Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / MBR Bookwatch

MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 5 May 2023 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf Diane Donovan's Bookshelf Gary Roen's Bookshelf
Helen Dumont's Bookshelf John Taylor's Bookshelf Mary Cowper's Bookshelf
Micah Andrew's Bookshelf Michael Dunford's Bookshelf Paul Vogel's Bookshelf
S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf  

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer
Dr. Agnes M. F. Wong
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780197551387, $38.95, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer: Reflections of a Physician-Chaplain", Dr. Agnes Wong offers a succinct, all-in-one introduction to the full gamut of compassion, from the evolutionary, biological, behavioural, and psychological, to the social, philosophical, and spiritual.

Drawing on her diverse background as a clinician, scientist, educator, and chaplain, Dr. Wong presents a wealth of scientific evidence supporting that compassion is both innate and trainable. By interleaving personal experiences and reflections, she shares her insights on what it takes to cultivate compassion to support the art of medicine and caregiving.

The training described in "The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer" draws on both contemplative and scientific disciplines to help clinicians develop cognitive, attentional, affective, and somatic skills that are critical for the cultivation of compassion. With striking illustrations for key concepts and concise summaries for each chapter, "The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer" provides a solid conceptual framework and practical approaches.

Critique: While very highly recommended reading for those members of the medical community dealing with pain medicine pharmacology and emotional mental health issues, "The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer: Reflections of a Physician-Chaplain" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, medical center, and medical school library Health/Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of medical students, and medical practitioners, and hospital/hospice chaplains that "The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer: Reflections of a Physician-Chaplain" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.35).

Editorial Note: Agnes M.F. Wong, MD ( is Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology, and Psychology at the University of Toronto, and an active staff Ophthalmologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. In addition to her clinical and academic work, she is also a trained chaplain whose work combines mindfulness, compassion, reflective practices, and system thinking to enhance wellness at the personal, interpersonal, and system level.

Class War: A Literary History
Mark Steven
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781839760693, $29.95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: An exceptional and impressive work of history, with the publication of "Class War: A Literary History", Mark Steven deftly weaves together literature and politics to chart the making and unmaking of social class through revolutionary combat. In a narrative that spans the globe and more than two centuries of history, Steven traces the history of class war from the Haitian Revolution to Black Lives Matter.

Surveying the literature of revolution, from the poetry of Shelley and Byron to the novels of Emile Zola and Jack London, exploring the writings of Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, and Assata Shakur, "Class War" reveals the interplay between military action and the politics of class, showing how solidarity flourishes in times of conflict.

Written with verve and ranging across diverse historical settings, "Class War" traverses industrial battles, guerrilla insurgencies, and anticolonial resistance, as well as large-scale combat operations waged against capitalism's regimes and its interstate system.

In our age of economic crisis, ecological catastrophe, and planetary unrest, "Class Warfare" shares and illuminates the stories of those whose actions will help guide future militants toward a revolutionary horizon.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Class War: A Literary History" will have a special value for readers with an interest in the sociology and history of class politics. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Class War: A Literary History" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Sociology collections and supplemental curriculum Social Theory studies lists.

Editorial Note: Mark Steven ( is Senior Lecturer in Twentieth- and Twenty-first Century Literature at the University of Exeter, UK. He is the author of Red Modernism: American Poetry and the Spirit of Communism (2017) and Splatter Capital (2017).

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Nobody's Daughter
Rica Ramos
She Writes Press
9781647424916, Paperback: $17.95 / Ebook $8.99

Nobody's Daughter: A Memoir of Healing The Mother Wound is a study in survival and provides the experiences of Rica Ramos, whose mother "didn't have the courage to save (her)." As a result, Ramos endured sexual abuse in her childhood and longed for a heroine to intervene.

Her narrative is about women, mothers and daughters, and imperfection in mothers and children. It opens with Rica's search for the perfect wedding dress...without her mother. The effort calls forth a contrast in times and lives as she reflects, "The thought of Mom split me in two, part woman, part girl. My adult self said 'focus on finding a dress, being a bride, living out my happily ever after.' But my teenage self haunted me from the streets of Milwaukee."

There are many memoirs of sexual abuse on the market. Most reference a mother's presence fairly lightly, in passing. Nobody's Daughter is satisfyingly different in its survey not only of the sexual trauma and experiences, but its analysis of a mother/daughter relationship that moves from childhood to adulthood to remain disconnected in many ways.

Another difference between this memoir and others is that Ramos reflects on impacts of not only her own life trajectory, but that of her sister and those around her. Her mother's ability to defend and question in certain situations (as when confronting a nurse about her low weight) is also presented ("Was this woman doing everything right? Seeing Mom's concern sent a warm flicker through my body, a rush of pride for my mother, the momma bear ready to pounce.") to balance out and contrast her mother's choices and decisions.

Interactions with other female relatives, from Aunt Rachel to Grandma, interplay past events with the present-day world Ramos reflects in her own family as she questions the legacy she's handing down to future generations because of her experiences: "My mind went back to the conversation with Aunt Rachel. Suddenly, I had to know if I'd said terrible things to my son that stuck in his memory." As her self-analysis deepens, so do her realizations about her role in spreading her childhood damage: "Try as I might to remember, I didn't know all the ways I'd failed my sons. All the splinters I plunged into their hearts."

Also key to the memoir is her sister Jesse's trauma and her different way of defying or bowing to the same events: " sister's trauma was a spotlight that never dimmed, an agonizing beam on her conscience. Her guilt plagued her with questions: Wasn't she the big sister, and shouldn't she have protected her siblings? Shouldn't she have protected herself? She was a child, victimized and traumatized - a fact she often forgot."

As Ramos embraces her memories and feelings about her parents, grandparents, and the childhood that influenced her, she creates a survey of different family members and considers their roles in events, pulling no punches in analyzing the wellsprings of her adult challenges and childhood angst.

She emerges from the reflective process with grace and a new position of power - a highly recommended read for anyone interested in self-help strategies, memoirs of abuse and recovery, and those involved in transforming lives from the foundations of abuse to achieve empowerment:

"For so long I believed I could find healing in Mom's love, in something she might say, do, offer. Now I saw the error of my ways. I gave Mom the power I'd had all along, the strength and the will to nurture and protect my own heart. Within the mother wound, my body held the imprint of my trauma. But healing was attainable too. Healing was mine for the taking."

Sex, Drugs and Navel-Gazing
William MacDuff
Edingsville Village Press
9798986734200, $17.99

Sex, Drugs and Navel-Gazing: An American Joyride Through Basque Country and South West France is a spirited romp that represents both a travelogue and a humorous erotic adventure. It will attract readers via its ribald adventures of counterculture narrated in a voice that doesn't just attract reader interest, but pulls like a magnet.

An early example of this immediate draw is the story's opening lines: "In adventures to foreign lands with an assorted crew of committed degenerates, it always helps to have a local guide as part of the squad. Traveling exclusively with a bunch of American twenty-somethings with Peter Pan syndrome trying to relive the glory days is an embossed, gold-letter cardstock invitation to a disaster party."

William MacDuff begins his odyssey (aka "a sordid reunion of a bunch of recovering frat boys in Europe") in the coastal Basque town of San Sebasti n, where the author and his compatriots are "hopping the pond" to France for a week in a quiet surf town.

His observation of this choice and its impact is anything but staid or for readers used to travelogues that revere the wonder of foreign locales: " turns out I physically cannot last more than seventy-two consecutive hours in Basque Country. That place is a disgustingly perfect little piece of hellish paradise. It is a ghastly beauty."

The story unfolds with all the sordid details, escapades, and drama of a travel experience that embraces vastly different people, joining them with shared situations filled with testosterone and the jocular interactions between boys, men, and those on the cusp of change.

Those who choose Sex, Drugs and Navel-Gazing will find it a joyride not only into sex and drugs, but an exploration of the intersection of different European cultures. The narrator encounters different people of all ages, saturating himself in "two of the universal languages, booze and women" as he connects with vastly different individuals from all walks of life.

In effect, Sex, Drugs and Navel-Gazing represents a cross-cultural odyssey whereby new adults and adults create an eclectic mix of coordinated and uncoordinated life rendezvous to illustrate heady (and sometimes dangerous) interactions and lessons.

Readers looking for a journey replete with sex, drugs, and cross-cultural revelations will find themselves joining the author on this promised joyride. The only requirement is that any political correctness or judgment be left behind. Boys will be boys, and the foundations of their growth can be found here and relived by the open mind interested in the open road where growth and discovery exist alongside crossroads of revelation and angst.

Libraries seeking the rollicking joyride of a European road trip should place Sex, Drugs and Navel-Gazing at the top of their acquisition lists.

The Eleventh Grieve
Garth Hallberg
The Reason for Everything Press
9780991377053, $12.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

The Eleventh Grieve's near-future story of two women despairing about climate change holds compelling attraction because of its foundations in present-day issues and experiences, as well as its intriguing title. It grabs reader attention from its opening lines: "THERE WERE NO OYSTERS. That was how it all began."

In the first part of the 21st century, extreme weather events are becoming the norm, not the exception. So much so that "weird weather" has gained an audience among those who would profit from its increased impact. Businessmen such as Jake Krimmer eschew any concern for environment over the profits such weather events bring to their special interests.

Jake has more than a vested interest in denying climate change; but his attitude also holds a cost - the fate of his relationship with Samantha. She is increasingly dismayed about the planet's future, and her interests seem to lie in direct opposition to Jake's denial of climate change and his profit-making ventures based on disasters.

Their relationship and the world are on the teetering edge of catastrophe when Rita Ten Grieve enters the picture with her time-travel ability and command of The Nimbus, a technology that holds the potential to change the world via one man's conversion.

As she introduces ten "Grieves" that test and transform Jake, it becomes evident that not only his future, but the world's survival rests on the shoulders of an impossible transformation that needs to take place both individually and globally.

On its surface, The Eleventh Grieve is a fable of possibilities and life lessons. But look deeper to uncover the jewel in the crown, because Jake's encounters with predictions, surprises, and seismic shifts in his relationship not just with Samantha and Rita, but the world, reflect the progressions and possibilities of healing and illness on more than an individual scale.

Garth Hallberg weaves facts about climate change and influences with a fictional backdrop that makes both subjects thoroughly engrossing. From the role of speculators who would profit from disaster to the impact of climate policies made on social and political levels, Hallberg's story is replete with the realities of past precedent and the future possibility of either transformation or calamity.

Hallberg himself sums up the central focus of this compelling fable: "...think of it as an object lesson for how difficult it is to do what you know in your heart needs to be done. How easy it is for people to miss the point that the future of the planet is at stake."

Think Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but with questions posed on a more universal level that embraces humanity's survival as a whole.

The Eleventh Grieve's parable will reach a wide audience, from those who anticipate another "cli-fi" fictional exploration to readers who look for higher-level thinking in their stories. Libraries that recommend The Eleventh Grieve to their patrons will find it also is ideal for book club discussion groups interested not just in the physical manifestations of climate change, but the mental hoops humanity must jump through to make changes in paradigms and perceptions to address the successes and failures of climate change survival tactics.

A Lesson in Woo-Woo and Murder
David Unger, PhD
Independently Published
9781732339569, $15.95

Murder mystery readers are in for a treat with A Lesson in Woo-Woo and Murder, which joins others in the "Lessons" series exploring psychotherapist David Unger's probes into murky matters of the mind.

Here, several therapy clients have paid for him to work at the Whole Life Expo, a bastion of self-care, healing, and new age exhibits. David is more than the usual therapist, sporting a special brand of training and psychic expertise that enhances his problem-solving abilities. But, is this enough to tackle bigger pictures when two Tantric sex practitioners and a chiropractor suddenly collapse and die in an environment where paranormal influences abound? Maybe.

David is not an inherent believer in special abilities, even though he keeps being drawn into unbelievable circumstances where he's forced to exhibit extraordinary powers of deduction to solve cases. In fact, he doesn't "...participate in a lot of "otherworldly, self-enhancing, spiritually awakening" discussions. I don't even know if I've had any of those experiences, but perhaps I have." He "might buy a few shares in the woo-woo world, but I wouldn't be a big investor." The only reason he's at the expo is because he has a job to do.

The job turns out to be an immersive experience that carries David far further into this world than he ever expected, augmenting his psychological training with a sleuth's eye for trouble.

Did UFOs commit murder? Can he foresee the future? Or does the trouble stem from pure psychological complexity, which David is already trained to handle?

Dr. David Unger provides an unsettlingly realistic murder story that is backed by his professional expertise in psychology, presenting a first-person protagonist that might mirror the author's own personality and approach to life. These elements create an especially engrossing, believable milieu that brings the character and the new age world of psychic involvements to life as he confronts death.

Especially astute are references to the psychotherapy techniques that come in handy in other problem-solving situations: "In A Lesson in Cowboys and Murder, I used a therapeutic technique called doubling, where I stood behind the suspects and said out loud what I thought they would be saying if they weren't holding it in. It can move things along."

As fortune teller Madame Vadama becomes a focal point, readers will be drawn not only by the new age environment and murder, but Dr. Unger's own shrewd assessment of personalities and possibilities.

The dovetailing of murder and mind probe is particularly well done, creating a compelling story as perceptive in its psychological complexity as it is in its portrait of sleuthing as Dr. Unger confronts good and evil in the healing world and faces romantic possibilities in the process.

Libraries and readers seeking a powerful tale that comes across as realistically compelling will find A Lesson in Woo-Woo and Murder alternatively funny, thought-provoking, and filled with satisfyingly surprising twists and turns.

The Long and Tortured Road
Thomas Kind
Quiet Waters Publishing
9798218100117, $27.95 Hardcover/$16.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Long and Tortured Road is a memoir about a forty-five-year-old man who hits the wall of depression. It follows his life up to this point and beyond, starting with a childhood in which racism was a powerful influencer and an intrinsic part of the family belief system.

This and other beliefs and rules emerge from a riveting account of a boy who grows up believing he "can't do anything right," whose life lessons embrace family legends and illusions as well as abuse.

Thomas Kinds cultivates an unusually candid form of self-reflection that reaches out to grab his readers: "At a young age, I learned that extroverted people were more successful than introverted people, and I was told that I was an extrovert. It felt like it was a choice rather than an inherent trait. I learned that having time alone was wrong. Time alone was sad. Time alone was selfish. I avoided and fought that bad place, and I never learned the feeling of a solitary comfort zone."

These childhood influences translated to adult pursuits and perspectives which too often didn't support Kind's own instincts and best interests: "As I surface into the world, I'm a social chameleon, contorting into a mistake-free human being. Each day, I mentally craft a handful of jokes for my clients, continuing to perform as a witty extrovert. I exist in a state of improv, always preparing standup comedy bits to please people."

It's rare to see a memoir that so succinctly and straightforwardly translates the messages of childhood into the adult perceptions which lead to struggle and impossible scenarios. Kind's memoir succeeds in drawing important connections between experience and personality growth, offering many thought-provoking reflections for those struggling with early childhood mandates and their translation to adult situations.

From evolving delusional manias in which Kind "became a madman" to journal entries that documented the thinking, logic, and processes that led him to cultivate extraordinary reactions and behaviors to ordinary life challenges, readers receive a powerful connection between outer and inner worlds. This approach excels in examining a myriad of connections, such as the process of absorbing political fervor and translating it into passionate ideas for change.

As anxiety, mental illness, and world events coalesce to bring Kind to the brink of both collapse and newfound realizations about himself, readers will find themselves thoroughly immersed in the challenges he faces: "I'm bouncing off the past and the future, past, future, past, future. I can't stay in the present."

The result is a vivid memoir that, more so than most, chronicles the early influences, lasting impact, and translation of childhood mandates and growth processes into adult reactions and connections.

Libraries and readers seeking memoirs about life changes, discovery, and recovery will find The Long and Tortured Road a powerful testimony to the power of purpose and perception in mental health struggles and transformative experiences.

Klara's Journey
K.S. Wright
Hart & Hind Publishing
9781957910000, $21.99, HC

Klara's Journey is the first book in the new adult fantasy and historical romance series 'The Kenetlon Sagas,' and opens with an evocative prologue that introduces Waywyrd, who is enjoying a magnificent view on a sea-salted terrace overlooking the Black Sea.

This bucolic interlude of peace precedes events that change in a heartbeat as Klara is discovered to be acting as a village whore. She finds herself signing up for a very different profession when she becomes part of an expedition to the wildlands as their chief cook and huntress.

As she moves from being exploited to a position of empowerment granted by her choices and growth, Klara becomes involved with both nobility and exiled royalty, coming to find her life journey entwined with the destinies of kings and the future of the land.

K.S. Wright nicely contrasts Klara's personal revelations and experiences with the rising conflicts and challenges of her world. Her encounter with demons, rituals, and matters of her own heart ("I don't believe I'm capable of even knowing what love is.") makes for a satisfying contrast between high-octane adventure and psychological development as Klara moves into positions of power she'd never imagined, both personally and as a member of society.

When her relationship with King Thorn evolves, Klara's position shifts - as do her perceptions of her life's purpose and her beliefs. These all bring readers into a satisfying milieu of discovery, with unexpected twists of plot keeping the romance elusive and fresh and the action spirited and in sync with Klara's developmental process.

Libraries and readers seeking stories that represent the intersection of fantasy, history, romance, and psychological growth will welcome the opportunity to follow Klara on her life-changing journey through a world in flux.

The Distance Between Us
A. C. Burch
HomePort Press
9781734053395, $7.99 Kindle $17.99 paperback

The Distance Between Us is a novel about Helena Handbasket, a former housekeeper whose run of good luck has resulted in an inherited fortune, a mansion, and a loving husband and family. All these would seem to add solidity to her life; but in actuality, too much good fortune can lead to cracks under pressure.

It's bad enough that her husband has left town and her community status has changed, but Helena then becomes a suspect in a murder case. She embarks on a journey to clear her name, becoming embroiled in a murder investigation that strikes at the very heart of small-town politics and special interests.

The atmosphere and culture of Cape Cod come alive as the story courses through Provincetown events, fueled by a fire of conviction and tenacity that leads Helena to make discoveries that are whimsical, thought-provoking, and downright dangerous.

A. C. Burch introduces the story with a map and a somewhat daunting-appearing list of characters which range from central figures to cameo appearances featured in the story. While this might portend a complicated read, the novel then progresses on a path which is emotionally compelling and interactive, lending vigor and personality to each of the characters Helena and her readers come into contact with.

From aspiring socialites and undercover cops to Helena's natural curiosity (which sometimes injects too much complexity and trouble into the investigation), readers receive much more than a 'whodunnit'. They are treated to a romp through the undercurrents and trials of Cape Cod and Provincetown's community as Helena traverses her environment with a witty, astute attention to exploring different cultures and interactions:

"Well, Quincy," Helena said, "you picked the right moment. I was up until two drinking champagne, and what is it now? Seven in the morning? I don't think I'd be curious if you told me you were taking up drag."

Between friendships to inevitable conversations that pair discretion with observations of the firebrand Helena has become in the community, The Distance Between Us blends insights into the drag community with Helena's passion for justice and her involvement in different definitions of progress and growth.

Whether she's mired in personal, political, or social conundrums, there's one thing Helena profiles and represents - the powerful heartbeat of a community at odds with growing fame and its impact on individual ways of life.

Readers, book clubs, and libraries seeking LGBTQ+ examinations, Cape Cod cultural inspections, mysteries, and novels packed with social inquiry will welcome the dual threads of humor and serious inspection that capture the multifaceted world of Cape Cod, a microcosm of small-town experiences and change.

Chester Midshipmouse: Time and Tide
Susan Weisberg
Brass Button Books
9780999057919, $32.99 Hardcover/$16.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Hardcover: order via website or order/purchase at Naval Academy

Chester Midshipmouse: Time and Tide sails the mouse kingdom with the final book in a trilogy about a nautical house mouse's seafaring adventures.

On the cusp of graduating from the Naval Mouse Academy, Chester experiences new challenges and adventures as he pursues his goals.

Artist Maggie Vandewalle contributes to Chester's world, bringing him to life with nine color (hardback and ebook versions) or black and white (soft cover book) full-page illustrations, accented by four thumbnail sketches within, as the story unfolds.

Chester's final year of training should be a snap, but when he faces mouse traps, tries to help a fellow student overcome failing grades, and faces a dangerous predator that demands he exhibit training he's barely absorbed (much less applied to the real world), Chester finds his paws full.

Intrigue, attempts to build character and purpose through hard life lessons as well as the challenges of study, and moral and ethical questions unfold as Chester begins to realize that the pursuit of learning is also a process of testing his abilities before lessons are even completed.

Susan Weisberg has a winning, likeable character in Chester the mouse. She weaves realistic Naval Academy experiences into the fictional story, providing young readers with an especially vivid journey through naval studies which are usually not afforded to young readers.

The fantasy and fun opens with a strike fighter squadron composed of a mouse strapped to an eagle's back. As the Super Eagle's maneuvers test Chester's stomach and abilities, so other experiences arise to test his mettle and determination.

Humor is also replete in educational examples that kids will find hilarious and familiar:

"Since the platoon offers one hawberry for each raspberry but the commanding officer requests double the amount of hawberries and the platoon doesn't have them, now we are talking about imaginary numbers. So, we write it like this..." Chester continued jotting numbers and symbols.

"Why don't they offer the asparagus instead?" Dilly suggested.

"Little kitties" that seem quite large and puzzling and humans who appear to "speak cat," along with the routines of Academy life, bring to life Chester, his friends, and humans that mirror the mouse's Naval life. Midshipmen First Class B. Wise and T. Briggs, who befriend the brave mice, bring facets of the Naval world to life in a rollicking series of adventures that involve readers of all ages in the worlds of man and mouse... and Naval Academy experiences.

The result is a fantasy, an adventure, a coming-of-age tale, and a thought-provoking venture into the halls of Naval training through the eyes of a mouse who wisely observes that the challenges will continue far beyond classroom walls.

Libraries and readers who enjoyed the prior books in the series, or who look for a vivid tale of struggle and change ala Watership Down, will find the Naval Academy milieu and pursuits of man and mouse to be inviting, action-packed, and fun as Chester develops unusual friendships and hones his abilities.

"Fair winds and following seas." Chester spoke with force and volume, "Whatever you do and wherever you go, strive valiantly and dare greatly."

The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox
J.D. Grolic
9781738870707, $12.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Middle grade readers seeking a compelling adventure will find The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox a fine bend of mystery and fantasy. It's about a pre-teen who makes friends with curious London shop owners, then embarks on a series of adventures based upon spells, a missing magician, and encounters with strange creatures such as brownies.

Once an herbalist's shop, then abandoned, the newly revamped store transforms overnight. Middle grade readers will be piqued by the blend of old-fashioned language and the portent of extraordinary adventure that these changes promise: "How Chloe Ashley - a normal, everyday girl who went to school, rode the bus, did chores and loved books - came to be friends with Mr. Ixworth and Mr. Maddox is a tale, like many, born from a single coincidental moment."

When Chloe befriends the two odd proprietors of the shop, she falls into an adventure and world she never saw coming, and Maddox finds his friendship tested and his world upended as a result: "Essentially, a magician is the landlord of his realm. He can Evict anyone he chooses, even other magicians."

"Why would Ixworth Evict you?" said Chloe. "You're friends."

"I don't know," said Maddox. "I'm not even sure it was him. It was a very strong spell."

As events unfold and Chloe and Maddox pursue an elusive and odd truth, the ordinary becomes extraordinary at unexpected turns and in all levels of their pursuit, whether it be landing in an ordinary house or discovering that modern technology can be used to solve problems, such as a map of London tacked to the wall of this strange place which reveals clues in as ordinary a thing as a hat rack.

J.D. Grolic encourages young readers to pursue the clues and unusual presence of magic in their own lives. As Chloe's story and friendships evolve, this audience will become thoroughly immersed in twists and turns which contrast exceptional moments with everyday London experiences.

The wry sense of humor that unexpectedly accompanies many of these scenes is nicely done: "Chloe was tempted to take a picture with her mobile. She would call it Maddox Taking a Bath in the River Tyburn. They would laugh about it later, but the seriousness of their situation stopped her, and she decided instead to just watch things unfold."

Libraries and young readers will find the book's title, The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox, lives up to its name and promise as Chloe and Maddox turn up some surprising revelations about London, which is tinged with a magic that, to Maddox, "sticks out like a sore thumb." It also attracts with a quest that will revise the characters' lives and test their friendship in a story that comes so packed with surprise and delight that it's hard to put down.

Nelson's Lost Son
Oliver Greeves
Independently Published
9780645023756, $19.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Nelson's Lost Son is a military historical fiction piece that focuses on the "Great Chase" - the Caribbean campaign preceding the more well-known Trafalgar. It presents a fictitious story based on historical facts with the progress of Josiah Nisbet, who has lost his command and thus feels that his relationship with his famous stepfather Admiral Horatio Nelson is in jeopardy.

This is why he can't turn down the unexpected offer of becoming part of a covert mission that will, if successful, redeem his reputation, career, and relationship. The "if successful" part seems more and more unlikely, however, as events test Josiah's personal, political, and professional strengths.

While Nelson's Lost Son stands alone nicely for newcomers, it ideally will be selected by readers already familiar with its predecessor, Nelson's Folly, which offered new insights into the lives of Nelson and his wife Fanny. This builds the foundation for Nelson's Lost Son to continue the family legacy in a different way, offering a fast-paced adventure pairing the backdrop of real historical events with the examination of the father-son relationship of Horatio

Nelson and his 'lost son' Josiah Nisbet.

Though naval history and intrigue come to life, this story is about so much more than military confrontations. Equally at the heart of matters is the struggle between father and son, their shared missions and ideals, ways in which events test their relationship, and the manners in which heroism and courage emerge in disparate forms for different generations.

Josiah begins to realize the complex ramifications of his actions as the story unfolds: "It seemed to him there were two issues - a shortage of good hemp and a crisis of trust caused by the investigation. Everyone was scared. And where did that leave him?" This leads him into a position of danger in which trusts betrayed and ideals pursued land him in no-win situations. These further threaten not just his career ambitions and his relationship with the navy and his father, but his life.

Oliver Greeves again paints a thoroughly engrossing story powered as much by the quandaries and emotions of his characters as the times they live through.

Between presenting battles on the high seas or the plight of slaves "compelled to serve without condition" whether they be French or English, Greeves supercharges the story of men who too often are "victims of their own convictions," bringing Lord Nelson's world to life with vivid action and a blend of psychological, political, and military inspection.

Libraries that saw popularity with the previous Nelson's Folly, as well as newcomers, will find equally rich and vividly portrayed the history and sense of place and time in Nelson's Lost Son. Whether chosen as a sequel or a stand-alone novel, the tale is highly recommended for libraries seeking historical military fiction that shines.

The Control Problem
Norah Woodsey
Independently Published
9780997333978, $25.00 Hardback/$15.00 Paper/$9.99 ebook/$15.00 Audiobook

On the surface and to others, Vera Elpis represents the epitome of a fine life. Single, in her thirties, and living a quietly, Vera needs only one more thing to achieve perfection - a baby. Scratch that surface, however, and there's more simmering under it than the need for a child in her life. Many mysteries surround Vera's life, from her strange abilities to her frustration with the chaotic world around her.

Her first-person story opens with an intriguing reflection: "I WISH PEOPLE WOULD LISTEN TO ME. That's not great. How should you start a diary?"

In The Control Problem, Vera is forced to tackle unanswered questions about her background and abilities and the unpredictable paths her future takes as she navigates a strange series of circumstances from pursuing her dream, only to find it leads into a nightmare.

Readers may not anticipate the hard sci-fi elements that develop from Vera's quest and introductory perceptions, but these evolve in a compelling and satisfying manner as questions are answered, giving rise to different revelations and new horror as Vera comes to realize many impossible truths about her past, present, and future.

Norah Woodsey builds mystery into Vera's story and presents the world through Vera's eyes as she becomes increasingly embroiled in a strange world that immerses her in odd circumstances about her shadowed past. As questions arise about who has control, who should relinquish it, and why Vera has no children, readers will find the surprises come non-stop.

This is particularly notable because it's no light feat to develop a personality and world without the seasoned sci-fi reader well able to predict courses of action and development. Woodsey gives neither away and pursues Vera's unfolding conundrums with an attention to action and realization that creates a satisfyingly unpredictable story.

Woven within the sci-fi elements are insights into women's friendships, matters of control, and a form of data collection that fails to note the real motivations and feelings of individuals: "How many women shop when they are upset? It's what I want to do when I'm upset, and I can't be that unusual. Who are these people who make these systems? How do you overlook something as basic as motivation of the people you are trying to assess? I laughed to myself. How inconvenient for product design, the feelings of others. Do they know people at all? Do they care?"

The emotional threads reinforced by Vera's first-person questions and explorations bring the hard science of her world and its impossible situation to life.

Libraries and readers looking for a blend of women's literature, hard sci-fi, and social examination will find Vera's story in The Control Problem to be enlightening, eerily akin to some forms of modern angst, and impossible to put down.

Anger Is Your Compass
Moshe Ratson
Independently Published
9798986424507, $17.95 Paper/$17.95 Audiobook/$9.99 ebook

Anger Is Your Compass: Harness the Wisdom of Anger and Transform Your Life points to the power in hidden, repressed, or overt anger responses. It is highly recommended for readers interested in this general topic and in the dovetailing of its contentions with typical anger management logic.

Moshe Ratson illustrates that anger can serve a useful purpose - especially if it is handled in an effective manner that promotes growth, change, and appropriate response. The key to using anger responses effectively lies in a more mindful approach acknowledging its value as well as its strength. In this manner, Ratson provides a blueprint for better understanding that should be basic reading for psychology and self-help followers.

Chapters build constructive insights on anger's origins, strengths, and ability to transform. When used as a signal for uncovering truths and moving forward in a positive manner, anger can be quite useful - not something to be repressed, but directed and employed.

Anger's transformative promise is ongoing, and it's not a reaction to be ignored because "It's important to note that anger will remain active in your life until it serves its teaching purpose. It will continue to seek your attention until you learn from it and integrate its wisdom. And even then, it will arise again in the future to let you know when you need to take action to close the gap or meet a core need."

Reinforcing his contentions with case histories and examples from his own life as a psychotherapist and executive coach, Ratson provides the important revelations that profile anger's strength and ability to do good as much as do damage. He presents a step-by-step approach to harnessing anger's potential:

"Step one of transforming anger is to temper it - to bring it to the right level and direct it with wisdom. Just as a metal becomes stronger and more flexible by being heated and then cooled in air, anger can make you stronger when you take charge of its heat and intentionally adjust it to the right temperature, so it is proportionate to the situation. When your anger reaches the proper intensity, you will be able to access the wisdom beneath it. The ability to temper anger is a key skill of the compassionate warrior."

By reinterpreting painful experiences and pursing becoming a "compassionate warrior" fueled by the strength of anger and the wisdom of tapping into its powerful potentials, Ratson provides an uplifting view of how anger may be viewed in a different light, managed in a different way, and used to reinforce individual potentials and purposes in the world.

Readers interested in alternative views of anger's powerful possibilities will find that Ratson's insights stand out from other anger management discussions. Ideally, Anger Is Your Compass will not just reside in general-interest and psychology libraries, but will be actively discussed in book clubs and reading groups interested in self-help, personal insights, and social and business world issues. Its message is that far-reaching - and that widely applicable and important.

Four: Book 1 of the Numbers Trilogy
A.A. Clifford
HardBooks Publishing
9780985475956, $5.99 Kindle

Four is set in the year 2097, where society's reliance on technology has hit an all-time high, setting it above and beyond spiritual beliefs and political systems. In fact, scientists and atheists now control the world. And it's not a pretty picture.

Global Marshal Austin Corrigan has eschewed traditional faith in favor of a blend of scientific and agnostic believers. Charged with protecting the world from master criminals, he and his team are stymied when three dangerous men escape from Prime Supermax Prisons to form a deadly force, with an unknown fourth man spearheading their efforts.

As Austin tracks them on a world-hopping venture in which the perps stay one step ahead of even his power and might, he begins to realize they harbor extraordinary powers that are beyond belief.

Have they been genetically enhanced, or are they the fabled Four Horsemen incarnate?

It seems unlikely that Austin holds as a friend (much less teams up with) a devout Catholic, but Dean's faith forces Austin to confront his own underlying belief system as he pursues impossibly empowered enemies and teeters ever closer to a series of revelations that will revise not only his perception of this futuristic world, but his position in it.

A.A. Clifford builds a story that blends hard science, social change, moral and spiritual conundrums, and mystery into an action-packed plot designed to appeal to all kinds of readers, whether they come from spiritual or sci-fi circles.

The action is fast-paced, the character development keeps readers engaged, and the quandaries and questions Austin and other characters face as their roles and fates play out on a larger battlefield of belief and power plays makes for thoroughly engrossing reading.

Perhaps the most compelling piece of this story lies in its ability to dovetail spiritual questions over the nature and possibility of God with the events that predict and precede cataclysmic changes.

Christian readers, in particular, will find that the enactment of high drama in a futuristic world of pestilences and power plays feels both realistic and true to modern times and represents competing belief systems as each character tests their ability to transform themselves and the world.

Four will draw readers from different circles; from Christian thinkers and agnostics to sci-fi readers looking for a compelling story of futuristic society and change.

Libraries seeking books that posit the end of worlds and new beginnings will find Four an enticing, different perspective that draws as much from psychological foundations of personal change as from social and spiritual reflection.

Super Doople
K.A. Cummins
Eleonora Press
9781732920071, $14.99 Hardcover/$9.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Picture book readers will find hero Doople takes the unlikely form of a good egg who is more than ordinary, endowed with superpowers. At a very young age Doople dreams of flying, but despite his efforts to reach the sky via climbing, he is constantly warned that reaching for this particular dream will lead him to fall like Humpty.

Little Doople doesn't listen to the naysayers and insists on his pursuit, until one day a terrible wind leads to his downfall and others' dire predictions come true. Or, do they?

It takes a village to recover from an egg-shattering event, much less support an impossible dream, but as Little Doople faces his downfall and enlightenment, a miracle happens, fueled by a scientist helper who has been studying how to put dooples back together again.

There's only one way to test one's dreams and abilities: by trying.

Read-aloud parents and libraries that choose Super Doople for its entertainment promise will find added value in a takeoff on Humpty Dumpty that features a different outcome. A study in positivity and perseverance emerges that will delight any adult seeking lessons reinforcing these concepts for the very young, powered by whimsical, fun illustrations by the author in a very important message.

Summer Words
David Salner
Broadstone Books
9781956782325, $26.50

Summer Words: New and Selected Poems presents poems about family history, labor, and the pursuit of dreams in a changing America where values and landscapes are in flux. A hard-hitting collection of thoughts and images, it juxtaposes literary and historical references that move from Hungarian family roots to modern-day life in a new country and time.

The first thing to note about this collection as a whole is its contrasts between modern and past life in America. Readers move between social issues, such as an 1800s hanging and the modern death penalty, with special attention given to the emotional impact of life and death in different historical eras.

One example of the power of this special form of contrast in lives and experiences lies in "The Welder on Midnight Shift," in which "It's only a pit, huge as the summer sky and deep,/where the new Penn Station is going up./The beam of an arc light in the pit/finds tenement houses by mistake,/explores the facades, invades the windows,/and floods the rooms where people sleep."

From the worker's creation and tasks to the impact they hold on those outside of his workplace but affected by these efforts, David Salner captures in a nutshell the impact of new building invading and challenging set lives at all hours of day and night.

"Furnace" is another delightful example of a working man's experiences that moves from "...a lake of yellow steel/breaking the darkness, almost spectral,/sizzling with waves that bake my skin" to respite from the blasting work environment which is carried home; where the narrator says "...I pull a sheet over my skin/and dream of trees that never burn,/skim branches over sizzling waves."

These poems do more than tell stories or contrast lives past and present: they sing with literary allusions, metaphorical descriptions, as workaday worlds spill into daily living off-hours, steeped in such evocative descriptions as "the sour kiss of rubber put away wet."

The jobs and heritage of the blue-collar worker are captured in a collection that ideally will be used to illustrate these lives and their foundations and impact. Most poetry collections limit themselves, by their language and accessibility, to literary audiences; but Summer Words represents the magical ability to reach into the worker's life with the promise of familiar experience and values that can prompt discourse and insights among laborers and poets alike.

Ideally, Summer Words: New and Selected Poems will be selected for both literature libraries and by book clubs interested in works that translate the experiences of workers in new, accessible, enlightening ways to reach a wider audience than scholarly readers alone.

Fast Fiction: 101 Stories of 101 Words Each
Scotty Cornfield
Flagstone Press
9781667866321, $15.95 Paper/$10.99 ebook

Fast Fiction: 101 Stories of 101 Words Each is the first volume of a book that reinforces the notion that stories of less than 3 pages and only one word over 100 can hold attraction.

Scotty Cornfield includes the prompts and directions that led him to write each piece. As he instructs readers in his introduction, think 'writer's improv'. Two-word prompts result in quick tales that assume disparate and unusual routes, beginning with the 'found property' prompt that produced 'A Most Unexpected Gift,' the introductory tale, that tells of the unusual find of a "human hermit crab" who "spent his days scavenging for whatever he could "find" be it from dumpsters, Wal-Marts or unlocked parked cars." The prize (and accompanying surprise) comes when he discovers the keys to a Mercedes.

Each story features an unexpected twist. Anyone who maintains that 101 words is not nearly enough to develop characters, plots, motivation, or surprises receives newfound insights into the possibilities 101 words and a prompt can introduce to the creative process.

Another example (this one stemming from the prompt 'Delphic') is 'Just a Lucky Guess?' in which a fortune teller unexpectedly nails a secret. The dialogue-driven story is intense and involving, even at 101 words.

On the reader's part, these 'flash fiction' pieces prove that the most power can come from a surprisingly succinct form that will prove accessible no matter how busy the reader. They can be read at a moment's notice, absorbed and digested slowly as time permits, and each provides a powerhouse of attraction that refutes any notion that complexity and length must accompany quality writing.

Libraries and busy readers will be the likely audiences for this collection, but ideally it will also be chosen by book clubs and creative writing teachers for its powerful examples of what can be achieved on the fly, using a minimal amount of verbiage and a maximum attention to innuendo, possibility, and surprise.

Toxic But Addictive
Wynn E.
Independently Published
B0BSRM9SBC, $3.99

Toxic But Addictive tells of Eria who, single and childless at age 40, is not leading the kind of life she'd imagined. In fact, this is nowhere near where she thought she'd be at this age, in terms of marriage and family. Her minimalist approach to decorating has translated to the same approach to her relationships and life, and she's ready for something new.

Toxic But Addictive follows this sea change as Eria navigates two very different men, follows the different forms of promise each offers, then finds herself in a life-or-death situation that demands of her a flexibility and force she has never before applied to her life or her future.

As her careful arrangements of her life and control over every aspect of it begin to unravel, the central core of her convictions and aspirations come to the forefront in unexpected ways as Eria evolves a different life and faces new obstacles and approaches to engaging with it.

Wynn E. is masterful at portraying Eria's challenging involvements, whether they be with a new love, an ex, or unexpected surprising dramas that affect her formerly-staid forty-year-old life.

As threats and revenge evolve, adding surprising twists to the tale, Wynn E. captures Eria's evolving conundrums that pit her deepest desires with opportunities she (and her readers) never saw coming.

Graphic sex scenes peppered throughout also follow Eria's physical pleasures as she grapples with new love and challenging problems alike.

Libraries and readers seeking an evocative work of women's literature that follows the evolution and changes of a powerful woman who lets go enough to inject love and its accompanying changes into her life will find Toxic But Addictive offers lessons in both love and toxic relationships.

Its influential inspections of both themes (and more) makes Toxic But Addictive a highly recommended title for African American women's literary and contemporary women's fiction collections alike.

Ella Learns to Dance
Stenetta Anthony
Covenant Books, Inc.
9781685266653, $14.95 Paper/$8.49 Kindle

Ella Learns to Dance is a picture book filled with lovely illustrations that reinforce the story of achieving an impossible dream.

Learning to dance may not seem impossible to most, but Ella is an elephant who loves the graceful moves of ballet dancers on television, and longs to emulate their talents.

Her decision to join a ballet class evokes laughter among her peers because "Whoever heard of an elephant that does ballet?"

Luckily for Ella, her friends aren't the end-all of her dreams, because her determination leads her first to observe the class in action, then to tackle the most basic requirements of the dance, which at first feel impossible for her to master.

Perseverance pays off. That's the underlying message in a fine story that invites young audiences to understand that hard work and a big dream can produce winning results.

Read-aloud parents and libraries seeking fictional stories that excel in illustration quality, reinforcing an underlying message of positivity with a whimsical touch, will find Ella Learns to Dance offers an important lesson in achievement.

Intimate Souvenirs
Rob Couteau
Dominantstar LLC
9781736004951, $19.99

Intimate Souvenirs is a memoir with a message that embraces a coming-of-age story with a background in 1970s Brooklyn. This influenced Rob Couteau's progressive work as an adult with the homeless and impoverished, from America to Venezuela.

It's evident from the introductory passages of the opening 'Gravesend' that the 500+ pages of coverage won't be either a tome or a waste of time to traverse, because Couteau brings to vivid life his impressions of the world from an early age, and his evolving place in it:

"I wash my hands at a sink in the boys' bathroom, then turn to a kid next to me and ask: 'Do you realize that we have eight more years of this?' I was only five years old, but already I was counting the days of imprisonment at St. Anne's Elementary School. Like any other prison, the occupants were expected to wear matching uniforms, for individuality was not to be tolerated."

This isn't just a first-person reflection. Dialogues with influencers and others in his life document the interactions which move him through different milieus of "what's normal and what's crazy" as he embraces dreams, disparate individuals around him, and new purposes to his life.

Memoir readers will find these dialogues and interactions an intrinsic part of exploring the growth process and how divergent paths are considered. Couteau moves through relationships and encounters that reinforce his own perceptions while considering how poverty is tolerated and acknowledged in different circles:

"...for Priscilla art was merely a "distraction" that only the most callous could enjoy without having a guilty conscience. After all, as long as the world was beleaguered with poverty and homelessness, we were obliged to focus on far more urgent matters."

As Couteau moves through different worlds (including France), encountering literary, artistic, and social figures, he finds a new sense of home, place, and purpose which translates to social and philosophical revelations about life, religion, and the world.

Ultimately, his very method of engaging with other worlds is what links readers to his life and the exuberant march of its encounters and revelations:

"With Marie and with a handful of others, I succeeded in breaking through this formal boundary line only because, all the while, I would share personal anecdotes about my own life, but couched in that witty, urbane, sophisticated manner that makes such a confession not only forgivable but also entertaining to the well-bred Parisienne. As a result, with a little prodding, they'd incrementally divulge some amusing detail about themselves, perhaps as a means of not appearing to be defeated in such a competition of wit."

The book features an Introduction by acclaimed novelist Robert Roper and an Afterword by literary biographist Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno.

Five hundred pages go by in the blink of an eye as readers absorb an intriguing memoir that deserves a place in any library strong in memoirs that embrace literary, artistic, and social transformation.

Hush, Delilah
Angie Gallion
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
9781948051910, $12.99 Paper/$20.49 Audio/$9.99 Kindle

Hush, Delilah explores a wife's dilemma when her husband's undercurrents of evil break through the facade of perfection they have built in their community. It's a story of Delilah Reddick's revelations and how she comes to deal with a growing force that threatens everything they've built together that will especially appeal to readers of modern women's literature.

Delilah's concern about her own well-being, her family, and her choices rises to the forefront as she is confronted with a reality she has chosen to ignore and repress from the beginning - her husband's dangerous disposition.

From the start, she's been a complacent accomplice to his actions by providing an alibi. It's a habit that has gone on for far too long, and now threatens not just her own life, but that of her son and others in their community.

As Delilah navigates the results of her silence and reviews her options under impossible circumstances, she makes different decisions that ultimately rock not just her world, but all around her.

There's a trigger warning for readers who also have built lives on fielding abuse: Delilah's dilemmas are graphic and realistic, prompting all kinds of reflections on choices and responsibility to others.

"Of course I am in danger. I have lived my entire adult life in danger." Delilah is not a dummy. She well knows the ramifications of her choices. But, where does she go from here?

Angie Gallion crafts an involving tale of evolving evil in such a way that readers become immersed in Delilah's possibilities.

This will translate to heated book club debates and intriguing discussions in women's groups, which makes Hush, Delilah of special interest and recommendation to these audiences.

Abuse is not a solitary process. Delilah's move to find her voice and strength is powerfully portrayed in a story that is at once familiar and thought-provoking as it revolves around the many ramifications of tolerating (and sometimes enabling) a monster's psyche and behaviors.

Libraries and readers that choose Hush, Delilah will find its characterizations potent, its events not entirely predictable, and its outcome engrossingly surprising.

Quarter Horse Kids: An Eventer
Jill Thomas
Goldenrod Publishing
9798985373363, $26.95 Hardcover/$17.95 Paper/$6.99 Kindle

Quarter Horse Kids: An Eventer: Dressage, Stadium Jumping, and Cross Country follows 14-year-old Katherine as she works with her horse Piper in eventing (a three-part competition).

Color photos open the blend of autobiography and horse story with images of Katherine at a young age, riding horses at her grandparents' farm in upstate New York. As her photo-driven story moves on to describe how her efforts are a family affair, these action-packed photos supplement equally vivid accounts of how event horses are trained, cared for, and utilized.

Horse-crazy kids of all ages will welcome the opportunity to vicariously experience the world of horse evening through Katherine's eyes and images, and will learn much about not just competition, but the daily routines of caring for and training a horse.

Readers will learn terms such as dressage, jumper shows, on the bridle and free walk as they are paced through every nuance of Katherine's horse-filled world. The photos also support the story every step of the way.

Libraries and adults seeking real-world horse stories for kids will find colorful attraction in Katherine's experiences, which educates all ages about the hard work involved in maintaining and training a horse. Quarter Horse Kids: An Eventer: Dressage, Stadium Jumping, and Cross Country will prove highly attractive to educators and young people looking for practical, insightful horse-based nonfiction.

The Dark Side of Grace
Ronald Chapman
Terra Nova Books
9781948749879, $19.95

"Survivors of traumatic experiences can find a life of peace despite relentless storms. They can then live beyond those traumas. In doing so, they rise up and become beacons of hope to others."

The Dark Side of Grace is a thriller that opens not with a bang, but with a whisper of the scenic beauty and wonder of a typical New Mexico morning and its promise. Journalist Kevin Pitcairn and the long-time love of his life, Maria Elena Maldonado, are journeying from New Mexico's high desert to the state's capitol for a weekend getaway when all hell breaks loose.

Trouble always seems to find them no matter how far they travel. In this case, Kevin and Maria Elena drive straight into a terrorist bombing and a threat that commands their attention and action when a spiritualist retreat is torched.

Readers may not anticipate the spiritual and philosophical reflections which evolve from the thriller's action-packed scenarios, but Ronald Chapman liberally sprinkles and dusts his confrontations with bigger-picture quests and revelations that test Kevin and Maria Elena's friendships and life experiences: "I guess Bill W was right when he said we would never understand what was going on in the present moment until after it was finished."

As events unfold, both beliefs and the experiences of survivors receive close examination as Kevin pursues answers and confronts ongoing dangerous situations he never saw coming.

Chapman's exploration of these questions and revelations adds a spiritual component to the story that will especially delight Christian readers.

From long-held dreams that subconsciously point to new directions of possibility to a priest who employs Jungian analysis to help Kevin tap into his own potentials and spirit,

The Dark Side of Grace employs many different devices of revelation and adventure which embrace the darker facets of life and the realities of death.

Libraries and readers seeking a thriller that goes above and beyond in presenting a powerful sense of place and spirit as characters struggle not just with dangerous forces, but with their own choices and opportunities, will find The Dark Side of Grace just as thought-provoking as it is action-packed.

Carolyn L. Baker
2Leaf Press
9781734618181, $19.99

Dispatches: From Racial Divide to the Road of Repair: A Collection of Essays is not an easy read. It outlines and probes the White American identity in a manner that invites readers to conduct their own close inspection of their assumptions, prejudices, and inherent bias towards racial profiling and expectations of justice and injustice.

Dispatches both compliments and expands the themes in Carolyn L. Baker's previous memoir An Unintentional Accomplice, her story of coming of age as a white person in segregated Southern California, but more closely examines the uncomfortable topics of systemic institutional racism, sexism, and classism in American society.

Its important messages are introduced and acclaimed by anti-racism scholar Mark Warren, which is in itself an important commendation.

As Dispatches: From Racial Divide to the Road of Repair dovetails the history of racial disparities with their incarnation in modern America, focusing on the types of encounters which lead to the double bind many modern White Americans find themselves in when it comes to addressing this racial wall, the book's topics will lend to fiery debates in classrooms and forums devoted to societal inspection and racial issues.

Discussions about invisible and underlying prejudices woven into the fabric of society and everyday life are never comfortable ones to undertake. Baker provides a beacon of hope in addressing how racism "has always tainted women's movements in this country," moving the discussion from male privilege and responses to White Women who are also complicit by their actions and "...often do not want to acknowledge our White skin privilege and access to power through affiliation with White men, including our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. However, we often take a stance suggesting weakness when we do. We cry, shut down, and then act like we have no power."

From immigration to whitewashing and voter suppression, Baker's book will provoke all kinds of uncomfortable but necessary considerations and dialogues - especially among White women.

And, it's about time.

The book's candid assessment of these trends, tendencies, and deeply held social and psychological responses by White women makes Dispatches: From Racial Divide to the Road of Repair an invaluable addition to any library strong in social issues examinations. It's also an ideal choice for book club and discussion groups tackling the racial divide from both sides of the American wall of silence, ideally attracting the attention of any individual or group interested in studying and acknowledging American racism.

The Weber House
Mark Lance
Atmosphere Press
9781639885794, $14.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

Nicole Kelly's new home is haunted. She discovers this fact as her mother is driving them to join her father at their latest abode in the small town of Elk River in rural Maine. Did anyone ask her if she wanted to move? Of course not. But here she is: collateral damage in a family effort to build a new life.

The Weber House will reach young adults interested in mystery and detective stories with its powerful story of friendships and problem-solving. Entering eighth grade is supposed to be fun, but Nicole discovers that starting all over is easier said than done.

Ironically, as her life becomes filled with new friends, ghosts, pirates, and another outcast who is proud of her Native American roots, Nicole comes to discover more about history, prejudice, and superstition than she ever experienced in New Jersey.

Mark Lance uses the allure of a ghost story and mystery to build the foundations of an equally appealing story of friendships, new beginnings, and unexpected, unusual connections made between very different girls.

Teens drawn to the story for its supernatural promise will come to appreciate its underlying messages about racism, bullying, and proactive thinking. These create powerful messages about perseverance, problem-solving, and life lessons.

It's also important to note that the Native American historical and cultural components of this story are reinforced by Lance's consultations with experts, including "Chief Richard Menard from the Missisquoi Abenaki Nation. Without knowing me whatsoever, Chief Menard not only read the story but offered it to others in his family and the Abenaki community in Swanton, Vermont."

What began as a gift for his daughter to reflect their experiences and shared vacations in Maine has evolved into an important story compelling both for its action and adventure and for its cultural and social insights.

Libraries and readers seeking the allure of the supernatural juxtaposed with real-world experiences and concerns will find The Weber House an immersive experience that draws from its opening lines and proves riveting to its unexpected, powerfully thought-provoking conclusion.

The Fish Stick Detective
John Kilby
Austin Macauley Publishers
9781649799906, $4.95 e-book/$7.95 paperback/$23.95 hardcover

The Fish Stick Detective presents picture book readers with the zany specter of fish stick Hake Pollock, whose second-floor office on the corner of Tartar and Gorton is so hot, he feels like he is baking when his next case bursts through the door:

"Dame Jane Great-Dane burst into his office like a sumo in a sauna - too hot and too strong.

"The diamond is gone!" she cried.

The fish stick detective looked up. "The Neil Diamond?"

At this point, it should be more than evident that this story is not just for kids. John Kilby's whimsical word plays, references to fish and culture, and hard-boiled detective scenario, paired with impossible characters, gives it many literary allusions and references that will prove hilarious to adults who choose this book for read-aloud to the young.

As the fishy story evolves, Hake finds himself in dogged pursuit of the Neil Diamond, encountering a host of suspects in the process. From the natural history of prime Suspect One, Humboldt penguin Sir Humboldt Penn-Gwynn, to the possibilities of a magpie who likes to hoard bright and shiny objects, the jokes just keep coming.

Brilliant, colorful illustrations by Mark Penrod personalize, dramatize, and excellently represent these disparate characters as the story unfolds.

The Fish Stick Detective's uncommon blend of approaches displays the nuances of a hard-boiled detective story paired with the wordplay of a delightful literary game.

Libraries and readers of all ages seeking a story and illustrations that are exceptional in their original thinking and colorful action will welcome The Fish Stick Detective's captivating, uniquely whimsical picture book mystery.

Nikki Auberkett
Independently Published
B0BS3934Y2, $2.99 Kindle

Ithandryll is the first book in the Song of the Sidhe series, and blends fantasy with romance in a compelling manner that promises an epic read to both genre fans.

Roxi Lovegood is on the run from her past. Landing in Chicago, a good place to blend into the background, she discovers that not only has she brought along baggage from her past life, but an apartment break-in reveals a relic under the floorboards that leads her into another world. Chicago has always been her dream. Now that she's achieved one of her life goals (to live there), it becomes her nightmare.

Roxi's belief system is challenged in a major way by events that draw her further into danger and, ironically, force her to move from her comfort zone and the distance she wants to put between herself and the world ("Some days it was easier to forget. To pretend. To focus on something more pressing and present, like finding a new job or dodging the nosy inquiries from fair-weathered "friends" who also loved to pretend.").

Roxi is unable to just wallow in sadness, given the extraordinary circumstances of a successful flight into something even she never predicted in all her dreams of opportunity and change.

Her encounter with the alluring Devon provides her with a guide not only to this odd world, but to matters of the heart that re-form her place in both worlds. Despite his penchant for mischief and frolic, Devon, too, has experienced heartbreak.

Nikki Auberkett takes the time to entwine romance, a fantasy world, and circumstances which force Roxi and Devon to step away from their choices and predictable paths into something different, both with one another and in their new lives.

Ithandryll is replete with fine tension and whimsical moments of comic relief: "Roxi's eyes widened. Her breath escaped her lungs. Fairies. "Pixies." Devon held no such wonderment; he grumbled the word with all the admiration of a man with a fly swatter."

The dance between a stubborn human who taps her deepest resources to survive in this strange new land and a captivating stranger who introduces her to his world and her family makes for an engrossing story filled with numerous memorable characters and satisfying twists and turns of plot.

Libraries and readers seeking the intersection of epic fantasy and romance will find Ithandryll nicely developed, compelling in its vision of disparate people forced to tap their inner desires and heritages in order to survive, and hard to put down.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Eleanor Kelley
Atmosphere Press
9781639887972, $14.99

No sooner does one funeral end than another death looms. That's what ex-wife Kate O'Brien discovers in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. While she was in Ireland laying her mother to rest, her ex-husband Harry Johnson died. Or so they say - because nobody wants to talk about him. This secrecy leads Kate on a probe through the mystery of Harry's life and legacy, leading to circumstances which implicate her in a murder.

Setting aside well-meaning advice to let this situation go, Kate pursues the truth, even though others question her motivation: "It's just that it all happened too quickly and too quietly. I even resorted to setting myself up for heart-ache by texting and calling my kids. I've heard nothing back from anyone. Am I crazy to wonder if Harry is still alive?"

Humor sends an undercurrent of surprise through the story ("...Harry probably is, as my dad would say, 'on the wrong side of the grass.'") as wry examination turns into deadly observations to involve Kate in a puzzle that goes even deeper than death or murder.

Can someone be in two places - including herself? Kate's pursuit of the truth involves her family and threatens them in different ways: "Kate wasn't sure if her dad was hallucinating or there actually was someone threatening him. All she knew was her dad was frightened, and she needed to be there to calm his fears. They had switched roles; she was the adult, and he the frightened child."

Readers who join Kate on her search for answers will find plenty of surprise twists and turns as the plot thickens. The mystery is strengthened by strong character developments that build Kate's persona, then challenge it with unexpected moments of revelation, discovery, and impossible truths.

Libraries and readers seeking a mystery that strongly rests on the foundations of hidden truths and impossible developments will find the intrigue and mystery finely tuned in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which travels full-circle to lead Kate and her readers into breakthroughs they'll never see coming... including revenge.

Tropical Depression
Patti Liszkay
Black Rose Writing
9781685131838, $22.95 Paper/$6.99 Kindle

Tropical Depression is the third novel in the Equal and Opposite Reactions trilogy, and is especially recommended for literary fiction enthusiasts familiar with its predecessors (Equal and Opposite Reactions and Hail Mary), who will welcome the final installment of a close inspection of the psychology and ironies of relationships.

Lupe and Ascension Guzman have been deported to Nicaragua, where they must readjust to family relationships and the loss of a child who was born in America and left behind. These family issues lend to a tropical depression lifted by evolving relationships with unexpected new friends who hold the power and wisdom to mitigate the crushing events that have a hold on their lives.

As in her previous stories, Patti Liszkay maintains a powerful, rich hand in portraying Nicaragua's culture and the social, political, and psychological influences that buffet the couple's lives.

From the steamy atmosphere of the jungle to equally powerful circumstances of changing hearts and minds, Liszkay creates a vivid portrait of the struggles that simmer during the adjustment process as Lupe and Ascension rebel in many different ways - including against one another:

"Ascension tromped over to the bench by the clothesline and plopped himself down. Lupe was angry? She was angry? And she blamed him? Wasn't he always trying to soothe her, comfort her, protect her? Did she have any idea how he'd been protecting her at work, doing her work for her, practically getting down on his knees to Yoolie? Did she have no idea how stressful all this was for him? And did she really expect him to chew out his mother, his own mother?"

Between the storms created by abandonment and choices to revelations that bring both love and hate into family circles, Tropical Depression is rich in the intersections of love, conflict, and culture that bring this world to life.

While newcomers could easily enter this milieu and gain much from Tropical Depression, its true riches lie in its connections to the prior series books.

Libraries and readers with this familiarity will find Tropical Depression a warm embrace of intersecting cultures, families, and worlds which are expanded by children and the pursuit of happiness.

Muslim Mechanics, The View From Behind the Curtain
Charles H. Brewton
John Hunt Publishing
9781803410500, $25.95 Paper/$12.99 ebook

Muslim Mechanics, The View From Behind the Curtain offers a primer on Muslims for Christian readers, and should be considered an essential ingredient in fostering understanding between the religions of the world.

A number of other books on the subject have attempted this approach, but too often fall prey to overt or covert prejudices that wind up attacking Islam's deepest contentions in an effort to make the contrast favorable to Christian beliefs.

Another difference between Charles H. Brewton's approach and others is his focus on the concepts of Sharia Law, which are embedded into democratic principles and Christian history, as well as Muslim faith.

A third important note is that Muslim Mechanics assumes no prior familiarity with either Christian or Muslim concepts. This allows those with varying levels of familiarity with either faith to fully engage with a coverage that clarifies the basic concepts which drive the Muslim faith and life choices.

Brewton doesn't neglect the political ramifications of his subject, either: "The inquiries about who is Muslim and who is not, and under what conditions and circumstances, are critical questions for Islamic fundamentalists. They are fundamental questions for jihadis since takfir is pivotal to identify the enemies who must be fought and killed. The issue of takfir was one of the significant contention points in the conflict between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Al-Qaeda holds the more moderate position, according to which takfir applies to selected individuals. In contrast, IS leaders use it more freely and do not hesitate to brand as heretical entire movements, communities, or sects, such as the Shi'ites."

This approach allows for a much greater depth of understanding of not just Muslim faith, but the foundation concepts that drive political and cultural entities either together or apart.

The contrasts in political approaches influenced by Muslim beliefs and perceptions lend to a special form of enlightenment not usually proffered in simple contrasts of belief systems: "Several Muslim nations such as Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia have found that having political relations with Israel can improve security, trade, and economic opportunity. Some Muslim countries like Iran and Syria cannot let go of historical and contemporary enmity. The issue of whose God has sovereignty in this land has created the overall schism."

The result is a wide-ranging connection between faith and social and political history and choices.

Muslim Mechanics, The View From Behind the Curtain ideally will be chosen for all kinds of library holdings, but is especially highly recommended for book club and debate groups interested in the connections between belief systems and their social and political incarnations.

The ability of Muslim Mechanics to reach all kinds of audiences with clear enlightenment about these special connections makes it a top recommendation over other books which too often contrast beliefs without showing how these are reflected in real-world political and social actions.

The Islander
David W. Berner
Outpost19, The Shortish Project
9798987839805, $16.00 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

The Islander is a novella that tells of aging American writer Seamus Damp, who attempts to cement his isolation by moving to a remote Irish island. You can't always escape the past, and in this case, an estranged son continues to introduce heartbreak and possibilities into his life.

Ireland is where he and his wife turned for a quieter life, even though he was born in America. The Irish-American community's firm ties to the old country were never quite severed, and so Seamus found his roots there and raised a son, Aiden, as an Irish boy. When his son left home, his wife insisted that he, too, move away from her. Seamus acknowledges that he has "fallen into his own silence, a retreat of spirit, increasingly in need of solitude. He had become an intensely quiet man. No longer present. No longer capable of giving enough to someone else. Seamus knew what he had become. He had had sullen days as a child, and they had followed him like a ghost."

The last thing he expected to experience in this chosen world of isolation is a new connection to another woman, who harbors her own heartache and reasons for a solitary existence.

When the two meet during a storm and share their personal stories of what has driven their isolation and spiritual contemplation, new revelations emerge to form unexpected emotional connections as changes surge all around and between them.

Succinct though it may be in appearance, The Islander packs a punch. Part of its literary strength lies in David W. Berner's ability to get the most impact from the least amount of words.

Where other literary discussions of solitary lives tend to develop complicated plots, The Islander excels in a simple, rugged perspective of life and self that contrasts the experiences and perspectives of father and son and the lives each touches.

The Islander's reflection of psychological depth and literary strength will attract a wide audience, but is especially recommended for literature and creative writing classes seeking examples of the rich possibilities the short form can take when utilized to its greatest advantage.

Book clubs interested in Irish culture and experience will also find The Islander filled with topics worthy of discussion and inspection, from how Seamus is connected to his Irish roots to the impact of these connections on his choices and legacy to his son.

Amy J. Schultz
Atmosphere Press
9781639885657, $37.50

Mumentous is a powerful photo-driven memoir steeped in the roots of Texas and motherhood, and captures a social and cultural expedition across Texas with a focus on mums and their mindsets. Its first-person journey attracts from the start with a candid observational style that opens on the football field of Texas life:

"The humidity pushed down on the football stadium that homecoming night, capping and coagulating the din rising from the student section. Each individual sound, movement, and breath taken seemed to stick together in the atmosphere, forming a singular, dense mass of joyful disharmonies. I love it. When I'm in a big crowd like this one, I play a game my mom taught me back when I was a wiggly child sitting next to her at a concert. First, she told me, find the sound of one instrument. The trumpet, maybe, or the piano. Listen to its melody until you can follow its story. Once understood, open your eardrums just a little in search of a complementary tone. Try to add a third, then a fourth. Take care you don't add too many storylines at once so that the first ones disappear back into the murk, because every instrument is equally important. As I applied her game to the homecoming-related chatter around me, there were so many harmonic stories from which to choose..."

This passage captures the feel and process of Mumentous in a nutshell, representing the rich flavors that Amy J. Schultz mixes into her story of Texas homecoming mums and the milieu that exhibits a special countenance to the world that is uniquely and "...outrageously conspicuous and totally emboldened, just like a teenager making a big noise in our big, noisy world."

Texans, mothers, and those who would view motherhood and Texans through a very different lens will find Schultz includes her own revelations as she moves through this environment: "Acknowledging mum-makers as entrepreneurs marked an important shift in my perception."

Readers expecting another focus on children and family will find, instead, a richer vein of discussion that uncovers and profiles the Texas mum as a treasure in her own right, whether she's cheering for a team, creating her own, or embarking on proactive activities that incorporate tradition with new engagements with life in various ways.

Rich black and white photos of homecoming games and women living "the times of our lives" pepper the account with a vigorous set of images that capture the cheering moments of Texas women in action.

Her interviews with mums who reveal different social and cultural aspects of this process and the unique properties of the Texas mum are engrossing and enlightening:

"'Thanks to Facebook, I'm still in touch with several of my high school friends. You could take a photo of them from twenty years ago wearing their homecoming mum and paste their daughters' faces on top of theirs. Nothing has changed. Well, except in our hometown, the mums are much bigger now.'

From her insider's vantage point, however, she sees many more who opt out. There are numerous reasons, not the least of which is sustained migration to Texas from just about everywhere in the country. The more non-Texans in a school district, the more diluted the enthusiasm can be for unusual traditions."

Mumentous will attract, delight, and surprise those who think it will be yet another coverage of motherhood alone. By exploring and exposing the unique traditions of Texas mums, Schultz succeeds in crafting a history that captures homecoming games, queens, and the powerful countenance of the Texas mum, whose persona and drive are explored nowhere else.

Libraries and readers interested in women's history, literature, and especially regional probes of women's traditions and experiences will relish Mumentous for its lively celebrations of the Texan woman and the energy she brings to the playing field of women's literature and life.

L.J. Sellers
Spellbinder Press
9781734541861, $13.99 print/$4.99 ebook

AfterStrike is an Agent Dallas thriller whose title refers to the aftereffects of a lightning strike on a woman's memory and life. Touched by fire, Remi's memories are taken, and she finds herself in a dangerous situation caused by her inability to perceive the dangerous line she's toed in her life before the lightening disintegrated her self-protective tendencies.

While pieces of her past have returned to tantalize her, the rest of it is still a total blank. This situation is complicated when she is kidnapped by a crime-family patriarch, discovers that she was in hiding from him and is now forced to carry out his vendetta, and realizes that underlying traumas of the past are affecting her decisions and survival ability - even though she no longer remembers them.

"Whoever she'd been hiding from had finally found her."

This passage also should include "whatever," because Remi's process of rediscovering her motivations, influences, and survival capacity also unearths these traumas, forcing her to deal with them in new ways.

When does undercover FBI Agent Jamie Dallas enter this picture? Not until Chapter 15, where her research reveals an intriguing connection to an old case. This sends her on a mission that intersects with Remi's life in an unusual manner.

L.J. Sellers takes the time to recreate the weeks before the lightning strike, setting the stage by building Remi's prior world before entering the dangerous crime ring which also strikes Remi, changing her life in unpredictable ways.

This lends a psychological edge to the thriller component that will attract and satisfy readers seeking plots based as much on character growth and discovery as on the criminal elements that impact their lives.

The tension is well developed, the psychology astute, and the characters realistic as they make inquiries about their lives and new discoveries about the turbulent present.

Dallas's probe of the Sebastiano family's crimes leads her on a dangerous path as Remi's memory issues create an unusual backdrop for the pursuit of the truth.

Readers won't expect the romance that evolves from interpersonal connections and new revelations, but the undercurrent that is present from the start swells into something unexpected in the end.

The result is a sizzling thriller that simmers with inquiry, revelation, and inspections that probe not just crime, but redemption and personal risk on the parts of Dallas, Remi, and those around them.

Libraries and readers seeking thrillers that pose equally intriguing psychological questions will find AfterStrike a powerful study in survival and discovery whose underlying themes linger in the mind long after the reading.

And Union No More
Stan Haynes
Independently Published
9781737766926, $11.99 print/$5.99 ebook

And Union No More is a historical novel that precedes the Civil War era. It depicts the impact of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and the rush by antislavery and proslavery forces of the times to gain the majority of settlers in the Kansas Territory, to make it either a free or an enslaved state when it enters the Union.

The novel opens with a personal bang that acknowledges "...startling a man sleeping with a loaded pistol at his side was not a good idea." Nor is it a good idea to presume that a land of prairies and low population isn't a pivot point in the political process, because the crossroads Kansas stands at is one which is both mirrored and reflected by the quandaries the nation faces over slavery.

An attack on Lawrence, the town that served as the headquarters of the free-state movement in the Kansas Territory, has finally happened, involving former Ohio congressman Monty Tolliver (who has moved to the area to promote its status as a free state) and younger friend Robert (also new to the state) in a conflict that tests the future of the nation.

Readers won't expect the specter of a double murder that lends an investigative tone apart from the political inspection that concurrently develops, but Stan Haynes excels at creating subplots that bring to life different aspects of the culture and figures of 1850s Kansas.

The historical figures which permeate the story (such as Abe Lincoln and abolitionist John Brown) give further reinforcement to the real events that took place during these times, placing them in a perspective that historical novel readers will appreciate as the intrigue, mystery, and social and political confrontations unfold.

"Here, the fate of Kansas will be decided." It doesn't just happen at the constitutional convention Robert is reporting on for his newspaper, but in the hearts and minds of individuals on both sides who are motivated to step beyond their comfort zones and abilities to influence the progress of not just a state, but a nation.

From issues of justice and spying to cover-ups and hidden truths, Haynes creates a vivid and involving story where readers follow the clues and influences that direct Monty and Robert into unfamiliar avenues of inspection and analysis.

Libraries and readers seeking a historical novel that incorporates the drama of a thriller, the intrigue of a mystery, and the historical foundations of fact, cementing all with solid characterization and a realistic sense of place and time, will find And Union No More especially strong in creating a milieu that explains America's past and Kansas's role in creating the freedoms the country is based upon.

Poems of Everyday Life
Suzanne W. Guinn
The Ewings Publishing
9798886401875, $15.00 Hardcover/$5.99 Paper

The second edition of Poems of Everyday Life is a literary work recommended for any library or reader interested in accessible, inspirational pieces reflecting both spiritual and philosophical observations of ordinary life.

The sentiments expressed by Suzanne W. Guinn are those which come from daily living, from an introductory poem which sees Jesus in virtually every aspect of life to the next piece, which explores the sense of exhaustion in all ages: "I'm tired says the little boy coming in from play./He takes a short nap and soon is on his way./It doesn't take long to get his strength renewed./I'm tired says the teenager who is growing like the weeds./He sleeps long hours, getting rest for that is what he needs./College life is coming when late nights are pursued."

As with the first poem, quite often these pieces (as demonstrated in the above poem 'I'm Tired') move full circle to connect life experiences, reflections, and events with higher-level spiritual thinking.

From reflections on how to "live a life that's right" which are imparted by a thoughtful mother's admonitions, to the blessings of diverse friendships, Guinn keeps her poems rooted in daily life, spiritual connections, and verse that cements both the simplicity of life and its overlay of complex reactions and emotions.

The result is a poetry collection perfect for readers who like verse, easily-digested reflections, and blessings which come from celebrations and insights about life.

Black and white artwork and photography by the author supplement the colorful cover art and accent these delicate, random poems about life, contributing the feel of fine art to the inspirational revelations within, making the collection recommendable to libraries seeking poetry easily understood by the everyday reader.

Five Demons
Marc Layton
Independently Published
9798377539803, $14.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Like William Hope Hodgson's classic Carnacki the Ghost Finder, investigator Professor Aldous Crane of Five Demons is skilled at dealing with supernatural circumstances and incarnations. Also like Carnacki, his encounters are narrated in a series of stories that probe the underbelly of the paranormal world - especially the haunted halls of the late Matthew Boudin's estate, which lure him with two experiences the Professor and his readers won't easily forget.

The breath of intrigue and horror that permeates these encounters opens with 'The Taster' and the sensation that "At first, the sound was subtle - a whispering rustle of fabric brushing softly against the stone floor. A sound inconspicuous and non-threatening, except that it shouldn't have been there. No sound should be there when you're alone."

Normally, wine expert and taster William Meyer loves his work, and the lure of deceased wine collector Matthew Boudin's estate is especially inviting and flavorful. Perhaps too much, because William has entered a private tasting of uncommon proportions and his encounter with those rich productions of the past come with a heavy price tag. "It should have been a wine collector's dream to explore such a fabled collection, and yet, there was always the catch. Him."

A world away in San Francisco, Professor Aldous Crane is tapped to solve a mystery that assumes superstitious proportions when the call to enter the cellar and locate six bottles of rare and valuable vintages becomes one to also dismiss allegations that a supernatural entity still presides over the collection.

Each story rests upon the flavor of unusual hauntings that force Professor Crane to extend his experiences and knowledge in unusual ways. Each excels in presenting a very different demon. 'The Dollhouse,' for example, profiles an entity which stalks the capable Aldous himself, involving him with sister Claire's friend Sadie, whose spectacular haunting experience reaches out to embrace him with shadowy arms and personal challenges, including the pain of loss.

Each story adds another compelling insight to the good professor's life and abilities. Each excels in a different type of haunting that expands the concept of ghostly encounters and purposes.

Fans of supernatural detective stories that enjoy well-developed plots, tension, and contrasts in supernatural investigations will relish Five Demons, which is every bit as involving as Hodgson's classic Carnacki the Ghost Finder and adds a literary flavor to the paranormal detective experience.

Libraries looking for well-developed ghost stories will find Five Demons a top recommendation, notable for its literary and psychological depth and the satisfying intersection of mystery and supernatural topics that is equally strong in both developments.

For a Song: The Most Enduring Tunes Ever Written
Hal Taylor
Independently Published
9798350702774, $26.00, HC

For a Song: The Most Enduring Tunes Ever Written features text and illustrations by the author as it celebrates the history and attraction of twenty-for selected songs which Hal Taylor identifies as the most iconic creations in existence.

Admittedly, this is a heady contention to make. As the introduction documents the importance of music in every facet of human history and life, the lingering question in the reader's mind might be: how does one determine a small number of "the best of them all," given centuries of human history?

This is especially challenging given that readers who would think that classical and pop music pieces should be among those judged iconic will learn early on that these major genres have been purposely omitted from discussion because the author has "...intentionally omitted contemporary music like rock and all its forms and sub-genres. Ditto for Classical music. Those two disciplines have been critiqued, examined, dissected, analyzed, and written about so extensively, that I would have nothing more to contribute. Likewise for blues and jazz, America's original music, the moon stuff from which rock and pop originated. Nor have I included Country with its Scots Irish roots (although you have to vigorously scrape the varnished exterior of contemporary "country" to find those origins today.) And I am probably the least qualified person to offer any historical introspection of rap or hip hop."

What is left? Old songs that "have cobwebs hanging from them." This may lead contemporary readers to suspect that this book, too, will feature webs of antiquity and dullness, but this premature supposition would be wrong. Indeed, For a Song cultivates a lively dance among tunes that have unique origins, stories to tell, and a lasting impact on music. They deserve to be heard.

Classic and well-known ditties and an entire section devoted to beloved Christmas songs trace the evolution and origins of lyrics and music so embedded in everyday life that their origins and meaning have often been obscured. One early example is an 1893 children's song penned by two schoolteachers, the 'Good Morning and Birthday Song' (aka 'Happy Birthday To You'). Their greeting song today represents one of the best-known, most widely distributed celebration songs in the world. 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' is another widely known song that holds fascinating history.

Like his subject, Hal Taylor cultivates an attractive, lively tone that draws all readers into this history:

"A year before Mel Torme and Robert Wells sat in the California summer heat thinking cold weather thoughts, composer Leroy Anderson was on the other side of the country doing the same thing. In the middle of July, during a drought, Anderson was trying to dig up some old pipes, and envisioning a horse-drawn sleigh gliding though a snowy landscape. Unlike "The Christmas Song" however, he had no intention of penning a holiday tune, but like Torme and Wells, he was just trying to stay cool." Thus the roots of 'Sleigh Ride,' written in the mid-1940s, evolved with a special twist - it "actually began with what is now the middle section of the tune."

Captivatingly dynamic, enhanced by lovely illustrations that bring these tunes to life, and thoroughly engrossing (no matter what the reader's musical inclinations), For a Song is highly recommended. It ideally will appear in every arts collection where music history is featured, and many a general-interest library. It's that wide-ranging, appealing, and attractive.

Winnie Goes to School
Joy K. Ball
Independently Published
9798987092217, $18.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Winnie Goes to School connects nature with learning in the story of a curious bird who wants to join a classroom.

Manuela Pentangelo provides gorgeous, nicely detailed color illustrations to accompany Joy K. Ball's vivid story of a Cactus Wren's venture into the classroom of the Desert Hills Academy in Arizona, and its unexpected results.

Arizona's nature is profiled as Ball explores the personality of curious Winnie, who lives in a comfortable cholla cactus, but cultivates an interest in the outside world and new experiences.

None of the creatures she queries quite know what the human kids do in a classroom, and so she sets out to conduct personal research, inadvertently becoming part of the learning process herself as she satisfies her sense of adventure and makes new discoveries.

Picture book readers and read-aloud parents will relish Winnie's story as the bird learns the basics: "Winnie learned that the symbols in books are called letters... and letters make sounds that form words. Winnie was learning to read! Later Winnie learned that the Cactus Wren is the state bird of Arizona."

Besides instilling a love of learning in young readers, perhaps the most important message represented by Winne's excursion is that of appreciating the outdoors environment in general. Ball brings the Sonoran Desert and its creatures to life, celebrating both the Southwest and the adventures to be enjoyed while pursuing new experiences and education alike.

Libraries and read-aloud parents seeking colorful lessons on both will find Winnie Goes to School a captivating winner.

Walks Like a Duck
Kim R. Livingston
TouchPoint Press
9781956851618, $8.99 ebook/$17.99 Paper

Walks Like a Duck: How a Mom with ADHD Led Her Neurodiverse Family to Peace of Mind chronicles Kim R. Livingston's battle against the medical profession that sought to label her son as ADHD. The results of her journey led to not just one diagnosis, but insights about each member of her family as a whole.

Livingston initially resisted the types of diagnoses that inevitably lead to medicated responses: "He, too, wanted to be tested as a teen, but I never brought him in. Lack of attention was not his problem. A bit of anxiety, maybe. Low self-esteem. Not ADHD. And I was sure that if he entered the clinic, he'd leave with a prescription. I'd never known anyone to go through that screening process and come out clean."

Losing faith in traditional medicine's approach to neurological and brain issues, she embraces functional medicine, which is not often covered by health insurances.

Herself at one point one hundred pounds overweight, prediabetic, and taking meds for high blood pressure and ADHD, Livingston's journey to find health answers that flew close to but under the radar of conventional responses to ADHD reveals an undercurrent of possibility for families facing their own challenges with several different neurological problems living under one roof.

Any parent who has faced diverse challenges in the family or their own mental and physical health struggles will find Walks Like a Duck alternately surprisingly funny and thought provoking as it navigates a medical system's rigid ways and a mother's medical, legal, and personal battles, both within the system and in her own home.

Walks Like a Duck tackles many hard questions about family management, from issues of guardianship to medicine control and choices, adopting a candid, gritty tone about the obstacles of navigating daily life while being an activist for one's family member of any age:

"I have tried to allay his fears about guardianship - fears that I'll remove him from this current nursing home and send him far away to some cold institution like the ones in textbooks on the history of psychiatric care, grainy photos showing patients caged like rabid animals, quarantined for the safety of others.

'I just don't want you to end up homeless again,' I tell him. I need the authority to prevent him from leaving this nursing home "against medical advice" when he has nowhere to go.

'Yeah, well, that's my decision to make, isn't it,' he says.

For a long time I thought he was right, and I'm still reluctant to take away his control of his own affairs - the one source of power he has. I don't want to be his guardian. I just don't know what else to do."

As life changes (such as college) loom, Livingston finds ways of both supporting her family and acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses. Her candid assessments of self, family, and health systems provide both humor and powerful reflections on navigating challenging diagnoses, medical institutions, and revised objectives.

Her story is one that should be read by any family whose makeup includes members who are neurologically diverse. Walks Like a Duck deserves profile in medical and general-interest circles. It also will provide much food for thought in reading groups consisting of parents, psychology groups devoted to life skills and coping methods, and book clubs interested in memoirs about parenting children with disabilities.

Rock On, Dr. Peanut: 12 Nutty Tales
Alan Venable
One Monkey Books
9781940722139, $12.95

Rock On, Dr. Peanut: 12 Nutty Tales is a delightfully original collection of stories for children ages six and over who like fantasy and whimsical humor.

Dr. Peanut and his gang are well-liked ... by too many people who covet their deliciousness. This could justify going into hiding, but Dr. Peanut is an active peanutrician who needs to be out in the world, and so he circumvents hungry forces by wearing disguises:

"So when talking peanuts go out, they try to fool the giants. They dress up to look like things that giants don't eat. Sometimes they dress up as mice. (Most giants don't eat mice.) Sometimes they hide by carrying tree leaves on their heads. (Most giants don't eat the leaves off trees.)"

Elementary-age kids will relish the proactive rebellion of talking peanuts who take a stand against hungry giants. As peanuts, snails, and humans join forces for this and other greater causes, readers will follow them through an inviting series of conundrums of kindness, wisdom, science, and wordplay. Enlivened by black and white line drawings by the author, this dozen of thoroughly "nutty" adventures delivers more than a dash of thought-provoking psychological revelation.

Rock On, Dr. Peanut: 12 Nutty Tales is highly recommended for elementary-level libraries.

One of Ours
Lynn-Steven Johanson
Level Best Books
9781685123055, $16.95

One of Ours is the fourth mystery in the Detective Joe Erickson series, hitting Joe too close to home with the fatal shooting of a police captain Joe knew well. The captain was working on his last case, a cold case, before his demise. Joe takes up the reins of this mission well knowing that it might lead him into the same kind of danger before he can expose the perp.

What he doesn't realize is that the trail leads not to one murderer, but political corruption and conspiracy that is worth killing for... again and again.

Lynn-Steven Johanson builds satisfying intrigue and personal relationships into the story, both within Joe's circle of fellow officers and at home, in his life with his partner Destiny.

Joe struggles with PTSD as well as ongoing threats from the Scalise crime family, whom he fears will try to kill him again, since he busted Vincent Scalise for human trafficking and attempted murder for bombing his car.

It's not enough to expose corruption. Joe needs to bring the perps to justice to account for their injury to victims. This mission sends him on a dangerous path that comes full circle again as he confronts molesters, fine-tunes undercover cops and sting operations, and moves ever closer to a truth that will either rock his world or solve a big crime puzzle.

The interplays between characters and crime are especially well done. Joe comes across as a realistic person whose personal, political, and career dilemmas create the perfect storm of controversy, demanding of him a series of extraordinary leaps in deductive reasoning.

Mystery readers, including newcomers to Joe Erickson's world, will find One of Ours compelling, action-packed, and hard to put down, while libraries looking for satisfying intrigue and puzzle-solving paired with psychological intrigue will find the story a fine addition to any detective or police procedural mystery collection.

Diamond City
Marianna Boncek
Atmosphere Press
9781639887880, $17.99

Forty years earlier, in 1955, Fosterdale small-town police chief Art Moran lost everything but his life during an investigation of a mountain cult. The murder that promoted his actions and shut down his private life remained unsolved.

Art Morgan finds himself drawn back into the fold of an unsolved crime and its wide-reaching tentacles of impact when he is tapped to once again tackle the still-unsolved crime's lingering impact.

Art cultivates an innate psychic sense of impending doom. It was active in 1955, and it appears once again to forewarn him that the upstate New York small town of Diamond City holds not just answers, but new threats.

Marianna Boncek weaves a story that comes to rest firmly on the shoulders of small-town politics, racism, and underlying, simmering brutality that emerges from unexpected places.

The story comes steeped in church bake sales, the murder-suicide and fire that blossomed from Diamond City events to reach and impact neighboring Fosterdale, and the atmosphere and changing times of modern trends which change the faces of small towns. One such example is the changes experienced by the town of Morris:

"Just by looking at the progression of buildings, you could fol-low the prosperity and lack thereof throughout the town's years. The 1890s were good years, based on the number of brick-faced buildings that bore that decade on their facade. The 1920s saw another boom. But the next wave of buildings didn't come until the 1950s and a few in the 1970s. All of the latter buildings now needed new facades, looking dated and tired. Most of the buildings were empty. Their dirty store-fronts stared dully onto the street. The mile-long strip along Broadway from Jefferson Street to Columbia Street was also empty of foot traffic, except in front of the post office. It hadn't always been this way. For eighty years, this single street had been the heart of the county. In its day it boasted dress shops, restaurants, two hardware stores, a pharmacy, and a few dive bars. Now people shopped in the strip malls at the edges of town or drove to Midville in Harris County where there was a large shopping mall with a movie theater."

The time taken is time well spent, because this detailed atmosphere is one of the motivating forces promoting readers to pursue a story immersed in the unfolding fates of small towns and residents who find their lives in flux.

How does an original investigator from 1955 become the focal point in a new inquiry? Boncek's intersection of past and future events creates a dichotomy that shifts balances of power, prejudices, and the truth.

It's taken Art all his life to recover from the last encounter. It's taken all his life to come to revelations about his life choices, decisions, and the impact of his work and perspective on his future progression.

In the end, Diamond City is more than a murder mystery, but a probe of the beliefs and underlying motivations of individuals and small towns that comes together in a fiery blast of thought-provokingly vivid revelations:

"It's easy to love the dead. The dead never change, they never hurt you, they never argue with you or disagree. They don't just remain an image of perfection. Rather, the longer they are dead the more perfect they become."

Libraries looking for the trappings of intrigue will find Diamond City so much more. It's a study in small-town psyches and growth that leads full circle into forks in roads and life that bring flowering, closure, and new opportunities to not just Art, but Donny, Tirzah, and other small-town residents.

Mark of a Crescent Moon
Clara Fay
Wild Geese Bookworks
9798987216903, $7.99 Kindle

After a nasty divorce, Fleur La Salle returns to her hometown of Antigonish in Nova Scotia to rebuild her life and passion, both lost in her short marriage. Mark of a Crescent Moon follows her journey into disparate and unfamiliar worlds of realization when she pursues the meaning of her recurring dreams, only to find herself in another world entirely.

Fantasy melds with transformation processes in a vivid manner in Clara Fay's story as, one year after her move, Fleur finds herself past the period of mourning what could have been, thoroughly immersed in life in a tribal village from long ago. The family and connections she's longed for come to vivid life, as does the art that is her passion, when she is drawn back to Scotland by a mysterious letter. An event from her dreams causes her physical trauma when she then falls into a portal of standing stones and is transported into the past.

As Fleur becomes immersed in hidden family history and receives lessons on tapping into her emotions to remember who she is, readers follow her on a journey that is both metaphysical and psychological as Fleur draws unexpected new connections with Thomas and her supportive Auntie G.

Clara Fay creates a finely-tuned balancing act between emotional growth and intrigue as Fleur approaches her past, present, and future from a different angle than she's ever done before.
The mystery, time-travel components, and shifting roles and interpersonal relationships that Fleur experiences with Thomas and others around her drive a story line replete with action and self-reflection. These make Fleur's world and reactions feel authentic and realistic.

The family curse that affects not just Fleur but events and lives past and present is just one facet of a story marked by intrigue, destiny, and the surprising intersection of an artistic and spiritual journey.

Libraries and readers seeking multifaceted stories that defy pat categorization and draw with the lures of psychological growth, historical intrigue, and interpersonal relationships will find Mark of a Crescent Moon a fantasy adventure of a different order, well stepped in mystery and discovery that will keep readers thinking and guessing throughout.

How to Listen Out Loud
Lauren Powers, MCC
Pluck Publications
9798987599402, $14.99 Paper/$7.99 ebook

How to Listen Out Loud: Ridiculously Powerful Skills for Leading, Relating, & Happifying comes from an author who was once a "champion non-listener," but changed her tune to become a more effective listener and coach. Her observation that "Somehow, we've relegated skillful listening to just a few careers like therapists or bartenders. Which is a clever way to let the rest of us off the hook of having to listen at all" will hit home for many, and is the foundation of a guide designed to remedy the tendency to listen only to self.

Lauren Powers promotes the active (and more mindful) approach of Listening Out Loud, reviewing the patterns that often contribute not to listening, but to negating what is heard:

"From this unconscious place, too often, my version of listening was to talk about what I'd read most recently. That way, it wasn't my idea for a fix, but a smarty-pants, qualified, author's idea. It had to be better than what my friend and I could come up with. Regrettably, this simply ends up as another serving of Level 1 Listening with a dollop of look-how-well-read-I-am."

The meat of her approach lies in examples that will prove especially hard-hitting to readers who thought they already did a good job of listening to others. Many will find these examples eye-opening, as Powers shows why they are too often not effective and outlines better paths for active listening that encourage more meaningful dialogue and better understanding.

As readers progress through these examples and lessons, they will find themselves developing better listening skills which promote empathy and deeper interpersonal connections as well as an overall healthier approach to life and one's place in it.

As for the skills themselves, they are delivered in the form of tips, exercises, and examples that reinforce the nature of better listening through everyday life encounters every reader can relate to.

The result is a powerful message reinforced by solid examples of how to overcome built-in habits and messages to be not just a better listener, but a better contributor to positive relationships throughout all facets of life.

Libraries and readers seeking self-help titles that encourage self-assessment and better listening skills will find How to Listen Out Loud a key lesson in both being heard and hearing more effectively.

Arid Sea
Norm Harris
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
9781509241323, $16.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Imagine a female version of James Bond whose sense of curiosity and proactive thinking lands her in deep waters, but also gets her out again in the most amazing ways. The second book in the Spider Green Mystery Series, Arid Sea, is a study in intrigue that opens in the Czech Republic with the prayers of a former Arizona girl facing a final release from her bondage as a sex slave to the Russian Mafia, which has been her life since she was abducted.

It takes only a few days' events more for protagonist, Navy lawyer Commander Faydra Green, to walk into center stage limelight in her latest case, which involves a special mission to tackle one of the nation's wealthiest men. Aided by her own convictions and the unlikely help of both a CIA operative and a Chicago mafia crime boss, Faydra's foray into international waters becomes stormy as she confronts forces beyond her experience and finds her mission to track down a missing retired naval officer goes above and beyond her job description.

Fay's half-sister, Petty Officer J. Pearce, joins her foray into questions about why and how Admiral Alvin Joe has vanished as Fay questions her ultimate objective and faces new challenges to her romantic life simultaneously.

It's a challenge to present the operating fields of distinctly different milieus, from international tension to trouble at home, but Norm Harris achieve this through a blend of thriller tension applied to relationship inquiries that tie together such seemingly disparate threads as Native American Indian heritage, genderqueer characters whose real identities prove mercurial, and a case of amnesia that adds additional and special challenges to Fay's pursuit of the convoluted truth.

So many threads are introduced that readers might think Arid Sea might also be a study in confusion, but the links between characters and the situations that test them prove logical and easily digestible as Harris moves his audience into murky situations that pose surprises and delightful twists throughout.

From the dangerous deals that underlie seemingly normal community members and actions to the intrigue that Faye navigates with increasing knowledge about not only political and criminal elements, but matters of her own heart, Harris creates a powerful thriller whose force comes from the inspections of a flexible female protagonist whose courage and determination is realistic and absorbing.

"...her participation in the grim and dangerous op had served as her attempt to set her heart and soul straight with her country, her maker, and herself."

Libraries and readers seeking thrillers driven by female experiences, relationships, and savvy will find Arid Sea a top-notch production that requires no prior familiarity with the first book in order to prove immediately accessible and thoroughly engrossing. Its astute juxtaposition of military and political power plays is impeccably crafted, especially recommended for thriller audiences who like their female leaders powerful and their plots unpredictable.

The Aether Chronicles: Rebellium
AJ Wolfe
Pluviam Press
9781737250807, $13.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Aether Chronicles: Rebellium follows the quest of eighteen-year-old Natalia Rhys as she chafes under the rule of President Vayne Averie, who searches out powerful Elementals through an assessment process, to add to his growing army.

Like all others in her kingdom, Natalia faces her elemental assessment test with much trepidation. But, unlike many, she and her close friends fall into the company of rebels led by Vayne's own son, Roman. She finds her destiny radically altered by these newfound associations and the changes they introduce to her friendships and status.

Roman has not grown up with friends like Natalia. As he and Natalia form an unlikely bond (given their very different worlds) with new connections, they reflect on the powers that come not only from within, but between them, musing about " powerful love is and the lengths that people are willing to go for those they love."

Their beliefs and growing powers and connections are heavily tested not just by the political and social currents governing their lives, but by a growing attraction that sparks the special powers within them.

AJ Wolfe creates a compelling fantasy that incorporates epic battles both externally and internally. She crafts characters that push themselves to go further and deeper into the world and their place in it than they'd ever imagined, embedding her story with action and confrontations that emerge from disparate and unexpected sectors.

"Throughout her entire life, one of the only things Natalia had ever wanted was to find love - to find family."

On the cusp of achieving her dreams against all odds, Natalia finds that, in fact, her greatest achievement is about to change into her biggest nightmare as love and family test her ability to keep them both safe.

Readers receive a tense, epic fantasy story of struggle and romance that is equally fueled by war and love. The passions, purposes, and people of this world come to vivid life, while the dashes of bigger-picture thinking about mental and physical pain over the real costs of winning a war are thought-provoking and involving.

Libraries seeking epic fantasy works that will appeal to book club discussion groups with topics of personal and political struggle and the impact of life choices on underlying influence development will find this first book in the Aether Chronicles series, Rebellium, a powerful draw.

Better to Win
Bill Wong
Ronin Road Press
9798987803608, $16.00 Paper/$7.99 ebook

Better to Win: Hardball Lessons in Leadership, Influence, & the Craft of Politics teaches people interested in political advocacy how to take a powerful seat at the leadership table. While its lessons and examples come from politics, any reader interested in assuming the unfamiliar reins of handling strife and controversy will find this book a powerful guide to navigating treacherous political and social challenges.

Bill Wong's account opens with a powerful punch: "Today would be a fight. Simmering with silent rage and resentment, I entered the majestic conference room where this little skirmish would take place."

Like a good novel, tension is developed from the start which grabs the reader's attention, leading them to want to know more about the source of this feeling and the controversy it portends.

The followup blow comes from realizing that Bill Wong's nemesis isn't on the streets or in the boardroom, but is an Ivy League elitist whose attitude and actions support and represent inherent prejudice that stems from privilege and a disdain for minority participation: "He stood at the head of the table preparing to serve me a deftly crafted public humiliation. I think he thought Asians were going to be an easy mark. I believe he saw this as a convenient opportunity to practice what he probably thought would be a lifetime of dominating a room and everyone in it."

Any anticipation that the nature of this battle will be overt, direct, and above-board is quashed by the reality that covert, underlying innuendos permeate actual power plays. And so Wong found himself participating in quite a different playing field, purposely, because "I wasn't going to be the model minority participating in the establishment's Hunger Games of merit. Nor was I going to attempt to explain why this maneuver felt like a personal attack on Asian Americans. Instead, I chose to make my point in another way. In a way that would play out in between the lines. This was going to be an intimate dance in the dark with my overconfident adversary."

This approach is both reasoned and acknowledges the underlying motivations and influences on all sides of affirmative action. Wong's exploration of "political jiujitsu" processes and how they can successfully undercut established political routine and prejudices provides an outstanding route for nonviolent protest that should be on the radars of any involved in leadership decision-making circles.

This is only the introductory example in a salvo of campaign and political experiences and encounters that creates solid, compelling stories about "how to win hardball campaigns where underhanded and often unethical tactics are employed."

The tactics have been proven to work. The approach to these kinds of situations and campaigns both addresses underlying racial prejudice and its incarnation in social and political circles and methods to thwart its presence with strategies that employ confrontation in a different, more effective and educational manner.

Lies will be made. Leverage will be employed. But, beyond these too-common rules of engagement and winning lies a route that maintains "Better strategy, tactics, and execution are the key to winning races that are fought in the mud."

While the examples utilized in Better to Win come from Wong's political world, they can be equally employed in business circles, social milieus, and any environment where tacit privilege and prejudice too often take the upper hand.

Ideally, Better to Win will be featured not just in libraries interested in political campaign strategies, but in any library collection where issues of racism and power struggles are of interest. It would also be an excellent choice for book clubs interested in explorations of political and social prejudice, in social issues classrooms, and in any environment where hard and fast rules of racist engagement and privilege need to be broken.

Bill Wong's assessment of the political machine and tactics to dismantle many of its minority-crushing routines come not from ideals, but from tried-and-true methods that rest on psychological strategies and a savvy life knowledge that can't be beat.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Everything She Feared
Rick Mofina
978077833401, $17.99 pbk, $7.99 Kindle

If you have not found Rick Mofina yet, "Everything She Feared" is a perfect starting point to then go back and read others by this truly gifted author. From the shattering opening when a girl falls from a cliff taking a selfie, to the smashing climax Mofina masterfully controls the suspense that is like a run-away train on a collision course. "Everything She Feared" is another great thrill ride that never lets go.

In Search Of The AnimalCule
Steven L. Berk. M. D.
9781663248008, $13.99 pbk, $2.99 Kindle

"In Search Of The AnimalCule" has a great premise to bring to life for readers Louis Pasteur and how he added so much to the medical profession. The problem I had from the first few pages, ran all the way through the novel to the degree, I never finished it. The author had too many similar names in the first chapter, that detract because it's not fun to page turn backwards to realize who is who is just one of my complaints. Another is, the constant over use of words as well as using and in so many places where it was not needed. I do not understand why in their manuscripts authors do not use a thesaurus that if you write by computer that is a bonus aspect they can use to strengthen their work. As a writer myself I constantly utilize this valuable resource that is at the fingertips of all of us. "In Search Of The AnimalCule" could have been a much better book if the author had taken the time to make it the best piece of writing he could do.

The Summer House
James Patterson and Brendan DuBois
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781538753149, $9.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

"The Summer House" is James Patterson and Brendan Dubois at their best with a page turning suspenseful tale from the first page to the very end. Seven people including a child are viciously murdered at a Georgia beach house. From the local sheriff's investigation to the involvement of military investigators the novel is filled with many twists and turns in the plot that takes readers on a roller coaster ride to the last page. "The Summer House" is rip roaring entertainment from two masters of the thriller novel.

L. Ron Hubbard Writers Of The Future Volume 39
Edited by David Farland
Galaxy Press
9781981619867680, $22.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

The bragging rights that The "Writers Of The Future series has brought more new writers into the field of the genre of science fiction continues with L. Ron Hubbard Writers Of The Future Volume 39. No other source has brought so many bestselling authors of speculative novels than this series that goes back so many years ago. Other collections continue to be released, unlike them Writers Of the Future has always celebrated new talented authors who have gone on to bigger and better things. This edition has another whole new crop of writers and artists under the same roof for all to enjoy. Extra nonfiction tips by established novelist round out the fare that includes stories by Hubbard himself. The gang buster of science fiction short story collections continues to excel with the newest installment 39.

So You Think You Know Baseball: The Baseball Hall of Fame Trivia Book
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
c/o Mango Publishing
9781642507690, $16.95 pbk/$9.99 Kindle

April started as it does every year a brand-new season of baseball "So You Think You Know Baseball" is perfect reading material to celebrate the game. There are questions with answers on the teams, players, games of World Series and records to name a few of the fun things you will find in this fantastic collection of little-known facts about baseball. "So You Think You Know Baseball" will add to the enjoyment of Americas favorite pastime.

The Best New True Crime Stories Unsolved Crimes & Mysteries
Mitzi Szereto
c/o Mango Publishing
9781684811243, $18.99 pbk/$9.99 Kindle

The titles of this series I have read, have been geared to true crime murders throughout the world. "The Best New True Crime Stories Unsolved Crimes & Mysteries" is very different because the cases are all kinds of situations that often are overlooked or are not very well known. Once again editor Mitizi Szereto has chosen masterful true crime writers from all over the world to tell these stories of so many different types of criminals. From the first of a famous TV star in several countries to the last of a daring man of the flying trapeze who all committed crime these are all for anyone who loves the true crime genre. "The Best New True Crime Stories Unsolved Crimes & Mysteries adds new dimensions to the popular series

I Like You An Encouraging Betime Book
Kate Allan
c/o Mango Publishing
9781642504811, $9.99 HC/No Kindle

"I Like You" is a little book that is plain fun reading. I am not sure what the art work is supposed to be other than maybe the sandman and how he feels about all of us when he is supposed to help us all get some zees each night we turn in for some sleep. Even if I am wrong "I Like You" is a cute title of sheer fun for anyone who wants to have a laugh.

It's Not Bragging If Its True
Zaila Avant Garde
Random House Books For Young Readers
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593569009, $17.99 HC/ $10.99 Kindle

Zaila Avant Garde is a unique remarkable young lady who holds several Guiness World Book Records including to be the first ever black female to win the National Spelling Bee Contest. It's Not Bragging If It's True" is her telling others how they can accomplish so much in life if they set their minds to working hard to achieve all kinds of wonderful things. She is upbeat listing lots of things all of us can do to succeed in our self-appointed goals through life

The Sister Split
Auriane Desombre
Delacorte Press
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
97805935698682, $17.99 HC/ $10.99 Kindle

"The Sister Split" is a story that is fun reading all the way through to the very end. Autumn is a girl who looking forward to her summer vacation where she can hang out with her best friend to do lots of interesting things. Her world is shattered by an announcement made by her mom that changes her whole life forever. She thinks though she can do something to change what her mom has told her will be happening in their lives. "The Sister Split" has numerous conflicts that propel the work along with well fleshed out characters and writing that is easy to read that moves along at a brisk pace to the end that is a very satisfying ending. "The Sister Split" is a beautiful executed story for all ages to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Debra Fileta
Harvest House Publishers
PO Box 41210, Eugene, OR 97404-0322
Dreamscape Media
9780736986519, $15.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: You may feel like old habits die hard -- but when your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are in-sync, lasting change becomes attainable. With the publication of "Reset: Powerful Habits to Own Your Thoughts, Understand Your Feelings, and Change Your Life", licensed counselor and faith-forward author Debra Fileta is here to help you break free, trading unhealthy cyclical behaviors for life-giving new patterns.

"Reset" walks with you through 31 powerful and sustainable practices. Each exercise is grounded in psychology, rooted in God's Word, and designed to transform your behavior with changes that last. "Reset" will help you: Recognize the "why" behind your emotions and actions, allowing you to identify where you need healing; Rewire your brain's default settings as you make simple adjustments to your mindset and habits; Reflect on your personal growth goals and begin taking small steps towards achieving them.

The primary message of "Reset" is that no matter how many times you've failed before, God's power and a renewed perspective can help you make this time different. So get ready to Reset and begin this journey of thriving from the inside out!

Critique: As informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring, "Reset: Powerful Habits to Own Your Thoughts, Understand Your Feelings, and Change Your Life" is unreservedly recommended to the attention of readers with an interest in a Christian perspective on psychology, counseling, and self-help. It should be noted for clergy, seminary students, and all members of the Christian community that "Reset" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781666626506, $49.86, CD,

Editorial Note: Debra Fileta ( is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues as well as mental and emotional health. She is the author of five books, podcaster (Love + Relationships Podcast), and national speaker who is passionate about spreading the message that healthy people make healthy relationships.

She's also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog, reaching millions of readers with her candid yet compassionate style, which combines psychology and faith.

The Korean Book of Happines
Barbara J. Zitwer
Short Books
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781780725758, $14.99, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Korean Book of Happiness: Joy, Resilience and the Art of Giving", Barbara Zitwer shares with wit and wisdom all that she has learned about this fascinating country: a vibrant, global powerhouse of culture and industry with an enduring devotion to the ancient philosophies of Han, Heung and Jeong (resilience, joy and the art of giving).

As fully engaged readers we follow Zitwer as she travels from the buzzing capital of Seoul to a meeting with Buddhist nuns in the mountains, from the bizarre theme park within the Demilitarized Zone to the tropical island of Jeju, home to Haenyeo, the inspirational, octogenarian, female divers. Along the way she regales us with hilarious anecdotes of her cultural faux pas, top travel tips and local recipes as well as magical moments of understanding and connection.

Critique: Witty, charming, fun, motivating, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Korean Book of Happiness: Joy, Resilience and the Art of Giving" is of special interest with its theme of happiness and self-esteem, making it highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Editorial Note: Barbara J. Zitwer ( is an international literary agent and author of the novel, The J.M. Barrie Ladies' Swimming Society (2012). As an agent, she specialises in Korean literature and has launched the international careers of some of the most celebrated, prize-winning Korean authors. She graduated from Columbia Film School and, prior to working in publishing, she produced films including Vampire's Kiss with Nicolas C age.

The Life Council: 10 Friends Every Woman Needs
Laura Tremaine
9780310367277, $27.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: You'd love to have a "ride or die" posse like you in the movies, on television, or with social media, but instead you have a host of really good -- acquaintances. After all, trying to find a soul friend in the midst of dirty dishes, deadlines, and, oh, a crazy busy life can be overwhelming. But what if developing great friendships was actually easier than we thought? And what if finding a "soul friend" wasn't necessarily our highest goal?

With the publication of "The Life Council: 10 Friends Every Woman Needs", Laura Tremaine (the writer and podcaster behind 10 Things to Tell You) tells us what we've been hoping was true all along: making, keeping, and even releasing friends doesn't need to be as hard as we make it.

This is a fun and practical guide gives you what you need to: Create your own "life council" with the friends you already have; Understand the ten kinds of friends every woman needs -- and how to find them; Learn how to evaluate your friendship circle for what's working and what might need to change; Navigate tough conversations with friends; Get excited again about the possibility of new friendships

The Life Council will give every woman the help she needs to think about friendships in a new way and find true connection, freedom, and joy in her relationships.

Critique: Exceptionally 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Life Council: 10 Friends Every Woman Needs" by Laura Tremaine is a 'real world practical' and instructive guide that will of a very special interest to Christian readers concerned with developing and strengthening friendships and personal growth. Inspired and inspiring, "The LIfe Council" is highly recommended and also available in a paperback edition (9780310359951, $18.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Laura Tremaine ( has worked in film and television production for many years at MTV, VH1, Fox, and Paramount Pictures before pursuing writing full time. She writes about friendship, anxiety, motherhood, and marriage. Her posts and podcast episodes resonate with women looking for ways to connect more deeply with others as they transform from one era of life into another.

Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyonce
Elizabeth Cobbs
Belknap Press
c/o Harvard University Press
9780674258488, $35.00, HC, 480pp

Synopsis: When America became a nation, a woman had no legal existence beyond her husband. If he abused her, she couldn't leave without abandoning her children. Abigail Adams tried to change this, reminding her husband John to "remember the ladies" when he wrote the Constitution. He simply laughed -- and women have been fighting for their rights ever since.

With the publication of "Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyonce", historian Elizabeth Cobbs tells the story of women who dared to take destiny into their own hands. They were feminists and antifeminists, activists and homemakers, victims of abuse and pathbreaking professionals. Inspired by the nation's ideals and fueled by an unshakeable sense of right and wrong, they wouldn't take no for an answer. In time, they carried the country with them.

The first right they won was the right to learn. Later, impassioned teachers like Angelina Grimke and Susan B. Anthony campaigned for the right to speak in public, lobby the government, and own property. Some were passionate abolitionists. Others fought just to protect their own children.

Many of these women devoted their lives to the cause. Some are famous, but most pressed their demands far from the spotlight, insisting on their right to vote, sit on a jury, control the timing of their pregnancies, enjoy equal partnerships, or earn a living. At every step, they faced fierce opposition.

In this magnificent compendium of biographical portraits, Elizabeth Cobbs gives voice to fearless women on both sides of the aisle, most of whom considered themselves patriots. Rich and poor, from all backgrounds and regions, "Fearless Women" show that the women's movement has never been an exclusive club.

Critique: With an informative Prologue and Epilogue, "Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyonce" is further enhanced with the inclusion of a number of black/white illustrations, a two page listing of Acknowledgments, fifty-four pages of Notes, and a twenty-three page Index. A seminal history that is as informative as it is inspiring, "Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyonce" is an exceptional work of meticulous research and scholarship, making it especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library American History and Women's History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists in the Women's Rights movement, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyonce" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.25).

Editorial Note: Elizabeth Cobbs ( holds the Melbern Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M University. A prizewinning historian, novelist, and documentary filmmaker, she is also the author of "The Hello Girls: America's First Women Soldiers", "American Umpire, The Hamilton Affair", and "The Tubman Command".

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Gauntlet in the Gulf
Claude Clayton Smith, editor
Shanti Arts LLC
9781956056730, $18.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Lorenz Hall at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, is named for William F. Lorenz, the man who first observed, in 1916, that chemistry could treat the mentally ill. Professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Lorenz developed the fledgling Psychiatry Department while engaged in his ground-breaking research.

In 1925, seeking a much-needed respite, Dr. Lorenz signed on with the Ruth, a fishing smack out of Pensacola, Florida, for a working vacation in the Gulf of Mexico. The Ruth struck a reef, the ship was abandoned, and the crew was rescued from perilous seas by a Mexican Navy vessel, only to be imprisoned as spies, smugglers, gun-runners, and for fishing in illegal waters. Dr. Lorenz's diary details their ordeal.

Critique: A simply fascinating read, "Gauntlet in the Gulf: The 1925 Marine Log and Mexican Prison Journal of William F. Lorenz, MD" is deftly edited by Claude Clayton Smith and rescues from an undeserved oblivion a truly singular account that will prove to be a prized addition to personal reading lists, as well as professional, community, and academic library 20th Century U.S. Maritime History history collections.

Editorial Note: Claude Clayton Smith (, is Professor Emeritus of English, Ohio Northern University, and the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of four. His own work has been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese. "Gauntlet in the Gulf", his third book with Shanti Arts, is his first solo editing adventure. He holds a DA from Carnegie-Mellon, an MFA from the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, an MAT from Yale, and a BA from Wesleyan.

What Remains?: Life, Death, Ritual and the Human Art of Undertaking
Rupert Callender
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001
9781915294128, $28.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: When he became an undertaker, Rupert Callender undertook to deal with the dead for the sake of the living. "What Remains?: Life, Death, Ritual and the Human Art of Undertaking" is the brilliant, unforgettable story of the life and work of the world's rst 'punk undertaker' -- but it is also a true life story about ordinary, everyday humanity and our capacity to face death with courage and compassion. To say goodbye to the people we love in our own way.

In becoming the world's first 'punk undertaker' and establishing the Green Funeral Company in Devon, UK, Ru Callender and his partner Claire challenged the stilted, traditional, structured world of the funeral industry; fusing what he had learned from his own deeply personal experiences with death, with the surprising and profound answers and raw emotion he discovered in rave culture and ritual magick.

From his unresolved grief for his parents and his cultural ancestors to political and religious non-conformists, social outlaws, experimental pioneers, and acid house culture, Ru Callender has taken to an outsider "DIY" ethos to help people navigate grief and death. He has carried coffins across windswept beaches, sat in pubs with caskets on beer-stained tables, helped children fire flaming arrows into their father's funeral pyre, turned modern occult rituals into performance art and, with the band members of KLF, is building the People's Pyramid of bony bricks in Liverpool.

"What Remains?" is a profound, deeply moving, and politically charged book that will change the way readers think about life, death, and the all-important end-of-life experience.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, iconoclastic, "What Remains?: Life, Death, Ritual and the Human Art of Undertaking" is an extraordinary memoir that will have special value for readers with an interest in the Cultural Anthropology of burial practices and rituals. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.49) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (9781666638349, $34.99), "What Remains" is a unique and very special addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library American Biography/Memoir collections. and supplemental curriculum Sociology of Death studies lists.

Editorial Note: Rupert 'Ru' Callender (and was moved to become an undertaker through his experience of bereavement and its aftermath. He spent much of his childhood in the hospice where his mother worked, and the caring humanistic philosophy of the hospice movement is central to his work. He opened The Green Funeral Company with Claire in 2000 and the company is now among the country's best-known eco-friendly funeral directors. In 2012, they won Joint Best Funeral Director at the first Good Funeral Awards and were described as 'The best undertakers of all time, by a country mile' by Good Funeral Guide author, Charles Cowling. Ru and Claire spoke at TEDx Totnes on death, grief, ritual and radical funerals. In 2021, Claire left the company and Ru continues with a new colleague. to establish Callender, Phillips, Cauty & Drummond: Undertakers to the Underworld, which was established as a partnership between The Green Funeral Company and The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (KLF) in 2017. Anyone interested can find out more at: and follow Ru on Twitter @wayswithweirds

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Seasonal Family Almanac
Emma Frisch, author
Jana Blankenship, author
Allison Usavage, photographer
Princeton Architectural Press
c/o Chronicle Books (distribution)
9781797222455, $35.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Emma Frisch and Jana Blankenship have a kindred friendship from their shared experiences as mothers, entrepreneurs, and nature lovers. Observing a growing demand from families wanting to reconnect to nature, they collaborated in the creation of "Seasonal Family Almanac: Recipes, Rituals, and Crafts to Embrace the Magic of the Year".

"Seasonal Family Almanac" gives families the tools to rediscover the soul-stirring magic that comes from living in tune with the seasons. Organized into twelve chapters and with content from a host of diverse contributors, it includes: Over 40 delicious food and beverage recipes from around the world, inspired by the authors' heritage and community, including Soothing White Pine Tea; Lunar New Year Dumplings; and Blueberry Lavender Crisp Bars; More than 30 personal care and wellness recipes ranging from Violet and Dandelion Face Steam to a complete Newborn Care Kit, Clearing Chest Rub, and Forest Bathing Salts; Plus 25 crafts and activities including beautiful and easy twisted rope flower crowns, beginner-friendly botanically dyed capes, shadow puppets, and more.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout with the full color photography of Allison Usavage, "Seasonal Family Almanac: Recipes, Rituals, and Crafts to Embrace the Magic of the Year" is an impressive compendium of family oriented things to do for fun and bonding every day of the year. Thoroughly 'family friendly' in organization and presentation, and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library arts, crafts, and cooking collections, it should be noted that "Seasonal Family Almanac: Recipes, Rituals, and Crafts to Embrace the Magic of the Year" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.79).

Editorial Note #1: Jana Blankenship ( is the founder of Captain Blankenship and a passionate educator about the transformative power of plants and minerals for beauty, personal care and wellbeing. Jana is also the author of Wild Beauty: Wisdom & Recipes for Natural Self-Care.

Editorial Note #2: Emma Frisch ( weaves her love for adventure, foraging, and seasonal cooking into her mothering, art, and work. She is the author of Feast by Firelight: Simple Recipes for Camping, Cabins, and the Great Outdoors.

Editorial Note #3: Allison Usavage ( works as a documentary-style photographer for a variety of clients, from brands to small businesses, individuals and couples. Her photographic favorite subjects are those that showcase the bounty and vibrance of the Ithaca, New York area.

Holden, After and Before: Love Letter for a Son Lost to Overdose
Tara McGuire
Arsenal Pulp Press
9781551528939, $21.95, PB, 356pp

Synopsis: "Holden, After and Before: Love Letter for a Son Lost to Overdose" is a memorable and moving meditation on grief: a stunning book that traces Tara McGuire's excavation and documentation of the life path of her son Holden, a graffiti artist who died of an accidental opioid overdose at the age of twenty-one.

Beginning with Holden's death and leaping through time and space, McGuire employs fact, investigation, memory, fantasy, and even fabrication in her search for understanding not only of her son's tragic death, but also his beautiful life. She navigates and writes across the many blank spaces to form a story of discovery and humanity, examining themes of grief, pain, mental illness, trauma, creative expression, identity, and deep, unending love inside just one of the thousands of deaths that have occurred as a result of the opioid crisis.

With poignant honesty and a heart laid bare, "Holden After and Before" is a beautiful and moving elegy to a son lost to overdose.

Critique: A timely contribution to the growing national awareness of the opioid epidemic, and of special and particular value to readers with an interest in opioid addiction/recovering, as well as grief and bereavement, "Holden, After and Before: Love Letter for a Son Lost to Overdose" is a compelling, informative, deftly crafted, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted that "Holden, After and Before" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Tara McGuire ( is a former broadcaster turned writer whose essays and poetry have appeared in several magazines and on CBC Radio. She is a graduate of The Writers Studio at Simon Fraser University, and holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia School of Creative Writing.

The Worst Thing We've Ever Done
Carol Menaker
She Writes Press
9781647424602, $17.95, PB, 175pp

Synopsis: In May of 1976, twenty-four-year-old Carol Menaker was impaneled with eleven others on a jury in the trial of Freddy Burton, a young Black prison inmate charged with the grisly murders of two white wardens inside Philadelphia's Holmesburg Prison. After being sequestered for twenty-one days, the jury voted to convict Mr. Burton, who was then sentenced to life in prison without parole.

For more than forty years, Menaker did what she could to put the intensely emotional experience of the sequestration and trial behind her, rarely speaking of it to others and avoiding jury service when at all possible. But the arrival of a jury summons at her home in Northern California in 2017 set her on a path to unravel the painful experience of sequestration and finally ask the question: What ever happened to Freddy Burton -- and is it possible that my youth and white privilege were what led me to convict him of murder?

"The Worst Thing We've Ever Done: One Juror's Reckoning with Racial Injustice" is Menaker's deeply personal account of journeying back in time to uncover the personal bias that may have led her to judge someone whose shoes she never could have walked in.

Critique: A personal transformation memoir that will be of special appeal and value to readers with an interest in the subjects of racial discrimination in the judicial system, "The Worst Thing We've Ever Done: One Juror's Reckoning with Racial Injustice" by Carol Menaker is a compelling, inspirational, and memorable account from first page to last. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library American Biography/Memoir and Contemporary Social Issues collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of racial justice advocates and non- specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Worst Thing We've Ever Done: One Juror's Reckoning with Racial Injustice" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Carol Menaker ( is a writer living in the Sierra Foothills in Northern California, where she retired after a forty-plus-year career writing and managing communications for universities and nonprofits. She was raised in a Jewish family in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in theatre arts/acting from Pennsylvania State University and an MS in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently resides in Grass Valley, CA.

Letting Glow: A Guide to Intuition, Spirituality, and Living Consciously
Phill Webster
O Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781803412207, $17.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: What if mystical experiences are real? What if inspiration, instinct, and ingenuity are the same as intuition, divination, and clairvoyance?

"Letting Glow: A Guide to Intuition, Spirituality, and Living Consciously" by Phill Webster is an adventure into mediumship and takes a deeper look at how we experience time, consciousness, and our relationship with our higher self.

It is also a profoundly personal account of grief during the global COVID-19 pandemic as "Letting Glow" aims at finding solace and hope by connecting with our intuition. Simple changes in thinking, meditation exercises, and shifting our perspectives on everyday reality can transform our lives into ones of intent, purpose, and a deeper connection with the all that is.

Critique: With a very special and valued appeal to readers with an interest in spiritualism, supernaturalism, ghosts and hauntings, "Letting Glow: A Guide to Intuition, Spirituality, and Living Consciously" is an especially recommended, inherently fascinating, and memorably insightful addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted that "Letting Glow" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Phill Webster ( is a writer, actor, and spiritual teacher currently residing in Richmond, UK. He has appeared in movies alongside Sylvester Stallone, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Elle Fanning.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

The Great Regeneration
Dorn Cox & Courtney White
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001
9781645020677, $22.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Great Regeneration: Ecological Agriculture, Open-Source Technology, and a Radical Vision of Hope", farmer-technologist Dorn Cox and author-activist Courtney White explore unique, groundbreaking research aimed at reclaiming the space where science and agriculture meet as a shared human endeavor. By employing the same tools used to visualize and identify the global instability in our climate and our communities (such as satellite imagery) they identify ways to accelerate regenerative solutions beyond the individual farm.

"The Great Regeneration" also explores the critical function that open-source tech can have in promoting healthy agroecological systems, through data-sharing and networking. If these systems are brought together, there is potential to revolutionize how we manage food production around the world, decentralizing and deindustrializing the structures and governance that have long dominated the agricultural landscape, and embrace the principles of regenerative agriculture with democratized, open-source technology, disseminating high-quality information, not just to farmers and ranchers, but to all of us as we take on the role of ecosystem stewards.

Seminal and important, "The Great Regeneration" present a simple choice: we can allow ourselves to be dominated by new technology, or we can harness its potential and use it to understand and improve our shared environment. The solutions we need now involve a broader public narrative about our relationship to science, to each other, and to our institutions. And we all need to understand that the choices made today will affect the generations to come.

"The Great Regeneration" shows how, together, we can create positive and lasting change.

Critique: Timely, "The Great Regeneration: Ecological Agriculture, Open-Source Technology, and a Radical Vision of Hope" is a valued contribution to our on-going national discussions concerning sustainable agriculture, food science, and environmental issues. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Great Regeneration" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, corporate leadership, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Great Regeneration" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.49).

Editorial Note #1: Dorn Cox ( is the research director for the Wolfe's Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment in Freeport, Maine, and farms with his family on 250 acres in Lee, New Hampshire. He is a founder of the farmOS software platform and Farm Hack, and is active in the soil health movement. In 2018, he received the inaugural Hugh Hammond Bennett Award for Conservation Excellence given by the National Conservation Planning Partnership. In 2019, he won a GroundBreaker Prize from FoodShot Global for his leadership in developing the Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management (OpenTEAM). He speaks regularly about participatory science, open agricultural-knowledge exchange, and regenerative agriculture. He has a BS from Cornell University and a PhD from the University of New Hampshire in natural resources and Earth system science.

Editorial Note #2: Courtney White ( is a former archaeologist and Sierra Club activist who dropped out of the "conflict industry" to cofound the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to building a radical center among ranchers, conservationists, and public land managers around practices that improve resilience in Western working landscapes. In 2005, Wendell Berry included Courtney's essay "The Working Wilderness" in his collection titled The Way of Ignorance. He is the author of Revolution on the Range; Grass, Soil, Hope; The Age of Consequences; and Two Percent Solutions for the Planet; and coauthor of Fibershed with Rebecca Burgess.

Forbidden: Receiving Pope Francis's Condemnation of Nuclear Weapons
Drew Christiansen, SJ, editor
Carole Sargent, editor
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781647122898, $44.95, HC, 403pp

Synopsis: At a 2017 Vatican conference, Pope Francis condemned nuclear weapons. "Forbidden: Receiving Pope Francis's Condemnation of Nuclear Weapons", issued after the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, presents essays from moral theologians, defense analysts, conflict transformation scholars, and nuclear arms control experts, with testimonies from witnesses. It is a companion volume to A World Free from Nuclear Weapons: The Vatican Conference on Disarmament (Georgetown University Press, 2020).

Chapters from the perspectives of missile personnel and the military chain of command, industrialists and legislators, and citizen activists show how we might achieve a nuclear-free world. Key to this transition is the important role of public education and the mobilization of lay movements to raise awareness and effect change. This essential collection prepares military professionals, policymakers, everyday citizens, and the pastoral workers who guide them, to make decisions that will lead us to disarmament.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Drew Christiansen, SJ and Carole Sargent, an of particular interest and relevance to moral theologians, defense analysts, conflict scholars, and nuclear experts imagine a world free from nuclear weapons, "Forbidden: Receiving Pope Francis's Condemnation of Nuclear Weapons" is a core and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, governmental, community, college, and university library Nuclear Arms Control and Religious Ethics collection and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialists readers with an interest in the subject that "Forbidden: Receiving Pope Francis's Condemnation of Nuclear Weapons" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $42.70).

Editorial Note #1: Drew Christiansen, SJ, PhD, was Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Human Development in the Walsh School of Foreign Service and Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Ethics and World Affairs, Georgetown University. He was lead editor of the award-winning companion to this book, coauthor of Forgiveness in International Politics: An Alternative Road to Peace (USCCB), and former editor-in-chief of America: The Jesuit Review. He was on the Holy See delegation to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (

Editorial Note #2: Carole Sargent, PhD, is author of Transform Now Plowshares (Liturgical Press 2022), and co-editor with Drew Christiansen of this book's companion volume. She is also the founding director of the Office of Scholarly Publications at Georgetown University. (

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Gilberto Rosas
The Johns Hopkins University Press
9781421446165, $24.95, HC, 206pp

Synopsis: On August 3, 2019, a far-right extremist committed a deadly mass shooting at a major shopping center in El Paso, Texas, a city on the border of the United States and Mexico. With the publication of "Unsettling: The El Paso Massacre, Resurgent White Nationalism, and the US-Mexico Border", Professor Gilberto Rosas situates this devastating shooting as the latest disturbing consequence of our border crisis and the currents of a deeply rooted white nationalism that is embedded in the United States.

Tracing strict immigration policies and inhumane border treatment from the Clinton era through Democratic and Republican administrations alike, Professor Rosas shows how the rhetoric around these policies helped lead to the Trump administration's brutal crackdown on migration -- and the massacre in El Paso. Rosas draws on poignant stories and compelling testimonies from workers in immigrant justice organizations, federal public defenders, immigration attorneys, and human rights activists to document the cruelties and indignities inflicted on border crossers.

Borders, as sites of crossings and spaces long inhabited by marginalized populations, generate deep anxiety across much of the contemporary world. Professor Rosas demonstrates how the Trump administration amplified and weaponized immigration and border policy, including family separation, torture, and murder. None of this dehumanization and violence was inevitable, however. The border zone in El Paso (which translates to "the Pass") was once a very different place, one marked by frequent and inconsequential crossings to and from both sides -- and with more humane immigration policies, it could become that once again.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of four Selected Interviews and Testimonies, a four page listing of Acknowledgments, eighteen pages of Notes, a sixteen page Bibliography, and a ten page Index, "Unsettling: The El Paso Massacre, Resurgent White Nationalism, and the US-Mexico Border" is a timely, impressive, and important contribution to our on-going national discussion regarding our controversial immigration practices and policies along our southern border with Mexico. A seminal work of original scholarship, "Unsettling: The El Paso Massacre, Resurgent White Nationalism, and the US-Mexico Border" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, governmental, college, and university library Immigration/Emigration Policy collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, governmental policy makers, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Unsettling: The El Paso Massacre, Resurgent White Nationalism, and the US-Mexico Border" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.65).

Editorial Note: Gilberto Rosas ( is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latina/o studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is also the author of Barrio Libre: Criminalizing States and Delinquent Refusals of the New Frontier.

Activist Affordances: How Disabled People Improvise More Habitable Worlds
Arseli Dokumaci
Duke University Press
9781478016601, $104.95, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: For people who are living with disability, including various forms of chronic diseases and chronic pain, daily tasks like lifting a glass of water or taking off clothes can be difficult if not impossible. With the publication of "Activist Affordances: How Disabled People Improvise More Habitable Worlds", Arseli Dokumac draws on ethnographic work with differently disabled people whose ingenuity, labor, and artfulness allow them to achieve these seemingly simple tasks.

Dokumac shows the reader how the disabled use improvisation to imagine and bring into being more habitable worlds through the smallest of actions and the most fleeting of movements -- what she calls "activist affordances." Even as an environment shrinks to a set of constraints rather than opportunities, the improvisatory space of performance opens up to allow disabled people to imagine that same environment otherwise. Dokumac also shows how disabled people's activist affordances present the potential for a more liveable and accessible world for all of us.

Critique: Informatively enhanced with the inclusion of an illustrative Introduction (Arseli's Story), 107 illustrations, forty pages of Notes, an eighteen page Bibliography, and a six page Index, "Activist Affordances: How Disabled People Improvise More Habitable Worlds" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship and an unreservedly recommended contribution to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Cultural Anthropology collections and supplemental Social Services curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, disabled rights activists, social workers, government handicap policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Activist Affordances" is also available in a paperback edition (9781478019244, $28.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.63).

Editorial Note: Arseli Dokumac ( is the Canada Research Chair in Critical Disability Studies and Media Technologies and an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Natural Light: The Art of Adam Elsheimer and the Dawn of Modern Science
Julian Bell
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500024072, $39.95, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Seventeenth-century Europe swirled with conjectures and debates over what was real and what constituted "nature", currents of thought and philosophy that would soon gather force to form modern science.

With the publication of "Natural Light: The Art of Adam Elsheimer and the Dawn of Modern Science", writer and artist Julian Bell deliberates on the era's uncertainties, as distilled in the work of long underappreciated artist Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610), a native of Frankfurt who settled in Rome and whose diminutive and mysterious narrative compositions related figures to landscape in new ways, projecting unfamiliar visions of space at a time when Caravaggio was polarizing audiences with his radical altarpieces and early modern scientists were starting to turn to the new "world system" of Galileo. His visual inventions influenced many famous artists -- including Rembrandt van Rijn, Claude Lorrain, and Nicolas Poussin.

With "Natural Light", Julian Bell deftly guides the reader through key Elsheimer artworks, examining the contexts behind them before exploring the new imaginative thoughts that opened up in their wake. He also explores the experiences of Elsheimer and other Northern artists in the literary, artistic, and scientific culture of 1600s Rome.

Although his life was tragically short, Elsheimer's legacy endured and prints of his work were widely spread throughout Europe, with his influence extending as far as the Indian subcontinent.

Critique: Effectively illustrated in full color, exceptionally informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Natural Light: The Art of Adam Elsheimer and the Dawn of Modern Science" by art history authority Julian Bell will have a special value and appeal to readers with an interest in Renaissance era art history and artist/architect biographies. While a key and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Renaissance Art & Science collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Natural Light" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $34.98).

Editorial Note: Julian Bell ( is a writer and artist. He currently teaches at the Royal Drawing School, London, and writes about art for journals, including the Times Literary Supplement and London Review of Books. He is the author of several acclaimed books, including What Is Painting? and Mirror of the World: A New History of Art.

Turnaround Time
Oscar Munoz
Harper Business
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
Blackstone Audiobooks
9780063284289, $32.00, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: Around the world and around the clock, the people of United Airlines are locked in a struggle against time to ensure your aircraft lands and takes off for another flight safely and efficiently. This "turnaround time" is the heartbeat of an industry in which the margin for error is nil and success is measured by fractions of a second.

Turning around an aircraft and turning around an airline are very different challenges in most respects, except one: it takes a united team to perform it well.

In 2015, when Oscar Munoz took the helm of this iconic brand, its culture was anything but united and its reputation was in free fall. A merger with its one time rival Continental had stalled, operational and financial performance was badly trailing those of its competitors, and the bonds of trust with shareholders, customers, and employees had reached a breaking point.

Setting out an ambitious plan to rejuvenate the company, Oscar learned that there was nothing wrong at United that couldn't be fixed by championing what was right -- the employees themselves.

Meanwhile, only a month into the job, Oscar suffered a near-fatal heart attack that set in motion a race against the clock to find a heart transplant to save his life, even as he fought to salvage his vision for United's revival. The health emergency might have been the end of the story -- until employees and union leaders rallied around Oscar, inspiring him to pull through, something he did within weeks following a successful procedure.

Oscar and the people he led, both with new leases on life, would go on to weather more turbulence, overcoming battles with investors and navigating several PR crises (including a global pandemic) to deliver top-tier operational performance, strong returns to shareholders, and ascending levels of customer satisfaction. By the end of his tenure, the people of United were finally flying together as one team, defying pessimism from industry insiders and rekindling optimism from employees and the customers they served.

With candor, humor, and heartfelt wisdom, with the publication of "Turnaround Time: Uniting an Airline and Its Employees in the Friendly Skies" Oscar reveals how he rose from humble immigrant origins to lead United Airlines through one of modern business's greatest corporate turnarounds. He offers soulful, much-needed leadership lessons for today's world: listening with empathy, standing up for employees, building durable cultures that are profitable because they're principled, and advancing a vision for a genuinely inclusive economy for the future.

Critique: Of special appeal to readers with an interest in commercial aviation, the transportation industry, and corporate leadership memoirs, "Turnaround Time: Uniting an Airline and Its Employees in the Friendly Skies" is an inherently fascinating and informatively impressive personal story laid out in full and candid detail. A simply riveting read throughout, "Turnaround Time" by Oscar Munoz is a very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Turnaround Time" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212215053, $41.99, CD).

Holy Habits from the Sacred Heart
Emily Jaminet
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9781646802180, $15.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: The principle message throughout "Holy Habits from the Sacred Heart: Ten Ways to Build Stronger, More Loving Relationships" is that Jesus Christ invites you to experience his love through devotion to his Sacred Heart, a powerful source of spiritual and personal healing that can also transform your relationships with family, friends, and others around you.

With the publication of "Holy Habits from the Sacred Heart", Emily Jaminet (executive director of the Sacred Heart Enthronement Network) identifies ten habits and virtues that come from the Sacred Heart. She also shows how you can intentionally practice these virtues in order to get closer to Jesus and strengthen the relationships that are most important to you.

Having Jesus at the center of family life isn't reserved for the pious; it's a form of practical spirituality that is open to everyone. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a cornerstone of Jaminet's life bolstering the faith of four generations of her family members. In the pages of Holy Habits from the Sacred Heart" she shares her own story as well as the real-life experiences of regular Catholics whose families have been changed for the better by the love and virtue that came from devotion to the Sacred Heart.

These habits and virtues include: Encounter the King (welcome Jesus into your home with the virtue of docility); Welcome the Light (have courage to rid your heart of shame); Let Go of the Need to Control (rediscover the liberating virtue of humility); Put Jesus at the Center of Relationships (experience the release of forgiveness); and Live in the Kingdom of Peace (experience the transforming power of prudence).

Each chapter includes a prayer, reflection questions, and wisdom from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (who began the Sacred Heart devotion) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Critique: Of spiritual and personal benefit to all members of the Catholic community, "Holy Habits from the Sacred Heart: Ten Ways to Build Stronger, More Loving Relationships" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, church, and seminary Catholic Devotional studies lists. It should be noted for clergy, seminary students, and parishioners, that "Holy Habits from the Sacred Heart" is also readily available in a digital book format, (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Emily Jaminet ( is the executive director of the Sacred Heart Enthronement Network. She is also the author of the award-winning book Secrets of the Sacred Heart and the coauthor of Divine Mercy for Moms, The Friendship Project, Pray Fully, and Our Friend Faustina. She is a monthly contributor on Spirit Catholic Radio, Relevant Radio, and and writes for Jaminet received the Bishop John King Mussio Award from Franciscan University.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

In the Pursuit: Kyda Tren Space Opera Series
Matt Edsand
Independently Published
B0B1TV8B62 $0.00 Kindle, 220 pages

In the Pursuit is an action space opera introduction to a larger story. The story covers a complete sub-tale to the larger saga and has a satisfyingly, but cliffhanger end.

Kydra is a thief for hire but she considers herself and a procurer of things. A friend, Trix, asks her for help on a more complicated job. She agrees. Trix is killed just as the job begins and she is immediately hunted by the killers.

Jace, an outsider on the planet, saves Kydra and tells her she has to leave with her or die. Together they race across the galaxy trying to stay alive and find other marked orphans, like Kydra, before they are killed or captured.

In the Pursuit is an action space opera with a high tech setting but an action/thriller storyline. The action comes close to overpowering the storyline. The story is a quick story that is easy to read. As an escape tale, it is good for a weekend read. Readers, who like a little more depth in both the science and story, will find the narration a little on the light side. But the price makes the story an easy recommendation for even the most jaded SF reader.

On the Wings of Murder (Florida Keys Bed & Breakfast Cozy Mystery Book 3)
Danielle Collins
Fairfield Publishing
B09DTBJLCX $2.99 Kindle, 168 pages

On the Wings of Murder is the type of cozy that is prefect to relax with. It has a nice cast of characters, a smooth narration and a reasonable mystery. It doesn't break any new ground but the key to a good cozy isn't with something new but to enjoy the comfortable.

B&B owner Eva Stewart has decided to take up photography. One of her bookclub friends invites her to go with her to the Great White Heron Refuge and take a few wildlife photos. Instead of birds to photograph, they discover a dead body. The refuge is on an island with limited access so the most likely suspects are those who arrived on the island's ferry. Eva plunges into the mystery identifying the suspects and victim. But possibly the biggest question is motive and why did the murder take place on an isolated island. With a murder already commited, Eva has to investigate but also make sure that the killer or killers don't consider her a threat.

On the Wings of Murder is an easy to recommend cosy mystery. It is comfort food for the reader. Consider reading it during a cold winter's night with a cup of hot chocolate or during a raining day with coffee.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Finding Faith
Michelle Romano
9781982082444 $9.50 print / $2.99 Kindle 234 Pages

The past always comes back to the present...

Faith Neely decides to throw caution to the wind and follow her heart to New York to be with a man named Daniel. She's blinded by love and unable to see that Daniel has a dark side. When she wakes up one morning and finds he has left, she is heartbroken as she wrestles with hurt, anger, and abandonment.

Trying to move past her heartbreak, she travels west. She's puzzled that everyone in the small town seems to know her. Her visit unlocks secrets from her past. To complicate matters, she meets Michael Santoro. Michael is visiting the small town to see his father, who is deathly ill, but being back home brings back painful memories of his past. Will he be able to forgive his father and restore his Faith?

Finding Faith is a beautifully written romance novel. It's a book you can pick up and get lost in on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The characters are compelling, and the ones you discover will hold a place in your heart.

Michelle Romano is a highly talented author who has done a superb job writing this novel. I became immersed in this story and enjoyed every minute of it. I especially loved how she weaved the elements of romance with a touch of mystery. It's the perfect combination that makes for an enjoyable reading experience!

Kindergarten at 60: A Memoir of Teaching in Thailand
Dian Seidel
Loyola College/Apprentice House
Loyola University in Maryland
9781627204453 Hardcover
9781627204460 Paperback $18.99
9781627204477 Ebook $6.49 (Kindle) 298 Pages

"All our dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them."
~Walt Disney

Sixty-year-old Dian Seidel planned to spend her retirement years exploring the world. She thought she had found the perfect opportunity in teaching English abroad. She submitted applications to several countries, but possibly because of her age, they turned her down. Then an unexpected chance came to teach in Thailand a kindergarten class.

She talked her husband into this adventure, and they decided to accept this academic challenge and travel to a foreign land. The culture vastly differed from what she had experienced in the United States. And she had to learn to adapt to overzealous children. To complicate matters further, COVID-19 made its presence in their newfound world.

The overall story is told as a series of 52 short vignettes, each a story unto itself. The author uses gentle humor both to relate her adventure in Thailand and to reflect back on the life she led before, from childhood, to student days, to her career as a climate scientist, to her role as a sister, daughter, wife, and mother. The author's use of the present tense and vivid descriptions of Thailand invite the reader to make the journey with her.

As an educator, Kindergarten at 60: A Memoir of Teaching in Thailand spoke to my heart. I found myself picturing doing something similar in my retirement days. This book showcases a strong and courageous woman who refuses to let life's obstacles stand in the way of her dreams.

Dian Seidel, you made a positive impact with your book. I felt an instantaneous connection as soon as I finished the first chapter. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. I look forward to future titles that are sure to come from this talented author.

Chasing Eleanor
Kerry Chaput
Black Rose Writing
9781685132101 $21.95 print / $5.99 Kindle, 325 Pages

A woman's strong will refuses to be broken...

After her mother's death, seventeen-year-old Magnolia 'Maggie' Parker knew her responsibility was to care for herself and her two brothers. As a female, finding a job to provide for her family was difficult.

Through the help of a friend, she can gain employment at a local hotel. She believes her salary will equal the pay of a male doing the same tasks. She celebrates by putting a feast on the table for her family and charging it against her first paycheck. Not realizing she has placed a lean against the family's home, nor that her first check will not be enough to cover the expense.

Maggie gains strength in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the President of the United States. Her articles inspire her to have the strength and courage to succeed in a man's world. When she learns that Eleanor will be staying at the hotel she works, she is overjoyed when they ask her to deliver her tea.

Eleanor is interested in Maggie and listens to her tell of the family's dire situation. She invites her to stay late after her shift to discuss how she survives as a female worker. She makes Maggie promise to contact her if she ever needs her help.

Maggie walks away from the meeting with Eleanor with newfound hope. Arriving home, since finding her brothers are nowhere to be found. With it dark, she fears for their safety and searches for them in the woods.

Locating them, she finds they are in a part of the woods that are on fire. Her brother, not knowing who she is, makes the mistake of shooting her. With quick thinking, she knows she cannot focus on her injury and goes into immediate action to save her family.

As Maggie's life is spinning out of control, will she be strong enough to protect her family? Will she find that Eleanor Roosevelt will be her only hope? Or will she lose all that she holds dear in the world?

Kerry Chaput has used every element required to write the perfect novel. This book would be an ideal addition to the Hallmark Movie Channel. It's filled with a strong, determined woman who intends to save herself and her family from life's obstacles. I highly anticipate seeing more of this talented author's work.

Jett Jamison & the Secret Storm
Kimberly Behre Kenna
Black Rose Writing
9781685132439 $19.95 Paperback / $4.99 Kindle, 173 Pages

Silence is golden when once mastered...

Jett Jamison finds that she cannot find any peace at her home. Her family doesn't realize a girl needs her alone time. She knows her mind needs a break and goes to the library, hoping to find her soul's quiet time to recharge.

Her plans for a quiet afternoon are soiled when some girls are playing a loud chess game. Packing up her belongings, she makes her way home.

Along the way, she sees Sister Gia tending her garden. She confides in Sister Gia that she is seeking peace and tranquility. Sister Gia gives her a suggestion of a book that would provide that sense of calmness.

Jett is excited to find this book. Going to the library, she is disappointed when she learns the book has been banned from the shelves. She cannot accept that a book would not have a chance to be enjoyed by society.

Will Jett's determination to find this book take her on a new adventure? Or will she let the book's title go in search of another one that will provide her with the stillness she needs to get her life in order?

Kimberly Behre Kenna has done a magnificent job creating the character Jett Jamison. Her strong will and sense of fighting for justice are commendable for a young girl. This book would be an excellent addition to any school library. I look forward to reading more of this talented author's works.

Life Lessons from a UFO Catcher: An Autobiographical Manga Vol. 1
Kenny Loui, Ph.D., author
Yamawe, illustrator
UFO Comics
9798986730028 (Ebook)
9798986730011 (Print)
$9.99 (Kindle); 152 Pages

Lessons of life prepare you for the future...

Author Kenny Loui, Ph.D., is the main protagonist in this fun-filled manga adventure. Although he has a wealth of talents, he always finds himself unlucky in love. Kenny has an obsession with playing the game UFO Catcher.

He feels it's his mission to save the plush dolls from the confines of the glass cabinet they find themselves a prisoner. With a steady hand and a pocket of money, he sets out to succeed in his life mission.

As he progresses through each stage of the game, he encounters a host of people who take the time to educate him on some life lessons. Each one makes him stop and realize that life isn't just about playing the game.

The pages of Life Lessons from a UFO Catcher: An Autobiographical Manga Vol. 1 by Kenny Loui, Ph.D., have provided me with a delightful first encounter with the manga novel! I was engrossed in each page, and the masterfully crafted illustrations brought the story to life.

From this first manga encounter, I quickly realized this author has a true talent for the Manga genre. With his skill as a writer and the talented hands of a professional illustrator, his name will make a strong impact in the literary world.

There is No Shrimp... And Other Lies My Mother Told Me
(Life Lessons from a UFO Catcher: An Autobiographical Manga)
Kenny Loui, Ph.D., author
Yamawe, illustrator
UFO Comics
9798986730042 (Ebook)
9798986730035 (Print)
$7.99 (Kindle) $14.99 (Print) 90 Pages

Mother always knows best . . .

Sitting in a jail cell, Kenny Loui has time to reflect on the past and things that his mother told him. The memories bring a smile to his face as they unfold in his mind. His mother didn't always tell the truth because she felt it would harm him if he knew. Instead, she put her creative spin on the questions he asked that she wanted to avoid answering with the truth.

One of the things she convinced him about was that everything was in black and white in her time. Kenny believed her and couldn't wait to tell his friends at school. Unfortunately, a teacher overheard him relate this false tale and corrected him.

Another time, she educated him her way on how babies were conceived. She told him that by touching a female that she would become pregnant. When Kenny accidentally let a girl touch him, he feared his mother's words would come true.

"There is No Shrimp . . .And Other Lies My Mother Told Me" provides a humorous look at how Kenny relates his childhood memories of his mother. I found myself on several occasions laughing out loud at some of the stories he told.

Kenny Loui, Ph.D., is a very talented writer. Through these beautiful illustrations of Yamawe, his stories leap off the page and into your mind. I am highly impressed with this author and would consider it an honor to review more of his work.

Stephen C. Pollock
Windtree Press
9781957638690 Audio
9781957638676 (Ebook)
978195763683 (Print) $3.99 (Kindle), 56 Pages

Death is a journey to a new level of living...

Death takes on new meaning through the words of Stephen C. Pollock. Each poem he has written presents the end as an experience met with dignity and honor.

Every poem gives a new insight into what the dying person is experiencing and the feelings of those they leave behind. The reader can stop, reflect, and absorb each word and its meaning. This book would be an added source of comfort and healing when someone loses someone they love.

"Exits" is a book that has profoundly impacted the literary world. The subject often is associated with sadness, but these comforting words provide an outlet for grieving people to remember their loved ones. Reading each of these poems, I felt a true sense of knowing that by experiencing death, they would be going on to a better place. One filled with no sickness and pain.

Stephen Pollock is a talented author who can write about a different subject and allow it to shine in a new light. This book was compelling and needed in the literary world. His book will touch the hearts of those that find themselves in the grieving process.

This Too Shall Pass: Poems, Prose & Essays
David Yuen
Privately Published
Publication Date: June 10, 2023
9798218186210 (Print), $TBA

"It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed." - Doe Zantamata

The world has experienced many worldwide challenges in the last few years. Many people lost their lives to COVID-19. The economy experienced its highest inflation rate its seen in thirty years. Wars and death are filling the news headlines each day.

Through all this destruction and turmoil, hope comes in the form of This Too Shall Pass: Poems, Prose & Essays. This book gives light to the darkest days. It allows us to see what we have experienced has a purpose and provides hope for how we will conquer the future.

Each poem is masterfully crafted and sets the perfect introduction for the short essay. It provides a life instance that will allow the reader to stop, reflect, and absorb the authors meaning. With each chapter I read, I felt renewed hope that the world crisis we would live through would one day return to a sense of normalcy.

David Yuen should be proud of this book. It's filled with a meaningful substance that will penetrate straight to the heart of the reader. I found this book allowed me to see my obstacles in life, preparing me for the next chapter. I highly recommend this book; this author is about to take the literary world by storm!

Swimming Across the Hudson
Doug Lalli
Privately Published

Reflections allow a person to see themselves in a new light...

Alan Agnalini knew at an early age that the world could not understand his uniqueness. Growing up to adulthood, he felt he had never met anyone who could truly understand him.

His world changed when he met a woman named Brooke. She, like himself, was searching for a change. The two of them had an instantaneous attraction. As the relationship progressed to a new level, Alan made a mistake that caused Brooke to walk away.

Haunted by that one night, Alan decides to seek out professional help. He hopes that he will be able to understand himself and how he can expect to move past that experience.

Will Alan be able to put the past behind him and start living for the future? Will he find a love that will give him a new purpose in life? Or will he be unable to forgive himself and be locked in the darkness of the present?

Doug Lalli is an author who provides an in-depth look at one person's life. This story shows how each decision we make can change our lives. This author does an excellent job of showcasing a realistic look at how one man struggles to understand himself. Readers will find that they can relate to how each character adds a new layer to Alan's life and helps him grow as an individual.

This book is a perfect introduction to a new author who I believe is destined for good things. I look forward to seeing where his future writing career will take him. He has made a great effort to write this book. I look forward to more of this author's work in the future.

Suzie Housley
Senior Reviewer

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design