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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 10 October 2016 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Food Forensics
Mike Adams
BenBella Books
10300 N. Central Expressway, Suite 400, Dallas, TX 75204
9781940363288, $16.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: In "Food Forensics: The Hidden Toxins Lurking in Your Food and How You Can Avoid Them for Lifelong Health", Mike Adams (the founder and editor of, the internet's most-trafficked natural health news website. He is also the creator of,,,, and several other websites covering natural health topics.) meticulously tests groceries, fast foods, dietary supplements, spices, and protein powders for heavy metals and toxic elements that could be jeopardizing your health.

To conduct this extensive research, Adams built a state-of-the-art laboratory with cutting-edge scientific instruments. Publishing results of metal concentrations for more than 800 different foods, "Food Forensics" is doing the job the underfunded FDA refuses to do: testing off-the-shelf foods and sharing the findings so the public can make informed decisions about what they consume or avoid.

In "Food Forensics", readers will discover little-known truths about other toxic food ingredients such as polysorbate 80, MSG, sodium nitrite, pesticides, and weed killers such as glyphosate. Adams reveals stunning, never-before-reported details of heavy metals found in recycled human waste used on crops and in parks, and he explains how industrial pollution causes mercury, lead, and cadmium to end up in your favorite protein powders.

"Food Forensics" will forever change views of food safety, regulation, and manufacturing. When people know what's really in their food, they can start making changes to protect themselves and their families against serious diseases like cancer, all while maximizing the natural immune defenses against infection and disease.

Critique: Impressively researched, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Food Forensics: The Hidden Toxins Lurking in Your Food and How You Can Avoid Them for Lifelong Health" is a consistently informed and informative read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Food Safety and Health/Nutrition instructional reference collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Food Forensics" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.88).

Facing Darkness, Finding Light: Life after Suicide
Steffany Barton, RN
Findhorn Press
9781844096886, $12.99, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: "Facing Darkness, Finding Light: Life after Suicide" is a powerful memoir in which registered nurse Steffany Barton documents her decades long journey to understanding and embracing the valuable lessons offered in life after suicide. With personal passion and professional integrity, Steffany carefully listens to the voices of departed souls and compassionately speaks to those left behind, building a bridge of timeless love between heaven and earth. "Facing Darkness, Finding Light" provides insight into the afterlife of those who commit suicide, sheds the light on healing in life after suicide, and shares meaningful techniques for forging new bonds between the departed and those left behind. Though the journey begins in the darkness of death, there is hope, there is light. Find it here in the pages of "Facing Darkness, Finding Light".

Critique: Steffany Barton, RN, is a professional medium who has a personal and professional passion for assisting those who have been affected by suicide. "Facing Darkness, Finding Light: Life after Suicide" offers a unique perspective that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Very highly recommended for anyone with an interest in this subject, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Facing Darkness, Finding Light: Life after Suicide" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Memory Painter
Gwendolyn Womack
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781250053039, $26.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there's a secret to his success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. When Bryan awakes, he possesses extraordinary new the ability to speak obscure languages and an inexplicable genius for chess. All his life, he has wondered if his dreams are recollections, if he is re-experiencing other people's lives.

Linz Jacobs is a brilliant neurogeneticist, absorbed in decoding the genes that help the brain make memories, until she is confronted with an exact rendering of a recurring nightmare at one of Bryan's shows. She tracks down the elusive artist, and their meeting triggers Bryan's most powerful dream yet: visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer's, died in a lab explosion decades ago.

As Bryan becomes obsessed with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the scientists' deaths, his dreams begin to reveal what happened at the lab, as well as a deeper mystery that may lead all the way to ancient Egypt. Together, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

Critique: All the more impressive considering that "The Memory Painter" is author Gwendolyn Womack's debut as a novelist, this combination thriller and romance story is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end and firmly establishes Gwendolyn as an exceptionally skilled and original storyteller of the first rank. While very highly recommended for community library fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Memory Painter" is newly available in a paperback edition (9781250095770, $16.00) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State
Meredith Tax
Bellevue Literary Press
c/o NYU School of Medicine
550 First Ave., OBV A612, New York, NY 10016
Consortium Book Sales & Distribution
34 Thirteenth Avenue NE, Suite 101, Minneapolis, MN 55413-1007
9781942658108, $19.99, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: In war-torn northern Syria, a democratic society (one based on secularism, ethnic inclusiveness, and gender equality) has won significant victories against the Islamic State, or Daesh, with women on the front lines as fierce warriors and leaders.

"A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State" by Meredith Tax deftly recounts the dramatic, under-reported history of the Rojava Kurds, whose all-women militia was instrumental in the perilous mountaintop rescue of tens of thousands of civilians besieged in Iraq. Up to that point, the Islamic State had seemed invincible. Yet these women helped vanquish them, bringing the first half of the refugees to safety within twenty-four hours.

Who are the revolutionary women of Rojava and what lessons can we learn from their heroic story? How does their political philosophy differ from that of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Islamic State, and Turkey? And will the politics of the twenty-first century be shaped by the opposition between these political models? "A Road Unforeseen covers all of these questions and a great deal more.

Critique: Impressively well researched, written, organized and presented, "A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State" is a seminal study that is enhanced with the inclusion of an informative introduction; a glossary of organizational names; fifty-three pages of notes; a two page bibliography of suggestions for further reading; and fourteen page index. Consistently compelling, informed and informative, "A Road Unforeseen" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Road Unforeseen" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.48).

The Only Woman In The Room
Eileen Pollack
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807046579, $25.95, HC, 266pp,

Synopsis: In 2005, when Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, asked why so few women, even today, achieve tenured positions in the hard sciences, Eileen Pollack set out to find the answer. A successful fiction writer, Pollack had grown up in the 1960s and '70s dreaming of a career as a theoretical astrophysicist. Denied the chance to take advanced courses in science and math, she nonetheless made her way to Yale. There, despite finding herself far behind the men in her classes, she went on to graduate summa cum laude, with honors, as one of the university's first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics. And yet, isolated, lacking in confidence, starved for encouragement, she abandoned her ambition to become a physicist.

Years later, spurred by the suggestion that innate differences in scientific and mathematical aptitude might account for the dearth of tenured female faculty at Summer's institution, Pollack thought back on her own experiences and wondered what, if anything, had changed in the intervening decades.

Based on six years interviewing her former teachers and classmates, as well as dozens of other women who had dropped out before completing their degrees in science or found their careers less rewarding than they had hoped, "The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys' Club" is a bracingly honest, no-holds-barred examination of the social, interpersonal, and institutional barriers confronting women (and other minorities) in the STEM fields. A frankly personal and informed study, "The Only Woman in the Room" accurately reflects on women's experiences in a way that simple data can't, documenting not only the more blatant bias of another era but all the subtle disincentives women in the sciences still face.

"The Only Woman in the Room" shows the reader the struggles women in the sciences have been hesitant to admit, and provides hope for changing attitudes and behaviors in ways that could bring far more women into fields in which even today they remain seriously under-represented.

Critique: An extraordinary and seminal study, "The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys' Club" is exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented. Offering an informed and informative exploration of why there are still so few women in the hard sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science, "The Only Woman in the Room" is a truly exceptional, thoughtful and thought-provoking work that should be a core part of every community, college, and university library Women's Studies and Contemporary Social Issues collection. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "The Only Woman in the Room" is also available in a paperback edition (9780807083444, $18.00) and in a Kindle format ($17.99).

Mad for the Plaid
Karen Hawkins
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476786018, $7.99, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: Nikolai Romanovin, a royal prince of Oxenburg, has travelled to the deepest wilds of Scotland to rescue his grandmother the Grand Duchess, who was abducted while visiting an old friend in the Highlands. Wanting to avoid an international incident, Nik plans to quietly slip into enemy territory disguised as a groom at Castle Cromartie. But his plans go awry when he falls under the cool gray gaze of the laird's daughter.

Pragmatic and clever, Ailsa Mackenzie has been left in charge of the family estate and her unruly grandmother in her father's absence. Something about the new groom catches her eyes, and makes her think he's not who he pretends to be - and even more shockingly, stirs her senses. Is it his obviously educated manners? His arrogant, non-servant-like presence? It's certainly not his towering, powerful form, or slumberous, inviting green eyes!

After confronting the imposter and learning the truth, Ailsa agrees to help Nik - for she, too, understands difficult relatives and would do anything for family. Soon their secret partnership leads to growing respect, searing kisses, and then something far more perilous. And when their quest turns dangerous, Ailsa and Nik must discover this unknown enemy while facing the dangerous demands of their own unruly hearts.

Critique: Another terrifically compelling and exceptionally well crafted novel from a true master of the Historical Romance genre, "Mad for the Plaid" by Karen Hawkins is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of dedicated fans of historical romance fiction and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library fiction collections.

More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails
Joy Perrine, Susan Reigler, authors
Jessica Ebelhar, photographer
The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
9780813167688, $16.95, HC, 95pp,

Synopsis: Joy Perrine is the bar manager emerita at Equus Restaurant and Jack's Lounge in Louisville. She was named Best Bartender in Louisville by Louisville Magazine and has won numerous awards for her cocktails. Susan Reigler is an award-winning former restaurant critic and drinks writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Together they have collaborated to create a memorable compendium of bourbon-based cocktails.

Ninety-five percent of the world's bourbon whiskey is produced in Kentucky, and the drink is as distinctive to the state as Thoroughbred horses and Bluegrass music.

Following up on their original collection of bourbon cocktail recipes "The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book" (9780813192468, $16.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle), Perrine and Reigler return with more reasons to appreciate bourbon whiskey. This mouthwatering second volume features more than fifty delicious new concoctions that include variations on classics such as the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan, and even adds a splash of Kentucky flavor to mojitos, sangria, lemonade, and coffee. "More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails" also serves up recipes from leading bartenders, prizewinning drinks from cocktail competitions, and a bourbon-inspired buffet featuring edibles that will be a feast for aficionados. The useful bourbon glossary and bibliography will appeal to professional or at-home bartenders eager to experiment, invent, and savor their own recipes.

Critique: Informed and informative, wonderfully illustrated with full color photographs of a variety of bourbon cocktails by Jessica Ebelhar, "More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails" also features a two page bibliographic listing of Suggested Further Reading, and a twelve page Index. Of special note is the appendix (Getting Started) and the two page glossary of Bourbon Terminology. Also available in a Kindle format ($9.99), "More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails" is very highly recommended to the attention of all dedicated Bourbon enthusiasts and cocktail drinkers.

Making Feminist Media
Elizabeth Groeneveld
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781771121200, $36.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: In "Making Feminist Media: Third-Wave Magazines on the Cusp of the Digital Age" Elizabeth Groeneveld (Assistant Professor of Women's Studies, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia) provides new ways of thinking about the vibrant media and craft cultures generated by Riot Grrrl and feminism's third wave. "Making Feminist Media" focuses on a cluster of feminist publications (including BUST, Bitch, HUES, Venus Zine, and Rockrgrl) that began as zines in the 1990s. By tracking their successes and failures, Professor Groeneveld provides insight into the politics of feminism's recent past.

"Making Feminist Media" brings together interviews with magazine editors, research from zine archives, and analysis of the advertising, articles, editorials, and letters to the editor found in third-wave feminist magazines. It situates these publications within the long history of feminist publishing in the United States and Canada and argues that third-wave feminist magazines share important continuities and breaks with their historical forerunners. These publishing lineages challenge the still-dominant (and hotly contested) wave metaphor categorization of feminist culture.

The stories, struggles, and strategies of these magazines not only represent contemporary feminism, they create and shape feminist cultures. The publications provide a feminist counter-public sphere in which the competing interests of editors, writers, readers, and advertisers can interact. Professor Groeneveld argues that reading feminist magazines is far more than the consumption of information or entertainment: it is a profoundly intimate and political activity that shapes how readers understand themselves and each other as feminist thinkers.

Critique: A seminal work of meticulous and original scholarship, "Making Feminist Media: Third-Wave Magazines on the Cusp of the Digital Age" is a ground-breaking study that is impressively enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, tables, an appendix (Publication Histories of Third Wave Magazines), eight pages of Notes, an eighteen page bibliography of Works Cited, and a ten page Index. "Making Feminist Media" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Film & Media History collections in general, and Feminism History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Whizbang Machine
Danielle A. Vann
Waldorf Publishing
2140 Hall Johnson Road 102-345, Grapevine, Texas 76051
9781943847921, $14.95,

Supernatural machinery is nothing new to fantasy (many a young adult and preteen read have included magical equipment), but a talented typewriter is something different, which Elizabeth discovers when a gift from her grandfather spells out new powers in the form of secrets revealed.

One delightful aspect of this story line is the old-fashioned type sprinkled throughout the pages, which capture the typewriter's special font and clarify that the messages are coming from a machine.

Another is the fact that a family curse brings granddaughter and grandfather together on a problem-solving mission spiked with supernatural overtones. As Elizabeth narrates her family's heritage and her increasing involvement with the magic typewriter that will change lives and destinies, she thoroughly involves readers in the quest: "The machine sighed to sleep with the flip of the red off button. I drew in a deep breath, stuffed Jack's last postcard in my front jean pocket and stood eerily still. Jack, I thought. After all this time, he would finally be standing inside my house. The place he used to treasure before the bomb went off in both of our lives. It didn't seem like today would ever come."

Mystery and supernatural elements are paired with strong characterization, believable scenarios and motives, and a host of challenges that keep Elizabeth and Jack on their toes. Readers follow the clues along with the investigator duo and will enjoy an ever-quickening pace as the two race against time to solve a series of impossible problems, with the Royal typewriter pushing them to hone their sleuthing skills before it's too late.

The result is a beautifully written page-turner recommended for young adult readers: one that does an excellent job of building its plot and characters and surrounds them with a mystery spiced with the dilemma of a Royal curse that may prove undefeatable, if the two family members can't solve it once and for all: "I repeated the sinister words the vendor chanted, "One thousand and forty years the curse will remain until the rightful owner shall turn back the hands of time and correct a Royal mistake. The secret will eat away at those who come to play like a disease."

The Other Side of Bipolar: Revealing Your Strengths to Move Beyond the Diagnosis
Lauren Polly
Over and Above Press
9780997107708, $19.95,

What can be expected from life after a diagnosis of mental disorder at the age of fourteen? How does an individual struggling for normalcy face years of being drugged, disempowered, and criticized?

The Other Side of Bipolar documents what happens after a diagnosis of bipolar depression and recounts life before and after this event. But its strength lies in its candid revelations of the process that led Lauren Polly to journey from a life filled with medications to a radical new transformative perspective about her abilities.

It's this journey that sets The Other Side of Bipolar apart from other autobiographical surveys of psychological struggles, offering readers the rare opportunity to explore and utilize many of the gifts formerly identified as disabilities. Any who have faced such a diagnosis will find this an inspiring, engrossing saga which offers hope, revelation, and much food for thought as it follows a journey that takes the identification of 'bipolar' and turns it upside down.

It's the author's passion for her life and for her special gifts which offer the most encouragement and hope: "You may think that you are so insignificant that your absence will not be missed, that life will go on and no one will even remember you. But what if you are important beyond measure? What if your absence will rob the world of what only you can offer it? What if the bullies, the judgmental people, the hate and sadness in this world aren't more real or true than your kindness, gentleness and hope? I am here to let you know there is a possibility for your life far beyond what you can see right now. There is freedom from this pain."

The division of her story into sections (pre-diagnosis, after diagnosis, and after she frees herself of the treatments and embarks on a different path) makes for clear discussions of the perceptions and feelings that direct her life: "What I see is not what I feel. Is what I'm feeling wrong? What's going on here? ... I gasp for breath. I become more and more confused as each person tries to engage with me. Do I respond to their words or the wave of emotion flowing through them and into me? Nobody else seems to be aware of these undercurrents. Is it real or am I crazy?"

These shining passages illustrate her evolving feelings of control over loss, confusing intersections of life and psyche, and achieving independence despite a roller coaster of life experiences. The book as a whole captures her choices to overcome the confusion within professional support systems, as she figures out for herself the pros and cons of various strategies and discovers her own path through the darkness.

Beyond 'stable' and 'safe', there is success. Lauren leads those who would reach beyond maintenance into new worlds of achievement and guides them there, from a world of traditional approaches to an alternative of hope.

Any who have been diagnosed as bipolar or who want a clear roadmap to a better approach will find The Other Side of Bipolar an engrossing, essential portrait of one woman who learned about mental health empowerment and how to reclaim hope. What can be expected from life after this process? There's no better indicator of all the possibilities than The Other Side of Bipolar.

An Enlightening Quiche
Eva Pasco
Infinity Publishing
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9781495810848, $31.95 Print, $3.99 eBook

It's an unusual move to center a women's fiction piece on a single food (quiche), but An Enlightening Quiche demonstrates how rich the results can be when a quiche recipe joins with other elements to capture the senses, smells, and events of a certain fall/winter season on Rhode Island.

Readers might normally expect that mention of a food-garnished women's book will indicate light, breezy beach reading; but An Enlightening Quiche is anything but vapid, offering hard-hitting insights and reflections from the prologue: "Lindsay and I scraped, stacked, and carried the leavings from the dining room into the kitchen, reminiscing and reflecting upon morsels of life scattered by a quiche. Unbridled passions are at best self-serving and tend to spawn turmoil, upheaval, and devastation to those we hold dear. This painful realization forces one to rein in the spirit, modify ambitions, curb appetites, stifle forbidden desires, and abandon wildness albeit reluctantly at first."

Women who look for easy beach reads might find this book's revealing philosophical and psychological examination a bit more demanding than anticipated; but the pleasure of An Enlightening Quiche lies in its very complexity, which offers more than a light dose of food reflections linked to insights on lives well-lived.

As Augusta moves through her world, digesting changed family interactions, new truths and revelations, and food, readers closely follow her path and some of its hard-won insights: "...and as time went on, even if I wanted to display what I felt in my heart for you, I didn't know how to reach you. I not only blew the one chance God gave me to be a mother, but selfishly never shared any memories about the woman who gave birth to you. I hope you can forgive me."

Emotionally charged with events that lead Augusta to evolve and change, An Enlightening Quiche follows the winding process of a life that stretches beyond familiar boundaries, with a host of powerful female supporting acts driving a story line that closely examines love, motivations, broken promises, paternal rights, and more.

No breezy beach read, this will attract (and delight) readers of women's fiction who look for more psychological and philosophical depth in their books than most genre reads can offer.

Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights
Clive Johnson
Labyrinthe Press
9780993202964 (Print edition), $13.95
9780993202971 (Electronic edition), $ 3.99
Barnes & Noble:

Most readers recall the One Thousand and One Nights magical stories of Middle East culture from the vague memories of a child's perspective, having long ago been introduced to these tales; but this retelling of the classic stories isn't intended for children but for adults who will find fresh new insights in Clive Johnson's approach.

Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights highlights sexual politics and social issues (such as women's rights and customs) and provides an accompanying contemporary focus for each tale's underlying message by crafting a modern counterpart story to accompany each classic. As such, this is not intended to be a new, definitive translation of the originals so much as a new perspective on their contents and themes and their relevance to modern times.

Some of the stories chosen for this collection are famous ones (such as Scheherazade's dilemma) while others are lesser-known adaptations of tales from the three main English translations (Edward Lane's 1859 edition, John Payne's nine volumes (published in 1882) and Sir Richard Burton's 1885 collection).

Having the juxtaposition of a contemporary counterpoint to each traditional tale offers much food for thought and refreshing new perspectives on how the messages of the original stories can be applied to modern times.

Some readers anticipating a mere retelling of the originals may be surprised at first at this dual focus and its movement between traditional story line and modern re-invention. But that's the beauty of Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights: by crafting stories to accompany these original gems, further insights are encouraged, including accompanying notes on interpretation processes.

The ideal readers of this collection will be teens through adults who will find the contemporary counterpart stories (crafted with adults in mind) to be especially enlightening windows into the relevance and visions of the originals.

High school to college-level classes studying the One Thousand and One Nights would also be good audiences for this collection, which also lends to classroom debate and discussions of each tale's connection to the moral, ethical and social dilemmas of modern times.

Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights is thus especially recommended for those who would view the original classics with a new eye to their lasting relevance to modern times.

Faking It
Terri A. DeMitchell
Piscataqua Press
9781944393304, $9.95,

Teens Will and Rachel have a problem: someone is passing counterfeit money, Rachel's brother Steve is implicated, and Will has also fallen under suspicion because of his defense of Steve - so, it's up to them to solve not only the money issue; but the bigger problem of Steve's family's financial struggles in their lobster business.

Will's encounters with the restaurant owners he works with part-time and his efforts to help Rachel and her brother become increasingly complex as he works out what's really been going on with local counterfeiting, and he finds himself in danger when his sleuthing reveals the truth.

Faking It is an excellent middle school read: it's a pleasure to see a realistic protagonist without a bent for problem-solving who becomes involved solely because of his friendships and loyalty. Will is a believable, everyday kid and not a miniature Sherlock Holmes. His observations come from requirement and circumstance as much as an innate curiosity; and even though readers may put the clues together faster than Will, the story line remains vivid and realistic right up to the end.

Middle school leisure readers seeking realistic, likeable characters will find Faking It an excellent beach take-along perfect for lazy summer days, with its ocean side atmosphere and setting.

The Gift of Gift: A Super Amazing Princess Heroes Adventure
Written by Sanjay Nambiar
Illustrated by Sedi Pak
Umiya Publishing
c/o Independent Publishers Group
814 N. Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9780988905023, $17.99,

The Super Amazing Princess Heroes are building a school in Uganda for a small village. Who are they? They're Kinney, Oceana and Sammie, who hold the special ability to transform into princesses with super powers. But something is wrong with Kinney: she has a hole in her heart and is in danger. Can their super-abilities help her recover?

This is just the opener in a series of adventures that portray the youngsters as polite, helpful, and actively living in a world with fairies, special powers, and super-problems.

Kinney's heart problem may be easily fixed with Western medicine; but what about her counterpart, Ugandan girl Gift? And even if the powerful super-princesses can help Gift, what about the rest of the Ugandan people who don't have access to good medical care? How can they help everyone?

It may take more than their efforts (and success may hold more implications than they planned) in this lavish fantasy story that excels in gorgeous colorful drawings throughout by Sedi Pak and a plot that neatly moves beyond fantasy into the real world of tackling social issues and problem-solving.

Young picture book readers with good reading skills (or parental read-aloud assistance) will relish this uplifting fantasy which encourages girls to think about others and is loosely based on real events. It concludes with information about the World Children's Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving healthcare and information for kids in the U.S. and around the world.

Lemoncella Cocktail
Rene Natan
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
ASIN: B01IO4H182, $3.99,

All Patrick Carter seeks in his twenty-five years of life is a calm, non-confrontational existence. He's had enough of struggle, drama and strife from his troubled childhood and has spent his life and energy making sure his past angst hasn't infected his adult pursuits.

This carefully-constructed effort has lead to his career as a lifeguard, helping people; but he's in over his head when he rescues teen Samantha in a river, only to find that her near-drowning may not be an accident, but a murder attempt.

Who would mark a teenager for death? As Patrick comes to discover it's because her look-alike older sister has seen too much, endangering both siblings, he find himself immersed in a situation that challenges his carefully-formed determination to keep his life on an even keel as he stumbles into the world of terrorist activities and an international weapons trading scheme.

Patrick resists involvement at every step of the way; but his initial helpful impulse leads to circumstances that thwart his efforts to remain dispassionate. How can a "man of a thousand trades" help professionals investigating a terrorist weapons clique? Ironically, Patrick's persona and background may be just the edge that an undercover operation needs to nap villains already savvy about their presence and people. A rogue outsider might be the perfect ace in the hole - for them.

One of the delights of Lemoncella Cocktail lies in a protagonist who isn't an inherent investigator, an espionage operative, or even an amateur sleuth; but an ordinary twenty-five-year-old boy who is drifting in his life even as he clings to personal security.

Such a man would be a reluctant participant in any kind of investigation or scheme; but Patrick needs the money too much to let his inherent caution get in the way. An accidental fatal accident in which he killed his father at the age of thirteen, feelings of abandonment between losing his mother at an early age and experiencing a succession of foster homes, and the isolation he's imposed upon himself are broken in big ways as he moves into circles and circumstances he's ill-equipped to handle.

As Patrick faces a series of tasks that lead to unexpected twists and turns, he slowly lets loose of his safety net and falls straight into increasing danger; discovering his hidden talents and propensity for survival in the course of a spirited series of cat-and-mouse encounters with mob actions, accidents and murder, and even unexpected fame.

Rene Natan creates a masterpiece in crafting a powerful story of not just a dangerous investigation, but how a personality that excels in safe situations moves into scenarios where personal survival is always in question.

Excellent tension, characterization, and the buildup of logical sequences of events keep Lemoncella Cocktail fast-paced and unpredictable, while attention to psychological foundations adds a realistic feel that elevates the story line above typical thrillers whose protagonists are quasi-professional investigators.

Readers who seek a protagonist who works outside the norm in addition to characters who add depth and intrigue to a complex, moving saga will find Lemoncella Cocktail just the recipe for a warm beach read, nicely steeped in the setting of southern Ontario's Lake Huron.

The Augury Assignment
Mark Mathis
RyCon Publishing House
ASIN: B01IFI8YYC, $1.99,

Teen Toby's mother has been murdered and his father jailed, so at age fifteen he's facing not only a new school and friendships, but a new family with a bullying cousin. There's already a lot on his plate; but life is about to get tougher when a simple creative writing lesson turns into a horror story.

While written for teen audiences, The Augury Assignment is recommended for older teens to new adult readers: the underlying violence which permeates Toby's life enhances the horror aspect of this story's events and contributes numerous stark and dark moments along the way: perfect devices for those mature enough to handle the angst.

This propensity for graphic detail is introduced from the first page ("Dear Future Self, I am a fifteen-year-old serial masturbator."); but this caution aside, horror genre fans are in for a treat with The Augury Assignment. Toby's letters to his "future self" are designed to shock (maybe the teacher; because Toby's protesting what he views as a useless and "inane, unproductive" assignment from Ms. Augury) and gain attention, but they also contribute to understanding a complex and blossoming personality who has already been through much.

The letter-writing assignment doesn't mean the story assumes a series of journal entries, however: a third-person narration of events creates a satisfying story line that winds through Toby's evolutionary process and his awakening inner consciousness.

As Toby grapples with hate, his father's trial and deceptions, new relationships, and school and social challenges, his life dips to new lows and evolves an increasing determination to confront his demons, whether they be his father or something more dangerous.

Readers receive a powerful novel of horror and awakening which juxtaposes Toby's "future self" journal entries with accounts of his deadly growth in an escalating series of events that provide clear insights into the evolution of cruelty and evil from both within and without.

Life holds a different plan for Toby than his mother could have imagined: his story is gripping, compelling, and hard to put down.

Noah's Boat
CB Follett
Arctos Press
9780983367418, $18.00,

Noah's Boat comes from an award-winning poet who has published numerous collections, has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes for her work, and who provides a gathering of animal-oriented works that will delight readers with an affection for nature.

The term "word artist" comes to mind because, in effect, these free verse productions are paintings of landscapes, animals, and human interactions and observations and provide succinct jewels of imagery and metaphor delicately laced with metaphysical reflection that juxtapose human and animal perspectives, as in a hawk's-eye view of bird watchers in 'Hawk Soaring': "Over at Stinson playing Icarus,/they strap on huge metal frames, harnessed/to their jellied bodies. They launch/themselves in my sky, usurp my thermals..."

From domestic animals (such as cows to bats, bears, frogs and fishes) to beaches and world nature areas, the wide-ranging Noah's Boat captures natural history from a broad range of perspectives and celebrates the labor of moles, the ravages of savage weather and wildness, and the views of the author, who is "one of those artists who recycle/such treasures" (a description poised in the story of a water-laden, rescued jewel of a dragonfly).

Delicate, multifaceted, and filled with powerful contrasts between human and animal perceptions, Noah's Boat offers up an ark of poetic observation for any nature enthusiast who loves powerful nature-oriented poetry.

White Mythology
W.D. Clarke
All That Is Solid Press
9780991710027, $2.99 Kindle, $25.00 Hardcover,

Fans of the novella format will find White Mythology's two novellas are powerful tales that revolve around the title theme, creating hard-hitting reflections in stories of different lives.

In the introductory novella 'Skinner Boxed', meet Doctor Ed, a rigidly controlled physician who maintains a tight rein on life through sleep, wakefulness, and even dreams.

Everything reflects this particular approach to life; even his morning coffee beans ("...psychotropic Honduran beans that came in smallish, cheap cellophane packs, which Dr. Ed's wife poured by the dozen into a large Chock Full O' Nuts tin and kept, erroneously, in the freezer - a continual replenishment of which was couriered to him on a regular basis by an ophthalmologist colleague who performed charity work in that Central American hot spot.").

Clarke's attention to underlying psychology and rationale is what makes 'Skinner Boxed' an exceptional work, powered by Clarke's literary and psychological attention to detail: "...when Dr. Ed had first met his wife, her behaviour had been wildly un-predictable. She had been all over the place, doing all kinds of things, whereas he'd only been in a couple of (very similar) places, doing one particular thing. Her unpredictability had been the only stable thing about her, it had seemed to him back then. In this respect, she had resembled, and had surpassed, the two great loves of Dr. Ed's life..."

Through this observational tone, readers receive very exact clues to Dr. Ed's patterns, life, and reactions to it; from his infatuation with donuts in times of crisis to his relationship with his wife and his views of women in general. The origins of his coping mechanisms makes for fascinating insights into the psyche of not just this one man, but others who walk in his footsteps.

Individual quirks, oddities, and habits of characters are thus imparted with precise, clear, and well-detailed vignettes especially recommended for readers who enjoy stories steeped in psychological inspection and understanding.

'Love's Alchemy' adopts quite a different approach in presenting five narrators who each provide monologues that at first seem to have little to do with each other (they take place in different locales around the world, through different perspectives and experiences), but which ultimately revolve around love's perspectives and conundrums.

A wry sense of humor is one of the foundations linking these characters and their lives, and there's also attention given to solid dialogue (in the second novella, particularly), charts and graphs which pepper the story line with relevant visuals, and a sharp inspection of how attitudes and ironies evolve from the point of contact between psychological construct and life's realities.

One doesn't expect powerful visuals to pepper a novella. The startling explosive-looking sky with its accompanying identifier ("This is the classic 'windy sky' which has spawned all the lore about mares' tails and in more modern times a song that speaks of 'rows and flows of angel hair'."), linked to the ongoing reflections of Dr. Ed in the chapter 'Cloud Illusions Or, Message in the Wind', is both unexpected and an enhancement to that segment of the story, to take one example.

But it's the perfect device to break up the text and not just accompany but emphasize a clear moment of revelation and transition in Dr. Ed's worldview: "The moment of pure, untainted experience had passed, if indeed it had ever been there, and, from the little sun g-d's-eye-view in his 'mind', he saw himself begin to 'think' etymologically, to try to examine what he 'thought' he saw beyond the matrix of his own peculiar, contingent sensibility. He examined it, classified it, and, to the limit of his powers, comprehended and understood it. Verstanden, comprehension, savoir, he 'thought'. I 'see'. - I see, he said aloud to the wind. I see I really am. I see it now. T-trying. Trying to see."

The wordplay and the unusual approach of taking a linear thinker used to a black-and-white world and pinpointing the moments of his change are exquisitely presented: "The son disappeared. The sun disappeared behind a cirrus cloud, momentarily giving the swells on the lake much more ... contrast. - Sunflower, he 'thought', tournesol. Heliotrope, sun-turner, enslaved to the sun-god, to my father's son, my son's father. And here I am, turning tropes, imagineering, screwing it all up, 'till, 'till I'm burnt by the Sun, no not the sun, the merely metaphorical Sun. Fuck, I see it."

The result is a more literary and powerful read than might be expected for readers who view novellas as light leisure reading choices; but one especially recommended for those who want their protagonists well-rounded, following rules and perceptions of reality against which their lives play out, for better or for worse.

Contemplations on God and Orgasm
Catherine Fairfield Hayes
Lynn Brown & Associates, Publishers
9781513607719, $9.95,

Contemplations on God and Orgasm is a short work (36 pages in length, to be precise) that offers a selection of reflections on why it's impossible to not believe in God, and is recommended reading for anyone who would consider the unusual connections between the presence of God and the experience of orgasm.

Spiritual readers may not readily understand or acknowledge this connection between two seemingly-diverse topics which are often explained or expressed using the same descriptions; but Catherine Fairfield Hayes makes not only a religious but a philosophical case for beliefs centering on the human body as well as its soul, and considers how erotic pleasure and symbols support the idea of orgasm as the ultimate evidence of God.

One might anticipate a weighty discussion (and how could this be, in a book with under forty pages to its name?), but one of the delights of Contemplations on God and Orgasm lies not just in its length, but in its delivery. Hayes provides her insights in easily-digestible, thought-provoking paragraphs that take the appearance of succinct daily inspirationals that translate potentially-confusing considerations into bites even the busiest reader can absorb.

Some examples include "Has anyone ever invoked God's name at the startling onset of orgasm? If so, was his merely a coincidence or does the Subconscience know more than we think?" and "If the experience of orgasm by our prehistoric ancestors caused many alarming problems, wouldn't the fear of it need to be mystically transmuted, too, not just the glory? And would this fear become what we call Evil?"

While devout followers might question some of these contentions, especially where they tie into Biblical passages and teachings ("If the Church is the womb, perhaps we are all the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus (depending on our gender) when we enter to worship."), there's one thing for certain: Catherine Fairfield Hayes's ability to take religious core beliefs, pair them with philosophical inspection, and provide food for thought in powerful bursts allows even those unused to spiritual inspection to contemplate new ways of thinking about Christianity.

Kids to the Rescue: Adventures in Mammoth Cave
Adventures in the Worlds of In and Out
William Haponski
Caves and Kids Books
9781537037417, $12.99,

Many pre-teen and teen readers go through a period of time in which they are attracted to stories about caves and caving. This interest was recognized early on by Mark Twain, who included a caving adventure in Tom Sawyer; but surprisingly few fictional stories offer kids more than a cursory brush with caving, and most that do usually eschew caving facts in favor of adventure.

In Kids to the Rescue: Adventures in Mammoth Cave, caves aren't a setting for the action, but serve as the primary attraction to a story that adds to the "Adventures in the Worlds of In and Out" begun in William Haponski's prior Cave of Healing.

Science and cave touring facts are liberally embedded into an adventure story that takes place in Mammoth Cave, following Squiggly and his friends on a journey that juxtaposes action with different caving facts and atmospheres ("Since I came back from In I've been reading about Mammoth Cave," said Peggy, "and Carlsbad Caverns, and some other caves. It'll be interesting to see how the caves of In compare to Mammoth Cave.").

Despite the book's many caving insights, it should be emphasized that it includes a good dose of fantasy. Squiggly, Squatty and their companions are more familiar with their cave environments than cognizant of the technology and oddities of the "Out" world (outside of caves), so many things common to Henry and Peggy are startling and frightening to them: "Wait here, and I'll back the van out." ...By the time Henry pressed the thing in his hand and the side door of the van slid open, the In children had begun to get used to Out miracles and just watched."

Having a grandfather as the story's protagonist represents a departure from most middle-grade reads featuring children, but Henry is anything but dottering: he's a lively, curious, and open-minded grandfather whose willingness to travel and experience new and strange worlds fuels a story that moves well beyond age stereotypes.

Henry keeps up with his young companions of both worlds as they journey into darkness and search for a missing young cave tourist who strays from a group expedition to the 400-mile-long cave. Dangerous cave encounters and practical science permeate an engrossing story, adding touches of realistic caving facts and experiences: "The passage in Sylvan at this point was only about three feet high. On the extreme left side of the breakdown was the small hole that Levy had identified. By working furiously with pry bars they had managed to enlarge it just enough..."

The juxtaposition of these real-world caving facts in the context of an adventure story is very well done and provides many insights to young would-be cavers during the course of Henry's adventure. From a clear outline of problems one might encounter during a long and complex cave rescue to secrets of the World of In, formulas for shrinking, and realistic descriptions of cave environments ("The gate was wide, extending the entire way across Houchins Narrows, about sixteen feet at this point. It was built in a zig zag of three sections, two of which had slats going from the floor up to the ceiling The middle section was a door."), Kids to the Rescue: Adventures in Mammoth Cave performs a delicate tightrope walk between real-world caving facts and a fictional blend of adventures and fantasy, all making for a compelling story for pre-teen to adult readers looking for a caving adventure and fantasy blend.

Constant Guests
Patricia Nedelea
Patricia Nedelea, Publisher
ASIN: B01G0VYTYK, $4.99PB, $0.99 Kindle,

Isa is a typical Parisian girl whose world revolves around fun and parties. She's confident of who she is, until she discovers that her parents are not really her real parents and her background is mired in dark secrets and threatening truths.

The story doesn't open with parties and fun, however: it opens with a serious description of angst and drowning: "The vortex pulls me down strongly. I feel my hair breaking. A ray of light is coming from somewhere below. I see a skeleton. No, there are two skeletons entangled in the weeds. I'm diving next to them. I see the glowing skulls shining in the dim light. I'm suffocating. Do not inhale! I tell myself. I'm in my twenties and I threw my life away. Why? What for? I don't know any more. I've made a terrible mistake. I'll drown. There's no more air left. I don't want to inhale water, but I inhale. I shouldn't have..."

Only after setting this compelling opening scene does Patricia Nedelea turn to the specter of a girl wakes up one morning believing she's in a jail, with no memories of what she's done the night before. Isa won't be spending any serious time behind bars from what's transpired during her latest binge at a club; but what is unexpected is a mystery that hinges on tarot cards, immersing skeptic Isa in a journey that is anything but linear.

Colorful illustrations peppered throughout the story line enhance the text with visual support and provide clues to Isa's searching journey as Isa explores her dangerous past and a present threatened by kidnapping and a man who treats his 'special guests' to his fascination with medieval torture (warning: parts of this saga are graphic!).

An artist who paints his scenes of pain using actual blood, provoking tragedy in others' lives as part of his process of capturing reality, robberies and thefts of tarot 'virtue' cards, and a desperate European search contribute to an action story filled with intrigue, threats, and mystery.

Readers should not expect a plethora of psychological depth: characterization is, of necessity, light in order to focus on a winding plot that specializes in steeping its action with the unexpected. Constant Guests excels in unexpected twists that will keep readers on edge and surprised: a delight to note in any genre.

The result is a powerful read that's hard to put down, filled with compelling action and intrigue throughout.

Beautiful Chaos
Alex Tully
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781533441096, $8.99,

Some novels hit the reader in the face with their first opening sentences, offering an immediate, hard-hitting intensity. Beautiful Chaos opens with a rich flavor of words that immerses readers in the sights, sounds, and smells of a powerful world ("As soon as Brady O'Connell pulled open the back door to McGuire's Pub, the all-too-familiar smells hit him in the face: corned beef soaking in sauerkraut, sweat-stained flannel on top of smoke-filled denim, beer breath laced with whiskey, and always a hint of Old Spice thrown in for good measure."); and that's just one of the devices that makes Alex Tully's story a sensual delight juxtaposing experience with intense environmental descriptions.

Beautiful Chaos is driven by such moments as it presents the story of a chaotic teen world where normally-responsible teen Brady decides to break the rules just one time, and finds himself paying for his decision.

What does an envelope of money, a sassy redhead, a struggle to retrieve lost funds, and an evolving romance have to do with his life? Plenty, as Brady is about to find out!

As Brady confides in Viviene about his family's method of making extra money from their business efforts (money which is dubious in its ethics), the two unlikely associates begin to bond over more than a search for a missing backpack, money, and the truth.

Issues of guilt, honesty, a savant's uncanny calculation abilities, and dubious connections between love and money make contribute to a fast-paced story that is a surprising mix of romance and adventure as these two teens join forces, break apart, and face the chaos in their individual lives and with each other.

In a series of evolving scenarios, love is captured in all its succinct detail and immediacy: "When he was with Vivienne, things just felt right. Life felt right. And from that moment on, he wanted to do everything right."

Mature teens and new adults are brought along for an involving ride that moves well beyond a genre romance and into the realm of hijinks, adventure, and psychological understanding in a fun, thought-provoking read highly recommended for audiences seeking something different and more realistic than romance-tinged novels usually offer.

The Darkleich Files: The Raptarian
Bryan R. Barton
Light Switch Press
ASIN: B00X01BQ7W, $6.99,

Darkleich is an interplanetary investigator who is charged with tracking down and apprehending criminals across planets. In The Darkleich Files: The Raptarian, he's trying to capture a Raptarian, Zigart, on the run from assassinating Prime Minister Toolun. The assignment seems to fall neatly into Darkleich's skill sets - but as he's to find out, this case will prove quite a challenge.

Though there's a short prologue setting forth some history and perspective, action clearly begins in the first chapter, which is set in the year 2624 on the planet Buchean Prime, where a chase is winding down to its conclusion: "There is a commotion amongst the crowd. There are people twirling around to see what is happening. A cloaked man is chasing a large man like reptilian through the busy market streets. The man's left arm becomes exposed beneath his cloak glinting with the lightening, his automatic pistol brushes against the side of a worn and torn long green leather jacket."

While there are occasional incongruities in the writing (automatic pistols are still used in 2624, on another planet? One would think some other high-tech weaponry would be employed, by then; although later in the story, long-range pulse rifles come into play), and a few places where better punctuation could have been more used ("I am fine Oterix, please prep the ship" would have read smoother with a comma after "fine"; and "Oterix, I have lost Zigart where is the ship docked" could similarly use a comma or a period after 'Zigart', for two examples), vivid scenes and quick action shots (with a video-like feel in its staccato of impressions) would seem to have the story ending before it's started, with the successful capture of Zigart.

But in a satisfying twist, Darkleich misses his opportunity to snag his perp, and the story continues with a pattern that evolves into a cat-and-mouse game between a determined (yet older) detective and an elusive, ever-moving target.

Telepaths, reptile-influenced Raptarians, assassins assigned to political figures, and nano-bots that allow Darkleich to operate in different environments are only a few of the devices affecting the detective's pursuit of an elusive and dangerous killer and the challenges of facing different worlds in a cross-planetary chase.

While the character of Darkleich is nicely portrayed, with some emotional interludes outlining his psyche ("Darkleich is visibly emotional, and is trying to fight back his feelings, "Rizzum, you have to hang in there."), Bryan R. Barton's focus isn't on psychological depth so much as good, solid action. Readers looking for a piece where characters and personalities are deeply flushed out might find these surface impressions too light; but others who look for powerful leisure reads which focus on atmosphere, intrigue, and alien interactions will be quite pleased with the story's approach.

Science fiction readers who also enjoy political intrigue and detective work will relish the atmosphere and fast pace of The Darkleich Files: The Raptarian.

Finding Billy Battles
Ronald E. Yates
California Times Publishing
ASIN: B00KQAYMA8, $5.99
9781494854447, $12.99,

Finding Billy Battles opens in 1860 Kansas (where Billy Battles is born on the prairie off the Santa Fe Trail), it's the first book in a trilogy, and it is partially based on fact, using the trappings and embellishments of fiction to add characters and events to flush out facts. Although this may translate to a Western story (and indeed, Ronald Yates captures the language and scenes of those years for historical accuracy and atmosphere), to call Finding Billy Battles a "Western novel" is to limit its potential audience beyond fairness.

In fact, this story traverses different world locales in the 1860s (yes, people did travel the world during those times; albeit much differently and more laboriously than now), and thus employs a much more sweeping feel than your typical American-centered Western.

The first-person approach opening Billy's story creates a compelling immediacy that is well followed through in the rest of the piece: "Chances are you have never heard of William Fitzroy Raglan Battles, and there is no reason why you should have. I know I hadn't - until that humid afternoon in the waning days of the Eisenhower era. Today, I often wonder how I could not have known about Battles, how a life as full and audacious as his could have gone unnoticed for so many generations. God, how I wish I could have known him better. But his life - as was no doubt the case with that of millions of other anonymous participants in history - was simply lost, crushed underfoot in the unrelenting stride of time."

Billy's journals, discovered a century later in an old trunk, form the basis for these reflective experiences as a dutiful great-grandson assembles the pieces of Billy's life, which revolves around confrontations and struggle.

Dialogue between characters is powerfully compelling and easy to follow: "They caught up with Kenedy, who was riding hard for Texas, a few days later. He was wounded when Bat Masterson shot him in the shoulder with his .50 caliber buffalo rifle. "Did I get that bastard Kelley?" Kenedy asked as he lay on the ground, thinking he had been tracked down for shooting Mayor Kelley. "No, but you killed somebody else," Wyatt answered. "Dora Hand was asleep in Kelley's bed." That news shook Kenedy, who was obviously tormented by it. Then looking up at Masterson, who still held his buffalo gun, he said, "You son of a bitch, you should have made a better shot than you did."

Despite his many violent encounters, Billy himself is not a villain, but an ambitious young man operating in a rugged world where cattle rustling, gunfights, showdowns, and even early ethnic confrontations shape his decisions and choices.

Readers should expect a much fuller, more multi-faceted view of not just Kansas, but (eventually, in other books in the trilogy) the world of the 1860s as Billy's many adventures unfold, and will appreciate the fact that Ronald E. Yates takes what could have been the microcosm of a frontier life and expands events way beyond the usual boundaries, using the roots of the West to amplify Billy's world.

While those who are used to the lighter leisure read a typical "Western" entails might feel stymied, at first, by this swirl of logical yet wider-ranging activity, keep in mind that the author is a professor, is incorporating more than casual attention to historical accuracy in the course of his story, and has created the first in a trilogy that is marked by swift action, strong characters, and settings and a history firmly based on real events.

Finding Billy Battles is a powerful introduction to what promises to be a gripping saga, and is especially recommended for fans of historical fiction who seek accuracy and depth as much as entertainment.

The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles
Ronald E. Yates
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
ASIN: B01GWH0CDO, $5.99
9781514490129, $15.41,

The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles (Book 2 of the trilogy) is especially recommended for prior enthusiasts who have already enjoyed the setting, circumstances and approach of the first novel Finding Billy Battles.

Unlike the first book, however, this one takes place far from the Kansas world Billy operated in, and follows his far-reaching journeys which begin in 1894, with Billy sailing to the Far East in the firm clutches of dangerous associates.

Wherever Billy goes, he seems to have a penchant for attracting trouble. Spies, revolutions, and the lure of the mysterious Orient indicate that the gunslinger is far from his Kansas roots; but his psyche and habits continue with a lively, almost swashbuckling style that will lead even new readers unfamiliar with Book 1 to appreciate Billy's approach to life.

Billy tells his own saga (even though it stems from his diaries, discovered a century later by great-grandson Ted, who is writing this trilogy from them), and through of his encounters, readers receive a firm impression of various peoples and their lives and concerns: "The plan unfolded as the ship took on coal at Nagasaki. That spectacle caught the attention of most of the ship's passengers. While just about everybody was watching the Japanese girls and boys load coal into the bunkers, Katharina and the chief matron of third-class made their way to the stern of the ship and down into the main deck."

Plots and subplots, feisty women and German threats, and confrontations which are influenced by Western characters ("With that, I couldn't help myself. I did what I had seen Wyatt Earp do in Dodge City. I drew my colt and slammed the barrel down on his head. He was wearing a derby, so the blow was cushioned somewhat, but Eichel moaned and fell unconscious just the same.") lend to a story that does a fantastic job of capturing not just action and characters, but the look and feel of the times: "We slithered three hundred yards through cogon grass rife with hobo spiders, poisonous grasshoppers, and ponerine ants - all insects native to the Philippines but alien to the boys from Kansas."

Particularly notable in The Improbable Journeys are contrasts between a Kansas frontier environment and the rest of the world, which spring to life through the skills of an author who takes the time to clearly note these differences and how they affect outcomes and character decisions.

The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles is just as powerful a read as its predecessor, taking readers on a realistic and compelling journey from Kansas to the wider world and bringing with it the subtler nuances, emotions and feel of the late 1800s. Revolution and turmoil are in the air; and with Billy at the eye of the storm, a rollicking good read is the result: one highly recommended for fans of not just Westerns, but powerful historical action stories.

True Mercy
Idelle Kursman
Luck Can Change, LLC
9780996592208, $15.99,

It isn't every day that one of the central characters in a thriller story is autistic; but True Mercy pairs a widowed father struggling with his autistic teen son with a discovery that places both in danger, tossing them squarely in the world of a human trafficking ring, and uses autism's special challenges to provide an extra twist in an engrossing saga.

Marina's escape from the ring has been miraculous, and her stumbling into the yard of Adam and his father is another stroke of good luck for her. Her involvement with Adam and his family will change not only her life, but theirs.

Adam's autism is realistically portrayed in a saga that moves between 'voices' and perspectives, but keeps them easily identifiable, unswerving, and powerful through clear chapter headings.

Adam's emotions are plainly explored ("In the midst of happy memories of licking the chocolate chip cookie batter while his mother checked the cookies baking in the oven, Adam spotted a woman on the ground. He was afraid she was dead. On nature shows he occasionally saw an animal lying dead on the ground, still and lifeless. But before he panicked, he saw her thin, delicate fingers move...He stood staring at her, shaking his sweaty hands in the air and looking around. He was told to never touch a woman except

to shake her right hand."), providing an unusual take on events that transpire. Even the perspectives of those involved in the human trafficking operation are revealed: "In a rare occasion, Andre failed to keep in mind that the weakest employees had the potential to bring down his entire operation. This time he allowed Vladimir sole authority to make the hiring decision; Vladimir's instincts were usually right on target."

It's these personal touches throughout that make True Mercy more than a story about human trafficking, but a saga of the human heart and a family's special challenges.

Against such a backdrop, Adam and his father's relationship unfolds. Adam isn't just a tertiary adjunct in the story: he's one of the central characters, who comes alive and stays alive throughout the process: "Where's Marina, Daddy? Where's Marina?" Adam asked endlessly as he stared out the front window, his hands waving. The more he asked, the more vigorously his hands waved, signaling his growing impatience."

Add a touch of (perhaps predictable) evolving romance enhances an exceptional thriller which includes subtle, wry humor injected at unexpected moments, a logical progression of events and encounters between characters, and a moving story of healing and mercy that is far more emotionally-driven than an action read usually provides.

Readers who look for more than casual psychological depth in their thrillers will find True Mercy a revealing, involving story.

Organizing for Your Lifestyle: Adaptable Inspirations from Socks to Suitcases
Jane Stoller
9781483570952, $13.99,

Organizing for Your Lifestyle: Adaptable Inspirations from Socks to Suitcases joins a blossoming number of 'how to organize your home and life' titles on the market, but holds a difference: its admonitions involve lifestyle changes that incorporate organization into overall routines, and thus move beyond typical strategy-based approaches.

The difference between this approach and a typical how-to-organize guide lies in its basic perspectives about clutter. Discussions begin with home organizational challenges, but move beyond systems for re-arranging and filing to consider the bigger picture, providing specific tips that are meant to inspire a reader's own creative processes; not to mimic what worked for author Jane Stoller.

It should be mentioned that organizing is Stoller's passion - and one that may not initially be shared by readers whose goals might not include a passion for de-cluttering. Chapters arranged by simple, common themes introduce the process to those whose interests may lie elsewhere, but the introduction provides a clear message on the effort, its results, and its enactment: "A constant theme to keep in mind during reading is that organizing is a lifestyle, but it isn't one-size-fits-all. Incorporating organizing into your life shouldn't, ultimately, involve changing who you are, but rather maximizing it."

Recognizing that readers may not have an inherent desire to stay organized, discussions pair the mechanics of creating systems that lend to staying on track with line drawings and photos throughout, illustrating different spaces and how they can be more effectively used and maintained.

From seasonal options and changes (yes, one's closet isn't static: "In the winter, I adjust the shelving units in my closet wardrobe to accommodate my varying boot heights. I also use boot shapers to make sure that my boots keep their shape. Boot shapers can be purchased from most department stores...") to cautions about buying food in bulk, Organizing for Your Lifestyle offers plenty of opportunities for enlightenment, customizing the process of creating an organizing system tailored around one's personal lifestyle.

From tackling every room in the house to translating and sustaining the change into habitual routines, Organizing for Your Lifestyle is a great introduction highly recommended for any who would learn how to adapt and create an organizational system that begins at home and blossoms to include changed approaches and attitudes towards the wider world and one's place in it.

What Do We Do About Inequality?
Editor: Chris Oestereich
The Wicked Problems Collaborative LLC
Paperback: 9781530305421 Price: $17.95
Kindle: B01LFIWMGK Price: $9.95

The questions raised in What Do We Do About Inequality? are perfect for debate, labor relations classrooms, and discussion groups revolving around worker's rights and appear in a book linked to a Labor Day publication date. This title is the first in a projected series of discussions that will consider the most pressing social and environmental issues, those referred to as "wicked problems", known for their resistance to solutions, or even clear definition. The book takes a close look at capitalism, the global economy, and why so many facets of this evolving business model aren't working for so many people, presenting writings from a diverse range of professionals from university to social issues lecturers.

A number of books might seem to hold similar information and discussions, but usually stem from a singular source. The notable aspect of this collective approach is its ability to narrow its subject to one problem (in this case, inequality) and tackle it using different perspectives and collaborative insights, taking a simple contention that "matters will not improve of their own accord" and reviewing different strategies that may be used for real change.

From the nature of work and intelligent labor to circumstances surrounding or fostering inequality and injustice, enhanced with local and global perspectives on workplace and social differences, this collection tackles some of the closest-held underlying assumptions in American society and gives them a good shake, revealing fundamental injustices that can lead to bigger problems along the way.

Take Robin Cangie's "The Empathy Deficit", for one example. Hers is a hard-hitting assessment of the philosophical, social, and emotional differences between those born into or achieving wealth and others who struggle with poverty: "We have a peculiar notion in the United States that to be worthy of any sort of public help, or even be granted access to the same privileges that the wealthy take for granted (fresh produce, quality healthcare, a debt-free college education, and legal representation, to name just a few), you must be a saint. Truly a saint, with all the impossible character traits that accompany sainthood. In the face of such impossible standards, those born into poverty or misfortune are already beyond help, already fallen from grace, simply from the circumstances of their birth, over which they had no control...Yet stray just a little from this prevailing narrative, and suddenly any help, regardless of how much it is needed, becomes a waste of taxpayer money and an insult to personal responsibility. The darker facets of humanity - envy, desire, impulsivity, addiction - are luxuries of the affluent, who can afford to paper over their transgressions. Virtue is the only currency allotted to the poor, and once lost, it cannot be regained. Sinners shall receive no mercy. It is an ugly, dehumanizing narrative that Otherizes the less fortunate and treats poverty as an original sin."

From paradoxes between growing prosperity and growing feelings of insecurity fostered by old habits and perceptions to disconnects between business movements and leadership routes and relationships, readers receive many thought-provoking essays that require no degrees in either business and economics or social issues to prove readily accessible.

Another major essay deserving special mention is Alex Cobham's "Inequality, Uncounted", a treatise on tax evasion which that has been proved out by the release of the Panama Papers.

In this piece, the uncounted bookends of wealth and poverty at either end of the economic scale form the basis of unequality both vertically (between people) and horizontally (between groups of people).

Those who would believe that errors and omissions in counting are random occurrences should read "Inequality, Uncounted": it documents quite a different series of events of purposeful exclusions by design, analyzing their social and political impact in nations around the world and showing how inequality is hidden through missing data, deliberate manipulation of data, or the application of flawed measurements.

Cobham's discussions of relationships between power, inequality, and systems of accounting or being uncounted is unerringly striking, offering much food for thought that arrives on the cusp of today's breaking news reflecting many of his contentions.

Some of these pieces contrast the writings of different thinkers, whose perspectives round out and enhance the debate about the processes and connections between inequality and economic movements. Others offer a more global focus as they contrast the experiences of class divisions and inequality in other countries around the world with those in the U.S.

With article topics ranging from moral and ethical conundrums to very specific commentary on the problems of current economic models ("There's no question that the middle class needs jobs. But it doesn't follow that jobs by themselves can sustain a large middle class in the future. Most jobs today pay barely enough to make ends meet. What a large middle class needs is good-paying jobs in large numbers, and those simply aren't being created."), there's no better choice for labor relations, economics, or business and social issues debates than this collection, which considers the roots of fairness and justice. In more ways than one, it's a real call for action couched in a different way of thinking about the human world and its often-dysfunctional, complex operating systems.

Moving On
Trisha Grace
Trisha Grace, Publisher
Print: 1470049627, $14.90
Ebook: B0071MZNQG, $3.99
Ordering link (paperback):
Ordering link (ebook):

Twenty years after a terrible tragedy rips apart Tyler's childhood family and leads his grandfather to send him away from the family home, Tyler's finally free to return home to solve some mysteries about his past. But even after passing away, his grandfather has tried to keep him at arm's length. The family mansion has been willed to a woman Tyler doesn't know.

Kate, on the other hand, already knows much about Tyler; but she doesn't know all the reasons for his banishment. They both embark on a journey that involves a riveting probe of generational differences and family conflicts.

Moving On is about family dysfunction, deadly secrets, and an evolving romance that centers on a will and its impact upon everyone involved. Issues of abandonment, an adopted "granddaughter" who believes she knows everything (but whose knowledge only scratches the surface of truth), and insights into the motivating forces of both Kate and Tyler ("Lean on me if you're getting tired." He didn't think that she would. From previous conversations, he'd surmised that she didn't like others to think she was weak.") make for more than a light romance, adding depth and interest to an evolving conundrum between the two.

At times the writing style in Moving On sounds awkward ("Someone once told me that life will be tiring if you have to do everything you should.") and some of its logic feels uncertain (small business owners with their own work rarely have the kind of ongoing free time Tyler and Kate seem to enjoy, for example). While an editor's touch might have smoothed some phrases, this does not seriously detract from enjoyment of the overall theme, which deftly combines suspense with romance and includes many thought-provoking moments and interactions with a host of other characters (though it may stymie serious wordsmiths and readers used to powerful phrases and perfection from thoroughly edited works).

Readers seeking a powerful leisure romance that includes numerous characters and a close examination of an evolving relationship influenced by family heritage will find Moving On a fine beach read perfect for leisure pursuit.

Solomon's Temple and Palace: New Archaeological Discoveries
Yosef Garfinkel and Madeleine Mumcuoglu
Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem and the Biblical Archaeology Society
9789657027301, $50.00

Solomon's Temple and Palace: New Archaeological Discoveries is recommended for serious followers of Middle East history in general and archaeological excavations and new discoveries in particular, and tells of excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, which uncovered a rare stone carving from the early tenth century BCE. This was a model holding architectural elements that appeared centuries later in the Second Temple, precluding the discovery of the remains of a large temple that mirrored Biblical descriptions of Solomon's Temple.

The importance of these discoveries to history and the archaeology world could have been limited to the attention of experts were it not for the authors' focus on making these discoveries accessible to lay readers. Solomon's Temple and Palace takes scientific articles produced in professional journals and synthesizes this information for the general public, including illustrations and photos and also translating the original Hebrew into English to reach a wider audience.

Were it not for these special efforts, the importance of these discoveries would likely be quite limited; and general readers of archaeological discovery would not know about them or understand their lasting importance.

Chapters assume no prior knowledge (but they do assume more than a casual interest in archaeological history) as they clarify technical language and the importance of these discoveries at each step: "The triglyph decoration in the temple model from Khirbet Qeiyafa predates the Greek temples several centuries; for example, it predates the Acropolis temples of Athens by about 500 years. Our new find revolutionizes the understanding of the development of public construction in biblical times and attests that it began as early as the late eleventh - early tenth centuries BCE. It also shows that architectural phenomena that developed in the East migrated and influenced Greek Classical architecture."

Biblical description combines with modern research to address factual incongruities, offer new interpretations based on the latest research, and explain paradoxes inherent in different approaches: "Modern research has proposed, on the basis of examples at the temple of Ain Dara in Syria, that these were window-like elements carved in stone, but having no real opening. That example led some scholars, including Hurowitz, to exclude windows from their proposed reconstructions of the Temple. The problem with this interpretation is that it is not at all certain that the elements discussed in the Ain Dara temple indeed symbolized windows."

Tables compare many different aspects of archaeological examination, such as one which contrasts the JPS Tanakh descriptions of 1985 with new interpretations. The authors' focus on clarifying why these discoveries are important is also very clearly presented: "It would be no exaggeration to say that the First Temple in Jerusalem is the most influential building in human history. Although nearly 3,000 years have gone by since it was built and some 2,600 years since its destruction, its influence is seen to this day in the three major religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam."

Readers interested in Biblical history, archaeological discoveries, and Middle East ancient architecture, building, and heritage will thus find Solomon's Temple and Palace a revealing, intricate balance between theory, fact, discoveries, and their greater place in and importance to the world.

Tyrants and Traitors
Joshua McHenry Miller
Blue Ink Press
9780996867320, $14.95,

Tyrants and Traitors presents young adult readers with Book One in "The Lion's Destiny" series, and is set in Israel, where a young sheepherder who hates his flock becomes caught up in a wave of events that are destined to bring him in contact with those who would change his country.

One of the early hallmarks of a good read tends to be the first few lines or paragraphs of a story. Tyrants and Traitors opens with a powerful, compelling bang that gives young adults many reasons to read on: "This was the first step toward revolution, an adventure bards would retell for generations. It was also, technically, stealing."

Niklas is an imp, it's clear. It also quickly evolves that even though he's the eighth son in a big family, his importance to his country is destined rise above all else.

The first thing to note is that one of Joshua McHenry Miller's most powerful tools lies in his finer art of description, whether it be capturing personalities ("One man was not caught up in the mood. Alexander's beady eyes showed no mirth. I wondered if the man actually had a beating heart or if accounting ink flowed through his veins. He noticed my entrance and gestured toward Erik."), strategies ("We needed a plan, some kind of advantage. Now that I'd gone and boasted about surviving, I'd better find a way to make good on it. I trusted our men's ability, but by sheer numbers alone the Philistines could wear us down simply by overwhelming force. We required a scheme, but for that we needed more information."), emotions ("Crippling despair overwhelmed all other thoughts. Image after image flashed through my mind; every member of my family dead or enslaved, our home in flames, and everything we had built destroyed."), or conundrums ("Part of me wanted to run straight for the capital, alerting our commanders of the Philistines' attack. However, the small hiccup in that idea was that I was a wanted convict, which would delay reinforcements being sent, if they believed me at all. I'd end up stuck in a prison cell, which seemed like a less-than-useful spot, given our current situation. Thus our best chance of surviving meant buying time.").

As Niklas finds his skills and importance growing, so his place in the world lands him squarely in the middle of conflicts that will challenge and change it. Whether events evolve for good or bad is largely up to Niklas and his choices.

Cowards and conflicts with authority figures, priests and Woolen Warriors, and Philistine invaders and battles for home, family, and survival all coalesce into scenes that always center their action with a satisfying combination of reflection, insight, emotion, and observation.

Niklas is in the perfect position to become an unlikely player in this larger game; and young adults will find his story and evolution not just gripping, but containing the rare ability to thoroughly immerse its reader in the sights, sounds, and history of Israel's evolution in a saga replete with surprises, a hint of the supernatural, and fast-paced action as it retells the original story of the giant-slayer by giving events an entirely new twist and perspective.

Giant Slayers
Jeff Altabef and Ken Altabef
Cat's Cradle Press
9781535509252 $14.95,

Teen musician David's special talent is using his music to chase away the King's nightmares, which stem from a curse. Before this newfound job, he was one of a family of eight sons, and always received the worst jobs (to his mind), such as sheepherding. Now he's finally doing something important. But is it rewarding enough?

At the same time, fifteen-year-old Michal, born into royalty and sheltered all her life, questions her own destiny and connections to the world outside the palace life which has left her inexperienced and vulnerable: "Look closely at a woman's face and you can read her entire life story. It's all there in the crevices and contours, the tiny expressions and doubts. Such little things, but they combine to give away her secrets. Men's faces, however, were still mysteries to Michal. She'd spent so little time with men that their lines seemed written in a foreign language, unique and indecipherable."

Fueled by curiosity and a sense of rebellion ("Her father told stories of how he'd heard God's voice when in its presence, how he knew God's strength just by standing beside it. If it was fair for men to feel that strength, then it must be right for women also. After all, God had created men and women."), she takes a number of risks; among them, falling in love with the peasant boy who helps her father chase away his demons.

These two very opposite teens from different worlds face challenges to their lives and family not just from their newfound friendship, but from the demons and threats that stymie the adults around them. As both struggle with a brashness that both endangers them and offers perhaps the only hope of survival, they grow to embrace the social and political concerns of the adult world around them.

Giant Slayers is a fine fantasy remake of the David and Goliath legend. Its satisfying twists include different visions of love between not just the teens, but the giant and an unlikely woman behind him, and it offers a tense story of love, betrayal, evolving political insights, and more.

Teens who relish a good fantasy read will find the brave, sometimes brash, character of David contributes to an engrossing, compelling saga that's hard to put down. There are many remakes of myths and legends on the market; but Giant Slayers is a standout for its in-depth and complex portrayal of not just one boy's realization of his abilities, but for the underlying personalities, motivations, politics and social forces of his times which affect confrontations between individuals and the courses they choose in their lives.

The Muffia
Ann Royal Nicholas
P.O. Box 6404, Woodland Hills, CA 91365
9780990708001, $15.00,

The Muffia is a ladies' book club which has provided an unexpected side benefit to single mom Madelyn Scott-Crane, who has found in its book selections the inspiration and impetus to sexually recharge her own languishing libido. Under a different hand, The Muffia saga (which is based on true events) could have turned into a story of sexual exploration alone; but there's more to this story.

One of Maddie's lovers drops dead during sex, and when his questionable friends arrive to collect the body, she's drawn into an exploration of her new date's background, drawing her book club members into an investigation that rivals any mystery book selection they could have made.

When their quest for answers leads them into international circles replete with espionage and danger, the book club faces its greatest challenge in a story that is replete with sex, scandal, and intrigue.

Readers should be forewarned that events in The Muffia include sexual scenes. It also peppers tweets and emails throughout its dialogue and descriptions which can be sexually explicit in nature.

Discussions of Maddie's encounters create some intriguing thoughts about her blossoming process ("Young Israeli, older shiksa. What did we have in common other than the need to put our bodies together? It might be a fantasy to think it could be more, but it was a fantasy I was willing to indulge, even if he broke my heart in the end. The sex was just too good not to."), while interactions between book club members inject other (more personal) concerns into the mix, from health challenges to home lives.

These features keep The Muffia a well-rounded read which includes elements particular to intrigue and thriller stories, but successfully keeps the tone and approach woman-centered and filled with the ups and downs of friendships and life.

Since October is National Reading Group Month, The Muffia (and its companion read, More Muffia) arrives just in time to celebrate the group reading experience.

Therefore, the result is recommended not so much for readers of 'thriller' or 'intrigue' genres (who may be more used to formula approaches to these areas) as for women seeking leisure reads that are as well-rounded, captivating, and filled with women's life experiences as they are embedded with a sense of adventure, fun, discovery, and change.

More Muffia
Ann Royal Nicholas
P.O. Box 6404, Woodland Hills, CA 91365
9780990708025, $15.00,

Not only is the Muffia book club back for another adventure, but the dead seemingly arise from the grave in this sequel to The Muffia, which is recommended reading for anyone who enjoyed the first story and wants a feisty follow-up.

Author Ann Royal Nicholas has been a member of the real-life Muffia Book Club in Los Angeles for fifteen years, and while some of the encounters described in her books are real, others have been embellished to create an absorbing story line.

From webinars and email communiques to dating site abuse, More Muffia contains more personal inspection and analysis than its predecessor, and thus builds an even more compelling atmosphere, as a result: "I knew I shouldn't have answered that email. There'd been a reason why I'd gone on a date with John over Gary - though at present I couldn't remember the reason - when the reality was neither of them was a good fit. In fact, they were both the lowest of the low hanging fruit - so low as to be already on the ground. And it was my own fault. All my life it seems, most of the guys who come on to me are the ones I don't want. I was kidding myself if I thought it would be any different now that the meat market has moved online."

As the group blends their individual life challenges with observations of the world around them and book readings that support insights, celebrity talent agent and book club member Quinn and Club members also become embroiled in an investigation that revolves around sabotage, intrigue, and unlikely romance.

It's hard to neatly categorize the Muffia books: they contain romantic elements, humor, reflections on wider social issues, and infuse their woman's group encounters with a sense of self analysis that defies neat labels as a 'thriller,' 'mystery,' 'romance' or 'detective fiction' piece, while handily incorporating elements of all these genres.

Suffice it to say that, like its predecessor, More Muffia is a powerful story that women will love; recommended as a beach read or a more serious pursuit by women who love books, book discussion groups, and intrigue.

Azriel Dancer
Bob Jenkins
Shiva Puri Press
9780997996005, $12.99,

Book One of the 'Daughters of the Kali Yuga' series features an intriguing cover art piece depicting two women, a gun, and a growling beast above them; but this is science fiction reading at its best, not a survivalist or wilderness adventure; and the lead-in cover art makes for an alluring attraction to a story that begins in California.

On a rugged, boulder-filled land, "One unseasonably warm Tuesday, while clearing rocks from Nisenan Hill, the farmers of Shiva Puri dug up an honest-to-goodness miracle." Two women on the team struggle to clear a particularly large, eleven-foot-long granite boulder in their way - and that's where the miracle lies in wait.

Shiva Puri Village, which Azriel and Simone call home, is about to be transformed beyond its utopian ideals and roots in Eastern religious beliefs; and this change brings with it a ripple that could spread into the world outside their village. As a result of her unusual encounter in the field, Azriel becomes mysteriously pregnant with fraternal twins who are destined to spark the Kali Yuga apocalypse.

Azriel Dancer is the kind of sci-fi read that rarely crosses a reviewer's desk. It contains fast action, but holds a plot with the ability to move quickly without the artificial pace of events that too often imbibe sci-fi adventure stories with a sense of desperation and haste.

While Bob Jenkins presents a story with a different kind of beginning (female partners who live in an idealistic rural village of believers), his care in building this alternative lifestyle setting is only the foundation to a far-reaching story that engulfs the two main characters in a whirlwind of life-challenging (and life-affirming) changes.

In this world, demons can assume unlikely forms to walk the Earth: "Adorned in baggy shorts and ribbed undershirt, Udamakali, Lord Enormity of Demons, stood at the sink of his subterranean apartment. The thin face staring back from the mirror was that of an elderly Indian gentleman, slight of build and unremarkable of feature."

Descriptions of prayers, events, and psyches are atmospheric and steeped in delightful descriptions that are hauntingly evocative and original: "Azriel sat up on her cushion, pulled her legs into a comfortable half lotus, covered her lap and feet with a blanket. She turned off the lantern. Lastly, she wrapped the other blanket around her shoulders and pulled it up over her head like a hood, a secret den she could peek from like a fox. Without the lantern light, the gymnasium, holy temple of the Lost Shivites, was jet black, at first, but after her eyes adjusted, she could see an orange glow seeping from the wood stove. Still too much light. She closed her eyes. I want darkness so thick I can hide in it. A place nobody can find me. Not even myself. Especially myself."

Female Marines, miracles, treks, and an Eater of Worlds collide with Eastern philosophical references and religious beliefs to create a story line as driven by its protagonists' differences as it is by outside events that coalesce to change the world. As the demon lord Kali nears, Azriel faces some of the biggest changes in her life.

Azriel Dancer is a gem: there's nothing staid or predictable about its characters or story line; but most of all, events are narrated with a gripping "you are there" immediacy that makes for a story nearly impossible to put down or predict. Science fiction fans are in for a real treat; but should be prepared: Azriel Dancer is like no other read, and it avoids typical approaches and predictable paths with a satisfying vengeance.

Michael Van Cleve
Amazon Digital Publishing
ASIN: B00PDHRP3U, $2.99, Kindle

Titan's prologue opens with a poem; but readers should be advised that the story isn't narrated in verse format. This lament about America is merely the opener to an apocalyptic story that revolves around a family of survivors facing a much-changed world after a nuclear holocaust brings disease and devastation.

One of the story's introductory descriptions sets the tone for much of the atmosphere in the rest of the novel: "Around the room there are a number of strange and dissimilar objects. First, weapons: rifles, swords, grenades. Then scientific objects. Telescopes. Microscopes. A globe of the Earth. Along the walls are magnificent paintings of space: galaxies; the birth of stars and the death of stars."

This is a world replete with disease, mutants, and deadly confrontation. In such a changed America, the last known city holds perhaps the only hope for a semblance of civilization - or, does it?

It's a strange journey to undertake, moving through a land that is at once familiar and so starkly changed. It's also important to note that Titan is a novella, so a lengthy, epic saga it is not. Its action is succinct and takes place in a manner appropriate to the book's length, which often results in a staccato/quick manner.

It should also be mentioned that said 'action' involves no small degree of bloody confrontations ("Paris takes a step forward. Ring Leader throws out his right hand to grab her.

Paris cuts his right arm completely off. Ring Leader screams in pain. Paris cuts off Ring Leader's left arm. Ring Leader continues to scream. Blood runs from his arms."), so readers who struggle with violent descriptions should look elsewhere for their apocalyptic entertainment.

That said, this world would not seem realistic were it not for a degree of violent confrontations surrounding the struggle to survive; and Titan holds a powerful ability to contrast a world of daily violence with a society that doesn't have crime and refuses entry to those who live by other rules, outside its walls: "You know I couldn't enter. You people have rules. You keep everyone outside, under penalty of death!" "But why wouldn't you, a brilliant scientist, an absolutely genius inventor be able to find a way to communicate with this city through some other way other than violence?" "It's possible but..." "So you admit it!" "I..." "You and your wife are the product of a violent world. You know violence. You adhere to violence. You think everyone else should too."

The result is a powerful saga that questions killers, reveals the end results of cold fusion and scientific progress, injects a computer's wisdom, and posits a trial that gets to the heart of man's inhumanity to man: "Love and Loyalty to their fellow man. To the blood! You are at best, an intervener, and at worst, a revolutionary. You have no respect for the rules and society of this city! You sought to change us before you knew us! You're selfish and you respected only your opinion. You represent the fall of man and the worst of man."

In a nuclear showdown at the end of a long series of manmade disasters, who will win? Fans of apocalyptic sci-fi will find Titan a short but powerful read that ultimately questions a scientist's final stand over the last technological miracle left on the planet.

The Brightness Index
Grace Mattioli
Amazon Digital Publishing
ASIN: B01JTH9EE2, $0.99
9780990575139, $4.99

The Brightness Index is a diverse selection of short stories all set in Arizona, designed to capture the feel of a region replete with bright light, strong people, and the magic of interpersonal relationships. At times (in the beginning) this focus feels scattered and unconnected; but as the tales evolve, readers embark on a roller coaster of life experience that coalesce into a unified approach to meaningful encounters that are often fun, unexpected, and always candid interpretations of Arizona culture.

Take 'Just Bring Your Own Food', for example. Its opener demands attention ("I knew I'd be canned the minute she hired me. She had that suspicious look in her beady gray eyes like she knew I wasn't the right person for the job. I wondered why she hired me in the first place. She must have been as desperate as I was."), but as the story evolves, it's clear that more is at stake than employment.

Stacie's friends who come to visit her at work (!) refuse to eat the diner slop on the menu, so they order coffee and bring their own sandwiches. The owner keeps giving Stacie other tasks when she's in the middle of the last assignment, things keep breaking in the diner, the food's awful - and she needs to keep the job for a few more months, at least.

The diner is steeped in Arizona atmosphere inside and out ("The next morning was 110 degrees and the sun pierced my brain like a well-sharpened stick. Looking alive and well wasn't easy, but I figured that if I looked happy, I might feel better."), but what really shines brightly here is Stacie's growing determination to get what she needs despite the obstacles. When she's challenged to nab a robber, an unexpected altruism kicks in and, surprisingly, her one act of real defiance earns her just what she needs.

This is just one major example of how Grace Mattioli gives her short stories little twists to make seemingly-predictable plots turn into exceptional reads through a character's gritty determination to rise above their circumstances.

Or take 'How Doc Holliday Saved Me'. What do a college girl's nightmares, a haunted house, and a pizza delivery man have in common? A place that used to be an insane asylum inhabited by Doc Holliday has a reputation for ghosts, but New Jersey girl Bree doesn't know much about what she's moved into - and now she's stuck. But what if she can talk to the ghost; ask it for help? And what does she do when help arrives in an unexpected way?

All these stories offer food for thought, and all are bound together by positive human contact. Set against an Arizona backdrop, they're gems of interpersonal relationships that illustrate how "stuck" people become unstuck and change.

Readers of short stories in general and enthusiasts of Arizona atmospheres in particular will find The Brightness Index a powerfully connected set of encounters.

Highway Thirteen to Manhattan
Kourtney Heintz
Aurea Blue Press
ISBN Ebook: 9780989132671, $5.99
ISBN Paperback: 9780989132688, $17.99

Highway Thirteen to Manhattan is Book Two of the 'Six Train to Wisconsin' series and opens with a hospital setting; but in the first paragraph it's quickly evident that the patient is anything but typical: "Like most daughters, I loved my parents, but right now, I wanted them anywhere but here. Hospitals are always hard, but my parents managed to make it harder. My head was already pounding from all the thoughts and emotions coming at me. Not just from the patients and their families and the doctors and the nurses, but also from my mother and father. Instead of shielding their thoughts and trying to make it better for me, they let their emotions crash into me."

Kai Guhn is a telepath whose close brush with death has not only challenged her body, but her mind. Her powers are changing - and not for the good. Her husband is trying to help her (even though it's his fault that she's struggling), but Kai's evolution is moving her into unfamiliar territory. As she struggles with her husband's failures and her own shortcomings, a growing darkness imparts ideas to her that will change her world: "The darkness whispered, You don't need them. You never did. There, in the darkness, I sensed it. A strength that I needed. I started to reach out for it, but stopped. I didn't trust it. I didn't trust anything. Or anyone."

As Kai and Oliver continue to struggle with themselves and each other, Kai becomes convinced that leaving for New York (a city that's brought telepathic agony to her in the past) will be one of the answers. Oliver knows the city does bad things to Kai - that's why he dragged her away five months earlier, to a smaller town. So why is she going back?

Dialogue is realistic and hard-hitting as Oliver and Kai explore both their connections and the process of disconnecting, making for powerful interpersonal moments set against the backdrop of change: "I'm still your husband. Does that mean anything to you? Anything at all?" "It does. But I can't stay here. I've got to figure out who I am before I can figure out if we can work again." "If you leave, this is you giving up on us. It's a separation." An ultimatum. I guess I should have expected that, but I didn't. "Don't threaten me." "It's not a threat, it's the reality of what's happening to us." "According to you." "It's your decision." It felt like he was trying to control me."

This dialogue is one of the strengths to a story line that embraces a search for the truth in chapters that alternate perspectives between Kai and Oliver, offering readers a blend of paranormal intrigue and romance that centers as much upon their evolving relationship as it does on the dark forces that are tearing them apart.

As Kai and Oliver fall deeper into uncovering facts about a purposeful crime and its consequences, they bring readers with them on a road of post-trauma recovery and a process that translates to no neat or pat endings.

Fans of paranormal fiction will appreciate the thread of romance and angst that runs deeply through Highway Thirteen to Manhattan; and while no prior familiarity with Book One is required, newcomers will find themselves wanting the details of The Six Train to Wisconsin, as well.

The Six Train to Wisconsin
Kourtney Heintz
Aurea Blue Press
ISBN Paperback: 9780989132664, $17.99
ISBN Ebook: 9780989132602, $ 5.99

The Six Train to Wisconsin was purposely read after its sequel Highway Thirteen to Manhattan to gain a sense of whether both books stood alone or rested upon one another, and it should be mentioned that they both stand nicely alone for readers who would choose to begin with one or the other. (Read both, though, for an even more powerful result than either stand-alone presentation can offer.)

Oliver's wife Kai is telepathic, and this has always brought with it a host of issues and special challenges that most couples don't face. Oliver keeps her secret and protects her from being overwhelmed, but when their Manhattan lifestyle is impacted by her telepathic prowess, it's quickly evident that even Oliver's efforts can't shield her from the devastating impact of an entire city's thoughts and feelings.

So they pull up roots and flee to Butternut, Wisconsin (Oliver's home town, which he left for a better life in New York), and life changes again.

If readers expect the story line will revolve around Oliver saving Kai, it's satisfying to note that Kai saves Oliver, as well, at a pivotal point in his life when he contemplates suicide: "I walked to the edge of the roof and looked down at the ground below. The tiny figures moving across the pavement could cause significant damage. If I let them. And I hadn't let them. Not since I left Butternut. A thought flitted across my brain like a lone snowflake batted around in the wind. A six-story drop could do a person in. I took one, two, three steps backwards and sat down. I didn't want the end of me. Over a girl like her. Or a friend like him. Or even a father like mine. I leaned back on my elbows and stared up at the night sky. The moon was still the moon. Tonight she was almost full. I'll admit it. I let myself fall for the lore about college being the place where we form lifelong bonds. I wanted that college bond shit to be true. But it was all shit."

This back-and-forth dance between Kai and Oliver as they learn more about themselves through each other makes for a powerful production packed with emotion and descriptions that are sumptuous in their approach: "It wasn't about one memory. No. This kind of pain required the sum total of us. From the first rooftop meeting to our wedding. The memories cascaded through my mind. Best friend, lover, wife. Home. She was all of these to me. I gathered her into my arms and let her depression swarm me, buzzing in my ears and stinging the lining of my heart. I couldn't chant my way out of this suffering. I sunk deeper under its influence the way I'd let Vicodin take me away from the agony of a broken arm. Her pain depressed my breathing, floated my brain, pixilated my vision, and dismembered my sense of self."

Can a kidnapping be justified by the certainty that the only hope of preservation lies in uprooting and change, even if it's against one's will? And does the prospect of going home again raise the specter of new psychic assaults on both Oliver and Kai that will threaten their lives and relationship?

As events unwind in The Six Train to Wisconsin, one thing is certain: Kourtney Heintz's compelling brand of paranormal intrigue and psychological exploration embeds issues of loving, leaving, betrayal, and family relationships into a story line that is hard to put down. It should be mentioned that the many threads laid down here don't always result in neatly-tied-up packages in the conclusion, paving the way for further books.

Readers who look for stories that don't follow formula approaches and therefore don't neatly fit into a specific genre will relish the twists, turns, and emotional impact of The Six Train to Wisconsin, with its ability to immerse readers in a gritty, tense saga of what mind-reading abilities could do to a relationship.

Intended Evolution: How Selection of Intelligence Guides Life Forward
Dongxun Zhang and Bob Zhang
Amazon Digital Publishing
ASIN: B00XIDDRU6, $7.99,

Darwin's theory of evolution has become standard teaching in many circles; but what if it's only a part of a bigger picture of the evolutionary process? And if there's more to the story, as even Darwin alluded to, what does this additional or expanded information mean for the future of human race?

There's nothing simple or easy about Intended Evolution: How Selection of Intelligence Guides Life Forward. It's a hard-hitting, thought-provoking expansion of Darwin's theory and posits a process that takes Natural Selection a step further to consider how organism's can use environmental qualities to change themselves, in effect instigating their own evolutionary process in a purposeful manner extending beyond environmental response and adaptation.

The key word in this idea is "intended", with intelligent and deliberate intentions forming the foundation for such deliberate transformation.

It's interesting to note that Dongxun Zhang's first endeavor was the development of a fitness program based on these concepts long before writing this book. While much of the work is based on generally accepted science, this is not a scientific work. Its basis is three basic evolutionary influencers on why things change: external (Darwin's natural selection for example), internal (intelligent and intentional change) and a blend of external/internal factors (intelligent interaction with the environment), rather than on detailing exactly how things change.

If this sounds confusing, keep in mind that Intended Evolution is not light reading, but a complex series of descriptions that are not amenable to breezy, quick digestion but subject to a complicated thought process that lends more readily to reading bits and pieces, debating and processing them, then moving on. The book's division into two parts (the first creating a foundation of ideas; the second building on this foundation to move forward with revised or new concepts based upon its principles) creates a logical progression of ideas that would especially lend to classroom discussion and debate as it links the contentions and applications of these ideas to human endeavors and concerns.

Some of the most interesting aspects underlying this concept lie in discussions of cycles of information processing, which envisions information phases as physical states, and how the potential for evolutionary processes change in relationship to the complexity of an organization and its ability to interact with its environment.

From the tendency for expansion versus self-preservation, to why organisms change functional ability differently via external influences, patterns of repetition or simulated experience, Intended Evolution makes readers think at every step.

Intended Evolution doesn't limit itself to the realm of science. Chapters on health and wellness, how technology actually reflects the ongoing efforts of the human organism to evolve beyond its environment, the structure of business and economic organizations and their relationship to biological processes, and modern fitness objectives all show how this theory fits into the bigger picture of mankind's growth processes.

Rich in thought-provoking ideas, Intended Evolution is not just a scientific idea, but a framework for greater understanding. The elements of this framework and how they relate to human endeavors as a whole is explored in a piece that holds the potential to transform and enhance this process through greater understanding. Any science or social issues reader will find its contentions thought-provoking, exciting, and challenging.

Make, Learn, Succeed
Mark Gura
International Society for Technology in Education
180 West 8th Avenue, Suite 300, Eugene, OR 97401-2916
9781564843807, $39.95, PB,

Can creativity be taught in school? Sure it can; but only by using an approach such as that cultivated in Make, Learn, Succeed: Building a Culture of Creativity in Your School, a blend of learning strategy and educational plan that connects creative processes with a type of engagement that encourages problem-solving and creative solutions.

Readers familiar with the concept of Makers' Fairs, which feature creative, hands-on, original projects, will find Make, Learn, Succeed to be a mini-Maker's Fair in book form: a series of projects designed to stimulate creativity, relating this process to skills sets employers seek.

It contends that technology supports and fosters student creativity when applied appropriately and deliberately beyond teaching systems and logic, and it offers teachers various insights on how to actually teach creativity through technology in the classroom.

Chapters consider the types of activities that support this creativity and the "aha moments" that can lead to leaps in understanding as they review the nature of creative ideas and where they come from, how social media can connect creators and their works, how specific kinds of activities can help students more readily engage in the creative process, and how this in turn can lead to understanding the responsibilities and ethical concerns of operating in an interconnected world outside of the classroom.

Wide-reaching in scope but specific in many of its approaches, Make, Learn, Succeed is a top recommendation for teachers and comes from an educator with some three decades of experience to his name.

Calix Leigh-Reign
Nnylluc Book Group LLC
9780997923988 (paperback), $14.99
9781684197392 (ebook), $ 7.99

Adam is a troubled young adult who hates the world and holds the latent power to change it: an ability which awakens with deadly consequences when he reaches the age of sixteen.

But Opaque is far more than the story of this angst-ridden teen's coming of age. It embraces mutants, Russian involvements, programmed hearts and minds, and purposes far greater than one individual's quest or vision, using language that is complex and often startling, evident from its very first paragraph: "The rust scented liquid oozes from my nostrils as I focus my thoughts on the rustic aperture. There's a tiny ping inside of my throbbing head, as if something has recoiled. My oxygen supply is cut off, and my body convulses violently. I resist the ictal attack but my sight and hearing simultaneously abandon me. I'm trapped inside of an electrical storm. I wait ambivalently for it to pass and I lose track of time. Regaining my ability to swallow, the taste of copper invades my mouth. The sound of my bedroom window slamming closed startles me."

Visceral, angry, and hard-hitting in its descriptions, readers should expect nothing less of Opaque than an emotional roller coaster ride that begins with a bang and drives forcefully through a teen's perspective of his world: "Society molds our emotions to be absent compassion for our fellow man, to judge without mercy, to worship currency and empty our minds of rational thought. But one must think in order to perform the murderous tasks set before us. A vote of guilty for instance. I rebel only to relent. The daily realizations frustrate me and my once-godly thoughts disembark their positive spiritual flight. I merely allow them to return to their comfort zone. I could literally kill every living creature and feel the same nothing I already feel."

But this is only the opening salvo in the war: there's a mother's journal, sealed with a blood line that only family DNA can decode; there's sexual and terrifying connections between Adam and the women around him ("Under normal circumstances, I likely would've gotten a boner but this woman terrifies me. I like her. I like her a lot. "I sense that you are a predator who has thought of doing many horrible things. Your unnatural feelings for your mother fuel your predatory side." She's speaking very low and through her perfect teeth, so no one else can hear. She pins me to the wall with her energy, and stares directly into my eyes. "You have no times to hurt my daughter. All descendants can become predatory if they so choose." Her LR flashes brightly. "If we can turn it on, we can turn it off. Find your off-switch or it will be found for you."), and there's a gritty immediacy to his evolutionary process that will leave readers not just on the edges of their seats, but gasping for air.

No light read and no casual coming-of-age story, Opaque is laden with angst, psychological power, and is a tale of dysfunction in a world where supernatural abilities can thwart mental illness, where a mysterious Afro-Russian girl who holds the power to divert Adam from the apocalypse he's preparing for the future.

Under Calix Leigh-Reign's hand, a different kind of revolution is taking place. It's in the very cells of her characters, in the changed ways they interact with each other and the world, and in the blossoming power that give them new choices: "I feel her. Differently. I feel the energy inside of her cells and they're calling out to me. Teleportation, increased speed, portal creation and interface. I wonder if she knows. I'm sure she does. But how do I know?"

As Opaque winds its way up to a crescendo of passion and angst, it carries readers on a roller coaster of emotion and change that dives right down into cellular layers of choice and struggles for survival. Regeneration, new awakenings, biokenretic energy and questions of immortality and immorality all blend into a heady mixture that considers how monsters are made and battled.

Suffice it to say that sci-fi readers from mature teens to adults who seek complex story lines and plots that steep their characters with awakening powers and new decision-making processes will find Opaque a powerful force. Complex, driven by clashes between darkness and light, and seriously overwhelming, it's a tense page-turner that does more than present a teen's world. It pulls the reader in to an evolutionary process that is far more than one of transition points, but embraces moral and ethical conundrums.

Connected Parent, Empowered Child
Leeza Carlone Steindorf
Illustre Press International
ISBN: 9780996952903 (softbound), $18.95
ISBN: 9780996952910 (e-book), $4.99

Connected Parent, Empowered Child: Five Keys to Raising Happy, Confident, Responsible Kids contends that kids learn morality, ethical behavior, kindness, and responsibility from their parents, who must attend to teaching them these values through a combination of lessons and serving as an example. These are lofty ideals; but for parents looking to fine-tune the process of emotional learning and teaching, Connected Parent, Empowered Child provides the specifics leading to successful outcomes.

The key may lie in altering the ways in which parents engage their children; but the reality is that most parents have not experienced this approach in their own childhoods. That's why a lesson plan is needed: one which outlines the steps, offers real-world examples of their applications and results, and which assumes no prior knowledge of CORE Success routines or parenting principles.

Chapters are specific in addressing the kinds of parenting issues that require attitude adjustments. Take, for example, the section on 'Discipline with Dignity'. This chapter highlights strategies to change attention-seeking behaviors, placing these in a box of 'CORE Success Tools for You' that lends to at-a-glance review; and it outlines the underlying beliefs in power or revenge seeking, considers the roots of insecurity that lie at the heart of bullying behaviors, and provides core approaches that contribute to a disciplined, calmer home environment. These can be as simple as waking children in a calm, loving way and assessing their moods to foster a good beginning to the day and as specific as distinguishing between teaching through consequences and penalizing by punishment.

Lest one believe that this is just another set of parenting tools (though of course, that's the major focus), it should be mentioned that there are side benefits to understanding and practicing these CORE success routines, which spill over into general approaches to life: "Facilitating resolution and practicing these steps, you'll become quite skilled at using the tools necessary for conflict resolution. This skillfulness will have a profound effect on other areas of your life."

Thus, Connected Parent, Empowered Child is recommended not just for parents, but for any who would revise their attitudes towards life using the starting point of home and blossoming out into the world with the idea that "...your home and family are the perfect environment to develop CORE Success."

The Inn on Grace Bay Beach
Laurie Banton
Pebble Bay Publishers
9781595855473, $4.99,

The Inn on Grace Bay Beach is Book 1 in the "Adventures with Jenny" series, and opens with a major challenge that Jenny faces with her lover Mark, involving last-minute changes in schooling for the plans they've made together, when she's accepted at another, more prestigious university with a full scholarship.

One doesn't expect lovely color images to accompany a romance story which begins with a breakup and continues decades later, when a love that has endured separation and relationships with others is rekindled. Jenny is now a successful photojournalist and Mark has moved on, too - or have they?

Bad decisions made for the sake of a dream job, Jenny's photojournalism career's changes and challenges and her wrenching experiences in the Caribbean, and her increasing involvement in children who need help makes for an engrossing, involving story that's about more than Mark and Jenny's relationship alone.

With social issues, global journeys, intrigue, and money-making schemes a part of a rich personal story for a search for happiness and success, readers of The Inn on Grace Bay Beach will discover plenty of unexpected moments that revolve around grievous decisions of the past and opportunities for redemption offered by the future.

Ultimately, it's about the process of healing on many levels, and offers much more than a predictable romance as it embraces the worlds of Jenny, Mark, and an effort greater than their relationship. Romance readers seeking more depth from their novels will find The Inn on Grace Bay Beach a satisfyingly compelling story.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Policing the Planet
Jordan T. Camp & Christina Heatherton, editors
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781784783167, $19.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by the team of Jordan T. Camp (who is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA) and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University) and Christina Heatherton (Assistant Professor of American Studies at Trinity College), the twenty-two contributions comprising "Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter" combine firsthand accounts from activists with the research of scholars and reflections from artists.

"Policing the Planet" traces the global spread of the broken-windows policing strategy, first established in New York City under Police Commissioner William Bratton. It's a doctrine that has vastly broadened police power the world over -- to an unintended deadly effect.

With contributions from #BlackLivesMatter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, Ferguson activist and Law Professor Justin Hansford, Director of New York - based Communities United for Police Reform Joo-Hyun Kang, poet Martín Espada, and journalist Anjali Kamat, as well as articles from leading scholars Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin D. G. Kelley, Naomi Murakawa, Vijay Prashad, and more, "Policing the Planet" describes ongoing struggles from New York to Baltimore to Los Angeles, London, San Juan, San Salvador, and beyond.

Critique: As timely as today's newspaper headlines and nightly television news reports, "Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter" is an extraordinary study that truly needs to be a part of every community and academic library Police Science collections in general, and Contemporary Social Issues supplemental studies list in particular. For the personal reading lists of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Policing the Planet" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Meaning of David Cameron
Richard Seymour
Zero Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
9781846944567, $12.95, PB, 107pp,

Synopsis: David Cameron has been sold to the British electorate as a thoroughly modern politician, part Blair, part Thatcher, a one nation conservative with a soft spot for social democracy, the green movement, big and small business, youth, minorities, traditionalists, the armed forces and the old. Has a British politician ever been sold as so many things to so many people, at home in fashion magazines as he is at Party conferences? But despite being told, arguably more, about Cameron the man than any other politician he remains vacuous, strangely unformed, a cipher for the real interests and forces he represents. "The Meaning of David Cameron" is an unmasking of the false politics Cameron embodies, and an examination of the face the mask has eaten into.

Critique: David Cameron was the unmeaning-to-architect for the British vote to leave the European Union. Not since Nevil Chamberlain's blunder with respect to misreading Adolph Hitler has the British political system been so misled. An informed and compelling analysis of a British politician, "The Meaning of David Cameron" is very ighly recommended personal reading lists and for college and university library collections.

Flowing Tides
Gearoid O hAllmurain
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780199380084, $45.00, HC, 311pp,

Synopsis: Professor Gearoid O hAllmhurain is an award-winning Irish musician, ethnomusicologist and cultural historian. Formerly Jefferson Smurfit Chair of Irish Studies and Professor of Music at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, he is the inaugural holder of the bilingual Johnson Chair in Quebec and Canadian Irish Studies at Concordia University in Montreal. In "Flowing Tides: History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape" he notes that despite its isolation on the western edge of Europe, Ireland occupies vast amounts of space on the music maps of the world. Although deeply rooted in time and place, Irish songs, dances and instrumental traditions have a history of global travel that span the centuries. Whether carried by exiles, or distributed by commercial networks, Irish traditional music is one of the most popular World Music genres, while Clare, on Ireland's Atlantic seaboard, enjoys unrivaled status as a "Home of the Music," a mecca for tourists and aficionados eager to enjoy the authentic sounds of Ireland.

Critique: Enhanced for scholars with the inclusion of fourteen pages of Notes; a two-page Glossary of Irish-Language Terms; a two page Discography; a three page listing of Archives/Websites; eighteen pages of References; a twelve page Index; and is accessible written for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Flowing Tides: History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Music History collections in general, and Irish Music supplemental studies reading lists in particular. Of special note for personal reading lists is that "Flowing Tides" is also available in a Kindle format ($18.13).

The Invention of Russia
Arkady Ostrovsky
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
Tantor Media, Inc.
9780399564161, $30.00, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War", Arkady Ostrovsky deftly explains how a country that embraced freedom and market reform 25 years ago end up as an autocratic police state bent on confrontation with America and the territorial conquest of its neighbors.

A correspondent for the Economist who grew up in Moscow, Ostrovsky astutely explains in substantiated detail the phenomenon of Vladimir Putin including his rise and impervious longevity, his use of hybrid warfare, sophisticated disinformation campaigns, and the alarming crescendo of his military interventions.

One of Putin's first acts was to reverse Gorbachev's decision to end media censorship and Ostrovsky argues that the Russian media has done more to shape the fate of the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union than its politicians. The new Russia is a cynical operation, where perpetual fear and perpetual war are fueled by a web of lies as the media peddles myths to justify the invasion of Ukraine, cheers the bombing of Syria, and goads its new tsar to go nuclear. Putin pioneered a new and dangerously appealing form of demagogic populism (oblivious to facts and deceptively manipulative) that has now been embraced by an admiring Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Twenty five years after the Soviet flag came down over the Kremlin, Russia and America are again heading toward a confrontation, but this course was far from inevitable. "The Invention of Russia" is a riveting and essential account of how we got there, including the many mistakes and false steps along the way.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War" is insightful, informative, thoughtful, and a consistently compelling read from beginning to end. Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Prologue, a two page Dramatis Personae listing; fourteen pages of Notes; a six page Select Bibliography; and a thirty-three page Index, "The Invention of Russia" is unreservedly recommended as a critically important addition to community and academic library International Studies collections in general, and Contemporary Russian History supplemental studies lists in particular. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "The Invention of Russia" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99). Librarians should be aware that "The Invention of Russia" is available in a complete and unabridged CD audio book edition (Tantor Media, 9781515958376, $29.99).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Trigger Mortis A James Bond Novel
Anthony Horowitz
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062395115, $15.99

"Trigger Mortis" is the closest in style and feel to the original Fleming novels that were so much fun to read. Opening with a murder, the story races along at a brisk pace to its final shattering conclusion. This new mission for Bond begins a short time after his battle with Goldfinger. Along the way are some familiar characters with some new and interesting allies thrown in. The villain is evil in the same mold as other Fleming, Bond enemies. Included in several chapters are pieces of unpublished works by Fleming himself that add to the novel. "Trigger Mortis" is the best James Bond story in many years that is a tribute to Ian Fleming's original novels. James Bond is back in action, and better than ever.

Bullseye A Michael Bennett Thriller
James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316407083, $28.00

Michael Bennett has his hands full on two fronts in "Bullsey" the newest title in the series. This time he and others in law enforcement must prevent the assignation of the president of the United States who is there to speak to the United Nations. Bennett must also deal with several personal family issues. The novel races along with page turning suspense, while time counts down as they must find and stop the assassin from completing his task. "Bullsey" is another chilling thriller that is sure to please.

Chase: A Michael Bennett Story
James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316317177, $4.99

Michael Bennett is back in another shorter new tale in "Chase." This time he is on a case that he realizes was not at first thought to be a suicide. He is determined to solve the case no matter where it takes him. What he finds is a secret government cover up that could get him killed. Though, not as long as the regular novels, "Chase" is a great addition to the long running series of tales of Michael Bennett. Fans will not be disappointed.

Cross Kill
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316317146, $4.99

"Cross Kill" is a delightful new tale of Alex Cross suspense. Alex Cross's partner is gunned down as he watches and he cannot believe who the shooter is because, years ago Cross watched the perpetrator die or so he thought. Now haunted by that memory and that his partner may die, Cross must solve the mystery of who the shooter is and do it very quickly. "Cross Kill" races along to its final surprising ending that is sure to please.

The Trial
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316317177, $4.99

Two women are shot and killed in a nightclub. The police have a suspect who declares war on cops and anyone in law enforcement. Lindsay Boxer and the Women's Murder Club are some of the people the killer has set his sights on. Interestingly enough he controls everything from his jail cell. Lindsay and others of her police department must do everything they can to bring this evil killer to justice and protect themselves at the same time. Taking place a little after the events in "15th Affair," Lindsay must also deal with her personal problems with Joe her husband. "The Trial" is nail biting suspense that readers of the series will enjoy.

Zoo 2
James Patterson With Max DiLallo
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316317122, $4.99

"Zoo 2" a sequel to "Zoo" again has the world in the grips of animals who are attacking humans wherever and whenever they can. The attacks are more vicious and devastating as even the oceans are not immune to the brutal behavior. Oz and his team of specialists find a whole new race of humans they feel are the answer to stopping the warped fluke of nature. The novel races along to a blow away ending that opens the way to a third book in the series. Zoo 2" is as frightening as the original "Zoo" novel.

Sex, Lies & Serious Money A Stone Barrington Novel
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399573941, $28.00,

Stone Barrington returns to New York and finds he has a new client. Normally a good thing, this one comes with a lot complications that ensure Stone will earn his money. The client is the most recent winner of the Florida lottery and he is being pursued by so many different types of people who want a piece of the action. Once again Woods has created a fast paced story that is sure to delight the millions of Stone Barrington fans.

Margie Makes a Difference: Part of the Lady Tigers Series
Dawn Brotherton
Blue Dragon Publishing
9781939696137, $5.99, PB,

The second book of the Lady Tigers series "Margie Makes a Difference" delves further into the world of a girl softball team. This time the author shows the toll war takes on a family when a family member has been deployed to active duty. In this case there are two children from different families who deal with a parent not being there to share in their life. Very few books have ever done as good a job of showing the price we pay for our military people to serve their country. "Margie Makes a Difference" has a lot to say about many different topics and does it very well.

Breakfast With Allen Ginsberg
Esther Cohen
Pleasure Boat Studio
201 West 89th Street, New York, NY 10024
978091287401, $15.00

"Good things come in small packages," and "Breakfast With Allen Ginsberg" shows why that statement is so true. Cohen has a witty perception of many of the things we all take for granted. Her style of poetry will have readers laughing out loud at some of the numerous writings. "Breakfast With Allen Ginsberg" is a fine collection of modern poetry

It's Me, Achilles B: It's Time to Say Hello
Michelle A. Bravo
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478755258, $16.95,

Achilles B is a fun loving little dog who tells what it is like for him to adopt a family. In his own words he reveals his life with his furry friend Coco and the many adventures he is able to have in his life. "It's Me, Achilles B". is fun reading for any dog owner to enjoy. Though a kid's title readers of all ages can enjoy Achilles B's story.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

House of Nails
Lenny Dykstra
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062407368, $27.99, Hardcover, 320 pp.,

In a very interesting autobiography, subtitled both "The Construction, The Demolition, The Resurrection" and "A Memoir of Life on the Edge," this wonderful professional baseball player lays it all out on the line: His almost obsessive determination to play professional ball from his youngest days, through his accomplishing that and much more, setting all kinds of offensive records in the greatest game in sports (OK, I am not the most objective person in that regard), through his losing almost everything when incarcerated, and then recovering his life when released and finding great success in the business world.

In what the author describes as "the greatest World Series in baseball history," in "the best sports city in the world, New York," at age 23, he played in an historic manner, helping the New York Mets win it all. (On a personal note, that end to the 1986 baseball season is what made this reviewer become a full-season Mets ticketholder, and I have attended nearly every ensuing game for the past 30 years.) I clearly remember Lenny Dykstra as an incredible player, giving it everything he had, and throwing himself up against the center field wall when a ball came his way, with no thought to the cost to his body. He is gracious in recounting the end of that game and noting that Bill Buckner's error which cost his team the game, and the Series, was only one of the factors leading to that outcome.

Lenny Dykstra's career highlights included a walkoff homerun in the NLCS in 1986, and a World Series homerun in both 1986 and 1993. The author had great talent as a ballplayer, and, in what I'm guessing is almost a necessity when achieving what he did, also seems to this reader to have an enormous ego. He says what is undeniably true: ". . . ask anyone to dispute the fact that not too many players have played at the level that I rose to, or accomplished the things I did in the postseason over my career." But as this book nears its end, he admits "I know I have many flaws and have made many mistakes over the years. I know, too, that I will make more mistakes as I continue to work on regaining a life built with happiness and contentment; a life that I can be proud of." Dykstra was not happy during the years he played for the Mets, chafing over being platooned at center field with the great Mookie Wilson [one of my favorite all-time Mets players]. Not long after, he left to join the Philadelphia Phillies. Of that time, he says "other than a little drinking here and there, I didn't even know what drugs looked like then. Steroids were not on the radar yet. I know it's hard to believe, but I would then make up for my innocence when I played for the Phillies." He describes himself in 1993 at age 30 as being "put together like a Greek statue."

Dykstra has strong opinions about most of those alongside whom he worked and played ball, e.g., he calls Davey Johnson, the Mets manager in the '80's, an "overrated and underachieving manager," although he credits many of his colleagues with being great ballplayers. He does not make excuses for his own forays into heavy drinking and use of steroids, cocaine and amphetamines, and credits that use with his becoming an All-Star in 1990. He at one point owned his own private jet, which he used to fly, among other places, to Paris, where he purchased a bottle of a 1936 wine for $3,000, and Germany, where he paid $75,000 cash for a "genuine German shepherd." He proudly writes of his "good friends" Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen, among others. He made enormous amounts of money, both in baseball and in his off-the-field business [known at one point as the Car Wash King] and real-estate investments. Some of those moves, however, landed him in prison in 2011, ending his life as he then knew it.

This is a fascinating book [albeit, be warned, laced with profanity], for one who is a dedicated baseball fan, and a very fast read, and it is recommended.

The Question of the Felonious Friend
E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Dr., Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738743516, $14.99/17.50 CA$, Paperback, 279 pp.,

From the publisher: "Is Richard Handy Really My Friend?" It's been one year, two weeks and three days since Samuel Hoenig opened the doors of Questions Answered. The personality traits of his Asperger's Syndrome/high-functioning autism help him main objectivity - - a critical component of his business's continuing success. But when Tyler Clayton, a young man who also has Asperger's, asks if a store clerk is truly his friend, Samuel, for the first time, can't bear to give an objective answer. It's a dicey situation that only gets worse when one of the key players ends up dead. Resolving to do the right thing, Samuel, with help from his associate, Ms. Washburn, wades into the murky waters of friendship, and the answer he finds may be a revelation to himself most of all.

Soon after meeting someone, Samuel reliably asks for their favorite Beatles song, the response to which he believes assists him in character assessment and gives him insight into the individual's personality. His other obsession has to do with the New York Yankees (no need or desire to elaborate on that here), and he is meticulous about many things, e.g., time frames, always noted down to the second. He is fairly formal in his dealings with people, e.g., after working with his assistant almost from the beginning of the business, he still calls her "Ms. Washburn," never by her first name, Janet, although that shows some signs of changing by book's end. We learn that people not on the autism spectrum are referred to as "neurotypicals."

Samuel's newest client, who poses the question cited above, is himself on the autism spectrum, and when his sister implies that he requires special treatment, Samuel muses that it has long been his "contention that the world needs to accept more than modify the behavior of those like myself," with which it is hard to argue.

The ensuing investigation is well-plotted while at the same time being thoroughly entertaining, as one has come to expect in the books of this author/these authors, and suspenseful almost to the last page, when the murderer is identified. I enjoyed this book every bit as much as its predecessor series entries, and it is highly recommended.

In the Dark Places
Peter Robinson
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062240545, $25.99, Hardcover, 326 pp.
9780062240569, $14.99, Paperback, 352 pp.

Published as Abattoir Blues in UK/CA
UK: Hodder Paperbacks, 9781444304983
CA: McClelland & Stewart, ISBN 9780771076442, 19.95 CA$

From the publisher: The 22nd book in the DCI Banks series, "In the Dark Places," develops some of the best-loved characters in contemporary suspense fiction. A perfect mix of police procedural and psychological study, the novel begins with a simple of vehicle abduction. Two young men implicated in the theft have vanished, and the investigation leads to two troubling clues in two different locations - - a scorched van and a peculiar bloodstain in an abandoned WWII airport hanger. As Bank and his team scramble for answers, the inquiry takes an ever darker turn when a truck careens off an icy road in a freak hailstorm. Rescuers swiftly uncover both the driver, who was killed on impact, as well as another body . . . a body that was dead well before the crash. Snow falls. The body count rises. And Banks, perceptive and curious as ever, feels himself being drawn deeper into a web of crime, and at its center something - or someone - dark and dangerous lying in wait.

This is indeed a wonderful police procedural, but so much more than just that. Annie says of Banks "They'd have to drag him kicking and screaming out of his office soon. Or would he get a newer, bigger office and an extra five years' grace if he got promoted to superintendent, as Gervaise had promised last November?" Alongside Banks in Homicide and Major Crimes of the Eastvale Police are his regular colleagues: DI Annie Cabbot, DC Dougal ("Doug") Wilson, AC (Area Commander) Gervais, DC Gerry Masterson, forensic bloodstain analyst Jasminder ("Jazz") Singh, as well as DS Winsome Jackman, a bit over 6' in stature and surely one of the most intriguing of the cops in this wonderful series, having grown up in rural Jamaica, the daughter of a local police corporal. Then there is DCS Richard ("Dirty Dick") Burgess, who'd known Banks since their school days, who Banks says "had a habit of turning up when you least expected him - - which was, perhaps, when you should most expect him) . . . The thing about Burgess, Banks knew from experience, was that however crude and blokeish he was with the lads, he was still a handsome devil in his way, and he had the sort of manly charm that many women found attractive. Not exactly a bit of rough - - he was too sophisticated for that - - but world-weary with a hint of danger and definite dash of the bad boy."."

Banks is of course the central protagonist, alone since his divorce and not seeing either his son or daughter as often as he would like, only recently involved with the beautiful Oriana, almost half his age and presently vacationing in Australia. The book opens with Banks returning early from a weekend holiday, and on that Monday morning is faced with the incident of the stolen tractor, only the first in a series of various thefts, threats and murders. Always distrustful of coincidences, he is convinced that they are all connected. The descriptions of the ensuing investigations are done in the author's usual elegant style, as are his forays into the inner lives of his cohorts. And sexist as this may seem, I was surprised to read the following, written by a male author about two of the important characters in the book (and I mean that in the most praiseworthy way): "Banks could understand what [she] saw in [him]: perhaps someone she could change and forge a future with. Someone who might lack ambition and wealth but who would cherish her and treat her with kindness and love. Someone who would look after her and Ian. Wouldn't we all want someone like that?"

Towards the end the suspense ramps up several notches. -- This is a worthy addition to the series, and is highly recommended.

The Drowned Boy
Karin Fossum, author
Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780544483965, $24.00, Hardcover, 256 pp.
Mariner Books
9780544704848, $14.95, Paperback, 240 pp.,

From the publisher: Carmen and Nicolai failed to resuscitate their son, Tommy, after finding him drowning in their backyard pond. When Inspector Skarre arrives on the scene, Carmen reports that Tommy, a healthy toddler with Down's syndrome, wandered into the garden while Nicolai was working in the basement and she was doing housework. Skarre senses something is off with Carmen's story and consults his trusted colleague, the famed Inspector Sejer. An autopsy reveals Tommy's lungs to be full of soap.

I will go no further with the material from the back of the book for fear of spoilers. But the ensuing tale, dark almost by definition as it deals with the death of a 16-month old child, is a wonderful psychological thriller such as we have come to expect from this author.

The child had just learned to walk. And he had certainly been a challenge to his parents, very young as they are: 19 and 20, respectively. DI Sejer, of the Sondre Buskerud Police District, has no proof, but his instincts tell him that there is something wrong with Carmen's version of the events, and soon his younger colleague, Skarre, starts to feel the same way. What ensues is an intriguing tale, which begins in mid-August, ending in the summer of the following year.

Sejer, now 55 years old, has always been a fascinating protagonist. His beloved wife had died of liver cancer, and he has for company only his daughter, Ingrid, and his Chinese shar-pei dog, Frank Robert, who is almost as much a presence as the humans around him. Sejer has of late been troubled by dizzy spells, although he puts off having himself checked out until nearly the end of the book. The reader does not find out the truth about the child's death until about the same time, in a not entirely unexpected, but still stunning ending. Well-written and with wonderful descriptions of the characters, both outwardly and with some insight into their inner selves, the novel is recommended.

The Swede
Robert Karjel, author
Translation from the Swedish by Nancy Pick and Robert Karjel
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062339607, $15.99, Paperback, 352 pp.
9780625339584, $26.99/33.50 CA$, Hardcover, 341 pp.

From the publisher: At a remote military base in the Indian Ocean the FBI is trying to get a prisoner to confess. But the detainee, a suspect in an Islamist-inspired terror attack in the United States, refuses to talk. Ernst Grip, a Swedish security officer, has no idea why he's been dispatched to New York City. The FBI agent he meets on arrival, Shauna Friedman, seems to know a little too much about him. And when he arrives at his real destination, the American authorities have just one question: Is their terror suspect a Swedish citizen? In the process of uncovering the prisoner's true identity, Grip discovers the man's ties to a group of other suspects - - a ruthless American from Kansas, and a heartbreakingly naive Pakistani. The closer Grip gets to the truth, the more complicated the deception becomes. Who is real and who is leading a double life? Within this world built on secrets, Grip and Friedman have to learn to trust each other if they hope to stay alive.

The novel jumps around from one time and place to another, e.g., the first chapter takes place in New York on May 17, 2008, p.o.v. being that of The Swede (identified only as such), in a Brooklyn hospital. Chapter 4 takes place on Boxing Day, 2004, and in Thailand. Chapter 7 takes place in April of 2008, with Shauna and Grip flying out of NYC; the following chapter in Thailand in January of 2005; the next in Thailand in April 2008; then it's back to 2005. We soon find ourselves on the remote Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, described as "the island of hypocrisy and secrets." If this sounds dizzying to read in this review, to this reader it was only more so in the book itself.

The writing is very good, and the plot fascinating, albeit often hard to follow. But perhaps that's just me. This novel has been highly praised in many venues, and I really wanted to like it. But that aspiration was frustrated by finding it so difficult to figure out where I was, and when, as well as frequently being unable to distinguish among the characters.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Warped Passages
Lisa Randall
Harper Collins
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780060531096, $10.99, PB, 499 pages,

Warped Passages is a primer on currant theoretical physics. It starts with Einstein's Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and carries it through to the latest String and multi-dimensional theories. Randall tries to make it easy for a layperson to follow the science by not using mathematical equations but theoretical physics looks at particles so small that it is very hard for someone to relate to their characteristics. There is nothing in our relatable world that can fully mimic how subatomic particles exist. Even physicists using the advanced mathematics designed for the theoretical physics have a hard time understanding what is happening. Her simplifications make it possible for the layperson to understand the basics but it isn't easy.

Randall starts with the basic concepts of Quantum and Relativity from over one hundred years ago. These are the beginning concepts most of us remember from high school or popular Science Fiction stories. She then fleshes out the details of these basic concepts and slowly builds to the current science. She ends with a variety of possible String theories and multi-dimensional theories that attempt to start explaining the universe as we know it today. She finishes with her own addition to the science where she adds in warped banes, or more loosely dimensions to the theories. By adding a warped topology to banes or dimensions the complexity of the equations explaining the universe is reduced.

Warped Passages is a must read for those interested in theoretical physics and the universe. It isn't an easy read but it is well worth the struggle. It is recommended to the layreader and even those studying in the field. Most scholarly texts on physics focus first on working out the mathematics of the individual problems and don't tell you what your goal is until later. Being able to understand where the science is going will help those learning about the physics focus better on the immediate mathematics they are working with. Etexts still haven't developed to the point of flexibility they need to replace a paper text. For those physicists studying the field a paper copy will be easier to use for reference later but the etext is a viable option for the layreader.

Richard Turner
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
B00DQGMT6S, $4.99, Kindle, 350 pages
9781499233292, $12.00, PB, 296pp,

Goliath is a non-stop action adventure with a touch of history. Unlike many of the contemporary bestselling world ranging action shoot-em-ups, Turner at least gives the impression that he is trying to keep the action plausible in our physical world. Too many action adventures have people traveling from one side of the world to another in the matter of a few hours. Turner either uses a more accurate timeframe or judiciously avoids using any timeframe and just jumps to another action sequence without explaining how much time has passed. For the technical reader this gives Goliath a big push above many other popular action adventures.

In 1931, a British airship by the name of Goliath disappears on its maiden voyage somewhere in Africa. This incident incites an attempted kidnapping of a historian, Jennifer Marsh at a dig for lost WWII American airmen remains in the Philippines today. She is saved by an independent military contracting team training the Philippine authorities in weapons and tactics. Ryan Mitchell is leading the training squad that saved Jennifer and is immediately intrigued by Marsh. Neither Jennifer nor Ryan realizes that they have become targets of a Russian megalomaniac with the money and vision to become the new Czar of Russia. They have to survive long enough to stop the Russian before millions die in his quest for power.

Goliath is an excellent addition to the action adventure genre. It is an easy recommendation for either the fan of the niche or someone first thinking about reading in the genre. For readers of action novels there isn't much that is unique in the story but it also doesn't have any major logical flaws to take away from the plot. It is a much better than average adventure with no real misses. You will not be disappointed reading the book.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Moon 1968-1972
E. B. White & John Kennedy
T. Adler Books
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9781942884057. $18.00, HC, 48pp,

Synopsis: "The Moon 1968-1972" is essential a compendium of photographic and video-based snapshots from the moon landing. These are authentic NASA photographs from the earliest manned space flights

NASA's Apollo program landed the first humans on the moon in 1969. In the next three years, Apollo sent 10 more men to the moon in five subsequent missions. The first moon landing in particular is a legendarily well-documented event, representing one of those rare moments in which the world was united in awe, witnessing the feat together on their television screens. But each Apollo mission also generated hundreds of photographs, many of which have only recently been released by NASA. A selection of these images--shot by the astronauts themselves with suit-mounted and handheld Hasselblad cameras--are gathered in this beautifully designed, affordable volume.

Many of the photographs, though shot originally for scientific, documentary purposes, have an extraordinary snapshot quality, boasting inadvertently artful compositions and effects: in one, a pair of astronaut's legs emerges upside down from the bottom of the frame; in another, a striding astronaut appears to glow against the black recesses of space.

Contextualized with background information about the Apollo Missions and the role of photographic documentation in them, the photographs in "The Moon 1968 - 1972" are fascinating documents of the majesty of outer space, but also record the surface of the moon as a landscape of wonder.

Critique: An absolutely unique and highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library collections, "The Moon 1968-1972" is science fiction made fact for a whole generation of viewers who sat up until the wee hours watching these landmark occasions in human civilization and space exploration.

Schleswig Holstein
Michael Bregnsbo & Kurt Villads Jensen
University Press of Southern Denmark
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9788776748708, $39.00, PB, 339pp,

Synopsis: Schleswig and Holstein have been contested regions in Europe for more than thousand years, but contested between different peoples and groups, and for very different reasons. In modern times, they have been closely connected to the building up of national identity and the formation of the modern nation state. Since the division in 1920 of Schleswig into a northern, Danish part and a southern, German part, this region has also been an interesting example for international studies on whether it is possible to maintain regional cultural and economic cooperation across a modern state border, and on the rights and duties of linguistic minorities. Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Michael Bregnsbo (Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Southern Denmark at Odense) and Kurt Villads Jensen (Professor, Department of History, Stockholm University) "Schleswig Holstein - Contested Region(s) Through History" aims at viewing the areas in their own right over a period of thousand years, and not simply as appendages to modern Danish and German nation-building. This does not imply that they are seen as isolated entities, still less that the regions around them and many strong and varied influences from outside are ignored. Rather, "Schleswig Holstein" aims at investigating how Schleswig and Holstein have constantly been contested places, situated where different interests and forces have collided.

Critique: A collective work of outstanding and seminal scholarship, "Schleswig Holstein" is comprised of fifteen eruditely written and exceptionally informative articles by expert and knowledgeable contributors. A welcome and unique contribution to the history of the region, "Schleswig Holstein" is especially recommended for community, college, and university library European History collections in general, and Schleswig Holstein History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Restoring Neighborhood Streams
Ann L. Riley
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610917391, $70.00, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Thirty years ago, the best thinking on urban stream management prescribed cement as the solution to flooding and other problems of people and flowing water forced into close proximity. Urban streams were perceived as little more than flood control devices designed to hurry water through cities and neighborhoods with scant thought for aesthetics or ecological considerations.

Stream restoration pioneers like hydrologist Ann Riley thought differently. She and other like-minded field scientists imagined that by restoring ecological function, and with careful management, streams and rivers could be a net benefit to cities, instead of a net liability. In the intervening decades, she has spearheaded numerous urban stream restoration projects and put to rest the long-held misconception that degraded urban streams are beyond help.

What has been missing, however, is detailed guidance for restoration practitioners wanting to undertake similar urban stream restoration projects that worked with, rather than against, nature. "Restoring Neighborhood Streams: Planning, Design, and Construction" presents Ann's more than thirty years of practical experience managing long-term stream and river restoration projects in heavily degraded urban environments.

Ann provides a level of detail only a hands-on design practitioner would know, including insights on project design, institutional and social context of successful projects, and how to avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes. Early chapters clarify terminology and review strategies and techniques from historical schools of restoration thinking. But the heart of "Restoring Neighborhood Streams" comprises the chapters containing nine case studies of long-term stream restoration projects in northern California. Although the stories are local, the principles, methods, and tools are universal, and can be applied in almost any city in the world.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Restoring Neighborhood Streams: Planning, Design, and Construction" is a unique and critically important addition to professional, college and university academic library Ecosystems and Habitat collections in general, and Environmental Restoration supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Restoring Neighborhood Streams" is also available in a paperback edition (9781610917407, $35.00) and in a Kindle format ($19.24).

The MLJ Companion
Rik Offenberger, et al.
TwoMorrows Publishing
10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614
9781605490670, $34.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: "The MLJ Companion" documents the complete history of Archie Comics' super-hero characters known as the "Mighty Crusaders" and included such iconic figures as The Shield, Black Hood, Steel Sterling, Hangman, Mr. Justice, The Fly, and many others.

"The MLJ Companion" features in-depth examinations of each era of the characters' extensive history: The Golden Age (beginning with the Shield, the first patriotic super-hero, who pre-dated Captain America by a full year), the Silver Age (spotlighting those offbeat, campy Mighty Comics issues, and The Fly and Jaguar), the Bronze Age (with the Red Circle line, and the !mpact imprint published by DC Comics), up to the Modern Age, with its Dark Circle imprint (featuring such fan-favorites series as "The Fox" by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel).

Of special note is that readers will learn just what "MLJ" stands for; uncover such rarities as the Mighty Crusaders board game; learn about the Shadow's short-lived career as a spandex-clad superhero; discover the ill-fated Spectrum line of comics that was abruptly halted due to its violent content; see where the super-heroes crossed over into Archie, Betty, and Veronica's world; and find interviews with Irv Novick, Dick Ayers, Rich Buckler, Bill DuBay, Steve Englehart, Jim Valentino, Jimmy Palmiotti, Kelly Jones, Michael Uslan, and others who chronicled the Mighty Crusaders' exploits from the 1940s to today!

Critique: Rik Offenberger is an American comic book journalist and publicity agent, an early utilizer of the Internet for distributing comics news, and the public relations coordinator of Archie Comics. In "The MLJ Companion" Offenberger draws upon a very special expertise in providing an inherently fascinating history that is enhanced with the inclusion of sixty-four full color pages of key MLJ stories. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American Popular Culture collections in general, and Archie Comics History supplemental studies lists. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "The MLJ Companion" is also available in a digital edition ($12.95).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Skin Deep: Settler Impressions of Aboriginal Women
Liz Conor
UWA Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781742588070, $50.00, PB, 526pp,

Synopsis: In "Skin Deep: Settler Impressions of Aboriginal Women", author Liz Conor examines the preoccupations of European-Australians in their encounters with Aboriginal women and the tropes, types, and perceptions that seeped into everyday settler-colonial thinking. Early erroneous and uninformed accounts of Aboriginal women and culture were repeated throughout various print forms and imagery, both in Australia and in Europe, with names, dates, and locations erased so that individual women came to be anonymized as 'gins' and 'lubras'.

"Skin Deep" identifies and traces the various tropes used to typecast Aboriginal women, contributing to their lasting hold on the colonial imagination even after conflicting records emerged. The colonial archive itself, consisting largely of accounts by white men, is critiqued in "Skin Deep". Construction of Aboriginal women's gender and sexuality was a form of colonial control, and Skin Deep shows how the industrialization of print was critical to this control, emerging as it did alongside colonial expansion. For nearly all settlers, typecasting Aboriginal women through name-calling and repetition of tropes sufficed to evoke an understanding that was surface-based and half-knowing: only skin deep

Critique: Impressively researched, written, organized and presented, "Skin Deep: Settler Impressions of Aboriginal Women" is a seminal work of exceptional scholarship and highly recommended for community and academic library Aboriginal Studies, Women's Studies, Australian Studies, and Colonial History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Knock It Off
Sara B. Marcketti & Jean L. Parsons
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896729667, $24.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: The intersection of women's fashion and big business in the US has always been a compelling study across social strata. The ready-to-wear apparel industry thrives on creating a presumably original design that is then interpreted into copies.

Called design piracy by some and the knock-off process by most in the industry, copying fashion designs is a firmly embedded business strategy that predates even the advent of women's ready-to-wear in the late nineteenth century.

Historically, some industry organizations and individual designers accepted and supported copying as crucial to the transmission of fashion; others strove to prevent the practice, arguing harms ranging from lost profits to the abuse of labor. Threaded through the complicated and fascinating history of US ready-to-wear fashion are more than eighty attempts to legislate for design protection, and countless efforts to stymie piracy through patents, trademarking, or industry self-regulation.

In "Knock It Off: A History of Design Piracy in the US Women's Ready-to-Wear Apparel Industry" by Sara B. Marcketti (Associate Professor in the Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management Department at Iowa State University and the Associate Director of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) and Jean L. Parsons (Associate Professor at the University of Missouri in the Textile and Apparel Management Department) provide a comprehensive analysis of legal and apparel industry documents; governmental reports; as well as their own primary research conducted in museums, archives, and special collections to shed light on arguments both for and against design piracy.

A main focus is the Fashion Originators Guild of America, one of the most successful industry organizations to attempt design protection. "Knock It Off" puts into perspective the conflicting interests that have always set fashion design apart from other creative works and continue to make the industry an endlessly perplexing and risky business.

Critique: An impressively informed and informative work of seminal scholarship, "Knock It Off: A History of Design Piracy in the US Women's Ready-to-Wear Apparel Industry" is enhanced with illustrations, a four page roster of the 1936 FOGA members and officers, thirty-six pages of Notes, a ten page listing of Resources, and a thirty-seven page Index. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Knock It Off" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Fashion History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors
Beth Pratt-Bergstrom
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781597143462, $18.00, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Wildness beats in the heart of California's urban areas. Through actions as sweeping as citizen science initiatives and as instantaneous as social media posts, a movement of diverse individuals and communities is taking action to recast nature as an integral part of our everyday lives. "When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors: People and Wildlife Working It Out in California" is a compendium of illustrative and inspiring stories celebrate a new paradigm for wildlife conservation: coexistence.

In Los Angeles, residents are rallying to build one of the largest wildlife crossings in the world because of the plight of one lonely mountain lion named P-22.

Porpoises cavort in San Francisco Bay again because of a grassroots effort to clean up a waterway that was once a toxic mess.

On the Facebook campus in Silicon Valley, Mark Zuckerberg and his staff have provided a home for an endearing family of wild gray foxes.

"When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors: People and Wildlife Working It Out in California" by Beth Pratt-Bergstrom (the California Director for the National Wildlife Federation) deftly explores this evolving dynamic between humans and animals, including remarkable stories like the journey of the wolf OR-7 and how Californians are welcoming wolves back to the state after a ninety-year absence, how park staff and millions of visitors rallied to keep Yosemite's famed bears wild, and many more tales from across the state.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and exceptionally informative read from beginning to end "When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors: People and Wildlife Working It Out in California" is especially recommended for community, college, and university library Nature & Wildlife collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.99).

Rio de Janeiro: A Food Biography
Marcia Zoladz
Rowman & Littlefield
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442252318, $38.00, HC, 146pp,

Synopsis: In the last four centuries of its recorded history, the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro created a lifestyle that is unique and has been much admired since the very first travelers published their impressions in the sixteenth century. Indeed, this international hot spot welcomes approximately 1.8 million tourists every year who come to the city to visit, to work, to study, and to eat.

Rio was and it is a place of cultural and artistic creativity, and it has largely kept concealed one of its most interesting cultural traits: its food. "Rio de Janeiro: A Food Biography", cookbook author and journalist Marcia zoladz unveils the high quality and variety of Rio's fresh produce, the special dishes served in parties or at home, and the very traditional ones inherited from the immigrants who made the culture of the city as varied as its food.

Starting with a history of the city and its native plants and animals, "Rio de Janeiro: A Food Biography" offers a rich and sumptuous tour of the culture, the people, and the foods they cook, dine on, love, and enjoy. From fish soup to caipirinha, the culinary traditions come alive through an exploration of the festivals, the people, the places, and the hot-spots that continue to draw people from around the world to this world-class destination.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of four pages of Notes, a four page Bibliography, and an eight page Index, "Rio de Janeiro: A Food Biography" is an informed and informative culinary/cultural history that is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end. Of special note is the chapter on 'Historic Cookbooks: How to Follow the History of the Recipes'. While strongly recommended for community, college, and university library Culinary History collections in general, and Brazilian Popular Culture supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rio de Janeiro: A Food Biography" is also available in a Kindle format ($28.55).

Claude Simon: Fashioning the Past by Writing the Present
Alina Cherry
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
9781611478969, $80.00, HC, 203pp,

Synopsis: "Claude Simon: Fashioning the Past by Writing the Present" by Alina Cherry (Assistant Professor in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Wayne State University) considers the aesthetic, cultural, and philosophical facets of a temporal paradox in the works of French novelist Claude Simon (1913-2005), and its broader implications for the study of narrative, and for cultural and post-modern theory. This paradox emerges from the problematic representation of the past through an aesthetic rooted in an exclusive valorization of the present.

In his 1985 Nobel speech, as well as on other numerous occasions, Simon expressed a fascination with simultaneity through the provocative claim that he never wrote about the past, but attempted to capture only what was happening during the writing process, that is, in the "present of writing," as he put it. Simon's seemingly unambiguous claim raises significant issues and contradictions that become extensively apparent when the statement is considered in the light of his fictional works, since these must be construed, for the most part, as explorations of the past.

In this study Professor Cherry propose to look at the tensions that arise from this paradox, and examine the present of writing holistically (that is both as a stylistic device and within the thematic context of Simon's works) in order to assess its capacity for becoming an instrument of ontological and epistemological inquiry that can also intervene powerfully in the decisive philosophical and socio-political debates that have animated the cultural landscape of post-World War II France.

Simon's vivid portrayals of suffering and devastation open new ways of understanding the impact of some of the most traumatic historical events of the twentieth century: the two World Wars and the Spanish Civil War. This impact is necessarily connected with a need to tell these events, and to tell them in highly innovative ways, namely by creating a distinctive style that revolutionizes the outworn narrative traditions of a world whose very foundations have been shattered by the chaos of war and effectively undermines various institutions and dominant socio-cultural structures.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a list of abbreviations, an eight page bibliography, and a six page index, "Claude Simon: Fashioning the Past by Writing the Present" is an erudite and impressive work of explanatory scholarship. Of special note is Professor Cherry's epilogue: 'Writing (in) the Present, or the Art of Nonhierarchial Thinking'. While unreservedly recommended for college and university library Philosophy collections in general, and French Literature supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Claude Simon: Fashioning the Past by Writing the Present" is also available in a Kindle edition ($76.00).

Babies, Kids and Dogs
Melissa Fallon & Vickie Davenport
Hubble & Hattie
9781845848903, $19.99, PB, 96pp,

Synopsis: Children and dogs both benefit mentally and physically from a harmonious relationship. Dogs help to develop empathy and social skills in children, as well as build their confidence. It is, however, important to also develop this confidence in our dogs, and prepare them to be around babies and children. Bite prevention is vital, and, therefore, we need to teach our dogs and children how to behave correctly around and with each other.

The collaborative work of Melissa Fallon (a highly qualified behaviourist, who works as both a behavior and training lecturer, and as a clinical behaviourist and trainer) and Vickie Davenport (a qualified and experienced dog trainer) "Babies, Kids and Dogs: Creating a Safe and Harmonious Relationship" will help parents to create safe, positive and harmonious relationships between their children and their canine companion, and allow a family dog to relax in the presence of children. Included within are instructional colour photographs, tables to assist with assessing and training your dog, and step-by-step training exercises.

Educational illustrations of 'Charlie and Champ' will also help engage your young children, in order to teach them about behaving appropriately when interacting with their canine friends. Throughout "Babies, Kids and Dogs" are ideas to promote safe interactions, and develop lifelong friendships.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, illustrated, organized and presented, ""Babies, Kids and Dogs: Creating a Safe and Harmonious Relationship" is impressively 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, and approach. As informed and informative as it is practical and effective, "Babies, Kids and Dogs" is enthusiastically recommended for family and community library collections, and especially to anyone one who has young children and a dog living under the same roof.

Sheila Hoffman
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781512736656, $16.95, PB, 98pp,

Synopsis: Women today live in a world that demands excellence and perfection. Every woman, no matter the age, the culture or the background desperately searches for love and acceptance. In the worlds kingdom, it is all about outward appearance. Readers of "Beautiful: Different In A World That is The Same" will go on a journey with Sheila Hoffman into God's kingdom where beauty is all about His inward presence.

Sheila takes the word "Beautiful" and letter by letter discover truths in God's Word that will empower us and change us forever. These nine verses provide a strong foundation where God will build His superstructure. Through this interactive study, we will be set free from the world's standards. No time increments or restraints have been used to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you through this journey.

God has called us to be different in a world that is the same. He has chosen us to stand out from the crowd and let His light shine through us so that others will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven. We will experience joy, sorrow, pain and finally freedom as we are delivered from bondage we have lived in for so many years.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Beautiful" is a life-changing read that is very highly recommended for all Christian women regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Beautiful" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life
Louise Parker
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Publishing
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784721756, $24.99, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: "The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life" is not a diet, rather it is an inspiring, easy-to-follow program for life and consists of two phases: TRANSFORM - taking the direct route to your best body; LIFESTYLE - protecting your results for life.

The method is the best-kept secret of A-list celebrities, royals, global CEOs, entrepreneurs and London society - the quickest, most do-able approach of total body and lifestyle transformation. It contains over 80 effortless recipes to help you 'Eat Beautifully' and avoid being 'Organically Overweight'. Many of the recipes call for fewer than 8 ingredients and take just 8 minutes to prepare.

For the first time, Louise shares her unique four-pronged approach to lasting success that has made her method the mecca for worldwide clients demanding the most intelligent, focused and practical solution to permanent weight loss and habit change.

"The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life" details four simple pillars that promise you can drop two dress sizes in six weeks without a chia seed in sight: Think Successfully - positively, keeping inspiring company and making time for simple pleasures every single day; Live Well - de-cluttering your surroundings, a Digital Detox after 9pm every night, sleeping 7-8 hours a night and taking 20 minutes a day to 'brain nap'; Eat Beautifully - eating 3 meals and 2 snacks daily from any of the 80 delicious recipes in the book; Exercise Intelligently - achievable goals of walk a minimum of 10,000 steps, exercise for 30 minutes, following Louise's workouts or other exercises you enjoy.

Critique: Profusely illustrated, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life" is an exceptional combination of a healthy life style instructional and a palate pleasing, appetite satisfying, homemaker friendly cookbook. With recipes ranging from Eggs & Soldiers with Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus; Puy Lentil & Haloumi Salad; Pesto Chicken Kebabs; and Lucy's Lithe Lamb; to Prawn, Cucumber & Cashew Salad; Scallops & Chorizo; Smoked Mackerel Crudites; and Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Seed Oatcakes. Of special note is the entire section on Work Out exercises. "The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life" is unreservedly recommended for personal and community library collections.

Helen Dumont

Kaveny's Bookshelf

Some reflections on my forty years as a contributor to Midwest Book Review and a tribute to James Andrew Cox.

I just got off the phone with my James Andrew Cox, editor and chief, confirming that Midwest Book Review has been around for the last forty years in its various media iterations, including radio, television, print and web presences. And throughout those forty years I have been with it as a contributor. Jim, his volunteers, and of course his daughter have all done the work of keeping it going as I went through the transitions of my life from biker, to filmmaker-nihilist, to chess player, and former college heavyweight wrestler and then to a public intellectual affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Honors Program and academic editor for a very successful anthology on the Lord of the Rings books into film, with several other projects in the hopper.

Jim said it would be okay if I made my part of my Kaveny's bookshelf a tribute to his life and his contributions to the culture of publishing as well as his efforts to get academic publications out to a larger audience for at least the last four decades. I remember one of the earlier iterations of Midwest Book Review when Jim's highly successful science fiction shows were both being broadcast on WORT community radio in Madison, Wisconsin. We were working nearly half- time as unpaid volunteers; perhaps it was more like three-quarter time for Jim and one-quarter time for me.

Well anyway he picked me up at 5:45 A.M on a Wisconsin, pre- global warning, 26 degree, no wind morning that was so cold our beards froze after he had driven twenty miles into Madison from Oregon, Wisconsin because he volunteered to turn the station on and we would run the programming for that day.

Of course putting a radio station on the air is not like flicking on your cell phone and I remember the sour look on Jim's face when I told him he would have to climb the sixty foot tower and change the light bulb at the top of the tower. He didn't fall for it, and of course I would have told him if he did. But then as we were warming up following the instructions to put things on the air we had a kind of moment of reverence when we both said almost as if we were inside each other's heads, millions have died in the cause of freedom so that guys like us can turn this on and have access to a radio station and a public.

Forty years later people are still dying all over the world to be able to do what we did now then and what Jim has been doing for the last forty years, with Midwest Book Review, as he captured and utilized each new media outlet as it developed and as his daughter and successor Bethany and all the other volunteers continue to do. And so probably tens of thousands like me over the last forty years can have our say. There is an Old Russian proverb that you have to eat a pod of salt to get to know a man. A pod is thirty two pounds, and I guess we qualify, though I also know we are now a couple of Geezers on salt free diets.

I would assert that Midwest Book Review has also been friendly to small press publications, electronic publications and emerging authors, artists, and illustrators as evidenced by my three reviews.

Wolves in the Woods
Brea Behn
Amazon Digital Services
$0.99 Kindle 208 pages

Dr. Janice Bogstad, myself, Editor Susan Chang and Brea Behn, a very promising young author were all on a panel discussion on the future of publishing and all of its various iterations at the 2016 Odyssey Con science-fiction convention in Madison, Wisconsin last April. I was so impressed with the dynamic and generous approach that Brea Behn has taken to her role as an author in a world where everything that we have counted upon as solid is vanishing into thin air; or the Internet which has now morphed into the cloud and even this review/article must escape its typographic prison. Brea has, in the process of promoting herself and her work through library appearances, science-fiction conventions and bookstore appearances, impressed me enough that I actually bought a Kindle edition copy of her 2015 Wolves in the Woods. I just finished listening to it for the second time using the Kindle Text to Speech format. I actually liked it better the second time because of the intricate detail of her world building. Further, I look forward to reading the rest of her books. If you want to find out more about her and her work check out her web presence.

Brea Behn's book Wolves in the Woods is set in a not-so-distant, quite recognizable, and terrifying future in the state of Wisconsin around the year 2450. Wolves in the Woods has something for everybody: romance, violence, hot guys, and Braelin a beautiful long-haired blond heroine; a teenager who is unaware of her beauty and the jeopardy it puts her in. The narrative view point is fascinating because it allows readers to engage the world author Brea Behn is building through her heroine Braelin, using senses and sensations and giving the narrative an almost tactile quality. Particularly effective is one of the shower scenes which a lesser writer would have reduced to making Braelin a simple object of the male gaze, rather than an object of desire.

Braelin progresses from a grief-stricken sole-surviving family member of the global epidemic of the virus C47 which has swept the globe, stopped global communication, and forced her to bury the last of her family members. She must get tough or die in a world that would reduce her at best to the object of desire and at worst to just another corpse lying out in the world that no one cares enough to bury. There is now prince charming to rescue Braelin in this world where the most dangerous men have reverted to wolf-pact behavior, and nearly everyone is reduced to the category of predator or prey. This is the world in which the heroine Braelin struggles to maintain her humanity and discover her own sensuality and personhood.

She must do this in a world which author Brea Behn has constructed, which is hot and steamy smoldering with brooding sexuality and a post-apocalyptic near future where life is nasty, mean, brutish and short. Yet filled with a raw vital energy that many of us found so lacking in the Twilight Saga for example which has nothing to compare with the tension which is carried in her next book in the series, Wolves in the City. Between the wolf-like two brothers, Timber and Aravon who are consumed by lust and desire for her.

As I said, she has something for everybody who allows even me an old stuffy academic critic to say in her literary creation and evolving literary world she has created a realization of the state of humanity in nature. As the great English social philosopher of the second half of the 17th century Author: Thomas Hobbes, who had lived through an English Civil war between Royalist Charles 1st, his dashing Cavilers and parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell with his relentless and professional Round Heads during the English Civil War 1643-1649. Which was at least as brutal and bloody in historical proportion as its American counterpart two centuries later? Hobbes is famous for saying in his monumental work of political philosophy Leviathan that in the state of nature the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Well, old Thomas Hobbes was right on four out five attributes of Braelin's world which is anything but solitary though it does have its introspective moments so the old boy is batting 800%. I would say one last thing in preparing and writing this admittedly cursory review, through process of close reading I became aware of a narrative energy that this text has as I was listening to it in Amazon Kindle text to speech format. So much so, that sadly, I lost track of my online game against a Russian Chess master and found out I had lost. As my wife would say, whom I have been with for forty-four years, that happens about as often as you see a white raven.

The Boy in a Tree
Pamela Boodle, author
Matt Philleo, illustrator
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
$0.99 Kindle

We live in a changing world. And in the words of Bob Dylan publishing had better start swimming or it will sink like a stone. That is just what this author and artist are doing with their provocative, brilliantly edited and illustrated new book which, according to Facebook, I fist commented on a year ago when my dear friend Matt showed me the color page proofs which really stole my heart. This led me to post this Facebook link:

Recognizing the Gifts in Those Who Are Different

D o you have a child with special needs or know someone who does? These days, it's getting more and more common to see children with special needs anywhere you go.

I have had the pleasure of watching this beautifully illustrated children's book, which is not just for children, unfold over the last year or so from Eau Claire artist Matt Phillio, an up and coming representational narrative, and portrait artist of the spiritual. Matt originally brought the paste board proof pages over to the Grand Avenue Cafe here in Eau Claire. The book really captures some essential questions concerning how we judge the worth of human beings. As I think of Boy in a Tree my mind turns back to something J.R.R. Tolkien said in his monumental essay "On Fairy Stories" (first publish in1947) to the effect that in the 19th century myth took refuge in fairy tale, to which I might add in the 21st it may be the case that spirituality, morality, ethics, and religious speculation have also taken refugee status in this same genre.

This beautifully illustrated and spiritually compelling book is presented in a way that makes it accessible to the youngest readers. Yet it manages to be, at the same time, thought-provoking to those of us who have a serious interest in moral and religious philosophy. It is the story of Nicholas who was born with cognitive disabilities. Yet he was also gifted with a love for the outdoors, as we can see by Illustrator Matt Phillio's art work. Through this art we see that Nicholas expresses his love for the outdoors by climbing trees. Author Pamela Boodle shares with us what Nicholas has shared with her, "with his child-like outlook on life". That is to say she shares what is important and matters most to her. This is a important book for all readers, because among other things it reminds us that we as humans are something more than what we produce and what we consume, and without summarizing or stealing the author's and Illustrator's message it might not be too far from the mark to say Boy in a Tree, is about the expression and embodiment of divine love.

Pearl Harbor, the Unfought Battle
Richard Peters
Kindle Edition
Amazon Digital Services
$2.99 Kindle

As I mentioned in the tribute part of this article, I have been writing about and reviewing books in a semi - professional capacity for the last forty years, and for over half century when you count high school book reports and college book reviews. Even after all that time I still think the best kind of review is an enthusiastic recommendation from someone you respect. By this I mean the kind of recommendation that motivates you enough to want to buy (as in the words of Kurt Vonnegut) not borrow the book. Well that's just what happened yesterday. When I emailed my old friend and British subject John, lives in the Leeds, he responded to one of my relentlessly self promoting emails by suggesting that I might find his friends Richard Peters' Pearl Harbor, the Unfought Battle of Interest. Luckily the book was available in Amazon kindle format in both the UK and the USA. Thus within about a minute I had a copy of Pearl Harbor, the Unfought Battle, Kindle Edition, all 347 pages of it, on my Amazon Kindle with text-to-speech features.

The reason I go into the format in such detail is that the text-to-speech feature allows me to exercise one of my super powers which was discovered as I was going through my clinical assessment for a learning disability accommodation here at University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. What they found was this: though I am clinically Dyslexic and illiterate in any cursive sense, I have auditory leaning power which allows me to play Pearl Harbor, the Unfought Battle, Kindle Edition, using text-to-speech at four times normal speed and have it appear almost as if it was performed inside the theater of my mind. I liked the book so much that six hours later I had finished all 347 pages and sat down to binge watch Star Trek the Next Generation until 2:00 am central standard time. I tried to go to sleep but kept thinking of Richard Peters' magnificently researched alternative history which is a character- and dialogue- driven narrative about what might, should, or could have happened at Pearl Harbor had only a few things not been just a little different.

As far as narrative quality Pearl Harbor, the Unfought Battle stands up to the classics of alternatives history, including Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee or Philip K. Dick's Man in a high Castle, but in narrative structure, as well as an ability to create a historical sense of place, his work is more like that of Harry Turtledove's ground-breaking Guns of the South, or maybe Stephen King's 11/23/63, both the book and the TV mini-series.

Time does not permit me to say much more about Pearl Harbor, the Unfought Battle, but I did decide to push back for a month the reviews of some classics of post colonial literature because I realize that as the real Pearl Harbor falls off the historical event-horizon, it is important to keep those events present in the public consciousness along with the lessons learned from them. This is particularly the case now as there is a kind emergent political correctness that has taken the actual events of the Second World War out of most college syllabi. Because of the extent to which Pearl Harbor The Unfought Battle is grounded in which actually took place, the fiction of well-written and researched alternative history becomes a kind back door entrance into the study of history.

We are now approaching the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on the unprepared American Forces at Pearl Harbor which, to say this another way, puts as much historical distance between us and our specious historical present and Pearl Harbor as between Pearl Harbor and Lee's surrender to Grant on April 9th 1865 to end the American Civil War.

I want to close with this thought as a lead-in to my next month's feature. The Japanese attack on and the Pacific War that followed are events of tectonic planetary significance, which even as we are moving rapidly towards the end of the second decade of the 21st century are still shaking the globe with aftershocks, aftershocks that continue to recast the post colonial world. I give Pearl Harbor, the Unfought Battle my highest recommendation and I believe that if picked up by a major publisher and properly promoted it would entertain thousands of readers worldwide in other than electronic format.

Philip Kaveny, Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Textile Fiestas of Mexico
Sheri Brautigan
Thrums Books
9780996447584, $24.95,

"Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler's Guide to Celebrations, Markets, and Smart Shopping" is a beautiful, color photo embroidered traveler's guide to wonderful textile celebrations in Cuetzalan, Uruapan, Oaxaca City, and San Juan Guelavia. Further special textile markets tianguis are recommended in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and the State of Mexico. Over 200 gorgeous color photographs depict finely embroidered and woven ethnic fabrics, crafts, and costumes.

The author wished to share her passion and joy in the fine textiles and costumes of Mexico, as well as her expertise in searching for breathtaking festivals, costumes, and indigenous textiles and fabrics. The author also communicates an awareness of the concept of ethical shopping as well as safe, savvy sources for nonnatives. Practical advice on travel, places to eat or stay, and how to get around is also provided. The author also suggests museums to visit to gather more information about village local costumes and customs, for example, the Museo de Trajas Regionales in San Cristobal de Las Casas, the textile center of the Mayan world.

Beautiful examples of ceremonial wedding dresses, ikat cotton rebozos, mandiles or aprons, and more costumes and fabrics are shown in glorious full color. Here is a typical invitation to a Feria de Carrizo, or Reed Basket Fair, in San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca, held the last weekend of January or first weekend of February: "Get there early, around 10 a.m. before the official town welcoming ceremony and children's fold dancing. This will give you the opportunity to eat quietly from the many kitchens where the food is cooked on comales (ceramic griddles) set up along one side of the central court. There are homemade tortillas stuffed with quesillo (string cheese), squash blossoms, and mushrooms as well as delicious fresh tortillas with chicken and yellow mole filling. Wash it down with hot chocolate in a handmade ceramic mug, which is included in the price. A breakfast fit for a Zapotec prince and princess (p.49)."

The author goes on to recommend visiting a Community Museum and home workshops along the side of the road going into the village.

"Textile Fiestas of Mexico" is a carnival for the senses, inviting travelers to explore the world of traditional and new handmade textiles and crafts in many parts of Mexico.

Sioux Women: Traditionally Sacred
Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, author
South Dakota Historical Society Press
900 Governors Drive, Pierre, South Dakota, 57501
9781941813072, $16.95, paperback, 101pp,

"Sioux Women" is another title by the award winning author exploring roles and lives of her female ancestors within the vast network of nations known as the Sioux, including the Santee, Teton, and Yankton, otherwise named as the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota. The author begins her task with the observation that early reports of the role of Sioux women by European explorer Pierre Radisson were incorrect in their estimation that Sioux women were basically drudges, responsible for all humdrum chores of daily life while men did primarily hunting and fishing leisure time pursuits. "Radisson did not understand that the Indian woman's work was essential to the tribe's well-being and survival just as much as the man's hunting, which provided meat, and his skills as a warrior, which protected the women, children, and elders.

The Frenchmen and other explorers and missionaries disparaged Indian women's work, and they did not know of the White Buffalo Calf Woman who gave directions to all the people about how they should conduct their lives. (p. 3)." The author then recounts the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman as it was originally told to her by her grandmother, Flora Driving Hawk. This traditional oral legend contains the foundations for the Sioux tribes' social and spiritual values and their matriarchal society. Elder women are highly respected in the Sioux tribes because they are wise, knowing what is best for their families. Another Sioux legend that teaches about the complex role of women is the story of Anog Ite, Double -Faced Woman, who shows two faces, one beautiful and one ugly, to reflect the results of selfish, wanton behavior vs courteous, loyal, faithful behavior in women.

There are many examples of moving stories of real Sioux women, matriarchs in the past, who held on to traditional values and beliefs but also adapted in different individual ways to the changing times experienced by the Sioux in the preceding century, up to the present. The author moves on from chapter 1, Women's Role, to Winter Counts and Changing Times. Information from the traditional winter counts is incorporated into this women's history of the Sioux, as well as accepted reports of the brave deeds and unusual roles enacted by certain women within the Sioux network of tribes and traditions. Black and white historical photographs of noted Sioux women and girls enrich this and all other chapters of "Sioux Women," including a notable one of Mary Crawler, or Moving Robe Woman, on page 18. Moving Robe Woman rode to war with the Sioux against Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in place of her brother, who had been killed. A century later, Mary Crow Dog, another brave Sioux woman, participated in the AIM occupation of Wounded Knee, actually giving birth to her first child during that time. She later wrote her award winning book "Lakota Woman, and "Ohitika Woman," her life story.

"Sioux Women" continues with Reservations and Schools, chapter 3, which is a sustained look at the impact of enforced "white" education and other customs on the Sioux by the U. S. government through its agency, the BIA. Rigid, supposedly patriotic, requirements were enacted and enforced on Indian boarding school students, again with numerous black and white historical photographs and personal memories and testimonies incorporated. A haunting photo portrait of Zitkala-Sa, or Gertrude Bonnin, a famous mixed blood woman and author dominates this chapter, along with descriptions of her impact on Sioux and white cultural education.

In the final chapter, The Circle Never Ends, the author continues exploring through skilled use of stories and pictures to expand on the continued role, impact and significance of Sioux women throughout their lives. The ceremony honoring women in special powwows or dances is explained and described in detail. "Grandmothers often encourage their children to dance, (p. 76). This develops strength, stamina, and the capacity for joy, but also, powwows are "stages for honoring and connecting with larger community than the immediate family (p. 76)." Beautiful photographs of young women wearing their ornamented, traditional jingle dresses are included, along with other family portraits taken of mothers and grandmothers with the their children and grandchildren. Women continued to adapt and take responsibility for family support by picking potatoes and other migrant labor in the 1930s and before. Although there have been various relocation efforts to move Indians and their families off of reservations and into urban settings for improved employment and life opportunities, but this had many unforeseen effects. Far from destroying tribal identity, the relocation efforts often resulted in creation of melting pots of dissimilar Indian tribes living together in Indian Ghettos, ultimately ending with a growing pan-Indian consciousness, and a growing tradition of children of mixed marriages belonging to the mother's original tribe and home. Another way of viewing this is that the concept of tiospaye, or extended family, expanded. The author concludes with a beautiful photo of a Sioux matriarch and two granddaughters, and the statement: "The circle will never end".

"Sioux Women" is an inspiring tribute to the enduring strength of Sioux and other Native American women, for their examples and their many gifts of heritage and tradition to future generations of strong, proud, outspoken, accomplished women.

Page-A-Day Children's Bible
Rhona Davies, author
Marcin Piwowarski, illustrator
Pauline Books & Media
50 St. Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130
9780819860323, $21.95, 268pp, paperback,

Sturdily presented with stiff, cardboard color illustrated covers, "Page-A-Day Children's Bible" presents exciting stories and highlights from the Bible, retold in language accessible to juvenile readers age 8-11 and up. Each Bible story is condensed to one page, which is also colorfully illustrated, with the corresponding Biblical source text quoted underneath the title.

Some story titles include Crossing the Red Sea, Solomon's Wisdom, A Chariot to Heaven, At the Bottom of the Well, the Patience of Job, the Four Fishermen, the Bread From Heaven, the Rich Young Man, the Empty Tomb, Saul the Persecutor, God's Armor, Love One Another, and The Revelation of God.

An excellent early Bible for growing Christians, "Page-A-Day Children's Bible" recounts 253 Bible stories, verses, and parables in language enhanced by colorful illustrations that children will enjoy.

Amos and the Moon
Jan B. Balet, author/illustrator
PO Box 412402, Los Angeles, California 90041
9781623260521, $17.95, HC, 24pp,

The first picture book by Grammy award winning author/artist Jan Balet (1913-2009), "Amos and the Moon" was first published in 1948, after Mr. Balet came to the United States from Germany in 1938, protesting the Hitler regime. This vintage 2015 edition of "Amos and the Moon" will surely enchant a whole new generation of young readers and their parents. Precise, detailed, humorous illustrations, full of droll whimsey, bedeck every page of the story's adventure.

Amos is a boy who sleeps in a small bedroom with his teddy bear, Louis. One night he was awakened by a blue light, which he found came from the moon, who he saw had come to live in his mirror. Amos thought the moon would always live in his mirror and they could play together the next day. But when morning came, Amos could not find his moon anywhere. he took off down the street to look for his moon. On his search, he met many interesting men, most of whom were very kind to him, and even gave him small gifts. First he met the iceman, who gave him a small piece of ice, telling him it was like the moon, very hard to hold onto. Second he met John the junkman, who gave him a toy horse to ride on, since he would have a long journey to find the moon. Then he met Spiro, the baker, who gave him a moon-cookie instead of the moon. Next he met Chris the watch-maker, who tried to help by giving Amos a watch and chain that would tell Amos when to get up early and go to bed early, which was also round and shiny like the moon. Next Amos met the butcher, Pierre, who reassured Amos that the moon is far away and hard to find. Instead of the moon, Pierre gave Amos a round piece of bologna. Next, Amos met Joe Krailevizchs, the shoemaker, who also had not seen or caught Amos' moon. Joe gave Amos a pair of shoes to help him on his long search. Amos next crossed to the fish market, where he asked Paul William, a romantic fishmonger, if he had seen his moon.

Although Paul William agreed the 'man must have the moon so he can dream,' he was unable to help Amos, so he gave him a lemon to keep his spirits up for the search. Amos next encountered Antonio Salvadore the barber, who interrupted his beginning question about the moon, shouting, "Here you, I don't care what you wonder....Don't bring all that stuff around here." Last of all Amos visits the laundry shop of Joe Ming, explaining, "I've lost my moon, and I've been looking all day....Last night he came to live in my mirror...He's mine now, isn't he?" Joe explained to Amos that although no one has the moon always, he could perhaps catch the moon's image in a birdcage hung over his mirror one or twice a month. Joe gave Amos the birdcage.

Followed by the friendly policeman who has been watching Amos throughout his search for the moon, Amos returned home thoughtfully with all his gifts. At home, he hung the birdcage over his mirror, explaining his adventures to Louis the bear. "I can't have the moon all the time." But later that night, Louis woke up Amos to see a miraculous sight: the blue light of the moon shone through the birdcage in the mirror in his room. Although no one has the moon always, this was one of those special nights for Amos to see his moon.

In reading this postwar classic children's tale, it is interesting to note that each of the tradesmen Amos visits while searching for his moon is from a different country. The iceman appears to be Spanish, the junkman appears to be English or American, the baker appears to be Greek, the watchmaker is Swiss, the butcher is French, the shoemaker is Polish or Czech, the fishmonger is perhaps British, the barber is definitely Italian, and the laundryman is Chinese. Of course, the policeman is ubiquitous, but he looks suspiciously Irish-American. All of the different tradesmen are nice to Amos, except for the Italian barber. They gave him gifts to ease his search for his moon. But the best gift of all was from Joe the laundryman: an awareness that non one has the moon all the time, just some special times.

This children's classic, with its message of hopeful dreams gently encountering grim reality, deserves to be rediscovered and treasured by new generations.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Opposing the Second Corps at Antietam
Marion V. Armstrong Jr.
The University of Alabama Press
PO Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0380
9780817319045, $39.95, HC, 201pp,

Synopsis: With a tally of more than five thousand killed, twenty thousand wounded, and three thousand missing, the Battle of Antietam made September 17, 1862, the deadliest day of combat in American history. In "Opposing the Second Corps at Antietam: The Fight for the Confederate Left and Center on America's Bloodiest Day", American Civil War scholar Marion V. Armstrong Jr. completes his magisterial study of Antietam begun in "Unfurl Those Colors: McClellan, Sumner, and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign" (9780817316006, $54.95 HC, $43.99 Kindle) by examining Robert E. Lee's leadership at the climactic battle in the Confederate invasion of Union territory.

Antietam was the turning point of the war. Hoping to maintain the initiative they had gained at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Confederate leaders looked to a stunning victory on Northern soil to sour Northern sentiment on the war as well as to coax European powers to recognize the fledgling Confederacy. Having examined McClellan's command and role at Antietam in "Unfurl Those Colors!", Professor Armstrong now recounts in riveting detail Lee's command decisions and their execution in the field, drawing on a superlative collection of first-person accounts by Confederate veterans to narrate the cataclysmic struggle between Lee and McClellan.

Professor Armstrong sets the stage with a lively recap of the political and military events leading up to the early fall of 1862 and foreshadowing the conflagration to come on September 17. Each chapter then traces a critical section of the battle, the fight for the West Woods and the bloody engagement of the Sunken Road. Armstrong augments this collection with an exceptional set of maps, which will be valued by scholars, readers, and visitors to the battlefield. These unique maps delineate troop movements in intervals as brief as fifteen minutes, bringing to life the fluid, mutable lines that characterize the glory and horror of Antietam.

Critique: Either together with "Unfurl Those Colors!" or as a stand-alone account of the Confederate side of the battle, "Opposing the Second Corps at Antietam" provides the fullest possible understanding of the experience of Confederate soldiers at Antietam. A model of exhaustive and seminal scholarship, "Opposing the Second Corps at Antietam" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American Civil War History collections in general, and the Battle of Antietam supplemental studies reading lists in particular. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Opposing the Second Corps at Antietam" is also available in a Kindle format ($43.99).

The Thoughtful Leader
Jim Fisher
University of Toronto Press
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
9781442647985, $32.95, HC, 177pp,

Synopsis: Studies of leadership have produced theories involving traits, situational interaction, function, behavior, power, vision and values, charisma, and intelligence, among others. In "The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership", Jim Fisher (Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto and the former Vice-Dean and Marcel Desautels Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management) provides an invigorating, inclusive and positive framework for teaching current and aspiring leaders in all walks of life.

Professor Fisher has incorporated various apparently opposing leadership ideas into an integrated model.

In order to successfully meet the challenges of a fast changing world, leaders can no longer choose between managing, directing or engaging. The thoughtful leader is someone who simultaneously, consistently and coherently manages, directs and engages their followers. The framework provides a way for anyone who is motivated to lead, has the courage to act and is willing to think about their actions to become more effective. Thoughtful leaders can maintain integrity in their actions and activities regardless of the situations that they encounter day-to-day.

The model developed in "The Thoughtful Leader" applies to many settings, including corporate and public service environments, offering a fresh and forward thinking framework that allows active and emerging leaders to be better prepared to live as a leader day to day.

Critique: A seminal work that is enhanced with the inclusion of a ten page listing of References and a four page Index, "The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership" is an extraordinary study. Impressively well written, organized and presented, "The Thoughtful Leader" is very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Thoughtful Leader" is also available in a Kindle format ($18.99).

Mountains: Mapping the Earth's Extremes
Steven Dech, Reinhold Messner, Nils Sparwasser
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500518892, $55.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Enhanced with the inclusion of 198 illustrations, "Mountains: Mapping the Earth's Extremes" marks a new milestone in Earth observation and Alpine exploration. For the first time, a special recording process and a technique developed at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) allowed the satellite recording of three-dimensional views from 300 miles above with a resolution in the range of a few meters. Photorealistic images are created in this manner from perspectives denied even to mountaineers and helicopter pilots. In addition to highly accurate detailed models of individual regions, the DLR generates a global three-dimensional elevation model of Earth in unprecedented quality. For this purpose, two German satellites are currently circling the earth at a speed of more than 15,000 miles per hour and are separated by a mere 500 feet. Taken together, both techniques offer a detailed view of a world that still pushes human beings to their limits, especially with reference to the mountainous regions of our planet. For "Mountains: Mapping the Earth's Extremes" mountaineer Reinhold Messner has selected thirteen peaks and routes to feature, as they've never been seen before, while Steven Dech and Nils Sparwasser provide context for the images.

Critique: Uniquely informed and informative, "Mountains: Mapping the Earth's Extremes" is a truly impressive compendium of mountain photos of some of the most famous (and challenging) sites in the world. An extraordinary volume, "Mountains: Mapping the Earth's Extremes" is phenomenal volume that will prove to be an enduringly appreciated and popular addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Mountaineering collections in general, and Contemporary Geology supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Twelfth Imam: Rise of the Antichrist
James W. Parker
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781449785482, $33.95 HC, 204pp,

Synopsis: "The Twelfth Imam: Rise of the Antichrist" by James W. Parker begins with the president of Iran announcing to the world his country had just launched three nuclear missiles at Israel. But little did he realize his grand plan would set in motion a series of events that fulfilled prophecies in both Islamic and Christian holy writings by heralding the return of the Islamic Messiah, the one the Bible calls the antichrist.

In a story ripped from today's headlines, Iran has developed the bomb and has finally launched a deadly attack on Israel and the Great Satan, the United States. The attack brings unexpected results when the missiles somehow go astray and destroy the Dome of the Rock. While the Israeli attack fails, Iranian agents succeed in destroying several American cities, including the nation's capital, with a nuclear blast. These actions cause a series of ancient prophecies to culminate, first with Christians being removed from the Earth in a mass exodus, while simultaneously, the twelfth Imam, the long-awaited Islamic Messiah, returns from the Jamkaran well where he has been slumbering for nearly 1,200 years. These events unite Jewish, Islamic, and the remaining Christian adherents, as each of their end-times writings and prophecies converge on a single individual who unites three major religions that have been fighting for centuries.

Islam is now the dominant religion. The twelfth Imam quickly unites the various factions in the Muslim world by demonstrating that he is their messiah. He turns to Sam Reynolds, programing manager, who is working to perfect an RFID chip containing an individual's medical information. Tom Wellington is vice president of the World Bank and is tasked with setting up the financial aspects of the new Islamic system. Little does the Imam know the two are familiar with biblical prophecies because of Pastor Glenn Nelson, and they see him for who he truly is and realize his ultimate goal.

Critique: In an exceptionally well written extrapolation involving historical and current developments in the nation of Iran, as well as biblical and non-canonical apocalyptical scenarios, "The Twelfth Imam: Rise of the Antichrist" is an absolutely riveting read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Twelfth Imam: Rise of the Antichrist" is also available in a paperback edition (9781449785468, $17.95) and in a Kindle format ($3.03).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Take Charge of Your Destiny: How to Create the Life You Were Meant to Live
Jim Donavon
Sound Wisdom Books
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410464, $14.99, 160 Pages,

Design, Take Charge of Your Dreams, and Watch Them Become Reality

International bestselling author, and highly recognized leader in the field of personal development, Jim Donavon, has done it again. His new book "Take Charge of Your Destiny" is a highly motivating, "Personal Development Program" designed to help you, the reader, tap into your power within, take charge of your destiny and live the life you were born to live.

Jim's writing is conversational in style, and creates a feeling of a casual one to one approach as a confidant. It is easy to visualize sitting across the table from him in an informal personal coaching session; or to imagine being a participant in a live audience of thousands sensing the "power-driven" excitement and contagious enthusiasm created by the group dynamics of the crowd.

Jim helped me solidify my life's vision and goals; by adapting the seven foundational principles developed throughout the book. The step by step exercises helped me set goals in key areas of my life. "Take Charge of Your Destiny" is a book you will want to read for content, complete the suggested exercises, and read again to mark your progress on your goals, vision, commitments, and the reality of your dreams.

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

SOZO: A Journey into Freedom with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Dawna De Silva and Teresa Liebscher
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409154, $16.99, 202 pages

Sozo: Tools for Finding, Truth, Freedom, Inner Healing and Deliverance

The Greek word Sozo is translated as: Saved - healed - delivered. A fuller meaning includes the model of being made whole. In their book "SOZO: A Journey into Freedom with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit", coleaders of the International Bethel Sozo Ministry, Dawna De Silva and Teresa Liebscher provide practical core tools and techniques that lead to a deeper relationship with God; strategies for living abundantly, and keys to experiencing inner healing and deliverance.

Each chapter is filled with examples and case histories of hurting people who have found hope; who are rising above and going beyond the trauma of growing up in a dysfunctional family, an abusive childhood, or broken relationships. Readers will be enlightened by seeing their self-worth through God's eyes; He created you for His unique purpose, and divine destiny.

Dawna and Teresa provide interactive models of Sozo ministry sessions, probing discussion questions and activation exercises for Sozo clients and Sozo ministers in training. These illustrate the tools and techniques to prepare the reader to better experience freedom in every area of life, and to understand the process of training, mentoring, and ministering. A valuable glossary serves as an important aid to clarifying often misunderstood terms used in the area of spiritual warfare and deliverance ministries.

"SOZO: A Journey into Freedom with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" is highly endorsed by well-known International Christian leaders in Biblical healing ministry as a clear model for finding freedom, fullness, and spiritual liberation. The book is informative, encouraging, with important guidelines, insight, and inspiration for anyone desirous of living a life of spiritual abundance.

The Chameleon
Merrick Rosenberg
Take Flight Media
9780996411004, $16.95 PB, $1.99 Kindle, 270 pages,

Powerful Lessons from the Wisdom of the Chameleon

In "The Chameleon: Life Changing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has a Personality or Knows Someone Who Does" Merrick Rosenberg picks up the themes of the earlier book "Taking Flight" co-authored with Daniel Silvert in which they introduced the DISC model of human behavior using a story telling format incorporating the use of fables.

The book is made up of 22 fables based on the DISC personality system to show the unique flexibility of the chameleon and the behavioral styles of the parrot, the dove, the owl, and the eagle to demonstrate the four personality types. This enables the reader to identify personal leadership styles. Rosenberg combines his gift of storytelling with practical examples to help enhance your career, build strong relationships, influence others, and to live a more fulling life.

I found the practical applications used in the section Chameleon Wisdom especially helpful. These included specific tips for adapting or translating the teaching of the fable into life action steps that help you get the most benefit possible from your personal strengths. Rosenberg's writing is entertaining, filled with practical illustrations, and inspiration that inspires positive transformation in self and others.

"The Chameleon - Life Changing Wisdom" is important reading for anyone seeking career advancement, improving relationships, or developing maximum personal potential.

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

The Power of Making Miracles, Supercharge Your Mind and Rejuvenate Your Faith
Arnold Fox, M. D. & Barry Fox, Ph.D
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408386, $15.00, 266 pages,

A New Look at the 10 Aspects of a Healthy Spirit - Living Out Your Full Potential

"The Power of Making Miracles," an official publication of The Napoleon Hill Foundation" is coauthored by Dr. Arnold Fox, M. D. and Barry Fox, PH.D. The book is made up of a 14 Day Making Miracle Program built on the premise that we are all born with an unlimited potential and that this "spirit" within us provides the key to achievement.

The authors describe 10 aspects of "spirit" as "the 10 pillars that will lift your spirit high;" and that "these 10 Pillars of the Spirit are the foundation upon which success is built."

Powerful easy to understand stories demonstrate the influence of stress and negative thinking on the heart and every the function of all the body's organs. In contrast dramatic case studies reveal the impact of words of "faith, enthusiasm, love, joy, courage, and conviction" on the health of man's spirit.

Drs. Arnold and Barry Fox capture of the key elements and principles of positive thinking, visualization, and affirmation championed by Norman Vincent Peale, Maxwell Maltz, Rene Dubos, and life principles from the Scriptures. They are leaders and pacesetters and models for leaders in the community of contemporary life coaching.

"The Power of Making Miracles" is for anyone looking to supercharge their mind, rejuvenate their health, and refuel their faith. By applying the principles of this 14 day program you will impact your health, your spirit, your relationships, and every area of your life.

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

The Roadmap to a Rich Life: Success with Life, Relationships, and Money
Beau Henderson
Sound Wisdom Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768411010, $15.99, 200 pages

Beau Henderson' success record as a financial advisor of helping people achieve financial success, shares his philosophy in his book "The Roadmap to a Rich Life - Success with Life, Relationships, and Money" The book is designed for readers who have struggled or are struggling with debt, budget difficulties, business failures, or investment setbacks, adjusting to the ever changing face of economics in today's society.

Henderson's roadmap encompasses all the elements of living a fulfilled life, including: purpose, personal growth, personal success, business, economics, and relationships.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part one introduces Rich Life Principles that encourage the reader to look at their work, relationships, and finances in a new way.

Part two describes the Rich Life Program encouraging the reader to examine their motivation, personality type, and what it is that makes you feel fulfilled.

Part three focuses on elements of income planning, debt management, and looking ahead to retirement, concluding with Call to Action exercises that help you analyze your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

A Call to Action section at the end of each chapter provide the reader with questions to ponder and exercises that guide them through practical proven principles to pursue and to put into action

Rich Life Success Stories demonstrate and validate how the principles and program provide a sound financial plan.

The thing that make "The Roadmap to a Rich Life - Success with Life, Relationships, and Money" unique is Henderson's ability to challenge the reader to focus self-awareness, reevaluate their own beliefs, redirect their energies, determine and achieve their life purpose through creating their own personal version of the Rich Life Plan.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Wild Mammals of Missouri, third edition
Charles W. Schwarta & Elizabeth R. Schwartz, authors
Debby K. Fantz & Victoria L. Jackson, editors
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th St., Columbia, MO 65211
9780826220882, $49.95, PB, 396pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly revised third edition, "The Wild Mammals of Missouri" by the husband and wife team of Charles W. Schwartz (1914-1991) who was with the Missouri Department of Conservation for forty years, serving as biologist, author, wildlife photographer, and wildlife artist, and Elizabeth R. Schwartz (1912-2013) who was employed with the Department of Conservation for over thirty years as biologist, author, and assistant in wildlife photography, is the definitive guide to the identification of these animals, and it continues to be a source of abundant information about their lives. Charles Schwartz's meticulously rendered drawings capture the spirit of his subjects while remaining technically accurate. The drawings range from full portraits to vignettes to illustrations of skulls, tracks, and other identifying characteristics.

Editors Debby K. Fantz (a resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation) and Dr. Victoria L. Jackson (Associate Professor with the University of Central Oklahoma) have maintained the basic structure of the book while adding much new information, including a full account for the elk with artwork by Mark Raithel, new trapping records, revised common and scientific names, enhanced Missouri county-level distribution information, updated range maps, and a discussion of the range expansions of the American black bear and nine-banded armadillo, as well as the increase in confirmed mountain lion sightings.

Critique: A classic work continues to be of immense value as a textbook and reference to a whole new generation of appreciative students. A joint project of the University of Missouri Press and the Missouri Department of Conservation, this newly updated and expanded edition of "The Wild Mammals of Missouri" continues to be unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections.

Andrew Rogers: Rhythms of Life
Silvia Langen
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791355405, $60.00, 231pp,

Synopsis: Silvia Langen is an art historian, who lives in Munich, Germany. In "Andrew Rogers: Rhythms of Life - A Global Land Art Project"Lagen examines Andrew Rogers's unique global land art project and includes numerous spectacular photographs of his work. For the past 16 years Australian artist Andrew Rogers has been building enormous stone structures called geoglyphs on all seven continents around the world. Designed to be seen from above, these magnificent creations have a global purpose -- to form a set of connected drawings on Earth visible from space, embracing the cultural heritage of all civilizations. "Andrew Rogers: Rhythms of Life" includes stunning ground-level, aerial, and satellite photography. From the peaks of Nepal to the Bolivian Andes; the granite monoliths of Sri Lanka to the volcanic expanses of Iceland; the frigid ice caps of Antarctica to the sweltering desert sands of the African Savannah -- each of the 51 geoglyphs was built using local materials and conceived of with the help of local workers, archaeologists, and ethnologists. Brimming from cover to cover with fascinating stories and photos that illustrate the unlimited potential of community cooperation, "Andrew Rogers: Rhythms of Life" introduces readers to a unifying land art project whose scope and humanity are unparalleled in modern art history.

Critique: Inherently fascinating, consistently compelling, informed and informative, profusely and beautifully illustrated, "Andrew Rogers: Rhythms of Life" is a unique compendium showcasing a unique and globally oriented art project. Art historian Silvia Langen has done an outstanding study and one that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library 21st Century Art History collections in general, and Andrew Rogers supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Our Indian Summer in the Far West
S. Nugent Townshend, author
J. G. Hyde, illustrator
Alex Hunt & Kristin Loyd, editors
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806187020, $45.00, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: In 1879 two Englishmen, writer Samuel Nugent Townshend and photographer John George Hyde, set out for a pleasant Indian summer on a tour of the American West. The duo documented their travels by steamship and train, through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, across the Missouri to the "new state of Kansas" and the beginning of the western lands and business opportunities that were to become the focus of their narrative. Reprinted here with critical notes and introduction, "Our Indian Summer in the Far West: An Autumn Tour of Fifteen Thousand Miles in Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and the Indian Territory" offers an enlightening (and often entertaining) perspective on an early moment in the growth of capitalism and industry in the American West.

Originally published as a photographic travelogue and guide to British investment in the American West, Townshend and Hyde's account is both idiosyncratic and emblematic of its time. Interested in the West's economic and environmental potential, the two men focused on farming in Kansas, railroads and mining in Colorado, a bear hunt in New Mexico, and ranching in Texas. The sojourners' own foibles also enter the narrative: alerted to the difficulty of finding a hotel with a bath, the two Victorians took along a portable bathtub made of India rubber. Their words and pictures speak volumes about contemporary attitudes toward race, empire, and the future of civilization.

In this edition of "Our Indian Summer in the Far West" an introduction by coeditor Alex Hunt provides background on the creators and the travelogue genre. The recovery and republication of this extremely rare volume, an artifact of the Victorian American West, make available an important primary document of a brief but pivotal historical moment connecting the American West and the British Empire.

Critique: With its flawlessly reproduced duotone photographic images and engagingly informative commentary, "Our Indian Summer in the Far West" is unique -- and will prove to be a highly treasured and enduringly valued contribution to community, college, and university library 19th Century American History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina
Michael C. Higgins
International Exploration Society
Box 93613, Pasadena, CA 91109-3613
9780996966016, $34.95, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: "Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina" by author and photographer Michael C. Higgins is the latest volume in the International Exploration Society's unique book series that incorporates and showcases the beauty of a quality coffee table piece, an elaborate travel guide, an inspiring wine education, spectacular photography, and captivating adventures into the depths of travel, food and wine connoisseurship. It is the Leading Insiders Guide to exploring the wine regions of the world with this particular volume focusing specifically on providing the reader with a culinary, agricultural and interesting journey through the South American country of Argentina -- the discovery of extraordinary winemakers, chefs and sommeliers. "Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina" includes detailed information to plan and travel to see the most interesting wineries, restaurants and resorts located in these beautiful wine regions. Argentinian agronomists, oenologists, vintners, chefs, sommeliers, and outdoor adventurers are interviewed in-depth to give an inside track to learning about what Argentina has to offer dedicated wine enthusiasts and gourmet oriented visitors.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making in an ideal introduction to Argentina's 'wine country'. Perfect for the armchair traveler and ideal for planning Argentinian travel itineraries, "Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina" is enthusiastically recommended for personal, community, and academic library Travel Guide collections in general, and Argentinian Cultural supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

A Pattern of Lies
Charles Todd
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062386243, $25.99, Hardcover, 324 pp.
9780062386250, $14.99, Paperback, 352 pp.,

As if she didn't have enough to keep her occupied with an endless number of casualties and influenza victims brought to her medical station on the Western Front as World War I drew to a close, Bess Crawford once again becomes involved in a mystery back in England. When she accompanies a group of the wounded to a Kent village she accidentally meets a former patient, Major Mark Ashton, who invites her to spend the night at his parents' home while she awaits a delayed train to London.

There she learns of the family's troubles, which began two years before when the family-owned powder mill exploded and burned to the round, killing about 100 men. A long delayed reaction in the village results in various acts against the Ashtons, ultimately resulting in the arrest of the father, Phillip. All kinds of nasty rumors float around the village and it remains for Bess, who seems to shuttle back and forth at will several times from France to Kent, to piece together the truth to help exonerate Mark's father, who is blamed for the explosion.

The novel, like the previous ones written in the series by the mother and son team, is carefully plotted, and inhabited by a familiar cast (including Bess' dad, the Colonel Sahib and his sergeant major, Simon Brandon, both of whom are well connected with the War Department), who contribute to her endeavors. The descriptions of the medical procedures and nursing on the battlefront are perceptive and the characterizations both at the front and back in Kent are perceptive and splendid.


King Maybe
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616954321, $25.95, Hardcover, 393 pp,

This novel is a lot deeper than those in the prior entries in the Junior Bender series, and shows more of his personality and motivations. But it still includes his wisecracks and signature status as a professional burglar of 20 years standing who has never been caught.

At least not until the current episode.

Something goes wrong in each of the two burglaries Junior undertakes in "King Maybe" and his cunning has to rise to the occasion to keep his record intact. The title is derived from the principal of the second burglary, the head of a Hollywood studio who buys scripts and ideas and then strings the person along with a series of "maybes" when asked if he will produce the property.

The novel is rather lengthy when compared to previous Junior Bender stories, and while the writing is as usual clear and flowing, one can question whether or not it should or could have been shortened. After all, there are at least two other subplots Junior has to address and hopefully conquer: a problem his daughter, Rina, is facing, and his own newly developed love life.

As with all the entries in this series, the novel is recommended.

The Distance
Helen Giltrow
Anchor Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345804358, $16.95, Paperback, 357 pp,

In an ambitious debut novel, a former bookseller has written a dark novel, one which mystified this reader. Is it a crime novel? A mystery? A Le Carre-type story involving the intelligence community? Or a mixture of all these genres?

"The Distance" would seem to contain all the elements of the three characteristics, and therein lies the ambition of the author. Some simplification would appear to be in order. The plot is too complicated, the reading too slow and the story unwieldy. Too bad. Because it is an interesting tale, and deserves to be read.

The gist of the novel is a tale of a woman, alternatively identified as a London Socialite, Charlotte Alton, and Karla, the head of an enterprise that specializes in, among other things, erasing identities and covering a criminal's tracks. One such person is Simon Johanssen, who surfaces after being hidden for years, asking for her help on an assignment to murder a woman held in "The Program," a prison-like compound where he eventually becomes involved with the victim while hiding from a criminal boss also incarcerated there.

It all comes together at the finale in a perfunctory short wrap-up. There are few if any clues before the end to establish these conclusions as if they are included merely to end a laborious effort. A good re-write might have helped, certainly better editing.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Rethinking Antifascism
Hugo Garcia, et al.
Berghahn Books
20 Jay Street, Suite 512, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9781785331381, $120.00, HC, 350pp,

Synopsis: Bringing together leading scholars from a range of nations, "Rethinking Antifascism: History, Memory and Politics, 1922 to the Present", under the editorial auspices of Hugo García (Associate Professor of Modern World History at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain), Mercedes Yusta (Professor of Spanish History at the Universite Paris VIII and a member of the Institut Universitaire de France), Xavier Tabet (Professor of Italian Studies at the Universite Paris VIII), and Cristina Clímaco (Associate Professor of Portuguese Modern History at the Universite Paris VIII) provides a compelling exploration of one of the most vibrant sub-disciplines within recent historiography. Through the presentation of case studies that exemplify the field's breadth and sophistication, "Rethinking Antifascism" examines antifascism in two distinct realms: after surveying the movement's remarkable diversity across nations and political cultures up to 1945, "Rethinking Antifascim" then assesses its postwar political and ideological salience, from its incorporation into Soviet state doctrine to its radical questioning by historians and politicians. Avoiding both heroic narratives and reflexive revisionism, the contributions comprising "Rethinking Antifascism" offer deftly nuanced perspectives on a movement that helped to shape the postwar world.

Critique: Comprised of seventeen eruditely informed and informative articles of impeccable academic scholarship, ""Rethinking Antifascism: History, Memory and Politics, 1922 to the Present" is a seminal body of studies that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Political Science references collections in general, and Fascism/Antifascism supplemental studies reading lists in particular. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Rethinking Antifascism" is also available in a Kindle format ($29.19).

In the Land of Giants
Max Adams
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781681772189, $29.95, HC, 480pp,

Synopsis: The five centuries between the end of Roman Britain and the death of Alfred the Great have left few recorded voices save for those of a handful of chroniclers, but Britain's "Dark Ages" can still be explored through the archaeology of their material remnants: architecture, books, metalwork, and, above all, landscapes.

In the pages of "In the Land of Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages", British historian and academician Max Adams explores his country's lost early medieval past by walking its paths and exploring its lasting imprint on valley, hill, and field. From York to Whitby, from London to Sutton Hoo, from Edinburgh to Anglesey, and from Hadrian's Wall to Loch Tay, each of his ten walking narratives form free-standing chapters as well as parts of a wider portrait of a Britain of fort and fyrd, crypt and crannog, church and causeway, holy well and memorial stone.

Part travelogue, part expert reconstruction, "In the Land of Giants" offers a beautifully written insight into the lives of peasants, drengs, ceorls, thanes, monks, knights, and kings during an enigmatic but richly exciting period of Britain's history.

Critique: With a consistently remarkable, informative, and consistently interesting commentary reads with all the erudite and compelling articulation of a main stream historical novel, "In the Land of Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages" is a work of truly impressive scholarship that is enhanced further with the inclusion of a sixeteen page insert of maps and illustrations, an informative Prologue and Postscript, two appendices ('Journey Distances' and 'Timeline'), a two page listing of Recommended Readings, and a one page Acknowledgment by the author. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library British History & Archaeology collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "In the Land of Giants" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99).

The World in Flames
Jerald Walker
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807027509, $24.95, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: The personal memoir of Jerald Walker (Professor of Creative Writing at Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts), "When The World in Flames" begins, in 1970 when he was six years old. Jerry's consciousness revolves around being a member of a church whose beliefs he finds not only confusing but terrifying. Composed of a hodgepodge of requirements and restrictions (including a prohibition against doctors and hospitals), the underpinning tenet of Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God was that its members were divinely chosen and all others would soon perish in rivers of flames.

The substantial membership was ruled by fear, intimidation, and threats. Anyone who dared leave the church would endure hardship for the remainder of this life and eternal suffering in the next. The next life, according to Armstrong, would arrive in 1975, three years after the start of the Great Tribulation. Jerry would be eleven years old.

Jerry's parents were particularly vulnerable to the promise of relief from the world's hardships. When they joined the church, in 1960, they were living in a two-room apartment in a dangerous Chicago housing project with the first four of their seven children, and, most significantly, they both were blind, having lost their sight to childhood accidents. They took comfort in the belief that they had been chosen for a special afterlife, even if it meant following a religion with a white supremacist ideology and dutifully sending tithes to Armstrong, whose church boasted more than 100,000 members and more than $80 million in annual revenues at its height.

When the prophecy of the 1972 Great Tribulation does not materialize, Jerry was considerably less disappointed than he was relieved. When the 1975 end-time prophecy also fails, Jerry finally began to question his faith and imagine the possibility of choosing a destiny of his own.

Critique: A riveting, compelling, and impressively candid account from first page to last, "The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography collections. This is one of those truly engaging memoirs that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The World in Flames" is also available in a Kindle format ($21.99) and an audio edition.

The Philosophy of Physics
Dean Rickles
c/o Blackwell Publishing
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9780745669816, $69.95, HC, 238pp,

Synopsis: Does the future exist already? What is space? Are time machines physically possible? What is quantum mechanical reality like? Are there many universes? Is there a 'true' geometry of the universe? Why does there appear to be an arrow of time? Do humans play a special role in the world?

"The Philosophy of Physics" by Dean Rickles (Professor of History and Philosophy of Modern Physics at the University of Sydney, Australia) provides a unique introduction that guides the reader through these and other core questions that are of continuing interest to philosophers of physics. "The Philosophy of Physics" discusses the three pillars of modern physics (quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and the theories of relativity), in addition to more cutting-edge themes such as econophysics, quantum gravity, quantum computers, and gauge theories. The approach taken in the pages of "The Philosophy of Physics" is based on the idea that the philosophy of physics is a kind of 'interpretation game' attempting to map physical theories onto our world. But the rules of this game often lead to a multiplicity of possible victors: rarely do we encounter a simple answer.

"The Philosophy of" Physics offers a highly accessible introduction to the latest developments in this exciting field.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a seven page Glossary, fourteen pages of Notes, a three page listing of References, and a five page Index, "The Philosophy of Physics" is impressively written in a fully accessible and lively style that includes a great many visual examples. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Philosophy and Physics collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Philosophy of Physics" is also available in a paperback edition (9780745669823, $24.95) and in an eTextbook format ($19.99).

Paul T. Vogel

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