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The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memories in a Jewish Family
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307594662, $27.95, 304 pages, www.amazon.com
Bev Sandell Greenberg
This thought-provoking memoir focuses on bipolar disorder, a form of mental illness endured by the author's mother and several extended family members. At the same time, Cohen casts as wider net by contextualizing their stories in terms of immigration, displacement, belonging and loss.
"In each generation on the move," says Cohen, "members of my family have been unable to come to terms with the immense struggle involved in burying the past, losing an identity, and embracing a new life ¯as if the bipolarity from which several suffered was just that, a double existence attempting to bridge the unbridgeable."
Currently an award-winning New York Times columnist, Roger Cohen worked for a long time as a foreign correspondent in fifteen countries. His earlier books Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo and Soldiers and Slaves: American POWs Trapped by the Nazis' Final Solution, both deal with the suffering inflicted by war.
The memoir begins with details about the background of Cohen's mother June. Born in 1929, she grew up on Human Street in Krugersdorp, a mining town near Johannesburg. In the late 1800's, Cohen's great-grandparents left England and Lithuania, lured by the gold rush in South Africa. In time, both families became well-established there, and June's grandfather owned the OK Bazaar, the largest chain store in the country.
In fact, Cohen's parents first met on the grounds of June's grandfather's tennis court. They married in 1950 and later moved to London because Cohen's father, a medical doctor detested apartheid. After Cohen's birth in 1955, the family returned to South Africa for a couple of years before permanently settling in London.
However, the new setting didn't bode well for June. Far from her support network and sunny South Africa, she succumbed to postpartum depression after the birth of Cohen's younger sister. June later developed bipolar disorder as a result of undergoing electric shock therapy. In 1978 when Cohen was 22, she first attempted suicide. A second attempt followed a few years later. June eventually died of cancer in 1999 at the age of 70.
"When a parent dies unhappy, there is something unresolved that keeps nagging." states Cohen; after decades of writing other people's stories, he finally decided to write this family memoir. The inspiration for the book came after he discovered one of June's suicide notes in the attic of his family's country home. Cohen's father then sat him down and drew up a family tree, placing a black dot beside each relative with mental illness; there were many black dots beside the names of June's ancestors.
Determined to learn about his ancestors' past, Cohen researched their history in various countries, a journey well-documented in the book. In Lithuania, he tried in vain to locate his grandparents' villages, then learned that both places were destroyed in a single day during World War II. In Wimbledon, England, Cohen visited the mental asylum where his mother was hospitalized to peruse the doctor's notations in her file. He even managed to track down his former nanny in Minnesota to interview her about the effects of his mother's illness during his adolescence.
Written in frank, eloquent prose for a general audience, the narrative hopscotches back and forth in place and time, seamlessly interweaving details about Cohen's extended family with his mother's illness. These juxtapositions render June's story more palatable.
Throughout the book, Cohen's skill as a storyteller continually shines through. In several chapters, he vividly chronicles the lives of the South African branch of the family, especially their entrepreneurial pursuits and attitudes towards apartheid. as well, two chapters are devoted to the story of another transplanted South African, a young female cousin in Israel with bipolar disorder.
Much to Cohen's credit, a strong sense of emotional honesty pervades these stories, including his own. Of particular note are his reflections about the atmosphere in the Cohen household during his mother's illness and his sister's impressions of that experience. He also reflects on the influence of his education at a private boy's school in London and later at Oxford, coupled with the unspoken burden of living his mother's illness.
In short, this powerful memoir will resonate for many readers. Not only does the book paint a compassionate portrait of Cohen's mother, but it also contributes to the body of literature about mental illness and the havoc it wreaks within the family.
Boy, Snow, Bird
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594631399, $27.95, www.amazon.com
Helen Oyeyemi intrigues readers with her fifth fiction novel Boy, Snow, Bird. The story is neither about a boy (male child), snow (frozen precipitation), nor birds (flying creatures). Instead the story follows three characters through life whose names are given by the title: Boy, Snow, Bird. These characters are all related by blood. The relationship between the three title characters will be what thrusts the novel toward the climax.
Helen Oyeyemi relates her characters to the classic tale of Snow White. Boy, Snow, Bird occurs in the 1950's, a time when race and gender could determine your position in life. Oyeyemi uses all of this to create a version of Snow White unlike any other. Oyeyemi's references to race and gender are the opposite of stereotypical. She uses carefully crafted words to take two very cliche and taboo subjects and give them strength that readers today seldom have the chance to witness in modern works. She overcomes stereotypes of the time by creating characters that specifically do not fit the type the reader would suspect them to fall into. One character for example is a young beautiful woman, but she is more interested in a career than marriage. By creating such characters in her novel Oyeyemi has broadened her audience and shown strength in atypical places. Her ability to overcome stereotypes is impressive. It seems even some of the most well-known stories struggle with being stereotypical.
The story itself is divided into three unique sections. The first section is a bit longer than the last two. This design is interesting. Since there are three title characters the reader would expect that the three sections would be narrated by each one. They are not. This is cleverly done by Oyeyemi who allows for both Boy and Bird to have a voice but not the classic title character of Snow herself. Just as in the classic Snow White tale when Snow is poisoned she has no voice, Oyeyemi allows Snow in her own novel no voice as well. However, this makes it difficult for Oyeyemi to develop Snow's character. Although she is mentioned many times in the novel Snow's character is underdeveloped by then end, this lack of character development is mirrored in a few other characters. I would admit that I did not view this as a major flaw in the text, but some of the characters did seem underdeveloped.
Between the first and second sections of the novel a period of approximately twelve years has passed. This could excite a reader in being able to discover the long term family relationships and consequences of choices made in the first section. It could also give the reader the feeling of missing out on something or being left in the dark for too long. The reader is led to believe these years were not uneventful for the characters, but perhaps uninteresting to the reader. Personally the skip in the years does not bother me as much as the confusion that follows the years skip and the narrator shift.
Oyeyemi uses the imagery of mirrors as a clever and subtle nudge toward the story of Snow White. The opening line of the novel states "Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy." These mirrors seem a bit magical throughout the novel, sound familiar? I was very impressed with the inclusion of the imagery of the mirrors and other allusions to the tale of Snow White. They are very subtle and therefore do not take away from the story line, but by understanding the allusions the reader is able to draw deeper meaning from the novel. However, there are portions of the text that seem to make more sense in the context of the tale of Snow White than they do in the current plot.
In the end, Oyeyemi ties up many mysteries that have been introduced in the story, but she leaves the reader hanging on a few too many. A writer can allow for some level of imagination of the reader, but Oyeyemi leaves the reader wondering at the end of the novel. This allows the writer the possibility of a sequel, although leaving the reader a bit unsatisfied. This could be some attempt at creating a "and they lived happily ever after" effect as seen in the fairy tale of Snow White, but there seems to be more missing than just puzzlement of whether a couple will live happily ever after.
This novel is not the most well written book ever published, but it has an interesting plot that correlates with Snow White. These qualities make this novel an interesting read and well worth your time.
The Necessary Bride
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781501069628, $2.99, Kindle, Paperback, 374 pages, www.amazon.com
Marlan Warren, Reviewer
Genre: Historical Romantic Women's Fiction
"Can a lady like you watch livestock and people fall down and die of thirst in the desert, the flies swarming on the sun-bloated carcasses and smell the stench of 'em after they bust open?" - The Necessary Bride
Rape, forced marriage, death by childbirth and the repressive status of women in Early America take center stage in Patsy Frost's historical romantic masterpiece, The Necessary Bride. As the saga draws to a close, its heroine proclaims that if she had not run away to seek her fortune in California, her life as a Maryland "lady" would have been "proper" and "dull" (in between those times when vicious Baltimore males would not be treating her like chattel). Frost puts a fresh spin on a story about wagon train travel in the Old West by letting us view it through this adventurous young woman's eyes - urging us to feel what she feels in her heart as she gradually builds a new life that is built on trust and mutual respect with a man who is not of her culture or race.
This painstakingly crafted and well-researched tale brings the smells and tastes and emotions of that time into bold relief through meticulously detailed scenes of pioneer life. The author also deftly manages multiple points of view to provide character insights that keep even the villains from coming off as one-dimensional.
Frost subtly alters reader perceptions by loosening the writing style from narration-heavy, archaic language to a looser, more contemporary tone when this bold young seeker finally reaches her destination and her destiny.
Seamless lively action carries the story, making it a fun page turner. The last line portends a sequel. One can only hope there is one soon. Very impressive first novel.
Note: This review was originally published in "L.A. Now and Then" blog.
The Longest Ride
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455520633, $16.00, www.amazon.com
Nicholas Sparks dominates the book world as one of the most praised writers of modern romance since the publication of his first deputy with the now famous story, The Notebook. His books are always written in a readable way, possessing just enough detail to paint a marvelous image without providing too much detail that results in losing track of what he was describing in the first place. His latest publication, which Hollywood has already transformed into a movie, tears at our heart strings through the tales and hardships of two couples and their very different but overlapping lives and love. If you have enjoyed Spark's previously publicized books of romance you will certainly love "The Longest Ride" just the same and if you hold a soft spot for cowboys then you will probably love it even more.
This particular love story links two couples, Ira and Ruth and Sophia and Luke, without regards to their difference in age and life experience in a way that will truly surprise you. First introduced in the book is Ira Levinson, an elderly man who just crashed his vehicle and whose health quickly wanes. Ira, on the verge of death, sees images or dreams of his deceased wife Ruth who then takes us back in time over the story of their love. By retelling these stories of their lifetime together she keeps Ira conscious, alert, and as alive as possible in hopes that someone may discover the wreckage before his time runs out.
Sophia Danko is a senior at Wake Forrest College and a city girl from New Jersey. In the midst of her recovery from a tough break up, she unexpectedly meets Luke, a young cowboy and bull rider, whom she is drawn to by his good looks and the little resemblance he shares with the boys she's met at school. Through Luke, Sophia discovers a life much different than the one she had grown up in, characterized my struggle and survival, while Luke learns something about sacrifice and love. The social differences that once sparked excitement and passion will prove destructive as Luke keeps a dark secret regarding his bull-riding past that risks far more than just his relationship.
This book may be the typical story of love and sacrifice that you would expect from Nicholas Sparks displaying the same cliche theme of girl meets boy, they fall in love, then life gets rough tearing between the two, then everything is likely going to be consolidated so their love can last forever. However, his addition of the stories between Ira and Ruth adds a clever twist to the story almost standing as proof that even though all relationships face hardship some get through it, as if they were posing as teachers in making love last. This important role and theme is best represented by Ira's quote spoken to his wife Ruth: "You made me happy and you made me laugh, and if I could do it all over again, I would not hesitate. Look at our life, at the trips we took, the adventures we had. As your father used to say, we shared the longest ride together, this thing called life, and mine has been filled with joy because of you." This leads us as the readers to hope and desire that Luke and Sophia will come out triumphant as well in their "longest ride."
Though the addition of Ira and Ruth to the storyline was essential to the overall effect of this book I often found myself rushing through their sections to get back to the journey of Luke and Sophia. This could have much to do with the fact that I can relate to them more easily in age and the more modern circumstances of their love. Also, this could likely be owed to the fact that I am one of those girls that "have a thing for cowboys." Even though I personally found Ira and Ruth's stories less enjoyable I realize that the book's overall plot would not obtain the same effect without them. This was a remarkable clever addition by Sparks ultimately making this book slightly different than the other 17 romance stories he has successfully written even if it shared the overall basic plot.
The Meluhhan Oracle
I. J. Roy
Charleston, South Carolina
97806923558245, $12.99, 324 pages
The words of a storyteller can magically weave images of places far away and times long past. However, the people in these tales are memorable while still being realistically human with their personal errors in judgments, selfishness, and risk taking. These stories, even adult ones as in this novel, still reveal life lessons while revealing the people and everyday life of the culture.
The Meluhhan Oracle is the creation of author I. J. Roy who envisions the world of long ago in the lands between Meluhha and Sumer which is now known as the Indus Valley Civilization currently recognized as Northwest India and Pakistan. He utilized information from archeological finds to construct this tale.
Each chapter builds upon the characters and consequences of the previous ones, all revolving around a few central figures as their quests filled with learning experiences and adventures. These characters believe in their fates, each one fulfilling their personal destiny and purpose in life. The mastery of interweaving of the characters throughout the entire novel is phenomenal.
The first character is a woman who has light hair and light skin making her different from her family and others. An albino is usually not safe and is endangered in any species. Zayaa fortunately survives and has a daughter, Tiraa. When her daughter draws the attraction of the Chief High Priest, Zayaa knows that her family now has to make a crucial decision. By being proclaimed by the gods, The-Dreamer-of-Truths-Yet-to-Come, she knows that she is The Meluhhan Oracle. How can she be saved from her destiny? Who decides your fate?
The second involves a man who dreams of being a trader while in search of the White Gods of the Great Northern White Mountains. He possesses a knowledge of people, problem solving and uncommonly common sense which breaks through the barrier of being an outsider. He seems to magically penetrate communities that need to be inclusive for their survival. However, there is always a price to pay and risks.
Even with evidence of active trading in these areas, the residents of the numerous cities were distrustful of outsiders and besides having their own languages, oftentimes also had mannerisms and customs unique to that individual community. Building trust and close friendships is integral for the success of each character.
Finally the last is a servant to the second, caring for the sick man through his death. He is burdened with not listening attentively for the one thing that he needs.
The Meluhhan Oracle is an adult novel. The intended audience needs to be adults due to the imagery of the tortures and sexual content.
These vignettes which comprise this novel resemble the tales of past cultures that have passed through generations but are actually the fiction created by I. J. Roy.
The Meluhhan Oracle is a treasure of stories revealing small snapshots of the past about people who have lived in an area with a rich heritage and numerous conflicts endured throughout time from a masterful storyteller, I. J. Roy.
A Young Girl's Testimony: From Disastrous to Evangelist
2301 Lucien Way, Suite 415, Maitland, FL 32751
PrimeStar Publicity & Public Relations
9781628396867, $13.99, 110pp, www.amazon.com
Kefeana "Kay" Ainsworth Brown
Don't let the title fool you, "A Young Girl's Testimony: From Disastrous to Evangelist," appeals not only to young men and women but it transcends age, gender and race. If you have ever found yourself in a place of despair, brokenness and are haunted by poor life decisions and mistakes from your past then this book is for you. Evangelist Shana's real, honest, transparent, and powerful testimony of transformation will encourage you to know that there is a place of redemption for you in Jesus Christ.
This book takes you on the journey of an abandoned, abused, drug addicted, bad tempered and hot headed young girl whose life was suddenly interrupted by Jesus Christ during the tragic death of her new born child's father. In the midst of tragedy God began to shape and mold her into the confident and powerful Evangelist of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that she is today. As Evangelist Shana Joseph travels the world seeking to bring deliverance to lost and hurting souls, and as she passionately and powerfully shares her testimony of the life changing effect of the blood of Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the words echoed by Joseph in the Bible book of Genesis 50:20 which says "You thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, the survival of many people."
Rumble Tumble Joy: A Journey for Healing, Inspiration, and Wholeness
Kathryn V. White
Om Mandala LLC
9781939964021, $16.95, 102 pages, Trade Paperback, www.amazon.com
Africa Hands, Reviewer
San Francisco Book Review
Using poetry and prose, White takes readers inside her personal journey of transformation, acceptance, and wholeness. Through the passages, White wrestles with and finds contentment with her weight, her face, her skin, and her body, particularly her thighs. We witness adoration and intimacy in the poem, "I Can't Wait". We catch glimmers of past pain in "Thunder Thighs," in which she writes, "I have been physically hurt and part of me decided that by limiting my own beauty I would decrease my chances of being seen..." We are encouraged to practice self-love in the daily affirmation, "Full of the Honey of Yourself". White's journey is filled with moments of joy, pain, sorrow, anger, and love, and readers - women of all ages - can use Rumble Tumble Joy to embark on their own journey of appreciation and acceptance of themselves and others.
This book is ideal for women's groups, student groups, support groups, and retreats. The 26-question discussion guide offers a starting point for individual reflection or group conversation. The insightful Q&A, and "Reflections on Transformation", illuminate the author's intent for writing such a deeply personal, moving book. Blank pages at the end are an invitation for readers to begin their own reflection.
The Kingdom of the Rings
Duane R. Lindberg, PhD
Nordskog Publishing, Inc.
4562 Westinghouse St. Suite E, Ventura, CA 93003
PrimeStar Publicity & Public Relations
9780990377429, $29.95, 217pp, www.amazon.com
Just a couple thoughts about Dr. Reverend Lindberg's book "Kingdom of the Rings"
When I ordered the book I really had no idea what I was getting but I have known the author for several years and had a few brief discussions about our Norwegian heritage and the Lutheran Church. I was curious as much as anything else. When I received the book and started the first couple chapters I didn't want to put it down.
I call books like this and some others that I have read a "You are There" book remembering the TV show of that name from the 1950s narrated by Walter Cronkite. These were reenactments of real historical events and with Cronkite's narration you really were there. It only takes a chapter or 2 in the book before your minds eye starts to open and you are there, trekking across Norway from Europe on a pilgrimage to the North to visit St. Olaf's burial site or later on preparing for and experiencing the trip to America and the move westward, settling in parts of Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas. My wife and I both grew up in the 40s and 50s in strong Norwegian Lutheran communities in Southwest Minnesota and Northeast Iowa. For me the last 1/3 of the book was like coming home both in the culture and the church. The three rings keep the story all together for the reader right to the end.
The Sense of an Elephant
Stephen Twilley, translator
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
978144724193 5, $9.58 US, A$29.99, paperback, 242 pages, www.amazon.com
"Lorenzo is partial to elephants". He nodded. "So am I. Ever since I read that they take care of the herd without regard to kinship".
The Sense of an Elephant is a gentle undramatic book, because Pietro, whose life we briefly share, is a gentle undramatic man. Yet, as we follow his growing friendship with the residents of the small Milanese apartment block where he has recently become concierge, deep questions of morality and values begin to surface.
Pietro has given up his work as Padre of a church in Rimini to take up this position and, in his quiet, well-organised way, he soon becomes part of the lives of the few residents. But it is quickly apparent that he takes a special interest in the Martini family: Luca Martini, his wife, Viola, and their small daughter, Sara. In fact, on the very first page of the book he is already using his keys to examine their flat whilst they are out.
Luca Martini is a doctor who has special concern for sick children. His marriage to Viola is often stormy and Riccardo, an old medical friend of Luca's and now a friend of the family, plays a worrying role in this. But Pietro, it becomes clear, is especially concerned for Luca and there is some kind of hidden bond between them.
The lawyer, Mr Poppi, who lives next door to the Martinis and participates in their lives vicariously through the thin shared walls of their apartments, hears Pietro moving around the flat and meets him as he is leaving. He makes no fuss but instead invites Pietro to join him for coffee.
Mr Poppi has his own sorrows, having just lost his beloved partner, but he introduces Pietro to other neighbours, and fosters Pietro's relationship with Fernando, an awkward, twenty-year-old man who has the mentality of a child. Fernando has fallen helplessly and hopelessly in love with Alice, who serves coffee in the cafe which they all frequent. His attractive widowed mother, Luciana, relies to some extent on others to help her deal with the tricky situations, such as this one, which her son gets into, and Pietro, in particular, develops a kindly, understanding way of dealing with Fernando.
Pietro soon becomes part of these peoples' lives, but we also learn in vivid flashbacks of a secret earlier life from which he keeps 'treasures' in a battered suitcase. Pietro may no longer be a priest, and eventually we learn why, but as we get to know him and follow his involvement with Mr Poppi and Luca in particular, it becomes apparent that he is fundamentally a man who cares enough for others to put aside conventional religious and moral strictures and to accept what his heart tells him is the right thing to do. There are many occasions in this book, when this choice has to be made, not only by Pietro but also by Luca, who draws Pietro into situations in which a former priest must have serious misgivings.
The Sense of an Elephant is a gently, loving, well-written book about human nature, human pleasures and sorrows, and human dilemmas. It quietly draws the reader into the interconnected lives of these few people and creates an empathy with them so that the difficult choices some of them make become understandable. Some of them, like the elephants of the title, do take care of each other without regard to kinship but kinship, especially that between fathers and sons, is also an important theme in this book.
The Sense of an Elephant won the prestigious Italian Campiello Prize for Marco Missiroli in 2012.
The Hard Problem (play script)
Faber & Faber
74-77 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DA, UK
9780571322930, A$29.99, paperback, 77 pages, http://www.faber.co.uk
It is not unusual to come out of the theatre after watching a play by Tom Stoppard having thoroughly enjoyed it but thinking that you really need to read the script so that you can consider, at your own pace, some of the complex issues he has raised.
I have yet to see The Hard Problem, but I think when I do that I will be glad I have read the script first. It is a very funny, witty, sharp and fast-moving play but some of the more biological/scientific/psychological speeches are not so easy to grasp. And the main issue - the 'Hard Problem' as the scientists have begun to call it - is the old mind-body problem which philosophers have grappled with for centuries and for which there is still no universally acceptable answer. This is the problem of consciousness. Can self-awareness, altruism, grief, thought even, be explained by biological processes and an inbuilt necessity to pass on our genes? Or is there something more than the sum of (or result of) stimulus-response hard-wiring? This is the hard problem and, as Stoppard memorably said in a recent interview, it has nothing to do with erectile disfunction.
In Stoppard's play a multi-cultural group of individuals, all associated in some way with the Krohl Institute of Brain Science, interact, argue, make love, quarrel and pursue their various careers. Jerry, whose name, as he says, is on the Institute's building, has his own eccentric methods of choosing his staff. All are clever. Some, like Hilary, who is preparing to be interviewed for a position at the prestigious Institute when the play opens, he takes on as scientists. Others, like Amal and Bo are steered into being the mathematical and financial geniuses who make Jerry's millions. So, not only is there the Hard Problem to be solved, there is also stock-market prediction and financial manipulation to be discussed. And moral issues associated with the structure and reporting of scientific experiments also surface. Oh, and God is there, too.
However intellectual this all sounds, Stoppard is expert at weaving it all smoothly into situations which are funny and easy to understand. I recommend this book as a satisfying, stimulating and enjoyable read and I am now really looking forward to seeing the play performed in its current inaugural production at London's National Theatre. Unfortunately it is booked out, so I will be joining the queue for day tickets.
From India with Love
Allen and Unwin
82 Alexander St. Sydney 2065, Australia.
9781742377735, A$24.99, paperback, 214 pages.
The publicist's phrase "heartwarming story" on the cover of this book was almost enough to put me off. Then the gushing description in the Prologue of first seeing the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort nearly made me stop reading there and then. But I am glad that I persevered. This is no romantic family saga, nor is it your usual tourist's view of India. In fact, it is the thoughtful and honest autobiography of an intelligent, articulate woman who was adopted from India into an Australian family when she was eight months old.
Much of the book is set in Australia and describes a very Australian childhood, in a family of eight children, in a country town in New South Wales. Country child she may have been, but since her earliest years Latika Bourke had been unusually interested in the news and current affairs. By the time she was a young teenager she had decided that she wanted to be a journalist, and she was particularly interested in politics. The university in her home town offered a highly-regarded degree in Communications, so she enrolled there, but she also managed to persuade the manager of the local radio station to give her part-time work (as unpaid work-experience) for a few hours each week.
Her first task was to write local news stories and 17-second introductory clips for news reports. She became an avid listener to radio news bulletins and immersed herself in the weekend newspapers, looking for stories she could mimic. And eventually she was hosting the morning show on the local radio station. By the time she graduated from University, she had enough experience to land a job with a much bigger radio station in Sydney.
She went on to become an award winning political journalist in Canberra and, as one of the first to use social media to blog about federal parliamentary news, she scooped a particularly dramatic opposition-party leadership spill.
This book, however, is not just about Latika's journalistic career. It begins with her adoptions story, which is itself complicated, intriguing and full of drama. It goes on to describe life in a family of eight country-bred Australian children (two more of whom were adopted from India); and it tells of her belated interest in India and her eventual visit to her birthplace in the impoverished Indian State of Bihar.
As a journalist, Latika Bourke knows how to tell a good story and she has plenty of unusual and interesting material to work with. She, personally, has never had any issues about being adopted. She is Australian and she feels Australian. But she is glad to have learned about the country from which she came, and to be able to accept (after long rejecting it) that India is part of her and that this is a rich and valuable heritage. At the same time, she is clear-eyed about the poverty there, and the religious and social constraints which govern, in particular, the lives of Indian women.
Latika's story is, as the book's cover blub says, about "family love and finding your place in the world", but it is also about adoption, roots and identity and, as such, there are many who will empathize with her and be glad to share her thoughts and experiences.
The Story of My Teeth
Translator: Christina MacSweeney
9781783780815, A$24.99, hardback, 188 pages.
Coffee House Press
79 - 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413-1073
9781566894098, $16.95, 184pp, www.amazon.com
This is a crazy book. The sort of book where you conclude that the author is a genius or mad or both. And it is exactly what it says on the cover, although the author tells it mostly through a literary alter-ego called Gustavo Sánchez Sánchez, otherwise known as 'Highway'.
Highway's modest introduction of himself says much about him: "I'm the best auctioneer in the world, but no-one know it because I'm a descreet sort of man". He notes, too, that "some have luck, some have charisma" and that he has both. Also, he tells us that his story, which is "a treatise on collectibles", will have a Beginning, a Middle and an End. And so it does. But it also has many deviations on the way which he describes as "literature": i.e. "hyperboles, parabolic, circulars, allegorics and elliptics". In fact, he devotes a chapter to each of these.
Highway's destiny as an auctioneer and novelist began with a childhood passion for collecting things. First, it was his father's bitten off finger-nails (he filled several envelopes); then drinking straws (more than ten thousand); then, vicariously, as a security guard at a drinks factory, it was the largest art collection in South America. A fortunate incident on his 40th birthday leads him to travel, to the study of contemporary dance, to marriage and fatherhood to a boy called Siddharta, and then by various routes to the intensive study of auctioneering under the Japanese auctioneer, Master Oklahoma.
Master Oklahoma's 'Method' derives from "classical rhetoric and the mathematical theory of eccentricity". This is defined by mathematical descriptions of circular, elliptical, parabolic, hyperbolic and allegorical stories, but in practice it means selling not the object itself (which may be as valueless as Highway's teeth) but the story which goes with it. (Exactly the method demonstrated, I feel, on the BBC's Antiques Road Show).
Highway is expert at weaving and presenting the stories, as he demonstrates in one chapter by selling each of his own teeth. His stories are fantastic, imaginative, unbelievable and often ridiculous but he is an expert salesman.
The chapters are structured as their titles suggest. 'The Hyperbolics' stories are hyperbolic; 'The Elliptics' are told not by Highway himself but as his "dental autobiography" by a protege of his, and illustrated with photographs sub-titled by quotes borrowed from famous authors. 'The Allegorics' tell stories remotely linked to the work of a number of artists, most of whom are little-known outside avant-guard art circles. And the final chapter 'The Chronological' offers an annotated timeline linking Highway's major life-events with world events which have a tenuous link to the earlier text.
The Story of My Teeth has a Joycean playfulness with words, events, structure, literary theory, languages (not always translated), and human nature. And there are many references to many texts in the book, some well-known, some much less so. At times, however, the cleverness gets hard to take. The reader is assumed to extremely well-read, knowledgeable about literary theory and modern art, and able, for example, to read Latin. Chinese characters, too, are used extensively on one chapter, but although these are translated for the reader it is entirely possible that they have, as the Credits warn, been "creatively interpreted, paraphrased or altered", as have other borrowings in the book.
This is certainly not a mainstream novel. It is experimental, funny, irritating and outrageous by turn, but it is worth exploring.
The Wolf Border
Faber & Faber
9780571299553, A$29.99, paperback, 435 pages
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062208477, $25.99, 448pp, www.amazon.com
"She would like to believe that there will be a place again where the streetlights end and the wilderness begins. The wolf border"
Rachel Caine may love wolves and work with wolves, but she is a scientist who knows their nature well and is clear-sighted about reintroducing them to places like Great Britain, where the last wolf was shot in 1680 and where superstition and fear of wolves have a long history.
Rachel has worked for ten years on an American Indian Reservation in Idaho, observing, tracking and monitoring the wolves which travel between the Reservation and Canada. She is called back to her childhood home in Cumbria by the ill-health of her feisty, unconventional and abrasive mother, and by the "whimsy" of a wealthy Earl who wants her to manage his project for introducing the Grey Wolf to his extensive Lake District Estate.
Initially, she refuses the job, telling her half Lapwai Indian friend and colleague, Kyle, that it is "a mad hope-and-glory project" - a scheme dreamed up by an eccentric who has influential friends. An impulsive New-Year's-Eve sexual encounter with Kyle, however, leaves her pregnant; and the death of her mother resolves the conflicts which initially drove her away. So, she changes her mind, accepts the Earl of Annandale's offer, and without telling Kyle of her pregnancy she returns to England.
There are borders of many kinds in this novel. Fenced, like the Earl of Annandale's wolf enclosure, and unfenced (except by social convention) like those which are part of human life - birth, death, addiction, politics, wealth. Sarah Hall explores many of them, treading the zones between wilderness and wildness so subtly and beautifully, that is difficult to convey the richness she achieves in this short review.
Rachel, at the centre of the story, is an honest, intelligent and independent woman, and an easy character to like. She copes with many changes: meeting the local people and her fellow workers on the Estate; getting used to the Earl's upper-class, peripatetic life-style and his easy comradeship with people in high places; the strangeness of living on a carefully manages Estate where nature, too, is controlled; and, especially, getting used to the necessary restrictions and strangeness of pregnancy and motherhood. She negotiates difficult meetings with her estranged brother and becomes involved with his problems. She establishes an easy sexual relationship with Alexander, the local vet. And she has a calm, natural authority in her job. All this is balanced by the logistics and work of flying two wild wolves from Romania, transporting them through England to the Estate, settling them into their new environment and watching their progress.
The wolves, and Rachel's relationship with them, are an essential part of the book. Hall writes vividly of their lives, their hunting, their eventual mating, and the birth and parental training of the cubs. Her descriptions of the land and the seasons are sensuous and exact: "webbed lungs of cloud" hang over the hills; the wolves, "smell the stag musk, rowan, the mountain streams"; and "Fish glimmered in the shallows, dark gold, blunt-headed - trout. The wolves might go for them, once released, straddling the rocks and snapping them out - she's seen them fish for salmon". And Rachel's ambivalent feelings about pregnancy, and then about motherhood - the physical and emotional changes, the demands, the uncontrollable and often frustrating nature of it all - are wholly believable.
The story is set at another boundary, too. A political referendum about independence for Scotland takes place and is won, setting Scotland free from English control. A new sort of civilization, different laws, and different controls of wilderness and wildness begin. And, in the end, the wolves are part of this.
All-in all, The Wolf Border is a beautiful, well-written, enjoyable and absorbing book.
Ann Skea, Reviewer
Load Poems Like Guns: Women's Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan
Holy Cow! Press
PO Box 3170, Mount Royal Station, Duluth, MN 55803
9780985981884, $16.95, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Frazana Marie is a Ph.D. candidate in Middle Eastern literature at the University of Arizona. She served as an active duty officer for over six years including two years of deployed service in Afghanistan. She is president of Civil Vision International, a nonprofit focusing on influencing international relationships. In "Load Poems Like Guns: Women's Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan" she presents a truly groundbreaking collection of poetry by eight contemporary Afghan women poets in English translation en face with the original Persian Dari text. These poets live in Herat, the ancient epicenter of literature and the arts.
Critique: Unique, compelling, gripping, extraordinary, memorable -- all this and more make "Load Poems Like Guns: Women's Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan" a critically important and truly exceptional addition to personal, community and academic library Contemporary International Poetry collections in general, and Afghanistan Cultural Studies supplemental reading lists in particular.
3441 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657
9780829443578, $16.95, 140pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Have you ever come back from a vacation only to feel more wiped out than before? Does the phrase "a little R&R" sound like an unattainable dream, something you'll "get around to" one of these days? What do you do when you need to "just be" for a while? The rigmarole of our daily lives takes a toll in energy, time, and effort. And the space and rest we need to recuperate - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - is usually pushed to the back burner. What we need is sanctuary, a place and space that allows us to reflect, rejuvenate, and restore. Terry Hershey's "Sanctuary: Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life" not only defines what sanctuary is but why we need it, where we can find it, and how we can create it as space and habit. For almost 30 years, Terry Hershey has been designing and creating personal sanctuaries, as well as helping others practice sanctuary within themselves. With practical ideas and his signature conversational tone, Hershey illustrates that sanctuary is not a new-age fad or lifestyle upheaval; rather it's a way to approach and embrace your daily life through a lens of grace, freedom, and contentedness.
Critique: A fascinating read from beginning to end, "Sanctuary: Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life" is as informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring. Written with a great deal of wit, wisdom, and wonder, "Sanctuary" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists as well as community, seminary, and academic library collections.
A Penny A Kiss
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0451
9780878397280, $14.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A young southern family moves from the hills of small-town West Virginia to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1939 and enters a new social stratum. After struggling to fit into a private girl's high school, the daughter attends a western college, where she suffers staggering defeat and enters a relationship that sets her on a singular path. Striving to carve out her identity within the rigid moral codes of the conventional Forties and Fifties, she defiantly pushes the front edge of the emerging hippy protest movements. The demands of academia, isolation, and personal relationships teach her that there's a price to pay for freedom.
Critique: Engagingly candid and deftly written, "A Penny A Kiss" is a compelling and entertaining memoir of one girl's life in the Minnesota of the 1940s and 50s. Of special note is Judy McConnell's described experiences of living on the University of Southern California campus. An exceptional and fascinating personal story, "A Penny A Kiss" is very highly recommended for community and academic library American Biography collections. For personal reading lists is should be noted that "A Penny A Kiss" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).
Vines Of Entanglement
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426795442, $14.99 PB, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A tangled web of lies characterizes the life Laura Mabry has built for herself and her son after the tragic death of her husband. But Laura's carefully constructed world slides off its axis when she stumbles upon the body of a young college student on the recreational trails of Raleigh's Greenway. What's worse, Detective Jon Locklear is Laura's worst nightmare...and her dream come true. Jon has spent years trying to forget Laura. Past experience has taught him that he can't trust her, but old habits (like old loves) die hard. When the killer turns his attention on Laura, Jon may be the only one who can save her. Truth and murder lurk just around the corner for Laura. Can she find the courage to face her deepest fears and unravel the lies of her past before she and her son become the Greenway Killer's next victims.
Critique: A riveting novel by an impressively talented author, "Vines Of Entanglement" combines memorable characters and a deftly crafted story to provide the reader with a fully engaging and consistently entertaining read. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections and available in a hardcover edition (9781630889241, $24.99), it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Vines Of Entanglement" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) as well.
Every Bride Needs A Groom
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800723996, $13.99, 368pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Small-town girl Katie Fisher is planning her wedding. Sure, her boyfriend hasn't managed to pop the question just yet, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't enter a contest in Texas Bride magazine to win the dress of her dreams, right? But when her boyfriend breaks up with her and takes a job in another town--the very same day Katie wins her dream dress -- her world is turned upside down. Should she claim her prize? And will the hunky former pro-basketball player who runs the swanky Dallas bridal shop catch on to her humiliation if she does? In "Every Bride Needs A Groom", author Janice Thompson has crafted a romance that is certain to delight her fans, with plenty of fish-out-of-water moments, a hilarious supporting cast, and more of the wedding biz world her readers adore.
Critique: A terrifically entertaining novel by a terrifically talented novelist, "Every Bride Needs A Groom" is the newest addition to Revell's outstanding 'A Brides with Style Novel' series and very highly recommended for community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Every Bride Needs A Groom" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).
Dancing Forever With Spirit
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265070, $13.50, 120pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Dancing Forever with Spirit: Astonishing Insights from Heaven" by Garnet Schulhauser will appeal to readers feeling that there is help from the other side which is available to each and every one of us. "Dancing Forever with Spirit" is the continuation of the saga of the author's spiritual awakening as recounted in the author's first book, "Dancing on a Stamp" (9781886940321, $14.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, $14.95 Audible). In this sequel, Schulhauser describes his most recent exploits with Albert who appeared one night to guide him on a series of out-of-body adventures to explore a dazzling white city on the Spirit Side, other planets in the galaxy with intriguing life forms, and some of the far-flung regions of our planet that suffer from human abuse. These fascinating astral excursions were designed to inspire us to renounce the dark side of humanity in favour of spiritual enlightenment.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Dancing Forever with Spirit: Astonishing Insights from Heaven" is very highly recommended for personal and community library Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted that "Dancing Forever with Spirit" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
Seven Steps To Train Your Mind
Gomo Tulku, author
Joan Nicell, translator
199 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781614292265, $15.95, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: With the publication of "Seven Steps To Train Your Mind" by Gomo Tulku a new generation of readers will be able to learn the ropes of a cultivating a resilient and warm heart, even in the face of great difficulty, from one of the most beloved of the last generation of lamas trained in pre-invasion Tibet. The aphorisms of the Seven-Point Mind Training present a powerful and counter-intuitive call to Buddhist practice -- view reality as dreamlike, contemplate the kindness of your enemies, give up expectations of reward, change yourself but remain as you are! When he fled Tibet, Gomo Tulku carried in his heart this widely studied Tibetan text, which he turned to time and again when faced with difficulties in life. Having relied on this practice to transform his own hardships, he shares here an inspired commentary to help us get through ours. Mirroring the simplicity of the original, "Seven Steps to Train Your Mind" succinctly provides a practical description of how to train the mind and develop the mental qualities of peace, joy, and wisdom that will carry one through any circumstance.
Critique: Gomo Tulku (1922-1985), was an accomplished Buddhist master born in Tibet and confirmed by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama to be the reincarnation of a highly realized Tibetan yogi. Holder of many rare lineages of initiation, Gomo Tulku taught and inspired many students throughout the West at the end of his life. Joan Nicell has done a superb job in translating "Seven Steps To Train Your Mind" into English, making this wisdom packed compendium very highly recommended for community and academic library Buddhism reference collections and supplemental studies lists. Ideal for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in Buddhism, it should be noted that "Seven Steps To Train Your Mind" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.62).
Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories
c/o University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299303648, $19.95, 202pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: When Johnquell, an African American teen, suffers a serious accident in the home of his white neighbor, Mrs. Czernicki, his community must find ways to bridge divisions between black and white, gay and straight, old and young. Set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (one of the nation's most highly segregated cities), "Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories" tells stories of connections in a community with a tumultuous and divided past. In nine stories told from diverse perspectives, author Jennifer Morales captures a Rust Belt city's struggle to establish a common ground and a collective vision of the future. Morales gives life to multifaceted characters ranging from white schoolteachers and senior citizens, to Latino landlords, black and Puerto Rican teens, political activists, and Vietnam vets. As their lives unfold in these stories, we learn about Johnquell's family and his grandparents' involvement in the local Black Panther Party, his sister's on-again, off-again friendship with a white classmate, and his aunt's identity crisis as she finds herself falling in love with a woman. We also meet Johnquell's mother, Gloria, and his school friend Taquan, who is struggling to chart his own future. As an activist mother in the thick of Milwaukee politics, Morales developed a keen ear and a tender heart for the kids who have inherited the city's troubled racial legacy. With a critical eye on promises unfulfilled, "Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories" raises questions about the notion of a "postracial" society and, with humor and compassion, lifts up the day-to-day work needed to get there.
Critique: An impressively gifted writer, "Jennifer Morales' short story are lucid, compelling, deftly crafted, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, for personal reading lists that "Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.68).
A Taste for Chaos
Spring Journal Books
38 South Roadway, New Orleans, LA 70124
Cave Henricks Communications
9781935528685, $32.95, 522pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Western civilization has always driven toward mastering the world through reason, will, craft, and scientific objectivity. Yet beneath this current swirls a riptide that suggests we can know more of the world through non-rational means - through spontaneity, intuition, and creativity. In "A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation", literary scholar Randy Fertel explores this undercurrent of spontaneity in literature and identifies a new metagenre called improvisations - texts that claim to have been written without effort or craft, like an idea that hits you in the shower. Whether the authors claim to have written them in a dream, instinctively, off the top of their head, or when drunk, they have done so, so they claim, without effort, and their work is the more valuable because of it. While self-styled spontaneous texts claim to be unlike anything we have ever seen before, they actually abound across genres and time, from the epic sung poetry of classical Greece to 21st century novels. "A Taste for Chaos" presents a methodology for talking about spontaneity, and then applies that methodology to landmark texts. Fertel explores the complex nature of the spontaneous gesture; identifies the stylistic conventions, themes, and rhetorical features of improvisations; and explores the archetype of spontaneity throughout history from philosophy and psychology to chaos science, jazz, conceptual art, post-modernism, and finally Hermes - the god of crossing boundaries, of improvisation, who graces the book's cover. Fertel then provides a fresh approach to major texts of the Western tradition by analyzing them through the lens of improvisation: Milton's Paradise Lost, Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey, Tennyson's Idylls of the King, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Jung's Red Book, Joyce's Ulysses, Mann's Dr. Faustus, and finally, McEwan's Saturday. Woven throughout these improvisations, demonstrates Fertel, is the lesson that we can ultimately know more of the world by accepting the limits of reason, and opening up rationality to more of life.
Critique: Randy Fertel, a writer based in New York and New Orleans, is president of both the Fertel Foundation and the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation. As president of the Fertel Foundation, Fertel weaves together people and ideas, and fosters projects related to the arts and education. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation" is a seminal work of erudite analytic commentary. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "A Taste for Chaos" is very highly recommended for academic library Literary Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
The Bloomsbury Introduction To Creative Writing
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781472578433, $29.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Covering a wide range of forms and genres, "The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing" is a complete introductory manual for students of creative writing. Through a structured series of practical writing exercises - perfect for the classroom, the writer's workshop or as a starting point for a portfolio of work - the book builds the student writer from the first explorations of their own voice, through to mastery of a wide range of genres and forms. "The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing" covers such genres as: autobiographical writing; short fiction; poetry; screenwriting; writing for performance; and writing for digital media. With practical guidance on writing scholarly critiques of the aspiring writer's own work and a glossary of terms for ease of reference, "The Bloomsbury Introduction To Creative Writing" will prove to be an essential manual for any introductory creative writing course and a practical companion for more advanced writers.
Critique: It should be noted that Tara Mokhtari is a lecturer in Creative Writing, Literature and Communications at universities in the USA and Australia. She draws upon her many years of experience and expertise to provide what is essentially a complete course of instruction in one volume that can be used for self-study or as a textbook for a workshop or classroom Creative Writing curriculum. Thoroughly 'user friendly' throughout, "The Bloomsbury Introduction To Creative Writing" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781472578440, $94.00). It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Bloomsbury Introduction To Creative Writing" also comes in a Kindle format ($15.49).
Return Of The Gar
University of North Texas Press
PO Box 311336, Denton, TX 76203-1336
9781574415995, $24.95, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The alligator gar belongs to a family of fish that has remained fundamentally unchanged since the Cretaceous, over 100 million years ago. Its intimidating size and plethora of teeth have made it demonized throughout its range in North America, resulting in needless killing. Massive oil spills in its breeding range have not helped its population either. Interspersing science, folklore, history, and action-packed fishing narratives, Spitzer's empathy for and fascination with this air-breathing, armored fish provides for an entertaining odyssey that examines management efforts to preserve and propagate the alligator gar in the United States. Spitzer also travels to Central America, Thailand, and Mexico to assess the global gar situation. He reflects on what is and isn't working in compromised environments, then makes a case for conservation based on personal experience and a love for wildness for its own sake. "Return Of The Gar" is colorful portrait of the alligator gar that can serve as a metaphor and measurement for the future of our biodiversity during a time of planetary crisis.
Critique: Enhanced with numerous photographs, "Return Of The Gar" By Mark Spitzer (Assocaite Professor of Creative Writing, University of Central Arkansas) is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. An impressive and seminal work of extraordinary and informative scholarship "Return Of The Gar" is the latest attention to the University of North Texas Press 'Southwestern Nature Writing' series and a very highly recommended addition to academic library collections.
American Travelers on the Nile
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9789774166679, $44.95, 424pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Treaty of Ghent signed in 1814, ending the War of 1812, allowed Americans once again to travel abroad. Medical students went to Paris, artists to Rome, academics to Göttingen, and tourists to all European capitals. More intrepid Americans ventured to Athens, to Constantinople, and even to Egypt. Beginning with two eighteenth-century travelers, "American Travelers on the Nile: Early US Visitors to Egypt, 1774-1839" by Andrew Oliver then turns to the 25-year period after 1815 that saw young men from East Coast cities, among them graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, traveling to the lands of the Bible and of the Greek and Latin authors they had first known as teenagers. Naval officers off ships of the Mediterranean squadron visited Cairo to see the pyramids. Two groups went on business, one importing steam-powered rice and cotton mills from New York, the other exporting giraffes from the Kalahari Desert for wild animal shows in New York. Drawing on unpublished letters and diaries together with previously neglected newspaper accounts, as well as a handful of published accounts, "American Travelers on the Nile: Early US Visitors to Egypt, 1774-1839" offers a new look at the early American experience in Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean world. More than thirty illustrations complement the stories told by the travelers themselves.
Critique: A seminal work of outstanding and meticulous scholarship, "American Travelers on the Nile: Early US Visitors to Egypt, 1774-1839" is an impressively detailed history that is enhanced with the inclusion of a map of Egypt, an informative Introduction, sixty-six pages of Endnotes; and a thirty-nine page Index. "American Travelers on the Nile" is a critically important and highly recommended addition to academic library Egyptian and American History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444820324, $20.00, 299pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: When five men - led by notorious killer Ernest Jones - elude a posse, they kill a farmer and ravish his daughter Gwendolyn, then flee. The ordeal has left Gwendolyn with a thirst for vengeance and, concealing her gender, she rides out in a daze after a posse that is in pursuit of the outlaws. That's when she finds the posse has been massacred and the dying words of the last man to perish asks her to find his brother, Sheriff Quigley, and let him know what happened. Finding a job with Sheriff Humphrey Quigley, Gwendolyn, who is now masquerading as a boy named Glenn, is persuaded to infiltrate the Jones gang in order to deliver them to the sheriff and the gallows. But violence and death dog every step as Gwendolyn fights to survive among the brutal outlaws.
Critique: As hard bitten and riveting an action/adventure as ever was written, "Wild Justice" is a compelling read from first page to last. A welcome and very strongly recommended addition to personal and community library Large Print western novel collections, "Wild Justice" takes the reader on a truly wild ride of imagination and entertainment.
Tears Of Innocense
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432830113, $25.95, 251pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the autumn of 1945 Karl Baier‚ a young American military officer‚ arrives in a devastated Berlin‚ the once mighty capital of the Third Reich. His assignment: to hunt down‚ debrief‚ and‚ in some cases‚ resettle German scientists who helped build the German war machine. He is not alone‚ however‚ as America's allies during the war have become competitors in the search for Germany's scientific and industrial elite. Baier soon finds himself romantically involved with a local woman whose husband disappeared on the eastern front‚ a woman whose husband shares Baier's name. The young American agrees to help find news of her husband's fate‚ which she uses to draw him into a story of deceit‚ romance‚ and missing treasure. Soon Baier becomes the hunted as much as the hunter. Baier's quest takes him from the ruins of Berlin to Greece‚ Bavaria‚ and Lisbon‚ the heart of European espionage and main escape route during the war‚ as he searches for answers to a mystery that stretches back into the German occupation‚ the chaotic final days of the war‚ and into an uncertain future. Baier will have to learn who his true friends are‚ whom he can trust‚ and whether it is safe to love a woman whose history he can only begin to understand. "Tears of Innocence" is a fast-paced thriller set in a time when Karl Baier and his country must face up to the challenges of their new role in an uncertain postwar world.
Critique: An extraordinary novel by an impressively talented novelist, "Tears Of Innocense" blends memorable characters into a deftly crafted and complex story that holds and entertains the reader from beginning to end. This is one of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tears Of Innocense" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).
The Dirty Dozen
5540 Central Ave Suite 200, Boulder, CO 80301
9781581603170, $22.00, 96pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Larry Jordan was given a unique assignment by his commanders - come up with a truly down-and-dirty hand-to-hand fighting system for his fellow Green Berets and U.S. Army Rangers. The goal of this system was to give soldiers a handful of hard-core techniques that could be easily learned, easily mastered and effectively applied in any close-combat situation. Jordan devised a set of 12 techniques that were surprisingly simple, shockingly fast and brutally effective. He has now adapted this military system for civilian self-defense. He calls it "The Dirty Dozen'. The 12 self-defense lessons comprising this book are specifically designed to provide the average citizen with a series of easily learned techniques that will enable him or her to prevail in any violent situation. Besides the ever-present threat of violent crime, the recent terrorist attacks aboard commercial airliners show that people can no longer rely on "somebody else" to protect them. Preparing to resist and defeat evildoers is everyone's responsibility now. That's where "The Dirty Dozen comes" in.
Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of step-by-step photographs clearly illustrating the various moves, "The Dirty Dozen: 12 Nasty Fighting Techniques For Any Self-Defense Situation" is an extraordinary and thoroughly 'user friendly' martial arts training manual. Practical, effective, and informative, "The Dirty Dozen" is strongly recommended for personal, dojo, and community library Martial Arts and Self-Defense instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "The Dirty Dozen" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.32).
The Sins Of Our Fathers
Shawn Lawrence Otto
1011 Washington Avenue South, #300
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1246
9781571311092, $26.00, 252pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Sins of Our Fathers" by Shawn Lawrence Otto follows small-town banker J. W., who has been caught embezzling funds to support his gambling addiction. J. W. is on the verge of losing everything when his boss offers him a scoundrel's path to redemption: sabotage a competing, Native banker named Johnny Eagle. A single father, Eagle recently returned to the reservation, leaving a high-powered job in the hope of simultaneously empowering his community and saving his troubled son. When J. W. moves onto the reservation and begins to work his way close to Eagle, hundreds of years of racial animosities rise to the surface, inexorably driving the characters toward a Shakespearean and shattering conclusion.
Critique: An extraordinarily entertaining novel by an extraordinarily gifted novelist, "The Sins Of Our Fathers" is a solidly written and exceptionally entertaining read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Sins Of Our Fathers" si also available in a paperback edition (9781571311184, $18.00), a Kindle edition ($14.16), and as an unabridged Audible book download ($20.95).
Blue Ocean Strategy
W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781625274496, $32.00, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In a new and expanded edition, "Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant" by W. Chan Kim and Renee Maugorgne argues that cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves (spanning more than 100 years across 30 industries), the authors argue that lasting success comes not from battling competitors but from creating "blue oceans" -- untapped new market spaces ripe for growth. "Blue Ocean Strategy" presents a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and outlines principles and tools any organization can use to create and capture their own blue oceans. This expanded edition includes: A new preface by the authors: Help! My Ocean Is Turning Red; Updates on all cases and examples in the book, bringing their stories up to the present time; Two new chapters and an expanded third one (Alignment, Renewal, and Red Ocean Traps) that address the most pressing questions readers have asked over the past 10 years.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this new edition is a 'must' for anyone involved in any aspect of business management. Very highly recommended for corporate, community, and academic library Business Management reference collections, for personal reading lists it should be noted that this expanded edition of "Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.99).
Willis M. Buhle
Raymond L. Atkins
Mercer University Press
1400 Coleman Avenue, Macon, GA 31207-0001
Word Slinger Publicity
9780881465075, $18.00, 340pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Rodney Earwood and Palmer Cray had been best friends for as long as either could remember. They were brothers in all but the genetic sense, each born late in the lives of good women who had given up on the dream of motherhood by the time their respective miracles occurred. They wandered the hills of North Georgia, hunted the pine woods, fished the cool, green streams, and camped under the stars. They shared each other's clothing, each other's families, and each other's homes. They grew into tall young men, and on a hot May afternoon right after they turned eighteen, they both graduated from Sweetwater High School, numbers seven and eight in the crooked, sweaty line that held a class of thirty of Sweetwater's finest. Shortly thereafter, Rodney and Palmer flew a Camaro into a tree, Palmer flew into a haystack, Rodney flew into the great beyond, and nothing in Sweetwater was ever the same again. "Sweetwater Blues" follows Palmer in the aftermath of his one great mistake as he confronts regret at his own fallibility, endures punishment for his actions, finds unexpected redemption in unusual places, and is given a second chance to try to make it all right. He is joined in this journey by an unlikely cast of associate -- including a methamphetamine dealer named Cheddar, a junkyard owner named Ottis Lee, a coffee-can addict named Bay-Annette, and an Alzheimer's patient who was once Rodney's mother--as they face each day and try to overcome their "Sweetwater Blues".
Critique: An imaginative and original novel by an imaginative and original novelist, "Sweetwater Blues is a riveting read from beginning to end and documents author Raymond L. Atkins as an extraordinary talent with respect to crafting truly memorable characters embedded in a truly memorable story. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sweetwater Blues" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.00).
Proverbs and Ecclesiastes: A Theological Commentary on the Bible
Amy Plantinga Pauw
Westminister John Knox Press
100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396
9780664232108, $40.00, 376pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The newest volume in an outstanding "Belief: a Theological Commentary on the Bible" series from Westminster John Knox Press, "Proverbs and Ecclesiastes: A Theological Commentary on the Bible" by Amy Plantinga Pauw (Henry P. Mobley Jr. Professor of Doctrinal Theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) reveals how the biblical books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, while often overlooked, are surprisingly relevant for Christian faith today. Both biblical books probe everyday human experiences. They speak to those who seek meaning and purpose in an uncertain world and encourage us to look for God's presence in human life, not in divine visions or messages. They show openness to wisdom insights from many sources, urging us to find the commonalities and connections of our wisdom with those of our religious neighbors. Ultimately, these books affirm that true wisdom, whatever its human source, comes from God. Pauw includes reflections for preaching and teaching throughout her study.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Proverbs and Ecclesiastes: A Theological Commentary on the Bible" is impressively well informed and informative. Very highly recommended for personal, seminary, church, community, and academic library Biblical Studies reference collections in general, and Proverbs/Ecclesiastes supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted that "Proverbs and Ecclesiastes: A Theological Commentary on the Bible" is also available in a Kindle edition ($29.23).
Marilyn Barber & Murray Watson
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887557774, $31.95, 283pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Despite being one of the largest immigrant groups contributing to the development of modern Canada, the story of the English has been all but untold. "Invisible Immigrants: The English in Canada since 1945" documents the experiences of English-born immigrants who chose to come to Canada during England's last major wave of emigration between the 1940s and the 1970s. Engaging life story oral histories reveal the aspirations, adventures, occasional naivete, and challenges of these hidden immigrants. Postwar English immigrants believed they were moving to a familiar British country. Instead, like other immigrants, they found they had to deal with separation from home and family while adapting to a new country, a new landscape, and a new culture. Although English immigrants did not appear visibly different from their new neighbors, as soon as they spoke, they were immediately identified as "foreign". "Invisible Immigrants: The English in Canada since 1945" reveals the personal nature of the migration experience and how socio-economic structures, gender expectations, and marital status shaped possibilities and responses. In postwar North America dramatic changes in both technology and the formation of national identities influenced their new lives and helped shape their memories. Their stories contribute to our understanding of postwar immigration and fill a significant gap in the history of English migration to Canada.
Critique: The collaborative work of Marilyn Barber (an historian of immigration, women's and gender history, and oral history) and Murray Watson (a UK based oral historian specializing in postwar English immigration), "Invisible Immigrants: The English in Canada since 1945" is a work of consistently impressive and original scholarship. Enhanced with the inclusion of twelve pages of Notes; an eight page Bibliography; and a five page Index, "Invisible Immigrants: The English in Canada since 1945" is a seminal and highly recommended addition to academic library Canadian Demographics reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Invisible Immigrants: The English in Canada since 1945" is also available in a Kindle edition ($25.00).
Dividing The Nile
David E. Mills
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9789774166389, $59.95, 360pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: While most scholars and political historians has attributed Sudanese independence in 1956 to British dominance of the Condominium, historical animosity toward Egypt, or the emergence of Sudanese nationalism. "Dividing the Nile: Egypt's Economic Nationalists in the Sudan 1918-56" by David E. Mills ( Professor of Middle East history at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia) counters that Egyptian entrepreneurs failed to develop a united economy or shared economic interests, guaranteeing Egypt's 'loss' of the Sudan. "Dividing The Nile" argues that British dominance of the Condominium may have stymied initial Egyptian efforts, but that after the First World War Egypt became increasingly interested in and capable of economic ventures in the Sudan. However, early Egyptian financial assistance and the seemingly successful resolution of Nile waters disputes actually divided the regions, while later concerted efforts to promote commerce and acquire Sudanese lands failed dismally. Egyptian nationalists simply missed opportunities of aligning their economic future with that of their Sudanese brethren, resulting in a divided Nile valley. "Dividing the Nile" will appeal to historians, social scientists, and international relations theorists, among those interested in Nile valley developments, but its focused economic analysis will also contribute to broader scholarship on nationalism and nationalist theory.
Critique: A work of seminal and extraordinary scholarship, ""Dividing the Nile: Egypt's Economic Nationalists in the Sudan 1918-56" is enhanced with the inclusion of fifty-nine pages of Notes; an eighteen page Bibliography; and a six page Index. Informed and informative, "Dividing the Nile: Egypt's Economic Nationalists in the Sudan 1918-56" is a strongly recommended addition to academic library 20th Century Egyptian and International Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
Medicine and Compassion
Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche & David R. Shlim
1501 East Hillside Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
9781614292258, $17.95, 216pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Who cares for the caregivers? No matter what inspires a provider's commitment, the wise words found in the pages of "Medicine and Compassion: A Tibetan Lama and an American Doctor on How to Provide Care with Compassion and Wisdom" will soothe and rejuvenate while offering practical advice in this new 10th anniversary expanded edition. It is estimated that nearly one-third of the U.S. adult population acts as informal caregivers for ill or disabled loved ones. We can add to these countless workers in the fields of health and human service, and yet there is still not enough help to go around.
"Medicine and Compassion" can help anyone reconnect with the true spirit of their caregiving task. In a clear and very modern voice, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and Dr. David R. Shlim use the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to present practical tools for revitalizing the caring spirit. Offering practical advice on dealing with people who are angry at their medical conditions or their care providers, people who are dying, or the families of those who are critically ill, "Medicine and Compassion" provides needed inspiration to any who wish to reenergize their patience, kindness, and effectiveness. The warmth and care in these pages is sure to strike a resonant cord with medical professionals, hospice workers, teachers and parents of children with special needs, and those caring for aging and infirm loved ones.
Critique: An especially impressive collaboration between Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche (the Abbot of one of the largest monasteries in Nepal with over 250 Buddhist monks) and Dr. David R. Shim (who ran the medical clinic in Kathmandu, Nepal for fifteen years), "Medicine and Compassion: A Tibetan Lama and an American Doctor on How to Provide Care with Compassion and Wisdom" is as informed, informative, and practical, as it is thoughtful, thought-provoking, and occasionally inspiring. An extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community and academic library Health & Medicine reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Medicine and Compassion: A Tibetan Lama and an American Doctor on How to Provide Care with Compassion and Wisdom" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).
The Civilian Conservation Corps in Southern Illinois, 1933-1942
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809333653, $45.00, 368pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Civilian Conservation Corps in Southern Illinois, 1933-1942" is the product of more than thirty years of meticulous research by historian Kay Rippelmeyer and details the Depression-era history of the simultaneous creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. Through the stories of the men who worked in CCC camps devoted to soil and forest conservation projects, she offers a fascinating look into an era of utmost significance to the identity, citizens, wildlife, and natural landscape of the region. Rippelmeyer outlines the geologic and geographic history of southern Illinois, from Native American uses of the land to the timber industry's decimation of the forest by the 1920s. Detailing both the economic hardships and agricultural land abuse plaguing the region during the Depression, she reveals how the creation of the CCC under Franklin Delano Roosevelt coincided with the regional campaign for a national forest and how locals first became aware of and involved with the program. Rippelmeyer mined CCC camp records from the National Archives, newspaper accounts and other correspondence and conducted dozens of oral interviews with workers and their families to re-create life in the camps. An extensive camp compendium augments the volume, featuring numerous photographs, camp locations and dates of operation, work history, and company rosters.
Critique: An impressive and seminal work of original and painstaking research which is strongly recommended for community and academic library 20th Century American History collections, "The Civilian Conservation Corps in Southern Illinois, 1933-1942" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Enhanced with the inclusion of period black-and-white photos, sixteen pages of Notes, a six page Bibliography, and a thirty-nine page Index, "The Civilian Conservation Corps in Southern Illinois, 1933-1942" is an invaluable contribution the history of the CCC in general, and its operations in Southern Illinois in particular.
Decapitating the Union
John C. Fazio
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9780786497461, $45.00, 420pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The literature on Abraham Lincoln's assassination is replete with errors, theories and guesswork. "Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln" by American Civil War historian John C. Fazio is a comprehensive re-examination of the facts seeks to correct errors in the record, reconcile differences of opinion, offer explanations for unknowns and evaluate theories. Drawing on hundreds of sources, "Decapitating the Union" covers the prelude to the war, John Wilkes Booth's accomplices and their roles in the conspiracy, the kidnapping ruse that concealed the intended decapitation of the government, the mysteries surrounding key players, the assassination itself, Booth's escape, the pursuit of the fugitives, the death of Booth and the trial and sentencing of his co-conspirators (except John Surratt) and one innocent man. The simple conspiracy theory is rejected by the author in favor of the theory that Booth worked with the complicity of the highest levels of the Confederate government and its Secret Service Bureau, whose twofold purpose was retribution and snatching Southern independence from a weakened and chaotic Federal Government.
Critique: Impressively researched, organized and presented, "Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln" is a seminal and critically important contribution to the growing body of Civil War literature. A deftly written historical study, "Decapitating the Union" is an informative and thoughtful, making it a 'must' for community and academic library Civil War Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Great Bear Wild
343 Railway Street, Suite 201, Vancouver, BC Canada V6A 1A4
9781771640459, $50.00, 200pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Great Bear Rainforest is the fabled region that stretches up the rugged Pacific coast from the top of Vancouver Island to southern Alaska. A longtime resident of the area, award-winning photographer and conservationist Ian McAllister takes us on a deeply personal journey from the headwaters of the Great Bear Rainforest's unexplored river valleys down to where the ocean meets the rainforest and finally to the hidden depths of the offshore world. Along the way, we meet the spectacular wildlife that inhabits the Great Bear Rainforest. In a not-so unusual day, McAllister quietly observes twenty seven bears fishing for salmon, three of which are the famed pure white spirit bear. McAllister introduces us to the First Nations people who have lived there for millennia and have become his close friends and allies, and to the scientists conducting groundbreaking research and racing against time to protect the rainforest from massive energy projects. Rich with full-color photographs of the wolves, whales, and other creatures who make the rainforest their home, Great Bear Wild is a stunning celebration of this legendary area.
Critique: The commentary is as informed and informative as the full color photography is spectacular. A coffee-table treasury enhanced with a Foreword by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest" is an impressive from beginning to end. With its flawless production values, "Great Bear Wild" would make an exceptional Memorial Gift Fund acquisition for community and academic library collections -- and a truly memorable read!
Magna Golden West
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781842628904, $29.99, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Civil War ended and Major Tim McCord led his band of hoodlums west to the cattle trails, intending to steal a herd to sell in Topeka, and to move on to Huggett, Nebraska, to dispose of the loot amassed during the war. As Sheridan's Light Horse, McCord's troop had brought terror to the families of Southern landowners. They came out of the night, killing all males regardless of age, using all females, plundering valuables and transporting the best to their cache in Nebraska. Then at Waco they tangled with Steve Grant!
Critique: A terrific action/adventure western by a superbly gifted storyteller, Hal Jons' "Assassin Trail" is a page-burner of a read and very highly recommended for community library Large Print fiction collections and the personal reading lists of western novel enthusiasts and fans!
James L. Dickerson
Sartoris Literary Group
PO Box 4185, Brandon, MS 39047
9781941644157, $19.95, 274pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Draw a straight line from New Orleans to Nashville, then over to Memphis and back down to New Orleans, following the curves of the Mississippi River, and you have the Mojo Triangle. It is a land area in which all of America's original music was created: Country, Blues, Jazz, and Rock 'n' Roll. Based on interviews with the recording artists, musicians, producers and songwriters who created and performed the music, "Mojo Triangle: Birthplace of Country, Blues, Jazz and Rock 'n' Roll" traces the development of the music from the early 1800s in Natchez, Mississippi, where Native Americans played an instrumental role in the development of the blues, all the way up to the present day. Among the music legends whom author James L. Dickerson includes are Al Green, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, Carl Perkins, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Chet Atkins, Ike Turner, Jack Clement, Marty Stuart, Mose Allison, Rita Coolidge, Roy Orbison, Scotty Moore, Tammy Wynette, Vince Gill, Waylon Jennings, Garth Brooks, Chips Moman, Billy Sherrill, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jimme Vaughan, Willie Mitchell, Booker T. & the MGs, Bobby Womack, Estelle Axton, Dave Edmunds, Pinetop Perkins, Bobbie Gentry -- and the list goes on and on. "Mojo Triangle" is enhanced with the inclusion rare photographs (some of which were taken by the Dickerson himself) . "Mojo Triangle" not only allows the music greats themselves to express themselves about the music they made famous, it explains for the first time the development of that music.
Critique: A great read from beginning to end, "Mojo Triangle: Birthplace of Country, Blues, Jazz and Rock 'n' Roll" is very highly recommended to students and fans of America's authentically original music forms and genres. Informed and informative, "Mojo Triangle" is very highly recommended as an essential and core addition to community and academic library American Music History reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Mojo Triangle" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.95).
The Big Book of Wooden Locks
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721-9875
9781610352222, $24.95, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Big Book of Wooden Locks: Complete Plans for Nine Working Wooden Locks" is comprised of unique projects for making working locks entirely from wood will present an an exciting challenge to woodworkers. These amazing projects are all fully functional and are constructed entirely in wood, with no metal parts. Step-by-step instructions, complete dimensioned drawings, and color photographs give readers complete information on constructing each project. These intricate designs will challenge readers' woodworking skills, teach techniques for creating wooden mechanisms and puzzles, and produce impressive, beautiful creations that testify to the builder's skill and woodworking accomplishments. From a simple warded lock with key to a complex push-button combination lock, these projects are fantastic conversation starters and make highly impressive gifts.
Critique: Offering clear and illustrated step-by-step instructions, "The Big Book of Wooden Locks: Complete Plans for Nine Working Wooden Locks" will enable even the most novice of wood workers to turn out functioning wood locks. Combining fun and function, "The Big Book of Wooden Locks: Complete Plans for Nine Working Wooden Locks" is an ideal and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, school wood shop, and community library woodworking instructional reference collections.
Exploring Color Photography: From Film to Pixels
Robert Hirsch & Greg Erf
c/o Taylor & Francis Group
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780415730952, $59.95, 408pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and significantly expanded sixth edition, "Exploring Color Photography: From Film to Pixels" continues to be the thinking photographer's guide to color image making. "Exploring Color Photography: From Film to Pixels" concisely instructs students and intermediate photographers in the fundamental aesthetic and technical building blocks needed to create thought-provoking digital and analog color photographs. Taking both a conceptual and pragmatic approach, "Exploring Color Photography: From Film to Pixels:" avoids getting bogged down in complex, ever-changing technological matters, allowing it to stay fresh and engaging. Its stimulating assignments encourage students to be adventurous and to take responsibility for learning and working independently. The emphasis on design and postmodern theoretical concepts stresses the thought process behind the creation of intriguing images. It's extensive and inspiring collection of images and accompanying captions allow makers to provide insight into how photographic methodology was utilized to visualize and communicate their objectives. The text continues to deliver inspiring leadership in the field of color photography with the latest accurate information, ideas, commentary, history, a diverse collection of contemporary images, and expanded cellphone photography coverage. A "Problem Solving and Writing" chapter offers methods and exercises that help one learn to be a visual problem solver and to discuss and write succinctly about the concepts at the foundation of one's work. Even the companion website, www.exploringcolorphotography.com, has been revamped and updated to feature more student and teacher resources, including a new web-based timeline: As It Happened: A Chronological History of Color Photography.
Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly', "Exploring Color Photography: From Film to Pixels" is an ideal instructional textbook for college and university level photography curriculums and should be considered a critically important acquisition for professional and academic library Photography instructional reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that for libraries, "Exploring Color Photography: From Film to Pixels" is available in a hardcover edition (9780415730921, $180.00) and for personal reading lists, it is available in a Kindle edition ($54.95).
Michael J. Carson
Magic Mushroom Explorer
Simon G. Powell
Park Street Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620553664, $18.95, www.amazon.com
Magic mushrooms are mushrooms that contain the psychedelic compounds psilocybin and psilocin. Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms, collectively known as psilocybin mushrooms. As a prodrug, psilocybin is quickly converted by the body to psilocin, which has mind-altering effects similar, in some aspects, to those of LSD, mescaline, and DMT. In general, the effects include euphoria, visual and mental hallucinations, changes in perception, a distorted sense of time, and spiritual experiences, and can include possible adverse reactions such as nausea and panic attacks. "Magic Mushroom Explorer: Psilocybin and the Awakening Earth" by Simon G. Powell (a writer, film-maker, musician, and author of "The Psilocybin Solution") is a 288 page visionary guide to safely using psilocybin mushrooms to tap in to the wisdom of Nature and reconnect humanity to the biosphere. "Magic Mushroom Explorer" delves into the ecopsychological effects of wild psychedelic mushrooms, including enhanced biophilia, expanded awareness, eco-shamanic encounters, and access to the ancient wisdom that binds all life on Earth; presents and examines the most recent scientific studies on psilocybin in the U.S. and U.K.; details the author's own work to keep the use of psilocybin mushrooms legal in the U.K.; and shows that an irrational rejection of scientific evidence underlies the harsh war against psychedelic states of consciousness. An extraordinary and informative work, "Magic Mushroom Explorer: Psilocybin and the Awakening Earth" is highly recommended and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Spirituality & Entheogens reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Magic Mushroom Explorer" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Of Darkest Valor
Page Publishing, Inc.
9781634171311 $18.95 pbk. / $9.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
Also available as an ebook, Of Darkest Valor is a fantastic saga of war, heroism, treachery, and royal intrigue. For countless generations, the Order of the Acrium has protected the wealthy and powerful nation of Varkuvia. Now, the four lords of the city-states in the mountainous east have allied and concocted a plan to destroy this prosperous kingdom. The Order is disbanded, and the brutal Legion of the Rising Sun is created in the east. The fires of war are burning, and Trystan, a former member of the disbanded Order of the Acrium, takes up arms in hope of saving the city of Karalis, and his closest friends. A saga of the struggle for justice, and the search for the smallest light of hope amid the depths of despair, Of Darkest Valor is highly recommended.
Play Golf Better Faster
Building Your Best Publications
9780990452621 $19.95 www.PlayGolfBetterFaster.com
Also available in a Spanish edition (with Korean and pocket-sized versions swiftly forthcoming), Play Golf Better Faster: The Classic Guide to Optimizing Your Performance and Building Your Best Fast is a "how-to" improvement guide for golfers of all skill and experience levels. Chapters cover how to move on from bad shots, understand the language of golf instruction, develop a "golfer's brain", maintain one's center, handle fitted golf clubs, choose an instructor whose style will mesh with one's needs, and much more. Play Golf Better Faster is invaluable not only for casual golfers who want to improve, but also for business professionals who use golf as a form of networking and need to step up their game quickly for the sake of their career!
Tavern Tales 2004-2014
Dunne & Phillips Publishers
PO Box 510186, Milwaukee, WI 53203
9781499113327 $13.46 www.amazon.com
Playwright Wayne Frank presents Tavern Tales 2004-2014, an anthology of gritty, free-verse poetry steeped in all-too-harsh reality. Some of the fifty-four poems have been previously published, but many have not. They tell tales of blue-collar living, wartime brutality, and vivid impressions of locations ranging from Bali to Berlin. Creative experimentations of style and format pepper this vivid, eyebrow-raising collection. "A Common Hero": The blond woman from Holland spoke / perfect English, spoke impressively of / many things, of American literature, and / spoke about my hero, Ernest Hemingway // At the right moment, I added, "Of course / in great literature, less is always more" / It made her pause. And when she fingered / her drink, I looked down her blouse.
Fiji Random Garage Maid Special 01 - Preparation
Black Streak Entertainment
PO Box 4884, Austintown, OH 44515
9780990003076 $12.99 www.blackstreakbooks.com
Also available as an ebook, Fiji Random Garage Maid Special 01 - Preparation is a full-color spinoff of the Fiji Random graphic novel series. Fiji Random is an uproarious adventure, inspired by the art style of manga (Japanese comics), following the antics of 16-year-old Fiji, her family, and her friends in the course of their crazily chaotic day-to-day life. Garage Maid Special is not directly tied to the plot of the main Fiji Random series; it's a sidestory about the wackiness that ensues when Fiji's mother (who loves to dress up in assorted costumes) decides to host a cos-play garage sale! Are customers more likely to pay for used household items sold by a mom in a maid suit, a daughter in bunny outfit, and another teenage girl in cat ears? Most of the loopy story is presented in four-panel comics, similar to the structure of Japanese "4-koma" manga, only with the occasional artistic splash page. The result is pure, silly, and oh-so-Random fun from cover to cover!
Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It's Not Safe to Believe
Tom Doyle w & Greg Webster
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9780718030681, $15.99, www.thomasnelson.com
Tom Doyle, author, missionary and Middle East director of "e3 Partners" asks if you "could retain your faith even if it meant losing your life" in his March release, Killing Christians. America is unfamiliar with Christian persecution on this scale or a social climate that prompts such a question. However Muslims in Africa, Iraq, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries know the cost to themselves and their loved ones when they say "yes" to these questions.
"Are you willing to suffer for Jesus?"
"Are you willing to die for Jesus?"
They know if their underground churches are exposed, if loved ones turn them in or they are caught witnessing they face sadistic torture, profound suffering and death. Persecution and torture are so common Muslim converts define it as "momentary light affliction" because "they choose faith over survival."
The survivors you read about in these true stories have "endured the unendurable" and live lives "worthy of recognition and respect" in spite of terrifying circumstances. Stories end with an update and a "message" from survivors. The narratives are real. Locations and names have been modified or changed.
For example, Azzam Azziz Mubarak had "seven visions about the man who called himself Jesus." He didn't know him, yet recognized his voice. When he talked to his mother she told him to "Leave and don't come back." Azzam's journey began "in a coffin under a corpse."
Farid Assid lived in Damascus and dreamed of a white-robed man who said to "Follow Me." He was supernaturally led to ten others with similar visions and they gathered secretly to learn about Jesus, read Scripture and worship. They were prompted to purchase a burial ground for themselves that remains "empty" due to strange, coincidental events.
Tassie's (Tasyir Awad) story began as a young boy when a soldier he called "American Joe" prayed for him. He didn't understand, but never forgot and years later accepted Christ. His Muslim family considered him an infidel when he said "Jesus paid him a visit. Now he wonders if today is the day his family will finally kill him."
Professor Rafia Abbar was "department chair of Islamic Studies for Women" and taught Sharia law until a woman witnessed to her about Christ. Her ten-year-old daughter watched as her grandpa's brothers held knives to her mother's throat while they recited Sura's over her. However they suddenly turned and ran from the room. Her daughter ran to her and said, "Jesus was there, Mommy. He wouldn't let them touch you."
Doyle assures readers these and other touching stories aren't told to gain sympathy. Survivors want to share their stories with other Christians who still appreciate and enjoy the freedom to practice their faith.
The author writes "daily posts and SOS prayer alerts" at FaceBook 8thirty8 for others to pray and "connect personally with brothers and sisters under fire." He believes Christian persecution and martyrdom will increase until the Lord returns.
Reading these stories gives added significance to what it means to follow Christ while stories inspire appreciation for our own freedoms and much-needed prayer for the persecuted.
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310332374, $19.99, www.zondervan.com
New York Times award winning author, Terri Blackstock completes the Moonlighter suspense trilogy with Twisted Innocence, third in the series that some say can be read as a stand-alone mystery. In this book, Blackstock focuses on her favorite character of the series, Holly Cramer, who in previous books, Truth Stained Lies and Distortion was cast as a wild, "party girl."
In this book, Holly's late-night, party lifestyle comes to an abrupt end after a one-night stand leaves her pregnant and Holly decides to keep the father's identity secret. Although tempted to end the pregnancy she chooses life for her baby and a more stable lifestyle for them both - until her past bad choices catch up with her.
Then add murder, kidnapping and deceptions that complicate and create dangerous, unforeseen consequences. Holly's complex relationships spin out of control as the web of dangerous complications, misunderstandings and suspicions increase in a story that's slow to start but like wine, gets better with age.
Terri Blackstock's stellar reputation for writing award-winning Christian suspense with a dash of romance is well-deserved. However, "Twisted Innocence" is more about redemption, bad choices and complex relationships than suspense even though the narrative includes kidnapping and murder. Perhaps if I'd read previous books in the series this one would have been more to my liking.
Since this was my first Blackstock suspense I then read her 2010 release, Predator, a chilling, stand-alone murder mystery about the dangers of social networking and how stalkers use social media to find their prey. While I wasn't excited about "Twisted Innocence," her plot, characters and suspense in "Predator" illustrated why Blackstock is considered an award winning suspense writer. She now resides on my "favorite author" list alongside author Steven James.
God and Grandpa: Lessons Learned on the Road Trip of a Lifetime
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781503295285, $12.95, https://www.createspace.com
When Justin Farrell's much loved Grandpa turned 80 in 2012 they planned an Alaskan hunting, fishing and sight-seeing trip to celebrate. His Grandpa had always been a "big part of his life." He had taught him the importance of patience when hunting, how to walk quietly, "heel to toe," why "not to give chase too soon after the shot" and how to field dress a deer. Now he wanted to share one last "incredible journey" with him.
As a mental health therapist and now clinical supervisor of a Vancouver community health center Justin had talked with too many clients who lived with regret, lived with the "if only's" for what might have been. He didn't want to be one of them.
At his Grandpa's age there were no guarantees his health would continue to allow such a difficult trip. "No guarantee Justin would again get two weeks off" and no guarantee their Alaskan relatives would be there to host their visit. The timing was perfect!
Justin's memoir, God and Grandpa is wrapped in campfire wisdom that features what happens when life slows down, techno gadgets, such as computers and cell phones are unavailable and all multi-tasking stops. Although Justin frequently advised his clients to stop multi-tasking and learn to"stay in the moment," focus on what was happening in the here and now, this Alaskan road trip would equip him with the luxury of time to practice what he preached.
Colorful photographs of moose, grizzlies and large "stone sheep" with full curled horns enhance the narrative as well as stunning pictures of Alaskan mountain scenery. Then there's the color photographs of Justin and his Grandpa growing up and snapshots of them fishing in Alaska's Klutina river or their rafting trip down the Gulkana among many others.
Perhaps the most important part of their trip was the "Lessons Learned on the Road Trip of a Lifetime" that portrays their spiritual journey along 4,700 miles of the Alaska-Canada Highway." Where they spent the dark night hours reminiscing about God's provision and care for them and their family, friends and loved ones around their nighttime campfires.
Justin's memoir is a quick, fun read about a grandson's love for his grandpa that's wrapped in "wildlife, wisdom and whimsy."
Marvelous: Amazing Stories of Answered Prayer
Compiled by Suzanne Frey
Shop 10-12, Ede Shopping Plaza, Benin, Nigeria
9780692303429, $11.99, www.marvelouspublishing.com
Marvelous, Suzanne Frey's debut release was inspired by Psalm 145: 6 found in The Message Bible created by Eugene Peterson. "Your marvelous doings are headline news; I could write a book full of the details of your greatness." That verse, her passion for prayer and belief that
"prayer was never meant to be complicated," inspired this book.
Suzanne, an Oregon author and active member of Moms in Prayer, knew God had told the Jewish people in the Old Testament to memorialize significant or miraculous events with markers or stone altars "for future generations." She wanted to memorialize modern "miracles of answered prayer" that reveal God still answers prayers today in the same way.
In this book Suzanne shares fifty, life-changing testimonies of "divine answers" to prayer penned by forty-five authors from around the globe. Each account is true, personal and life-changing with stories often rooted in "heart-wrenching circumstances" when trust was difficult.
Keri Jackson's prayers were 911 style when her husband Tom was placed in a "medicated coma" due to what cardiologists called a "widow-maker event." In her shock and fear, Keri could only repeat, "God please don't take Tom...please don't take Tom...please don't take Tom. Learn how God's answer to her prayers turned into what would become a new "life-charge."
David Sanford learned "God still speaks today" from his ten-year-old daughter, Anna when their family prayer was answered. Their oldest son's wedding was 900 miles away and the family was short of funds. Anna, convinced God would answer their fervent prayers by mail, saw her father's doubt and told him, "You don't pray - just me!" This heart-warming story will make you smile.
The last story, "The Prayer that Changed Everything," is Suzanne's account of when she accepted Christ. It's a message of salvation that includes a simple invitation to accept Christ with an example of how to personalize and pray God's Word.
Whether suffering from abuse, drug addictions, eating disorders, in need of physical or spiritual healing, reading these first-person testimonies ignites faith and adds heaps of hope to your life that encourages you to persevere in prayer. In spite of secular thought, God is alive and well. He can be trusted, He is always in control and He is coming soon.
Gail Welborn, Reviewer
The Sound of Music Story
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
97812500466, $25.99, www.amazon.com
"The Sound of Music Story" celebrates the 50 years of the film by telling many behind the scene facts about the classic movie. Some of the things Santopietro reveals are the problems getting the consent from the von Trapp family to produce "The Sound of Music" as a Broadway stage play, the search for someone to write music, the real story of the von Trapp family, the evolution of the stage play to film. When it was established there would be a film there were the problems casting the different roles. Among the choices for the female lead Grace Kelly, Leslie Caron, Anne Bancroft, Angie Dickinson, Carol Lawrence, and Shirley Jones were bandied about until Julie Andrews was picked. Some of the names for Captain Georg von Trapp were Rex Harrison, David Niven, Richard Burton, Yul Brynner, Sean Connery, Bing Crosby and Peter Finch until Christopher Plummer was cast in the role. Oddly enough he turned it down when he was approached for the original stage production. With some arm twisting, he consented to play the role for film. The production moved along afterwards casting the other members who would play their parts. When "The Sound of Music" first appeared it met with negative reviews from critics around the world but it was the people who made it the success it became. It stayed in theaters for over 4 years because patrons could not get enough of the von Trapp family on the big screen. There are also the actors reminiscing about their roles and things they did after the film. Now that "The Sound of Music" is on Blueray and DVD and looking better than ever, "The Sound of Music Story" is the perfect companion to enjoy the film even more.
300 New Jersey Avenue, Washington DC, 20001
9781621573777, $29.99, www.amazon.com
"Isis Exposed" should be read by anyone who thinks we are winning the war against this terrorist organization. The author reveals a chilling group of terrorists who can be compared to the Nazis of World War II in the actions they have been conducting for many years. They are able to entice people to join them and they are killing people in much the same manner as the Nazis. The difference from other terror groups is they have utilized the internet to recruit to spread their message, and many people around the world have been receptive to their cause. "Isis Exposed" should be the handbook for our politicians to use to defeat Isis.
Love Stimulating Trivia & Other Arousing Bits
Sayler Storm Illustrations by Cayden Mcleod and Jamie Roehirig
9780578153841, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Romance writer Sayler Storm collected into this collection many pieces of trivia that make interesting reading whether you agree with her findings or not. Some of the things she found are "Good sex triggers the region of the brain associated with falling in love" or 20% of American have had sex with a coworker." There are lots of interesting little tidbits of information to enjoy. "Love Stimulating Trivia & Other Arousing Bits" is a perfect gift for a special someone.
Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom
Indigo River Publishing Inc
3West Garden Street, Pensacola, Fl 32502
9780990485711, $27.99, www.amazon.com
Very few cookbooks these days are geared to the family. "Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom" is an exception it celebrates the family, "Cooking at home, with your family, is something that has been deemed sacred since the beginning of time. It's almost the epitome of quality time together." There are lots of recipes on all types of foods. Also there are wonderful color pictures of many of the dishes that make you want to try them. There are dishes with fish, chicken, beef, and vegetables that sound mouth watering good. But no cookbook would be complete without desserts and "Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom" has plenty of delicious looking ones.
The Great Zoo of China
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476749556, $28.00, www.amazon.com
"The Great Zoo of China" begins with a murder and races along to its final fantastic conclusion. China has made a great discovery and wants the world to know of there finding. It seems they found ancient dragon eggs and they have created living beings. China invites the scientific community to come and view their findings. When the scientist from around the world come they begin to question certain aspects of what they are being shown. China also says they have real live dragons but something is not right about the creatures. The guests are also told these animals are perfectly safe. "The Great Zoo of China" has been compared to "Jurassic Park" and it is very easy to see why shortly into the story, but Reilly takes the reader into his dragon world with a very logical reason for the creatures to exist and characters that are all believable. "The Great Zoo of China" is a thrilling ride that would make a great film
Experion Publishing Company
2905 Lake East DR. Suite 150, Las Vegas, Nevada 89117
9780986074509, $26.95, www.amazon
Fiction of World War II is still very popular and "Secret Betrayal" had a great premise that fizzled shortly into the novel and never recovered. An American general involved in the planning of D Day is missing. He later learns from his German kidnappers that they have made it appear he was involved in an accident that took his life. To the Allied forces he is dead. The Germans know he is one of the planners of the allied attack and they want to know details of what he knows Starting out it seems like this would be interesting reading but the story got bogged down in too many sub-plots that made the rest of "Secret Betrayal" unbelievable.
The Never-Open Desert Diner
c/o Pleasure Boat Studio
201 West 89th Street, New York, NY 10024
978091287104, $25.00, www.amazon.com
There are some strange and wonderful characters that fill the debut novel "The Never-open Desert Diner by James Anderson. Several of them are John, a preacher who drags around with him a life size cross, preaching the gospel wherever he goes, the Lacey brothers who have a secret that is finally revealed, Ben Jones a truck driver who is just trying to make ends meet and Walt Butterfield who owns a cafe that is bizarre. All are thrown together on the route of Ben Jones in Utah as he goes about his deliveries. "The Never-open Desert Diner" is a very polished first novel that has a charm that makes readers want to turn the pages and learn more about the characters.
Bad Hair Day
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385742155, $17.99 www.amazon.com
Fresh from her battle with zombies in "Bad Taste in Boys" Kate Grabel is back and this time she has to find out who is killing kids and leaving traces of hair behind. She also knows that the prime suspect the county medical examiner is innocent but she must find a way to prove it, Kate jumps into action and begins to track a trail that leads to a new scientific experiment that is out of control. There is a logical reason for the hair particles left at the scene of the crimes that ties into the information she has uncovered about the research project. "Bad Hair Day" is a fast paced biting tale that is sure to please any horror fan.
The Disappearing Dolphins
Jennifer Kelman with Jordyn & Kyle Kelman
Michael Swaim, illustrator
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
978147874779, $13.95, www.amazon.com
Kevin and his sister Jackie go to the beach with their mom to have a fun time in the ocean. While making a sandcastle with Jackie, Kevin thinks he sees a dolphin. Later he tries to get his sister to see it too and later they see several dolphins jump out of the water. Later they go with their mom to an area where they can get closer to the school of dolphins. "The Disappearing Dolphins" is a fun little story that teaches kids more about dolphins.
Baby Lady's Scary Night A Ladybug Story
Oksana & Marina Davydov
Ginger Triplett, illustrator
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432799656, $15.95, www.amazon.com
For many younger children a hard thing for them is to sleep at night in a dark bedroom. Their imagination takes over and keeps them awake. "Baby Lady's Scary Night" is the story of a young ladybug who has the problem of falling asleep in the dark. She is scared of the simplest things in her room and learns from her mom that it's not as bad as she thought. The story is a fun message to kids that it's a good thing to have a mom or dad explain away their fears when the lights are turned off.
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00CF1DH6Q, $10.99, www.amazon.com
L'Amour's 2012 Erotic Romance Novel is sexy, sultry, filled with real life raw emotion and told from a man's point of view.
Ryan is a Harvard grad who wants to be a novelist. Allee is an art school grad with dreams of being a curator for the art museum in Paris. From the moment they meet sparks begin to fly and things heat up rather quickly. But when secrets, lies and a startling revelation threaten to tear them apart, Allee runs. Determined to get her back, Ryan tracks her down and somehow seems to convince her that their love is worth fighting for. There's only one more obstacle standing in their way and this time their undying love just may not be enough.
The first four chapters were a little overly detailed but after that you will not be able to put it down. A beautiful love story with such an emotional ending makes waiting for its sequel (Endless Love, 2015) that much harder. A must read for all of the hopeless romantics out there who can only dream of having a relationship with as much love and passion as the characters had in this novel.
Saint Elm's Deep
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
1492773913, $9.99, www.amazon.com
Saint Elm's Deep is an urban fantasy novel written by M.R. Mathias. Published by CreateSpace in 2013, it's the third installment of The Legend of Vanx Malic.
Vanx Malic and his motley crew of companions, including poops the dog, are all back for another adventurous trek through the wilderness. In between hunting leapers and killing a giant mouse like creature with a long pointed nose and the personality of an ill tempered woman, they stumble across a map to the hidden valley of Saint Elm's Deep where an age-old witch is said to reside in a crystal palace. Within seconds, a mysterious force beyond his control began calling the half-human, half-zythian Vanx right to it. He couldn't explain it. All he knew was that the pull was strong and whatever awaited him wasn't going to be good.
The one good thing about this book is that you don't have to read the previous two in order to read this one. It has a separate storyline all its own. I did, however, appreciate the little poem at the beginning of each chapter. They gave you some much needed insight because the book, in its entirety, was drawn out, confusing and hard to get through. With non-existent, made-up words such as "bitterpeaks," "haulkattens," "skmoes," "lurr" and "skog" the reader is forced to use their imagination and create their own idea as to what exactly these things are. I have to hand it to the author though, they are original. Targeted towards mature audiences only, it's not intended for anyone under the age of eighteen.
The Black Pill
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00CE6J81U, $5.95, www.amazon.com
The Black Pill is a medical mystery novel written by first time author Gino Cox. Published on April 16, 2013 it delves deep into the world of investigative Journalism and the dangers of going too far.
Hector is a transplant surgeon who is trying to save his wife. Hua-Ling is the leader of Prometheus; a medical establishment in Haiti who facilitates the illegal donation of organs. Ashley is a determined reporter who will do anything to get her story. When their worlds collide ethics will be called into question, loyalties will be betrayed, innocent lives will be lost and victims will become heroes. But with every victory comes a defeat and this one may just cost the lives of millions.
Due to the complexity of the story I appreciated how the author gave each character his or her own chapters. It allowed the reader to experience the events from eight different angles or eight different points of view. Organ trafficking is a problem that is wide spread and the debate over whether or not it should be legalized is well documented throughout the book. The plot thickened with every turn of the page and made you want to keep reading. Even though it was highly engaging it could've benefited from an editor. Dozens of run-on sentences and more than a few grammatical errors made it seem long and overly detailed at times. Minor language, brief sexual situations, graphic action scenes and the level of violent content require that it be read by mature audiences eighteen years of age and older. Overall it was a good read.
Kirin Rise The Cast of Shadows
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781496929648, $26.95, www.amazon.com
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Kirin Rise The Cast of Shadows is a young adult novel written by first time author Ed Cruz. Published by AuthorHouse on August 13, 2014, it's the story of a young woman who has both the strength and the courage to break the rules, defy the odds and restore America.
At a young age Kirin Rise witnessed the death of her parents during a vicious attack on her home country of North Korea. Adopted by an American family at the age of eight endless nightmares from that horrific day left her feeling vulnerable and wishing that she had done more. Shortly after her eleventh birthday the ancient art of Wing Chun Gung Fu falls right into her lap. Kirn has no idea what it is; all she knows is that she has to learn it. Not only does she defy her family in order to do it but the technique and the wisdom of her Sifu soon become everything to her. Ten years later when billion dollar corporations, mob organizations and the United Federation of Mixed Fighting threaten everyone's way of life Kirin will start a movement that will have the entire world buzzing. With everything on the line she'll have to ask herself one question: Who is she?
At first glance this book is highly intimidating. Its 9 inches long, 1.25 inches wide, 471 pages in length and the front cover reads like a bad Japanese cartoon. However, you should never judge a book by its cover. Kirin Rise The Cast of Shadows is more than just a book surrounding the topic of Martial Arts. It's about teaching you, the reader, to have confidence and believe in yourself. If you pay attention and really listen, the knowledge you will gain from the author's wisdom will go beyond anything you've previously learned.
The underlying message behind Kirin's journey is genuine and heartfelt. Not only will it change your entire point of view but it will motivate you to embrace your own destiny. Quoting a line from the book: "Don't fear trying, don't fear failing, but most of all, fear not living." Inspiring and altruistic, this young adult novel is a must read book.
Gina Marie Stanish, Reviewer
Keep Your Friends Close
154 W. 14th St., NY,NY 10011
9780802123206, $25.00, Hardcover, 335 pp, www.amazon.com
This novel from Paula Daly (whose last book, "Just What Kind of Mother Are You" I absolutely loved!) brings back D.C. Joanne Aspinall of the CID. The protagonist who crosses paths with Aspinall is Natasha ("Natty") Wainwright, who with her husband, Sean, run a successful hotel in Windermere in England's Lake District, and has an enviable life with him and their two daughters, 16 and 14 years old, when their younger daughter becomes ill while on a school trip, and Eve must fly off to southern Normandy where the girl must have an appendectomy. As fate would have it, Eve Dalladay, Natty's best friend from college, has just come on a visit from the States and offers to stay at the house until Natty can return home.
As things transpire, it would appear that Eve is not who she seems, by any definition, and is a more devious woman than anyone could have guessed. The plot twists follow closely upon one another, but suffice it to say that Natty comes to the attention of the police, and D.C. Aspinall, when she rams her Porsche into the back of a Maserati where Eve is sitting in the driver's seat. And it is no accident.
Sean and Natty met at a sixteenth-birthday party when they were in school, deciding upon graduation that he would study law, and she would study biology. After sixteen years of marriage, things did not work as they had hoped or planned. But this turn of events is something far, far different. The suspense mounts, and lives are altered, literally and figuratively. The question arises, "Would you ever kill another person out of jealousy or hatred?"
The author has written another gripping novel, one that is recommended.
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345549099, $15.00, Paperback, 352 pp, www.amazon.com
Liz Daniels, her husband, Paul, and their children, Ally, six, and Reid, eight, are taking a rare and unexpected vacation, to visit the remote home in the Adirondack Mountains in western New York State where Paul's parents have always lived. "Rare" and "unexpected" because Paul has been virtually estranged from his parents, visits to them being very few and far between. En route to the farm, they decide to stop at a hotel for the night. Shockingly, the following morning, the children are nowhere to be found. But as the day progresses, the full reality of what had apparently transpired is more ghastly than any of the scenarios Liz had imagined, as nearly impossible as that seemed. Things only escalate from there, as the suspense, mystery, and sense of menace grow exponentially. Liz' terror and grief are palpably drawn by the author, as are the descriptions of the countryside and farmland she traverses in her ensuing search.
Paul is a college professor in a rural agricultural school, and the theme of environmental politics, and environmental sustainability, is central to the plot. Though they knew each other for nearly two decades, there appear to be a myriad of things Liz had never known about him.
Somewhat confusingly at first, after the initial chapters describing these events, the reader is introduced to different families, each with their own complexities. A pattern emerges, that of women completely controlled by the men in their lives. The author of course ultimately ties everything together as the tale unfolds.
This novel is a worthy successor to the author's first novel, "Cover of Snow," although I found in the end that I didn't love it quite as much. Which is not to say that it is not worthwhile reading: It certainly is that.
Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herrings Press
272 Summerfield Rd., Northbrook, IL 60062
9781938733468, $16.99, Paperback, 362 pp, www.amazon.com
This newest book by Libby Fischer Hellmann, the author of a number of standalones as well her acclaimed Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis mystery series, features the latter, who was a cop for ten years and now and for the past five years a Chicago PI. There are parallel story lines, one dealing with her sudden awareness of the existence of a half-sister about whom she knew nothing, the other a new case where she is hired by an Evanston store manager to get to the bottom of a "flash rob" - a term new to me but apparently referencing a robbery combined with a flash mob - which had gone viral on YouTube - and prove that one of his employees was behind it.
The whole "flash rob" thing was very interesting: "a powerful warning of what could happen to a society where envy, a sense of entitlement, and electronic toys converged." Georgia's back-story includes the fact that her father was a cop, and that her mother had left when Georgia was ten. The theme of feeling that she is "nobody's child" is well-established.
Both story lines are very intriguing, and chapters are interspersed with flashbacks of the half-sister, Savannah ("Vanna"), going back one year in time, in Littleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb, when she was introduced to drugs that initially cost no more than sexual favors, but soon came to cost a lot more. Savannah had not known of Georgia's existence until ten months ago. Ultimately the tale involves sex trafficking and other criminal acts that are a whole lot worse.
In the more personal story line, a note is delivered to Georgia saying "Georgia, I am your half sister, Savannah. I'm in Chicago and I'm pregnant. I need your help. Please find me." In the professional plot line, Georgia's job becomes threatening when she realizes she is being followed, immediately after which there is a drive-by shooting and the man following Georgia is murdered.
Georgia has trust/relationship/communication issues, a theme repeated throughout. But it becomes clear that she does appreciate a specific physical aspect of the men she meets. I loved the way Ellie Foreman, video producer and equally wonderful protagonist in Ms. Hellmann's other series, has an off-page presence in the novel, as well as the sly reference to author Michael Connelly and his own Lincoln Lawyer protag. The book is well-written and very enjoyable, and is recommended.
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802123862, $15.00, Paperback, 416 pp, www.amazon.com
The first several pages are in the third person, with pov being that of Amy, a five-year-old with verbiage typical of a child that age (a bit disconcertingly). Early on the reader is given hints about a place deep in the woods near Litton, Somerset, in the West Country of England, where a gruesome murder took place 14 years before in a place then called The Donkey Pitch, known as "the Wolf murders," the details of which are perhaps better left unspecified.
The story begins with a home invasion of a wealthy family living in a very isolated area less than a mile from The Donkey Pitch, in a home called The Turrets; the husband, 64, who has recently undergone serious heart surgery, his wife, 60 years old, and their daughter, a young woman in her late 20's, are terrorized. As the author says, "there is even more to this story than meets the eye." Much more.
The chapters throughout are quite brief, and primarily alternate the pov from that of the hunter, DI Jack Caffery, to the hunted. In this newest novel to feature this protagonist, Caffery, now in his mid-forties, has never married or had children, and here is growing philosophical, thinking back to more innocent times. There is a theme of "what it's like to have someone you love go missing. Not knowing. Day after day after day - - it's hell on earth."
About three-quarters of the way through the novel, matters take an OMG turn that left this reader stunned, after which the suspense grows exponentially. But I was totally unprepared for the twist with which the author brings the book to a conclusion. Although the clues are there if one is prescient enough to discern them, it is still a stunning climax to this engrossing, and highly recommended, novel.
Killer, Come Hither
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385539142, $25.00, Hardcover, 256 pp, www.amazon.com
The protagonist of Louis Begley's newest novel is Jack Dana, a former Marine Corps Infantry officer who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan before being badly wounded and returning home. He is now, seven years later, a bestselling writer, with two books behind him and a third in its early stages. He is a self-described warrior, as were his father and grandfather before him. Having attended Oxford and Yale and invited to join the Society of Fellows at Harvard, there also following in his forebears' footsteps. The latter was a graduate of Harvard College and had been awarded the Navy Cross and Silver Star; his grandfather the Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.
Now his only remaining relative is his father's brother, Harry [now Jack's surrogate father], a prominent New York attorney, who himself had graduated with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law and was a leading partner at a prominent New York law firm. Shockingly, en route home after a long over-due vacation in Brazil, Jack discovers that his beloved uncle is dead, having been found hanging in his Sag Harbor home in the exclusive east end of Long Island.
Jack becomes convinced that his uncle had not committed suicide, especially after he is told that Harry's secretary was also dead, after an apparent accident that had put her in the path of an oncoming subway train, one day after Harry's body was discovered. He believes that both deaths had to be connected to the law firm and its largest client, a Texas oilman and right-wing multi-billionaire and activist whose political beliefs had him "somewhere to the right of the John Birch Society and Attila the Hun." Aided by Scott Prentice, his closest friend since their days at school, and Kerry Black, recently made partner at the firm and Jack's lover, he pursues his own investigation. Soon, faced with the near impossibility of finding the man who he believes caused his uncle's death, the meaning of the title becomes clear: Jack decides he must make the man come to him.
It was a bit disconcerting to me that, as the novel is written in the first person, nowhere in the book do quotation marks appear, and it was initially off-putting, to have to realize in the middle of a paragraph that what appears on the page is not exposition, but a conversation between two people. But I hasten to add that when the plot, and the suspense, kicks up a notch or three, about mid-way through the novel, I didn't even notice that, I was so busy turning pages. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and recommended.
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018
9780385-535977, $25.95, Hardcover, 308 pp, www.amazon.com
This newest novel from the prolific Walter Mosley (whose next novel, in the Leonid McGill series, "And Sometimes I Wonder About You," is due out in May) brings the return of private detective Ezekiel Porterhouse ("Easy") Rawlins. The last novel in the series was nearly two years ago, the highly acclaimed "Little Green," which in turn was preceded six years prior to that by "Blonde Faith," which seemingly ended with Easy's demise in a car accident when he'd lost control of a car he was driving on the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu. This book takes place five months later.
The novel is set in post-war Los Angeles, an era of radical black nationalism, where "innocence was rarely a key factor for justice," eerily also reflecting today's recurring headlines of black men generally guilty of nothing more than walking/driving/whatever while black, shot by white police officers. And I can't think of another author today who can capture this quite like Mr. Mosley.
Now nearing 50, Easy, a black man with a sixth grade education, had moved from New Orleans to LA in the late forties, and in the opening pages is moving into a new home with his 12-year-old adopted daughter, Feather, and his adopted son, Jesus. Among the usual cast of characters present is Easy's "oldest and deadliest friend," Raymond "Mouse" Alexander, computer expert Jackson Blue and his wife, Jewelle, and Melvin Suggs (a white man and the only LA cop Easy trusts, describing the LA PD as "morally bankrupt").
Easy is approached by the special assistant to the Chief of Police who offers to pay handsomely if Easy will take on a missing person's case, leaving Easy briefly speechless: "No policeman had ever offered me money - - and I had been stopped, rousted, beaten, and caged by a thousand cops in my years on and near the street." A kidnapping is suspected, since the missing young woman, Rosemary Goldsmith (who Easy comes to think of as the titular Rose Gold), missing from her dorm at UC Santa Barbara for two weeks, is the daughter of a very wealthy weapons manufacturer and philanthropist. But nothing in a Walter Mosley novel is as simple as it seems, and never more so than here. The book combines Easy's philosophizing with a quiet humor, has an intricate and somewhat convoluted plot, and houses a large (at times unwieldy) cast of characters.
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780804178754, $9.99, Paperback, 544 pp, www.amazon.com
This is the 20th book in the Jack Reacher series and, no surprise, it is just as terrific as one would expect. Reacher at this point is a retired military cop. But as he soon discovers, "you can leave the army, but the army doesn't leave you. Not always. Not completely." As I seem to remember from "The Godfather," they always pull you back in. In this case, Reacher is sought by two Generals (one now a Brigadier General) who he had known in the Army and who he is sure feel are owed a favor by him, to assist in a new mission, working for the CIA and the State Department, one that has arisen following an attempt on the life of no less a personage than the President of France, attending a very public event in the heart of Paris. Reacher is seen as the perfect man for the job, and predictable in his response to the summons. But predictable is something of which one would think Reacher would never be accused. Except, perhaps, in this instance, and they'd be right.
Reacher is seen is the man for the job not only because of his attributes - brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6; 5: and 250 pounds), but also because he has a history with the man they believe is behind the attempted assassination, John Kott, a world-class marksman/sniper gone bad. Kott is one of the few Americans of which they are aware who could attempt a shot that was very nearly successful at a distance calculated to be three-quarters of a mile. The said history being that Reacher is the man who put him in prison, from which, after serving fifteen years, he was released one year earlier. And Reacher et al soon discover that for Kott this is a very personal matter - he has apparently become obsessed with Reacher, and with killing him. His higher priority, though, seems to be an upcoming summit of the G8 nations. When his attempt at killing Reacher costs another man his life, it becomes personal for Reacher as well. What follows includes some gasp-inducing scenes.
The book is replete with the clever lines and low-key humor, mixed in with occasional violence, for which the author is well-known, along with very human emotions from a man who is nonetheless nothing if not reliably lethal. The military generals refer to him as Sherlock Homeless, traveling as he does with everything he needs, nothing he doesn't (the former being a very small group). He still abides by his golden rules, the first of which is "eat when you can," followed closely by "hope for the best, plan for the worst."
The book is trademark Lee Child/Jack Reacher, very high praise indeed, and the novel is highly recommended.
Be Safe I Love You
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451641325, $16.00, Paperback, 320 pp, www.amazon.com
After her highly acclaimed novel "So Much Pretty," Cara Hoffman introduces her readers to Sgt. Lauren Clay, just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Lauren enlisted as much as anything due to the need to provide for her family: her father, and her younger and adored younger brother, Danny, who she virtually raised for nine years after her mother left them one night when Lauren was ten years old. An NCO at 21, her sense of duty is perhaps the strongest part of her personality, in addition to being a gifted musician. The title derives from Danny's signature on the many "Dispatches" he sent to her during her 15 months overseas, and from which she returns with survivor's guilt but thinking "she was home alive, in one piece and in the moment fighting a desire to wash her eyes out with lye," not wanting to talk about "acts that shouldn't be described and couldn't be undone."
When Lauren arrives home in rural upstate New York, she reunites with her father and brother, now 13, and others who had been closest to her: Shane Murphy, just home from college, who she had loved since tenth grade, and his uncle, Patrick, a 45-year-old alcoholic; her godfather, PJ, who had served in Vietnam; Troy, a brilliant musician with whom she had studied music and who had himself served in the earlier Gulf War, returning in 1991; and her best friend, Holly, whose time in high school (where she was an honor student) ended when she gave birth to a little girl. Those who had not served in wars overseas seem to agree that 'something' about Lauren is 'weird.'
There are flashbacks to Lauren's time in Iraq, but a sense of foreboding soon grows as to what is not being revealed. That comes in Part Two of the book, none of which will be divulged here other than to say that Lauren and Danny leave their safe environs, literally and otherwise. Beautifully and hauntingly written, the novel is sometimes uncomfortable to read but very real, and recommended.
Under Your Skin
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476716282, $15.00, Paperback, 304 pp, www.amazon.com
In the pre-dawn hours, Gaby Mortimer, a successful 42-year-old "presenter" on a popular mid-morning current affairs tv show, is taking her usual run through the woods near her home near London when she comes upon the dead body of a young woman. And her life will never be the same. (I should add here that the author had my rapt attention within those first few pages.
Gaby immediately calls the police, and they soon arrive at the scene: PC Morrow, a woman who "looks about twelve . . . small and freckly," and DI Perivale, of the CID. Till now, Gaby has led what many would call a charmed life: a successful career, married to a man she loves (although the marriage has fallen into a somewhat imperfect state of late) and an eight-year-old daughter she adores. But all of that is threatened as Perivale seems to focus on Gaby when some evidence seems to point to her not as the horrified witness to a gruesome murder, but as a suspect, and her nightmare begins.
The book is wonderful well-written and - plotted, and I can say no more for fear of giving anything away. Suffice it to say that the conclusion is totally unexpected, and the twists and turns of plot are nothing less than stunning. I must admit that I had to put the book down briefly when I came within about 20 pages of the ending: An instance of delayed gratification, as I couldn't imagine what was coming next, and didn't want the book to end.
110 E. 59th St., NY, NY 10022
9780727884602, $29.95 (19.99 BPS/39.95 CA$), Hardcover, 250 pp.
As this new novel (and the eighth entry in the series) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles opens, her protagonist, DI Bill Slider, of the Shepherd's Bush CID, is jolted out of his post-Christmas lull when he is called to the scene of a homicide, the victim being a "sort of telly personality," 58-year-old Rowland Egerton, a presenter on a show called "Antiques Galore!" and self-styled expert in the field. The body had been found by the deceased's partner in an antiques shop, John Lavender, his friend of over 20 years. The immediate presumption is that it had been a burglary gone wrong, when it is discovered that two items were missing from the antiques-laden home, their value not immediately apparent. Suspicion immediately falls on Lavender, seemingly the obvious suspect, although the ensuing investigation indicates that the victim, although quite a ladies man, "wasn't a very popular man among people who knew him, but no-one seems to have hated him enough to kill him . . . adored by his fans and generally not much liked by his colleagues." So the suspect pool is soon much larger.
Because of the dead man's popularity as a "darling of daytime TV," pressure soon mounts for the case to be solved quickly. Billed very accurately as a procedural, much as it must be in real life, the case is painstakingly examined and investigated, very slowly and closely. There is only a small degree of suspense, since suspicions are only that until, with great difficulty, proven. However, as with all series entries, the writing is lovely, and the slow pace only minimally distracting.
The usual cast of characters is present: Slider's wife, Joanna (a Royal London Philharmonic violinist, now on a leave of absence), recovering from a miscarriage; his colleagues on the force, most conspicuously DS Jim Atherton, his second in command and right-hand man; D.C. Connolly; and DS Fred Porson, he of the "mangled aphorism" and master of malapropisms of whom the author says, "it was his way to fling words at meaning and see what stuck." Descriptions in general are charming: A cold night with "a 'lazy wind' - - too lazy to go round you, went straight through you instead;" "the sound of a door buzzer, harsh and threatening like a wasp with a headache;" and Lavender a man whose "bags under his eyes were so big you could have called them steamer trunks." Carefully plotted, the book is another winner from this author, and is recommended.
Paw and Order
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476703404, $16.00, Paperback, 320 pp.
Chet and Bernie return in the seventh and newest book in the series, each book in which I have loved, despite the fact that I usually avoid books with talking animals. But this particular four-legged private investigator, Chet the Dog, and Bernie Little, his partner in the Little Detective Agency, defies the expected rules of the genre. "Chet the Jet," as he thinks of himself (and he is, after all, the narrator) is as usual the perfect foil for Bernie, who Chet often reminds us is "the smartest human in the room," and here provides invaluable assistance to Bernie once again.
Bernie and Chet got together when the latter flunked out of K-9 school on his very last day there, and they have made a great team ever since. Their last case took them to the Louisiana bayou, and on a whim Bernie decides to go back to their home in the Valley in Arizona by way of Washington, D.C., where his girlfriend, journalist Suzie Sanchez, is now living and working for the Washington Post. To quote from the flyleaf, it seems that Suzie is working on a big story she can't even talk about to Bernie, and when her source, a mysterious Brit with possible intelligence connections, runs into trouble of the worst kind, Bernie suddenly finds himself under arrest. The fact that he was a decorated war vet who saw action in Iraq, including Fallujah, retiring with the rank of Captain, and was a lieutenant with the Valley PD, stands him in good stead, as is the fact that he now holds a private investigator's license (one of his frenemies on the local force even getting him one valid in their current jurisdiction).
The ensuing plot revolves around a US Presidential candidate who is a former US Army General, campaign managers, consultants, sleeper spies, unmanned drones: in short, some of the very same story lines which one sees in the newspapers and in new tv shows nearly every day. Along the way there is a murder (the deed that led to Bernie's short-lived arrest). In their usual dogged manner (no pun really intended), Bernie and Chet manage to get to the bottom of things, with no further loss of life, and his relationship with Suzie happily resolved. As with each new entry in this delightful series, "Paw and Order" is a pleasure to read, and is recommended.
Heatstroke, Nature in an Age of Global Warming
Anthony D. Barnosky
1718 Connecticut Ave. MW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009
9781597268172, $13.99, 288 pages, www.amazon.com
Heatstroke is a book about Global Warming. It is different than what you read and see in the media or even hear about from the pundits. It doesn't even use climate modeling. What the book is based on is the fossil and biological record around us. Barnosky looks at what the fossil record shows about past changes in temperatures and CO2 and maps those events with how the flora and fauna have reacted to those variations.
Barnosky's approach eliminates all of the pundit's arguments about climate modeling by not even looking at them. He maps the reactions of plants and animals with temperature changes and by looking at detailed surveys done over the years about these reactions predicts what these changes will mean to the world in the near future. His analysis is more sobering than what you hear in the media. It is filled with actual details about how life is changing around us.
Most people today live in cities and urban areas. Few have had daily interactions with nature and have no reference on how the environment is actively changing around us. Even those who have noticed the changing populations of plants and animals lack the ability to see the full scope of the world wide changes. Barnosky has mapped those changes to give everyone a broader understanding of how fast and massive these changes are happening.
Heatstroke is a sobering look at our world today and in the near future. It doesn't detail all aspects of the changing climate but it does give a strong foundation without having to look at climate models since it is based on the changes seen in the physical environment from both the fossil record and detailed studies over the last couple of centuries. It makes a solid secondary reference for anyone wanting to understand the environment and how it is changing around us.
Tethered Worlds: Unwelcome Star
Amazon Digital Services
9780985907617, $3.99 (Kindle), 524 pages, www.amazon.com
Tethered Worlds: Unwelcome Star is your well remembered classic style interstellar war SF novel. The story is more about a family caught up in the fighting and not the battlefield. Both its strength and its weakness is the nonstop action. You are catapulted into the distant future where mankind has launched itself into the interstellar regions and the far colonial worlds are searching for an independent life from the central worlds. The character development is good, if a bit one dimensional. The storyline has more than enough action and twists to keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat.
Jordahk Wilkrest is a young man coming of age when Adams Rush, the world he lives on, falls into anarchy. The Central worlds are opening a dimensional jump to the planet squashing its independence. Covert and not so covert manipulations bring down the Adams Rush's government. Jordahk and his family are on the front lines trying to save the planet's independence. Jordahk's father and mother stay on Adams Rush to hold back the takeover while Jordahk and his grandfather leave the planet to try to find help.
The action and pace of Unwelcome Star are more than enough to keep the SF reader enthralled with the story. The only weakness is the world building. SF world building is an art form. The author needs to feed in background to the unique worlds while keeping the reader focused on the story. New words and unusual details bombard the reader from the first paragraph. It is way too easy for the reader to find him/herself going back a few passages to try to glean information to fill in details that pop up later in the story. World building is a delicate construction. In the past, authors depended too heavily on footnotes and small asides to the storylines. Contemporary authors tend let the details trickle in underneath the action, leaving the reader with gaps in the storyline that can only be filled in later chapters. Star is shifted a little too far into the fill in later category.
Unwelcome Star is an easy SF recommendation. The power of the storytelling will bring you through to the end and it is a nice throwback to SF tales from a few decades ago. Star is a little too much geared to the action junkie so beware if you are a reader who prefers to slowly savor a storyline and also be prepared in having to struggle to grasp completely the new words and concepts in the tale.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
The Columbian Exchange
Alfred W. Crosby Jr.
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9780275980924, $33.95, www.amazon.com
Mr. Chanin is currently a junior at Austin College in Sherman, TX, where he is pursuing a BA in history and political science. He specializes in early American colonial history and modern European history.
In this updated version of his informative book, The Columbian Exchange, Alfred W. Crosby Jr. discusses about the beginnings of the European settlements in the New World; an fresh start to a soon-to-be period of exploration, discovery, hatred, murder, and gruesome purging in order to gain wealth, power, and fame for the home state. The Spanish Conquistadors used their new, powerful weapons to obliterate the Native cultures, destroying the large civilizations of the Aztecs and Incas, pushing aside the enemies by any means, and taking over and claiming the territories in the name of the White man. Measles, smallpox, among other illnesses soon spread from the Old World to the New, crippling the old indigenous populations, who were ineffective against the unknown diseases. As grief, hunger, and an atmosphere of death hung in the air of the rapidly dwindling Native populations, the Spanish would bring despair and hatred to a new level, by starting to import African individuals to the colonies for labor, creating another rift, and chain of horrible events to follow in the sin that would soon be known as "the slave trade". Quickly, in the course of less than two centuries, the Europeans realized that the New World had endless amounts of opportunity, and reached out to the Americas faster than the rest of the world, producing empires and colonial states, starting up cruel acts of slavery, exterminating a majority of the Native populations, while assimilating and exchanging their old European culture with the new lands that had given them and their countries strength, resources, and power.
The Columbian Exchange is a book full of important dates and years, but also a novel filled with grievances on a couple of unlucky ethnic groups. While Crosby's masterpiece highlights the events and discoveries of the New World, which in time would change European's perspective on the actual size of the globe, it also tells the story of how the cruel genocide of the Native Americans isolated an advanced culture, in order to make way for the new Hispanic cultures. Through his concise narrative, Crosby tells the story of an innocent part of the human race, being taken out by those who are selfish, greedy, corrupt, and only interested in money, power, and honor; in doing so he not only provides some explanation to readers on how the Americas were settled, but also makes people reflect on the cruelty their past ancestors had performed on the Natives.
Crosby uses the third person point of view in this updated version, to inform his readers about the coming together of two different worlds, and the exchanging of goods, property, and culture from the Old European world to the New American world. Even though there is no concrete evidence of any bias or slant towards anyone in the book, Crosby seems to feel sorry for the Natives, as he describes in detail that this was the group that was cruelly mistreated and persecuted by the Europeans, even when they were innocent and harmless; but the Europeans wanted more power, became greedy, and drove the Natives off their lands in whatever way possible, just to gain fame and honor for their country. By constantly bringing up the Natives and their mistreatment and suffering against the diseases, the resettlement of their peoples, and the amount of violence provoked, the reader feels sorry for them and reflects upon the European's actions, and the gravity of the Spanish's real mission in colonizing America.
Crosby uses a variety of sources in order to illustrate his point. Ranging from scholarly articles, historical journals and factual books written by past well-known historians, these sources give factual evidence and more insight at telling the story of the Spanish colonization in the Americas. In addition to the sources he used for his original version of The Columbian Exchange, Crosby also utilizes several more sources for his updated 30th anniversary edition, in order to give the reader more detail for the latest newer edition of his masterpiece. All the sources Crosby piles onto this book gives the novel more richness in information, and supports his argument in detail, giving the reader a visual picture on the Spanish cruelty on the Natives and later the African slaves, as well as depicting the exchange of goods, foods, plants, diseases, and culture from the Old World to the New World.
Crosby's book shows readers that even though the Spanish would soon become the world's greatest empire in the years after 1492, along with the exchange of European culture across the ocean, there was also a darker side to the plot, which teachers rarely go into detail at schools and education; this was the backstory of the horrible cruelty towards the peaceful Native species, as well as the beginnings of the slave trade, which would last for a long time, and split up innocent African families, while dampening a wave of violence on the American continents.
While Crosby makes a point using evidence and new facts that the Natives were horribly mistreated, and the African slaves would soon be to follow after the mass murders of the indigenous populations, he brings aside the damage by explaining about the beginnings of the American continents. After Columbus had discovered these foreign lands, the European community experienced a change, not only in their history, but also in their lifestyle, as they packed up their old culture and transferred it to the New World, where they would start again on the other side of the ocean. This exchange, or what Crosby calls "The Columbian Exchange", was the passage of goods, weaponry, foods and plants, and biological warfare, in which the Europeans brutally pushed their enemies aside in order to start life again in the new and fresh lands, and capture what they wanted the most: God, gold, and honor.
Pramoedya Ananta Toer
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780140296525, $10.00, www.amazon.com
Mr. Chanin is currently a junior at Austin College in Sherman, TX, where he is pursuing a BA in history and political science. He specializes in early American colonial history and modern European history.
Written by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, The Fugitive is a moving and compelling book that describes the hardships of life in Southeast Asia under the Japanese's abhorrent occupation during the finals days of the Second World War. Set in one of the provinces of Indonesia, The Fugitive tells a story of a man, disguised as a beggar named Hardo who is forced to be on the run, avoiding capture at all costs due to a failed revolt against the Japanese. The journey that Hardo takes puts the reader in the driver's seat, as they experience daunting, suspenseful, and heartwarming moments. These moments make readers emotional, as they read the vivid descriptions of Toer's writing. When the book was being written, Toer was imprisoned for two years in a labor camp, so he references many historical events in his work. Using his exclusive writing style, Toer displays the heart- throbbing emotional story in such a powerful way, in that The Fugitive becomes a piece of cultural literacy that leaves the reader astounded by the dark and obscure culture of Indonesia.
Toer uses a different writing style than other authors, and puts his book into the mysterious depths of one's mind. His language conveys the culture of Indonesia through imagination and intensity, and describes the book's setting in a mystical and vague style. "On the horizon the clouds had disappeared and the stars flicked dimly" (The Fugitive, 19). Through the language and certain tone of the book, Toer makes Indonesia look very unclear to the audience, prompting the readers to think more thoroughly into the place where the lives of the characters are taking part in. The book is also very repetitive, as characters talk about the same points that were already mentioned in previous paragraphs. The first chapter depicts a beggar, later revealed to be a man named Hardo, and an old man talking about each other's fates. Hardo believes that he will be the subject of capture when returning to the Japanese occupied town, which he used to call home. The repetition of the topics discussed proves to be essential to the overall story, and departs a trail of mystery and anticipation behind it. The Fugitive also includes suspenseful parts, which leaves the reader confused with mixed emotions about the happenings soon to come. "The night progressed, second by second. Neither of the two men spoke. The wind picked up again...." (The Fugitive, 23). Suspenseful readers are gripped to the plot of the story, wanting more information, but instead finding themselves on the edge of a cliffhanger. The unique and unusual writing style that Toer offers in this book provides suspense, mystery and vague happenings, prompting the reader to want more of this insightful piece of literature.
Toer's Indonesian culture is displayed prominently through the actions and dialogue of the characters in The Fugitive. When reading about the discussion between Hardo and the old man in the beginning chapter, the reader can picture the two small men; each powerless and weak in his own way. "The man wore nothing but a dirty and yellowed loincloth that completely exposed his shrunken thighs. Only his genitals remained hidden" (The Fugitive, 48). Most of the Indonesians in 1945 were living in poverty conditions; many today would say "slum" conditions. Similar to many other Southeast Asian nations, the occupation by the Japanese did not help these conditions, as the Indonesians were the victims of rape, assault, and murder. Thousands of women, children, and innocent civilians were killed, while others were burnt. Men were forced to enter labor or concentration camps, where many starved due to lack of food; some were tortured to death. Toer describes his characters so well in the mist of the Japanese conquest for power, the readers can imagine what was happening during these dark times. All the characters in The Fugitive are round, as each of them discovers something new throughout the course of the book. The dynamic aspects of the characters change dramatically, and with the emotions being described for each person in the book, the audience now knows how scared the Indonesians were, and how their horrid occupation affected their way of life greatly. Toer's writing style helps develop the round characters of The Fugitive, making the plot more interesting and bringing out to the readers the real Indonesian culture.
While describing the journey of Hardo, Toer also mixes cultures and factual events of Southeast Asia into the plot, making the book more historical. "The Japanese army is still firmly on its feet and the volunteer troops and commander Karmin are still scouring the Blora area for you!" (The Fugitive, 120). By including past events, the reader can visualize the setting better, and relate the story to events that happened in history during that same time period; in some cases, this greatly improves the understanding of the plot to the reader. The book also gives the reader a cultural sense of Indonesia and Southeast Asia back in the days of the Second World War. With its engaging plot, and the vivid imagery of events, The Fugitive embraces its audience, and expands people's thoughts on a culture's history that is generally unknown to the modern public.
The Fugitive describes a hero's journey through the darkest times of Indonesia during the Second World War. Repetitive conversations between characters add to the suspense and mystery of the plot, as the reader tries to wonder about the final outcome. Characters are explained in the utmost detail, and change in dynamic ways, making the audience gripped to the usage of Toer's descriptions. Through the characters, one can also feel a sense of the hidden Indonesia. Using powerful words and imagery, Toer paints a vivid picture of the setting and place in the reader's head, revealing a new culture, which many do not generally know in the modern world. Offering an emotional story, which praises relationships, cruelty and love, while utilizing effective writing skills in describing imagery, The Fugitive can be considered as a powerful piece of cultural literacy; one piece that will leave readers in awe.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781592408412, $17.00, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Dr. Brene Brown dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage. Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. She writes: "When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives."
Critique: "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead" is a compelling and informative read that should be a part of every personal reading list and community library Self-Help reading collection. As practical as Brene Brown is inspiring, if you only have time for just one self-improvement title, make it "Daring Greatly"! It should be noted that "Daring Greatly" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99) and in an Audible Book format ($17.95).
Grosvenor House Publishing Limited
9781781487457, $14.50, 210pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Renae Lucas-Hall leads the reader into an enchanting, life-affirming and inspiring world of Japanese short stories in "Tokyo Tales". You'll love the way each story embraces the charm and allure of Japan and you'll enjoy these stories even if you have a limited knowledge of this fascinating country. These fifteen magical tales include a hellish homestay, ghosts, school bullying, a marriage arrangement and the kawaii culture. Renae Lucas-Hall's captivating way of storytelling will deepen your appreciation of the Japanese culture and provide you with a glimpse into the Japanese mind-set which will stay with you long after you've read the final page. Prepare to be enthralled by the illuminating images throughout Tokyo Tales by the renowned Japanese Illustrator Yoshimi OHTANI. These wonderful illustrations and the delightful narrative will harness your imagination and leave you spellbound.
Critic: Impressively written and presented, "Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories" is a superbly entertaining anthology and documents author Renae Lucas-Hall as an extraordinarily gifted author who has successfully drawn upon her years of experience living in Tokyo teaching English to Japanese students. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).
#201, 8540-109 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 1E6
9781927063729, $17.95, 124pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "North East", author Wendy McGrath expands on the story she began with "Santa Rosa" (NeWest Press, 9781897126813, Kindle $10.49), as a working class couple living in 1960s Edmonton drift further apart while their young daughter tries to understand something she senses is hiding under the surface of her family and her neighborhood. A visit to her grandparents' farm in the country reveals the abject poverty the couple came to the city to escape, and the internecine marital strife that threatens to be born anew. McGrath's crystalline, evocative prose conjures an image of the past that defies nostalgia, conjuring images of a city that is in the midst of rewriting its own history. Through the all-seeing eyes of her child protagonist McGrath conjures indelible scenes of harsh domesticity and small victories, of endless summertime days spent around the home and evenings at the drive-in theatre.
Critique: Whether read as a sequel or as a stand-alone first time introduction to author Wendy McGrath's impressive storytelling talents, "North East" is a compelling and solidly entertaining read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "North East" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).
Jewish Wisdom For Growing Older
Dayle A. Friedman
Jewish Lights Publishing
PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781580238199, $16.99, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Whether you are fifty-five or seventy-five, approaching retirement or age one hundred, growing older brings remarkable opportunities but often also wrenching difficulties. Rabbi Dayle A. Friedman, a pioneer in reinventing and revaluing aging, mines ancient Jewish wisdom for values, tools and precedents to frame new callings and beginnings, shifting family roles, and experiences of illness and death. For seekers of all faiths, for individuals and groups, for personal use and caregiving settings, Rabbi Friedman offers inspiration and guidance to help you make greater meaning and flourish amid the daunting challenges of aging.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Jewish Wisdom For Growing Older" is as inspired and inspiring as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Rabbi Dayle a. Friedman (who founded and directed Hiddur: The Center for Aging and Judaism of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College at Wyncote, Pennsylvania) focuses on the changes and challenges associated with the aging process; how the incursion of loss and limits can be transformed into new beginnings; and 'the ways people hone and share wisdom by living fully and generously'. Strongly recommended for senior citizen center, synagogue, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Jewish Wisdom For Growing Older" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).
The Timeless Love of Twin Souls
Janet Kay Darling
5435 River Ridge Drive, Lansing, MI 48917
9780992609405, $14.95, 388 pages, www.thornepublishing.com
Synopsis: Finding love, understanding love, as well as appreciating our true self for who we really are, continues to be shrouded in the mystery of our day to day earthly existence. This enduring lack of understanding only serves to perpetuate an unwarranted sense of incompleteness and loneliness deep within us which all too often gives rise to feelings of fear, despair and discontent. So, as a consequence, we experience an insatiable desire to search for a mystifying 'something' which we somehow instinctively know we need but have little or no idea where to even begin looking. Concealed within this dilemma, and even more perplexing, lies the concept of our eternal soul. This elemental but powerful 'you' resides unacknowledged at the core of your very being while remaining seemingly silent as you journey in search of your ultimate happiness.
This subject alone has occupied the minds of philosophers throughout the ages but to be aware that we have another aspect to compliment our earthly existence is as intriguing as it is confusing. To appreciate that each soul is but one half of its twin gives rise to an important insight into what motivates our need to do the things that we do, or to search for what we feel driven to find.
"The Timeless Love of Twin Souls" by Janet Kay Darling is the remarkable story of two people, Ron and Janet who not only found each other in this lifetime but were also together in a previous and very dramatic lifetime while being caught up in the revolutionary war which ultimately gave birth to the USA of today. Through following their experiences, trials, traumas and triumphs, plus journeys into the afterlife, you will learn more about not only how they discovered themselves to be twin souls but how important this whole subject is and what it means to you.
The final chapter of "The Timeless Love of Twin Souls" provides a self help plan for inclusion in the reader's day to day life so as to reinforce and compliment insights gained from reading this book. It may well take more than one reading to absorb much of the invaluable wisdom, as well as the many insights, but it is something which you may feel the need to come back to time and time again as your journey continues.
Critique: A 'Twin Soul' is a spiritual concept describing a special soul connection between two human souls. The twin souls are thought to be a template for an ancient/eternal type of relationship between lovers. The fundamental thought behind this concept is that the dawning new era in human spiritual evolution will be a time when relationships foster enhanced spiritual growth between lovers, whereas in previous times and still early in the 21st century couples stayed together for purposes of physical survival and economical safety more than anything else. According to the mythology of twin souls, in the beginning of time were created from one source, that was split into smaller and smaller units down to two souls (and on rare occasions, halves of one soul) that would journey to Earth to learn and experience duality. They would reincarnate over lifetimes with this longing for each other.
"The Timeless Love of Twin Souls" by ordained minister and certified hypnotherapist Janet Kay Darling is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Timeless Love of Twin Souls" is engaging and inspired reading from beginning to end, making it highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.
Burnout To Brilliance
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
National Book Network -- distributor
9781782794394, $18.95, 287pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Overwhelmed by the fast-paced and technologically demanding world in which we live, we routinely run on reserves and force ourselves to accept that constantly feeling tired is all part and parcel of living a busy and connected life. When the warning signs of an impending burnout are ignored, the outcome can be fatal. It's time to take a journey of self-discovery and awaken to a brilliantly renewed life. In "Burnout to Brilliance", author Jayne Morris shows how to identify the signs and symptoms of burnout; recover your energy and enthusiasm; regain personal power, passion and purpose; develop strategies for sustainable success, and more.
Critique: "Burnout to Brilliance: Strategies for Sustainable Success" is especially commended to the attention of readers who are ready to transformatively evolve their own lives from 'Burnout to Brilliance'. Practical, inspiring, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Burnout To Brilliance" is a life-changing read and highly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Burnout to Brilliance" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
Halo Found Hope: A Memoir
Dog Year Publishing
4010 West 86th Street, Suite H, Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781457531330, $16.95, PB, 228pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Machines beeping, the blur of medical staff running, a crash cart whizzing into an ICU room, was there any hope? A young woman lay, packed in ice, as doctors attempted to somehow stop the swelling in her brain that threatened to take her life... and her family waited. Six days turned into eight weeks. She awoke to discover that she was not the same. She saw two of everything, couldn't feel half of her face, couldn't hear from one ear, and could not speak. She couldn't even tell anyone that she felt hopeless...or could she? "Halo Found Hope" is the personal story of a beautiful, busy wife, and mother of three whose life changes instantly with the diagnosis of a rare brain tumor. An exceptional ENT, a brilliant neurosurgeon and a dedicated medical team tackle the tumor, setting off a series of unbelievable miracles. Helo's story is not one of survival, or of salvaging a life through a broken body. It is not about endurance through pain, but victory because of it. While the family heard her silence, God heard her prayer. Helo's story is simply this: Wherever you are and whatever you are going through, God is right there. He doesn't need to be recognized by you, to be there for you. He can replace fear with courage and discouragement with determination, if you let Him. Helo did, and that is how she found hope
Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Halo Found Hope: A Memoir" is as candid as it is engaging and a superlative read from beginning to end. One of those life affirming and life changing autobiographies, "Halo Found Hope: A Memoir" is very highly recommended for community library American Biography collections and available in a hardcover edition (9781457533099, $29.95). For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Halo Found Hope: A Memoir" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Year We Sailed the Sun
Theresa Nelson, author
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780689858277, $17.99 www.kids.simonandschuster.com
An intrepid 11-year-old girl conspires to flee her turn-of-the-twentieth century Saint Louis orphanage in this historically rich tale about the ties that bind -- family, circumstantial, neighborhood, and broader community.
Julia Delaney and her older sister, Mary, land in a girls' home when their grandmother passes; their parents are both already dead. At the home, Julia encounters not just the strict Irish Catholic nuns she expected would be in charge. She's also offered benevolence and friendship from other orphans, a young nun, and a wealthy local woman who invests both time and money in bettering the orphans' lives.
Julia wants none of any of their care or concern; she just wants to be free and to remain detached, physically and emotionally. But as she begins to grasp that she shares with this circle of people a neighborhood history involving rival gangs, churches, her Irish ethnicity, and both long-past and recent murders, she finds it hard to remain apart.
The Year We Sailed the Sun is based more than loosely on the real-life history of the author's mother-in-law, whose childhood story closely mirrors Julia's in early twentieth century St. Louis. Nelson does a beautiful job of remaining true to the real-life story, while fictionally padding it with an abundance of action, memorable dialogue, and an unforgettable cast of characters.
The author does an masterful job of setting the novel in Saint Louis, circa 1911-1912. Those who know St. Louis and its history will intimately see it on just about every well-researched page, in scenes stretching from Union Station to the Mississippi River, on and under the Eads Bridge, in Julia's Irish Catholic Kerry Patch neighborhood, in ball parks, down a myriad of streets, and past buildings and landmarks across the city, some of which remain standing today, some of which are long gone.
The author expended a remarkable amount of effort to include those time and place details. Reading with a map of old Saint Louis in your lap really brings this home, especially during scenes in which Julia attempts to run away or otherwise finds herself beyond the orphanage doors, and traverses lots of different streets.
Rivaling the scene setting is Nelson's prose. "I suppose I will go to hell for biting the nun," memorably begins chapter one. "Mary says it's a mortal sin, for certain." You can't help but keep turning pages with that opener; many more lines of comparable quality follow.
Raucous and endearing, a young heroine you can't help but cheer for, and a long-ago place colorfully revisited through Nelson's fine writing. Outstanding.
Jan De Kinder, author and illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780808254469, $16.00 www.eerdmans.com/youngreaders
Childhood bullying is universal, demonstrates this beautiful picture book translated into English after originally being published in Belgium.
What begins as not-so-malicious playground teasing of a boy who blushes easily quickly spirals into vicious mob taunting, led by a classmate whose "tongue is as sharp as a knife" and whose "fist is as hard as a brick."
"There's no way I can stand up to him on my own," laments a girl, who must summon all of her courage to help stop the situation. Ultimately, she does, fingering the aggressor to a teacher with memorable results.
Exquisite prose - "What I want to do is scream really loud. And pound my fists. And yell that it has to stop. But I stay silent," says the girl - is mixed with intentionally placed illustrative flashes of red on pages otherwise dominated by earthy and muted tones. The red underscores the emotions that run raw in each scene - including embarrassment, sadness, fear, and joy.
In a sea of recent books about school yard bullying, this one stands out. Perfectly written and drawn.
Kathi Appelt, author
Rob Dunlavey, illustrator
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781442423275, $17.99 www.kids.simonandschuster.com
Silly crows in bright red-and-white sweaters make counting fun in this whimsical, just-right, read-aloud picture book. A gaggle of big-beaked crows are constantly in motion - flying, hopping, singing, eating, and picking things up - activities that will engage young listeners. But what will really draw kids into the story is what the crows collect and put in their mouths. Not-so-weird things like salty peanuts, a ripe mango, berries, and sweet peas are followed by things with just enough goofy gross factor to delight kids - slimy snails, crunchy crickets, and spicy ants. Repetition is key; the same twelve numbers are repeated over and over for different things, reinforcing their recognition, which is the underlying educational purpose. Young listeners will just like the quirky story. Early math skills, well-disguised by heaps of fun.
Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062270337, $14.99, www.amazon.com
There's no denying that "chick lit" has gotten a bum rap in recent years, though in some instances for good reason, I believe. Often viewed as shallow and formulaic, novels that explore the dynamics at play within a given group of women are frequently, however unfairly, invalidated without consideration for the literary merit of the individual work. Although I do tend to shy away from the genre, I deem myself fortunate to have stumbled upon Vintage by Susan Gloss as it reflects favorably on the quality of relationships forged among women who are committed to encouraging one another, living their truth and revelling in their passions. Indeed, this fairytale offers treasured wisdom amid its feminine trappings.
Hourglass Vintage, located on Johnson Street in one of Madison's charming east side neighborhoods, is far more than a retro boutique. It is the place where lives intersect, not only of those who walk through its doors but as told by the histories of the dresses, shoes and handbags on display. Established and lovingly tended by Violet Turner, a quirky and creative entrepreneur on the cusp of forty with a firm grasp on her independence as well as an intense longing to know the joys of motherhood, Hourglass Vintage serves as the manifestation of her lifelong dream; however, that dream is threatened when Violet discovers that the building which houses her shop is about to be sold to a condo developer for a price that Violet herself could never afford. With the help of April Morgan, a young, expectant mother whose wedding was cancelled by the groom's parents, and Amithi Singh, a lovely, self-sacrificing Indian woman who has recently discovered her husband's many years of infidelity, Violet sets out to keep her dream alive.
Written with a warmth that welcomes the reader into the most vulnerable chambers of its characters' hearts, Vintage sets the stage for a celebration of the full spectrum of human emotions. I quickly found myself invested in the precarious future of the boutique and grew to care deeply about each of the women whose stories touched upon my own tender memories and aching heart. It is this same relatability that allows the sense of community established within the novel to extend beyond the tale to include the reader herself.
With threads of feminist thought woven throughout, the novel subtly suggests the importance of forgiveness and acceptance on the journey toward healing, the freedom experienced while living authentically and the pleasure to be had in sharing with others that which one finds beautiful. Although I'm perhaps a little too jaded to fully buy into the fairytale, I must admit that Vintage serves as a satisfying read as well as a well-crafted tribute to the creativity and uniqueness of the Madison community and the women who infuse it with life.
The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide
9780984087310, $12.95, www.amazon.com
Lest anyone think me domesticated, please understand that I didn't pick up The Joy of Less to learn how to keep a tidier home or uncover strategies for organizing my closets. If truth be told, I'm just not one to futz or fret over how closely my living space resembles a model home. All that matters to me is that my domicile allows me the space to grow, thrive, rest and... well, live my life to the fullest, which is precisely what Francine Jay offers within her guide to minimalist living.
Rather than simply suggesting techniques for reducing clutter, Jay inspires the development of "a minimalist mindset," encouraging us to change our relationship with our material possessions so that they might facilitate rather than hinder our quest for the life we most desire. This is not to say that the nuts and bolts of decluttering are neglected. Indeed, I can't imagine a more comprehensive plan for tackling the mounds of "stuff" we end up accumulating over time. However, Jay emphasizes from the start that the key to minimalist living lies in cultivating a sustainable lifestyle, one that is in line with our values and proves conducive to the pursuit of our personal bliss. Just as a crash diet will likely not keep us at a healthy weight, a simple purging of possessions will not provide the freedom, ease and joy of living simply and compassionately for the longterm.
As we begin to reflect upon what our possessions signify within our personal narrative, not only do we gain perspective on what items are moving us closer to our definition of happiness, but we glean insight into the meaning we attribute to these objects. Jay writes, "As we examine our things with a critical eye, we may be surprised how much of it commemorates our past, represents our hopes for the future, or belongs to our imaginary selves. Unfortunately, devoting too much of our space, time, and energy to these things keeps us from living in the present." Although this is simply one way that our possessions enslave us, it is really the catalyst behind my decision to move toward minimalism, otherwise known as voluntary simplicity.
As we probe into our reasons for holding on to items that no longer serve us, we are likely to encounter an array of subconscious beliefs which influence more than our pack rat tendencies. Specifically, Jay's reminder that our possessions do not define us, i.e. we are not our stuff, struck quite a chord with me. Why is it that we hold on to things as though we'll need them as evidence to prove our accomplishments, not only to others, but to ourselves? I'll be the first to admit that no one has ever asked to read my college papers or lingered before my glittery baton-twirling trophies.
In the book's final chapters, once the "streamline" technique has been discussed and the unique challenges of each room have been addressed, the conversation shifts toward the embracing of minimalism beyond our four walls. Having offered tips for reducing scheduling demands so that we might consciously decide how to use our time, Jay unpacks the benefits of minimalism upon our physical, mental and emotional well-being as well as that of those within our community and around the globe. She also emphasis our responsibility as "minsumers" to understand the impact of our acquisitions upon the environment and to act accordingly.
Although I've got a way to go before I'd consider myself the embodiment of minimalist living, I am making a valiant effort and have noted steady progress. I started with my sock and skivvy drawer, have moved from one room to another and am letting go of items that have kept me tethered to days gone by. I'm sure I'd be proceeding with much greater efficiency if I were to follow Jay's advice to the tee, but I have no doubt that I'd end up abandoning the project if I felt pressured to be so thorough. I'd prefer to keep the task fun, accompanied by some good tunes, mid-priced wine and the opportunity to release relics of the past in my own time.
The Soul Retrieval: A Novel
Ann W. Jarvie
9780692368206, $15.99, www.amazon.com
New beginnings - A review of the novel 'The Soul Retrieval'
"Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words." - Rumi
Author Ann W. Jarvie'snovel 'The Soul Retrieval' tells the story of Henrietta Clayborn and her tryst with love, loss, healing and new beginnings. Set in the 1950's between a small town in South Carolina and a Native American reservation in New Mexico, it follows the story of Henrietta and her physician husband Jeff who's researching cases of spontaneous remission found among the locals on the reservation. While the good doctor tries to help the tribal community and research their spirit medicine in the process, there are dissenting groups within the white community as well as the tribe's members who aren't happy with the doctor's meddling presence. Meanwhile Henrietta has a deep dark secret that has scarred her soul but in the company of a sage Apache woman Altie and her eccentric mystic husband Joe, she finds the courage to get over her past and the many hurdles she faces in her present.
This suspenseful, beautifully written novel focuses on the lives of an American family of the 50's temporarily living on a Native American reservation. While most books with this premise tell stories of battles and bravado, very rarely do they focus on the personal lives of the participants, of the human drama involved, like this one. Here we get to know and care about a young family as they struggle to survive and exist within their own southern white culture and the vastly different traditions of Native Americans. The two cultures do not easily coexist, yet they come to rely on each other because of the medicinal knowledge and cures available to each side.
And while we are talking about this book it would be a shame not to mention its wonderful cast of characters on whose shoulders this novel achieves its glory. Sure the story is original, suspenseful and one of a kind. The treatment of plot offers novelty and ingenuity, but it's the characters that take it to a whole new level. Henrietta is the soul and star of this novel. She is traumatized and yet has the capacity to open herself to the forbidden and search for healing truths. She is vulnerable and yet resolutely strong when fate demands it of her. Henrietta behaves within the boundaries a 1950's society has permitted for a woman but she isn't afraid to break the same shackles when needed.
Going head to head with her and sometimes quite literally too is Dr. Colonel who's Henrietta's father-in-law. He is the quintessential patriarchal macho man who feels everyone else must bow down before him and serve his every whim and fancy. Now this was a character the author could have gone overboard with and made a caricature of but she puts in the right amount of menacing and evil and he appears as a highly dislikeable man but a real person nonetheless. Joe and Altie are her native friends and the ones who help her through her life transition. Joe speaks a lot through metaphors and parables, most of which contain hidden meaning and others just witty quips. He is a bit of everything, taking the good aspects of different cultures, traditions and institutions. Altie is another strong woman like Henrietta and the strong bond they share automatically transforms into a warm friendship.
Even though it's a big book, coming to around 400+ pages, you will never be put off by its size. Especially the last 100-150 pages wiz by pretty quickly as the story picks up its intensity and important events start happening one after the other. A compelling storyline and a great cast of characters ensure this novel's longevity in your mind long after you are done reading it.
Madderakka: A Romantic Journey Through Cultures
M C Raj
9789384878788, $9.99, www.amazon.com
Our Time Now - A review of the novel 'Madderakka'
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass
Author M C Raj's novel 'Madderakka: A Romantic Journey Through Cultures' is a love story that celebrates the human spirit in its highs & lows. The protagonists in this love story are not just a couple of individuals but representatives of two indigenous communities from separate parts of the world. Veeran is an Adijan, member of the so called untouchable caste from India while Ramona is a Sami woman from Norway. An anthropologist and a philosopher meet under special circumstances and romance blooms between them. They also discover the similarities in rituals followed and oppressions faced by their respective communities back home. And Madderakka is the blessing brought forth by their love, she is Veeran & Ramona's beautiful and intelligent daughter. And she continues the fight her parents had started to ensure the Adijan community gets the recognition & respect that they deserve.
This book provides a great insight into the culture and way of life of the Sami people and the Adijan people while also revealing the differences in the cultural and social set-up of Norway and India. The early part of the book is fully devoted to capturing the romance between Veeran and Ramona and this has been done exceedingly well. And that the author has managed to narrate it within the framework of the tales of struggle by indigenous people is quite a laudable effort. There is a good mix of political diatribe within these lines and these reveal much about the author's thought process as it does of his characters.
There is a good flow to the structure of the narrative. The weaving of the romance with the domestic life story and the past with the present time frame are testament to this fact. The prose in the narrative does a first rate job of extrapolating the beauty of the nature with the feeling of love and lust of the characters. In fact almost all the sequences involving Veeran and Ramona have this amazing dream like quality to it. And yet one shouldn't forget the high dosage of harsh reality the author has infused within these pages. There are some hard-hitting and possibly uncomfortable truths within this story. Reiterating the fact that politics isn't some external element that you can choose to accept or ignore, the author shows that politics is intertwined with our everyday life and that our every action, social and cultural is in fact a political action.
The book has a wonderful cast of characters who will leave a lasting impression on the readers. The energy & innocence of Veeran, the philosophical & beautiful mind of Ramona, the spunk of Sarah and Deepti and the leadership & magnanimous nature of Madderakka will remain with you even after you've finished reading the book.
Madderakka is a simple story well told within the vastness and beauty of two distinct and yet similar cultures. It entertains the reader as much as it educates them about the world and its various human inhabitants. It's definitely worth a read and maybe some more.
Kevin Peter, Reviewer
The Pope and Mussolini
David J. Kretzer
Random House Trade Paperbacks
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780812983678, $20.00, 592 pages, www.amazon.com
Congratulations to David J. Kretzer for being awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his "The Pope and Mussolini", now available in a trade paperback edition. Here is a version of the review I wrote in April, 2014 originally published in BookBrowse.
"The Pope and Mussolini" is a riveting account of the parallel rise to power of the narcissistic son of a socialist blacksmith and the authoritarian scholarly Vatican librarian who became Pope Pius XI.
The unholy alliance of Benito Mussolini and the former Cardinal Achille Ratti permanently transformed the role of the Catholic Church in Italy and provided legitimacy for the coming fascist regime provides the primary premise for David Kretzer's insightful book. The two dissimilar men made their ascent the same year, 1922. The intellectual Ratti with three doctorates had taught seminarians in Rome and Padua before rising to become Prefect of the Vatican Library by appointment of Pope Pius X. His predecessor Pope Benedict XV elevated him to archbishop and sent him as papal nuncio (diplomatic envoy) to Warsaw where he courageously refused to flee the advance of the Red Army and supervised Silesian elections. Ratti was the dark horse in the lengthy papal conclave convened in early 1922 to elect a new Pope. He first donned the red hat of Cardinal in June, 1921 yet became the compromise candidate when Pope Benedict XV died suddenly of pneumonia. Cardinal Ratti, also known as the Archbishop of Milan, was elected Pope on February 6, 1922 on the fourteenth ballot. His Holiness was an authoritarian loner who insisted on strict formality and remained aloof from his retinue.
Mussolini was an unlikely political leader whose elevation from relative obscurity was equally rapid. He had worked as a schoolteacher and journalist and was a wounded WWI veteran and one of the country's most prominent socialists before establishing the Italian National Fascist Party. He was just thirty-nine years old and the youngest Prime Minister when elected to this highest office in 1922. Three years later he became absolute dictator after wresting control from the diminutive King Victor Emmanuel III who was more concerned with his coin collections than governing. Mussolini is not the first 20th century politician to shift allegiances with his abandonment of socialism and embrace of fascism but certainly one who was ruthless and ambitious. The Russian Revolution and the rise of communism swayed him to embrace nationalism.
Italy was a young country with no official religion when Mussolini came to power. The leadership was decidedly anticlerical, schools secular and divorce legal. The unification of independent states fifty years earlier was fraught with unresolved issues between church and state. Mussolini secured support for his Blackshirts, the Italian National Fascists, and legitimacy for his ascension as dictator in 1925 through a series of diplomatic and tactical maneuvers with Pope Pius XI. Negotiations began almost immediately which resulted in the Lateran Treaties of 1929. To demonstrate sincerity, Benito and his wife Rachele Mussolini, originally wed in a 1915 civil ceremony were re-married by a Jesuit priest in a 1925 church service. Briefly, the state of Italy with the capital Rome was recognized by the papacy and Italy acknowledged the sovereignty of Vatican City with the Pope as the titular head of the Holy See with freedom from taxes and a financial settlement from the claims of lands lost in 1870. Roman Catholicism became the official state religion; all public elementary and secondary education would include compulsory religious instruction, divorce was abolished and crucifixes were installed in hospitals, governmental offices and public buildings. The bishops would, in exchange, take an oath of loyalty to the state. The actual Lateran Pact of 1929 contained three treaties and a 45 article, detailed concordat. The ailing Pope XI would come to regret the poisonous relationship after the adoption of Race Laws but the author contends the relationship was mutually beneficial with enduring effects.
"The Pope and Mussolini" is a fascinating must-read for anyone interested in world history, the rise of fascism in Italy and mid-twentieth century Papal history. In 2002, Pope John Paul II authorized the opening of secret Vatican archives relating to the papacy of Pius XI and continued to expand access to scholars over the next several years; an irresistible draw to historian and college professor David Kretzer who has written several award-winning histories. He spent a sabbatical year, 2004/5 researching Italian State, Fascist regime and Italian Foreign Ministry archives to illuminate this crucial era leading up to WWII. David Kretzer has distilled seven years of intensive research into a truly fascinating work of nonfiction that reads like a spy thriller backed with extensive bibliography and footnotes. It's an ideal selection for a book club as it is spiced up with intriguing anecdotes about Mussolini's mistresses, the fascist spy network Il Duce unleashed inside Vatican City and replete with insider information about the priestly hierarchy as well as the ineffectual monarchy of King Victor Emmanuel III. The book contains maps, essential brief biographies of the key participants and takes a controversial stance on the not so tacit support provided for Hitler's Germany by Pope Pius XII who succeed Pius XI. It also documents the long-standing cover-up of entrenched pederasty and child abuse as epitomized by Cardinal Cassia who despite his known proclivities worked directly with three successive Popes.
There is a danger when writing about canonical history to bog down in scholarly details rendering a book unpalatable for casual readers. David I. Kertzer has managed to avoid the obvious pitfalls with the refreshing, vital work "The Pope and Mussolini" that is sure to offend some defenders of the Catholic Church.
The Star Shiner: Memoir of a Celebrity Make-Up Artist
McFarland & Company
960 NC Hwy 88 W, Jefferson NC 28640
9780786470969, $29.95, Trade Paperback, 320 pages, www.amazon.com
"The Star Shiner: Memoir of a Celebrity Make-up Artist" author was lauded by fabled gossip columnist/journalist Liz Smith who wrote "Evan Richardson really captures the feel of the era," in the April 17, 2014 issue of New York Social Diary. This engaging, cathartic memoir written by a pioneering fashion and makeup industry artist and cultural historian provides valuable insights into a life fully lived and a remarkable career.
Evan Richardson fled his small Glasgow, Kentucky home at an early age to seek fame and fortune in New York City. He made his mark in the competitive world of fashion in an unexpected way and wrote his first book about his chosen profession, the celebrities he worked with and his rather unconventional life.
As a student, Evan was sent to Florida to attend the Admiral Farragut School, a prestigious all-male, military boarding/prep school. Following graduation, he served two years in the U.S. Navy and then enrolled at University of Kentucky, graduating with a BFA in art. His love of writing was encouraged and nurtured at UK where he worked on the student newspaper and yearbook. The Big Apple beckoned and he enrolled at Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn for advanced studies in art and fashion illustration studying with the renowned artist Richard Lindner. Evan quickly landed work for major New York department stores which had yet to replace fashion illustrators with photographers. Eager to sample what the world had to offer, Richardson headed off to Europe. The tall and slim red head had that wholesome American look sought after in Paris and was soon in demand as a runway and print model. After returning to Manhattan, Evan drew on his skills as a painter and taught himself the art of make-up. It was a serendipitous decision as it became his career mainstay for over three decades. He was a pioneer who helped revolutionize the fashion industry. Prior to the late 1960's fashion models for clothing designers and elite magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar had applied their own make-up with varying results. Evan brashly "auditioned" for Diana Vreeland, the famously intimidating head of Vogue, and became the first make-up artist to work preparing models for fashion shoots. He worked with all the great photographers of the time including: Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and a perennial favorite collaborator Francesco Scavullo.
His celebrity client list reads like a who's who from the elite in fashion, Broadway, film, dance, politics and the social register. Tallulah Bankhead and Lucille Ball were early clients; Drew Barrymore may have been the youngest; Sting, Madonna, David Bowie and the Brothers Gibb for their Saturday Night Fever white suited cover of The Rolling Stone Magazine. He even made up Mary Kay Ash for a photography session and worked on Rose Kennedy, age 93, for her final magazine cover for Harper's Bazaar. He also designed the make-up for several Broadway productions; continued to study writing and wrote and composed a musical play called "Guys".
Evan developed his own line of eye shadow and created unique palettes that guaranteed him work around the world although his preference remained for New York. He sampled the nightlife and partied with abandon through the sixties and seventies until his partner died of AIDS in the first year the dread disease was diagnosed. This sobering wake-up call inspired a return to his deep and abiding faith and a resolve to work for a higher purpose. Retiring from the demanding, ever changing world of fashion, "The Star Shiner", an autobiography was his first published book. Mr. Richardson returned to his interest in fiction with the decidedly noir murder mystery "Truck Stop" set in a rural Kentucky roadhouse. He is currently working on his next stand-alone mystery.
Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance
Series Editor: Patrick McGilligan
University Press of Kentucky
663 S. Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
9780813147215, $40.00, 368 pages, www.amazon.com
Brent Phillips is the insightful biographer who brought Hollywood choreographer and director Charles Walters to full Technicolor life in his thoroughly researched, enthralling biography, "Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance". I celebrate his success and laud his efforts to gain widespread recognition for this overlooked director whose legendary accomplishments have been relegated to a footnote both by the public and within the entertainment industry.
Brooklyn born and Anaheim raised Charles Walters (1911-1982), actor, choreographer and director, made a successful transition from six years work on Broadway to Hollywood when he was hired by Arthur Freed in 1942 as a choreographer in the newly established MGM musical division where he rapidly progressed to dance director, then film director. His interest in musical comedy and dance began early at Anaheim High School and his career took off soon after he moved to New York where he danced on stage with Vilma Ebsen, Buddy's sister and former dance partner, and worked with Cole Porter on the staging of "Let's Face It". He was photographed as one of Fulton Theatre's "Broadway's New Faces of 1934" in a group that included Imogene Coca and Henry Fonda. Immediately at home in the studio system of MGM, Charles Walters established himself as a director who could teach even the most ungainly to convincingly dance and who worked magic with the consummate professionals. Among the many great talents he directed were Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, Leslie Caron, Joan Crawford, and his idol Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their final film together "The Barkleys of Broadway". He was able to coax the notoriously difficult Judy Garland into delivering a stellar performance in the iconic "Easter Parade". Charles Walters was a very pleasant, likeable person who made friends on the set and kept them after the work was done. Gloria Swanson was his best friend for five decades. Remarkably, he directed three women, Leslie Caron, Marjorie Rambeau and Debbie Reynolds, in films that earned them Oscar nominations. He was a sought-after director and a "Mr. Fix-it man", called upon, often uncredited, to direct additional scenes for both stage and screen. Like the celebrated, legendary George Cukor, Walters was known as being a "women's director". As musicales waned, he flourished as a movie director of standard fare of light comedies and dramas. His career highlights include "Summer Stock", "Lili", "The Tender Trap", "High Society", and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown".
Author of the memoir "The Star Shiner" and noir mystery "Truck Stop" and pioneer celebrity fashion make-up artist Evan Richardson met Charles Walters in the late 1970's in Malibu and shared his impression with me that the director was "quiet, reserved and very elegant." Unlike most directors, dancers and actors of the same era who actively sought the limelight and craved recognition, employing publicists to ensure they were mentioned and lauded in gossip columns in newspapers and magazines, Walters eschewed celebrity. He did not chafe under the constraints of the studio system which afforded him steady employment, security, and sufficient compensation to enable him to travel, entertain and maintain homes in Malibu and Palm Springs. He took pride in his work, made prudent investments and enjoyed his private life. Mr. Walters lived as an openly gay man from his early days on Broadway. He was involved in two successive long-term relationships with partners who shared his homes and life without concealment.
Charles Walters lived a rich, full life on his own terms but through his own self-deprecating modesty was in danger of being overlooked as one of the finest and most innovative dance directors in film and in theater. The author quotes him as referring to himself as "a lucky, poor little son of a bitch from Anaheim who never had a dancing lesson." Innate ambition and talent propelled him to a long, productive career to the enduring gratitude of movie audiences. Thanks to Brent Phillips, a former Joffrey Ballet soloist, writer and media archivist at New York University whose dedication and years of painstaking research and multiple interviews readers can be re-introduced into this movie industry gentleman giant. It's a superb read.
Trosley's How to Draw Cartoon Cars
39966 Grand Avenue, North Branch, MN 55056
9781613252352, $19.95, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: George Trosley began drawing cartoons at the tender age of five. Professional cartooning came 17 years later. After more than 30 years, Trosley's humorous automotive renderings are an illustrated slice of Auto-Americana. He's recognized as one of the major contributing artists in CARtoons, Hot Rod Cartoons, and CYCLEtoons. Plus, many other national magazines and newspapers have bought and published Trosley's humorous art including Street Rodder, Car Craft, Popular Hot Rodding, and Super Chevy as well as commercial clients including Demon Carburetor and Powermaster Performance. "Trosley's How to Draw Cartoon Cars" takes you through the process step-by-step of drawing your favorite cars, starting with the basics such as profiles, point of view, speed, attitudes, custom graphics, and coloring. You learn to draw components such as wheels, engines, and accessories. After learning the basics, you are treated to step-by-step lessons on many different body styles.
Critique: Absolutely 'user friendly', "Trosley's How to Draw Cartoon Cars" is a complete and step-by-step course of instruction that will enable even the most novice of aspiring artists to turn out professional quality automotive cartoons and cartoon art. Very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, academic, and art school instructional reference collections, it should be noted that "Trosley's How to Draw Cartoon Cars" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.17).
The Legend of Bob Wire
1931 Woodbury Avenue, Suite 182, Portsmouth, NH 03801
Word Slinger Publicity
9780986214974, $9.99, 26pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Compiled by Sam Skinner, "The Legend of Bob Wire" is a collection of stories passed down from generations of ranchers, oilfield roughnecks, and boot and saddle makers. These stories along with a vivid imagination have been rolled into a Western legend of epic proportions. A story of transition, grit, and heroics, "The Legend of Bob Wire" chronicles a way of life that is still ongoing today. The lessons learned here will last a lifetime.
Critique: Destined to be a classic compendium of American folklore akin to the stories of Paul Bunyon or Johnny Appleseed, "The Legend of Bob Wire" is a terrifically entertaining read and highly recommended for community and academic library collections.
c/o Wiley Trade Publishing Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781118974209, $26.95, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Technology is rapidly changing the landscape of education; teacher effectiveness and student achievement are both tied to the ability to adapt to new technology, and blended learning has become a hot topic in schools across the nation. "Go Blended!: A Handbook for Blending Technology in Schools" is a practical implementation guide for educators interested in getting blended learning off the ground. Go Blended! offers boots-on-the-ground support for laying the foundation for a blended learning program in our schools and classrooms. Throughout "Go Blended!" teachers with blended learning experience share helpful tips and lesson plans to help educators make purposeful choices in using technology to fulfill students' needs without becoming an end in itself. "Go Blended!" is a useful guide that also offers key documents and timelines to support a blended learning implementation and provides step-by-step practical advice for avoiding mistakes. Readers will gain expert insight into both the broad and narrow of blended transition, from sweeping concepts like program goals to nitty-gritty details like teaching routines around technology use.
Critique: Author Liz Arney (Director of Innovative Learning at Aspire Public Schools, where she is crafting and running blended learning implementations in close coordination with teachers, principals, IT teammates, and data and analysis teammates) draws upon her years of experience and expertise to provide a thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction manual that will prove invaluable for novice classroom teachers and have a great deal of practical advantage for even the more experienced educator. Organized into three major sections: Starting the Process: The Fundamental Decisions; Planning for Implementation: Strategic Decisions and Considerations; Launching Blended: Helping Teachers and Students Be Successful, "Go Blended!: A Handbook for Blending Technology in Schools" is highly recommended for professional and academic library Education Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
Linden Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444820294, $20.99, 264pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Imprisoned for murder, innocent Luther Larkin feels only resentment towards the town of Black Bear Crossing and its lawman. When an unexpected confession sets Luther free, he finds himself drawn back to his boyhood home -- and pretty soon trouble seeks him out. Nor is he the only one who has been drawn back to Black Bear Crossing: deranged killer Donald Ricket has a score to settle with the town, and only Luther stands between him and his goal.
Critique: A terrifically great read by a terrifically talented author with complete storytelling mastery of the western action/adventure genre, "Lawless Guns" by M. Duggan is a strongly recommended entertainment for anyone and everyone who enjoys cliff-hanging action and surprising plot twists. This complete and unabridged, large-print edition is especially recommended for community library collections.
Understanding Social Media
Kogan Page USA
1518 Walnut Street, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9781446201213 $46.00 www.koganpageusa.com
Synopsis: Social media are computer-mediated tools that allow people to create, share or exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks. Furthermore, social media depends on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. They introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between businesses, organizations, communities, and individuals. Social media are different from traditional or industrial media in many ways, including quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy, and permanence. Social media operates in a dialogic transmission system, (many sources to many receivers). This is in contrast to traditional media that operates under a monologic transmission model (one source to many receivers). "Understanding Social Media: How to Create a Plan for Your Business that Works" provides an accessible and practical compendium of experience-based information, advice and tips from dozens of digital marketers and social media experts to create a comprehensive guide to current practice including: Creating a social media program; Understanding stakeholders such as blogs, networks and Web 2.0; Rules governing the relationship between search and social; Case studies from successful and failed campaigns; Budgeting for social media activities; How to set key performance indicators (KPIs); Understanding social media ROI; Customer experience; Building a social media team; Analytics and creating a social media dashboard; Risk assessment and risk management in social media.
Critique: Exceptionally informative and thoroughly 'reader friendly', "Understanding Social Media: How to Create a Plan for Your Business that Works" is an impressively useful and practical instruction manual that is especially recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Social Media Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Understanding Social Media: How to Create a Plan for Your Business that Works" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.02).
A Very Private Public Citizen
Nancy Peterson Hill
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65201
9780826220233, $40.00, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Grenville Clark ((November 5, 1882 - January 13, 1967) was born to wealth and privilege in Manhattan, where his maternal grandfather, LeGrand Bouton Cannon, was an industry titan, retired Civil War colonel, and personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Clark grew up on a first-name basis with both Presidents Roosevelt, and his close friends included Supreme Court justices. He was well known and respected in the inner circles of business, government, and education. In "A Very Private Public Citizen: The Life of Grenville Clark", Nancy Peterson Hill gives life to the unsung account of this great and largely anonymous American hero and reveals how the scope of Clark's life and career reflected his selfless passion for progress, equality, and peace. As a member of the "Corporation," Harvard's elite governing board, Clark wrote a still-relevant treatise on academic freedom. He fought a successful public battle with his good friend President Franklin Roosevelt over FDR's attempt to "pack" the Supreme Court in 1937. He refused pay while serving as a private advisor for the Secretary of War of the United States during the Second World War, and he worked closely with the NAACP to uphold civil rights for African Americans during the tumultuous 1950s and '60s. Clark devoted his last decades to a quest for world peace through limited but enforceable world law, rewriting the charter of the United Nations and traveling the globe to lobby the world's leaders. An enthusiastic husband, father, and friend, Clark was a lawyer, civil rights activist, traveler, advisor, and world citizen at large. Memories from Clark's family and friends weave through the pages of "A Very Private Public Citizen", as do Clark's own inimitable observations on his life and the world in which he lived.
Critique: Exceptionally well written and presented, "A Very Private Public Citizen: The Life of Grenville Clark" is an impressively detailed and documented biography which is strongly recommended for community and academic library American Biography collections in general, the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Administration historical studies supplemental reading lists in particular. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Very Private Public Citizen: The Life of Grenville Clark" is also available in a Kindle edition ($32.00).
Shifting Gears To Your Life & Work After Retirement
Carolee Duckworth, author
Marie Langworthy, author
New Cabady Press
177 Old Willimantic Road, Columbia, CT 06237-1222
9780984513611, $18.95, 358pp, www.amazon.com
The length of retirement has increases just as the length of their life span has increased for the average American. Now it can be 30 years of more! So just what is the aging Boomer population (now reaching retirement age) can do to prepare for (and deal with) such an extended period of their life. The collaborative work of Carolee Duckworth and Marie Langworthy, "Shifting Gears To Your Life & Work After Retirement: A Boomer's Roadmap to Transform Retirement into the Best Time of Your Life, Created by Two Boomers Who Did It" holds the answer to that conundrum. "Shifting Gears To Your Life & Work After Retirement" reveals how to engage your energy and vitality; stimulate your mind; enhance your physical capabilities, keep you involved, relevant and productive for the next three or more decade -- but without tying you down completely, nose to the grindstone, as you were during your pre-retirement work life. "Shifting Gears to Your Life and Work After Retirement" is for and about the Baby Boomer generation who are entering this "New Retirement Frontier", knowing that they will need to invent this extended adventure for themselves. Practical, informed, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and occasionally inspiring, now anyone can utilize "Shifting Gears To Your Life & Work After Retirement" to design their own next response to the question of "what comes next" after retirement. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shifting Gears To Your Life & Work After Retirement" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.50).
Dedicated: Training Your Children to Trust and Follow Jesus
Jason Houser, Bobby Harrington, Chad Harrington
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
Karen Campbell Media
9780310518297, $14.99, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded his followers to go into the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus had said. But the very first "great commission" was really given much earlier -- to parents. In Deuteronomy 6, God calls parents to the task of discipleship in raising their children. Discipleship is the greatest test for the Christian family today. In today's busy world, many parents feel overwhelmed and aren't sure what to do -- or even where to begin. In "Dedicated: Training Your Children to Trust and Follow Jesus", Jason Houser is joined by Bobby Harrington and his son Chad, as they unpack the simple, practical, and essential practices of spiritually parenting and disciplining children in the home. An inspirational training manual to equip parents, "Dedicated" will empower parents to pass along their faith to the next generation.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring, "Dedicated: Training Your Children to Trust and Follow Jesus" is truly exceptional and thoughtful reading recommended to all Christian parents regardless of their denominational affiliation. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Dedicated" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
9781609079246, $17.99, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Nine is the ninth female born in her batch of ten females and ten males. By design, her life in Freedom Province is without complications or consequences. However, such freedom comes with a price. the Prime Maker is determined to keep that price a secret from the new batches of citizens that are born, nurtured, and raised androgynously. But Nine isn't like every other batcher. She harbors indecision and worries about her upcoming Remake Day - her seventeenth birthday, the age when batchers fly to the Remake facility and have the freedom to choose who and what they'll be. When Nine discovers the truth about life outside of Freedom Province, including the secret plan of the Prime Maker, she is pulled between two worlds and two lives. Her decisions will test her courage, her heart, and her beliefs. Who can she trust? Who does she love? And most importantly, who will she decide to be?
Critique: A superbly crafted and original story, "Remake" clearly documents author Illima Todd as an impressively gifted novelist. Pure entertainment from beginning to end, "Remake" is very highly recommended for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Remake" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).
Manga Crash Course
Mina "Mistiqarts" Petrovic
c/o F+W Media
1140 Broadway, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10001
9781440338380, $22.99, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Manga Crash Course" by Mina "Mistiqarts" Petrovic is the perfect do-it-yourself instruction manual providing everything you need to start drawing manga! The "Manga Crash Course", showcases all of the techniques you need to create not just manga figures and faces, but full characters and scenes. After learning the basics for drawing and coloring eyes, hands, feet and other body parts, you'll move on to facial expressions, hair and clothes which are the things that will make your manga characters stand out from the rest. Then the "Manga Crash Course" will put what you learned to the test as you play the Character Idea Game. Roll the dice to create wacky character combinations like Scary Vampire School Girl or Noisy Winged Knight. Finally, put your characters together in full manga scenes and paneled pages to create a dynamic story.
Critique: Offering more than 25 step-by-step demonstrations to guide novice artists through creating each body part of their manga characters; featuring over 130 lessons for facial anatomy, poses, clothing and accessories, and common hairstyles and emotions; turning full-sized manga characters into chibis with easy techniques; and trying the character invention game to help create an endless supply of unique manga characters and stories, "Manga Crash Course" offers a complete and thoroughly 'user friendly' course of instruction under one cover, making it very highly recommended for personal, art school, and community library Art Instruction reference collections.
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500239261, $55.00, 216pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Painting Now" by Suzanne Hudson (Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California) is an international survey exploring the many ways in which painting has been re-approached, re-imagined, and challenged by today's artists. The radical changes that have taken place since the 1960s and 1970s (the period that saw the shift from a modernist to a postmodernist visual language) have led to its reinvigoration as a practice, lending it an energy and diversity that persists today. "Painting Now" offers an intelligent and original survey of contemporary painting that brings together more than 200 artists from around the world whose work is defining the ideas and aesthetics that characterize the painting of our time. Professor Hudson's rigorous inquiry takes shape through the analysis of a range of internationally renowned painters, alongside reproductions of their key works to illustrate the concepts being discussed. These luminaries include Franz Ackermann, Michael Borremans, Chuck Close, Angela de la Cruz, Subodh Gupta, Julie Mehretu, Vik Muniz, Takashi Murakami, Elizabeth Peyton, Wilhelm Sasnal, Luc Tuymans, Zhang Xiaogang, and many others. "Painting Now" is organized into six thematic chapters exploring aspects of contemporary painting such as appropriation, attitude, production and distribution, the body, painting about painting, and introducing additional media into painting, this is an essential volume for art history enthusiasts, critics, and practitioners.
Critique: The informed and informative commentary is superbly enhanced with the inclusion of 230 illustrations (224 of which are in color). A complete course of art history instruction under one cover, "Painting Now" is a critically important and strongly recommended addition to personal, community, art school, and academic library Art History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Sons Without Fathers
Mardi Allen & James L. Dickerson
Sartoris Literary Group
PO Box 4185, Brandon, MS 39047
9780615609508, $14.95, 188pp, www.amazon.com
Critique: "Sons Without Fathers: What Every Mother Needs to Know" addresses the 5 major diseases and ailments that a son is more likely to acquire without his father (or a suitable male role model) in his life; the 4 critical skills that a father can teach his son that a mother cannot teach; the 4 characteristics that adult sons without fathers possess that put them at a disadvantage in developing relationships and a great many more relevant issues with respect to a mother raising a male child without the help and example of a husband. Whether they lose their fathers to divorce or death, or whether their fathers go to prison or abandon them at birth, or were simply never in the picture (such as in artificial insemination) boys that grow up in homes without their biological father go through childhood at a disadvantage. There are almost 9 million such sons in America. These mothers can overcome those disadvantages with effective parenting tailored to their sons' needs beginning with a careful reading of "Sons Without Fathers: What Every Mother Needs to Know.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Sons Without Fathers: What Every Mother Needs to Know" is especially and highly recommended to the attention of single mothers who are raising sons without a father; married mothers contemplating divorce; mothers with sons who have remarried; lesbian mothers who are raising a son; adoptive parents who are raising a son. Practical, comprehensive, informed, informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly', "Sons Without Fathers: What Every Mother Needs to Know" is a very highly recommended addition to community library Parenting instructional reference collections. For personal reading lists is should be noted that "Sons Without Fathers: What Every Mother Needs to Know" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).
Yves Saint Laurent's Studio: Mirror and Secrets
c/o Distributed Art Publishers (DAP)
155 - 6th Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9782330034115, $24.95, 142pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The name of Yves Saint Laurent, one of the great fashion designers of the twentieth century, evokes the now-iconic looks he helped popularize as part of the modern woman's wardrobe: the Le Smoking tuxedo jacket, the pea coat, the Mondrian dress, the jumpsuit. But seven years after Saint Laurent's death, the man himself remains an enigma and a source of fascination. In "Yves Saint Laurent's Studio: Mirror and Secrets" fashion historian Jeromine Savignon invites the reader into the designer's studio, revealing Saint Laurent's approach to fashion and design. Illustrated with more than 40 previously unpublished photographs, this volume offers a fresh, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the work of this iconic fashion designer. A precocious talent, Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) started work at the venerable fashion house of Christian Dior at the age of 18. He started his own design house in 1961 with his partner Pierre Berge. Saint Laurent was one of the first designers to hire nonwhite models, and the first to lend his name to a ready-to-wear line while maintaining his haute couture business. He became the first designer to be honored with a Costume Institute retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art during his lifetime, with a 1983 show organized by Diana Vreeland.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, the text is impressively informed and informative, the photography inherently interesting, and taken as a whole, "Yves Saint Laurent's Studio: Mirror and Secrets" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Fashion History reference collections in general, and the supplemental studies reading lists for students of the life and work of Yves Sain Laurent in particular.
Our Enduring Values Revisited
c/o American Library Association
50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611
9780838913000, $45.00, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Because of the advances in technology over the past fifteen years there has been a sea change in the way much of the world thinks about and uses libraries. Young librarians and seasoned LIS professionals alike are experiencing increasing pressure to adjust to new economic, societal, and technological demands amidst the often-dire rhetoric currently surrounding the future of our institutions. "Our Enduring Values Revisited: Librarianship in an Ever-Changing World" is a stirring manifesto in which public intellectual, librarian, and philosopher Michael Gorman addresses head on the existential panic among library professionals caused by the radical shift in how libraries are viewed. He reconnects readers with the core values that continue to inspire generations of library professionals and scholars while making the case that these values are doubly crucial to hold on to in the brave new shifting world of librarianship. Destined to become another classic of library literature, this book explores such contemporary issues as: The growing emphasis of the library as a cultural institution, placing libraries within their cultural context as gathering places for learning, access to information, and community; The impact of technological innovations on core values such as access and stewardship; Library places and spaces of the future; How the mass digitization of books, archives, and other materials affects the purpose and function of libraries; Intellectual freedom and privacy in the era of the PATRIOT Act, Wikileaks, and Edward Snowden; The role of libraries as both champions and facilitators of social justice.
Critique: An impressively presented compendium of original scholarship that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Our Enduring Values Revisited: Librarianship in an Ever-Changing World" should be required reading by all students of library science, as well as both novice and seasoned libraries. An excellent and timely body of work, "Our Enduring Values Revisited: Librarianship in an Ever-Changing World" should be a part of every professional, community, academic, corporate, and governmental library reference collection and supplemental studies reading list.
Fordham University Press
2546 Belmont Avenue
University Box L, Bronx, NY 10458-5172
9780823265763, $19.00, 80pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Cyclorama" is a stunning cycle of persona poems in which poet Daneen Wardrop offers up a panoramic view of the inner lives of those forgotten among the violence and strife of the American Civil War: the nurse and the woman soldier, the child and the draftee, the prostitute, the black slave, and the Native American soldier. Each one speaks out to be seen and heard, bearing witness to the mundanity of suffering experienced by those whose presence was ubiquitous yet erased in the official histories of the War Between the States. "Cyclorama" takes its name from the theater-sized, in-the-round oil paintings popular in the late nineteenth century, and with each poem, Wardrop adds a panel to her expansive, engrossing portrait of the bloodshed and tears, the tedium and fear experienced by the Civil War living and the dying. With pathos and lyric force, she brings sharply into focus perspectives on an unfathomable experience we thought we already knew and understood.
Critique: Unique, emotive, engaging, and a fitting free verse memorial and testament, "Cyclorama" will have special appeal to American Civil War enthusiasts, re-enactors, and scholars -- as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in poetry arising from and inspired by the battlefields of long forgotten conflicts. Highly recommended for both community and academic library American Poetry collections, it should be noted that "Cyclorama" is also available in a hardcover edition (9780823265756, $45.00).
In the Company of Legends
Joan Kramer, David Heeley, Richard Dreyfuss
27 West 20th Street, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10011
9780825307423, $24.95, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Starting with their award winning profiles of Fred Astaire in 1980, Joan Kramer and David Heeley documented the lives and careers of many Hollywood legends, establishing a reputation for finding the un-findable, persuading the reluctant, and maintaining unique relationships long after the end credits rolled. These were recognized as high-quality, definitive film portraits, which revitalized the genre and made it a mainstay of television programming. "In the Company of Legends" is their insiders' view of the famous and the powerful: Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra, Lew Wasserman, Ronald Reagan, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Jane Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss, Audrey Hepburn, and Bette Davis, among others. Kramer and Heeley's behind the scenes stories of the productions and the personalities involved are amusing, sometimes moving, often revealing, and have never been told before.
Critique: A truly nostalgic trip down memory lane, embellished with informative 'behind-the-scenes' glimpses at the lives and careers of mega entertainment stars who had a lasting impact on American popular culture, "In the Company of Legends" is a terrific read and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "In the Company of Legends" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Dealing With The Mentally Ill Person On The Street
Daniel M. Rudofossi
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398081232, $51.95, 252pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Dealing With the Mentally Ill Person on the Street: An Assessment and Intervention Guide for Public Safety Professionals" by Daniel M. Rudofossi is a unique guide that will aptly serve as a street survival guide for public safety officers and supervisors alike. Rudofossi, a sworn police officer and police psychologist in the NYPD and DEA among other agencies, offers a thorough assessment and intervention guide for clinicians and public safety professionals in dealing with mentally ill persons. Using his technique, the Eco-Ethological Existential Analytic method, he presents an original approach toward compassionate and safe interventions with mentally ill citizens who become involved with public safety officers. "Dealing With The Mentally Ill Person On The Street" will open the doors to an effective and highly meaningful guide officers can put into practice immediately, so that officers and supervisors can maximize the outcome of safe and effective humane processing of mentally ill with the potential for violence. Case examples and question-and-answer sections are also provided that offer user-friendly guidelines for ensuring custody to rehabilitation of the mentally ill street person. "Dealing With The Mentally Ill Person On The Street" also provides information on how to gain self-care and referral to peers when the stressors of dealing with the mentally ill start to increase to burnout and 'compassion fatigue' in first responders and mental health counselors. It will also provide a wide overview as well as in-depth coverage of the evolving specialty of police psychology. "Dealing With The Mentally Ill Person On The Street" will prove to be an invaluable resource for a wide audience of professional police officers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, military guard, public and private security, criminal justice practitioners, counselors, social workers and others in responding to such crises. From triage through the police custodial role to outreach and cooperation with local and community mental health clinics, the approaches offered in this book will lead to the best of all possible outcomes.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Dealing With the Mentally Ill Person on the Street: An Assessment and Intervention Guide for Public Safety Professionals" is an ideal textbook and fully accessible so that it can be confidently recommended reading for social workers, police officers, emergency medical care technicians, mental health workers, as well as the non-specialist general reader seeking to engage with the homeless and those in public shelters because of mental health issues. "Dealing With the Mentally Ill Person on the Street: An Assessment and Intervention Guide for Public Safety Professionals" should be a part of every municipal, college, and university Psychology & Counseling reference collection.
McGraw Hill Professional
1221 Avenue of the Americas, 45th Floor, New York, NY 10020
Cave Henricks Communications
9780071847780, $32.00, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Your people are not your greatest asset. They're not yours, and they're not assets." With this declaration, Rod Wagner, one of the leading authorities on employee performance rolls up his sleeves against the weasel words, contradictions, bad habits, and intrusions that reduce people to "human resources." To "FTEs." To "human capital." To flesh-and-blood widgets. Armed with empirical evidence from the provocative studies he leads around the globe, Wagner guides you through the new realities of what it takes to get the highest levels of intensity from people in a more mercenary, skeptical, and wired work world. He explains how elements such as individualization, fearlessness, transparency, recognition, and coolness are reciprocated with loyalty, productivity, innovation, and - inescapably - corporate reputation.
Critique: Expertly written, deftly organized, and professionally presented, "Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They're Real People" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Candid, practical, no-nonsense, and thoroughly 'reader friendly', "Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They're Real People" should be made mandatory reading for corporate executives at all levels who have employee management responsibilities. A critically important addition to community, corporate, and academic library Business Management reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They're Real People" is also available in a Kindle edition ($21.22).
Handbook of Adolescent Drug Use Prevention
Lawrence M. Scheier, editor
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
9781433818998, $149.95, 568pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Drug abuse is a major societal problem that damages individuals and communities psychologically, physically, socially, and economically. One way to mitigate these consequences is to prevent drug abuse before it starts, and there is good evidence that this can be done effectively. The goal of "Handbook of Adolescent Drug Use Prevention: Research, Intervention Strategies, and Practice" is to help researchers, practitioners, and policy makers prevent drug abuse, primarily among adolescents who either have not used drugs before or have just started using them. Highlighting the huge strides that prevention science has made in the past few decades and what still needs to be better understood, Lawrence Scheier (who is also the editor of the "Handbook of Drug Use Etiology"), has gathered eminent experts from various disciplines to create this comprehensive resource. Together, they distill what we know about effective programs and describe strategies to capitalize on protective factors and curtail risk factors in young people; prevent poor self-regulation and conduct disorders, which may lead to drug abuse; promote positive change in families, schools, and larger communities; and implement wide-scale and targeted media campaigns. The evidence-based drug prevention programs and strategies described in "Handbook of Adolescent Drug Use Prevention: Research, Intervention Strategies, and Practice" can also create secondary benefits by improving overall health and wellness in individuals and communities.
Critique: "Handbook of Adolescent Drug Use Prevention: Research, Intervention Strategies, and Practice" is a compendium comprised of thirty major scientific articles deftly organized into nine major sections: Historical Trends in Drug Prevention: What Got Us Here?; Epidemiology and Etiology: Risk and Protective Factors; Prevention of Conduct Disorders; School-Based Drug Use Prevention Programs; Family-Based Use Prevention Programs; Prevention From an Environmental and Policy Perspective; Media Campaigns and Their Impact; Evaluation of Drug Use Prevention: Modeling Behavior Change and Program Effects; Dissemination of Best Practices. Enhanced with the inclusion of a twenty page Index, "Handbook of Adolescent Drug Use Prevention: Research, Intervention Strategies, and Practice" is a seminal body of impeccable scholarship and a critically important addition to college and university library Adolescent Psychology reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Becoming a Professor
Marie Iding & R. Murray Thomas
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781475809169, $30.00, 196pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Becoming a Professor: A Guide to a Career in Higher Education" is designed primarily for graduate and undergraduate students and others (including instructors, lecturers and new tenure-track professors) contemplating careers as professors in post-secondary education at colleges, institutes, and universities. "Becoming a Professor" identifies kinds of higher education institutions, and types of teaching positions along with the nature of each position's responsibilities and advantages and disadvantages. It explains how graduate students can promote their future as faculty members while they are still in graduate school and suggests ways to find suitable faculty positions and succeed at the application and interview process. "Becoming a Professor" also addresses a range of other matters that influence careers in higher education once a candidate is hired in a faculty position - such matters as the tenure and promotion process and how to succeed in other aspects of the professorial role (research, service, teaching), and as well as how to avoid pitfalls (political and ethical aspects) in such positions.
Critique: The collaborative work of Marie Iding (Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, where she has taught for over twenty years) and R. Murray Thomas (Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also directed the program in International Education), "Becoming a Professor: A Guide to a Career in Higher Education" is a basic 'how to' instruction guide that is deftly organized into four major sections: Preparing to Become a Professor; On-the-Job: Research/Creativity, Teaching, and Service Roles; Influential Issues; and Postscript. Comprehensive, exceptionally well organized, thoroughly 'user friendly' in content and presentation, "Becoming a Professor: A Guide to a Career in Higher Education" should be considered essential reading by anyone considering or aspiring to becoming a career academic. Also available in a hardcover edition (9781475809152, $60.00, 196pp), "Becoming a Professor: A Guide to a Career in Higher Education" is a strongly recommended addition to all college and university library Educational Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063982, $14.95, 243 pages, http://www.edgewebsite.com
This novel is the story of a young man named Sage Rojan. Even from birth, Sage's parents knew that he was "different."
In the crib, it looked like he was talking to someone. He spoke in complete sentences at a very young age. As a child, Sage would suddenly fly into a rage, for no apparent reason. He was also incredibly smart.
The reason was that Sage had a Presence, not an actual being, living inside him. The Presence needed a technologically advanced planet, so, with its "help," Sage invented all sorts of techno-marvels. It started with a way to learn what was happening on the other side of the world. Imagine if America had technologically progressed from the light bulb to the Internet, within ten years. Sage becomes the most popular person in the world.
The Presence thought nothing of taking over Sage's body, working it past the point of exhaustion, and letting Sage deal with the aftermath. He couldn't tell anyone about the Presence, because his popularity would vanish, and he would be thrown in the equivalent of a mental hospital. His popularity did vanish, because the Presence's single-minded determination turned Sage into a mean, rotten person.
In space, Sage is forced to build a thing which goes very wrong. It starts moving toward Sage's planet, and will destroy the planet if it reaches it. An attempt to tow it out of the way is a failure. A plan to teleport the whole population to another world never gets going. The only possibility is for Sage to plead his case before The Artisan, the being which created the universe. Does he succeed? Does The Artisan help Sage get rid of the Presence, once and for all?
The story is very easy to read, and does a fine job at showing a society in technological fast-forward. From start to finish, it is very much worth reading.
Protest Inc.: The Corporatization of Activism
Peter Dauvergne and Genevieve LeBaron
350 Main St., Malden MA 02148
9780745669496, $22.95, 206 pages, www.amazon.com
In a time of what seems to be a rise in global activism, this book presents a very different view.
Things are not at the point of "Greenpeace/Pepsico" or "Amnesty International (A Division of Unilever)," but a person could be forgiven for thinking that such a day is coming. Major NGOs have entered into multi- million dollar partnerships with corporations like Shell, Coca-Cola or Walmart (they certainly have more global than the United Nations). These corporate partners are going to expect more business-like behavior out of what, twenty years ago, was a rag-tag bunch of activists. Groups like the Sierra Club or World Wildlife Fund now have multi-million dollar annual budgets, boards of directors, offices all over the world and hundreds (or thousands) of employees. A growing number of organizations are interested in "corporate friendly" activism.
The consumerizing of activism is another growing trend. Purchase a certain item (usually made in China) and a portion of the money will be donated to some worthy cause. It helps the retailer to look good, and the worthy cause may get a small amount of extra money in their bank account. On the other hand, is more consumerism really the answer for world hunger or cancer research?
When dealing with the police or city officials, taking the streets has never been easy. Post-9/11, new laws have been passed which make it nearly impossible. Almost any public protest or disruption of daily activity can be equated with terrorism. Facing a police force that dresses and acts like the military, courtesy of surplus equipment from the Defense Department, certainly doesn't help.
In the middle of the 20th Century, there was much more of a social interest in getting together, like at the local union hall, to discuss the state of society. Those days are gone. Today, society is much more atomized. People are working two jobs, just to make ends meet, or they are spending their free time playing video games, so getting together to better society is low on the list of priorities.
This is a gem of a book, though also rather disheartening. It is a huge eye-opener, and should be read by all parts of society, including activists and non-activists.
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
Sarah Weeks, author
David Small, illustrator
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545609548, $16.99, 40 pages, www.amazon.com
Glamourpuss lives a splendid life in a mansion with the gazillionaire Highhorsens. She has her own room with two thrones -- one for her pink bed and one for her pink litter box. Servants respond to her slightest wish. Adorned in her diamond necklace, Glamourpuss spends her days perfecting her glamourous style and attitude which involves a lot of time in front of mirrors. But the arrival of one high-strung Chihuahua named Bluebelle bursts her bubble. With her daily parade of outlandish costumes, Bluebelle quickly becomes the center of attention. Glamourpuss is devastated until one day she discovers the shocking secret that Bluebelle has been hiding from everyone. Small's comical illustrations combine ink, watercolor, and collage into lavish scenes that magnify the melodrama between these two delightful drama queens. Part fairy tale parody, part homage to classic film divas, "Glamourpuss" is a hilarious spoof of the ultra-rich which is best shared with a friend.
Written by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Illustrated by Jeannie Brett
85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472
9781580893626, $17.95, 48 pages, www.amazon.com
The lives of humans and horses have been intertwined for more than 9,000 years and it's easy to see why. For centuries, horses were the primary mode of human transportation. As they conquered new lands, competed, and celebrated, humans have relied on horses and in turn shown their love and appreciation by decorating their beloved companions with elaborate battle armor and extravagant garments.
While the primary focus is on all the pretty horses, Patent masterfully lures readers in to an introductory lesson in world history which she has divided into three chapters. In "Warfare and Hunting", readers learn how Egyptian soldiers, medieval knights, samurai warriors, Mongols, and American Indians outfitted their steeds for battle. "Performance and Competition" features Chinese drunken horses, prancing draft horses, performing circus horses, race horses, and the dancing desert horses. Horses have always played a huge role in "Ceremony and Celebration", the final chapter. From the mystery of the Scythian horses to Sicilian cart horses to parade horses in Nigeria and California, no public event has ever been complete without decorated horses.
Brett's pencil and watercolor illustrations deliver a procession of horses adorned with intricate armament in the excitement of battle and lavish costumes displaying the pageantry of parades. In a captivating trip through time, "Decorated Horses" pays homage to the hardest working creatures known to mankind.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
Tommy Topper and The Pixie Princess
Back Horse Publishing
B00W7UKHB8, $3.05, 212 Pages
This is a magical story about a young man called Tommy Topper who, as he gets to his fourteenth birthday discovers that he is not who he thinks he is, for his mother Martha, father Thaddeus, and Uncle Nick are from another world, Kranta.
However, on Kranta, life has changed for its people, gone are the happy and prosperous days they enjoyed when the good Kind Andrew reigned. Instead, King Andrew's place has been taken by the evil Ling Clam. He is not a very good wizard but he has tricked the best wizards on Kranta into working for him and turned the world into a very bleak place.
When Ling Clam discovers that Tommy Topper is a threat to him, he sends Gruber and an associate to earth using a magical blue stone, their mission - to kill Tommy!
Aware of the danger Tommy is in, his parents send him to Uncle Nick, who is a wizard, and also lives on Earth, where he learns spells and is prepared to be sent to Kranza. Once there, he is to train under the great wizard Verlan and save its people from Ling Clam.
This book tells of Tommy's great adventure with Verlan as he searches for, and finds the five magical objects which were hidden by Ling Clam to supress the people of Kranta.
Peril lurks around every corner for the objects are in dangerous and mysterious places with mythical creatures guarding them. To find them Tommy must use his magic and powers, the Book of a Thousand Spells and seek advice from the demon in the mirror. Oh and of course we mustn't forget the help of Princess Ryanna of Pixie Land, but to find out where she comes in, you will have to read the story...
Joe has yet again pulled the rabbit out of the hat in writing a story full of magic and enchantment which will be a dream come true for lovers of fantasy.
Sometimes I Get My Shoes on Backwards
E. Michael Lunsford
B00OKZIJCM, $5.64, 88 Pages
This is undoubtedly the best poetry book I have ever read. Right from the first one, which incidentally is the title of the book, 'Sometimes I Get My Shoes on Backwards,' this collection of thoroughly entertaining poems takes a look at life in a humorous way through the eyes of a child.
As a parent and grandparent I loved the way the author has captured their innocence. Covering all sorts of topics, they are all so entertaining, imaginative, original and so very funny. The icing on the cake is that they are delightfully illustrated with line and ink drawings which perfectly capture their essence.
Did I have a favourite, honestly, I loved too many to put a finger on one, however, if I had to choose, it would be out of these... I really loved 'I've Glued My Brother' and 'Father's Moustache', however very close behind came 'Omelet City' and, for me, the poem whose title could have been an alternative title for this book "Life is Real Magic.'
Whether you are an avid fan of poetry, a parent who fancies a laugh, or someone looking to buy their first poetry book, I cannot recommend this one highly enough, and I for one am looking forward to reading more from this talented poet.
The Time Portal 6 - The Philadelphia Experiment
Black Horse Publishing
B00V5P55D6, $2.98, 207 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
In the Time Portal series of stories by Joe Corso, we follow the adventures of Lucky an ex jewel thief, who, following a terrible injury discovers that he can travel through time. Each one of the series stands alone and focuses on a different period in history, and in this one it is the Philadelphia Experiment.
Lucky is happily living in the 12th century with his wife princess Krystina, and their son, when he feels himself drawn to the present day, where his help is needed.
There, he discovers that the U. S. Navy is using the un-commissioned ship Eldridge to try and reactivate the Philadelphia Experiment, and that it has been only a partial success, sailors are disappearing again...
Can Lucky find them?
To do so he, his sidekick Mickey and Secretary of State Oliver Stanton must travel through the portals and free them from a malignant force.
But where then? Lost in time the travellers encountering people and animals from different periods in the past as they strive to return to their future.
And, all the time, Lucky must evade the clutches of General Peter Slater who wants to imprison him and discover how his powers work.
Meanwhile, back in the 12th century, unbeknown to Lucky, King Robert and the rest of the royal family are in danger as assassins plot against them.
Another fantastic story in the popular Time Portal series with plenty of action, twists and turns and a story line to keep you guessing.
Santa's Snowy Adventure
B00NI4HZEE, $3.26, 30 Pages
Everyone knows that Santa makes his trip around the world with his trusty elves and reindeer, every Christmas dropping off presents to all the good boys and girls on his way; but have you ever thought what would happen if something went wrong?
What if he got held up, would the presents arrive?
One Christmas after kissing Mother Christmas goodbye, he set off on his sleigh laden high with presents, pulled by Jeffery, the Surfer Reindeer in his special jumper, and his other reindeer friends. However, reindeers have needs like any other animal and when one needed to stop, well of course Santa did, but it was on the snow, and unfortunately, the sleigh got stuck!
What a problem!
Can Santa and his helpers free the sleigh in time?
Will all the good little boys and girls get their presents?
This delightful children's story, has been beautifully illustrated by the talented Bryan Dave Tagalogon. The author has written in a wonderfully magical way about this very special time of year, and cleverly hidden in the story, messages for children about the virtues working together, keeping promises, and of course being good all year so Santa will come.
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Madness, Miracles, Millions
Joseph Semprevivo and Larry Semprevivo
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781622958818, $11.99, 140 pages, www.amazon.com
In the blink of an eye Larry Semprevivo's life changed dramatically when his hand become caught between two massive printing rollers. As he struggled to free himself from a certain life and death situation his life suddenly flashed before his eyes. Through the pain and suffering he was experiencing his mind began to focus on the love and support of his family; these positive thoughts gave him the strength and determination he needed to survive the ordeal.
Miraculously he was freed from the machinery and was able to keep his hand, but his injury was so severe it prevented him from working full time. Without his paycheck, unpaid bills quickly begin to mount. His wife showed her true love and dedication to him and their family by bringing a small printing press into their own home and working at night to print publications for small area businesses.
Larry knew that he would never be able to fully return to the printing business. He made the difficult decision to move across country and change careers for one in the restaurant business. Just as the family started to believe their problems were behind them their son Joseph was diagnosed with diabetes.
Once again, the family found themselves struck with another life altering event. They did not let this set back dampen their spirits. In fact, their son Larry's newly diagnosed condition didn't slow him down from living a fulfilling life. Larry always had a fondness for cookies, but he knew with being a diabetic he would have to limit his sweet intake. He came up with the idea on how he would still be able to could enjoy his love for cookies by developing an artificially sweetened diabetic cookie. Quickly, his idea to satisfy his own cravings turned into a very profitable family business. At first they sold to local buyers, but quickly the idea caught on and they found their business turned into a huge success!
I found MADNESS, MIRACLES, MILLIONS to be a very heartwarming story. I could literally feel the love radiate off the pages as I learned what all one family had to face and survive. Their strength and can do attitude that refuses to let anything slow them down is very inspiring. I find this book contains a wealth of inspirational substance that will bring positive reinforcement that could help a person out of their own dark time of their life. The author is to be applauded for sharing his life story, it is one that I know will stay with me long after I finished the last page.
Carolina Man (Dare Island Novel - Book 3)
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
042526887X, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Marine Staff Sergeant Luke Fletcher had spent the past ten years in the military serving his country. In Afghanistan, he receives a letter that turns his life upside down. He learns that a former girlfriend had died, and claimed in his will that he was the father of her ten year old daughter, Taylor.
He immediately requests emergency leave to go and find the daughter that he never knew existed. His daughter's attorney Kate Dolan knows how it feels to be raised by a military family. She hopes that Luke will give up his parental rights and allow the grandparents to raise Taylor.
When Kate meets Luke, she is surprised to see that he does not fit the controlling alpha male that she imaged him to be; instead she finds a kind and caring person who wants what is best for his daughter.
Will Luke walk away from his military career to become a full time father?
CAROLINA Man (DARE ISLAND NOVEL - BOOK 3) is a heartwarming novel. The circumstances that bring Kate and Luke together are the substance that makes for a true blue romance novel. I was highly impressed with Virginia Kantra's writing style. She knows how to write a story that will wrap its way around your heart.
Field of Prey
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425275115, $9.99, Paperback, 432 pp, www.amazon.com
The Prey books are one of the longer-running series; they feature Lucas Davenport of the Minnesota Criminal Apprehension Bureau, sort of a statewide FBI group under the Governor's command. In his latest entry, there is no mystery, since the culprits are identified in the first few pages.
The story then takes the form of a police procedural, following Lucas' and the CAB's efforts to capture the perpetrators of many murders. The investigation begins following discovery of the remains of many female victims in a well hidden cistern on an abandoned property. The skulls and bones of more than 15 bodies are recovered to begin with, apparently murdered over many years.
Reading the novel leads to the question of whether there is some superfluous content, which might have been edited out, allowing the material to move forward more smoothly. The murderer's MO is graphically described, leaving little to the reader's imagination. Character descriptions are well-honed, and, of course, Lucas always comes across well. Despite the earlier observation, the novel is recommended.
The Marco Effect
9780147516626, $16.00, Paperback, 512 pp
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525954026, $27.95 Hardcover, 484 pp www.amazon.com
Unlike previous Department Q novels, this is a rather lengthy, complicated tale involving two intertwined plots centered on a resourceful 15yearold boy. The reader is fully aware of all the facts that Carl Morck and his assistants, Assad and Rose, have to discover in the nearly 500 pages it takes to reach the end.
The boy, Marco Jameson, is part of an extended family illegally in Denmark ruled by a vicious man named Zola who forces them to go out begging and stealing in the streets and turning over all the ill-gotten gains to him. He also commits other crimes and even murder. One of the victims is a bureaucrat in the foreign ministry who uncovers a massive fraud in an African aid program in which the funds are diverted to cover a bank fraud. Marco accidentally finds the body, and the rest of the novel has him running for his life, threatened by Zola and the perpetrators of the fraud.
This is the fifth novel in the series, and is much lengthier than its predecessors, getting off to a slow start. When it finally picks up steam about halfway through, though, it is an exciting read. Especially each time Marco faces deadly peril and manages to wiggle his way out. Missing, unfortunately, is some of the levity between the members of Department Q to which one has become accustomed, but then, this book is much more serious as the group takes on its latest unsolved case, and it is recommended.
Spider Woman's Daughter
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062420589, $15.99, Paperback, 336 pp, www.amazon.com
Until now, only Felix Francis has prominently authored novels in a series created by his father. Other series, like those of Robert B. Parker, have been authored by writers unrelated to the deceased creators. However, Anne Hillerman now joins Felix in the distinguished company of an offspring continuing a popular series, undertaking to continue the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Cree Navajo mysteries, placing her own stamp on it by fully developing Bernie Manuelito, Jim's wife, as well as a cop.
It is rather strange that the author chooses to begin the story by having Leaphorn, a main character in the series, shot though the temple, the bullet passing through his brain, and thus sidelined. Bernie, as first responder, is taken off the case and placed on leave (although that hardly stops her from nosing around). Cree is put in charge of the Navajo police investigation, while the FBI conducts its own case.
As did Tony Hillerman, his daughter captures much of the landscape and culture of the American Southwest, especially describing in detail Pueblo pottery and rug-weaving. However, much of the flavor of the original series does not get captured in this first effort. Perhaps, as she goes along in future installments, this aspect will improve. There seems to be some repetition and redundancy along the way, which could have been edited out. But the plot is solid, and the book certainly warrants a reading.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451472564, $9.99, Paperback, 496 pp., www.amazon.com
Danny Goodman is a freelance biographer who is forced to live through a nightmare instead of writing about it. His daughter becomes friends with a schoolmate, the daughter of a wealthy Boston investment advisor, Thomas Galvin. Then the two men become friends, laying the groundwork for Danny to be pressured into spying on his buddy for two DEA agents who claim he manages money for a Mexican drug cartel.
The plot is simple enough, putting Danny, his teenage daughter and girlfriend into all kinds of life-threatening situations until Danny and Tom can extricate themselves from their precarious positions.
Joseph Finder has written a thriller that brings the reader along a twisted path. It is the story about what anyone will do to protect themselves and their loved ones from harm. Written with high emotion, "Suspicion" is well worth reading and is recommended.
World Gone By
c/o Harper Collins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060004903, $27.99, Hardcover, 308 pp, www.amazon.com
The life Joe Coughlin has lived began in "The Given Day" as a young man rebelling against his stern police captain father in Boston, and continued in "Live By Night" as he turned to a life of crime, rising in the ranks to run the rackets in Florida and elsewhere. Now, "World Gone By" brings the story to a conclusion.
This segment takes place around the time the United States entered World War II and takes a deep look at Joe's machinations as he operates between the various elements of society, government and the disparate areas of their less reputable members with whom he comes into contact. At the same time, we see Joe as a doting father of a motherless son, having lost his Cuban wife in a horrible murder at the end of the last novel.
For all his money and power, the fear of death always pervades a gangster's life, and the plot has Joe learning that a contract has been taken out on his life, his murder scheduled for Ash Wednesday, less than a week away. The steps Joe takes to learn of the plot and what to do about it has ramifications for the remainder of the story, which is as about well-written and plotted as anything recently read.
This novel, as the entire trilogy, is highly recommended.
Blood on Snow
Jo Nesbo, author
Translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385354196, $23.95, Hardcover, 224 pp, www.amazon.com
(In UK: Harvill Secker, 9781846558603, Hardcover, 208 pp., 12.99 BPS, c/o Random House, 20 Vauxhall Rd., London SW1V 2SA, +44 (0) 2078408851, randomhouse.co.uk)
This novel is offered as a standalone by the author of the popular Harry Hole series, creating a new, very different type of protagonist, a contract killer with a convoluted personality full of paradoxes. His name is Olav Johansen and he is a solitary person who acts as a fixer, getting rid of persons his pimp boss wishes to remove from the living world.
After establishing a pretty good picture of Olav as a person, the beginning of a extraordinary plot evolves. His boss, who controls both prostitution and heroin rackets in Oslo, tells Olav to kill his wife, creating a dilemma for the fixer. In researching the wife's activities preparatory to killing her, he instead falls in love with his intended victim. And this leads to further ramifications later on, not to be revealed in this review.
Although the publisher suggests the novel is a standalone, there is information that there is a sequel, "Midnight Sun, Blood on Snow Part Two," scheduled to be published in the UK come November, and that a third novel is anticipated also featuring Olav. The novels are supposedly being published under Jo Nesbo's alter ego name, Tom Johansen (note the use of the surname for Olav as well). But what's in a name when the true writer is Jo Nesbo, who gives us such wonderful plots, written with intensity, and characters who provide us with charm, amusement and insights.
The Skin Collector
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455517121, $16.00, Paperback, 448 pp, www.amazon.com
A typical Lincoln Rhyme novel is built on an accumulation of facts or clues to be analyzed and repeatedly summarized at the end of each chapter, as the criminologist and his team attempt to solve a crime and lead to the capture of the culprit. This novel is no different, except for the crime, its methodology and purpose and some additional plot complications.
To begin with there are a series of killings in which the perpetrator murders the victims by injecting poison by means of a tattoo machine, which he uses to leave cryptic clues. The murders take place in various underground locations in New York City. Rhyme and Sachs attempt to anticipate where each murder will take place, as well as the motive for the killings.
The title of this novel (and the theme, "Skin") is a throwback to an earlier novel, "The Bone Collector," another serial killer who terrorized The Big Apple, to whom a vague reference is made in the present plot. As in previous entries in the series, the characters are well-drawn, the plot moves forward methodically, Rhyme is depicted in his gruff manner and in the end it all comes together in an unexpected manner.
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451642674, $16.00, Paperback, 454 pp, www.amazon.com
This long and tedious novel in the Malin Fors series starts off slowly as the detective inspector continues to recoil from the near murder of her daughter in a previous installment. She can't meet the terms of her relationship with the girl or her exhusband, with whom has rejoined. So she begins to drink heavily, jeopardizing the love of both as well as her job. At the same time, Malin and her team of detectives are mired down in a murder case involving a rich attorney/businessman who has bought a castle from a titled family in need.
The plot really does not get started until about three-quarters of the way through the nearly 500 pages, and is hindered by endless repetition as the police meetings rehash almost no clues day after day, and the constant look into the lives and relationships of the detectives, their wives and children are regurgitated countless times. The conclusion seems contrived and seems plucked from the air. This is a shame, and disappointing, because the author can really write and the previous entries in the series were more than rewarding.
Night of the White Buffalo
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425264652, $26.95, Hardcover, 290 pp, www.amazon.com
The creator moves in mysterious ways in this Vicki Holden/Father John O'Malley novel, which begins with an unknown person confessing to a murder in the Confessional booth and soon thereafter Vicki finding a rancher shot in the head in his truck on the side of a road. Further mysteries crop up in the form of missing ranch hands from the murdered man's buffalo breeding ranch. A more astonishing event at the ranch is the birth of a rare white buffalo, considered a sacred creature by the Arapaho and other Native Americans as a message from the creator.
Intertwined with all this activity, of course, is Vicki's law practice in which she is currently defending a client involved in an assault case who she suspects may be in some way responsible for rifle shots on several pickups intended to scare nonnative cowboys away so jobs would become available for Arapahos.
The Wind River series is replete with sensitivity toward the Arapaho people and their way of life. This is especially obvious with the legend of the white buffalo. Vicki is a sympathetic character made more poignant with her somewhat ambiguous relationship with her lover, a high-powered lawyer more accustomed to dealing with oil and gas corporations on behalf of Native American tribes than Vicki's low-end clients needing wills, defense for minor crimes and the like. The novels in the series are always interesting and easy to read, and are recommended.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250074737, $25.99, Hardcover, 294 pp., www.amazon.com
A typical Joe Gunther novel has him and his team slogging along attempting to put a picture together to solve whatever crime they're investigating. In this novel, the Vermont Bureau of Investigation team Joe heads is involved in looking deeply into the death of a semi-recluse, Ben Kendall, who served as a photographer in Vietnam. Joe is asked to look into the death, which does not appear to be suspicious, by his girlfriend, Beverly Hillstrom, the state's medical examiner, who is a cousin to the dead man, who was a hoarder very much like the storied Collyer brothers who gained fame many decades earlier in New York City.
Almost as soon as Joe starts looking into the situation, Ben's exwife is murdered in Philadelphia, where Ben originally came from. From that point, a full investigation proceeds, complicated by additional deaths and kidnappings and the fact that Beverly's daughter is cataloguing and photographing Ben's photos and junk and might be the next victim. The problem is that no one knows what Ben may have brought back from Vietnam or what the instigator of all the crimes is looking for.
Like the previous novels in the series, the police procedural descriptions are straightforward and logical, and the characters play their accustomed roles, especially Joe's colleague, Willy. One quibble: The conclusion strikes a manufactured false note affecting the usual high quality of a novel in this series. 'Tis a pity, because the Joe Gunther novels are as good a series as there is today.
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10002
9781476724058, $7.99, Paperback, 448 pp, www.amazon.com
It's not enough that New Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury agrees, as a favor, to look into a 17yearold death while on a week's vacation, but then finds himself in the middle of one that occurred 22 years earlier and two more murders that occur while he conducts the investigation.
It all begins when a friend asks him to meet his friend Tom Williamson, who invites him to Vertigo 42, a restaurant high up on a financial district building. Williamson's wife, Tess, died after a fall down a flight of stone steps in the rear of their home. While it was deemed an accident (Tess suffered from vertigo, and it was presumed that she fell), her husband believes she was the victim of foul play. Jury soon discovers another death had occurred five years earlier when a nineyearold girl fell to her death while playing tag with five other children at the Williamson home. And while Jury goes about interviewing the now grown up children, a woman falls to her death from a tower, and in the same area a man is found shot to death in the back in an alley.
Meanwhile a dog named Stanley appears, collar and leash attached. Neither Jury nor his friends can discover to whom it belongs, giving all something to think about besides the famous Hitchcock movie, "Vertigo," starring Jimmy Stewart, about which running commentary throughout the book provides literary comparison to the current investigation. Jury is somehow convinced all the deaths are related, while he is at a loss as to how to prove it; the same problem as his friend, the original detective who handled the case when Tess died, although he too thought it to be a murder. Slowly but surely, the author guides Jury through various phases to a logical conclusion.
The Night Searchers
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455527922, $8.00, Paperback, 304 pp, www.amazon.com
Sharon McCone undertakes two peculiar cases, sort of interrelated. The first is brought to her by an attorney who introduces Sharon to Jay and Camilla Givens. The other is handed over to her by her husband, who operates a separate security agency, when he is called overseas on a secret mission. This one involves a kidnapping of one of his clients.
It appears that Camilla "sees" devil worshipers performing human sacrifices in an undeveloped area in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Sharon learns that both Jay and the kidnapping victim are involved in a group that partakes in night forays, following clues, hunting treasure and, apparently, performing weird acts. Just how all these factors add up to Sharon solving both cases is the basis for a wide-ranging story.
While the plot is worthy of note, it is complicated and somewhat loosely written and disjointed. The author does keep Sharon and her husband, Hy Ripinski, fresh and up to date, continuing their development as characters in this long-running series, and it is recommended.
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202544, $24.95, Hardcover, 336 pp., www.amazon.com
(This book is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464202568, $14.95, and a Large Type trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464202551, $22.95, as well as in an ebook edition)
Daniel Rinaldi is a Pittsburgh psychologist and consultant to the Police Department, counseling victims suffering reactions to violent crimes. Somehow he also manages to get himself into all kinds of dangerous situations and probably could use similar help himself from some other professional. In this fourth novel in an excellent series, he outdoes his involvement and placing himself in death's ways several times.
It all begins when Lisa Harland, trophy wife of a billionaire, keeps an initial appointment during which she informs Rinaldi that she intends to commit suicide at 7 pm that evening. The reason for her plan does not appear until later in the plot, but Rinaldi convinces her to postpone the effort by one day. But on the way out after their time was up, Rinaldi is knocked unconscious and she is kidnapped. Then begins a more complicated story, and one well worth reading.
The author, a licensed psychotherapist, sprinkles the book with all kinds of perceptive observations, providing deep insights into the characters and their motivations. Written smoothly and at a crisp pace with few complications, the tale resolves itself logically and is most satisfying, leading this reader, at least, waiting breathlessly for the next chapter in the adventures of Danny Rinaldi.
Remains of Innocence
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062134714, $9.99, Paperback, 528 pp., www.amazon.com
Sheriff Joanna Brady has her work cut out for her as two disparate murders fill her workday in Bixbee, AZ, and another case develops far away on the East Coast that impacts her cases. One murder involves a lovable but retarded man who apparently leaves his home through an open window one night only to be found by Joanna at the foot of an old mine shaft among some dead animals and in the company of a mutilated but live kitten. The other is the ME who is discovered tortured to death when he fails to turn up to do the autopsy on the first victim. The two cases are not related but keep the Bixbee police and Joanna's Sheriff's Department hopping.
Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts Liza Machett discovers thousands of hundred dollar bills among books and magazines in her mother's decrepit and cluttered home when the old lady is taken to a hospice, where she son dies. At the funeral, Liza is told by an old man who worked with her father years before that she might be the victim of some "bad guys." When she returns home, she discovers her landlady murdered. Then weeks later, after she spends thousands to rehabilitate her mother's home in an effort to sell it, an arsonist burns it down. Thus begins a cross country trip to meet her brother, the murdered ME (of which she is unaware), in an effort to learn more about the money.
The various cases obviously intertwine, and so the novel unwinds as the police procedural progresses, accumulating facts, analyzing forensic evidence, and simply moving forward on Joanna's hunches. The plot speeds ahead smoothly and is suspenseful, especially as to its conclusion.
James Lee Burke
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476710808, $9.99, April 28, 2015, Paperback, 464 pp.
At the heart of this superb novel is a chronicle covering one man's life from boyhood in the 1930's to his service during World War II and the years following when he started an oil pipeline business. During each phase of his life he encounters what is the essence of the novel, the evil that men do to each other. As a boy, Weldon Holland had a chance meeting with Bonnie and Clyde, the famous bank robbers. Later, during the Battle of the Bulge, he rescues his sergeant, Hershel Pine, who was buried by a Tiger Panzer in his foxhole beneath a pile of rubbish. The two are then isolated and have to hide from the Nazis, eventually finding a half-dead female survivor of a concentration camp, carrying her miles until they found someplace to hide.
The woman, Rosita, was Jewish, and Weldon fell in love with her, eventually marrying her and bringing her back to Texas, where he and Pine formed their successful partnership, the envy of established oil tycoons who coveted the business and threw everything but the kitchen sink at Weldon and Hershel to force them to sell, including massively attacking Rosita, smearing her name and worse.
The prose is rich and the literary allusions are exquisite. The descriptions of the early postwar era reek not only with nostalgia, but capture the times with deceptive simplicity. Weldon as a character provides an offsetting moralistic tone to the evil surrounding him and Rosita. Mr. Burke has transcended his past efforts by creating a saga worth reading time and again.
2560 Ninth St., Ste. 318, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781619023444, $26.00, Hardcover, 383 pp, www.amazon.com
The idea of juxtaposing the mafia, a hit man, and a Reform Jewish temple in Las Vegas forms the basis for this outrageous but satisfying novel. It is filled with a variety of characters and a plot that carries the theme with aplomb. While the concept may appear to be beyond the realms of reality, the author carries it out with grace and humor.
It all begins in Chicago, where Sal Cupertine is an extraordinary hit man for the mob, efficient, careful and never caught. Until one day he is assigned to meet with some purported drug sellers who turn out to be FBI agents and, for the first time, his face becomes known, so he has to kill them for self-preservation but has to flee the Windy City hidden in a refrigerated truck. Sal ends up in Las Vegas, undergoes facial surgery and, because he has a retentive memory, is turned into Rabbi David Cohen, part of a new racket.
While many of the Talmudic and Biblical references, which colorfully emit from David's (Sal's) lips throughout the novel, may be questionable, they set the tone for the incredible plot. If there is one drawback to the novel it is the final passages which to this reader did not ring true, although, supposedly, are intended to provide a morality to this mafia story.
David Baldacci, Editor
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476799384, $7.99, Paperback, 432 pp
A faceoff in hockey occurs when two opposing players face each other in a circle or at center ice and attempt to direct the puck to a teammate when the ref tosses it between them. In other circumstances, a faceoff implies one or more forces facing each other, usually in opposition. So at the very least this, the third book to be published on behalf of the International Thrillers Writers, comprising some of the best-known authors of the thriller-mystery genre, whose proceeds fund the organization, is a misnomer.
It is edited by David Baldacci, who wrote an introduction to each of the 11 short stories included in the volume. The idea was to pair each author's iconic protagonist with that of another, cooperating in the plot to solve a crime or mystery. It would not be fair to mention some of the authors and not others, since they are of equal stature. Some of the stories are interesting, others less so.
In facing off, neither the authors nor the protagonist do. They work together, sometimes even beyond the law or ethics. Among the many problems developing stories under the concept includes working out where the two lead characters will operate, since most were domiciled in separate locations, sometimes on opposite sides of the country. Needless to say, the writing and creativity are the result of the top writers in the field. It's just too bad their hands were tied behind their backs by the premise. One would think with the best minds in the business, a better idea could have been developed.
Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425275191, $9.99, Paperback, 384 pp
Unlike his previous effort in continuing a series created by Robert B. Parker, this time around Ace Atkins uses the full complement of Parker-created characters in a plot reminiscent of the master, including a sports theme. Kinjo Heywood is a star linebacker for the New England Patriots in need of Spenser's services. It seems he has been followed and threatened.
A simple assignment turns into a much more deadly one when Kinjo's young son is kidnapped, and it takes the efforts of the full all-star team of Hawk, Zebulon Sixkill, Susan Silverman, and of course Spenser himself, to solve the crime.
This time, the plot, dialogue and characterizations are more true to form. Atkins was hand-selected by the Parker estate to undertake writing three Spenser novels. Now that he has fulfilled that obligation, the question remains whether he will continue writing the series or go his own way. After all, he is an established author with many books of his own under his belt.
The novel is recommended.
The Black House
Quercus, c/o Hachette
1290 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10104
9781623659998, $14.99 (29.95 CA$/7.99 BPS), Paperback, 430 pp
Finlay ("Fin") Macleod is introduced to readers in this first book of a trilogy. He is a detective inspector in Edinburgh, investigating a murder. Born and raised on the Isle of Edward, the largest island in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, he couldn't wait to get off the austere island, very set in its ways with a harsh environment and a closed society. Almost two decades later, the murder he had investigated seems to have been repeated on the island, and he is ordered to go there to lend assistance and determine if the similarities are for real.
The plot serves two purposes: Of course this is a murder mystery. But more important is the opportunity for Fin to visit old friends and recount what had taken place and affected him during the first 18 years of his life, and the reader begins to learn the relationship between the past and the present.
It is a riveting plot, so well written that it carries the reader forward effortlessly. And the ending is so unexpected as to take one's breath away. This highly recommended novel is all the more reason to begin the second volume in the trilogy, "The Lewis Man," next up for this reviewer.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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