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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 11 November 2017 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Andy's Bookshelf
Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Bonnye's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Clint's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Grace's Bookshelf
Joshua's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf Linda's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mari's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Shel's Bookshelf Sloan's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf  


Reviewer's Choice

What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror
David Wong
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
9781466835443 $26.99 www.stmartins.com

Adam Carter, Reviewer
Twitter Handle: CarterInIndiana

What the Hell Did I Just Review?

What the Hell Did I Just Read? For the uninitiated, that is not a comment on the text, but rather the title of David Wong's (Jason Pargin) newest entry into the John Dies in the End series. Much like Wong's previous two novels, John Dies in the End and This Book is Full of Spiders, What the Hell Did I Just Read follows the misadventures of best friends John and David and David's girlfriend Amy, as they reluctantly battle evil forces from another dimension - forces that often only they can see. The comedy is consistent throughout the book series and cleverly low-brow, as one would expect from the editor-in-chief of Cracked. The title question is apt, however, as what sets this novel apart is its depth. While the previous books touched upon larger societal issues, on this round Wong brings a full artistic assault to the page as he heightens the meaning of the unreliable narrator by presenting the story via the different recollections of the three main characters as they fight an enemy that is able to change the way they perceive the world. As the true nature of the enemy is revealed, Wong skillfully questions the nature of human perception, and how that effects everything from basic animal instincts to parental love. Whether you are a looking for a fun sci-fi romp or a deeper exploration of nature of humanity, What the Hell Did I Just Read will keep you wondering just that until the end, and then wishing you could read more.

Angels In The Sky
Robert Gandt
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
www.wwnorton.com
9780393254778, 26.95, Hardcover, 464 pages

Clark Isaacs, Reviewer
http://clarkisaacs.ning.com

All the activities in this non-fiction chronicle of Israel fighting for its independence are true! Robert Gandt is a sock-em - rock-em type of writer. His descriptive passages of the how non-Israeli pilots delivered their flight expertise to the enemies of Israel earned them the title of Angels in the Sky!

In 1947 and 1948, Israel had to fight for credibility to become a State of Israel. It was not enough that the United Nations partitioned Palestine creating both Jewish and Arab States, which were to exist side by side. No, it was a time when even with this mandate, Israel had to physically fight with its surrounding neighbors in a death struggle both on the ground and in the air. This book is about the air battles, how they fought, how pilots flew, and most of all where the planes came from. Angels also is a memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of freedom for the Israeli people.

Though many of the pilots who died were Israeli, many came from other countries. Britain, Canada, United States, and South Africa were the countries of origin for members of fellowship of conscientious air force fighters tagged with the title of "Bagel Lancers."

Robert Gandt describes with exacting detail the airfields, which housed the many different planes flown by this specialized squadron. He visited each of them and spent considerable time doing his research chronicled in the extensive bibliography, which lists not only his sources, but also describes life after the war of many of those who he wrote about in the pages of this epic tale.

What you will like best about this book is the manner in which history is interspersed with descriptive passages about air battles and bombing raids. How the ingenuity of some men in acquisition of planes from Czechoslovakia led to the founding air force. Planes obtained from the United States government had their own unique acquisition.

No story about the foundation of the Jewish State would be complete without mentioning the various transporting of guns, ammunition, and crews that performed the day-to-day laborious tasks involved. These people are front and center, but one element not left out is that many of those who were a part of Angels in the Sky were not Jewish! They were patriots who felt the need to insure freedom to the people of Israel!

This is a FIVE Star book you cannot put down; highly recommended.

Fatal North: Murder and Survival on the First North Pole Expedition
Bruce Henderson
BruceHendersonBooks
www.BruceHendersonBooks.com
9780451409355, $5.99 Kindle, $14.99 PB

Vicki Hill
Reviewer

FATAL NORTH: MURDER AND SURVIVAL ON THE FIRST NORTH POLE EXPEDITION examines Charles Francis Hall's intense drive to discover the North Pole in 1871, his mysterious death, and the survival of those in the crew left behind. Bruce Henderson wrote TRUE NORTH: PEARY, COOK, AND THE RACE TO THE POLE, and is one of the best at historically based adventure stories. His writing "reads itself" because of his to-the-point crystal-clear style.
Henderson shows his mastery of structure by beginning the book with the expedition to the Danish territory of Greenland in 1968 to investigate Hall's grave, and ending the book with the results of the autopsy and investigation.

Even though Hall was not an expert seaman or scientist, "he had traveled more than three thousand miles by dog sledge, hunted with Eskimos, learned to build an igloo, and developed a taste for seal blubber". A major theme of the book is the knowledge of the Eskimo crew members, and how it was often discounted. For example, Henderson gives us this succinct and enlightening description of how igloos were built and food obtained for the expedition.
"First, the ground was leveled off, and then the half of the floor farther from the entrance was slightly raised above the other half. The raised part at the back was the parlor and bedroom; the front part was the workshop and kitchen." And this concerning the vital art of seal hunting: "A native hunter sometimes remains sitting over a seal hole - bundled up in skins and not moving or making a sound - for as long as forty-eight hours before getting a chance to strike. And if the first stroke is not accurate, the game is lost."

The account of the voyage details the betrayal of probably the most appalling group of scientists (Bessels and Meyer) and sailing master (Buddington) to ever be assigned to a polar expedition. The second half of the book recounts the rescue of the crew stranded on the ice for 197 days due to the treachery and incompetence of those who took the ship after Hall's death.

Thanks to the description of the 1968 expedition, and Henderson's dedication to evoking the past, we can better understand the dark forces that defiled the noble aims of arctic exploration, and why Charles Francis Hall was a hero.


Andrea's Bookshelf

We're Amazing 1,2,3!
Leslie Kimmelman, author
Mary Beth Nelson, illustrator
Big Golden Book
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com/kids
9781524766214, $10.99, HC, 32pp, www.amazon.com

Elmo introduces his longtime friend Julia to Abby, who's a little confused at first because Julia isn't saying hello. Elmo explains that Julia has autism, so she does things a little differently. Julia sometimes avoids direct eye contact, flaps her arms when she's excited, and is sensitive to some noises. But Abby soon learns that she also has a lot of things in common with Julia. All kids want love, friendship, and to have fun! They are all wonderful, each in his or her own way. This Big Golden Book edition of "We're Amazing 1,2,3! A Story About Friendship and Autism" is the first Sesame Street storybook to focus on autism, which, according to the most recent US government survey, may, in some form, affect as many as one in forty-five children. It's part of Sesame Street's autism initiative that has expanded to include a new character with autism. Of special note is the link to the Sesame Street Autism Resources Page: http://autism.sesamestreet.org/ A unique and entertainingly informative picture book for children ages 3 to 7, "We're Amazing 1,2,3!" is unique and unreservedly recommended, especially for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Worms at Work
Crystal Stevens
New Society Publishers
PO Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, V0R 1X0
www.newsociety.com
9780865718401, $19.99, PB, 224pp, www.amazon.com

How does the novice or even experienced gardener ensure that his or her soil is healthy and nutrient-rich enough to support all the produce he intends to grow? With worms! The practice of using worms to enrich gardening soil is called Vermiculture and is the healthiest and most cost-effective way to ensure that soil receives the nourishment that it needs. A simple vermicompost bin can produce the completely natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer that can be used to boost soil health and, in turn, increase your crop yield. "Worms at Work" is a practical, easy-to-implement guide to fertilizing any garden naturally. It discusses the vital role worms play in boosting soil health, and the reasons why every gardener should use vermicompost in order to decrease reliance on toxic synthetic fertilizers. Coverage includes: Simple designs to build a vermicompost bin; Caring for worms; Garden applications for worm castings; Lesson plans to incorporate vermicomposting into the school science curriculum. Whether tending to a small backyard garden or managing a large farm, "Worms at Work" is a 'real world practical' instructional guide and manual showing how to start vermicomposting today in order to grow healthy plants in healthy, happy soil. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Gardening/Horticultural collections, it should be noted that "Worms at Work" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Talking to God
Demi
Wisdom Tales Press
1501 E. Hillside Dr., Bloomington, IN 47401
www.wisdomtalespress.com
9781937786694, $17.95, HC, 36pp, www.amazon.com

In this beautifully illustrated book of short prayers from major world religions, award-winning children's book author and illustrator Demi shows children ages 4 to 8 the great value of talking to God. In the pages of "Talking to God: Prayers for Children from the World's Religions" they will find many time-honored favorites, including prayers of praise, prayers of petition, prayers of gratitude, and prayers of blessing. Taking readers on a fascinating journey across the globe, Demi's stunning illustrations celebrate the life of prayer shared by all the world's religions. Moving from King Solomon's Temple and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem to St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice to the Delhi Mosque and the River Ganges in India; from North America to Central Africa to China and Japan?each exciting new illustration transports readers to a holy destination where they can experience the religion's life of prayer directly at its source. Religions featured are Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, American Plains Indian, and Central African. Also included are an author's preface and an informative appendix with helpful notes on the prayers and illustrations. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Talking to God: Prayers for Children from the World's Religions" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

An Angel Remembered
Rosemary G. Ryan
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
www.westbowpress.com
9781512786149, $37.95, HC, 332pp, www.amazon.com

In "An Angel Remembered", God decrees a special child will be born, and carefully chooses the parents who will give her life. Since the moment of conception Lenora is a child of God and will share a unique personal relationship with the Almighty. She fulfills God's plan as an angel on earth starting from an early age. When her three-year-old brother has a horrific accident, she asks God if He can send an angel. The Lord dispatches the Angel Gabriel, who is quite humorous in addition to being strikingly handsome. Throughout the story, he will pop in and vanish at will. "An Angel Remembered" is a novel that is based on a true story. The ultimate message is that with God all things are possible. A unique and deftly written work of spiritual fiction, "An Angel Remembered" is itself a truly memorable read -- one that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "An Angel Remembered" is also available in a paperback edition (9781512786132, $22.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage
Jackie Francois Angel & Bobby Angel
Pauline Books & Media
50 St. Paul's Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3433
9780819827432, $15.95, PB, 176pp, www.amazon.com

"Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage" was specifically written for Catholic couples seeking to get their marriages off to a great start, or to renew a marriage that they have shared for years. A six-week devotional for couples which takes inspiration from Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body in all its significance, "Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage" by marital experts Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel will teach Catholic couples how to pray together as a couple, opening them up to the wonders that God bestows on their marriage. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage" is unreservedly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Goldenrod
Ann McMan
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
www.bywaterbooks.com
9781612940830, $16.95, PB, 350pp, www.amazon.com

With the publication of Ann McMan's "Goldenrod", her appreciative readers are welcomed back to Jericho, a small town tightly tucked into the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, where life and love have as many twists and turns as a winding mountain road. Once again McMan's readers will join Syd, Maddie, David, Michael, Henry, Celine, and the irrepressible Roma Jean Freemantle as they band together to navigate the minefields of their ever-changing world in this newest addition to the outstanding Jericho series of deftly crafted southern fiction. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Goldenrod" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99). Librarians should be aware that "Goldenrod" is also available in an MP3 CD audio book edition (Brilliance Audio, 9781543661767, $14.99).

Andrea Kay
Reviewer


Andy's Bookshelf

Tales Of The Patriarchs
Jim Shankman
CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
www.createspace.com
9781537376370, $16.00, PB, 372pp, www.amazon.com

"Tales of the Patriarchs" by Jim Shankman is a novel about the early days of Hollywood, when a handful of dreamers created a new art form in a desert by the sea, a fabulist retelling of the mythic tales of the silent film era, when the original sins of Hollywood became the folk bible of a new American religion. Filled with the romance, black comedy and pornography of the human soul, "Tales of the Patriarchs" explores the truths, the legends and the lies behind the lives of the patriarchs who created Hollywood. Revealing a genuine flair for originality and offering an extraordinarily entertaining read from beginning to end, it is clear that author Jim Shankman has an impressive gift as a storyteller and will leave his readers looking eagerly toward his next literary effort. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tales Of The Patriarchs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Water Beetles
Michael Kaan
Goose Lane Editions
500 Beverbrook Court, Suite 330, Fredericton, NB, Canada, E3B 5X4
www.gooselane.com
9780864929662, $22.95, PB, 360pp

The Leung family leads a life of secluded luxury in Hong Kong. But in December 1941, the Empire of Japan invades the colony. The family is quickly dragged into a spiral of violence, repression, and starvation. To survive, they entomb themselves and their friends in the Leung mansion. But this is only a temporary reprieve, and the Leungs are forced to send their children away. The youngest boy, Chung-Man, escapes with some of his siblings, and together they travel deep into the countryside to avoid the Japanese invaders. Thrown into a new world, Chung-Man befriends a young couple who yearn to break free of their rural life. But their friendship ends when the Japanese arrive, and Chung-Man is once again taken captive. He enters a new cycle of violence and punishment until he finally breaks free from his captors and returns to Hong Kong. Deeply scarred, Chung-Man drifts along respectfully and dutifully, enveloped by the unspoken vestiges of war. It is only as he leaves home once again (this time for university in America) that he finally glimpses a way to keep living with his troubled and divided self. "The Water Beetles" by Michael Kaan is an engrossing story of adventure and survival that although a work of fiction is loosely based loosely on the diaries and stories of the author's father. The result is a deftly crafted and compelling novel that fully captures the horror of war as seen through the eyes of a child. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Water Beetles" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, B01KTW8OV0, $19.95).

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians
Brandon Sanderson
Graphic Audio
7520 Standish Place, Suite 100, Rockville, MD 20855
9781628514445, $19.99, CD, www.graphicaudio.net

On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry gets a bag of sand in the mail-his only inheritance from his father and mother. He soon learns that this is no ordinary bag of sand. It is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians who are taking over the world by spreading misinformation and suppressing truth. Alcatraz must stop them, using the only weapon he has: an incredible talent for breaking things. Written by Brandon Sanderson and performed by the talented cast of Graphic Audio players, "Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians" is the first volume of an action-packed fantasy adventure that will prove to be enormously entertaining for fantasy fans of all ages. Enriching the individual performances with music and special sound effects, this unfailingly entertaining audio book edition provides a complete 'theatre of the mind' experience and is unreservedly recommended for personal and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy audio book collections. Indeed, fantasy fans will be left looking eagerly towards the next installment of Graphic Audio's Brandon Sanderson' series currently being released, "Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians: The Scrivener's Bones".

The Deaths of Henry King
Brian Evenson & Jesse Ball, authors
Lilli Carre, illustrator
Uncivilized Books
P.O. Box 6534, Minneapolis, MN 55406
www.ododbooks.com
9781941250204, $19.95, HC, 160pp, www.amazon.com

Collaboratively written by Brian Evenson and Jessess Ball, in "The Deaths of Henry King", the hapless Henry King dies -- not just once or even twice, but seven dozen times, each death making way for a new demise, moving from the comic to the grim to the absurd to the transcendent and back again. Enhanced for reader enjoyment with the inclusion of illustrator Lilli Carre's macabre, gravestone-rubbing-style art, Henry King's ends as showcased in "The Deaths of Henry King" are brought to a vividly absurd life. A singularly unique, deftly crafted, and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Deaths of Henry King" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Do You Solemnly Swear?
Lin Wilder, author
Narrated by Mark Kamish
Wilder Books
linwilder.com
9781942545187 $15.75 pbk / $TBA audiobook

Available in both paperback and audiobook formats, the sequel to "The Fragrance Shed By A Violet", Do You Solemnly Swear? A Nation of Law, The Dark Side is a legal thriller with a disturbing premise. After decorated former Marine Gabe McAllister breaks up with his girlfriend, she takes revenge on him in a vicious perversion of justice - by getting her 6-year-old daughter to falsely accuse him of rape. What chance does McAllister have against the implicit trust given to child? He is sentenced to 3 counts of 20 to life sentences in Huntsville prison, where Pulitzer Prize reporter Kate Townsend learns about his case. As dark background details of the little girl and her mother come to light, Kate Townsend searches for justice with every tool at her disposal. Tense and engrossing, Do You Solemnly Swear? is a choice pick for connoisseurs of the genre. 8 CDs, 8 hours and 43 min.

Andy Jordan
Reviewer


Ann's Bookshelf

Friend of my Youth
Amit Chaudhuri
Faber & Faber
https://www.faber.co.uk
9780571337590, A$27.99, hardback, 164 pages

This is a novel in which the narrator has the same name as the author and shares his profession, background, experiences and family. Yet it is not truly an autobiography. That sounds confusing and, if you begin this book expecting a conventional novel, it will be.

The author (and probably the narrator, too) believes in travelling between genres. In interviews, Chaudhuri has said that he has always "explored the edges of what is conventionally called fiction" and that he is uneasy with accepting certain stable categories. He believes that there is always an element of imagination in non-fiction and that there is always an element of truth in imaginative writing.

So, Friend of my Youth, is more like an imaginative memoir than a novel. Amit, the narrator, returns to his homeland, India, and to places in which he once lived, and he sees them anew whilst remembering his earlier impressions and recording new ones.

Amit's 'friend of his youth', Ramu, is his "oldest surviving friend in Bombay". Not that other friends are dead, but they have just lost touch. Ramu is not a close friend, just someone Amit always expects to see again, someone who is reliably always there. But on this current visit to Bombay, Ramu is in rehab for his long-term drug addiction and is not to be contacted. Amit ponders their casual reliance on each other, remembers things about their past meetings, and, when Ramu is unexpectedly released from rehab, their meetings with each other are both familiar and strange.

Amit remembers the terrorist attack which partly destroyed the Taj Hotel in Bombay. He sees the reconstruction which is new, yet strangely re-creates remembered rooms, restaurants and meals. Much has gone but there are still shops where he has always shopped for his mother, shopkeepers who know the family, hotel staff who recognise him and who knew his father. Past and present merge. So it seems that "In the Taj, time moves both backward and forward. I check out; someone else arrives. Suitcases follow the bell boy's trolley. Nothing has changed". And exploring the area around the hotel with Ramu it seems that things "haven't changed very much. Yet it's all different". In many ways this offers a parallel to the way Amit remembers the past and views the present.

Amit Chaudhuri, the author, writes like the poet he is. His prose is simple but rich. His memories and his descriptions are vivid and arresting. And the boundaries between fact and fiction are so blurred that there is a seductive allure to this near autobiography, near memoir. You feel that you are getting to know the author and his life, but his philosophy of travelling between genres and of self-representation through art make it impossible to know what imagination has woven into his story.

In the end, the unattributed quotation from a work by Benjamin Franklin with which this book begins is a guide to the source of Chaudhuri's approach to novel-writing. He clearly supports Franklin's view that "In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest the tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it". Friend of my Youth is nothing like a traditional novel and should be read with Franklin's view in mind.

The Good People
Hannah Kent
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
www.hachettebookgroup.com
9780316243964, $27.00, paperback, 386 pages

"It is out of respect that I call them the Good People, for they do not like to be thinking of themselves as bad craturs". "...'tis true that they sometimes cause mischief, and that is why people come to me....I have the knowledge and the cure if the fairies do be striking you or taking the profit out of your animals or crops, or the power out of your legs".

Nance Roche is the local 'handy woman'. She helps women in childbirth. She leads the keening and knows how to release the soul of the newly dead. And she also has 'the knowledge', passed on to her by 'Mad Maggie', and can use herbs and charms to deal with the fairies.

In 1825, in the remote Irish village where the newly widowed Nora lives and cares for four-year-old grandson, Micheal, superstition is deeply embedded in the lives of the people. The sudden death of Nora's husband, Martin, at the crossroads where the unbaptised are buried, and surrounded by inauspicious omens, causes consternation. The mysterious spastic condition of her grandson, too, is the subject of suspicion. And when the doctor and the priest fail to cure Micheal, it is clear to Nance Roche that the real Micheal, who had been a beautiful healthy child until the age of two, has been stolen by the fairies and a fairy child left in his place.

The new priest of the village is determined to stamp out the ungodly practices of his parishioners. He opposes all Nance does and, when Micheal dies during one of her fairy-banishing rituals, the police and the courts become involved.

A young girl, Mary, who has been employed by Nora to help care for Micheal becomes involved in all this and she, too, is accused of assisting in Micheal's death.

The core of the book, however, is not the trial for murder, but the lives of the villagers, the strength of their superstitious beliefs, and the way in which these influence all their actions. All of Nance's charms and rituals are done to oppose evil, to protect and heal, and to ensure health and survival. The villagers believe in this and believe in her powers, often with good reason, since her herbal remedies effect cures. The tension between religion and folk-superstition, justice and judgement - all is part of the story and all is demonstrated through the lives of Hannah Kent's characters.

As the quotation below (chosen at random from many others) shows, Kent writes beautifully about the Irish land and climate:

"December arrived and bled the days of sunlight, while the nights grew bitter, wind-rattled. The water that pooled outside beneath the doorstep was tight with ice by morning and starlings lit upon the thatched roofs of the valley, circling the smoking chimney holes for warmth".

She is good, too, at suggesting the suspicions, and the half-hidden secrets and gossip which pervade the lives of the village people. And she has clearly done a great deal of research about Ireland in the 1820s; about folk-lore, herbal lore, folk-beliefs; and about the customs and yearly events and celebrations which shaped village life. The trouble, for me, is that every bit of research seems to have been written into the story. Sometimes this adds interest but at other times, as in the Sahmain (Halloween - All Souls' Night) scaring of Nora I found it overly contrived.

The use of accents on names (Micheal, Nora, Aine, Sean, Eilis) which made me stop and wonder about their pronunciation each time I met them; the often untranslated Irish words and phrases dotted into the text; the archaic language - all of this began to grate. It became predictable that yet another disaster would occur and be put down to magic. And I found the extent and depth of the villagers' belief in folk-superstitions overdone and hard to credit. My grandmother (born in the late 1890s) was, like Nora, early widowed and she lived in a small, gossipy, country village, She followed some superstitious practices and knew of a woman in the next village who, reputedly, had the magical power to stop horses outside her house and had broken a man's arm by witchcraft. None of these things governed her life in the way the superstitions of Hannah Kent's villagers govern theirs. Perhaps it was different eighty years earlier and in an Irish Catholic community.

From the start, too, Nora's hiring of a girl to help her care for her grandson bothered me. Nora had a small, poorly furnished, thatched cottage (presumably rented like most of the houses in the village), a few chickens and one cow. She sold butter and eggs when she could and her husband had been employed to dig ditches. Would a recently widowed woman, in winter when crops are scarce, fields bare and cows give less milk, have even considered hiring help? Could she have afforded to do so?

These caveats aside, The Good People is well written, has many tense and exciting moments, and will delight readers who love stories full of Irish characters, fairies and magic.

The Necessary Angel
C.K.Stead
Allen and Unwin
https://www.allenandunwin.com
9781760631529, A$32.99, paperback, 220 pages

C.K.Stead's characters live in a Parisian society in which intelligence is valued and literature and politics are widely discussed. So, although the themes of the book are of love and fidelity, the characters are sophisticated, witty and urbane.

Max Jackson, who has lived in Paris "long enough to feel at ease if not at home", is an expatriate New Zealander, a writer and a part-time academic in the Department of Comparative Literature at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. He is currently helping to organise a conference - a journee d'etudes - on eight French and English poets who were killed or wounded in World War 1, and he is also trying to work on a critical book about the authors Doris Lessing and V.S.Naipaul.

Sylvie Reynard, who has recently joined the Department, is also part of the organising committee and after a conference meeting she and Max get swept up in the Paris streets by Midsummer Night revellers and end up in Sylvie's flat. Their attraction is mutual but both already have partners.

Sylvie is living with a dour German, Bertholdt Volker, who is temporarily working in Paris and whose wife is in Berlin. Max and his French wife, Louise, are currently occupying separate floors in the house which she owns, but their separation is still tentative and they are still very much involved in each other's lives and with their two small children. Louise is also an academic at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, ranked above Max in the hierarchy there, and she is immersed in editing a new edition of major novel by Flaubert.

To add to Max's uncertainties, a student (not from his classes) appears in his university room to discuss a poem he had written long ago but which she has discovered and found 'thrilling'. She is a devotee of Gurdjieff, describes herself as 'mad', and tells him she is taking Lithium for a mental problem. Max is wary, fascinated and flattered by her determination to resurrect the long-buried poet in him.

This sounds like a run-or-the-mill, tangled, love story but Stead makes it much more than that. Paris and the French way of living are essential to the mood of the book and the actions of the characters. Literature, literary references, and detailed discussion of books like Martin Amies so-called 'Holocaust novel', occur quite naturally in the text. And recent political and terrorist events in France are part of general conversation. In addition, an old painting owned by Louise, which is believed by her wealthy extended family to be an authentic Cezanne (but which has never been formally authenticated), suddenly disappears from the wall of her living room. Jealous family members and the 'mad' student, Helen, are possible culprits.

Stead's writing is sophisticated, thoughtful, often wryly funny, and a pleasure to read. Through Max, he makes dry comments about the culture of French academia, and about writers like Naipaul: "The publishers put it out as a novel but it's really autobiography - and not interesting....He just sweats it out as a writer, doesn't mention his wife - and goes for walks!". And, at one point, we sit in on a provocative lecture which Max gives on Nabokov's Lolita. Stead's other characters are complex and interesting. And through Helen, the 'mad' student, he explores the disordered, intuitive thinking of an intelligent but mildly disturbed mind.

Stead, like Max, is a New Zealander and a writer. He is currently an emeritus professor of English at the University of Auckland, New Zealand Poet Laureate, and recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Fiction and is a Member of the Order of New Zealand.

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


Bethany's Bookshelf

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race
Reni Eddo-Lodge
Bloomsbury Circus
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
www.bloomsbury.com
9781408870556, $27.00, HC, 272pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: In 2014, award-winning British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren't affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race'.

Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanised by this clear hunger for open discussion, Reni decided to dig into the source of these feelings.

Now with the publication of an a comprehensive and detailed study of book length "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race" deftly explores issues ranging from the eradication of black history, to the political purpose of white dominance, to whitewashed feminism, to the inextricable link between class and race.

In the pages of "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race", Reni offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today -- and offers universal insights applicable to American race relations as well.

Critique: Offering extraordinary and articulate insights into contemporary race relations, "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race" is impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, and an essential, core addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues in general, and Race Relations supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Green Mama-to-Be
Manda Aufochs Gillespie
Dundurn
c/o The Dundurn Group
3 Church Street, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5E 1M2
www.dundurn.com
9781459736283, $19.99, PB, 256pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: What happens during pregnancy sets the stage for the rest of a child's life, which is why "Green Mama-to-Be: Creating a Happy, Healthy, and Toxin-Free Pregnancy" was written by Manda Aufochs Gillespie with the goal of helping to make this period healthier, happier, and safer for both mother-to-be and baby.

"Green Mama-to-Be" explores a variety of sources ranging from the latest scientific and medical research and advice to traditional wisdom, in order to reveal what issues, decisions, and avoidable dangers have the greatest impact on our children's health.

"Green Mama-to-Be" brings together this combined wisdom to demystify epigenetics, the microbiome, a healthy pregnancy diet, toxin-free living, pregnancy exercises, herbal remedies, natural birth, healthy postpartum care, and many of the other mysteries of modern birth and parenting.

Critique: A 'real world practical' but gentle source of guidance, written humour, and providing a thoroughly 'user friendly' compendium of specific advice from dependable sources, "Green Mama-to-Be: Creating a Happy, Healthy, and Toxin-Free Pregnancy" should be considered as an essential guide for today's mothers- and fathers-to-be. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Green Mama-to-Be" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

A Queerly Joyful Noise
Julia 'Jules' Balen
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu
9780813588391, $95.00, HC, 224pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Julia 'Jules' Balen is a Professor of English and a founding faculty member of Chicana/o Studies, Freedom & Justice Studies, and Philosophy at the California State University system's newest campus, Channel Islands (in Camarillo), has been involved in queer choral movement for almost 30 years and has dedicated her research, writing, service, and community work to creating greater equity for all.

In "A Queerly Joyful Noise: Choral Musicking for Social Justice" Professor Balen deftly examines how choral singing can be both personally transformative and politically impactful. As they blend their different voices to create something beautiful, LGBTIQ singers stand together and make themselves heard.

Comparing queer choral performances to the uses of group singing within the civil rights and labor movements, "A Queerly Joyful Noise" maps the relationship between different forms of oppression and strategic musical forms of resistance. "A Queerly Joyful Noise" also explores the potential this queer communal space creates for mobilizing progressive social action.

A proud member of numerous queer choruses, Professor Balen draws from years of firsthand observations, archival research, and extensive interviews to reveal how queer chorus members feel shared vulnerability, collective strength, and even moments of ecstasy when performing. The result is "A Queerly Joyful Noise" that will serve as a testament to the power of music, intimately depicting how participation in a queer chorus is more than a pastime, but a meaningful form of protest through celebration.

Critique: A unique and seminal study, "A Queerly Joyful Noise: Choral Musicking for Social Justice" is exceptionally informative and extraordinarily well written. An important and primary work of original scholarship, "A Queerly Joyful Noise" features sixteen pages of Note, an eight page Bibliogrpahy, and a five page Index. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library LGBTQ Studies collections in general, and Music/Cultural Studies supplemental reading lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Queerly Joyful Noise" is also available in a paperback edition (9780813588384, $24.95) and a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

Where the Water Meets the Sand
Tyra Manning
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
www.greenleafbookgroup.com
9781626342729, $15.95, PB, 264pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Tyra Manning learned that her husband had been killed in the Vietnam War from her psychiatrist at the Menninger Clinic, where she had been hospitalized for clinical depression. After years of battling addiction and depression, and coping with the tragic loss of her father at a very early age, Tyra's worst fear had come true. Larry had been shot down over the Laotian jungle while flying a top-secret mission, just two weeks before their daughter's second birthday.

"Where the Water Meets the Sand" is Tyra Manning personal memoir in which she recounts how she was able to persevere in the face of devastating loss. With courage, love, and determination, she overcame her grief and fulfilled promises she made to Larry before he left for Vietnam. She ultimately earned a doctorate of education from the University of Kansas and became one of the nation's top school superintendents.

When Tyra received a call from the air force in 2006, she was able to keep one last promise to Larry. His remains had finally been excavated after thirty-five years, and she was able to honor his wish to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

"Where the Water Meets the Sand" explores themes of loss, depression, addiction, courage, and love and offers hope to individuals and families who have also dealt with the loss of someone close to them.

Critique: An extraordinary and impressively candid account, "Where the Water Meets the Sand" is a compelling read from cover to cover and will prove to be an enduringly popular and valued addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. Thoughtful, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Where the Water Meets the Sand" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Good Bohemian
Michael Holroyd & Rebecca John
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
www.bloomsbury.com
9781408873625, $35.00, HC, 352pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Twelve days before her twenty-fourth birthday, on the foggy morning of Saturday 12 January 1901, Ida Nettleship married Augustus John in a private ceremony at St Pancras Registry Office. The union went against the wishes of Ida's parents, who aspired to an altogether more conventional match for their eldest daughter. But Ida was in love with Augustus, a man of exceptional magnetism also studying at the Slade, and who would become one of the most famous artists of his time.

Ida's letters to friends, to family and to Augustus reveal a young woman of passion, intensity and wit. They tell of the scandal she brought on the Nettleship family and its consequences; of hurt and betrayal as the marriage evolved into a three-way affair when Augustus fell in love with another woman, Dorelia; of Ida's remarkable acceptance of Dorelia, their pregnancies and shared domesticity; of self-doubt, happiness and despair; and of finding the strength and courage to compromise and navigate her unorthodox marriage.

Ida is a naturally gifted writer, and it is with a candor, intimacy and social intelligence extraordinary for a woman of her period that her correspondence opens up her world. Ida John died aged just thirty of puerperal fever following the birth of her fifth son, but in these vivid, funny and sometimes devastatingly sad letters she is startlingly alive on the page; a young woman ahead of her time (almost of our own time) living a complex and compelling drama here revealed for the first time by the woman at its very heart.

Critique: "The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John" by experienced biographer Michael Holroyd in collaboration with Rebecca John (who is an London-based artist and granddaughter of Augustus and Ida John.) draws upon such primary materials and resources as the intimate letters from Augustus John's first wife, Ida, thereby revealing the untold and candid story of married life with one of the great artists of the last century. An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Good Bohemian" is exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Good Bohemian" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.96).

Susan Bethany
Reviewer


Bonnye's Bookshelf

Psycho-Analysis Khedlar's Story Psychological Thriller of How a True Psychopath is Born - Book One: The Beginning
Catherine Nuza
www.catherinenuza.com
Publication Consultants
P. O. Box 221974, Anchorage, Alaska 99522-1974
www.publicationconsultants.com
9781594337291, $17.95, Paperback
9781594337307 $9.99, e-book, 242 pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Khedlar is an adult as this thriller begins. He takes you through the present with frequent flashbacks to prior parts of his life. As the book begins the story he weaves is straightforward, but as the story moves along, you can see and be as fooled by life events as he is. His bizarre childhood is horrible, but not enough to turn him into the psychopath he becomes, but the threads start there. The reader moves from reality to questioning what reality is to reality that conflicts with any previous reality, and only at the end does the reader finally understand how the threads that connect us to clear reality can be utterly deceptive and mind breaking. Even the reader gets lost in what's real. It's not that Khedlar's experience causes the reader to end up sympathetic to what Khedlar does, but the reader, starting with no understanding of the psychopath, can gain a bit of understanding how the mind can be removed from normal to psychopath

Critique: Catherine Nuza has written many words to replace what a short chapter in a non-fiction book could provide in knowledge. In doing so, she takes the reader through not only the surface experience of how the mind can be brought to ruin but also the opportunity to share experientially Khedlar's views as the reader moves through the book. The experience of reading the book adds depth to the surface knowledge of a non-fiction chapter, instead becoming a virtual reality. For the mental health uninitiated this can be a disturbing book. The work is amazing in what it has to offer even if disturbing. I highly recommend this book for academic and community libraries.

Homestead Girl: The View From Here
Chantelle Pence
www.ChantellePence.com
Copper River Press
P. O. Box 956, Slana, Alaska 99586
9780692773642, $TBA pbk / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com

Synopsis: Homestead Girl is a memoir of Chantelle Pence, whose parents brought her to Alaska as a young child, where she grew up on an original homestead. The memoir essentially covers her adult life while raising a family with occasional flashbacks to earlier times. The part of Alaska where she lives is seriously remote: Slana (population 147) near Tok (population 1,258) in the eastern part of central Alaska. It is an Ahtna Native area where her family settled and became part of the area. She has experienced feeling an occasional outsider among the Natives where she and her family were in the minority. She went through youthful feelings of guilt as having somehow been responsible for problems today's Natives face. The environment includes Mt. Sanford, a jaw-droppingly beautiful, snow-covered mountain, visible in her remote setting. It is 2,000 feet higher than Mt. Rainier in Washington State. Pence grows up transplanted and lives her life in true Alaskan style. She and her Native spouse raise three children. Resilient, when the local schools closed, they moved temporarily to Anchorage so their children could attend school. The telling of her first son's suicide is a haunting reminder of the tale of too many Natives in this state. In her remote home, running water indoors is a later-in-life luxury. Through it all, Pence's sensitivity to nature all around her is touching, though not surprising. Her description of following her husband's trap line alone and discovering a beautiful lynx trapped is especially Alaskan and poignant.

Critique: Chanelle Pence chose to write her memoir in short essays grouped into three sections: The Ancestors, The People, The Place. Her prose is poetic and her observations inspiring. She has the combination of connection to people regardless of who they are, a sensitivity to nature, and a realistic view of life. That combination gives her an amazing sense of gentle strength that comes across to the reader. The essay approach, nonetheless, lets her power punch her messages in ways that provide the reader time to ruminate on some of the essays, something that's helpful to gain the full impact of the words. I highly recommend Homestead Girl: The View From Here for libraries with Alaskan themes and for community libraries everywhere.

Bonnye Matthews, Reviewer
www.booksbybonnye.com


Buhle's Bookshelf

The North End Revisited
John Paskievich
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
www.uofmpress.ca
9780887557972, $39.95, PB, 240pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: The Canadian city of Winnipeg's North End is one of North America's iconic city neighborhoods and a place where its city's unique character and politics have been forged. First built when Winnipeg was the "Chicago of the North", the North End is the great Canadian melting pot, where First Nations and Old World immigrants cross the boundaries of ethnicity, class, and culture. It is a world of babas in babushkas and onion-dome churches, but also of poverty and resilience. Like New York's Lower East Side, the North End is also the place which forged its city's political identity of resistance and revolt.

John Paskievich grew up in Winnipeg's North End, and for the last forty years he has photographed its people and its spirit. Paskievich's films (many of which were made for the National Film Board of Canada), follow the lives of different outsiders, from Slovakian Roma to stutterers.

In "The North End Revisited" Paskievich brings together many of the photographs his now classic book The North End (2007) and adds 80 additional images to present a deep and poignant picture of a special community. Texts by critics Stephen Osborne and Alison Gilmour and film scholar George Melnyk explore the different aspects of Paskievich's work, and add context from Winnipeg's history and culture.

Critique: An extraordinary photographic study, "The North End Revisited" is an inherently fascinating volume from first page to last. This compendium of captioned black-and-white photos is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Canadian History collections in general, and Canadian Photography supplemental studies lists in particular.

Legendary Lumber
Joe Orlando, Tom Zappala, Ellen Zappala, authors
Peter E. Randall Publisher
5 Greenleaf Woods Drive, Suite 102, Portsmouth New Hampshire 03801
www.perpublisher.com
9781937721411, $30.00, HC, 240pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: The collaborative effort of baseball enthusiasts Joe Orlando, Tom Zappala, and Ellen Zappala, "Legendary Lumber: The Top 100 Player Bats in Baseball History" showcases the most desirable professional model bats in the history of our National Pastime while detailing the story behind the professional and personal lives of the men who became famous for swinging the lumber.

Hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult feats in sports and the baseball bat is the instrument to accomplish this tough task. Whether it is a thin-handled weapon built for bat speed or a hefty war club crafted for durability, the bat is the baseball player's most customized piece of equipment.

For each player featured in "Legendary Lumber", readers will find both a narrative highlighting a significant offensive accomplishment, as well as the story about the bat itself. They will learn about the interesting characteristics of each gamer along with specific player ordering habits, the distinct bat preparation and relative scarcity of the gamers featured.

These bat stories are brought to life with brilliant images and information, and along with the narratives of the players, make for a fascinating and fun read. "Legendary Lumber" presents a brief history of the baseball bat, and tips about collecting professional model bats. The players selected represent a cross section of baseball history, from the early days to the present-Nap Lajoie, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and the ultra-popular stars of the post-1980 period such as Cal Ripken, Jr., and Derek Jeter. From stick magicians like Keeler to Suzuki and all of the greats in between, there is something here for everyone.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated from cover to cover, "Legendary Lumber: The Top 100 Player Bats in Baseball History" is a remarkably impressive compendium of detailed information that is extraordinarily well organized and presented. An absolutely 'must read' for all dedicated baseball fans, "Legendary Lumber" is unreservedly and whole heartedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Sports History collections in general, and Baseball history supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Influencing Hemingway
Nancy W. Sindelar
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
www.rowman.com
9780810892910, $40.00, HC, 212pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899 - July 2, 1961) embraced adventure and courted glamorous friends while writing articles, novels, and short stories that captivated the world. Hemingway's personal relationships and experiences influenced the content of his fiction, while the progression of places where the author chose to live and work shaped his style and rituals of writing. Whether revisiting the Italian front in "A Farewell to Arms", recounting a Pamplona bull run in "The Sun Also Rises", or depicting a Cuban fishing village in "The Old Man and the Sea", setting played an important part in Hemingway's fiction. The author also drew on real people, including parents, friends, and fellow writers, among others, to create memorable characters in his short stories and novels.

In "Influencing Hemingway: The People and Places That Shaped His Life and Work", Nancy W. Sindelar (a board member of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park) introduces the reader to the individuals who played significant roles in Hemingway's development as both a man and as an artist -- as well as the environments that had a profound impact on the author's life. In words and photos, readers will see images of Hemingway the child, the teenager, and the aspiring author -- as well as the troubled legend dealing with paranoia and fear.

"Influencing Hemingway" begins with Hemingway's birth and early influences in Oak Park, Illinois, followed by his first job as a reporter in Kansas City. Sindelar then recounts Hemingway's experiences and adventures in Italy, France, Spain, Key West, Florida, and Cuba, all of which found their way into his writing. "Influencing Hemingway" concludes with an analysis of the events that preceded the author's suicide in Idaho and reflects on the influences critics had on his life and work.

Though much has been written about the life and work of the Nobel prize-winning author, "Influencing Hemingway" is the first publication to carefully document in photographs and letters the individuals and locales that inspired him. Featuring more than 60 photos, many of which will be new to the general and academic reader, and unguarded statements from personal letters to and from his parents, lovers, wives, children, and friends, this unique biography allows readers to see Hemingway from a new perspective.

Critique: Extraordinarily well researched, written, organized and presented, "Influencing Hemingway: The People and Places That Shaped His Life and Work" is a seminal work that is impressively informed and informative. An absolutely essential and core addition to both community and academic library collections in general, and Ernest Hemingway supplemental academic studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Influencing Hemingway" is also available in a paperback edition (9781538102404, $16.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Willis M. Buhle
Reviewer


Burroughs' Bookshelf

John Silence--Physician Extraordinary / The Wave
Algernon Blackwood
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
www.starkhousepress.com
9781514609804, $21.95, PB, 488pp, www.amazon.com

Algernon Henry Blackwood, CBE (14 March 1869 - 10 December 1951) was an English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. Now the Stark House Press has brought two of his classic novels back into print (and under one cover) for a new generation of appreciative readers.

'John Silence: Physician Extraordinary' is about an eccentric man of science, philanthropic by nature, who specializes in cases involving psychical afflictions. An authority on the occult after years of rigorous training, John Silence is more interested in curing a home of an ancient haunting than in curing a head of the common cold. Herein are six of his most unusual cases, including the story of the man who seeks to renew childhood memories while traveling through France, but instead stumbles upon a monastery of the dead; and the island camping trip that turns into a shapeshifting nightmare. Six spellbinding tales from the grand master of supernatural fiction.

'The Wave' is the story of Tom Kelverdon who ever since childhood, has been haunted by a recurring dream in which a giant wave hovers over him. Strangely, he is aware in the dream that it isn t a wave of water, but something else. There is a sweet smell that accompanies this dream, and a vision of two bright blue eyes. Even as he grows older, Tom never loses this feeling of the Wave his career as an engineer rides its own wave of success. Now in his 30s, he is reunited with Lettice, whom Tom had fallen in love with as a child, and meets up with her group in Egypt. So begins a strange journey that involves his impulsive cousin Tony also in love with Lettice as the three of them re-enact a doomed triangle from Egypt's dim past.

Critique: These two original and deftly crafted stories by Algernon Blackwood are offered in a paperback edition of "John Silence--Physician Extraordinary / The Wave", which is an especially recommended addition to both community and academic library American Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "John Silence--Physician Extraordinary / The Wave" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Adventures of a Hashish Smuggler
Henri De Monfreid
Adventures Unlimited Press
PO Box 74, Kempton, IL 60946
www.adventuresunlimitedpress.com
9781939149794, $16.95, PB, 284pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Henri de Monfreid was born on 14 November 1879 in Leucate, France and died on 13 December 1974) was a French adventurer and author. Born in Leucate, Aude, France, he was the son of artist painter Georges-Daniel de Monfreid and knew Paul Gauguin as a child. De Monfreid was famous for his travels in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa coast from Tanzania to Aden, Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula and Suez, that he sailed in his various expeditions as adventurer, smuggler and gunrunner (during which he said he more than once escaped the Royal Navy coast-guards cutters).

A nobleman, writer, and adventurer De Monfreid lived by his own account "a rich, restless, magnificent life" as one of the great travelers of his or any age. Infamous as well as famous, his name is inextricably linked to the Red Sea and the raffish ports between Suez and Aden in the early years of the twentieth century. De Monfreid had a long life of many adventures around the Horn of Africa where he dodged pirates as well as the authorities.

In "Adventures of a Hashish Smuggler", De Monfreid, who was not particularly law-abiding by nature and was essentially a professional gunrunner, tells the story of his one foray into the world of hashish smuggling during the 1920s. The source of the hashish was Greece, where hemp was openly grown. The market was Egypt, where the British government had banned the popular drug.

When De Monfreid got the notion of going to Greece to purchase hashish to smuggle into Egypt, he didn't even know what hashish looked like. De Monfreid arranged to have 600 kilos of hashish brought from Greece to Marseilles and then into Djibouti, a French colony. From there, he sailed with it in his own "boutre" or dhow and a loyal crew of natives (assembled when he had run the pearl-diving operation) up the Red Sea to Suez, from where the shipment was carried on to Cairo by camel caravan. Along the way de Monfreid had several close calls and met a number of colorful characters.

Shortly after de Monfreid's venture, the Greek monarchy was turned out and the Second Hellenic Republic was declared. Under strong pressure and with economic inducements from Great Britain, the new Greek government outlawed the production of hashish.

Critique: Originally published in 1935 and now brought back into print for the benefit of a whole new generation of appreciative readers, "Adventures of a Hashish Smuggler" is an extraordinary account that is an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover. A true 'time-lost' classic, "Adventures of a Hashish Smuggler" is unreservedly and wholeheartedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Adventures of a Hashish Smuggler" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.95).

Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays
Nicholas Delbanco
Mad Creek Books
c/o Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1002
https://ohiostatepress.org
9780814254165, $19.95, PB, 184pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Preeminent author and critic Nicholas Delbanco's "Curiouser and Curiouser" is a compilation of his essays that attests to his lifelong interest in music and the visual arts as well as both "mere" and "sheer" literature. With essays ranging from the restoration of his father-in-law's famed Stradivarius cello (known throughout the world as "The Countess of Stanlein"), to a reimagining of H. A. and Margaret Rey's lives and the creation of their most beloved character, Curious George, Delbanco examines what it means to live and love with the arts.

Whether exploring the history of personal viewing in the business of museum-going, musing on the process of rewriting one's earliest published work, or looking back on the twists and turns of a life that spans the greater part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, Delbanco's "Curiouser and Curiouser" invites adventurous readers to follow him down the rabbit hole as he reflects on life as a student, an observer, a writer, a lover, a father, a teacher, and most importantly, a participant in the everyday experiences of human life.

Critique: Inherently fascinating, deftly crafted, thoughtful and thought-provoking reads, each of the five essays comprising "Curiouser and Curiouser" is a true literary gem. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Curiouser and Curiouser" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.93).

John Burroughs
Reviewer


Carson's Bookshelf

Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel
Bob Batchelor
Rowman & Littlefield
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
www.rowman.com
9781442277816, $22.95, HC, 260pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: From the mean streets of Depression-era New York City to recipient of the National Medal of Arts, Stan Lee's life has been almost as remarkable as the thrilling adventures he spun for decades. From millions of comic books fans of the 1960s through billions of moviegoers around the globe, Stan Lee has touched more people than almost any person in the history of popular culture.

In "Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel", biographer and cultural historian Bob Batchelor offers an eye-opening look at this iconic visionary, a man who created (with talented artists) many of history's most legendary characters. In this energetic and entertaining biography, Batchelor explores how Lee capitalized on natural talent and hard work to become the editor of Marvel Comics as a teenager. After toiling in the industry for decades, Lee threw caution to the wind and went for broke, co-creating the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, and others in a creative flurry that revolutionized comic books for generations of readers. Marvel superheroes became a central part of pop culture, from collecting comics to innovative merchandising, from superhero action figures to the ever-present Spider-Man lunchbox.

Batchelor examines many of Lee's most beloved works, including the 1960s comics that transformed Marvel from a second-rate company to a legendary publisher. This book reveals the risks Lee took to bring the characters to life and Lee's tireless efforts to make comic books and superheroes part of mainstream culture for more than fifty years.

"Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel" not only reveals why Lee developed into such a central figure in American entertainment history, but brings to life the cultural significance of comic books and how the superhero genre reflects ideas central to the American experience. Candid, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, this is a biography of a man who dreamed of one day writing the Great American Novel, but ended up doing so much more -- changing American culture by creating new worlds and heroes that have entertained generations of readers.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel" is an extraordinary biographer that is a 'must read' for the legions of Stan Lee fans. Absolutely certain to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.19).

Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia
Robert Henderson
Bloomsbury Academic
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
www.bloomsbury.com
9781472578891, $114.00, HC, 368pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: "Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia: A Revolutionary in the Time of Tsarism and Bolshevism" by Robert Henderson (Honorary Research Associate at Queen Mary, University of London, UK, and the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters in the field of Russian history) presents the life of the journalist, historian and revolutionary, Vladimir Burtsev.

This exceptionally well researched and insightful biography analyses his struggle to help liberate the Russian people from tsarist oppression in the latter half of the 19th century before going on to discuss his opposition to Bolshevism following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

"Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia" traces Burtsev's political development during this time and explores his movements in Paris and London at different stages in an absorbing account of an extraordinary life. At all times "Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for Free Russia" sets Burtsev's life in the wider context of Russian and European history of the period.

"Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia" offers insights into such topics such as European police collaboration, European prison systems, international diplomatic relations of the time and Russia's relationship with Europe specifically.

Of special note is the extensive use of original archival research and previously untranslated Russian source material that are also deftly incorporated throughout the text.

Critique: A truly impressive work of original and seminal scholarship, "Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia" is a a critically important study that will be appreciated by all historians of modern Russia and the Russian Revolution upon which it is based. Enhanced with the inclusion of figures, a note on Transliteration and Calendars, fifty-nine pages of general Notes, a twenty-three page Bibliography, and a fifteen page Index, "Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia" is an unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library Russian History and Russian Biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with and interest in the subject that "Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $91.73).

Michael J. Carson
Reviewer


Clint's Bookshelf

Furry Nation
Joe Strike
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
www.cleispress.com
9781627782326 $17.95 pbk / $10.95 Kindle amazon.com

Synopsis: Furry fandom is a recent phenomenon, but anthropomorphism is an instinct hard-wired into the human mind: the desire to see animals on a more equal footing with people. It's existed since the beginning of time in prehistoric cave paintings, ancient gods and tribal rituals. It lives on today - not just in the sports mascots and cartoon characters we see everywhere, but in stage plays, art galleries, serious literature, performance art - and among furry fans who bring their make-believe characters to life digitally, on paper, or in the carefully crafted fursuits they wear to become the animals of their imagination.

In Furry Nation, author Joe Strike shares the very human story of the people who created furry fandom, the many forms it takes - from the joyfully public to the deeply personal - and how Furry transformed his own life.

Critique: Furry Nation: The True Story of America's Most Misunderstood Subculture lives up to its title as a fascinating study of a fandom subculture centered on anthropomorphic animals. To stereotype all "furries" as sexual fetishists is to ignore the prevalence of anthropomorphic animals in human culture, from cave paintings to animated movies to graphic novels and newspaper comic strips. Furry Nation offers an honest, candid glimpse into all aspects of American furdom, from comics and conventions to real-life "fursuits" and stage plays - and yes, the sexual fetishes that some (but not all!) anthropomorphic enthusiasts find pleasurable. Highly recommended.

The Toad of Dawn
Octavio Rettig Hinojosa
Divine Arts Media
www.divineartsmedia.com
9781611250466, $18.95, PB, 192pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Dr. Octavio Rettig Hinojosa is a Mexican doctor who works with the sacred medicine 5-MeO-DMT found in the secretions of the Sonoran Desert Toad (Bufo Alvarius).

Part autobiography, part introduction to entheogens and visionary substances, "The Toad of Dawn: 5-MeO-DMT and the Rising of Cosmic Consciousness" by Dr. Hinojosa gives an overview of the history, use, and the benefits of the toad medicine, and reveals how it can be used to initiate people on a spiritual path.

In the pages of "The Toad of Dawn" Dr. Hinojosa shows that 5meO-DMT derived from the secretion of the Sonoran Desert Toad is the most profound, most healing entheogen available, even more so than Ayahuasca, LSD, DMT, Psilocybin etc. "Dr. Hinojosa thinks of it as the Master of all entheogens, the one thing that brings someone closest to God, the Divine Source, to the big meaning behind all, and declares it to be the most powerful healer on this planet.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Toad of Dawn: 5-MeO-DMT and the Rising of Cosmic Consciousness" will be of special and particular interest to students of psychotropic substances upon the human brain. An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read, "The Toad of Dawn" is especially recommended for academic library Ethnogenic Substances collections and supplemental studies lists. It should ben noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Toad of Dawn: 5-MeO-DMT and the Rising of Cosmic Consciousness" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).

Clint Travis
Reviewer


Gail's Bookshelf

Truth: A Bigger View of God's Word
Randy Alcorn
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
www.harvesthousepublishers.com
9780736967471, $14.99, Hardcover

What is absolute truth when a secular culture encourages children to choose what gender they want to be in spite of who God made them to be, where evil is considered good and good evil, where good outcomes often justify a means to an end? While many of these examples make headline news today they also contradict reality, the state of things as they exist. It's also a denial of absolute truth, the theme of Randy Alcorn's newest book, "Truth: A Bigger View of God's Word."

In this release Randy pens two hundred, one-page meditations that take readers into God's Word to look for truth because God's Word is anchored in truth and never changes, unlike secular societies view of truth. The devotions, numbered one through two-hundred, are concise and take only minutes to read. Each reading begins with a Scripture verse that sets the theme for a short reading and concludes with an inspirational quote.

For example, Day 40's reading features a theme of trust. Scripture is from Proverbs 3: 5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

The brief devotion reminds readers, "God welcomes our prayers" which are reinforced by faith and trust in the Lord, while understanding the outcome is in God's hands. Our part is to pray and submit to God's teaching and guidance even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Charles Spurgeon's quote, "...faith's rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide," completes this reading.

Other readings focus on belief, Satan's lies, Christian's lack of motivation, spiritual amnesia, temptation, the spiritual family, Heaven, God's grace, truth, sexual immorality and much more.

The devotions rich biblical teachings feature concepts of reliable truth that leave no room for relativism, a belief that considers truth in light of current knowledge, behaviors and secular morality.

If you long for a transforming truth that combats feelings and circumstances, a view that detects the deceits of an increasingly secular society, "Truth: A Bigger View of God's Word" belongs on your bookshelf. It's a book that equips readers to recognize absolute truth and find their "place in God's plan."

Loving Moments: 59 Inspirational Stories of the Many Faces of Love (Divine Moments) Compiled & Edited by Yvonne Lehman
Grace Publishing
PO Box 1233, Broken Arrow, OK 74013-1233
9781604950298, $12.99, http://grace-publishing.com

"Loving Moments," number eight in Yvonne Lehman's "Moments" compilation series, features "59 Inspirational Stories of the many Faces of Love." The books royalties, as in eight other books in the "Moments" series, are dedicated to Franklin Graham's evangelical organization, Samaritans Purse.

Pacific Northwest authors, Terri Elders, Beverly Hill McKinney, Lydia Harris and Colleen R. Reece among many others share personal stories of love and life-sustaining faith. For example, Lydia's story, "A Valentine for Jesus, my Bridegroom," (pg. 27) features a theme of valentines, hearts and God's love that inspire readers to examine their commitment to the Lord in light of His sacrifice. For example, is your heart devoted to praise, thankfulness and patience or is your heart divided, self-centered and unforgiving?

Terri Elders narrative, "All Those Years Ago," (pg. 85) is about life-milestones, time-capsules a son's love and their shared love of music. To celebrate special days such as birthdays, her son records gifts for his mother of her years-old music favorites. Listening to the recordings bring back fond memories that memorialize and provide "candid snapshots of previous loving moments."

Colleen Reece's story, "Unspoken Love," set in the small, rural logging town of Darrington, Washington in the 1950's, reveal the impact of a father's love on his daughter. It's about a special trip to Everett, Washington and the purchase of a very special gift, "the only gift" Colleen ever received from her father, one that she still has and cherishes.

Beverly Hill McKenny's story, "The Locket," (pg. 113) is a tale of human love, faith and the heavenly Father's love for His children wrapped in a miraculous and unexpected birthday gift. It's a gift only a loving heavenly Father could provide that reveals He's a loving father who "makes anything possible."

Fifty-nine heartwarming stories of love and faith showcase the many different faces of love of husband, wife, son, daughter or devoted friends. The inspirational book's slim size easily slips into brief case or bag which makes them a perfect choice for spare moments, coffee breaks or doctor and dentist appointments.

The Delusion: We All Have Our Demons
Laura Gallier
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496422378, $15.99, www.tyndale.com

Laura Gallier takes readers into the chillingly realistic and mysterious world of spiritual warfare, angels and demons in her debut release, "The Delusion." The first-person story, told by high school senior Owen Edmonds who knows little about anything spiritual, will capture all audiences, young and old alike.

Owens move to Masonville High School halfway through his senior year gave him the distinction of "new guy" at school. While that was bad enough, "...that wasn't the worst of it." Eight high school students had committed suicide since September and soon four more would follow garnering the high school and town the headline: "Masonville Suicide Saga."

The suicides and move had made life more difficult for Owen who already had to cope with his mother's drinking. Still, he had earned a place on the high school's track team, met Jess, his soon-to-be-girlfriend and was surrounded by a group of great new friends even though they couldn't understand why he never invited them home.

When Owen unexpectedly met a weird old man in the woods behind the school who promised to tell him what was causing the suicide epidemic if Own drank water drawn from an underground water source, he did. The water had tasted normal going down and then sudden pain "hijacked his gut with the worst stomachache ever and his head throbbed!" Overwhelmed with the pain, Owens's last fear-laden thought was "I don't want to be number thirteen!"

Soon Owen will see chains around his mother, friends, teachers and classmate's necks with braids that protrude from the back of their heads labeled humiliation, shame, guilt and more. He will also see other dark beings like demoniacs he identifies as Creepers and angelic beings he's convinced are Warrior angels. Yet Own is the only one who sees these things.

Thus, begins a darkly sinister narrative of demonic activity and supernatural illusions in a fictionalized account of good versus evil with human souls as the prize.

After reading a third of "The Delusion," I thought the story very dark and wondered if teens should read it. Until the introduction of Ray Anne who has no shackles, chains or cords, who instead emits "a brilliant, golden glow" and Owen sets out to learn her secret and the story changes.

This well-drawn story elaborates on and reveals how Satan entraps people with negative feelings, experiences and behaviors. Gallier writes from a biblical perspective about a thought-provoking spiritual realm with a complex and gripping tale that carries a powerful punch. Fans of Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti will enjoy this action-packed story.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer
https://plus.google.com/112878134284824899387


Grace's Bookshelf

Born
Jon Boisvert
www.jonboisvert.com
Airlie Press
9780989579957 $16.00 amazon.com

I love this guy. I nearly called him up to tell him. Boisvert's poems are described as "surreal" but they are more than real to me. Stark and wry - Magritte's paintings are as close a visual that comes to mind. When I read Boisvert, poetry landscapes become a kinetic tapestry of wonder, loss and love. The only way to make sense of all this, he seems to say, is to turn objects of the world to a different dynamic. I don't know anyone who's doing it better than this poet. The question is: How does strange become do beautiful? Why is it that mysteries unfolded here are so clear? How does simplicity reveal depth? These questions have no answers but they live for me with the great staying power of this book. Everything on these pages delineates something left behind - not apparent but pretext and context, the nature of suffering, sometimes to the point of humor. Here is full truth. I want to tell the author these poems are understood.

Poet

There's a poet in town who's better than me.
I hear him on the esplanade give directions
to a tourist. Left, right. It sounds so
beautiful that I stop him, too. What do you
want, he says beautifully. Just speak more, I
plead, say anything, count to ten. Look at
that, he says after he's done, pointing to ten
flamingos gathered at the water's edge.
Thank you, I say, standing under ten black
balloons.

The Drowning Boy's Guide To Water by Cameron Barnett. Autumn House Press. 92 pages.
Some poets say things others dare not say. The good news is that Barnett does it significantly. He hollows out American tragedies, filling them with hard truths made permanent with poetry and story. Race is the issue and the shaping circumstances described here are visceral. Passion and meaning memorialize blacks who have been sacrificed over the years. His stories are his teachings; and his teachings show a promise unfulfilled - yet by the act of art, suddenly we believe we're finding a way out. How does this happen? Barnett takes our troubled times and breaks them down to individuals and events mandating our best attention. He generates, with perfection, language and tone that fit the victory of bravery for black people who were victimized, by expanding memory to durability. Poetry's metabolism is raised in this book with honesty and integrity.

Black Locusts

There are no gardens in my neighborhood,
just three black locust trees
in my backyard.
All spring, cream-white petals
blooming like baby teeth,
nectar drooling from the center.
In the summer they stand
as if for a portrait,
lined up like siblings
in the corner of my window.
I grow fond of how they bend
toward each other.
By autumn they droop
and withdraw like moody teens,
leaving all their trash behind them.
They are the children I pray every night to have.
In western Pennsylvania
three seasons go by in a day.
I'm used to it.
I take the leaf blower to their bases,
a stay-at-home father cleaning out
and rearranging rooms while empty-nesting,
whistling all the while.
Later, when winter comes,
I watch kudzu creep up their trunks,
wrapping itself over every inch,
stealing away the last bits on sun.
Before the first snowfall I'll sharpen a hatchet,
read up on girdling, stand at the window,
and wonder which sort of death they deserve.

Advice from the Lights
Stephen Burt
Graywolf Press
250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55401
www.graywolfpress.org
9781555977894 $16.00 pbk / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com

In the poem "Palinode with Playmobil Figurines" Burt writes of a mythical family, "...None of them know how low/ the imagination recedes..." and then we have a whole book to prove the opposite. Burt's imagination is optimized by his humor and glamorous idiosyncrasies. Each poem is a way of lambasting conformity and replacing it with trust for the fanciful. Recurring themes are we will not be heard, or; what we wish is not worthwhile, or; we have few alternatives; etc. but these are merely conventions so Burt's poems can prove them untrue. "Advice or Prayer for Airports" says, "...Let the technology work/ until it fails// Until it is free/ to rust..." but instead of annihilation the poem proposes, "...We should protect one another..."
And so curiously and courageously Burt keeps saving us by making poems that are small cultural changes - one device is to make a prophetic statement and wrap it in personal detail then take a hit for the team by being the fall guy for the poem. In "My 1983" the poem ends with a teacher's admonition: "... We'd like you to think/ about what might be interesting to your friends, not just about what's interesting to you."

Poems about the Speaker's young years are funny and sweet even though Burt is always making a fist - but don't be scared - when it opens only magic silk scarves and white doves fly out.

After Callimachus

So reactionaries and radicals complain
that I have no proprietary mission,
no project that's all mine;
instead, I am like a child flipping Pogs
or building with Minecraft bricks, although I'm past forty.
To them I say: keep rolling logs
for one another, but don't waste my time
imposing your inappropriate ambition:
marathon runners and shock jocks gain
by going as far as they can, but the sublime,
the useful, and the beautiful in poetry
are all inversely correlated
with size: shorter means sweeter. I'll be fine.
When I first rated
myself as a writer of some short,
wolf-killing, light-bearing Apollo came to me
as a ferret. Stay off crowded trains, he said; never resort
to volume where contrast will do. Imitate
Erik Satie, or Young Marble Giants. The remedy for anomie
lies in between the wing-slips of the cicada.
If I can't be weightless, or glide among twigs, or sate
myself on dew, then let
my verses live that way,
since I feel mired in age, and worse for wear.
It might even be that when the Muses visit
a girl, or a schoolboy, the intend to stay,
or else to come back, even after the poet goes gray.

I Never Promised You A Sea Monkey
CL Bledsoe and Michael Gushue
Editorial Pretzelcoatl
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781365869877 $10.00 www.lulu.com

Yup that's the right title, and the poems prove it. First check out the blurbs on the back. Two are from "Some guy Michael owed $5" and the other "CL's Cousin." If that doesn't give you pause, try to imagine two guys writing one poem, and then another poem, swapping lines, like Click and Clack or Cheech and Chong, but this time with intelligence, sophistication and a consummate knowledge of language (the high jinx kind.) Never mind sanity. (It's way overrated.) Strap yourself to the bed post and read this. It's really funny. From "BIRD (BRAIN) SONG," "Just because it rains doesn't mean you washed/ your car..." from "SATELLITES," "Don't take offense at me saying this, /but your brain has been removed and replaced/ with circuits, space jelly, and an alien clam..." From "PINK MOONS AND BLACK DOGS," "I can't remember the name/ but there was a song I'd never/ heard playing when you left..." From "I TOLD YOU," "The world is burning. Throwing hundred-dollar/ bills into the flames won't put out the fire..."

I promise I haven't used them all up. There's plenty more for you. The trouble is we'll never know who wrote which line by whom. Here's a poem written by Bledsoe and Gushue or maybe Gushue and Bledsoe.

You Deserve Better

The queen's not hiring any new fools - not even
to polish her crown. So I've got on these tights
for nothing. Tell me why I was born to see
the universe in a swirl of hair, time clogging
up the drain. Something smells like cinnamon,
and I can't seem to set it ablaze. I'm drowning
in love. Please don't touch me. Please don't stop
touching me. I hate everything about you
that could ever pity me for hating everything
about this. The best views are the ones
that make you the most dizzy. You, for example,
when I was watching you sleep. You weren't
the stars. You were the empty space the stars
wanted to fill.

Killing Summer
Sarah Browning
Sibling Rivalry Press
http://siblingrivalrypress.bigcartel.com
9781943977406 $14.93

Sarah Browning is a social activist; and poetry is a social action that stays. The book is a portrait of time spent in Italy reconciling a marriage, a compassionate look at our everyday struggles, and there are also poems that hark back to the vagaries of college days - coming-of-age - but what I like best is the way Sarah Browning tells us what a woman is. In "The great Books, or All Theory and No Practice" she ends, "... We didn't care about size. We would have done with/kisses, vague gropings in the woods, a book to tell us/how to love the boy in the world, the father and the land./The book of longing for each of us still writing. "

An ekphrastic poem I like is "Photo of a woman with nipples and a cigarette: "Is she baring or bared? //The flame is a nipple. I shake//when I see it. The nipples wing //the woman into me. They hum//in the kitchen late at night.//I am red wine in the glass.//I am a crumpled napkin//on the table. I am the flame.//I am traveling to the dark lips.//The flame will soon expire.//No, it won't."

Because Browning is a rebel and makes change in society Bigtime, her sense and sensibility about 'the personal' is like being invited into a room no one has gone and where she doesn't hide. She writes of love and friendship along with social commentary but how she does this makes all the difference. Each line in her poetry deserves the one before and the one after. This instructs the reader to keep moving - game on - there's more ahead - we want to stay with the story because Browning knows how to unfold and reveal, gradually gracefully, making emotional connections stanza to stanza. Motion is her strong point and this is led by feeling, exposed from image. I could describe her poetic style as a slow unleashing, or a gradual revealing. This is why there's no way we would turn away from her. The world of words shows who we are: light, heat, sorrow, song. It's all here. She's on the A team.

More and More

The trick is not to be so satisfied
with more and more of everything
that feeds a grievous hunger.
Bruce Weigl

I can't seem to account for my heart -
enormous crow on the telephone pole
cawing three times across the hidden
part of the neighborhood - alleys,
garages, cars on blocks, spilled
chicken bones and diapers.
The church bells are starting up.
In the dream, an old love appeared
and called to me. I couldn't reach him,
even the dream a cliche, each door
a false beginning.

The church bells play "America the Beautiful."
The mourning dove echoes a big wind
in the oak tree. Somewhere, as ever, a siren -
no Sunday morning peace. I outstare
the neighbor's cat. I think there is no god
lolling in the clouds, enjoying
the praise. So I beg forgiveness
of the cat, the overgrown garden.
There will always be two stories.
Mine will be the bad dream,
cliche, tut-tut.

How to Prove a Theory
Nicole Tong
www.nicoletong.com
Washington Writers' Publishing House
www.washingtonwriters.org
9781941551134 $15.98 70 pages

Well-structured words and clear thoughts collaborate to make beautiful declarations. These are poems of many theories. Among others, "Inaccurate Theory" where the speaker becomes one with nature; "Wistful Theory" about the losses of the earth; "Pink Pill Theory" is about human perception; "Some Theory" is the hope for belonging, especially to "place' - but what is a Theory? The dictionary tells us theory is "a system of ideas intended to explain something based on general principles outside of the thing to be explained." What a perfect definition for poetry! Tong begins with an emotional supposition and then explores this with image and feeling. Her tone is meditative, her language always chosen not for applause lines, but to say something the best way possible. Reading Tong we forget life's chaos and only care for her yearnings that are so well said; and Tong is not afraid to be quiet. This really works on the page.

Intimacy Theory

for John

In light of the river, the way it turns.
First a gathering of ice. Then snow

building a false start of the river's edge.
Tell me what's empirical: winter at my back

all season, snow turns to rain in my hair.
Tell me how many times today my body has

worked against itself. Thinking of you is
something like breath. A slow release of time

built up in my mouth. When there are no words,
no idiom will do: tie the knot, tie one on,

cut ties, tongue-tied. You are anything
but an obstruction. You are everything

if not each moment before. O
transitivity. O verb waiting to be.

Starshine & Clay
Kamilah Aisha Moon
Four Way Books
https://fourwaybooks.com/site
9781935536956 $15.95

Moon writes anthems, restoring life from ruin, memorializing those exploited, displaced, murdered. Each poem's a jewel for those lynched, hunted, killed. The massacre at Emmanuel AME Charleston, South Carolina 6.17. 15 is titled "Felicia Sanders's Granddaughter, 5:" "...Grandma was on top of me, warm. /Perfume, powder, sweat and smoke/stung my nose. I felt her heart/beating fast, so fast like after I run/but there was nowhere to run..." and in the poem "Samaria Rice, Tamir's Mother" "... Broken hearts bound/by yellow tape. Done living at this address of can't, /of never again, of not sorry for our loss. /Feels pointless, let me live the whole truth now/that my family has been shattered..." Literature triumphs when one has to recuperate from its force. When does Kamilah Aisha Moon make a difference? Whenever she writes a poem; there's no high fat content in these words. It's learned truth, muscular and viable.

It all works because of technique. Moon begins each poem a different way. Her entries are like entering a room with great expectations. Her poems come from a mind softened many nights in reading, before the writing occurs. It's a learned work with managed strategies of good craft as carriage. Poets who try for levels of persuasion don't persuade. Poets like Moon who rely on the radical facts of our humanity, and describe them well, produce a physical as well as mental response. Some poems here make my heart beat fast. This heroic writing is in the spirit of Nina Simone's Mississippi Goddamn!

Staten Island Ferry Ride

Boarding the boats, we risk
Middle Passage riptides
still rolling in,
badged sharks
in blue.

Today we board to march
for Eric Garner.
Hooked by hysterical
arms, he thrashed
like a caught thing
on the sidewalk.

We roil past Lady Liberty.
Draped in a dingy gown,
her smudged face
stares back.
Weeds grasp
her hem.

American Software
Henry Crawford
http://henrycrawfordpoetry.com
CW Books
9781625492319 $19.00 89 pages

Crawford's work is gloriously original and heartbreakingly truthful. He sometimes creates new complex presentations with experimental punctuation and page aesthetics. This requires equilibrium and dexterity keeping the words intact. Invention's circumstance is a tricky matter, but Crawford knows stories become special events by surprising content with form. Crawford has a canny ability to get into the psyche of personalities, having them explain themselves - Lyndon Johnson, Lee Harvey Oswald, Kurt Cobain, Richard Nixon - the monologues don't call for judgment; this is the quality to praise; one feels that these unlikely candidates get a natural strength from their own words. They make no apologies and merely tell what powered their lives. Poems about the Speaker's young life show some fierce hearts and inhumane characters, but the poems don't shirk their duties to transform. This is a luminous collection where the poet takes big chances interspersing mechanical detail, like mental notes, within the line. By this the author shows us who he is - someone willing to reorient words to challenge meaning, and with more than a little courage, trust the consequences.

Four Small Stories

1. A small boy witnesses the death of his father.
A week later he goes into the father's closet and
picks out one of his ties. He struggles with
the ends, unable to fasten the knot.
[The boy is the brother in story #4.]

2. A mother searches her son's desk drawer.
There is a small glassine bag of heroin in the
drawer but she doesn't see it. It's underneath a
diary that she is afraid to open.
[The mother is the woman in story #3.]

3. A woman stands on a street corner waiting.
She's going to ask her husband for a divorce.
Just as he arrives she goes to check her face
in a store window but is unable to see herself.
[The husband is the father in story #1.]

4. A man seeks forgiveness from his brother.
It is an old wound. They sit down
across from each other in a diner booth.
They talk until they have nothing more to say.
[The man is the son in story #2.]

Arrival: Poems
Cheryl Boyce-Taylor
Triquarterly Books
c/o Northwestern University Press
629 Noyes St., Evanston, IL 60208
www.nupress.northwestern.edu
9780810135147 $16.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com

One reason you may like this book is you can go to places you've never been and may never get to. Cheryl Boyce-Taylor takes us to glorious Trinidad with its dialect, eggplant, mangoes, lime-laden trees, banana leaves. Each place is a house for a story, a person, a relationship. And what it is to be a strong woman is writ large on every page. In the poem "Tools," she writes, "A woman's body has everything in it/to save her life//if you must/use your legs as raft/heel as hammer/ teeth as machete//monthly blood as healing salve/milk for building//breasts as shelters/learn to breathe//use your locks to suture every wound/learn to scream//learn to scream/learn to speak//learn to live/within the smallest muscle of your heart."

"This Pure Light" is a five-page eight- stanza poem, telling the story of a son who needs a kidney, interwoven with the conflicts all mothers face, that they not may not be worthy of their child's life. Here's verse 6: " That night I beg God to give me the burden forgive my sins/is it because I love a woman/God/I make a pact/God/I swear I will - "

In another poem about family, the Father is featured in a poem "Riding The World:" "My father had so many women/ he stepped between their funk/ riding the world Mambo/ Zouk Soca Chutney Bhangra//who could stop him his breath/thickening to paste/a caravan of limbs trailed behind him//a small room in his palm reserved for me/his river grew loud and deafening/long wounds on my mother's doorstep." Boyce-Taylor reaches beyond her native country, beyond herself, with archetypal language, and emotional endurance.

Tools

A woman's body has everything in it
to save her life

if you must
use your legs as raft

heel as hammer
teeth machete

monthly blood as healing salve
milk for building

breasts as shelter
learn to breathe

use your locks to suture every wound
learn to scream

learn to scream
learn to speak

learn to live
within the smallest muscle of your heart.

New To Guayama
David G. Lott
Spanish translation by Angel T. Tuninetti
Finishing Line Press
www.finishinglinepress.com
9781635342826 $19.99

It's a good thing Lott was new to this town in southeast Puerto Rico, because it allowed him to see everything with amazement. This he turned to poetry for nothing escaped the poet away from home, on sabbatical from his teaching position. He writes portraits of everyone and everything seen as if they were experimental methods that needed solving with imagery and imagination. You will enter Tito's neighborhood watering hole, the corner pastry shop, an ice cream shop - and we can visit these in the native language, each poem translated to accompanying Spanish. Being perceptive enriches a poet's life, writing about it enriches ours. As you can imagine, the townspeople will be suspicious of their newcomer and there will be adventures with the local computer repair man and phone company. What would you expect if you're new to your Guayama? These poetic investigations examine every starfruit and banana tree to the good. A poet leading an abundant life and writing about it just has to follow his best instincts and it'll work for us.

Carambola

the haiku master Basho
named himself
after the word
for banana tree -
it's true

but if he had seen
the starfruit tree
in this Guayaman courtyard
we might know him today
as Carambola

as every star is a sun in potential
every ripe starfruit
is a sun in miniature
and each carambola tree
a little daytime
constellation

ALSO ON BEST BOOKS LIST

All Soul Parts Returned
Bruce Beasley
BOA Editions

Fraction Rite

Solstice-swollen insomnia: its
nonordinary tempo, when I lie,
eyes open saying Latin Mass to the cadence
of my own pulse
and day-dreads hour after hour, from
ten-thirty dusk till
four o'clock dawn:
God from God, Light from Light,
Truegod from Truegod

Deum de Deo - with every jerking systole -
Deum - with every diastole - de Deo
on every breath-intake.
Deum verum
de Deo vero.
With Him all things are made.

Blood-throb
in the temple, blood-throb in the throat.
Pneuma-swarm and - throb seeking through the dark
something to bring back news of to the brain.

By-Whom-All-Things-Are-Made, make me again.

Stumbling Blocks
Karl Kirchwey

On the Janiculum, January 7, 2012

Earth has not anything to show more fair,
and you'd have to be dead inside not to feel something -
but what, exactly? There are scholars who could tell me
about the walls, arches, bath, and temples, and
it's not that I'm that I'm indifferent to such knowledge,
but long ago I learned to follow beauty.
The city lies flushed by sunset in its bowl,
the snow mountains on the far horizon like a dream,
as runnels of violet invade each street,
and what is left, on a winter afternoon,
is a feeling of joy so closely followed by grief
you might almost miss the moment of tenderness
in which both resolve, as if toward something vulnerable:
though the city does not have you, has never had you, in mind.

Drugstore Blue
Susana Blue
Five Oaks Press

Garden of Stone

That was the year of the garden, the year
we made nonsense. Arguments
could have had substance - the stakes
were important -
the use of the Oxford comma, for instance.
Instead, our sentences were seething
with venom,
Venus brought to her knobbed knees.

How could I know then you'd be one
among many, one in a garden of snakes,
leathery toads, nematodes?
I wished I could tell you something
Baroque-convoluted,
kissed you long and stringy.
Instead, I had trouble breathing,
locked myself in the folly,
a ruined pagoda. At least once a week
I said it was over because
that's what I always do when it's over.
I stayed,
kneeling among poisonous stems.

Memory turns things like that to stones
in the throat.
Foxglove.
Oleander.
Clusters of stinking nightshade.
There was a garden and then there wasn't.

Just Passing Through
M. Scott Douglass
Paycock Press

Roadside Fantasies

He likes the way she touches
everything with her mouth, licks
the salt on his shoulder, rips
a plastic bag with her teeth, catches
snowflakes on her tongue, nibbles
on babies' fingertips, bites her nails.

But none of it matters. It's all
road mirage, memories of interactions
that never happened, never will.

He's on a fuel break at a pit stop
beside a highway of strangers heading
in different directions. Alone
on a motorcycle with no radio,
no companion, his eyes rest on
whoever crosses his line of sight,
contemplate this randomness, this
almost meeting, reinvent the un-
remarkable as a means to pass the time.

Phases
Mischa Willett
Cascade Books

The Unmarried Poet Prepares

Since I will probably meet tomorrow
the woman of my dreams, mother
to my heirs, companion of hours,
the leaf grafted to my family tree
become branch, then trunk, the one,
the half, other actor, my final
lover and dancing partner over the
sprung stage of the rest of my life,
I am shaving today, so as not, tomorrow,
to seem too eager, like I'd dressed for it,
and tip the hand showing I know the coming suit.
Momentous meetings only carry relative
to the quiet covering them, I find. What kind of
opening line would that be? Hi, would you like
to be silent with me and revel in the hopeful
pregnancy of this newly seeded fruit? Our whole
horizon lines thrown open to time and the mountains'
glacial rise corrugating them? Too heavy, looming.
Hence the panic; hence the grooming.

Best Prose

Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views From "Poetry" Magazine
Edited by Fred Sasaki and Don Share
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
www.press.uchicago.edu
9780226504766 $24.00 hc / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com

Robert Pinsky's favorite poem project uncovered thousands of readers of poetry, proving poetry's place in the world is other than Mount Olympus. Now we have essays that present a permanent portfolio of responses to poetry by 50 distinguished individuals who make a living otherwise: actors, musicians, TV personalities, midwives, psychiatrists, military men etc., a spectrum of thought from people who don't usually think about poetry every day. These "views" were published in Poetry Magazine, features enlisting responses from writers and others outside of the poetry world. I've tackled the essays out of order and have more to read, but among my favorites is Jeffrey Brown's contribution because, well - because he's one of my favorites - and his inclusion of poetry excerpts are unique to his background in classical studies. That's the value of this assemblage. Each participant comes from a niche in which time and experience have been served. This book, in granular detail, is evidence that poetry's a great guide to a wider swath of the population that we knew, and that it is, not only for poets, one of the great rewards in life.

Best Literary Magazine

Little Patuxent Review
Edited by Steven Leyva
LPR Enterprises

This biannual journal features 30 contributors to literature and the arts, this time it's a Prison Issue. Notable is Ann Bracken's interview with Betty May a judicial activist working with incarcerated women, using theater arts to let women know who they are. A prose poem by Anthony "Akewi" Barnes demands profound attention for its sound wisdom in "Me And My Younger Self" where the present day poet imparts what he's learned to the person he used to be. Here's how he ends the 3-page prose poem:
...
It is through your will and
your vision that your future will unfold.

Cages are meant for no one. Experience is the teacher that has
no pity. Death once was a name that I called upon each morning.
Today I call for life. Right now you have no vision, thus your
tomorrows are certain to be empty. Luck is for those who'd rather
wait for things to come out of the sky. You must be a man of
decisiveness, for those who fail to plan, plan to fail, for those who
fail to plan, plan to fail.

Best Anthology

The Book Of Donuts
Edited by Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latha
Terrapin Books
9780998215945 $16.98 pbk / $7.99 Kindle amazon.com

The editors selected 55 poems by 51 poets, which include Denise Duhamel, Jack Bedell, Mira Rosenthal, Martha Silano, Julian Standard, Charles Harper Webb, among them. With all poets singing together - alive, nourishing, rich, they clearly define the range and power of the once humble doughnut. Poetry and confection make for a delicious marriage.

Here's an excerpt by contributor Jim Daniels "Donuts the Color OF:" "...The air smells/like - cold dirt? Factory oil smell/on my hands. Inside, I am careful not to touch the glass/counter while I point at the fat donuts/with thick white cream inside, the ones that are bad/for you, the worst...I inhale the warm dough and coffee. I sit/on a round red stool....The roads are lined with black-whiskered snow. /How about that? Snow that smells like exhaust. /Exhaustion. Every morning I pass the yellow donut lights - /how can I explain - I'm drawn to the lights..."

ALSO OF NOTE

BEST SPIRITUAL GUIDE

Being Light: A Guide to Living in Multidimensional Realities
Bryan Christopher
Foundation In Light
www.foundationinlight.org
9780996553704 $24.76 hc / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com

Sprit and Poetry are never without each other, Christopher writes of "Living in Multidimensional Realities. " Bryan Christopher found words for a place that before had no words. This is a distinctly different book from anything ever I've read before. Information, organization and artistry are here. Christopher has a lyrical mind and lets language tell an extraordinary story. A world-class spiritual leader and psychic. An electrifying revelatory book. This is a voice that never existed before. Highly recommended.

Grace Cavalieri
Washington Independent Review of Books


Joshua's Bookshelf

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
Drew Gilpin Faust
Vintage Civil War Library
c/o Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com
9780375703836, $17.95 amazon.com

While many Civil War books cover the battles and lives of Union and Confederate generals and presidents, This Republic of Suffering looks at personal material and explores the somber mourning of the American Civil War. In her bestseller book, Drew Gilpin Faust successfully argues that fear and death defined the nation in the Civil War. This was the first-time civilians confronted the reality of battles. Death in this massive conflict changed the American society, and caused the home front and soldiers to submerge in a great depressive state, where a whole generation of Americans had to face horrible trauma and great losses.

To prove her claim, Faust examines many primary documents, including family letters, soldiers' memoirs, and newspapers. The author successfully explains how American societal beliefs and traditions were challenged by the mass deaths and carnage during the Civil War. When their lives came to an end, the soldiers had to learn how to cope with an excruciating death without their loved ones being by their side. This management included a process called the 'Good Death,' where the soldier would try to make peace with his creator, knowing that if he was successful, he would be welcomed to Heaven with his fellow brothers. As there were fewer opportunities to write to their loved ones or see them before death, families would fall into deeper grief, not knowing where their loved ones were buried. The Civil War was the first conflict in American history that involved mass civilian armies, which resulted in mass graves. The Confederate and Union armies took turns on burying the dead, but at times the dead was left to rot instead of being properly treated with a military burial. Many bodies were thrown into mass graves. On the home front, there became an increasing movement to recover soldier's bodies, identify them, and give them a proper burial- this led to the creation of national cemeteries. Most of the dead were not recorded. As the conflict grew more intense, the meaning behind killing changed. The soldiers became brutal killing machines, discarding their honorable Christian values and murdering others because they had a duty to fulfill. Many engaged delight in killing 'rebels.' The men became animals, robbed the dead, and butchered the innocent. They were desperate to survive. Faust's evidence implies that the 'harvest of death' during Civil War tested the emotions of many on the home front and the honorability of the military.

Faust seems to be one of the few historians who have written about the dead during the Civil War. I, like most other readers, would want to know why not many authors have written about this subject. Many might feel that Civil War battles and biographical portraits of generals receive better reception from reading audiences. This might be true, as death is a depressing subject to talk about, compared with the happy tales of Abraham Lincoln or the Union victory at Gettysburg. However, there might be another reason- America was founded upon Christian values, and many authors want to positively show their nation's soldiers during the Civil War as heroic and as Christian people. Faust is not afraid to challenge the status quo and explain how many soldiers seemed to discard their Christian beliefs in order to kill. It was their duty to defend their nation's ideals and kill in defense, but Faust indicates that a majority of the men killed for sport on the battlefield. Men would brush off their kills without apologies or second thoughts, and continue killing with 'excitement.' They became animals, who encouraged the brutality of the war. Many kills were not justified, as generals on both sides purposefully sent thousands to their brutal deaths on many battlefields- it was a slaughter. Faust's approach might sound negative, but the truth stands. She had no problem pointing out the faults of the soldiers on the battlefields- they were not as heroic as many might have said. The men were fighting machines, ready to murder the opposing enemy, just so they could survive the horrible ordeal. Final verdict: Highly Recommend.

On The Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia
Clarence L. Mohr
Louisiana State University Press
3rd Floor, Johnston Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803
http://lsupress.org
9780807126912, $TBA

Many, including myself have read surveys of the racial divisions between the whites and the enslaved subjects in the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Not many have read these types of studies that are focused on the communities of Georgia. In On The Threshold of Freedom, Clarence L. Mohr, the history chair at the University of South Alabama, discusses the issue of slavery and it's gradual passing by looking into the history of a state that has received little attention by historians and scholars. Mohr successfully argues that by 1865 slavery had become an institution that was impossible to maintain and protect, as the basic norms of the old system and the white control over the enslaved subjects vanished under the constant pressures of the war - in the end, the war that the southerners had fought to prevent such changes, brought significant change to slavery and way of life in Georgia.

To prove his claim, Mohr examines many primary sources, including letters and diary entries, newspapers, and scholarly articles. In On The Threshold of Freedom, the author discusses how slavery became worn and out-of-date during the Civil War. As many southerners, including plantation owners went off to fight, many enslaved blacks were sent to factories around Georgia, where they would spend their days contributing to the war. In the factories, the whites overseeing them (many were women), had less control over the enslaved subjects than the former masters. In addition, the enslaved blacks also had the chance to read and educate themselves when working within the industrial environments, allowing them to become skilled people for the first time. This atmosphere in the factories led to a growing independence among the slaves. The enslaved blacks were not silenced subjects anymore- they were educated people who were starting to craft their own identities in these new roles, demolishing the traditional norms that had once held them as a separate 'breed of humans' from the rest of civilization. The chains of slavery and the southern control over the blacks were gradually breaking under the pressures of the war.

Mohr successfully evaluates the social fabric of the deep south. The author understands that every other book about Georgia during the Civil War describes William T. Sherman's famous march to the sea- in this book, Sherman's story is not present, as Mohr elaborates on the forgotten stories of the state by viewing the racial divisions and the collapse of African bondage through the eyes of Georgians. It is interesting to note that slaves worked in factories during the Civil War- today, many are taught and hold beliefs that slaves would only work on the fields. From this evidence, the book addresses the disappearance of the age of plantations, and the start of the industrial and progressive eras. Mohr's over-arching intention is clear- he wants to show his audience that whites and blacks each struggled to engage with the reality of the times. It were the faults of the white men and their leave from the plantations that allowed the slaves to explore traits of freedom. On The Threshold of Freedom also critiques the faults of the blacks, implying that the slaves did not take full advantage of their growing independence, allowing the returning white men to exploit the freedmen during the period of indentured servitude after the war. Mohr successfully brings balance to the slavery issue, implying that each side had faults, resulting in the fall of slavery during the war and the rise of white supremacy after the war- the author had no problem addressing his message. Final verdict: Recommend.

Joshua V. Chanin, Reviewer
https://joshuavchanin.wordpress.com


Julie's Bookshelf

I'm the One Pushing
Ivette Garcia Davila
www.imtheonepushing.com
Zinnia Press
9780999013809, $15.99, PB, 404pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: "I'm the One Pushing: A Practical and Renegade Guide to Choosing Your Own Motherhood Adventure" by Ivette Garcia Davila was written for every woman who discovers herself pregnant and asks herself the inevitable question of what happen now? Than when the baby is born and she's suddenly a mother must ask herself once again -- now what?!

Ivette tells all about pregnancy, delivery, motherhood, and everything in between using candid recollections of her own experiences and those of other renegade moms. Ivette deftly lays out practical, up-to-date information on all the options an expectant mother will be bombarded with ranging from choices about nutrition & fitness, to labor, to circumcision and vaccination, to the latest and greatest (and greenest!) baby gear.

In short, she arms you with everything you need to forge your own motherhood adventure and covers such issues as: How to detoxify your home and womb for Baby's health; How to "bump" with a bump; Which of those zillions of items do you really need for Baby?; The pros and cons of every labor option available (and there are lots!); The truth about breastfeeding; Managing the in-laws once Baby is born; Caring for a sick infant; Returning to work after maternity leave; Kicking mommy guilt in the butt.

Ivette's irreverent humor and unconventional wisdom sprinkled throughout will help expectant and new mothers to remain sane along the way -- well, as sane circumstances will allow. Above all, Ivette will advise you on how to master this whole motherhood thing without losing yourself.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, thoroughly accessible, "I'm the One Pushing: A Practical and Renegade Guide to Choosing Your Own Motherhood Adventure" is a fully accessible, comprehensive, and 'real world practical' guide to pregnancy and early motherhood that is unreservedly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I'm the One Pushing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food
Marcy Carriker Smothers
Disney Editions
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
www.hachettebookgroup.com
9781484782293, $35.00, HC, 176pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Two decades before the California food revolution, Walt Disney was planning a culinary revolution of his own. Walt knew that food could be more than nourishment -- it could be entertaining, too. The concept of families eating and playing at the same time was an innovation in mid-century America. Food in Disneyland wasn't gray or humdrum. It was full of fantasy and color!

"Eat Like Walt" is a culinary tour of the park's six lands. Every attraction has a story, and so do many of the menu items. Disneyland's food transports us as much as it satiates us, or as Walt declared, "The food is as fabulous as the fun, too."

Although Disneyland opened in 1955, its culinary history dates back to 1923 when Walt first arrived in Hollywood. Walt was a simple eater yet a big dreamer. By 1934, four years before his first feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be released, Mickey Mouse had made him famous enough to have a recipe published in Better Homes & Gardens magazine. And although Walt never set out to be a restaurateur, he became one, with four restaurants opening at his state of the art Walt Disney Studios in 1940.

From humble beginnings to becoming one of the most famous men on the planet, Walt was more of an everyman than a pampered celebrity when it came to eating. With food as the lens, Walt's private and work life are explored - including recipes from his home, his studio and his Magic Kingdom - ensuring anyone can Eat Like Walt.

Critique: A nostalgic and entertaining read from cover to cover, "Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food" is an inherently fascinating and impressively informative history of food concessions and restaurants associated with Walt Disney. On a personal note this reviewer remembers going to Disney Land in California back in 1976 and being simply fascinating with a coin operated Frito Chip dispenser that was in the form of a little mine shaft that would bring up a bag of Fritos in an ore car with the Frito Chip Kid singing out it's arrival. Profusely illustrated from cover to cover,"Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food" is unreservedly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, family, and community library collections!

Sexual Integrity
J. A. Dennam
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
www.cleispress.com
9781627782043, $15.95, PB, 240pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: A career woman to a fault, Brooke Monroe vows to earn back the graphic art business her father sold, robbing her of her birthright and costing an office-full of employees their jobs. The arrogant team of outsiders appears to have no sympathy, a fact that sets her blood boiling. As one of the only survivors of the takeover, Brooke finds herself face-to-face with the devilishly handsome Ethan Wolf as they vie for the position of Vice President of Monroe Graphics.

Ethan is ready for Brooke and her amusing attempt to emerge the victor: the woman's stiff exterior and fiery green eyes both fascinate and infuriate him like no other. As the sparks of rivalry fly, so begins a reluctant attraction between the two VP candidates.

When an accidental encounter in the darkroom reveals an undeniable chemistry between them, Brooke and Ethan's fight turns dirty and detours to the bedroom. Once the clothes come off, their biggest challenge is keeping sex out of the workplace...and keeping their feelings at bay until after the competition.

But when a corporate leak is discovered and Brooke is blamed as the obvious culprit, will Ethan trust her enough to believe her claims of innocence? Or will Brooke's chance at love and her father's company be forever out of reach?

Critique: A deftly crafted novel for mature readers, "Sexual Integrity" showcases author J. A. Dennam's genuine flair for original storytelling, the creation of memorable characters, and the construction compelling, entertaining fiction. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists, it should be noted that "Sexual Integrity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Julie Summers
Reviewer


Linda's Bookshelf

Beach House for Rent
Mary Alice Monroe
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10002
www.simonandschuster.com
9781501125461, $26.00, Hardcover

Beach House for Rent debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List when it was published on June 20 this year. It is the fourth book in Mary Alice Monroe's popular "Beach House" series and loosely related to her "Lowcountry Summer" series, each of which can be read and enjoyed as standalone novels. The author has been recognized for her environmental conservation work as well as her award-winning lyrical storytelling that has developed and matured with time and the experience of having written and published twenty novels, a picture book and one work of nonfiction. She is a 2018 inductee into the South Carolina Literary Hall of Fame who will be formally inducted in the spring. The writer is a painter of vivid word pictures of the South Carolina Lowcountry. If you like Pat Conroy, Dorothea Benton Frank, Cassandra King or Sue Monk Kidd, you should make room in your heart and on your bookshelves for nature writer Mary Alice Monroe. Like her previous work, Beach House for Rent is a soul satisfying read, well-suited for book discussion groups. She works to preserve the coastal shoreline and its endangered, voiceless inhabitants such as the various leatherback and the giant loggerhead sea turtles, birds of prey and migrating shorebirds, butterflies, and dolphins.

The individual books are richly layered and textured, intertwining the human protagonists and their physical surroundings. The situations, emotions and dynamic complexities of relationships between the fictional families and couples depicted mirror a commonality of real-life readers' experiences such as aging, addictions, infidelity, illness, divorce, death, and financial problems. This is not to suggest the novels are depressing or gloom-filled as they actually celebrate the joys of living a full, rich life: the music, love, laughter and good times spent in the company of family and friends. They have a positive message about love and loyalty, working together and creating and sharing heritage and traditions. Each novel spotlights a significant environmental issue or concern by focusing on a specific species of animal and at the same time draws attention to a broader range of social problems. A Lowcountry Christmas, a 2017 Southern Book Prize winner, sensitively tackled Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with an inspirational story about a Veteran of the Wars in the Middle East and his service dog. (www.petsforvets.com has information about a worthwhile service organization.) Beach House for Rent is a sweet tale with poignancy and depth about two unlikely housemates who are facing personal demons. Homeowner Cara Rutledge, already familiar to series readers, is compelled to temporarily move in with her beach house tenant, a gifted but fragile artist named Heather Wyatt, a wildlife painter of shorebirds, more comfortable with birds than people. Readers are exposed to grief from an unexpected sudden death, Heather's crippling anxiety bordering on agoraphobia, the rehabilitation of an injured Brown Pelican and because this is "summer beach reading", a little romance. This beautifully written, thought provoking book explores beauty in nature and the complexity of human relationships as it delves into the human psyche.

The Beach House, published in 2002 and re-issued in 2017, introduced many of the familiar characters. Monroe caught us up with them in 2007's Swimming Lessons, and Beach House Memories, a best-selling prequel from 2012 which had been intended to complete a loosely composed trilogy The characters are so well liked that three books proved insufficient as the fans spoke up and demanded, "More please," and the writer and publisher agreed. Beach House for Rent is a welcome addition to a well-regarded series. Fans will be pleased to learn, by acclaim, a fifth book, Beach House Reunion is in the works and scheduled for publication in May, 2018.

South Carolina's "Lowcountry" covers a broad section of the coastal area of the state distinctive for its subtropical climate, distinctive architecture, and fine cuisine. The four counties of Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper along with the Resort Islands are roughly defined as Lowcountry, from North Charleston to the Georgia border. Mary Alice Monroe's novels, whether set in the wild dunes section of the Isle of Palms, on Sullivan's Island, or in the historic district of Charleston, hold the readers' rapt attention.

Antebellum agriculture was dependent on the trio of indigo, rice and cotton, while tourism is preeminent in the 21st century economy. Travelers are drawn to the attractions of historic and cultural sites as well as a plethora of fine restaurants, golf, tennis and beach resorts. There has also been a rise in eco-tourism with guided outings by foot or kayak to quietly observe native species of shore birds, turtles and to marvel at dolphins in the wild. Writers find a bounty of inspiration in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Mary Alice Monroe celebrates the beauty of nature and works diligently to promote conservation ensuring that the Lowcountry remains a welcome haven for residents, visitors and all living creatures that co-exist there.

I've been a fan and advocate for Mary Alice Monroe's work since I was introduced to Beach House Memories. I swiftly caught up with the back catalog including Second Star on the Right, her first novel written as Mary Alice Kruesi, an Avon published re-imagined, updated tale of Peter Pan as romance fiction. I think she could write about environmentally friendly rice cereal and I would be pleased to read it.

Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Sarah Miller
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins
195 Broadway, New York, New York 10007
www.harpercollins.com
9780062685346, $25.99, Hardback

Caroline: Little House, Revisited is one of the latest additions to the growing body of works honoring the enduring legacy of writer Laura Ingalls Wilder whose "Little House" series has not been out of print since her first richly imagined autobiographical novel appeared in 1932. Caroline is a skillful blending of facts and historical fiction lent gravitas by way of an official authorization by the guardians of the heritage. The title page included the statement: "With the full approval of Little House Heritage Trust." Author Sarah Miller was chosen to write about the anchor of this pioneering family, Caroline Quiner Ingalls, known familiarly as "Ma." She embodied love, loyalty and resourcefulness as she cheerfully and capably kept home and hearth together through several root wrenching moves westward as husband Charles pursued his hopes and dreams. The book is a departure from the usual Laura-centric focus or later speculations about the extent of collaboration between the beloved author and her journalist daughter Rose Wilder Lane who helped shape her mother's work.

Ms. Miller set the novel in Rutland Township in the Indian Territories of Kansas in the year 1870 approximating the Ingalls family's relocation from their snug "house in the Big Woods" of Pepin, Wisconsin. In the authors' notes, she acknowledged taking artistic license with the exact dates of their actual route which included sojourns in Missouri and back to Kansas but as with Laura Ingalls Wilder's popular series facts aren't permitted to rudely interrupt a good story. Caroline Ingalls' emotions, thoughts and inner feelings are deftly evoked by this respected writer whose earlier works of historical fiction include The Lost Crown (the last days of the Romanovs), Miss Spitfire (Anne Sullivan's experience teaching Helen Keller) and a well-regarded work of non-fiction The Borden Murder: Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century. She is currently working on a book about the Dionne Quintuplets. Her lengthy literary career began as a bookseller followed by a 13 years stint as a librarian while researching interesting subjects to launch her writing career.

I read Caroline, published on September 19, 2017, as an advance reading copy sent to me in July and liked the idea of voicing her character in first person. However, I ultimately valued the author's research more than the overtones of romance fiction in the novel. As an adult, Caroline Ingalls seemed too placid to me to be real. Her equanimity in the face of upheavals, financial and personal sacrifices and losses (the death of baby Freddie), fires, scarcity, loneliness, and the threats of Indian attacks was unshakeable. Her voice was even, well-modulated and never raised in anger. If she was ever frustrated or worried by her husband's precipitous decisions to uproot the family once again, it was not addressed by daughter Laura. The real Caroline was better educated than many women of her era, certainly better than her husband and had taught school before marriage. Fiddle-playing Charles was more of a skilled carpenter than a successful farmer for whom the grass perpetually seemed greener elsewhere or someone who, perhaps, longed for change. His daughter Laura portrayed "Pa" as a genial man with many talents and an ability to soothe babies, reassure small children and charm his wife. The real Caroline Lake Quiner and Charles Phillip Ingalls both came from large families which probably gave them excellent preparation for parenthood.

A couple of months after reading Caroline, I chanced upon Marta McDowell's work of nonfiction The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, subtitled The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books which had been released a day later on September 20, 2017. It proved to be a more satisfying read for me and included some interesting facts about the Quiner/Ingalls family. I had not realized that Caroline's sister Eliza Ann Quiner was married to Charles' brother Peter Riley Ingalls nor that her brother Henry N. Quiner, Jr. married Charles' sister Polly Melona Ingalls and that the three families had all lived in Pepin, Wisconsin and naturally, their offspring would all be double first cousins. Perhaps Pa Ingalls needed a breath of fresh air or time away from an extremely close-knit family in such a small community but it must have been a heartbreaking experience for Caroline.

I was pleased to read in Marta McDowell's book that the Ingalls family's final move was to De Smet, then Dakota Territory, which achieved statehood as South Dakota in 1879. Charles and Caroline moved from sod home to permanent home built by Charles but remained in South Dakota and are buried there. Sweet Caroline finally put her foot down and refused to consent to relocating to Oregon. Sarah Miller doubtless knew these facts but her novel's time frame is about 18 months. Caroline is sure to be read by the legions of enduring "Little House" fans and would make a fine choice for book discussion groups.

I believe there is a generation gap or two in Laura Ingalls Wilder readers. There are the older readers like me who first read the Garth Williams illustrated books beginning in second or third grade and fell in love with this enchanting set of realistic adventure stories. In Little House in the Big Woods, writer and young heroine, Laura, was someone to identify with as she was nine year's old or about the average age of a childhood reader but also a bright, spirited child who served as role model. She was ever inquisitive, an avid learner and a self-contained family helper, appreciative of the beauty in her surroundings yet independent unlike her obedient older sister Mary. One could easily imagine stepping back in time and place as young pioneers and my friends and I eagerly devoured the eight books in the series observing Laura's transition to adulthood. The images were vivid and still capable of generating some fond memories of the books and the Peter White Library in Marquette, Michigan where I obtained my first library card. The succeeding generations of "Little House" fans were introduced to the historical autobiographies as viewers of the long-running television series (9 seasons, 205 episodes) which began in 1974 and has been shown since in perpetual re-runs. The rabid fans might be shocked but I hope would agree with my right to express the opinion that I absolutely abhorred the TV show finding it to be unbelievable, inauthentic and unwatchable. The sight of the diminutive, grinning Michael Landon sporting a 20th century bouffant hairdo was cringe worthy to me even before he opened his mouth. (Note: I didn't dislike the actor in other roles.) The television show is widely credited with not only rekindling an interest in the books but also with creating an entire cottage industry. The books were and remain a magical gateway to the past regardless of how readers come to discover them. They are enduring classics that spark a desire to learn more about the real woman who was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Author Sarah Miller's richly imagined Caroline is definitely worth reading and discussing.

The Chords of War
Christopher Meeks and Samuel Gonzalez, Jr.
White Whisker Books
www.whitewhiskerbooks.com
9780986326523, $16.95, Trade Paperback

The Chords of War may be destined to have the impact of All Quiet on the Western Front as the defining novel of the Millennials' war in Iraq. It has already made my 2017 Top Three list of books. Christopher Meeks collaborated with US Army and Middle East War Veteran, musician and filmmaker Samuel Gonzalez, Jr. to fictionalize the defining moments of his life. I would recommend this as a brilliant illustration of the futility of the nearly three decades long ongoing war in Iraq which began with Operation Desert Storm in January, 1991. The region is devastated yet fighting continues with untold damage to the most basic infrastructure with high civilian casualties and a mounting death toll, horrific injuries and a spike in cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to United States ground forces as now two generations of American troops have been deployed and redeployed here. Samuel Gonzalez, Jr. served honorably and proudly with distinction and the purpose of his story is not to make a war protest. His life altering, coming of age experiences fortunately might be summed up as "he came from music and returned to music and embraced filmmaking."

The Chords of War chronicles the character Max Rivera's sudden decision to enlist in the US Army in order to install some discipline and structure into his life and at the same time to save his enlistment bonus to help fund film school upon his discharge. Following high school, seventeen year old Max was untethered, homeless, drifting with somewhat vain hopes of succeeding with a band he founded. Ousted by a dominant band mate who also stole his girlfriend, the Army would serve a dual purpose as he left music behind. He joined the service in 2006 and following basic training was sent to Iraq as a military police officer as part of the surge in Baquabah during the height of the war. His company was diverse both ethnically and culturally with 15% comprised of women who were among the first of their sex in combat. Despite edicts of no fraternization between sexes, relationships and hook-ups developed and lifetime friendships as well as music was made in this dusty, hot and extremely foreign desert. After more advanced training using computer models with simulated weaponry, aka video games, his unit is then thrust into horrific actual combat.

Max gained confidence and competence as a combat soldier, made friends and coped with the danger and stress by forming a band with other musicians and singers in the unit. His talent and energy was recognized by senior officers and the band was then tasked with entertaining the troops.

Music has been an integral component of military exercises and wars since the dawn of time. Various Roman trumpets heralded the might and force of the armies. Tubas played signals to charge and retreat sufficiently loudly to be heard during the din in battle. Cornu sounds (a precursor to cornet) regulated movement of the Color Guard and accompanied soldiers as they were laid to rest. Roman invaders introduced bagpipes to the British Isles which were quickly adopted by the Scots and the Irish with variations. Our Revolutionary War soldiers marched with fife and drum and sang harmonies during encampments. The Confederate Forces Rebel yell unnerved the enemy while signaling to and rallying comrades-in-arms. Robert E. Lee is quoted as saying, "I don't believe we can have an army without music." Battle hymns and popular tunes, some penned by Stephen Foster, endure in recorded music and songbooks. Each generation of young men who go to war has been accompanied by their own brand of contemporary music. World War I ballads and spirited marches balanced sentimental yearning for home with morale building and inspired patriotism. During World War II, radio and films made music more accessible for all with a lively combination of swing, jazz, Big Band and humor. Vietnam War era music reflected a more conflicted United States with hawkish tunes "Ballad of the Green Beret" competing for air waves against protest songs like "Fortunate Son", "Eve of Destruction" and "We've Got to Get out of this Place." Max Rivera's high energy punk dance music is part of the millennial generations' sound and the pulse of The Chords of War.

Joining the military has provided security or been a gateway for many young men (and women) to better education and careers. After 9/11, enlistments spiked in all branches of the military again demonstrating patriotism is ever a motivator for joining the service. Bronx born, central Florida reared Gonzalez has shared his authentic, first-hand combat experiences on the frontlines of Iraq and it is certainly an eye-opener. My late father was a highly decorated, career military Master Sergeant, Veteran of both WWII and Korea who used to shake his head and say, "It's not my Army, anymore" and while he would be appalled at the women in combat, would immediately stand and salute our military and our veterans with gratitude.

Consummate wordsmith Christopher Meeks has done it again. He is an established award winning fiction writer, playwright, educator and fine storyteller who leaves this reader hanging on each word and savoring the phrases. His works include several collections of short stories, three previous novels, Love at Absolute Zero, Blood Drama and A Death in Vegas, and has had three plays produced.

Samuel Gonzalez, Jr. is to be lauded for sharing his memories and biography which inspired Chris to use his unique perspective, distinctive voice, to write clear and forthright prose with humor and depth of feelings in The Chords of War. This novel needs to be read and shared. It is well suited for a book discussion group willing to read substantive fare.

Linda Hitchcock, Reviewer
National Book Critics Circle


Logan's Bookshelf

What Democracy Looks Like
Christina R. Foust, Amy Pason, Kate Zittlow Rogness, eds.
The University of Alabama Press
PO Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0380
www.uapress.ua.edu
9780817358938, $34.95, PB, 296pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Recent social/political protests movements around the world (such as the Arab Spring uprisings and Occupy Wall Street movements) have drawn renewed interest in academia to the study of social change and, especially, to the manner in which words, images, events, and ideas associated with protestors can "move the social".

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Christina R. Foust (Associate Professor and Chair of Communication Studies at the University of Denver); Amy Pason (Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno); and Kate Zittlow Rogness (who teaches at Hamline University and whose work has appeared in First Amendment Studies and the Western Journal of Communication), "What Democracy Looks Like: The Rhetoric of Social Movements and Counterpublics" is comprised of ten erudite articles of impeccable scholarship by expert contributors in the attempt to foster a more coherent understanding of social change among scholars of rhetoric and communication studies by juxtaposing the ideas of social movements and counterpublics -- historically two key factors significant in the study of social change.

The theories of social movements and counterpublics are related, but distinct. Social movement theories tend to be concerned with enacting policy and legislative changes. Scholars flying this flag have concentrated on the organization and language (for example, rallies and speeches) that are meant to enact social change. Counterpublic theory, on the other hand, focuses less on policy changes and more on the unequal distribution of power and resources among different protest groups, which is sometimes synonymous with subordinated identity groups such as race, gender, sexuality, and class.

Nonetheless, in "What Democracy Looks Like", the contributors argue persuasively that in recent years the distinctions between these two methods have become less evident. It is by putting the literatures of the two theories in conversation with one another, that these scholars succeed in seeking to promote and imagine social change outside the typical binaries.

Critique: An impressive body of seminal and original scholarship, "What Democracy Looks Like: The Rhetoric of Social Movements and Counterpublics" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Rhetoric, Communication Studies, and Social Science reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "What Democracy Looks Like" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.99).

SS Das Reich At War 1939 - 1945
Ian Baxter
Pen & Sword Books
https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk
9781473890893, $22.95, PB, 144pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Between 1933 and 1939, the strength and influence of the SS grew considerably with thousands of men being recruited into the new ideological armed formation, many into units known as the SS-Verfgungstruppe (Special Disposal Troop). These troops saw action in Poland before switching to the Western Front in 1940. Out of this organization the SS Das Reich Division was created.

Ian Baxter's "SS Das Reich At War 1939 - 1945: A History of the Division on the Western and Eastern Fronts", with its extensive text and over 250 rare and unpublished photographs with detailed captions describes the fighting tactics, the uniforms, the battles and the different elements that went into making the Das Reich Division such a formidable fighting force. The individual chapters reveal the Division as it battled its way through Poland, the Low Countries, the Balkans and the Eastern Front. Finally the Das Reich defended Normandy before falling back to Germany. The Division gained its fearsome and notorious reputation for its fighting ability, often against vastly numerically superior forces, as well as its fanatical zeal.

Critique: An extraordinary visual study, "SS Das Reich At War 1939 - 1945" is a critically important and appreciated contribution to the growing library of World War II Military History collections. Unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "SS Das Reich At War 1939 - 1945" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.77).

Carl Logan
Reviewer


Margaret's Bookshelf

Beyond Beauty
Alexandra Villarroel Abrego
SelectBooks, Inc.
87 Walker Street, Suite B1, New York City, NY 10013
www.selectbooks.com
9781590793848, $16.95, PB, 192pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: "Beyond Beauty: A Guide to Self-Love, Self-Confidence, Full Feminine Power" by trilingual certified life coach, author, international speaker, and businesswoman. Alexandra Villarroel Abrego is a self improvement and self-empowerment book for women who want to live more confident and purposeful lives. It is a powerful step-by-step guide to self-awareness, growth and fulfilment.

More than a just another self-help book, "Beyond Beauty" reveals a way of being for the next generation. The first part of "Beyond Beauty" focuses on the body; on everything that has to do with the outer self. The second part puts an emphasis on the mind, while the third and last part of the "Beyond Beauty" is all about the spirit.

Throughout "Beyond Beauty", the reader will learn how to feed the body, mind and spirit, in order to become whole. Not only is "Beyond Beauty" a complete guide on self-confidence and self-esteem geared towards Generation Y, but it is also a 'go to' instructional reference for anyone who wants to live a more purposeful, miraculous and fulfilling life.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Beyond Beauty: A Guide to Self-Love, Self-Confidence, Full Feminine Power" is an extraordinary, life-changing, life-enhancing read that is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and college/university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life
Melanie Falconer
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
www.atlantic-pub.com
9781620232019, $19.95, PB, 178pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: "The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life: Skills & Strategies for Handling Roommates" by Melanie Falconer provides prospective college students with an idea of what to expect before ever stepping foot into their new living space. "The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life" is packed from cover to cover with a wealth of tips and tricks ranging from sleeping patterns to handling unwelcome guests.

Personality traits can be a source for a lot of conflict. "The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life" unravels how to deal with different types of roommates, such as neat freaks and slobs. Fighting over who does the dishes may seem like biggest problem there will ever be, and "The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life" cover that, but if things get seriously bad, that's covered, too. "The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life" even addresses roommates that are depressed, have an eating disorder, or have a substance abuse problem.

"The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life" is uses illustrative case studies garnered from hours of interviews with college students, both new and graduated. From roommates is using your personal stuff, staying up too late, making too much noise, and being rude, to they're neglecting to pay their share of the bills, "The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life"covers these and a great many more of potential problems.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, extraordinarily 'real world practical', "The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life" is an absolute 'must' for all entering college freshmen -- and will have a great deal of value for sophomores, juniors, and seniors as well! While very highly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted that "The Young Adult's Guide to Surviving Dorm Life" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.95).

Three Quite Very Actual Cheers for Worzel Wooface!
Catherine Pickles
Veloce House,
www.hubbleandhattie.com
9781787110588, $13.99, PB, 144pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Worzel is an enormous hound with "issues". Now in his third year with his forever family, Worzel's horizons are expanding. When City Hall tries to take his favorite beach away from dogs, Worzel and his family march into a campaign to save the beach. Meanwhile, there's a foreign trip to plan for, a ball obsessed Labrador to contend with, and a foster brother who needs teaching in the ways of the world. And maybe, he can even teach Worzel a thing or two.

Mom, long-suffering Dad, five cats, and two nearly grown up children, all feature in Worzel's third diary bringing together poems, letters, and advice that only Worzel Wooface would attempt to offer.

Critique: Catherine Pickles is a full-time family carer, writer and blogger. It is interesting to note that her blog about Worzel reached the final of the UK Blog Awards in 2015. Catherine has fostered numerous sighthounds for Hounds First Sighthound rescue. With "Three Quite Very Actual Cheers for Worzel Wooface!" she once again reveals a genuine flair for engaging narration and original storytelling. An inherently fascinating and extraordinarily entertaining read from cover to cover, "Three Quite Very Actual Cheers for Worzel Wooface!" is especially recommended for the personal reading lists of all dedicated animal lovers and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.

My Fair Lover
Nicole Jordan, author
Narrated by Beverley A. Crick
Recorded Books, LLC
270 Skip Jack Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678
$TBA www.recordedbooks.com

Synopsis: Lady Katherine Wilde believes she has crushed any lingering romantic feelings toward Brandon Deverill, who spurned her six years ago. And now that the rough-edged rogue needs polishing to claim his inheritance, she's willing to strike a practical bargain: Kate will mold the brash privateer into an acceptable English nobleman if Deverill will safeguard her from brigands on a voyage to recover lost family treasure. However, the soul-melting kiss that seals their agreement just may reignite blazing passion.

Brandon's fortitude was sorely tested when he turned Kate away from his bed all those years ago. Even a rake such as he wouldn't seduce an innocent beauty before sailing into battle. But now that he's inherited a title and must take a suitable bride, he sets his sights on Kate. Though he fiercely desires her, true love is a notion that baffles him - until their adventure turns perilous and Brandon realizes he'd gladly trade his life to save the woman who has captured his heart.

Critique: Now available in an unabridged audiobook format brought to life by the dulcet tones of narrator Beverley A. Crick, My Fair Lover: A Legendary Lovers Novel is a delightful romance inspired by the classic "My Fair Lady", yet with a sizzling sexy twist! The love affair between rakish privateer and the beautiful noblewoman he once spurned burns hot amid the high seas, in this savory treasure for connoisseurs of the genre. Highly recommended! 8 CDs, 8.75 hours.

Athens of the New South
Mary Ellen Pethel
The University of Tennessee Press
110 Conference Center UT, Knoxville, TN 37996
9781621903420 $60.00 www.utpress.org

Synopsis: This wide-ranging book chronicles the founding and growth of Nashville's institutions of higher education and their impressive impact on the city, region, and nation at large. Local colleges and universities also heavily influenced Nashville's brand of modernity as evidenced by the construction of a Parthenon replica, the centerpiece of the 1897 Centennial Exposition. By the turn of the twentieth century, Vanderbilt University had become one of the country's premier private schools, while nearby Peabody College was a leading teacher-training institution. Across the racial divide - Fisk University joined the ranks of the nation's most prestigious black liberal-arts universities, while Meharry Medical College emerged as one of the country's few training centers for African American medical professionals. Following the agricultural-industrial model, Tennessee A&I became the state's first black public college. Meanwhile, various other schools - Ward-Belmont, a junior college for women; David Lipscomb College, the instructional arm of the Church of Christ; and Roger Williams University, which trained black men and women as teachers and preachers - made important contributions to the higher educational landscape. In sum, Nashville was distinguished not only by the quantity of its schools but by their quality.

Linking these institutions to the progressive and educational reforms of the era, Mary Ellen Pethel also explores their impact in shaping Nashville's expansion, on changing gender roles, and on leisure activity in the city, which included the rise and popularity of collegiate sports. In her conclusion, she shows that Nashville's present-day reputation as a dynamic place to live, learn, and work is due in no small part to the role that higher education continues to play in the city's growth and development.

Critique: Expertly researched and presented, yet accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Athens of the New South: College Life and the Making of Modern Nashville examines the rich history of higher education in Nashville, and the role the Nashville's colleges played in the city's growth and development. Notes, a bibliography, and an index round out this fascinating tour of Nashville history and scholarship. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Athens of the New South is also available in a PDF edition ($60.00).

Margaret Lane
Reviewer


Mari's Bookshelf

Love Warrior
Glennon Doyle Melton
http://lovewarriorbook.com
Flatiron Books
c/o Macmillan
175 Fifth Ave, New York, NY, 10010
9781250075727, $25.99

Reviewing a memoir, more so than a novel, has to be done from the inside out. That is, it can't easily be judged against others in its class or genre like a novel because an individual story doesn't easily fall into a category like that. But, a memoir can be compared to itself. Does the way it's written reflect what it says? Does the writing convey the author's intent? In this case, yes and yes. Glennon Doyle Melton writes with as much conviction and heart as the life she describes. The short story is: she becomes bulimic at pre-pubescence, an alcoholic and drug abuser in high school and college and becomes pregnant before she's married, not long after graduation. She becomes and becomes and becomes before really wondering who she is. She decides to unbecome. She gets sober, gets married and has a son. She blogs her experience and people listen. They want her to speak and write more, and she does. She thinks she's found her calling. Then, her husband announces The News and she asks herself, again, who she is. She thought she knew. She thought she knew who her husband was. He was her hero and he saved her from the mess of herself. They set out to heal separately and together.

Glennon or "G" as she's known on her blog, Momastery, crystallizes her experiences in imagines; when she's unsure of herself, she retreats and sends her "representative" in to experience for her. "Underneath," in books and words and breath and solitude it's safe to feel. She seeks out these spaces alone and with others. Images help her get on top of her demons and learn to love. At the end of the book, she tells her kids that truth is told in stories. That's the only time I find her contradicting herself. When she starts teaching Sunday School, she doesn't teach in story, but gets a little preachy, like she has it all figured out, even though she tells them she doesn't, and that it's okay not to know. I lost confidence in her story-as-truth adage after that.

We Were Witches
Ariel Gore
The Feminist Press
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
www.feministpress.org
9781936932023, $18.95

Ariel Gore's action doesn't rise like a narrative penis. Because she doesn't have one. Her book reads like a vagina, like a book, both "potential space." No space at all until filled. She fills her pages with her own story of single teenage motherhood, on welfare, going to school, with her own versions of fairy tales, with spells and the words of witches, that is, her fairy godmothers lighting her path with ceramic frogs and other charms. She doesn't culminate in a climax; she becomes herself. She takes up the space and shape of herself.

It's a novel and a memoir. She integrates everything: "the holes we didn't dig," and all the creative (and destructive) ways we get out of them. It is not a manifesto. She's not telling women how to be or what to do. It's empowering in precisely that way. It makes me want to go out and resist ways I've been held down, to intend (not just want) to conform only to my own dreams and aspirations. Ariel Gore grabs readers not by forcing us up to look up to an arc lording over us like an ideal, but by compelling us down into the process of her own truth-telling and metaphor-making. I read the book in two sitting because I couldn't put it down. I'll come back to it again and again for the reading list in the back and the advice she gives herself: Light a candle. Sit with it until it burns down. "And as you watch the flame, picture yourself calm, self-preserving, and factual" (248).

The Keeper of Dreams: Volume II
Matthew Keefer
http://musicravings.com
Amazon Digital
9781975846897, $4.99 ebook on Amazon (bundled with Volume I)

In Matt Keefer's second volume of short stories and poems, we join characters at crossroads. In "A House Burning," we ask, what do we keep? What do we lose? At the gates of heaven (or hell), in "Mercy," what do we want to remember? At a crime scene, in "A Typical Call," whom do we deem the suspect and the victim? Are the policemen the potential criminals? In "The Prisoner," are we prisoners in our own dreams or perpetrators of justice? Can we write ourselves out of an ill-fated world in "A Student in Her Study"? Who can save us from our hallucinations in "Time Stops For"? And in "The Research," can we create our own reality? Is science a dead end? Is there freedom if we've discovered the secrets of the universe in "When 6 was Nine"? Is terror the flip side of love in "Terror"? Three poems between stories pinpoint the beauty of not knowing, the singleness of wonder in the midst of multiple dimensions.

We readers have no choice but to identify with Keefer's characters; he sets us in medias res, watching house fires and warehouses being built. We're trapped in a desert outside "The Institution" with no idea how we got there. There's no backstory. The only thing to do is proceed without a plan. The overall effect of is confusion, chaos, illusion, tension. The characters are not so much developed as they are palpable; we are lost with them in the moment, in the absurdity. "'Why do you want to get in there?'... 'I don't know'... 'What don't you know?'... I'm not sure,'" (47). Yet, there are conclusions. They're implied and forthcoming, such as in the last story, "Terror," which ends: "'Hector... did you know that... that I...'" (166). We can guess what this lover is trying to say but she doesn't say it. The pleasure is in the suspended satisfaction!

Drifting, Falling: Diary of a Call Girl Suicide
A. J. Ullman
https://ajullman.com
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
9781945181221, $13.99 paperback

Death as a performance has been done many times. But a story about a call girl planning her own "perfect suicide" set alongside the story of her therapist is new to me. Ullman's characters are tragic heroes in the classic sense of the word, but remain original nonetheless. Although the main character, the narrator of this journal-story, Ripley Astilla Luna, identifies with Greek myths, giving herself nicknames like Cassandra and Medea, and finding ways her life mirrors stories of the gods, she doesn't aspire to become a legend. She just wants to be among the stars. She wants to feel weightless. She wants to be an astronaut. Only, she never got the chance. Instead, she becomes a criminal sentenced to therapy after jail, who happens to take hefty "donations" for her escort service. Her therapist, Dan Truscott, is not blind to her wiles. He's fascinated by her story and her face even before he meets her. He wants to know more about her, and, as he finds out, he also finds he wants her. Will he be able to help her?

Getting to know someone, even a character, makes hearing about their death all the more difficult. Why does Ullman tell us about it? Is it masochism? Is it voyeurism? No, once a lawyer and now a nurse practitioner with experience in mental health, he cares about people. I believe he's telling us so we know; so we don't close our eyes; so we might see beauty where the world only sees despair; and so that Ripley will live on in his words. She's not lost forever. He captures well the voice of a twenty one year old woman as well as that of a forty year old man with references to movies and music, history and science that set them in a context most to which most readers can relate. It's not a happy tale, but it's not all sad, either. It's insightful and dark as well as light-filled and probing. You won't come away unscathed.

Girl with the Empty Suitcase
Krysta MacDonald
https://krystamacdonald.wixsite.com/website
Privately Published
9781775046905, $5.99 ebook, $9.99 print

"Nothing symbolizes discontent like an empty suitcase. Or perhaps an undeveloped roll of film" (85). Armed with both, Danielle can make her getaway, away from Mark, her husband, and into her art. The suitcase may be empty, the film may not become pictures, but they are far from void. Instead, they are full of intangibles: Danielle's expectations and regrets, her hopes, fears and her vision for something better, something more. These symbols are her power. This isn't just her story, however. Krysta MacDonald tells two first person narratives. Danielle and Mark alternate telling their tale over the course of forty years, from childhood, before they meet, to old age, after one of them has passed. Together and separately, they grapple to balance life goals, career, family expectations and affection. It is not a particularly colorful tale; rather, it is muted and understated. The sentences are short. The characters struggle to find words for their feelings; they come out sideways. Far from a fairy-tale romance, this book still conveys a heroic and enduring love. I was inspired by this down-to-earth, relate-able couple and MacDonald's care for them.

The Mountain
Paul Yoon
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
978150115408, $25.00 www.simonandschuster.com

A satchel, a missing limb, morphine, a camera, a motel, an explosion, a motorbike, a piano, a mountain. Paul Yoon's characters wander through the detritus of their lives like explorers gathering bits from their pasts, building a future, or, at least occupying the present. In the first story, a boy is orphaned when his, mother, a volunteer at a French mountaintop sanatorium, overdoses on morphine and his dad leaves him. In the second story, an itinerant worker takes a risky job which leaves him handicapped and at the mercy of an unstable nurse. In the third story, Antje and Matias work side by side at a Spanish hotel, married but strangers to each other. A train worker discovers an old friend who stays briefly with him in Vladivostok Station. A woman returns home to China from Korea to work in a factory in the fifth story. Lastly, a father and daughter travel together in England, keeping alive their family's fragile love. Yoon writes in clipped sentences with few adjectives. The emotion comes from juxtapositions. "I tried calling her back but she didn't answer. I wished I had cleaner clothes" (223). Sadness is palpable, there, in the what isn't said. Yoon doesn't spoon feed us drama but instead lifts up just the right details to elicit a response. The result is a sheer, immediate connection to a set of characters at the edge of disaster.

Living Infinite
Chantel Acevedo
Europa Editions
214 West 29th Street, Suite 1003, New York, N.Y. 10001
www.europaeditions.com
9781609454302, $17.00

The first name of its kind in Spanish royal history, Eulalia, means "well spoken." She is a prism of similar cultural and political "originals" swirling around her in the late 1800s. Napoleon, the Cuban revolution, the Carlist revolt, electricity, feminism, Jules Verne's literary wonders: Eulalia, Infanta of Spain, empathizes with all these forces working against her monarchy, yet, cannot deny her place in it. In this work of historical fiction, Chantel Acevedo imagines Eulalia's attempt to publish her outspoken memoir with the help of her milk brother, Tomas, the son of her wet nurse, or nodriza, Amalie. Tomas, "rugged and large as America itself" (229), a writer and Verne devotee himself, accompanies Eulalia as secretary and friend to Cuba, New York and Chicago, where her work might be appreciated. Together, they explore "the living infinite," Verne's metaphor for the sea, but which also captures the breadth and depth of the heart. Will it call them to change or to endure what they can't change - or both?

Through gem-like clarity and sparkle, Acevedo gives readers a glimpse into the past, as well as an opportunity to persuade the future. My favorite line is "this army of ladies [attending the princess]... were gossipy, loud, well-dressed young women, and they were everywhere, skittering about the palace like an invasion of sugar ants" (87). At ease describing both the upper echelons and in farming communities like Amalie's, Acevedo places readers between worlds, in a place like Eulalia's, on the cusp of a new era, requiring effort and valor to cross. What will it take for us to take the step into the frontier? Whom do we admire and follow? What is our perspective on this current Cuban independence and resistance? Acevedo does not purport to being a historian. Her project is bigger than that; in the imaginative world she creates, history can re-write itself, can take root differently in us. Her perspective is entertaining and insightful - a dynamic duo.

Ferment
Chris Minnick
www.chrisminnick.com
Privately Published
B06XKR7YJ3, $14.99, Paperback, $7.49 Kindle amazon.com

Ferment is a verb not a noun. This is about a process, not a product. The story begins as two strands, one from the past and one in the present. In the past, Mike helps out at the circus, little brother to a beloved clown and taken in by the party-animal dwarfs. In the present he's a recently unemployed heavy drinker chased by Rita and her gang. These two threads come together like sugar and yeast, bubbling and reacting and reaching a point of either scrumptiousness or waste, depending on your tastes. Either way, you'll enjoy the dramatic progression. Minnick writes with a simplicity and sparsity ironically befitting the big ideas behind his words. He may be describing circus antics but when is the circus ever just the circus? It's a metaphor, an alternative universe that allows us to escape our normal routine. But it also comments on that normal routine, and perhaps we need a stiff drink, or several, to hear what it has to say to us. What do drinks and the circus have in common? They're both fermented. They both transport us to where we're more ourselves than we ever thought we could be. Let Chris Minnick take you there. He's a great bartender, and ringleader, even though he's never been to the circus!

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


Mason's Bookshelf

Doormaking
Strother Purdy
Linden Publishing
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721-9875
www.woodworkerslibrary.com
9781610352918, $26.95, PB, 144pp, www.amazon.com

Synopsis: Few pieces of furniture, save perhaps chairs, work as hard as doors. Building them to last, especially exterior doors, takes knowledge and experience that don't come from making other types of furniture, such as tables and bookcases. "Doormaking: Materials, Techniques and Projects for Building Your First Door" by experienced woodworker Strother Purdy gathers all the information and guidance that both beginning and intermediate woodworkers need to be successful making their first door.

While covering the construction of the eight most popular doors, "Doormaking" starts first by addressing the fundamentals: the basics of good design and proper construction technique, the pros-and-cons of common materials including wood and sheet goods, interior and exterior finishes, hardware and the fine points of hanging doors.

Once those key elements are covered, "Doormaking" offers project chapters that walk the reader step-by-step through the construction of eight essential doors, explaining design and material choices in specific contexts, tool options and other considerations. The first four projects are easily accessible to a beginner while the remaining projects offer up some more challenging details for the intermediate woodworker. Also included are sidebars containing amusing anecdotes and mistake stories (each delivering tips as well as details for hanging a door) and an inspiring gallery of doors that are sure to inspire.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Doormaking: Materials, Techniques and Projects for Building Your First Door" is unreservedly recommended, especially for any woodworking hobbyist, professional craftsman, or DIY homeowner. Comprehensive, accessible, 'real world' practical, "Doormaking" is certain to be an enduringly popular and useful addition to school woodshop, personal, and community library woodworking instructional reference collections.

Mind Game
Iris Johansen, author
Narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers
Recorded Books, LLC
270 Skip Jack Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678
$TBA www.recordedbooks.com

Synopsis: Scotland holds a treasure that Jane MacGuire has been hunting for years. But as she scours the highlands in search of it, she's plagued by dreams of a girl in danger?dreams she can't ignore no matter how hard she tries. Who is this girl, and what is she trying to tell Jane? And will Jane figure it out before it's too late?for her and the mysterious young woman?

Things are further complicated when Seth Caleb comes back into Jane's life. Their history is volatile to say the least. This time Jane finds herself pulled unexpectedly into his world as she fights to save him. But Caleb isn't the only person sweeping her up into startling developments. When Eve Duncan surprises Jane with news of her own, Jane comes face to face with stunning changes in the lives of those she loves most.

Critique: Brought to immersive life with the compelling voice of Elisabeth Rodgers, Mind Game: A Novel is the unabridged audiobook rendition of bestselling author Iris Johansen's work of razor-wire suspense. What is Jane MacGuire's own subconscious trying to tell her through repeated dreams of a girl in distress? Staying stable enough to figure the problem out is made even more difficult when Seth Caleb complicates her life! Mind Game is a choice pick for connoisseurs of the genre, and enthusiastically recommended for both personal and public library collections. 12 CDs, 14 hours.

Jack Mason
Reviewer


Molly's Bookshelf

The Organ Grinder and The Monkey
Sam Moffie
CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
www.createspace.com
9781434882820, $16.00, 368 pages

Sam Moffie's The Organ Grinder and The Monkey commences with a query regarding Mingo Junction and Steubenville, Ohio.

The Reader soon discovers that this, Mingo Junction and Steubenville, Ohio locale is a extraneous, Rust Belt, question. In addition, not only that, Steubenville is near to crumbling communities in Ohio and West Virginia. Plus, it is as well, but a rotten tomato fling away from townships in Pennsylvania too.

Seymour Petrillo's psychoanalyst, analyst, counselor AND a bestselling writer describing Seymour's homicides would make a big thing out of Petrillo's Rust Belt background. His therapist did indicate that had Seymour really had friends; that fact would likely have a made a difference.

Seymour, the first individual we meet on the pages of The Organ Grinder and The Monkey is a to a certain degree a miserable child from Steubenville, Ohio. His gay father, who has an obsession with everything concerning another Steubenville native, Dean Martin. Martin does not live in the family household.

Seymour did spend quite a bit of time with his grandparents, especially his grandfather; it was while taking walks through town with his Granddad that Seymour learned much of the times gone by vis-a-vis Steubenville.

Seymour's psychotherapist not only treats him as a patient, but has as well, penned a decidedly successful volume describing Seymour and his actions. Upon his departure from Steubenville, Seymour attained a college degree prior to making his way to New York City with the determination of becoming a veterinarian.

Irving Hanhart, the sixth-grade son of a Jewish mother and Irish father, prized field trips. He and his companions were enroute from Brookline MA Middle School to the adjacent municipality of Newton. The group was on their way to the city hall. It was during his visit to the City Hall that Irving made his decision to become a New York City Cop.

In Boardman, Ohio, Constance Powers enjoyed her role as a man eater. Born into old money, Constance had minute opportunity to really experience any of the accoutrements of affluence relished by numerous of the affluent class. Constance Powers has a career plan to move to New York City, and, become a Rockette.

A serial killer, an aspiring dancer who was born of wealth and a police officer; each of the three from infinitely dissimilar upbringings and lives had one thing in common, they each visited the same psychoanalyst.

Imaginative, unique, diverse, spellbinding, The Organ Grinder and The Monkey presents an enthralling, intertwined, multifaceted fiction of three chief characters whose separate actions and dysfunctional sentimentality have triggered their desire to pursue the attention of the identical psychiatrist. Writer Sam Moffie's first-rate storytelling, which was first noticed in his initial work, Swap, has become advanced and polished.

The narratives interlace into a complicated chronicle complete with contradictory viewpoints, stances, cognizance and prejudices. The thorny categorization of events, plaited together with psychoanalyst psycho-babble and obscured schemas is a riveting page turner from the introductory lines right on to the near catastrophe surrounding Constance occurring in the last chapter.

Writer Moffie's second novel, The Organ Grinder and The Monkey, takes a long unmatched look into the lives of a threesome of extremely singular dominant characters who have but one common bond linking them. Moffie pulls off the tangle with aplomb.

The Organ Grinder and the Monkey is jam-packed with gritty dialog, gallows wit, detailed situations, finely multi-layered characters and, intricate writing. Readers easily affronted by crude humor and explicit language will likely not find the volume to their liking.

For Readers who relish a well written manuscript in which the language and circumstances are essential to the anecdote; then the book will likely be a very enjoyable read. The I received an ARC from a publicist for review.

I can well see this work becoming a made for TV movie. Happy to recommend.

Bleeding Hearts
Josh Aterovis
www.joshaterovis.com
Regal Crest Enterprises
9781932300192, $TBA, 208 pages

Josh Aterovis' Bleeding Hearts introduces Readers to the son of a home-grown, homophobic local District Attorney. Sixteen-year-old Killian Kendall has never been particularly popular with his classmates, nonetheless he does have three friends, Zach, Jesse and Asher, with whom he pals around. They are friends at school and away from school as well.

Immediate problems erupt when Killian make friends with a new classmate. Zach and Jesse are irate that Killian is talking with a gay person. Asher is troubled and is not sure precisely why. With his parents divorced, Seth Connelly, has just come to live with his father. Seth is an agreeable young man who has decided he has to be who he is, and, if his being gay is problematic for others then so be it.

As the narrative continues Seth is ruthlessly murdered and Killian is knifed and left for death. As Killian's father comes to grips with the understanding that his son will no longer simply follow the domineering man's harsh rules; Killian's life is forever altered. Killian's father bars him from living in the family home and Seth's father, Adam, offers a home for the teen-ager. Killian and feminine classmate Gilly become 'an item,' Killian and Seth's younger brother attend a costume party where an intimidating 'Batman' appears, Killian's car windows are smashed, his mother leaves his father, and Zach is found slain in the same manner as was Seth.

Thanksgiving spent in Adam's home is the scene bringing together a group of both straight and gay 'extended family' who help Killian understand that those who accept and care for us are family even when our blood relations may have turned their backs on us. The murderer is finally exposed and the Christmas Holiday brings potential for happier days ahead.

Novelist Josh Aterovis has fashioned a nicely crafted work complete with teenaged anxiety, homophobic reactions at their worst and the problems facing many in our culture as they come to recognize their own sexual orientation. Bleeding Hearts presents a view of a young man coping not only with the usual teenaged confusion as befalls all kids trying to sort out who and what they are, but also one who is unexpectedly faced with the realization that he is gay.

The year portrayed as setting for Bleeding Hearts is not given, consequently the reader is left supposing that it is set in the time in which the reader is living. As a straight mom of adult sons, I can only envision what the young man in this specific narrative must be facing as he is attempting to find his place in the adult world. Killian's difficulties are compounded when he comprehends the adult world he supposed he would be entering is not the one he will really be a part of.

I recall well the tenor in this country exhibited toward teens in general and gays in particular during the 1980s and 90s. During those busy days when my own home was occupied with seeming feral teens struggling to become adults in a world that saw their hair, songs, clamor, automobile driving, goals, objectives, ambitions, selves in total as likely the strangest generation ever; I remembered my own teenaged years. We too were viewed by parents and society with much the same reaction.

While Bleeding Hearts is a novel and not particularly meant to be an analytical portrayal; Writer Aterovis has skillfully given us a peek into what youngsters face as they step into a not always friendly adult world. Bleeding Hearts if read by parents and other adults can cause us to stop and think and perhaps better understand our own teens, or the teens who populate our schools and society.

Times and common attitudes concerning either what the ethos of the populous may view as objectionable, perhaps as atypical sexuality as opposed to the unobjectionable, expected teenaged angst may have changed in particulars, however in general; it often seems older generation dismay with the younger does not always appear to have changed much from one generation to another, from present time to past. Facing the acceptable aspect of adolescence was wearisome at times for myself first as a teen and again as a parent. It is tough to imagine having to deal with both acceptable and unacceptable at once. Writer Aterovis provides a glimpse into problems faced and, perhaps forgotten by the older generation, as teens begin to tread the waters of the adult world.

In the manner of Dorien Grey and his Dick Hardesty series author Aterovis has crafted a group of characters who are very credible. From the imperious homophobic father, the demoralized mother and on to the optimistic girlfriend, as well as each of the other actors in this work; the individuals are not always likeable. They are however plausible, well fleshed and convincing. Dialogue is authentic. Recent news stories today concerning continuing gay bashing lends standing to the circumstances and actions presented on the pages of Bleeding Hearts.

Entwined into this narrative of a young man's coming out is the mystery regarding who is slaying the fellows Killian befriends. The deaths cannot merely be the result of a homophobic miscreant. Seth was gay, Zach was not. Watch the red herrings!

While this work is a fiction; it may well assist helping both young, conceivably worried gays who are just becoming mindful of their own sexuality as well as members of the straight community toward an understanding of the difficulties besetting a group not too well understood by either side. Teens, whether gay or straight, live in a restless, tempestuous world of their own at best. When teens also face the added complications of learning to deal with possible or actual parental rejection, societal limitations and forfeiture of sanctuary of what was accustomed; the problems of growing up are only compounded.

NOTE: This is not a book for the homophobic or those who refuse to accept that children, our own or those in the society around us, are their own persons and are not simply little lumps to be molded/possibly bullied into what parents or others in the culture maintain they must be.

I found Bleeding Hearts to be an interesting, compelling read, happy to recommend for the home, school and public library as well as for the counselor book shelf as a book to aid troubled youngsters with whom they may be working.

Spirits in the Mind
Joy Batey
AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
www.authorhouse.com
9781410788085, $TBA, 144 pages

It is to an enduring itch in the most out-of-the-way part of her back that Writer Joy Batey attributes her first book. Batey familiarizes The Reader to an essence, Life Guide, Sasha who helps chaperon humans in the direction for taking a fresh look at life. Spirits in the Mind is offered in three separate segments in which a lady during the autumn years of her life discovers she has life guides who will forward her through a learning progression toward the understanding that she was not a causation or at fault regarding many of the disenchantments of her life.

The reader is presented the fatally ill Tiger Man, a cantankerous fellow who, with the assistance of guide Sasha, learns to begin living in happiness. The third person introduced on the pages of Spirits in the Mind is a young girl who has been subjected to a problematic life existence due in large part to the callousness she received at the hands of a uncaring step parent.

Batey's gentle writing helps The Reader recognize and appreciate that God permits us each the properties we need to advance inner metier which will serve to support us along life's journey. Batey declares Sasha and Thomas to be the names ascribed in the book to our helpers Faith and Hope. Spirits in the Mind concentrates insightfulness and discernment needed to direct The Reader toward walking the path set before us.

With the support of Life Guides who may come to each of us in forms that we do not at first realize, understand or be familiar with we develop the maturity needed for living life to the fullest. Patient supervision, especially regarding the how to of things, when it comes to us is exemplified by writer Batey in this splendidly drawn, stimulating work.

An awareness regarding how we come to recognize and appreciate our angels and guides is offered with panache and refinement by the author who has placed the insights amassed over a life spanning eight decades to paper following the finding of the unique handwritten pages in the cellar of a recently purchased home; Batey's shrewd aptitude for taking those pages and turning them into an inspiring achievement meant to be appreciated by readers, is a witness to the writer's expertise.

Spirits in the Mind is a well penned offering completed with powerful inspiration captured with witticism and grace. The tome is certain to fascinate, empower, captivate and mesmerize.

I found Spirits in the Mind to be a dandy tome book for a drizzly afternoon spent before the fire or for a muggy summer day in the swing on the porch with the sound of critters and bees and birds and kids close at hand.

Inspirational read, true to the genre, happy to recommend.

The Night The Penningtons Vanished
Marianna Heusler
http://mariannamystery.com/index.html
Larcom Press
9780971437005, $TBA, Paperback, 201 pages

Isabella Ripa does know she is not to open the boutique door whenever Aunt Tallulah is not present. Aunt Tallulah is NOT present as The Reader begins to read Marianna Huesler's The Night The Penningtons Vanished.

The sophisticated woman at the door appears to be nearly frantic, and, Aunt Tallulah present or not, Isabella does open the door nonetheless.

Consequently, Isabella commences upon an escapade jam-packed with homicide, disappearing, intrigue, maneuvering and collusion. Isabella as well as her older sister are wards of Aunt Tallulah following the girls' father's death in addition to their abandonment by their mother.

Isabella, along with Vicki and Lauren, her two dearest friends, set out to determine what has become of the Penningtons.

The quest leads the girls to just about becoming victims of a distressed con man who has already killed and is prepared to murder again.

On the pages of The Night The Penningtons Vanished, Writer Huesler once again proves her writing acumen.

Huesler's first book Buried in the Townhouse was a charming, fast paced mystery filled with memorable characters set against a backdrop of humor and surprises. The Night The Penningtons Vanished is a mystery as well, however, this one is for the younger set.

I found The Night The Penningtons Vanished to be a well-crafted work occupied with nicely wrought, believable characters. Isabella is a bit overweight, eats too much, and, as are her friends, is inclined to jump to conclusions; pretty much as are many fifteen-year-olds in today's society. Vicki and Lauren prove perfect foils to Isabella's investigating.

Carla, the older sister, is an egocentric girl, who is angry at the world, will not study, and, is driving Aunt Tallulah up the wall. All in all, Carla behaves much as do many seventeen-year-olds who are not quite little kid and is not at all an adult, doesn't like the situation she has been thrust into, dad's death, abandonment, and now living with an Aunt she is not sure she likes, and doesn't know how to make things better.

Discourse between the characters is credible, believable and plausible as the girls wrangle among themselves, tussle with Aunt Tallulah and seemingly snag setups, circumstances and explanations out of the air to describe what is happening.

Writer Heusler's adroit affinity for portrayal, scene setting and elucidation serves her well, The Reader is drawn right into settings, we see the frightening, feel the cold, and taste the bitter. The storyline is well plotted, moves along from first pages to final paragraphs without problem, and culminates with a satisfying conclusion.

NOTE: Be prepared for a surprise or two along the way.

The Night The Penningtons Vanished is sure to please many mature middle school readers as well as the young adult set.

Parents, teachers and home schoolers alike will find The Night The Penningtons Vanished a valuable addition to their library.

Well done, happy to recommend.

Unmaking Atoms
Magdalena Ball
http://magdalenaball.com/wordpress
Ginninderra Press
9781760412821, $19.50

Communicator, Reviewer, owner of website Compulsive Reader, Business Woman, poet, Magdalena Ball keeps perfecting, accomplishment as a writer.

Unmaking Atoms, a book of 89 pages filled with 88 poetic works separated into seven subdivisions having ten to 20 verse forms each, is Ball's current offering; a publication of poetry with attractiveness for the senses.

Poems followed with * indicate author notes placed at the end of the volume, and are ones I particularly believe further discernment and pleasure of the specific poem.

I found writer Ball's odes oftentimes appear occupied with a poignant yearning for the parent and time of life not always savored by children.

The first section is Artefacts with an accumulation of ten poems.

Fitting into the lines comprising The Last Report of the Day reveals a little child remembers childhood.

It is followed with Charitable Crumb.

Luminous Air commences with a quote 'Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!' - Edna St Vincent Millay, 'A Few Figs from Thistles',

Artefacts Broken offers artefacts and bottles scattered beads excavated as broken promises repeating fractals material culture can't bring back my face though you keep looking.

Atomic Mess presenting communication re the last fractured breath queries 'does inheritance provide solace now you're no longer here reminding me to be brave?'

Other titles include Past Life, Right Angles to Reality, Catalyst, Ashes for the Earth.

And lastly in this segment Yellow Jacquard and the writer's revelation as to why she does not care for the yellow.

Salting the Wound is another assortment of 10 odes:

Beginner's Mind, Salting the Wound, set the timbre for this section an end of life pondering offered in poetic lyric Almost,

Rough Ride and thought of storms

give way to Years Ago musings about what was and is, somewhere.

Static, and Trojan Horse, precede 'Landscape at Pentecost' an ekphrastic poem after Landscape at Pentecost by Grace Cossington Smith (circa 1932).*

Irrational Heart completes this section.

Most of Everything is Nothing another grouping of ten offerings beginning with The No Times Times speaking of thoughts re nostalgia and paradoxical changes in the present,

'Encroachment Spells Erosion' is, the writer tells us, a found poem. Every word has been found within the text of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake.* offers discourse from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and Walking Into Eternity opens with a James Joyce quote from Ulysses.

This section includes Life Dreaming, Radiology a (collaboration between Magdalena Ball and Rob Walker) in which worry, imaginings, and thoughts become analysis.

Other titles include Maven on Mars, In the Frame, Shallots and Garlic, Echo Chamber,

Most of Everything is Nothing allows that a list written in blood and nothing changes.

Found in 'Six Realms', 'the dull smoke coloured light/from hell' is from The Tibetan Book of the Dead.* it opens with the stark reality 'My death did the business no good the mining boom was over' and ends the segment.

Robin's Eye is a collection of 20 works including Brown Quail (Coturnix ypsilophora)Offering thoughts regarding the gentle bird, and is followed with Coral Composition, Alien World, Roseanna, and Reflecting sphere,

The Happiness Project asks the question 'Is it enough?'

Ascetic Stitch mentions a stitch in the centre of the chest with origins including neglected croissants with jam butter and chocolate spread.

Cruel Fortune, Robin's Eye, Mirror Neurons, Old Wounds, Circus

Factory, Mobius Strip and Television, the sea, the window move this segment forward.

Cold Mirror projects sorrow and cold comfort, Harnessing Wind asserts being done with cast iron alibis presents a forest of peppermint toys and asserts I'm ready now to believe, while Migration forwards assumed history revealing itself, Decoherence Through the Window leads to understanding that sometimes it's all about the window, Inanimate and meeting with the rocks in the frail hour of dusk gives way to Dark Matter Wants to be Alone which tells that relief comes in bursts of sunlight.

Angel with a quote by Carl Sandburg, 'Dogheads' finishes the set of poems.

A Cloud Withdrew is a group of 11 poems beginning with Mapping Pluto and a shadowy silhouette is followed with Absences,

Stargazy, Mourner's Kaddish and death reviewed at a distance of two years, set a melancholy tone followed by Unmaking Atoms and another goodbye.

More odes includes 'A Cloud Withdrew' a redaction from Emily Dickinson's 'A Cloud Withdrew from the Sky' (895).*

Venus in the East Before Sunrise, Portfolio, Weather Situations, Pranayama, continue melancholia, and lastly ' Inside Your Darkest Everything ' is from a line in The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait: 'I want to be inside your darkest everything.'* brings the segment to a close.

Hieroglyphics is another segment of 10 poems beginning with Autotopography and a room before me forever locked, followed with Dhurbar Square, Energy Conservation, and longing for what is not to be.

Hieroglyphics and the notation that hieroglyphics undid me, is followed by 'Unceasing, unchanging murmur' with a line from 'Two Gallants' in Dubliners by James Joyce: 'Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air, an unceasing, unchanging murmur.'*

Nature's Observatory, Woman with her hair loose, an ekphrastic poem after Head of a Woman with Her Hair Loose by Vincent van Gogh, December 1885, Antwerp.*

Entopic Imagery mentions colours at the corner of the eye, continuing the works is Probability Waves, Essential Whites, In Situ, and 'Gargantua Redacted', a found poem taken from the text of Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais* brings the segment to a close.

Velocity or Pause is a sement of 14 poems beginning with RNA World and a house martin lifting its wings to fly for the first time is followed with Velelocity or Pause and an Emily Dickinson quote, 'Two Lengths has every Day'.

Misinformation Effect, Redhead Beach, Winter Apples, Watagan Walk, Free Radicals, Dogstar, Lacuna, Image of the day, Planet Nine, followed with Fractals of Fractals, and the realization that a this book, a long distance gift, looks just like itself.

Qualia, Solar Collections, Out of the Blue, and Intelligent Equations noting 'with any number of loose technological civilisations warming things are bound to get hot.' The 88 poetic works comes to a close.

Notes * Scattered with the poems they represent for this review are found at the end of the eBOOK I received for review.

I found Unmaking Atoms to be an amalgam occupied with feeling, and language and representation wrought in manner best presented by a bard who comprehends both science and emotion.

Deference, storems a mix of verse and prose, loss of a loved one, odes written with respect to works of art, a delicate statement noting that what we hold dearest may be, but is not always filled with sentiment. The pain of loss is palpable.

Poet Ball's compendium shuffles then links, words and images, emotions and joyous ideas diffused throughout the melodious expressions, reference, mental imagery, and powerful emotions vibrating just below the words depicting pleasure and sorrowfulness, loss and details of lives.

All in all I enjoyed reading this offering of incomparable poems presented by a talented writer. Happy to Recommend

NOTE: Acknowledgements found at the end of the eBOOK include

Versions of these poems have been published in Silver Birch Press,

Tweetspeak Poetry, work & tumble 2015 Anthology, Tincture.

Cordite, ARTS ZINE, Verity La, Bluepepper, Journal of Poetics Research, policies & procedures: poems by rob walker, Medical Journal of Australia, Best Australian Science Writing 2016, Indelible: 2015 PATP anthology, and The Fem.

'Mapping Pluto' was shortlisted in 2015 Bayside Poetry Awards.

Versions of 'Watagan Walk' and 'Redhead Beach' were awarded commendations in the Morisset Show Lake Macquarie Moments competition.

'Nature's Conservatory' won second prize in Catchfire Press's Home is the Hunter competition and published in an anthology of the same name.

Versions of 'Alien World', 'Reflecting Sphere', 'Walking into Eternity',

'Coral Composition' and 'Landscape at Pentecost' appeared in the chapbook Sublime Planet by Magdalena Ball and Carolyn Howard- Johnson, 2014.

Molly Martin, Reviewer
http://www.angelfire.com/ok4/mollymartin


Paul's Bookshelf

Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners
James Braxton Peterson
For Beginners LLC
30 Main St., #303, Danbury CT 06810
http://www.forbeginnersbooks.com
9781939994318, $15.95, 148 pages

This book looks at how, and why, America leads the world in the number of its citizens per capita that are incarcerated. The term "prison industrial complex" may be a new term, but it is a very old concept.

Of course, it all started in the days of slavery, when millions of Africans were brought to the Western Hemisphere. In 1829, in Philadelphia, the Quakers and other reformers opened the Eastern State Penitentiary. Solitary confinement was thought to provide a prisoner the space and time to reflect and consider God's judgment. The cells required the prisoner to bow when entering or leaving the cell. The only small window was in the ceiling; it was sometimes called "the eye of God." The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, the one that abolished slavery, contained a big loophole (anyone convicted of a crime was subject to involuntary servitude/slavery) which whites were quick to exploit. New laws were created, including Jim Crow laws, to keep blacks oppressed as much as possible.

More recently, there are many parts to the Prison Industrial Complex. Many inner city schools are closing, and those that are still open are starved for money. This reduces the chances of the average young person doing anything except joining the "underground economy" and ending up in jail. There is little, or no, attempt at rehabilitation in prison. Private prison corporations will cut costs wherever possible (to boost profits) including on things like food for the prisoners. Many well-known corporations use prison labor. The "war on drugs" has been a total failure. All that it has done is jail thousands of non-violent drug offenders. Recidivism rates in American prisons are high. A sure political vote-getter are the words "tough on crime" even though actual crime rates have dropped by a lot. Did I forget to mention "stop and frisk" and Black Lives Matter? This book includes a syllabus for a college course called Black Prison Narratives.

This book deserves more than five stars. It is easy to read, and incredibly timely. The Prison Industrial Complex did not just suddenly appear; it is the result of very specific political, racial and economic policies designed to benefit the few over the many. It is extremely highly recommended.

Threadbare: Clothes, Sex and Trafficking
Anne Elizabeth Moore
Microcosm Publishing
2752 N Williams Ave., Portland OR 97227
http://www.microcosmpublishing.com
9781621067399, $13.95, 158 pages

In graphic novel form, this book shows the connection between the people who sew the clothes, the models who wear the clothes and the mall stores that sell the clothes. The number of such stores is rapidly shrinking, as chain after chain goes out of business because they are not fast enough in satisfying the public's fashion needs.

In the past, there were several different fashion lines per year, so clothes might be in a mall store for up to several weeks. These days, if a shopper sees something they like, they should buy it today, because it may not be there next week. What happens to the unsold clothes? Some of them may end up at a place like Goodwill. Others will go to specialized companies that buy the clothes for pennies per pound. They recycle some of the clothes into insulation, for instance, while a large amount gets shipped overseas to be sold (not to the country where they were made). An increasing amount of unsold clothes goes right to the local landfill. Americans donated about 12 pounds of clothes per capita to charity, but, in 2012, about 70 pounds of clothes per person went in the trash.

The Asian factories where these clothes are made are literally sweatshops. The workers are, metaphorically, chained to their sewing machines all day. The pay is low, and the conditions are terrible. Workers can be fired for practically any reason. Health and worker safety laws that American workers rely on are non-existent in these factories. American-created free trade agreements, like NAFTA, are a major reason for the disappearance of the American textile industry. In desperation to leave the garment factories, many women will join the sex industry. It certainly has its own set of disadvantages, but the pay is a lot better than in the garment business. Anti-sex trafficking NGOs, to get women out of the sex trade, will put them in front of a sewing machine for many hours a day, putting them right back where they started.

This is a very eye-opening book. As a graphic novel, it is very easy to read. A blurb on the back of this book says that colleges that offer degrees in fashion need to add this book to the curriculum. That is a very good idea.

Swiped: How to Protect Yourself In a World of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves
Adam Levin
Public Affairs
1290 Avenue of the Americas, 5th Floor, New York NY 10107
http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com
9781610397209, $17.99, 272 pages

The question is not if, but when, identity theft happens to you. This book gives the details.

Everyone has read about the major data breaches of recent years, exposing the personal information of hundreds of millions of people. The bad people in this world have come up with new ways to scam the public. A letter or phone call may come from a debt collector saying that, for instance, a credit card has been opened in the name of a deceased family member, or a newborn baby (Pay Up Now). It's possible that the debt collector, and the bill, are not even legitimate, and they are simply trying to intimidate you into paying.

Hackers have been known to file fake tax returns, using your Social Security number. When you file your return, and are looking for your refund, the IRS will say "we already gave you your refund." If a hacker gets your medical history, using the information to open a credit card, for instance, or giving your name to the police after they have been arrested, is not the worst that can happen. They can also, for instance, delete your allergy to penicillin, or give you HIV, which is much worse.

What can a person do about it? In this day and age, anyone who still uses "password" or "1234" as their computer password is just asking to be hacked. Change your passwords often. Check your bank statement and credit card statement online many times per month; don't wait for the paper statement. If anything looks questionable, start calling today. Get a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit-reporting agencies every year. Again, if anything looks questionable, don't wait. Get on the phone today, and document everything. Also, minimize your online exposure, and clean out your wallet.

It's not possible to completely eliminate your exposure to identity theft, but, this book does a very good job of helping to minimize it. Many people may consider what's in this book to be common knowledge, but it certainly bears repeating. This an eye-opener, and very much worth reading.

Breaking Through Power: It's Easier Than We Think
Ralph Nader
City Lights Books
261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133
http://www.citylights.com
9780872867055, $13.95, 162 pages

Here is the latest from America's foremost consumer advocate. Nader has been fighting for the rights of ordinary Americans for 50 years.

Corporations have no problem sending armies of lobbyists to Washington to get tax and environmental laws written in their favor. The lobbyists are also there to get Congress to stop any bill which might even slow down the quest of the corporations for more profits. These same corporations also take advantage of the tax laws to, on paper, move profits to a foreign subsidiary in a country with more favorable tax rates. They can also, on paper, move their headquarters to a PO Box in some tax haven like Ireland, Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. That could reduce their federal tax bill to zero, or even make them eligible for a tax refund from Uncle Sam.

The revolving door between Wall Street and Washington is well known. A top executive at Goldman Sachs, for instance, might spend a couple of years in Washington supposedly to regulate the financial sector. When his "public service" is done, his old office at Goldman Sachs will be waiting for him, or he might stay in Washington, and become a lobbyist. According to the 1872 Mining Act, corporations can purchase mining rights to vacant land for a whole five dollars per acre. If they should happen to discover millions of dollars in gold, silver or other minerals on that land, they keep all the money.

What can be done? Nader says that less than one percent of the American people started the movement to abolish slavery, or started the civil rights or environmental movements. The issue does not have to be a "big" one, like immigration or nuclear weapons; it can be something in your state, or town. Get some people together, and have everyone to donating a certain amount of money, to hire full time staff, and volunteer a certain number of hours per year. Examples are included in the book.

This book is short, easy to read, and deserves more than five stars. Nader speaks for the average American, and backs up his arguments with facts. This is extremely highly recommended.

Normal
Warren Ellis
Farrar Straus & Giroux
18 W 18th St., New York NY 10011
http://www.fsgoriginals.com
9780374534974, $13.00, 148 pages

There are two different types of people whose job it is to look into the future. Foresight strategists think about smart cities and ways to avoid the Coming Doom. Strategic forecasters think about drone warfare and ways to prepare their clients for the Coming Doom. "Looking into the abyss" is not something that can be done forever; eventually, depression sets in. If the dreaded "abyss gaze" takes hold, the only place to recover is at Normal Head, a facility inside an experimental forest in Oregon.

After an outburst at a conference in the Netherlands, Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, is taken to Normal Head. Being cut off from the outside world sounds pretty good. The different types of futurists at Normal Head do not mix at all. A patient is suddenly missing from a locked room, leaving a pile of insects in his wake. There is a staff investigation. Sitting outside, Adam crushes an annoying bug, only to find that it is full of very sophisticated electronics. Both types of futurists become convinced that they should find, and destroy, any other surveillance insects.

It all has to do with the coming of total surveillance (not just of electronic communication but also of speech and handwritten communication) and a new type of mini drone that is sophisticated enough to drop its micro-explosive cargo on specific people in a political riot.

This is a short novel, and it's really good and really thought provoking. It says a lot about how and why humans think about the future, and the now. It is very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer
www.deadtreesreview.com


Shel's Bookshelf

Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change
Adam Kahane
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
www.bkconnection.com
9781605093048, $17.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 168pp, www.amazon.com

I've been working for social and environmental change since 1969. That's even longer than my time in marketing, which started in 1972. Back then, what I was marketing was my views on social issues, especially the Vietnam War.

During my early times of active organizing, I would have found this book incredible helpful. Much later, without knowing it, I used Kahane's model in the most successful organizing I've ever been involved with: Save the Mountain, in my own town of Hadley, Massachusetts, US.

Kahane traces the evolution of his thinking through his direct involvement in all sorts of global struggles, from rebuilding South Africa after the end of apartheid to looking for peaceful solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to helping Guatemala and Colombia emerge from totalitarianism. Serious struggles, in other words. And he acknowledges that he did many things wrong before he discovered his key insight:

Power and love are the yin and yang of organizing. Neither one is effective without its "opposite." Either one by itself will eventually evolve from a generative, positive focus at the start to a degenerative, socially hostile outcome - but together, they help us achieve great things.

You can look at this through an Eastern Taoist lens, as I did just now. But you can also frame it as a Germanic Hegelian or Marxian dialectic: power and love are the thesis and antithesis; their synthesis is positive social change. A third lens is one I learned studying comedy improv about ten years ago: replace either-or with both-and.

Whichever lens you look through, the combination of power and love is very effective. They balance each other, keep each other in check, and maintain a generative focus. And we need this kind of holistic approach to move forward.

Martin Luther King defined power as the ability to achieve a purpose (p. 12). Unchecked by love, power-to (positive, change-oriented) devolves into power-over (oppressive, protective of inequality). Paul Tillich notes (p. 46) that power-to destroys oppressive institutions, but power-over destroys people - sometimes in ways that are hard to see. Kahane says that his own wife, a South African and veteran of the struggle there, would rather deal with overt than covert racism (p. 48). But when love comes in to bring power into balance, you can achieve power-with, and real unity (p. 138). And that's when things start to move forward.

Love can morph in similar ways. Validation of another can crumble into a stifling forced unity/false consensus (p. 49, p. 65, p. 92) or a state of mind that feels good but can't change anything. But combining awareness of power relationships leads to a multipartisan (NOT bipartisan) approach (p. 118) that recognizes the need to collaborate with opponents - and you don't have to like them in order to love them (p. 31).

Kahane suggests inquiring specifically about the power and love in any situation, and poses ten questions to determine who brings what into the mix (p. 73).

Although I took four pages of notes, I'm keeping this review short and deliberately omitting many of Kahane's key points. Why? Because if you're doing social change, or running a social change business, you will get far more out of Kahane's ideas and experiences by spending a few hours with the book, and I want you to be able to apply the many powerful lessons I haven't even touched upon.

But here's a really good offer for you: I actually typed out my notes (something I almost never do) and if you read the book, I'll share with you. Email me a receipt that shows you bought the book or a photo that shows you got it out of the library and I'll send my notes so you get more value out of your reading.

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life & Succeed On Your Own Terms
Vishen Lakhiani
Rodale Press
733 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
www.rodalepress.com
9781623367084, $26.99 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 288pp, www.amazon.com

Brules. Godicle. Blissipline. These are just three of the words you'll add to your vocabulary reading this powerful book - because Vishen Lakhiani, founder of the wildly successful personal growth site Mindvalley.com, loves to make up new words to describe his concepts.

Although I read several self-help books a year, I rarely review them here. And not since The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer, which I reviewed some time around 2006, have I been so enthusiastic about one. But Code, true to its promise, is an extraordinary book.

Starting with his note in the introduction that he's a sponge for and codifier of learning (p. xvi), I knew I would like this book, and probably like Lakhiani if we ever get to meet in person. I'm wired that way too; I often say I became a writer because I'm interested in almost everything.

In encouraging all his readers to become extraordinary, Lakhiani starts from the premise that all of us can make that journey. The "code of the human world...is just as hackable" as a computer program.

This is directly in line with what I teach: that the world is changed by ordinary people stepping into greatness when the door swings open. Rosa Parks was a seamstress; Lech Walesa was an electrician in a shipyard. Lakhiani is a proponent of changing yourself and from there, being able to change the world. I think sometimes those growths can be in parallel. For me, I found the purpose of changing the world long before I gained the life skills to make it happen - but making the commitment to the world gradually helped me find the road toward my own highest self (and I'm still on the path to get there - I see much more potential in my future and - at age 60 - I'm far from done).

Lakhiani offers ten new laws to improve our physical and mental health, our relationships, financial security, and our ability to impact the world. Each law gets a chapter. He also includes many nuggets of wisdom from some of the most successful people in our time, from Richard Branson and Elon Musk to the Dalai Lama and meditation teacher Emily Fletcher.

Perhaps more importantly, starting in Chapter 1, "Change the Culturescape," he gives you reasons to question and discard the old rules, imposed by others who don't understand your loves or your purpose - even if this has been handed down through your culture for centuries What other people think you should do for a living, who they think you should marry, what they think you should eat is not your concern - all of those are matters for you to decide. You'll need strength if the whole culture lines up against you, but you can still be true to your inner self.

But the power to choose what to believe or not to believe is a powerful gift to yourself (p. 88). And that's one tool in understanding that your "software," your "systems for living," are not static. Just like a computer, they can be upgraded. Lakhiani says he tries to upgrade at least one of his systems for living every week (p. 95). Just as we've learned to clean out our bodies, we can also consciously deactivate our anxieties, stress, fear, and other negative emotions that hold us back (p. 106), and emerge into disciplined bliss: "Blissipline."

By Chapter 3, he's talking about our ability to engineer our own consciousness, finishing the chapter on pages 63-64 with a checklist of 12 areas of life you can self-rate.

This just one of many self-help exercises scattered throughout the book. Others I particularly like are the question from parenting expert Shelly Lefkoe, "What beliefs is my child going to take away from this encounter?" (p. 77) and the "I love you" mirror exercise (pp. 181-182).

But all this is prologue. It's necessary to go through it, so you're ready for the really life-changing parts of the book. Parts Three and Four (chapters 6-10) need all the pre-work of the first five chapters, just as most of us first learn to crawl, then walk, before we try to do a four-minute mile.

By this time, you're ready to really learn the tools to create the reality you want in your own life, and in the world. You'll become an extraordinary person when you see happiness less as a goal than as an empowerment tool (p. 124); you begin to think in the future, and not in a past that holds you back, and when you stop overestimating your short-term possibilities while underestimating the long-term ones (p. 125).

To realize those possibilities, say goodbye to traditional "goal-setting." Instead, learn to sift END goals - which you'll actively pursue - from MEANS goals - which would lock you in to the existing limited reality (pp. 151-157).

And we haven't even touched on some of the really life-changing pieces near the end, like the concept of "beautiful destruction (p. 192) and the Godicle Theory (pp. 196-198).

Read this book. Set some time aside to do the exercises and to drink in some of the many extra resources for readers online. And then go out there and do the amazing thing you are here to do.

Born on Third Base
Chuck Collins
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001
www.chelseagreen.com
9781603586832, $17.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 288pp, www.amazon.com

One-percenter Chuck Collins, an heir to the Oscar Meyer fortune who went to prep school with Mitt Romney, has written a dramatic and well-penned book on why wealthy people will benefit from getting out of their isolation bubble and getting down and dirty in social change organizing. It's a great read, and a very provocative one - and it includes reader-friendly features including a resources list, detailed notes, and a thorough index (yay!). His primary audience is the wealthy themselves, with a secondary audience among organizers who would like to enlist one-percenters to work in and/or fund their efforts.

And he walks his talk. He gave away his own fortune, and he's been community organizing on class and climate issues for more than 30 years.

Collins says many of the one percent are actually disadvantaged by their wealth. It binds them to a set of conventions and isolates them from meaningful community in the wider world. When he had a fire, the neighbors from the trailer park he'd organized came over with casseroles and offers of help. When he needs access to a tool, he can often borrow it. He notes that this kind of gift economy is additive, not zero-sum. Generosity creates more generosity; there are no losers if it's done with balance and good intention.

But the wealthy, isolated in mansions within "gated communities and gated hearts," don't often experience those resilient and vibrant relationships. When they can buy whatever they want, they don't bother to tap into those community resources. When the civic infrastructure fails them, they have the luxury to opt out and take advantage of for-profit private-sector alternatives - while the poor have to either suffer or agitate for change. Collins suggests instead that the wealthy stay and fight, "be the squeaky wheel," and get results for the entire community. As an example, he organized to improve conditions at the local municipal swimming pool, rather than fleeing with his family to a private country club. He suggests forming "resilience circles" that build deep community while addressing neighborhood (and global) issues - and urges wealthy allies to tell their stories.

Wealthy people also have the resources to address systemic change through the economic system. As his late colleague Felice Yeskel said, they can work at "the intersection of personal change and system rewiring." Collins is heavily involved in the climate movement, and he quotes a study showing that superior attention to climate risk correlates well with superior financial metrics. Thus, wealthy investors can choose to invest in conscious businesses. And the socially responsible investment sector is growing exponentially.

The one percent, he notes, is not a monolith. He divides the sector into five "neighborhoods": substrata of class, ranging from "Affluentville," with incomes in the $680,000 to $3 million range, on up to "Billionaireville," a rarified enclave of just 540 households at the very top.

Many of those in the lower strata of the upper class are reachable, he says. Once they see the disconnect between their lives and the lives of others, once they understand the benefits that accrue by replacing purchasing power with real community, once they realize that when others climb out of poverty, it is not an attack on them - they will join and stay involved as long as they're treated as human beings with something valuable to offer, and not just as either a human ATM machine or a target for class anger. He quotes social change theorist Gar Alperovitz: "You learn by engagement, not by hanging back. And it's in those risk-taking leaps that we find the excitement, the meaning of life."

After more than 40 years of organizing and marketing for social and environmental change, a lot of his points were familiar to me. But one that wasn't was his shocking chapter on charitable giving. Apparently, many family foundations are basically a way to scam out of paying taxes and do very little genuine charitable work. And this is part of how 22 percent of wealth now devolves to the one percent (most of it to the top 1/10 of 1 percent), more than doubling the 9 percent figure of 1978.

Collins is not anti-capitalist. But he distinguishes generative (healthy) capitalism from degenerative (unhealthy) manifestations. He shows numerous examples of how the wealth can make a difference day to day, and how they can grapple with their own issues around wealth. The book ends very powerfully, with his story of going back to his childhood community of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and discovering that he still had friends there whom he could turn into allies - he didn't have to be alienated from others in the one percent just because he was working full-tine on social change and had given away his fortune.

And on the very last page, he shares an amazing metaphor: "Our job is to serve as hospice workers for the old word, the old story...and midwives to the new world, the new story."

Disclosure: Chuck Collins and I lived in the same social change community in 1980-81. I didn't know him well, but we traveled in the same circles.

Shel Horowitz
Reviewer


Sloan's Bookshelf

The Prophet and the Witch: A Novel of Puritan New England (My Father's Kingdom)
James W. George
CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
www.createspace.com
9781549650390, $12.99 PB, 368 pages
B0755QL6CR, $2.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com

Never has history been brought more vividly to life than in the pages of The Prophet and the Witch, where a colorful cast of characters awaits readers eager to get behind the scenes of one of America's greatest forgotten conflicts.

Join master historical storyteller James W. George for this riotous, yet sensitive, retelling of King Philip's War -- the struggle to subjugate the native American population of 1670s New England to colonial rule. It's also a tale full of rich portrayals and unsettling situations. Here are a few snapshots:

Defrocked Puritan minister Israel Brewster tames and marries fiery beauty Constance Wilder. Captain Benjamin Church and Captain Samuel Mosely lead a bloody but futile assault on an entrenched native American stronghold. And Linto, holy advisor of the Wampanoag tribe, agonizes endlessly about telling elders to fight the English deep in the treacherous swamps rather than head-on. But this tactic slowly turns against the proud warriors until only a handful are left.

Indeed, there is no shortage of conflict -- actual and psychological -- as the saga unfolds at a rapid rate. But the pacing is superb, and the author still manages to build in complex characterizations that propel even minor players far into the reader's imagination.

Linto improbably quotes Biblical verse to Metacomet, the Wampanoag chief, as they stoically endure their long retreat. Elsewhere, Brewster falls in to fight alongside -- and eventually against -- flamboyant militia man Dutch Cornelius in one especially disturbing scene. And, along the way, another shocking revelation rivets readers' attention to a mysterious murder, reminding us all that history is fashioned, for good or ill, by ordinary human beings, not exalted heroes.

"It's a cruel world, Linto, and men need to kill for what they believe in," philosophizes Metacomet's war captain late in the narrative. "Men need to kill and die for the things and people they love."

This is a remarkable book that should be required reading for anyone who believes that history is just a dry procession of facts, dates and faraway places. The Prophet and the Witch roundly belies that truism, and those who read it will eagerly await more from this talented writer.

The LGBTQ Meditation Journal
Christopher Stone and Mary Sheldon
Edited by Kris Jacen
MLR Press
https://www.mlrbooks.com/Bookstore.php?bookid=CSMSMDJR
9781641220415, $12.99, PB, 91 pages
B075K69CKR, $5.99, Kindle, www.amazon.com

In a world fraught with daily tension and crippling strife, we often need a place to which we can go for inner peace. And if we carry the added burden of self-identity issues, we may even need to live there.

You may be surprised to know that such a place is easily found -- and Christopher Stone and Mary Sheldon have created a guide to finding it-- within minutes.

The LGBTQ Meditation Journal is a remarkable collection of empowering exercises aimed primarily at a segment of the population that has gone too long without solace and recognition of self worth.

If you're in the LGBTQ community, you can, through these sensitive, inspirational meditations, finally quiet those inner voices of self-doubt and self-esteem -- the ones keeping you from telling the world who you really are.

Here's an example of what you'll find in these pages:

"'Is being gay or bisexual normal? Are they mental illnesses? Am I gay or bisexual? And what if I am neither completely heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual? If my fluctuating sexual orientation falls between the cracks, what then? Will I spend my life on the fringe of society? Will my family and friends disown me?'"

The authors go on to offer empathetic advice and encouragement, wrapped around easy meditation drills.

"We need to understand that in the eyes of the Universe, we are unique and perfect spiritual beings," the authors explain, "(We are) beloved, supported, and worthy of everything wonderful.

"You must love yourself right now - just the way you are. Use the meditations ... to help in that regard. For those without self-love, they may help you to cultivate what you lack. For the already self-loving, the meditations can assist you in building upon existing self-love."

In Part Three, the authors speak to friends who may know someone in LGBTQ pain, afraid to "come out." To these folks, they offer a unique visual exercise:

"Envision this friend standing in front of you, and explaining why he is afraid to come out. Perhaps he believes his family/friends would reject him. Perhaps he feels it would have negative repercussions in the workplace. As he speaks, visualize his every word becoming a silky strand of gossamer the moment it leaves his mouth. As your friend continues to talk, watch the strands begin to wind themselves around him, trapping him, until finally, he is encased in a large cocoon of his own fears."

They then go on to explain in vivid detail how you can help this friend cut away that cocoon to emerge with a glad heart and clear future.

Finally, in Part Five, they suggest a novel exercise that can help deflect ridicule from small-minded, hurtful bigots. Here it is:

"First, you need to think of a small movement or gesture that is easy to do, innocuous and unobtrusive. It can be touching a special talisman, such as a ring that you always wear. It can be putting your thumb and third finger together, forming a circle. It can be putting your hand up to your ear for a moment. Whatever you choose, this will be your Magic Gesture.

"Second, think of an affirmation to accompany your Magic Gesture. Two possibilities are: 'I am rising to a different level; nothing can hurt me.' Or 'I am Love and Positive Energy; I am completely safe.' Come up with something that will proclaim your willingness to soar to a higher level and your acknowledgment that nothing on a lower level can hurt you."

Five stars to The LGBTQ Meditation Journal. These are sensible, practical exercises that can deliver incredible dividends on the time spent in doing them. Follow them, embrace them, and live them each and every day until you, too, can come "out," and see what it's like to experience a fully transformed life.

I Can See You (Emma Willis Book 1)
Joss Landry
www.josslandry.com
Book Beatles LLC
9780996044196, $15.95, PB, 380 pages
B00K8BBOZQ, $3.99, Kindle, www.amazon.com

Ten-year-old Emma Willis can see the future. It's both a gift and a curse.

Sometimes she saves lives. But in other cases, when she can only shiver in the night and watch helplessly, she just screams and screams until the dark visions dissipate.

And on each of these nights, someone dies.

In this, the first installment of an extraordinary series by acclaimed author Joss Landry, Emma must overcome her personal fears to match wits with a brutal kidnapper and murderer.

At the same time, she risks social isolation from family and friends, who deem Emma's special gift a possible manifestation of witchcraft.

Emma's powers are a genetic legacy from her grandmother. But they also are a psychic liability that is putting her young life in very real danger.

After warning off best friend Tommy from an imminent bike rally disaster, she reluctantly joins forces with local authorities in a desperate search for the killer of three small children and a police officer.

Emma's teacher Christina also gets involved -- and not just in the investigation. She rediscovers a smoldering attraction to police detective Hank Apple's hunky persona, and their renewed relationship adds extra zest to the book's complex and thrilling plotline.

The killer -- a master of disguise -- begins stalking Emma, resulting in added police protection. But Emma finds new courage -- and remarkable new powers -- when she digs through her grandmother's dusty belongings and finds two items with incredible occult power: a leather-bound book of spells and a beautiful amulet on a golden chain.

Used together, they embolden Emma to turn the tables and begin tracking the psychotic perpetrator's own movements through OBE -- Out of Body Experiences. Emma uses these to help detective Apple and his partner begin tightening their case.

But things don't go according to plan and deadly dangers arise as the manhunt closes in on the killer. The breathless ending should satisfy -- and surprise -- even the most demanding reader. It's that good.

Five-plus stars to I Can See You. It's yet another award-winner for author Joss Landry, who offers still more adventures for this exciting new young female lead character in the sequel, I Can Find You, now widely available.

Strutting and Fretting
Kevin McKeon
CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
www.createspace.com
9780692909713, $12.99 PB, 214 pages
B074SRJRLK, $3.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com

The complicated life of a repertory theatre actor takes center stage in the extremely well-written novel Strutting and Fretting by debut author Kevin McKeon. Opening in the 1970s resort town of Santa Maria, California, during one summer theatre season, the story soon plunges the reader deeply into lead character Bob's angst-ridden life.

His ill-considered marriage back in college has ended badly, and Bob spends his time now either agonizing over what went wrong in the failed relationship, and a near-constant fantasy of bedding virtually every woman he meets.

Well, maybe not every woman. There's Lou, the gruff middle-aged stage manager. And there're the overworked and underappreciated wardrobe girls, whose names he never bothers to get. He barely gives them a glance, and when he does, he says with the characteristically wry humor that pervades the book, "I felt like a white slaveowner surveying the plantation."

But pretty much every other female is fair game as he tries to sort out and balance his basically good-guy persona with the more controlling side of his nature.

Yes, Bob is complicated. And this superb work of fiction peels back the layers of his carefully guarded soul for readers to explore. It is a masterful examination of a young man struggling to balance chronic low self-esteem with a performer's perpetual need for approval.

But there is also a skillful leavening of lightheartedness as Bob and the entertaining ensemble of supporting players gamely make their way through a season of Shakespeare, and audience-pleasing musicals, and the occasionally challenging contemporary play.

There is so much to like and admire about this book, from the well-drawn, three dimensional characters (including a fellow actor who carries a trembling Chihuahua with him everywhere in a gym bag) to Darkly Effeminate Mario, the hypersensitive director of Henry V, to the author's evocative writing style that succinctly sums up the raison d'etre for actors everywhere to do what they do best:

"Basically, an actor was little more than a bum," Bob explains to the reader at one point. "A vagrant. An addict. Theatre was the drug of choice. Once you were hooked, you were constantly on unemployment, constantly auditioning, always at the mercy of directors' or casting directors' taste...The performance was the high, the community and the friends you made, they were the high. But coming down was a bitch, and getting off it could kill you."

In short, this is a wonderful insight into the world behind the stage lights -- written by a man who has clearly been there, pursuing the mysterious passion that drives actors the world over to practice their craft.

We give Strutting and Fretting five-plus stars, and put it at the forefront of all the serious new fiction released this year. It currently is available only as a self-published novel like so many other Indie works on Amazon. But it deserves a much larger stage, if you will.

Don't be surprised to see this rare gem rise quickly to bestseller status either on Amazon or with a New York publisher -- and then be optioned to Hollywood. We sincerely hope there are more works forthcoming by this talented writer.

Don Sloan
Reviewer


Susan's Bookshelf

Survivor Love Thy Enemy
James Dennison
CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
www.createspace.com
9781477478158, $10.15 pbk / $2.99 Kindle 268 Pages

Genre: History

As a youngster the author was raised a catholic, his father owned an Irish bar in the north side of Chicago, he was shy and had a devoted girlfriend. Those years were a time of wonderful innocence, luckily, he had no idea what the future would hold for him, physically, emotionally and religiously.

On the 17th of May 1966, aged 20, he was like many others called up for the drafted, and enrolled in the Fort Kansas Ninth Infantry Division. After 32 weeks basic training, which could in no way have prepared these young men for life in the swamps and jungles, the recruits were called 'C' (Charlie) Company and sent to Vietnam, to become part of the Mobile Riverine Force based in the Mekong Delta and operating from US Navy gunboats.

As soon as I started to read this book I was immediately struck by the author's clear recollections of his comrade's backgrounds and future dreams, his attention to detail in this respect brings the book wonderfully alive as we get to know the men behind the camouflage gear. As expected in a war book there are many graphic and horrifying images which the writer has been brutally honest in his descriptions of, not only the fighting, but also in methods of torture and some of the truly horrendous ways it was implemented by both sides. We discover also, how hard it was for these young Americans to acclimatise to living in the jungle, the rations, dysentery, insects, depression, and of course the deaths and terrible injuries caused by claymore mines, guns and fighting. However, in his representation of the horrors of war, the author hasn't forgotten to give the reader glimpses into how life was like for the non-fighting Vietnamese people and how, unsure of what the future would hold, they openly hedged their bets with both sides.

Another very important character in this story who we are introduced to very early on is Van, a prominent member of the Viet Cong movement, a young man with an all-consuming hatred of the Americans burning within him. However, we are to wonder if this is going to change when he falls in love with the beautiful Tuyen. Their love is so fierce that when Van leaves Th oi Son Island for Cambodia, to recruit and train new soldiers in war craft, interrogation and torture, she trains to become a spy, using her womanly whiles to infiltrate the lonely American men of the intelligence services.

As we follow the author through this nightmarish war we discover that even in the most hellish situations love can be found, and indeed true love knows no boundaries. However, always where there is love there is also a myriad of other emotions, including its direct opposite hate, and perhaps the most dangerous of all jealousy.

This book is not only an extremely interesting look at the Vietnam War, the politics, and people, it is also an incredible testament to how the author's whole life has been shaped by his experiences in Vietnam.

I have read many times that a person comes out of a war a totally different person, and having reading this absorbing, heart rending, vividly honest account by the author it is easy to understand why, when you span the years from that young man drafted in 1966 to the man portrayed on the last page of this amazing story. I just could not put this book down, and highly recommend it.

The Retribution
Shankar Kashyap
DigiConv Technologies
9789386474261, $7.99 / $2.99 Kindle 280 Pages

Genre: Thriller

Everyone has seen them, the drug addicts, gays, and drunkards, the dregs of society willing to do anything for their next fix, however, the attractions of these vices are rampant in all tiers of society, and every 'job' has its fair share of culprits, it's just that some people manage to hide under a polished veneer of respectability, whilst others do so with only a small degree of success.

In this exciting psychological thriller a family from Kenya find themselves fleeing to Leicester in the UK. The differences between the two countries are so vast that it takes the main character a boy called Dev a long time to settle, however Dev's father is determined to make the move to the UK a success, and so the unhappy Dev resorts to telling the pages of his little red book how he feels, a childhood habit which follows him through life.

As the years go by the father's dream is realised as he establishes a temple, and he is proud of the prominent part his boys play in the day to day life there.

Dev is no longer the withdrawn boy of his youth, he has matured into a charismatic, dynamic man, a priest in the temple, loved by all. He works tirelessly for the rights of those around him, and it is this compassion and strength of character which makes him adored by the both the Asian, and local white community, people and leaders alike.

However Dev is hiding a dark secret from everyone, despite all the trappings of a successful man, a beautiful wife, new cars, designer clothes, he knows in his heart that he cannot deny the man he really is, the man who has grown from that young boy who left Mombasa Island all those years ago...

As the author takes us, through Dev's experiences, deeper and deeper into the gay and drugs scenes in the seedier side of Leicester, we discover the other world which lives and loves in the shadows, the mafia who supply them, and how even the police officers working their cases have their own demons to face.

I found that this exciting, traumatic, and sometimes thought provoking story had me turning the pages eagerly, desperate to discover what happens next. Full of action from page one, I think that other readers who love a good psychological, murder mystery will absolutely love this engrossing story, after all, admit it, aren't you just itching to know what Dev wrote in the pages of that little red book?

Cries of Grace
Angela Beach Silverthorne
http://angelabeachsilverthorne.blogspot.com
CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
www.createspace.com
9781544851006, $14.99, 396 Pages

Genre: Contemporary Romance

This inspiring story begins as Bren graduates as a nurse from university, and returns to The Haven, the wonderful home where she found sanctuary with her now deceased grandmother 'GG'. This is the sequel to 'Cries of Innocence' in which we learnt about Bren's traumatic childhood, and how, through the teachings of her grandmother, and others, she discovered her faith in God, and that she was a Lighten (warrior of God). I have to say right now that it doesn't matter of you haven't read 'Cries of Innocence,' this story happily stands alone.

Bren's graduation is five years after there was horrific demonic activity at The Haven, which caused so much heartbreak. During those years training for her Master's degree in nursing Bren's faith in God has remained as strong as ever and she is returning home hoping to be able to help her local community by becoming a midwife, following in the footsteps of her grandmother.

It is always difficult returning after a long absence, and Bren discovers that inevitably there have been many changes at The Haven. However, the air is buzzing with activity, the business is busy, and best of all, the man she loves, Joseph is still waiting for her, and planning their future together.

Everything is perfect, and the community is growing in the love of God, however Bren is constantly reminded of her grandmother's advice to guard her heart and forgive. As her hopes and dreams come true, not only for herself, but for those around her, at the back of her mind she cannot help but stay vigilant, forever watching and on guard, terrified that Satan's servants may return.

She is also uncomfortably aware that those who live at The Haven were not the only ones in Silverton who were affected by that terrible night five years ago, and she finds herself wondering if it could be true that 'the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son.'

This is an incredibly inspiring story, Silverton and its inhabitants are just like you and me, they have hopes, fears, problems, worries, and hates, as we do. However, this is a strong Christian community and their belief in the love of God and his son Jesus helps them throughout all their daily life. In this modern, consumer orientated world, so busy and impersonal, often we think only of ourselves, however through Bren, Joseph and the other characters, the author reminds us that others need our help and we can make a difference. As I finished the last page of this wonderful book I was not only in awe of the achievements of its characters, but I felt uplifted by the realisation that He is always with us, and that it only takes a moment to stop and ask God for help or guidance, he is always there, listening...

I highly recommend this wonderful story and can't wait until early next year when 'Cries of Mercy' will be released.

Lure of Soma: Harappa 1
Shankar Kashyap
www.harappa.com
Indus Publishing
9788193171455, $8.99, 252 Pages

Genre: History

The author's vast knowledge of Hindu history and literature makes this enthralling novel set in the third millennium BCE fascinating reading. Indeed although a work of fiction, the story is based around real life characters and events which took place in the Near East, and Middle East at that time.

The Harappan (or Indus Valley) Civilization was the biggest empire of the time. Its lands stretched from the river Indus and Hindu Kush Mountains in the west, to the Ganges Yamuna Doab in the east, the Himalayas in the north and the Arabian Sea in the south.

The story is told by the main character Upashantha (Upaas), who is a trainee physician and the son of Angirasa, the chief architect who designed the beautiful city of Harappa, known as the City of Gold.

Through Upaas's eyes, and the author's wonderfully descriptive writing, we find ourselves transported back through time to this golden era in Harappan history.

The Harappans live well, are prosperous, safe, protected, and welcome visitors and merchants keen to trade with them. However, for others life is not so fortunate, in Ariana the nine rivers have dried up, the people are suffering, and the crops are failing. Matriya, has had to watch his family and those around him struggle and is angry, and so after failing to persuade the Elders of Sistan to use their magical powers to change the course of the river Sindu (Indus), a resentful and unhappy Matriya decides to take fate into his own hands.

Eventually, after much studying under a yogi who knows how to control nature, Matriya learns the necessary powers himself, however, although he wants to move the course of the mighty Sindu river so his people's lands are fertile again, he also has an ulterior motive, he is doing it for selfish reasons, he seeks glory for himself.

As this story unfolds Upaas finds himself called upon to help the Elders of the Council and Sages of Harappa, and is sent down perilous paths to save the City of Gold from war, and the spell of the rogue Magus.

I was fascinated by the magical Soma plant which was revered as a God by the Harappan civilization, and grown in a secret location known only to a few. Its magical powers are as vital to the Magus, and the Harappa people in this story, as they were at the time.

This is a great action packed adventure which is laced with magic and sorcery, and am looking forward to reading the second in this trilogy, Harappa 2: Fall of Shuruppak.

The Treebobs and the Dizzy Broomsticks
Declan Harney
Tales 4 All Limited
http://magicalforest.co.uk
9780995597105, $12.95

Genre: Children's Book

When the peacefulness of the Treebobs and fairies home, the Treebob tree, is shattered by the sounds of sawing and cackling laughter, Treebob Bluebell, and two fairies, Bindweed Belle and Foxglove Philip decide that they will have to go and find out what is happening.

Nothing could have prepared them for the sight which meets their eyes! The two wicked witches Rotten Rena and Badlot Barbara are standing in the forest twirling their wands, and magically making giant saws fly through the air, cutting down the branches on the forests lovely trees!

But why are they doing it?

Well, it's not until posters start being put up, that the woodland dwellers discover to their dismay that the wicked pair of witches are opening a broomstick shop!

Well, Rotten Rena and Badlot Barbara are very happy, the business is a flying success, witches come from far and wide, eager to buy their brooms, they are making lots of gold. However, whilst the witches are gleefully looking to the future, the woodland folk are in despair, their beautiful forest is no longer peaceful, the trees are being cut down, and the air is filled with raucous laughter and cackling, as the witches zoom around trying out brooms.

Something has to be done! So, safe in the sanctuary of the Treebob tree, the Treebobs, fairies, and woodland dwellers call a meeting. Babs Broomsticks must fail! But, how can they make this happen?

A plan is formed, and the spell is made, it takes heaps of teamwork, a huge measure of enthusiasm, a big dose of cleverness, a bundle of cooperation, a drop of determination, topped off with a big sprinkle of magic, but will it work?

To find out what the spell is, and if it worked, you will have to read this very entertaining and beautifully written story.

Full of magical Treebobs, lovely fairies, wicked witches, and woodland folk, this enchanting tale totally captured the heart and imagination of my little granddaughter. As I read it she eagerly turned the pages, she just couldn't wait to hear what was coming next, and see the beautiful illustrations.

As a mother and grandmother I liked the fact that the author has used The Treebobs and the Dizzy Broomsticks to teach young readers important messages of harmony, thoughtfulness, friendship, and teamwork.

In the back there is also the added bonus' of Rotten Rena's Squashed Eyed Pie (one I'm definitely going to have to try with my granddaughter), and some games to play.

Real Life: Construction Management Guide from A-Z
Jamil Soucar
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Dr. Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
www.dorrancepublishing.com
9781480941397, $37.40

Genre: Non-Fiction

This very informative book has been written as a 'real life' guide for Construction Managers, and those who are considering undertaking the job. It not only offers guidelines for practices, but also looks into the very real, and present human element which is part of any project, including personalities, politics and agendas, and explains how these things can cause incredible challenges to a project, and how to overcome them.

As early as the 1960's it became apparent that guidelines for the construction industry were necessary, eventually 'the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) was formed and incorporated in 1982. CMAA provides a unified voice for the construction management industry in those areas where collective representation and action as an association are the best method of achieving common goals.'

Written from personal experience, the author takes the reader through the work which is expected of a Construction Manager, both in the private and public sector. His knowledge of the industry and with clients, has enabled the author to not only explain in a detailed yet easily understood way the necessary processes right through from the initial planning stage, to design, construction, and eventually the finalisation and the close out phase of a project. He has included useful examples, and also, because of his personal involvement in the industry he has thoughtfully included 'Real Life Gauge's' and 'Best Practices Tips' into the chapters, giving the reader those all-important little pieces of know-how, which, before this book, only experience could teach you.

Having explained that the role of the Construction Manager is to ensure that all the different people, and artisans involved in a project work together as a team, he emphasises that above all, the manager job is to be the owner's, or public entities, representative, and that however different the relationship with these clients may be, fundamentally the three most important elements of ANY project are the same, cost, control, and quality.

The author also examines the reasons behind engaging a Construction Manager, both for private and public projects. The responsibilities and liabilities which are part of the job are looked at, as is the importance of getting things right, and always keeping accurate records. At the end of the book dealing with claims and disputes is dealt with as well.

This book is a compact, yet comprehensive, invaluable guide, not only for anyone contemplating a career in the industry, but also for those who are considering undertaking a construction project.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer
www.susan-keefe.com


Suzie's Bookshelf

Echoes of War: A Chronicle of The Four
R.J. Monty
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B07652QT5Q, $2.99, Kindle Edition, 225 pages
9781545560822

Science Fiction

The year was 2024, it was a time where the world was in an uproar of a terrible plague that surrounded the entire globe. Those on the inside were left with unanswered questions and fear at what the outside world was to bring. They worried about those that are trapped on the outside to fend for themselves against the relentless force.

Detective Bill Wilkins and Detective Jennifer Rodriguez find themselves working together on a high-profile case. Their mission involved finding a teenage boy named Garrett. Their investigation leads them to Garrett and his friends but then a storm sweeps over the land.

When the darkness rises they learn that other people have disappeared. To complicate matters more, the city walls have become breached by Rebels. As Hell on Earth seems to erupt before their eyes will they be strong enough to survive?

Echoes of War: a Chronicle of the Four is a high action drama that offers a potpourri of endless adventure. Just as you find that you get comfortable in what is unfolding the plot shifts abruptly, and you discover another nail-biting adventure that's worthy of being dissected.

R.J. Monty is a superb author who knows how to write an exceptional novel. I was highly impressed with his talent as a writer and how he was able to blend so many scenes into one book. I feel that this book is one that any reader will be proud to own. It is definitely a book that I soon will not forget.

Beautiful Girl
J.L. Hunt
Amazon Digital
B01EKKIDJU, $3.99 amazon.com

Grade Level: P - 3

"This book presents an overall fun-filled whimsical atmosphere where any girl will feel like a special princess!

It is one that celebrates the beauty in each girl, and how special being a girl is. The illustrations radiate & bring the words to life, as they paint the picture that will inspire a child to become their very best. This is an exceptional writing by J.L.Hunt it's magnificent! It is one that is assured to quickly become a girl's favorite reading pastime."

What Is the Meaning of Life: a Guide to Living a Meaningful Life
Jason E Karasek
https://jasonkarasek.com
Amazon Digital
B06XG5KSXH, $2.99, Kindle Edition, 43 pages, amazon.com

Non-Fiction

Change is the essence of life.

Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become

Life provides the existence to our meaning but can it define us? It is essential to the growth of your well-being to set goals in order to have something positive and motivating to look forward to in the future.

This book will introduce to you concepts and methods that will help improve and answer the crucial question, "What is the meaning of life?" It will take you on a deep educational journey to discover yourself and what you need to improve to live life to the fullest.

What Is the Meaning of Life: a Guide to Living a Meaningful Life is a life-changing book. As you read through each substance enriched page you will find yourself stopping and reflecting on how this applies to your own life situation.

Jason E. Karasek has done an outstanding job in writing this book. As I explored his philosophies it was as if a cloud was being shifted so that I could see the world more clearly. This book was a very thought-provoking and eye-opening experience. It is one that I would highly recommend.

Suzie Housley
Reviewer


Teri's Bookshelf

A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic
Peter Wadhams
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
www.oup.com/us
9780190691158, $15.95, 206 pages

How would you explain climate change to someone who does not believe it is a reality? How could you prove to anyone of the rising temperatures of the ocean or the melting of the Arctic?

Would they believe someone who has been a polar researcher for forty-seven years and is considered an expert scientist?

Peter Wadhams, who wrote this readable scientific data-driven report for the non-scientist, A Farewell to Ice, is one person no one could disagree with the disappearance of the polar ice.

Wadhams is one of the few people who truly understands the changes since 1970, he has documented the tremendous changes of the Arctic region as a polar researcher. His descriptions, evidence, pictures, and graphs tell a story of their own that is and should be frightening to every creature on this planet.

Even though everyone needs to see this information, the reader needs a basic understanding of chemistry to fully absorb the concepts.

To take non-fictional scientific reader and turn it into a thriller is a task of a genius. The book is difficult to leave once you start it. The author's knowledge, experiences, and love of this area of the world is exhibited on every page. Unfortunately, the tale has a grim prognosis for future generations.

Most of us are aware of the melting of the glaciers, Arctic ice, and the tremendous sections of glacier ice that has broken off and floating in the ocean as it melts and raises sea levels. Additionally, Wadhams explains and documents additional problems such as the release of additional methane into the atmosphere and the effect on each of us. Also discussed in depth is the importance of radiation from the sun reflecting off the ice and how this has changed in the past half-of-century.

Cambridge University has the distinction of employing Peter Wadhams as Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department Of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics as well as Professor of Ocean Physics.

A Farewell to Ice is a foretelling of the future by tables, graphs, photographs, and writing that completely engages the knowledge of the ocean.

Walk Shepherdess, Walk: A Sing-Along Book
Barrett Cobb, Illustrator and Performer
http://walkshepherdesswalk.com
Dog Ear Publishing
4011 Vincennes Road, New Augusta, IN 46268-3005
www.dogearpublishing.net
9781457548939, $17.98, 36 pages

Barrett Cobb's childhood was filled with literature and songs. As a young child one tune stayed with her, almost as a lilting lullaby.

Eleanor Farjeon wrote both the words and melody which were first published in Nursery Rhymes of London Town in 1916 and adopted by the American Girl Scouts evolving the little tune into a folk song reflecting to the world a different time, place, and culture for most of the world.

As with most folk songs, throughout the years the song has been modified slightly with the tune and alternative words. This book focuses on the original version. The book is based on a basic three-versed four-lined poem. Some of the vocabulary could be difficult depending on the past experiences of the readers. The story was written with sheep wandering through the nearby hills and uses words, not always commonly spoken in today's city culture. Some words need to be introduced such as shepherdess, ebony, ram, ewe, fleece, wether, and shan't. The book explains that a wether is a lead sheep which could be compared to the game Follow-the-Leader.

The music is beautifully performed by the author, Barrett Cobb and can be downloaded through the website listed in the book. The melody is an easy tune which quickly can be a haunting selection, staying with you for days. The simplistic tune is sung by Barrett, who has a beautiful, well-trained voice adding accompaniment harmonies, flute and piano into a memorable performance.

Twelve gorgeous watercolor paintings perfectly parallel the story in poem form as the story progressing reinforcing the poetic story.

After a few readings, it is easy for a young prereader or early reader to sing the melody as the pages are turned with the pictures reinforcing the words.

At the conclusion of the tale, a narrative explaining the poem assists in further demonstrating the theme being jealousy and how to appropriately recognize and turn this into a positive life lesson.

Barrett Cobb is a painter, singer, flutist and now a visual storyteller turning a childhood folk song is an enchanting life lesson for everyone.

Two Journeys Home, A Novel Of Eighteenth Century Europe Book 2 - The Derrynane Saga
Kevin O'Connell
The Gortculinane Press
www.derrynanebooks.com
9780997407617, $14.99, Paperback, 295 pages

At a little over six-feet tall, long raven hair, intelligent beyond her years and Irish, all describe the beautiful Eileen O'Connell returns to her home in Ireland after spending years in the court of Empress Maria Theresa. Her duties in Austria are as nanny and friends with two of the young princesses, Archduchesses Maria Carolina and Maria Antonia. Part of her task is also to prepare each of them for their royal lives of the future, hopefully queens.

Many years ago, Eileen had been raised in western County Kerry in Ireland. Her family had earned their wealth by investing in illegal commercial maritime trading activities.

After her sixteenth birthday, Eileen's family had arranged for her to marry a man, over fifty-years her senior. Unsurprisingly, she had hated being his young wife in this arranged situation, but within seven-months of the marriage, she had learned to love and cherish him. His death was a shock to her. The obvious solution for a wealthy young woman of the 1760s in Ireland is to be remarried.

For Eileen, there exists another option.

Her Irish relatives were already thriving in the Hapsburg court under the direction of the Emperor and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Hungary. Her "uncle", actually her second-cousin who is much older, is a General of the Imperial Armies of Austria and Hungary as well as being The Count Morin O'Connell. Since Ireland at this time was ruled by the English, for any Irish to join the military in their own country, required enlisting in the British army currently occupying their country. For many, especially those of wealth, serving in foreign countries greatly raised their wealth, prestige, knowledge of strategies, and respect of those at home.

About six-years later, after the death of Eileen's father, she is finally returning. Accompanying her is the General and his new wife, Countess Maria. Von

On this voyage home, she is accompanied by the General and his new wife, Countess Maria von Graffenreit-O'Connell. Eileen has mixed feelings about her home. Is it Vienna with her friend and lover, Major Wolfgang von Klaus or is home Ireland?

She realizes that besides making close friends with the royal family, this had also given her time to heal as she learns of the magnificent lives at the palaces of Hofburg, Schönbrunn and Laxenburg.

Reading the second book in most series, especially if you have not read the first, can be a little difficult. However, Two Journeys Home is easily understandable with much of the first book being reflected upon.

This book begins with Eileen's journey to Ireland, back to the life in Vienna at court bringing into light the history of the time period after the 7 Years War between France and Austria including Marie Antoinette. This sequel concludes with her second return to Ireland.

There are conflicts, especially within her family and the expectations, as well as religion and culture of the countries and time period. Surprisingly, much of the story seems to fit together as tightly as a puzzle.

Author, Kevin O'Connell has based this Derrynane series on much of his own family history, mixing what could have logically happened into an historical fiction novel. He is a New York City native whose ancestor had been part of the Irish Brigade of the French army during the time of Marie Antoinette. The Derrynane series is expected to include four novels, starting with Beyond Derrynane and the second, Two Journeys Home.

Mr. O'Connell has spent over forty-years in the legal field of international business transactional law throughout the world.

Two Journeys Home is part of a wonderful epic-saga in the past of Ireland, Austria, and France.

Teri Davis
Reviewer


James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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