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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 9 September 2023 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System
M. Chris Fabricant
Akashic Books
232 Third Street, #A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215
9781636140308, $29.95, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: From CSI to Forensic Files to the celebrated reputation of the FBI crime lab, forensic scientists have long been mythologized in American popular culture as infallible crime solvers. Juries put their faith in "expert witnesses" and innocent people have been executed as a result. Innocent people are still on death row today, condemned by junk science.

In 2012, the Innocence Project began searching for prisoners convicted by junk science, and three men, each convicted of capital murder, became M. Chris Fabricant's clients. With the publication of "Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System" he chronicles the fights to overturn their wrongful convictions and to end the use of the "science" that destroyed their lives. Weaving together courtroom battles from Mississippi to Texas to New York City and beyond, Fabricant takes the reader on a journey into the heart of a broken, racist system of justice and the role forensic science plays in maintaining the status quo.

At turns gripping, enraging, illuminating, and moving, "Junk Science" is a meticulously researched insider's perspective of the American criminal justice system. Previously untold stories of wrongful executions, corrupt prosecutors, and quackery masquerading as science animate Fabricant's true crime narrative.

Critique: Simply stated, "Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System" should be required reading for criminal court judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university law school library collections and supplemental Criminology curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for law students, academia, practicing attorneys, criminal justice advocates, governmental law makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System" is also available in a paperback edition (9781636141350, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: M. Chris Fabricant is the Innocence Project's Director of Strategic Litigation and one of the nation's leading experts on forensic sciences and the criminal justice system. Fabricant is featured in the Netflix documentary The Innocence Files and his public commentary has been published in virtually every major media outlet. A former public defender and clinical law professor, Fabricant brings to his writing over two decades of experience ranging from litigating death penalty cases in the Deep South to misdemeanors in the South Bronx.

Justice for Sale
Gary Stein
The Lyons Press
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781493072569, $35.00, HC, 488pp

Synopsis: Martin T. Manton was a corrupt federal appeals court judge in New York who was convicted in 1939 and sent to prison. At the time, this was a hugely important story: Manton was considered the highest-ranking judge in the United States after the nine Justices of the Supreme Court, and was nearly appointed to that august body in 1922.

Yet his story has never been told in book-length form before, and never with the benefit of such exhaustive research. More than just a biography, "Justice for Sale: Graft, Greed, and a Crooked Federal Judge in 1930s Gotham" by Gary Stein reveals judicial misconduct in the context of the culture of corruption and organized crime that permeated New York City in the first part of the twentieth century.

Dozens of others (prominent business executives, leading Wall Street lawyers, accountants, bankers, fixers, con men, another federal judge) participated in Manton's crimes. This study accurately profiles these unscrupulous and often colorful characters as well.

It wasn't until Manhattan D.A. and future presidential candidate Thomas Dewey's successful pursuit of Manton, a federal grand jury investigation, and a sensational prosecution and trial in federal court that shocked the nation that Manton and his corrupt schemes were finally brought down.

Critique: "Justice for Sale: Graft, Greed, and a Crooked Federal Judge in 1930s Gotham" is more than an historical study of 1930's judicial corruption, it is a clarion example of the vigilance required in a democracy of the country's judicial system every bit as much as with the congressional or the administrative branches of the United States government. And especially timely in terms of the recent discovery that at least two of the current United States Supreme Court justices have been taking bribes for years from wealthy men who have had their various legal cases before that court. While an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, governmental, college, university, and law school library Judicial Studies collections, it should be noted for law students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Justice for Sale: Graft, Greed, and a Crooked Federal Judge in 1930s Gotham" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212378475, $31.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Gary Stein (, is an attorney and a former federal prosecutor.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The Deadly Deal
J. Lee
Moonshine Cove Publishing
9781952439582, $19.00 paperback/$6.99 Kindle

Some people will do anything to benefit from innovation.

The Deadly Deal is a thriller that builds tension over a wonder drug's development; Director of Business Development David Centrelli, who is charged with seeing the novel drug to profitable distribution; and the conflicts between a devout man to whom "efficiency is a religion" and one whose mission is derailed by the sudden death of his best friend.

Perhaps predictably, the new drug Previseo's possibilities for changing the world and making its developers rich beyond relief results in the kind of crime that too often is not fully explained by front-page headlines. The behind-the-scenes action that takes place moves readers into another world as David makes threats, enters increasingly dangerous territory replete with moral and ethical conundrums, and finds himself struggling with hard evidence and impossible truths along the way.

Readers who look for medical thrillers will find far more intrigue and cat-and-mouse developments in this story, which is really about the fortunes and greed of industries and individuals, and the kinds of changes that send David and Anne on the run, facing charges of wrongdoing that keep piling up.

Where most medical thrillers focus on the medical milieu, David moves through different territory as he finds himself on the lam from his own government and wondering about his place in the world.

Some people will do anything to benefit from innovation. They would even kill for the opportunity David is presented with and winds up struggling to grasp.

The Deadly Deal evolves superb characterization, satisfying twists of plot, and a focus that will keep even seasoned thriller readers guessing about its outcome. The real perps aren't obvious or just among David's circles, but reach into the highest levels of government.

Libraries looking for suspenseful stories that are well-written and packed with intrigue and action will find The Deadly Deal just the ticket for reaching a wider audience than the usual thriller.

The Blessings of Disaster
Michel Bruneau
Prometheus Books
9781633888234, $25.50 Hardcover/$21.49 ebook

As the world struggles with increasing economic, environmental, and political uncertainty, the timing seems more than appropriate for the considerations in The Blessings of Disaster: The Lessons That Catastrophes Teach Us and Why Our Future Depends on It. Michel Bruneau considers the process of survival and evolution from a different vantage point that comes from a relatively unique perspective: that of a 'catastrophe engineer' whose work involves tackling extreme events and considering how these forces change humanity.

One would think such a focus would be laden with portents of doom and extinction, but Michel Bruneau's book exhibits an ability to move beyond obvious disaster scenarios to consider outcomes more far-reaching and enlightening than the usual disaster movie, book, or scenario would envision. Chapters divided by possible disaster, as well as possible evolutionary processes derived from them, offer hope as well as management and recovery insights.

Take the chapter on 'Technological Disasters.' This examines the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, Japan's Fukushima disaster, and the wide-ranging domino effects of political and scientific snafus that led to changes in how the world not only viewed nuclear power, but obtained its reactors ("The downfall of German and Japanese nuclear plant builders following Fukushima opened up the world market to reactors manufactured by China and Russia.").

"Eventually technology will fail." And when it does so on epic scales, changes inevitably follow - not just in ideologies, but in scientific and political pursuits and the economics of supply chains influenced by technology's failings.

To err is human, and the human factors involved in many of these disasters cannot be ignored any more than the wisdom of better mitigating risk posed by infrastructure decision-making and management.

The mentality in engineering philosophy is examined, its incarnation in the world considered, and the human component of creating or managing disasters is astutely presented in an astute blend of unexpected wry humor, unerring analysis, and thought-provoking presentations of engineers and scientists who work hand-in-hand to address disaster scenarios and outcomes.

Surprisingly, the ultimate effect of The Blessings of Disaster is to offer hope and new considerations of the ultimate world-changing effects of disaster management.

Libraries and readers interested in considering these perspectives in a lively history of hot spots and lethal subjects will find that The Blessings of Disaster offers plenty of solid science, engineering, and food for thought and debate.

Ferren and the Angel
Richard Harland
IFWG Publishing International
9781922856296, $16.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Ferren and the Angel is the first fantasy book in The Ferren Trilogy, following the outcome and adventure of what happens when angel Miriael crashes to Earth during the long battle between Heaven and the Humen. The premise is intriguing: set in the far future when human scientists discovered and proved Heaven and then humanity did what it does best - instigated a war with Heaven itself - the story sports both an original, creative premise and dilemmas which come embedded with sound effects and visceral observations from its opening lines:

"Strange and fearful noises in the night. Daroom! Daroom! Daroom! - a deep-down thunder like an endless drum. Then a sharp splitting sound like the crack of a whip: Kratt! Kratt! Kratt! The noises throbbed through the earth and echoed across the sky. There were voices too. Eeeeeeeyah! A high-pitched scream passed over from horizon to horizon. Then laughter broke out in hoots and whoops. And away in the distance, grave booming words of incomprehensible giant speech..."

The angel's participation and downfall grounds her in a physical environment that challenges her status and her perceptions:

"She couldn't fly, she couldn't summon help from Heaven, she had no power to destroy with a flash of light...Again her eye fell upon the food bag and water bowl... and a strange sensation came over her. The impulse that made her take Heavenly manna into her mouth was a spiritual need, but this was a need she'd never experienced before. A bodily craving, low down and visceral, an actual physical hunger."

Tribesman Ferren comes upon this fallen Angel, but instead of destroying her, his curiosity and pity overcome his inclination to be merciless. The hard lessons of his upbringing fly out the window as he becomes involved in her life and absorbs new truths about the war that has been part of his world since birth.

Richard Harland's approach to entwining the perceptions, lives, and clashes between very different peoples is thoroughly engrossing. From Hypers and Residuals and pale threatening ghosts to mechanical actions that happen all by themselves with no humans at the helm, Ferren's journey introduces him to realizations that he never saw coming.

What if the angel is wrong about some of her facts? What if his sister Shanna becomes a slave as a result of his ignorance or actions? What if the light that beautiful tribal daughter Zonda and others introduce into the battle assumes more promise and opportunity than expected?

"Our Light in the Darkness!" she cried. "See our Light in the Darkness!" Everyone hushed and gazed in awe. The lighter flame meant much more than illumination; it meant the Ancestors, it meant the Good Times, and now it meant the powers they'd inherited in themselves."

Pair spiritual, philosophical, and social struggles with the unusual friendship that rises between an angel and a human of opposing forces, add sound effects and clashes that challenge their roles and perceptions, and build a firm relationship from a shaky foundation of mistrust for a sense of the powerful and disparate forces contrasted and profiled in Ferren and the Angel.

Its powerful, unpredictable brand of fantasy is highly recommended for young adult to adult readers and for libraries seeking something refreshingly new in the fantasy genre.

Hair Goes History
J.D. Taylor
Atmosphere Press
9781639888962, $18.99

Hair Goes History: How Hair Enhancement Has Shaped the Arc and Trembling Hand of History should be considered general interest and cultural history collections. It creates a lively, uncommon link between hair and history that surveys the wide-ranging impact that hair, appearance, and augmentation efforts have had on key figures, decisions, and historical events.

J.D. Taylor tends to make his wide-ranging survey even wider, at times, by including many damning insights about Trump, commenting on the politics and hairpieces of major influencers, writers, and movers and shakers, and incorporating hair themes into broader historical observations:

"Sabato has authored over 20 books on political history; a quality volume on President John F. Kennedy, being one fairly recent tome. Sabato's now graying-black left-parted, but brief hairpiece appears more authentic than in the past. His lavish black mustache is likewise a fixture of his persona."

From military and sports hair to global crisis, Taylor propels his account with inspections of how hair has represented and influenced some of the major figures of human history. Initially inspired by the results of the 2016 election, Taylor moves his observation into wider-ranging territory:

"I witnessed a diabolical manifestation of a left-parted orange hairpiece surfacing as the next president (without savoir faire) of the United States. Then crashing reality set in: hair systems have had a momentous repercussion on the dawning of human history."

Some might say Taylor's links between history and hair are tenuous, at times, with historical commentary assuming a larger proportion of time than the hair-related history links.

However, Hair Goes History is recommended for readers interested in a wider-ranging discussion than most history books tackle. Where else can a reader receive insights into comic book heroes, aliens, splashy figures of myth and legend, and modern and historical political processes that are all linked by hair and appearance?

Herocrats: A Guide for Government Workers Leading Change
Allison Bell
9781634896412, $17.95

Herocrats: A Guide for Government Workers Leading Change describes government workers on the cutting edge of radical approaches to government accountability and management processes. It offers a satisfying new alternative to the perception of government workers as being little more than bureaucrats looking out for their own special interests.

Allison Bell encourages government employees to step up into their own "superpowers" no matter what their level of involvement in government, surveying the abilities such ordinary heroes could provide and promoting a different form of leadership by example that taps both personal values and the government's existing structure.

From building relationships to shift power to identifying common "supertraps" that immerse workers in supporting systems that have little moral grounding, Bell creates and promotes ideas anyone at any level can employ:

"In the last chapter, we discussed the importance of building and maintaining your herocrats network. Weaving the web is a light and easy form of that ... Weaving the web is about frequently and consistently making connections."

If "grassroots" were to be identified not ideologically, but in real-world operations, Herocrats would fit the bill for a step-by-step workbook on how to enact positive, ongoing change. Baby steps lead to bigger-picture transformations, Bell maintains as she links individual purpose, perspective, and actions to these government-changing efforts.

Readers might believe that change comes primarily from strong connections, extraordinary efforts, and big drives for power and control. Bell here promotes a series of approaches that, together, build a network of actions that support positive visions of community and government empowerment.

This notion is just what is needed in the milieu of modern times, where powerlessness keeps people from acting in personal, workplace, and political endeavors.

Ideally, Herocrats: A Guide for Government Workers Leading Change will be part of any government worker's reading; included in all kinds of libraries interested in activism, change, and government processes; and, most of all, profiled in book club and debate and discussion groups interested in the nuts and bolts of enacting community- and then nation-wide change.

"It can take courage in these environments to be vulnerable and place oneself in a learning position. But that is exactly what we need to do. We need to get over ourselves and our egos and listen to our community members without judgment or defensiveness. This is how we will learn, grow, and eventually put together solutions that create positive change in our communities."

Missing Possibilities
Jaime Balboa
Atmosphere Press
9781639888559, $17.00

Missing Possibilities offers a mix of short stories that vary widely in theme and impact, contrasting encounters with fear and darkness with the sense of hope, survival, and healing that can evolve from adversity.

The title story, 'Missing Possibilities', tells of teen Emma's search for a missing friend she's known since birth. Their families are so close that they are quasi-relatives, and so Emma notices many alarming indicators, early on, that all is not well with Jeremy. Little things like "The happiness leaking from his smile. The snide remarks masquerading as humor from her auntie. The booze on her uncle's breath."

As "What frail bit of solace his home provides will all fall apart" and Emma learns truths even she didn't know about Jeremy's world, his flight begins to make more sense.

As her search for answers leads to this promising honor student's own flight, Jaime Balboa paints an engrossing portrait of interconnected worlds that come apart, including an alternate ending for an incomplete journey that offers no predictable or firm resolution.

Contrast this tale with the very different perspective and tone of 'Lazarus Wept.' Here, use of the first person lends an inspective approach to life that embraces a spiritual component to its observations:

"I know the place where everything flows into one...In that place, that beautiful, wide open place, we recognized in each other our common bond, our shared connection. The place is teaming with souls, divergent, interwoven souls."

As a powerful rendition of the Lazarus legend unfolds, readers familiar with Biblical narrative and interpretations will find both startling and rich the interpretation Balboa lends to the circumstances surrounding Lazarus:

"I was brought back. Sand in my teeth, crick in my neck, I was back. Blistered skin, stench in my nose, and hunger in my stomach, I was back. My heart sank deep into my chest, burdened with a weighty despair. What could be worth this price? He was my friend, and I was his follower. But grit in my eyes and gnat in my ear, I was back, I was back, I was back."

The entire collection is a treasure box of surprises that holds a single unified wellspring of thematic impact: connections.

Libraries and readers seeking literary short stories that excel in diversity, scope, and subject will find the unpredictable, creative voice of Jaime Balboa in Missing Possibilities a force to be not only reckoned with, but discussed and included in lending collections and book club circles.

The New Lizard Queen
Mark M. Even
Cresting Wave Publishing
9781956048216, $9.49 Paper/$1.99 ebook

The New Lizard Queen is the third book in the Dragonstone Story for advanced elementary to middle-grade fantasy readers. It continues the saga of Mandy Mandez and her cousins, who continue to employ their extraordinary abilities in unusual ways. Their ability to fight crime alongside the FBI returns them from Storyworld (where they honed their powers in previous books) to the real world, where they continue their education by using their powers in new ways.

Overviews of events in the first two books lend to a feeling of continuity for previous readers and a foundation of knowledge for newcomers to better understand or recall Mandy's family and evolving strengths.

The stage is nicely set for the confrontations they experience in The New Lizard Queen, where a concurrent series of crises, from the rise of terrorists led by an evil sorceress to astronauts trapped on the moon, challenge them to determine where and how their abilities will best be utilized.

From the dragonstone's ability to help these young heroes transform to alter-egos to gun-smugglers and giant lizards, the wizards and witches that permeate this story are varied and many as Mandy and her cohorts face battles, magical forces, and the lasting impact of their efforts:

"Everyone was wary of talking with her as she continued to answer with emotional outbursts each time someone mentioned the battle in Macau. Each night, Mandy would leave the family and return to Parasol. Sometimes, she would sit on the outer landing and watch the sunset in the west, causing colors of oranges and purples in the sky. But after nightfall, she would scan the stars above, looking for some sign of what was to become of her life."

The New Lizard Queen's special brand of rollicking adventure is especially recommended for fantasy readers interested in a blend of epic confrontation and life-changing decisions that grow the participants in different ways.

Libraries and readers seeking a series that sizzles with battles and magical insights into life's adversity will find The New Lizard Queen an attractive read that's hard to put down.

ACTing Now
Norman B. Schwartz
Worthy Reads/Cresting Wave Publishing
9781956048179, $15.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

ACTing Now: A New Approach to the Old Techniques of Acting should be on the shelves of any library interested in drama education and performing arts. It tackles the modern-day challenges of actors required to produce and pitch a self-marketing audition tape, pointing out that conventional (and long-held) strategies for acing auditions need vast revision in this milieu.

In the past, acting techniques were loosely based on the Stanislavski System, which fostered methods that became the foundation of a new American approach to drama. This contrasted heavily (and controversially) with other notions of good acting, but came to be the norm in this country:

"Their template was the actor's learning to work on self to discover the inner life, the psychology of the character. To access emotions appropriate to the drama, the fundamental obstacle to overcome, as many of these teachers perceived it, was often the actors' inhibitions: their fear of being emotionally naked in front of an audience. To be uninhibited - to scream and shout, pour out one's guts, and cry unrestrainedly on cue - became the trademark of American-style acting. Not so in the rest of the world, where total emotional abandonment was never considered the hallmark of the actor's art."

Fast forward to modern times. Changes in stage, auditions, and screening require further changes in approaches to acting and definitions of what constitutes good acting choices - and this is where ACTing Now comes in.

Certain to spark controversy over its sometimes-vastly revised approaches, ACTing Now features exercises and objectives that embrace intention, action, the actor's responsibility to adhere to the script, and inner and outer choices that support the best possible interpretations of a scriptwriter's intentions.

Norman B. Schwartz tailors his advice to the self-taping effort that young actors are being asked to produce today. His solid advice is based on these new industry requirements and a better understanding how they translate to success or failure:

"Even if you don't give much thought to the DNA of its action (the character's want, environment, approach, and the importance of getting the want), on the first reading, by the end of the paraphrasing process, you will have an excellent idea of what it is about...The viewer - the CD, the producer, or the director who will eventually watch your self-tape and decide if you are the one for the job - doesn't know what you were thinking when you taped the sides, nor does that person care what the subtext is you invented below the words you speak. All the viewer and listener sees and hears is the fullness of emotion below and beyond the words on a page."

The result is not just a deeper understanding of the actor's choices and intentions, but how these translate, in turn, to the self-taping process and the decisions of an invisible listener and judge.

Any modern actor interested in probing the actor's underlying responsibility to self, script, and incarnation of his character will find these words especially thought-provoking and educational:

"The actor can do so robotically. It's not difficult to turn a head or walk a few steps.... the intelligent actor always finds a reason for doing it. That reason is called JUSTIFICATION. Action without reason is simply pointless movement, a lie that the best of all detectors, the camera, detects instantly. And which the movie or TV viewer will recognize just as quickly and find just as false."

Libraries and would-be actors should place ACTing Now in a top role on their reading lists and recommendations. Ideally, its radical eye towards transforming the actor's intention and incarnation will prompt drama group discussions about better acting choices and the power of creative drama via a deeper understanding of techniques, choices, and fine art.

Five Wishes
Karin M. Gertsch
Atmosphere Press
9781639887910, $18.95 Paper/$8.95 Kindle

Five Wishes is a debut novel that takes place in the New England small town of Hamlet, where Delbert MacInnes experiences contentment with his place in this world even as wife Matilda seems to be similarly happy with her life, but harbors a big secret her family doesn't know.

Now she not only stands on the threshold of achieving the dream of a vacation (something husband Bertie has long resisted), but is on the edge of revealing long-held secrets and defying silences which have served her well into older age. Her family history and inspections sweep readers into a saga that gives voice to undercurrents of freedom, control, and life choices in romance and connection.

Karin M. Gertsch builds a powerful story in Five Wishes that revolves around a prediction, realistic life assessments, and new experiences that carry readers and characters into unfamiliar territory.

The prospect of travels also introduces changes as long-held dreams confront difficult realities, bringing characters and readers into new realizations that affect and change their dreams and assumptions.

An unexpected event, pilgrimages, and revised understandings about family legacy in Clan MacInnes and the roots that both hold them and define their lives lends to a story that embraces history, family connections, and new realizations. The result is a story that is revealing, thought-provoking, and absorbing.

Five Wishes is recommended for libraries and readers seeking literary explorations of family, history, and the legacy of secrets and attitudes on heritage and future goals. Opportunities lost and found are the hallmarks of a story that ultimately maintains there is no time like the present for making dreams and wishes come true.

Please Write
Lynne M. Kolze
Beaver's Pond Press
9781643436739, $31.95 Hardcover/$9.99 ebook

Please Write: Finding Joy and Meaning in the Soulful Art of Handwritten Letters makes a case for handwritten letters as an important source for communication even in a digital age, tapping personal experience, anecdotes, and the enthusiasm of avid fellow letter-writers to make its case.

From why putting ink to page creates a different legacy and feel than a phone call or email to different kinds of writings that inspire not only connection, but art, Lynne M. Kolze reviews the history, methods, and purposes of effective letter-writing using a lively voice that will inspire readers to cultivate their own letter-writing skills and circles.

Kolze makes a powerful case for choosing writing over dashing out an email:

"Today, emails work well to convey one's homesick feelings to those back home, yet something profound is missing when the recipient cannot touch or see the paper that tangibly holds those thoughts. Electronic messages give us little to hold on to - we cannot feel the paper that our loved ones held themselves or perhaps even kissed or cried over before sending them home. We can too easily lose the special flourishes, creativity, and soul of the writer when we convert our analog writing into digital communications. Thankfully, there are still letter enthusiasts and volunteers who put pen to paper for military men and women, bringing joy to homesick souls."

Such writings can be embellished by cartoons, quotes, or even small pieces of nature tucked within their envelopes.

From antique postcards and the works of postcard enthusiasts to seasonal letter-writing and tapping the wellsprings of written inspiration to inject self and a sense of place into the world, Kolze provides an inspirational blueprint for better understanding the power of the pen and why writing should remain relevant in these modern digital times.

Libraries and readers interested in the history and incarnation of letter-writing efforts will find Please Write a passionate, lively celebration that will make one wish to run to the mailbox in hopes of discovering the joy of something handwritten and personal inside.

The Corey Effect
Casey Dembowski
Red Adept Publishing
9781948051972, $13.95 Paper

The Corey Effect tells of a woman's second chance at love when she returns home after her father's death to encounter the ghosts of her past. This includes Corey Johnson, the "boy who got away." In reality, they both escaped the ghosts of their past in different ways - Andi by physically leaving, and Corey by forging business success in Fairford in a manner Andi never knew about (until now).

Corey's ongoing allure is just one of the forces that rock Andi's life, proving that the past is not as distant as she'd imagined, attractions don't always fade away over time, and new connections can be forged despite underlying secrets that influence everything.

Casey Dembowski crafts an appealing story of first love revisited and revised, taking the time to inject a sense of place, changes, and transition points into the relationship to give it a full-bodied appeal. Timelines that shift between past and present develop both characters and the circumstances that brought them together and then drove them apart.

Corey invites Andi to stay in town and resume a relationship with new opportunities, but Andi isn't interested in repeating the same mistakes of the past. As confusion evolves over her father's desires, her ex's inclinations, and her present-day identity, Andi's struggles come to life:

"And there was so much - want and desire and hurt and forgiveness and giving in and letting go. I pulled him closer, and the years separating us didn't matter. We were together now, and in his arms, I knew exactly who I was meant to be."

Readers who choose The Corey Effect for its promise of romance and realization won't be disappointed to learn there is also a strong component of growth and discovery wound into the tale. Elements of surprise keep readers and characters on their toes and contribute to an evolutionary process of new realizations.

As misperceptions of the past evolve into new understandings that could result in a different outcome, readers will find satisfyingly revealing the course of Andi's discoveries not only about Corey and her past, but her perceptions of what romance could be.

Libraries and readers seeking a warm romance of returning home to old patterns only to discovery new truths will find the psychology of relationship-building (and destruction) compelling and moving in The Corey Effect.

Tim Stobierski
Antrim House Books
9798986552262, $18.00

Dancehall features sixty poems of a "queer love story" that takes place through a series of 'acts,' as if in a play. It evolves its probe of love before, during, and after the event with an astute eye to both poetic incarnation and insights and feelings about same-sex love.

Readers might expect these descriptions to be graphic or limited to understanding by LGBTQ+ audiences alone, but one of Dancehall's main attractions lies in its ability to reach a universal audience no matter their gender or sexual orientation.

Like any good poet, Tim Stobierski's words, experiences, and choices reflect many universal feelings and themes that all audiences can appreciate, as in 'If this is it':

"If this is it

rest your head upon my chest

one last time,

and I will run my fingers

through the soft hairs

at the nape of your neck."

The dancehall of life and love - and the moves lovers bring to the table, sample, lose, and grow from - create poetry which moves on literary and psychological levels alike.

From the recipe for falling in love to powerfully atmospheric accounts of passion and place ("Night, and olive-black./Our bedroom fan sits idle,/its steady whir replaced/by the cat's lowercase snore./Occasionally, the house groans/like an old man stretching his legs."), the incarnation of love in Dancehall is like any fine wine: complex, rich, nicely aged, and widely appealing.

Libraries seeking LGBTQ+ literature in general and poetry in particular will find Dancehall a compelling read both for its prowess in evocative emotional and atmospheric descriptions and for its celebration of love.

Nursery Rhymes for Kinder Times - Volume 1
Pam Gittleman
Mascot Kids
9781637558010, $18.95

Nursery Rhymes for Kinder Times - Volume 1 reforms the classic blind mice rhyme into 'Three Kind Mice,' whose objective is to help others get cheese, say 'please', and identify their emotions, telling adults how they feel to mitigate negativity and encourage communications.

In addition to Three Kind Mice, the book includes additional updated rhymes, allowing it to branch out and illustrate other acts of kindness, such as picking sweet roses for Grandma and Teacher in "Ring Around Sweet Roses."

Other kids get into the mix as they help Humpty Dumpty and appreciate the artistic efforts of peers, with the introductory mice often coming out from hiding to present kids with find-the-mouse activity.

A facing page of emojis to each story encourages kids to think about how they would react to others and how they can identify feelings and show appreciation and gratitude to others.

The result is a fine collection that updates eight classic nursery rhymes to use the familiar to explore areas of kindness, empathy and gratitude for the very young.

Educators and parents who choose Nursery Rhymes for Kinder Times - Volume 1 will find it attractive for its many opportunities to explore higher-level thinking about emotions and actions with preschoolers.

Sammy & Scarlett's Coral Reef Adventure
Robert Andrew Provan
Archway Publishing
9781665739313, $30.95 Hardcover/$20.95 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Sammy & Scarlett's Coral Reef Adventure takes place in the Florida Keys and involves a visit to the barrier reefs that lie off Florida's Eastern coast. The perspective presented in this adventure comes not from human children, but from a fish duo who explore their water world with an eye to revealing its ecology, other underwater denizens, and its natural history.

Robert Andrew Provan pairs an anthropomorphic perspective with nature facts to create an attractive story filled with natural history insights about the area. The fishy adventures and encounters come to life under illustrator Mary Wentzel's hand, adding colorful visual attraction to Sammy and Scarlett's encounters:

"Always remember - late in the afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky, the barracudas and sharks begin feeding. You must always seek hiding places late in the day and at night, or you may be eaten."

Elementary-level readers will find that this survey of coral reefs offers a different, more intimate perspective about undersea life and human influences on its quality and nature. Provan injects ecological impact concerns seamlessly into the fish world, so the impact of plastic bags in the ocean (for one example) hits home harder than it would in a typically nonfictional survey of ocean life and ecology.

By personalizing the coral reef world and presenting it through the eyes of a pair of fishy adventurers, Provan creates a compelling world that comes to life in a more personal way than most undersea natural histories allow.

Libraries and educators will thus find that Sammy & Scarlett's Coral Reef Adventure embraces many themes of ecology and ocean preservation that will prove key to better understanding, couched in the form of an adventure tale that will widely appeal to young audiences.

Odes to the Ordinary
Emily Benson-Scott
Green Writers Press
9798987663103, $15.95

Odes to the Ordinary: Poems is a tribute to everyday life and the wonder of ordinary living. It cultivates an atmosphere of appreciation and observation that reveals both the truths in ordinary wonder and the fallacies that lie in expectations of extraordinary circumstances.

'The Problem with Paradise' offers one outline of the issues involved in anticipating that an exceptional world will unfold from a change of place:

"From Key Largo, we drive down the great white spine/of the Overseas Highway, the ocean a gelatinous expanse/of turquoise, too improbable to be real, lucid and orderly/as an in-ground swimming pool./Even the pelicans seem/disappointed, their long faces exhausted/by so many graceless landings as they fumble through the air/with the disastrous flair/of malfunctioning aircrafts."

Poetic descriptions promote a newfound appreciation for the ordinary, a more empathic response to the life around us, and the underlying beauty of the most mundane of life experiences and events. Black and white watercolor art peppered throughout further enhances the detail and nature of these works.

Emily Benson-Scott's free verse is especially adept at juxtaposing the personal with environmental influences, as in 'Writer's Block':

"The mind can be a backyard in winter, buried beneath blankets of/forgetful white, a place full of frozen/potential, shrubs saddened beneath the burden of snow, forgetting/the latent inspiration of spring./You could always just give up .../but the neighbor's field, gone to seed will always haunt, with its/skeleton stalks of corn - shadows/of ideas both rotting and remaining, still/taunting you with their presence..."

Whether describing images from history in 'After Pompeii' or reflecting on strong women in pieces such as 'Ode to a Topless Woman in France,' these poems assume the form of celebrations of nature, travel, and small moments of observational experience that translate to bigger insights on relationships between self and the world.

Odes to the Ordinary: Poems will prove especially delightful for creative writing classes considering the ode format, and is highly recommended for literary libraries and readers of modern poems who would better understand and appreciate the incarnations of ordinary life via poetic reflections.

Parallel Secrets
ML Barrs
The Wild Rose Press
9781509249787, Paperback $18.99/E-book $3.99

When solving a present-day mystery involves delving into one's own past and traumas, investigators can face challenges not only in their professional pursuits, but their personal lives. Such is the case in Parallel Secrets, when a kidnapped child introduces eerie specters of past experience for a TV journalist who finds herself too close to the case for comfort.

Can there be opportunity for growth in reporting a kidnapping? Vicky Robeson thinks so. The story opens with this perception, but it evolves surprising pathways to realization and redemption as Vicky follows the clues that lead her ever deeper into facing an old conundrum she never quite resolved.

The impact of such an investigation spreads from its point of origin to those around Vicky - in this case, Pete, who has become the kind of supportive friend who proves understanding even in the worst of situations. But, everyone has their limits. Will Pete continue his reputation for staying alongside Vicky as she tries to discover what happened to lively child Rose Wildwood?

Rose actually holds one of the leading roles in this mystery, and the story opens with a child at play who is captured from the safe circle of her Aunt Sara's home by a stranger who has stalked her and made the grab.

Vicky hears the report of a kidnapped child from Walkers Corner, Missouri - a place she never wanted to see again, which has long colored her nightmares. Her personal motivation for following up on this news alert is clear: "She might not be able to undo the past, but this time she would do everything she could to help save the child."

Redemption is a funny thing. It often arrives in the guise of promise, evolves into complex confrontations that introduce anguish and challenge, and complete with resolutions that are unexpected. In Vicky's case, her personal past struggle combines with a present-day mystery to re-introduce her to choices and consequences she'd long delegated to the irresolvable past.

As ML Barrs unfolds a gripping saga of investigation and personal realizations, the story presents not one pursuit, but a series of angles that involves returning to a familiar place to confront not just the demons of what was left undone, but those who were left behind:

"Did you ever catch yourself in a mirror when you aren't expecting to? When I look back at how I left here, it's like I saw myself from a different angle, and it wasn't pretty."

Vicky's journey of recovery and self-discovery embraces Vicky's journalistic drive to write a compelling story with a clear ending and her equally powerful personal motivation to lay her past to rest.

Barrs crafts psychological insights that take place both within Vicky and in those who swirl around her, whether they are characters from her past or loved ones who support and struggle with her present-day endeavors.

These strong characters and their own special interests dovetail nicely in a vivid story that pursues the truth and matters of the heart with equal strength and many satisfying twists and turns.

Libraries and readers seeking mysteries that represent more than a whodunit, but embrace the challenge of returning to a familiar milieu and dilemma to face old patterns and new perceptions will find Parallel Secrets a compelling, solid study in not just intrigue, but psychological transformations that include a determined probe into family and self. The story is not only hard to put down, but thought-provoking beyond its investigative elements.

Kelly Stone Gamble
Red Adept Publishing LLC
B0CCF5PV4Y, $9.99

Ragtown is a story of the Great Depression, parallel lives, and the process of diverting the courses of both individuals and the nation. Its prologue opens the story with an account of the brutal murder by a half-breed Indian in Nevada in 1910. This results in an unprecedented manhunt for a serial killer that goes on for thirty years.

At this point, it's important to emphasize the historical backdrop and value of Kelly Stone Gamble's story: "Ragtown is set in the 1930s during the first phase of the building of the Hoover Dam: the diversion of the Colorado River. Many of the characters in this book are not wholly invented but come from actual dam workers and their families. Their circumstances and actual events were gleaned, in part, from interviews and recorded oral histories."

The 1930s comes to life through the experiences of a determined young woman, Helen Carter, who finds herself alone with limited options for women in the shadow of the Hoover Dam's construction, and young dam worker Ezra Deal, who also unexpectedly finds himself alone.

When he runs into Helen as she is running from legal issues and a gangster's attention, caught in the middle of an impossible dilemma, both their lives are changed, as well as their views of independence and connection.

Gamble creates a compelling saga made all the more riveting for its foundations in historical fact. The astute reflections of each character cement a sense of the times which includes not just a taste of place and history, but the life lessons and conundrums which transfer between generations as well as between individuals:

"I'd always thought my dad had planned for everything. Maybe that is what all little girls think about their fathers, because as I lay there, I realized that so many things couldn't be planned for. When the mine closed in Kansas, for example, we ended up here. It wasn't that he had ever planned for us to move to Nevada. We were in a bad situation, an opportunity presented itself, and he had to make a quick decision about our future. There weren't many options available at the time, so even if moving to the middle of the desert wasn't ideal, we made the best of it. He remained optimistic about better days ahead, and I believed him. I believed in him. Now I had to believe in myself."

As the Wobblies and other social and political forces buffet Ezra and Helen, the points of view shift between chapters to illustrate the events, backdrops, and influences affecting each character. Chapter headings clarify these shifts, making it a snap for readers to absorb the divergent perspectives each individual harbors as they find their lives both connected and challenged.

Gamble's recreation of the Depression years, Nevada, and two lives forced to be creative in their problem-solving drives a compelling saga that's hard to put down, complex in its associations and changing milieus, and attractive in its psychological depth and sense of place and purpose.

Helen must undertake a divorce with few resources, buy off those who would pursue her, and make a life apart from those who would tie her down and thwart her dreams. Her reflections continue to power a story of a young proactive woman who refuses to bow to others' expectations or social norms, and whose reflections are astute and compelling:

"Thinking back, I probably never should have waited so long to leave Cotton. I should have just left, taken what little I had at the time, and made my way out of town instead of waiting until things escalated. But looking back never seemed to do much good. I needed to focus on looking forward."

These elements turn a 500+ page read into an unexpected attraction that will grasp and hold reader attention while injecting the necessary historical facts and influences that keep characters and readers on their toes, educated, and well able to field any transition points that introduce new challenges.

From good intentions gone awry to the peppering of author notes as the story unfolds which explain character development challenges on the writer's part, Ragtown adopts a uniquely attractive countenance that holds equal prowess in entertaining and attracting its reader.

The result is a vivid historical novel highly recommended for any library or reader seeking stories set in the Depression years which revolve around men and women who face their changed life trajectories with determination, courage, and not a small degree of personal growth.

Book clubs focused on historical novels that are firmly steeped in a sense of time and place will also find Ragtown an engrossing read that promises the added value of much discussion and debate material.

Sonnets of Love and Joy
Paul Buchheit
Kelsay Books
9781639803637, $23.00

The art of writing sonnets has largely been a favored effort of yesteryear, replaced by the undemanding free verse format which appears in so many variations that there's barely an art involved in poetry writing, any longer.

Paul Buchheit returns that art to modern times and demonstrates its contemporary prowess in Sonnets of Love and Joy, a collection that is a welcome uplift for these troubled times, when the effort to capture joy and love is too often replaced by angst and a sense of doom.

Here lies respite from the modern crisis that provides existential relief and a sense of well-being. Here, too, is relief from the less seasoned free verse format, returning stricter rules to the poetic effort while demonstrating that it can remain accessible to contemporary audiences.

With a bow to historic expressions of love, Buchheit captures these flavors and nuances in written expression and artistic color images throughout which celebrates the heights (and sometimes plumbs the depths) of the human experience.

How can one not be uplifted by the evocative visuals in the sonnet 'Exquisiteness', for example: "The earthen scent of dewy spruce at dawn/unmasks the stormy hours of night. A burst/of citrus misty sun arrives to spawn/the nursling greenery, and soon the first/of purple, pink, and milky spangles blink/beneath the golden haze. A harmony/seduces me..."

Pleas for connection and understanding in joy, love, and friendships permeate many of the works, adding a depth of inspection that reaches out much as some of the pieces reach to the loved one for response and understanding. Such is 'To a Friend Most Dear': "Abandoned not am I in bully winds/that slap in broken rhythms at my face;/nor cast to sea, where sulking origins/of primal darkness gather to embrace/departing souls; nor muted and forlorn/upon the spinning bluish desert heat."

As nature (and emotion) oriented as these works may be, each poem contains a grounding in landscape and a heart throb of emotional connection that inspects the various facets and incarnations of love and joy in the world.

The traditional sonnet has strict rules for its form: "14 lines that are typically 5-foot iambics rhyming according to a prescribed scheme."

A double challenge is created by both adhering to these rules and adopting a contemporary flavor accessible to a wider audience than those with literary backgrounds.

Sonnets of Love and Joy's diverse, spirited life connections reach out to readers to capture and describe moments of harmony, awakening, and interconnectedness with life and nature.

Libraries interested in contemporary poetry that exhibits the poetic form and rigors of wordsmiths of the past while remaining true to the modern worlds of schoolyards, family, friends, and moments of connection to life will find Sonnets of Love and Joy the perfect example of how poetry's forms and rules remain relevant to modern living.

Amsterdam Ascendant
Judith W. Richards
Aries Books
c/o Independent Book Publishers Association
9780984541089 $TBA

Amsterdam Ascendant will delight historical novel readers interested in European tales. Set in the Netherlands in 1572, it follows various members of the Van der Voort family as they struggle against political and social strife, taking risks that pit them against the Spanish rulers of their world.

As the author says from the start, "The story is fictional but the history is true." A timeline of events, maps, and an opening introduction to this era assures that those unfamiliar with the politics and events of the times will not be lost.

Judith W. Richards acknowledges that she's taken some liberties with language and history for the sake of succinct description, and that this might annoy Netherlanders fixated on historical accuracy in representation and language; but these adjustments result in a smoother-flowing story that is inviting and rich in its action and details.

The tale opens with a sea venture that represents the first salvo in the van der Voort's battle against Spanish oppressors: "Dutch sea captain Maarten van der Voort stood on the deck of his merchant ship, the Dirck, and watched his men, looking ghostlike in the dense fog, go over the side and into the waiting longboat. It was a cold March night and three in the morning, yet sweat beaded on his brow, for he knew he was taking a calculated risk with their lives. They were going to attack a Spanish ship before it attacked them."

A vivid "you are here" feel brings the times to life, whether events take place on land or sea. As the efforts of the Sea Beggers wind into the special interests of a broad audience of Netherlanders, the story traverses social and political perspectives on different sides.

There is no clear guiding light to battles for change, and so the competing visions and experiences of a variety of characters create an especially realistic tone as events unfold. Whether describing the plundering of monasteries or the expansion of maps that place Amsterdam in perspective with the rest of the 1500s world, Richards employs an evocative, descriptive voice to bring these times and families to life.

This contrast between the microcosm of local society and the greater picture of the world is vivid as the characters grow and expand their own boundaries:

"That's odd," Catrijn commented. "Where's the land and sea?"

"It's a celestial globe, not a terrestrial globe."

"Hmm." Not sure what he meant, Catrijn examined its surface.

"They're constellations!" she declared, delighted by her discovery and realization that the globe depicted what a person saw looking up at the sky - a celestial view - not looking down at the earth, a terrestrial view."

Amsterdam Ascendant's ability to capture the engrossing, turbulent social and political landscape of the 1500s makes it a top recommendation for libraries and readers who look to be immersed in the times and the people whose lives were changed by nautical endeavors and political transformations.

The Blue Iris
Rachel Stone
Koehler Books
9798888240939, $30.95 Hardcover/$22.95 Softcover/$7.99 ebook

The Blue Iris is a novel that follows six individuals whose lives converge at the Blue Iris Flower Market, there to experience new options and divergent paths that challenge their seemingly set perceptions and choices.

Themes of love, family, and rooted belief systems come to life as each of the characters is forced to consider their life trajectories and the choices that brought them to this moment in time.

Rachel Stone creates a series of inspections that contrast these lives in satisfying ways. Readers seeking a story that comes steeped in the disparate pasts of characters struggling with life losses and new possibilities receive these elements in droves in The Blue Iris.

From Tessa's longing to capture elements of her mother Beth's life (lost to her when the magic died via a drunken driver when Tessa was only eleven) to the realization of dreams past and present that are connected by the flower market's atmosphere and allure, each character finds their life transformed by their venture into new territory.

Love isn't the only thing driving these realizations. Each relationship features a very different motivation and incarnation that will resonate with readers, powered by a complexity that is alluring in its review of opportunities for transformation and realization: "The same part of her Sam had ruined beyond repair, barring her from properly moving forward, became the reason she couldn't go back."

The events that both flaw and free the characters and the flower market connections that mean something different to each come to life in a jigsaw puzzle of disparate influences and choices that proves hard to put down.

Readers and libraries looking for literary, accessible stories of the shifting, disparate lives of men and women who encounter magic in their perspectives and changing objectives will find The Blue Iris an evocative, compelling read that is alternately quiet in its countenance and reflective of the adage that "still waters run deep." Each character's depth is nicely probed in a story steeped in life and growth.

Chasing Money
Michael Balter
Mission Point Press
9781958363966, Paperback $15.99/ Hardcover $24.95 /E-Book $9.99

"There's a line in a country song that goes, 'Chase after the dream, don't chase after the money.'

Well, I'm here to tell you that's wrong.

Fuck the dream.

Chase the money.

Always chase the money."

This opening salvo of the thriller Chasing Money portends a powerfully compelling read with a murder scenario that evolves from an investment pitch made by entrepreneurs Marty and Bo. This event draws them into an investigation that holds frightening prospects for their future, leading them away from the path they've been cultivating for years (identifying and tapping the resources of "someone kind, generous, greedy, or stupid to fund your ambition to become rich.").

Raising capital has always been a "soul-destroying" venture, but now it's become a challenge to life itself as Marty and Bo find themselves kidnapped, tied up, and facing the possible end of their efforts and days.

Michael Balter writes with a hand heavy in descriptive tension, which brings the events to life from the story's opening paragraphs:

"'Jesus Christ,' Nico cried for the third time after the fat guy finished taping him to the chair. In response to Nico, the guy holding the Beretta barked back, in a thick Irish brogue, 'Shut it!' and then, 'One more word and this baby goes off in the mouth that speaks!' He shook the 9mm in case we didn't understand what "this baby" referenced. He took a giant step back as he spoke, moving past what I guessed he calculated was the periphery of any potential blood spatter. I couldn't take my eyes off him or the gun."

These grim circumstances come with a history that unfolds in a compelling manner as readers learn about the Russian mob which threatens Bo and Marty, leading them into unfamiliar minefields where a wrong step can detonate their lives and loved ones.

Their search for venture capitalists has brought them to this point, but Bo and Marty are well-versed in both landing in trouble and getting out of it. They will need all their cleverness to escape from Nico's killer and navigate the dangerous environment where life and death decisions must be made almost daily.

Readers who look for well-developed tension and characters whose lives sparkle with realistic and unpredictable twists will find these qualities in droves in Chasing Money; but perhaps its greatest asset comes from the tone of the first-person narrator's experiences and shifting viewpoint.

The gritty descriptions, simmering realizations about threats and their origins, and wry sense of humor that permeate many encounters contribute to a countdown to disaster. Marty and Bo search for $10 million and a missing masterpiece, navigating a financial and political milieu which draws them into increasingly dangerous, unfamiliar associations.

Libraries and readers looking for absorbing thrillers that are delivered from the main character's perspective to embrace thoughts about his choices and ideas of the world and his place in it will find Chasing Money exceptionally clever and compelling in its financial and crime world developments.

Book clubs that often choose thrillers will find that Chasing Money stands out from the crowd largely due to its compelling narrator's personality, the historical backdrop that surrounds missing masterpiece paintings of World War II, and an unwitting investigator's foray into deadly Russian affairs.

Will Marty make a deal with the devil?

Chasing Money follows the bucks into a world of hurt, possibilities, and how money can make or break lives - whether legally or illegally gained.

Ravenbourne Slavery
Benjamin H. Barnette
Echo Books
9798985694802, $16.00

The Ravenbourne Warriors are the most feared warriors throughout the Empire which, in Ravenbourne Slavery, is a domineering, successful organization in effect before the Age of Iron, headed by the Lord of Ravenbourne.

Fallen warrior Kaelin also falls into unusual fortune when he saves the Lord and is recruited from slavery to join the elite army of warriors, there to discover romance with an equally formidable woman (the beautiful Natasha, whose hidden powers create problems and attraction alike).

As Benjamin H. Barnette leads readers through this vividly engrossing world, Kaelin and Natasha's evolving relationship influences a series of changes that move from the initial situation of the Opar warrior taken captive to Kaelin's entry into vastly unexpected, revised circumstances.

Barnette adds a compelling, erotic element to the story which results in scenes of menage a `trois affection, graphic sexual exploration, and romantic encounters. These add to the overall atmosphere of the kingdom's different layers of civility and incivility. Readers who eschew reads that include such graphic scenes may wish to look elsewhere, but they are in keeping with the full-bodied nature of the exploration of slavery and survival that is one of the many themes of the story.

Kaelin's experiences and lectures about this survival process represent thought-provoking revelations of what it takes to evolve and survive such a world:

"I was spared by the mercy of the god of war, taken to become a slave of the Empire. I could not escape. There was no place to run to - nowhere to hide - no way to vanish. Disobedience brings only humiliating punishment. I gained my freedom by obeying my master and mistress and pleasing them. I told them that was the only way that they, too, could similarly gain their freedom."

Connections between sexual conquest, lessons of domination, and love are drawn which enhance the overall message and draw of the plot as disparate characters, from high priestess to warriors and slaves, interact.

Ravenbourne Slavery's dual explorations of survival, adaptation, and sweeping passion make for a vivid story of clashing personalities, peoples, and status quos.

Libraries and readers seeking an exceptionally vivid story of romance, power, and slavery's challenges will find Ravenbourne Slavery a heady read packed with opportunities for book club discussions about the kinds of relationships and power struggles that evolve between slaves, warriors, and ordinary men and women.

Vivek Pravat
Independently Published
9798394611148, $15.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Xenome represents sci-fi thriller writing in its most vivid incarnation, and is set on a South Sea island where genetic engineering has produced a marvel (and, no, it's not the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, but goes one step beyond).

Biologist Holly Truong is on the island to pursue her dreams, but a nightmare evolves instead when she stumbles onto an experiment involving creating organisms from the genetic code of a different, alien species.

Holly's avian research flies in a different direction upon her discovery of a form of biology she'd never dreamed would be turned into a real threat. She and fellow researcher David step out of their worlds and into a milieu of deadly experiments and equally threatening danger as an impossible series of truths come to light.

People are being killed to keep this secret. Holly and David, despite their scientific prowess, are not immune to the lure of new discoveries, or to the consequences of learning too much information about past history and present-day opportunities to manipulate genetic species beyond the ken of humanity.

Vivek Pravat embeds his story with plenty of tension, surprises, shifting revelations, and encounters that keep Holly on her toes scientifically and professionally as she struggles to both survive and understand what is going on.

"No one is getting off this ride, whether you like it or not."

While this is made as a personal threat to her, it applies equally to humanity's fate, which hangs in the balance of decisions most people don't even know are being made.

Pravat's ability to blend scientific inquiry and discoveries with speculative sci-fi scenarios and all the tension and developments of a thriller makes for a story every bit as well-written and compelling as any Michael Crichton could have done. The thriller component is well-developed as the story shifts through endgames and strategies. The science embracing the xeno organisms is very well written, logical, and frighteningly realistic.

With its many tense confrontations, its unexpected realizations, and its strong characterization as circumstances demand that Holly step away from her specialty's narrow focus to embrace bigger-picture thinking, Xenome is quite simply a supercharged, jaw-dropping adventure. It will keep its readers thoroughly engrossed up to an unexpected conclusion which challenges any conventional vision of alien first contact.

Libraries and readers looking for biotech thrillers and alien stories that hold a delightful twist and many thought-provoking moments of action and reaction will find Xenome a worthy pursuit.

An Unexpected Ally
Sophia Kouidou-Giles
She Writes Press
9781647425555, $17.95 Paper/$8.99 ebook

An Unexpected Ally: A Greek Tale of Love, Revenge, and Redemption is a novel of fantasy and mythological extrapolation that focuses on Circe, daughter of the sun-god Helios. She sees one love depart from her life, only to cultivate new relationships that travel in a different direction entirely.

Heeding her mother's encouragement to journey to Delos, Circe finds there not only new adventures and encounters, but attractions that eventually cast her in the role of savior over lover. This forces her to step out of her lovelorn life experiences and into a position that tests her knowledge not only of those she loves, but the choices she makes by loving them.

Immortal Circe has a lot to learn about a subject she thinks represents all of her strengths, and readers walk (and swim) alongside her as she enters situations that continually test her abilities, inclinations, and perceptions of her role in the world.

Sophia Kouidou-Giles paints a compelling portrait of a mythological goddess who sets out to conquer others in matters of love and power, but who finds her course challenging her own perceptions of both as she tracks life beyond her island home and considers methods of enchanting and confronting all kinds of forces.

Between her relationships with her parents, who are attempting to forge new alliances while growing increasingly distant and at odds with one another, and her infatuation with rebuilding broken connections and exposing lies, Circe's many struggles as an immortal goddess are exposed with a delicate eye to interweaving myth with extrapolations. These both personalize Circe's nature and make her efforts, exploits, and influences understandable to those who may only distantly recall her from their mythological studies of years past.

Kouidou-Giles creates an unexpectedly vivid, moving story of clashes between titans and the disparate forces around them. This lends a flavor of epic fantasy adventure to the read that will draw audiences from mythology, fantasy, and fiction genres alike.

Libraries and readers seeking evocative, compelling stories about new alliances and power plays will find An Unexpected Ally builds on Greek myth and psychological insights to create a story that is thought-provoking and thoroughly engrossing on many different levels.

Suitable for book club discussion in not just fantasy circles but women's fiction audiences, An Unexpected Ally is a top recommendation for its equally unexpected lure that will prove just as powerful as any scrying mirror Circe could employ. Its sequel, Perse, will be coming out in November 2025.

The Unbroken Horizon
Jenny Brav
Atmosphere Press
9781639887668, $17.99 Paper

The Unbroken Horizon is a novel spanning a century of women's wounds and healing and contrasts the lives of two very different individuals: 1914 teen Maggie Burke, who flees her sharecropper life after she witnesses the lynching of her father and brother; and 2011 white humanitarian nurse Sarah Baum, whose strange recurrent nightmare intrudes on her present-day world and objectives.

The content note which appears before the story opens advises of possible reader triggers as lynchings, sexual violence, and mental health struggles evolve against the backdrop of Black experience and women's struggles.

The story opens with Sarah in the South Sudan in 2011, where she is engaged in helping the people who are experiencing their first life-sustaining rainstorm after five months of heat and dust. Sarah's appreciative response to the local delight in this event contrasts her different world views:

"The nurse in me cringed - knowing all too intimately that mud is host to a cesspool of disease-carrying bacteria - and wanted to shout at them to go home. A dormant child part of me longed to join in. To be that carefree."

Readers who anticipate that The Unbroken Horizon will be a time-travel type of story will be pleased to learn see that Jenny Brav is more interested in the contrast between disparate women's lives in different eras - in particular, how they are wounded, heal from their wounds, and create joy and growth in the process of learning new survival skills for navigating both their worlds and those to come.

Particularly notable are the first-person reflections which capture both the new experiences of each character and the realizations they come to, for formulating new lives: "I sensed that I needed the joy he brought to my life much more than he needed the entertainment and novelty I brought to his."

From feelings of powerlessness over life's circumstances and trials to evolving natures that grasp power in new ways, Brav's contrast in these women's worlds creates a story of new connections to family, secrets of the past, and choices that send each character in a different direction.

"May you always know the depth of your love and power," a loving father writes to his baby Sarah. And, she does - but not before her revelations result in sorrow over missed opportunities and mistaken perceptions that created further pain instead of transformation:

"As I touched the depths of pain and misery that had ricocheted from believing I was unlovable - including years of avoiding love altogether or seeking it from unavailable men - waves of sorrow crashed through my being followed by wordless rage. I've wasted SO much time! I thought as I flopped belly down on my bed and pounded my head on my pillow until the tears came crashing down on me."

At first, readers might feel that the disparity of events in these very different lives belay any connections they might form with one another, but Brav interconnects these experiences with revelations and discoveries that drive Maggie and Sarah to find new pathways to healing in their lives.

Their efforts change not only their lives, but resonate into future generations with connections to the past that forge new opportunities and realizations about the Black experience and the healing process alike.

Libraries and readers seeking powerful novels contrasting past and present Black experience and routes to not just recovery, but empowerment, will find The Unbroken Horizon emotionally gripping and astute in its depictions of these very different worlds.

Between the contrasts in experience and attitude and their shared heritage, these women are presented as inquiring, courageous, and ultimately self-reliant and pioneering, in their own different ways. The Unbroken Horizon is a winning story that ideally also will be chosen for book clubs interested in vivid literature that fully embraces emotional connections and processes of not just survival, but thriving against all odds and perceptions about what life is and should be.

The Devil Particle
Kristin A. Oakley
Independently Published
9798987870303, Paperback $15.99; Kindle $2.99

The Devil Particle is a young adult dystopian survival story that presents a very different take on a new world order in which evil has not only been banished, but identified and contained. In this world, scientists have discovered a way of protecting humanity from imploding under its own violence - but this comes with a big price tag, requiring one individual to 'contain' all this violence within themselves.

In this scenario, serving in such a role is not just desirable, but applauded. That's why teen Paul Salvage enters the competition to be The Devil Particle Vessel, and why he draws back when violence destroys his own family before he can compete in the Trials to become a world-saving hero.

In a struggle reminiscent of The Hunger Games for its focus on a new world order and a competition which holds underlying forces and realizations a teen must uncover to survive, The Devil Particle performs a neat slight of hand. Paul's mission and those of teens around him become a journey of new realizations and shocking truths about good, evil, and options in the matter of world salvation.

Kristin A. Oakley embeds her story with the particles of realization and moral and ethical quandary which bring Paul and his peers to life. Oakley is especially adept at portraying life-changing situations which demand extraordinary responses and choices from these young adults:

"I look down at Rune dangling from my hand. Do I let her go? Could I? Would that save Jaelyn, Gaige, and me? I don't know. But it might buy Jaelyn enough time to reach the twelfth floor. If I hang on to Rune, can we all make it? As if in answer, I hear loud pops as the ladder's bolts give way. There isn't much time. I've got to save Jaelyn. That's all that matters. I have to let Rune go."

The process of making hard decisions based on impossible circumstances that both test interpersonal connections and redefine good and evil intention results in a riveting story that is all the more powerfully displayed by its use of the first person to reveal Paul's thoughts. As Paul finds himself in competition with those he loves, he comes to realize the deeper impact of this effort to contain evil.

As issues of personal and worldwide survival vie with questions of reality and perception, Oakley creates an action-packed story filled with higher-level thinking and messages that will lead young adult audiences to debate and consider their own impacts on life and the world around them.

Libraries and readers interested in spirited, thought-provoking teen dystopian stories that hold the feel of The Hunger Games but notch up the ethical and moral dilemma factor will find The Devil Particle equally (perhaps even more) compelling.

Mom's Search for Meaning
Melissa M. Monroe
Monarch Books
9798987152805, $17.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Mom's Search for Meaning: Grief and Growth After Child Loss captures the heady grief and PTSD that follows a 2-year-old daughter who dies in her sleep of unknown causes. In contrast to many of the memoirs about child death and grieving, it tackles the challenge of overcoming a grief loop through methods of acknowledging, celebrating, and capturing a child's short life, injecting these memories with the special salve of healing and recovery.

The moments and weeks after her child's death play out with a steady determination to survive a healing process that was anything but predictable. That Melissa M. Monroe took notes during this process that translate here to a blueprint others can follow to better understand their own psychic turmoil is testimony not to a 'one size fits all' approach, but to a process that assumes different forms in its efforts towards life.

Monroe's reflections are vivid: "I released the crib that day. I released the notion that my child's death date should follow mine. I released more control than I thought was possible. Loss upon loss led me to collapse into the arms of so many of my beautiful friends and family, and for once, I didn't feel guilty about it. I knew it was all I could manage."

The key question she considers is: " am I supposed to live as long as I've already lived, feeling like I do now?" As she reflects on her own lifespan and reasons for forging on, readers will find her candid, raw reflections brazen, comforting, and challenging all at once.

"With child loss, you are never the same."

The process of healing and reclaiming life after a child's death receives vivid and personal exploration here that will serve as a trigger to those in similar circumstances, as well as a promise that things can eventually change for the better.

Libraries and readers will find this memoir, more than others, opens floodgates of emotional responses and discussion points that ideally will attract book clubs, recovery groups, and psychology participants in a dialogue about motherhood, grief, validation and support systems, and, most of all, that "thing with wings," hope.

Sentient Rising
Jay VanLandingham
Climb That Mountain Press
9798985251579, $1.99 EBook/$19.99 Paperback

Sentient Rising is the second book of a trilogy set in 2040 revolving around Bray Hoffman and her special ability to feel the pain of animals. She's spent much of her life in institutions and her friends Alice and Elliott are gone, leaving her entirely alone. Or, is she?

Surrounding her is an sanctuary run by Ethan, who escaped FBI arrest and is maintaining an environment in which six activists have been hiding for the past twenty years, until Bray and Lana come into the picture.

Former yoga teacher Emily also finds a home in this place populated by animal rights activists, and as a group forms, Emily, Kage and Bray are caught up in an evolving plan and conflict that will once again change their worlds.

The process of formulating these new connections and revised responses to adversity forces Bray to overcome her grief and losses and realize new support systems and strategies for regaining her strength: "Bray was tired, wired and also moved by what she was about to do. She needed meditation, and she needed to get Emily's support."

Emily shows Bray how to receive more support as Elliott's return mitigates her ongoing shame of not being the greatest kind of friend to him. Bray's revised interactions with Elliott embrace events of the past (when Alice died and Bray saved the sows) and set the stage for moving forward into a revised relationship as their latest encounters with Kage and his animal rights activists influences outcomes and perspectives alike.

Bertan Duarte also wants to dismantle the corporation, and has risked his job at the slaughterhouse and his life to support Bray's cause. His practical pursuits run into Bray's special talents as an animal empath and add to the group's disparate makeup as their diverse interests and talents clash with forces beyond their control.

Bertan's access to the Kill Floor and his participation in the struggle that leads to his disappearance are emphasized in changing viewpoints that move chapters between Bertan, Bray, average citizens, and those who would build a formidable resistance against all odds.

Jay VanLandingham builds on the prior book Sentient in a manner that will prove especially inviting to fans of that story, but provides enough background about Bray and her companions that newcomers won't be lost.

Teens who enjoy dystopian settings that come with social conflict and interactions that force peers to step up into new roles and realizations will find Sentient Rising not only a powerful adjunct to the events of the first book, but a notable contribution to dystopian literature which bring Bray full circle into family connections she's never realized before.

Libraries and readers seeking dystopian teen fiction powered by a blend of discovery and bigger-picture thinking will find Sentient Rising compelling:

"Far worse things had happened to her, things that brought her beyond death to places her mother knew nothing of. Places that made her who she was."

Work-Life Bloom: How to Nurture a Team That Flourishes
Dan Pontefract
Figure 1 Publishing
1773272225, $24.95

Work-Life Bloom: How to Nurture a Team That Flourishes is a study in career moves, nurturing talent, and moving from individual to group achievement. It hones its examples through a combination of real-life case histories and surveys of how teams succeed and fail, offering a series of lessons no business reader should be without.

The first strength to note in Work-Life Bloom is that its contentions rise above the usual 'blueprint for leadership' to address many of the underlying reasons of why teams often begin with great ideals, but fail to live up to their promise.

Dan Pontefract speaks of many influencers to this process; not the least of which is attitude and the perception of team member potential:

"It's critical to remember that many great ideas are not necessarily great at first glance but, like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, could be impactful over time. Your team members might not create something as noteworthy as a bestselling album, but if you value them, you appreciate and recognize their contributions and ideas. You value their input, extra effort, and desire for open conversations. No matter what people do at your organization, you must believe that they have something to contribute, and therefore they must be valued."

Another big 'plus' that sets this book apart from the usual team-building title is its attention to linking individual psyches and experiences with group and business intention. In this environment, leadership can take a stand and make a difference not just in business but in personal life outcomes:

"It is clear that social community has declined over the past several years. With that decline comes both concern and opportunity. You ought to be concerned, because a lonely person in life is likely to be a lonely worker. And, as we've discovered, loneliness is a costly expense. However, on the glass-half-full front, you can create the conditions at work that allow a team member to feel part of something."

Pontefract connects important dots between life influence, personal experience, and business and team leadership challenges. The result is more multifaceted than most team-building business titles, offering solutions and observations that stem from acknowledging the interconnected opportunities and pitfalls that lie between individual members, leaders, and group efforts:

"Agency arrives through autonomy when people are permitted to ideate and act, bolstered by their ability to make informed, uncoerced decisions. That's why I've made it a life-factor. If we can apply agency in our lives - as we should - how do we use those same constructs of agency at work?"

Business libraries and readers that choose Work-Life Bloom: How to Nurture a Team That Flourishes should look at its bigger picture promise; for it offers not just another treatise on team-building, but revised approaches for interacting with and supporting people through life.

This earns the book not just high recommendation, but should propel it off library shelves and into the hands of readers and book clubs interested in vivid examples worthy of debate and discussion.

Goes On, Without the World's Understanding
Thomas Westerfield
Rattling Good Yarns Press
9781955826365, $15.95 Paper/$6.99 ebook

In addition to an exceptionally intriguing and creative title, Goes On, Without the World's Understanding draws the reader in with a powerful collection of short stories that probe humanity and experience of LGBTQ+ characters, primarily gay men. Each encourages understanding and deeper thinking.

If there's one thing that can be said about this collection as a precursor to imbibing, it's "expect the unexpected."

Take the first story, 'Thoughts,' for example. Here, profound and pointed observations embrace a "you are here" feel of a chaotic ambulance rescue attempt juxtaposed with underlying observations of a family's poverty and angst:

"You race to the door, then help push old, faded furniture out of the way so the ambulance people can get a stretcher inside the small living room that announces your family's poverty. A slender, dainty glass flower holder with three snow-white daisies - your mother's attempt towards beauty, a touch of pride - is knocked over on the cheap forest-green carpet, always rough and wiry under your bare feet.

Blood leaping. Jetting! Kind of like come when you jerk off.

Why am I thinking that?

You are shouting, directing them down a thin, tight hallway wallpapered with something that may have once been pretty, even delicate, if one took time to really look."

The bludgeoning reality of the narrator, who presents the police with the version of what happened to his parents, creates a staccato of contrasting thoughts and realities that concludes with a twisting surprise to keep readers not just engaged, but reflecting.

Contrast this with the first-person bark and bite of 'Obituaries,' where the narrator reads of a childhood bully's death as an adult and experiences raw memories of the violence and confrontations that marked his coming of age:

"Besides hitting me with solid striking blows up against my head, slapping me angrily and repeatedly across my face, slamming me up against brick walls, choking me, and spitting on me while contemptuously mocking me as "sissy," "faggot," and "queer," he once punched me in the balls with his full-force fist. I nearly vomited on the spot in the boys' locker room, where both he and I were naked. No, his dick was not some tiny piece, nor was it a huge wonder. It was average; in fact, pretty much the exact same size as mine. I don't know why, but in my teenage closeted homo mind this made the whole experience all the more shaming."

Within each vignette, the lives, fears, and confrontations of gay male youth and adults (and in the story 'Today's Agenda,' a Black lesbian) come to light and life in a manner that few other writings achieve. The end result of sending such experience into the wider world beyond LGBTQ readers is to impart a sense of experience, understanding, and realizations that invite dialogue and change on the part of the observer/reader.

From the experiences of 'The Boy in the Audience,' exploring the perceptions of a high school boy who has snuck into a theater to see "The Boys in the Band" as part of his self-education on homosexuality, to the explorations in 'Mr. Sissy in Sin City,' which presents an encounter between a newly-21-year-old and an older gay man, the reflections arrive with a voice of experience and growth that encourages conversation and thought:

"Playing the odds in a manner of speaking. It's still a matter of luck and chance. It always is," Mr. Sissy emphasized. He became curiously serious, wanting to ensure the young man grasped the essential point. "Always remember that whatever the game you play or how much you bet. You can play smart and strategic with a recognition of the odds. But, ultimately, it always, always, comes down to luck and chance."

Thomas Westerfield's journeys through shame, healing, and understanding create a powerful set of observations in Goes On, Without the World's Understanding. These ideally will not only be chosen by libraries interested in powerful literary short stories that capture the LGBTQ+ experience, but by book clubs interested in contemporary works that reveal the underlying culture, motivations, and experiences of this community.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

On The Rails: The Adventures of Boxcar Bertie
Rosemary and Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works
978990547242, $14.95 pbk $0.00 Kindle

"On The Rails: The Adventures of Boxcar Bertie" brings to life one woman's journey riding trains during the Depression of the 1930's. Bertie Patchet has just graduated from college with the hope of being a teacher but the year is 1936 and teaching positions are hard to come by. Her home life with her step father is not very good, so an opportunity presents itself for her to leave and begin somewhere else by traveling by rail to wherever she wants to go. The writing team of Rosemary and Larry Mild propel the novel along with remarkable characters, flawless writing, and many conflicts that move along to the final satisfying conclusion. "On The Rails: The Adventures of Boxcar Bertie" is an uplifting tale of a woman overcoming overwhelming odds.

Andrew's First Act
Sunshine Rodgers
Rwg Publishing
9798201607869, $22.00 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

"Andrew's First Act" reveals a world so many of us have know little about. Andrew is a struggling comic at night clubs who wants to climb the ladder to stardom. He works on his act but finds so many times the audience is not really paying attention. Andrew begins to have hope when he meets Sunnie Roden who wants to sign him as her client because she sees something in him. Through a series of conflicts and challenges Andrew struggles to even believe he has the talent to reach his goal. Andrew struggles through what it takes to establish yourself, in a very competitive profession, where so many bomb out that is a fast paced well written character driven story. "Andrew's First Act" is a page turning pleasurable read,

Trouble Walked In
Mike Kupari
Baen Books
9781982192815, $9.99 pbk, $6.99 Kindle

Science fiction conventions have discussions on a number of topics including, can authors combine genres. The answer is yes, and author Mike Kupari does it very well. Ezekiel "Easy" Novak is a detective in the mold of Sam Spade or Travis McGee for the mood that is set on an earth colony. A woman comes to hire Ezekiel to find her missing sister who stumbled upon something that is believe may have gotten her killed. As Ezekiel tracks clues of what happened to the woman he learns it's a lot more than a missing person case. "Trouble Walked In" is a roller coaster ride of satisfying twists and turns to the very end to please fans of both genres.

Wendy Whitman
Post Hill Press
9781637589441, $18.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

I expected "Retribution" from all that accompanied it to be a page turner of suspense. Instead it was a page turner back to previous ones to keep characters straight. I even tried to put it down and start fresh several times but could only get so far to have the same result. In the first chapter you have Cary, Cliff, Brandon, Hank, O'Malley, and Vito, in only a few pages. There are others but I think people get the idea. A writer has to capture the reader from the very first words and hold their interest. "Retribution" may have a different effect for other readers.

Out of This World Ideas and the Inventions They Inspired
Edward M. Wysocki, Jr.
Create Space
9781724654038, $17.99 pbk / $6.99 Kindle

Over the year's debates have taken place about where things we take for granted ever came from. "Out Of this World Ideas And the Inventions They Inspired" begins to settle the discussion by showing if and how science fiction influenced inventors to create many devices and things we use every day. Some of the revelations are did "Star Trek" play a role in the creation of the cell phone, GPS, and clear metal as brought out in Trek movie 4? Wysocki also reveals where and how the waterbed was created while he also shows authors of science fiction who were also scientists and what they contributed to the world besides their writing. Like his other two books Wysocki has a writing style that is clear to understand as if he is talking directly to the reader. "Out of This World Ideas and the Inventions They Inspired" is fascinating reading for all science friction fans proving with its impressive cover how important it is to catch a person's interest to want to enter the work in question Hopefully this will be a series that will delve further into other things and what helped them to be created.

Wild Ride: My Journey from Cancer Kid to Astronaut
Haley Arceneaux with Sandra Bark
Convergent Books
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593443880, $18.00 HC/ $10.99 Kindle

Haley Arceneaux is a remarkable woman who represents you can do anything you want in this life against tremendous odds. At an early age she and her family learned she had cancer. Through a set of circumstances she was able to go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. She had the support of her doctors, nurses, other patients, and family to overcome the disease. She excelled in college to then return to the center now as one of the research people. Later she was among many possible can dates to go on a very special mission to space for three days. She tells her remarkable story of how she was able to beat cancer, train for the experience of a lifetime and a lot more. She has a fantastic story to tell that is inspirational of if you dream it you can make it happen. Her mom and brother who now is a space engineer have been there every step of the way. One sad thing is her dad who was always proud of the accomplishment of both of his children died before he could share the joy of her space flight, Even so she conveys he would have been ecstatic at everything they both have done in their lives. "Wild Ride: My Journey from Cancer Kid to Astronaut" is uplifting for all of us to experience.

Rita Moreno A Little Golden Books Biography
Maria Correa, author
Maine Diaz, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593645147, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

Rita Moreno is 91 and still going strong as evidenced in the recent film "Go For Brady." Now "Rita Moreno A Little Golden Books Biography" takes us back to her original name, country she was born in, when she came to the United States, how she entered the entertainment business, that she was first Latina to win an Oscar, are some of the things to look of one of Americas most treasures who has been so for so many decades and generations. "Rita Moreno A Little Golden Books Biography" is a beautiful addition to the long-lasting series.

King Charles III: A Little Golden Book Biography
Jen Arena, author
Monique Dong, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593706435, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

The coronation of King Charles III took place in May in England but what do most of us know about the man who now reigns as king? "King Charles III: A Little Golden Book Biography" tells may interesting facts about the present monarch. The series of Little Golden Books have always been fun reads and "King Charles III: A Little Golden Book Biography" adds to that legacy with an easy to read well researched work for enjoyment for all ages.

Star Trek Prodigy: Escape Route
Cassandra Rose Clarke
Simon Spotlight
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
9781665921206, $6.99 pbk / No Kindle

"Star Trek Prodigy: Escape Route" has a few problems that detract enjoyment of the work. Unlike other Star Trek shows on the Paramount Plus network Prodigy is extra for episodes. The second aspect is that "Escape Route" is the third of a series assumes people know the show and the characters. I had a lot of problem with it because judging from the cover artwork I gather everyone in the novel are aliens. It's too bad paramount did not do a better job of presentation of this new Star Trek series.

The Little Mermaid
Hans Christian Anderson, author
Benjamin Lacombe, illustrator
c/o Abrams The Art of Books
9781419771996, $53.00 HC / $0.99 Kindle

We all know the story of "The Little Mermaid" from the Disney movies or reading the classic work a while ago. This Abrams edition has the original novel but a lot more with its stunning art as well as new pieces about Hans Christian Anderson that so many of us have never known. Some will object to much of the additional writings as they are controversial and may change people's opinions of Christian and his works as well. This Abrams adaptation is sure to have people talking about "The Little Mermaid" that has always been a perfect distraction from everyday life.

The Welcome Home
Amy June Bates
A Paula Wiseman Book
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
9781534492325, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

As you begin to read "The Welcome Home" you learn the meaning behind the title that is a wonderful experience for all ages. Mr. and Ms. Gargleson-Bittle feel there is something missing in their life. The have an ideal home but they empty. They decide to put out the word that others are invited to share their house that they also feel will make their lives more fulfilling. Who and what takes them up on their offer is the charm of this beautiful children's story. Filled with many delightful underlying messages "The Welcome Home" is a very entertaining work of storytelling.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

The Rhetoric of White Slavery and the Making of National Identity
Leslie J. Harris
Michigan State University Press
9781611864595, $49.95, PB, 266pp

Synopsis: At the turn of the twentieth century, the white slavery panic pervaded American politics, influencing the creation of the FBI, the enactment of immigration law, and the content of international treaties. At the core of this controversy was the maintenance of white national space.

"The Rhetoric of White Slavery and the Making of National Identity" by Professor Leslie Harris is comprehensive account of the Progressive Era's sex trafficking rhetoric. Professor Harris demonstrates the centrality of white womanhood, as a symbolic construct, to the structure of national space and belonging. Introducing the framework of the mobile imagination to read across different scales of the controversy (ranging from local to transnational) Professor Harris establishes how the imaginative possibilities of mobility within public controversy work to constitute belonging in national space.

Critique: A seminal work of ground-breaking and meticulous scholarship, "The Rhetoric of White Slavery and the Making of National Identity" is informatively enhanced for the reader by Professor Leslie Harris with the inclusion of a twenty page Bibliography, forty-eight pages of Notes, and an eleven page Index. Of special value and relevance to readers with an interest in rhetoric, women's history, and cultural anthropology, "The Rhetoric of White Slavery and the Making of National Identity" is a strongly recommended pick college and university library collections, as well as the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Editorial Note: Leslie J. Harris ( is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research focuses on rhetoric and public culture, especially at the intersections of gender, race, and class. She has received numerous awards, including a major grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, for her public humanities work on Voices of Gun Violence, a living archive of stories about gun violence in the Milwaukee area. Harris is a past president for the Organization for Research on Women and Communication and has served as an officer for the Rhetoric Society of America.

Self-Awareness and Meditation: An Advanced Guide for Meditators
Charles Attfield
Mantra Books
c/o Collective Ink Books
9781803412313, $25.95, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Charles Attfield posits that we are all on a journey from illusion to truth in "Self-Awareness and Meditation: An Advanced Guide for Meditators". In this study he examines and considers both the evolution of consciousness along this journey, and meditation as an integral part of it.

A point comes when there is an awakening to the possibility that there is more than the consensus reality, which we have been part of for eons. We know that there is something more - and so our search begins. Eventually, with meditation, our focus moves within as we search for the Self - our true nature - which, until now, has been hidden in illusion, waiting for our awakening and eventual, joyful return.

"Self-Awareness and Meditation" focuses on the return journey back to the Self. True meditation is a state of awareness which comes naturally as we increasingly align with our soul. We realise that we are not the doer, and then comes a different perspective about allowing our false reality to fall away, and we discover that consciousness, not the ego, has been running the show all the time.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and impressively reader friendly in organization and presentation, as well as of particular relevance and value to readers with an interest in meditation, eastern philosophy, and metaphysics, "Self-Awareness and Meditation: An Advanced Guide for Meditators" is particularly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Mind/Body/Spirit self-awareness collections and supplemental Meditation curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Charles Attfield ( was a high school teacher for most of his career. Originally from the UK, he moved to Australia in 1986. His interest in meditation and eastern philosophy grew rapidly after his later visits to India. In addition to teaching qualifications, Charles has qualifications in esoteric psychology, astrology and counselling.

Children's Unexplained Experiences in a Post Materialist World
Donna Maria Thomas
c/o Collective Ink Books
9781803410845, $19.95, PB, 248pp

Synopsis: Historically, children's inexplicable experiences, ranging from telepathy and conversing with deceased relatives, to out-of-body or near-death experiences and more, have been theorized through traditional scientific lenses that may not have the explanatory power to account for such experiences.

With the publication of "Children's Unexplained Experiences in a Post Materialist World: What Children Can Teach Us about the Mystery of Being Human", Donna Thomas shares research that she and other scholars, past and present, have conducted with children and young people across the world. By placing children's unexplained experiences and views about reality in the contexts of culture, consciousness and the nature of self, this study offers a middle way for explaining these childhood experiences within post-materialist science and philosophy.

Thomas suggests that children's experiences could greatly contribute to a new paradigm for understanding the mystery of being human and the nature of reality.

Critique: A fascinating and seminal study, "Children's Unexplained Experiences in a Post Materialist World: What Children Can Teach Us about the Mystery of Being Human" will have a very special appeal and value for readers with an interest in Near-Death and Out-of-Body experiences. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "Children's Unexplained Experiences in a Post Materialist World: What Children Can Teach Us about the Mystery of Being Human" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Mind/Body/Spirit collections and supplemental Extrasensory Experience curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Donna Maria Thomas ( has researched with children for 18 years and has a special interest in the nature of self and anomalous experiences in childhood.

Solo Passage: 13 Quests, 13 Questions
Glenda Goodrich
She Writes Press
9781647425517, $17.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: "Solo Passage: 13 Quests, 13 Questions" is the story of how, in her search to find healing and meaning in midlife, Glenda Goodrich undertook a series of wilderness quests into the back country of Oregon, Washington, and California seeking to discover what the natural world had to teach her about life, death, happiness, spirituality, and forgiveness.

"Solo Passage: 13 Quests, 13 Questions" deftly chronicles the sacred ceremonies that connected Goodrich to the land, wove her into nature's web, and transformed her from a woman who worked to please others into a woman who forged her own path. This is a brilliant collection of adventures (the touch of coyote fur, a snake's kiss, a ceremonial blood offering) and a profound reflection on the healing and restorative power of nature.

Critique: An extraordinary blend of memoir, mid-life management, instructional guide to achieve a state of mental well-being and happiness, "Solo Passage: 13 Quests, 13 Questions" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement and Nature Appreciation collections. It should be noted for individual reading lists that "Solo Passage: 13 Quests, 13 Questions" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: As an artist, art doula, SoulCollage(R) facilitator, writer, and convener of ceremony, Glenda Goodrich ( brings together earth-based rituals, community gatherings, and creative expression in a search for new ways to show love for the Earth.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

The Inclusive Leader
Dr. Artika R. Tyner
American Bar Association
9781641058650, $34.95, PB, 122pp

Synopsis: What is inclusive leadership? How can you take practical steps to pursue justice and equity in your practice and in organizations in which you have a leadership role?

With the publication of "The Inclusive Leader: Taking Intentional Action for Justice and Equity", Dr. Artika Tyner provides a pathway for leaders and political activists to effect change through reflecting on and grappling with unconscious and implicit biases, encouraging honest discussions, and taking action to change organizational behavior for the better.

"The Inclusive Leader" also provides a practical framework for building the essential leadership competencies rooted in the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Competence in these areas manifests in healthy workplace relations, peak optimized performance, positive morale, and the betterment of society.

Dr. Tyner's 'Leadership Framework for Action' provides four stages of learning: Intrapersonal (engaging in self-discovery); Interpersonal (building an authentic relationship with others); Organizational (establishing strategic outcomes and promoting equity); Societal (developing sustainable, durable solutions).

As you embark on a learning journey within each of these stages, you are making a commitment to serve as a leader who will make a difference in the world. "The Inclusive Leader" will give you the tools to re-imagine yourself as an innovator, builder, and change agent.

Critique: A succinct instructional guide on acquiring and honing leadership skills in any field of endeavor, "The Inclusive Leader: Taking Intentional Action for Justice and Equity" will have a very special appeal and value to readers with an interest in the practice of law, motivational leadership, and DIY transformative self-help/self-improvement. While especially and unreservedly recommended for professional, community, corporate, governmental, college, and university library collections, "The Inclusive Leader" is an ideal acquisition for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Editorial Note: Dr. Artika R. Tyner ( is a passionate educator, author, sought after speaker, and advocate for justice. At the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Dr. Tyner serves as law faculty and founding director of the Center on Race, Leadership and Social Justice. She is committed to training students to serve as social engineers who create new inroads to justice and freedom.

Dog Lessons: Learning the Important Stuff from Our Best Friends
Hersch Wilson
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608688876, $23.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: "When in doubt, walk your dog" is the first of many valuable maxims in "Dog Lessons: Learning the Important Stuff from Our Best Friends", a heartfelt series of reflections by Hersch Wilson on what dogs can teach us when we open ourselves to listen and learn.

After sixty-plus years living and working with dogs, with the publication of "Dog Lessons" Wilson shares self-deprecating stories and lighthearted musings on a life filled with fur-covered furniture, unexplained messes, and destroyed property. The resulting compendium of dog wisdom (from universal values like loyalty and curiosity to practical lessons on napping, playing, and avoiding a serious fight) is not only poignant but eminently good advice.

Critique: Of special appeal, value and interest to readers with a canine companion of their own, "Dog Lessons: Learning the Important Stuff from Our Best Friends" is a heartwarming, insightful, inspired and inspiring series of meditations on the powerful presence of dogs in our lives and the transformative lessons they can teach us about love, loyalty, grief, and more! While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "Dog Lessons" is especially recommended for dog care, pet care, and canine supported human self-help/self-improvement collections.

Editorial Note: Hersch Wilson ( is an organizational consultant, pilot, former professional dancer, newspaper columnist, and volunteer firefighter. He lives with his wife, Laurie; two daughters; and two dogs, a Great Pyrenees and a Chihuahua-terrier mix.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Great White Bard
Farah Karim-Cooper
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780593489376, $32.00, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: Professor Farah Karim-Cooper has dedicated her career to the Bard, which is why she wants to take the playwright down from his pedestal to unveil a Shakespeare for the twenty-first century. If we persist in reading Shakespeare as representative of only one group, as the very pinnacle of the white Western canon, then he will truly be in peril.

Combining piercing analysis of race, gender and otherness in famous plays from Antony and Cleopatra to The Tempest with a radical reappraisal of Elizabethan London, with the publication of "The Great White Bard: How to Love Shakespeare While Talking About Race" Professor Karim-Cooper asks us neither to idealize nor bury Shakespeare but instead to look him in the eye and reckon with the discomforts of his plays, playhouses and society.

"The Great White Bard" offers inviting new perspectives and interpretations so that we may continue to prolong and enrich his extraordinary literary and cultural legacy.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a twenty-four page Bibliography and Further Reading, eight pages of Notes, a two page List of Text Illustrations, a four page listing of Acknowledgments, and a nine page Index, "The Great White Bard: How to Love Shakespeare While Talking About Race" is an exceptional work of seminal work of meticulous scholarship that is uniformly well written, impressively organized, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation. While especially and unreservedly recommended as a unique addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Shakespeare and Ethnic Studies collections and supplemental Shakespeare curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Great White Bard" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Farah Karim-Cooper ( is a Director of Education at Shakespeare's Globe and a professor of literature and Shakespeare studies at King's College London; she was president of the Shakespeare Association of America from 2021 to 2022 after serving three years on the board of trustees. The holder of an Oxford University TORCH Humanities Cultural Programme Fellowship, she was a visiting fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, from 2022 to 2023. She curated the Globe Theatre's Shakespeare and Race festivals and its Anti-Racist Shakespeare webinar series. She is a general co-editor of the Folger Shakespeare Editions and the author of works on Shakespeare including Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama, The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage, and most recently Titus Andronicus: The State of Play.

The Just Kitchen
Derrick Weston, author
Anna Woofenden, author
Broadleaf Books
510 Marquette Avenue N, Minneapolis, MN 55402
9781506484112, $29.99, HC, 219pp

Synopsis: For food and faith writers and podcasters Derrick Weston and Anna Woofenden, "The Just Kitchen: Invitations to Sustainability, Cooking, Connection, and Celebration" is about a passion for food, sharing meals, showing hospitality, and understanding cultures, faith traditions, food histories, and local foodways.

Their authentic podcast conversations spill over the pages of this book and explore how the kitchen can be a place where the things we care about most in the world are reflected in the foods we prepare and the way we prepare them. In a world where disconnection from the earth, our food, our faith, and each other is becoming the norm, and in the pages of "The Just Kitchen", both Weston and Woofenden effectively collaborate to bring together voices of hope who are working for a world of organic reconnections. They invite us to dig deeply into the complexity of ecology and food systems, as well as how faith communities are connected to them.

"The Just Kitchen" is an invitation to reprioritize the kitchen as a space for healing, community, activism, and celebration. Be inspired to see the sacred in the daily mundane, forge connection with the people and earth around you, and join the call of a just kitchen.

Critique: As the title suggests, the entire focus of "The Just Kitchen: Invitations to Sustainability, Cooking, Connection, and Celebration" is on the kitchen as a place of family history, interaction, preparation, transformation, reflection, healing, community, celebration, and hope. Every home has one and "The Just Kitchen" will help families to freshly appreciate its importance to the mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health of each and every family member. This edition of "The Just Kitchen: Invitations to Sustainability, Cooking, Connection, and Celebration" is a compilation of informative, fascinating, and thought provoking gastronomic essays and will have particular interest to readers concerned with sustainable living and home improvement. While a unique, original, and recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Just Kitchen: Invitations to Sustainability, Cooking, Connection, and Celebration" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99).

Editorial Note #1: Derrick Weston ( is an engaged community organizer in Baltimore, Maryland. He manages the Rockrose City Farm on Baltimore's east side, growing food for ministries that distribute to those who are food insecure. A documentary filmmaker, producer, and former Presbyterian minister, Derrick is a firm believer in using one's voice and the media to inspire and enact social change. He is co-host and producer of The Food and Faith Podcast along with coauthor Anna Woofenden and Rev. Sam Chamelin.

Editorial Note #2: Anna Woofenden ( is the founding pastor of both The Garden Church and Feed and Be Fed Farm in San Pedro, California. As a leading voice in the food and faith movement, she is the founder and cohost of The Food and Faith Podcast and author of This Is God's Table: Finding Church beyond the Walls. She is passionate about spirituality, justice, food, the earth, beauty, compassion, and community.

Midnight Calling: A Memoir of a Drug Smuggler's Daughter
Lynn Walker
MZW Publishing
9781737895503, $39.99, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: Lynn was the happy-go-lucky daughter of a Miami undercover narcotics agent -- until her dad snuck out of their house in the dark of night without so much as a glance back. She never understood what happened to him until she was in high school, and he was in prison for drug smuggling.

By then, Lynn was filling the emptiness he'd left in her life with a massive drug and alcohol habit of her own. It was the perfect setup for her to latch onto the only connection to her dad that remained once he was paroled from prison-cocaine. After a few years of abusing coke together, Lynn lost everything and everyone she ever cared about and was forced to choose between her father and her life.

Critique: A true story about family bonds, addiction and the price of holding on when it's time to let go, "Midnight Calling: A Memoir of a Drug Smuggler's Daughter" is a candid, engaging, fascinating, and deftly written memoir that reads with all the drama of a novel. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections, "Midnight Calling" will have a special value for readers with an interest in substance abuse and dysfunctional families. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Midnight Calling" is also available in a paperback edition (9781737895503, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Lynn Walker ( worked for many years with at-risk high school students whose parents were drug addicts and alcoholics. She lives with her husband and two mostly-grown children.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

The People of the Northern Highlands and Isles, 1800-1850
David Dobson
Clearfield Company
c/o Genealogical Publishing Company
3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 260, Baltimore, MD 21211
9780806359328, $26.50, PB, 184pp

Synopsis: The early 19th century in Scotland marked the time of the notorious Highland Clearances, when landowners evicted their tenants to establish large sheep farms that were more profitable than collecting rent.

The Clearances ushered in an era of dislocation, urban migration, and on occasion, famine and civil disobedience. Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk, alleviated the problem by organizing emigration from the area to the Canadian Maritimes and the Red River in what now is Manitoba.

By the same token, the Hudson Bay Company was an important recruiter of workers (mainly from Orkney but also from Shetland and Caithness) most of whom were employed around Hudson Bay. On the other hand, as early as 1792 the ringleaders of a group resisting the growth of sheep herding were tried and sentenced to transportation to the colonies.

"The People of the Northern Highlands and Isles, 1800-1850" by David Dobson contains references to people in the Northern Highlands of Scotland and the Northern Isles, at home and abroad, between 1800 and 1850. The counties concerned in the Northern Highlands are Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness; and in the Northern Isles, the counties of Orkney and Shetland -- locations figuring largely in the Highland Clearances.

The persons named were derived from primary sources such as court records, contemporary newspapers and journals, monumental inscriptions, and documents located in archives in the United Kingdom. On the whole, the entries bring together emigrants; their destinations, especially in North America and Australasia; and their kin who remained in Scotland.

Critique: An invaluable and informative resource and history for readers with an interest in the history and genealogy of 19th Century Scotland, "The People of the Northern Highlands and Isles, 1800-1850" is especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Scottish History, Immigration, and Genealogy collections.

Editorial Note: David Dobson ( is a recognized authority on the Scottish origins of American colonists. His list of publications exceeds 100 books. Many focus on connections between Scots who went abroad and their motherland.

Limited Force and the Fight for the Just War Tradition
Christian Nickolaus Braun
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781647123451, $134.95, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: One of the most contentious developments in contemporary international relations has been the increased use of limited force. On the one hand, insofar as it signals greater constraint, the shift away from the mechanized slaughter of large-scale warfare toward more calibrated applications of force may be hailed as a step in the right direction. On the other, because uses of limited force appear more compartmentalized and therefore containable, it may encourage states' more frequent recourse to arms. How, then, are we to make moral sense of this shift toward the small-scale use of force? When are these operations morally justifiable?

With the publication of "Limited Force and the Fight for the Just War Tradition", Christian Nikolaus Braun offers a moral compass for just war theorists and extends the limited scholarship on jus ad vim (the just use of limited force). Based on a historical approach to just war and case studies, this detailed study provides practical arguments on the question of how the practice of targeted killing and punitive airstrikes should be regulated in order to be morally defensible.

Drawing from a historical reading of the just war thought of Thomas Aquinas, also Braun demonstrates how classical just war thinking not only helps us grapple with the moral questions of limited force but can also make an important third-way contribution to a field of study that has been engaged in a metaphorical fight about the just war tradition.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Limited Force and the Fight for the Just War Tradition" is an impressively timely contribution to our ongoing national discussion with respect to America's use of limited and targeted military force in several theaters of war currently engaged in around the world. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781647123444, $44.95), "Limited Force and the Fight for the Just War Tradition" is strongly commended as a core addition to personal, professional, community, governmental, college, and university library Contemporary Military & Public Policy collections and supplemental "Human Right/Military Policy curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Christian Nikolaus Braun ( is a lecturer in the Defense Studies Department at King's College London. He was formerly a Radboud Excellence Initiative Fellow at Radboud University. His work has been published in leading academic journals, including Ethics & International Affairs, Global Studies Quarterly, International Relations, and International Theory.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Crowds in American Culture, Society and Politics
Arthur Asa Berger
Anthem Press
244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016
9781839988608, $24.95, PB, 96pp

Synopsis: "Crowds in American Culture, Society and Politics: A Psychosocial Semiotic Analysis" by Professor Emeritus Arthur Berger builds on Le Bon's classic, The Crowd, to evaluate the role of crowds in American culture, society, and politics. Professor Berger offers a detailed description of Le Bon's book along with material on Freud's book on group psychology, crowds and cults, the semiotics of crowds, American national character and crowds, the 1/6 attack on the Capitol, and crowds and COVID-19.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Crowds in American Culture, Society and Politics: A Psychosocial Semiotic Analysis" will have a very special and highly valued appeal to readers with an interest LeBron's arguments and their relevance for understanding the impact such dramatic events have upon group psychology and response such as an attempt to overthrow the American government by force and a lethal global pandemic. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.70), "Crowds in American Culture, Society and Politics: A Psychosocial Semiotic Analysis" is a highly recommended pick for personal, professional, governmental, college, and university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Arthur Asa Berger ( is Professor Emeritus of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts at San Francisco State University.

Passport Stamps
Sean Carberry
Madville Publishing
9781956440553, $22.95, PB, 352pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Passport Stamps: Searching the World for a War to Call Home", author Sean Carberry presents a candid, darkly comic, and emotionally naked tale of a former NPR journalist who-driven by grief, loss, and the desire to find his "tribe"-seeks solace in the world's most dangerous places and his pursuit to join the ranks of combat-tested war correspondents.

The learning curve for reporting in hostile environments is steep and at times comical, at others nearly fatal. Sean encountered a lot of dust, ragged infrastructure, weaponry, scary driving, whiskey, lust, and way too much food poisoning. When the assignment ended, he is left to confront the mental and emotional impact of the years of danger, death, and destruction.

Critique: Of immense value to readers with an interest in contemporary battlefield journalism, "Passport Stamps: Searching the World for a War to Call Home" is as inherently fascinating as it is impressively informative. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Passport Stamps" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, community, and academic library Journalism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for journalism students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Passport Stamps" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

Editorial Note: Sean Carberry ( is an award-winning journalist, writer, and editor. In his more than 15 years as a radio and print journalist, he has traveled to dozens of countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. He was NPR's last Kabul-based correspondent in 2012 through 2014. After that, he spent several years working for the Defense Department Office of Inspector General, writing and editing oversight reports on counterterrorism operations, before returning to journalism. In a previous life, he was a Gold Record-winning recording engineer and producer. He has a B.A. from Lehigh University and an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School. He lives with his cat Squeak who he rescued from the streets of Kabul.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Battlefield Cyber
Michael G. McLaughlin, author
William J. Holstein, author
Prometheus Books
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781633889019, $29/95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: The United States is being bombarded with cyber-attacks. From the surge in ransomware groups targeting critical infrastructure to nation states compromising the software supply chain and corporate email servers, malicious cyber activities have reached an all-time high.

Russia attracts the most attention, but China is vastly more sophisticated. They have a common interest in exploiting the openness of the Internet and social media (and our democracy) to erode confidence in our institutions and to exacerbate our societal rifts to prevent us from mounting an effective response. Halting this digital aggression will require Americans to undertake sweeping changes in how we educate, organize and protect ourselves and to ask difficult questions about how vulnerable our largest technology giants are.

If we are waiting for a "Cyber 9/11" or a "Cyber Pearl Harbor", we are misunderstanding how our adversaries wage cyber warfare. An especially timely and critically important study, "Battlefield Cyber: How China and Russia are Undermining Our Democracy and National Security" analyzes the threat of cyber warfare with the depth and knowledge brought to the subject by the coauthors Michael G. McLaughlin and William J. Holstein.

It has now become a cliche to argue that a "whole of government" or "whole of society" response is necessary to respond to this crisis, but that concept has never been more important. It will take many years and billions of dollars to even begin to secure our IT systems and prevent the slow rot that is destroying America and its cybernet structures. Using language that the layman can understand, "Battlefield Cyber" will educate Americans about what has happened and inspire them to seek solutions.

Critique: Incredibly timely and critically important, "Battlefield Cyber: How China and Russia are Undermining Our Democracy and National Security" is essential reading for cyber security professionals, academicians, governmental authorities (including state and federal legislators, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99), "Battlefield Cyber: How China and Russia are Undermining Our Democracy and National Security" is an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to corporate, governmental, community, college, and university library Cybernetics & Political Intelligence collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Michael G. McLaughlin is the former Senior Counterintelligence Advisor for United States Cyber Command, where he was responsible for the coordination of all Department of Defense counterintelligence operations in cyberspace. He was at the heart of the Pentagon's efforts, for example, to prevent Russia from using cyberattacks to disrupt Ukraine's economy. In this role, he was also in charge of overseeing counterintelligence support to every U.S. military offensive and defensive cyberspace operation worldwide. He is now a cybersecurity attorney in Washington, D.C. and currently serves as a Research Affiliate at the Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS), where he leads a team in evaluating Department of Defense policies and federal regulations to enable the integration of government and private sector cyberspace capabilities to provide for national defense

Editorial Note #2: Bill Holstein was based in Hong Kong and Beijing for United Press International and has been following U.S.-China relations for more than 40 years. He also has specialized in covering technology since joining U.S. News & World Report in 1996. He has worked for or written for Business Week, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Fortune and other top publications.

Knights of the Corporate Round Table: The Success of Story of TCDI
Mary Walsh
Regent Press
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587906589, $29.95, HC, 125pp

Synopsis: How does a company with less than 200 employees have a Fortune 100 Companies status? By being different from the rest of the pack.

TCDI is an award-winning legal software company headquartered in Greensboro, NC, and has been entrusted to serve as the partner and service provider for some of the largest companies, law firms, and litigation dockets in the United States.

With a round organization chart, instead of a pyramid, the savvy staff at TCDI have more opportunity for collaboration and success. Micromanaging doesn't exist and employees have the latitude to thrive and grow.

The company started in humble beginnings with four employees in 1988 and soon brought on a billion-dollar international law firm as a client. CEO Bill Johnson goes above and beyond for his employees by not only offering a competitive salary and unlimited time off, but encourages annual chili cook-offs and openly celebrates staff birthdays and baby showers. He has been known to give away NCAA Final Four tickets and open his home up to employees. That generosity and philanthropy trickles down in the company.

In 2020, TCDI donated $100,000 across dozens of nationwide charities and staff helped build homes for underprivileged families in the Greensboro area. TCDI's Military Spouse Managed Review program, the first of its kind, provides career opportunities for military spouses who are lawyers, giving them job security as they relocate with their husbands and wives. For over three decades, TCDI has quietly nurtured deep, lasting relationships with corporations involved in large, complex matters, in sectors that include Pharmaceuticals, Tobacco, Insurance, Manufacturing, Healthcare and Banking.

Also, TCDI developed and managed the litigation management system used by all parties on the World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation. The industry is noticing. TCDI and Bill Johnson have won the following awards: a. Lifetime Achievement Award at Legalweek Leaders in Tech Law Awards b. Best Places to Work.

The subjects addressed with the publication of "Knights of the Corporate Round Table include: Company Business Profiles; Workplace Culture; Leadership and Motivation; Business Management; Entrepreneurship; Customer Relations; Company Histories; Business Leadership; Legal Software; eDiscovery; Workplace Behavior; Litigation Management

Critique: The extraordinary story of an extraordinary company, this large format (11" x 8.5"), illustrated, hardcover, coffee-table style edition of "Knights of the Corporate Round Table" by Mary Walsh is as informative, thought-provoking, and inspiring. Unique, original, and inherently interesting, "Knights of the Corporate Round Table" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, corporate, college, and university library Business Management collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, business managers, and corporate executives that "Knights of the Corporate Round Table' is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Mary Walsh ( published her first book, Catch a Break, in 2012 when she got into a fender bender and humorous things started to happen. She wove those incidents into the rom-com and her love for writing novels was born. A few non-fiction pieces followed: Life Lessons for My Kids, Stable of Studs, and You Deserve Better. Her short story crime thriller, Dragon Slayer, won Honorable Mention in a literary contest soon after. She can be followed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok @marywalshwrites

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Salem's Cipher (A Salem's Cipher Thriller Book 1)
Jess Lourey
Toadhouse Books, LLC
B081NV6NB4 $4.99, 482 pages

Salem's Cipher is a mystery/thriller with historical links. For readers who like a historical backstory to a tale, this story is a good read. Many contemporary stories push everything aside to give the story nonstop action. This story follows the current trend and the pacing and narration suffers with the heavy focus on action. The historical details are interesting and fun but suffer when compared to the action and intensity of the rest of the story.

Salem Wiley, an agoraphobic and cryptanalyst, is thrust into a mystery when her mother is kidnapped by a hired killer into solving a mystery stretching across the history of the United States, from the Salem Witch Trials to the Beale Cypher with a stop at the writings of Emile Dickinson. She is forced into crisscrossing the states searching from clues while being followed by killers and the police.

For historical mystery readers, Salem's Cipher is an easy recommendation. For thriller readers the story falls a bit short. The intense and deadly contemporary action doesn't match well with the historical crypto mystery. The pacing of the action is also off. The narration pace feels forced. In summary, Salem's Cipher is an average recommendation when balanced with its drawbacks.

Tomb of the First Priest: A Lost Origins Novel
A.D. Davies
Crater of the North Publishing
9781913239756 $22.99
B088RJTQJF ebook price: $4.99, 518 pages

Freelance treasure hunter Jules finally locates the bangle stolen from his dying mother years earlier. When he tries to steal it back, he finds out two different groups are also trying to obtain it and its pair. The two bangles together are claimed to be needed to find the Tomb of the First Priest. One group is an independent unconventional group of archeologists looking for the unusual. The other group is financed by a multibillionaire who is looking for immortality. The billionaire's money pays off and he steals the bangle before Jules can obtain it.

Jules joins forces with the archeologists and starts an exploration ranging from the British Museum to Mongolia to India all in the search for Jules' bangle and the miraculous location of the Tomb of the First Priest. The billionaire has enough money to hire an unlimited number of mercenaries and is willing to kill anyone in his quest for immorality. Jules is both a pawn between the two groups and his own participant in the search.

Tomb of the First Priest is a pure action thriller with a facade of a historical backstory. The story breaks no new ground in this subgenre. Tomb is recommended for fans of this genre. New readers in this niche should probably try a book by Cussler, Rollins or Dempsey before this.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Hattie's War
Peter Serko
Sageland Press
9798218129514, PB, $12.99, 241pp
9798218129521, Kindle, $8.99

Hattie Howell, a 14-year-old girl in 1878, is determined to follow her dreams of becoming an artist like her father. Despite the challenges of living in a time when women had few options

Hattie's haunted by her father's death at the Battle of Gettysburg, and her quest for answers leads her to self-discovery. What will the past reveal as she sets out to learn all she can about his death?

Along the way, Hattie must confront the debilitating depression that runs in her family and the fear of being sent to an insane asylum. Despite these obstacles, she refuses to abandon her dreams and embraces her unconventional nature.

Hattie's War takes you on a fascinating journey as Hattie defies the odds and fights for what she believes in, all while navigating the challenges of her time.

Peter Serko has ingeniously weaved his great-great-grandmother's own story. This book perfectly blends personal history and fiction that will keep you hooked from start to finish. Through meticulous research and attention to historical detail, Serko has brought Hattie's world to life, making the reader feel like they are alongside her. This book is a must-read for anyone who loves a good story of ambition, rebellion, and the power of perseverance.

Limp Forward: A Memoir of Disability, Perseverance, and Success
Libo Meyers
9781544528533, Hardcover, $26.64
9781544528526, Paperback, $14.99
9781544528519, Kindle, $1.49
9781544542973 Audiobook, $TBA

Libo Cao Meyers has come a long way from being a little girl with polio in a village in China. Her journey has been a testament to her determination, growth, and love.

Despite facing numerous challenges, Libo has embraced her differences and refused to let anyone set limitations on her accomplishments. She refused to let her physical limitations hold her back and worked tirelessly to become a successful tech executive at Apple.

Limp Forward Team is one of perseverance, resilience, and inspiration. She has faced numerous challenges, from navigating a new country and culture to overcoming workplace discrimination. However, she has always approached these obstacles with grace and determination, refusing to let anyone set limitations on her accomplishments.

Libo Meyers shares her journey, filled with struggles and triumphs, to inspire and remind readers of their worth and potential. Through her powerful storytelling, Libo offers insight and guidance that can be applied to anyone's journey, no matter how unique. Limp Forward is a must-read for those seeking strength and motivation to overcome challenges and reach their full potential.

Just Do Nothing: A Paradoxical Guide to Getting Out of Your Way
Joanna Hardis
Finn Phyllis Press
9798987361252 (paperback), $14.95, 238pp
9798987361269 (Kindle), $9.99

Stress has become a part of our daily lives in today's fast-paced world. However, instead of fighting it, the book encourages you to embrace it and use it as a tool to thrive in today's fast-paced world.

The research this author has done to be able to live a stress-free life is very admirable. Each chapter makes the reader stop, reflect, and feel overwhelmed. Be warned that you will be turning down the pages of many mental fitness skill suggests that concludes each chapter.

The whole concept of the book revolves around how she beat the stress demons threatening to destroy her own life. This book successfully incorporates witty humor, life antidote, and real-life examples that make this book enjoyable and one that can be incorporated into anyone's lifestyle. To think the author may not have written would have been an injustice to the world.

Just Do Nothing: A Paradoxical Guide to Getting Out of Your Way is a must-read book for anyone seeking to overcome the feeling of having to be Wonder Woman to everyone. This book will help you discover how to get out of your way and allow things to unfold naturally.

Zaki's Missing Stripes
Vince Tylutki, author
Sanghamitra Dasgupta, illusrator
Publisher TBD
ISBN: TBD, $TBA Kindle, 42pp
Publishing Date: TBD

Meet Zaki the Zebra, a unique and special zebra who discovered that his stripes were missing. Confused and saddened, Zaki tripped and fell into mud on his way to his uncle's house. He knew he couldn't visit his uncle dirty, so he returned home to clean up.

While bathing, Zaki's mother made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. However, the sun melted his sandwich on the way to his uncle's house, getting him dirty again. Zaki felt upset that without his stripes, he looked dirty and unappealing.

Zaki's mother reminded him that not having stripes made him unique and special. Zaki realized that being different is something to celebrate and embrace. Finally, he arrived at his uncle's house and helped him paint.

Zaki's Missing Stripes is a reminder that we should celebrate our differences and embrace our uniqueness. Just like Zaki, we should be proud of who we are and never let anyone make us feel different.

Vince Tylutki's book is a must-read for anyone who wants to discover the power of being different. Filled with beautiful illustrations, this book is a visual treat that will capture the imagination of readers young and old. It tells the story of a character who learns that being unique and standing out can lead to amazing adventures and experiences.

Zadie and the Witch's Tea
Gayle C. Krause, author
Kate Talbot, illustrator
Trowbridge Books, LLC
9780991190478, $9.99, PB, 30pp
9780991190461, $16.99, HC

Halloween is the season of magic and wonder, where witches and wizards come out to play and cast spells to their heart's content. But what happens when a little girl, without any witchy magic, wants to join in on the fun? That's the dilemma Little Zadie faces in our heartwarming story.

Despite being told by her sisters that she cannot attend the biggest Halloween event, Little Zadie refuses to give up hope. And with the help of a surprising Fairy Hairy Godspider enchantment, she becomes a special guest at the event. But once there, she finds herself competing against the adult witches who are trying to become the assistant to the most powerful witch in the land.

Despite being outmatched in terms of magical abilities, Little Zadie's determination and kind heart win the night and the coveted title. Her sisters, who once doubted her, learn that kindness is the strongest magic of all.

Zadie and the Witch's Tea story will inspire you to believe in yourself and the power of kindness. After all, as she has proven, you don't need magic to make a difference!

Gayle C. Krause has left this book reviewer spellbound! With Halloween just around the corner, her book is a perfect addition to any readers collection. I predict this book is about to set the literary world on fire!

The Map Colorist
Rebecca D'Harlingue
She Writes Press
9781647425470, $17.95 PB, 308pp
9781647425487, $9.49 Kindle

Step into the world of cartography and witness the story of Anneke van Brug, a revolutionary colorist in the 1660s who dared to dream of creating her maps.

Despite the male-dominated industry, Anneke's artistic talent and passion for maps led her to secretly design her map using her father's notes from his trip to Africa. Her goal? To be included in the Atlas Maior, the most prestigious publication of the century.

As she works to turn her dream into a reality, will family secrets, infidelity, and murder threaten to derail her goal? Will Anneke's map withstand the test of time, or will it be lost forever?

The Map Colorist is a mesmerizing experience that will take you on a colorful adventure of discovering the vibrant world of maps brought to life by a renowned cartographer.

Rebecca D'Harlingue has done a magnificent job in writing this book. With each page you turn, be transported to a world of wonder and amazement, where history, art, and science merge into an irresistible blend of knowledge and beauty.

Mouse in the Box
Lewis Allen
Stretched Studio LLC
9798988241003, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 387pp

Milwaukee is at a tipping point, and criminal defense attorney Mason Mitchell is at the center. With violent crime skyrocketing, his business has never been better.

Mason has his hands full defending drug dealers, gangbangers, and killers. But when two new cases challenge his faith in the system, he's forced to confront the reality of corruption and crime zone tension in the city.

With bad cops and a broken system stacked against him, Mason must fight harder than ever for justice to prevail. Will he keep his head above water in this volatile cocktail of violence and injustice? The stakes have never been higher for Mitchell's Law.

Mouse in the Box overflows with gritty characters that will take you on a thrilling rollercoaster ride through the crime-ridden streets of Milwaukee. From start to finish, each scene will leave you on the edge of your seat, breathless and begging for more.

Lewis Allen has made a solid impact on the literary world. This book is a masterpiece of wordsmith wizardry that will transport you to another world. With this book, he has proven he is no amateur in a fierce competitive literary world. This book is destined to win many significant awards.

Loves and Entanglements
Lewis Bogaty
One Marble Publishing
ISBN: TBD; $16.99 PB; $9.99 HC, 207pp

Are you ready to embark on a journey through time and explore the evolution of technology over the past fifty years? Then your search is over, for this book is a collection of thirteen entertaining stories that will take you back in time and make you feel like you're living in the past.

From extension telephones to the latest iPhone, you'll experience the entire spectrum of technological advancements that have shaped our world. As you learn about forgotten technologies like ditto machines and restaurant smoking sections, get ready to be amazed. This book will give you a deeper appreciation of how far we've come and how much more we can achieve.

Loves and Entanglements is an entertaining collection of stories that will open your mind to how far we've come in fifty years. Each tale features something many readers may have yet to be aware of or even knew existed.

Lewis Bogaty will take you on a journey through time and memory lane. He reminds us of the changes that have taken place in the world and the nostalgia that comes with reminiscing about days done by. He has truly outdone himself with his vivid storytelling and impeccable attention to detail.

The Monsters of Marymount Mansion
Gregory G. Allen
ASD Media & Entertainment
9780996102940, $9.99, PB, 42pp

Get ready for an unforgettable journey with Toby, a unique and lovable monster tired of hiding in the basement of Marymount Mansion. Halloween is the only time of year that he can safely roam free in the world.

Toby decides to embark on a daring quest to escape his underground life and discover a world beyond his confined existence. With furry green skin and a scent like cotton candy, Toby is not your ordinary monster.

The Monsters of Marymount Mansion would be the perfect addition to any children's library. Its message is essential for all children to learn and embrace.

Author Gregory G. Allen has written an excellent life lesson children's book that delivers essential messages of diversity and inclusion. The characters are so well-developed that they will quickly warm your heart. This captivating book will soon become a favorite among children and adults.

The Strength of the Illusion
Jared Moore
Ergal Press
9798987706107, HC, $29.00, 300pp
9798987706114, $15.00 Kindle

Ty, a talented coder at startup Opel, is on a mission to create revolutionary AI software that goes beyond conventional apps. Along with his colleague, Ty aims to develop technology that outshines the competition and becomes an all-seeing eye in the digital realm.

Opel's AI software is designed with the latest features that make it a powerful tool in the digital world. Will Ty succeed in turning his dream into a reality?

The Strength of the Illusion, is a captivating book that presents characters that each provide their unique voice to keep the story moving forward. The book sheds new light on what the future digital world may look like with the magnitude of the use of AI.

Jared Moore you should be proud of writing this book. It made this reader stop and reflect on what the future could hold for AI. It's evident that you have a broad background in the technology field. This made the book seem more realistic and interesting.

High Tea and the Low Down: An American's Unfiltered Life in the UK
Claire Craig Evans
Independently Published
9781961542020 (Audiobook) $17.99
9781961542013 (Kindle) $5.99
9781961542006 (Paperback) $17.99, 309pp

Are you ready for a laugh-out-loud story of an American woman's misadventures in the enchanting UK? Meet Claire Craig Evans, who swapped her comfortable life in the US for a charming British man and a new home across the pond.

But she didn't anticipate the steep learning curve of navigating the road on the wrong side of the road nor dodging lost sheep who seemed to love to get in her path. To complicate matters, the airlines sent her luggage to another location. Now, she tries to find comfortable clothing in a foreign land.

Through all the obstacles Claire encounters, she never loses her sharp wit and indomitable spirit shine through, making for a hilarious and heartwarming read.

High Tea and the Low Down is a journey of discovery, and readers will learn why the UK may be enchanting, but it's not for the faint of heart.

Claire Craig Evans takes readers on a wild ride through the ups and downs of the UK, revealing the truth behind the enchanting facade. With a witty and relatable sense of humor, Evans will have you laughing out loud and empathizing with her every step of the way.

Entombed: Book 3 in the Enchained Trilogy
Janet McNulty
MMP Publishing
9781941488973, $22.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 610pp

The people of Arel are fed up with the oppressive government's control over their lives, and Noni is no exception. As President Tapiwa's watchful eye lingers on her every move, Noni is trailed by a mysterious figure. But she refuses to let fear control her rebellious spirit.

As the discontent grows, Noni discovers a dark secret that forces her to choose: will she continue to live under the government's strict control or fight for her freedom?

Noni must navigate through the dangerous political climate of Arel, where rebellion can lead to death. Will she have the courage to stand up for her beliefs, even sacrificing everything?

Entombed is a heart-pounding journey as Noni fights to reclaim her humanity and break free from the chains of a totalitarian regime.

Janet McNulty has crafted a book that you won't be able to put down. From the first page, you'll be hooked on the plot and the characters. With surprises at every turn, you'll keep guessing until the end. Janet McNulty has truly outdone herself with this masterpiece.

Raven and the Hummingbird
Renate F. Caldwell
M & M Publishing
9781737919926, $34.99, HC
9781737919902 $25.99, PB
9781737919919, $6.99 Kindle, 580pp

At 32, Joan's life spun out of control when she was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder. She is desperate for help, and fate leads her to the therapist who makes her feel like there is light in her dark world.

Joan trusts in her therapy enough to make a startling revelation that she was relentlessly sexually abused throughout her childhood. To protect herself from the horrific trauma and abuse, her mind created 52 alternate personalities that took over during dissociative states.

Through each triumph and setback, experience the journey through Joan's healing path to recovery. But this road is not easy; it is littered with life's obstacles and often smothered by exhaustion. Joan must confront the unbearable truth and remember the unthinkable to compose her fragmented mind.

"Raven and the Hummingbird: A Healing Path to Recovery From Multiple Personality Disorder" invites readers to witness the power of resilience and the human spirit. It is a story of hope and triumph over adversity that will leave you inspired and in awe of the strength of the human mind.

Renate E. Caldwell presents a powerful story that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster as you witness the shattering of one woman's life and her remarkable journey toward recovery. Through Caldwell's vivid and descriptive words, you will feel the pain and struggle of every step and the hope and triumph that come with resilience and the human spirit. Raven and the Hummingbird is a must-read for anyone seeking inspiration and a reminder of the incredible strength of the human mind.

The Haunting of Elmwood Manor: A Perkin Dewlap Mystery
Pamela McCord
Acorn Publishing
9781947392458, $18.99 HC; $ 9.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, $17.99 Audiobook, 214pp

Pekin Dewlap, a brave and ambitious fifteen-year-old, has launched her ghost-hunting business. However, she must convince her hesitant friends that investigating spirits can be exciting and not frightening, so she invites them on her first case.

Her first case revolves around a haunted mansion where she encounters the ghost of a girl murdered in 1918 and whose restless spirit still resides in the house. With the ghostly killer lurking around the estate, the group must find a way to banish the ghost and escape unharmed.

The Haunting of Elmwood Manor is the first book in the Pekin Dewlap middle-grade paranormal mystery series. It offers an intriguing plot, captivating characters, and light-hearted capers that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Pamela McCord is a talented writer, who has written a book that has all the elements required to capture the hearts of young readers. I highly recommend this book series to be considered by any school library. With its captivating plot and relatable characters, it is sure to be a hit among teens.

The Aurora Antidote: Book 1 of the Aurora Anthology
Ela Hugh
9781999423209, $15.12 PB, $3.02 Kindle, 356pp

Dylan Dubois' life took a tragic turn when her family home burned down, leaving her father dead and her sister in a coma. Plagued by nightmares of the fire and feeling alone in the world, Dylan discovers an ancient book hidden in her mother's belongings. As she delves into the cryptic symbols and magical stories passed down through generations of her family, she begins to believe that this book holds the key to saving her sister.

Desperate for help, Dylan enlists the aid of a handsome stranger named Kit, and together they embark on a quest to unlock the secrets of her family legacy. Through their journey, they uncover a world of magic and mystery beyond Dylan's wildest dreams.

With time running out, Dylan knows she must decipher the book's secrets and use the power of magic to awaken her sister before it's too late. Will she be able to unleash the magic and save her loved one?

The Aurora Antidote story follows Dylan, a protagonist who will stop at nothing to save her sister. Through the use of magical forces, the story takes on a new and exciting twist that will leave you captivated.

Ela Hugh has done a fantastic job of increasing the suspense level of the book, making it impossible to put down. You will find yourself gripping the edge of your seat in high anticipation of what is to occur next.

Second Chances - Moonlight Mile Ranch Book 1
Mel Sobolewski
All Things that Matter Press
9798987129692, $16.24 Paperback / $5.99 Kindle, 191 Pages

In the midst losing their home to a devastating wildfire, Slick and his daughter June find themselves without a home. But fate leads them to Moonlight Mile Ranch, where they become the dedicated ranch hands. As they navigate the challenges of building a horse ranch, they discover the true meaning of family and the unbreakable bonds formed between humans and animals.

Second Chances: Moonlight Mile Ranch is a testament to the power of love, friendship, and trust. Join Mel, Lennon, and their loyal dog Mojo as they embark on a mission to save and rehabilitate animals in need, and watch as these creatures find their own second chances at happiness.

Second Chances: Moonlight Mile Ranch is a must-read for animal lovers, adventure seekers, and anyone looking to be inspired by the resilience of the human spirit.

Mel Sobolewski exhibits heartfelt storytelling and compassionate writing. This book reminds us of the importance of human and animal connections. It shows us that no matter the circumstances, there is always hope and possibility for a brighter future. This captivating book takes you on a journey filled with gripping animal adventures and showcases the resilience of both humans and animals, it's a book that will capture your heart!

Confessions of a Dangerous Girl: Emma Garthright - Book 1
Dan Birk
William Rookwood (publisher)
9781960910011, $15.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 304pp

Step into a world of secrecy, danger, and deception with this thrilling new novel, set in the mysterious confines of the Early Institute. Sixteen-year-old Emma's life takes an unexpected turn when she discovers the true nature of the boarding school has a hidden agenda to transform their students into deadly teenage assassins, the Early Institute is anything but ordinary.

Emma is tasked to go undercover at Grover Cleveland High School, where she must not only navigate the treacherous world of teenage politics but also win the trust of Susie Robinson, the school's most virtuous student. Susie holds the key to Emma's success, as she is the person standing between Emma and her target - an international political figure.

Emma's journey is not just about assassination and deceit. As she immerses herself in this new environment, she is faced with the challenge of truly becoming a better person. Can Emma break free from the mold the Early Institute has shaped her into? Will she be able to gain Susie's trust and fulfill her mission, all while grappling with her own identity?

Confessions of a Dangerous Girl uncover the gripping secrets of the Early Institute and follow Emma's thrilling journey of self-discovery and redemption. With unexpected twists and turns at every corner, this heart-pounding novel will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

Dan Birk has provided a captivating tale of assassination, betrayal, and the resilience of the human spirit. All of these elements combined make for an unforgettable book. With each page, Birk paints a vivid picture of the character's struggles, their triumphs, and the sacrifices they must make to survive.

Another Side of the Heart
C.H. Lazorovich
AIA Publishing
c/o Tahlia Newland Enterprises
9781922329509, $2.99, Kindle, 267pp

Mary Devere is on a journey to find healing and solace in the idyllic Kilkare Island. In the aftermath of her daughter's untimely death, Mary decides to spend the summer away from the bustle of New York City, hoping to find some peace of mind. However, fate has a different plan for her, and a chance encounter with a pit bull leads her to Juliet, a young woman who happens to be her daughter's age, who becomes her confidante and friend.

Through her friendship with Juliet, Mary starts questioning the choices she made in life, wondering if she has been living the life she wanted or the one she thought she should. Memories of her past resurface, including the difficult decision she made as a young woman that changed the course of her life forever.

As she navigates her grief and confronts her past, Mary finds solace in the arms of Antonio, her first love and the father of Juliet. Their rekindled romance brings a glimmer of hope to Mary's life, and she starts to see the possibility of a new beginning.

Immerse yourself in the emotional journey of Mary as she finds solace and healing on the picturesque Kilkare Island. Another Side of the Heart is a heart-wrenching tale that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions

C.H. Lazorovich has written a book that book is a true testament to the author's incredible skill and mastery of the craft. It contains all the elements required to make it an award-winning novel. The characters are richly developed, with complex backstories and motivations that will keep you engaged from beginning to end. To say this book made an impression on this reader is an understatement.

Future Dreams and Nightmares
Donald Firesmith
Magical Wand Press
9798390605646, $11.99, PB, 225pp

Get ready to dive into a world of alternate realities with this collection of short stories. Each tale in this captivating collection introducing you to new characters and takes you on a thrilling journey that will leave you craving more.

These thrilling stories will keep you on the edge of your seat. Look no further than Donald Firesmith's "Future Dreams and Nightmares", which is sure to captivate and excite you with its many twists and turns. Each story in this book presents a strong and compelling offering, delivering a unique and unforgettable reading experience.

Future Dreams and Nightmares is for those that are looking for a break from the mundane or simply want to immerse yourself in a world of excitement and adventure, this book has something for everyone.

Donald Firesmith has an innate gift for storytelling with his impeccable writing style. From thrilling adventures to thought-provoking mysteries, his words have the power to captivate and ignite your imagination. Whether you are a fan of fantasy, science fiction, or suspense, this collection offers something for every reader.

So Good They Call You a Fake
Joshua Lisec
Lisec Ghostwriting
9798988347415, $19.99, PB, 192pp
9798988347422, 24.99, HC
9798988347408, $5.99 (Kindle)

Fake it Until You Make It!

Are you ready to take your selling presence to the next level? Look no further than "So Good They Call You a Fake: Command Attention, Monetize Your Talent Stack, and Become the Uncontested Authority in Your Niche " by Joshua Lisec. This definitive guide will give you the knowledge and guidance to make you look a professional even if it's true or not.

In today's world, being called a fake is a badge of honor. It means you've made it. It means you're so good at what you do that others can't believe it's real. And that's exactly where this book will show you the how and why you need to incorporate this in your marketing strategy.

So Good They Call You a Fake teaches you how to harness the power of visibility, become an energy monster who thrives on attention, and monetize that attention to the max. Whether you're an aspiring author, a course creator, a coach, or someone offering services, this guide will show you how to build a genuine and authentic presence that captivates your audience.

Gone are the days of trying to convince people of your legitimacy. This book will empower you to prove it through your results. You'll learn the secrets of crafting compelling content, creating impactful content, and delivering transformative knowledge sessions. It's time to turn your skeptics into believers.

So Good They Call You a Fake is your roadmap to success. Get ready to dominate your niche, attract your tribe, and leave your mark on the digital world. Are you ready to be so good they call you a fake?

Joshua Lisec you have written the ultimate mind manipulation book! The information in this book is simply fascinating. It contains insights and practical techniques that will give you the power to unlocking success and achieving your goals.

Save Money on Groceries: 327 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bills and More
Arthur VanDam, CPA MBA
Career Advancement Center, Incorporated
9781890158354, $2.99 Kindle, $12.95 PB, 212pp

Are you tired of spending a fortune on groceries? With inflation soaring, it's becoming harder and harder to make ends meet. But fear not! This book offers the ultimate solution to help you save big on your grocery bill without compromising on quality or nutrition. This comprehensive guide is guaranteed to revolutionize your shopping experience. Throughout these pages, you will find ways to save thousands of dollars on groceries each year.

Throughout the pages, you'll discover a treasure trove of practical tips, strategies, and insider secrets that will empower you to slash your grocery bill and put more money back in your pocket. Whether you're a seasoned shopper or just starting out, the expert advice will teach you how to shop smarter, find the best deals, and make the most of your grocery budget.

The exclusive free gifts that will restore organization to your shopping routine. Say goodbye to chaos and hello to efficiency as you learn how to navigate the grocery aisle like a professional.

Save Money on Groceries - 327 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bills and More will help provide you the knowledge and guidance that will help prevent skyrocketing grocery prices from draining your bank account. Take control of your finances and start saving today with this game-changing guide. It's time to say goodbye to unnecessary spending and hello to financial freedom.

Arthur VanDam, CPA MBA has written a fascinating and easy to understand concept that can be used by anyone. From budgeting techniques to investment strategies, this author leaves no stone unturned. I can't wait to take this newfound knowledge and start incorporating it into my own life.

There Is No Death in Finding Nemo
Jeffrey Feingold
Impspired Press
9781915819222, $3.45 Kindle, $16.95 Paperback, 141pp

Are you ready to escape the monotony of everyday life and embark on a journey of wonder and imagination? Then look no further than There is No Death in Finding Nemo. This short story collection is the perfect choice for anyone who is looking for a little bit of magic in their reading.

Featuring a variety of protagonists with seemingly mundane lives, each story in the collection takes a thrilling turn as they encounter a new obstacle. From doctors, entrepreneurs, musicians, and intellectuals, this book will transport you to a world beyond your wildest dreams.

There is No Death in Finding Nemo allows you to discover the power of imagination and let our short story collection take you on a journey you'll never forget.

Jeffrey Feingold latest book is a masterpiece of storytelling, weaving together seemingly epic tales that ultimately reveal the very essence of what it means to be human. With a sprinkle of humor and relatability, Feingold connects readers with the protagonists in a way that truly resonates with the reader.

Model Suspect: A Backyard Model Mystery
T.K. Sheffield
Making Hay Press
9781949085839, $17.95, 289pp, Paperback
9781949085846, $3.99 Kindle, ebook

In high anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, the craft vendor anticipated generating high profits. Their visions were quickly put on hold when they learned that Kat Gold had died, a victim of being crushed by a door.

Kat was a woman that the other merchants didn't like. Since her arrival a year ago, she wanted to incorporate change and growth the members were uncomfortable with adopting.

Mel Tower felt Kat's death was not an accident. He noticed that several vendors seemed relieved that she was gone. As the pieces of her death come together in her last days, the evidence shows that someone was determined to silence her permanently.

Will Mel's theory prove Kat's death was not an accident? Or will his detective work put him in the pathway of a killer?

Vintage Model radiates a down-home feel of a cast of characters that are well crafted. Each one adds substance to keep the story moving forward. Kat's death and who was responsible keep the reader guessing until the end.

T.K. Sheffield's writing is superb! How she introduced and blended so many characters are a work of art. I predict this author's destined for many great things in the future.

How Much Love Can A Heart Hold - A Book about Big Hearts & New Siblings
Angela Panayotopulos
Independently Published
9798389393288, $8.99 Paperback, $5.99 Kindle, 32pp

Our home will soon be filled with even more love and joy as we welcome this new addition. As parents, we realize that this new person will rely heavily on his/her big brother or sister.

We are confident that they will be there to guide and support the little one as they navigate through life. We cannot wait to see the amazing bond that will form between our children. Thank you for sharing in our excitement as we prepare for this new chapter in our lives!

How Much Love Can A Heart Hold - A Book about Big Hearts & New Siblings is a heartwarming story which addresses the uncertainty that a child may feel when they learn they are going to have a new brother or sister in their household. It gives them the reassurance that this new addition will not take their place.

Angela Panayotopulos has written a must-read for any family expecting a new addition to their household. The book is beautifully illustrated and designed to help children understand the concept of sharing their parents' love.

With a simple and engaging writing style, it promotes sibling bonding and encourages children to embrace their new role as big brother or sister. Angela Panayotopulos has truly outdone herself with this amazing book, and I am confident that it will be a cherished addition to any family's library. (Reading age: Baby - 18 years)

Suzie Housley
Senior Reviewer

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

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