Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 10 October 2016 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Ann's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Bonnye's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Chutsky's Bookshelf
Clint's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Joshua's Bookshelf
Julie's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Moore's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Polk's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Through the Dark Clouds Shining
A. R. Homer
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530452972, $14.95 PR, $3.49 Kindle, 528 pp,

Carol Ann Kellogg

A. R. Homer, an award-winning author of five novels set during World War Two, has stepped away from his usual genre to give us a novel set against the backdrop of World War One. His riveting tale chronicles the drastic impacts of the war on many segments of society, from aristocrats and business magnates to miners, farm workers and clerks. All are caught up in the maelstrom and horrors of war.

The novel opens with a short scene from the last year of the war in which Sam Harding, a soldier, lies thrashing in a military hospital, trying desperately to call up from the depths of his unconscious some horrific incident that lies buried just beneath the threshold of his memory.

The tale moves back in time to 1914, in the tranquil months before the war. At Hadleigh Hall, Lord Hadleigh, back from his archeological digs in Egypt, is planning his annual grouse shoot with his son, Hugh, while his wife, Lady Clarissa, and their daughter select their ball gowns for an upcoming voyage to New York.

Sam Harding, a groomsman in Lord Hadleigh's stables, and his wife, Kate, scrape by with rabbits poached from Lord Hadleigh's estate and home-grown vegetables while they await the birth of their first child. Woven through Sam's story are threads of a mystery: why is someone desperately trying to get their hands on a battered chest owned by Sam's deceased father?

In a nearby coal town, Charlie Burgess and his brother, Matthew, suffer when their father, his lungs clogged with coal dust, dies.

In London, Sir Henry Driver, owner of a clothing factory, counts his profits as his social-climbing wife makes plans for their daughter Charlotte's coming-out party. Charlotte, meanwhile, has other plans as she fights for women's suffrage with Emily, a machine operator in Charlotte's father's factory; their passion eventually lands them both on a hunger strike in jail.

War comes as a sudden shock and a rude disruption to all their plans. Lord Hadleigh, his son Hugh having immediately joined up as a lieutenant, solicits enlistment from his estate workers while Lady Clarissa schemes to keep Hugh out of harm's way. Their groomsman, Sam Harding, swears to his pregnant wife that he will never leave her side and go to war, a promise he will not be able to keep.

Conscripted, Charlie Burgess uses his mining skills to dig tunnels to German outposts to plant explosives while his brother, Matthew, a lay preacher and a conscientious objector refusing enlistment, bears brutality in prison.

In London, while Sir Henry Driver adds to his wealth as his clothing factory transitions to army uniforms, his daughter, Charlotte, her respectability besmirched after her stint in jail, becomes alienated from her parents and finds purpose as a nurse in hospitals in France.

All are strangers or virtual strangers at the outset of the novel, but by the end of the story their lives will have converged in surprising and, in some cases, tragic ways.

Through the course of the novel, we watch as the characters, buffeted by the war and by fate, grow and change - some happier and wiser, others defeated and accepting.

Homer's novel is fast-paced, with short chapters advancing the storylines that alternate among the characters, each chapter ending in a way that makes it hard to put the book down. The history supporting the story - from the treatment of conscientious objectors and suffragettes to the bizarre escape from an 'inescapable' German prisoner of war camp - has been meticulously researched and is vividly described. And while the novel is more about the impact of the war on the home front of England, there are some harrowing scenes set on the battlefield that are essential to the plot.

"Through the Dark Clouds Shining" is a richly-textured novel, at times edge-of-your-seat exciting, at times deeply moving, always captivating. Those who enjoyed Downton Abbey will surely find this work of historical fiction a rare treat.

Star Sword: A Wolf Slayer Saga
Richard Dawes
Melange Books, LLC
B01LLYMLFU, $2.99,

Kevin Peter, Reviewer

Blue Flame - A review of the novel 'Star Sword'

"An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior." - Viktor E. Frankl

Richard Dawes' book, 'Star Sword', is the latest installment in the 'Wolf Slayer Saga' series. Valka the Wolf Slayer is an enigmatic fighter and a destined hero of the times. He follows the Warriors Way, and is ever ready to fight the dark forces of chaos to preserve cosmos. After stumbling into Agartha, a spiritual center and civilization beneath the surface of the earth, he becomes the hero the people have been awaiting. An evil magician has unleashed unspeakable evil in his bid to take control of Agartha and ultimately the world. Valka relies on his star sword and new acquaintances to vanquish the magician and restore peace.

Star Sword follows the template found in the other books in the series. This isn't a negative, especially if the reader is a fan of these books. The book continues to provide plenty the same dynamics that originally attracted readers to this series.

Valka was a powerful hero to begin with and in the latest installment he becomes even more powerful. When characters acquire 'too big to fail' status, it removes some of the unpredictability from the plot. The reader knows that no matter how tough the situation gets, the hero will escape the latest predicament unscathed, and possibly even emerge stronger.

This is not a flaw. It is inherent in the heroic genre. Does anyone really walk into an Avengers movie and expect them to fail in the climax? Does anyone expect James Bond to lose out to the villain?

In Star Sword, Richard Dawes has expertly integrated into the plot metaphysical considerations the reader has come to expect in the sagas. Here the reader can ruminate on world cycles, vibration underlying form, power, its variations and its corrupting influence.

There is plenty to enjoy in Star Sword if you are a returning reader or are new to the series. First on the list is the fight sequences. Describing an action scene with swords and axes is more difficult than those involving guns. The author does an outstanding job etching the details, allowing the reader to imagine these scenes clearly. And he keeps it fresh, even though there are many fight scenes in the saga. The descriptions of the environment are very detailed, bringing the realm of Agartha to vivid life for the reader. The characters are well-drawn and real.

Valka the Wolf Slayer can be read on several different levels - as a simple action hero, if one is looking for entertainment. If one is willing to read between the lines, however, there is quite a bit of subtext to this lone hero's adventures.

Girl on the Brink
Christina Hoag
Fire & Ice Young Adult Books
9781680463392, $12.95, Paperback
B01K9L996A, $4.99, Kindle

Marlan Warren, Reviewer

Genre: YA Fiction/Teen Romance

"I hope...he never calls me again, but he still owes me a big apology." --Girl on the Brink

Summary: Aspiring reporter Chloe (age 17) lands a dream job as a summer intern with the local paper in her New Jersey suburb, and meets the somewhat annoying-but-cute Kieran while she is on assignment. Kieran (age 19) pounces on Chloe, who is pleased to find a creative person like herself (he's an aspiring actor), and enjoys his lavish attention as a welcome alternative to her unhappy home life due to her parents' impending divorce. Gradually, it becomes more and more apparent that Kieran is emotionally disturbed, and unable (or unwilling) to control his need to micromanage her life or his extreme jealousy. At first, she thinks "There's no point in resisting," but by the time he's repeatedly hurt her physically and mentally, Chloe knows in her head that he's abusing her, but her heart makes excuses for him. Which will win? Head or heart?

Los Angeles author Christina Hoag has crafted Girl on the Brink as a "howdunit." While it is no mystery why the vulnerable and intelligent 17-year old Chloe falls for the initial charm of a potentially lethal 19-year old young man whose avid attention leads her into a summer romance, the real mystery lies in how the heck this otherwise sharp, but troubled, teen will extricate herself from what increasingly becomes an abusive relationship.

Hoag has grounded the story in the psychological reality of how abusive relationships can occur at any age. The episodic story is told in first person from Chloe's point of view, which gives it a kind of one-sided diary quality, but its use of present tense gives it a you-are-there immediacy. It unfolds the way life--and relationships--unfold.

This is not a "sleeping with the enemy" tale. There are no real villains here. Neither the sex nor the violence is sensationalized. In fact, the tragedy and victory play out with greater impact because "domestic abuse" is sadly commonplace--even though it is almost taboo in American culture to discuss it openly, especially with young daughters and sons.

Many readers may see themselves or someone they know in these pages. And to her credit, Hoag supplies a "Resources" list in the Appendix where teens can seek help if they are in Chloe's situation.

It is a well-documented fact that a significant number of abusive relationships are inhabited by two people who say they love each other. Girl on the Brink gently explores this paradox (nothing is preachy). And when it is finally over, a wiser Chloe states:

"I know it was okay to leave Kieran, and it was okay to miss him, too."

Abusive relationships can happen throughout women's lives in repetitive patterns. Girl on the Brink serves as a beacon that shines light on how to nip potential abuse cycles in the bud, and place high priority on mutual respect in relationships.

The People Who Eat Darkness
Richard Lloyd Parry
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, New York
9780374230593, $16.00,

Paul Binford, Reviewer

In the year 2000, less than 10 years after Japan became my home, the summer and fall were punctuated by news reports of the mysterious and total disappearance of a British hostess named Lucie Blackman from her home in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. "The People Who Eat Darkness" is the story and background of what happened to Lucie, as told by the Tokyo bureau chief of the London Times.

Mr. Parry spared no effort in following the details of the mystery. Part One begins with a rather long introduction to Lucie's family. They lived in the small town of Sevenoaks in Kent, where their life was, on the surface, picture perfect. There were conflicts however, between Lucie's mother Jane, and her father, Tim. The marriage ended in divorce when Lucie was seventeen. Jane and Tom would continue as major players in the story, and it's likely that the long, drawn out investigation into Lucie's disappearance would never have taken place if not for the efforts of her father.

Lucie had quit her job as a flight attendant with British Airways on hearing that hostesses in Japan earn quite a bit of money. It didn't turn out that way for Lucie, but as part of the explanation for her disappointment, Mr. Parry goes into great detail explaining the "mizu shobai", or water business, a term to describe the various levels of the sex industry in Japan. The root of the phrase is a comparison to the ebb and flow of the tides, as with the amount of money changing hands according to the state of the economy. On one extreme is the blameless geisha girl, whose role is formal entertainment. At the other end are the hard-core S&M clubs, with hostesses operating somewhere in the middle, closer to the geisha. A hostess n Japan was described by a British tabloid as "similar to an airline stewardess, except that a stewardess is at 30,000 feet."

It was Louise Phillips, roommate, co-worker and childhood friend of Lucie, who reported the disappearance to the Azabu Police Station and was promptly dismissed. She was told that "It was just another girl who had gone missing in Roppongi." Tim Blackman and Lucie's younger sister Sophie went to Tokyo and found the same treatment. It wasn't until there was a G8 meeting in Tokyo, when Tim realized the British PM Tony Blair would be in the neighborhood, that things got rolling. Lucie's father managed to meet with Mr. Blair, who met with the prime minister of Japan, who informed the police that they'd better find Lucie Blackman.

Tokyo's First Criminal Investigation Division, an elite detective squad, was assigned to the case. They were relentless, beginning with searching millions of phone calls for numbers that were used to call Lucie. The investigation led to a number of rather bizarre red herrings. One was an avid fan of S&M clubs, who insisted that the leader of his former S&M group was responsible for Lucie's disappearance. Another was an alibi for Joji Obara, who eventually emerged as the main suspect, provided by the leader of a local Yakuza gang.

Layers of sub-plots and intriguing anecdotal stories are interwoven throughout "The People Who Eat Darkness." The title itself is borrowed from a Japanese author, Toru Matsugaki, who wrote "Yami o Kuu Hitohito", roughly translated as Parry's own title. Along the way there is Huw Shakeshaft, a wealthy British businessman who provides the Blackmans with an office and a telephone, and the staff to answer the hot-line and collect "tips" about Lucie's whereabouts. Needless to say, some of the tips were rather extraordinary. There's also Mike, another type of businessman who extorted money out of the tragedy, saying that if he could only have more money, "Your daughter will come home very soon." Not the least of the grotesque scenarios the reader will encounter is the explanation of the suspect for his behavior. He called it "conquest play," in which he drugged his victims and had his way with them.

And there is Louise, the last person to see Lucie on the day of her disappearance. Questioned relentlessly by the police, not as a suspect but as someone who knew more than she was saying, she was ordered to keep her interrogations a secret. Yet, even after her return to England, Louise refused to divulge her conversations with the police to anybody.

As a sort of epilogue to the tragic drama of Lucie, the reader sees the grief-stricken disintegration of the Blackman family. Both Lucie's brother Rupert and her sister Sophie suffered mental breakdowns. Her mother divulged in psychic soothsayers to find Lucie, and afterwards to "communicate" with her. The father, Tim, was offered a considerable amount of money by the suspect's lawyers to soften the charges against him. The family troubles continued long after the mystery was solved, proving that a tragedy of this scale has continual reverberations.

Richard Parry's story-telling skills are balanced with a fair-minded approach to the initial mishandling of the case by the police, the plight of sex workers in Roppongi, the devastation inflicted on Lucie's family, and eventually the public pronunciation that Lucie was somehow to blame for her own disappearance, due to her risky lifestyle. All of this is handled with the tone of an experienced journalist and the voice of a compassionate storyteller. "The People Who Eat Darkness" is compared to an earlier crime classic, "In Cold Blood", and those who appreciated that crime story, more fantastic than fiction, would likewise appreciate Parry's book.

Rainbow Rowellli
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250049377, $24.99, Hardcover, 310 pages,

Teri Davis

"Georgie. You cannot be jealous of Dawn- that's like the sun being jealous of a lightbulb."

Wow! You mean the former girlfriend is a lightbulb, and I am the sun to you?

Relationships are usually complicated, in particular between a husband and a wife. It takes a rare talent to capture a glimpse of the inner workings of any marriage through the eyes of the masterful author, Rainbow Rowell who neither glamorizes or simplifies the reality of being married.

Georgie McCool has one of those difficult choices in life where whatever she chooses will cause her to have regrets. There is no right here, just the logical solution even if it is at the expense of her family.

Georgie along with her longtime friends, Seth and Scotty, have been together since college. The three have learned how to capitalize their relationships into writing successful comedy shows.
Their dream is just around the corner with their idea of a new show being possible. Finally, a network executive is looking at their prospective dream, Passing Time.

Naturally, Georgie needs to take the leap and devote her next few days to writing.

It is a week before Christmas, Georgie, Neal and their two daughters have plane tickets to Omaha to share the holidays with her in-laws. Logically, Georgie needs to stay in Los Angeles to write forcing her to miss Christmas with the family, her husband, and their daughters.

How will her husband react to this choice? Will this be the beginning of their separation?

Landline is a masterful narrative revealing Georgie's thoughts, insecurities in a real-life situation. After many years of marriage, many people value those rare romantic memories of the past while secretly dreaming that they happen again. They don't. Over many years, all relationships evolve due to work situations, children, stress, money, and numerous other challenges. Does that mean that your marriage is over?

Added to that, Georgie possesses guilt that her husband, Neal, gave up his career dream so that she could pursue hers. Is it Neal's turn for his chance to dream?

Rainbow Rowell is a best-selling author who resides in Omaha with her family. Her previous novels are Fangirl, Eleanor and Park, and Attachments.

Landline is a unique glimpse into personal relationships between co-workers, siblings, parents, in-laws, children, spouses, and even former girlfriends without being a romance novel and surprisingly, being utterly fascinating.

How Rowell weaves this tale is astonishing.

Landline is one book that you never want to put down while you are reading and continue to mull over long after you complete the last page.

What can anyone learn from reading this novel? The answer is to discover what holds a family together and what breaks them. Could this be what some call love? Read Landline for the answer.

After the Thaw
Therese Heckenkamp
Ivory Tower Press
9780996805704, $13.99 PR, $3.99 Kindle, 360pp,

Deborah Stone

In After the Thaw by Therese Heckenkamp, Charlene Perigard is still in the process of trying to put her life together after being kidnapped and traumatized three years earlier. She is in love with a firefighter named Ben and she is making plans for the future, but first she must fulfill a deathbed promise that will force her to revisit her past. She must deliver a letter to Clay, the brother of her kidnapper and the man who saved her life. Her life becomes steeped in threats and violence and she has to find some place safe, away from family and the people she knows. As she fights to stay alive and find a way to live in peace, as she struggles with possible feelings for Clay, her relationship with Ben begins to fall apart. If Charlene can survive this current nightmare, she will have to make a choice.

Therese Heckenkamp develops a story with descriptive language and sub-plots that draw you deep into this tale of intrigue, romance and terror. After the Thaw is riveting and hard to put down. The characters are vivid and well defined, the emotions are intense, and the story carries you along on a tumultuous journey of love, hate, terror, revenge, regret and more. Charlene Perigard's dark and dangerous present, things that nightmares are made of, force her to rely on her faith, her God that can see her through anything and who is the only one that can keep her alive. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Excellent.

Glimpse: Volume 2
Lisa Mathisen
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530533510, $8.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 132pp,

Columbus Friends Book Blog

A continuation of the style Mathisen is known for, Glimpse vol. 2 is the second collection of forty imagined scenes from forty imagined lives. Each story stands alone and varies in mood to engage every emotion as you read the book. You will find yourself smiling through tears reading one story then quickly on edge with nervous excitement reading the next.

Immediately dropping you into the life of the protagonist, Mathisen gives you an instant emotional connection to them. In one or two pages the scene unfolds and completes each "glimpse"; many times with a surprising twist at the end. Just like life.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Erectile Dysfunction and Penile Implants
Rick Redner & Brenda Redner
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781483453903, $12.99 PB, $3.82 Kindle, 158pp,

Self-Publishing Review
Sept. 27th, 2016

"Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Erectile Dysfunction and Penile Implants" by Rick and Brenda Redner is an informative and important book.

There are certain books that may be uncomfortable to pick up in a bookstore, or leave lying about on your coffee table, even if their subject matter is completely normal, and something that affects tens of millions of men around the world. Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Erectile Dysfunction and Penile Implants has a bold title that leaves little mystery as to the subject matter, but readers might be surprised by the value and insightful wisdom offered within this book's pages.

Jointly written by Rick and his wife, a registered nurse, this book tells their story living through the extreme highs and lows of prostate cancer, survival, surgery, impotence, Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and eventually Penile Implants. While the subject matter may make some men quiver, the fact is that more than 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and more than 30 million men suffer from some form of Erectile Dysfunction - in the United States alone! As a man who walked through the fire alongside his wife, overcoming the undeniable difficulties and emotional insecurities associated with such a series of events, Rick Redner has a unique perspective coupled with a sharp and honest pen.

Rather than focusing solely on Rick Redner's personal experience, the deep research into the subject is clearly apparent, and the authors write with an authority and surety that lends credibility almost immediately. The pace of the text is patient and encouraging, but not condescending or shame-inducing in any way. Despite the Rick Redner's surgical choice to remedy his ED, this book does not attempt to sway any opinions or tell readers the "right" thing to do. Instead, it presents all arguments and perspectives, making the content accessible and engaging for a wide range of consumers, from men concerned with the future of their sexual health to those currently wrestling with serious ED issues.

Each chapter closes with a series of simple questions that allows for personal reflection on the content of each section, driving home some of the important points. These brief reviews also stressed actions or options that readers can take, rather than just blindly pushing forward into the next subject or topic. The book is clearly written with the intention of helping other people in mind. The thorough detail reveals the authors' sincere passion and interest in the subject, given how significantly it changed their lives. What readers are left with is a sincere, insightful and supportive guide for couples and individual men who are facing similar struggles with these issues.

Part self-help book, part memoir and part specialized health guide, Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Erectile Dysfunction and Penile Implants attempts to normalize a common condition, and remove the embarrassment and shame that so often accompanies it. The writing is striking in its frank, delicate handling of complex emotions, and a positive attitude, revealing a true sensitivity within the authors and an inherent desire to write for the benefit of others. The chapters were well organized and neatly edited, making it possible to pick up this book at any point in your journey and find something relevant to your current struggles or concerns. That said, the order of content also makes it function as a "start to finish" type guide, and the personal anecdotes mixed with straightforward advice and wisdom give the book a distinctly narrative feel. Rick Redner and his wife are talented writers and courageous survivors who are willing to share their experiences and readers should find value within them.

Keeping Kyrie: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Foster Care
Emily Christensen, Ph.D.
HWC Press, LLC
PO Box 3792 Bartlesville, OK 74006
9780997758801, $24.95, HC, 312pp,

Paige Lovitt, Reviewer
Reader Views (08/16)

"Keeping Kyrie" by Emily Christensen, Ph.D., tells the story of the Christensen family. Shortly after Emily and Nathan married, they experienced some life changing events. Unfortunately, many of them were painful, such as the loss of both of Emily's parents, her bout with cancer, miscarriages, and infertility. Emily also had a hearing impairment and underwent cochlear implant surgery.

During this time, the couple also fostered more than seventy children. Of these children, six with special needs became a permanent part of their family. Each child had their own painful experiences from which they needed to heal. Many were affected physiologically and psychologically resulting from having parents that were on drugs. The children suffered physically from the effects of being in the womb with someone who was using, and psychologically from the pain and disappointment of having parents that couldn't get it together to keep their family whole. Some of these children were also horribly abused. Emily frequently used her knowledge and experience as a Marriage and Family therapist to help the children; she also did what she could to try to preserve contact with the birth parents, if they were willing.

"Keeping Kyrie" tells the stories about how all six of their adoptive children came to be part of the Christensen family, but the main focus is on Kyrie's story. She was the youngest one to enter the Christensen home where her half-sister was already a part of the family. Kyrie came into this world with the lower part of her face improperly developed and a tiny airway with which she struggled to breathe through. She was not expected to make it and had to undergo many painful surgeries, of which had no guarantee of the outcome. Relying on their Mormon faith and the prayers of their congregation, the Christensen's held on to the hope that Kyrie would not only live, but she would be as normal as possible. Whenever Emily was away at a hospital with Kyrie, Nathan would be at home with the rest of the children taking care of their needs. The couple's dedication to these children was so heartwarming because it was obvious that they shared the same mission to help these children have as fulfilling and normal lives as possible. In doing so, they were also blessed with being able to love these special souls.

While reading this incredible story, I experienced so many emotions. There were times when I wanted to shed tears for the painful experiences that the parents and each child had to go through, especially if they were caused by neglect of the birth parents. Emily's refusal to give in and give up in spite of all the personal issues she was dealing with was inspiring. Any of these things would be enough for a normal person to step back and focus on herself instead of seventy foster children! When she converted to Mormonism, little did she know what a huge role the church would play in her life. In addition to meeting her husband and having a whirlwind courtship, she also benefited from the prayers and blessings offered to the family whenever needed. The sense of community within this religion is exactly what this family needed as they endured their hardships. Their family life also brought a lot of laughter and joy. It is obvious that each child is a special being, meant to be a part of this amazing family. Being able to see their photographs in the book was wonderful. It helped make me feel like I had really met them.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Keeping Kyrie" by Emily Christensen, Ph.D., and I highly recommend it for social workers, counselors, persons considering fostering or adopting, and medical professionals who deal with the health needs of children.

Glory Revealed: Sisters of Lazarus, Book Two
Paula K. Parker
WordCrafts Press
Buffalo, Wyoming
9780990976189, $15.99, PB, 328 pages,

C.E. Edwards

In "Glory Revealed: Sisters of Lazarus, Book Two" author Paula K. Parker continues the saga of the family of Lazarus, the man Jesus of Nazareth raised from the dead. Folks who have been to Sunday school as children have at least a flannel-graph familiarity with the story. But Parker does more than simply rehash the facts presented in Scriptures. She puts flesh on the bones and blood in the veins of the characters, presenting them as real life people with real life interpersonal conflicts, frustrations, joys and foibles - very much like people you probably know; maybe even people you are related to...or maybe even you.

In Sisters of Lazarus: Beauty Unveiled" Parker introduced us to two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were very much at odds with each other, each with their own personal baggage, and each with their own agendas. Both are transformed by their encounter with the prophet from Nazareth, and share the mind-numbing miracle of having their brother restored from the grave. (It's easy to just read the story in the Bible and think, 'oh, that's pretty cool,' and then move on to the next story; but stop and ponder for a moment.

This is not the story of a loved one whose heart stopped on the operating room table, and the doctors put the paddles on and yelled, 'clear!' This is the story of a loved one who was dead...dead and buried...dead and buried four days ago. If it was your brother, whom you saw die. Then you buried him, and a week later some guy tells you to dig him up, and then he walks out of the grave?! I mean seriously, how would you feel? Okay, enough pondering; back to the review.) SPOILER ALERT - "Beauty Unveiled" ends with Mary anointing Jesus' feet, pouring out the only thing of value she has; the precious perfume from her alabastron.

"Glory Revealed" picks up immediately after this event and carries the story forward through the Last Supper, the trial and crucifixion, and the resurrection, to its glorious conclusion at the ascension of Christ. It is a magnificent re-imagining of the Greatest Story Ever Told, from the viewpoint of those who loved Jesus best; and those who hated Him most. Highly recommended!

Bright Midnight
Chris Formant
HighLine Editions
c/o Independent Publishers Group
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781941286920, $16.95, PB, 275pp,

Publishers Weekly
Date: 10-1-2016

In this provocative if rather labored first novel, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trustee Formant explores the early deaths of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and other rock stars of the past. At the Manhattan office of Rolling Stone magazine, veteran reporter Gantry Elliot starts to receive anonymous messages with assertions of murder and tantalizing clues that only an insider might have. The first, about Jones, gets Gantry thinking about the so-called Myth of 27 - the age that so many performers died. Convinced that there may be something to the story, Gantry takes it to Rolling Stone publisher Alex Jaeger, record expert Dennis Briganty, and FBI agent Raphael Melendez. Identifying and locating the anonymous tipster prove difficult. Eventually, other agencies get involved in reexamining these very cold cases, which heat up considerably as they become active homicide investigations. Conspiracy buffs and classic rock fans should enjoy Formant's exhaustive knowledge of his subject and the possible threads connecting Myth of 27 victims.

Sara Barefield
Marian D. Schwartz
Gristmill Publishing, L.L.C.
P.O. Box 193, Ivy, VA 22945-0193
9780988607675, $30.00, HC, 348pp
9780988607682, $14.99, PB, 348pp,

Paul Black

The heroine of the novel named for her, Sara Barefield was born into a poor white Southern family. Ashamed of her family name and embarrassed by her poverty, she had two dreams when she was growing up: to go to college to become a teacher and to marry Tully Rutland. College was impossible financially, but making a life with Tully, the only man she ever loved, would have been a reality if he hadn't come back from Vietnam with PTSD. At the age of forty, she has accepted the loss of her dreams and is satisfied that she has at least lifted herself out of poverty with a nice apartment and a good job as a school secretary.

Tully commits suicide before Sara tells him that she's pregnant. Devastated, she realizes that her only choice is to move out of town if she wants to raise her baby without the interference of the Rutlands, who have never approved of her. She knows she'll need public assistance, but she believes it will only be temporary. She had climbed out of poverty once and is sure she can do it again.

Reality hits Sara when she goes to rent an apartment in a new town with the meager amount of money she can afford to pay. She must apply for food stamps and WIC to survive; she gets medical care at a public clinic. Her interview by a caseworker to obtain welfare is eye-opening. She begins to measure her experiences by degrees of humiliation. After the birth of the baby she can no longer afford to pay her rent, and she is threatened with eviction from her apartment. "I kept thinking that this was all a bad dream, that until a few weeks ago I was a hard-working, tax-paying citizen, that Adam and I couldn't end up living on the street, not us, not here in America. Certainly the system I had contributed to all my life would come to my rescue."

Sara isn't a quitter. She does what is necessary to survive, and the reader goes on this incredible journey with her, accompanying a decent, determined woman as she wends her way through the underside of American life, fighting to achieve her dreams. You'll cheer her on as she tells you her compelling story.

Wayne M. Johnston
Black Heron Press
PO Box 13396, Mill Creek, WA 98082
9781936364206, $14.95 PB, $14.20 Kindle, 210pp,

Kirkus Reviews

When Kristen disappears one night, her absence leaves a gap that affects everyone, especially two people her own age. Kristen's best friend, Natalie, grieves for her missing friend, even while finding herself on the cusp of a new relationship with a boy that's based on trust, a relationship she'd love nothing more than to tell Kristen all about. But that's impossible, because Corey killed Kristen. At least, that's what Natalie and the rest of the town thinks.

But, as Corey writes in his journal, 'I could never hurt her.' Corey and Kristen were friends. In each other, they found someone who understood what it felt like to be on the outside of things. Unfortunately, Corey was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he's getting the blame.

If Kristen knew, she'd come back, but her story takes place far away from her friends. Johnston weaves a braid of three first-person narratives into a solid plot, creating believable teen characters who find themselves struggling against adults who don't always take their best interests into account.

The narrative manages to be suspenseful, even as the main mystery is revealed almost immediately, and the final puzzle is satisfying, though occasionally the dialogue and inner monologues feel forced. Corey's an unspecified part 'Native,' Kristen's dark-skinned, and Natalie's likely white; the story is set in the Seattle area. Overall, the tripartite narration works well to deliver a suspenseful story.

How to Get Happy and Stay That Way
Joanna Romer
MSI Press
1760 Airline Hwy., F-203, Hollister, CA 95023
9781942891147, $12.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 154pp,

Mamta Madhavan, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

How to Get Happy and Stay That Way: Practical Techniques for Putting Joy into Your Life by Joanna Romer is a useful tool for readers looking to bring contentment and happiness into their lives. Everyone searches for happiness and most of us spend a lot of time pursuing this. The book has good tips and techniques that will aid in building a foundation of happiness which cannot be shaken. Each chapter ends with guidelines for achieving happiness which readers can practice and incorporate into their lifestyle, thereby leading to gratitude, peace, and joy.

I found the book insightful and uplifting at the same time. It broadens one's perspective on how to look at events and incidents that happen in our lives and around us, and how to react to them positively. It makes happiness our birthright and not a goal, and will motivate us to look into all aspects of our lives and work on them. The 25 things to do to get happy are also helpful to all those who want to get started. Happiness has a lot to do with knowing and understanding ourselves completely, and the author helps readers tap into that space.

Facing the world we live in becomes more manageable and easier after reading this book. It teaches us to connect with the plight of others, sympathize with them, and, if possible, help them. The emergency recipes for happiness are indeed helpful and give ideas on how to stay happy.

Glossolalia: Psychological Suspense
Tantra Bensko
Insubordinate Books
9780692551523, $16.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 246 pp,

Publishers Daily Reviews

Nancy is a young woman held hostage by her own mind in the intricately layered and darkly entertaining book Glossolalia.

She sleepwalks through a shadowland of conspiracies and secret societies, snake-handling churches, and the evil intentions of a maker of forbidden chemicals.

There's danger aplenty - actual and imagined - in this fictional story laced liberally with references to real-life incidents, people and black-ops agencies. Nancy and the fascinating ensemble cast of characters tread a treacherous road that often oversteps reality.

In a Pentecostal church several blocks from Nancy's house, a mysterious girl named Emily watches with precocious eyes the feverish religious activity whipped up by the Reverend Terry Crank. She whispers gleefully into the floppy ear of her enigmatic spring-headed toy named Dog, describing the Glossolalia - the speaking in tongues - that swirls through the sanctuary.

It is this kind of skillful foreshadowing that elevates Glossolalia far above any other ordinary examination of what the bad guys in our own government might be doing to us - or, rather, what they HAVE been doing for decades.

The CIA is transformed into a creepy, all-knowing agency called the Nevermind, which routinely alters the consciousness of people around the world, working ruthlessly with nefarious corporate entities and a radicalized Religious Right to steer destiny in the direction they deem most profitable.

This tale is well-told through skillful imagery and excellent writing. The author regularly delivers lyrical prose that transcends, as in this passage in which Nancy plays a 1909 Schoenberg piano composition:

"The music became more violent, full of divergent emotions that shocked each other with their nearness. The music was imbalanced, never matured or completed, just continued, dreamlike, until it was done. It was her favorite music. It was her."

And, there's this description that at once enlightens and forewarns the reader about Jeff, Nancy's cryptic Internet acquaintance:

"His ice blue eyes looked into hers with tiny pupils, though the light outside was soft." Jeff then softly intones, "You know, you won't get many more chances in life."

It's not a warning to be taken lightly in this dangerous new world where freethinking NFL quarterbacks must be silenced and Third World leaders are discredited and deposed through blackmail and poisonous drops of a substance known only as "XXX".

Nancy literally goes through several kinds of hell as she tries to break through the deception and psychological reconditioning engendered by the Nevermind.

But what can she do to expose this incredible, far-reaching conspiracy? You won't sleep until you turn the last page. It's that good.

Five stars to Glossolalia. We eagerly await the sequel, coming out soon.

Thomas Berry
10940 S.ParkerRd 515 Parker,Co 80134
9781478775805, $9.95, PB, 94pp,

Rae Morgan
Review Specialist

What a great story of sacrifice and courage. Like roger, I wanted to jump through the screen and save Emma. I love a manuscript like yours that paints a picture of a different futuristic world. You have a terrific writing style. You have obviously done a significant amount planning and preparation in crafting your work. Your prose is nicely written with details that capture the reader. Right from the start your plot was very engaging. You do a nice job of slowly making your way through the story with details and a certain voice that allows your reader to really interact with the characters(who are all round and very nicely developed). Characterization is one of the most important elements of a successful fiction story. I always love it when I leave a story feeling like I know the characters, this is true for your novel. You have crafted a quality piece of writing.

A Book of Revelations
A. C. Burch
HomePort Press
PO Box 1508, Provincetown, MA 02657
9780997432701, $12.95, PB, 287pp
9780997432718, $4.99 Kindle,

Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2016

Drag performers, detectives, and community moguls meet in Burch's (The Homeport Journals, 2015, etc.) collection, which features coming-out stories with a twist.

All the stories in this collection have the feel of cautionary tales. The first, "Private Quarters," features a young college student named Matt Atwood, who lives in a thin-walled, three-ring circus of an apartment building. There, he befriends Sandy, a somewhat ghastly, sallow-cheeked, and overly friendly woman who's always luring him into her apartment with gossip and cocktails. Matt expresses some disgust for the women in his life, a la Philip Roth, as he navigates the expectations of Sandy and his own buttoned-up girlfriend, Claire. This tale, with its unmistakable fascination for people's secret lives, sets the tone for subsequent stories in the collection.

In another, an elderly woman, who lives with her abusive brother, throws a seriously awkward dinner party featuring a ragtag cast of disgruntled characters; most of the stories feature somewhat-older, somewhat closeted gay men and their faithful female friends, who vary in description from resplendent to monstrous. The most memorable and formidable story in this collection, "Last Chance," tells of a budding affair between a closeted male detective and an elegant murder suspect in the Bahamas. Over the course of several interrogations (including some in the form of fancy dinners, served by attentive young men), these two find that they have more in common than just the case at hand.

This collection tries to get at the core of what it feels like to be in the closet and addresses the doubts and reticence that come with taking the first steps out. Even stories that address other themes still include key divulgences; in "The Honoree," for example, a corrupt school dean's sins catch up with her after skirting the law for years, and in "Götterdämmerung," a musician shares the performance of a lifetime with his grandfather-in-law, a renowned maestro.

A colorful topography of mostly LGBT - related outings, forays, and adventures, overall, Burch weaves a collection of crackerjack plot twists in which unlikely heroes seize the day.

The Gem Connection
Michael R. Lane
P.O. Box 9653, Seattle, WA 98109
9781634913560, $16.95, $8.99 Kindle, 298 pp,

Jennifer Weiss, Reviewer
US Review

"Besides not buying the story about Renita, she was suspicious about the extent of my involvement in this case. My weakness for children would have been a plausible explanation."

C.J. Cavanaugh is a well known private investigator. C.J. and his partner Renita Harris are hired by a mystery client to solve the murder of Clinton Windell, but they are not allowed to tell anyone about the case. Instead, they assume a false identity, a false job so to speak, to uncover the facts. Windell has not only been brutally murdered in his home, but also was robbed of his uncut gems worth twenty million dollars. Trying to remain anonymous, C.J. and Renita must become creative and think outside the box in order to solve the case. Michael Lane's story takes readers on a thrilling ride filled with excitement, mystery, and suspense. Mystery fans haven't read a story quite like this one.

Michael Lane does a phenomenal job bringing his story to life. The author goes into great detail about everything from the first chapter. Every detail is critical to the story whether it is to set up character personality, setting, or foreshadowing what's to come. Many events occur throughout the story, but the narrative doesn't feel overloaded with information, instead creating a compelling plot with plenty of twists and turns. The characters are complex and continue to develop throughout the story. C.J Cavanaugh is the type of investigator who is willing to risk his own life to find truth and justice. Readers find themselves both loving and hating him, while Lane transforms this mystery it into an epic thrill ride.

The American Idea of Freedom
Gary J. Quinn
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781482661057, $9.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 206pp,

Terrence Michael

"The American Idea of Freedom: How Liberty Depends on Property Rights and General Education" is an excellent book that describes the early American concept of liberty and compares it with current trends of freedom in the United States. As a retired administrator in public schools, I can relate to issues that Dr. Quinn describes and agree with his opinions expressed in the epilogue.

This book is very thought-provoking and I recommend it to anyone interested in this topic.

The Janus Project
Brad Anderson
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134.
9781432754099, $31.95, HC, $4.99 Kindle, 346pp
9781432753887, $18.95, PB,

Pamela Blevins

The Janus Project is a science fiction novel by Brad Anderson. It concerns time travel and the Witness Protection Program.

John Callan is an Army veteran who has lost his wife and child to a violent death. Their deaths are a warning to him by Morgan Ropp, a ruthless killer, for him not to testify against her. He saw something he wasn't supposed to see and can now testify against her. John would rather kill Morgan than testify against her; but she is in prison and he can't get to her so testifying against her is all he can do. However, he is most likely to be a target for Morgan's associates so he needs to go into the Witness Protection program. He is persuaded to join a secret section of the Witness Protection Program - The Janus Project.

The Janus Project sends people back into time to carefully researched places as to avoid their making any changes to the future. They are monitored constantly so adjustments can be made to their memories and to the situations to avoid making any changes. When the subject is sent back, their memories are changed so they think they really belong there. The memories they need to testify with are hidden within their brains to be retrieved when needed. So far, the project is fail-proof.

John Callan is sent back to 1987 to Brazoria, Texas where, as Scott Blackburne, he is to work as a teller in the Brazoria Bank. No one knows anything about him except what was in his resume for the bank. Ben Rhubottom, the bank President, is pleased to have Scott working for him and decides to set him up with Becky Troy who works for him. Ben, the doctor, and a couple of other old timers have questions about Scott; but they like him and think he is good for Becky.

Will Scott remember he is John? Will Morgan find him? What will happen between Scott and Becky? Will John live to testify?

The suspense is built one page at a time. You are constantly wondering what will happen next. The idea of time travel is interesting and it is interesting how they make sure nothing is changed in the past so it won't affect the future.

Full Cycle
Christopher Blunt
Pelican Crossing Press
9780976659648, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 302 pp,

Barb Szyszkiewicz

Full Cycle by Christopher Blunt is a novel that fathers and sons can enjoy together. Perfect for readers age 10 and up, this father-son story follows sixth-grader Alex Peterson, a wanna-be athlete hindered from achieving this goal by an injury he received in an accident at his own birthday party. No good at running, he can't excel in baseball like his younger brother; he's the last one picked for the team in gym class and very self-conscious about his physical limitations.

Alex buries himself in his music and, asked to compose a score for a promotional video for a local bicycle club, he wishes to accomplish what the riders have done: cycling more than 200 miles in a single day, from Seattle to Portland. Then he finds out that his father actually participated in one of those bicycle trips - and he's hooked. He wants to train for the ride, and he wants his father to go with him.

Full Cycle is a story of perseverance, of teamwork and of looking beyond a disability to draw upon talents yet untapped. It would make a great movie.

As the daughter of a long-distance cyclist in his late 70s who completed a 6-day, 400-mile trip this summer, I enjoyed the inside-baseball on what it takes to be a distance rider. (For the record, I do not have what it takes. I stand in awe of anyone with that kind of dedication and stamina.)

The well-paced story will keep you reading far too late into the night.

Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart
Dr. Donald Scherer and Carolyn Jabs, MA
Green Wave Books
9780997166811, $14.95 PB, $9.95 Kindle, 236pp,

Jenna Brewster

Holey moley, this book was terrific! Once I started reading I didn't want to stop. This isn't a 'quick-easy beach read" by any stretch, but something you sink back with for a while and let it take over your soul. I enjoyed the authors' narrative "voice" and the conversational style of writing. The concepts were intelligent and well-developed, and the various 'true life' examples made the book more applicable and easy to understand. The authors tell a great story with an empowering message, and they do it in a way that will relate to everyone, no matter where they come from culturally or religiously or economically. EVERYONE could use tools for proactive and healthy conflict resolution that teach us to work together and be stronger rather than fighting against each other. Hats off to the authors for making such deep and profound observations about a wide range of issues, supporting and demonstrating the precepts clearly, and presenting the whole thing in a highly readable and engaging manner. I chuckled a few times, agreed with numerous points and had more than one profound epiphany! Cooperative Wisdom is different from other books in this genre. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it to readers who appreciate books about self-improvement and communication. 5 stars

Cruising the Mediterranean
Sunny Lockwood & Al Lockwood
Front Porch Publishing
9780692599860, $11.73 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 304pp,

Layla Messing, Reviewer
Indie Book Reviewers

I loved this whole book, from the concept, to the writing, to the fabulous descriptions and the pictures!! "Cruising the Mediterranean" by authors Al and Sunny Lockwood is one of the most enjoyable and well-crafted travel memoirs I've ever read. I was completely drawn in from the get-go, and absolutely loved the authors' use of description of the different scenery and locales, and their attention to detail, from the physical aspect, to the personal/cultural. I've always wanted to visit the Mediterranean and now I feel like I was practically there! Learned so much about the history and the culture... love being entertained hearing about all their adventures while actually learning something as well! A great read, and now I think I'll have to check out the other book by these authors as well! 5 stars

A Beer Drinker's Guide To Knowing And Enjoying Fine Wine
Jim Laughren
Crosstown Publishing LLC
PO Box 10069, Chicago, IL 60610
9780985533618, retail $16.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 204 pp,

Kirkus Media, LLC

For all the beer-drinking die-hards, Laughren serves an enticing, thorough, though not suffocating introduction to hops' fermented friend, the grape.

Though the shelves creak under the weight of wine books for dummies and gun-shy tipplers terrified by wine-speak, here's a welcome addition that's relaxed, inviting and intelligent. Laughren is a bon vivant without being a boob, a sensualist even if he wouldn't put it that way. He likes his beer -- the book is liberally sprinkled with beer wisdom, as if to soothe the wary brewer-- but he's also a big fan of wine, and he wants readers in on the action. He aims to provide an unintimidating yet rich tour through the world of wine, highlighting its conviviality but undergirding it with a candid sense of what's in the glass.

With a healthy dose of detail, Laughren touches on the history of wine, factors in its production and an appreciation of terroir. He sketches various social scenarios and the wines he might choose to complement them: a zinfandel with a basketball game on TV; a big, young Brunello di Montalcino when the brothers of your new squeeze stop by to check you out; a cabernet sauvignon for dinner with the boss; a dry sherry when self-same squeeze comes by to break up with you.

A sweet, bright humor pervades the book, as Laughren makes wine tasting sound like fun rather than an opportunity to embarrass yourself. His descriptions -- "like sucking stones and chips of slate dipped in lime and lychee juice" -- require attention. He's chummy, like a knowledgeable friend who doesn't need to wear it on his sleeve, though the insight seeps through. Most importantly, he's on your side: "there's no need to excuse your preferences", he says, but be open to new experiences. Also included are excellent maps of wine-producing regions and a brief survey of various oenological tools.

Cheers to this spirited, perceptive guide.

Westward: The Journey of Adolf Nagel
Harry Simpson
Andrews UK
9781944156169, $9.99 PB, $4.49 Kindle,

Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Comparable to the famous Louis L' Amour western novels, Harry Simpson's Westward: The Journey Of Adolf Nagel brings readers along on a wild and exciting jaunt through the old west.

The novel starts out with a bang, literally, as seventeen year old Adolf Nagel is forced to go on the run to the untamed west, after thwarting the attempted rape of his beloved fiance the beautiful Caroline. Accompanied by his long-time best friend, Oskar McGill, Adolf makes his way from Hocking County, Ohio into the vastness of the western frontier. Although great friends, Adolf and Oskar are polar opposites which makes for entertaining moments throughout the story.

During their travels, Adolf and Oskar travel westward encountering varied, friendly, and not so friendly denizens of the west. They also make a new acquaintance and traveling companion Sven, a big lovable but tough Swede, who turns about to become a great friend. Along the way as the trio venture they encounter plenty of colorful characters, rough terrain, pretty women and violent enemies.

Overall, I enjoyed Westward, as the premiere work in an intended series. The book turned out to be a great introduction to the characters and the series. Author Simpson has a natural talent as a writer of the western genre; his narrative was exciting, his landscape detailing vivid and his use of the western vernacular wholly realistic. I recommend Westward: The Journey of Adolf Nagel not only to fans of western type novels, but, also for those readers who would enjoy a greatly entertaining read.

Behind A Georgian Door: Perfect Rooms, Imperfect Lives
Artemesia D'Ecca
Phaeton Publishing
9781908420152, $27.00 HC, $12.99 PB, 130pp,

Tony Canavan, Reviewer
Editor-in-Chief, Books Ireland Magazine

What goes on behind those elegant neo-classical doors

Phaeton Press continue to entertain and intrigue. Whether dealing in fact, such as French Cinema In Close-Up (see Books Ireland, Sept/Oct. 2015), or in fiction such as the book under review, they always take a fresh and unusual approach. As well as having a deftness in the style of the writing, their books are always quality productions with attractive design and layout.

Artemesia D'Ecca may not be known to many but the pseudonymous author has written two other books for Phaeton, a light-hearted look at coping with Christmas, and a time-travelling fantasy set in Paris, which indicates that Artemesia is not a run-of-the-mill writer. This collection of three stories is firmly rooted in modern day Dublin, reflecting Irish society after the economic collapse of 2008, referred to here as 'The Crash', with its mix of indigenous citizens and a variety of foreigners now living in the metropolis. Over the three stories, the characters range from those who did well out of the Celtic Tiger but now find themselves on hard times to those who were lucky in these years but find themselves out of step with today's Ireland.

The idea behind the book must draw in anyone, like this reviewer, who does not live in one the grand Georgian houses that characterise Dublin but who have often wondered just what life is like behind those elegant neo-classical doors. For decades, many of these were divided into flats, housing working families, students, and Bohemian artists and writers. One legacy of the Tiger years was that many once again became family homes, while others were forced by new laws to upgrade the accommodation on offer.

The first story, 'Christmas 2013', is set in a house in Herbert Place. The family who live there naively overstretched themselves financially in the good times and now face destitution. The author deftly portrays the shabby gentility of the recently (and all too briefly) rich with talk of pawnbrokers and 'penny dinners' as a young couple face up to the reality of their situation. Told through the wife's eyes, the story evokes the spirit of a Frank Capra movie, as a combination of good luck and good will sees them celebrate, perhaps for the first and last time, the kind of grand Christmas that they had always hoped to enjoy in their historic house.

In 'George Washington's Bed', an elderly widow is forced to return to Ireland to tend to her ill brother. In this family drama we learn that money does not guarantee happiness as Mrs. Moynihan comes to terms not just with widowhood but a son she does not understand, or like, and a grasping daughter-in-law who can't wait to inherit the family fortune. However, in the decaying grandeur of a house in Upper Pembroke Street, she discovers another side to her son and as the death of her beloved brother brings to mind her own mortality, she realises it is not too late to have a meaningful relationship with her only child.

The final story, 'Grace Kelly's Dress' takes place in a house divided into flats where the owner, Maud, lives with tenants who are really her friends and pay no rent. Maud, only forty, is left seriously ill and widowed after a car crash. Her mother and the residents, an American, an Australian and a Filipino couple rally round to give her a fortieth birthday party to remember, central to which is a vintage dress like one worn by Grace Kelly in Rear Window.

This may all sound too sweet but these stories have a serious core and the characters have their flaws as well as virtues. The thorny issues which arise in any relationship, whether husband and wife, mother and son, or among friends, are there as the substance and drivers of the plots. The harsh realities of modern Dublin are present in the form of families facing eviction because they can't pay the mortgage, young people emigrating to find work, and unfortunates living rough on the streets, even in the city's elegant Georgian squares.

Haunting all the stories is the history of the houses in which the action takes place. Many of the characters cannot forget that these were once home to an alien ruling class whose wealth was based on the sweat and toil of the ordinary Irish people. This in turn evokes Ireland's troubled history of oppression and bloodshed, whose legacy is still with us as the reference to the North's Troubles in one story reminds us.

Artemesia D'Ecca has performed the challenging task of dealing with difficult subjects with a light touch and even humour. She writes well and has a good turn of phrase. She has imaginatively responded to our curiosity about these old Georgian houses as she reveals three domestic dramas which take place in three different types of households. There is wit and charm here but also portrayals of the hardships and cruelties that lie beneath the surface.

The View from the Body
Renee Ashley
Black Lawrence Press
9781625579553, $15.95, PB, 70pp,

Adele Kenny

Renee Ashley's new collection, The View from the Body, is filled with imaginal reach, sonic surprises, and lexical leaps. Having "met" some of these poems in Ashley's chapbooks, I was delighted to find them gathered under one cover.

Ashley is a poetry rock star; her style is distinctive and unique. Everything she writes explodes with skill and virtuosity. Often, when I read her poems, I think of Janis Joplin. With a resonance as textured as Joplin's, Ashley's control is precise and tough; and just as Joplin was able to create harmonic chords in which two or more tones were produced at the same time, Ashley's poems are heavily layered with meaning. Her first "tone" brings the reader to image, sound, syntax, and denotation. The second "tone" explores the deeper intentionality of the poem, another sense or perception that completes and informs the first. The result is an edginess and a timbre that defy linguistic expectations in much the same way that Joplin defied vocal music standards.

When I asked Ashley about these poems, she told me that their focus is depression. Depression is a lonely disease, an encagement, and a kind of alienation. Anyone who has dealt with the condition (even peripherally), will recognize the deep place from which Ashley's poems come. Importantly, these poems do more than capture the idea of depression. They work from the inside out - not poems about depression but, more importantly, what depression is, its particular dialectic of tension, conflict, and despair.

... the stink and stymie and the damp soul
sweating it out between the skin and
what thrives - in no space at all - inside. (64)

Ashley is never afraid to take risks in her poems, nor is she to afraid enter dark places. On both scores, she reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins whose "Terrible Sonnets" were written during a time when Hopkins was profoundly depressed.

Cole's Perfect Puppy
Frances M. Crossno
First Edition Design Publishing, Inc
9781506901688, $14.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 98pp,

Hilary Hawkes, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Cole's Perfect Puppy by Frances M Crossno is a delightful, captivating and award winning Christian novel for young children. Cole longs for a puppy and is thrilled when Uncle Bobby and his girlfriend give him an exciting Christmas gift - he and his younger brother, Caleb, are convinced it is the long-for pet. But, no, it turns out to be a cute... well, you'll have to read the book to find out! Then the owner of a local pet store offers Cole an after-school and Saturday job helping take care of the puppies at his shop. Cole's goal is to save up his earnings to buy Scarlet, his favorite golden retriever puppy, and to help friend in need, Rachel. All sorts of mayhem, mysteries and challenges unfold for the children, but they are determined to find a way.

The cover is adorable, and a black and white picture of little Scarlet is depicted again at the start of each short chapter. The plot unfolds at a good pace, bouncing along with plenty of fun. The characters are believable and young readers will identify with Cole's wish for the mischievous, loving little puppy. The sense of caring for animals and the strong bonds that can grow between humans and animals are conveyed very well. Rachel is a Christian and shares her faith with her new friends, Cole and Caleb, in an open and natural way. She is an inspiring young character, having lost her father in the Iraq war and been forced to move out of her home with her mom. I love the effect she has on Cole, who is prepared to make sacrifices to help her, putting her needs before his own. When Cole begins to pray himself, amazing things happen. The boys find that even when events seem to have taken a turn for the worse, God still has everything under control.

The writing style of Cole's Perfect Puppy is engaging and fun and I very much enjoyed reading it. Frances M Crossno weaves the Christian message about faith and trust in God into this entertaining story in just the right way. The themes of this novel - friendship, sacrifice, and trust in God's love - are nurturing messages for all readers. A special story, then, that entertains and shares the Christian message in a gentle way. Great for story times, and for more confident or older readers to read themselves.


Concrete Steps: Coming of Age in a Once-Big City
Larry C. Kerpelman
Pratt Brook Communications, LLC
9781942545484, $15.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 204 pp,

Henry W. Vaillant, M. D.

"Larry Kerpelman's Concrete Steps is an affectionate memoir of a sensitive, bright, and observant boy growing up and out of Baltimore in the forties and fifties. The city has since lost much of its eminence as well as its population, but the author brings its old neighborhoods and his boyhood adventures into sharp focus. Radio programs, like "The Inner Sanctum," rough street banter from tough kids, the endless variety of games that could be played with a simple rubber ball on stoops and streets, the music of the era, and his early experiences with jobs and girls are honestly and vividly presented.

A gentle sense of humor lightens some of the more difficult encounters in Larry's upward journey. Family, bosses, and playmates are gently, but thoughtfully, sketched. The author has given us the street scene of a city and the values of a time that are long gone. He opens and closes the book as he leaves for the North in his family's old Plymouth. He is off to graduate school and never coming back for a stay of any length, a young man vaulted from his origins and his neighborhood."

The Other Side of Philip K. Dick
Maer Wilson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781534663459, $14.89 PB, $7.83 Kindle, 254 pp,

Nick Buchanan

Note: Philip K. Dick was the author behind such Hollywood hits as Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and many others.

From the back cover:

"As a literary figure, Philip K. Dick is popularly perceived as a crazed, drug-addled mystic with a sinister Third Eye. Nothing could be further from the truth - the Phil I knew was a warm, humane, very funny man. Maer Wilson understands these truths far better than I, and The Other Side of Philip K. Dick casts a welcome shaft of daylight upon the real PKD, as opposed to the dark, distorted caricature Dick has become." Paul M. Sammon, Author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner

What is the truth behind the legend of Science Fiction great, Philip K. Dick?

In spring, 1972, Phil Dick moved to Fullerton, CA, where he met Theatre student Mary (Maer) Wilson. Amid marriage proposals, marathon talk-fests and a love for music and films, they forged a strong friendship that would last the rest of his life.

Wilson's quirky, yet unflinchingly honest, memoir reveals a funny, compassionate and generous man. She captures an inside view of one of our literary greats - a brilliant writer who gave the world some of its most revered Science Fiction.

"I found this book engrossing and authentic - a truthful and serious account of the last part of Phil Dick's life by someone who was a fundamental part of it and who has the skill to write about it. There is evident love and friendship in this book, but also honesty. This was the Phil Dick I knew." James P. Blaylock, World Fantasy Award-Winning Author
The Review

Whilst a brilliant author and highly gifted, Philip K. Dick was not as successful in relationships. His five marriages each became unsustainable and many were strikingly brief. It seems he was not great as a husband, and he seems to have been a largely absent father to his children too. The relationships where he fared much better seemed to be his friendships - to Paul Williams, Tim Powers, Jim Blaylock and others. Maer Wilson was one of those friends - a very significant one. Her friendship with Phil lasted longer than any of his marriages and it was Maer whom he chose to go to Europe with for five weeks. Sadly he died two months before they were due to travel. She was wise enough to keep the relationship platonic and claims that this was one of the factors in its longevity (ten years - only ending when Phil died in 1982).

Being a memoir, this book is different in its remit to any of the biographies. This is about Phil, the man and what it was like to have him as a friend. As a memoir it sparkles with a very real sense of the character and temperament of Phil. His personality emerges. Although it focuses on Philip K. Dick, it reflects also on Maer's own development from a naive, but talented nineteen year old, to a resourceful woman who has taken her place in the world, relishing Theatre, Music, Family and stimulating conversation.

She and Phil come alive with all the complexities, paradoxes and negotiations that real relationships have. Whilst Phil is brilliant and sharp, he is sometimes socially inept and prone to yearn for doomed girlfriend relationships (with a succession of unsuitable "dark haired" girls). He was demanding and unreasonable, but also generous, kind, eccentric and had a great sense of humour.

Clearly Phil had a brilliant mind and he left a legacy of wonderful literature. His enquiry is staggering and he was able to originate and develop stories which dazzled with their concepts and tickled our imaginations. But despite his outstanding body of work, I am sure he would have hated fans trying to 'touch the hem of his garment' and making a guru out of him. His heroes were ordinary folk - repairmen, radio shop owners, etc. If you want to gain an insight into Phil, the man - as opposed to the madman, the deity, or the LSD driven psychotic - then this is for you; a book which places both of Phil's feet firmly on the ground. The paradox for me is that this all-too-human portrait of Phil makes him all the more endearing, and his achievement all the more impressive.

This is a tender, honest book - a courageous portrait of a special friend - and of a very special friendship. It's a great achievement, and an important book.

I give this book five stars.

The Last Run
Stephen Clarkson
Peter E. Randall Publisher
5 Greenleaf Woods Drive, Suite 102, Portsmouth New Hampshire 03801
9781937721336, $15.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 270pp,

Diane Hocker, Reviewer
Portsmouth Herald, August 21, 2016

Readers opened their July 10, 1929 edition of the Portsmouth Herald to an intriguing and mysterious headline:

'Find 139 cases of Liquor Planted in Rye Harbor; Cargo Worth Between $12,000 and $15,000 Seized by Coast Guard--Thought to Have Come from Nova Scotia.'

It could be said that the secret lay as hidden as the liquor in the harbor on a moonless July night, until noted Rye author Stephen Clarkson solved the case for us via an absorbing new fiction entitled 'The Last Run.' Although written as historical fiction, Clarkson doubles our reading pleasure in creating an absorbing plot growing out of the human conflicts of colliding cultures. Real, believable characters come together as needs and wants clash during the Roaring Twenties in Rye and Halifax. . . . .

The story begins with the arrival of John Deveney, a mysterious Nova Scotian who silently slips into Rye Harbor, determined to start a new life. Like the suspicious townies, the reader wonders what happened to him in Halifax, and why he's such a great hockey player. His arrival soon sparks love, admiration, resentment, jealousy and hatred, depending on whether it's his love interest, Nora Thompson, or his avowed enemy, Elijah Berry. Deveney is the moral compass whose past life informs his new world with a hard edge along with love and compassion in touching many lives.

We soon learn that the 'Live Free or Die' folks, in defying the Volstead Act (the National Prohibition Act), rebellious as any Boston Tea Party crowd, build sophisticated rum-running operations up and down the Seacoast. And they enjoy their liquor at clambakes and just about everywhere they socialize. There's humor and irony for sure. Clarkson's deep knowledge of fishing and local harbors shows the locals' guile in running circles around the Feds. He creates a mood, which takes the reader into that world and those times. The level of detail is astounding--the ingenuity shown by the hundreds of bootleggers involved in hiding liquor in lobster traps and old barns and operating an underground of collaborators moving the liquor into harbor and out to lucrative contracts in Exeter, Newington, Portsmouth, Kingston and beyond. 

The author weaves changes in the wind into the action, as competition and conflict spread over the generations and the sexes. Soldiers coming back from World War I are changed and carry eternal themes of the war's impact on and towns. Townies act out against newly-arrived lobstermen like John Deveney. Nora follows her heart and her own future, rebelling against old school mores. Religious and cultural biases play Catholic against Protestant.

Part of the Family
Jason Hensley
9781532740534; $19.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 422 pp,

Kirkus Reviews

"Part of the Family: Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust" is a compassionate, detailed account of a little-known corner of World War II history.

The triggering incident of Hensley's gripping debut work is Kristallnacht, the infamous anti-Jewish pogrom conducted in November 1938 in Germany, ostensibly in retaliation for the alleged murder of a low-ranking German diplomat by a Jewish boy. Nazi officials and mobs shattered shop windows, rousted hundreds from their homes, and later rounded up tens of thousands and sent them to concentration camps. The inciting incident made it impossible for the international community to continue to ignore the Nazi persecution of German Jews, and one outcome was a program called "Kindertransport," in which German Jewish parents sent thousands of children to live with foster families in England.

Approximately 250 children found themselves in the homes of Christadelphians, members of a small Christian sect whose philanthropy toward European Jews was of long standing. Hensley's historical narrative centers on 10 kids and relates their stories in exhaustively researched detail.

He also relates the equally touching tales of their parents, who made unthinkable sacrifices for the chance of giving their children futures. One set of parents, for example, sent a note to the foster parents: "You, as gentle people, will understand what it means to send beloved children into a strange world.

How much pain and tears are in this." Hensley effectively tells of the many displaced children, who knew neither the language nor the ways of their new homes and who almost invariably ended up being the only surviving members of their biological families. The author conducted extensive interviews with the Jewish survivors and the Christadelphians who took them in, and he accompanies this invaluable oral history with black-and-white photos that help to bring the stories to life and give them personal immediacy.

Overall, this book lays out its history, and especially its Christadelphian aspects, with carefully controlled dramatic energy.

An invaluable illumination of small acts of astonishing bravery and generosity in the darkest days of war.

The Deepest Dark
Joan Hall Hovey
Books We Love Ltd
9781771452212, $14.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 262pp,

Martha A. Cheves

"I couldn't put it down..."

She had started for the kitchen when she stopped in the doorway between the living room and kitchen, thinking she'd heard a noise outside.  She listened.  Heard it again.  A squeaking of the porch swing chain?...Hearing nothing further, but still wearing the same uneasy frown on her face, she continued on to the kitchen.  She was reaching into the drawer for a knife to cut the pie with when she heard the noise again.  She looked in the direction of the sound and that's when she saw the grinning face in the window.  Her heart lurched painfully but before she could cry out, something crashed against the back door.  It burst open and three men strode into her kitchen, big as life.  Three men she had never seen before.

Ethel and Hartley have raised their daughter and still lived in their country home where neighbors were not a walk away but a drive away.  In their 80's they had grown use to their solitude so when their uninvited visitors bust through their door they are at a total loss.

Abby used the facilities, washed her hands and splashed warm water on her face, patting it dry with rough brown paper.  When she came back out of the washroom, the woman was behind the counter. "Help yourself to the coffee, dear," she said.  "Freshly made."... "Thanks.  I needed that."  "You're welcome.  Don't know about you, but this rain is getting me down.  Awful about those three escapees, isn't it?"

Abby is on her way to the lake cabin her husband had bought for their secret get-away.  After the disasters she had faced just a few months earlier she wasn't sure of her real reason for going there.  She needed time away from everyone but with the bottle of pills in her purse, along with her depression, she just might make this her final resting place.  

This book is one for the movies.  As the author brings the Ethel and Hartley, Abby, and the three men together it becomes a book that I had hard time putting down.  I actually read it in just three nights.  I hurt for Abby and her previous problems.  I felt for Ethel and Hartley as they are subdued by the three men.  I feared the three men as they prompted fear on everyone that came into contact with them.  But I learn something from reading this book.  There have been times that I go to the mountains alone just for the quiet.  As with Abby's lake cabin, my favorite place had no telephones and no TV... just peace and quiet.  Never again will I visit my favorite cabin without a phone!  

So, if you want a real page turning, grip the edge of the chair and leave the lights burning read, you will surely have it with The Deepest Dark.

Andrea's Bookshelf

Climbing Jacob's Ladder
Sharon Eide
America Star Books
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0184
9781462675753 $24.95

Climbing Jacob's Ladder: My Life Chronicled through Difficulties and Growth is the poetry-memoir of a born-again Christian. Author Sharon Eide experienced highs and lows in her life; she visited Norway twice before she was a teenager, and shares fond memories of her extended family. At age thirty-two, she suffered the crushing heartbreak of becoming a widow. She learned how to turn to God, and put her faith in His divine plan. On March 21, 1981 she was born again and focused on transforming her life for the better. Her quest to improve herself and help others led her to graduate from college at age fifty-eight, and become a high school substitute teacher. Alternating between brief prose passages and heartfelt poems in praise of God, Climbing Jacob's Ladder is a deeply spiritual testimony, and highly recommended for Christian readers. "God Wants You, Lovely Spirit": Try to listen lovely spirit, knowing good will come your way. / Let a calming loving Spirit keep you safe throughout the day. / Then pray softly, so low, and wait to hear His words. / Hear the Soft Whisper to your soul, are you listening?

Periwinkle's Journey
Judy Petersen-Fleming and Suzy Spafford
Blue Sneaker Press
c/o Southwestern Publishing Group, Inc.
2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, TN 37214
9781943198030 $16.99

Intended for children ages 4-8, Periwinkle's Journey is a delightful picturebook about Periwinkle, a little blue Penguin from Australia, who is invited to her cousin's birthday party in Antarctica. But Periwinkle's color makes her appear very different from her black-and-white cousins! Periwinkle's journey introduces her to a variety of amazing animals, and in the process she learns a valuable lesson about the value of individuality. Colorful artwork of charming penguins (some of whom wear scarves to keep warm in the cold weather) add just the right touch to this adventure. Periwinkle's Journey is a moderately lengthy storybook, peppered with fun facts about penguins, and highly recommended.

The Power of Words
L. H. Williams
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780692712368, $13.99, PR, 24pp,

Poetry is one of humanities most powerful means of communication. A poem can lift the heart and heal the soul. The fifteen poems by L. H. Williams comprising "The Power of Words" aptly demonstrate the title's meaning in this brief compendium of verse. Contemplative, resonating, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Power of Words" is very highly recommended. 'My Heart': I give you my heat / I give you my world / Nothing on Earth can pull us apart / I love you long / I love you hard / Nothing in life can go wrong / Loving you strong / Gives me life that last long / As time pass on / I always feel that we shall someday be one / For you are the sun in my sky that shines so bright / You light up my life / I am glad to be your wife.

Andrea Kay

Ann's Bookshelf

Adrien Bosc, author
Willard Wood, translator
Profile Books
c/o Allen & Unwin
9781781255360, $27.99, hardback, 171 pages

There are many constellations in this book: constellations of stars, constellations of circumstances and coincidences, constellations of related facts and, especially, the constellation of people on the Air France Lockheed Constellation passenger plane F-BAZN which left Paris's Orly Airport bound for New York on 27 October 1949 and disappeared five minutes before a scheduled refuelling stop at Santa Maria the Azores.

Forty-eight people were on board. Their forty-eight "story-fragments" formed, for a short period of time "the world" of this aircraft and Adrien Bosc has created a novel, based on fact, from these fragments.

Every person's own story is special and in such a small group - an elite group travelling on a luxury airliner - some had extraordinary lives. On board F- BAZN were highly experienced pilots who had flown combat missions during the war; a champion boxer known as the 'Casablanca Clouter'; a renowned young female violinist; an entrepreneur who had lost one empire during the Wall Street crash of 1929 and had then successfully built another for Walt Disney; and a distinguished but eccentric portraitist who had painted Ingrid Bergman for the RKO Picture Jeanne d'Arc and had chivalrously given his seat on an earlier flight to an actress with excess luggage.

Not all the passengers were wealthy. Amongst them, five Basque shepherds emigrating (temporarily) to take up contracts as ranchmen in America's vast grasslands. And a young working-class woman - a poorly paid spool-operator in a textile mill - summoned to America by her wealthy industrialist grandmother who had chosen her to be her sole heir. Marcel Cardan, the boxer, is the lover of the famous French songstress, Edith Piaf, and Bosc re-creates their letters to each other. He brings all these stories to life.

Families and friend are brought into his picture, too, and some of the extraordinary things which happened after the crash. One young woman is buried twice. Part of the valuable and rare Guadagnini violin which the violinist carried with her is found and, thirty-three years after the crash is presented, live on TV, to the violin maker who, as a novice, had worked on her equally old and valuable Omobono Stradivarius. And an obsessive music fan commits suicide.

Interwoven with these stories is Bosc's re-creation of the search and rescue operation, body identification procedures, various different subsequent funeral and burial rites, and the investigative flight which was designed to discover what went wrong - the black box flight recorder not yet having been invented.

Bosc, too, visits the crash scene, climbing the mountain as the rescuers did, and finding no trace of the aircraft, only a memorial stone (a alminhas - "little soul"), erected by local people in memory of the forty-eight who died.

This small, lively and absorbing book, is beautifully bound so that a dark star-filled sky is seen through a round aircraft window in the steel-grey dust-jacket. It has been the well-deserved winner of an Arts Council of England Pen award for literary translations and the Academie Francaise Prize.

The House Between the Tides
Sarah Maine
Profile Books
c/o Allen & Unwin
9781760291402, $29.99 AUD, hardback, 389 pages
c/o Atria Books
9781501126918 $16.00 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

It is 1945. We see a boarded-up house, its last contents burning on a shore-side bonfire, and a woman, now an outsider on this Hebridean island, is filled with childhood memories as she watches the remnants of that life go up in flame.

It is a nostalgic, sad beginning for this book. And sixty years later the discover of human bones in the ruins of this once grand house becomes a puzzle which draws its new owner into the lives of her ancestors and stops short her tentative plans to rebuild the house as a luxury hotel and executive retreat.

Now, in the twenty-first century, Hetty (Harriet Deveraux) has inherited Muirlan House and its land, and she is still recovering from the death of both her parents in a car accident when she travels to Scotland to see it for the first time. She is shocked by its dereliction and her visit begins disastrously - not only because of the just-discovered human remains buried under the floorboards. Her first meeting with James Cameron, whose family have a long history of association with the island, is not propitious either, although her negotiations with him are to become increasingly necessary.

Hetty's great-grandmother, Emily, was half-sister to the second owner of the house, Theo Blake. In 1919, Theo brings his new young bride, Beatrice, to live on the island. And it is Beatrice's story, alongside that of Hetty, which this book follows, moving backwards and forwards in time to gradually unfold the mystery of the bones. That mystery, however, lies buried in the complex interweaving of the island's history and the lives of its small, close-knit community - families whose lives have been closely linked with the owners and inhabitants of Muirlan House for several generations in both good and bad times.

Beatrice's husband is an artist who had left the island some time earlier for reasons he will not disclose to her. His changed behaviour on his return; his strange closeness to Cameron Forbes, the son of the factor who farms the estate on Theo's behalf; and his unfeeling passion for shooting rare birds which nest on the island so that he can add them to his taxidermy collection and paint them - all threaten their marriage. Beatrice's first feelings of pleasure at the beauty and the peace of the island are also marred by the hostility some of the islanders show towards her and her husband, and her ignorance of its historical origins.

Hetty, meanwhile, is resisting the pushy assertiveness of her partner, Giles, whose business associates have big, expensive ideas about what she should do the develop the house and the island. They are full of assurances that the project will bring work to the island and benefit its people, and that extra finance can easily be arranged, They seem well on the way to taking over the whole project, and Hetty's uncertainly about James Cameron's honesty and his own plans for developing the island only make things more difficult for her. As Hetty spends more time on the island, however, she learns more of her family's history there and she gets to know some of islanders and begins to understand their resistance to her plans.

This is a complex plot but Sarah Maine handles her book's many themes and characters very skilfully. For a first novel, Maine's book is impressive. I found it absorbing reading and, apart from my own occasional problem keeping the two Camerons from two different eras distinct, it was easy reading with a mystery to unravel, a Scottish island to explore, loves, hates, betrayals and family secrets to be revealed.

An enjoyable, well-written, imaginative and satisfying read.

Holly Throsby
Allen & Unwin
9781760293734, $29.99, paperback, 378 pages

Goodwood is a fairly typical Australian country town. Its main street boasts Bart's Meats, the Goodwood Grocer, the Village Bakery, a Real Estate agent, Woody's service station, Mac's Police station, the Bookworm second-hand book shop, Vinnie's (the St Vincent de Paul charity shop), and The Wicko (the Wickham Pub). There is also a school, a small dairy farm and the Bowlo (the Lawn Bowls Club, which the locals frequent for meals and family celebrations).

Goodwood, as teenage Jean Brown tells us, is "a glass half-full kind of town" where everybody knows everybody and the most dramatic events are "minor traffic-accidents or a lack of rain". That was before August 1992, when young Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, "dropped off the face of the earth", and then a week later popular old Bart, of Bart's Meats, went fishing on the lake and never returned.

Everyone is affected and a pall of gloom hangs over the town. The lake is searched but no body is found. Missing Persons bulletins are circulated and distant family and friends contacted but Rosie remains unseen. And Jean, out walking her dog, Backflip, finds a plastic bag containing $500 hidden in a willow tree that she has climbed in order to watch the lake. Jean dreams of all the things she could buy with that money but worries about how she could explain these purchases to her mother, so she puts the bag back and tells no-one. A few days later she finds the bag still there but it contains only a small plastic horse. This is her secret. But other people in the town have secrets, too.

Gradually, we hear from Jean what happens over the next week or so, and we get to learn some of these secrets, some of which are very dark. Jean's view of the town and it people is that of a typical, intelligent, questioning teenager. She is blunt, mostly honest and often very funny, and she is also dealing with her own sexual awakening. Life for most of the people she knows goes on almost as usual but there is an underlying sense of danger, unhappiness and unease. Jean's relationships with her mother, with George her female best-friend, with local boys, with the new girl in town, and with the adults around her are as much part of this story as the mystery of the two missing people.

Since this is an Australian story told by an Australian teenager there is a strong flavour of life in a small Australian country town. And there are words and references peculiar to Australia. Place names are abbreviated; nicknames and the use of first names is common; ratbag kids are "bogans" (or they were in 1992); the notorious Lindy Chamberlain trial which featured a baby-stealing dingo and an unusual religious sect is mentioned; so, too, are the 'back-packer murders' which dominated Australian media reports in 1992.

Having been told early on that the mystery of the disappearances would eventually be solved, I was very tempted at times to skip to the end for the revelation, especially when Jean's account of daily happenings seemed a little over-long and irrelevant. But I didn't, and on the whole the book held my interest and was a pleasant and amusing read.

A Chinese Affair
Isabelle Li
Margaret River Press
PO Box 47, Witchcliffe, WA, 6286
9780994316769, $27.00, paperback, 340 pages

"As if walking in a snowstorm, I look back to find my footsteps have been erased. I do not know where I am and can no longer find my way back".

So muses Crystal, a young woman who has left her Chinese homeland to live and work in Australia. She has left behind her family, her culture, her language and even her name, since it is too difficult for Australians to pronounce correctly. Instead, she chooses to call herself 'Crystal' - "perfect in structure and form, hard and clear in every molecule".

Crystal is not hard, she feels the disorientation that every migrant feels, although those who move to a place where language and culture are similar to that of their birthplace may feel it less acutely.

We meet Crystal first, married to an older Australian man with a grown up family. He has 'had the snip' but she is pregnant. How this came about is not stated but a later story allows the reader to believe she may have had a loving liaison with a young Chinese artist who is about to move to America. Crystal's dilemma is how and when she should break the news to her husband but this, frustratingly, is never resolved. Often in later stories, too, situations are developed but the outcomes are not revealed. This can be frustrating, but the stories themselves are beautifully told.

There are sixteen short stories in this book and the venues range from China to Singapore, Australia and a tropical island in the Philippines. Crystal turns up in a number of them, sometimes under her Chinese name, Xueqing, or at other times identifiable by her work as a translator. She is not always the focus or the narrator of the story and, at one point, this confused me when two consecutive stories, the first subtly linked to Crystal and the four previous stories, and both told in the first person, turned out as the second story progressed to be about two completely different children of different genders.

Other stories tell of Chinese relatives, of tragedies and love tangles, and of work experiences - including house-sitting in Australia and working as a translator at a conference. Without spelling things out, Li is expert at using telling details of situations and conversations to imply underlying tensions and cultural differences. She knows well what it is like to have, as one of the four sections of the book is titled, "Two tongues", and two very different perspectives of the world.

In 'Blue Lotus', late in the book, we meet Crystal again when she describes a return visit to China and the growth and industrialisation of the village where her mother, father and brother still live. She feels the changes which others note in her and she stands out as different with her new intolerance of noise and her Australian styled hair. In this industrial, polluted landscape, she thinks of the creative fantasies she weaves when Australians ask about her birthplace: "In spring the fruit trees blossom all at once....In summer, the willows burst against an azure sky like green fireworks...". And she writes of her Sydney flat in its beautiful setting. But neither that nor her Yoga practice can allay the well of sadness at the bottom of her heart. In Sydney, too, she is different, however hard she tries to fit in: "Looking at the fine food on the table, I wonder who I am, why I am here".

Isabelle Li, who grew up in China and has lived in Singapore and Australia, writes well and many of these stories have been published before in literary magazines. She clearly knows and understands the feelings of her characters, and she writes sensitively of their loves, losses, failures, achievements and resilience as they deal with the complexities of moving between cultures.

At one point Crystal tells her mother of her plan to write about their family history. Many of Li's stories seem to be a realisation of a similar plan, dealing with the stories of relatives and describing fragments of their lives during vast political changes in China. Some stories, however, would not fit this pattern at all. One rather oddly out-of-place but very good story, describes the feelings and experiences of a young woman and her partner as she undergoes IVF treatment.

My only real criticism of the book is the structure, which I found somewhat random and confusing. Overall, however, it is a most enjoyable read.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

He Knows Your Name
Linda Znachko
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825444043, $14.99, PB, 191pp,

Synopsis: When the evening news reported a dead baby abandoned in a local dumpster, Linda Znachko's comfortable life changed. She was suddenly convicted -- God was asking her to provide a dignified burial for this tiny lost child. Linda said yes. She had no idea where that first small yes would lead.

Linda found herself in places she never dreamed she would be: at the graveside of the child of an abused mother; by the side of a mother fighting for her lost child; and at the funeral of a Texas stripper who died two days before her baptism but left a legacy of love behind. When Linda stepped out of her comfort zone and into these implausible places with people she was unlikely to otherwise encounter, she discovered the life she never knew she wanted -- a life of saying yes to God whenever He asks.

Today, Linda has a ministry that gives children a name in life, and dignity and honor in death. When she shares her stories of broken lives redeemed, other broken people respond, and so the ripple effects of that long-ago yes continue to spread, touching lives that yearn for healing, and underscoring the fact that every life matters to God.

Critique: A powerful testament to the ultimate glory of God, "He Knows Your Name: How One Abandoned Baby Inspired Me to Say Yes to God" is a superbly written and intensely personal story that is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end. A book that will linger in the mind and memory long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "He Knows Your Name" is strongly recommended reading for every member of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "He Knows Your Name" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.24.

Daily Love: 365 Days of Celebration
National Geographic
c/o National Geographic Press
101 West 104th Street, Suite 8, New York, NY 10025
9781426217142, $19.95, HC, 464pp,

Synopsis: Compiled by members of the National Geographic Press, "Daily Love: 365 Days of Celebration" is their latest daily inspirational book and takes on the most timeless and universal of topics: love. Striking landscape photography and uplifting words of wisdom combine to create a heartwarming page-a-day experience that speaks to this most important human emotion in all its forms. From passion and devotion to trust and understanding, each monthly theme evokes the joys of recognizing, receiving, and (best of all) sharing love.

Critique: A simple joy to browse through, "Daily Love: 365 Days of Celebration" will prove to be a daily inspiration and is an ideal gift giving idea for a friend or a loved one. Offering a wealth of contemplative wisdom deftly combined with memorably beautiful full color imagery, "Daily Love: 365 Days of Celebration" is unreservedly recommended.

Loving on Me!
Katrina McGhee
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504349291, $11.99, PB, 121pp,

Synopsis: What do you do when you don't know what to do, but you know it's time to do something different? The answer is that you feel it. Those yearnings from the depth of your soul telling you it's time to make a change. The status quo is no longer enough. You want more for your life than just going through the motions, and you deserve it. It's time for you to live fully, completely, and abundantly. The question is how?

"Loving on Me!: Lessons Learned on the Journey from MESS to MESSAGE" by Katrina McGhee reveals the answers that allow you to access the more God has in store for you. Through a series of powerful life lessons inspired by Katrina's personal journey of transformation, you'll discover how you too can embrace faith, release fear, and experience the fullness of life for which you were designed.

Whether starting from a place of stagnation, hurt, or overwhelming confusion you can: learn to accept who you are and know that you are enough; release the guilt of your past and seize the opportunities in your present; live up to your expectations, rather than down to your circumstances; walk in faith, even when the path leads outside your comfort zone.

Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized and presented, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone and commentary, "Loving on Me!" is an empowering, thought-provoking, insightful, and inspiring read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for Christian Studies and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Loving on Me!" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

My Turn: Women Speak Out
Susana Gordon
Privately Published
B01H0Q30QW, $2.99, Kindle, 99pp,

Synopsis: "My Turn: Women Speak Out" by Susana Gordon is comprised of short essays expressing the unique and often courageous ways women of different backgrounds and various circumstances experience memorable interactions with others. These 39 essays honor the faculty and staff with whom Susana worked for decades and the women who befriended her. Some essays will most certainly reverberate with readers and serve to encourage and guide personal growth, others will prove inherently compelling with universal recognition.

Critique: Impressively well written, and effective in offering guidance, encouragement, and even inspiration, "My Turn: Women Speak Out" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university digital library Women's Issues collections in general, and Interpersonal Relations supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

(un)Natural Mom
Hettie Brittz
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434710284, $16.99, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: In "(un)Natural Mom: Why You Are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids" the underlying message is that to admit that mothering a child doesn't always come naturally is not a sign of moral failure. In the pages of "(un)Natural Mome", parenting expert and self-proclaimed "unnatural mom" Hettie Brittz helps any such woman to find new hope in discovering that every mother has unique gifts. That in Christ, the "unnatural" mom becomes the supernatural mom who is just right for her family through adhering to fundamental Christian principles as a mother creates a parenting style!

Critique: Exceptionally well written and theologically sound, ""(un)Natural Mom: Why You Are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids"" is an extraordinary and unique self-help/self-improvement parenting instructional guide that is as 'reader friendly' in tone, organization and presentation as it is ultimately enlightening and inspiring. Very highly recommended, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "(un)Natural Mom" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Bicycle Effect: Cycling as Meditation
Juan Carlos Kreimer
Findhorn Press
9781844097081, $14.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: The bicycle is not just a vehicle used to transport ourselves, to exercise one's body or to obtain joy from the experience of riding. Rather the bicycle is a device which can allows us to attain a much wealthier mental state than one would think possible. Once we ride it, it's possible to experience a feeling close to that achieved by meditation. The movements of the legs, the energy which arises through the body, the cadence of our breathing and the floating attention on what's happening around us and in our mind all create a similar state to the one we achieve when we sit crossed-legged, with our eyes closed, allowing our thoughts to drift simply and naturally. Zen calls it mindfulness.

Critique: At the age of 70, Juan Carlos Kreimer is an Argentinean writer and publisher. He learned to ride a bike nearly in the same days he made his first steps. He has cycled in every city he has called home: Buenos Aires, New York, Paris, London, Rio de Janeiro to name just a few. Today he continues pedaling around 20/30 miles a day. From 1982, when he started his Zen practice and began to meditate regularly, he found a strong relation between both practices. In the pages of "The Bicycle Effect: Cycling as Meditation" Juan draws upon his many years of experience and expertise to share with his readers how they can obtain the meditative wisdom and experience that a bicycle can afford. While very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library meditation instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for the personal lists of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Bicycle Effect: Cycling as Meditation" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Christmas Presence
John Scally
The Columba Press
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, 124 Byers Road, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781782182542, $16.00, HC, 106pp,

Synopsis: "The Christmas Presence" is comprised of twelve heartwarming and uplifting short stories by John Scally (a Lecturer in Theology at Trinity College Dublin). Each beautifully crafted and original tales is illustrated with a black-and-white image by the artist Don Conroy. Each memorable story addresses the real meaning of Christmas. "The Christmas Presence" was inspired by the tragic story of Jonathan Corrie, who died homeless on the streets of Dublin before Christmas 2014, and by a desire to do something positive to respond to the sad reality that thousands of people remain homeless every Christmas season in a kind of Irish equivalency of the original Christmas story where there was 'no room in the inn' for the Savior of Mankind.

Critique: Enhanced with an informative Foreword by Peter McVery, SJ, "The Christmas Presence" is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end. Simply stated, "The Christmas Presence" is one of those books that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While enthusiastically and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Christmas Presence" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

If My Husband Would Change, I'd Be Happy
Rhonda Stoppe
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736962865, $13.99, PB, 220pp,

Synopsis: Most brides on their wedding day are filled with love for their husbands and the hope of a happy life together. But perhaps today, as the realities of life together have settled in, those happy expectations are going unfulfilled. And it's tempting to think, "If only my husband would change, I'd be happy."

That myth is but one of many that Rhonda Stoppe dispels in her easy-to-read exploration of what it takes to experience a truly happy marriage. In the process, she addresses such important topics as: understanding your husband's need for your; unconditional respect; rekindling the love that drew you to your husband in the first place; refusing to believe the lie that you'd be happier married to someone else; learning to be content in the midst of financial struggles; thinking about sex from a biblical worldview.

"If My Husband Would Change, I'd Be Happy: And Other Myths Wives Believe" will help disillusioned wives desiring to rekindle the love and hope they felt on their wedding day and go a long way toward making that marital dream come true.

Of special note are the discussion questions and personal reflections at the end of each chapter.

Critique: Thoroughly practical and 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "If My Husband Would Change, I'd Be Happy: And Other Myths Wives Believe" is an extraordinary and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring, "If My Husband Would Change, I'd Be Happy" is enthusiastically recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "If My Husband Would Change, I'd Be Happy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Building a E
Melina Roberts, N.D.
True Directions / iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781491783627, $12.95, PB, 107pp,

Synopsis: Melina Roberts, N.D., is a naturopathic doctor and founder of Advanced Naturopathic Medical Centre in Calgary, Canada. Melina has developed a revolutionary program that introduces infants and toddlers to food that helps them develop their bodies and health. Many parents feed their children as if they're adults, without ever thinking that perhaps they should not be eating like a fully-grown adult. The truth is, however, that organs and body systems mature at different times, which means nutrition needs at different ages vary.

"Building a Healthy Child: Food Introduction Nutritional Program - A Parent's Guide to Foundational Childhood Nutrition for Lifelong Health" is guidebook to promoting optimal health in infants and toddlers, that shows how to: take advantage of the benefits of breastfeeding;; avoid foods that can cause infants problems, such as grains, wheat, soy, corn, refined white sugar, and cow's milk; introduce solids to infants and toddlers; decrease the likelihood of children developing allergies, eczema, asthma, and chronic disease.

Most parents want to give their children a head start in life, but they too often neglect the most important area-nutrition. They introduce certain foods too early and feed their children poor-quality food, promoting a disastrous cycle of bad health. Now parents can help their children develop into intelligent, successful, and healthy adults with the insights and guidance in "Building a Healthy Child".

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Building a Healthy Child" is thoroughly 'reader friendly in tone and commentary, exceptionally informed and informative, thoughtful, practical, and filled with insights into the subject of child nutrition, making it an ideal instruction guide and highly recommended for family and community library Health & Nutrition collections in general, and Child Nutrition supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Susan Bethany

Bonnye's Bookshelf

Rochester A Memoir
Cora Holmes
Legend Books
9780997274103, paperback, $9.94, 300 pages,

"Rochester A Memoir" is the story of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre as told from the heart and mind of Edward Fairfax Rochester, carefully adhering to the original story line. Although not completely original creativity, it more than makes up for that deficiency by answering questions readers have had for almost two hundred years, answering them in painful detail. Time travel back to the 1850s when Rochester unashamedly divulges his thoughts in compelling brutal frankness, using virtual seamless language from the past to express how he came to be the aloof, inscrutable man he appears to be. The reader is present scene after scene and can see the places he describes in their precise constituents and the contents of his concealed heart as he appears one way (a marriageable man) but is really another (married to a madwoman from another land). For those who loved Jane Eyre and those who didn't, Rochester A Memoir is a well written great read. I highly recommend this book for personal reading and community library Gothic and Historical Fiction collections. Also available in Kindle.

Wisdom Keeper: One Man's Journey to Honor the Untold History of the Unangan People
Ilarion Merculieff
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623170493, paperback, $15.95, PB, 192 pp
9781623170509, ebook, $9.99,

Wisdom Keeper: One Man's Journey to Honor the Untold History of the Unangan People is Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff's spiritual/philosophical memoir of growing up as an Aleut on St. Paul Island, one of the Pribilofs in the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska. He illustrates the context of an indigenous people having experienced life shattererd as a result of contact with men first from Russia and then the United States, where his people were enslaved and deprived of their language, culture, natural foods, and spiritual needs.  Parental care of children was sometimes hijacked by the US government or abandoned by broken parents taking refuge in weekend alcohol or, worse, suicide. Merculieff's book shows clearly the perspective differences between the Unangan and those who make up the larger, non-native world today. He explains how the resilient Unangan people survive today, and the ways in which some remain broken. He speaks of "what it is to be present, to be a man, to touch and be part of the divine." He is concerned with the current world view and the context of his people in it. He calls for healing the whole by starting with self while retaining "personal authority, innocence of the child, and the wisdom of elders." It's a well written, thought provoking read which is thoroughly authentic Alaskan. I highly recommend this book for personal reading and for community and academic libraries with the following non-fiction focus: Alaska Native Studies, and as the book recommends, "Social Science, Indigenous Studies/History - Native American/Colonialism and Post Colonialism."

Bonnye Matthews

Buhle's Bookshelf

Becoming a Soulful Educator
Aryeh Ben David
Jewish Lights Publishing
PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781580238731, $16.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: The primary message for the Jewish educational community in "Becoming a Soulful Educator: How to Bring Jewish Learning from Our Minds, to Our Hearts, to Our Souls -- and Into Our Lives" is that is time to move beyond merely conveying information, to go beyond the classroom, to transform the soul. The goal should no longer be just teaching a good class, to simply convey information, or purely have the students enjoy the learning. Soulful education is about enabling another (be they child, adolescent, adult) to discover how to become his or her best self through learning. "Becoming a Soulful Educator" is a bold re-visioning of effective education, by renowned educator Rabbi Aryeh Ben David who recalibrates the focus of teaching from the acquisition of knowledge to the transformation of the soul. He presents six steps to help educators of all kinds teach to the heart, engage students in knowledge gathering without preaching or controlling, and enable students to authentically and personally integrate Jewish wisdom into their lives. He offers guidance for how teachers can share their own vulnerabilities and yearnings to become a better force of harmony to help students gain new clarity on their own infinite potential for positive change. "Becoming a Soulful Educator" is an essential guidebook for everyone in the Jewish community from educators and rabbis to parents and grandparents and anyone else working in formal or informal education, whether for children, teens, emerging adults, adults or seniors.

Critique: "Becoming a Soulful Educator" is essentially about helping one's students strive for greatness in all aspects of life - including educational, practical, humanitarian, and spiritual aspects. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Becoming a Soulful Educator" is a ground breaking work that should be part of every Jewish educator's personal reading list. It should be noted that "Becoming a Soulful Educator" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Presidential Libraries as Performance
Jodi Kanter
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809335206 $35.00

Synopsis: How do the funding, setting architecture, and exhibition of a presidential library shape our understanding of the president's character? And how do diverse performances of the presidency create radically different opportunities for the practice of American citizenship? In Presidential Libraries as Performance: Curating American Character from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush, Jodi Kanter analyzes presidential libraries as performances that encourage visitors to think in particular ways about executive leadership and about their own roles in public life.

Kanter considers the moments in the presidents' lives the museums choose to interpret, and not to interpret, and how the libraries approach common subjects in the presidential museum narrative - the presidents' early years in relation to cultural ideals, the libraries' representations of presidential failures, personal and political, and the question of presidential legacy. Identifying the limited number of strategies the libraries currently use to represent the diversity of the American experience and American character, Kanter offers concrete suggestions for reinventing and reshaping the practices of museum professionals and visitors within the walls of these institutions.

Presidential museums can tell us important things about the relationships between performance and politics, entertainment and history, and leaders and the people they lead. Kanter demonstrates how the presidential libraries generate normative narratives about individual presidents, historical events, and what it means to be an American.

Critique: Presidential Libraries as Performance thoughtfully explores what the collections of presidential libraries have to tell us about the executive leadership styles of America's presidents. Author Jodi Kanter (associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, George Washington University) scrutinizes not only what can be inferred from the contents of presidential libraries, but also what their shortcomings or lack of information on specific issues reveal about the character of their respective Presidents. "Although the [Kennedy] library is unusually thorough in its performance of the failed outcome of the Bay of Pigs invasion, it does not display the failure of presidential decision-making widely thought to have caused it. Specifically, the exhibit does not mention Kennedy's fateful decision to dramatically reduce the size of the air strike, despite being advised by many, including his predecessor, to the contrary." Presidential Libraries as Performance is erudite, expertly researched and exactingly presented, and highly recommended especially for college library collections.

A Life Twice Given
David Daniel
Berwick Court Publishing Company
P.O. Box 8515, Northfield, IL 60093
9781944376000 $16.95 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: There may be no loss as devastating as losing one's child. Who then could fault the Jacobsons, overwhelmed by anguish, for accepting the help of a scientific cabal promising to clone their son Joey? Though Joey's promising second life will lead to love and a good job with the CIA, he remains unaware of the circumstances, and the deleterious consequences, of his existence. When tragedy strikes, Joey must come to terms with the mystery of his past and the uncertainty of his future. A Life Twice Given, the captivating debut novel from David Daniel, is a masterwork of speculative fiction inspired by the author's personal loss. Daniel delivers an immaculately crafted, genuinely human portrait of a future both idyllic and dystopic.

Critique: With deep roots in author David Daniel's loss of his own son, A Life Twice Given is a striking debut novel that explores the themes of tragedy and opportunity - specifically, the opportunity to have a second chance at life itself, but for a high price. A candid saga that addresses both life-changing decisions and the minor intricacies of everyday routine with equal aplomb, A Life Twice Given keeps the reader engaged to the very end. It should be noted that A Life Twice Given is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99) and that all author proceeds from its sale will be donated to the foundation that David Daniel and his wife created in honor of their son, the David Gordon Louis Daniel Foundation (

Disability and World Religions: An Introduction
Darla Y. Schumm & Michael Stoltzfus, editors
Baylor University Press
One Bear Place, #97363, Waco, TX 76798-7363
9781481305211, $49.95, 276pp,

Synopsis: Religion plays a critical role in determining how disability is understood and how persons with disabilities are treated. Examining the world's religions through the lens of disability studies not only peers deeply into the character of a particular religion, but also teaches something brand new about what it means to respond to people living with physical and mental differences.

"Disability and World Religions" deftly introduces readers to the rich diversity of the world's religions including Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Native American traditions. Each individual chapter introduces a specific religious tradition in a manner that offers innovative approaches to familiar themes in contemporary debates about religion and disability, including personhood, autonomy, community, ability, transcendence, morality, practice, the interpretation of texts, and conditioned claims regarding the normal human body or mind.

By portraying varied and complex perspectives on the intersection of religion and disability, "Disability and World Religions" demonstrates that religious teachings and practices across the globe help establish cultural constructions of normalcy. "Disability and World Religions" also interrogates the constructive role religion plays in determining expectations for human physical and mental behavior and in establishing standards for measuring conventional health and well-being. "Disability and World Religions" thus offers a respectful exploration of global faith traditions and cultivates creative ways to respond to the fields of both religious and disability studies.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Darla Y. Schumm is (Professor of Religious Studies at Hollins University in Virginia) and Michael Stoltzfus (Professor of Religious Studies at Georgia Gwinnett College), "Disability and World Religions: An Introduction" is comprised of nine exceptionally well informed and informative contributions to form an anthology of erudite articles that present a collective volume of truly impressive scholarship. Enhanced with ten pages of Notes; a ten page bibliography of Works Cited; a four page listing of the contributors and their credentials; and an eleven page Index, "Disability and World Religions: An Introduction" is an extraordinary and very highly recommended addition to community and academic library World Religion, Theology, and Disability Studies collections. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Disability and World Religions: An Introduction" is also available in a Kindle format ($47.45).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Living Large in Our Little House
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
Reader's Digest Trade Publishing
44 South Broadway, White Plains, NY 10601
9781621452522, $24.99, HC, 226pp,

Synopsis: Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a journalist and author who has written a column on small space living for She's also written on small space living for Mother Earth News and and has been interviewed extensively on her tiny house expertise. In "Living Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet with Six Dogs, a Husband, and One Remote--Plus More Stories of How You Can Too", Kerri draws upon her years of experience and expertise to present a practical and inspirational memoir about the joy and freedom of tiny house living.

Traditionally, the American Dream has included owning a house, and until recently that meant the bigger the better. McMansions have flourished in suburbs across the country, and as houses got bigger we filled them with more stuff. Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell had been subconsciously trying to live up to this American Dream when circumstances forced her and her husband into a 480-square foot house in the woods. What was supposed to be a writing cabin and guest house became their full-time abode and they quickly discovered that they had serendipitously discovered a better way of life.

They realized that by living smaller, they were in fact able to be living large. They were not spending extra time cleaning and maintaining the house, but had the freedom to pursue their hobbies; they did not waste money on things they didn't need; and they grew emotionally (as well as physically) closer. Kerri and her husband realized that living large is less about square footage and more about a state of mind.

As Kerri relates the story of her transformation to a "Living Larger," she also profiles more than a dozen other families living tiny house lives and offers practical advice for how you can too. "Living Large in Our Little House will: Walk readers through the financial advantages of small space living; Help the readers define and find the right size house; Teach the readers to scale down to the essentials to be surrounded only by things they love; Show readers how to make use of outdoor space; Give tips on how to decorate judiciously; and so much more.

Critique: Enhanced with a profusion of color photos, the inclusion of a twelve page listing of Rsources, two pages of Notes, and a nine page Index, "Living Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet with Six Dogs, a Husband, and One Remote--Plus More Stories of How You Can Too" is enthusiastically recommended for community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Living Large in Our Little House" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99).

Colonel Henry Theodore Titus
Antonio Rafael de la Cova
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611176568, $44.99, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Henry Theodore Titus (1822-1881) was the quintessential adventurer, soldier of fortune, and small-time entrepreneur, a man for whom any frontier--geographical, cultural, social--was an opportunity for advancement. Although born in Trenton, New Jersey, and raised in New York and Pennsylvania, Titus bore no allegiance to his native soil or the Yankee values of his ancestors. In the 1850s he became a staunch defender of southern slavery, United States expansionism into the Caribbean Basin, and ultimately the Confederacy's war of disunion. In Colonel Henry Theodore Titus, the first full-length biography of Titus, Antonio Rafael de la Cova reveals a man whose life and adventures offer glimpses into nineteenth-century America not often examined; these indicate the extent to which personal and collective violence, racial prejudice, and moral ambiguities shaped the country at the time.

Belligerent, intemperate, egomaniacal, and of imposing stature, Titus was the bête noire of the abolitionist press. Despite his northern roots, he became a caricature of the southern braggart and frontier opportunist. National newspapers followed his reckless exploits during most of his adult life. Titus fought brawls in the saloons of luxury hotels and narrowly escaped the hangman's noose as a Border Ruffian leader in Bleeding Kansas, a Nicaraguan firing squad as a filibuster, and death in a Comanche ambush in Texas. He nearly prompted an international incident between the United States and Great Britain when he was arrested in Nicaragua for threatening to shoot a British naval officer and disparaging the queen of England. The colonel was jailed in New York City for disorderly conduct and trying "to organize the desperate classes for a riot."

During his lifetime Titus held more than a dozen occupations, including sawmill owner, postal inspector, soldier of fortune, grocer, planing mill salesman, farmer, slave overseer, turtler, bartender, land speculator, and hotel keeper. He pursued silver mining in the Gadsden Purchase portion of the Arizona Territory where his brother was killed and their hacienda destroyed by Apaches. Despite his violent character and his pro-Confederate values, Titus was politically savvy. He did not take up arms during the Civil War. After a brief stint as assistant quartermaster in the Florida militia, he returned to civilian life and sold foodstuffs and slave labor to the Confederacy. Florida Reconstruction governors later appointed him as notary public and justice of the peace.

Rheumatism and gout kept Titus bound to a wheelchair during the last few years of his life when he became an avid civic leader. His greatest legacy was ironically his most benign. Borrowing today's equivalent income value sum of half a million dollars, he established a grocery store and a sawmill in a hardscrabble Florida frontier settlement that became the city of Titusville, the county seat of Brevard County and tourist gateway to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

Critique: A model of historical, military, and biographical scholarship, "Colonel Henry Theodore Titus: Antebellum Soldier of Fortune and Florida Pioneer" is an inherently fascinating, impressively researched, exceptionally well written, and a consistently compelling read from beginning to end. Enhanced with seventy pages of Notes, a fourteen page Bibliography, and a 25 page Index, "Colonel Henry Theodore Titus" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists it should be noted that "Colonel Henry Theodore Titus" is also available in a Kindle format ($31.72).

Crow Never Dies
Larry Frolick
University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E1
9781772120851, $29.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: For over 50,000 years, the Great Hunt shaped human existence, creating a vital spiritual reality where people, animals, and the land shared intimate bonds. "Crow Never Dies: Life on the Great Hunt"is compelling first-hand account by author Larry Frolick who takes his readers deep into one of the last refuges of hunting society: Canada's far north. Frolick traveled over a span of five years visiting with First Nations Elders in remote communities across the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut, experiencing the raw power of their ancient traditions. His vivid narrative combines accounts of daily life, unpublished archival records, current scientific research, First Nations myths, and personal observation to illuminate the northern wilderness, its people, and their complex relationships.

Critique: Especially recommended to the attention of academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in ecological travel narratives, Arctic adventures, and Canada's aboriginal cultures will find "Crow Never Dies: Life on the Great Hunt" to be informed, informative, insightful, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and consistently compelling from beginning to end. Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Foreword by Paul Carlucci, a four page bibliography of Selected Readings, and a three page Index, "Crow Never Dies" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Canadian Aboriginal Cultur reference collections in general, and Canadian Aboriginal Studies supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Defensive Shield
Gal Hirsch
Gefen Publishing House
11 Edison Place, Springfield, NJ 07081
9789652298652, $29.95, HC, 476pp,

Synopsis: Israel Defense Force Brigadier General Gal Hirsch has taken part in all of Israels military confrontations since 1982, leaving a unique signature on a wide scope of strategic thinking owing to his deep understanding of operational art and military planning. In 2009, Hirschs autobiographical book in Hebrew, "War Story, Love Story", was published and instantly appeared on the Israeli bestseller list where it stayed for many months. The description of his own personal journey offers deep, open-minded, and critical insights into the most significant milestones in Israels defense in the past 30 years, in which he played a key role. "Defensive Shield: An Israeli Special Forces Commander on the Frontline of Counterterrorism" is a newly revised and re-conceived English edition of his military memoir and history offers American readers a comprehensive, one-of-a-kind, contextual description of Israeli national defense developments, serving as a valuable tool for understanding contemporary security challenges in the Middle East. "Defensive Shield" has been praised as a lesson in leadership, bravery, and endurance. "Defensive Shield" is a remarkable testimony to the bond between the Jewish people and its Bible and land.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Defensive Shield: An Israeli Special Forces Commander on the Frontline of Counterterrorism" is enhanced with the inclusion of four appendices (The Israel Defense Force; Abbreviations; Milestones in Israel's Defense; Awards and Honors Recieved by Gal Hirsch), and a fifteen page Index, making it unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Israeli History collections in general, and Israeli Defense Force supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Defensive Shield" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99).

An Intimate Wilderness
Norman Hallendy
Greystone Books
343 Railway Street, Suite 201, Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6A 1A4
9781771642309, $34.95, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: "An Intimate Wilderness: Arctic Voices in a Land of Vast Horizons" is the story of Arctic researcher, author, and photographer Norman Hallendy's journey to the far north began in 1958, when many Inuit, who traditionally lived on the land, were moving to permanent settlements created by the Canadian government. In a uniquely informative memoir, Hallendy writes of his adventures, experiences with strange Arctic phenomena, encounters with wildlife, and deep friendships with Inuit elders. Very few have worked so closely with the Inuit to document their traditions, and, in "An Intimate Wilderness", Hallendy preserves their voices and paints an incomparable portrait of a vibrant culture in a remote landscape.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout, "An Intimate Wilderness: Arctic Voices in a Land of Vast Horizons" is an inherently interesting and consistently compelling account that is as informative and engaging as it is consistently compelling from beginning to end. Enhanced with a Foreword by William Fitzhugh (Director of the Smithsonian's Arctic Studies Center and a Senior Scientist at the national Museum of natural History), "An Intimate Wilderness" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Inuit collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Vector-Mediated Transmission of Plant Pathogens
Judith K. Brown, editor
APS Press
3340 Pilot Knob Road, St. Paul, MN 55121
9780890545164, $355.50, HC, 510pp,

Synopsis: The study of vector biology encompasses various disciplines and levels of pursuit, each one examined separately and then collaboratively with the others to holistically explain the range of vector activities, like host-finding, feeding, and dispersal.

Compiled and edited by Judith K. Brown (School of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson), "Vector-Mediated Transmission of Plant Pathogens" is comprehensive monograph that explains in detail the complex range of factors and interactions related to the vector-mediated transmission of plant pathogens, including: The various types of vectors involved, including arthropods, mites, fungi, and organisms once classified as fungal pathogens, nematodes, and trypanosomatids; A variety of key pathogens, including eubacteria, fungi, plant pathogenic nematodes, as well as plant RNA and DNA viruses; The many mechanistic and ecological roles related to vector-mediated transmission; The pathogen's coevolved interactions with particular type and parts of the vector at hand; The defined pathways between the vector and host; Specific retention-inoculation characteristics in relation to the vector and plant host.

Each chapter offers detailed examples of particular pathogen-vector interaction modes, tying together many years of research to advance the understanding of pathogen-vector biology and interactions at biochemical, cellular-tissue-organ, and functional genomics levels. The final section includes short treatises on a number of emerging pathogen-vector complexes which will require further research. They were written with the goal of inspiring students and researchers to continue to advance this important field of study.

An ideal textbook and reference for students, professors, and all those who study or specialize in vector biology in general-- or in relation to any of these disciplines. "Vector-Mediated Transmission of Plant Pathogens" spans the disciplines of plant pathology, virology, bacteriology, mycology, entomology, and ecology.

Critique: Informative, instructive, impressively written, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Vector-Mediated Transmission of Plant Pathogens" should be a core part of every professional, college, and university library Agricultural Science collection in general, and Plant Pathology supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Practical Ontologies for Information Professionals
David Stuart
Facet Publishing
9780838915110, $88.00, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: In computer science and information science, an ontology is a formal naming and definition of the types, properties, and interrelationships of the entities that really or fundamentally exist for a particular domain of discourse The development of robust and widely used ontologies is an increasingly important tool in the fight against information overload. The publishing and sharing of explicit explanations for a wide variety of conceptualizations, in a machine readable format, has the power to both improve information retrieval and identify new knowledge. "Practical Ontologies for Information Professionals" by David Stuart (an independent information professional and an honorary research fellow at the University of Wolverhampton) provides an accessible introduction to: the concept and definition of ontology and why it is increasingly important to the information professional; ontologies and the Semantic Web; existing ontologies, such as SKOS, OWL, FOAF,, and the DBpedia Ontology; adopting and building ontologies, showing how to avoid repetition of work and how to build a simple ontology with Protege; interrogating Semantic Web ontologies; and the future of ontologies and the role of the information professional in their development and use.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of figures, tables, a nineteen page Bibliography and a five page Index, "Practical Ontologies for Information Professionals" is an impressive and comprehensive study. Of special note are the chapters on 'Ontologies and Information Professions'; 'Alternative Semantic Visions'; and 'Ontological Documentation'. Impressively well written, organized, and presented, "Practical Ontologies for Information Professionals" will prove to be an enduringly valued and appreciated addition to professional, community, and academic library Information Science reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Michael J. Carson

Chutsky's Bookshelf

Tall Sheep: Harry Goulding, Monument Valley Trader
Samuel Moon
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069-8216
9780806124155, $12.95, 246 pages,

If You are interested in the unique history of Monument Valley/Arizona and the Navajo Indians physical and spiritual hold to that land you'll want to read TALL SHEEP: Harry Goulding, Monument Valley Trader.

It is an interesting slice of early 20th century western life through the eyes and words of Harry Goulding - the ultimate Twentieth century desert pioneer character who established the first trading post, which he ran with his wife from 1925 until 1963, in the sparse foreboding remote and rugged yet spectacular landscape of the Monument Valley.

Those years forced upon the gentle people of the Navajo Tribal Park a melding with twentieth century America, their remoteness breeched by the new rush of Anglo visitors anxious to soak in the landscapes that to them, like visiting a foreign planet without the need of an oxygen tank, and to soak up the foreign ways of the Navajo.

Harry Goulding and his trading post became the conduit to facilitate that evolution. He acted as an advocate sometimes for both the Navajos and the Government melding a sense of practicality and sensitivity to the sometimes painful issues facing both, though his heart was always firmly with the Navajo camp and the wild land he loved. He went so far as to successfully promote the area to legendary Director John Ford which spawned the popularity of shooting western films in the area.

During those years the Navajos coped with being forced into sheep farming, then a Government forced stock reduction that devastated the new barter and pawn cash economy they needed to participate in order to survive. They also faced a broadening military experience during WW11, being stripped of mining rights and profits of their own lands in the rush for uranium before Hiroshima, the struggle of improving the education and medical resources for their people through democratic tribal governments.

Amazingly the Navajo's were on the forefront of many of our natural medicines and holistic remedies before they became a national movement in health care. And a lot of their spiritual beliefs mirrored that of the metaphysical movement that also emerged in the early 1900's.

Author Samuel Moon presents a living voice of the very different peoples who collided and shaped the history of Monument Valley, a portrait through their own words and experiences of what transpired during those years in an era and place very distant from our own.

It should be made available in every library and historical research center. Valuable historical and anthropological reading.

Lady Susan
Jane Austen
9783961300075, $4.99, PB, 122 pages,

LADY SUSAN is purely a late 18th century English Aristocratic Soap Opera, to the Nth degree, drowning in the suds of slights, accusations, indignations, suspicions, impudence, forbearance and manipulation, etc., etc.

While "too much of the rattle can be put up with if the estate is big enough," This one does not visually render the estate nor the finery that covered those parading about them.

LADY SUSAN is a different duck from Jane Austen's other novels that usually render the completest of pictures of English pomp and circumstance down to the finest threads of embroidered English tapestries and delicate meaningless gestures.

It is an 'epistolary novel' (oxford dictionaries definition of epistolary; as carried on by letters), driven purely by the sniping tattletale letters between so-called friends and sometimes wickedly devious relations.

In actuality the novel was never submitted for publication by Jane Austen, penned in 1794, maybe one could conjecture she felt it wasn't ready for prime time, or maybe she too felt it wasn't complete. It was published long after her death and has been the subject of several adaptions. I'd be rather keen to see the English stage version. I'm sure it holds up much better.

The synopsis of LADY SUSAN ( as close to the King's English as I can produce); a beautiful coquettish widow of 35, a peacock who shows off her feathers to the delight of most men trying to keep them half in love with her, goes about the wicked occupation of captivating deceit while imposing on the estate of her in-laws, making everyone around her miserable in the pursuit of seeking a wealthy husband for her daughter and an even better match for herself- while maintaining a relationship with a married man of well to do means.

To the 18th century aristocracy the pursuit of marriage seems to have nothing to do with love, but mainly those well-to-do means.

Why the well-to-do relatives and friends put up with Lady Susan's perverse folly of exploitation just because she possesses powers of charm is beyond an American's sensibilities (though I would say Southern Belles can probably orchestrate a similar strain of selfish disruptiveness), but the stuff worthy of deadly feuds to the English, along with a bad cup of tea, or seeing any personality other than one possessed of "milkiness" as troublesome - which I do believe is most of us.

This one takes a lot of thought to follow: who is doing what to whom when they're doing it all in almost every sentence, and you must possess a grand imaginative library of everything English to visualize any of it.

But I would LADY SUSAN could surely be used as an Oxford level catalogue of sesquipedalian-esque human foibles where everyone is guilty of some affront no matter what their action.

The 2016 release "Love &Friendship" the movie version offers up plenty of lush visuals to bring it all alive.

Karen Chutsky, Reviewer

Clint's Bookshelf

The Wing Orderly's Tales
Carlo Gebler
New Island
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc. (distribution)
PO Box 7, 124 Byers Road, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781848404946 $24.00 / $5.99 Kindle

Synopsis: An instantly striking portrait of life inside a Northern Ireland prison. Composed of nine linked stories, each tale is narrated by Harry 'Chalky' Chalkman, an intelligent, street-wise and sensitive wing orderly (a prison inmate charged with the maintenance of order and cleanliness) serving a twelve-year sentence for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm. Through Gbler's pitch-perfect dialogue and deep understanding of his characters, a world emerges that is full of contradiction and injustice, but not without warmth, humor and true human feeling. At times hilarious, violent, tender, and enlightening, The Wing Orderly's Tales is a major new work by one of Ireland's most important and critically lauded living writers.

Critique: The Wing Orderly's Tales is an intense and severe anthology, but not inhuman. A vivid portrayal of everyday life in the cruelest and harshest conditions, laced with a silver lining of humanity and the hope of redemption amid confinement and despair, The Wing Orderly's tales is a spellbinding work of modern literature and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Wing Orderly's Tales is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

Antonio Di Benedetto
Translated by Esther Allen
New York Review of Books
435 Hudson Street, Suite 300, New York, NY 10014
9781590177174 $15.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: First published in 1956, Zama is now universally recognized as one of the masterpieces of modern Argentine and Spanish-language literature.

Written in a style that is both precise and sumptuous, weirdly archaic and powerfully novel, Zama takes place in the last decade of the eighteenth century and describes the solitary, suspended existence of Don Diego de Zama, a highly placed servant of the Spanish crown who has been posted to Asuncion, the capital of remote Paraguay. There, eaten up by pride, lust, petty grudges, and paranoid fantasies, he does as little as he possibly can while plotting his eventual transfer to Buenos Aires, where everything about his hopeless existence will, he is confident, be miraculously transformed and made good.

Don Diego's slow, nightmarish slide into the abyss is not just a tale of one man's perdition but an exploration of existential, and very American, loneliness. Zama, with its stark dreamlike prose and spare imagery, is at once dense and unforeseen, terse and fateful, marked throughout by a haunting movement between sentences, paragraphs, and sections, so that every word seems to emerge from an ocean of things left unsaid. The philosophical depths of this great book spring directly from its dazzling prose.

Critique: Zama is a literary exploration of the dark side of human nature. The protagonist's craving for a better life, decoupled from his deteriorating sense of empathy, gradually escalate toward ruination in this fascinating page-turner, expertly translated from the original Spanish by Esther Allen. Zama is an excellent addition to public and college library World Literature shelves, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Zama is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

A Second, Less Capable, Head
James Hanna
Sand Hill Review Press
9781937818395 $14.95 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: A Tea Party activist discovers that he is growing another head. A playboy befriends a fickle female only six inches tall. A rape victim confronts her assailant in a maximum security prison.

James Hanna is a prolific writer whose stories have appeared in over a dozen literary journals. Drawing from his experiences as an adventurer in Australia, a counselor in an Indiana prison, and a San Francisco probation officer, James offers a variety of themes and genres in these nineteen aberrant tales. His stories range from a bizarre experiment ("Fruits") to a manhunt in the dead of winter ("The Break"). From a flasher in search of the perfect pose ("Exposed") to a diseased schizophrenic mind ("Hunting Bear").

Darkness abounds in James' cryptic stories. And reading becomes dangerous again. The titles of the short stories in this anthology are: A Second, Less Capable Head, The Guest, Exposed, The Stalker, Fruits, The Outback, The Sicilian, Breaking Vials, Honey Bunny, Jimmy Likes Mermaids, The Dress, Hunting Bear, Cheating the Jail Out of Time, The Break, The World Baseball League, The Wall, Hunter's Moon, Another Will Take Your Place, The Body in the Bay.

Critique: A sinister sense of irony pervades the stories in this perverse, darkly fantastic anthology. Author James Hanna has a unique insight into the most bizarrely curious aspects of the human condition, and does not shy from exploring these to their shockingly logical conclusion. A Second, Less Capable, Head is exceptionally memorable from beginning to end! It should be noted for personal reading lists that A Second, Less Capable, Head is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

The Knight's Riddle
Jay Ruud
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432832032, $25.95, HC, 275pp,

Synopsis: When a disheveled young woman walks into Arthur's court demanding justice, declaring she has been raped by a knight of the Round Table, King Arthur vows that the culprit will be punished. Gildas of Cornwall, now squire to Sir Gareth, has his own problems: His beloved Rosemounde has been betrothed to another knight. When Rosemounde's new fiance is accused of the vicious crime, Gildas must enlist the aid of his old mentor, Merlin, to prove the innocence of the man to whom Gildas's own love belongs.

"The Knight's Riddle" is a fast-paced mystery set in King Arthur's mythic court of Camelot, imagined in the high Middle Ages, and narrated by the young squire Gildas, whose knightly ambitions revolve solely around his love of the beautiful Rosemounde.

Critique: A riveting and thoroughly entertaining read from beginning to end, "The Knight's Riddle" showcases an extraordinary storytelling talent on the part of author Jay Ruud -- and one that will leave his enthusiastic readers looking forward to his next medieval mystery! While enthusiastically recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "The Knight's Riddle" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Clint Travis

Gail's Bookshelf

Love Like There's No Tomorrow: How a Cardiac Arrest Brought My Heart To Life
Ocieanna Fleiss
Broad Street Publishing
9781424551422, $14.99,

In this true story of life after death, Ocieanna Fleiss, wife, author and work-at-home mother of four, shares how death from cardiac arrest brought new meaning to love and the true meaning of life in her 2016 release, "Love Like There's No Tomorrow". The extraordinary memoir is a poignant journey of healing and wholeness that began the night Ocieanna died at Valley General hospital, Monroe, WA.

When Michael entered the sterile hospital room and saw the medical equipment, monitors and tubes that encased his wife he again felt icy fingers of fear like at home when he administered CPR. He was told Ocieanna had "suffered a severe cardiac arrest."

Michael, still in shock, asked the attending doctor, "A heart attack?"

In a cold, unemotional voice, the doctor explained the difference and said, "The odds aren't good. Nationally only five percent of cardiac arrest victims survive." His plan was to keep Ocieanna in a coma since her age at 42 was in her favor. Still, he warned, "she may never come out of a vegetative state."

The first four chapters are from Michael's point-of-view, followed by Ocieanna's much longer, story. It's an inspiring narrative of redemption and second chances, of renewed faith in Jesus ignited by a challenging crisis that led to God's thought-provoking, transforming truth.

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus
Beth Moore
Tyndale House Publisher
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496416476, $24.99,

Bestselling inspirational author, Beth Moore steps into the field of fiction September 20 with an exciting, character-based, mystery release that is sure to keep you up late. Beth Moore's "The Undoing of Saint Silvanus" includes a southern murder mystery, a mysterious church turned apartment house named "Saint Sans,'" an odd assortment of tenants and a complex family who struggle with faith and broken relationships.

The story opens with Sergeant Cal DaCosta's arrival at a New Orleans crime scene where he throws his car into park and mutters, "Sheesh. Eighty-four degrees and barely daylight. That body's going to be ripe."

Thus begins an unusual Christian-based murder mystery that swirls around a young woman named Jillian Slater who lives in San Francisco when she's told her father drank himself to death.

Jillian hasn't seen her father in 20 years. So when the manager of her grandmother's apartment house, who Jillian calls the "ice queen," says her grandmother will pay all expenses if she returns to New Orleans for her father's funeral, she accepts.

Jillian couldn't know that was a lie. She also couldn't know a mysterious murder and spiritual and personal danger waited for her in New Orleans. "The Undoing of Saint Silvanus" is a murder mystery wrapped in secrets, broken relationships and unexplained events that will soon challenge everything Jillian believes in.

Beth Moore's well-crafted debut into the mystery fiction genre has all the ingredients of an engaging run-away bestseller and does not disappoint. The author hopes the book will connect with readers and "inspire a conversation about the role of faith in extreme brokenness" and I suspect it will. A definite 5 out of 5 star read!

The Book of Mysteries
Jonathan Cahn
Frontline Publishing
c/o Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
9781629989419, $21.99,

Jonathan Cahn, bestselling author, pastor and Messianic Jew is also known as a "prophetic voice" for this generation. His September 6 release, "The Book of Mysteries" presents a unique daily devotional of 365 mysteries from a Messianic Jewish viewpoint shared by Christians who believe Jesus is the risen Christ.

As Cahn did with global bestseller's, "The Harbinger" and "The Mystery of the Shemitah", "The Book of Mysteries" is wrapped in a fictional format of a year-long desert journey between a "traveler" and a mysterious man known as "the teacher." Daily one page readings, recorded by the traveler, include a mystery and a revelation in story format. Devotions conclude with a "mission" and Scriptures that support the spiritual truth revealed.

For example, the simple, yet profound devotion for "day 2" reveals the mystery of "I Am" is Yahweh, the anglicized word for God translated from Hebrew and how when we introduce ourselves we must always say His name first. "I am..."

Day 43 is the story of "The Asham," which means "guilt offering." The Book of Leviticus speaks about "animal sacrifices offered by the priests to redeem the guilty." The Messianic Jewish perspective views the "Messiah as The Asham and The Asham as the Messiah. From their viewpoint Christ became both the sacrifice and the guilt itself." The spiritual truth is that Christ took all regret, shame and guilt away and believers need to let them go too.

Powerful, thought-provoking devotions are both simple and at times stunningly profound with Scriptures and spiritual truths that can be life-changing if applied. Discipline yourself to one-a-day, even though you will be tempted to read more. The video of "The Book of Mysteries" tells a bit more.

The Freedom Factor
Dr. Bruce Wilkinson with Oregon author Mark E. Strong
Zeal Books
9780997066920, $14.99,

Do you struggle with forgiveness of yourself, another or many others? Bruce Wilkinson, author of "The Prayer of Jabez" writes, "Inability to forgive causes problems for more than 90% of church congregations today." However, I believe failure to forgive isn't just a church problem, it's a problem everyone struggles with at times whether they attend church or not.

Corrie Ten Boom, Holocaust survivor, had more reason than most not to forgive, yet she learned "forgiveness breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness" that imprisoned her upon her release from Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1944.

Bruce Wilkinson's new release "The Freedom Factor" is about "finding peace by forgiving others...and yourself." The first four chapters focus on the "secret pain" of unforgiveness, the "trespasses and torments" that cause "soul sickness" and "the seven steps of heart infection" that lead to "the slide of unforgiveness."

The second half of "The Freedom Factor" provides the keys to unlock long-standing resentments, fears and trust issues symptomatic of habitual unforgiveness. That begins the journey towards peace and restoration. Or as someone once said, "Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace." A powerful little book with a huge message that belongs on everyone's bookshelf.

With God... Through French Doors
Annette Friesen Cone, Shelley L. Houston and Kay Marshall Strom
Just Dust Publishers
1025 NE Irvine St, McMinnville, OR 97128
9780990863588, $15.00,

Annette Friesen Cone with contributors Shelley L. Houston and Kay Marshall Strom, released "With God ... through French Doors" in April. Book three of Cone's "With God..." devotional series features" fresh and challenging insights into God's Word" writes Steven Lloyd, pastor from southern France.

Thirty-one daily devotions combine the author and contributors travel experiences and love of France's medieval villages and structures to inspire fresh biblical insights. Colorful, historic photographs pair with Scripture and the authors thoughts, complete with questions and space to pen personal "reflections."

Cone's first devotion, "Doorway to Victory" portrays France's "Arc de Triomphe." The focus is war, terrorism and the spiritual aspects of war which in years past men commonly understood as a component of war unlike our culture today. Scriptures from Revelation, 2 Corinthians and Luke reference the "last days" and Christ's soon return. She emphasizes Christians need to confront fears, be aware of the times and the necessity of trusting in the Lord.

Twenty-two informative readings are from Cone with two from Kay Marshall Strom and seven from Shelley L. Houston. Although I would have liked to see a contents page with devotion titles and author that's only my personal preference in this well-done, modern devotional.

The Occupied: A Trevor Black Novel
Craig Parshall
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496419187, $22.99,

Craig Parshall's intriguing new "Trevor Black" suspense series, "The Occupied" released September 1 from Tyndale House Publishers. The complex thriller wraps mystery, murder and spiritual warfare into a thought-provoking, faith-filled story that gives new meaning to the term "occupied." The story was inspired by an experience Parshall writes about in Mystery and True Crime News, Prose n' Cons, "He Scared the Wits Out of Himself and Out Came a Novel."

And what a novel of suspense it is once characters are drawn and the stage set that lifts the veil on unseen spiritual forces only understood through the Holy Spirit's "gift of discernment." However, that would come 25 years later from seeds sown by Trevor and Augie when they were bored and innocent teens in this book of three parts, "the Flesh, the World and the Devil."

There might not have been a story to tell if Trevor and Augie hadn't gone to creepy old Mason Krim's corner mansion after he died. If they hadn't tried to recite the Latin incantations from Krim's aged book that led Trevor to ask, from the living room of his musty, very creepy corner mansion, "Is anyone there? Is anyone listening?"

That's when the "jangling of the telephone" began, Augie went bug-eyed and Trevor thought Why doesn't it stop? Why is it still ringing? When he picked up the receiver Trevor heard a masculine voice say back to him, "Is anyone there? Is anyone listening? Then Augie "grabbed the phone" and listened intently before he very slowly "placed the receiver back onto the base." Even though Trevor asked him what he had heard many times "Augie would never tell him" then or ever.

Thus begins a modern spiritually based crime thriller of good versus evil that keeps pages turning long after lights should go out. Complete with brutal murders, detectives, demons, and a bit of romance and divine truth wrapped in a story of spiritual warfare and belief in God.

Belief in Christ and other Scriptural truths weave throughout a "clean-read" story that contains no bad language, sexual scenes or grim and gory crime scenes. It's simply a well-written mystery that leaves readers wanting more. The sequel hasn't been announced but I'm sure there is one in the not too distant future because of the way "The Occupied" ends.

Fans of Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker or Steven James would enjoy "The Occupied."

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Joshua's Bookshelf

The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815
Richard White
Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473
9780521183444, $49.99 PB, $32.76 Kindle, 576pp,

Everyone knows the story about the colonization of the New World between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. After Columbus's successful voyage in 1492, the imperialist powers of Europe decided to suck the North and South American continents dry of their natural resources, and settle their people in the new lands, claiming power, wealth and glory. It seems that the white settlers wrote the history books, as everyone is taught the same story in school. This story goes along the lines of this: the Natives attack the innocent European settlers whom were starving and trying to live in the harsh weathers of North America. But no one really knows the full extent of the Native's story. The locals also had tales and aspects of their culture which was destroyed due to the colonial age. The Middle Ground goes further beyond the average plot that we have heard about before and dives deeper into the Native's account of what actually happened when the Europeans "invaded" the New World.

Richard White was the first historian to research and write down the other story of what happened to the North American Natives during the colonial era. In The Middle Ground the reader is exposed to the many Native groups who once inhabited North America. These groups differed in language, values and cultures, but were all similar in their hunting and gathering methods, as well as honoring the natural powers of the lands. They settled on the continent by crossing the Bering Strait from modern-day Russia to the Alaskan wild. They lived peacefully to themselves and rarely communicated with other groups. This peace was eventually broken by the European arrival at the end of the fifteenth century. Each empire brought something different to the table, but in order to live in the foreign lands, the settlers decided to act in their violent motives and attack many Native villages. Trading was done effectively for some time (most notably by the French and their "Indian" allies in the Great Lakes Region) but the White man who was used to fighting, grew restless and impatient, and eventually it was in their natural instincts to destroy entire villages and watch innocent women and children burn to their deaths. Then they would take the food, supplies, and other items they needed, without feeling any regret. Yes, when the Natives felt threatened, they also attacked. But they didn't kill the colonial settlers because they wanted to; they only used violence to protect their way of life. They only used weapons against the Europeans when protecting their families and villages. Over time, the settlers became hungry for power, and in their greedy self-interests they tried to push the Natives out of their homes and on westward. In many times, they purposefully eliminated the local populations by giving their "friends" blankets contaminated with smallpox. Instead of keeping warm, the Natives suffered painful excruciating deaths through illness and diseases. White discusses the impact the Europeans had on the Natives (through the eyes of many Native translated accounts), which in time the tide of power turned in favor of the colonial settlers. The Natives had been plagued by the devil; all they could do was watch their homeland become the permanent settlement of greediness, violence, and politics. The area in which this violence, competition, trading, and activity took place is what White calls "the middle ground".

As this book covers the early period of colonization all the way up to the American Revolution, there are some themes that White touches on and discusses upon in his book. The theme of competition is prominent in this story of history. The Europeans were out to compete against each other for wealth, gold, glory, land and power. During the colonial age, these were the only subjects being discussed about in European governments. Unfortunately, this want for power would lead to the elimination of the Natives. The settlers also had to compete against the local "Indians" for food, space to plant crops, and other supplies in order to survive the foreign lands and harsh winters. The Natives even competed with each other to get the better food, beaver furs, and other game so they could trade with the Europeans in exchange for new crops, animals and weapons. Another theme displayed in The Middle Ground is regionalism. White describes the atmosphere of each region, from the skies down to the types of land that region had during those times. The subjects of frontiers and borderlands play a significant part in understanding the history of North America, and how the Native and settlers lived hand in hand on the continent.

White utilizes his sources to the maximum potential. He dives deeper into the issues between the European settlers and the Natives more than any other historian had done when studying those issues. He uses scholarly articles, historical books, diary entries and personal memoirs, and even translated letters to express his points. All the sources add to the combination of information and knowledge, and do not distract from the overall message or themes of the book. I was highly impressed at how much factual evidence White put in this book to make it looked crammed, but in reality the book does not feel overwhelming bustling with all that information. This book was so popular after it was released in 1991, that many people wanted White to write a sequel. White would not write another follow-up book, but re-published the book twenty years later, complete with a new preface. In the preface, White explains why this book changed his life, and that the colonial expansion period and the gradual elimination of the Natives had a huge impact upon not just the Europeans, but the entire world. When I finished reading The Middle Ground, I realized why the book was popular among historians and the general public; it is one of the first book I have read to compile so much information in its covers, as well as made it entertaining, very easy to follow, and powerful to comprehend the understand the messages behind the writing.

This book is packed with information and is not meant for the readers who are wanting a basic history on the North American Natives. If you want a simpler linear history of the colonial age, then this book would not be the best piece to read. Yes, there is a lot of information in The Middle Ground, but this book is meant for the history enthusiasts who want to know more about the Natives and their relationships with the settlers. White's work is also perfect for historians who are themselves looking into more information and research on the Natives' lives during the colonial era. If you are really interested in this time period and a complete history nerd, like me, then I would recommend reading The Middle Ground. It might be a big book to grapple at first, but once you get past the first couple of chapters, then your mind will change; you will begin to feel sorry for the Natives and the destruction of their homes, and at the same time you will become lost in the wondrous world of history. White enchants all; I could not put this book down when I began reading it. The final verdict: Recommend.

The History of Cuba
Clifford L. Staten
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781403962591, $17.99 PB, $13.22 Kindle, 176pp,

Cuba has a very diverse and rich history, which unfortunately has been tormented by the likes of dictatorships, slavery, imperialism, and communism. In Clifford L. Staten's book, The History of Cuba, one can find themselves in the whirlpool of history, moving from the sugar cane plantations where early settlers and their slaves were found to the grounds of the University of Havana, where student riots threatened to tear the country apart during troubling times.

In this episode of history, the reader will be able to experience every moment the country has faced. Cuba became the face of the Caribbean, as the area's largest island in the late fifteenth century when the Europeans placed the lands on the world map for the first time. Led by the Italian mercenary- turned- Spanish explorer, Christopher Columbus, the empire of Spain grew in the New World, hungry for power, gold and glory. Cuba became a jewel in North America, known for its hilly terrain and perfect land to plant crops, most notably the sugar cane. The island soon became part of the transatlantic passage for the Atlantic Slave Trade, as the Spanish empire, as well as the British made a sizable profit off the slaves brought in to the continent from Africa. Spain would hold control over Cuba for many centuries, tackling down slave revolts and holding off attacking advances from other hungry empires; this was a surprise, considering that the empire would slowly die out and nearly vanish before eyes by the end of the nineteenth century. As the nation would slowly get sucked dry off its rich natural resources, and the people would be oppressed under the rules of foreign monarchs, Cuba would once again find unhappy settlement in 1898, when the country fell into the hands of the United States after the Spanish-American war. Cuba would soon experience major changes to it's political, economic, and cultural sectors in the twentieth century. Fidel Castro would grip the government reigns in the fifties, turning the country into an authoritarian state with a communist economy. Cuba would indulge in the economics and partnerships with the Soviet Union for many years, being spoon-fed every day with resources, money, and other pivotal materials. When its "mother" would split apart in the nineties, the "baby" Cuba was left to fend for itself in troubling times.

Cuba never found its own footing; the people never had their own government or voice. The country was shut out time and time again as they had to obey foreign leaders and live off a land that was sucked from its roots. Other countries failed to realize the independence that the Cuban people desired, but instead toiled and stepped over the country in order to act in their own self-interests and greediness. Staten recognizes this on-going problem in his book, and advances this "theme' to his readers. He also implies that times are changing, and with the Castro family slowly stepping down from authoritarian power; with the opening of Cuban ports for trade to the rest of the world; and with the country's gradually- improving relationships with other nations, including the United States, then maybe the people of Cuba will have the chance to open up, show their freedom to the world, and finally regain their own sovereignty.

The History of Cuba is a very simple book, but overflows with quality information. Staten uses a variety of sources, ranging from scholarly articles to other historical books. It looks as if the author even dived into some primary sources to retrieve more information about the island. There is no bias or hard feelings towards the nation of Cuba in this book. Even when the book was published and is prominent on the shelves in the United States, there is no judgement from the author towards the country that America called "a bitter enemy" in recent decades. As this year comes to a close, and President Obama made the historical trip to meet with Cuban delegates about eliminating the U.S. embargo, this book seems fitting to justify the landmark decisions in our history. The History of Cuba is what the title says; an overview on the nation that is changing the political and social landscape of the 21st century world.

This book provides the reader with a basic overview of the island's history; down to the core. The History of Cuba is a very simple read, which will delight many people, whom are not historians or necessary interested in reading long-winded textbooks. As a junior historian, studying the early colonial period in North America, I found this book to be very helpful in furthering my knowledge about the slave trade, sugar plantations, and the cultural and political lives of many during the seventeenth century. As a result, I would definitely recommend this small book to all; either for the college student who wants to brush up on their knowledge of Cuba or for the honeymoon couple who wishes to know a little more about the history of their Caribbean area cruise, this book provides the very essentials for any person to thrive in the Cuban culture.

Joshua Chanin

Julie's Bookshelf

Conversations on Dying
Phil Dwyer
The Dundurn Group
3 Church Street, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5E 1M2
9781459731936, $24.99, PB, 215pp,

Synopsis: While intellectually acknowledging that we will all eventually die, most people spend the majority of their lives ignoring this uncomfortable truth. Dr. Larry Librach dedicated his life and his career to helping his patients navigate their final journey. Then, in April 2013, Larry was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

Unlike the majority of us, Larry knew the death he wanted. He wanted to die at home, surrounded by his family: his wife of forty years, his children, and his grandchildren. He did. He was peaceful and calm at the end. Larry proved that the "good death" isn't a myth. It can be done, and in the pages of "Conversations on Dying: A Palliative-Care Pioneer Faces His Own Death" and through the assistance of author and journalist Phil Dwyer, he showed us how.

Ever the teacher, Larry made his last journey a teachable moment on how to die the best death possible, even with a pernicious disease. As hard as it is to guide patients toward dying well, it is far harder to live those precepts day by day as the clock ticks down to one's own death, but Larry, together with author Phil Dwyer, chronicled his final journey with courage and humor.

Critique: Anyone, either personally or professionally, who has an interest in death and dying must read two books. The first is the perennial classic on the subject, "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and Phil Dwyer's "Conversations on Dying". While absolutely recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Conversations on Dying" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.59).

A Culture of Engagement
Cathleen Kaveny
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626163034, $64.95, HC, 305pp,

Synopsis: Religious traditions in the United States are characterized by ongoing tension between assimilation to the broader culture, as typified by mainline Protestant churches, and defiant rejection of cultural incursions, as witnessed by more sectarian movements such as Mormonism and Hassidism. However, in "A Culture of Engagement: Law, Religion, and Morality ", legal theorist and Catholic theologian Cathleen Kaveny (Darald and Juliet Libby Professor at Boston College) contends there is a third possibility she terms a culture of engagement, that accommodates and respects tradition. It also recognizes the need to interact with culture to remain relevant and to offer critiques of social, political, legal, and economic practices.

Professor Kaveny suggests that rather than avoid the crisscross of the religious and secular spheres of life, we should use this conflict as an opportunity to come together and to encounter, challenge, contribute to, and correct one another. Focusing on five broad areas of interest (Law as a Teacher, Religious Liberty and Its Limits, Conversations about Culture, Conversations about Belief, and Cases and Controversies) Professor Kaveny demonstrates how thoughtful and purposeful engagement can contribute to rich, constructive, and difficult discussions between moral and cultural traditions.

"A Culture of Engagement" is provocative collection of Professor Kaveny's articles from Commonweal magazine, substantially revised and updated from their initial publication, and that provides astonishing insight into a range of hot-button issues like abortion, assisted suicide, government-sponsored torture, contraception, the Ashley Treatment, capital punishment, and the role of religious faith in a pluralistic society.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "A Culture of Engagement: Law, Religion, and Morality" is a consistently compelling and occasionally iconoclastic work of outstanding scholarship that is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Religious Studies, Judicial Studies, and Contemporary Social Issues collections. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "A Culture of Engagement" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626163027, $32.95) and in a Kindle format ($18.12).

Bird Magic: Wisdom of the Ancient Goddess for Pagans & Wiccans
Sandra Kynes
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738748641, $19.99, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: Sandra Kynes is an explorer of myth and magic, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Her inquisitiveness has led her to investigate the roots of her beliefs and to integrate her spiritual path with everyday life. In "Bird Magic: Wisdom of the Ancient Goddess for Pagans & Wiccans" Sandra makes a direct connection to the Great Goddess through the avian magic of birds.

Birds have been symbolic of the Great Goddess for millennia, representing her power and connection to the mysteries of life, death, and spirit. "Bird Magic" teaches how to commune with the Goddess, incorporating her into your magical life through exercises, crafts, meditations, and more.

Working with bird magic helps awaken intuition, taps into subtle energies, and strengthens bonds with the natural world. Providing an encyclopedic listing of more than sixty bird species and highlighting each one's history, folklore, location, appearance, and magical wisdom, "Bird Magic" shows how they can enhance our spiritual and personal life. "Bird Magic" is packed from cover to cover a wealth of in-depth information, helpful illustrations, and hands-on guidance..

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' and impressively informative in commentary, organization and presentation, "Bird Magic: Wisdom of the Ancient Goddess for Pagans & Wiccans" is a unique and thoroughly impressive contribution to and Goddess Worship studies. While very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Bird Magic" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Embracing the Human Journey
Janie Wells
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265278,$14.50, PB, 154pp,

Synopsis: In "Embracing the Human Journey: With an Angel as Your Guide", Janie Wells invites the reader to join an angel named Joann, who was Janie's daughter when she was alive, on an inward journey to the soul. There are spiritual questions to answer, spiritual techniques to incorporate into your daily life, and spiritual exercises to perform. Joann guides you every step of the way on a beautiful spiritual trail as she reveals the meaning of our earthly existence from an angel's perspective. Following her heavenly footsteps on each page, you begin to embrace life with open arms and celebrate the human journey as you experience for yourself that love and truth always prevail.

Critique: Janie Wells is a survivor. No parent should have to bury their child, but Janie was catapulted instantly into the reality of violent crime in 2001 with the capital murder of her 30-year-old daughter. Grief stricken, broken, and in shock, Janie not only picked up the pieces of her life, but discovered a passage to spiritual transformation by living each moment with honesty, raw emotion, and an open heart. "Embracing the Human Journey" is her intensely personal way of showing others a way to the comfort she herself was ultimately able to achieve. A compelling and inherently fascinating read, it should be noted that "Embracing the Human Journey" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Toad of Dawn
Octavio Rettig Hinojosa
Divine Arts Media
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781611250466, $18.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Part autobiography, part introduction to entheogens and visionary substances, "The Toad of Dawn: 5-MeO-DMT and the Rising of Cosmic Consciousness" by Dr. Octavio Rettig Hinojosa, a Mexican physician who works with the sacred medicine 5-MeO-DMT found in the secretions of the Sonoran Desert Toad, and who, under the auspices of the United Nations Venezuela Association, has traveled extensively throughout the world and shared 5-MeO-DMT with over 6000 people during sacred ceremonies, eliminating chemical addictions, depression, anxiety disorders, insomnia, bronchitis, and trauma.

In "The Toad of Dawn", 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. Dr. Hinojosa also 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: Informed and informative, "The Toad of Dawn" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. An extraordinary account of Dr. Octavio Rettig Hinojosa's life and work, "The Toad of Dawn" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. For the personal lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "The Toad of Dawn" is also available in a Kindle format ($13.58).

Connecting with Coincidence
Bernard D. Beitman, MD
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757318849, $15.95, PB, 305pp,

Synopsis: Dr. Bernard Beitman is the first psychiatrist since Carl Jung to attempt to systematize the study of coincidences. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia and former Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. In "Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life" Dr. Beitman presents a seminal study on the phenomena of coincidence, the experiencing surprising and unexplainable events such as money that seems to come from nowhere, a spontaneous idea that turns into a life-changing solution, meeting our soulmate on a flight we weren't supposed to take, or families being reunited by "accident" after years of separation.

Often these coincidences are explained as being controlled by a higher power or pure chance. But for the first time since Carl Jung's work, "Connecting with Coincidence" presents a bold new research that explains scientifically how we can identify, understand, and perhaps even control the frequency of coincidences in our everyday lives.

From analyzing true stories of synchronicity from around the globe and throughout history, Dr. Betiman shares key personality characteristics and situational factors that contribute to the occurrence of meaningful coincidences in our lives. "Connecting with Coincidence" provide a scientific understanding and practical ways in which readers can use them in their own lives including such issues as: How to activate your observing self so you don't miss synchronistic moments; How serendipity can offer insights into solving problems or making difficult decisions; Why stress activates meaningful coincidences; Which states of mind impede our ability to experience synchronicity; How to interpret the meaning of a coincidence; Why being attuned to coincidences is a learned skill -- and how to hone your sensitivity.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and thoroughly informative read from beginning to end, "Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. A seminal and impressive work of scholarship that is completely accessible to the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, "Connecting with Coincidence" is very highly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Connecting with Coincidence" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Future of Family Farms
Teresa Opheim, editor
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609384531, $24.95, PB, 140pp,

Synopsis: Teresa Opheim has worked for the Iowa Environmental Council, the Environmental Law Institute, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. She led the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group before serving as the executive director of Practical Farmers of Iowa from 2006 to 2016. In "The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers' Legacy Letters Project" Ms. Opheim points out that a monumental transfer of farmland is occurring in the United States.

The average American farmer is fifty-eight years old, and the 40 percent of farmland owners who lease their land to others are even older: sixty-six on average. Five times as many farmers are over sixty-five as are under thirty-five. What will happen to this land? Who will own it? What if one child wants to farm but can't afford to buy out the non-farming siblings? What if keeping the farm in the family means foregoing the significant profits that could be earned from selling it? These sometimes painful and divisive questions confront many farmers and farmland owners today. How they answer them will shape their families and the land for generations to come.

The 'Farm Legacy Letters' project, developed by the member-driven nonprofit Practical Farmers of Iowa, is designed to help farmers and farmland owners think about their farm's future and talk about it with their families. An essential complement to handbooks on business succession, "The Future of Family Farms" gathers the letters and stories of Midwestern families about the land they cherish including how they acquired it, what they treasure most about it, and their hopes for its future. Some of the writers descend from families who have owned a particular patch of the earth since the 1800s, while others became farmland owners more recently -- one as recently as 2015. Some are no longer farmland owners at all, because after careful thought about what mattered most to them they sold their land to the next generation of farmers.

Critique: Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Teresa Opheim, "The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers' Legacy Letters Project" is an outstanding and seminal work of scholarship that is exceptionally well organized and presented. The nineteen erudite and insightful articles are enhanced with the inclusion of with three appendices (About Practical Farmers of Iowa; What Matters Most about the Future of Your Farmland; Write Your Own Farm Legacy Letter); a two page listing of Resources; two pages of Notes; and a two page Index, "The Future of Family Farms" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Agricultural Studies and Contemporary American Sociology reference collections. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that ""The Future of Family Farms" is also available in a Kindle format ($23.70).

Blue and Red Make Purple
Jennifer Gasoi, author
SteveAdams, illustrator
The Secret Mountain
9782924217795, $16.95, HC, 44pp,

Synopsis: "Blue and Red Make Purple: A Musical Journey with Jennifer Gasoi " is a combination children's picturebook and musical CD. The charmingly whimsical story deftly written by Jennifer Gasoi and impressively illustrated by Steve Adams, combines with a CD of irresistible songs offers children the opportunity to discover the different colors of music with its melding of many styles including bluegrass, blues, cajun, calypso, and klezmer. With its accompanying and lawlessly recorded CD (12 tracks, 34 minutes) "Blue and Red Make Purple" is catchy, tuneful, playful, and totally endearing! "Blue and Red Make Purple" CD is enhanced with notes highlighting the history, instruments and unique characteristics of each musical genre along with listening suggestions accompanying each song.

Critique: A truly impressively 'kid friendly' and engaging picture book/CD combination, "Blue and Red Make Purple" will prove to be an ideal and enduringly popular addition to preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 5 to 7 and in Preschool/Kindergarten through the Second Grade.

Imagine No Religion
Carlin A. Barton & Daniel Boyarin
Fordham University Press
2546 Belmont Avenue, University Box L, Bronx, NY 10458-5172
9780823271191, $125.00, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: What do we fail to see when we force other, earlier cultures into the Procrustean bed of concepts that organize our contemporary world? In the collaborative work of Carlin A. Barton (Professor Emerita in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and Daniel Boyarin (Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture in the Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley), "Imagine No Religion: How Modern Abstractions Hide Ancient Realities" explores the myriad meanings of the Latin and Greek words religion and threskeia, frequently and reductively mistranslated as "religion", in order to explore the manifold nuances of their uses within ancient Roman and Greek societies. In doing so, this comprehensive study reveals how we can conceptualize anew and speak of these cultures without invoking the anachronistic concept of religion. From Plautus to Tertullian, Herodotus to Josephus, "Imagine No Religion" illuminates cultural complexities otherwise obscured by our modern-day categories.

Critique: An extraordinary work of meticulous scholarship and enhanced with the inclusion of seventy-four pages of Notes, a twelve page Bibliography, a two page Index of Ancient Texts, and a four page General Index, "Imagine No Religion" is unreservedly recommended for community, seminary, college, and university library Religion/Spirituality collections. It should be noted for students, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Imagine No Religion" is also available in a paperback edition (9780823271207, $35.00).

Julie Summers

Katherine's Bookshelf

Sarah MacTavish
Dove Hollow Books
9780996938310, $15.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle
9780996938303, $24.95, HC, 438pp,

Sarah MacTavish has written a first novel that is full of intrigue, adventure, excitement and romance in Firebrand. The author takes you into the past to a part of history of the Civil war that we do not study in school. Told through well-defined characters who are on both sides of the slavery question, Ms. MacTavish spins a tale that will enthrall you. Be sure to set aside enough time to finish the book in one or two "sittings". And waiting for the next book will be exasperating, since you want to find out where she carries the story of the two families or maybe where the two families carry the story.

The secrets of the Callahans in Texas and the Kavanaghs in Pennsylvania draw the two families into an intriguing story that encompasses the people in both families as well as their friends. The "cliffhanger" left by the author makes you want to hear more of the story. But, you will have to read the book to know what it is.

I highly recommend this book to YA readers and older readers will enjoy it, too. As they say, it is a "page turner",' "a must read", "not to be missed".

Sarah was raised in North Texas and is now a teen librarian, so she knows what young people like. She lives in North Texas and counts her pets (dogs and cats) as some of her best friends. She also counts her parents, two sisters and one brother just as close. Even though she lives in Texas, if you ask her, she will tell you her heart is in Ireland.

Bailey's Remarkable Plan
David R. Hardiman
Brown Books Publishing Group
16250 Knoll Trail Dr #205, Dallas, TX 75248
9781612542355, $24.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 224pp,

David Hardiman has written a book about growing up with a hidden disability and how his service dog, Bailey helped him. He gives a detailed story of his life as he grew up with a family who had to work through many hardships, his personal struggle with teachers and bullies in school and how he learned to cope with his disability.

His life was made so much better when Bailey entered his life. No, he didn't find a "miracle" cure, but he did find that Bailey could warn him if he was going to have an attack. He was fortunate to have understanding parents who helped him. He also met several people who aided in his acceptance, a special teacher, the doctor who found out what was wrong. Even the teachers and kids who were not supportive or empathetic, but bullying and unfeeling helped him to become stronger and able to fight his mysterious disability.

Then there is Bailey, his constant companion, who makes sure he is aware of an oncoming attack. Some do not accept that Bailey is a service dog because Mr. Hardiman's affliction is not obvious, like missing limbs or blindness.

I would have liked to have more stories of how Bailey helped him or a little different title. I thought I was going to read about a "wonder dog", but that was not the case.

David R. Hardiman lives with his wife and Bailey in Arlington, Texas. He has three daughters and six grandchildren. He has worked for a major Fortune 500 company, in real estate and insurance.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

Texan Identities
Light Townsend Cummins & Mary L. Scheer
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle, #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574416480, $27.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: "Texan Identities: Moving beyond Myth, Memory, and Fallacy in Texas History" collaborative compiled and co-edited by Light Townsend Cummins (the Guy M. Bryan, Jr. Professor of History at Austin College) and Mary L. Scheer (Professor and Chair of History at Lamar University) rests on the assumption that Texas has distinctive identities that define "what it means to be Texan", and that these identities flow from myth and memory. "Texas Identities" addresses what constitutes a Texas identity and how it may such change over time; what myths, memories, and fallacies contribute to making a Texas identity; whether or not the myths and memories that define Texas identity true or fallacious; and whether or not there is more than one Texas identity?

Critique: "Texan Identities: Moving beyond Myth, Memory, and Fallacy in Texas History" is comprised of seven erudite, informative, thoughtful and insightful essays. Enhanced with the inclusion of a superbly presented Foreword by Jesus F. de la Teja, various figures, a four page listing of contributors and their credentials, and a seventeen page Index, "Texan Identities" is a seminal work of collective scholarship and highly recommended for the personal lists of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, as well as a core addition to community, college, and university library Texas History & Popular Culture collections.

Elite Minds
Stan Beecham
McGraw-Hill Educational
c/o McGraw Hill Professional
1221 Avenue of the Americas, 45th Floor, New York, NY 10020
9781259836169, $25.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Elite Minds: How Winners Think Differently to Create a Competitive Edge and Maximize Success" by sport psychologist and performance consultant Stan Beeham, readers will discover the winning secrets of some of the world's most successful people. Dr. Beeham knows what it takes to succeed whether on the playing field, in the board room -- in any and all aspects of life. "Elite Minds" takes the reader inside the minds of major-league athletes, Olympic medal winners, and world-class business leaders to reveal the key motivators and mental processes that drive people to victory. "Elite Minds" shows how to: Retrain the brain to think like a winner; Conquer fears and go after goals; Achieve peak performance and reach full potential; and become the person you want to be mentally, physically, personally and professionally.

Whether a self starter, team player, or corporate leader, anyone can apply these proven mind techniques to any field or endeavor quickly, easily, and effectively. Enhanced with power-boosting mental exercises, positive attitude adjusters, and inspiring true stories of individual success, "Elite Minds" provides all the tools needed to set goals, sharpen focus, and achieve personal best.

Critique: Impressively 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization, presentation, practicality and effectiveness, "Elite Minds: How Winners Think Differently to Create a Competitive Edge and Maximize Success" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement instructional reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Elite Minds" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.75).

The Orphan Keeper
Camron Wright
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629722245, $24.99,HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: Although a work stranger than any fiction novel, "The Orphan Keeper" by Camron Wright is based on a remarkable true story of Taj Rowland.

It's the story of seven-year-old Chellamuthu's life that is forever changed when he is kidnaped from his village in India, sold to a Christian orphanage, and then adopted by an unsuspecting couple in the United States.

It takes months before the boy can speak enough English to tell his parents that he already has a family back in India. Horrified, they try their best to track down his Indian family, but all avenues lead to dead ends. Meanwhile, they simply love him, change his name to Taj, enroll him in school, make him part of their family--and his story might have ended there had it not been for the pestering questions in his head: Who am I? Why was I taken? How do I get home?

More than a decade later, Taj meets Priya, a girl from southern India with surprising ties to his past. Is she the key to unveil the secrets of his childhood or is it too late? And if he does make it back to India, how will he find his family with so few clues?

Critique: "The Orphan Keeper" is a deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Orphan Keeper" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.83) and in an complete and unabridged CD audio book format ($39.99).

The St. Lucia Island Club
Brent Monahan
Turner Publishing Company
200 - 4th Avenue North, Suite 950, Nashville, TN 37219
9781681620435, $32.95, HC, 306pp,

Synopsis: When retired Southern sheriff-turned-New York City detective John Le Brun and his wife, Lordis, set sail in 1910 for a long-awaited honeymoon on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, they expect to find relaxation in paradise. However, they soon discover they've been lured to the island in part to tout its attributes as a burgeoning vacation retreat to wealthy investors back home. Instead of finding tranquility among the tropical isle's quaint villages and sandy beaches, they encounter a land teeming with racial, social, and economic tension. The brutal murders of a local plantation owner's family find John putting his renowned detective skills to use, with Lordis readily playing assistant. Once again, the shrewd detective must capitalize on his "outsider" status to stay several steps ahead of the locals, many of whom seem to harbor dark motives. Is the culprit one of the white landowners the exclusive St. Lucia Island Club counts among its membership; the descendants of former African slaves said to inhabit the island's inland jungles; or someone else entirely? As the body count rises, John and Lordis race to uncover St. Lucia's deepest mysteries, including secret identities, long-held rivalries, and who stands to profit most from the island's future.

Critique: The fifth volume in author Brent Monahan's outstanding John Le Brun mystery/suspense series, "The St. Lucia Island Club" is a compelling read from first page to last as the mystery plays out against a backdrop of the Caribbean island's scenic beauty and complicated history at the turn of the twentieth century. Very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "The St. Lucia Island Club" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1681620411, $18.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Leaving the OCD Circus
Kirsten Pagacz
Conari Press
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950-4600
9781573246811 $18.95 pbk / $18.00 Kindle

Synopsis: "It's like the meanest, wildest monkey running around my head, constantly looking for ways to bite me." That was how Kirsten Pagacz described her OCD to her therapist on their first session when she was well into her 30s?she'd been following orders from this mean taskmaster for 20 years, without understanding why.

Initially the tapping and counting and cleaning and ordering brought her comfort and structure, two things lacking in her family life. But it never lasted; the loathsome self-talk only intensified, and the rituals she had to perform got more bizarre. By high school she was anorexic and a substance abuser?common "shadow syndromes" of OCD. By adulthood, she could barely hide her problems and held on to jobs and friends through sheer grit. Help finally came in the form of a miraculously well-timed public service announcement on NPR about OCD?at last her illness had an identity.

Leaving the OCD Circus reveals the story of Pagacz's traumatic childhood and the escalation of her disorder?demonstrating how OCD works to misshape a life from a very young age?and explains the various tools she used for healing including meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, exposure therapy, and medication. Pieces of her art scattered throughout the book add depth and humor to her stories.

Critique: Leaving the OCD Circus: Your Big Ticket Out of Having to Control Every Little Thing is a candid memoir about the extreme difficulties of growing up with OCD, and ways in which author Kirsten Pagacz learned to turn her adult life around. Her true-life stories are honest, uncensored, and will shed insight into the devastating toll that OCD inflicts. Highly recommended, especially for anyone interested in better understanding OCD and how to reclaim one's life from its relentless drives. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Leaving the OCD Circus is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.00).

A Grave Prediction
Victoria Laurie
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451473882, $25.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Professional psychics learn to deal with skeptics, but Abby Cooper has to prepare herself for one steep uphill battle when she's sent to San Diego to help train FBI officers to use their intuition. Her first challenge: a series of bank robberies in which the thieves made off with loads of cash but left no clues.

Abby's sixth sense leads her team to a tract of land recently cleared for development. But instead of finding clues to the cash, Abby gets a vision of four buried bodies. A site search turns up some bones and pottery from an American Indian tribe, but that's still enough to delay construction for years.

With a furious developer and dubious FBI agents on her back, Abby is losing credibility fast. But unlike the best laid plans, Abby's talent rarely leads her astray. And if the bodies aren't there yet, that means that four deaths can still be stopped. She'll just have to dig a little deeper!

Critique: The newest addition to author Victoria Lane's outstanding 'A Psychic Eye' mystery series, "A Grave Prediction" is a little gem of a 'who done it' mystery that will raptly engage the reader's dedicated addition from first page to last. While certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. For the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs it should be noted that "A Grave Prediction" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99). Librarians should be aware that an MP3 edition of "A Grave Prediction" (Brilliance Audio, 978-1536610000, $9.99) is also available for library audio book CD collections.

Fire From Above
Anthony L. Lilles
Sophia Institute Press
PO Box 5284, Manchester, NH 03108
9781622823352, $18.95, PB, 231pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Fire from Above: Christian Contemplation and Mystical Wisdom", Anthony Lilles (Academic Dean at St. John's Seminary, Camarillo, California), shows how members of the Christian community can put their whole life in a conversation with the Risen Lord within the Catholic tradition of spirituality. The wisdom of great saints and mystics will help the reader to discover how to surrender their pride and appeal to God with humble trust, and how prayer addresses their deepest human needs.

"Fire From Above" shows how the mystery of prayer unfolds, and how God provides heroic levels of courage and deep internal resolve through humble and persevering devotion. Chapters examines how spiritual battles and dryness in prayer are essential to reaching communion with God, including the inevitable dark nights of the soul. Also discussed are why finding time to pray is always possible and necessary even when life is busy, and how the proper use of sacraments can render the heart more open to God's saving power while protecting it from evil. "Fire From Above" offers practical ways to confront self-deception and other challenges to contemplative prayer, and reveals how forgiveness and bearing hardships are means for spiritual maturity, as well as the role of Our Lady in the life of faith.

Critique: "Fire From Above" is deeply spiritual, and directly calls on the reader to open their heart to God. Informative and inspiring, "Fire From Above" is unreservedly recommended for all members of the Roman Catholic community. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fire From Above" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Professional Learning in Action
Victoria J. Risko & MaryEllen Vogt
Teachers College Press
1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027
9780807757024, $32.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: In "Professional Learning in Action: An Inquiry Approach for Teachers of Literacy", Victoria J. Risko (Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy, and Culture at Peabody College Vanderbilt University, Nashville) and MaryEllen Vogt (Professor Emerita of Education at California State University, Long Beach) provide a unique and progressive approach for engaging the professional learning of teachers of literacy, reading specialists, literacy coaches and instructional leaders, content specialists, and administrators. Their deliberate use of 'professional learning' signals the importance of educators engaging in authentic and inquiry-based decision making. They describe and provide examples of needs assessments and progress monitoring activities that are embedded within differentiated professional learning activities, such as book clubs, lesson study, family literacy groups, and peer and literacy coaching. Actions and decisions are directed by questions generated by teachers, coaches, and administrators as they engage in collaborative and self-directed efforts to advance their knowledge and resolve dilemmas that impact instruction and students' learning.

"Professional Learning in Action" provides authentic examples for implementing professional learning (PL) that addresses and resolves authentic dilemmas educators and students face; synthesizes current research on effective professional learning with a literacy emphasis; describes evidence-based and differentiated professional learning opportunities that engage instructional changes that are situated within meaningful and school-based applications; advances knowledge about applications of professional learning that is collaborative, substantive, situated, dynamic, intense, and personal; makes explicit connections to Common Core and similar State standards-based instruction; and includes reflection and self-study questions at the end of each chapter.

Critique: "Professional Learning in Action" is an educational guide that draws directly upon research and hands-on classroom experience, the better to solve problems encountered by teachers and coaches every day. "Professional Learning in Action" is unreservedly recommended, especially for college and university library Teacher Education reference collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Professional Learning in Action" is also available in a Kindle format ($31.30).

Every Promise of Your Word
Rhett P. Dodson
Banner of Truth
PO Box 621, Carlisle, PA 17013
9781848716698, $30.00, HC, 370pp,

Synopsis: The focus of "Every Promise of Your Word" by Rhett Dodson (the pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Hudson, Ohio) is on what could arguably be described as Gospel According to Joshua. The book of Joshua stands at a pivotal point in biblical history as the nation of Israel transitioned from a life of wandering in the wilderness to conquering and possessing Canaan, the land of promise. The God who redeemed his people from bondage in Egypt gave them a land of their own just as he swore to Abraham.

From encampment on the eastern banks of the Jordan River to dramatic victories, a critical setback, and eventual settlement, the book of Joshua recounts key events in redemptive history, events that mark the fulfillment of God's gracious word, demonstrate Israel's weaknesses, and highlight the Lord's fidelity to every promise he had made. His covenant faithfulness reminds us that he is a God who can be trusted. His covenant fulfillment, in turn, points us to a greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the pages of "Every Promise of Your Word', readers will learn anew to rely on the God who keeps his every promise and see Jesus as he is revealed in the Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible. When we place the message of Joshua in its historical and redemptive context, then the relevance of "Every Promise of Your Word" for the twenty-first-century Christian church becomes clear. Beyond just being an interesting relic of ancient Jewish history, what we find in this old covenant book is a profoundly Christian message. God not only kept and fulfilled his land promises through Joshua; he also keeps and fulfills his promises of salvation and of a new heavens and new earth, through our Lord Jesus. And God intends for his faithfulness to Christ to elicit faithfulness from his people as well.

Critique: "Every Promise of Your Word" is an exceptional and consistently compelling read that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, making it an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, church, community, seminary, college, and university library Christian Studies collections. "Every Promise of Your Word" is also an excellent companion read for Bible study and discussion groups, and its message of God's grace and providence resonates in the reader's soul.

Fish Can't Climb Trees
Helyn Connerr
Watkins Publishing
9781780289236 $15.95 / $8.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Fish Can't Climb Trees is a pioneering guide which allows the reader to easily identify and accurately describe how particular minds tick, naturally and individually. It presents the Mercury Model, an innovative system which accepts that minds are wired differently, pinpointing how each of us experiences and handles information according to our own 'master operating programme'.

Steeped in ancient wisdom and brought up-to-date with current research, this is a 21st century cognitive model. Fish Can't Climb Trees takes a conversation typically dominated by education and psychology in an unexpected direction. Our individual experience of the Mercury archetype shapes our attitude toward information and holds the key to how each of us thinks, learns and communicates.

If we embrace the Mercury Model, we can find common ground among us in order to build authentic, respectful relationships with people of all ages, from all nations, both genders and of all levels of capacity. The Mercury Model supports the position that the world needs all of us - one learning style is not better or worse than another, we all have mental strengths and blind spots; we each do best what comes naturally. The Mercury Model gives permission to be oneself, whether we embody the best characteristics of fish, elephant, penguin or parrot.

Critique: Fish Can't Climb Trees is a self-help guide crafted around the concept that individual human beings are naturally "wired" in different ways. These differences can make effective communication difficult, and communication is crucial to success and fulfillment at work, at home, and among friends. Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Fish Can't Climb Trees reveals how to capitalize upon one's own mental strengths, improve one's ability to converse with others, and ease tensions in difficult relationships. It should be noted for personal reference and reading lists that Fish Can't Climb Trees is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Breast Cancer Smoothies
Daniella Chace
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757319396 $15.95 pbk / $9.83 Kindle

Synopsis: In her delightful new book, Daniella breaks down the complex topic of oncology nutrition and the specific dietary needs breast cancer creates, into simple recommendations for making delicious smoothies that support healing and a healthy lifestyle.

What makes Breast Cancer Smoothies unique? An extensive body of research, that provides many of our long-sought answers to the cause of breast cancer, has been translated into simple, healthy smoothie recipes! It's all about Daniella's nutrient-rich, whole-foods recipes created only from ingredients that provide a direct benefit to fighting breast cancer. Concentrated amounts of carotenoids, flavonoids, probiotics, protein and minerals, including bioactive compounds from herbs and citrus oils dramatically reduce the development and spread of breast cancer cells.

Critique: A handful of color photographs illustrate this user-friendly cookbook for creating healthy and delicious smoothies. Clinical nutritionist Daniella Chace, MS, CN has created recipes designed especially to support the body with the nutrition it needs. Although Breast Cancer Smoothies is especially intended to support cancer survivors, smoothie lovers of all walks of life will enjoy the recipes for Strawberry Coconut, Fresh Papaya Lime, Luscious Tart Cherry, Citrus Berry Punch, and many more. An index, list of references, smoothie ingredient grocery lists, a beginner's guide to making smoothies and more round out this excellent cookbook, which is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.83).

Margaret Lane

Mason's Bookshelf

Enter by the Narrow Gate
David Carlson
Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603813914, $14.95, PB, 244pp,

Synopsis: A teenage girl has vanished in Santa Fe. Nearby, in the Trappist monastery of St. Mary of the Snows, a beautiful young nun is stabbed to death. Father Nicholas Fortis is on sabbatical at St. Mary's, and when Lieutenant Christopher Worthy of the Detroit Police Department is flown in to help find the missing teenager, the Orthodox monk asks his friend to delve into the nun's murder as well. The two men make a perfect team: the monk's gregarious manner opens hearts and the detective's keen intuition infiltrates psyches. The Book of Matthew refers to the "narrow gate" that leads to heaven. Each of the key players in these two cases was rattling heaven's gate in a frantic and even dangerous quest for salvation. Lieutenant Sera Lacey of the Santa Fe Police, with her captivating looks and insight into the Native Americans and cultures of the Southwest, proves both a boon and a distraction for Worthy. As Father Fortis navigates the social hierarchy of the monks of St. Mary's, he begins to fear their secret agendas. Bowing to the pressure to solve both cases, the investigators let the clues lead them in opposite directions. At the end of one of those paths, Death awaits.

Critique: A consistently compelling and entertaining read from first page to last, "Enter by the Narrow Gate" is the debut novel of author David Carlson's new detective series featuring Christopher Worthy and Father Fortis. Very highly recommended to the attention of dedicated mystery buffs, "Enter by the Narrow Gate" would make an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

The Bass Book, third edition
Tony Bacon & Barry Moorhouse
Backbeat Books
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group
33 Plymouth Street, Suite 302, Montclair, NJ 07042-2677
9781495001505, $29.99, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: In California in the early '50s, the Fender company introduced the world's first electric bass guitar. They couldn't have known it then, but the Precision Bass would start a revolution in the sound of popular music. This newly updated third edition of "The Bass Book: A Complete Illustrated History of Bass Guitars" explains how that revolution happened and how its reverberations are still felt today. The two-guitars-bass-and-drums lineup that would define pop music found its heart with the Fender bass. In the coming decades, the bass guitar provided the solid foundation upon which much modern music is still built. "The Bass Book" is the first to study its story, with the full lowdown of the most important bass players and bass makers. Brands featured in the "The Bass Book" include Alembic, Danelectro, Epiphone, Fender, Fodera, Gibson, Hofner, Ibanez, Lakland, Line 6, Music Man, Peavey, Rickenbacker, Sadowsky, Spector, Squier, Steinberger, Wal, Warwick, and Yamaha. Original interviews with makers of bass guitars from the past and present illuminate the book, with the popular establishment of the bass during the '60s and '70s examined in detail, along with more recent developments such as the popularity of the five-string bass. There is an exclusive interview with Paul McCartney and other bassists who feature in the story, including Stanley Clarke, Flea, James Jamerson, Jaco Pastorius, and Robert Trujillo. Dozens of unusual, desirable, and rarely seen basses are presented in high-quality photos. A reference section provides a wealth of information on the key makers.

Critique: Thoroughly accessible to scholarly readers and casual rock fans alike, "The Bass Book" is fascinating from cover to cover. Exceptionally formed, informative, and profusely illustrated, "The Bass Book" is the definitive history of the bass guitar and very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Music History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Bass Book" is also available in a Kindle format ($13.99).

The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?
John Marciano
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583675854 $18.00 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: On May 25, 2012, President Obama announced that the United States would spend the next thirteen years - through November 11, 2025 - commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, and the American soldiers, "more than 58,000 patriots," who died in Vietnam. The fact that at least 2.1 million Vietnamese - soldiers, parents, grandparents, children - also died in that war will be largely unknown and entirely uncommemorated. And U.S. history barely stops to record the millions of Vietnamese who lived on after being displaced, tortured, maimed, raped, or born with birth defects, the result of devastating chemicals wreaked on the land by the U.S. military. The reason for this appalling disconnect of consciousness lies in an unremitting public relations campaign waged by top American politicians, military leaders, business people, and scholars who have spent the last sixty years justifying the U.S. presence in Vietnam. It is a campaign of patriotic conceit superbly chronicled by John Marciano in The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?.

A devastating follow-up to Marciano's 1979 classic Teaching the Vietnam War (written with William L. Griffen), Marciano's book seeks not to commemorate the Vietnam War, but to stop the ongoing U.S. war on actual history. Marciano reveals the grandiose flag-waving that stems from the "Noble Cause principle," the notion that America is "chosen by God" to bring democracy to the world. Marciano writes of the Noble Cause being invoked unsparingly by presidents - from Jimmy Carter, in his observation that, regarding Vietnam, "the destruction was mutual," to Barack Obama, who continues the flow of romantic media propaganda: "The United States of America ... will remain the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known."

Critique: The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration? pulls no punches in its condemnation of America's participation in the Vietnam War, citing both outright war crimes (such as the notorious My Lai massacre) and the extensive collateral damage and human suffering that the war inflicted. Author and antiwar activist John Marciano (Professor Emeritus at SUNY Cortland) further denounces the pervasive whitewashing of America's purpose, role, and methods in the Vietnam War. Notes, a bibliography, and an index round out this stark, persuasive, and ferocious challenge to America's status quo historical narrative.

The Pursuit
Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553392777, $28.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Nicolas Fox, international con man, thief, and one of the top ten fugitives on the FBI's most-wanted list, has been kidnapped from a beachfront retreat in Hawaii. What the kidnapper doesn't know is that Nick Fox has been secretly working for the FBI. It isn't long before Nick's covert partner, Special Agent Kate O'Hare, is in hot pursuit of the crook who stole her con man.

The trail leads to Belgium, France, and Italy, and pits Nick and Kate against their deadliest adversary yet: Dragan Kovic, an ex-Serbian military officer. He's plotting a crime that will net him billions . . . and cost thousands of American lives.

Once again, Nick and Kate have to mount the most daring, risky, and audacious con they've ever attempted to save a major U.S. city from a catastrophe of epic proportions. Luckily they have the help of an eccentric out-of-work actor, a bandit who does his best work in the sewers, and Kate's dad, Jake. The pressure's on for Nick and Kate to make this work -- even if they have to lay their lives on the line.

Critique: A riveting, consistently compelling, roller-coaster ride of a read, "The Pursuit" continues to demonstrate author Janet Evanovich as a master novelist of the first order in this fifth title in her 'Fox and O'Hare' series. While certain to be an enduringly popular favorite for community library Suspense/Thriller collection, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Pursuit" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99). Librarians should also note that "The Pursuit" (9780735285019, $28.00) is available for their large print fiction collections as well.

The Immortal Crown
Kieth Merrill
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629720258 $26.99 hc / $15.49 Kindle

Synopsis: A thousand years ago, the Navigator possessed thirteen stones touched by Oum'ilah, the God of gods. Over time, these powerful stones of light were scattered and a prophecy arose declaring that a "child of no man" would gather them again, and he would be given immortality and reign forever as god and king of Kandelaar.

Now, in an age of chaos, the time has come for the prophecy to be fulfilled. Light and darkness have each chosen a champion to claim the legendary stones. The sorceress of the cult of she-dragon has chosen Drakkor, a warrior and mercenary who travels with bandits and a corrupt stone of darkness. The Oracle of Oum'ilah has placed his faith in Ashar, a young postulant who is unsure the stones of light even exist. Meanwhile, miles away, a slave named Ereon Qhuin dreams of freedom. Abandoned at birth, his only possession is a strange stone that he believes is the key to his destiny and freedom.

A mercenary, a postulant, and a slave - which one is truly the child of prophecy? Who will wear the immortal crown?

Critique: Book One in the Saga of Kings, The Immortal Crown is a high fantasy epic about the individuals swept up in the tidal wave to determine the destiny of a nation. A grand struggle ensues between three-dimensional characters with sharply conflicting motives. The Immortal Crown is a riveting read from cover to cover, and highly recommended for connoisseurs of the genre. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Immortal Crown is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.49).

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

Pawan Mishra
Lune Spark LLC
9780692475676, $9.95, Paperback, 230 pages

Series: Coinman (Book 1)

Genre: Fiction

Coinman an Untold Conspiracy relates the tale of the protagonist's unusual habit for jingling coins in his pocket and the unbelievable loathing the action goads in the people around him.

A Novel, the inaugural work of the author, Pawan Mishra, Coinman an Untold Conspiracy is set down as a sequence of essays or short stories complete with a Table of Contents outlining 31 chapters in addition a Hindi Word References page.

Commencing with 'The Cacophonous Plight' the reader is introduced to narrator, Sesha, explaining how he had come to be entrusted with the relating of Kesar, Coinman's narrative. And, it all started with great anticipation.

In the office where Coinman was employed; it was the racket of coins clinking in the pocket that the staff had not quite learned to overlook. The coins rattled when the man moved, or even as he stood quietly during conversation with his hand fumbling with the coins in his pocket. The clatter was never-ending.

In time Kesar's co-workers inaugurated a discrete moving of their desks away from the spot where Coinman and his coins were positioned; such move instigated more than a little disturbance until administration was compelled to intercede. As the clank continued so did the exasperation felt toward Coinman by his fellow workers. Over time his co workers stopped using his name and simply denoted to him as Coinman.

As the reader continues rambling through the chronicle the reader will encounter not only members of Coinman's family, but, Gossipmongers, Tulsi the office temptress and Hukum the office tormenter. The anecdote continues as Coinman's administrator has a heart to heart with him about his proclivity for coins.

The anecdote mingles Coinman's reminiscences of communication with family, schooling, social settings, an arranged marriage, work and day to day living.

On the pages of Coinman an Untold Conspiracy Novelist Mishra has fashioned a challenging account communicated as a sequence of short stories. His shrewdness as a raconteur is keenly honed.

An inimitable, thought provoking paperback about coming of age, determining your distinctiveness and accepting who you are while trying to fit into the expected norm of the social order in which you live Coinman an Untold Conspiracy is a tale written by a writer with a fine grasp of language. Coinman, the main character in this work, is pretty socially inept, maladroit, obdurate, and, to top it all; has a thing for coins. The racket they generate as he touches them or just moves around, besides, the way they feel in his hands is very satisfying to him; even though the practice tends to drive those near him to distraction.

On the pages of Coinman an Untold Conspiracy, readers step into the extraordinarily fixated, fervent, and frustrated existence of Coinman. The banality of archetypal life is explored in depth by writer Mishra who achieves the deed nimbly in a pleasurable, stimulating manner. Do we actually attempt to comprehend real or apparent peculiarity in others, or are we disposed to to malign, invalidate or cast-off those who do not measure up to our own set of what is good or not so much.

Having never worked in an office, I am a school teacher; I have speculated now and then if hugger-mugger as is depicted in perchance larger-than-life pomposity might actually take place. I suspect, given laws and practices here in the U.S., open provocative or intimidation in the workplace, is not so likely to transpire. Maybe such does occur in culture having fewer limitations for ill-treatment of fellow workers. While novelty is frequently problematic to accomplish for writers; author Pawan Mishra has accomplished an exceptional, fascinating, and, at times entertaining book which also points the reader toward advantageous moral lessons without doing so in a 'preachy' manner.

I found Coinman an Untold Conspiracy to be a motivating, well written work certain to intrigue those who relish a non-formula, foreseeable read.

I received a paperback book for review.

Happy to recommend.

Interesting read ... Recommended ... 4 stars

Christmas Musings
Margery Risby Warder
Parson's Creek Press
9780615922737, $12.00, Paperback, 226 pages

Margery Risby Warder's Christmas Musings, Three Books in One to Warm Your Heart at Christmas is a 'collection of three shorter books, each of which can be purchased separately.'

Merry Christmas Christmas in our Hearts inspiration stories & Poems offers readers a Table of Contents listing the 20 compositions encompassing this specific volume. Jam-packed with inspiration, and musings from childhood The Chrismas We Peeked into the Attic is a bitter sweet reading bursting with eagerness, expectation realized and some not, all together a well-designed anecdote to set the tome in motion.

Other vignettes consist of At Just the Right Time, Carols Remembered and A Bit of Poetry and Prose. The author brings home the certainty that all life marches on with a poem entitled Caroling certain to convey a flash of recollection for readers who as a teen may have joined others for the hay ride, or walk around the neighborhood as the youth group assembled at the church building before setting out on the annual singfest in the cold. "I sang for 'them'..... and now, all too soon, the carolers come and sing to me." Filled me with recollections of hot chocolate and the expressions on lined countenances of those for whom we sang, and the rueful smile on mine as I appreciate that today, they indeed sing to me.

Other sketches include Mary's Ponderings, Immanuel! Have You Heard, and Listening in on Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve. There are 20 brief accounts in all spanning 118 pages; verses, text, poignant, thought provoking, and compelling to read.

Last Christmas, commences on page 119 and concludes on page 160. This moving, tender and lovely anecdote of a young family facing what, on the surface, might seem intolerable; carries a significant message; 'Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus.' While enriching and ending on an optimistic note; this specific chronicle is sure to bring a tear or two to the eye.

Mary Meet Dr. Luke, An Evening Visit, transports the reader to a family, living in Jerusalem during the worrisome early days of the Church following the crucifixion of Christ. Their visitor, Luke, has a narrative to relate of one named Saul who now is called Paul. This tale is a strong, persuasive read regarding what might have happened, and, perhaps actually may have taken place amongst the initial believers.

Note to reader friends 221 and Margery's writing career 222 -225 wrap up the tome.

I was delighted to learn each of the three tales is whole, substantial and stand alone. The single volume brings the three works together nicely for use as a tuck in gift at holiday time, or for keeping as a gift for yourself for reading for pleasure any time during the year, and especially so throughout the holiday season.

Reading Christmas Musings stimulated old memories, filling my thoughts with contentment and some pathos now that my parents and one sibling are gone, children are grown and while the various writing offerings did cause me many joyful recollections; the book also tended to stirred a little melancholy to even out the joy provoked as I remembered days gathered around the old piano singing hymns, thoughts of Jesus, caroling, pie suppers and church programs, along with the special dishes prepared at Christmas time and anticipated by the whole family while celebrating the birth of Jesus. Growing up understanding the real meaning of Christmas, along with visits from Santa and Christmas stockings helped shape the lives of many of those who will appreciate reading Christmas Musings.

I found Christmas Musings to be an encouraging, pleasurable, and winning, work meant to help readers relish the special times in their lives and possibly to guide the 20 something readers to ponder launching or continuing some holiday traditions with their own young families.

At times it appears many in our culture have forgotten what Christmas really is all about; these elevating, philosophical and sentimental tales found on the pages of Christmas Musings with keepsake moments focused on family and societal traditions lived during the 'Happy Days' period of the mid 1900s help us stop and think how inspirational and what fun Christmas was and continues to be today.

Fine honed, decipherable, authentic writing draws the reader into the stories and poems and offers good sound text to be enjoyed on a cold rainy evening during December, or on a sunny day spent on the porch sipping Tea and reading.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

I received an ARC from the author for review.

Emma Kaufman
5726 Cortez Rd W, #349, Bradenton, FL 34210
9781591130802, Paperback: 252 pages, February 2002

Emma Kaufman's GUILT presents Gilda, a writer, parent, and sister. She and her brother Clive who happen share an analyst have had a somewhat dysfunctional familial situation during their growing up years. What Gilda does not realize when she sets off on a book tour is that Clive has been gibbering the family secrets. Possibly Dr. Gerber might be able to halt the destructive developments surrounding Gilda and Clive from reaching a predictable conclusion; it may already be too late.

Dora is certain there is a something her mother is hiding; and she is resolute for trying to learn what it is. Clive and his young sweetheart, Tania, are longtime friends of Niko's.

Emma's daughter Dora commences then ends an affair with Gilda's old beau Niko before she and Niko's son Dan develop a strong interest in one another. Of course, the duo has known one another since childhood, nonetheless they have not been amorously inclined in the past.

Niko and his son Dan are struggling to understand their own, at times tempestuous association when Dan suddenly is shot dead while painting a portrait of Tania. Tania commissioned the painting as a surprise for Clive.

It is from these entwined, tangled and, at times a bit disheveled relationships comes a from time to time, baffling narrative filled with longing, hugger-mugger, pledges completed and others severed, and at times even a bit of manic dependence. The police endeavor to disentangle the mystery, and discover who, how and why Dan has been shot only to find themselves powerless to do much with the evidence at hand.

The one bright spot for Gilda and Dora in the midst of this emotional drama ensuing from the dysfunctional, twisted upbringing of Gilda and Clive, as they try understand and remove themselves from their unsettled past; is the birth of Dora's baby Sophie.

In her well penned narrative, Guilt, Emma Kaufman has fashioned a slice of life type drama jam-packed with engaging circumstances, entertaining players and interesting life experience. The anxiety Dora feels in her connection with her mother is one many readers will recognize completely. The dreadful little family secret theme is one many have experienced to one extent or another. The reader is drawn into the narrative from the beginning when Dora seduces Mom's male friend. It is only later that we appreciate how momentous this action has been.

Kaufman presents her characters as fully established humans filled with life, anguish, longing for contentment and many of the very fragilities, infirmities and warts as beset us all.

Guilt seizes and embraces the reader's consideration through Kaufman's keenly honed attention to detail. Kaufman fashions a drapery of highlights, resonances, aromas and spirits as the reader is motivated along to the predictable conclusion.

Not for everyone. Those who are looking for a brisk little bit of lather are not so likely to relish this compelling work. On the other hand Guilt is a dandy read for those who like a bit of plotting and deeper meaning in their reading.

A persuasive psychodrama outlining the prosperities of siblings Gilda and Clive, and their efforts to distance themselves from a less than stellar past; Guilt is a spine tingler of a narrative of assassination, disorder and emotional release.

Analyst, Dr. Gerber, observes casually as the performance unfolds. For him, the players are not human, they are degraded, providing him only case studies in psychopathology.

Powerful read Recommended 5 stars

Amazon About the Author, Biography

The author of three novels and numerous short stories, Emma Kaufmann is a Brit by birth who recently hopped across the pond. She now lives with her family in Baltimore.

Emma Kaufmann was born in London, England. She has an Austrian mother and a British father, making her an Austrish. A chance meeting with Mr Right had her hopping the pond Stateside, where she spawned two kids and started her blog, She has visited Vienna on numerous occasions and loves its stunning architecture and yummy cakes. The inspiration for "Confessions" came from actually watching a Bollywood movie being filmed in Vienna. STOP PRESS Confessions of a Cake Addict now re-released as Seductive Viennese Whirl.

Emma is also the author of the side-splitting guide for rookie mums: Cocktails at Naptime - A Woefully Inadequate Guide to Early Motherhood, which she wrote with Gillian Martin in cyberspace. The two authors have never met so that's quite a feat!! The book is now out as a Kindle.

To learn more about the dynamic duo go to:

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Moore's Bookshelf

The Tightrope of the Absurd: A Rational Spirituality for the 21st Century and On Being Human
Sybe Starkenburg
Smashwords, Inc.
15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Ste 16, Los Gatos, CA 95032
9781370073047, $12.00, PB, 194pp
9781370073047, $3.99, e-book, 148pp,

Sybe Starkenburg's The Tightrope of the Absurd is not light reading. I actually began to write about the book before I had finished reading because I wanted to lodge a disagreement with the author. That's a good thing. A great book is not one that I agree with. It's one that makes me think, that expands my universe of observation and consideration. The Tightrope of the Absurd does that.

An example of my philosophical falling out with the author follows: Mr. Starkenburg states that "Good is everything that benefits mankind..." and that "the main value of life is life itself". I took exception to this proposition because I found the two parts of this statement to be in conflict. It struck me, as I read, that the human race is essentially parasitic on earth, that humans are inimical to earth's existence. It can be argued that, as humans evolve, we consume and destroy the planet that sustains us. Our predatory relationship with the host planet is so extreme that many scientists believe space travel is an imperative. We look forward to leaving this dying orb and colonizing others, so we can feed off them, and move on again. Just a thought I had. Mr. Starkenburg's book does that to me--makes me think.

Mr. Starkenburg is a well-read man. He brings together ideas from some of the most profound thinkers through the ages. A few to whom Mr. Starkenburg gives deference, I consider to be lightweights, or even disreputable. One of these is Ayn Rand. Mr. Starkenburg and I can disagree about that. What matters is that I care to disagree, that I'm moved enough by his suggestions to take exception to them.

The essence of Mr. Starkenburg's argument, as I understand it, is this: The only path to humanness, to being truly human, is through rational, conscious and deliberate thought. Religion, in his view, is not rational but is based on belief and custom. Religion, he suggests, is an obstacle to achieving humanness.

Mr. Starkenburg evaluates the need that religion seems to fill in people's lives. One need, or hunger, that it satisfies is the search for meaning. Can life have meaning without religion? In response to this question, Mr. Starkenburg cites the philosophies of, among others, Jean-Paul Sartre and Viktor Frankl. Sartre asserts that life has no essential meaning, but is merely improvised. According to him, none of us has a script. We merely respond to circumstances as they arise. Frankl, who survived a Nazi concentration camp, suggests that meaning can be found in life but only if it is lived in a way that is true to each person's intrinsic nature: Be True to Thyself.

Weighing the philosophies of Jean-Paul Sartre and Viktor Frankl is an interesting exercise, no matter the outcome. That's the value I found in The Tightrope of the Absurd. It wasn't in the strength of Mr. Starkenburg's arguments, although he solidly supports every position he holds. The value was in the way he built those arguments, the wide array of material he brought into the discussion, and the place he left for me to agree or disagree.

It would be impossible in the space of a short review to do justice to Mr. Starkenburg's book. To sum up, anemically: Sybe Starkenburg offers a moral and philosophical thesis about how to have a full, thoughtful and positive life. He suggests that empathy is a critical component to this life, empathy not only toward people, but toward other species.

Not everyone will enjoy this book, but readers who are open to new perspectives probably will. And if they are, like most of us, beset at times by a vague uneasiness about existence and religion, this book may suit them. It will not answer every question, but it will address the urge to find answers. It will offer ideas about how to think and where to search for answers to questions that are pushed to the back of the mind. Mr. Starkenburg would surely recommend that these questions be welcomed, because they won't go away. They'll lurk in the background and influence every other area of life until they are confronted rationally, consciously, and deliberately.

Moments in Life
Eileen Troemel
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
4900 Lacross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781500937232, $6.99 PB, 130pp,

Usually, when I prepare to read a book of poems, there's a certain amount of apprehension, unless the poet is known to me. While I enjoy the immediacy of emotion that poetry offers, some authors who use this form do not exercise discipline. A good poem requires a certain amount of that. It is economy of expression that often gives a poem its edge. Unfortunately, in some novice poets, abandon and not economy are the rule. And so I began Eileen Troemel's Moments in Life guardedly--although, to be sure her evocative cover was reassuring.

Prospective readers who may also harbor apprehensions about an unfamiliar poet's motivation may venture into Ms. Troemel's aesthetic universe without reservation. There is revealed in her work a refined sensibility, a presence informed by both insight and compassion. Moments in Life is the sort of book one might keep in the bed stand, to sooth and settle the spirit before submitting to the suggestible realm of sleep.

Last night, one poem struck me with special force. Today, I scrolled through Moments in Life so I could find that poem and use it as an example in this review. However, my morning eyes did not see what my mind clearly understood the night before. Other gems caught my attention. This is one of the charms of the collection: it accommodates the mood and the requirements of the moment. A nostalgic inclination, for example, might find resonance in a poem called My Mother's Kitchen. In more reflective moments, Life's Cycles might respond to the inclination to ponder.

One poem that struck me on every reading was Adventures of a Wild Leaf. This poem is brilliant with imagery and takes the reader through stages of anticipation, loss, and then hope.

This volume is not Ms. Troemel's first. With the skill on display here, that is not surprising. I expect to hear more from this poet in the future. She evidently has a deep well from which to draw.

A. G. Moore

Paul's Bookshelf

Digital is Destroying Everything
Andrew V. Edwards
Rowman and Littlefield
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham MD 20706
9781442246515, $36.00, 232 pages,

Digital (which includes robots, the internet, algorithms and smartphones) is supposed to usher in a new era of convenience and lower prices for the consumer. There is no downside to all this inter-connectedness, right?

Very wrong, according to the author of this book. He explores how streaming and file sharing have basically destroyed the music industry. The newspaper business is also on "life support." Those who are unemployed are told to learn how to code or re-train for some 21st century job. That may be possible for some people. What is your average middle-age factory worker whose job has just gone overseas supposed to do? Besides, is there much of a demand by companies to hire these semi-trained, but inexperienced, coders?

Digital (especially Amazon) is one of the forces that has emptied Main Street of mom and pop retail shops, and emptied hundreds of strip malls all over America. Retail itself deserves some of the blame (JC Penney, for instance). The newest trend in retail is to build "lifestyle centers" or "Town centers" which are little more than strip malls with a village facade. Have you ever hesitated to go into a store out of fear that the owner might actually. . . talk to you? The object of American entrepreneurship seems to be to create a smartphone app to be sold to some major corporation for an insane amount of money. Creating actual revenue through sales of the app was never a consideration.

Human interaction seems to be deader than dead. How many dinner times are silent because everyone in the family considers the happenings on their tiny screen to be more important than the person sitting across from them? Is personal privacy an obsolete concept? Political discourse has become balkanized, in that believers in nearly anything can put up their own website (or websites) and tell themselves that they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

What can a person do about it? Reduce Your Digital Exposure. Leave your smartphone off until you actually need it. This is an excellent and eye-opening book. It should be read by everyone, especially by those who have to check Facebook (for instance) every few minutes.

Ted Rall
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts St., New York NY 10013
9781609806354, $16.95, 224 pages,

In graphic novel form, this book looks at the life and motivation of Edward Snowden, one of the most famous, or infamous, people in the world.

Snowden grew up in Maryland, just a few miles from the headquarters of the National Security Agency, or NSA. It was the sort of community where one learns not to ask their neighbor, or their spouse, just what they do for a living; it's probably secret. An attempt to join the Army after 9/11 was not successful. As a CIA employee, he was stationed for a time in Switzerland. He was exposed to other systems of values, and began to wonder if America was really the "good guys."

He left the CIA, and joined the NSA, eventually becoming a systems administrator, or sysadmin. He spent some time in Japan, which further removed any notion that America was on the side of the angels. As a sysadmin, he had access to all sorts of classified files that detailed America's surveillance plans. Whenever he had a chance, he downloaded file after file onto flash drives.

Here are a couple of examples. An NSA program called "Captivated Audience" lets them track you through your smartphone and listen to conversations in your home, even if the phone is Off. "Gumfish" allows the NSA to take a picture of you, at any time, using the camera in your laptop. Smart TVs, those that allow streaming of web content, have a camera that the government can activate at any time to watch anybody (like the telescreens in Orwell's "1984").

Now working in Honolulu for an NSA contractor, one day Snowden hopped a taxi to the airport with his flash drives. His next stop was Hong Kong where he leaked his information to a couple of journalists. After the worldwide bombshell, he was planning to fly to Latin America to ask for asylum. While in the air, his passport was revoked. He also knew that if he flew through the airspace of a US ally, the ally would force the plane to land. Snowden would be arrested, handed over to American authorities and "disappeared" (like Bradley/Chelsea Manning). Snowden got as far as Moscow, where he remains today.

Say what you will about Edward Snowden (he is a hero or he is a traitor), this is an excellent, and very easy to read, look at why he did what he did. It's very highly recommended.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

News of the World
Paulette Jiles
William Morrow
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062409201, $22.99, 224 pages,

In the post-Civil War era, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a 71-year old widower and veteran of three wars. Ever since he lost his printing business during the Civil War, he travels across north Texas making a meager living as a news reader. He is prepared to spend the remainder of his days reading aloud from newspapers for local townspeople eager to hear news of the world. That is, until he crosses paths with Johanna.

Ten-year old Johanna has been living with the Kiowa tribe for four years after they captured her and killed her parents. But the Kiowa traded her away to an Indian agent for blankets and dinnerware. The only family she has is an aunt and uncle near San Antonio, a 400-mile journey south through rugged territory populated by hostile Indian tribes, roaming cavalry units, and desperadoes.

As a father and grandfather, Kidd's compassion for Johanna's plight overwhelms all logic and he grudgingly agrees to accompany her as a favor to an old friend, and a 50 dollar gold piece. Johanna soon challenges every ounce of his compassion. Though she is fair-haired and white, she is in every other respect Kiowa. She doesn't speak English, or bathe, and she despises clothes and shoes. Devastated by the abandonment of her tribe, she runs away at every opportunity. In a word, Johanna is a handful. Yet along the way, Kidd also discovers she is smart and kind. Her tribal chants and songs soothe him. To his utter amazement she proves to be a brave and fierce warrior who saves his life. Above all, he realizes she has the power to change his life forever.

Jiles' impeccable historical fiction casts readers out into the rainy and windswept savage wilderness of post-Civil War politics and the Wild West to fend for their survival along with Kidd and Johanna. There are no guarantees. "News of the World" is a riveting saga for all ages that will be forever etched in your heart.

Chasing at the Surface
Sharon Mentyka
WestWinds Press
9781943328604, $12.99, 224 pages,

By all appearances, 12-year old Marisa Gage leads an enviable life with her dad on a houseboat in Puget Sound where whale watching is as common as bird watching. But her mom has left for California for unexplained reasons leaving her broken-hearted. In the midst of Marisa's doldrums during the fall chum salmon run, a pod of 19 orca whales shows up in nearby Dyes Inlet, presumably to feed on the abundant fish supply. Coincidentally these whales are known to whale researchers as the L pod, the same pod that Marisa and her mom spent a week watching 4 years earlier on a trip to the San Juan Islands. Marisa was even lucky enough to name one of the newborn calves, Muncher. As if she wasn't missing her mom enough, Muncher and his mom Marina along with the rest of the L pod are swimming in her back yard and the one person she most wants to share the experience with is not there for her. Her self-pity is cut short when her science teacher takes on whale watching as a class project, allowing Marisa and her friends to skip school to assist the whale researchers with monitoring and tracking the whales. Based on a true story, as days turn into weeks and the salmon slowly run out, the whales remain clustered in the inlet and a cool school project turns into a race against the clock as it's all hands on deck to save the whales.

Mentyka artfully weaves whale facts through this moving drama about family relationships and the natural world. Though what's outstanding is Mentyka's skill at immersing readers in Marisa's wonderful sensory scenes with the whales that could only come from her own first-hand experience. The parallels between the plight of the whales and Marisa's confusion and anger at her mom reinforce that the answers to all of life's questions can be found in nature. "Chasing at the Surface" is an unforgettable adventure that takes readers along on a heart-pounding, up-close-and-personal encounter with a pod of powerful orcas.

Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White
Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780544319592, $18.99, 176 pages,

Elwyn Brooks White is best known as the author of the children's classics "Stuart Little" (1945), "Charlotte's Web" (1952), and "The Trumpet of the Swan" (1970). White -- aka Andy -- displayed his writing talent at an early age, winning his first writing contest when he was 9 years-old. Andy grew up in Mt. Vernon, New York, but it was his childhood summers spent in Maine that cultivated Andy's love of animals and the natural world, and it was Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" that inspired his passion for the environment. As a young man he landed a job as a full-time writer for the "The New Yorker" magazine, which opened doors for him in the New York literary world. Whenever he could steal time away from his successful magazine career, he worked on his children's book about a courageous talking mouse based on his love of animals and farm life in Maine. The acclaim for "Stuart Little" launched his successful career as a children's book writer. A true wordsmith at heart Andy continued as a contributor to "The New Yorker" for decades. Sweet's scrapbook style combines her own homespun watercolor illustrations and a collage of the author's rough drafts, poems, letters, family photographs, along with delightful anecdotes in this heartwarming celebration of White's life and works. E.B White would say "Some Writer!" is some biography.

Brunhilda's Backwards Day
Shawna J.C. Tenney
Sky Pony Press
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781634506915, $16.99, 32 pages

Brunhilda's daily witch routine involves warts, spider mush, ugly dresses, and bewitching everyone around her, including the cat. Until one night the cat stirs up his own potion and turns Brunhilda's life upside down. She wakes up wart-less, with nothing to eat but oatmeal and nothing to wear but a fluffy pink gown. When she tries to cast her spells on the local townsfolk, she's in for the biggest surprise of all. Can the cat's revenge transform Brunhilda from a wicked witch into a good witch? Tenney's exceptional illustrations reveal the true scope of Brunhilda and the cat's amusing mischief-making in dazzling color. "Brunhilda's Backwards Day" is a charming tale with plenty of hocus-pocus to keep young readers spellbound.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Polk's Bookshelf

Hair Power
Piers Anthony
Dreaming Big Publications
9781534919143, $7.99, paperback, 128pp
ASIN: B01I220J26, $3.99, Kindle,

What if a friendly alien race were to come to Earth with the intent to be helpful and trade knowledge and technology how could it avoid the worse of human nature and suspicion? One way would be quietly hiding in plain sight and evaluating passersby who had a great need of some type with which the aliens could help; for example, victims of dread diseases and poor social conditions.

What if those the aliens helped no longer fit into their niche in human society because of unique abilities set them apart from other humans around them? What if they had to remain in hiding until there were enough of them to establish an alien embassy so they could negotiate as equals with the governments of Earth?

And so it is with Hair Power that odd alien creatures resembling hair balls begin to locate people with great needs, brain cancer, AIDS, and similar issues so that they can restore their health and vitality while creating human/alien hybrids in order to establish a diplomatic presence on Earth.

Hair Power follows characters that become hybrids through the hardships of separating themselves from human society in order to fulfill the alien agenda. The characters are sufficiently well developed to serve the story and have interesting backgrounds before their alien involvement.

Hair Power is a science fiction 'what if' scenario that should appeal to any lover of science Fiction (especially followers of Piers Anthony) and to anyone else who simply wants a good quick offbeat read. 4-Stars

Angel's Wings
Taylor Leigh
Privately Published
9781534633964, $12.00, PB, 318 pages
B01H7DIQEO, $3.99, Kindle,

The last thing police Inspector Arthur Harbreak expected in his small isolated community on the moors that fateful night in1895 was a murder. There had never been a murder there before, especially the murder of a young boy, and Harbreak was in far over his head. Nasty weather prevented reinforcements and so Harbreak enlists the aid of Charles Thurston, his friend and the physician who doubles as coroner, to help him with the investigation. Together, they brave the nasty weather, nasty rumors, thefts and misdirection to deal with the murder and accusations of the sexual abuse of choir boys by the Curate of the community church.

Angel's Wings revolves around jealousy, suspicion and obsession. Each of the choir boys has own agenda. Each of the choir families has their own dreams for their sons. The Church Curate, Anthony Burberry and Arthur Harbreak have a past, and Burberry is accused of sexual misconduct with the boys raising suspicions and anger in the parents. Obsession with Viking artifacts and culture leads to theft and ultimately to murder. The characters are well developed and fitted to their time period and location around 1895 in an isolated village in rural England. The story fits well with human nature and the educational level of the times.

A fascinating whodunit that makes the reader wonder whether the murder of young Tom McKind will ever be solved. It is, after many twists and turns, but you'll have to buy it to find out how. This is a book that will be loved by every reader of mysteries, especially those who love Sherlock Holmes and similar mysteries. 4-Stars

As Wings Unfurl
Arthur Doweyko
Red Adept Publishing
9781940215778, 234 pages
B01HY589FG, $5.99, Kindle,

Apple Bogdanski, a disabled Vietnam veteran, worked in a secondhand books store. When a private detective takes incriminating photos of shape-shifting aliens in the act of transformation and sends the negatives to the owner of the bookstore hidden in a book among a shipment of books, Apple is caught between two groups of aliens-one of which studies mankind's development and the other who wants to terminate mankind and claim the Earth for their own purposes. Apple has a helper, Angela, who appears just in time to save his life and make him appear to be a hero. Angela has a beef with the bad guys and she and Apple unite with a few good guys to take on the bad guys.

As Wings Unfurl is an entertaining science fiction novel based on the premise that an alien race planted the seed of the human race of Earth millennia ago and now watches quietly as we evolve. Apple is a fairly well developed protagonist who just wants to be left alone to deal with the hand life has dealt him on his terms. Angela is a member of the alien oversight group dedicated to observation. Strangely attracted to Apple, she must deal with a conflict between her duties, her sense of right and wrong, and her feelings. Dane, as the bad alien, has a single side; the discrediting and destruction of the human race for her own purposes. Yowl and Shilog are Tibetans who are caught up in the war between factions and who provide a notable twist to the ending. Both are far out of the world that they know, but both adapt amazingly fast to the developed world.

This book is entertaining reading for readers who love science fiction "what if" scenarios and readers who love action adventures in any form. 4-Stars

To Kill A Laborador
Kassandra Lamb
Misterio Press, LLC
9780990874782, $9.99, paperback, 235 pages
B01DFPXDVY, $3.99, Kindle,

Jimmy Garrett is a former Marine amputee suffering from PTSD acquired in Iraq. When Jimmy is arrested and charged with murder of his wife, his service dog, Buddy, a Labrador Retriever is cared for by his former trainer, Marcia Banks. While making sure Jimmy is being cared for properly in jail, she becomes acquainted with Sheriff Will Haines. She also begins to realize that something stinks in Collinsville, Florida and it centers around the death of Jimmy's wife. Disoriented by Jimmy's apparent suicide in jail, Marcia feels she must help clear Jimmy's name, the results of which place her in danger and threaten her life.

To Kill A Labrador is a excellent murder mystery that will make readers hang on every page to see what is going to happen on the next page. The story is rich with information about service dogs and their training. Buddy is lovable, as is Marcia, although I would have to characterize Marcia as a little headstrong and foolish. Nevertheless, a gamble she takes in training Buddy in an unusual skill so he can help train another dog, pays off handsomely in the end. Will Haines, the other main character, remains an unknown until the very end.

To Kill A Labrador is a fun story that will be enjoyed by every reader of mysteries, and adventure stories. It will also be enjoyed by anyone who loves animal books or about service dogs and their training. 5-Stars

Til Death Do Us Part
Leonard Petracci
Privately Published
9781533438638, $8.49, paperback, 192 pages
B01GT7BOV6, $2.99, Kindle,

Souls undergo reincarnation ad infinitum living successive life cycles over and over. Even criminal souls, except that criminal souls are reincarnated into Carcer Prison where they inhabit bodies that grow from babies to the age of thirteen. Then, they are killed and forced to recycle over and over again for as long a number of cycles as their sentence decrees.

One criminal, however, has a plan to revenge his wife and family who were killed by a political enemy in a manner that condemned their souls to be lost forever in the void. Now, he has enlisted the aid of other arch criminals and embarked upon a multi-lifetime quest for vengeance. Will his plan work? Of course; his plans always work!

Til Death Do Us Part is, without doubt, the most unusual book I have ever read, with the most unusual characters. The protagonist is a patient master planner with a lust for revenge that must be carried out with infinite patience and planning. Lisa is a lethal femme fatale with a love of the good life and lust for the protagonist. The twins are talented con-men who and work their way into high society and seduce the most difficult mark. Another loves cigarettes, but couldn't fly an airplane if his life depended on it, and finally, there is a loyal assistant whose multiple talents know no bounds.

For the first few pages, I wondered what kind of book I had committed to read. Then, it became interesting, and then, a fascinating tale that kept me up at night. Readers are not used to thinking in multi-generational leaps, and that puts a slightly new dimension on criminal motivation and strategy requiring a bit of thought.

This is a great story, written with great imagination having great appeal for those readers who lean to science fiction, crime action or even, in a sense, fantasy. 5-Stars

Clabe Polk

Susan's Bookshelf

Cries of the Eagle
Michael E. Nathanson
Xulon Press
2301 Lucien Way, Suite 415, Maitland, FL 32751
9781498458498, $23.49 pb / $9.99 Kindle 450 Pages,

Genre: Terrorism Thriller

As a non-Muslim I found this a fascinating story, as it opens your eyes not only to a different religion, but also its beliefs and teachings, however this story is so much more, it is a powerful story of murder, betrayal, secrets and lies, which when uncovered expose horrendous truths...

Ali and Hajid, are a devout Muslim couple who left their homeland of Iran in the 1980's to start a better life in America. They settled in Dearborn, Michigan, and soon after had a son Ibrahim. They worked hard at bringing him up in the faith, and live a good life in their Muslim community. As parents they were happy to watch him stand on his own two feet, and accept that he is naturally growing away from them as he moves to Texas as part of his Qu'ran studies. However, the friends and mentors Ibrahim chooses once there lead him down a dark path, one which shapes his destiny forever.

Through the ages it has become accepted that most religions have a fanatical side, radical groups with one aim only, to ensure that in time, their religion is the only one which survives. With the threat of terrorism and fear of racism so very much a part of our modern world, the author has skillfully weaved his magic to write this story. Although fictional, it is easy to see it being true, indeed as I write this there are horrors being committed in the name of religion every day.

Mostly we base our views on 'hearsay' or newspaper headlines, tarring everyone with the same brush, and in our fear persecuting the innocent. Fascinatingly, this book reveals how the lives of an ordinary family, devoutly following their Muslim faith, can become inextricably entwined with the fanatical counter elements of the religion they follow, without their knowledge.

However, this story is not just about Muslim beliefs, it is an intriguing, action packed thriller. As the storyline unfolds we follow the investigations of Special Agent Gerry Bolton and Agent Jan Hanson of the FBI, and soon discover that nothing is as it seems...

In my opinion this is an exceptional book, and a real eye-opener. Not only is it an absorbing story but it has given me a real insight into a world I knew nothing about. If I could give it 6 stars, I would!

Remember the Future
Bryant Delafosse
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781519318305, $15.99 / $2.99 Kindle 402 Pages,

Genre: Paranormal, Suspense Thriller

Grant Frederickson is a man destroyed, he has lost his beloved wife, and now is targeted by Houston gangster Arturo Torres, hounded for debts he cannot pay. With the world on his shoulders, and Rudy, Torres' henchman watching him all the time, there is no escaping the corner he has got himself into, but what does he care, he has nothing to live for...

Then, just when he is at his lowest, resigned to his fate, a young woman called Maddy jumps into his car, and beseeches him for help. She is fleeing from pursuers who she calls 'Blank Men,' men who are determined to capture her.

Suddenly, his problems take a back seat as he finds himself protecting her. But who is this Maddy, this mysterious young woman with a hidden past and incredible abilities, and why are the Blank Men hunting her?

Soon he finds his life inextricably entwined with hers, and can't help but ask himself more and more, was their meeting really coincidental, or was it destiny? As their flight leads them to New Orleans he wonders, will they find answers there?

I believe that this book will appeal to readers, like myself, who love a truly unique story, with plenty of twists, turns, and which keeps you guessing until the very last page.

Available from Amazon

Dear Bob: The Misadventures of Petunia Pottersfield: Volume 1
T P Keane
Trudy Keane
9780997179323, $4.99, 120 Pages

Genre: Children's

This enchanting story begins on Petunia Pottersfield's 11th Birthday. Petunia is a fairy who lives in Furrow Grove. She has a mass of unruly hair, and she's writing in her diary who she calls Bob. Why Bob, why not? After all everything deserves a name, doesn't it? Bob is very special to her because he is the place where she confides all her hopes and fears.

You see, Petunia is lonely, she doesn't have many friends because she is very clumsy, and she doesn't like school either. She has a kind heart, it's just that things just don't turn out as she intends them too...

Then things look up, she has a new friend Alisia, and the girls have great fun together, until they notice that something has gone terribly wrong with the inhabitants of Furrow Grove, they have changed...

At first, the girls manage to hide, but then disaster strikes and Alisia is caught.

Petunia is desperate, and eventually finds help, but will it be in time to save Alisia and the fairies of Furrow Grove?

Find out in this charming and exciting children's adventure, from the author of The Paladins of Naretia.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie's Bookshelf

Ten Little Monsters Standing In Line
Chris Mason, Illustrated by Vladimir Cebu
15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Ste 16, Los Gatos, CA 95032
978131129174, $TBA Words: 680

Intended for children ages 3-6.

Ten little monsters find themselves in line at the unemployment office. One by one something happens to each of them that slowly reduce the numbers. As the last one is left he turns back and realizes that he is the lone person left in line; knowing that he is all by himself he decides to go home.

TEN LITTLE MONSTERS STANDING IN LINE offers a delightful way for youngsters to learn to count backwards from ten. I found the illustrations were expertly done. They each provided a bright and lively means for the story to progress smoothly. I feel this book would be excellent addition to incorporate into a child's educational environment for the lesson that it teaches is priceless.

Chris Mason has written a wonderful and helpful book that is assured to help children worldwide. I think that this book could be a very effective method to teach a child how to count backwards from ten to one. I found that it is easy to understand and will appeal to students. I predict this book will set the groundwork for a child to begin to count effortlessly.

Where Do They Go?
Barry Donaldson
Tellwell Talent
9781773022437, Paperback, $TBA
9781773022444, Hardcover, $TBA

Young Adult (Age Level: 4 - 8)

An unknown mystery has hit the Wilson household. While doing laundry Ms. Wilson discovers that she is short of one sock. She is convinced that her children Naleaha and Jaylen are behind the strange disappearance.

Wishing to locate the missing object she confronts them. Both deny they have any knowledge of where the sock may be located. She does not believe them and gives them the choice to either find the item or be grounded from their beloved video games.

Naleaha and Jaylen devise a scheme to find the missing article. Will their plan work? Will their detective skills reveal something that is assured to be out of this world?

WHERE DO THEY GO is filled with beautiful illustrated pictures that bring the story to life; each one is rich in detail that seems to breathe life into the overall significance of the story. I was impressed with how the author cleverly weaved a sense of mystery into the overall plot. I feel that any child would be delighted to discover such a wonderful and entertaining book.

Barry Donaldson is an outstanding author. I can tell that he has put a lot of thought process in writing this book. I found that his writing style was a smooth and enjoyable reading experience, one that is assured to appeal to a large audience. I feel that this book should be considered as required reading for pre-school children for it is one that will appeal to their inner being. I can very easily see it become a highly popular series.

Lifesaver in a Bikini
Angelin Sydney
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00V56NWN0, $1.99, 187 pages,

Romantic Suspense

Forensic Scientist Queen fought to bring justice in a New York crime lab. She is married to a New York SWAT Officer Giorgio Gomez. Her life is turned upside down when her simple day at the beach turns into a crime scene. In the blink of an eye shots are fired, and one man is dead while another is wounded. She is intent to stop the flow of blood by having no choice but to rip off her sarong and use it as a tourniquet. Unbeknown to her the whole episode is recorded and becomes an instant viral YouTube video.

Queen refuses to let her husband have all the fun in solving the murder. Through her own detective work details emerge that link the murder to Belle who is a forensic accountant. It seems that she got mixed up with a global criminal enterprise that is now intent on seeing her destroyed.

Will Queen be able to solve the mystery by overthrowing a madman? Or will she be putting herself in his pathway of destruction?

LIFESAVER IN A BIKINI is one high action packed novel. From the first page you are set to propel on a death defying experience as you following the characters through an unending amount of intense scenes that will leave you breathless. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart for it is one that will keep you up late until you finish.

Angelin Sydney has once again proven that she is the master of romance and the creator of suspense. With each book that I discover by this highly addictive author I grow more impressed with her writing style. This book is an exceptional example of all that she is capable of delivering to her fans. I predict this author will become a legend in her own time by being known as one of the top romance novelist this century has yet to discover.

Sara Barefield
Marian D. Schwartz
Gristmill Publishing, L.L.C.
P.O. Box 193, Ivy, VA 22945-0193
9780988607675 $30.99 hc
9780988607682 $14.99 pbk
ASIN: B01IS4F86K $TBA ebook 348 pages

The strength of a woman can carry the weight of the world." ~Sarah Pezdek-Smith

At forty, Sara Barefield is a woman whose life has quickly gone spiraling out of her control. When she found out that she was pregnant she was overjoyed at the prospect of bringing a new life into the world. She hoped that her news would send joy to the father of her child. Sadly, before she was able to tell him the good news she learned that he had committed suicide.

"Rise up from the ashes; don't let life defeat you at any cost..."

Sara knows that she will have to quit her job at the school where she works to avoid the embarrassment of being seen as an unwed mother. With very little money in her bank account she realizes that she'll have to apply for welfare after the baby is born. She sees this as the only feasible alternative available to her in her circumstances.

Will Sara be courageous enough to keep her head held high and start a new life for herself and her child far away from her hometown? Or will she allow her situation to break her strong spirit?

SARA BAREFIELD is a magnificent book! It is one of the best pieces of Women's Literary Fiction that I have read in 2016. Sara is a woman who is strong, independent, and definitely commands your attention. Despite her situation, she refuses to let life get the best of her. I found myself so engrossed in certain passages of this book that I kept reading them over and over, and totally lost track of time. Sara's courage in the face of difficult circumstances makes this a thought provoking novel.

Suzie Housley

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design