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Wisconsin Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 6 June 2023 Home | WBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Writing/Publishing Shelf Music Shelf
American History Shelf World History Shelf Biography Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf LGBT Fiction Shelf
Literary Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Poetry Shelf Audiobook Shelf
Music CD Shelf DVD Shelf Business Shelf
Christian Studies Shelf Buddhist Studies Shelf Metaphysical Studies Shelf
Travel Shelf Architecture Shelf Botany Shelf
Sports Shelf Art Shelf Self-Help Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Jean-Luc Godard: The Permanent Revolutionary
Bert Rebhandl, author
Edward Maltby, translator
University of Wisconsin Press
728 State Street, Suite 443, Madison, WI 53706-1418
9780299341800, $29.95, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: "Jean-Luc Godard: The Permanent Revolutionary" biographer Bert Rebhandl (and now translated into English for an American readership by Edward Maltby) provides a balanced evaluation of the work of one of the most original and influential film directors of all time: Jean-Luc Godard (3 December 1930 - 13 September 2022). In this sympathetic yet critical overview, Rebhandle persuasively argues that Godard's work captured the revolutionary spirit of Paris in the late 1960s as no other filmmaker has dared, and in fact reinvented the medium.

Rebhandl skillfully weaves together biographical details; information about the cultural, intellectual, and cinematic milieu over the decades; and descriptions of Godard's most significant films to support his assertion that the director was a permanent revolutionary -- always seeking new ways to create, understand, and comment on film within a larger context. Godard is presented as an artist consistently true to himself while never ceasing to change and evolve, often in unexpected, radical, and controversial ways.

Critique: As a journalist and biographer, with the publication of "Jean-Luc Godard: The Permanent Revolutionary" Bert Rebhandl is able to draw upon a wealth of material to descriptively analyze and provide comment upon such sensitive topics as the long-standing charges of antisemitism against Godard and his oeuvre. This comprehensive and seminal biography is an especially recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Cinematic History/Biography collections.

Editorial Note #1: Bert Rebhandl ( is a freelance journalist whose writings have appeared in such venues as Frankfurter Allgemeine and tipBerlin. He is the author of several previous books written in German.

Editorial Note #2: Edward Maltby ( is a UK-based translator. He holds a degree in modern and medieval languages from Cambridge University.

The Bookseller at the End of the World
Ruth Shaw
A&U New Zealand
9781988547756, $18.99, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Bookseller at the End of the World", Ruth Shaw (who runs two wee bookshops in remote Manapouri in the far south of New Zealand) weaves together stories of the characters who visit her bookshops, musings about favorite books, and bittersweet stories from her full and varied life.

Ruth has sailed through the Pacific for years, been held up by pirates, worked at Sydney's Kings Cross with drug addicts and prostitutes, campaigned on numerous environmental issues, and worked the yacht Breaksea Girl with her husband, Lance.

Underlining all her wanderings and adventures are some very deep losses and long-held pain. Balancing that out is her beautiful love story with Lance, and her delightful sense of humor.

"The Bookseller at the End of the World" will provoke the reader to sorrow and laughter -- and motivated to want to read more books.

And there is a standing invitation for visitors to New Zealand to visit Ruth and her three wee bookshops!

Critique: A deftly presented and informative memoir certain to delight the hard core bibliophile and of compelling interest to anyone who has ever contemplated operating a bookstore of their own, "The Bookseller at the End of the World" is a an inherently fascinating read and a truly exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Writing/Bookseller Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted that "The Bookseller at the End of the World" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Twice arrested and married four times, now at age 75, Ruth Shaw has led a colorful life crammed with incredible adventure, and at times damned by terrible tragedy. There have been pirates and prostitutes, protests, and pig farming; gold mining, gambling, and grief. (

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders
Dr. Judith Briles
Mile High Press
9781885331915, $20.00, PB, 338pp

Synopsis: When it comes to publishing there is no need to 'reinvent the wheel'. Not when there is "How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders", a DIY instructional guide and 'how to' manual that shows how to avoid the inevitable potholes that litter what Dr. Judith Briles aptly refers to as the publishing maze.

You are writing a book (or you have one already published one) and the OMG moment hits you. You've made a mistake, there's been screw up, or you just feel clueless in the maze of the publishing tsunami of items you unexpectedly find yourself having to deal with. You need help and savvy guidance.

That's what "How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders" delivers, as it reveals 'real world practical' strategies, tips, and techniques to ensure your publishing success -- and without any publishing industry gibberish. Just the facts and how-to for your author success.

"How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders" covers: The essentials that every successful author must include in a book; Structuring social media resources that are ideal for your book and level of expertise; Identifying readability factors to ensure your reader ease and aha take-aways; Hot tips for creating and maintaining momentum in book marketing; Learning what to avoid in contracts and how to end them if necessary.

With How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders, you've got book publishing and marketing expert Judith Briles (known throughout the publishing industry as The Book Shepherd) who is also the successful author of 38 books. With her years of experience and expertise she knows what the roadblocks and pitfalls are that authors encounter. Working with thousands of authors who have earned book awards and bestselling status, she brings the secret sauces of the publishing world to your ears and eyes.

Critique: It should be noted that the Midwest Book Review has a great deal of respect for the breadth and depth of Judith Brile's expertise when it comes to the writing, publishing, and marketing of books. Reading "How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders" is like taking a one-on-one tutorial in DIY book publishing and is a essential reading for aspiring authors considering self-publishing, novice publishers seeking to publish profitably. In fact, "How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders" has immense value for even the more experienced authors and publishing staff members. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders" is comprehensive, 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, and an absolutely essential addition to personal, community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing collections.

Editorial Note: Dr. Judith Briles ( is the author of 43 books and known as The Book Shepherd, working with authors globally to create and publish books in all subject categories and genres. ( A number of her titles have been previously reviewed and archived by the Midwest Book Review website at

The Music Shelf

Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983
Jen B. Larson
Feral House
9781627311236, $28.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: Women have been kicking against the pricks of music patriarchy since Sister Rosetta Tharpe first played the guitar riffs that built rock-n-roll. The explosion of punk sent shockwaves of revolution to every girl who dreamed of being on stage. Punk godmothers Suzy Quatro, The Runaways, Patti Smith, Poison Ivy, Tina Weymouth, Debbie Harry, The Go-Gos, and Fanny's Millington sisters provided the template for thousands of girls and women throughout the United States to write and record their songs.

A combination memoir and music history, "Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983" by Jen B. Larson is the story of local and regional bands whose legacy would be otherwise lost. Despite the modern narrative labeling women as anomalies in rock music, the truth is: women played important roles in punk and its related genres in every city, in every scene, all over the United States. The women and bands profiled by Jen B. share their experiences of sexism and racism as well as their joy and successes from their days on stage as they changed what it meant to be in a band. These pioneering women were more than novelty acts or pretty faces--they were fully contributing members and leaders of mixed-gender and all-female bands long before the call for "girls to the front".

The women of "Hit Girls" are now rightfully exalted to cult status where their collective achievement is recognized and inspiring to new generations of women rockers. Included are interviews with: Texacala Jones, Stoney Rivera, Mish Bondaj, Alice Bag, Nikki Corvette, Penelope Houston, and many more formidable and infamous women who made their voices heard over the screaming guitars.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of more than 100 rare and never-before seen images, "Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983" also features a comprehensive playlist of all the artists cited. A seminal and comprehensive history, "Hit Girls" is especially recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Punk Music History/Biography collections in general, and Rock Band Biography reading lists in particular. It should be noted for music history students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Hit Girls" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Jen B. Larson ( is a writer, musician, and public art schoolteacher living in Chicago. She holds a B.A. in English literature and creative writing as well as an M.Ed. in special education. Her bands, Swimsuit Addition, beastii, and Jen and the Dots, have performed and recorded extensively over the last decade.

The American History Shelf

Faces, Places, and Days Gone By
Mikel B. Classen
Modern History Press
9781615997251, $34.95, HC, 138pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Faces, Places, and Days Gone By - Volume 1: A Pictorial History of Michigan's Upper Peninsula", Mikel Classen's pictorial history is the next best thing to a time machine, as we get a front-row seat in the worlds of shipping and shipwrecks, iron and copper mining, timber cutting, hunting and fishing and the everyday lives of ordinary folks of Michigan's Upper Peninsula across more than 100 years.

"Faces, Places and Days Gone By" peers into our past through the lenses of those that lived and explored it. See what they saw as time passed and how the U.P. evolved into the wondrous place we know today.

Drawn from the Classen's unique collection, "Faces, Places and Days Gone By" is comprised of newly restored images from long lost stereoviews, cabinet cards, postcards and lithograph engravings. It takes the armchair traveler on a visual journey to relive some of those moments, and discover a unique heritage through those faces and places from the Soo to Ironwood, from Copper Harbor to Mackinaw Island.

Critique: A unique and exceptional pictorial history of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, each fully captioned black/white historical photo is a treasure, with the entire "Faces Places and Days Gone By" collection being an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library American History collection. It should be noted that "Faces Places and Days Gone By" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781615997244, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.95).

Editorial Note: Mikel B. Classen ( has been writing and photographing northern Michigan in news-papers and magazines for over thirty-five years, creating feature articles about the life and culture of Michigan's north country. Currently he is managing editor of the U.P. Reader and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association.

The World History Shelf

A History of Ancient Rome in 100 Lives
Philip Matyszak and Joanne Berry
Thames & Hudson
9780500297056, $16.95 pbk / $12.99 Kindle

Synopsis: A vibrant portrait of a lost world, A History of Ancient Rome in 100 Lives reveals the mightiest civilization of antiquity through the eyes of one hundred of its citizens. The book gives a voice not just to Rome's most famous generals and rulers, such as Caesar and Caligula, but also to its builders, sculptors, poets, historians, gladiators, shepherds, enslaved people, and courtesans.

The book begins with Faustulus, the foster father of Romulus and Remus, and closes with the final emperor, Romulus Augustulus. The stories of Roman women are given their due as well - from Servilia, Caesar's lover; to Agrippina, the murderous wife of Claudius; Amazonia, the sword-swinging gladiator; and Hypatia, philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician. Exploring every level of society and using the latest archaeological evidence as well as ancient texts, the authors build up a picture of what it meant to live in Ancient Rome.

Critique: Now in an affordable paperback edition with 20 full-color illustrations, A History of Ancient Rome in 100 Lives is an engrossing tour of the Roman Empire's centuries of grandeur and decline through the biographies of 100 individuals ranging from rulers and generals to scholars, Christian martyrs, civil servants, and ordinary people. Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, A History of Ancient Rome in 100 Lives is a "must-have" for both personal and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that A History of Ancient Rome in 100 Lives is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

The Biography Shelf

Looking Backward, Going Forward: Reflections on a Writer's Life
Jan Yager
Hannacroix Creek Books
9781938998942, $19.95, PB, 353pp

Synopsis: From the first novel she wrote at the age of ten to her most recent books published by commercial houses "When Friendship Hurts", (Simon & Schuster); "Essentials of Victimology" (a textbook published in 2022 by Aspen Publishing), "How to Promote Your Book" (Square One Publishers, February 15, 2023), or through her own small press, Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc ("Friendgevity"; "Work Less, Do More"; "On the Run"; and "Friendshifts") Jan Yager is a prolific and award-winning writer has done it all.

Starting off by working full time in such amazing publishing companies as Macmillan (2 years) followed by learning everything about trade book publishing as she worked alongside Barney Rosset (the legendary founder of Grove Press) for a year, Jan has a lot to share about writing, getting published, and some of the adventures she has had going on cross country and even international author tours.

With the publication of her memoir, "Looking Backward, Going Forward: Reflections on a Writer's Life", Jan shares her insights and experiences about interviewing everyone from puppeteer Jim Henson to playwright Harold Pinter. Her memoir covers working with and in a range of genres that include nonfiction, fiction, and illustrated children's books. She's been on several 5 to 18-city cross-country author tours in the U.S. as well as international author tours throughout the UK, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand.

Critique: A fascinating, informative, and articulate memoir that will have a very special interest to aspiring authors, publishers, booksellers, literary publicists, amateur and professional book reviewers, students of the publishing industry, and dedicated bibliophiles. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing and American Biography/Memoir collections, it should be noted that "Looking Backward, Going Forward: Reflections on a Writer's Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note #1: Jan Yager ( has published 50+ books in several genres including nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and children's books, with one or more titles translated into 35 languages. She worked in publishing, first at Macmillan, then at Grove Press; she went on to publish her own books with major houses including Scribner, Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, Wiley, Grove Press, and Penguin Random House. In 1996, she founded Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc. Jan holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center. Since August 2014, she has taught in the Sociology Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she is an Adjunct Associate Professor.

Jacob Daniel Sims
Circle Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781785359774, $21.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Deftly blending a global travel adventure with an exuberant coming of age story, "WanderLOST: Stories from the Winding Road Toward Significance" by Jacob Sims charts one millennial's decades-long globetrotting adventure in pursuit of meaning, significance, and belonging.

With each intriguing anecdote, harrowing encounter, and entertaining mishap Jacob Sims challenges his readers to reckon with accepted notions of freedom and identity as he expertly melds his personal memoir with observations of moral philosophy as he weighs the costs of a life in pursuit of liberty and happiness. In the void left from this path, "WanderLOST" offers readers glimpses of wholeness in the deeper journey of learning to love.

Critique; Absorbing, thought-provoking, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "WanderLOST: Stories from the Winding Road Toward Significance" will be of immense interest to readers of contemporary memoirs, true-life travel adventures, and Christian social issues dealing with globalization and politics. Also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "WanderLOST" will prove an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Contemporary History/Memoir collections.

Editorial Note: Jacob Sims ( currently serves as Country Director of International Justice Mission (IJM) Cambodia where he leads a team of investigators, lawyers, social workers, programmatic and operational staff in the fight against violent labor exploitation. Concurrently with his role at IJM, he serves as a Non-Resident Fellow at Duke University's Center for Reconciliation, a leading institute bridging the worlds of research and practice in the global peace-building and justice space. Sims is frequently drawn upon for expert commentary on various human rights and global development challenges. His analysis has featured recently in The Economist, The Guardian, Forbes, The LA Times, Al Jazeera, VICE World News, Sydney Morning Herald, ProPublica, The American Interest, Plough, The Hill, and World News Group amongst many others.

One Long Listening
Chenxing Han
North Atlantic Books
9781623177850, $17.95, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Immigrant daughter, novice chaplain, bereaved friend, with the publication of "One Long Listening: A Memoir of Grief, Friendship, and Spiritual Care", author Chenxing Han takes us on a pilgrimage through the wilds of grief and laughter, pain and impermanence, reconnecting us to both the heartache and inexplicable brightness of being human.

Eddying around three autumns of Han's life, "One Long Listening" journeys from a mountaintop monastery in Taiwan to West Coast oncology wards, from oceanside Ireland to riverfront Phnom Penh. Through letters to a dying friend, bedside chaplaincy visits, and memories of a migratory childhood, Han's startling, searching memoir cuts a singular portrait of a spiritual caregiver in training.

Just as we touch the depths, bracing for resolution, Han's swift, multilingual prose sweeps us back to unknowingness: not knowing is most intimate. Chinese mothers, hillside graves. A dreamed olive tree, a lost Siberian crane. The music of scripts and silence. These shards (bright, broken, giddy, aching) are mirrors to our own lives in joy and sorrow.

A testament to enduring connection by a fresh and urgent new literary voice, "One Long Listening" asks fearlessly into the stories we inhabit, the hopes we relinquish, and what it means simply to be, to and for the ones we love.

Critique: Articulate, eloquent, absorbing, thought-provoking, memorable, "One Long Listening: A Memoir of Grief, Friendship, and Spiritual Care" raises this real life memoir and autobiography to a literary excellence that is typically only associated with with internationally acclaimed fiction. Of special appeal to readers with an interest in Asian American Studies, Grief and Bereavement, "One Long Listening" is a strong and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Biography/Memoir and Buddhist Philosophy collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "One Long Listening" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Chenxing Han ( is the author of "Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists" (North Atlantic Books, 2021). She is a regular contributor to Lion's Roar, Tricycle, Buddhadharma, and other publications, and a frequent speaker and workshop leader at schools, universities, and Buddhist communities across the nation. She has received fellowships from Hedgebrook, Hemera Foundation, the Lenz Foundation, and the Institute of Buddhist Studies. Chenxing holds a BA from Stanford University and an MA in Buddhist Studies from the Graduate Theological Union. Her chaplaincy training began in Cambodia and continued in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she completed a year long residency on an oncology ward. She is a co-teacher of Listening to the Buddhists in Our Backyard at Phillips Academy Andover and a co-organizer of May We Gather: A National Buddhist Memorial for Asian American Ancestors.

Troubles and Triumphs: The Robert Young Story
Dan McGuire
BearManor Media
9798887710778, $35.00, HC, 230pp

Synopsis: An introvert by nature, Robert Young found that he could overcome his shyness by taking on other personalities when he performed with his high school's drama group.

Further schooling in theatre arts at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he appeared in many productions, led to a screen test and a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Louis B. Mayer, the top man at MGM, said, "Young has no sex appeal." Yet during his years with the studio Robert starred in dozens of films and had prime supporting roles in many others.

After leaving MGM to freelance for several years, he branched out into radio and starred on the popular series Father Knows Best. He then repeated his parental role in its television adaptation, followed by Marcus Welby, M.D., both highly acclaimed series for which he won several awards. But for most of his adult years, unknown to all but his family and some close friends, Robert suffered from a chronic illness-one that almost killed him.

Supported by his beloved wife Elizabeth, he persevered, entertaining millions of moviegoers, radio listeners, and television viewers well into his senior years. "Troubles and Triumphs: The Robert Young Story" by author and biographer Dan McGuire is his story.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of numerous black/white historical photos, "Troubles and Triumphs (hardback): The Robert Young Story" is an inherently interest read and will have a very special appeal for readers with an interest in the life and achievements of Robert Young (February 22, 1907 - July 21, 1998). Meticulously researched and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Troubles and Triumphs: The Robert Young Story" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library American Actor/Entertainer and Television Performer Biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of Robert Young fans that this impressively informative life story of Robert Young is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798887710761, $25.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

The General Fiction Shelf

The Womanpriest
Stafford Betty
Roundfire Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781803411248, $18.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis; Macrina McGrath is a young Catholic woman, 22-year-old ex-Marine and unwed mother, begins to see cracks in the Church she grew up loving. Bad priests preying on children, harsh treatment of the divorced, a deep-seated and toxic sexism toward the LGBTQ., and archaic dogmas force her to choose between leaving the Church or trying to make it better.

Graduate school in theology at Georgetown and a trip to India help form her resolve: She will stop at nothing to take the Church out of the Middle Ages and deliver women from their abject status. She joins and soon heads the excommunicated Womanpriest movement and with help from the Archbishop of Boston becomes the leader of disaffected Catholics who want change.

The world notices the indomitable American willing to take on the Vatican, and she achieves a spiritual stardom the equal of the pope. Where will all this lead? Meanwhile she contacts the daughter she gave up to adoption; and Ezra, the man she has long loved since their teaching days together at Amherst, reaches out to her one last time.

Now she must choose between family life with him and the new Catholicism she helped create, where women and men minister on an equal basis. Her choice will affect world history.

Critique: Simply stated, "The Womanpriest" by novelist Stafford Betty is a riveting read that will have special and particular appeal to readers with an interest in Christian/Religious mysteries in general, and the tensions within the contemporary Catholic Church in particular. An original, entertaining, thought-provoking, and iconoclastic work of fiction, "The Womanpriest" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99) and is a highly recommended pick for community and academic library Contemporary Fiction collections and personal reading lists.

Editorial Note: Stafford Betty is an author of fiction and non-fiction. Professor of religion at California State University, Stafford earned his PhD in theology from Fordham University. (

The Marriage Box
Corie Adjmi
She Writes Press
9781647420796, $17.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Casey Cohen, a Middle Eastern Jew, is a sixteen-year-old in New Orleans in the 1970s when she starts hanging out with the wrong crowd. Then she gets in trouble and her parents turn her whole world upside down by deciding to return to their roots, the Orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn.

In this both new and foreign world, families gather weekly for Shabbat dinner; parties are extravagant events at the Museum of Natural History; and the Marriage Box is a real place, a pool deck designated for teenage girls to put themselves on display for potential husbands.

Casey is at first shocked by this unfamiliar culture, but after she meets Michael, she's enticed by it. Looking for love and a place to belong, she marries him at eighteen, believing she can adjust to Syrian ways. But she begins to question her decision when she discovers that Michael doesn't want her to go to college; he wants her to have a baby instead.

Can Casey integrate these two opposing worlds, or will she have to leave one behind in order to find her way?

Critique: Original, entertaining, thought-provoking, and showing author Corie Adjmi's impressive and genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven and descriptive storytelling style that fully engages the reader's attention from first page to last, "The Marriage Box" is all the more impressive when considering that it is Corie Adjmi's debut as a novelist. A compelling read for those interested in Jewish culture, family life, and women's issues and also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49), "The Marriage Box" is a very highly recommended acquisition choice for community library General Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Corie Adjmi is the author of the short story collection Life and Other Shortcomings, which won an International Book Award, an IBPA Benjamin Franklin award, and an American Fiction Award. Her essays and short stories have appeared in dozens of journals and magazines, including HuffPost, North American Review, Indiana Review, Medium, Motherwell, Kveller, and others.

The Summer Place
Jennifer Weiner
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781501133572, $28.99, HC, 432pp

Synopsis: When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah's mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family's beach house in Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.

But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life.

Sarah's twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is - questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah's husband, Eli, who's been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.

When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.

Critique: A deftly crafted and fully entertaining novel with a special appeal to readers with an interest in Family/Domestic Life issues and stories from a woman's perspective, "The Summer Place" is a 'must' for the legions of JenniferWeiner fans. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Summer Place" is also available in a paperback edition (9781501133589, $18.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Simon & Schuster Audio, 9781797138381, $39.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Jennifer Weiner ( is the author of twenty-one books, including The Summer Place, That Summer, Big Summer, Mrs. Everything, In Her Shoes, Good in Bed, and a memoir in essays, Hungry Heart. She has appeared on many national television programs, including Today and Good Morning America, and her work has been published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, among other newspapers and magazines.

Back to the Dirt
Frank Bill
FSG Originals
c/o Farrar, Straus & Giroux
9780374534431, $18.00, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: Miles is a Vietnam veteran who's worried he's going to lose his job (and with it his tenuous grasp on a stable life) over a fight with a coworker. His PTSD and struggles to control his steroid-fueled violent tendencies also complicate his relationship with his girlfriend, Shelby, a stripper who only occasionally displays the proverbial heart of gold.

But she is certainly kinder and more generous than her brother, Wylie, who has been implicated in the deaths of two local Oxy dealers and is currently on the run. When Wylie kidnaps Shelby and holes up in Miles's country lair, it all threatens to become a bit too much for Miles.

As the layers of Miles's personal history are peeled away, going deep into his memories of the Vietnam War, "Back to the Dir"t gets to the root of the traumas that have caused Miles and his community so much adversity.

Critique: "Back to the Dirt" is blistering and original story of trying to abide by core values (living close to the land, working with your hands) that all to often been obscured by neglect, drug abuse, and desperation. What remains is a profound and important novel of an America that is only now beginning to get its due attention -- and author/novelist Frank Bill is its most visceral, essential chronicler. While "Back to the Dirt" is a riveting and recommended addition to community library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in action/adventure with a critically important underlying message showcasing a dark underbelly of American life for so many PTSD veterans today, that "Back to the Dirt" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Frank Bill ( is the author of "The Ravaged", with co-author Norman Reedus; the novels The Savage and Donnybrook, the latter of which was turned into a film in 2018; and the story collection Crimes in Southern Indiana, one of GQ's favorite books of 2011 and a Daily Beast best debut of 2011.

The Bird Hotel
Joyce Maynard
Arcade Publishing
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
9781956763737, $29.99, HC, 432pp

Synopsis: After a childhood filled with heartbreak, Irene, a talented artist, finds herself in a small Central American village where she checks into a beautiful but decaying lakefront hotel called La Llorona at the base of a volcano.

"The Bird Hotel" by novelist Joyce Maynard tells the story of this young American who, after suffering tragedy, restores and runs La Llorona. Along the way we meet a rich assortment of characters who live in the village or come to stay at the hotel. With a mystery at its center and filled with warmth, drama, romance, humor, pop culture, and a little magical realism,

Critique: A truly 'must read' pick for the legions of Joyce Maynard fanst, "The Bird Hotel" is a sweeping saga of a novel spanning four decades, and offering lyricism, whimsy, and local color drawn from the author's more than twenty years in which she has spent a significant amount of her time in a small Mayan indigenous village in Guatemala. As original as it is a fun read from cover to cover, "The Bird Hotel" is an particularly recommended addition for community library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of those who are interested in 'magical realism' fiction, Hispanic American fiction, and Rural/Small Town fiction, that "The Bird Hotel" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: Joyce Maynard ( has published hundreds of essays as well as eighteen books, both fiction and non-fiction, including the memoir At Home in the World and the novels To Die For and Labor Day, both adapted for film. Her novel, Count the Ways, was recently awarded the Grand Prix Literaire in France. Every winter for over two decades, Maynard has led the Lake Atitlan Memoir workshop, Write by the Lake, in Guatemala.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Starring Adele Astaire
Eliza Knight
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
Blackstone Audiobooks
9780063209206, $18.99, PB, 400pp

Synopsis: Adele Astaire was a glittering, glamorous star, dancing with her brother, Fred, endearing herself to audiences from New York to London. But although she is toasted by royalty and beloved by countless fans, Adele Astaire has dreams of a loving husband and a houseful of children. And when she meets Lord Charles Cavendish, her wishes may just come true -- but at what cost?

Ever since Violet Wood could walk she's wanted to dance on the London stage. Befriended by Adele, filled with ambition, she is more than willing to make the sacrifices it will take to becomes a star herself, and her rags-to-riches hopes are within reach. But the road to fame is never easy.

From the fast-paced world of roaring 20s New York to the horrors and sacrifice of wartime London, Adele's and Violet's lives intertwine, and each must ask themselves is fame worth the price you must pay?

Critique: A masterpiece of biographical fiction based on the life of the legendary Fred Astaire's relatively obscure sister, "Starring Adele Astaire" author Eliza Knight plays fair with the non-fiction aspects of Adele's life. An entertaining, even fascinating read from cover to cover, "Starring Adele Astaire" is an especially recommended addition to community library Historical/Biographical Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in women's fiction that "Starring Adele Astaire" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212689946, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Eliza Knight ( is an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Novelists, Inc., and the creator of the popular historical blog, History Undressed.

In Feast or Famine
Mesu Andrews
WaterBrook Press
9780593193785, $17.00, PB, 448pp

Synopsis: After four-year-old Asenath's mother is murdered by Egypt's foreign rulers, the child is raised to be a priestess by her overprotective father who is the high priest of Ra, Egypt's sun god.

For fifteen years, Asenath is sequestered in the upper levels of Ra's temple, convinced it is her destiny to heal the land by becoming queen to the next Egyptian pharaoh. But when Egypt's foreign king instead gives her as a bride to the newly appointed vizier (a Hebrew named Joseph) her entire world is shaken.

Beyond the walls of her tower, Asenath discovers treachery, deceit, and conspiracy that combine in forcing her to redefine her destiny and weigh where her true loyalties lie. Can she still trust the gods of Egypt? Or is Elohim, the foreign God of her husband, the one who will heal her nation during the feast and famine to come?

Critique: The newest addition to novelist Mesu Andrews simply outstanding 'The Egyptian Chronicles' series, "In Feast or Famine" is a compelling and inherently fascinating story that will have a particular appeal to readers with an interest in Biblical Fiction. Deftly crafted, entertaining, memorable, "In Feast of Famine" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "In Feast or Famine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Mesu Andrews ( is the Christy Award-winning author of numerous inspirational novels including the Treasures of the Nile series, the Prophets and Kings series, and "Potiphar's Wife", the first book in the Egyptian Chronicles series. Her deep understanding of and love for God's Word help her to bring the biblical world alive for readers.

Shadows We Carry
Meryl Ain
c/o Spark Point Studio
9781684632008, $17.95, PB, 296pp

Synopsis: "Shadows We Carry" is the eagerly anticipated sequel to Meryl Ain's award-winning post-Holocaust novel "The Takeaway Men". It follows Bronka and JoJo Lubinski as they find themselves on the cusp of momentous change for women in the late 1960s. With the United States in the grip of political and social upheaval, the twins and a number of their peers, including a Catholic priest and the son of a Nazi, struggle with their family's ancestry and how much influence it has on their lives. Meanwhile, both young women seek to define their roles as women, and as individuals.

Critique: Enlightening and evocative, "Shadows We Carry" by Meryl Ain deftly explores the experience of navigating deeply held family secrets and bloodlines, confusing religious identities, and the scars of World War II in the wake of revolutionary societal changes. Original, exceptional, fully engaging from cover to cover, "Shadows We Carry" is a compelling, thought-provoking, and entertaining read from cover to cover and unreservedly recommended for community library Jewish literature, family/women's domestic life fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shadows We Carry" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Meryl Ain ( is a writer, author, podcaster, and career educator. "The Takeaway Men" (her award-winning post-Holocaust debut novel), was published in 2020. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications and she is the author of two nonfiction books. A member of The International Advisory Board for Holocaust Survivor Day, she is the host of the podcast People of the Book, and the founder of the Facebook group "Jews Love To Read!" She holds a BA from Queens College, an MA from Columbia University, and a doctorate in education from Hofstra University.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea
Patti Callahan Henry
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781668011836, $28.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: In the war-torn London of 1939, fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated to a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the kind Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry, in a charming stone cottage along the River Thames, Hazel fills their days with walks and games to distract her young sister, including one that she creates for her sister and her sister alone -- a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own.

But the unthinkable happens when young Flora suddenly vanishes while playing near the banks of the river. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister's disappearance, and she carries that guilt into adulthood as a private burden she feels she deserves.

Twenty years later, Hazel is in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore to a career at Sotheby's. With a charming boyfriend and her elegantly timeworn Bloomsbury flat, Hazel's future seems determined. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing an illustrated book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Hazel never told a soul about the imaginary world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora's disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years?

As Hazel embarks on a feverish quest, revisiting long-dormant relationships and bravely opening wounds from her past, her career and future hang in the balance. An astonishing twist ultimately reveals the truth in this transporting and refreshingly original novel about the bond between sisters, the complications of conflicted love, and the enduring magic of storytelling.

Critique: Original, eloquent, riveting, memorable, "The Secret Book of Flora Lea" deftly showcases author Patti Callahan Henry's literary talents as a novelist with a genuine and impressive flair for the kind of narrative driven and imaginative storytelling talents that keep the reader's rapt and compulsive page turning attention from cover to cover. A novel that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after th book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "The Secret Book of Flora Lee" is highly and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library History Fiction and Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Secret Book of Flora Lee" is also available in a paperback edition (Simon & Schuster, 9781668023136, $24.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99), and as a complete an unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797156002, $44.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Patti Callahan Henry ( is the author of fifteen novels, including the historical fiction (writing as Patti Callahan) Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis". In addition, she is the recipient of The Christy Award -- A 2019 Winner "Book of the Year"; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019, and the RNA UK finalist for Romantic Historical Fiction. She is also the co-founder of the Facebook weekly show Friends and Fiction.

Finding Home (Hungary, 1945)
Dean Cycon
Koehler Books
3705 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
9798888240755, $21.95, PB, 378pp

Synopsis: For nine months in Auschwitz, eighteen-year-old Eva Fleiss clung to sanity by playing piano on imaginary keyboards. After liberation, Eva and the five remaining Jews of Laszlo, Hungary, journey home, seeking to restart their lives. Yet the town that deported them is not ready to embrace their return. Their former neighbors and friends resist relinquishing their newfound status and property, and they struggle with their roles as perpetrators, enablers, and bystanders during the Holocaust.

Longing for connection to her old life, Eva agrees to clean her former home, now the mayor's home, in return for practice time on her piano. As her profound experiences allow her to access music at a depth she didn't know existed, Eva's performances begin to affect those around her - with unexpected consequences.

Critique: Original, intriguing, deftly crafted, "Finding Home (Hungary, 1945)" is all the more impressive when considering that this is author Dean Cycon's first novel. With a special appeal to readers with an interest in World War II fiction and Jewish literature, "Finding Home (Hungary 1945)" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library literary fiction collections. A novel that will linger in the mind and memory long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Finding Home (Hungary 1945)" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.49).

Editorial Note: Dean Cycon ( is an author, lawyer, human rights advocate, and social entrepreneur who has lived and worked in over sixty countries. A passionate explorer of culture and history, Dean seeks out unexamined corners that illuminate the human condition. He has previously published Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee, which was awarded the Gold Medal for Best Travel Essay by the Independent Publishers Association and has been translated into Chinese, Korean, and Spanish.

The LGBT Fiction Shelf

Chef's Choice
TJ Alexander
Emily Bestler Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
9781982189105, $17.99, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: When Luna O'Shea is unceremoniously fired from her frustrating office job, she tries to count her blessings: she's a proud trans woman who has plenty of friends, a wonderful roommate, and a good life in New York City. But blessings don't pay the bills.

Enter Jean-Pierre, a laissez-faire trans man and the heir to a huge culinary empire -- which he will only inherit if he can jump through all the hoops his celebrity chef grandfather has placed in his path.

First hoop: he needs a girlfriend, a role that Luna is happy to play -- for the right price. She's got rent to pay, after all! Second hoop: they both need to learn how to cook a series of elaborate, world-renowned family recipes to prove that Jean-Pierre is a worthy heir.

Admittedly, Luna doesn't even know how to crack an egg, but she's not going to let that (or any pesky feelings for Jean-Pierre) stop her.

Critique: Original, fun, and deftly crafted, "Chef's Choice" by TJ Alexander is another of those 'swoon-worthy' and heartwarming LGBTQ love stories that will have both a special attraction and universal value for readers with an interest in contemporary romantic comedy. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797160894, $39.99, CD), "Chef's Choice" is a unique and unreservedly recommended pick for community library LGBTQ Fiction and Contemporary Romance collections.

Editorial Note: TJ Alexander ( is an amateur baker and author who writes about queer love. Originally from Florida, they received their MA in writing and publishing from Emerson College in Boston. They live in New York City with their wife and various houseplants. They are represented by Larissa Melo Pienkowski of Jill Grinberg Literary Management (

Love at First Set
Jennifer Dugan
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780063307483, $18.99, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: The gym is Lizzie's life -- it's her passion, her job, and the only place that's ever felt like home. Unfortunately, her bosses consider her a glorified check-in girl at best, and the gym punching bag at worst.

When their son, Lizzie's best friend, James, begs her to be his plus one at his perfect sister Cara's wedding, things go wrong immediately, and culminate in Lizzie giving a drunken pep talk to a hot stranger in the women's bathroom -- except that stranger is actually the bride-to-be, and Lizzie has accidentally convinced her to ditch her groom.

Now, newly directionless Cara is on a quest to find herself, and Lizzie (desperate to make sure her bosses never find out her role in this fiasco) gets strong-armed by James into "entertaining" her. Cara doesn't have to know it's a setup; it'll just be a quick fling before she sobers up and goes back to her real life. After all, how could someone like Cara fall for someone like Lizzie, with no career and no future?

But the more Lizzie gets to know Cara, the more she likes her, and the bigger the potential disaster if any of her rapidly multiplying secrets get out. Because now it's not just Lizzie's job and entire future on the line, but also the girl of her dreams.

Critique: A deftly crafted and fun read from cover to cover, "Love at First Set" by novelist Jennifer Dugan will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in contemporary and romantic LGBTQ comedy. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), "Love at First Set" is a recommended pick for community library Romance Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Jennifer Dugan ( is the author of the young adult novels Melt With You, Some Girls Do, Verona Comics, and Hot Dog Girl. She is also the author of the YA graphic novel Coven.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Sidle Creek
Jolene McIlwain, author
Melville House
9781685890414, $17.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Sidle Creek" (a compendium of twenty-two short stories), author Jolene McIlwain skillfully interrogates the myths and stereotypes of the mining, mill, and farming towns where she grew up.

Jolene's stories take place in diners and dive bars, town halls and bait shops, In her writing Jolene explores the themes of class, work, health, and trauma, and the unexpected human connections of small, close-knit communities. All the while, the wild beauty of the natural world weaves its way in, a source of the town's livelihood -- and its vulnerable to natural resource exploitation.

Critique: Original and carefully crafted with 'an alchemic blend of taut prose, gorgeous imagery, and deep sensitivity for all of the living beings' "Sidle Creek" each featured short story showcases author Jolene McIlwain's impressive narrative driven storytelling skills. An entertaining, thought-provoking, and memorable read with each story being an extraordinary and memorable literary experience, "Sidle Creek" is especially and particularly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction and Short Story Anthology collections. It should be noted that "Sidle Creek" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Jolene McIlwain ( has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and appeared in numerous literary journals, and in 2019's Best Small Fictions Anthology. Her work was named finalist for 2018's Best of the Net, Glimmer Train's and River Styx's contests, and was a semifinalist in Nimrod's Katherine Anne Porter Prize. She's taught literary theory/analysis at Duquesne and Chatham Universities.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Seven Exes
Lucy Vine
Harper Perennial
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780063299849, $17.99, PB, 432pp

Synopsis: Esther is nearing thirty, with a great job and a flat she shares with her two best friends, Bibi and Louise. But her life is missing that special someone. Tired of being single and sick of bad date after bad date, she thinks she's found the answer to her romance problem in an old women's magazine.

According to the magazine's dating column, there are seven archetypes a woman will date before finding Mr. Right. It all seems silly at first, until Esther realizes she has exactly seven exes that match the profiles: The First Love, The Work Mistake, The Overlap, The Friend with Benefits, The Missed Chance, The Bastard, and The Serious One. Is it so hard to believe that perhaps one of them is The One?

Deciding she must have left her true love in the reject pile, Esther contacts each of her old boyfriends. But finding her soulmate isn't as simple as she hoped it would be. Madness, mayhem, laughs, and tears ensue as she valiantly works her way through her past love life and faces up to her previous mistakes. It's an odyssey of the heart that will teach her a lot about herself -- and just might lead her to the man of her dreams!

Critique: "Seven Exes" by novelist Lucy Vine is an original, memorable and fun read from cover to cover -- especially for fans of contemporary romantic comedies. Exceptionally well written and oh-so-familiar to anyone who has labored hard to find Mr. Right, "Seven Exes" will prove to be an immediate and popular addition to community library Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated Rom-Com fans tht "Seven Exes" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Lucy Vine ( is a writer, editor and the author of Hot Mess, What Fresh Hell, Are We Nearly There Yet? and Bad Choices. Her books have been translated into sixteen languages around the world, with Hot Mess optioned for a TV series. She has been nominated twice for the Comedy Women In Print Award and hosts the podcast and live event series Hot Mess Clubhouse, celebrating funny women. Her journalism has appeared in international publications, including Grazia, Stylist, heat, Fabulous, New, Now, Marie Claire, Glamour Online, Cosmopolitan, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, and The Mirror.

The Secret to Happiness
Suzanne Woods Fisher
Fleming H. Revell Company
c/o Baker Publishing Group
9780800743154, $29.99, HC, 294pp

Synopsis: Fired from her dream job after making a huge mistake, Callie Dixon lands at her aunt's Cape Cod ice cream shop, hoping that in time, she'll bounce back. But she made that mistake for a reason that time won't help. When her cousin drags her to a class on happiness, the instructor (curiously gloomy and demanding) has a way of turning her feelings upside down!

Critique: Original, memorable and a fun read from first page to last, "The Secret to Happiness" showcases author Suzanne Woods Fisher's natural flair for originality and the kind of deftly scripted and narrative driven storytelling style that keeps her reader's rapt and entertained attention from cover to cover. While highly recommended for community library Contemporary Romance collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of those seeking clean and wholesome Christian romance novels that "The Secret to Happiness" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780800739485, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, 9.99).

Editorial Note: Suzanne Woods Fisher ( is the author of more than 30 books, including The Moonlight School, Anything but Plain, The Sweet Life, and The Secret to Happiness, as well as the Three Sisters Island, Nantucket Legacy, Amish Beginnings, The Bishop's Family, The Deacon's Family, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series. She is also the author of several nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and Amish Proverbs. She lives in California. She can be followed on Facebook @SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor and on Twitter @suzannewfisher

The Front Porch Club
Michelle Major
Canary Street Press
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781335430656, $9.99, Mass Market PB, 384pp

Synopsis: The downside to having a picture-perfect life is that there's nowhere to go but down -- and Annalise Haverford is falling fast. Once, she was the self-proclaimed queen bee of Magnolia, North Carolina. Now her husband has been arrested for fraud, and she's become an outcast in the shallow circles she used to rule. There's only one affordable rental in town, and it's owned by the woman Annalise got fired from a lucrative job.

Much as single mother Shauna Myer would like to refuse Annalise, who treated her like dirt on the bottom of her red-soled shoe, she needs that rent money. But when Shauna's first love arrives in town, unraveling secrets she'd hoped to keep, Annalise becomes her unlikely defender. Meghan Banks, an elementary school art teacher whose quiet existence suddenly descends into chaos, is thrown an unexpected lifeline by Annalise, too.

As spring ripens into a sultry summer, the three spur each other on to share their fears and dreams, face new challenges, and seize second chances. Because no matter how turbulent life may be, it's much easier to navigate those choppy waters when you're buoyed by true friendship.

Critique: Also featuring a bonus novella (A Carolina Dance), "The Front Porch Club" by Michelle Major will have an immense appeal to fans with an interest in small town/rural fiction in general, and Contemporary Romance in particular. With a decided flair for originality, creating memorable characters and the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that keeps the reader's invested from beginning to end, "The Front Porch Club" is unreservedly recommended as a popular addition to community library Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Front Porch Club" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212224314, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Michelle Major ( writes contemporary romance stories with a focus on hope, humor and a place to call home -- stories of new beginnings, second chances and always a happily ever after.

Man of Shadow and Mist
Michelle Griep
Barbour Publishing
1810 Barbour Drive, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
Oasis Audio
9781636095653, $15.99, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: England, 1890. Vampires are alive and well in North Yorkshire, leastwise in the minds of the uneducated. Librarian Rosa Edwards intends to drive a stake through the heart of such superstitions. But gossip flies when the mysterious Sir James Morgan returns to his shadowy manor. The townsfolk say he is cursed.

James hates everything about England. The weather. The rumours. The scorn. Yet he must stay. His mother is dying of a disease for which he's desperately trying to find a cure -- an illness that will eventually take his own life.

When Rosa sets out to prove the dark gossip about James is wrong, she discovers more questions than answers. How can she accept what she can't explain -- especially the strong allure of the enigmatic man? James must battle a town steeped in fear as well as the unsettling attraction he feels for the no-nonsense librarian.

Can love prevail in a town filled with fear and doubt?

Critique: Deftly crafted and impressively original, "Man of Shadow & Mist" by author Michelle Griep that will have special and enduring appeal to readers with an interest in historical Christian romance novels. A fun and fascinating read from cover to cover, "Man of Shadow & Mist" will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly popular pick for community library Romance Fiction collections and is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Oasis Audio, 9781685924034, $37.99, CD)

Editorial Note: Michelle Griep ( is the Christy Award-winning author of historical romances: A Tale of Two Hearts, The Captured Bride, The Innkeeper's Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood's Ward, A Heart Deceived, and Gallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan.

The Weaving of Life
Linda Byler
Good Books
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
9781680998603, $16.99, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Susan Lapp is a hardworking Amish woman in her early twenties. She enjoys the financial independence that working two jobs (one as a house cleaner and the other in a local deli in Lancaster) affords her. And based on her sisters' tumultuous experiences with their husbands, she has no interest in dating or marriage. She's perfectly content with her life as it is, thank you very much.

When Susan's best friend Beth begins to date Susan's brother Mark, the couple is determined to play matchmaker for Susan. Susan begrudgingly agrees to humor them and soon finds herself caught between an undeniable attraction for one of Mark's coworkers and her unflinching commitment to staying single.

Soon, her complicated feelings take her in directions she once couldn't have imagined. She experiences hardship like she never has before, including homesickness, miserable weather in a place that feels so foreign, and an incredibly challenging job. And despite her attempts to escape romantic entanglements, she finds herself longing for the stability and familiarity of a committed relationship back home.

Still, she wrestles with fear and uncertainty. How is she to know God's will for her life?

Critique: Of special and particular appeal to readers with an interest in Christian Romance fiction, "The Weaving of Life" is the debut volume of novelist Linda Byler's 'New Directions' series. A deftly crafted, fun, and inherently interesting read from beginning to end, "The Weaving of Life" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular pick for community library Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Weaving of Life" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99), while librarians should be advised that it is also available in a Library Binding edition (Thorndike Press, 9798885791502, $32.99, Large Print).

Editorial Note: Linda Byler ( grew up Amish and is an active member of the Amish Church today. Well known within the Amish community as a columnist for a weekly Amish newspaper, she is also the author of the Amish romance novel series, Lizzie Searches for Love.

Twelve Hours in Manhattan
Maan Gabriel
She Writes Press
9781647423957, $17.95, PB, 312pp

Synopsis: Two worlds. One heart. Twelve hours.

Bianca Maria Curtis is at the brink of losing it all when she meets Eric at a bar in Manhattan. Eric, as it turns out, is the famous Korean drama celebrity Park Hyun Min, and he's in town for one night to escape the pressures of fame. From walking along Fifth Avenue to eating ice cream at Serendipity to sharing tender moments on top of the Empire State building, sparks fly as Bianca and Eric spend twelve magical hours far away from their respective lives. In that time, they talk about the big stuff: love, life, and happiness, and the freedom they both seek to fully exist and not merely survive.

But real life is more than just a few exhilarating stolen moments in time.

As the clock strikes the twelfth hour, Bianca returns back to the life she detests to face a tragedy that will test her strength and resolve -- and the only thing she has to keep going is the memory of a man she loves in secret from a world away.

Critique: An original and fun novel by Maan Gabriel, "Twelve Hours In Manhattan" is especially recommended to the attention of readers with an interest in coming of age novels and stories of contemporary big city romance. Memorable characters set in a storyline that has more twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster, "Twelve Hours In Manhattan" is especially recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Twelve Hours In Manhattan" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Maan Gabriel ( is a mom, wife, dreamer, writer, and advocate for women's stories in literature. She earned her BA in communications from St. Scholastica's College in Manila and MPS in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University. She is also the author of the novel "After Perfect".

The Tapestry of Grace
Kim Vogel Sawyer
WaterBrook Press
9780593194386, $17.00, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: With classes paused for the planting season, Alexandertol's schoolteacher Augusta Dyck is glad for some meaningful work to occupy her time. She even knows exactly who their town's benevolence society should help first: quiet, reserved widower Konrad Rempel and his young twin sons.

Konrad Rempel, however, is adamant that he doesn't want help. His boys are mischievous but good-hearted. And though Konrad may be struggling, he doesn't want anyone else sticking their nose in and telling him what his sons need. Or what he needs.

For her part, the charity's founder Martina Krahn is relieved to have a reason to spend time outside her unhappy home. It even occurs to her that she may, through her work, encounter a boy in need of a family and so find a son for her husband since they have no children of their own.

Augusta, Konrad, and Martina each have deep needs and desires, and each imagines how they should be met: by reaching out or by being left alone. But God, indeed, knows best. Will the competing agendas of Alexandertol's residents prevent them from receiving God's help? Or will the members of this small Mennonite community find the answers to their prayers in the very last place they expect -- in one another?

Critique: An impressively written novel of historical Christian romance by veteran author Kim Vogel Sawyer, "The Tapestry of Grace" is the stuff of which Hallmark Movies are made and is unabashedly recommended reading for the growing legions of Kim Vogel Sawyer fans. While with the highest recommendation, "The Tapestry of Grace" will prove a welcome and enduringly popular pick for community library Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Tapestry of Grace" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99). Librarians should be aware that there is a large print edition for "The Tapestry of Grace" (Thorndike Press, 9798885788694, $33.99, Library Binding).

Editorial Note: Kim Vogel Sawyer ( is a highly acclaimed author with more than 1.5 million books in print in seven languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Love Buzz
Neely Tubati Alexander
Harper Perennial
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780063292918, $17.99, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: A wretched maid of honor. A hangover from hell. Raucous Mardi Gras crowds. There isn't much Serena Khan is enjoying about this four-day New Orleans destination bachelorette party for her semi-estranged cousin, the bride-to-be.

That is until sparks fly with a handsome stranger, at the ladies' last stop of the evening in a Bourbon Street bar. He (like her) is also from Seattle. After their conversation is cut short, Serena is overwhelmed by the desire to find the charming man with the brooding eyebrows, but her list of clues is pretty short -- His name is Julian. He lives on Chamber Hill. He works at a tech company. He loves Lil Wayne and Nirvana.

The need to find him is, for Serena, both irresistible and totally irrational. In a few short weeks, her college alumni magazine is featuring her in a "Life at Thirty" feature, cementing her as a success story. She will have officially achieved the safe, stable life her late mother insisted upon. Julian is not part of the plan.

As she combs Seattle for her New Orleans flame, stripping away the perfectly curated life that would have made her mother proud, Serena must decide if the pursuit of real passion is worth it, and fast, before she destroys the life she always thought she wanted.

Critique: Funny, thoughtful, original, and romantic, "Love Buzz" is an deftly crafted novel by Neely Tubati Alexander that will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Rom-Com style contemporary romance. The stuff of which Hallmark Movies are made, "Love Buzz" is unreservedly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections and is also readily available for the personal reading lists of dedicated Rom-Com fans in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Neely Tubati Alexander ( is the author of women's fiction with rom-com feels you can escape into with a smile.

Come November
Scott Lord
Greenleaf Book Group Press
9798886450521, $28.95, HC, 424pp

Synopsis: November 1947: Jeanne and John, two newspaper journalists, fall in young love as they travel from Chicago to New York to witness the momentous vote of the United Nations to partition Palestine and create the State of Israel. When they discover an assassination plot meant to swing the outcome, they must put their personal lives on hold and race the clock to stop it, uncovering elaborate details of international politics along the way.

Fifty years later, having gone their separate ways, the two reconnect in Italy. Set against a stunning pastoral backdrop, Jeanne and John relive those turbulent days together and explore whether their love has stood the test of time.

Critique: "Come November" by novelist Scott Lord will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in an operatic Italian romance, politics, family bonds, misunderstandings, and second chances, and international thrillers. With more plot twists than a Disneyland roller coaster, "Come November" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Historical Romance and Suspense Thriller collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Come November" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, 16 Hours, 5 Minutes).

Editorial Note: Scott Lord ( is a longtime Los Angeles trial lawyer, writer, and librettist. He is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Santa Clara University School of Law.

In This Moment
Gabrielle Meyer
Bethany House Publishers
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton Road, Ada, MI 49301
9780764241796, $29.99, HC, 390pp

Synopsis: Maggie inherited a gift from her time-crossing parents that allows her to live three separate lives in 1861 Washington D.C., 1941 Pearl Harbor, and 2001 DC. Each night, she goes to sleep in one time period and wakes up in another. Until she turns twenty-one, when she will have to forfeit two of those lives (and everyone she knows in them) forever.

In 1861, Maggie is the daughter of a senator at the outbreak of the Civil War, navigating a capital full of Southern spies and wounded soldiers. In 1941, she is a navy nurse, grappling with her knowledge of the future when she joins a hospital ship going to Pearl Harbor. And in 2001, she's a brilliant young medical student, fulfilling her dream of becoming a surgeon.

While Maggie has sworn off romance until she makes her final choice, an intriguing man tugs at her heart in each era, only complicating the impossible decision she must make, which looms ever closer. With so much on the line, how can Maggie choose just one life to keep and the rest to lose?

Critique: A deftly penned and strikingly original novel that will have a special appeal to readers with an interest time travel romances, "In This Moment" by Gabrielle Meyer will prove to be a an inherently fascinating and simply riveting novel and one that will be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "In This Moment" is also available in a paperback edition (9780764239755, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Gabrielle Meyer ( has worked for state and local historical societies and loves writing fiction inspired by real people, places, and events. She currently resides along the banks of the Mississippi River in central Minnesota with her husband and four children. By day, she's a busy home schooling mom, and by night she pens fiction and nonfiction filled with hope.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Murder Of Madison Garcia
March McCreary
CamCat Books
9780744308303, $26.99, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: Detective Susan Ford notices a missed call on her phone from a number she doesn't recognize, and when Madison Garcia, a woman with past ties to the town of Monticello, New York, is found stabbed to death the next morning, Susan realizes that Madison was the one who had called her. But why?

Susan teams up with her father, retired Detective Will Ford, to find the killer, and their investigation soon threatens to uncover Madison's family secrets - an inheritance, accidental death, money laundering, extramarital affairs, and family rivalries, just to name a few and they don't appreciate the Fords digging into their business.

As the investigation twists and turns, the Fords discover that Madison was planning to confess to a long-kept secret, but someone brutally silenced her. Everyone she knew is a suspect. Anyone could be her killer.

Critique: With a very special appeal to fans of police procedurals and murder mystery solving amateur female sleuths, "The Murder Of Madison Garcia" by novelist Marcy McCreary is a classic 'whodunnit' that is a fun read for dedicated Cozy Mystery enthusiasts and Police Procedural fans. The second book in the author's 'A Ford Family Mystery' series, and very highly recommended as a pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Murder Of Madison Garcia" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780744308419, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Marcy McCreary ( worked for several years as a marketing and sales executive at various magazine publishing companies and content marketing agencies before turning to fiction writing. She is the author of "The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon" the first of her 'A Ford Family Mystery' series published by CamCat Books.

Never Sleep
Fred Van Lente
Blackstone Publishing
9798200813490, $27.99, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: The year is 1861, the eve of Abraham Lincoln's inauguration. For Kate Warn, the first female private detective in American history, the only assignment tougher than exposing a conspiracy to assassinate the new president is training her new mentee, Hattie McLaughlin, in the art of detection. The two women's mission to save the president takes them from the granges of rural Maryland to the heart of secessionist high society, and sets them on a collision course that could alter the course of history. When Kate's cover is blown, Hattie must choose between saving her new friend, and her country.

Critique: Although a work of finely written fiction, "Never Sleep" by novelist Fred Van Lente is actually based on a true story. Readers with a interest in novels featuring women sleuths and historical mysteries will find "Never Sleep" a fun and interesting read from first page to last. While a very highly recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Never Sleep" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200813001, $31.95, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Fred Van Lente ( is a six-time New York Times bestseller for his graphic novels, including a number one with Dean Koontz's Odd Is on Our Side. His original graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens was adapted into a major motion picture starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. His fifteen years in comics have garnered him many awards, including an American Library Association Best Graphic Novel for Teens for Action Philosophers! Ten Speed Press published his latest non-fiction book, The Comic Book Story of Basketball.

Cherokee Emerald
R. M. Morgan
3rd Coast Books
9781946743541, $15.95, PB, 333pp

Synopsis: In the 1830s a tragedy was inflicted upon the Native American nations in the south-eastern USA. Sometimes called the Indian Removals -- the Cherokee, Muskogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations were moved from their ancestral homelands to areas west of the Mississippi River designated Indian Territory. The Cherokee were the last to be displaced in 1838, following the discovery of gold in Georgia. This displacement is known as the Trail of Tears.

A newlywed Cherokee huntsman named Waya discovered a magnificent natural treasure, a large Emerald of the deepest green. News of Waya's discovery quickly spread around Macon County. Knowing he would be soon forced to march westwards, Waya and his trusted friend Ian McDonald bury the treasure on the McDonald farm, hoping that someday Waya would be able to return and unearth it. Sadly, Waya never returned.

163 years later, the McDonald farm is burglarized and beset by night-time trespassers digging holes in a field. In desperation the McDonald's turn to the Roth Detective Agency for protection and answers. Harriet Roth, the master sleuth, assigns the case to Don Gannon her primary investigator and right-hand man.

Critique: With more plot twists and turns than a Disneyland roller coaster, "Cherokee Emerald" by R. M. Morgan will prove to be of particular interest to fans of the Mickey Spillane/Mike Hammer style detective murder mystery. A 'whodunnit' of the first order, "Cherokee Emerald is a fun and riveting read from first page to last. While readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99), "Cherokee Emerald" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended pick for community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: R. M. Morgan ( worked as an engineer in both the U.S. government and academia. In his job, he investigated mysteries like a detective, unraveling the physics of car crashes to establish how to save drivers and passengers. After years of writing articles in that world, R. M. Morgan discovered the joy of writing mystery novels. Currently, he lives in Southern California and is writing the fourth book in the Roth/Gannon series.If you enjoy detective mysteries, give R. M. Morgan novels a read. The books that keep the reader guessing whodunit right up to the end.

The Pigeon
David Gordon
The Mysterious Press
9781613164051, $17.95, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: Harvard dropout and ex-Special Forces operative Joe Brody is climbing the ranks in the criminal underworld. After successfully executing multiple missions for the various crime syndicates that run New York City, he has come to earn the trust and respect of the city's most dangerous denizens. Which is why his newest task (retrieving a pet pigeon snatched from a rooftop coop in Brooklyn) has Joe puzzled -- until he learns that the bird is valued at close to a million dollars.

Joe hatches a plan to sneak into the luxury park-side apartment building where the pigeon is held captive. But that simple plan takes a deadly turn when he stumbles upon a nest of international war criminals and a ruthless building manager overseeing the nefarious operation. Fearing that Joe's entry into the building has somehow compromised the scheme, they put a bounty on his head. In New York, Joe is untouchable, but his new foes come from outside the flock, and he'll need a wing and a prayer to elude their assassins.

Critique: With a series of impressive high-stakes action sequences that are punctuated by laugh out loud humor, "The Pigeon" by novelist David Gordon will have be of special and particular interest to fans of organized crime thrillers and hard-boiled mystery novels. A part of Gordon's 'Joe the Bounder' series, "The Pigeon" is readily available for dedicated crime novel buffs in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49) and a prime pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: David Gordon ( is the author of "The Serialist", which won the VCU/Cabell First Novel Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. It was also made into a major motion picture in Japan. His work has also appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Purple, and Fence, among other publications.

The House on Prytania
Karen White
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780593334621, $28.00, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: Nola Trenholm may not be psychic herself, but she's spent enough time around people who are to know when ghosts are present, and there are definitely a few lingering spirits in her recently purchased Creole cottage in New Orleans. Something, or someone, is keeping them tethered to this world. And not all of them are benign.

But with the sudden return of Sunny Ryan, Beau Ryan's long-lost sister, Nola has plenty to distract her from her ghostly housemates. Especially when the tempting (yet firmly unavailable) Beau, wanting to mete out justice to those he blames for Sunny's kidnapping, asks Nola for a favor that threatens to derail her hard-won recovery and send her hurtling backward. He asks her to welcome Michael Hebert back into her life, even though Michael is the reason for Nola's bruised heart. Beau is convinced that Michael's powerful family was behind Sunny's disappearance and that Michael is the key to getting information the police won't be able to ignore -- if Nola is willing to risk everything for which she's worked so hard.

Torn between helping Beau and protecting herself, Nola doesn't realize until it's almost too late why the ghosts are haunting her house -- a startling revelation that will throw her and Beau together to fight a common enemy. Assuming Nola can get Beau to listen to what the spirits are trying to tell him, because ignoring them could prove to be a fatal mistake!

Critique: A deftly blending of the supernatural with mystery and suspense, "The House on Prytania" is a 'must' for the legions of Karen White fans. Original, fun, populated by deftly crafted and memorable characters, and with a narrative driven plot that has more twists and turns than a Disneyland roller coaster, "The House on Prytania" will prove to be a high demand and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense and Supernatural Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists that "The House on Prytania" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99). Librarians should note that there is also a large print paperback edition of "The House on Prytania" (Random House Large Print, 9780593676752, $29.00, 560pp).

Editorial Note: Karen White ( is the author of more than thirty-two novels, including the Tradd Street series, The Shop on Royal Street, The Last Night in London, Dreams of Falling, The Night the Lights Went Out, Flight Patterns, The Sound of Glass, A Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the co-author of The Lost Summers of Newport, All the Ways We Said Goodbye, The Glass Ocean, and The Forgotten Room with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig.

The Way of the Bear
Anne Hillerman
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780062908391, $30.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: An unexpected death on a lonely road outside of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument raises questions for Navajo Tribal Police officers Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito. Why would a seasoned outdoorsman and well-known paleontologist freeze to death within walking distance of his car? A second death brings more turmoil. Who is the unidentified man killed during a home invasion where nothing much seems to have been taken? Why was he murdered?

The Bears Ears area, at the edge of the Navajo Nation, is celebrated for its abundance of early human habitation sites and the discovery of unique fossils which revolutionized the scientific view of how early animals dealt with their changing world. Chee and Manuelito appreciate the area's scenery and wealth of human and scientific resources, but their visit to this achingly beautiful place is disrupted by a current of unprecedented violence that sweeps them both into danger.

Illicit romance, a fossilized jawbone, hints of witchcraft, and a mysterious disappearance during a blizzard add to their peril. It will take all of Manuelito's and Chee's experience, skill, and intuition to navigate the threats that arise and see justice served.

Critique: An absolute 'must' for the growing legions of Anne Hellerman fans, "The Way of the Bear" is a riveting, compulsive page turner of a read from beginning to end. Of special appeal to readers with an interest in Native American themed suspense thrillers, as well as police procedural murder mysteries, "The Way of the Bear" is an unequivocally recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "The Way of the Bear" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HarperAudio, 9780063291898, $34.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Anne Hillerman ( is the gifted author of the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series. "The Way of the Bear" is her eighth novel in the series, which was originally created by her novelist father, Tony Hillerman. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona, and is hard at work on her next novel.

Sawdust Joint
Bob Adamov
Packard Island Publishing
9798985359336, $28.00, HC, 266pp

Synopsis: From Jamaica to Put-in-Bay to Wooster to Tulare to Las Vegas to London to Morocco to the French Riviera to Norway to New Orleans, what's killing dairy cows?

Investigative reporter Emerson Moore's search for the source takes a deadly turn when he focuses on infiltrating a British biotechnology company suspected to be involved with the deaths of the dairy cows and several humans.

Following the unexpected death of a close colleague, Moore faces his most formidable challenge yet as he embarks on a James Bond-like international odyssey with the help of a technological genius and a Royal Canadian Mountie as his unlikely wingman to confront a vengeful nemesis bent on bioterrorism.

Critique: A deftly scripted novel that includes casino action, a bevy of beautiful femme fatales, dangerous mountain road chases, treacherous cliff face climbing, incarceration in a Moroccan prison and high technology, and a diabolical villain, "Sawdust Joint" is the newest Emerson More adventure series by Bob Adamov. With more plot twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster, "Saw Dust Joint" has a special appeal to readers with an interest in action/adventure Technothriller crime novels. A fun read for mystery fans, "Sawdust Joint" is highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: Bob Adamov ( is an award-winning, Ohio mystery adventure author whose stories are based in the Lake Erie South Bass Island resort village of Put-in-Bay, the "Key West of the Midwest." His novels (with the exception of Memory Layne) follow the adventures of investigative reporter Emerson Moore, and are written in the style of Adamov's favorite author, Clive Cussler.Adamov was the featured author at the 2006 Ernest Hemingway Days' Literary Festival in Key West and named Writer of the Year by the University of Akron's Wayne College in 2010. Adamov has also presented for several of the Clive Cussler Collectors' Society conventions.

The School of Homer
Alexander Marriott
Vanguard Press
c/o Pegasus Publishers
9781800164208, $18.99, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: Virgil Colvin, a retired homicide detective, leaves his hometown Chicago to resurrect his honeymoon memories with his dead wife in Ithaca, Greece. There, he befriends the Vathy police chief, Costas Pantakalas, over stories of a shared profession and countless cups of ouzo.

One day, Virgil wakes to the violent tremors of the earth to find Ithaca has just had an earth quake. But that is not the only unusual occurrence. In the city's public square, at the feet of Odysseus, someone has dumped the body of a British tourist in the small hours of the morning.

He ran to the ends of the earth to escape his former life, but murder had other plans for Virgil Colvin. Together, Virgil and Costas join forces to track down a killer. But in their quest to find the murderer, will they unearth an even more astounding secret?

Critique: Fun, original, and a welcome addition to the personal reading lists of all dedicated crime thriller 'whodunnit' fans, "The School of Homer" is a riveting read that showcases the impressive storytelling talents of novelist Alexander Marriott. Simply stated, "The School of Homer" is an unreservedly recommended addition to both personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: Alexander Marriott ( is a trained historian and amateur world traveler who writes on topics in American intellectual and political history, as well as contemporary culture and society. He also publishes detective novels featuring his sleuth from Chicago (where Marriott hails from originally), Virgil Colvin, transplanted for life's second act in Greece.

Liquid Shades of Blue
James Polkinghorn
Oceanview Publishing
9781608095506, $27.95, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: When hungover ex-lawyer and Key West bar owner Jack Girard groggily wakes up one morning, he's greeted by a beautiful woman lying next to him and a shrill, ringing telephone. Seeing the call is from his father, Claude "The Duke" Girard, Jack answers. Within seconds, he learns that his mother is dead in an apparent suicide, and Jack hits the road, heading back to his childhood home in Miami to face his tyrannical father.

The death of his mother brings up haunting memories from Jack's past -- memories of his brother Bobby's suicide when they were in college together. Being back in Miami only continues to dredge up his family traumas, but things grow more complicated when The Duke suggests that his estranged wife's alleged suicide may have been a murder.

As Jack begins to uncover the truth about his mother's death, including the secret she had revealed to only two people (the same secret Bobby had taken with him to his grave) he finds himself in imminent danger. Can Jack reveal the true story before it's too late? He has to act quickly, or he fears he may be the victim of the next Girard family tragedy.

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Liquid Shades of Blue" is author James Polkinghorn's first novel, this psychological suspense thriller of a read will hold a special appeal for readers with an interest in carefully crafted amateur sleuth stories that come with more unexpected plot twists and turns than an Oklahoma tornado. Original, fascinating, memorable, "Liquid Shades of Blue" is highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections and is available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.49).

Editorial Note: James Polkinghorn is a lawyer and partner in a national law firm specializing in labor and employment law. He has extensive trial and litigation experience accumulated in multiple jurisdictions throughout the country. A Pittsburgh native, Polkinghorn moved with his family to Florida in high school, where he has since stayed. He has a degree in political science as well as a law degree from the University of Florida. He now lives in Key West with his wife, Becki, and their dog, Major Tom.

Summer Rental
Rektok Ross
Ic13 Books
9780988256828, $17.99, PB, 266pp

Synopsis: Riley March and her friends are headed to ritzy, remote Palm Key Island for one last blow-out party weekend before college. It's the vacation of a lifetime: beautiful beaches, epic nightlife, and hot guys like Riley's crush-superstar soccer player Sebastian Ramos. There's just one catch. Everyone on this trip is hiding something. Riley is hiding her past in order to fit in. Sebastian is hiding his feelings for Riley. And someone is hiding what really happened to Jordyn Chang, a classmate that mysteriously died last summer.

Things take a dark turn after one of their friends goes missing, and a hurricane cuts the group off from civilization. Trapped inside their rental house, a killer stalks them one by one. No one is safe. Everyone's a suspect. As the body count rises, Riley and her friends will have to confront the secrets they've been keeping if they want to stay alive.

Critique: With the publication of "Summer Rental", suspense thriller novelist Rektok Ross reveals a genuine flair for originality, deftly crafted characters, and the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that keeps the reader's riveted attention from first page to last. A compelling read with more plot twists and turns than a Disneyland roller coaster, "Summer Rental" will have a particular appeal to adolescent and young adult readers with an interest in coming of age stories blended with serial killer murder mysteries. The kind of novel that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf, "Summer Rental" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, highschool, and community library Mystery/Suspense collections for ages 16 to 26.

Editorial Note: Rektok Ross ( is an expert on young adult literature who has worked as a columnist for the national online magazine The Examiner, reporting on news and trends in YA. Her articles have also been featured in popular literature websites such as Frolic,, and Ross also has a successful book blog with a robust social media following on Instagram and Twitter and a popular Facebook group for readers and writers called The Book Nook. Most recently, she can be found hosting the popular weekly chat "Level Up Writers" on the Clubhouse app with her co-hosts Mary Weber and Sorboni Banerjee, teaching the business of being a writer.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Into Shadow: The Tallan Chronicles
Morgan Daimler
Cosmic Egg Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781803412184, $20.95, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: Muireann spent six months planning to kill the dragon that killed her family. Now the dragon is dead, and she's realized that it was actually the lesser threat guarding a devastating weapon that, if it falls into almost anyone's hands, will bring war and destruction to her world. It can't be left where it is. It can't be hidden. It can't be trusted in the hands of anyone in power or who seeks power.

Muireann's only option becomes a reluctant quest with the elf she rescued from the dragon, a would-be knight, a selkie, and an elven mage to find out as much as she can about the weapon and seek a way to understand the magic that created it. Pursued by a dragon-worshipping cult bent on revenge and a hidden enemy that will do anything to remake the world, the five friends must try to find answers before all is lost.

Muireann thought that killing a dragon was going to be impossible. Saving the world is going to be much harder.

Critique: A deftly crafted and epic fantasy saga, "Into Shadow: The Tallan Chronicles" by Morgan Daimler is a swiftly paced action adventure that showcases the author's genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that keeps the reader's rapt attention from first page to last. While available for the personal reading lists of all dedicated fantasy fiction fans in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99), "Into Shadow: The Lallan Chronicles" is a highly recommended addition to highschool and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.

Editorial Note: Morgan Daimler ( is a blogger, poet, teacher of esoteric subjects, witch, and priestess of the Daoine Maithe. Morgan is a prolific pagan writer, having published more than a dozen books under Moon Books alone, and she is one of the world's foremost experts on all things Fairy!

Assassin's Creed: The Golden City
Jaleigh Johnson
Aconyte Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781839082214, $16.95, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: Constantinople, 867 - A murderous plot is afoot. Assisted by the Order of the Ancients, the emperor schemes to assassinate his own son and throw the city into chaos. In response, the Hidden Ones have dispatched Assassin acolyte Hytham to join his mentor, Basim Ibn Ishaq, to infiltrate the palace and foil the emperor's plan.

But that is not his only mission. Hytham's brotherhood have also entrusted him with uncovering where Basim's true loyalties lie and whether the master Assassin's personal obsessions outweigh his sense of duty. For Hytham to succeed, he must tread carefully, for Constantinople is a city of shadows, and danger hides in all of them.

Critique: Another riveting addition to the Assassin's Creed action/adventure fantasy saga, "The Golden City" by Jaleigh Johnson is a riveting read and of special interest to dedicated fans of heroic historical fantasy. While available to the legions of Assassin's Creed fans in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95), "Assassin's Creed: The Golden City" is a deftly crafted and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.

Editorial Note: Jaleigh Johnson ( is an avid gamer and a fantasy author. Her middle grade debut novel The Mark of the Dragonfly is a New York Times bestseller, and her other books from Delacorte Press include The Secrets of Solace, The Quest to the Uncharted Lands, and The Door to the Lost. In addition to the Marvel novel Triptych for Aconyte Books, she has also written several novels and short stories for the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms fiction line published by Wizards of the Coast.

The Tyrant Skies
David Annandale
Aconyte Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781839081958, $16.95, PB, 400pp

Synopsis: The infamous villain Victor Von Doom has many enemies, but he has a special loathing for another equally infamous villain called the Red Skull.

When the Red Skull creates a flying haven for the billionaire elite who share his deplorable values, Doom prepares himself for the worst. When Latveria is beset by a rash of terrorist attacks, his suspicions are confirmed: the Red Skull is coming for Doom's homeland.

Now he must infiltrate the shielded microstate drifting in the skies above Latveria to save his people from annihilation. But finding a way on board the floating city is just the first in a series of trials that will test Doctor Doom to the limits of his beliefs, his strength and his powers.

Critique: With a very special appeal to fans of Super Hero (and in this case Super Villains) stories set in the Marvel Universe, "The Tyrant Skies" by David Annandale is an original and fun read from beginning to end by an author with a complete mastery of the genre. While also available for the personal reading lists of all dedicated Marvel Universe fans in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95), "The Tyrant Skies" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular pick for highschool and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.

Editorial Note: David Annandale ( is a Canadian writer of Doctor Doom, Arkham Horror and Legend of the Five Rings fiction for Aconyte, and Horus Heresy, Warhammer 40,000, Age of Sigmar and Warhammer Horror fiction for Black Library. Among his recent novels are Reign of the Devourer and The Harrowing of Doom. He is also the author of the horror novel Gethsemane Hall and the Jen Blaylock thriller series. He is also the Senior Instructor in the Department of English, Theatre, Film & Media at the University of Manitoba, where he specializes in genre film and video games -- as well as a co-host of the Hugo-nominated podcast The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Into the Dark Dimension
Stuart Moore
Aconyte Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781839081972, $16.95, PB, 400pp

Synopsis: Dormammu, Lord of the Dark Dimension has almost completed his conquest of Earth, with a stranglehold on the minds of its citizens. Only a few have managed to resist him. To free the world, Doctor Strange must reassemble his Shadow Avengers, while Tony Stark and a team of amoral tech geniuses cook up a tech defense to break the mind control. As the Shadow Avengers defend Earth, even against those heroes under Dormammu's influence, Ms Marvel must enlist an unlikely ally to destroy the evil lurking within the Dark Dimension.

Critique: A fun and riveting read that is a 'must' for the legions of Doctor Strange fans and firmly set within the Marvel Universe, "Into the Dark Dimension" is a Marvel Crisis Protocol novel by veteran comics writer and editor Stuart Moore. Also avalable for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95), "Into the Dark Dimension" is unreservedly recommended for highschool and community librry Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.

Editorial Note: Stuart Moore ( is a writer, fiction editor, and a multiple award-winning comics editor. His many novels include X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga, The Zodiac Legacy (created and cowritten by Stan Lee), and Thanos: Death Sentence. He has recently written comics such as Deadpool the Duck, Batman, and EGOs. Stuart is the former editor of the Marvel prose novel line, founding editor of Vertigo, and of several other comic imprints.

Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedy
Michael Simms
Madville Publishing
PO Box 358, Lake Dallas, TX 75065
9781956440041, $19.95, PB, 282pp

Synopsis: In "Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedy" by novelist Michael Simms, the main character, Jesse, presents an earthly incarnation of Jesus Christ come to earth in the body of a 12-year-old boy in the company of Xavi, who is the earthly incarnation of Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, also a 12-year-old boy.

The pair of young reincarnated gods stand on a hilltop above the city of Los Angeles contemplating how best to destroy it as a precursor to destroying the entire world to rid it of humanity so it can refresh and rebuild. Xavi is ready to get on with the task The Big Guy, God, has assigned them, but Jesse has a problem. He isn't sure that everyone deserves to be destroyed.

Critique: Especially recommended to the attention of readers with an interest in satire, religious and post-apocalyptic science fiction/fantasy, "Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedyd" is original, witty, compulsive reading from first page to last, and especially impressive when considering that it is Michael Simms debut as a novelist. An inherently riveting and simply fascinating story laced with black humor and philosophical intimidations, "Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedy" is available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49), and a welcome pick for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Michael Simms ( is a poet, writer, editor, publisher, teacher, blogger and entrepreneur. Three full-length collections of his poetry and two widely-adopted poetry textbooks have been published. He has also been the lead editor of over 100 published books, including the bestselling Autumn House Anthology of Poetry, now in its third edition. In 2011, Autumn House was awarded a certificate of recognition from the Pennsylvania state legislature. Simms has taught at a number of universities, including Chatham University's MFA program from 2005-2013.

The Poetry Shelf

Distillations: New Poems
E. Smith Dunlap
Regent Press
9781587906459, $20.00, PB, 84pp

Synopsis: Published by the Regent Press, "Distillations" new book of poetry by Elaine Smith Dunlap provides memorable verse that burnishes the gleam on even quotidian objects and moments. Like the poet author, the poems comprising "Distillations" are unabashedly curious, hearty, and wise.

As a poet, Elaine has taken her time to publish this collection of her verse -- but her timing is good and her memory is ripe. As she expresses, "My shelves are full / Stocked with experience / Bought with choices / And ready / For whatever comes."

Critique: Original, eloquent, lyrical, memorable, "Distillations: New Poems" perfectly showcases the poetry and verse of Elaine Dunlap and is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library Contemporary American Poetry collections.

Editorial Note: Elaine Dunlap has a great deal to say about a great many things and much of it appears in her poetry. 30 years teaching cultural history at a community college in California was only one facet of her quest for experience. Widely traveled in all the usual places, she went further than most exploring India, Antarctica and following the Silk Road from China to Uzbekistan. She now divides her year between London and a suburb of San Francisco fostering a uniquely bi-cultural perspective on her two worlds, especially the difference between traveling by cars or buses. Not a day goes by without her submerging herself in some notable theater, art or musical event. In 2012-13 she was an Olivier judge for alternative theater in London and still enjoys writing unpublished theatre reviews. Current technology makes it possible for her to indulge in frequent photography some of which appears in the pages of her poetry.

This Far North
Jason Tandon
Black Lawrence Press
9781625570482, $16.95, PB, 85pp

Synopsis: Poetry (derived from the Greek poiesis, "making"), also called verse, is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language (such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre) to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, a prosaic ostensible meaning. A poem is a literary composition, written by a poet, using this principle. (Wikipedia).

"This Far North" is a slender volume of eloquent, elegant, deftly crafted poems on such sensitive topics of the human experience as death, loss, and grief, as well as imageries ranging from flowers, showers that don't work right, back fences, and a host of other ordinary and familiar things now noticed as extraordinary elements of our lives.

Critique: Now with the publication of poet Jason Tandon's "This Far North (his fifth volume of verse) by a premier publish of contemporary poetry, the Black Lawrence Press, once again he cements his credentials as one of the truly talented contemporary poets of our time. "This Far North" is an especially and unreservedly recommended and endorsed additions to personal reading lists and community/academic library Contemporary American Poetry collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Jason Tandon ( is the author of five books of poetry, including This Far North, The Actual World, Quality of Life, and Give over the Heckler and Everyone Gets Hurt, winner of the St. Lawrence Book Award from Black Lawrence Press. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Barrow Street, among others. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from Middlebury College, and his M.F.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Since 2008, he has taught in the Arts & Sciences Writing Program at Boston University.

The Audiobook Shelf

Murder in Florence
T. A. Williams
Boldwood Books
Ulverscroft Large Print, Inc.
BN ID: 2940178038390, $20.99, MP3-CD (6 Hours 42 Minutes)

Synopsis: Life as a private investigator in the suburbs of Florence isn't always as glamorous as Dan Armstrong imagined it to be, until he is asked to investigate a recent spate of violent attacks on a Hollywood movie set in Florence. The star of the show, movie-star royalty Selena Gardner, fears her life is in imminent danger.

As Dan investigates, he discovers secrets and scandals are rife within the cast and crew. But with no actual murder, Dan believes these attacks could simply be warnings to someone -- until the first body is found.

Now Dan and his trusty sidekick Oscar are in a race against time to catch the murderer. But the more Dan uncovers, the more the killer strikes and Dan finds himself caught in the line of fire too! Is this one case Dan and Oscar will regret?

Critique: A fun cozy mystery set in Tuscany, "Murder In Florence" by T. A. Williams is a mystery buffs delight. Memorable characters, a plot with more twists and turns than a Disneyland roller coaster, and ably brought to life in a true 'theatre of the mind' listening experience with the storytelling talents of professional narrator Simon Mattachs, "Murder In Florence" is an openly and enthusiastically recommended addition to personal and community library Mystery/Suspense audio book collections.

Editorial Note #1: There is a website dedicated to listing all the published works of T. A. Williams at

Editorial Note #2: Simon Mattacks ( has been a prominent voice over narrator for over 30 years working in adverts, cartoons, corporate videos, and video games.

The Music CD Shelf

Hen House Studios
$TBA CD / $9.49 MP3

Keturah is the self-titled debut CD by Keturah herself, a 27-year old music artist from the Malawi village of Monza whose talent brought her to Malawi's second-largest city, then to Hen House Studios in Venice, California. Her music interweaves genres from afro-folk-funk to Americana-inspired and more. Keturah is an extraordinary listening experience, highly recommended especially for world music collections. The tracks are Ku Nyumba, Mvula, Kwanumkwanu, Nchiwewe (Ode to Willie Nelson), All the way from Africa, Sukulu, Udzafele Zina, Samala, Chimbalame, and Wewe.

In Reel Time
Mira Choquette
Privately Published
$15.00 CAD digital

In Reel Time is a jazz album featuring the dulcet vocals of Mira Choquette, accompanied by Ewen Farncombe on piano, Josh Goldman on bass, and Morgan Childs on drums and percussion. As the title indicates, In Reel Time was primarily created with everyone playing alive, plus some vocal overdubs. The result is a passionate, enthralling album reflecting the spontaneity of the moment. In Reel Time is pure auditory pleasure, highly recommended especially for jazz connoisseurs! The tracks are No Moon at All, Just One of Those Things, Love Crime, There Are Worse Things I Could Do, What is This Things Called Love?, Overjoyed, Jump in the Line, Ne me quitte pas, and The Old Country.

Sum // Parts
Dhaivat Jani PLUS
Privately Published
$TBA CD / $7.92 MP3

Composer, drummer, and tabla (Indian twin hand drums) player Dhaivat Jani presents Sum // Parts, a music album gathering the talents of various performers on the saxophone, vibraphone, guitar, keyboards, bass, vocals, and more. The original compositions blend contemporary jazz, Indian classical music, elements of rock and more into an extraordinary voyage of sound and rhythm. Highly recommended! The tracks are Day 21, Putwama, Even If, change is the only constant, It Might Rain, Kaleidoscope, Peshkaar, and Unchain.

Projet Seb Parent
Seb Parent
Privately Published
$TBA CD / $10.00 CAD digital

Projet Seb Parent is the self-titled debut album of Sebastien Parent, a virtuoso of drums, percussion, and synthesizers with additional contributions from other music artists on woodwinds, trumpet, trombone, piano, electric guitar, electric bass, and double bass. Most of the original compositions were created by Seb Parent; the entire album was created during the COVID- 19 pandemic, a time when each of the eighteen involved musicians had to record their parts separately, in isolation at home. Projet Seb Parent draws upon influences from an immense diversity of inspirations including rock, classical, neo-soul, country, trap, and bossa nova; each song represents a unique period in Seb Parent's life and development. Projet Seb Parent is an extraordinary work that entices the listener into a journey of the mind, highly recommended. The tracks are Grande Sainte-Marie, Nuage Industriel, Tome 3, Station du College, Echec Crucial, Mont Saint-Bruno, Rat Pack, and Bling Bling.

Blue House
Marc Ciprut
Privately Published
$TBA CD / $8.01 MP3

Blue House is a music album showcasing the guitar talents of Marc Ciprut. All the songs are Marc's original creations except for "Cissy Strut" by The Meters; the two vocal songs were co-written with Steven Santoro. More music artists contribute their talent on wurlitzer, organ, bass, drums in this resonant, immersive, and thoroughly captivating listening experience. Blue House is a treasure for personal and public library collections, and also makes an excellent gift! The tracks are Roll It Out, Jack the Nimble, Shaggy, Closer, Smooth, Greasy Weasel, Take A Cip, Cissy Strut, and Kiss You Again.

The Peplowski Project
David Larsen
Larsen Jazz
$TBA CD / $9.49 MP3

The Peplowski Project is a music album featuring beloved jazz favorites and three original compositions by David Larsen. Ken Peplowski performs on the clarinet and tenor sax; David Larsen plays baritone, alto, tenor sax and clarinet; Jake Svendsen plays piano; Josh Skinner plays bass; and Brendan McMurphy plays drums. The vivacious, captivating songs are wonderful to experience; The Peplowski Project is highly recommended for connoisseurs of jazz and public library music collections. The tracks are All The Things You Are, Black Nightgown, Doodle Oodle, He Who Getz the Last Laugh, In a Sentimental Mode, Into the Mild, Jazz Line Blues, Love Me or Leave Me, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Tenor for Dinner, and Two Funky People.

The DVD Shelf

Starring David Chokachi, John Schneider, and Jane Mowder
Vision Video
$14.99 DVD

Synopsis: Based on true events, this movie tells the inspiring story of Adeline, a therapy healing horse and her abilities to help people. When Adeline is brought to town, many are amazed and astonished but a few are skeptical and unbelieving.

The healing is put on hold when Adeline is injured after saving the lives of twelve people during a tornado. The community rallies together to save the much loved horse that touched them. Starring David Chokachi, John Schneider, and Jane Mowder.

Critique: Inspired by true events, Adeline is a captivating DVD about the positive effects that Adeline, a therapy healing horse, brings to a town. During a tornado, Adeline labors to save the lives of twelve people, but suffers an injury. Fearing that Adeline could perish or be euthanized (as injured horses often are), the people whose lives were saved and changed for the better organize a community effort to save Adeline. Emotional and poignant, with a core message of spiritual faith, Adeline is a heartwarming movie and highly recommended for both personal and church library collections. 95 min.

The Business Shelf

The Content Strategy Toolkit
Meghan Casey
New Riders
c/o Peachpit Press
9780134105109, $34.99, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: "The Content Strategy Toolkit, The: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right" is an essential guide in which Meghan Casey outlines a step-by-step approach for doing content strategy, from planning and creating your content to delivering and managing it.

With "The Content Strategy Toolkit", as a DIY instructional guide and 'how-to' manual, you can confidently tackle difficult activities like telling your boss or client what's wrong with their content, getting the budget to do content work, and aligning stakeholders on a common vision.

Reading The Content Strategy Toolkit is like having your own personal consulting firm on retainer with a complete array of tools and tips for every challenge you'll face, including:

Identifying problems with your content and persuade your bosses it's worth the time and resources to do it right; Making sense of your business environment and understand your audience; Getting stakeholders aligned on business goals and user needs; Setting your content strategy and decide how to measure success; Creating, maintaining, and governing on-strategy content. -- You'll learn to control your content and not have that content control you.

Critique: A complete and comprehensive course of methodical DIY instruction, "The Content Strategy Toolkit, The: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right" is exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. Highly recommended for professional, college and university library Computer Science & Technology collections, and while readily available for personal and professional reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.39), "The Content Strategy Toolkit" will have a special value for anyone with an interest in Content Management, Computer Graphics, and Software Design.

Editorial Note: Meghan Casey ( is the lead content strategist at Brain Traffic, the world's leading agency devoted exclusively to content. She helps a wide variety of clients (startups, nonprofits, colleges and universities, Fortune 50 companies, and everything in between) to solve the messy content problems most organizations encounter every day. She has also helped The Nerdery, a software development shop, build content strategy into their User Experience practice. Meghan is a regular trainer and speaker on content strategy topics and once inspired workshop participants to do the wave.

Spark the Heart: Engineering Empathy in Your Organization
Dr. Nicole Price
Forbes Books
18 Broad Street, Suite 300, Charleston, SC 29401
9798887500966, $27.99, HC, 200pp

Synopsis: One of the fundamental responsibilities of corporate managers is how to leverage the benefits of empathy to get the results wanted for their company.

The idea that there was no place for empathy in business was a belief that Dr. Nicole Price, (a logical, results-focused engineer) held onto tightly, until a cascade of life-altering events provided her a new perspective. A perspective that recognized empathy as a critical skill that every leader must develop and employ to achieve success.

Dr. Price's empathetic leadership journey has been a multi-year process, one that continues today, and one that she willingly shares with the publication of "Spark the Heart: Engineering Empathy in Your Organization".

Dr. Price dispels common empathy myths including the notions that: Empathy is a trait that you're born with or not (everyone can develop the skill of empathy); Empathy requires you to take on the other person's beliefs and values (empathy is understanding why another person believes what they believe and values what they value, even if it's different from your own); Empathy means you don't have accountability, high expectations, or stretch goals (empathy can fuel expectations and aspirations in new ways).

Empathy and accountability can and should exist in tandem.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Spark the Heart: Engineering Empathy in Your Organization" provides clear actionable steps for beginning a personal empathy journey or bolstering an existing empathy practice. For corporate leaders and ready to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between themselves and those they choose to lead and to leverage that understanding for greater success, "Spark the Heart" is available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and is a solid, practical, and highly recommended addition to professional, community, corporate, and academic library Business Management, Leadership, and Motivational collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Trained as an engineer, Dr. Nicole Price ( later found her true calling: Leadership Development. As a highly sought-after keynote speaker, training leader, and as the CEO of Lively Paradox, Price believes that leadership is personal and requires a balance of empathy and accountability.

Decision Sprint
Atif Rafiq
McGraw Hill Professional
9781264609598, $28.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Managing a business has become dramatically more complex and uncertain in our modern era. Constant exploration of new territory by teams is the name of the game. Yet most companies are stuck with yesterday's approach to problem solving. Problem solving needs to be reinvented to meet today's challenges. The future of business depends on it.

Having reached the highest levels of the Fortune 500, digital disrupter Atif Rafiq has written "Decision Sprint: The New Way to Innovate into the Unknown and Move from Strategy to Action" in order to pull the curtain back on the hidden management systems within your organization that impact how people think, collaborate, and make decisions.

Talent is vital to any company's advancement, but it's the collaboration and problem solving systems that separate industry leaders from the rest. Systems designed to embrace unknowns are the quickest, most enduring way to foster growth, continuous innovation, and results. Learn how teams begin with upstream work (the phase of a promising idea or initiative where the unknowns predominate) to problem solve anything, thus unlocking downstream actions from alignment to decision making to execution.

With Rafiq's guidance, you will overtake your competitors by moving upstream, embracing workflows that convert unknowns to clear recommendations, alignment, and action. In addition, you'll receive direct advice from the CEOs/presidents of H&R Block, Volvo, Peacock, Restaurant Brands, Orange Theory Fitness, among others and learn from in-depth case studies such as Amazon's disruption of publishing, the massive digital transformation of McDonald's, the secret of launch of Apple Pay, Volvo's push for sustainability, and more.

Critique: A complete and comprehensive course of DIY instruction, "Decision Sprint: The New Way to Innovate into the Unknown and Move from Strategy to Action" is essential reading for anyone in charge of corporate or entrepreneurial decision making/problem solving. While also available for the personal reading lists of MBA students, academia, corporate executives, business managers, entrepreneurs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99), "Decision Sprint" is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to professional, community, corporate, and academic library Business Leadership & Management collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Atif Rafiq has blazed trails in Silicon Valley and the Fortune 500 for over 25 years. After rising through digital native companies like Amazon, Yahoo!, and AOL, Atif held C-suite roles at McDonald's, Volvo, and MGM Resorts. Rafiq was the first Chief Digital Officer in the history of the Fortune 500, a pioneering role he held at McDonalds, and he rose to the president level in the Fortune 300.

Sparking Success
Adam Kingl
Kogan Page Inc.
9781398609600, $56.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: Contemporary studies show that 80% of people feel an increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative at work. "Sparking Success: Why Every Leader Needs to Develop a Creative Mindset" by Adam Kingl not only demonstrates how a creative mindset can be instilled in your business; it also highlights how creativity is a hugely valuable tool for productivity and innovation.

Whether you're running a small team or a multinational corporation, the art of leadership has transformed dramatically. The traditional approaches to corporate leadership lack the innovation and fluidity required for success in modern-day disruptive markets. In order to succeed, you need to spark a creative outlook that will allow you to adapt to fast-moving trends and innovations.

"Sparking Success" investigates the leaders and businesses across a range of industries who are effectively adopting a creative mindset. From media powerhouses such as Netflix and Disney to major manufacturers such as Bosch and Panasonic, "Sparking Success" clarifies the importance of creativity and innovation for business leaders across all sectors.

Each of the core chapters comprising "Sparking Success" poses a challenge or opportunity that will trigger an innovative mindset, before providing insights from notable leaders who have overcome creative challenges. "Sparking Success" is a groundbreaking leadership guide which highlights an innovative approach that will build you into a dynamic, creative and empathetic leader.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "Sparking Success: Why Every Leader Needs to Develop a Creative Mindset" in an invaluable source of 'real world' relevant information, insight, and instruction for maximizing employee productivity and success that is unreservedly recommended as essential reading for corporate executives and business managers. While highly recommended for professional, community, corporate, and academic library Business Leadership/Motivation collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of MBA students, academia, management leadership, entrepreneurs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sparking Success" is also available in a paperback edition (9781398609587, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.39).

Editorial Note: Adam Kingl ( is an author, speaker, educator and adviser. He specializes in the areas of leadership creativity, innovation and adaptability. His previous book, Next Generation Leadership (HarperCollins, 2020) was focused on the work and leadership paradigms of millennials. Adam also holds the position of adjunct faculty member at the University College London School of Management and at Hult Ashridge Business School. He is also an instructor at Imperial College London, Sauder Business School, the Irish Management Institute at University College Cork, and at Headspring Executive Development (a joint venture between the IE Business School and the Financial Times). He is an Associate of the Moller Leadership Institute at Churchill College, the University of Cambridge.

The Christian Studies Shelf

Henry Cloud
Worthy Books
c/o Worthy Publishing
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781546003373, $28.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Trust (noun): Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence. The confident expectation of something -- hope.

Trust is the fuel for all of life. We are wired biologically, neurologically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically to trust. Trust is the currency that drives every relationship, beginning with the foundational bond between infants and their mothers, extending to the trust networks that undergird every human endeavor (art, science, commerce) and binding together every relationship we have ever had or ever will have. Nothing in our world works without trust.

It is tempting to think that trust is simple, that we should be able to spot a lack of trustworthiness relatively easily. But we all have our stories about misplaced trust. We either missed clear or subtle warning signs or there just were not any warning signs to see. Everything looked good on the surface, and maybe it was. But we got burned anyway.

And sometimes we struggle to earn and keep the trust of those around us when trust bonds fail to form or are broken. When trust breaks down, so does our ability to move forward.

With the publication of "Trust: Knowing When to Give It, When to Withhold It, How to Earn It, and How to Fix It When It Gets Broken", Dr. Cloud explores from a Christian perspective the five foundational aspects of trust that must be present for any relationship to function successfully and helps us to understand how to implement them. He also guides us through the difficult process of repairing trust when it has been violated and broken, even when restoring trust feels impossible.

Rich with wisdom drawn from decades of experience in clinical practice, business consulting and research, Trust is the ultimate resource for managing this most complex and fundamental of human bonds, allowing us to experience more fruitful and rewarding relationships in every area of our lives.

Critique: Deftly organized into five major sections (Trust Makes Life Work; The Five Essentials of Trust; Growing in Trust; The Model for Repairing Trust; Moving Forward), "Trust: Knowing When to Give It, When to Withhold It, How to Earn It, and How to Fix It When It Gets Broken" will have a very special value for readers with an interest in Christian oriented personal growth, and transformative self-help. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, seminary, and academic library Christian Studies and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted that "Trust" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781668630549, $40.00, CD).

Editorial Note: Dr. Henry Cloud is ( us an acclaimed leadership expert, a clinical psychologist and a New York Times bestselling author. His 45 books, include the iconic Boundaries. He has an extensive executive coaching background and experience as a leadership consultant, devoting the majority of his time working with CEOs, leadership teams, and executives to improve performance, leadership skills and culture.

Acts: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching
David Gentino, author
John Harvey, editor
Kregel Ministry
c/o Kregel Publications
9780825458293, $41.99, HC, 576pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Acts: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching" author David Gentino and editor John D. Harvey tease out the multifaceted yet compatible purposes apparent in Acts: showing God the Holy Spirit in action as Jesus's disciples undertook the commission that he gave them; presenting Jesus as Messiah and the source of salvation for all people groups; addressing objections to and accusations against the Christian movement; validating the Gentile mission; and providing models for public proclamation and apologetical defense. Their preaching commentary explores contrasts and corollaries between the church in Acts and the church today, encouraging believers who have the same commission, same empowering Spirit, and same challenges of opposition to the faith and cultural boundaries as did the early church.

Critique: Offering a complete course of instruction that will have a very special value for seminary students and clergy, "Acts: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it ideal as a DIY independent studies or formal classroom textbook -- as well as being unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, church, seminary, college, and university library Christian Theology collections in general, and New Testament curriculum studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note #1: David Gentino (MDiv, Columbia Biblical Seminary) is the church planting pastor of Columbia Presbyterian Church PCA in South Carolina. David and his wife, Julie, have four children and have served in several church plants in the United States and in South Asia and are active in training planters in the Middle East.

Editorial Note #2: John D. Harvey (ThD, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) professor of New Testament and the PhD program director at Columbia Biblical Seminary in Columbia, SC. His works include Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook, A Commentary on Romans, Listening to the Text: Oral Patterning in Paul's Letters, Greek is Good Grief: Laying the Foundation for Exegesis and Exposition, and Anointed with the Spirit and Power: A Biblical Theology of Holy Spirit Empowerment. He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and has served cross-culturally in Europe and Africa.

An Untidy Faith
Kate Boyd
Herald Press
9781513811802, $31.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: In the wake of church scandals, culture wars, and clergy abuse of parishioners and children, many Christians are wondering whether the North American church is redeemable -- and if not, whether they should even stay. While many are answering no to those questions, "An Untidy Faith: Journeying Back to the Joy of Following Jesus" by Kate Boyd is for those who long to disentangle their faith from all the cultural baggage and seek to recapture the joy of following Jesus.

Through personal anecdotes, encounters with the global church, deep dives into Scripture, and helpful historical context about Christianity, "An Untidy Faith" takes readers on two journeys. The first journey lays out the grand vision of Christianity and the legacy passed on to us by the early believers in hopes of renewing readers' belief in the church writ large. The second journey helps believers understand why they feel distant from their church settings and provides a reorientation drawn from Scripture of God's vision for community.

A gentle companion, Kate Boyd metaphorically walks alongside those who have questions but can't ask them for fear of being labeled by or cast out of their communities. Think of "An Untidy Faith" as a guidebook for those who want to be equipped with practices to rebuild their faith and shape their communities to look more like Jesus and what He taught.

Critique: Exceptionally inspiring, insightfully informative, motivating and faith sustaining, contemporarily relevant, "An Untidy Faith: Journeying Back to the Joy of Following Jesus" must be considered essential reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation. For the personal reading lists of clergy, seminary students, and anyone who is struggling to maintain their Christian faith when confronted with examples of hypocrisy, corruption, and criminality within the Christian church and community, it should be noted that "An Untidy Faith: Journeying Back to the Joy of Following Jesus" is also available in a paperback edition (9781513811796, $18.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99). Indeed, if you see a family member, friend, or congregational colleague struggling with disillusionment and trying to rebuild their Christian faith, considering gifting them with a copy of "An Untidy Faith by Kate Boyd -- it could well be vital for the beginning of their reconciliation with God and the Church.

Editorial Note: Kate Boyd ( is a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher. She helps believers who find themselves in the messy middle between conservative and progressive navigate the tensions of the Christian life so they can more confidently walk the lines between doubt and certainty and faith and action with love and grace for all. She graduated cum laude with a BS in journalism and soon found her way to marketing and storytelling. She has traveled the world to interview and tell the stories of believers on mission, and she has written copy that has created millions in revenue for non- profits and small businesses. She is currently studying theology with an emphasis in church history and biblical languages at Perkins School of Theology.

The Buddhist Studies Shelf

The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID
Joan D. Stamm
Mantra Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781803411903, $15.95, PB, 152pp

Synopsis: In 2020, as COVID-19 spread from Asia to North America, Zen Buddhist and ikebana practitioner Joan Stamm was forced to cancel her long-anticipated trip to Japan, where she had planned to research a flower temple pilgrimage and learn the deeper meaning of flowers known as "little Buddhas".

But with lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, Stamm, who lives on a mountain on an island in the Salish Sea, sequestered herself like a hermit and turned to her own flower garden for solace and meaning as the pandemic engulfed the world around her.

"The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID: Finding Solace in Zen, Nature and Ikebana" tells the story of Stamm's life and spiritual journey as a Buddhist through these difficult times. Using traditional Japanese flowers as seasonal indicators, Stamm speaks the poetic language of flowers to explore ancient flower metaphor as it relates to the pandemic and the many manifestations of impermanence in one of the most tumultuous years in American history.

Critique: Fascinating, inspiring, eloquent, contemplative, thought-provoking, "The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID: Finding Solace in Zen, Nature and Ikebana" is offers a combination of personal memoir, Buddhist philosophy, and the biological science/metaphorical interpretation of flowers in a time of universal crises. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99), "The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID: Finding Solace in Zen, Nature and Ikebana" will prove a welcome and enduringly popular addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Buddhism, Biography/Memoir, and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Editorial Note: Joan D. Stamm ( is the author of A Pilgrimage in Japan: the 33 Temples of Kannon, and the award winning Heaven and Earth are Flowers: Reflections on Ikebana and Buddhism. She is also the co-founder of Cold Mountain Hermitage, a Zen Buddhist study and practice group, and a certified teacher of the Saga School of Ikebana.

The Metaphysical Studies Shelf

Awakening Osiris
Normandi Ellis
New Page Books
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser
9781637480106, $18.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: The Egyptian Book of the Dead is one of the oldest and greatest classics of Western spirituality. With the publication of "Awakening Osiris: The Spiritual Keys to the Egyptian Book of the Dead", spiritualist minister and certified clairvoyant medium Normandi Ellis has transformed the ancient stories told through hieroglyphs for modern readers. She approaches the Book of the Dead as a profound spiritual text capable of speaking to us today.

These writings suggest that the divine realm and the human realm are not altogether separate; they remind us that the natural world (the substance of our lives) is fashioned from the stuff of the gods. This new paperback edition from New Page Books features a new introduction and study guide by the author.

Critique: Fascinating, iconoclastic, informative, challenge, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Awakening Osiris: The Spiritual Keys to the Egyptian Book of the Dead" is an extraordinary and welcome contribution to the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in New Age Mythology & Mysticism that "Awakening Osiris: The Spiritual Keys to the Egyptian Book of the Dead" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Normandi Ellis ( is an award-winning writer, workshop facilitator, and archpriestess of the Fellowship of Isis. She leads tours to Egypt and is the author and co-author of several books, including Hieroglyphic Words of Power, The Union of Isis and Thoth, and Imagining the World into Existence.

Communicating with Plants
Jen Frey
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591434597, $24.00, PB, 352pp

Synopsis: The underlying message from Jen Frey, the author of "Communicating with Plants: Heart-Based Practices for Connecting with Plant Spirits" is that everyone has an innate ability to consciously communicate with Plants. Jen maintains that if we are willing to listen, we can hear the Plants speaking to our Hearts and teaching us how to heal. With the support of our Plant allies, we can be our truest selves and remember our intrinsic wholeness.

Presenting a step-by-step guide, "Communicating with Plants" shows how to awaken your ability to directly receive the unique wisdom and healing gifts that the Plants want to offer you. Exploring how communicating with Plants is more like a communion than an exchange of words, "Communicating with Plants" describes how the primary language we share with Plants is through the Heart, and shows how Plant communication brings an expansion of Heart intelligence and emotional growth.

In the pages of "Communicating with Plants", Jen goes on to explain the synergistic process of moving into intimacy with a Plant Spirit and shares how the Plants help us overcome anxiety, grief, fears, and limiting beliefs and teach us to trust, forgive, embrace self-love, and enjoy the sweetness of life.

Sharing teachings she has received from a variety of Plants such as Yarrow, Mugwort, Maple, Dandelion, Poison Ivy, and Japanese Hops, Jen follows each Plant ally's wisdom with a step-by-step activity or practice that allows you to actualize the teaching in an immediate way. She includes both native and invasive Plants because the concept of "invasive" is alien in the context of Plant Spirits and each of them has valuable lessons to share. She then concludes with Tulsi, showing how this Plant is essential to helping us recover our sacred nature, especially in a time of great Earth changes.

The promise is that through the skills taught in this DIY guide, we each can connect our Hearts with the wisdom of Plant Spirits, have support and guidance whenever we need it, and learn new ways of living in a co-creative partnership with Nature.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, insightful, inspiring, "Communicating with Plants: Heart-Based Practices for Connecting with Plant Spirits" is an original, distinctive, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library New Age Metaphysical Studies collections. For anyone with an interest in the subject of plants, herbal remedies and spiritual/metaphysical oriented self-help/self-improvement, "Communicating with Plants: Heart-Based Practices for Connecting with Plant Spirits" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Jen Frey ( is a healer and mentor with more than 20 years of experience with Plant essences, energy work, and herbal practices. The founder of Brigid's Way and co-steward of Heart Springs Sanctuary, she has dedicated her life to the spiritual path of Plant work.

Tarot Magick
Lindsay Squire, author
Viki Lester, illustrator
Leaping Hare Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711280649, $20.00, Card Deck, 176pp

Synopsis: The ever expanding world of tarot cards is swirling with rich meaning, symbolism and secrets waiting to reveal themselves. Whether you're new to witchcraft, tarot, or both, "Tarot Magick" by the team of tarot authority Lindsay Squire and artist/illustrator Viki Lester is an ideal beginner's guide to the study of tarot magick.

Included are stunning illustrations from The Witch of the Forest's very own Tarot Magick deck visually enhancing the easy-to-learn information, the in-depth exploration of meanings and symbolism of every card, the develop your intuitive tarot skills, and the improvement of your wellness practice through the power of witchcraft and tarot.

Tarot students and novice practitioners will learn how to: Interpret all 78 cards in the modern tarot deck; Understand the difference between the 'Major' and 'Arcana' cards, including the difference between a pentacle, wand, sword and cup card; Note the importance of the element, zodiac signs and planet in astrology associated with each card; Explore the significance of numerology in tarot; Practice a tarot 'spread' and give yourself a tarot reading; Incorporate tarot into your witchy and wellbeing practice; Give a tarot reading for friends and family -- and so much more!

The book's jacket can also be flipped and used to practice a simple three-card-spread.

With recipes, rituals and tips and tricks taken from The Witch of the Forest's personal grimoire, with "Tarot Magick" you can learn how to use the cards as part of spells, to help you understand yourself better, and to improve your self-love practice.

Critique: Providing the perfect introduction to Tarot and underscored by enchanting, empowering, and featuring spellbinding museum quality artwork, "Tarot Magic" is part of The Witch of the Forest's Guide to... series from Leaping Hare Press covering everything you need to know to begin and thrive on your own tarot driven Wiccan and metaphysical journey. It should be noted that "Tarot Magick" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Lindsey Squires ( is a practitioner of eclectic Witchcraft and has been walking her own spiritual path for nearly 15 years. A Witch, an author, a professional tarot reader, a spiritual advisor, and the face behind the Instagram account, The Witch of the Forest (an account dedicated to helping those at the beginning of their Witchcraft journey), she has come to find a deep passion for helping Witches find empowerment through nature and the practice of magick.

Editorial Note #2: Vicki Lester ( is a veteran illustrator of metaphysical and other genre works.

Flower Magic of the Druids
Jon G. Hughes
Destiny Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644116395, $22.99, PB, 200pp

Synopsis: Flowers are found in magic traditions around the world, ranging from those in ancient Egypt, China, and India to the traditions of the Norse and Native Americans. Yet many of today's well-established flower traditions (like bridal bouquets) originated in the Druidic magical lore of Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.

With the publication of "Flower Magic of the Druids: How to Craft Potions, Spells, and Enchantments", fifth-generation Druid Jon G. Hughes explains that flowers hold a preeminent position in Druidic folk magic with their own special branch of magical workings. In this practical guide, Hughes details how to use flowers in magical practice, focusing on flowering plants with a long history of magical use going back to Druidic times yet many of which are commonly found throughout the world, such as buttercup, blackberry, and dog rose.

He also discusses what type of flower and form of flower magic is best for specific enchantments and rituals in the areas of love and sex magic, well-being and good fortune, and protection. He looks at the magical use of fresh flowers and provides detailed instruction on every stage of the harvesting, crafting, and practical use of flower magic potions, including a comprehensive herbarium of all the flowers that may be used.

Examining the complex relationship between flowers and bees, the author looks at the physical and spiritual gifts of bees, such as honey, propolis, and beeswax, and the importance of bee culture in Druidic flower magic, including the tradition of the honeymoon, the significance of the hexagon, and medieval beekeeper lore. Inviting you into the gentle yet powerful realm of Druidic flower magic, "Flower Magic of the Druids" also details how to plan, plant, and take care of your own magical flower garden with all the botanicals you will need to pursue the path of flower magic.

Critique: Of special interest to students of flower based magic in general, Druid magic in particular, "Flower Magic of the Druids: How to Craft Potions, Spells, and Enchantments" by Jon G. Hughes is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a section of full color photographs and is deftly organized into three major sections: The Ancient Art of Flower Magic; Flower Magic Workbook; The Druid's Garden. Exceptionally well written and presented, "Flower Magic of the Druids" is an especially recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college library Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and Druid practitioners that "Flower Magic of the Druids" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Editorial Note: Jon G. Hughes ( is part of a lineage of Druids that has been practicing for five generations in a remote area of Wales. He teaches the tradition in Ireland and gives workshops and seminars throughout Europe. He is the director of the Irish Centre for Druidic Practices and the author of several books, including A Druid's Handbook to the Spiritual Power of Plants and The Druidic Art of Divination. He lives in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland.

The Travel Shelf

Hidden Japan
Alex Kerr
9784805317518, $15.99 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

Synopsis: In Alex Kerr's critically acclaimed Lost Japan and Dogs and Demons, he documented the decline of the traditional landscapes of Japan, his adopted home of many years. Here, in Hidden Japan he makes a journey of rediscovery to find the wonders that still remain.

Originally published in Japanese as a call to preserve disappearing facets of Japan's rich and ancient culture, Hidden Japan records Kerr's travels to various remote and lesser-known places where pockets of traditional culture can still be found. Some are faraway--like Aogashima Island, 200 miles south of Tokyo--while others are easy to reach, such as Mii-dera temple just east of Kyoto. The ten engaging essays in this book describe surprising remnants of Japan's fragile physical and cultural environment, including:

Avant-garde Butoh dancing in the remote village of Tashiro in Akita Prefecture
How shochu liquor is distilled from tropical ferns on the Pacific island of Aogashima
An austere but delicious kaiseki meal in rural Tottori Prefecture composed of local herbs and meats
Anecdotes relating to Kerr's childhood growing up in Japan and his passion for restoring old houses
The damage caused by governmental infrastructure and reforestation policies, as well as by tourism
Plus many other topics!

Kerr's sharp eye for detail and exquisite descriptions of Japanese, arts, architecture and foods will inspire readers who already appreciate his unique look at the "reality" of Japan beyond the romance. His personal involvement and obvious love for his subjects encourage us all to think more carefully about our own traditions and environment, and to challenge ourselves to search for better solutions to preserve what is of value all around us.

Critique: Black-and-white and an inset section of full-color photographs enrich this travelogue of Japan's beautiful and storied cultural legacy. Alex Kerr (author of "Lost Japan" and "Dogs and Demons") tells of his journeys to remote and little- known regions that preserve cultural traditions including dance, cuisine, and more. Hidden Japan also calls for the preservation of Japan's cultural legacy, and criticizes government infrastructure and reforestation policies. Hidden Japan is not a travel guide, but is highly recommended as a supplementary read for anyone interested in vicariously or personally traveling to Japan. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Hidden Japan is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).

Day Hiking Central Cascades, second edition
Craig Romano
Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781680515572, $21.95, PB, 376pp

Synopsis: With some of the largest tracts of wilderness to be found in the Pacific Northwest, the Central Cascades are packed with wildlife, geological diversity, and opportunity for adventure.

Using US Highway 2 as its primary organizing principle, this newly updated and expanded second edition of "Day Hiking Central Cascades" by Craig Romano focuses on the best day hikes to be found between the Sultan Basin and Wenatchee, and around Blewett Pass, Chelan, and the Stehekin and Entiat River Valleys.

In this new edition, travel expert Romano covers everything from leisurely strolls close to town to all-day treks (with overnight backpacking options) deep into the Alpine Lakes, Glacier Peak, Henry M. Jackson, and Wild Sky Wilderness Areas. Scenery, destinations, and highlights vary too--included are hikes along rivers; to lakes, mountain tops, and fire lookouts; and through old-growth forests or alpine meadows.

There are hikes that are well known and popular, hikes that are a bit more obscure and remote, and hikes that are perfect to explore with kids or dogs. In "Day Hiking Central Cascades: 2nd Edition", Craig Romano has selected and showcases his favorite trails for escaping crowds, spotting wildlife, and (in his words) getting the best bang for your boot!

Critique: A profusely illustrated, succinctly compact (5 x 1 x 6.75 inches), and informatively comprehensive paperback that is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, this new second edition of "Day Hiking Central Cascades" from Mountaineers Books is an indispensable resource for planning truly memorable excursions in the Central Cascades ( and thoroughly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Travel Guide & Resources collections. It should be noted that this new edition of "Day Hiking Central Cascades" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.49).

Editorial Note: Craig Romano is an award winning author or co-author of more than twenty books. Romano also writes for numerous publications, tourism websites, and for He can be visited online at or on Facebook @craigromanoguidebookauthor

The Architecture Shelf

Cottages, Cabins, and Unique Retreats
Fine Homebuilding Editorial Staff
The Taunton Press
63 South Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470
9781641551977, $34.95, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: Smaller = Smarter.

Smaller homes like cabins and cottages are becoming more popular due to economic factors, smaller family sizes, tighter building lots, and the desire to use fewer natural resources and build sustainably. These days, builders and designers alike are getting creative and employing all their best tricks to help homeowners get the most out of their small spaces, whether they be part of a primary residence or weekend vacation home.

"Cottages, Cabins, and Unique Retreats" from the pages of Fine Homebuilding magazine features useful and beautiful small spaces that are built to fit the lifestyles and aspirations of their homeowners. The reader will get inspired and enjoy the design styles and construction types showcased here in hundreds of beautiful photographs.

Each page showcases gorgeous photographs of inspiring, exciting small spaces. The featured authors/contributors focus on homes both new and remodeled, urban and rural, traditional and modern, and even a few quirky spaces like nooks, butler's pantries, and attic offices.

Critique: An inspirational pleasure to browse through one page at a time, "Cottages, Cabins, and Unique Retreats" is a very special and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Architecture collections and supplemental curriculum Residential & Small Home/Cottage Design studies lists.

Editorial Note: All contributing authors to "Cottages, Cabins And Unique Retreats" are seasoned professionals whose articles have appeared in Fine Homebuilding magazine. Since 1981 the Fine Homebuilding magazine has been providing information and inspiration to everyone who cares about quality home improvement and construction. The magazine is arguably the best source of home improvement information and helps readers build projects better, faster, and more efficiently. The farmhouses have been selected from the pages of Fine Homebuilding magazine.

The Botany Shelf

Plants of the Pineywoods of East Texas & Wester Louisiana
Dr. James Van Kley, author
Bruce Lyndon Cunningham, illustrator
Bruce Lyndon Cunningham Publications
9780934115186, $110.00, PB, 464pp

The "Pineywoods" represent the forested eastern edge of Texas along with the the ecologically-similar forests of adjacent northwestern and central Louisiana. Markedly different from most of Texas, tall stands of pines and broad-leaved deciduous trees cover much of the gently rolling landscape.

There is a rich variety of natural habitats: dry sandy upland pine-oak communities, remnants of once-extensive longleaf pine woodlands, pine-deciduous mixed forests, vast "bottomland hardwood" forests on the floodplains of the region's numerous rivers, baldcypress swamps, and much more. The climate is warm and humid; some areas experience as much as 50" (1270 mm) of rainfall a year. Much of the Pineywoods remains relatively free from urbanization.

"Plants of the Pineywoods of East Texas & West Louisiana: Part 1: Herbaceious Eudicotyledoms - Herbaceious, Magnoliids & Nymphaeiids by Dr. James Van Kley and deftly and profusely illustrated by Bruce Lyndon Cuningham is a massive, detailed and comprehensively descriptive compendium informatively listing all of the plants to be found in this region of the country.

Critique: A major and seminal work that is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a illustrated glossary of 350 terms, this substantial paperback edition of "Plants of the Pineywoods of East Texas & West Louisiana" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, college, and university library Regional Herbaceous and Horticultural reference collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. Also highly recommended from Bruce Lyndon Cunningham Publications is "Gymnosperms of the United States & Canada".

Editorial Note #1: Dr. James Van Kley ( is the Professor of Biology, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, USA.

Editorial Note #2: In 1982, the National Hardwood Lumber Association in Memphis, TN, commissioned Bruce Lyndon Cunningham ( to illustrate 16 different trees in the hardwood industry. In 1990, the Society of American Foresters in Washington D. C. commissioned him to create the painting of the historic Wye Oak Tree, Quercus alba, in Wye Mills, Maryland.

The Sports Shelf

Pittsburgh's Historic Ballparks
Mark T. Faila
Arcadia Publishing
9781467109109, $23.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: Pittsburgh has an incredible baseball history filled with great players, teams, and historic moments, but few realize that Pittsburgh has often been in the lead in ballpark design and development.

Showcased in "Pittsburgh's Historic Ballparks" by Mark T. Faila, yesteryear photographs chronicle the nine ballparks that hosted major league baseball in Pittsburgh between 1876 and the present, including the Negro Leagues. Here are the design and construction phases, the major changes as parks expanded and aged, and eventually, their demolition.

Here also are the monuments, details, and the surrounding neighborhoods that became part of the fan experience, along with rare glimpses of behind-the-scenes areas. The great players, teams, and moments are not the focus.

While there are many other books to tell their individual stories. Here in the pages of "Pittsburgh's Historic Ballparks", those players, teams, and moments are seen only as they illustrate the look and condition of the ballparks themselves.

Critique: A fascinating and informative read replete with historic black/white photographs, "Pittsburgh's Historic Ballparks" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Sports History collections in general, and the personal reading lists of dedicated Pittsburgh baseball fans in particular.

Editorial Note: Mark T. Fatla ( is a local writer and lifelong baseball fan searched a wide variety of sources for photographs to illustrate this history, including team archives, museums, newspapers, and private collections. Included are rarely seen images and several that have never been published, providing a unique perspective on the rich history of Pittsburgh's ballparks.

The Art Shelf

Palette Knife Painting
Lisa Elley
Walter Foster
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780760382165, $22.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: Professional artist Lisa Elley works from her studio in the San Francisco Bay Area with the purpose of inspiring and bringing joy to people through her art. With the publication of "Palette Knife Painting: Deep Impasto: Paint beautiful masterpieces using a palette knife and the impasto technique", Lisa shares her techniques with aspiring artists through easy-to-follow step-by-step projects.

Using her palette knife technique, readers can learn to paint: Art inspired by Vincent van Gogh; Seascapes and landscapes; A Tuscan vineyard; Flower fields; Wet-into-wet (alla prima); With texture -- and so much more!

Also included in "Palette Knife Painting" are: Primers on the best palette knives and paints to use; Color mixing and color theory instructions; Beautiful, textured artwork that seems to lift off the page .

Critique: "Palette Knife Painting: Deep Impasto" is an ideal, comprehensive, and thoroughly 'user friendly' DIY course of instruction for artists of all skill levels looking to learn to paint and scrape with oil paint. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), " Palette Knife Painting: Deep Impasto" is highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and art school instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note #1: Lisa Elley ( is an award-winning palette knife artist who works from her studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lisa's pieces are lively, uplifting, colorful, and highly textured. Her paintings hang on the walls of private and corporate collectors across the United States, as well as around the world. In addition to selling her art through her website and other online platforms, Lisa hosts live painting events, teaches workshops, designs wine labels, and more.

Editorial Note #2: It should be also be pointed out that other titles in the Paint with Me series from Walter Foster ( highlights well-known artists and their work in visually appealing and instructive books.

Draw Chibi Style
Quarry Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780760381410, $19.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Draw Chibi Style: A Beginner's Step-by-Step Guide for Drawing Adorable Minis - 62 Lessons: Basics, Characters, Special Effects", chibi artist Piuuvy is the ideal DIY guide to:

Chibi Essentials. The first 18 lessons teach solid drawing fundamentals that demonstrate how to draw chibi characters from the ground up and will help you build the skills you need to create your very own supercute characters.

Chibi Characters, Step by Step. Through step-by-step drawings, from rough sketch to finish, discover the drawing process for 44 adorable characters in a range of genres and themes, including a witch, a butterfly fairy, a shark, a shadow knight, and an action hero, each presented in a different pose.

Critique: Whether you're just beginning to draw, trying your hand at chibi for the first time, or looking for ideas and guidance for bringing your own chibi characters to life, "Draw Chibi Style: A Beginner's Step-by-Step Guide for Drawing Adorable Minis - 62 Lessons: Basics, Characters, Special Effects" is an ideal DIY instructional guide, 'how-to' manual, and visual reference for aspiring artists and illustrator wanting to familiarize themselves with this distinctive Manga Comics style of drawing. This large format paperback style (7.99 x 10 x 1.85 inches, 1.2 pounds) is especially recommended for personal, professional, community, and art school library collections. It should be noted that "Draw Chibi Style" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Chibi artist Thao Vy (aka Piuuvy) creates K-pop fanart, anime and manga characters, and private commissioned portraits and icons. Based in Vietnam, see more of her work at, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @piuuvy

The Self-Help Shelf

Quitting: A Life Strategy
Julia Keller
c/o Hachette Book Group
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781538722343, $29.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Simone Biles quit the Olympics. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quit The Firm. Millions of people have quit their jobs, seeking happiness and defining success on their own terms. Is it a mistake? With the publication of "Quitting: A Life Strategy: The Myth of Perseverance -- and How the New Science of Giving Up Can Set You Free", Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Julia Keller reveals that it's not! And, in fact, it might even save your life.

Diving into the neuroscience of nope and the cultural messages that drive our reluctance to throw in the towel, Keller dismantles the myth of perseverance once and for all. Because grit isn't always great. Sticking it out doesn't always pay off. And quitting can be an unexpected act of self-love.

"Quitting: A Life Strategy" humanely reminds us that, in order to live meaningful, satisfying lives, sometimes we have to say "no" -- full stop. With Keller's guidance, readers will learn the art of the quasi quit, see how quitting makes space for key breakthroughs, navigate the relationship between quitting and our public lives, manage quitter's guilt, and more.

As she weaves reportage from the front lines of scientific research, incisive pop culture commentary, and conversations with people who have made profound change in their own lives, Keller gives her readers the rationale and confidence they need to pull the plug. Ultimately, quitting becomes a chance to shape our lives without fear -- at work, at home, in our relationships, and beyond.

Critique: An original, thought-provoking, deftly written, and iconoclastic contribution to the every expanding library of self- help books, "Quitting: A Life Strategy: The Myth of Perseverance -- and How the New Science of Giving Up Can Set You Free" stands out. With a very special recommendation as a pick for personal, professional, community, and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, "Quitting: A Life Strategy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) for readers with an interest in success/motivation/happiness DIY instructionals. It should also be noted for librarians and the general public that "Quitting: A Life Strategy" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781668631058, $40.00, CD).

Editorial Note: Julia Keller ( is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a former cultural critic at the Chicago Tribune. She is the author of many books for adults and young readers, including A Killing in the Hills, the first book in the Bell Elkins series and winner of the Barry Award for Best First Novel (2013); Back Home; and The Dark Intercept.

The Well-Lived Life
Gladys McGarey, MD
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781668014486, $27.99, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Dr. Gladys McGarey (co-founder of the American Holistic Medical Association), began her medical practice at a time when women couldn't even own their own bank accounts. Over the past sixty years, she has pioneered a new way of thinking about disease and health that has transformed the way we imagine health care and self-care around the world.

With the publication of "The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor's Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age", Dr. McGarey shares her six actionable secrets to enjoying lives that are long, happy, and purpose-driven:

1. Spend your energy wildly: How to embrace your life fully and feel motivated every day.

2. All life needs to move: How to move - spiritually, mentally, and physically - to help let go of trauma and other roadblocks.

3. You are here for a reason: How to find the everyday "juice" that helps you stay oriented in your life's purpose.

4. You are never alone: How to build a community that's meaningful to you.

5. Everything is your teacher: Discover the deep learnings that come from pain and setbacks.

6. Love is the most powerful medicine: Learn to love yourself - and others - into healing.

Here Dr. McGarey shares her own extraordinary, practical, and inspiring stories providing the reader with a kind of 'eternal wisdom' drawn from her early childhood in India and a chance encounter with Mahatma Gandhi, to her life as a physician and a mother of six, to her survival of both heartbreak and illness. And she doesn't just look backwards, she looks forward. At over a one hundred years old, Dr. McGarey has an inspiring plan for a healthier and more joyful future for all.

Critique: A simply fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor's Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age" by Dr. Gladys McGarey is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library American Biography and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Well-Lived Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797162591, $39.99, CD).

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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