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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 12 December 2018 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Andy's Bookshelf
Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf
Julie's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mari's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Pedro's Bookshelf
Sloan's Bookshelf Suanne's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf


Reviewer's Choice

Dead of Winter: An Alexa Williams Novel
Sherry Knowlton
http://www.sherryknowlton.com
Sunbury Press
http://sunburypress.com
9781620068434, $19.95, Paperback, 271 pages

Dr. Alma H. Bond, Reviewer
http://almabondauthor.com

Dead of Spring is the latest in the exciting series of Alexa Williams mysteries by Sherry Knowlton. Ms. Knowlton is a fine writer, who writes beautiful prose as good as that of much of our finest fiction, beginning with her very first sentence, "At first, she smiled, thinking the splash of red was a strand of sumac in the rusty fall glory." It wasn't. It was a bullet-riddled body.

The book is an intriguing, suspenseful story which grabs the attention of the reader from the very first page. Trying to shake her gruesome discovery, Alexa Williams, the major sleuth of the series, returns to her busy law practice and personal life. Her former lover, Reese has returned from Africa and lives at nearby Harpers Ferry. We see a lot of Reese before the ending of the book, as they tiptoe through a delightful dance in the resumption of their romance. Alexa is taking Krav Maga lessons to learn how to protect herself from attackers. Knowlton's descriptions of the lessons are so good I almost feel I could practice them myself. The owner of the studio, the widow of a soldier killed in Iraq, and Alexa become friends, which adds an interesting aspect to the story. Alexa's parents drag her into an unwanted flurry of social commitments as they host an International Fellow of the U.S. Army Heritage in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, an Iraqi General, and his colleague, a decorated American colonial. Incidentally, Knowlton's descriptions of Carlisle are vivid enough to make any former occupant of the town homesick.

When another victim is found dead near harpers Ferry, Reese becomes a suspect and even Alexa wonders how much his African visit has changed him. After yet another casualty is found, a fear of Islamic terrorism spreads like wildfire through the small Pennsylvania town. When the police arrest the oldest son of the refugee family as a suspect in the murders, Alexa's Syrian clients become the focus of mounting anti-Muslim rage. A dangerous militia group targets Alexa, who discovers how all these murders are connected and races to stop an attack that possibly could kill hundreds of people. If she fails, she will lose everyone she loves. Knowing Alexa Williams, we know that she cannot fail.

If I have any criticism of this excellent book, it seems to me that the author jumps around too much. When I am deeply involved in a book, as I was with this one, I personally do not like to be yanked out of what is holding my interest and schlepped to another time or place.

Nevertheless, despite this possible shortcoming, Alexa Williams again proves a formidable heroine in this suspenseful tale of international corruption and hatred,. The ins and outs of the story will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good mystery and wishes to learn about the workings of crime in a small town. Unlike with most mysteries, readers also will enjoy the beauty of Sherry Knowlton's writing.

Conduits: The Ballad of Jinx Jenkins
J. Ryan Sommers
Transmundane Press
www.transmundanepress.com
9780998498331, $10.99

Connor Stratman
Reviewer

Much of the best American fiction takes as its subject the peculiar humor, density, and agony of local landscapes. Writers like Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, and Carson McCullers, at their best, dissected the depths of influence that the American environment has on human conduct and imagination. J. Ryan Sommers' debut book, Conduits: The Ballad of Jinx Jenkins, picks up this tradition and infuses it with a healthy dose of fantasy and magic. But for all of the postmodern conceits and vaguely familiar fantasy worlds, at bottom Sommers' collection is fundamentally focused on character. The book's greatest strength is the homespun phenomenology that is American life, a sense of aimlessness and purposelessness that nevertheless pulses with wonder and the assuredness of meaning, however vague and elusive that meaning is.

At the center of the collection is Jinx Jenkins, whom, as his name implies, can't get a break. He's homeless and lives on the SkyTram that encircles the Green Valley, a fictionalized Chicagoland that, as one narrator puts it, "exists in a long-forgotten corner of the American dream." Jinx is filthy, homeless, and completely outcast from society. He is a true outlaw for his nastiness and shamelessness. As other characters come and go through the story cycle, a la Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Jenkins is this textual world's George Willard, always present and adding his lens, even if he himself isn't doing anything.

Elsewhere we find a vaster set of characters picked right from the stuff of both everyday life and the phantoms of the mind: the shy and lonely Gregg Ryan, operator for the aforementioned SkyTram, the bookish boy scout Pierre Abbe stumbling upon the legendary beast Ya'hootie, who is much smaller and less frightening than the tales of his theatrical troop leader. There is also Mac, the mysterious ballpark beer vendor who brushes every sale with an onslaught of rhymes whose cadences hilariously imitate those of late night radio ads, and Jimmy, the apprentice vendor who can't resist the urge to investigate the elder Mac as both man and myth. These are just few examples from the menagerie of Conduits' bizarre and familiar fictional world. All of these characters are people we know, people with alienating quirks, people whose imaginations run far ahead from the stifling realities of their lives. One can't help but be drawn to them.

In the end, these are stories that adults would tell had they not lost their capacity for imagination in spite of the traumas and indignities of growing up. Sommers is not subtle in his allegorizing of our American life, but in the end, this is a strength and not a weakness of his book. His diction is often romantic and full of grandeur, which goes a long way in framing his stories somewhere between the mythic and the mundane. He is fully aware of this fundamental dissonance in the American mind, that divinely profane concoction of drudgery and excitement, of boredom and transcendence. One can only be eager to see where this insight leads him in his next book.

The Stendhal Summer
Laurie Levy
Amika Press
https://www.amikapress.com
9781937484552, $15.95, pbk
1937484556, $4.95, ebook

Jack Messenger, Reviewer
www.jackmessengerwriter.com

Somewhere, surely, a psychologist has written at length on the significance and symbolism of humanity's baggage. In particular, handbags and tote bags can carry us as much as we carry them, and their fetishization as objects of desire and aspiration means we perform our cherished self-identities every time we drape them lovingly over our shoulder or grasp them warily at arm's length.

The central character in Laurie Levy's The Stendhal Summer, Alison Miller, carries a lot of baggage on her trip to Europe. She struggles to wrangle her luggage on and off trains, in and out of taxis and hotels, up and down stairs. Alison, 54, is a professional PR writer from Chicago. Her husband George has left her for his latest young conquest, their twins Abbie and Dan are concerned for her happiness, her mother worries Alison will be mugged or worse. Alison has taken the risk of blowing her life savings in pursuit of her great love, the French author Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle, 1783 - 1842), whose biography she plans to write. Her travels take her from Grenoble to Milan, Civitavecchia, Rome and Paris; along the way, she meets old friends, encounters new ones, and is reawakened to the possibilities of life and love.

The business of the bags and their contents, with obvious emotional and sexual connotations, is handled unemphatically by the author, so that it impinges on the reader quite late on in the novel. There is much going on in The Stendhal Summer that is equally subtle and literary, yet also born of experience. One can't help thinking, for example, that the author really knows this hotel room in Rome with its single window where 'to see out, it was necessary to climb up an odd, thin, carpeted ledge that ran the length of the room.'

The story of The Stendhal Summer takes place in the 1990s, but it also harks back to earlier times - most obviously in its reflections on the experiences of Stendhal himself, whose voice we hear inside Alison's head and in her dreams. Alison's stifled romanticism and her partially unacknowledged need for fulfilment remind one of other dramas: the David Lean film Summer Madness (1955) immediately springs to mind, so readers feel very clever when Alison herself later mentions the film (under its US title, Summertime).

The Stendhal Summer is concerned with what used to be called 'highbrow' culture. It presumes the reader is interested in these things as well, even if, as is inevitable, he or she has not read every last novel, or listened to that particular opera, or admired this particular painting. It reveals in us an appetite for these things we did not know we had. Relatedly, if we have not read Stendhal in decades (as I have not) or indeed at all, The Stendhal Summer invites us to do so. It is refreshing to be treated as an adult with a mind capable of expanding its range of interests.

Similarly, the range of Levy's allusions and references is wide, unconfined by what might be fashionable or contemporary. The Stendhal Summer takes the risk of being uncomprehended, yet pays us the compliment of presuming we have lived a little. Thus, mentions of Jean-Louis Barrault, Yves Montand, and Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre (1981), to name just a few examples, either mean something to us or they do not. When they do, they conjure a world of meaning, or an image captured in time, or the tone of a conversation. Such resonances are strange and powerful, as Alison herself knows: 'Strange how one small romantic moment could sum up a lifetime of need.'

Laurie Levy's writing contains other wise and deft touches: 'the apartment she and George so tentatively shared after thirty years of marriage' is marvellously concise and funny, as is this sudden thought about an admirer: 'Maybe he seemed wise and witty in public and went home and watched lowbrow TV in his briefs.' I think he probably does.

It is difficult for any writer successfully to depict the gradual change that overcomes a character over the course of a novel. Alison changes convincingly, her transforming image in the mirror and in the eyes of her lover are outward signs of her inner renaissance. At first, 'the rest of the trip was a blur. Like her life.' As if to remind her of the need to refocus, she trips over a cobblestone in a Proustian moment that leads to an error of emotional judgement. 'When you're alone,' she says much later, 'cloaked in silence, you cannot fight, but the passions don't fall away; they're internalized.'

Part of Alison's enforced retreat from life is captured in the observation that 'the dead don't abandon you,' which perhaps underlies her complete confidence in Stendhal. 'When happiness is a static condition, it is only for fools.' Happiness has to keep moving in order to flourish or else it becomes complacency and delusion. Yet movement can also revivify happiness: 'Amazing, she thought. I am OK.' Alone and in a foreign land on the other side of the world, realizing one's 'okay-ness' is a revelation of hope and wonder.

Literary rancour is among the threads that tie The Stendhal Summer together. Another is Alison's extraordinary ability to meet people and make friends. This is occasionally hard to swallow but, then again, women of Alison's age and temperament can have that gift in abundance, so swallow it we must. There is a friendly, traditional feel to this aspect of the novel, as if we are reading something written in the 1950s or 1960s, before elegant conversation went out of literary style. And yet, early on, we are treated to this gloriously unexpected simile for Alison's isolation: 'She stood at the [museum] cases, listening to critical comments ebbing and flowing around her, as if she were an old inner tube tossed into this river of Grenoble society.'

Is The Stendhal Summer a little too hermetic, excessively private, obsessively Stendhalian? Does it exclude us even as it invites us in? Our answers will depend on who we are and what we have read, and I suspect that more women than men will be able to grasp all that is going on. However, these are legitimate questions that might leave us with reservations. On the other hand, if we feel confounded, it might be that Stendhal's theory of crystallization, his description of the stages of love, might just apply to The Stendhal Summer: 'like a branch hung outside a salt mine, and in the night picked up salt crystals that changed the barren limb into an object of sparkling beauty.'

I still have my reservations, but then I recall my complete acceptance of a long-awaited plot point that would have been disastrous if clumsily handled. Clumsy, The Stendhal Summer is not. It is a delightfully accomplished and intelligent novel. Witty and refined, cerebral and sensual, it juggles its antinomies with flair and conviction, while its protagonist provides us with genuine companionship - baggage and all.

The Pinochet Plot
David Myles Robinson
Terra Nova Books
http://www.terranovabooks.com
9781938288203, $19.95, 280 pages

Paul Lappen, Reviewer
www.deadtreesreview.com

Will Munoz is a successful attorney in San Francisco. He is also the son of Ricardo Munoz, a well-known Chilean writer, who died when Will was a child. His mother's suicide note asserts that his father was murdered on the orders of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile for more than 15 years in the late 20th century.

Will learns that his father wrote a novel, as yet unpublished, that would have been very unfriendly to Pinochet. A million-dollar reward was established, by Pinochet, for the return of the original manuscript and all published copies. As Will starts to ask questions about his father's death, focus turns to the CIA's famous, or infamous, MKULTRA mind control program. Chuck Evans was a part of MKULTRA, along with Milton Fisher, his CIA handler. After the program was "officially" cancelled, could Milton have kept Chuck supplied with drugs, and turned him into some sort of assassin-for-hire? As an extra complication, Chuck is also Will's step father. Could he have killed Will's father, and married his mother, to find the novel and get that million dollar reward?

This is a very "quiet" novel, in that there are no car chases or hair-raising escapes from the bad guys, But it is a very well-done novel. It explores a pair of unpleasant bits of recent American history, and it is very much worth reading.

You Are a Heroine: A Retelling of the Hero's Journey
Susanna Liller
Emerald Lake Books
https://emeraldlakebooks.com
9781945847073, $14.99, 154 pages | Paperback
9781945847080, $7.99, ePub
B07J4GD1JC, $7.99 Kindle
9781945847103, $14.99, 228 pages, Large Print, www.amazon.com

BlueInk Review www.blueinkreview.com/book-reviews/you-are-a-heroine-a-retelling-of-the-heros-journey

You know you're in for a ride when a book starts with a woman - in this case, the author's then-21-year-old grandmother - tossing her suitcase from a moving train, then leaping herself. "She did what anyone following her dream would do," life coach Susanna Liller explains in the preface to You Are a Heroine: A Retelling of the Hero's Journey.

Fortunately, Liller's book doesn't encourage readers to jump out of vehicles. Rather, it's designed to "awaken the Heroine" in ordinary women and help them reach their potential in areas ranging from career and parenting to social activism. "The Heroine's Journey," she writes, "is ultimately all about the Heroine allowing herself to become herself."

Building on the work of the late author Joseph Campbell, who linked classical myths to common psychological themes, Liller guides readers with chapter-by-chapter steps of the Journey, such as the "Call," which represents the urge to do something different; learning to interact with major characters like naysayers and supporters, and coming to grips with figurative dragons that represent deep fears and challenges. Three real-life heroines -- women who've seen their share of life-changing events, from divorce to chronic illness -- share stories throughout, and their motivational quotes appear at the beginning of each chapter along with Campbell's. Writing exercises are embedded in the prose.

With occasional references to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Liller also gives relatable examples of her personal Journey milestones, including how the shock of having a pet project put on the back-burner by the boss quickly led to a new self-employment venture. The author's straightforward, conversational writing is a pleasure, but it's her ability to help women interpret their circumstances in a more adventurous, intuitive way that makes this book unique. While male heroes have been traditionally defined by their physical battles, "Heroineism," she writes, "is about having the courage to expand from within." The Heroine's Journey gives us a fresh way of seeing just how far we can go.

Highly recommended for fans of Joseph Campbell

A Real Daughter
Lynne McKelvey
Savant Books and Publications
http://www.savantbooksandpublications.com
9780997247251, $16.95 PB, $7.95 Kindle, 311pp, www.amazon.com

Joe Kilgore, Reviewer
US Review

"He doesn't get it, she thought, pausing beside the baby mastodon and its imploring trunk. Doesn't get that Mandy is a child in mourning, a child in mourning for her mother."

Secrets have always played a major role in novels. From secret passageways in adventure tales to secret betrayals in spy yarns to secret familial revelations in Victorian comedies, tragedies, whodunits, and more. A secret is also at the center of this literate psychological drama that unspools in late 1970s Los Angeles. It is a secret that engulfs its keeper completely - a secret that results in unimaginable consequences when shared.

Claire is the novel's protagonist. Like many in the City of Angels, she's a transplant. A tragedy spurred her to move from the bucolic environs of Vermont to the sprawling metropolis on the other side of the country. There, she's taken up landscape gardening as a profession and recently a relationship with Jake, a high school teacher. While both their physical and emotional attraction is strong, Claire finds it odd that they've been in and out of bed a number of times before Jake reveals that he has a young daughter, Mandy, who actually lives with him. It seems a perfect time for Claire to share her secret. She's also been married before, and she too bore a daughter -- a daughter who's now deceased. But Claire doesn't share her secret with Jake because her daughter Sarah still comes to her often... and is more real to her than anything else in her life.

Don't assume a spoiler has just been revealed. The author actually introduces Sarah and Claire's relationship early. While the reader knows of Sarah's presence from the opening chapter, what's not known is the extent and causation of Claire's guilt regarding Sarah's death. That information is revealed slowly, haltingly, and ever so carefully - thereby building both suspense and anticipation for what will happen once everything comes to light.

While McKelvey's book is indeed a story that evolves from beginning to middle to end, it is perhaps first and foremost an examination of humanity. Covert emotions and overt behavior bind the reader to each character. Jake seems strong and self-assured yet somehow unable to untangle himself from his disdain for his former wife. Mandy is outwardly precocious yet inwardly starved for the love her real mother could never give her. The woman that elicits such feelings from both, Rita, never makes an actual appearance in the book, but the author has personified her in such intriguing ways that she comes across as one of the drama's most interesting players -- a narcissistic individual so self-possessed she's virtually unable to show love and affection for anyone. Of course, first and foremost this is Claire's story. In Claire, the author has created a woman who even after burying her child is incapable of separating herself from her one and only Sarah. Such is Claire's plight that it brings to mind Voltaire's profundity: "Flies are born to be eaten by spiders and man to be devoured by sorrow."

McKelvey is a gifted writer who seldom hits a false note. She paces character development and plot exposition so that neither seems forced or labored. She builds suspense methodically without the need for superficial cliffhangers. Her dialogue actually sounds like real people talking to one another - whether being kind, holding back, or attacking. Her prose is deceptive. It initially feels languid and easily engaging, yet it harbors thorns that can pierce both the skin and the heart. While the author's novel is in many ways a harrowing tale of personal disintegration, McKelvey has found a way to leave the reader not only with the impact of a gripping emotional experience but also with that necessity common to us all - a ray of hope.

Curse of Interesting Times: A Vietnam-Era Memoir
Patricia Ann Paul
Amity Bridge Books
https://www.amitybridge.com
9780986425325, $12.95 Paperback / $9.95 eBook www.amazon.com

Connie Shoemaker, Reviewer
Director Emerita and Co-Founder Spring International Language Center

"June 15? You say your wedding is June 15th? You won't be there." Patricia Ann Paul's "Curse of Interesting Times: A Vietnam-Era Memoir" launches directly into the consequences of the Vietnam War draft in 1968. As they near their university graduation date, her fiance finds out he will be drafted before their wedding scheduled a week after. This memoir portrays their struggle to stay together during his military service.

Two years earlier Robert F Kennedy stated, "There is a Chinese curse which says, 'May he live in interesting times.' Like it or not we live in interesting times." Paul's title proves accurate as she takes us back to the turbulent sixties. Each chapter begins with contemporaneous events - politics, assassinations, protests, court decisions, and music and film releases - occurring during that chapter's time span. It's the Age of Aquarius!

Played against this tumultuous tapestry, the newlyweds cross the threshold into adventure and adulthood. They end up in West Germany although always fearing his transfer to 'Nam. Although temporarily safe, there is no money, no telephone, no TV, and not much heat under the eaves of their garret apartment where the bed tilts and the wallpaper is peeling.

Their landlady who lives downstairs, Frau Schaeffer, the widow of a Luftwaffe officer, grows into an enigma in their lives. She begins every conversation with an apology for the war: "I was only a mother with four children. What could I do?" They wonder about her role in Nazi Germany. Did she know about the concentration camps? Was she innocent, complicit, or more involved?

Making the most of their situation, the newlyweds romp through nearby castles and cathedrals. It's high adventure reveling in the rich history, yet somehow always involving war. As they venture farther from home, they butt into the aftermath of World War II in places like the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden. Eventually, John confronts the Cold War up close traveling through the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin, behind the Iron Curtain.

Throughout their story the current war in Vietnam produces confusion. Post World War II, citizens of the United States of America respected their government and military, but now students and returning Vietnam vets in the thousands protest the war at home. Who to believe? In the wake of Kent State, John, a military policeman, must defend US Army property from anti-war demonstrators. The couple grapples with their identity: are they students or are they military? Who is right? Who is wrong?

"Curse of Interesting Times" offers a fresh take on this period as numerous fiction and nonfiction books glorify or horrify service in Vietnam. Instead, it addresses the situation of the 1.3 million American boys, 70% of those drafted during the Vietnam conflict, who served elsewhere. How did their experiences affect their families and shape their lives? How do the issues of that time affect us now? The Vietnam quagmire makes a timely subject with our current political divide. Paul's memoir offers a healing perspective while raising questions still relevant today.

Searching for Spenser: A Mother's Journey Through Grief
Margaret Rayburn Kramar
Anamcara Press LLC
https://anamcara-press.com/searching-for-spenser
9781941237212, $21.99, 258pp HC, $14.06 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 258pp, www.amazon.com

Laura Moriarty
Reviewer

Margaret Kramar's memoir is a testament to the pain and beauty of parenthood- and the vulnerability it requires. With crisp, unsentimental prose, Kramar draws the reader into her overturned world after her second-born son is diagnosed with Sotos syndrome; she learns he will not look, act, or learn like most other children. Spenser grows into a zestful and curious boy, with his own quirks, talents, and wisdom and Kramar becomes his determined advocate and steadfast champion. After he begins school and gets involved with theater, she is only one of his many fans.

Kramar is honest in her recollections- she is a narrator strong with love, but often bewildered by what fate had her take on. Spenser is realized as a three-dimensional human being, sometimes frustrated with the difficulties of his disability, sometimes in love with the life he eagerly grasps. After his death, his devastated mother must once again abandon her previous expectations and dreams, and, with new insight and a fuller, wiser heart, learn to take joy in new ones."

Farewell
Edward Creagan & Sandra Wendel
https://www.sandrawendel.com
Write On Ink Publishing
9780991654482, $19.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 278pp, www.amazon.com

Available on NetGalley or Amazon.com

How long am I going to live? Who will be with me when I die? Will my family forgive me? Will I have pain? - are among the 31 vital end-of-life questions patients and their families ask. This book is about navigating those last days, at the bedside, and saying farewell with hope, love, and compassion.

Dr. Edward Creagan provides the reassuring answers patients and families deserve. He has dedicated his life to death. For over forty winters at the Mayo Clinic he has been at the bedside with more than 40,000 patient encounters in the last stages of their lives on this earth. Held the hands of family members. Prayed with them. Listened.

This book addresses:

Making end-of-life decisions when Mom or Dad or a loved one can't or won't.

Understanding what's happening in the mind of someone facing their last days, hours, minutes, and moments.

How to come to grips with our own mortality, maybe putting plans in place, living life differently after having held the hand of a loved one who is actively dying.

Ways to give hope where none seemed possible.

Death from a medical perspective, and much more.

Dr. Ed is the first Mayo Clinic doctor board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. He is also board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology (cancer). He is professor emeritus of medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic Medical School where he held the endowed chair as the John and Roma Rouse Professor of Humanism in Medicine, and he is now Emeritus Professor of Humanism in Medicine and an Emeritus Consultant in Palliative Medicine.

My Favorite Bible Quotations
Alex LaPerchia
Newman Springs Publishing
www.newmansprings.com
9781640962262, $12.95, PB, 111pp, www.amazon.com

Stephen Fisher, Reviewer
Reader's Favorite
Review Rating: 5 Stars

My Favorite Bible Quotations by Alex LaPerchia is a collection of translated quotations from many different books within the Holy Bible. The general purpose of this book is to enlighten and encourage people to read the scriptures that forewarn of the coming End of Days, and to prepare themselves for the tribulation and second coming of Jesus; to heed the warnings and pay attention to the events and signs as they begin to unfold before our very eyes. LaPerchia touches on the subject of same sex unions in holy matrimony, and mentions how the Pope prefers not to comment one way or the other on the subject. Another point of interest is the millennium of peace upon Jesus's return. There are some vague sections of this work, where it appears not to commit to one side of an ongoing argument. All and all, there is a wealth of knowledge and thought in this work.

Hog Wash
William Mannetti
DartFrog Books
www.DartFrogBooks.com
9780997722031, $9.99, PB, 134pp, www.amazon.com

Thomas J. Conroy
Reviewer

Great Brainwork! -- Hog Wash presents a humorous and whimsical cerebral challenge for readers to identify common puns using clever illustrations. A great multi-generational brain builder that liberates us from the increasingly constrictive electronic devices and messages in our daily lives. Take a break and Hog Wash!

Mercy's First Semester
W. M. Bunche
Privately Published
9780692830307, $15.99 PB, 378 pp
9780692769256, $4.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com

The International Review of Books
Reviewer

"This book is a well thought out, emotionally layered fictional piece that delves into the very real and often charged issues of the men and boys we send into service. It's unconventional beginning draws the reader into the story in order to discover more about Mercy, the main character. The character development is concise and well done. Absolutely a book worth reading."

Thanks so much for all of your help. One final question. Is there a way that Mercy's First Semester could be placed on a waiting list?

The Mark of the Spider: Book 1 of the Black Orchid Chronicles
David L. Haase
C. Lawrence Publishing
www.DavidLHaase.com/BlackOrchid
9780999484739 $11.99 Trade Paperback
9780999484722 $3.99 eBook, Page Count: 334

Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/david-l-haase/the-mark-of-the-spider

A nature photographer stumbles upon an ultra-rare black orchid - and a deadly curse - in the first installment of Haase's (Hotel Constellation, 2018) supernatural-thriller series.

The third wealthiest man in the United Arab Emirates gave American Sebastian Arnett instructions to photograph "the most beautiful, the most delightful, the most interesting" orchids on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. There, Sebastian meets Australian Johnnie Walker in a bar and reluctantly accepts the stranger's invitation to accompany him and his friends on weekend vacations inland.

Sebastian, a heavy drinker who's still mourning the death of his wife four years ago, thinks that the outings might provide him with opportunities to find more orchids. On the group's fifth trip, they stop in a village where a mysterious, white-haired Dyak woman presents Sebastian with an extremely rare black orchid.

The silent woman leads the group to an area to find more, where Sebastian receives a dart to his cheek. When he wakes up in a bamboo hut a week later, he's shocked to find the severed heads of his travel companions, a tattoo of a spiderweb on his face, and, most disturbingly, the ability to kill people with his mind.

Haase builds a compelling narrative, interweaved with poems and supernatural elements. At one point, an ethnologist tells Sebastian that "the spider web tattoo...houses a powerful spider spirit that requires occasional sacrifices to keep it content."

Various government operatives seek Sebastian out, which provides opportunities for effective meditations on military systems, as when a U.S. Marine tells Sebastian, "We talk about defending our country, but the reality is the way we do that is to kill the other guy before he kills us."

The story also features an intriguing cast, including Amanda Cox Campion, Sebastian's love interest; and Chief Kahvah Att-un-poon-a-woon-ah, a Native American medicine man who tries to help the photographer battle the spirit.

However, Sebastian's actions will alienate readers at times; for example, he twice refers to the Native American chief as "William Walks-With-Something-or-Other," and, at one point, he sleeps with the widow of a man that his demonic spirit killed.

An engaging thriller that successfully explores the implications of a wicked curse.

Help from Above, Push from Below, Fight for the Middle
Bruce Ario
FeedARead
www.feedaread.com
9781786979421, $14.95, 435pp, www.amazon.com

Matt Menge
Reviewer

Help from Above, Push from Below, Fight for the Middle, or just Fight for the Middle, is a bridge-building book because it is a paradox. The bridge is between the world of the mentally ill and of those who are not mentally ill. The paradox is that the protagonist, Brad Schmitt, is both mentally ill and not.

The author has a sympathetic and penetrating look into the schizophrenic mind, a rare thing these days. However, the book is more than that, it is a book of hope, of how the most disabled can be a success story. In making the most unrelatable thing relatable, the author also helps us better understand the human condition. Not only paranoia, but a seemingly esoteric phenomena like intrusive thoughts fail to escape the author's analysis. A far cry from the depiction of psychotics in modern slasher movies!

Brad has a traumatic brain injury, which is unusual for those with mental illness. Generally those with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, as well as bipolar personality disorder, have brains that are thinner in some way, especially on the frontal lobe. However, this is not what happened to the protagonist. He was not 'born that way'. Rather, he is hit and injured on the front of the head. Also, according to the neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg, schizophrenic symptoms are almost entirely negative in nature. The experience of Brad of an angel was largely positive, a rare phenomena for a mentally ill person. Likewise the presence of the angel stays with Brad, the protagonist, even when his negative symptoms subside. This further begs the question; is the angel a symptom of his mental illness? Is she a genuine religious experience? Is she some way for his brain to recover from his mental health symptoms?

Additionally Brad is quite successful, also unusual for someone with a mental illness. The majority of people with schizophrenic symptoms are not employed. The protagonist becomes a supervisor at his workplace, is active in his church, takes martial arts lessons, and apparently volunteers as well.

The eponymous 'help from above' in this story comes not only from the angel but from various people and even institutions that reach out to Brad. The angel seems to help Brad internally. However, Brad also gets help from his girlfriend Jane, from his parents, and from many people at Thumbs Up, the company that ultimately saves him. Indeed, despite the problems that Brad faces, he appears to have a very positive view of society.

As for the 'push from below', this is bit more enigmatic, but it may primarily represent Brad's realization of what he needs to do to survive. Indeed, Brad is homeless for part of the story. At another point he is forced to deal with an employee who sees supervisors as some kind of 'enemy'. But the 'push from below' is not just be about survival--it is also about Brad's drive, his drive to be successful. In the Bible (Proverbs 11:16) it says that wealth comes to the violent. Brad sees the need for violence in order to succeed, both literally in his martial arts training, and figuratively in the necessity of toughness that goes along with being a supervisor. This must have been difficult for our main character, as he seems to be the peace-loving type.

Brad was fighting 'for the middle' and for the most part he seems to achieve this. The protagonist is ultimately interested in the middle. He is a supervisor for Thumbs Up, but ultimately this doesn't define Brad. He never 'sold out' as Ned, another character, in the novel claims. Yet he isn't defined entirely by his need to escape poverty or his drive to succeed either. He still volunteers and goes to church, which suggest there is a 'laid back' side to him. Ultimately he is just 'another middle class' person, yet profoundly different.

The Trace
Adelaide Thorne
Evolved Publishing
www.EvolvedPub.com
9781622535118, $16.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 304pp, www.amazon.com

Baj Goodson, Reviewer
Author of "Wall of Crosses"

THIS. BOOK. WOW!

I hate that it took me so long to read it, because this is one that got me twisted around its little story finger and then Mr. Miyagi-ed me. Adelaide Thorne was surely giggling as she penned that cliffhanger ending and left us all dangling by a thread… [B]y the start of Part 3, I quickly discovered I would not be putting the book down anytime soon, even for sleeping or eating.

As it went on, I was riveted, mesmerized, utterly catatonic to all things outside of Ella's little universe. By the end, I was beside myself, my mouth in a perpetual state of hanging open.

To say surprises came like BOOM-BOOM-BOOM...that's an understatement. AND I LOVED IT!!! I so often predict where a story is going, and I absolutely get GIDDY when I'm thrown for a loop…

My final emotion: five hard-earned stars. Adelaide Thorne has this series IN. THE. BAG. She is a writer of profound exploration of the human psyche, and a true student to the spectrum of man's emotions. And it goes without saying that she is extremely talented with plot! I absolutely can't wait until the next book, and am SO glad things fell in such a way to where I do not have to wait very long before THE INTEGER graces my Kindle!!!!

A Glass Half Empty?...or Half Full?: A Children's Book for Grown-Ups
Dan Schuck
Book Baby Publishers
www.bookbaby.com
9781543930306, $24.33 HC; 978-1543929980, $12.33 PB; Kindle $7.99, 48pp

https://www.glasshalfquestion.com
https://www.amazon.com/Glass-Half-Empty-Full-Childrens/dp/1543929982/
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CJRVHTZ/
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-glass-half-empty-or-half-full-dan-schuck/1128415585

Carin Chea
Reviewer

Synopsis: A Glass Half Empty?...or Half Full?...A Children's Book for Grown-Ups ponders an age-old question in a modern society. Author Dan Schuck (who is by trade a financial services technology executive) presents mature, thought-provoking and essential ponderings in the safest way possible - in the format of a children's book. Naturally a philosophical child and adolescent, Dan had been meditating on the concepts presented in his book since a very early age. The book was originally meant as a gift for his partner, Jill Messick (who suffered from bipolar disorder and tragically committed suicide a week prior to Valentine's). Dan would go on to bravely complete the book and present it to the world as a means of engaging others in a dialogue about mental illness.

Critique: Life's toughest questions are gently addressed in A Glass Half Empty?...or Half Full?...A Children's Book for Grown-Ups. Dan Schuck effectively provides a safe conduit for readers of all ages, all cultures and all generations to partake in much-needed self-care and self-examination. Glass Half Empty?...of Half Full? is literature that is straight-forward enough for a child, yet so painstakingly poignant that any adult will have to take pause and reflect. Dan Schuck has given the world with a beautifully written tool that is meant to erase the stigma associated with mental illness. This children's book for adults will undoubtedly challenge our outlooks on life and offer life-altering perspective shifts that are most certainly welcome in today's tumultuous social climate.

In the Measuring
Carol Smallwood
Shanti Arts
9781947067387, $14.95, 116 pages, paperback

https://www.amazon.com/Measuring-Carol-Smallwood/dp/1947067389

Ronald Primeau, Reviewer
Professor of English Emeritus
Central Michigan University

http://www.ragazine.cc/2018/10/ronald-primeau-poetry-review
Ragazine, October 31, 2018

It is often said that we cannot measure what is real, what actually counts or matters most. In The Measuring demonstrates that in the right hands we can do all that and more. For Carol Smallwood, we do not find meaning already made; rather, in the activities of our everyday lives we make meaning in ways that affect how we learn, store, remember, and pass on the truths of our experiences.

This collection of seventy-seven poems is packed with insights set in motion by an epigraph from Emily Dickinson: "The truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind." Smallwood is not the first to insist on this "dazzle," but she is especially subtle in depicting the feel of the crucial gradualness. In so many different ways these poems reveal the gradation of steady and deliberate measurements in the ordinariness of our daily lives. How measuring opens us up to mystery is the book's organizing motif. "Proof of Transitory" looks at fading and blossoming, dusty shelves and unfulfilled resolve, and how we learn to negotiate the fine line between fading and progressing. From the chemical reactions of making and breaking bread to the sifting through a myriad of dishwashing liquids on a grocery shelf, we face choices in every moment. Some measurements seek us out: the feel of a waiting room after a diagnosis, the funeral-planning postcard that arrives "to resident" and thereby sidesteps the more threatening personal surveillance from the grim reaper. We also experience the information storage system woven into making quilts, a driver in a car wash who is content to settle into "the tracks of those who went before," measurements so subtle that we feel evaporation and the melting of ice.

Smallwood's presentation follows six sections with a precision that is never repetitive or overly rapid. A Prelude suggests that however we arrive at truth, there will always still be mystery in the measuring. "The Domestic" stirs deeper into the ordinariness of rain and leaves, cooking and sewing, light pouring through a window to create shades of gray, efforts to "prove" what we assume we know for sure, discovering that the frustrating efforts to prove something only intensify the thirst for proof. "Sea Change" locates meaning in a shrug or a frown, takes a "Brief Look" at the sublimity of what is ordinary, finds Prufrock measuring his life with cups from fast food restaurants, and catches the subtlest signals missed by all except the most astute "sorters and watchers." In the brilliant "Shopping Sestina Sans Meter" a shopper envisions everything in a supermarket from her imagined funeral procession at the dairy counter and turkeys in hiking boots, to the perfect biscuits made by the Clabber Girl - all leading to yet another question of measuring: "How much knowing is good for us to know?"

Emily Dickinson ("Tell all the truth but tell it slant') again provides the title for section four, "Slant," which reminds readers that measurements must be somewhat circuitous as well as slow and deliberate to create meaning about time, the moon, clocks, tile floors, and the man who calms his wife's worries about how she can ever list all her ailments. "You're just supposed to circle things" he assures her.To be gradual, sometimes the dazzling must wander into productive distraction where the profundity of a philosophy class is interrupted by a train whistle that carries "Augustine, Wittgenstein, and the professor neatly away" (91).

Though most often thought of in cooking or construction and generally seen as an accumulation, in Smallwood's steady hands, measuring is also an acceptance of necessary losses. Symbols of aging are big business with large print and assistive devices signaling a compromised independence ("Arrival, 59"). "Catching On" suggests that felt experience can be squashed by too much "talking out" and that measuring devices - scientific and otherwise - are always "still figuring out what to do with" the ubiquitous mysteries of every day. Again the shopping sestina surveys a restaurant grouping of "always the same men on the same stools" counting out the minutes they have left in talk firmly planted in shoes with "holes that gave them personality" (62). The men reflect back on their lives and ask about the unknowables where even the sage "Know thyself can be a Medussa turn-to-stone blow" burdened with too much knowing (70).

Spend rewarding time with this book and you will find yourself discovering much that is new about what you thought you already had firmly in hand. "In Passing" concludes the volume with some dozen poems that measure "differences in what seems the same" (95), watches closely the processes unfolding in "a Happy Meal Cup of melting ice" (97), transports a bug from the post office floor to nurturing crumbs and to live again in the window plants of home. An "epilogue" creates an apt coda where we live and measure our lives in the halfway between the deepest oceans and the highest mountains.

Smallwood asks many times what all the measuring does for us anyway. Does it find explanations that are already there or create meanings through the often painstakingly slow dazzle of language? Is it all about keeping track of things, deciding how to store and share what we learn, and then struggling with uncertainty? The slow progression of gradations is discovery as well as an acceptance of loss. Blossoming is best in "the struggle of dandelions in sidewalk cracks" that brings more hope than "crowds of daffodils" (55). Here the literary allusions leap beyond Dickinson, calling upon Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality" and suggesting the title of Alice Walker's very early book Revolutionary Petunias that push their way through inner-city cement. We hail the annual coming of spring with its rite of passage but repress bugs and lawn mowing. It's all about loss, the measuring - not all accumulation as we hope - but learning to let go and accept diminishment.

Understanding the processes of measuring teaches being at peace with loss. "Ephemera," from the Greek meaning "living a day" flashes the fast dance of nurturing in which we ignite, mature, and die in an instant. In a measured way, aging is an arrival recognized when people hold doors and smile, when catalogs flood the mailbox, when "large numbered clocks and colorful canes" are offered in the hopes of prolonging independence (59). Yet another measuring of letting go is "A Multigated Acquisition" exploring a test of whether a heart is "strong enough for chemo" (54.) Other speakers reflect on whether - after a hysterectomy--one's remains are packaged "in a paper sack like the gizzard, heart, liver, neck inside a roasting chicken" (62) and pursue the unanswerables when even "Know Thyself can be a Medusa turn-to-stone blow" where the knowing might not turn out to be knowing at all (70). Such questions might ordinarily be the province of the philosophers, but in this book they are better explored in the aisles of a grocery store, sitting in the light of a window sorting pieces for a quilt, while waiting for a dental hygienist, in every ordinary ritualized passage through changing seasons - all ways of measuring the extraordinary in ordinary places and moments to "explain the familiar so that I might understand" (102).

From section to section and within each poem, we are treated to intricate patterns of repetition found in everyday experiences. Some are like the musical refrains of the oral tradition or the contrapuntal wizardry of Bach; others use variations and inversions to capture multiple perspectives or introduce the rhythms of the blues. Smallwood is a master of forms whether it is villanelles floating variations that coalesce in a concluding couplet, the expected but still surprising repeated endwords of her sestinas, or lines sewed together seamlessly through successive stanzas where beginnings and conclusions meet in pantoums. The masterful wedding of mundane experiences and heightened awareness is found in "A Kroger Villanelle," where a regal-feeling shopper passes in review objects on shelves "lined at attention," her wobbling crown cautioning deliberateness in her step. As the shopping cart swerves through each aisle six times "she nodded and smiled" (110).

Live with this book for a while, quietly and thoughtfully, and you will be dazzled by seeing things as if for the first time. It will come over you, for example, that so much of what we assume has been decided opens up again because of "mystery in the measuring" ("One Way," 25). You will notice the worn-out elastic, the "almost invisible 3-corner tear," and how a white apron "must've gotten untied" in "Raggedy Ann" (41). Of course we like measurements assumed to be exact and undisputable, sometimes even declared true by definition. But do we truly know for sure what day we are living in with the help of a calendar, a dated email message, when the garbage is picked up, or an electronic sign on a bank? And how do we determine which metric might have gotten it wrong or - when they conflict, how to decide on accuracy ("Proof,"44)? Quilt making is all about measuring: selecting, cutting, matching, planning for counterpoint, storing memories. Can the drive to measure go too far; do quilts have to have purpose and be made to live with certain people, or after we are gone will their final measurement be "ending up in the night pyre" ("Sewing by Day," 46). As part of elevator talk about how busy we all are, a clerk responds "it is what it is." Floating somewhere between cliche and profound truth is a distance hard to measure where we don't know what is what or the meaning of either "is" ("What Does it Mean,"51). Do we quantify maybe overmuch sometimes as when a customer wonders "how many sperms died not reaching the egg" that formed the cashier who was a "Fred Astaire with bills" ("Sorters and Watchers" 69). All the measuring in the world brings us back to a wholeness; we avoid overreliance on measured analysis by learning that "it's wise to detect differences in what seems the same" (Seeing the Whole." 95).

In the Measuring will remind you of the strengths and limitations of every device we use to capture lived experience. Smallwood is at home in a wide variety of forms and styles. She is meticulous about modifying forms for special uses, and matches them unobtrusively to content they were made for. The organization of the book will serve as a guide but never get in the way or overcomplicate. Cover and interior design by Shanti Arts Designs are gorgeous reminders of the process explored everywhere in the book. Layout, design, font, and spacing are pleasing, with plenty of white space for readers who annotate as they read. In a few places really short poems positioned at the top of a page might seem abrupt to some. I would have liked a few more glimpses of the author's ways of composing or motivations for the project in an overly short but otherwise effective Introduction. The Foreword by Foster Neill, founder of The Michigan Poet, welcomes us to ways of enjoying the surprises in the wisdom a keen poet has created for us.

In the Measuring
Carol Smallwood
Shanti Arts
9781947067387, $14.95

James Sale, Reviewer
The Society November 3, 2018

In the Measuring is a substantial new collection of 77 poems by Carol Smallwood. Carol is well-known to readers of The Society of Classical Poets, as her poems regularly appear on its site; and furthermore, she is a well-respected and widely published poet throughout the USA too: there is a long acknowledgements list as to where many of these poems first appeared.

The first thing I'd like to comment on is, of course, the number of poems in the collection. My last review had 88 poems and the one before 33, so for some odd reason I seemed to be faced with not only literate poets but numerate ones too, or at least ones who wish to use numerology in the same arcane way that they will wish to use words. What, then, does 77 mean? I cannot of course be certain, but 7 is the perfect number combining the totality of heaven (always represented by 3) and Earth (represented by 4 - the four corners, the four winds, etc.). And so double 7, or 77, is a double measure of that span: an overflowing of those sublime things above, and those more mundane, quotidian, things below. But I also think that 77 is a reference to Jesus' words in Matthew 18.22 when asked how many times we had to forgive our neighbour: not 7 times, but 77 (Hugh J Schonfield translation - some have 70×7). The point is, whereas the title of the poem 'measuring' implies judgement, the numbering sets mercy against it. There is in Smallwood's work an infusion of compassion for all the stark observations that the poet notes or makes.

The book is divided into 6 sections: Prelude, The Domestic, Sea-Change, Slant, In Passing, Epilogue. The Prelude and Epilogue are only one poem each, and so the bulk of the work is in the four main sections. Perceptive readers will already note that the titles of the four sections intimate something of the heaven/earth dichotomy, link or measure, that I alluded to earlier. The Domestic, for example, having a very 'earth' or mundane feel to it, whilst Sea-Change (with its understated nod to Shakespeare's The Tempest) deals with something more elevated.

Thus, as a reader, I find myself little interested in poems like:

Black Ants Came

to check my kitchen around the

6 o'clock news, plump as ripe blackberries.

Where they came from I do not know but

they were gone by midnight news and

Memorial Day mattress sales.

Which seems inconsequential, even as an observational point. But in contrast, I think her poem "A Brief Look" truly wonderful:

A Brief Look

Beauty comes at ordinary moments full grown, unexpected

and leaves us gasping - suspended - caught off guard.

We try to grasp it again and when we can't are rejected

and pursue in desperate, determined disregard.

Our dullness removed by a brief look at the sublime,

we try to grasp it again and when we can't are rejected,

crave for any insight, revelation - the meaning of the time.

Beauty comes at ordinary moments full grown, unexpected.

From the first line, which I love, the whole poem comes round to re-stating its final line; it's as if what has been stated is so true, so beautiful in itself, the only way to develop the idea is to say it again! And, of course, the idea that beauty comes in 'ordinary moments full grown' hints at epiphanies, the mystical, and the goddess Pallas Athene herself - wisdom - springing fully-armoured and fully grown from the head of Zeus. In other words, what the poem asserts is that beauty (like wisdom) is axiomatic and so needs no proof, but instead arrests the viewer. Truly, a revelation of a poem - itself full of insight.

And this leads on to an overview of Smallwood's collection. Yes, there are several poems in it that I don't rate much at all, but there are many masterful (if she will forgive that gender-specific adjective) gems which really shine. Her best poems are those which display mastery of form, rhyme, refrain and what I would call an intense concentration of language and ideas. She really is like, to take an analogy, one of those sword smiths who hammer the metal again and again and again till it becomes unbreakably hard, and sharp, and so is fit for purpose.

Let me now, therefore, just point to a few beauties in her work that I particularly admire. Her poem, "How Could Early Life" is a short poem of 5 lines but its second stanza creates a sense of awe:

Seeing stromatolites living today makes

one stare in equal fear and longing -

to fathom the beginning.

This perfectly encapsulates a certain sense of wonder at life, even considering the smallest of things. Further, there is, I think, a marvellous technical point - a sort of mimesis - in the pararhyming of "longing/beginning": the rhyme aches to be a full rhyme but isn't, just as we ache to know our beginning, but can't. Certainly, Smallwood's poetry is measured to an exact and exacting degree.

"Catching On" demonstrates in its very title a mindful ambiguity in the title. Do we ever really 'catch on' to - and genuinely feel philosophies like Copernicus', or Darwin's, or "women's equality", or do they all simply remain fads that we pay lip service to whilst we remain the ego at the centre of our own universe?

Clearly, reading the whole collection, Carol Smallwood is a feminist, but not an ideologist who as a result of their ideology has sacrificed all their intelligence and so ends up in the Orwellian position of bleating "four legs good, two legs bad" (for which read: women good, men bad, or any other binary opposition). A great example of her intelligence and perceptiveness is in her poem, "Examples." Smallwood indeed observes that in China women's feet are bound (painfully) so that they may have small feet and marry well; seemingly a protest then? Maybe, but then we learn:

Western women believe themselves free

of such things…

And she then begins to detail her own enslavement to wanting to match the stiletto heels worn on Netflix's House of Cards. It's insightful, it packs a punch, especially given she gets at the heart of the problem, if problem it is: namely,

our tale

of Cinderella's small slipper.

In other words, myth, or the archetypes of who we are. The implications of this are not spelt out directly, but from this reader's perspective they seem very clear: you can mount a 'Me-Too' campaign and - with luck - shut down women in China binding their daughters' feet. But as you shut it down the same myth - or reality - underlying human nature will pop up elsewhere and manifest itself in another form, another ritual. The fundamental flaw of feminism is that it is purely political; it never addresses the issue of human nature, and the flaws running through both genders. Put another way, it's utopian, and like all utopias, it will fail. Of course, I fully accept that Carol Smallwood may never accept my interpretation of her poem in this way, but the fact that I can make it is why her poems are so interesting.

This issue of gender and of myth is also explored poems such as "Sleeping Beauty," "Why Do Women Ask First," "Waiting for the Dental Hygienist," and "I, Divine." Space prohibits my exploring them in much more detail, which they deserve; suffice to say, I recommend them to all readers of her work. And one great line of hers that says so much and seems to be a measuring line itself is: "It's wise to detect differences in what seems the same" from "Seeing the Whole." The whole collection is full of these "detections."

Thus, I am a great admirer of Carol Smallwood's poetry, although I scarcely can say that I share her philosophy or feminism. But her writing is structured, powerful, insightful and oftentimes surprising. I found myself quite frequently finding a line or two that would take me aback, and I'd say to myself, "what a great line!" To end, then, with one of them - from "Knowing":

Venus, the admired morning star, is a sulphuric hell

That is so good - literally, as a description of Venus, the planet, but also it hints that love itself can be just that: a sulphuric hell. I imagine Carol Smallwood must be a very grounded, and very droll person! Do get a copy of her book and enjoy it for yourself.


Andrea's Bookshelf

The Accidental Nun
Christine Meeusen, author
Lina Samuelsson, editor
Sisters of the Valley, Inc.
www.sistersofcbd.com
9781543935851 $29.50

The Accidental Nun: Or How a Successful Business Analyst and a Mother of Three Turned into a World-Famous Weed Nun is the true-life story of Sister Kate (formerly Christine Meeusen), who endured crushing betrayal from her husband, her brother, and her entire family. Kate's former life as a business analyst and married mother of three fell apart, and at one point she was homeless. Yet even at her darkest time, she found the light of friendship with the Yaqui tribe, and purpose in the Occupy Wallstreet movement. She turned her life around in a journey that was both physical and spiritual, founding the Sisters of the Valley order of new-age "weed nuns", who promote equality through political activism, and who support themselves through plant medicines and CBD products in harmony with the environment. The Accidental Nun is a story of finding hope, purpose, and renewal, and is highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Accidental Nun is available exclusively from the Sisters of the Valley's website, www.sistersofcbd.com.

Chris Beat Cancer
Chris Wark
Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
www.hayhouse.com
9781401956110, $25.99, HC, 312pp, www.amazon.com

Two days before Christmas and at 26 years old, Chris Wark was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. He had surgery to remove a golf ball-sized tumor and a third of his colon. But after surgery, instead of the traditional chemotherapy, Wark decided to radically change his diet and lifestyle in order to promote health and healing in his body. In "Chris Beat Cancer: A Comprehensive Plan for Healing Naturally", Wark describes his healing journey, exposes the corruption and ineffectiveness of the medical and cancer industries, and shares the strategies that he and many others have used to heal cancer. These strategies include adopting the Beat Cancer Mindset; radical diet and lifestyle changes; and mental, emotional, and spiritual healing, as well as advanced integrative therapies. Offering iconoclastic, 'real world practical', and extensive healing solutions, "Chris Beat Cancer" is an informative and thought-provoking presentation that should be read by anyone having to deal with the onset of cancer in themselves or a loved one. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Cancer Treatment Alternative Medicine supplemental studies lists i particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Chris Beat Cancer" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Where Do Diggers Celebrate Christmas?
Brianna Caplan Sayres, author
Christian Slade, illustrator
Random House
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com/kids
9781524772154, $16.99, HC, 32pp, www.amazon.com

What do diggers and tractors and forklifts and tankers do to get ready for the holidays? The same things that any family does! From trimming the tree and singing carols to gathering gifts and putting out milk and cookies for Santa, Christmastime for the beloved vehicles of "Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?" looks a lot like yours. Even Zambonis celebrate on ice! Children ages 3-7 will enjoy the rollicking rhymes as they see the truck families prepare for Santa and even help pull his sleigh! Children who can't get enough of trucks will love Brianna Caplan Sayres's things-that-go holiday story, making it an ideal and wonderfully entertaining addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections.

Don Roberto's Daughter: Natasha
Connor Royce
Christian Faith Publishing, Inc
https://www.christianfaithpublishing.com
9781641406949, $18.95, PB, 308pp, www.amazon.com

Natasha is a young and ambitious professional who moves to Texas to advance her career. In doing so she left her family and way of life in Mexico -- and seemingly, her faith. Natasha never intended to fall in love with Sean, an American, who makes her laugh, understands her, and reawakens her faith in God. When Natasha returns to Mexico, she struggles with separation from Sean, the allure of old dreams, and an elusive diagnosis of the mysterious disease that is killing her. "Don Roberto's Daughter: Natasha" is deftly written romance intertwining the rich tapestry of two vibrant cultures. Texas and Mexico comes alive while in this inherently engaging story of young woman tries to rediscover the God of her youth -- before it's too late! Showcasing author Connor Royce's genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling, "Don Roberto's Daughter: Natasha" is an especially and highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.

The Breast Archives
First Run Features
630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1213, New York, NY 10036
$19.95 www.firstrunfeatures.com

The Breast Archives is a documentary about female empowerment, through understanding and accepting one's breasts. Nine women each bare their breasts and their inner selves, and speak openly of their bodies and their life journeys. What does it mean to overcome shame, and to be a strong and self-reliant adult woman in the twenty-first century. The Breast Archives is ultimately about empowering oneself through respect for one's body, a message that every human being should take to heart. Highly recommended. 57 min.

Andrea Kay
Reviewer


Andy's Bookshelf

Eat That Frog!
Brian Tracy
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
www.bkconnection.com
9781576754221, $15.95, PB, 128pp, www.amazon.com

There's an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that it's probably the worst thing you'll do all day. Using "eat that frog" as a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day -- the one you are most likely to procrastinate on, but also probably the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life! "Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time" shows how to zero in on these critical tasks and organize your day -- not only get more done faster, but get the right things done! In this fully revised and updated second edition that includes two new chapters, "Eat That Frog!" provides brand new information on how to keep technology from dominating our time and details twenty-one practical and doable steps that will help anyone to stop procrastinating and get more of the important tasks done -- today! While very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as corporate and community library collections, it should be noted that "Eat That Frog!" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9780792754848, $22.95, CD).

Wright Brothers, Wrong Story
William Hazelgrove
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
www.prometheusbooks.com
9781633884588, $24.00, HC, 332pp, www.amazon.com

How could two misanthropic brothers who never left home, were high-school dropouts, and made a living as bicycle mechanics have figured out the secret of manned flight? "Wright Brothers, Wrong Story: How Wilbur Wright Solved the Problem of Manned Flight" by William Hazelgrove is new and detailed history of the Wright brothers' monumental accomplishment focuses on their early years of trial and error at Kitty Hawk (1900-1903) and Orville Wright's epic fight with the Smithsonian Institute and Glenn Curtis. Hazelgrove makes a convincing case that it was Wilbur Wright who designed the first successful airplane, not Orville. He shows that, while Orville's role was important, he generally followed his brother's lead and assisted with the mechanical details to make Wilbur's vision a reality. Combing through original archives and family letters, Hazelgrove reveals the differences in the brothers' personalities and abilities. He examines how the Wright brothers myth was born when Wilbur Wright died early and left his brother to write their history with personal friend John Kelly. Exceptionally well researched, written, and presented, "Wright Brothers, Wrong Story" is impressively informed and informative, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Wright Brothers, Wrong Story" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Monsterland Reanimated
Michael Okon
www.michaelokon.com
WordFire Press
9781614756729, $14.99, PB, 250pp, www.amazon.com

After Monsterland has imploded, the entire world is thrown into chaos. World leadership is gone, economies have collapsed, and communications are non-existent. Wyatt must go beyond the boundaries of his small town to reestablish contact with the outside world, and alert the government about a traitor-in-chief. During his journey he discovers a new threat released from the bowels of the defunct theme park. When an army of relentless mummies, a life-sucking ooze called The Glob, and a hybrid reanimated Behemoth rise from the depths of Monsterland, who will survive? The sequel to fantasy author Michael Okon's "Monsterland" (9781614755944, $14.99 PB; $6.99 Kindle), "Monsterland Reanimated" continues to showcase a genuine flair for originality and character driven narrative storytelling that results in a consistent and inherently riveting read from beginning to end. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated fantasy fans that "Monsterland Reanimated" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.43).

Charles Proteus Steinmetz
Robert W. Bly
Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
www.quilldriverbooks.com
9781610353267, $16.95, PB, 180pp, www.amazon.com

Thomas Alva Edison and Nikola Tesla have the glory, but perhaps the greatest electrical wizard of them all was Charles Proteus Steinmetz. Revered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a genius, but largely forgotten today, Steinmetz made the modern world possible through his revolutionary work on AC electricity transmission, the technology underlying today's power grid. More than just a great scientist and engineer, Steinmetz was also one of the most colorful characters in American life. Standing just four feet tall with a pronounced spine curvature, Steinmetz was as well known for his fiery political opinions, his fierce advocacy for social progress and education, his unusual home life, and his private menagerie as for his technical achievements. The first full biography of Steinmetz in many years, "Charles Proteus Steinmetz: The Electrical Wizard of Schenectady" brings the life, passions, and scientific achievement of this remarkable man to a new generation. Steinmetz's biographer, Robert W. Bly, is the author of over 95 books on science, technology, business, marketing, copywriting, science fiction, and popular culture. While "Charles Proteus Steinmetz: The Electrical Wizard of Schenectady" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library American Biography collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Charles Proteus Steinmetz: The Electrical Wizard of Schenectady" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.97).

A Brown Man in Russia
Vijay Menon
Glagoslav Publications
http://www.glagoslav.com
9781911414766, $28.99, HC, 188pp, www.amazon.com

In "A Brown Man in Russia: Lessons Learned on the Trans-Siberian", author Vijay Meonon describes the fantastical travels of a young, colored American traveler as he backpacks across Russia in the middle of winter via the Trans-Siberian. "A Brown Man in Russia" is a hybrid between the curmudgeonly travelogues of Paul Theroux and the philosophical works of Robert Pirsig. Styled in the vein of Hofstadter, "A Brown Man in Russia" lays out a series of absurd, but true stories followed by a deeper rumination on what they mean and why they matter. Each chapter presents a vivid anecdote from the perspective of the fumbling traveler and concludes with a deeper lesson to be gleaned. For those who recognize the discordant nature of our world in a time ripe for demagoguery and for those who want to make it better, "A Brown Man in Russia" is an all too welcome antidote. It explores the current global climate of despair over differences and outputs a very different message - one of hope and shared understanding. At times surreal, at times inappropriate, at times hilarious, and at times deeply human, "A Brown Man in Russia" is a reminder to those who feel marginalized, hopeless, or endlessly divided that harmony is achievable even in the most unlikely of places. Exceptionally well written and an inherently fascinating, informative, and thought-provoking read, "A Brown Man in Russia" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Brown Man in Russia" is also available in a paperback edition (9781911414759, $25.60) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Andy Jordan
Reviewer


Ann's Bookshelf

Old Toffer's Book of Consequential Dogs
Christopher Reid, author
Elliot Elam, illustrator
Faber and Faber
https://www.faber.co.uk
9780571334094, A$29.99, hardback, 115 pages

You've probably heard about Eliot's cats -
That thief who's "not there", and that dandy in spats -
Well, just to remove the smug grins from their faces
This pack of dogs will put them in their places.

Old Toffer, the poet Christopher Reid, has "humbly", as he says,
… rounded up a rowdy assembly
Of my own Consequential Dogs
As counterpoints to Eliot's mogs.

Here we find a Philosophical Foxhound who loves "Brain-bamboozlers and paradoxes" more than chasing foxes; a "great Greyhound" - an "Offandawayhound"; and Towzle, whose great-grandmother was "a Kitchen Mop" and whose battle to the death with a particular pair of trainers leaves them "Mercilessly chewed / Mauled and mangled / Efficiently strangled". We meet Frazzlesprat who wants to be a cat and "did get the hang of caterwauling", and Reid's "trusted Friend" 'Molly: A Dog of the Night'. In addition there are various Mutts, 'Heath, Hill, Park and Street' dogs; a spoiled Prince of a lapdog; a stray "who can pick a meagre meal / From a tipped over bin without revulsion"; 'Dobson, The Dog Detective' (a beagle of course!); and an energetic assembly of other Consequential dogs.

Reid also offers valuable advice on the naming of dogs, which is "no difficult matter" since "They're not choosy like cats, they aren't fussy at all". And his final exhortation is to "Fill your home with Happy Hounds" because "Doglessness is a disgrace / Absence of dogs a waste of space" and also because a large dog - a Wolfhound for example - can be quite useful as a substitute for "a drab old counterpane", whilst a bulldog might replace "that horrible ottoman".
To add to these pleasures, Elliot Elam has created some lively and delightful dogs of his own in black, white and yellow (good dog colours!) illustrations which perfectly complement Reid's poems.

Using a variety of poetic forms and "Forgetful of poetic pomp", Christopher Reid, with the blessing of the T.S.Eliot Estate, has had fun writing this Book of Consequential Dogs which, he notes, Eliot mooted but never wrote.

"All agree it was a pity", since dogs
suited
His genius, surely, just as well
Dogs being, you might say, parallel -
Or mirrorwise - or contrary
To cats.
So, even if you cannot have a dog in your home, you should fill it with Reid and Elam's Happy Hounds, because "a dog-filled home is misery-proof".

Although your cat might not agree.

Ghost Wall
Sarah Moss
Granta Books
c/o Farrar, Straus & Giroux
www.fsgbooks.com
9781783784455, A$27.99, hardback, 152 pages

"They lead the fearful body over the turf and along the track, her bare feet numb to most of the pain of rock and sharp rushes. Chanting rises, the drums sound slow, unsyncopated with the last panic of her heart. Others follow, wrapped against the cold, dark figures processing into the dusk".

Ghost Wall begins with a stunningly vivid recreation of an Iron Age sacrificial ritual and, although the rest of the book is firmly based in the present, echoes of this ritual reverberate through it and the chill of fear comes powerfully to life in the final chapters.

Sylvie, whose experiences and thoughts we share for the rest of the book, is a young teenager. Her controlling, abusive father is a bus driver in a north-of-England town but he is fascinated by British pre-history and has become such a self-taught expert in outdoor survival, foraging and mountaincraft that archaeologists consult him and send him off-prints of their research. He takes his daughter to museums - "his temples … bone-houses of the ancient past", she calls them. And he has taught her all his survival skills. She was even named Sulevia, after an Ancient British goddess.

Now, he has brought Sylvie and her mother with him on an archaeological exercise in Northumberland which he has devised in collaboration with a university professor from the south of England.

Professor Jim Slade wants his small group of archaeology students to "have a flavour of Iron Age life and perhaps some insight into particular processes or technologies". The students have built a roundhouse, where Sylvie and her parents sleep on splintery bunks with prickly straw-filled sacks padded with deer-skin. And everyone is to wear scratchy tunics and forage and hunt for food, because Sylvie's father insists on authenticity. The professor is less rigorous:

"Let the students sleep in tents if they prefer there were almost certainly Iron Age tents also"

"Skin tents, Dad said, none of this fancy nylon stuff", Sylvie tells us, and she comments wryly that the tent her family used every holiday "was made of canvas the colour of apricots and possibly left over from the Second World War".

Sylvie is an intelligent and often caustic observer of the way the students talk and behave as they cope with what, for them, this is just another university coarse assignment. They are ignorant of the simplest countryside knowledge and skills and they begin to respect Sylvie for what she knows and to use her knowledge to make thing easier for themselves. Sylvie, on the other hand, knows nothing of their privileged, "posh" lives and listens as they tease each other, use words she has only ever read, and talk casually of "going travelling" and of "inter-rail passes, Rome, Paris…Prague and Budapest". At one point she objects when the girl, Molly, imitates her mother's northern accent:

"Don't, I said, don't laugh at her like that, that's just how we speak…don't laugh at people's accents, you know yours sounds weird to me, posh…. It's not a different country the north of England".

Over the few days of the exercise, Sylvie defies her father in minor ways but when he catches her bathing alone in a stream he takes his belt to her and beats her. She hides her bruises, as she always does, and it is clear that she and her mother habitually tread warily around him trying to predict what might upset him. They assume, as do many abused people, that when he turns on them they "asked for it" by provoking him in some way. But Sylvie still sneaks off with Molly, who buys forbidden food in the local town and hides it near their camp.

The men hunt and fish. Sylvie's father instructs the boys on how to skin and butcher a rabbit. "You start by peeling off the rabbit's skin. Cut off the paws, Dad said, like this, and run the blade around here. Slice along the leg…". "The boys were visibly shaken", notes Sylvie. "Dan puked". Watching her father's hands she thinks of "his skin, my skin, the tanned skin of his belt, the soft furry skin of the rabbit, our surfaces, our barriers between blood and air".

When one of the boys, Pete, steps in a bog and has to be rescued, it revives Sylvie's father's fascination with Iron Age bog-people, and he talks of the bog-preserved human remains which often show signs of ritual wounding. And Sylvie remembers her own experience of the bog:

"Cold water clutched me, earth pulled and sucked. It wasn't quicksand, I wasn't being pulled down, but I couldn't get up either and the instinctive struggle made it worse. Don't move now, girl, Dad had said, I'll get you out, don't fret, but don't go wriggling … I'd been sitting not waist-deep, but even so I couldn't help myself and it took a long time to work me free".

Rescuing Pete, the men had found a girl's boot in the bog, possibly Victorian, but it brings up, again, the topic of the ritual sacrifices to the bog of objects and people. Then "The Prof" decides to revive another local Iron Age ritual. They will construct a ghost wall, as the local tribes once did:

"…as a last-ditch defence again the invading Romans, they made a palisade and brought out their ancestral skulls and arranged them along the top, dead faces gazing down, it was the strangest magic".

Sylvie and Molly are, at first, derisive when they find the men weaving the wall from sticks and willow withies: "Jesus, said Molly, they've actually made themselves Lego, haven't they, I suppose it's better than cowboys and Indians". But the wall takes shape, with rabbit skulls boiled skinless by Sylvie's mother, and the skulls of sheep and cattle sourced from a local meat market. "They set up the ghost wall towards sunset". Sylvie carried the skulls and bones to it and her father set them in place, then

"They made drumming, as the eastern sky darkened and the stars prickled above the band of pale cloud. They made chanting, and I found myself joining in, heard my voice rise clear, hold its notes, above a low incantation. We chanted and sat on the ground before our raised bone-faces, sang to them as they gleamed moonlit into the darkness. We sang of death, and it felt true".

The mood of ritual magic affects the group, drawing them together, but there is another ritual still to come and Sylvie is at the centre of it.

To say more is to give away too much, but as the book reaches its climax the sense of danger, the rhythm of the drums, the dominance of Sylvie's father and the cool experimental calm of the professor in these final chapters are chilling.

Ghost Wall is short but immensely powerful. Through Sarah Moss's writing, and especially through Sylvie, we glimpse the characters of the people who are drawn into her story, and we feel the magic of the land and the fascination and strength of ancient rituals. This is a thrilling and enthralling book.

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer
http://ann.skea.com


Bethany's Bookshelf

Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?
Baruti K. Kafele
ASCD
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
www.ascd.org
9781416626893, $15.95, PB, 96pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Baruti K. Kafele, a highly regarded urban educator in New Jersey for more than 20 years, and has distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader.

"Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?" is latest installment to his series of best-selling self-reflection guides, in which he offers school leaders 35 thought-provoking questions to ponder from one fundamental overarching query: "Is my school a better school because I lead it?"

Musing deeply on discrete leadership matters is an essential component of success for anybody overseeing the day-to-day operations of a school, and doubly so in communities plagued by drugs, violence, or other markers of societal dysfunction. In this book, Kafele offers those seeking to improve the quality of instruction in their institutions hard-won wisdom on such critical issues as ensuring an optimal culture and climate, engaging in parent and community outreach, confirming emergency preparedness, rallying staff, and much more.

Because the sheer volume of responsibilities for a principal or assistant principal can leave an administrator with very little time for developing an effective and consistent self-reflection regimen, Kafele has done the work and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. School administrators need only begin reading "Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?" to embark upon a penetratingly insightful journey destined to transform their practice, boost teacher satisfaction, and most important of all -- inspire students to excel academically.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, school district, college, and university library Education Administration instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists.

In the Cards: Murder and Magic in the Library
Marjorie G. Jones
Ibis Press
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
www.redwheelweiser.com
9780892541850, $19.95, PB, 256pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: In collaboration with a Scotland Yard detective, who is also a Freemason, Frances Yates (who is an eminent historian of Renaissance spirituality and proponent of martyred priest Giordano Bruno), employs her unique scholarship to solve a murder and the theft of a rare volume in the renowned musty library of ancient philosophical traditions, where she has long been a resident scholar.

While immersed in an article regarding the significance of mysterious tarot cards, Yates comes to realize that the recurring images of the cards illustrate universal life stages and character traits that may provide clues to the identity of the murderer. Along the way, she encounters more recent scholarship regarding feminist theology that, together with the tarot, prompts her to reconsider her own patriarchal spiritual worldview.

Critique: A deftly crafted and inherently fascinating novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality, creating memorable characters, and engaging narrative driven storytelling, Marjorie Jones' "In the Cards: Murder and Magic in the Library" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "In the Cards: Murder and Magic in the Library" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Turn, Turn, Turn: Popular Songs and Music Inspired by the Bible
Steve Turner
Museum of the Bible Book
c/o Worthy Publishing
One Franklin Park, 6100 Tower Circle, Suite 210, Franklin, TN 37067
www.worthypublishing.com
9781945470394, $24.99, HC, 336pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: There's no question that Scripture has influenced music since the first ever song was penned. For example: 36% of Bob Dylan's songs published between 1961 and 1968 had biblical references, including his 1964 hit "The Times They Are A-Changin"; The book of Ecclesiastes has been a great inspiration on popular music including the song "Turn, Turn, Turn" by The Byrds; the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon; and "Desperado," the 1973 hit by The Eagles

Paul Simon once advised a young prospective lyricist to raid the Bible for memorable phrases. "Just steal them," he said, "That's what they're there for."

In "Turn, Turn, Turn: Popular Songs and Music Inspired by the Bible" author and music connoisseur, Steve Turner, takes an in-depth look at the lyrics and cultural context of 100 of the greatest songs from the 1930s to today to reveal an often overlooked or ignored strand of influence in popular music -- the Bible.

Indeed, some of the "greats" -- including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bono, Johnny Cash, Sting, and others -- have repeatedly returned to the Bible for such sustenance, as well as musical inspiration and a framework with which they can better understand themselves.

Critique: An inherently fascinating study, "Turn, Turn, Turn: Popular Songs and Music Inspired by the Bible" is impressively informative, exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented. While especially and highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of music history students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Turn, Turn, Turn" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.51).

Orientalist Lives
James Parry
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
www.aucpress.com
9789774168352, $59.95, HC, 240pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: In one of the most remarkable artistic pilgrimages in history, the nineteenth century saw scores of Western artists heading to the Middle East. Inspired by the allure of the exotic Orient, they went in search of subjects for their paintings. "Orientalist Lives: Western Artists in the Middle East, 1830 - 1920" reveals what led this surprisingly diverse and idiosyncratic group of men (and some women) to often remote and potentially dangerous locations, from Morocco to Egypt, the Levant, and Turkey.

There they lived, worked, and traveled for weeks or months on end, gathering material with which to create art for their clients back in the drawing rooms of Boston, London, and Paris.

Based on his research in museums, libraries, archives, galleries, and private collections across the world, James Parry (a writer and lecturer on the art, architecture, and history of the Middle East who has worked in many countries across the region and for a wide range of publications and heritage organizations) traces these journeys of cultural and artistic discovery.

From the early pioneer David Roberts through the heyday of leading stars such as Jean-Leon Gerome and Frederick Arthur Bridgman, to Orientalism's post-1900 decline, "Orientalist Lives" describes how these traveling artists prepared for their expeditions, coped with working in unfamiliar and challenging surroundings, engaged with local people, and then took home to their studios the memories, sketches, and collections of artifacts necessary to create the works for which their audiences clamored.

Excerpts from letters and diaries, including little-known accounts and previously unpublished material, as well as photographs, sketches, and other original illustrations, bring alive the impressions, experiences, and careers of the Orientalists and shed light on how they created what are now once again recognized as masterpieces of art.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated, impressively researched, expertly written, accessibly organized and deftly presented so as to be of immense interest and value to both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, "Orientalist Lives: Western Artists in the Middle East, 1830 - 1920" will prove to be a unique, immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, college, and university library 19th & 20th Century Art History collections and supplemental studies lists.

The Essential Addiction Recovery Companion
Richard A. Singer, Jr.
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
www.lovinghealing.com
9781615994021, $18.95, PB, 124pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: "The Essential Addiction Recovery Companion: A Guidebook for the Mind, Body, and Soul" builds on Richard Singer's acclaimed book, "101 Tips for Recovery from Addictions". This companion is a thorough and innovative guide that offers practical applications paired with in depth questions to help the reader discover a new life away from the hell of addiction. "The Essential Addiction Recovery Companion" is holistic in its approach, covering the psychological, physical and spiritual aspects of recovery. The writing is simple and empathic, which makes it feel as if readers have a therapist right by their side as they dive into the depths of their being and prepare to transform their lives.

"The Essential Addiction Recovery Companion" will help the reader: Discover the hidden potential that has been clouded by addiction; Create an unimaginable life filled with infinite possibilities; Build stronger intimate relationships with family and friends; Learn to live a life filled with mindfulness and get the most out of each unique moment; Learn how to conquer the devious denial system that keeps addiction alive; Access the genuine peace and joy that exists within one's being.

Critique: Expertly written, exceptionally well organized, thoroughly 'user friendly' in content and presentation, "The Essential Addiction Recovery Companion: A Guidebook for the Mind, Body, and Soul" is ideal for use by addiction professionals, recovering individuals, family members and anyone interested in truly living life free from any addiction. It should be noted that "The Essential Addiction Recovery Companion" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.95).

Susan Bethany
Reviewer


Buhle's Bookshelf

Outdoor Paint Techniques and Faux Finishes
Marina Niven & Louise Hennings
Creative Homeowner
www.creativehomeowner.com
c/o Fox Chapel Publishing Company
www.FoxChapelPublishing.com
9781580118149, $19.99, PB, 160pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Colorful, inspirational and practical, "Outdoor Paint Techniques and Faux Finishes" guides you through a series of 25 decorative finishes ideal for external walls, floors, and woodwork. Collaboratively written by Marina Niven (who owns a decorating business and a curtain workshop, and teaches decorative painting and interior decorating) and Louise Hennings (who runs her own business as a designer of interior finishes and freelances as a color consultant) features a wide variety of stunning effects for five surfaces: plaster, cement, wood, metal, and stone.

"Outdoor Paint Techniques and Faux Finishes" covers a wide variety of paint effects including stucco, faux tiles, frescos, lime washing, verdigris, moss effects and more. Also introduced are new decorative finishes that can withstand the forces of nature as effectively as traditional exterior paints, along with advice on surface preparation, color usage and recommended equipment.

Clear and informative text, supported by detailed step-by-step photographs, makes it easy to create beautiful outdoor embellishments that make a personal decorating statement.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "Outdoor Paint Techniques and Faux Finishes" is extraordinarily practical, and impressively well organized, and thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction manual and resource that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and technical college collections.

The Track in the Forest
Bob Burns
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
www.chicagoreviewpress.com
9780897339377, $26.99, HC, 272pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: The 1968 US men's Olympic track and field team won 12 gold medals and set six world records at the Mexico City Games, one of the most dominant performances in Olympic history. The team featured such legends as Tommie Smith, Bob Beamon, Al Oerter, and Dick Fosbury.

Fifty years later, the team is mostly remembered for embodying the tumultuous social and racial climate of 1968. The Black Power protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the victory stand in Mexico City remains one of the most enduring images of the 1960s.

Less known is the role that a 400-meter track carved out of the Eldorado National Forest above Lake Tahoe played in molding that juggernaut.

To acclimate US athletes for the 7,300-foot elevation of Mexico City, the US Olympic Committee held a two-month training camp and final Olympic selection meet for the ages at Echo Summit near the California-Nevada border. Never has a sporting event of such consequence been held in such an ethereal setting.

On a track in which hundreds of trees were left standing on the infield to minimize the environmental impact, four world records fell -- more than have been set at any US meet since the 1984 and 1996 Olympics.

But the road to Echo Summit was tortuous -- 1968 was the year that the Vietnam War was raging, that Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and that a group of athletes based out of San Jose State had been threatening to boycott the Mexico City Games to protest racial injustice.

Informed by dozens of interviews by longtime sports journalist and track enthusiast Bob Burns, "The Track in the Forest: The Creation of a Legendary 1968 US Olympic Team" is the fascinating story of how in one of the most divisive years in American history, a California mountaintop provided an incomparable group of Americans shelter from the storm.

Critique: An exceptional and original historical study, "The Track in the Forest: The Creation of a Legendary 1968 US Olympic Team" is impressively informative and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Track in the Forest" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

News Media Relations for Law Enforcement Leaders
Gerald W. Garner
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
http://www.ccthomas.com
9780398092436, $34.95, PB, 230pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: To one extent or another, dealing with the news media is a fact of life for every American law enforcement leader. However, news organizations, although a pain at times, can aid law enforcement in a number of ways.

In "News Media Relations for Law Enforcement Leaders", Gerald W. Garner avoids theory and the intangible and concentrates on the practicalities by exploring past troubled times and focuses on what cops and reporters have to offer each other. The news is defined and broken down into some of its technical, component parts.

The secrets for establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with reporters are revealed, including the absolute necessity for credibility on the part of the law enforcement leader. Common sense policies and procedures concerning relations with the news media, and the importance of an effective Public Information Officer (PIO) is explored.

The following topics are featured: newspaper journalism; the all-seeing eye called television; a look at what radio has to offer; Internet news; and what the Net can provide the police officer in twenty-first century America.

The law enforcement officer will learn how to give an effective interview, produce news releases that will be used by the media, the art of leading a successful news conference, and the dirty tricks used by the occasional, unscrupulous journalist.

Solid advice for overcoming this media misbehavior is given, which will prepare the leader for dealing with the media challenges found at the scene of a major crime, disaster, or other high-profile incident. Instructions for the responses required to recover from an episode of bad news is included, aiding the leader in how to inform the public of all good news that the agency generates.

Each individual chapter concludes with a summary of vital points to remember, and a glossary of terms appears at the end of the text. For this newly revised and expanded second edition of "News Media Relations for Law Enforcement Leaders" a new chapter has been added on the topic of 'fake news'.

Law enforcement leaders need to understand what this phenomenon is and how to protect themselves from its negative effects. "News Media Relations for Law Enforcement Leaders" is a deftly crafted 'how-to' troubleshooting guide that will enable the law enforcement leader to undertake any challenging media situation that is encountered.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, this newly revised second edition of "News Media Relations for Law Enforcement Leaders" is an ideal textbook on a vital aspect of law enforcement and especially recommended for police academy curriculums, community and academic library Contemporary Law Enforcement instructional reference collections, and Police/Media supplemental studies lists, as well as the personal reading lists of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Willis M. Buhle
Reviewer


Burroughs' Bookshelf

Russia Reconsidered: Putin, Power, and Pragmatism
Matthew Crosston
Brown Books Publishing Group
16250 Knoll Trail Drive, Suite 205, Dallas, TX 75248-2871
www.brownbooks.com
9781612549842, $24.95, HC, 409pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Dr. Matthew Crosston is Senior Doctoral Faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies for the Strategic Intelligence and Global Security programs at the American Military University. He was recently selected as the incoming co-editor of the seminal International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, hailed by the American Intelligence Community as the flagship Intelligence Studies journal. He is an acclaimed author and international speaker who consults with governments, media organizations, and academic institutions on a range of issues covering peace mediation, human rights conflicts, resource dilemmas, intelligence, change leadership, and education innovation.

He is also a Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Israel, a Senior Advisor for the Research Institute for European and American Studies in Athens, Greece, a Senior Fellow at the China Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research in Nanjing, China, and was the first American invited to conduct a political analysis blog for the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow, Russia. He has also recently advised on the development of two new doctoral programs at St. Johns University and North Carolina State University, in Homeland Security Management and International Security, respectively.

Drawing upon his years of research, experience and expertise in the field of Russian studies, Dr. Crosston gives readers a close look at the many facets of the strained foreign relations between the United States of America and the Russian Federation in "Russia Reconsidered: Putin, Power, and Pragmatism".

While acknowledging the pragmatism, self-interest, and unethical aspects of Russia's foreign policy, Dr. Crosston argues that this ever-tense situation is best viewed through an amoral, apolitical, and unbiased lens -- a controversial approach in a country whose citizens have viewed Russia, the Former Soviet Union, as a black-and-white, clear-cut villain for decades. But with extensive research from the last few years, Dr. Crosston offers Americans a fresh perspective, and breaks up the current political and media narratives with a voice of hope and reason.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Russia Reconsidered: Putin, Power, and Pragmatism" is an invaluable and timely contribution to our current on-going national discussion of Russian foreign policies with respect to the electoral and political systems of the western democracies in general, and the current American presidency in particular. While a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, U.S. State Department, college, and university library International Studies collections and Contemporary Russian Studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Russia Reconsidered: Putin, Power, and Pragmatism" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Business Creation
Paul D. Reynolds
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
www.e-elgar.com
9781788118347, $110.00, HC, 192pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Business creation, or entrepreneurship, is a major source of national economic growth and adaptation as well as an important career choice for millions. "Business Creation: Ten Factors for Entrepreneurial Success" is an insightful study in which Paul D. Reynolds (who has been an entrepreneurial scholar and researcher for the past 30 years) presents an overview of the major factors associated with contemporary business creation, reflecting representative samples of US early stage nascent ventures, and emphasizing the unique features of the one-third that achieve profitability.

"Business Creation" is in-depth assessment includes empirical descriptions of a broad range of relevant features of the entrepreneurial process. By using representative samples of nascent entrepreneurs and ventures in the US, it allows extrapolation to US populations of entrepreneurs, pre-profit ventures, and activity in all economic sectors. Outcomes including profitability and disengagement are identified in multiple follow-up interviews.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Business Creation: Ten Factors for Entrepreneurial Success" is an exceptionally accessible study that is unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library Business Management collections, as well as the personal reading lists of business students, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

John Burroughs
Reviewer


Carson's Bookshelf

World in Crisis: Marxist Perspectives on Crash & Crisis
Guglielmo Carchedi & Michael Roberts, editors
Haymarket Books
PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618
www.haymarketbooks.org
9781608461813, $22.95, PB, 450pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Most mainstream economists view capitalism's periodic breakdowns as nothing more than temporary aberrations from an otherwise unbroken path toward prosperity. For Marxists, this fundamental flaw has long been acknowledged as a central feature of the free-market system.

Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Guglielmo Carchedi and Michael Roberts, "World in Crisis: Marxist Perspectives on Crash & Crisis" is groundbreaking volume that brings together Marxist scholars from around the world to offer an empirically grounded defense of Marx's law of profitability and its central role in explaining capitalist crises.

"World in Crisis" has a specific aim: to provide empirical validity to the hypothesis that the cause of recurring economic crises or slumps in output, investment, and employment in modern economies is to be found in Marx's law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit.

Critique: A compendium of seventeen erudite and occasionally iconoclastic articles contributed by experts in Marxist economic theories, "World in Crisis: Marxist Perspectives on Crash & Crisis" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a two page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a four page index. A critically important contribution, "World in Crisis: Marxist Perspectives on Crash & Crisis" is an especially recommended addition to community, college, and academic library Contemporary Economics collections in general, and Marxist Economics supplemental studies lists in particular.

And the Whole Mountain Burned
Ray McPadden
Center Street
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
www.centerstreet.com
9781546081913, $26.00, HC, 288pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Sergeant Nick Burch has returned to the crags of tribal Afghanistan seeking vengeance. Burch's platoon has one goal: to capture or kill an elusive insurgent, known as the Egyptian, a leader who is as much myth as he is man, highly revered and guarded by ferocious guerrillas. The soldiers of Burch's platoon look to him for leadership, but as the Egyptian slips farther out of reach, so too does Burch's battle-worn grasp on reality.

Private Danny Shane, the youngest soldier in the platoon, is learning how to survive. For Shane, hunting the Egyptian is secondary. First he must adapt to the savage conditions of the battlefield: crippling heat, ravenous sand fleas, winds thick with moondust, and a vast mountain range that holds many secrets. Shane is soon chiseled by combat, shackled by loyalty, and unflinchingly marching toward a battle from which there is no return.

A new enemy has emerged, one who has studied the American soldiers and adapted to their tactics. Known as Habibullah, a teenage son of the people, he stands in brazen defiance of the Ameriki who have come to destroy what his ancestors have built. The American soldiers may be tracking the Egyptian, but Habibullah is tracking them, and he knows these lands far better than they do.

With guns on full-auto, Shane and Burch trek into the deepest solitudes of the Himalayas. Under soaring peaks, dark instinct is laid bare. To survive, Shane and Burch must defeat not just Habibullah's militia but the beast inside themselves.

Critique: The author of "And The Whole Mountain Burned" is Ray McPadden who is a four-tour combat veteran and a former Ground Force Commander in an elite unit of Army Rangers. He earned a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and a medal for valor during his combat tours, which included almost two years on the Afghan-Pakistani border during the height of the conflict. In "And The Whole Mountain Burned", McPadden deftly portrays the horrors of war, the courage of soldiers, and the fact that no matter how many enemies we vanquish, there is always another just over the next ridge. It is also an inherently riveting read from first page to last, making it unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "And The Whole Mountain Burned" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete an unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781549176623, $35.00, CD).

Biorefineries: Design and Analysis
Carols Ariel Cardona Alzate, et al.
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
www.crcpress.com
9781138080027, $149.95, HC, 242pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: A biorefinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, heat, and value-added chemicals from biomass.

Aimed at presenting a systematic design of biorefineries, "Biorefineries: Design and Analysis" by the team of Carlos A. Cardona Alzate (a full Professor in Chemical Engineering Department at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia sede Manizales), Jonathan Moncada Botero (an expert in sustainability assessment of biorefinery systems), and chemical engineer Valentina Aristizabal-Marulanda (whose research focuses on processes engineering, process modelling and simulation, design and analysis of biorefinery configurations considering technical, economic, environmental and social aspects) initiates with an overview about relevance and applications explained through origin of raw materials, transformation routes and products.

Then, concepts as hierarchy, sequencing and integration are considered which helps in generating a sustainable and strategic design of biorefineries. Further, a framework for biorefineries based on techno-economic, environmental and social aspects is analyzed with examples to show the applications. Finally, some mass, energy and economic indices are considered to assess the biorefinery sustainability and key challenges for future development of biorefineries.

"Biorefineries: Design and Analysis" presents current state-of the-art of the biorefineries design and analyses for in depth understanding of biofuels and biomaterials; explores conceptual design of processes; presents concepts discussed with strong engineering approach, including design strategies and techno-economic analyses; includes bio-based materials, natural products and food products in the biorefinery concept; and presents a structured method to calculate indices of performance of biorefineries.

Critique: A seminal work of a groundbreaking technology, "Biorefineries: Design and Analysis" is impressively well organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, corporate, governmental, college, and university library Chemical Engineering collections in general, and Biorefinery supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Biorefineries: Design and Analysis" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $54.95).

Michael J. Carson
Reviewer


Clint's Bookshelf

Romance of the Rails
Randal O'Toole
Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001-5403
www.cato.org
9781944424947, $24.95, HC, 300pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: American transportation has undergone many technological revolutions: from sailing ships to steam ships; from canals to railroads; from steam to Diesels; from horse cars to electric streetcars; from passenger trains and urban rail transit to airplanes and automobiles.

Normally, the government has allowed and even encouraged these transport revolutions, but for some reason the federal government is spending billions of dollars trying to preserve and build obsolete rail transit and passenger train lines, including high-speed trains that cost more but are less than half as fast as flying.

In "Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need", rail fan and transportation policy expert Randal O'Toole (who is a Cato Institute Senior Fellow working on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues) asks why passenger trains have been singled out and whether this policy makes sense.

To answer this question, "Romance of the Rails" looks at the history of both intercity and urban rail transportation going back to 1825. The Golden Age of rail passenger travel, from about 1890 to 1920, depended on job and population concentrations that no longer exist today. Moreover, even during that Golden Age, most rail travel was confined to the elites, while a majority of Americans rarely if ever rode a streetcar or intercity train.

The basic message in "Romance of the Rails" is that Federally subsidized efforts to return to that Golden Age, through subsidies to Amtrak and local transit agencies, are doing more harm than good to personal mobility. Instead, the transportation of the future will rely on America's four million miles of roads and air travel that requires minimal infrastructure.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with historic photos, thirty-eight pages of notes, and a nine page index, "Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need" is a welcome contribution to our national dialogue regarding railroading based transportation infrastructure policies. While unreservedly recommended for community, governmental, college, and university library Contemporary Transportation Policy collections and supplemental study lists, it should be noted for students, governmental policy makers, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Romance of the Rails" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Coca Wine
Aymon de Lestrange
Park Street Press
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
www.innertraditions.com
9781620557846, $40.00, PB, 256pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: One of the oldest and most potent natural stimulants, the leaves of the coca plant are the organic source from which cocaine is synthesized. Fresh coca leaves and products made from them have verified medicinal and healing properties--and not the same addictive qualities or negative side effects as cocaine. In the late 19th century coca products became hugely successful in Europe and the United States. The most famous was Vin Mariani, a coca-based tonic wine developed by Corsican pharmacist Angelo Mariani (1838-1914). Many celebrities sang its praises, including Pope Benedict XV, Sarah Bernhardt, Thomas Edison, H. G. Wells, William McKinley, Emile Zola, and the doctors of Ulysses S. Grant, who credited Vin Mariani with giving him the strength to finish his memoirs before his death.

"Coca Wine: Angelo Mariani's Miraculous Elixir and the Birth of Modern Advertising" by Aymon de Lestrange (bibliophile, publisher, and a collector who is well-known for his important collection of drug-related items, including the most comprehensive collection on Angelo Mariani and coca items in the world) is full-color illustrated history of coca wine. "Coca Wine" follows Mariani's interest in coca from its medicinal applications to the creation of the tonic wine.

"Coca Wine" also explores the botany of coca, how it differs from cocaine, its traditional use in pre-Columbian America, and scientific studies on coca from the 17th through 19th centuries, including from Sigmund Freud, who was a known user. "Coca Wine" describes the introduction of coca in the U.S. and France and the many coca preparations then available at drugstores. "Coca Wine" also studies the introduction of cocaine in these two countries and the prohibition laws that followed.

In the illustrated pages of "Coca Wine", author Aymon de Lestrange demonstrates how Mariani became, in many ways, the father of modern advertising with his highly successful advertising campaigns. He includes vivid reproductions of Mariani's advertisements, many not seen since their original publication in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and shows how Mariani commissioned the top writers and artists of the day, such as Jules Cheret and Alphonse Mucha, to produce works celebrating coca wine. de Lestrange reveals how Vin Mariani was the forerunner of Coca-Cola, which clearly plagiarized not only Mariani's product but also his advertising methods.

Looking to the future of coca, "Coca Wine" shows how it has gained renewed interest in the scientific community for its therapeutic and nutritional properties and in the spiritual community, which is seeking to rehabilitate the reputation of coca, the sacred plant of the Incas.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, beautifully illustrated throughout, notably comprehensive, exceptionally well written, organized and presented for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Coca Wine: Angelo Mariani's Miraculous Elixir and the Birth of Modern Advertising" is a unique, extraordinary, and highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Coca Wine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.99).

Homosexuality on the Small Screen
Sebastian Buckle
I. B. Tauris Publishers
www.ibtauris.com
9781784538507, $99.00, HC, 288pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Sebastian Buckle gained his PhD in History and LGBT Studies at the University of Southampton. He is a blogger, writer and researcher on British queer history and the author of The Way Out: A History of Homosexuality in Modern Britain (I.B.Tauris, 2015)

Television provides a unique account of the development of a homosexual identity across the western world, emerging as it did when ideas around sex and sexuality were themselves only just beginning to be publicly discussed.

From the very earliest surviving drama featuring homosexuality in 1959, Buckle draws upon his special expertise and research in "Homosexuality on the Small Screen: Television and Gay Identity in Britain" to deftly explore each decade's programming in turn, looking at homosexual themes, storylines, and characters, situating them historically, and relating them to the broader events in British history.

By doing so Buckle insightfully examines the interactions between the medium and the reality of gay lives, showing how television mirrored the changes taking place in British society.

For those with a homosexual (or emerging homosexual) sexual orientation, they were seminal in early personal and social development. For heterosexual viewers, these images were equally important in exploring a sexual other which otherwise remained hidden from them.

They included positive storylines which helped improve public ideas about homosexuality, but also stereotypical images which propagated negative attitudes in the public consciousness. "Homosexuality on the Small Screen" charts this fascinating journey and television's role in the construction of a gay identity.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Homosexuality on the Small Screen: Television and Gay Identity in Britain" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library LGBT collections and supplemental studies lists.

Clint Travis
Reviewer


Julie's Bookshelf

101 Healthiest Foods for Kids
Sally Kuzemchak, M.S., R.D.
www.realmomnutrition.com
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
www.quartous.com
9781592338481, $22.99, PB, 208pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Sally Kuzemchak is a mom and registered dietitian specializing in nutrition communications, with more than 15 years of experience writing for national magazines. She runs the website www.realmomnutrition.com.

She draws upon her years of experience and expertise in "101 Healthiest Foods for Kids: Eat the Best, Feel the Greatest Healthy Foods for Kids, and Recipes Too!" to provide practical and insightful information for parents want to provide a healthy lifestyle for all the members of their family -- and most especially their children.

A thoroughly family-friendly guide, "101 Healthiest Foods for Kids" includes informational sidebars with great tips and tricks for getting kids to try new foods and make healthy choices, as well as answers to questions, like: Is juice healthy?, Does my child need a multivitamin?, and Do kids need more protein?

From fruits and veggies, to whole grains and protein-rich foods, Sally provides 101 full profiles on foods such as: Sugar Snap Peas; Zucchini; Sweet Potato; Papaya; Pomegranate; Dates; Farro; Lentils; Sunflower seeds; and so many more!

On top of all that, "101 Healthiest Foods for Kids" includes more than 25 quick and easy recipes any kitchen cook can ranging from Beet & Berry Smoothies to Cauliflower Nuggets and Red Lentil Snack Cookies.

Critique: Whether dealing with familiar ingredients or something brand new to a child, "101 Healthiest Foods for Kids: Eat the Best, Feel the Greatest Healthy Foods for Kids, and Recipes Too!" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family and community library collections.

I Love You Still: A Memorial Baby Book
Margaret Scofield, author
Priscilla Alpaugh, illustrator
I Love You Still, LLC
www.iloveyoustillbook.com
9780692148174, $28.00, HC, 64pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Composed by author Margaret Scofield, "I Love You Still: A Memorial Baby Book" is specifically created for the events and emotions associated with pregnancy or infant loss. The lovely illustrations by Priscilla Alpaugh feature a gender-neutral nursery animal theme. The images and content comprising "I Love You Still: A Memorial Baby Book" are carefully and specifically designed to be as inclusive as possible for all babies and gestational ages.

Critique: An ideal gift for any expectant mother, or any parent that is experiencing the loss of a new baby, "I Love You Still: A Memorial Baby Book" is a unique, extraordinary, and unreservedly recommended.

Understanding Hepatitis
Naheed Ali, MD
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
www.rowman.com
9781538117248, $34.00, HC, 132pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver tissue. Some people have no symptoms whereas others develop yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes, poor appetite, vomiting, tiredness, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. Hepatitis may be temporary (acute) or long term (chronic) depending on whether it lasts for less than or more than six months. Acute hepatitis can sometimes resolve on its own, progress to chronic hepatitis, or rarely result in acute liver failure. Over time the chronic form may progress to scarring of the liver, liver failure, or liver cancer. (Wikipedia)

Hepatitis can afflict anyone and can present in a variety of types. "Understanding Hepatitis: An Introduction for Patients and Caregivers" by Dr. Naheedi Ali (who currently serves as the COO of Golden Gate Institute for Integrative Medicine where he runs strategy, corporate development, and operations) offers medical students and those diagnosed with this condition an overview of cutting-edge information that will help them to successfully confront this disease.

Dr. Naheed Ali offers an introduction to the many forms of the disease, its causes and symptoms, its treatment and outcomes, and its risk factors. Looking at the disease from a whole-patient perspective, Dr. Ali details ways in which sufferers and their families can better cope with it. Since hepatitis is a life changer for anyone dealing with hepatitis.

Critique: Specifically written for non-specialist general readers having to deal with the condition of hepatitis for themselves or a loved one, "Understanding Hepatitis: An Introduction for Patients and Caregivers" is exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, medical clinic, college, and university library Health & Medicine collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Understanding Hepatitis" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $32.00).

The Book of Ballads & Sagas
Charles Vess
Titan Comics
https://titan-comics.com
9781782763321, $29.99, HC, 240pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Charles Vess (born June 10, 1951) is an American fantasy artist and comics artist who has specialized in the illustration of myths and fairy tales. His influences include British "Golden Age" book illustrator Arthur Rackham, Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha, and comic-strip artist Hal Foster, among others. Vess has won several awards for his illustrations. (Wikipedia)

"The Book of Ballads & Sagas" is award-winning compendium of English and Scottish fairy tales and folklore that Titan Comics has brought back into print for a new generation of appreciative readers a sumptuous collection of verse that is beautifully illustrated by Vess and featuring adaptations of the ballad stories by Neil Gaiman (who was Vess' collaborator on the hugely successful Stardust) along with a host of famous fantasy writers. This new edition of "The Book of Ballads & Sagas" also boasts never-before-seen art and an amazing gallery of sketches!

Critique: Featuring black-and-white illustrations that rise to the level of museum quality artwork, each showcased poem is a memorable gem. "The Book of Ballads & Sagas" will easily prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Book of Ballads & Sagas" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.39).

Across the Great Lake
Lee Zacharias
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
www.uwpress.wisc.edu
9780299320904, $23.95, HC, 240pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: As his wife lies dying in the brutally cold winter of 1936, Henrik Halvorsen takes his daughter Fern away with him. He captains a great coal-fired vessel, the Manitou, transporting railroad cars across the icy lake. The five-year-old girl revels in the freedom of the ferry, making friends with a stowaway cat and a gentle young deckhand. The sighting of a ghost ship, though, presages danger for all aboard.

In her eighty-fifth year, Fern Halvorson tells the story of a childhood journey across Lake Michigan and the secret she has kept since that ill-fated voyage.

Critique: Professor Emerita of English at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Lee Zacharias is the author of four previous books, including "At Random" (Fugitive Poets Press, 9781938045073, $19.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle); "The Only Sounds We Make" (Hub City Press, 9781938235009, $16.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle); "Helping Muriel Make It Through the Night" (Louisiana State University Press, 9780807101773, $35.00 PB, $3.99 Kindle); and Book of the Month Club selection "Lessons" (Houghton Mifflin, $10.00 PB). Her literary work has appeared in the Best American Essays series. Her novel "Across the Great Lake" is a deftly crafted story penned by an author with a very special and genuine flair for originality, the development of memorable characters, and narrative driven storytelling.

Atlas of Poetic Botany
Francis Halle, author
Erik Butler, translator
Elaine Patriarca, contributor
The MIT Press
One Rogers Street, Cambridge MA 02142-1209
www.mitpress.mit.edu
9780262039123, $24.95, HC, 128pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Translated into English for the benefit of an American readership by Erik Buter, "Atlas of Poetic Botany" by Professor Emeritus at the University of Montpellier Francis Halle (a botanist and biologist who specializes in tropical rainforests and tree architecture) invites the reader to tour the farthest reaches of the rainforest in search of exotic, poetic, plant life.

Guided in these botanical encounters by Professor Halle, who has spent forty years in pursuit of the strange and beautiful plant specimens of the rainforest, the reader discovers a plant with just one solitary, monumental leaf; an invasive hyacinth; a tree that walks; a parasitic laurel; and a dancing vine.

Further explorations reveal the Rafflesia arnoldii, the biggest flower in the world, with a crown of stamens and pistils the color of rotten meat that exude the stench of garbage in the summer sun; underground trees with leaves that form a carpet on the ground above them; and the biggest tree in Africa, which can reach seventy meters (more than 200 feet) in height, with a four-meter (about 13 feet) diameter.

Professor Halle's drawings, many in color, provide a witty accompaniment to his informative text.

Professor Halle tells stories to illustrate his facts. Readers learn about, among other things, Queen Victoria's rubber tree; legends of the moabi tree (for example, that powder from the bark confers invisibility); a flower that absorbs energy from a tree; plants that imitate other plants; a tree that rains; and a fern that clones itself.

Professor Halle's drawings represent an investment in time that returns a dividend of wonder more satisfying than the ephemeral thrill afforded by the photograph. "The Atlas of Poetic Botany" allows the reader to be amazed by forms of life that seem as strange as visitors from another planet.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "Atlas of Poetic Botany" is an inherently fascinating and exceptionally informative read from beginning to end. Accessible organized and presented, "Atlas of Poetic Botany" is a unique and very special volume that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library horticultural collections and supplemental studies lists.

Julie Summers
Reviewer


Logan's Bookshelf

The End of Strategic Stability?
Lawrence Rubin & Adam N. Stulberg, editors
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
www.press.georgetown.edu
9781626166028, $110.95, HC, 328pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: During the Cold War, many believed that the superpowers shared a conception of strategic stability called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), a coexistence where both sides would compete for global influence but would be deterred from using nuclear weapons.

In actuality, both sides understood strategic stability and deterrence quite differently. Today's international system is further complicated by more nuclear powers, regional rivalries, and non-state actors who punch above their weight, but the United States and other nuclear powers still cling to old conceptions of strategic stability.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Lawrence Rubin (Associate Professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology) and Adam N. Stulberg (the Neal Family Chair and Co-Director of the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy at the Sam Nunn School, Georgia Institute of Technology), the purpose of "The End of Strategic Stability?: Nuclear Weapons and the Challenge of Regional Rivalries" is to unpack and examine how different states in different regions view strategic stability, the use or non-use of nuclear weapons, and whether or not strategic stability is still a prevailing concept.

The seventeen contributors to this extraordinary volume deftly explore policies of current and potential nuclear powers including the United States, Russia, China, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

"The End of Strategic Stability?" makes an important contribution toward understanding how nuclear weapons will impact the international system in the twenty-first century and will be useful to students, scholars, and practitioners of nuclear weapons policy.

Critique: The twelve articles comprising "The End of Strategic Stability?: Nuclear Weapons and the Challenge of Regional Rivalries" are enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an informative Introduction and Conclusion by the editors, a six page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a four page Index. While an unreservedly recommended core addition to community, governmental, college, and university library Contemporary International Relations collections in general, and Security Studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The End of Strategic Stability?" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626166035, $36.60) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $36.95).

Climate Change
Edmond A. Mathez & Jason E. Smerdon
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
http://cup.columbia.edu
9780231172820, $150.00, HC, 520pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Now in a completely updated and significantly expanded second edition, "Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future" by the team of Edmond A. Mathez (Curator Emeritus in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the American Museum of Natural History) and Jason E. Smerdon (Lamont Research Professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, an Earth Institute faculty member, and the Co-Director of the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, all at Columbia University) is an accessible and comprehensive guide to the science behind global warming.

Exquisitely and profusely illustrated throughout, the deftly scripted text is especially geared toward students at a variety of levels in providing a broad, informative introduction to the science that underlies our understanding of the climate system and the effects of human activity on the warming of our planet.

"Climate Change" also describe the roles that the atmosphere and ocean play in our climate, introduce the concept of radiation balance, and explain climate changes that occurred in the past. Also detailed are the human activities that influence the climate, such as greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions and deforestation, as well as the effects of natural phenomena.

"Climate Change" concludes with a look toward the future, discussing climate model projections, exploring the economic and technological realities of energy production, and presenting a view of the global warming challenge through the lens of risk.

Each individual chapter features profiles of scientists who advanced our understanding of the material discussed.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this new second edition of "Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future" is ideal and highly recommended as a climate change curriculum textbook. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Climate Change" is also available in a paperback edition (9780231172837, $50.00) and in a digital book format (9780231547871, eBook, $49.99).

Carl Logan
Reviewer


Margaret's Bookshelf

The World Is Our Classroom
Cindy Ross
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
www.skyhorsepublishing.com
9781510729568, $23.99, HC, 264pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: "The World Is Our Classroom: How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education" starts in the Rocky Mountain wilderness on a unique and extraordinary journey: two parents leading their young children 3,100 miles on the backs of llamas. This Canada-Mexico trek illustrated to Cindy Ross and her husband what experiential education can do. Inspired by the experience, they went on to create a new way of supplementing their children's education, focusing on two arenas for learning: the natural world and travel.

In this age of world connection, it is important to raise broad-minded and empathetic children who are knowledgeable about other cultures. To accomplish this goal, Cindy chose an unorthodox approach: she orchestrated learning opportunities for her children, Sierra and Bryce, in twelve countries. The family traveled the world, moving about on foot and bicycle, living simply and intimately. But just as important, and more accessible for many parents, were the opportunities for learning closer to home.

These adventures brought intangible gifts: values such as compassion, empathy, resilience, self-reliance, and gratitude, among others, are not always fostered in a traditional curriculum but remain crucially important to the parental task of raising children.

By sharing her story, along with honest insights from her children about the importance of their unusual education, Cindy aims to empower parents to believe they can be their children's best and most important educators. It is for parents who are seeking inspiration, who love a good story, and who are looking for an unorthodox way to raise the happiest, healthiest, and brightest children they can.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "The World Is Our Classroom: How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education" is an extraordinary and inherently engaging story that is both inspired and inspiring from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The World Is Our Classroom" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.10).

Spiritual Gold
Paulinne Delcour-Min
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
www.ozarkmt.com
9781940265544, $17.00, PB, 208pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Paulinne Delcour-Min is a regression therapist, artist and teacher. Over the years she has helped many people review and learn from their past lives in order to benefit their present one. Her passion for understanding her own previous life times has led to an extraordinary personal journey.

In "Spiritual Gold: Reincarnation, Jesus and the Secrets of Time", Paulinne has written is a simply wonderful book about past lives. She shares the treasures of a soul's journey through time and introduces us to angels and inner guides. The past life memories in "Spiritual Gold" have been retrieved through regression and stretch back over 10,000 years. They include hearing Jesus speak, and reveal his lost teachings of reincarnation; they take us to other worlds and unravel the secret of the Sphinx. But understanding the past brings a warning about our future.

The years we are living through now form a pivotal point in time. Our choices could bring us to a Golden Age - or a great catastrophe. Spiritual Gold helps us step into our power. It may be a book about past lives, but its eyes are firmly on the future. We can make a difference to how things turn out. We can forge our destiny.

Critique: An absorbing read that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "Spiritual Gold: Reincarnation, Jesus and the Secrets of Time" is very highly recommended for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in metaphysical studies. While highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Spiritual Gold" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.11).

When One Religion Isn't Enough
Duane R. Bidwell
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
www.beacon.org
9780807091241, $25.95, HC, 200pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: In the United States, we often assume religious and spiritual identity are pure, static, and singular. But some people regularly cross religious boundaries. These "spiritually fluid" people celebrate complex religious bonds, and in the process they blur social categories, evoke prejudice, and complicate religious communities. Their presence sparks questions: How and why do people become spiritually fluid? Are they just confused or unable to commit? How do we make sense of them?

"When One Religion Isn't Enough: The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People" by Duane R. Bidwell (Professor of Practical Theology, Spiritual Care, and Counseling at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, California) explores the lives of spiritually fluid people, revealing that while some chose multiple religious belonging, many more inherit it. For many North Americans, the complicated legacies of colonialism are part of their family story, and they may consider themselves both Christian and Hindu, or Buddhist, or Yoruban, or one of the many other religions native to colonized lands.

For some Asian Americans, singular religious identity may seem an alien concept, as many East Asian nations freely mix Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, and other traditions. Some African American Christians are consciously seeking to reconnect with ancestral spiritualities. And still other people are born into religiously mixed families. Jewish-Christian intermarriage led the way in the US, but religious diversity here is only increasing: almost four in ten Americans (39 percent) who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group.

Through in-depth conversations with spiritually fluid people, Professor Bidwell deftly explores how people come to claim and be claimed by multiple religious traditions, how spiritually fluid people engage radically opposed truth claims, and what this growing population tells us about change within our communities.

Critique: An original and seminal study that is impressively researched, written, organized and presented, "When One Religion Isn't Enough: The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a five page 'Note on Methods', a six page listing of Acknowledgments, seventeen pages of Notes, and a three page Index. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, while "When One Religion Isn't Enough" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "When One Religion Isn't Enough" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781974926305, $24.99, CD).

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Young Children
Judith J. Carta and Robin Miller Young
Brookes Publishing Company
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
www.brookespublishing.com
9781681251943 $39.95 amazon.com

Synopsis: Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a framework for delivering effective and efficient services and supports to meet the needs of all young children and their families so they can achieve essential developmental and early academic learning outcomes. With this evidence-based planning book and video set, you'll discover how to design, implement, and monitor successful MTSS for children ages 3 - 5 across various early learning environments, including classrooms, programs, districts, and the state level.

Learn how to:

* assess readiness for systems-level change including modifying existing practices

* employ shared-leadership and Implementation Science (IS) strategies for shifting into MTSS

* set up a successful system of data-based decision making to ensure children's needs are met

* identify children who need additional supports and provide targeted or intensive interventions

* develop, provide, and evaluate evidence-based primary, secondary and tertiary programming

* provide effective instruction in key areas, including language, early literacy, and social-emotional skills

* use MTSS to meet the needs of dual language learners and children with disabilities

* engage families in designing a MTSS built on their strengths and needs

* scale up MTSS implementation across a state

* evaluate how well your MTSS is working and determine how to make improvements

Filled with the wisdom and research findings of more than 25 experts, this book brings you foundational information about MTSS plus concrete guidance on creating a system to help all learners reach their potential. Practical tools (reproducible and available online) help your team with key steps of MTSS implementation, and six videos (available online) enhance your application of important concepts covered in the book.

The ultimate MTSS guide for leaders at all system levels - and a visionary textbook for tomorrow's professionals - this book will help early childhood education professionals usher in big-picture change that will benefit all young learners.

Practical tools and resources:

*Six videos (available online) illustrating an Instructional Leadership Team coming to consensus and using Implementation Science to shift into MTSS and application of a four-step, data-based, decision-making process at the program/school, classroom and individual-child levels

* Language Exposure Evaluation Report

* Self-Assessment of Family Engagement Practices

* Home - School Plan

* Tune-Up Checklist

Critique: Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Young Children: Driving Change in Early Education is the definitive guide for using MTSS framework to improve classrooms for children ages 3-5. Presenting the combined wisdom and practical classroom experience of more than 25 experts, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Young Children offers methodical, detailed, and nuanced guidance in crafting a system that meets the needs of young children and their families. Highly recommended, especially for education professionals and college library collections.

The Life of Imagination
Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
http://cup.columbia.edu
9780231189088 $65.00 hc / $58.13 amazon.com

Synopsis: Imagination allows us to step out of the ordinary but also to transform it through our sense of wonder and play, artistic inspiration and innovation, or the eureka moment of a scientific breakthrough. In this book, Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei offers a groundbreaking new understanding of its place in everyday experience as well as the heights of creative achievement.

The Life of Imagination delivers a new conception of imagination that places it at the heart of our engagement with the world - thinking, acting, feeling, making, and being. Gosetti-Ferencei reveals imagination's roots in embodied human cognition and its role in shaping our cognitive ecology. She demonstrates how imagination arises from our material engagements with the world and at the same time endows us with the sense of an inner life, how it both allows us to escape from reality and aids us in better understanding it.

Drawing from philosophy, cognitive science, evolutionary anthropology, developmental psychology, literary theory, and aesthetics, Gosetti-Ferencei engages a spectacular range of examples from ordinary thought processes and actions to artistic, scientific, and literary feats to argue that, like consciousness itself, imagination resists reductive explanation. The Life of Imagination offers a vital account of transformative thinking that shows how imagination will be essential in cultivating a future conducive to human flourishing and to that of the life around us.

Critique: The Life of Imagination: Revealing and Making the World is a scholarly study of the intangible quality of creativity, a driving force of literature, art, science, problem-solving, and much more. Extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index round out this extraordinary chronicle of the origins of imagination, and its transformative role in shaping human history. Highly recommended, especially for public and college library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Life of Imagination is also available in a Kindle edition ($58.13).

Margaret Lane
Reviewer


Mari's Bookshelf

Heroes in My Head
Judy Rebick
House of Anansi Press
https://houseofanansi.com
9781487003579, $22.95

In this memoir this prominent Canadian feminist and founder of rabble.ca, coming to terms with childhood abuse makes her a better activist.

Key events trigger buried memories from Rebick's early childhood. Brooklyn natives, the family moves to Canada in 1955, when she is 10. She attends McGill University, which her father says "ruined her" (53). She lives up the 60s culture, writing for the school newspaper, losing her virginity, smoking cigarettes and dope, and joining the anti-war movement. After a post-college relationship turns violent, some of which she forgets, she moves back to Toronto, then New York, then travels to Europe and the Middle East. She comes home early due to a serious illness, vowing that if recovers, she'll give herself to changing the world (105). She becomes a Trotskyite, working a union plane factory job until health problems prevent her from continuing. By the mid-80s, she does as much unpaid activist work as paid writing work. Her unrelenting pace and fearless confrontation of many challenges finally catch up with her. With a therapist, she begins to understand memories from which she's disassociated, that pop back into her mind. After "the garden shears attack" (4) incident, in which she protects the abortion clinic founder, Dr Morgenthaler, from a protester, and her encounter with a blind patient at the clinic who is abused because of her abortion, images emerge of herself at five, with her father.... "Alters" also emerge, eleven distinct personalities in all. This inner work coincides with her increasing responsibility on behalf of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC). The two go hand in hand. "Being able to see multiple perspectives on my own life allowed me to better understand my opponents," she says (140). Uncovering abuse and the alters who help her survive it, she recognizes the source of both her pain and passion. The book concludes in gratitude for all involved in her healing process, as well as a glossary and an index.

Candid and rich in history, Rebick offers timely insight into the personal become political.

A Dream of Steam
James W. Barry
https://jameswbarry.com/category/a-dream-of-steam
Privately Published
978069214637, $14.95

Based on a true story about a sawmill's fate from 1889, this reimagined historical fiction version includes romance, ships and desperados.

Comprised of four books, the novel builds steadily to a fever pitch at the end. The first book introduces a wide cast of characters. Brothers William and Thomas McGrath own and operate a lumber business. Ambitious, headstrong William is in charge of the mill and happy-go-lucky, sea-faring Thomas moves the products on the ship Genevieve. In 1891, they request a loan to modernize their business from a bank in Detroit run by Edgar Standish and son-in-law, John Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick plays poker with thug union organizers and other violent types. Klara is a mail-order bride on her way to meet her future husband in Michigan when her ship capsizes and Thomas' crew saves her. Cedric Inch is an underhanded fellow lumberman. In the second book, the loan acquired, work begins on a new mill, although not without hiccups due to weather, recession, William's romantic woes and a run-in with union thugs. Fitzpatrick finds himself in debt to his card partners. Klara's plans her escape from the husband who turns out not to be who he says he is. The threads begin to come together in book three as Fitzpatrick desperately uses the McGrath loan, among others, to try to get out of debt. Klara, escaped, is again saved by the Genevieve crew, whom she meets in Sault Ste Marie. In the final book, Fitzpatrick and Inch team up against the McGraths. Klara endears herself to William with an innovative, if not conniving, retaliation plan. The careful character development pays off when the rock-solid hero team, forward-looking William tempered by traditionalist Thomas, as well as can-do Klara and the humorous Genevieve crew, defeat villainous corporate interests in the form of Fitzpatrick and gang. With lyrical phrasing, fitting of the time period, plus mechanical details and lots of physical exertion, the pacing balances description and action. A helpful glossary of logging and nautical terms supplements the text.

History comes alive in the hands of this debut author, a sailor who restores ships for use in movies and museums

Bigger Than All the Night Sky: The Start of Spiritual Awakening, A Memoir
Rose Rosetree
https://www.rose-rosetree.com
Women's Intuition Worldwide, LLC
9781935214427, $18.95, 256 pps

More than a memoir, this healer's personal history encourages self-inquiry.

Rose Rosetree, born Laura Sue Rosenbaum in 1948, grows up in New York to intellectual parents. Shy, studious and curious, she, too, loves learning. The classroom to her is an opening to new worlds. A surgery at age 5 also opens her to a new, beyond time, world she calls "That," to which she returns throughout her life. At an international high school, she gravitates toward literature and philosophy - and love. In college she discovers Transcendental Meditation (TM), which does more for her academic success than studying, as well as a hip boyfriend. A genuine tale of sixties culture, her story is a chain of experiences linked by a desire to go deeper, know more, and enjoy life.

This book follows its own dictum: "Stories that are supposed to 'explain everything'... don't" (89). Addressing her audience as Questing Reader, she reaches beyond explanatory narrative to human connection. She reaches people through anecdotes that engage physically, socially, and spiritually. Senses, particularly smell, play an active role in the story, recalling the distant past and the fragrance of God. The tone is conversational, full of colloquialisms and asides, like being let in on secrets. Carved into bite-sized chunks of chronological sequences, fantastical happenings, lists of insights, and poems, mostly written about her experiences in TM, the varied prose make it easy to stop and reflect without losing the thread of the story. Intended for adult learners, the book achieves its purpose to entertain and educate. The end is just the beginning: an invitation to read more of the author's books and to check out the Rosetree Energy Spirituality website about workshops, sessions and trainings.

A personal history, aimed to ignite one's own spiritual search, hits the mark dead on.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer
https://marisbookreviews.wordpress.com


Mason's Bookshelf

Israel's Long War with Hezbollah
Raphael D. Marcus
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
www.press.georgetown.edu
9781626166103, $110.95, HC, 320pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Raphael D. Marcus is a nonresident fellow at the Insurgency Research Group in the Department of War Studies, King's College London, where he received his PhD. His research interests include Middle East security issues, terrorism, military affairs, and organizational learning. He is currently working as an intelligence and counterterrorism analyst at a law-enforcement agency.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is now in its fourth decade and shows no signs of ending. In "Israel's Long War with Hezbollah: Military Innovation and Adaptation Under Fire", Marcus examines this conflict since the formation of Hezbollah during Israel's occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s. He critically evaluates events including Israel's long counterguerrilla campaign throughout the 1990s, the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, the 2006 summer war, and concludes with an assessment of current tensions on the border between Israel and Lebanon related to the Syrian civil war.

"Israel's Long War with Hezbollah" is both the first complete military history of this decades-long conflict and an analysis of military innovation and adaptation. This history is based on unique fieldwork in Israel and Lebanon, extensive research into Hebrew and Arabic primary sources, and dozens of interviews Marcus conducted with Israeli defense officials, high-ranking military officers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), United Nations personnel, a Hezbollah official, and Western diplomats. As an expert on organizational learning, Marcus analyzes ongoing processes of strategic and operational innovation and adaptation by both the IDF and Hezbollah throughout the long guerrilla conflict. His conclusions illuminate the dynamics of the ongoing conflict and illustrate the complexity of military adaptation under fire.

With Hezbollah playing an ongoing role in the civil war in Syria and the simmering hostilities on the Israel-Lebanon border, students, scholars, diplomats, and military practitioners with an interest in Middle Eastern security issues, Israeli military history, and military innovation and adaptation can ill afford to neglect this book.

Critique: An extraordinary work of seminal scholarship that includes a four page Chronology, a sixteen page Selected Bibliography, and a sixteen page Index, "Israel's Long War with Hezbollah: Military Innovation and Adaptation Under Fire" is a comprehensive and detailed study that is impressively well written, organized and presented. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Israel's Long War with Hezbollah" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626166110, $36.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $36.95).

A Stowaway Ukulele Revealed
Larry Bartram & Dick Boak
Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing
PO Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
www.halleonardbooks.com
9781495099489, $27.99, HC, 322pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: "A Stowaway Ukulele Revealed: Richard Konter & the Byrd Polar Expeditions" is the unlikely and compelling story of a globe-trotting, ukulele-strumming Brooklyn sailor named Richard Konter and his famous autographed instrument.

At the height of the ukulele craze, Konter was a go-to arranger for Tin Pan Alley composers and publishers. In 1926, Konter shipped out as a member of the crew of the Byrd Arctic Expedition.

As a riveted world followed their progress (and that of their arch-rival, Roald Amundsen, the world's greatest polar explorer), Konter managed to get his ukulele aboard Byrd's plane for the first successful polar flight.

A keen contributor to history in the making, Konter managed to obtain the autographs of more than 150 individuals, both famous and unknown, all of whom respected the importance of Konter's North Pole ukulele.

Later, Konter accompanied Byrd to Antarctica and later married, for the first time at age 80, the love of his life.

For the first time, "A Stowaway Ukulele Revealed" by the team of Larry ?Bartram and Dick Boak details the marvelously diverse cast of characters who autographed this little instrument, presenting mini-biographies and photographs to illustrate the interconnected web of lives brought together by Konter.

New archival research, interviews, and imaging all combine to make "A Stowaway Ukulele Revealed" blends biography, music, polar exploration, history, determination, courage, and romance.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well researched, organized and presented, "A Stowaway Ukulele Revealed: Richard Konter & the Byrd Polar Expeditions" is an extraordinary and inherently fascinating account. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a four page Bibliography and an eleven page Index, "A Stowaway Ukulele Revealed" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community, college, and university library American Biography collections.

Jack Mason
Reviewer


Pedro's Bookshelf

The Future of the Intelligentsia
Charles Maurras
Arktos
www.arktos.com
9781910524985, $12.50

The Future of the Intelligentsia is Charles Maurras' study of the trajectory of men of letters and intellectuals from the Renaissance to the twentieth century.

Maurras shows that what began as the reflection of intelligent writers on their independence from the state turned into a degenerate intelligentsia that became power hungry.

Maurras points out that the quest of men of letters to address and appease a democratic reading public gave way to literature and writing as commodities. Maurras contends that the popularization of thought through expanded intellectual outlets weakened its ability to decipher truth from reality. Publishing ushered a time of excessive "discussion" without the necessary reflection on matters of fact that should accompany sincere thinking. This is why Maurras writes, "What we will find difficult to discover in a century when everybody writes and discusses, what is not encountered hardly anywhere else, is the enlightened love of letters, and much more the love of philosophy."

Maurras argues that the fecundity of life, thought and the written word are forms of life that seek to enlighten human existence. These aspects of human life ought to work in the service of life. When successful, the aforementioned contribute vastly to culture and the ability of future generations to understand the past. This means that writing should reflect a manner of existential inquietude, that is, an overflow of vital life that should ultimately aim to affirm, not denigrate life.

As a traditionalist, Maurras offers the reader a clean slate to reflect on the nature and essence of human communication. This is why he is critical of the self-possessed literature and writing that intellectuals who have politicized human thought produce as mere commodity. Because man's occupation with the world of letters, Maurras observes, is a "noble exercise, art a fiction in which the mind rejoices freely" the effect that these endeavors have on culture and customs should remain indirect. In other words, letters must not be politicized and made the explicit vehicle of social/political activism. Politicized letters signals the corruption of writing as a form of human engagement with life and its attendant higher values.

The Future of the Intelligentsia is a warning to Western culture about the perils of intellectuals who embrace mediocrity. Maurras laments the subversive nature that letters began to take in the early twentieth century. He makes the prescient observation in the early part of the twentieth century that "with the means the state has at its disposal, an immense obstruction is created in the scientific, philosophical and literary domain." He goes on to add, "Our university intends to monopolise literature, philosophy, science." Maurras' perspicuity has proven to be insightful and telling; the temptation of many intellectuals to subjugate letters to the demands of ideology has intensified beyond what he could have imagined possible.

The History of Ornithology (Historie de L'Ornithologie)
Valerie Chansigaud
New Holland Publishers
http://au.newhollandpublishers.com
9781847734334, $9.85

Of all animals, dogs, cats and birds have held a special place in man's imagination. Of these animals, undoubtedly birds are the most exotic, their behavior the most elusive. From time immemorial, man has had a fascination with the flight of birds, especially the soaring ability of birds of prey, their colorful plumage and their migratory patterns. In addition, birds are colorful animals that often defy all attempts to identify their sex.

Dating back to the Sumerians and Egyptians, large birds like cranes and hawks have been depicted in art. In more recent times, birdsong has been incorporated in music by composers like Beethoven, Delius and Messiaen.

Valerie Chansigaud's The History of Ornithology is as much a book about birds and their impact on culture, as it is about the science that man has developed in order to better understand these majestic winged creatures. Chansigaud's book is interested in man's relationship with birds from a zoological angle. In an age of radical environmentalism, it remains essential for man to reflect on the beauty and wonder of zoology in all its variations, in the absence of politicization. This is perhaps the strongest suit of this fine work.

The zoology of birds is ornithology. There is a long list of scientists, philosophers, poets and writers who have played a pivotal role in the cataloguing and description of birds, from Aristotle to Linnaeus and the American writer, Flannery O'Connor's love of peacocks. Ornithology comes from the Greek words ornis (bird) and logos (order, speech). The history of ornithology entails detailed drawing and depictions of birds. John James Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson are examples of this. Thoughtful people have been fascinated by birds (Aves), which are endothermic vertebrates, to delicate entire working lives to their study. The first classification of birds was published by Francis Willughby and John Ray in their 1676 book Ornithologiae.

The History of Ornithology is a historical account of the science of ornithology. The book is replete with pictures, graphs and short biographies of historical figure like Hermann Schlegel, John Gould and Konrad Lorenz. In addition, book lovers will find many titles of books on birds, many which are obscure and worthy of attention for the enticing minutiae they present the historically-minded reader with.

Pedro Blas Gonzalez
Reviewer


Sloan's Bookshelf

The Immortals Series
dhtreichler
http://www.dhtreichler.com/index.html

The Ghost in the Machine: Volume 1 The Immortals Series
Reelization Global Media
www.reelizationglobalmedia.com
9780998927992, $14.95, PB, www.amazon.com
ASIN: B01HOW0JKC, $3,99, 340 pages, Kindle, www.amazon.com

Barely Human: Volume 2 The Immortals Series
Bowkers Publishers
Reelization Global Media
www.reelizationglobalmedia.com
9780998927978, $14.95, PB, www.amazon.com
ASIN: B07G6R9HR4, $3,99, 393 pages, Kindle, www.amazon.com

Emergence: Volume 3 The Immortals Series
Bowkers Publishers
Reelization Global Media
www.reelizationglobalmedia.com
ISBN TBD, $14.95, PB, www.amazon.com
ASIN: B01HOW0JKC, $3,99, 340 pages, Kindle, www.amazon.com



What will life be like when we are no longer tied to a biological body?

Longtime futurist and author dhtreichler has taken inspiration from the work of Ray Kurzweil, currently the Chief Technology Officer at Google, in writing three thought-provoking novels he calls the Immortals series. Kurzweil wrote The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology in 2005 and predicted that by 2045 humans will be able to discard their biological bodies and assume a non-biologic form.

Will Kurzweil be proven correct? And if he is, what moral and ethical questions must society grapple with in the event of medical procedures that can allow terminally ill individuals to escape certain death by having their consciousness downloaded to a new android body? It's an interesting premise that seems to move nearer reality with every passing decade.

Treichler's three novels follow the protagonist, Sage Washington, through the experience and decisions she must make, and the weighty responsibilities she must shoulder, as the individual who first makes such a transition.



In the first novel, The Ghost in the Machine, Sage awakens to find herself unable to recollect why she is in a strange hospital in Dallas. Only her friend, who is also there for her transition, is able to fill in the missing blanks of her memory, which didn't quite transition as expected.

Discovering that she was expected to die from two terminal diseases, she also learns that she volunteered to transition, knowing she might not survive. But once across the threshold into renewed life as an immortal, she finds she has thirty days to decide whether this new eternal life is worth the cost of truly being but a "ghost in a machine."

She no longer has "feelings" as she knew them before. Love, hate and even the most basic emotions must be called up via a subprocessing memory chip in her new incarnation. And, as a result, human interactions are problematic at best.

Sage slowly discovers and comes to terms with the newfound capabilities of her robotlike body, as well as the limitations.

Telescopic vision, enhanced hearing and endurance, limited only by the charge of her batteries, gives Sage a competitive advantage she had not contemplated prior to the transition. Now she can quite literally run circles around her staff, and this revelation stirs dissonance among her competition in the C-suite, and even on her leadership team.

The first fallout from her new persona comes when she finds that her CEO is in the process of replacing her. The diseases she had been battling before the transition had reduced her effectiveness. So, on day one back at work, she must find a way to preserve her position in the firm when both the CEO and COO have already settled on her replacement.

In this section the author explores the senior leadership politics that engender corporate success in a few companies but limit the effectiveness of teams in other corporations. He goes on to illustrate how one individual can completely change the direction of an organization -- in this case through the extraordinary dynamics brought about by Sage's unique situation.

He then focuses on how someone can survive and even thrive in such a high octane atmosphere, where corporate America seeks to dominate world commerce in fields such as -- in this case -- personal communications and entertainment systems. It also explores the deeply personal decisions that must be made when one is faced with death or immortality with no middle ground and no real understanding of what immortality, other than its limitless options, might be.

This first installment in the Immortality series concludes with Sage discovering that her CEO has undertaken to transition to an immortal state as well, even though not faced with a life-threatening situation. He has thus bought his way into a position of dominance in his business and his industry, and his future seems well-assured.

Sage, on the other hand, is faced with her thirty-day decision on whether to remain immortal at the same time that she receives an offer to join her CEO in an immortal life together -- one notch above all others through their technological dominance. And all Sage really wants is to have a child of her own, something her immortal state makes impossible.



The next book in the series, Barely Human, advances the dialogue, exploring what it means to be human when one has moved to a non-biological state.

Sage has come to terms with her decision to remain an immortal. Yes, she will never die. She will, in fact, be the Senior Vice President of her company apparently forever, if she so chooses. However, her CEO decides to promote her to Chief Operating Officer, placing her into a new stratosphere of decision-making.

But the promotion comes with position power coercion. In other words, in order to get the promotion, she must become his sexual partner. She must also lead his company in his shadow, doing what he directs even if her own instincts and training would lead her in a different direction.

She no longer must deliver simple software capability, her former area of responsibility. She must instead concentrate on delivering profits to shareholders and strategically growing the enterprise to ensure future industry dominance.

Thus, she is immediately put into positions of conflict with her prior life and relationships. She is expected to transition the staff to immortal status so that only her company will have an immortal and intellectually superior staff. This will ensure dominance of their core markets and put their primary competition out of business. This is nothing new in the cutthroat industry they inhabit, other than the immense advantage immortal workers bring to the table.

But all good plans do not move forward smoothly. Sage must deal with a recalcitrant subordinate she initially thought too immature to make the switch and who in fact does not take the transition in the light all others have.

Because of this, Sage is faced with a choice she would rather not have to make. In order to stay ahead of the competition, she delays a promise she had made to all those who were among the first to transition. And, as a result, this one individual seizes upon the broken promise to work against Sage and implementation of her CEO's plans for industry dominance.

This puts Sage in the unenviable and Godlike position of deciding whether to return this new immortal to his prior state (merely human) or find a means of working with his resistance to her chosen course of action.

She must also deal with a wary public that has learned of her existence. How would those seeking a platform for self-aggrandizement and self-promotion react when faced with such an opportunity for their fifteen minutes of fame? Of course, they would react by establishing organizations such as Mothers Against Immortality.

How does one who has transitioned to an immortal state, not by design, but through a need to do so for survival, deal with the thought that a political body might outlaw her very existence?

Growing into the role of COO, Sage is able to identify an approach to all such corporate challenges, but she is caught off guard when she is thrown into yet another plot twist. But this one brings everything out of the rarified and deified air we've been inhaling right along with Sage and lands us squarely in the middle of an all-too-human problem at least as old as The Bible.

Sage finds that her CEO is sleeping with her best friend. Why would he undertake to break up what has always seemed a happy and supportive relationship for Sage? And why her best friend? How did he even come to meet her? The reasons become clear to Sage when the man methodically engages in intimate relationships with all of her close college friends at the same time he is having similar relations with her.

He has also coopted her father, a senior engineer at the company, to develop technology that will advance the CEO's agenda at her expense. Then, in a final reveal, the author discloses another situation with which Sage must deal.

She knows her father was never happy with her transition, as he felt a loss of those traits in her that most reminded him of his now long-deceased wife. Why is her CEO encircling her, she wonders? Neutralizing those who are her confidants at the very time she needs them the most seems unfathomable to Sage.

Yet, for the reader, it's just the next logical domino to fall in this brilliantly constructed story. At last, when the answer becomes all too clear to Sage why her boss is behaving badly, she can't say anything to her friends, each of whom believes that this megalomaniacal man loves each of them, and them alone.

Sage has come to terms with her own lack of feelings, but longs for something that will help her experience them as something other than as memories from her prior life.

She elects to undertake projects that she hopes will ultimately lead to a simulation of feelings, knowing she has eternity to make it work. But her own impatience drives her to want something that will make her more than Barely Human sooner than later.



The author then brings forth the third book in the trilogy to detail the rapidly rippling aftershocks of the immortality phenomenon and its impact on all who are now lined up firmly on either side of the issue's moral boundary.

Emergence finds Sage dealing with the dictates of her CEO, seeking alternatives to his hungry domination of non-immortals. She also works to find a purpose for herself in the emerging world of Immortals, non-immortals and synthetic humans, the latter of which she has pioneered.

She grows more and more alarmed by his efforts to "own" immortals by seeking to solidify a total monopoly on the transition process. His plan: buy up the capacity for transitions as well as the companies that make the new bodies the immortals will inhabit.

It is a strategic masterstroke and Sage decides she must find a way to limit his growing attempts to become even more godlike, She also finds that her CEO, becoming more and more bold in his bid to become the prospective new ruler of the world, and to impose his will on the emerging new bifurcated society, is seeking ultimately to limit the self-determination of all immortals, including her.

This important new series seeks to flesh out the future envisioned by Ray Kurzweil. It sheds a harsh but necessary new light on an age-old debate: how the unintended consequences of a headlong rush to establish technological dominance will change the very nature of what and who we are as a species. And it raises finally the question -- and the consequence -- of how a bifurcated society can change the priorities of individuals and mankind as a whole.

Don Sloan
Reviewer


Suanne's Bookshelf

Here and Now and Then
Mike Chen
MIRA
http://www.mirabooks.com
9780778369042, $26.99

As a teenager, I was a big sci-fi fan but drifted away from the genre. Mike Chen's Here and Now and Then is good enough to bring me back. His novel exceeded my expectations. It really is a genre-breaking combination of time-travel, family drama, and hero's journey - with a literary bent. The book contains enough techno-jargon and discussions of time-travel paradoxes to be true to the genre, but not enough to bog the reader down. The logic behind Chen's time-travel seems plausible which makes it intellectually appealing. I was never left wondering if anything could really have happened: Chen made me believe.

Stranded on a mission to the past, time-traveling cop Kin Stewart figures he is lost forever. So he does what seems logical: he adapts, eventually marries and has a family. As his daughter reaches high-school age, Kin is rescued - too late as far as he's concerned. But to avoid harm to his family, he agrees to return to the future. Because of a time discrepancy - two weeks in the future (2142) is roughly two decades in the past (1996) - Kin has to deal with his past (which chronologically is his life in the future), his current life with a wife and daughter in the past, and his future life with a fiancee he doesn't remember.

Here and Now and Then, through well-plotted twists and turns, paints a portrait of a man forced to make impossible choices, a man forced to simultaneously experience his past and his future. His choices were so poignant I found myself sniffling toward the end - I don't remember a sci-fi book ever making me cry. I was fully drawn into Kin's character, the impossible choices he faced, and the fact that he'd do anything to save his daughters life. The three women in his life, wife, fiancee, and daughter, were well-developed and nicely complemented various aspects of Kin's personality.

Winter Loon
Susan Bernhard
https://www.susanbernhard.com
Little A
97815039029851, $22.46

Wes Ballott watches his mother die in a frozen lake in Minnesota. After that horror, he is abandoned by his father and forced to live with his chain-smoking, alcoholic bitter maternal grandparents who kept his mother's room unchanged for years - hiding truths better left buried - but can't open their hearts to her son.

Everyone Wes comes into contact is the worst possible role model for a parentless child, yet somehow he finds just the right person to help him heal and move on. Despite the stark emptiness of his life, Wes nearly finds a "real" family when he starts seeing a Native American girl. Eventually he loses even her but has a chance to form another family. Wes's growth from adolescence to manhood is extraordinary, heart-breaking, yet inspiring.

A brilliantly-written coming-of-age story, Winter Loon has taut yet lyrical prose that put me in mind of Louise Erdrich, words which one doesn't expect from a debut author. I particularly enjoyed her recurrent use of the winter loon, weather, nature, and Native American myths to reflect and contrast with her characters.

Winter Loon is not a vapid read, but underlying the central dread and misery, an uplifting redemption filters through like sunshine through leaves. Watching Wes become a better person than anyone in his dysfunctional family is haunting and magical. Several times, though moved to tears, I was forced to continue reading Bernhard's elegent prose.

The Witch of Willow Hall
Hester Fox
Graydon House
http://www.graydonhousebooks.com
9781525833014, $15.99

The Witch of Willow Hall is Hester Fox's debut novel. Its tagline drew me in: "Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there's still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn't even know it."

Three sisters (Catherine the eldest, Lydia the protagonist, and Emmeline the youngest) move with their parents from Boston to the cozy little town of New Olbury. Catherine was involved in a scandal that remains unspoken within the family and a mystery to the reader for many pages. Catherine is charming and beautiful; Lydia plain and studious; and Emmeline a spoiled child born in the mother's later years. Of the two bachelors in the town, Catherine sets her hat at both. Lydia is attracted to one of the young men, John Barrett, her father's business partner in a chain of textile mills, while she is being pursued by Cyrus the cad who broke their engagement because of the aforementioned scandal.

Their newly-built house and the surrounding land houses secrets. Lydia sees ghosts and hears voices. There are witchly and ghostly happenings, and the sense of foreboding, impending doom, and Gothic horror are skillfully maintained by Ms. Fox throughout. There are some anachronisms that break the historical tone. This is less a Gothic horror novel than a slow burn 1820s romance which is fine, if like me, you're really not into horror.

I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

The Frame-Up
Meghan Scott Molin
47North
9781503904187, $24.95

The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin is a humorous contemporary mystery/romantic comedy with diverse characters: a geeky female main character (Michael-Grace), her drag-queen best friend (Lawrence), and her straight-laced cop boyfriend (Matteo), and along with beaucoup geeksters as secondary characters. The tone is slightly snarky, and the pace clips along rapidly, keeping me fully focused on the novel. Most enjoyable is that MG, tired of men trying to change her, has given up on relationships, yet remains a woman fully-functioning on her own. She is courageous and determined, doesn't wait around to be "saved" by a man, and remains delightfully geeky and, though comfortable with herself, a bit out of place in the real world. The slow-burn sexual tension between MG and Matteo is charming. The blend of romance and mystery is deftly woven. People who enjoy Star Trek, classic comic books, mysteries, and contemporary romances will enjoy this book.

Rosary without Beads
Diane Holguin-Balogh
https://www.dianaholguin-balogh.com
Five Star Publishing
http://fivestarpublishing.com
9781432844745, $25.95

Travel back in time to New Mexico Territory's Lincoln County war which ran from 1878 to 1881. Rosary Without Beads captures the romance of the legend of Billy the Kid. Told in the unique voice of Ambrosia Salazar, a sheepherder's daughter, filled with language tethered to the earth with occasional breaks into either lust or heaven or moments that are both. The language is lyrical and unique. There is an understated passion that is far sexier than most blatant romances and unique turns of phrase that fully embody Ambrosia's internal struggle between her lust for Billy the Kid and a more traditional to Ramon, based more in financial terms than in true love (Ramon lusts after Ambrosia's sister, Sinfarosa, who has traded farm life for the brothel).

Holguin-Balogh shows Billy's charm as well as his disregard for Ambrosia's passion and weaves a compelling blend of truth and fiction. The reader not only gets a view of the abject poverty that governs Ambrosia's life, but also of its deep spiritual roots and underlying fervor. One truly understands why such a vulnerable, ardent young woman would be swayed by the charms of bad boy William Bonney and why, willing to accept his life on the run from the law, she dreams of running off to Mexico with him.

Rosary Without Beads is one of the best books I've read this year.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century
Yuval Noah Harari
Spiegel & Grau
c/o Penguin Random House
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com
9780525512172, $28.00

Harrari's 21 Lessons for the 21st Century follows his first two books, Sapiens and Homo Deus, and focuses on the present rather than the past or the future. Hararri blends a unique mix of history, philosophy, science, and anthropology - some of my favorite subjects. I was alternately entranced by his reasoning and aghast at his sweeping generalizations. At other times, I realized he'd given me a new paradigm for thought. The book reads as a series of essays and can easily be picked up and put down - though I had a hard time turning off the light and going to bed I got so involved in the book. I highlighted a number of cogent ideas in my Kindle. Harrari ranges widely, covering imperialism, fascism, communism, liberalism, and Trumpism, particularly warning that the liberal vision of life gradually improving as we give more freedoms to more people, has been devastated by Trumpism. I was intrigued by the idea of a universal basic income provided to every human being, and even more by the idea that the wealthy would pay this to protect themselves from the lower classes. I was also intrigued by the idea that workers may become obsolete as more advances are made in artificial intelligence and by the idea that data is the next realm of human resources to be exploited. An interesting read, only occasionally irritating, and often astounding.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer
SuanneSchaferAuthor.com


Susan's Bookshelf

Rejuvenaging: The Art and Science of Growing Older with Enthusiasm
Dr. Ron Kaiser
Mental Health Gym
http://www.thementalhealthgym.com
9781947368972, $14.99, 220 Pages

A life-changing and highly motivational book!

Embrace rejuvenaging, and let the author unlock your doors to a better future, whatever age you are!

Ronald S. Kaiser, Ph.D., ABPP, is a Licensed Psychologist in Philadelphia, successful author, and owner of The Mental Health Gym website. Now aged 80, he has used his decades of life experience as a school counselor, then in the community and health sectors, to write this life changing and highly motivational book.

He firmly believes that we can take charge of our destiny, and we have the choice as to whether we grow old or rejuvenage. The keys to rejuvenaging are explained clearly throughout the book, and although it is accepted that some elements are outside our control, he firmly believes that if you follow his "Goal-Achieving Psychology," or GAP, it will help you bridge the gap between thinking and doing, which in turn will make you happier, more productive, and enable you to take control of your aging process in a positive manner.

So how do we do this? Well by adopting the 'P' personality, which is explained clearly in this book. It has to be mentioned that this is no end-of-life book. Although inspirational for the elderly, it has been written so that anyone can plan for their future in a positive way, whatever their age, through learning to become personal goal-driven, proactive, positive, persistent, passionate, and playful.

Whether you want to stay working, or retire, it will empower you to rediscover (or newly discover for some) your sense of fun, help you to understand how to set personal goals, encourage you to use the powers of positive thinking, be passionate, be persistent, and be proactive.

Planning for your future psychologically is just as important as financially, and this book shows you how. Diet, and the benefits of exercise, learning new skills, exploring new avenues and experiences, living life to the full, keeping ourselves mentally stimulated and interested in the world around us - all these are things we can do to improve our life now, and for the future.
Whether you want to remain working, or retire, you will discover how to make the most of your senior years. After all, your health and planning for your future is just as important psychologically as it is financially.

So what are you waiting for, get your copy, and start rejuvenaging now!

Available from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Rejuvenaging-Science-Growing-Older-Enthusiasm/dp/1947368974

Mythicals
Dennis Meredith
http://dennismeredith.com
Glyphus LLC
9781939118295, $16.95, 372 pages

Lovers of fantasy will be swept away by the story and characters in this amazing new book by Dennis Meredith, an author who has spent a lifetime working in science communication at some of the country's leading research universities and has written many articles on science and engineering. Among his numerous achievements are a B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Texas, and a M.S. in biochemistry and science writing from the University of Wisconsin.

He has brought together in this amazing story a cornucopia of mythical creatures and fairy-tale characters, fairies, pixies and angels, ogres, werewolves and many more. Each distinct species has its own unique characteristics, and what's more the reader really begins to understand this as they take their place in the story.

However, one of the main characters is jobless would-be journalist Jack March, who true to journalistic form just cannot let go of the promise of a good story. You see Jack, arriving home in a drunken stupor is sure he saw a fairy in his bedroom.

Undaunted by the possibility that he was hallucinating, he is resolute in his pedantic determination to seek out the truth about the fairy's existence at whatever cost. His stubbornness leads to him discovering that all is not what it first appears. There is a world he never would have believed could have existed within his own, and his life is turned upside down when it is revealed to him and he discovers that the people he sees every day, in all walks of life, could be the strange creatures of myths and legends who have been banished to his world and wear flesh-suits to look human. These creatures are transported through wormholes which are controlled by Wardens and work in both directions as Jack discovers when he is sent through one.

He is called upon to do his bit however, when a terrible plot is discovered to eradicate the species in order to save the planet, and Jack finds himself revealing the creatures' real forms to an unsuspecting world, and taking part in a battle to save the planet.

Fast paced, exciting, this incredible story is sure to become a firm favourite with lovers of fantasy and fairy tales.

Available from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Mythicals-scifi-fairy-tale-thriller/dp/1939118298

Santa's Rescue Dog: Super Speed Sam, Book 5
Monty J. McClaine
CreateSpace
http://superspeedsam.com
9781534771031, $9.99, 202 Pages

A magical Christmas story which children will love!

With Christmas coming I was excited to find this delightfully enchanting seasonal story in the Super Speed Sam series of children's books to read to my granddaughter. Being animal lovers we were immediately drawn to the lovable character of Sam the Basset Hound, and as soon as we turned the first page we knew that we were in for a treat.

In this colourfully illustrated story we are taken back in time to the Brockman families Christmas Eve a long time ago, back through generations of Basset Hounds to the very first Super Speed Sam (and yes he was called Sam too,) and we discover why that Sam gained his super powers.
In the North Pole, after a busy year, Mother Christmas, Santa, the elves and the reindeer are ready for another Christmas Eve journey visiting all the good boys and girls.

Did you ever wonder why this magical event takes place? Well, in this enchanting book not only will you will find out, but you will also discover just what big responsibilities everybody has, both at Santa's home base, and on the sleigh, to make sure everything runs smoothly on that special night.

That particular year, after an exciting Christmas Eve, everyone in the family including the Brockman children, Zachariah and Sophie, and their dog Sam, are safely asleep in their beds. The ground is covered in snow, when Santa's sleigh arrives on their rooftop…

Everything until that time is going well, and Santa is on schedule. However as he goes down the Brockman chimney, something unexpected happens, which causes great dismay to Santa, a lot of worry for Mother Christmas, and danger for the reindeer. But what is it?

Well, all I can say is that the real hero of the story, is Super Speed Sam, and that night he is given a very special gift which will be passed down through all the future generations in his special Basset Hound line.

In our household this book is definitely set to be a Christmas classic for the grandchildren, to sit on the bookshelf alongside their parents, and my immortal favourite poem 'T'was the Night Before Christmas' by Clement Clarke Moore, where for years children, and the author I suspect, originally discovered the names of all Santa's magical reindeers.

After enjoying this captivating story, my granddaughter and I are looking forward to exploring the rest of this delightful series of children's books.

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Santas-Rescue-Dog-Super-Speed/dp/1534771034

Big Things Have Small Beginnings: Learn to Play the Great Game
Wes Berry
https://www.wesleyberry.co
Green Dragon Services
9780692181843, $16.95

The author of this enlightening and extremely informative book writes from a lifetime in business. His vast span of knowledge encompasses the whole spectrum, from starting out, learning the hard way, choosing your market, employing the right sort of people, and the importance of dedication and attention to detail.

It is this attention to detail which he emphasises throughout the book, highlighting that it is the little things to one person, which matter so much to someone else. This is a very important message, and this book is littered with examples of good business practice which he has excelled at, or failed in, but through the experience he learnt where he went wrong, and passes the information down to you, the reader.

A patriotic American, a husband, and father of four sons, Wes Berry was given a 10% share of his parents flower business as a young man. Ambitious, self-disciplined, and driven by a determination to succeed, he was encouraged by his father to implement his new ideas into the business, as long as they didn't cost money…

Right from the beginning there is so much to learn from this book, and it is all there just waiting for the hungry would be businessman or woman to ingest. From mapping out your future goals, to meeting deadlines and targets, and the strategies you will need to utilise to achieve them.
He looks at what gets you up in the morning, and encourages you to determine what your motivation is, to grasping those dream and making them happen. Gives examples of famous influencers throughout history in many fields, and encourages us to embrace the messages which have become their legacy.

There can be no doubt that 'A Message to Garcia' by Elbert Hubbard, which is included in the book, has had a deep impact on the author, especially with regard to employing people. Before reading this I admit I had never heard of it, however, once read, it is easy to understand the importance of employing and encouraging employees with the 'Rowan Trait' which simply explained is a no-holds-barre commitment to getting a task done.

Jam packed with information from cover to cover, this book contains all the motivation, and advice anyone could need to succeed in their chosen business career.

Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Big-Things-Have-Small-Beginnings/dp/0692181849

Susan Keefe, Reviewer
www.susan-keefe.com


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