everywhere.

Critique: The fourth book in the Saganami Island saga set in the "Honorverse", a science fiction epic filled with military conflict and political intrigue, Shadow of Victory explores the galaxy-spanning events of previous novels from a dramatically different point of view. Fans of the series who enjoy author David Weber's keen attention to detail will especially enjoy this behind-the-scenes revelation of how the best-laid plans of Honor Harrington's ruthless enemies were revealed and defied. Highly recommended for military sci-fi connoisseurs! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Shadow of Victory is also available in a Kindle edition ($28.00).

Fever Swamp
Richard North Patterson
1290 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10104,
9781681441658 $26.99 hc / $12.99 Kindle

Synopsis: By fall 2015, the rise of Donald Trump as the likely Republican nominee confirmed that, for better or worse, Americans had been transported to a strange new land populated by mysterious creatures, where the normal laws of the political universe no longer applied. Fascinated, amused, and appalled, bestselling novelist Richard North Patterson accepted an invitation to write one column per week for the Huffington Post about the presidential race. Those essays are collected here for the first time in a highly personal "journal" chronicling Patterson's observations in real time.

Before long, thousands of Americans were reading Patterson's weekly descriptions of the campaign, a gauntlet without rules in which the projected psyches of the candidates reflected--and stirred--the roiling emotions of a substantially disgruntled electorate. Smart, prescient, funny, and deeply informed by extensive background research, these pieces form a narrative that captures the race as it occurred--the bald-faced lies, the painful truths, the pivotal issues, and the astonishing personalities that made the election of 2016 utterly unpredictable and uniquely consequential. Best of all, in marginalia scattered throughout the book Patterson looks back to see where he was right, where he was wrong, and where events were so beyond human experience that no one could have predicted them.

In this bracing, funny book, Patterson brings to bear a novelist's piercing sensibility to the process of examining the election, moments that betray a candidate's character and inner life and hold up a mirror to the American population. Filled with fresh insights and indelible prose, Fever Swamp is a masterful take on a unique campaign filled with the pathos, humor, and important lessons of the liveliest playground shoving match.

Critique: Fever Swamp: A Journey Through the Strange Neverland of the 2016 Presidential Race lives up to its title as a shining light of clarity making as much sense as can be made of the chaotic, conflicting, and confusing events leading up to America's 2016 presidential election. Author and "Huffington Post" political columnist Richard North Patterson explains events in plain terms, thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, in the bite-sized pieces of one weekly column at a time. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Fever Swamp is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Thirty-Three Years, Thirty-Three Works
Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574416558 $45.00

Synopsis: Francis Edward "Ab" Abernethy served as the Secretary-Editor of the Texas Folklore Society for over three decades, managing the organization's daily operations and helping it grow. He edited two dozen volumes of the PTFS series and wrote the three volumes of the Society's history. This publication of the Texas Folklore Society celebrates Ab Abernethy's years of leadership in collecting, preserving, and presenting the folklore of Texas and the Southwest. The prefaces to some of the more memorable edited volumes are included, along with articles he wrote on music, teaching, anecdotes about historical figures and events, and "cultural" examinations of the things we hold dear. In all, these pieces tell us what was important to Ab. In part, these topics are also what was - and still is - important to the Texas Folklore Society.

Critique: Occasional black-and-white photographs and an index enrich this insightful tribute and tour of the contributions that Francis Abernethy made to the Texas Folklore Society. Thirty-Three Years, Thirty-Three Works is a joy to browse, worthy of extended reflection. Highly recommended.

The Man Nobody Knew
Garrett C. Whitworth
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781512739947, $39.95, HC, 358pp,

Synopsis: All twelve of the apostles who followed Jesus were shocked when He announced to them: "Philip, you -- and all the rest of you, too -- have been with me for almost three years and yet you still don't know me. All twelve of them had been his closest associates for the past three years. They had traveled throughout Galilee and Judea with him. They had carefully observed him interact with all types of people in all manner of circumstances. They were puzzled, dismayed, even angry at what they thought was His unjust and untrue characterization of us, his dearest friends. Had their service to Him and His cause been in vain? Although a work of fiction by author Garrett Whitworth, "The Man Nobody Knew" draws from the Gospel accounts to bring to life the man every person somehow innately desires to know. It's an irresistible, compelling, surprising road trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem, from a wooden manger to a wooden tree. And at every step of His ministry is His call to "Follow me".

Critique: A compelling and thoroughly engaging read from cover to cover, "The Man Nobody Knew" is very highly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Man Nobody Knew" is also available in a paperback edition (9781512739930, $24.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Home To Texas
Thom Nicholson
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432832902, $25.95, HC, 246pp,

Synopsis: Doctor Travis Sasser is the chief surgeon of General Hood's Texas Brigade and has served with distinction since the beginning of the American Civil war. Unfortunately, he is captured during the Chattanooga campaign and sent to the POW camp at Rock Island, Illinois. As the time drags by and the war nears its end, Travis receives word that his family's ranch in Texas is about to be grabbed by carpetbaggers for nonpayment of taxes. In desperation he breaks out of prison along with his medical orderly, Homer Waites, and Jake Wheeler, a crusty sergeant from Nathan Forrest's cavalry corps. Jake knows where some Union payroll is hidden; just what Travis needs to save his ranch. Joining with Marie and Irma, two female spies working for the South, they brazenly make their way through the Union lines to Texas. Once there, Travis pays off the tax lien, but determines that a cattle drive is the only way to get the ranch back on its feet. The drive is made, east, to the Mississippi, overcoming outlaws under the command of Jeremy Asherton, Travis's sworn enemy. Travis's medical skill is tested as he fights to save Marie, the Confederate spy he has come to love.

Critique: "Home To Texas" is the third book in Thom Nicholson's outstanding 'Civil War' series and continues to document his mastery of the western action/adventure genre. While very highly recommended for community library Western Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of western fiction buffs that "Home To Texas" is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).

Silver Moon Rising
Ethan J. Wolfe
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432832797, $25.95, HC, 261pp,

Synopsis: Lang and his small band of three outlaws plan the perfect robbery. An Indian Affairs agent is traveling by stagecoach to Denver. In his possession is forty thousand dollars he embezzled from funds destined to help the native tribes in his care. Lang and his gang hold up the stagecoach at a way station and relieve the Indian Agent of the forty thousand. Also on the stage are Rosa Escalante, and her son Joaquin and two soldiers. Lang's men betray him. They knock him unconscious, kill the soldiers and stagecoach drivers and then drive the coach with Rosa and her son away from the station where they violate her and then tie her and Joaquin up and abandon the stagecoach.

Realizing he will hang for murders he didn't commit, Lang must put distance between him and the way station. He needs time and a safe place to organize his thoughts and figure out what to do and he heads for the secret outlaw hideaway in the Big Horn Mountains known as the Hole in the Wall. Lang needs two things to make good on his plan, a horse and luck. What he doesn't need is Rosa Escalante and her son following him, but that's what he gets.

Critique: With "Silver Moon Rising", author Ethan J. Wolfe has deftly crafted another and original terrific action/adventure western and demonstrates himself to be a true master of the genre. An inherently gripping read from beginning to end, "Silver Moon Rising" is enthusiastically recommended for the personal reading lists of western adventure fans, and is certain to be an enduringly popular and highly prized addition to community library Western Fiction collections.

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Prodigal Son
Danielle Steel
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781101965900, $9.99

It's been a while since I've read anything by Danielle Steel. Mainly because, her over use of and, but, and suddenly 26 to 30 times a page. I found these three words slowed down each of her novels so much that I could not enjoy them. Regrettably she is still over using these three words. It is unfortunate because she has interesting characters and conflicts in her novels but in my case I just do not want to put up with the tedious repetition. In fact she is the only author I've ever seen use these three words so many times a page. It's surprising that her works have never been edited to correct this problem. I often have suggested to writers to read a fair number of pages with pen in hand to cross out and, but and suddenly on the page. They are just not needed that many times a page.

Hank Parker
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
978150115637, $25.99,

Biologically altered tics are the clear and present danger to humanity in the frightening novel "Containment." The man made disease is launched all over the world with devastating results that has to be stopped very quickly or else humans will cease to exist. Told at a break net pace "Containment" races along with believable characters who must confront and stop the menacing outbreak of altered tics. They must also learn who created this global catastrophe and why. "Containment" is a first class chilling thriller in the tradition of Robin Cook.

Below The Belt
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399573972, $28.00,

Stone Barrington is given a simple task. Pick up an item and deliver it to a friend who is waiting for it. Unfortunately for Stone, the errand quickly spins out of control. The information Stone is receiving could destroy the lives of several well known politicians including the current president and vice president of the United States. To complicate matters, there is a wealthy businessman who is looking into the possibility of a run for the presidency. The story gets more complicated as it unfolds making "Below The Belt" another thrilling story in the Stone Barrington universe.

Settle For More
Megyn Kelly
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062494603, $29.99

"Settle For More" is a shining example of what you can do if you want to change your life. For 9 years Megyn Kelly worked as a very successful attorney but something was missing in her life. She had always wanted to be a journalist. For whatever reason she did not do what she wanted until one day she saw a television show that changed her life forever. She realized then she could do much better and that she was the person who controlled her destiny by striving for something better. For other people in similar situations "Settle For More" is a positive message that shows you can get everything you want and more if you take the first step to do so.

Through Rose Colored Glasses
Donna Degan
Closet Books
c/o Robert Crane Publishing
P.O. Box 440504, Jacksonville, Florida 32222
9781891232190, $24.95,

In "The Good Fight" Donna Deegan told how she dealt with breast cancer a second time. In "Through Rose Colored Glasses," she tells how she battled the disease for a third time. Now she shows how she has learned to deal with stress differently, changed to a holistic approach but she still uses the traditional medical practices as well with total faith in her doctors and the treatments she receives. She also lets readers in on how she began a foot race to raise awareness and money to help others dealing with breast cancer. "Through Rose Colored Glasses" is a well written, uplifting account to others to know they are not alone in their fight against cancer. Portions of the proceeds of "Through Rose Colored Glasses," and "The Good Fight" go to two of the charities Donna is a part of to fight breast cancer.

Blood Feud The Clintons VS. The Obamas
Edward Klein
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786039111, $9.99,

I do not believe what author Edward Klein says in "Blood Feud The Clintons VS. the Obamas. They may disagree on a number of issues but what we have seen with the last three presidential races is that the Clintons were there for the Obamas and the Obamas were there for the Clintons in total solidarity. The writing is interesting but I for one just do not buy the claims of Edward Klein. Readers will have to decide for themselves as to the validity of the claims made all through "Blood Feud."

Family: Many Lives - One Story
Victoria Noorzai
Legacy Book Publishing
9781937952976, $19.95,

With the political turmoil in her home country of Afghanistan Victoria Noorzai sought a new life in another country. Now she tells her story of how she left her native country and found her way to the United States. She reveals her family life and how it was also affected by the unrest in her country. For the first time we get a view of Afghanistan that is very different from what we've seen before. Unlike the war torn country we've known for so long she depicts a place filled with education centers and much more before being torn apart by the Russian invaders so many years ago. "Family: Many Lives - One Story" is a fascinating story that shows why the United States is still a beacon of hope for oppressed individuals around the world.

The Blue Crocodile
Sarah Case Mamika, author
Nicolas Peruzzo, illustrator
Mirror Publishing
9781612250014, $12.99,

Deep in the African jungle a blue crocodile searches for someone to like him. He knows other animals stay clear of him because he is blue instead of green like others of his species who are normal. Soon he finds a hippo that no one likes because he stinks. The blue Crocodile and the stinky hippo become fast friends and have a series of adventures together. "The Blue Crocodile" is another beautifully told story of friendship of two different souls who find they have a lot in common.

A Turtle's Magical Adventure
Wanda Luthaman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530832569, $6.99,

Readers of all ages should enjoy "A Turtle's Magical Adventure." Tad the turtle thinks his shell is holding him back in life, so he goes on a quest to learn more about himself. "A Turtle's Magical Adventure" is an enchanting tale of someone on a pursuit to realize who and what he is.

The Adventures of Ally Gator
R. L. Austin, author
Hans Guignard, illustrator
Privately Published
9780996470605, $9.99,

Ally, a female gator has a dilemma. She finds an egg but no one she goes to can help her decide what type it is. The next morning there are several cracking noises and out pops a baby duck. Now, Ally has to put her new friend in touch with other ducks. This beautifully illustrated story is a wonderful tale of friendship between two different types of individuals that is an amazing teaching tool for kids and adults to learn how to get along. "The Adventures of Ally Gator" is a charming story for all ages to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Brooklyn Secrets
Triss Stein
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204104, $26.95, Hardcover, 242 pp,

From the publisher: Erica Donato, Brooklyn girl, urban history grad student, and single mom, is researching the 1930s when Brownsville was the homeof the notorious organized criminals the newspapers called Murder Inc. She quickly learns that even in rapidly changing Brooklyn, Brownsville remains much as it was. It is still poor, it is stil tough,and it still breeds fighters and gangs. Doing field research, Erica stops in at the landmark local library and meets Savanna, a young woman who is the pride of her mother and her bosses, and is headed for an elite college and a future. A few days later, she is found beaten and left for dead. Her anguished mother is everywhere, insisting someone knows something. After a massive, angry demonstration, a young girlfriend of Savanna's is found dead too. Is there a connection? Did perfect Savanna have a few secrets? Erica is curious. But she's focused on the 1930s and has located a few women who are happy to share memories. Two are childhood friends who disagree on much, but guard secrets too - ones kept for a lifetime. Never one to resist looking deeper than her research requires, Erica keeps encountering an apparent derelict white man, a vengeful rejected girlfriend, the role of boxing as a way out of poverty, and fading evidence of long-ago crimes.

This is the third book in the series, and each one gives an insightful look at the borough where I grew up. I can vouch for its authenticity, at least to the extent that I recognize the view of its past. The challenge of Erica's research is matched only by the challenge of bringing up a teenage daughter, all of it very well-drawn, as are the characters who populate the novel. I especially loved the two women of about 90 years of age who are a great resource for Erica as she tries to recapture the people and the "hood" of decades earlier, all fascinating and very believable.

A small white woman in her thirties, Erica certainly stands out in the streets inhabited almost exclusively by non-whites where she tries to get the information she needs to complete her dissertation "on how Brooklyn neighborhoods change over time and the impact of different kinds of newcomers," and later to try to find the criminals/killers who rule the area. Savanna is a young woman with a bright future, having gotten a scholarship to a prestigious college, when that life is taken away from her with awful brutality. Absorbing and well-written, the novel is a worthy follow-up to the earlier entries in the series, and is recommended.

Falling into the Mob
Steve Zousmer
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor,NY 11963
9781579624361, $29.95, Hardcover, 320 pp,

From the publisher: At 59, facing a dull and lonely future, Phil Vail yearns for a way to put vigor and purpose into his remaining years. Then he finds the Mafia. He is riding a commuter train, enjoying a chat with the younger woman sitting next to him when they encounter three drunks threatening violence and rape. Phil is powerless and terrified but the woman is neither: her father is the caporegime of New York's Sforza crime family and a cell call brings her three mobster brothers who deal out brutal punishment. Phil is appalled but fascinated. In subsequent contacts with the woman he finds himself falling in love and his fall takes him deeper into the Mob. Then comes the game changer: a crazy-seeming offer to become a crime boss himself, an offer he cannot refuse. Phil sees the dark comedy in his situation but tells the story earnestly in a first-person account describing his emotions, reflections and surprising leadership as well as adventures including a sensational brawl with a Mafia kingpin in a posh Manhattan restaurant, a near-death experience in a karate dojo, and a spectacular stunt to force the hand of the FBI.

This novel had me hooked from the first page, something that seldom happens, I must admit, But the opening scene, which has our protagonist falling in love and falling into the mob in quick succession, is written in so engaging a fashion that it has the reader swiftly engaged in the tale.

Phil, divorced for 3 years and with a 26-year-old son, is 20 years older than Sylvia, the woman who entrances him immediately. A former client, who also was his last-remaining client, decides he wants to run for the presidency of the US. His description in this regard may sound familiar to many: "He had no elected-office experience, no campaign experience, no voter constituency, and no political agenda.' The author also speaks of a high-lever meeting which takes place in a venue whose guests include "a celebrity real estate mogul who pushed to the front eager for camera time," a description which might also sound familiar.

Our protagonist muses that he "was finally getting the hang of gangster rock 'n' roll." The novel references writings and writers including John LeCarre and William Shakespeare, just an example of the erudition and simply wonderful writing found here. A very fast and terrific read, the novel is highly recommended.

The Treacherous Net
Helene Tursten, author
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY,NY 10003
9781616957469, $26.95, Hardcover, 320 pp
9781616957674, $15.95 Paperback, 336 pp.,

From the publisher: It's May and the snow has hardly melted in Goteborg, Sweden, but things are heating up quickly for Detective Inspector Irene Huss in the Violent Crimes Unit. The body of a teenage girl is found in the woods, naked and horrifically scarred. Then there's the mummified body that is discovered bricked up in a chimney on a demolition site, not to mention the city's ongoing problem with gang violence. With the sudden influx of cases and one detective out on maternity leave, everyone is stretched thin. To make matters worse, Irene feels more than a little intimated by the new superintendent, Efva Thylqvist, who uses her sex appeal and smooth talking to bend the predominantly male staff to her will. Then a 2nd young girl is found. Irene and her colleagues embark on a desperate hunt that takes them deep into a shadowy world of anonymous online predators and insecure teenage girls on a deadly quest for affirmation.

The eye-catching first sentence of the newest book in Inspector Irene Huss series is: "Elof Persson had to die." And the engrossing plot doesn't really let up from there. The first dead body turns up on page nine, that of 14-year-old Alexandra Hallwiin, who had been missing for five days after having gone missing on Walpurgis Night, April 30th, when she went out for an evening with friends. The 2nd young girl's body is found shortly thereafter, the manner of death being eerily similar, hinting of a serial killer on the loose. Irene Huss, who had worked 19 years in Homicide, 6' tall and the only female inspector in the department, is on the team investigating the murders. The "treacherous net" of the title refers, as some might guess, to the internet. As Irene muses, "the police were fighting an unfair battle against new technology, and they were always light years behind." The cops have to delve into "the methods used by men who exploit the Internet to try to establish sexual contact with children," most of whom are under 17 years of age.

The mummified body turns out to be that of a man who had gone many yearss ago. The murder weapon, found near the body, turns out to be a 1937 Russian gun. That aspect of the novel I found out to be somewhat plodding. Even one of the cops "didn't even attempt to suppress a sigh. Moscow. The war. Spies. Murder. Sixty-seven years ago. He sighed again." I knew just how he felt.

That said, the other aspects of the cases, and the current murders, are tightly knit, and the suspense level heightens considerably as the book nears its conclusion. This is the eighth book in the series by this author, and it is definitely as good as the previous novels, which is high praise indeed.

Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. Recommended.

False Positive
Andrew Grant
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345540751, $27.00, Hardcover, 352 pp.
9780345540768, $9.99, Paperback, 384 pp,

This first in a new series by Andrew Grant introduces us to Birmingham, Alabama detective Cooper Devereaux. He is partnered with equally unconventional Jan Loflin, just coming off a long undercover stint in Vice, tasked with finding a seven-year-old boy who has disappeared from his suburban home. Devereaux himself has just recently been taken off suspension. Suffice it to say that he has an unconventional way of doing his job, which had ultimately caught up with him.

From the publisher: The more Devereaux digs into the missing child's background, the more he discovers about his own, eventually shaking loose a series of harrowing truths - - about bloodlines, mass murder, obsession, and what two damaged detectives have in common with the innocent victim they're so desperate to save. Complicating things even further is Devereaux' discovery of the dead body of a woman at one point in his investigation.

It soon becomes apparent that the boy's kidnapping is just the latest in a long list of kidnappings whose victims were all orphans. Devereaux, an orphan himself, becomes even more deeply emotionally involved than he had been. This is so much more than just a police procedural, filled as it is with unraveling truths dealing with bloodlines, mass murder, and obsession, much of that in Devereaux' own background. Interspersed between many chapters are extracts from Police Files and Court records on Devereaux, calling into question just what is and is not true about him. As well, the reader doesn't discover the identity of the kidnapper (till then just referred to as "the woman") until quite late in the book, and the suspense abounds until, and even after, that point. And the meaning of the title, "False Positive," doesn't become apparent until just a bit earlier than that.

Devereaux' father, also a cop, had been killed, or so he had always believed, in the line of duty, nearly 40 years ago. Just one of many things as to his own background which he discovers during the course of the investigation, to his shock and dismay. And the turn the novel takes as it nears its end is thoroughly unexpected. This suspenseful novel is recommended.

The Nature of the Beast
Louise Penny
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250022080, $27.99, Hardcover, 374 pp
9781250022103, $15.99, Paperback, 400 pp,

From the publisher: Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to winged trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village. But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true. And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.

This is the 11th book in the series, which all take place in and around the Quebec village of Three Pines, variously described as lost, hidden in the hills, and not on any map or GPS, in the middle of nowhere, and a place where "getting lost was almost a prerequisite for finding the place," despite all of which it seems also to be the site of a very old, and potentially monstrous, weapon

All the residents of the village are present, and the many fans of the series will welcome them: Gamache, now in his late fifties and retired from the Surete; Chief Inspector Isabella Lacoste, who holds the office previously held by Gamache, who has now been offered the job as Superintendent, heading up the division that oversees Homicide and Serious Crimes but doesn't seem keen to come out of retirement; Myrna, a large black woman who runs a new and used bookstore and was once a prominent psychologist in Montreal; Ruth Zardo, an eccentric, award-winning poet, and Rosa, her beloved pet duck; Gabri and Olivier, the lovers who run the bistro and the B&B; Monsieur Beliveau, the grocer; Clara Morrow, an artist and portraitist; as well as Henri, Gamache's German shepherd. Crucial as well is Jean-Guy Beauvoir, a Surete officer in his late thirties, formerly Gamache's second in command and now married to his daughter. A new character is Adam Cohen, Lacoste's trainee and protege at the behest of Gamache, who plays a key role in the intricate plot.

Three Pines, and its residents, remain as charming as ever. An interesting note is found in Gamache's revelation that he was raised by his Jewish grandmother, which explains his familiarity with Yiddish expressions. As always the writing is never less than elegant, and the book is recommended.

Night School
A Jack Reacher Novel
Lee Child
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780804178808, $28.99 US / 37.00 CAD / $14.99 Kindle, 384 pp,

From the publisher: It's 1996, and Reacher is still in the army. In the morning they give him a medal, and in the afternoon they send him back to school. That night he's off the grid. Out of sight, out of mind. Two other men are in the classroom - - an FBI agent and a CIA analyst. Each is a first-rate operator, each is fresh off a big win, and each is wondering what the hell they are doing there. Then they find out: A Jihadist sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, has received an unexpected visitor - - a Saudi courier, seeking safe haven while waiting to rendezvous with persons unknown. A CIA asset, undercover inside the cell, has overheard the courier whisper a chilling message: "The American wants a hundred million dollars." For what? And who from? Reacher and his two new friends are told to find the American. Reacher recruits the best soldier he has ever worked with: Sergeant Frances Neagley. Their mission heats up in more ways than one, while always keeping their eyes on the prize: If they don't get heir man, the world will suffer an epic act of terrorism. From Langley to Hamburg, Jalalabad to Kiev, "Night School" moves like a bullet through a treacherous landscape of double crosses, faked identities, and new and terrible enemies, as Reacher maneuvers inside the game and outside the law.

Reacher is an imposing figure. He is a military cop, 35 years old, a major with twelve years in, with rare attributes: He is brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6' 5" and 250 pounds. He thinks of himself as "a good street fighter. Mostly because he enjoyed it." He thinks of his new "assignment" as a cooperation school, these disparate government agencies not known for getting along well together. When the men fly to Hamburg, Reacher thinks: "He had dealt with German cops before. Both military and civilian. Not always easy. Mostly due to different perceptions. Germans thought they had been given a country, and Americans thought they had bought a large military base with servants." The identity of their primary target, known only as The American, is not known till 160 pages in, and the item[s] being sold not known until page 300. We are reminded of the callous mindset when one character says "soccer wasn't so bad. He had once seen it played with a human head."

The book is intricately and meticulously plotted. It was different from prior books in the series in that it is not as taught and edge-of-your-seat as previous entries, but the reader is carried along from beginning to end, just somewhat more sedately. It is trademark Lee Child/Jack Reacher, however, and is recommended.

Rainy Day Women
Kay Kendall
Stairway Press
9781941071175, $14.95, Paperback, 278 pp,

Austin Starr lives with her husband, David, and three-month-old baby, Wyatt, in Toronto, where they have moved from their home in Cuero in south Texas [population 7,000] because of David's status as a draft resister - this does take place in the late 1960's. One evening she receives a phone call from 21-year-old Larissa, her dear friend who is 2 years younger than Austin, calling from her temporary home in Vancouver to tell her that her close friend, Shona, has died; worse, that she was murdered, and that she, Larissa, was the Mounties' prime suspect.

Shona was a grad student in the Chem Lab at the University of British Columbia. It was initially deemed to be an accident which occurred just before the women's lib meeting was to start, till the police say she was poisoned. Just to complicate matters a little more, another UBC student was killed, at about the same time as Shona. Larissa begs Austin to come out to help her, which she does [over her husband's objections]. (Her last sleuthing job was when David was a murder suspect, ending after he had spent ten days in jail. That one left her thinking that "nosing around the debris left behind by murder was not a frolicsome pursuit.") This time around she has to get Larissa free from suspicion and out of trouble.

This book clearly evokes the days of bellbottoms, the anti-war protests, Woodstock, the Sharon Tate murder, and the days when Women's Lib was a big topic over the country.

Interestingly, most chapters run less than ten pages, only one coming in at 11.

As to the title, most of the tale takes place in Vancouver, where every day is a day filled with rain, if not a complete deluge.

An intriguing plot and a race to identify suspects and find the killer keep the pages turning swiftly.


Truth Always Kills
Rick Ollerman
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka,CA 95501
9781933586823, $17.95, Paperback, 256 pp.,

From the publisher: Jeff Prentiss' life is a mess. As a homicide detective working in St. Petersburg, he knows he's made too many mistakes and made too many enemies. When his wife's ex-husband, Roy Lee Evans, is released from prison and threatens his family, Jeff does what he must to keep them safe. Now fighting for his career, his wife Lori believes he knows more about Evans' whereabouts than he's willing to say. With his family life strained to the breaking point, a "celebrity" thief is found dead, and Jeff and his new partner find themselves roasting in the media spotlight. There's a disc that ties the dead man to a political bigshot in Tampa, but the link doesn't make any sense. Everything keeps coming back to Lori's missing ex, even as the case points to an organized crime operation.

The dead man turns out to be one of the most prolific thieves of all time, at least in the Tampa/St. Pete area, and when another man's body [the aforementioned political bigshot] is found killed in similar fashion, the cases converge, and a jurisdictional firestorm between the two towns erupts.

Not long after Evans, "a smuggler running dope from Mexico across the Texas border," had met Lori, she had gotten pregnant, after which they got married. After he'd been imprisoned, but before the baby was born, she'd gotten a divorce based on fraud. Jeff met her when her daughter, Roxy, was 3 years old, not long after which they'd gotten married, and he'd adopted Roxy.

But now, years later, everything is upended when Lori and her daughter. Jeff finds himself thinking back about Evans, "a man who was released from a Texas state prison and immediately relocated to Florida so he could stalk and threaten her and his biological daughter in an effort to bring them back under his self-serving influence. But they had become my family and I'd had to do what I could to protect them . . . When Evans began stalking Lori at work, exhibiting the classic passive-aggressive behaviors of leaving small presents in her car and at her desk, sending notes and cards through the mail, watching Roxy across from her school, the pattern was all too clear."

Jeff's personal and professional problems only escalate, in a thrilling and well-written tale that will have the reader completely engrossed. There is some ambiguity at the end, which only left this reader anxiously looking forward to, hopefully, the next Jeff Prentiss book by this terrific writer.

Mr. Ollerman's most recent book, which came out in August of 2016 and is entitled "Mad Dog Barked," is apparently a standalone, but on the basis of "Truth Always Kills," which is recommended, I will look forward to reading it!

Dig Two Graves
Kim Powers
Tyrus Books
9781440591914, 304 pp., $24.99/27.99 CA$, Hardcover
9781440591921, 304 pp., $16.99/18.99 CA$, Paperback

Skip Holt's world as she knew it ended the day her mother died in a car crash [always bringing to her mind a poem she had had to learn in school by Robert Frost]. There is much erudition here, as Skip's father makes his living "by teaching about the past, the very long ago past. The Classics, Greece, Rome, Latin." Indeed, the novel begins with a quote from Confucius: "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." And revenge is what this book is all about. "The classics were all about it - - getting revenge, declaring enemies, going to war."

From the publisher: In his 20's, Ethan Holt won the Decathlon at the Olympics and was jokingly nicknamed "Hercules;" now, in his late 30's, he's returned to his ivy-covered alma mater to teach, and to raise his young daughter Skip as a single father. After a hushed-up scandal over his Olympics win and the death of his wife in a car accident five years ago, Ethan wants nothing more than to forget his past. Skip is not only the light of Ethan's life - - she is his life. Then, Skip is kidnapped. A series of bizarre ransom demands start coming in that stretch Ethan's athletic prowess to its limits, and he realizes with growing horror that they are modern versions of the Twelve Labors of Hercules, demanded in tricky, rhyming clues by someone who seems to have followed every step of Ethan's career. To solve the mystery and get his daughter back, Ethan teams up with a force-of-nature female detective, Aretha Mizell, who carries some secrets of her own. As Ethan races from Labor to Labor, we enter the mysterious abandoned schoolhouse where Skip is being held captive, and we begin to hear the fantastic and strangely heartbreaking story of the kidnapper and his link to Ethan's past. The clues begin to point not only to Ethan's athletic career, but to his childhood, and to a family history as troubled and bizarre as those of any of the legendary, mythic character he teaches.

The novel opens on a late Fall day in New England, the day Ethan turns 39 and receives tenure at the college where he teaches, and where Skip, now 13, has planned a party for him. Suddenly things take a decidedly ugly [well, uglier] turn, one as to which the reader has been given a hint, with a glimpse of a stalker, "the man with a plan," and things escalate beyond anything the reader might expect. The writing is riveting, with one shocking turn at Chapter 31, and the identity of the kidnapper not known until Chapter 55, with the book ending on a somewhat enigmatic note 50 pages later. A page-turner of a book, it is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Diana Gabaldon
Dell Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553393699, $9.99, 850 pages,

Outlander is an unusual mix of genres. It is an alternative history built around a fantasy time travel hook. As an added genre, Gabaldon introduces an adult romance to the story. The story's strength is also its biggest weakness. Gabaldon adds in depth details about the everyday life in Scotland 250 years ago but the details last a bit too long.

Claire Randall, a retired World War II combat nurse, is vacationing in Scotland with her husband. She explores a hill with a mini Stonehenge near the town when she hears noises and accidentally stumbles between stones and into the past. She literally rolls down a hill between English troops skirmishing with local Scotts. Both sides think she is a spy. Scotland 250 years ago is in the turmoil of the beginning of a war with England. If Claire revels what she knows from the future, she will be killed as a witch. If she makes a misstep with either the Scotts or the English, she will be killed as a spy.

Outlander is a massive story that works. The jumps from one life threatening event to the next are too frequent but forgivable. The story is fun enough that the pages of detail about life 250 years ago only slow the narration a bit. If you have the free days, Outlander is easily worth reading. I would recommend the first reading of the book be done with a paper copy. Its massive size is easier to handle with the tactile feedback of the paper.

The Stages
Thom Satterlee
Crooked Lane Books
2 Park Avenue, 10th floor, New York, NY 10016
9781629534190, $24.99, HC, 224pp
B00AQA6JJ0, $2.99, 386pp,

One of the joys of ebooks is the ability to find stories and authors with deep understanding of locations outside of the US. Only in the largest of physical bookstores could you find The Stages on the shelf but the ebook is as easy to find as any other ebook. The Stages is a murder mystery that takes place in Copenhagen. It is immediately obvious that the author has a very deep knowledge of the location, people, culture and history of the city. The story is a learning experience as well as a solid cozy mystery.

Daniel Peters is an American translator who has lived in Copenhagen for over 20 years. He also has Asperger's Syndrome and trouble understanding and knowing human emotions. Aspergers makes him a perfect translator of historic Danish into English. His best friend and former girlfriend is murdered shortly after he had dinner with her. Being the last person to see her, he is an immediate suspect. His Aspergers means he doesn't understand the people around him. He knows he has to find out what happened before he gets arrested. Somehow a Soren Kierkegaard collection of poems which Daniel has translated into English has something to do with the murder. Kierkegaard is a philosophical hero to the Danish people and Daniel has to navigate Danish history and the humans around him to find the truth before it is too late.

The Stages is written in the first person view of a person with Aspergers. The technical focus and lack of human understanding gives a unique narration. At first, the narration is a little hard to follow but the minute focus of the character makes the story a good cozy whodunit. Stages is a meticulous read but worth it. The end is a little weak but solid. It is a recommended addition to the Scandinavian mysteries that are popular today.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Non Semper Fidelis
Sam Foster
Fithian Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745910, $14.00, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: "Non Semper Fidelis " by Sam Foster during the Vietnam War era and follows the progress of Private Jack Kendrick as he learns about the chain of military authority. He and his fellow soldiers must learn to stand up straight, at attention, before their designated superiors and show respect for hierarchy. Also it shows how our hero and his companions dare to stand up straight before their superiors and respectfully protest the edicts of authority.

That chain of authority is challenged when Kendrick's black friend Corporal William Buck is on leave in Memphis, visiting his mother. Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot dead and the city erupts in a race riot. Corporal Buck chooses to remain AWOL rather than leave his mother in the urban war zone. When he eventually returns to Quantico he is willing to face discipline, but unwilling to tolerate the hateful taunts of a racist sergeant. How will Jack Kendrick, who has a mind of his own, survive the authoritarian code of the military career he has chosen?

Critique: "Non Semper Fidelis" is a deftly crafted novel that is charged with emotion and moral quandary. While strongly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Non Semper Fidelis" is also available in a Kindle format ($13.30).

A Very British Ending
Edward Wilson
Arcadia Books
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, 124 Byers Road, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781910050774, $18.00, PB, 368pp,

Synopsis: "A Very British Ending" by Edward Wilson is the story of MI6 agent Catesby who haunted by the ghosts of an SS atrocity and kills a Nazi war criminal in the ruins of a U-boot bunker. The German turns out to be a CIA asset preparing to be smuggled to South America. As a hungry Britain freezes in the winter of 1947, a young cabinet minister negotiates a deal with Moscow trading Rolls-Royce jet engines for cattle fodder and wood. Both have made powerful enemies with long memories. The fates of the two men become entwined as one rises through MI6 and the other to Downing Street. It is the mid-1970s and a coup d'tat is imminent. Senior MI6 officers, Catesby and Bone must try to outwit a cabal of plotters attempting the overthrow the Prime Minister. "A Very British Ending" reveals the dark underside of the Secret State on both sides of the Atlantic.

Critique: A deftly crafted and simply riveting read from cover to cover, "A Very British Ending" by a master of the genre is unreservedly recommended and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Suspense/Thriller fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Very British Ending" is also available in a Kindle format ($4.99).

Hey, Liberal!
Shawn Shiflett
Academy Chicago Publishers
c/o Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613735602, $14.99, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: Set in the racial tinderbox of Chicago in 1969, "Hey, Liberal!" by Shawn Shiflett (who is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago) is the story of thirteen-year-old Simon Fleming, the white son of a civil rights activist minister, who is sent to a predominately African American high school, feeling charged by his parents to carry out the family's commitment to the community and school integration. Here, he is dropped into a world where gang warfare, drug abuse, and violence are rampant. Simon's quest for survival takes him through a failed student boycott organized by community leaders, as well as through numerous race riots, and brings him into contact with gangbangers, political activists, racist cops, and unlikely new friends. "Hey, Liberal!" exposes an out-of-touch education system and the universality of racial violence amid a nation moving, inch by hard-fought inch, toward a more culturally diverse and inclusive future.

Critique: A deftly crafted novel from beginning to end, "Hey, Liberal" is a consistently compelling work of fiction that will leave the reader thoughtfully considering the real life social issues that are underscored by this steadily engaging novel. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hey, Liberal!" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.56).

Camaro 5th Gen 2010-2015
Scott Parker
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613251638, $29.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: The Chevrolet Camaro, from its inception, established a reputation that made its name a household word. Insanely popular on the street, successful in all forms of competition, and a perennial best seller, over the past half-century the Camaro has cemented its status as an icon.

The Camaro did go on hiatus for an 8-year period, much to the chagrin of Chevrolet, but made a triumphant return in 2010 with the 5th Gen models. Of course the new generation of Camaros is filled with the technology you would expect, including multiple trim versions and a variety of engine packages. And of course, as capable as the new cars are, Camaro enthusiasts always want more. That's where this book comes in.

Filling the illustrated pages of "Camaro 5th Gen 2010-2015" provides great step-by-step information on modifying a 5th Gen, including upgrade instruction on brakes, suspension, rear axles, intake and exhaust, cooling, fuel systems, transmissions, LS engine mods, superchargers, turbochargers, ECM tuning, aftermarket EFIs, and more. There is fierce competition on the street for modern muscle supremacy. With Camaro 5th Gen 2010-2015: How to Build and Modify, owners can keep their Camaro ahead of the competition.

Critique: Scott Parker has been on the staff of GM High Tech Performance magazine since early 2004, and has been its Editor since 2009. In that time, he's built many project cars and produced hundreds of technical stories detailing the GM LS-Series V-8 engines. He is a nationally recognized expert on LS engines. He draws upon his years of experience, expertise, and research to provide an ideal instruction manual for Camaro owners and operators. Simply stated, no personal, professional, community, or academic library Automotive History collection should be considered comprehensive or complete without the inclusion of a copy of Scott Parker's "Camaro 5th Gen 2010-2015".

Murder in Schwyz
D. L. Nelson
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432832230, $25.95, HC, 305pp,

The Bircher family has manufactured cookies in the picturesque Swiss canton of Schwyz since the late 1800s. Brother Fritz wants to sell. Sister Petra wants to expand. And Annie Young-Perret was warned, when she took an assignment to write a history of the company, about the ongoing sibling feud over control of its future. When Fritz is found shot to death, the police arrest Petra.

Petra hires Annie's French husband, an ex-police detective, to prove her innocence, and Annie can't resist helping. Meanwhile Annie continues delving into the family history, where she discovers generations of unimaginative men paired with ambitious women who have had the vision to take the company to new levels.

Fritz had been negotiating with a firm that specializes in buying and stripping other companies, but his murder happens before the sale is completed. The company lawyer tries to replace the jailed Petra with a manager who will move ahead with the deal. The employees, however, own enough stock to rebel. They put the popular marketing manager Brett Windsor, an American, in control.

At home, Brett's marriage is in deep trouble, but he doesn't want a divorce. He wants the best for his two daughters?and he is also trapped because Swiss banks are closing the accounts of Americans. He has put every asset in his Swiss wife's name. A divorce will leave him with nothing. As clues accumulate, Annie's instincts are telling her who killed Fritz -- but her plan for a confrontation may be deadly.

Critique: "Murder in Schwyz" clearly showcases author and novelist D. L. Nelson as a true master of the genre with a genuine flair for deftly created and memorable characters placed within the context of a consistently compelling story. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Murder in Schwyz" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

The Performance Principle
Mackenzie Kyle
Figure 1 Publishing
9781927958650, $16.00, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: "The Performance Principle: A Practical Guide to Understanding Motivation in the Modern Workplace" by Mackenzie Kyle is specifically written for any manager, supervisor, or business leader who feels there must be a better, more systematic way to motivate their team and achieve phenomenal results.

"The Performance Principle" tells the fictional but illustrative story of Will Campbell, the newly promoted executive in charge of the Hyler manufacturing facility. The company has fallen on hard times and Campbell is given a year to turn around Hyler's fortunes, a feat made all the more challenging because of the discontent among all of Hyler's employees, from management to sales to the unionized shop floor. Over the course of several tumultuous months, Campbell and his team learn the unique principles of performance management and the powerful results it can deliver.

"The Performance Principle" effectively illustrates the fundamentals of performance management, providing a model that allows the reader to understand exactly what motivates people in the workplace, and how to align this with an organization's strategy.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, a fun and compelling read from cover to cover, "The Performance Principle: A Practical Guide to Understanding Motivation in the Modern Workplace" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended read for anyone charged with the responsibility of supervising a workforce be it for a local small business or an international conglomerate. While certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community, corporate, and academic library Business Management collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Performance Principle" is also available in a Kindle format ($16.00).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

At Home in the World
Thich Nhat Hanh
Parallax Press
PO Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707
9781941529423, $24.95, HC, 187pp,

Synopsis: Thích Nhat Hanh (born as Nguyen Xuan Bao on October 11, 1926) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist.

With occasional black-and-white illustrations by Jason DeAntonis, "At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk's Life" is collection of autobiographical and teaching stories from Hanh which is thought provoking, inspiring, and an enjoyable read.

Collected here for the first time, these stories span Hanh's life. These are stories from his childhood and the traditions of rural Vietnam. These are also stories from his years as a teenaged novice, as a young teacher and writer in war torn Vietnam, and of his travels around the world to teach mindfulness, make pilgrimages to sacred sites, and influence world leaders.

The tradition of teaching the Dharma through stories goes back at least to the time of the Buddha. Like the Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh uses story - telling to engage people's interest so he can share important teachings, insights, and life lessons.

Critique: Combining a memoir composed of personal stories with a Buddhist perspective, "At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk's Life" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling study that is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Buddhist Studies and Contemporary Biography collections. A 'must' for Thich Nhat Hanh admirers and students, it should be noted that "At Home in the World" is also available in a Kindle format ($16.99).

The Amateurs
Sara Shepard
Freeform Books
9781484742273, $17.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: As soon as Seneca Frazier sees the post on the Case Not Closed website about Helena Kelly, she's hooked. Helena's high-profile disappearance five years earlier is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It's the reason she's a member of the site in the first place.

So when Maddy Wright, her best friend from the CNC site, invites Seneca to spend spring break in Connecticut looking into the cold case, she immediately packs her bag. But the moment she steps off the train in trendy, glamorous Dexby, things begin to go wrong. Maddy is nothing like she expected, and Helena's sister, Aerin Kelly, seems completely hostile and totally uninterested in helping with their murder investigation.

But when Brett, another super user from the site, joins Seneca and Maddy in Dexby, Aerin starts to come around. The police must have missed something, and someone in Dexby definitely has information they've been keeping quiet.

As Seneca, Brett, Maddy, and Aerin begin to unravel dark secrets and shocking betrayals about the people closest to them, they seem to be on the murderer's trail at last. But somewhere nearby the killer is watching . . . ready to do whatever it takes to make sure the truth stays buried.

Critique: The first volume in a new series by a master of the genre, Sara Shepard's "The Amateurs" is a deftly crafted, consistently compelling, and highly recommended addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Amateurs" is also available in a Kindle format ($10.99).

Contemporary Art Colombia
Hossein Amirsadeghi, editor
Catherine Petitgas, executive editor
Christine Barthe, essayist
Jaime Ceron, essayist
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500970768, $85.00, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: "Contemporary Art Colombia" is the first comprehensive English-language survey of contemporary art in Colombia, showcasing major works as well as artists, galleries, institutions, and collectors. Colombia's contemporary art scene (one of the most vibrant in Latin America) nevertheless remains relatively unknown outside that country.

Including ninety profiles of key players and four critical essays, Contemporary Art Colombia captures the renewed dynamism of the Colombian art world.

Between 2010 and the start of 2015, the Colombian economy saw the fastest rate of growth in Latin America, and one of the fastest in the world. This buoyant economic climate has benefitted the art world, resulting in a proliferation of private and public initiatives over the past decade.

"Contemporary Art Colombia" features key figures, institutions, and spaces in the re-emergence of the Colombian art scene, including public institutions such as the Museo del Banco de la Republica in Bogota and the Medellín Museo de Arte Moderno; private initiatives such as Art Fair ArtBo; private institutions such as Flora and Fundacion Misol; commercial galleries such as Bogota-based Casas Riegner and Instituto de Vision; artists such as Doris Salcedo, Carlos Motta, Edinson Quinones, and Oscar Munoz; and well-established figures like Celia de Birbragher, the founder and editor of Latin America's leading art magazine, ArtNexus.

Critique: Showcasing more than five hundred beautifully reproduced full color images accompanied by succinct commentaries, "Contemporary Art Colombia" is extraordinarily informative and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Art History collections in general and Columbian Art History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. Librarians should note that in it's coffee-table format, "Contemporary Art Colombia" would be an ideal and enduringly popular Memorial Fund acquisition selection.

The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook
Chris McDonald
Robert Rose Inc.
120 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 800, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4P 1E2
9780778805236, $27.95, PB, 416pp,

Sous-vide is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times (usually 1 to 6 hours, up to 48 or more in some select cases) at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) for meat and higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture.

"The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook" by cooking instructor Chris McDonald (who is also an acclaimed chef and former restaurant owner in Toronto, Canada) is an exceptionally well written, organized and presented instruction guide for kitchen cooks wanting to create restaurant-quality food at home with the simple press of a button.

Conventional methods can often result in undercooked or overcooked food, but with the sous vide technique, cooking any food will always be done to tender perfection.

A culinary compendium of tips, techniques, and more than 175 recipes, McDonald's "The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook" covers an impressive variety of types of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetables, eggs and desserts ranging from Ribeye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce; Venison Loin with Savoy Cabbage and Chestnuts; and Georgian Pork Shoulder Roast with Pomegranate Glaze; to Buttermilk Fried Chicken; AsianStyle Whole Steamed Fish; Saffron Cauliflower with Sultanas; and Potato Chip tortilla Espanola.. Chef McDonald also shares his wealth of knowledge about global ingredients, DIY butchery, food substitutions, selecting cuts of meat and types of fish, and much more.

Critique: Providing a wealth of practical information, "The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook" is especially and unreservedly recommended for anyone from the most novice of kitchen cooks to experienced professional chefs seeking to prepare meals with a sous vide approach.

Exploring the Financial Universe
Christeen H. Skinner
Ibis Press
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9780892542185, $22.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: The role of the Sun, planets and stars and their influence on global markets is intriguing to traders and investors alike. Financial astrologer Christeen Skinner's personal and professional research shows very definite links between major stock market movements and the position of the planets. "Exploring the Financial Universe: The Role of the Sun and Planets in the World of Finance" will be of immense interest to those with even a little understanding of astrology -- as well as to those well-versed in the subject. Skinner's work includes charts, graphs and horoscopes and explanation of some of the techniques used for astro-financial forecasting.

"Exploring the Financial Universe" specifically covers: Solar activity and the markets; Stock Market Crashes of the 20th Century; One Day gains versus losses; Currencies and major planetary configurations; Commodity price movements; Property Price cycles and the role of the Moon and planets; The link between planet cycles, time and price; Financial timing indicators in your own; chart Forecasts 2017-2024.

Of special note is the presentation of case studies in business astrology, an explanation of some astro-finance trading techniques, and the uses of financial charts taken from the Market Analyst software program for astro-traders.

Critique: Christeen H. Skinner is a practicing astrologer based in London and is the director of Cityscopes London, a company specializing in future casting. She holds a diploma from the Faculty of Astrological Studies where she has taught for a decade, and she has been chair of the Astrological Association of Great Britain. "Exploring the Financial Universe" is the perfect merger of astronomy and financial management. While thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, as well as being very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies instructional reference collections, it should be noted that "Exploring the Financial Universe" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.99).

The Best of Both Worlds
Beth Brykman
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633882478, $17.00, PB, 260pp,

Synopsis: In "The Best of Both Worlds: How Mothers Can Find Full-time Satisfaction in Part-time Work", Beth Bruyman directly address the issue of how working mothers can bridge the gap between the worlds of "mom" and "career woman" to find work-life balance? Basically her answer is to work part-time.

An informative guide that tells both stay-at-home and full-time working mothers how they can re-engage or redefine their careers while still having time to care for their children. TBrykman (herself a mother and a former business executive, entrepreneur, and self-employed writer) provides all the information moms need to find the ideal employment solution in today's job market.

For some women that means returning to the job market, while for others that means reducing hours with a current employer or changing jobs to obtain part-time work. Brykman also offers suggestions for defining personal objectives, networking, approaching job-sharing, and starting a business to help land part-time jobs.

Based on interviews with over one hundred part-time working women from a large cross-section of vocations, "The Best of Both Worlds" is rich with examples of what women in a variety of careers did to gain part-time employment. A majority of those interviewed reported that working part-time gives them the "best of both worlds". By retelling their stories, Brykman has created instructional guide that is realistic, useful, and an excellent reference.

Critique; Informed and informative, practical and insightful, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Best of Both Worlds: How Mothers Can Find Full-time Satisfaction in Part-time Work" will prove to be an enduringly popular and highly valued addition to community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Best of Both Worlds" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.99).

How I Got Here
Ceil Lucas
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781519640338, $15.95, PB, 174pp,

Synopsis: Ceil Lucas was born in the United States but raised from ages five through twenty-one in Guatemala City and Rome, Italy. The Guatemala of the mid-1950s saw intense American intervention in Guatemalan affairs, intervention shaped by the deep fear of communism. Italy, on the other hand, was experiencing a post-war economic boom and the beginning of the "years of lead".

"How I Got Here" is her autobiography and is the story of her upbringing first in Guatemala City, then in Rome, and finally in America. As a result of this upbringing, upon meeting someone new, she invariably says, "I wasn't raised here", "here" meaning the U.S.

Lucas has also studied the history of her family and has discovered that her first ancestors on her mother's side were among the Scottish Prisoners transported to Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1654 by Oliver Cromwell, following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650; Daniel De Lucas appears in Kent, England in 1500, with Spanish connections, and the first Lucas to America was a Quaker who sailed to Philadelphia in 1679. She is therefore very American, ten generations' worth.

The stories of her ancestors, right up through her parents, have become her stories and are central to her memoir. Those stories help explain, in the broadest sense, how she got here. The central thread of the memoir is the search for the balance between "I wasn't raised here" and "I'm deeply American."

Lucas is Professor Emerita, retired from Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, the world's only liberal arts university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, where she taught linguistics from 1982 to 2013 through American Sign Language (ASL), with a focus on the structure and use of sign languages. She started teaching Italian in 1973, at all levels, and continues to do so. She has maintained the French and Spanish that she learned in Guatemala and has picked up Irish along the way; her native language is English.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and consistently compelling narrative, "How I Got Here: A Memoir" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it an unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and as an addition to community and academic library Contemporary Biography collections.

Nationalist Heroines
Olga Jimenez de Wagenholm
Markus Wiener Publishers
231 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542
9781558766181, $68.95, HC, 277pp,

Synopsis: A group of Nationalists led by Pedro Albizu Campos made it clear that they would free Puerto Rico from colonial rule. A confrontation between the Nationalists and the colonial police in October 1935 left four Nationalists dead.

Albizu Campos and seven of his aides were convicted on seditious charges and sent to a federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia. His followers attempted to hold a demonstration in Ponce, Albizu Campos' hometown, and were gunned down by the police: nineteen were killed and more than one hundred and fifty were wounded.

Eight Nationalists then attempted to kill Governor, Blanton Winship.

Back in Puerto Rico in 1947, Albizu Campos began to plan for a revolution, which he launched on October 30, 1950. A commando unit of five attacked the Governor's residence while others assaulted police stations in half a dozen cities and towns throughout the island. One woman (Doris Torresola) was shot while protecting her leader.

The same day Blanca Canales was one of three to lead the revolt in Jayuya. Two days later, two Nationalists, residents of New York, attempted to kill, President Truman at Blair House, his temporary residence. Massive arrests followed and forty-one women were detained on suspicion they had conspired with the rebels.

Two of the fifteen women indicted were sentenced to life in prison. Then, on March 1, 1954, another woman (Dolores Lebraon) led three male companions in the attack of the U.S. House of Representatives where five congressmen were shot for keeping Puerto Rico in bondage.

Historians have largely overlooked the roles of these Nationalist women. In "Nationalist Heroines: Puerto Rican Women History Forgot, 1930s-1950s" author Olga Jimenez de Wagenholm seeks to rescue the stories of the women who gave up their freedom in search of freeing their homeland from an undeserved obscurity.

Critique: Exhaustively researched, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Nationalist Heroines: Puerto Rican Women History Forgot, 1930s-1950s" as inherently fascinating and detailed a read as it is informed and informative. A work of seminal historical scholarship, "Nationalist Heroines" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Carribean History, Women's History, and 20th Century American Political History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist readers with an interest in the subject that "Nationalist Heroines" is also available in a paperback edition (9781558766198, $26.95).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Weight Watchers New Complete SmartPoints Edition
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780544940758, $29.99 Loose Leaf, $14.95 Kindle,

Just in time for holiday and New Year gift giving, the "Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook SmartPoints Edition" (also available as an e-book) is presented with over 500 delicious recipes recalibrated for the SmartPoints system of Weight Watchers. Attractively organized in a 3" 5-ring binder, with handy color cued tabs for different chapters, here are over 440 pages of recipes, with SmartPoints included, and multiple pages of color photos of finished dishes. Chapters include Breakfasts and Brunches, Beverages and Appetizers, Salads, Sides, and Main Dishes, Soups, Starters, and Main Dishes, Small Plates, Dishes to Mix and Match for Creative Meals, Beef, Pork and Lamb Main Dishes, Poultry Main Dishes, Seafood Main Dishes, Vegetarian Main Dishes, Meals From the Grill, 20-Minute Main Dishes, Slow Cooker Favorites, Vegetable Sides, Grain and Pasta Sides, Cakes, Pies, Holiday Breads, and Cookies, and Fruit and Frozen Desserts, Puddings, and More. Every cuisine and food specialty type recipe is represented. Recipes are simple and clearly presented in sequentially numbered steps. Some of the standouts include: Eggplant Rollatini (p. 236), Spicy Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry, Wild Rice Salad with Pecans and Cranberries, Cheese Straws, Fruity Kale Smoothie, and even Double Apple Strudel, plus many more. A handy how-to section at the end is titled Cooking School, listing many helpful tips, tricks, and techniques plus preferred cooking tools. This last section includes a Glossary of Cooking Terms, entertaining highlights, menus for every occasion, and more. Finally, there is a section titled Recipes by SmartPoints Value that is helpful to the point-conscious cook. The "Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook" offers myriad entrees to endlessly delight the healthy cook with Weight Watcher awareness.

The Sundown Kid: A Southwestern Shabbat
Barbara Bietz, author
John Kanzler, illustrator
August House, Inc.
3500 Piedmont Road, Suite 310, Atlanta, GA 30305
9781939160942, $8.95, PB, 32pp,

"The Sundown Kid" is a wonderful, warmhearted tale about a good Jewish family who packed up to move from an East Coast city to the deserts of the Southwest in America. In the 1800's, they are the only Jewish family in their small, southwestern town. Naturally, Papa and Mama planned to continue their Shabbat family traditions in their new home, greatly enjoyed by their only son, otherwise known as the Sundown Kid. Mama would make her good Chicken vegetable soup and challah, and Papa would wash his face, dress in his Shabbat best, and wear his yarmulke to celebrate Shabbat. However, a problem occurred when it came time to share their Shabbat meal. "Too much soup, not enough family!" declared Mama. The Sundown Kid watched his family make their adjustments to their new home, and decides to invite their new neighbors, even though they are not Jewish, or family. The subsequent Shabbat gathering is a beautiful success. Attended by Sheriff and Mrs. Ryder, Blacksmith Ricardo and his nephew Miguel., plus the whole O'Toole family. Everyone loved Mama's soup! And a happy Shabbat supper tradition began in the new desert home for this kind Jewish family. Delightful, comic, colorful illustrations grace this warm tale of encouragement and community support.

The Great Sock Secret
Susan Whelan, author
Gwynneth Jones, illustrator
EK Books
c/o Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd.
9781925335248, $17.99, HC, 32pp,

"The Great Sock Secret" is a fun, fabulous children's picture book about a mom's determined search for missing odd socks, with the questionable help of her daughter Sarah. Page after page shows a diligent appearing search through out the family's home for the multiple missing odd socks. It becomes entirely apparent that Sarah has a strong stake in not finding the missing socks. Why should that be? Peeking out of odd corners and hiding spots, the fate of the missing odd socks is made plentifully clear through the hilarious, detailed illustrations: The socks are all toys and hiding places for secret fairies! Sarah does her best to protect her sock/fairy habitat program from her mom's sock reordering efforts. In situation after situation, Sarah's mom searches diligently in logical corners for the missing socks, while Sarah quietly deflects, conceals, and rescues her mischievous fairy friends who are maximizing their enjoyment of the habitat socks. The fairies use the socks for wilder and more outrageous fun pastimes while the sock search continues fruitlessly. In fact, the silly fairies are partying wildly right underneath Sarah's mother's nose. Just as Sarah is relaxing with the relief of the Great Sock Hunt being over, her mother announces, 'No I think we should go hunting for lost pens.'

An interesting side note about the illustrations: Sarah and her mother appear to be persons of brownish skin color, with black curly hair (Hispanic?) while the fairies are hilariously and wildly diverse in their pigmentation of skin, hair, wings, and clothing. One fairy wears dreads, with brown skin, and a Jamaican flag and drums, while another has red hair and green skin plus green wings, and so on and so on to a rainbow medley of races, fairies, and fun. Naturally, the socks also are each one of a kind. it is a marvelous statement of the true meaning of the concept, "Celebrate diversity!"

"The Great Sock Secret" is a delightful fantasy story with solid roots in an enlightened universe, particularly enjoyable for children. Very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for ages 8 to 12.

Dancing With Tex
Lynn Sanders, author
Sergio Drummond, illustrator
Ann Knipp, editor
Difference Makers Media
9780997592115, $7.99 paperback ($18.99 HC / $1.99 Kindle),

"Dancing With Tex: The Remarkable Friendship to Save Whooping Cranes" is an inspirational, true story of a remarkable friendship between a man and a rare baby whooping crane that blossomed into the preservation and resurrection of a rare, endangered species. The true story began when Fred, a zookeeper, took a rare baby whooping crane egg home to protect the new hatchling baby crane. An earlier hatchling baby crane had accidentally been killed by being stepped on by a parent crane, so Fred was determined to give this new baby whooping crane an even chance to survive.

Thus in 1972, Tex, a female baby whooping crane was born and raised by a human for the first 16 days of her life. Later, however, scientists found that because of her early upbringing, Tex had imprinted upon human species, and would not become comfortable enough with other whooping cranes to dance, mate, and lay a fertile egg. A visiting scientist told Fred that Tex needed to be near other whooping cranes if she was ever to help propagate her species, so Fred said goodbye to Tex and sent her from Texas to a wildlife research center in Maryland.

Other changes were brewing when George Archibald and his friend Ron Sauey decided to begin to create the International Crane Foundation on a former horse farm belonging to Ron's parents near Baraboo, Wisconsin. By April 16, 1976, Tex was moved to her new home to become the first whooping crane to be reintroduced to live in Wisconsin. The rest of the story is a beautiful testament to the friendship between a man and a whooping crane. Since Tex would not dance with other whooping cranes, George decided to try to dance with her himself to see if she could manage to lay a fertile egg.

An incredible photo of the real George and Tex dancing together is included towards the end of "Dancing With Tex." There were many long, exhausting hours of dancing and other helping influences before Tex did lay her first egg in spring of 1977. It turned out not to be fertile. But George and Tex did not give up. Other scientists helped Tex by trying to dance with her, and giving her fertility injections. The mating dancing was exhausting, but George and others kept dancing and encouraging Tex until spring of 1982, June 1st. Tex had finally laid a fertile egg, and a baby whooping crane chick came into the world alive. The chick was named Gee Whiz and was key to the protection and survival of the rare whooping crane species.

This true story is about friendship that endures over years, through adversity, and across species. It demonstrates a primal truth: we are all related. Children will be fascinated with the colorful pictures and scientific data incorporated into the beautiful story of "Dancing With Tex." At the end, after the author's note and acknowledgements, there are questions and answers, a crane identification guide with 15 miniature crane photos, vocabulary words, and a discussion guide, plus a page called Get Inspired that encourages young readers to dream big and follow their dreams.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Communicating Catholicism
Craig T. Maier
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
The Gatehouse M010C, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
9781611479614, $85.00, HC, 254pp,

Synopsis: Fr. Thomas Reese has observed that American Catholic dioceses are simultaneously mysterious and essential to the institutional health and vitality of American Catholicism. In recent years, as American Catholicism increasingly finds itself embroiled in scandal and conflict, this mysteriousness has given way to feelings of suspicion, frustration, and even contempt. How can American dioceses navigate this complex and often hostile social, cultural, and political environment?

Several decades ago, J. Michael Sproule invited rhetorical and communication scholars to focus on institutions to increase our understanding of the profound role complex organizations play in contemporary life, assess the purpose and significance of communication in pursuit of their missions, and "give a human face to the otherwise institutional voice of corporate suasion."

Following Sproule, "Communicating Catholicism: Rhetoric, Ecclesial Leadership, and the Future of the American Roman Catholic Diocese" by Craig T. Maier (Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies at Duquesne University) defines a new field called diocesan institutional rhetoric that strives to transform dioceses from structures characterized by closure and adversity into sites of hope-full, response-able, Spirit-led opportunity.

Today, rhetorical and communication issues emerge everywhere in American Catholicism. Drawing together relevant literature in Catholic theology, philosophy of communication, and corporate communication scholarship (as well as over twelve years' experience working as a communication professional in a diocesan chancery) "Communicating Catholicism" helps diocesan leaders, scholars, and observers to think differently and more fruitfully about the future of American Catholic ecclesiastical leadership.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Foreword (Rhetoric in the Catholic Church), a twelve page listing of References, and a four page Index, "Communicating Catholicism: Rhetoric, Ecclesial Leadership, and the Future of the American Roman Catholic Diocese" is an extraordinary, definitive, and comprehensive work that adheres to rigorous standards of scholarship and is an impressive, seminal contribution that is very highly recommended for seminary and academic library collections in general, and Roman Catholic Church supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Communicating Catholicism" is also available in a Kindle format ($80.75).

Demosthenes' "On the Crown": Rhetorical Perspectives
James J. Murphy, editor
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809335107, $40.00, PB, 242pp,

Synopsis: Demosthenes' speech On the Crown (330 B.C.E.), in which the Hellenic master orator spectacularly defended his public career, has long been recognized as a masterpiece. The speech has been in continuous circulation from Demosthenes' lifetime to the present day, and multiple generations have acclaimed it as the greatest speech ever written.

In addition to a clear and accessible translation, Demosthenes'"On the Crown":Rhetorical Perspectives, compiled and edited by James J. Murphy (Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis) includes eight essays by Lois P. Agnew, Francis P. Donnelly SJ, Richard Leo Enos, Richard A. Katula, John J. Keaney, David C. Mirhady, Donovan J. Ochs, and Jeffrey Walker, that provide a thorough analysis (based on Aristotelian principles) of Demosthenes' superb rhetoric.

"Demosthenes' "On the Crown": Rhetorical Perspectives" includes biographical and historical background on Demosthenes and his political situation; a structural analysis of On the Crown; and an abstract of Aeschines' speech Against Ctesiphon to which Demosthenes was responding. Four essays by contributors analyze Demosthenes' speech using key elements of rhetoric defined by Aristotle: ethos, the speaker's character or authority; pathos, or emotional appeals; logos, or logical appeals; and lexis, a speaker's style. An introduction and an epilogue by Murphy frame the speech and the rhetorical analysis of it.

By bringing together contextual material about Demosthenes and his speech with a translation and astute rhetorical analyses, Demosthenes'"On the Crown":Rhetorical Perspectives highlights the oratorical artistry of Demosthenes and provides scholars and students with fresh insights into a landmark speech.

Critique: An impressive anthology of erudite scholarship and an Epilogue by Professor Murphy, Demosthenes' "On the Crown": Rhetorical Perspectives is enhanced with the inclusion of a fourteen page Select Bibliography, a two page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a seven page Index. While especially recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that Demosthenes' "On the Crown": Rhetorical Perspectives is also available in a Kindle format ($40.00).

Out: One Christian's Experience of Leaving the Gay Community
Bob Fife
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825444401, $15.99, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: Bob Fife is an Ontario-based businessman and a former practicing homosexual. Today he devotes his time to mentoring men and women who are looking for alternative ways to deal with same-sex attraction.

Raised in a small Ontario town by a Christian mother and an unbelieving father, family tensions made for a dysfunctional home and an uneasy life. But nothing prepared Bob for being sexually molested by an older boy he trusted -- or what happened in his heart afterward.

"Out: One Christian's Experience of Leaving the Gay Community" is the story of Bob's descent into homosexual practices and out again. His fascinating journey takes readers from the confusion of his teen years, to his marriage and fatherhood, to his discovery and embrace of the flamboyant Toronto gay scene. He describes abandoning his young family in order to fulfill his same-sex desires, taking him to London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Provincetown, Key West, and San Francisco. Over a decade later, an unexpected visit from his college-aged son caused Bob to confront the consequences of his indulgences and begin to seek change.

Today, Bob has been out of his gay lifestyle for over twenty years. He has reconnected with the church, built and maintained healthy, nonsexual relationships, and healed his relationship with his son. For those who want a way to deal with their same-sex attractions, not celebrate them, Bob's story points a way to grace and redemption.

Critique: Engagingly written and presented, "Out: One Christian's Experience of Leaving the Gay Community" is especially recommended reading for anyone struggling with gender identification and same-sex attraction issues. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Out: One Christian's Experience of Leaving the Gay Community" is also available in a Kindle format ($13.27).

Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth
Patrick Thean
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626340794, $25.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: All growing companies encounter ceilings of complexity, usually when they hit certain employee or revenue milestones. In order to burst through ceiling after ceiling and innovate with growth, a company must develop a reliable system that prompts leaders to be proactive and pivot when the need arises.

Drawing on his experience as a successful serial entrepreneurial and speaker, author Patrick Thean (founder and CEO of Metasys, Inc.,) demonstrates how to identify the signs of setbacks before they occur, track those signs, and make adjustments to keep your plan on track and accelerate growth.

Thean introduces a simple system to empower everyone in your company to be focused, aligned, and accountable -- a three-rhythm process for effective execution: Think Rhythm: A rhythm of strategic thinking to keep your teams focused and working on the future of your business; Plan Rhythm: A rhythm of planning that will allow you to choose the right priorities and get your departments or divisions aligned with those priorities; Do Rhythm: A rhythm of executing your plan and making effective and timely adjustments every week.

Thean's process applies to any growing business and ensures that your organization gets into the habit of achieving success, week after week, quarter after quarter, year after year.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented making it thoroughly accessible for academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth" will prove to be an enduringly valued and popular addition to personal, professional, community, corporate, and academic library Business Management collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Rhythm" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0997825701, $15.95) and in an inexpensive Kindle format ($0.99).

Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?
Akeel Bilgrami & Jonathan R. Cole, editors
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231168809, $38.00, HC, 448pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Akeel Bilgrami (Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy and a Professor on the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University) and Jonathan R. Cole (John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University at Columbia University), "Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?" is comprised of seventeen informed and informative essays by distinguished senior scholars who discuss the conceptual issues surrounding the idea of freedom of inquiry and scrutinize a variety of obstacles to such inquiry that they have encountered in their personal and professional experience. Their discussions of threats to freedom traverses a wide disciplinary and institutional, political and economic range covering specific restrictions linked to speech codes, the interests of donors, institutional review board licensing, political pressure groups, and government policy, as well as phenomena of high generality, such as intellectual orthodoxy, in which coercion is barely visible and often self-imposed.

Critique: An impressive body of seminal scholarship that is enhanced with the inclusion of a listing of the contributors and their credentials, as well as a twenty page index, "Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?" is also available in a paperback edition (9780231168816, $27.00) and in a Kindle format ($25.65).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Organize Your Business - Organize Your Life
Rachael Doyle
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768411379, $15.99, 174 Pages,

Time Saving Tips, Tested Techniques, and Money Saving Systems that Work

Author Rachel Doyle draws from a wide-range of business experience and from her extensive personal wall-to-wall library jam-packed with motivational and success titles, a result of her fervent passion for lifelong learning. In her book "Organize Your Business - Organize Your Life."

Doyle offers the reader compelling evidence that prioritizing and adopting simple organizational systems will result in important time management skills and monetary savings in all facets of personal, family and business life.

Tight writing and fast moving mini chapters provide action plans, suggested resources, tips, and techniques for getting organized and staying organized; with the result of more effectiveness on the job, personal achievement, and a balanced family life. Invaluable resources are included within each chapter. Online tools, websites, blogs, and bestselling books, all add value to the comprehensive material found in the text.

Chapter titles clearly express the content to be covered within each chapter. This enables the reader to preview, read, prioritize action steps, and read again later. The format is reader friendly for ease in reading and assimilation.

"Organize Your Business - Organize Your Life" is written for readers frazzled, fatigued, and frustrated as a result of being unorganized. The fifteen short chapters suggest ten overriding principles, which if consistently followed insure success in business and a happier fulfilled life.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Success Model - Five Steps to Revolutionize Your Life
Sam Silverstein
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768411836, $15.99, 224 pages,

Turning Your Latent Ability to Realization While Revolutionizing Your Life

In his book "The Success Model - Five Steps to Revolutionize Your Life" Sam Silverstein presents the basis of the success model, a five step system that will encourage the reader to determine what it is they want in life, recognize their passion and establish their purpose. Sam has incredible insight into achievement, the importance of accomplishment, and the reward of personal satisfaction.

The book is made up of short, fast paced chapters that help the reader understand the five key words to success: desire, change, plan, implementation, and success. It is important that you, as the reader, get a thorough understanding of the five step success model before moving on to consider the remaining key words. When these are internalized and implements you will achieve and realize success.

Sam Silverstein is known for his strong stance on prioritizing accountability, growth, and development within the leadership team of a company's organizational structure. The "Success Model" develops this principle for adaptation on a personal level, making accountability a priority on self-motivation by the individual.

My biggest regret is that I did not discover Silverstein's writing earlier in my career. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Stop Chasing Influencers: The True Path to Building Your Business and Living Your Dream
Kimanzi Constable and Jared Easley
Sound Wisdom
Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408935, $14.99, 192 Pages,

Proven Steps to Making Your Dream Become a Reality

Kimanzi Constable and Jared Easley take the mystery out of "building your business and building your dream by adapting the concepts presented in their book "Stop Chasing Influencers." In twenty-two short, fast moving, chapters the authors provide the reader with the reason for pursuing personal dreams, with strategies and ideas that will produce the results to make your dream become a reality.

Constable and Easley use examples from their own experiences to illustrate how these principles can and do work in areas of social media, public speaking, writing, professional and personal life coaching, mentoring, and marketing, and in business and economics.

I was reminded of the importance of focus, using time wisely, and having a right mind set as I learned valuable ideas for innovation and implementation. I received fresh insight into becoming an influencer by expanding my vision, and by exploring my personal assets to successfully develop and accomplish the opportunities available to me for successfully accomplishing my goals.

Whatever your dream, "Stop Chasing Influencers" will give you the tools, creative concepts, proven strategies, tips, ideas, technology, and techniques to enable you to fulfill your dream, to find balance, and to enjoy your family to the fullest.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Vagabond Papers
John Stanley James, author
Michael Cannon, editor
Monash University Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781922235985, $34.95, PB, 332pp,

Synopsis: 19th Century Australian life has never had a chronicler quite like the Vagabond. Renowned as journalist and 'eminently unconventional character', he suffered extremes of poverty and prosperity. These enabled him to record first-hand experiences revealing the degradation of life in the festering slums of the Victorian era. They also enabled him to write convincingly about the emergence of a well-off middle class in the fast-developing colonies.

The Vagabond repeatedly shocked newly respectable citizens with his lively reporting of scandalous situations, ranging from baby farming, to harsh conditions in prisons and asylums, to savage sporting events, to the life of the demi-monde, to pathetic pauper funerals.

This newly expanded edition of "The Vagabond Papers" provides a selection of the Vagabond's best work, and includes a lengthy introduction to the 1969 edition, which attempted to explain the mysteries of his origins and adventures, and the reasons he always used pseudonyms after fleeing from the USA to Australia.

Additional material in this newly published edition reveals for the first time the details of his earlier life in Virginia, USA. Here he married the widow of a rich planter, used her money to build a delightful Southern mansion, became a leading light in society, took control of the local bank, and absconded when things went wrong. The rascal managed to redeem himself with his unique work for Australian newspapers, where no-one realised his true identity. A further addition to this volume is a scholarly examination of the Vagabond's pioneering technique of 'immersion journalism', where the reporter becomes part of the story and gives his own observations and opinions.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Vagabond Papers" is an inherently fascinating, consistently compelling, exceptionally well written read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library 19th Century Social History collections in general, and Victorian Social Issues supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks
Boubacar Boris Diop, author
Vera Wolfing-Leckie & El Hadji Moustapha Dip, translators
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611862140, $24.95, PB, 328pp,

Synopsis: "Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks" by Senegal native Boubacar Boris Diop (widely regarded as one of the most important novelists and intellectuals in Africa) is a masterful work that conveys the story of Nguirane Faye and his attempts to communicate with his grandson before he dies.

With a narrative structure that beautifully imitates the movements of a musical piece, Diop relates Faye's trauma of losing his only son, Assane Tall, which is compounded by his grandson Badou's migration to an unknown destination. While Faye feels certain that his grandson will return one day, he also is convinced that he will no longer be alive by then. Faye spends his days sitting under a mango tree in the courtyard of his home, reminiscing and observing his surroundings.

He speaks to Badou through his seven notebooks, six of which are revealed to the reader, while the seventh, the "Book of Secrets," is highly confidential and reserved for Badou's eyes only. In the absence of letters from Badou, the notebooks form the only possible means of communication between the two, carrying within them tunes and repetitions that give this novel its unusual shape: loose and meandering on the one hand, coherent and tightly interwoven on the other. Translated by.

Critique: The first novel to be translated from Wolof to English by Vera Wulfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop, "Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks" is a beautifully crafted and consistently compelling read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks" is also available in a Kindle format ($19.95).

Full Moon over Noah's Ark
Rick Antonson
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510705654, $24.99, HC, 408pp,

Synopsis: Mount Ararat is the most fabled mountain in the world. For millennia this massif in eastern Turkey has been rumored as the resting place of Noah's Ark following the Great Flood. But it also plays a significant role in the longstanding conflict between Turkey and Armenia.

Author Rick Antonson joined a five-member expedition to the mountain's nearly 17,000-foot summit, trekking alongside a contingent of Armenians, for whom Mount Ararat is the stolen symbol of their country. Antonson weaves vivid historical anecdote with unexpected travel vignettes, whether tracing earlier mountaineering attempts on the peak, recounting the genocide of Armenians and its unresolved debate, or depicting the Kurds' ambitions for their own nation's borders, which some say should include Mount Ararat.

What unfolds in "Full Moon Over Noah's Ark" is the personal account of one man's odyssey, a tale told through many stories. Starting with the flooding of the Black Sea in 5600 BCE, through to the Epic of Gilgamesh and the contrasting narratives of the Great Flood known to followers of the Judaic, Christian and Islamic religions, "Full Moon Over Noah's Ark" takes readers along with Antonson through the shadows and broad landscapes of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Armenia, shedding light on a troubled but fascinating area of the world.

Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, notably informed and informative, "Full Moon over Noah's Ark" is a consistently compelling read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Full Moon over Noah's Ark" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.49) and in an MP3 CD audio book format (Brilliance Audio, 9781531889074, $9.99).

Playwrights and Power
Thomas J. Walsh
Smith & Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Lyme NH 03755-6610
9781575259031, $19.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: "Playwrights and Power: The Making of the Dramatists Guild" by Thomas J. Walsh (Professor of Theatre History at Texas Christian University and the Founding Artistic Director of the Trinity Shakespeare Festival, a professional equity theatre housed on the campus of TCU) is a new and insightful history of the Dramatists Guild of America. Professor Walsh reveals for the first time the people, the passion, and the pocketbook issues that led to the creation of what many call the strongest writers organization in the world.

Based on extensive research, Professor Walsh delves into the evolution of playwrights' authorship rights in America, including: George Henry Boker's efforts in the mid-nineteenth century to extend copyright protection for dramatic writing to include royalties for productions; Bronson Howard's creation of the Dramatist Club to combat the powerful Theatrical Trusts of the late-nineteenth century; Arthur Train and the creation of the Authors League to defend an author's ownership of his or her copyright; and George Middleton and Arthur Richman's effort to organize the American playwrights of the 1920s (including such authors as Eugene O'Neill and Rachel Crothers) together to protect their right over the production of their work with adoption of the first Minimum Basic Agreement between playwrights and theatrical managers.

An illuminating and detailed history, Professor Walsh concentrates his study on the contracts, characters, and conflicts that produce the that produced the founding of the Dramatists Guild and its growth and challenges through the end of the twentieth century. His work is an exciting new look at what has been called "the playwrights' century" in America and how the Dramatists Guild encouraged, supported, and fought for its member authors.

Critique: Exhaustively researched, impressively well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, enhanced with the inclusion of an eighteen page Bibliography and a twenty-one page Index, "Playwrights and Power: The Making of the Dramatists Guild" is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to community, college, and university library collections.

Ages of Anxiety
Craig E. Stephenson
Spring Journal Books
9781935528753, $29.95, PB, 164pp,

Synopsis: In "Ages of Anxiety: Jung's Types as Inspiration for Poetry, Music, and Dance" Jungian analyst Craig Stephenson draws on depth psychology to provide an original and profound study of W. H. Auden's Pulitzer Prize winning poem, The Age of Anxiety.

In this dramatic poem, Auden draws on Jung's psychological typology to explore and develop the themes of identity and integrity in times of war. Stephenson examines Auden's use of Jung's critical psychology of type to understand the traumatic effects of war on the individual and collective psyche, as well as the noxious attractions of fascism.

In this light, Stephenson also examines Leonard Bernstein's symphony, The Age of Anxiety (Symphony No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra), inspired by Auden's poem, and three ballets based on Bernstein's music, choreographed by Jerome Robbins (New York City Ballet), John Neumeier (Hamburg Ballet), and Liam Scarlett (Royal Ballet, London).

Using all these creative works as points for reflection, Stephenson surveys historically the concept of "anxiety," from Kierkegaard through five editions of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Interweaving Auden's exploration of the twentieth-century mind with Jungian depth psychology, Stephenson extrapolates forward into our time, with its mounting political tensions.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative original study, "Ages of Anxiety: Jung's Types as Inspiration for Poetry, Music, and Dance" is an erudite and seminal contribution to the growing body of Jungian literature that is unreservedly recommended for personal, college, and university library Jungian Psychology collections in general, and supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

House of the Rising Sun
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781501107108, $27.99, Hardcover, 433 pp.
Pocket Books
9781501107139, $9.99, Paperback, 576 pp.

Hackberry Holland may have been the last of his kind, straddling the ways of the 19th century as the 20th dawned and progressed through World War I, as James Lee Burke captures the riotous times and personalities in this wonderfully told story. It begins with Hackberry as a sometime Texas Ranger in Mexico where he discovers a hidden artifact which may or may not be the Holy Grail while looking for his estranged son, now a Captain in the U.S. Army commanding Black troops.

The cup plays a central role in the novel, with a very rich man in San Antonio, from whose property Hackberry removed it, claiming possession, and Hackberry keeping it hidden. Meanwhile the author turns his attention to the son's experiences in the trenches and his wounds at the Battle of the Marne, as well as Hackberry's rational and irrational behavior, especially with regard to the two women in his life.

This novel is another example of how Mr. Burke creates outstanding tales and characters, written in superb language, providing deep insights into the personalities populating it. The descriptions of the times and environment are without equal.

Highly recommended.

The Trespasser
Tana French
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670026333, $27.00, Hardcover, 448 pp.,

Antoinette Conway, and her partner, Stephen Moran (who she brought on board in the Dublin Murder Squad after working with him in a previous novel) are the newbies in the elite Irish police group, and as such, only receive humdrum domestic dispute assignments. Until one day the gaffer hands them what turns out to be a murder case of a pretty young woman. The case turns out to be anything but a simple lovers quarrel.

Antoinette, the only female on the squad, takes a lot of guff from other members (who want her anywhere else), and her resentment shows throughout the book. While she enjoys her work, she contemplates leaving for an offer in the private sector. Meanwhile, she has a murder to solve as her first lead detective case and goes about it diligently if somewhat misdirected by an experienced detective assigned to work with the partners for reasons not revealed until the end.

One criticism I made in the previous novel by Tana French was that it was tedious and slow reading. The same is true of "The Trespasser." One has to plod through a couple of hundred pages of continual repetition before it all begins to make sense. And then, and only then, does the reading become enjoyable and worthwhile and the plot begin to come together. The novel would have been rated at a higher level had it not been for this criticism. Certainly, Ms French writes well and creates clever plots. One could wish she would now turn her attention to some judicious editing. That said, the novel is recommended.

Love You Dead
Peter James
Pan MacMillan


In US, October 1, 2016, 400 pp., $27.95
In UK, May 19, 2016, 448 pp., 20.00 BPS
In CA, June 16, 2016,, 448 pp., 40.99 CA$


In US April 1, 2017, $14.95, 400 pp., ISBN 9781509820382
In CA November 22, 2016, 400 pp., ISBN 9781509820382
In UK, October 20, 2016, ISBN 9781447255895, 560 pp., 7.99 RRP

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace's cup runneth over in this installment, the 12th in the long-running series. As if a possible serial killer in the form of a black widow who poisons her husbands by injecting them with the venom of poisonous snakes isn't enough to keep him occupied, there's news that his long-time antagonist, Dr. Edward Crisp, who was presumed dead in a previous novel but survived, has been arrested by French police. And lastly, his first wife, Sandy, turns up in a Munich hospital comatose, the result of an accident with a taxi, complicating Roy's marriage with Cleo and their one year-old son, Noah.

The aforementioned woman, Jodie Bentley, one of several names she goes by, keeps in her home various snakes and spiders and other harmful insects, milking poisonous venoms and freeze-drying them into crystals which she reconstitutes to inject into elderly rich men after a few days of marrying them, in an effort to amass wealth. She began life as an ugly duckling but through plastic surgery became a beautiful lady so she could attract a loaded spouse.

The bulk of the novel is a fascinating police procedural, which Mr. James excels in writing. However, there is more to the book, including additional insight into Grace's character, his relationship with Cleo, and his dilemma regarding Sandy, who had left him 10 years previously without a word, which is now explained.

Highly recommended.

A Specter of Justice
Mark deCastrique
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204722, $26.95, Hardcover, 252 pp,

In the tenth Sam Blackman-Nakayla Robertson mystery, the tables are turned on their down-the-hall neighbor, defense attorney Hewitt Donaldson, who becomes the prime suspect in a double murder. While it is completely understandable that Sam and his partner (and lover) can't believe the lawyer is guilty, the police and district attorney have compiled a pretty good set of evidence against him. But even the lead detective doubts his guilt.

So Sam and Nakayla, along with Donaldson's office staff, go about finding the real murderer. Two women participating in a charity fundraiser are the victims. One was in a relationship with Donaldson, the other with the lead detective's partner. So, immediate flags are raised against each. As the team begins to investigate, more damning evidence begins to surface against Donaldson.

The author writes about Asheville, NC, its history and environment. The charity event is a re-enactment of various famous ghost stories from the past. The two murder victims were to portray two of the ghosts dressed in authentic costumes. The book raises some interesting questions, in addition to what essentially is a police procedural. One is whether or not Donaldson, by winning most of the time defending clients by any means, is really in the interest of justice. The novel is smoothly written and carries the reader along quickly and efficiently, and is recommended.

Theodore Feit

Vogel's Bookshelf

My Bad: A Mile High Noir
Manuel Ramos
Arte Publico Press
University of Houston
4902 Gulf Freeway, Bldg 19, Rm 100, Houston, TX 77204-2004
9781558858336, $17.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Ex-con Gus Corral is fresh out of jail and intent on keeping his nose clean. He's living in his sister's basement, which he shares with a cat or two, Corrine's CDs and their father's record collection. The blues music in particular strikes a chord, matching the way he feels about his current state.

Things start to look up when Gus gets a job working as an investigator for his attorney, Luis Montez. An activist in the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Montez is slowing down and getting close to retirement, and he figures the felon can do the legwork on his cases. When Maria Contreras comes to see the lawyer about her dead husband's "business partner" someone she has never heard of who's demanding his share of the profits of a business she knew nothing about Montez has Gus look into the situation.

Narrating the story in alternating chapters, Gus and Luis recount their run-ins with suspicious characters as they learn that there's more to the case than meets the eye. The widow's husband owned and operated a local bar, not Aztlan Treasures, a Mexican folk art import company. And word on the street is that he was murdered on his boat in the Sea of Cortez. Soon, the dead bodies are piling up and the pair is surrounded by shadowy figures that point to money laundering, drug smuggling and even Mexican crime cartels.

The follow-up to Desperado, Ramos' first novel featuring Gus Corral, My Bad races to a walloping conclusion in a Rocky Mountain blizzard, leaving fans of crime novels and Chicano literature eagerly awaiting the next installment in his mile-high noir.

Critique: Another riveting read from an impressively gifted novelist of the first order, Manuel Ramos' "My Bad: A Mile High Noir" is a consistently compelling and highly recommended. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "My Bad: A Mile High Noir" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Daily Show
Chris Smith
Hachette Audio
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781478936558, $35.00, CD,

Synopsis: "The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests" is comprehensive and uncensored history of the award-winning four nights a week television program called The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, using anecdotes drawn from its correspondents, writers, and host.

For almost seventeen years, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart brilliantly redefined the borders between television comedy, political satire, and opinionated news coverage. It launched the careers of some of today's most significant comedians, highlighted the hypocrisies of the powerful, and garnered 23 Emmys.

Now the show's behind-the-scenes gags, controversies, and camaraderie will be chronicled by the players themselves, from legendary host Jon Stewart to the star cast members and writers-including Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Steve Carell, Lewis Black, Jessica Williams, John Hodgman, and Larry Wilmore-plus some of The Daily Show's most prominent guests and adversaries: John and Cindy McCain, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, and many more.

This complete and unabridged multi-cast audio book presents an oral history that takes the listener behind the curtain for all the show's highlights, from its origins as Comedy Central's underdog late-night program hosted by Craig Kilborn to Jon Stewart's long reign to Trevor Noah's succession, rising from a scrappy jester in the 24-hour political news cycle to become part of the beating heart of politics-a trusted source for not only comedy but also commentary, with a reputation for calling bullshit and an ability to effect real change in the world.

Critique: Simply stated, "The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests" is a 'must' for the legions of Jon Stewart fans and a consistently fascinating, informative, candid, and occasionally surprising account given full voice through a roster of participants. Unreservedly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to personal and community library audio book collections. (13 CDs, Running Time: 18 Hours).

The Wealthy Renter
Alex Avery
The Dundurn Group
3 Church Street, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5E 1M2
9781459736467, $19.99, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: "Why rent when you can buy?" More than any other, this phrase captures the overwhelmingly unanimous promotion of home ownership to Canadians. Real estate agents, mortgage brokers, family, friends, and even the government promote ownership as a safe, attractive, and sure-fire path to personal wealth. This one-size-fits-all advice ignores the reality of Canada's housing market. Canadians deserve better advice.

Faced with expensive house prices in a near-zero interest rate world, it's time Canadians heard the virtues of renting and seriously considered renting as an alternative to home ownership. Real estate analyst Alex Avery insists renting offers a simple, more affordable way to live, plus in Canada's frenzied housing market, going month-to-month is dramatically lower risk. He claims the reputation of home ownership as a wealth building strategy is unfounded and shows renters how to replace bricks-and-mortar with better investment opportunities.

Critique: Based in Toronto, Canada, Alex Avery is a top-ranked institutional equity research analyst, advising institutional investors on real estate investments. Alex joined CIBC Capital Markets, one of Canada's largest investment brokerages, in 2005, and leads the real estate research team. In "The Wealthy Renter: How to Choose Housing That Will Make You Rich" Avery draws upon his years of experience and expertise to lay out a persuasive and iconoclastic case for building personal wealth as a renter rather than as a home owner. While Canadian focused, a great deal of the information and all of the general principles are applicable to diverse American housing markets as well. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Wealthy Renter" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99).

King Sequoia
William C. Tweed
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781597143516, $18.00, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: Sequoias are evergreen trees with a lifespan of 1,200 - 1,800 years or more -- and are the tallest living trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet (115.5 m) in height (without the roots) and up to 29.2 feet (8.9 m) in diameter at breast height (dbh). Simply stated, sequoias are among the oldest living things on Earth.

In the pages of "King Sequoia: The Tree That Inspired a Nation, Created Our National Park System, and Changed the Way We Think about Nature", William C. Tweed (one of California's preeminent naturalists and a former park ranger) deftly presents a history that echoes across generations and continents.

"King Sequoia" takes readers on a tour of the Big Trees in a narrative that travels deep into the Sierras, around the West, and all the way to New Zealand; and in doing so he explores the American public's evolving relationship with sequoias.

It comes as no surprise that the groves in Yosemite and Calaveras were early tourist destinations, as this species that predated Christ and loomed over all the world's other trees was the embodiment of California's superlative, almost unbelievable appeal.

When sequoias were threatened by logging interests, the feelings of horror that this desecration evoked in people catalyzed protection efforts; in a very direct way, this species inspired the Park Idea. And sequoias' influence doesn't end there: as science evolved to consider landscapes more holistically, sequoias were once again at the heart of this attitudinal shift.

Featuring an entrancing cast of adventurers, researchers, politicians, and environmentalists, "King Sequoia" reveals how one tree species has transformed Americans' connection to the natural world.

Critique: Impressively researched, exceptionally well written, informatively detailed, and a consistently compelling read from cover to cover, "King Sequoia" is highly recommended for both community and academic library Natural History collections. It should be noted for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "King Sequoia" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir
Brian Wilson
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9780306823060, $26.99, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: As a cofounding member of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Brian Wilson created some of the most groundbreaking and timeless popular music ever recorded. With intricate harmonies, symphonic structures, and wide-eyed lyrics that explored life's most transcendent joys and deepest sorrows, songs like "In My Room," "God Only Knows," and "Good Vibrations" forever expanded the possibilities of pop song writing.

Derailed in the 1970s by mental illness, drug use, and the shifting fortunes of the band, Wilson came back again and again over the next few decades, surviving and-finally-thriving. Now, for the first time in "I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir", he weighs in on the sources of his creative inspiration and on his struggles, the exhilarating highs and the debilitating lows.

This candidly informative autobiography (written wit the assistance of Ben Greenman) reveals as never before the man who fought his way back to stability and creative relevance, who became a mesmerizing live artist, who forced himself to reckon with his own complex legacy, and who finally completed Smile, the legendary unfinished Beach Boys record that had become synonymous with both his genius and its destabilization.

Today Brian Wilson is older, calmer, and filled with perspective and forgiveness. Whether he's talking about his childhood, his bandmates, or his own inner demons, Wilson's story, told in his own voice and in his own way, unforgettably illuminates the man behind the music, working through the turbulence and discord to achieve, at last, a new harmony.

Critique: Written with a genuine flair for presenting an inherently fascinating and sincere account of his life's ups and downs, "I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir" is a 'must read' for the legions of Beach Boy fans and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir" is also available in a paperback editon (9781444781328, $14.55) and in a Kindle format ($13.99).

Paul T. Vogel

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

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