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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 8 August 2023 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf Diane Donovan's Bookshelf Gary Roen's Bookshelf
Helen Dumont's Bookshelf John Taylor's Bookshelf Mary Cowper's Bookshelf
Micah Andrew's Bookshelf Michael Dunford's Bookshelf Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf
Paul Vogel's Bookshelf S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Ultimate Guide to Power & Influence
Robert L. Dilenschneider
Matt Holt Books
c/o BenBella Books
9781637742938, $28.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Acquiring both power and influence is crucial to advancing not only your personal interests, but also to achieving a more prosperous society at large.

With the publication of "The Ultimate Guide to Power & Influence: Everything You Need to Know", author and public relations expert Robert Dilenschneider arms his reader with intellectual, technical, and moral tools you need to get and stay ahead in the increasingly competitive and ever-evolving business world.

Drawing from current-day lessons and the wisdom of hundreds of drivers of change in all fields of business, "The Ultimate Guide to Power & Influence" is Robert's latest guide to harnessing the universal principles for success. It provides anecdotes and insights on a wide range of keys to success, including how to seize opportunity amid crisis, manage your network, communicate effectively, and take full advantage of social media to bolster your image.

A leader in the sphere of public relations and the founder of The Dilenschneider Group, which provides strategic advice to Fortune 500 companies and leading figures around the world (with experience in everything from mergers and acquisitions to government affairs and international media) Robert writes with experience and authority to help readers acquire and amplify their power.

For corporate professionals, those just starting out, and anyone in between, "The Ultimate Guide to Power & Influence" is an essential guide to charting the ever-changing waters of the business world with imagination, competence, and grace.

Critique: Deftly crafted and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in style, organization and presentation, "The Ultimate Guide to Power & Influence: Everything You Need to Know" is an ideal DIY combination of instructional guide and 'how-to' manual for readers with an interest in personal finance, business ethics, globalization, self-improvement, and corporate success. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of MBA students, academia, business management, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Ultimate Guide to Power & Influence: Everything You Need to Know" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Robert L. Dilenschneider ( formed The Dilenschneider Group in October, 1991. Headquartered in New York and Chicago, the Firm provides strategic advice and counsel to Fortune 500 companies and leading families and individuals around the world, with experience in fields ranging from mergers and acquisitions and crisis communications to marketing, government affairs and international media. Prior to forming his own firm, Dilenschneider served as president and chief executive officer of Hill and Knowlton, Inc. from 1986 to 1991, tripling that Firm's revenues to nearly $200 million and delivering more than $30 million in profit. Dilenschneider was with that organization for nearly 25 years.

The Coach's Way
Eric Maisel
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608688647, $18.95, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: "The Coach's Way: The Art and Practice of Powerful Coaching in Any Field" is a first-of-its-kind book in which a revered master coach explains exactly how coaches can conduct meaning-filled sessions -- and how clients can best benefit from the coaching they receive.

With "The Coach's Wary", Eric Maisel presents thirteen weeks of short daily lessons where you will learn the nuts and bolts of coaching -- what to say when, how to ask questions, and crucially, how to manifest the spirit of coaching.

Maisel guides you to: Understand yourself so that you can better understand others; Prep for coaching with a deep awareness of your and your clients' goals and mission; Ask quality questions, handle defensiveness, and grapple with limited progress; Cheer and encourage to get action and results.

Supremely practical, each of Maisel's lessons ends with exercises and a journal prompt. The result is an easy-to-use, field-tested DIY guide for current coaches and coaches in training (as well as managers, mentors, and teachers) and an invaluable resource for anyone working with a coach or thinking about working with one.

Critique: Essentially a DIY manual on personal growth and success for anyone in any field of endeavor, "The Coach's Way: The Art and Practice of Powerful Coaching in Any Field" is an extraordinary 'how to' study that is a effectively practical as it is inspired and inspiring. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "The Coach's Way" is an especially recommended pick for community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections and supplemental Popular Psychology curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Eric Maisel ( is the author of more than fifty books in the areas of critical psychology, writing, and the creative life. A retired family therapist, he is now an active master coach who blogs for Psychology Today, the Good Men Project, Thrive Global, and Fine Art America.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The Fifth Student
Geoffrey M. Cooper
Maine Authors Publishing
9781633813595m $4.99 ebook/$18.95 paperback

The Fifth Student provides the sixth book in the Brad Parker and Karen Richmond series, and follows the unexpected web of lies and deceit that unfolds when Professor Brad Parker attempts to help a student accused of cheating, only to find he's opened a can of worms involving murder and bribery.

FBI agent Karen Richmond joins him once again in pursuing the truth, which leads to ever more complicated entanglements as the duo discovers that what seems a simple case has turned deadly and complex.

The developments between classroom, test situations, and rising questions about a student's involvements lead Brad to realize that his student's persona may not be what she'd exhibited to him.

Drawn into an investigation of a mysterious fifth student's identity, Brad employs his skills as a professor to enhance the investigation in non-traditional ways:

"...let me try digging into these exams. I think there's another way to figure out who our fifth student is."

Conway looked puzzled. "How the hell you gonna do that?"

I gave him a playful wink. "Magic of science."

When trivial test mistakes lead him to new revelations, Brad finds himself mired in a test of his analytical skills as he draws connections between seemingly disparate errors to arrive at surprising truths the average investigator can't begin to uncover.

Geoffrey M. Cooper takes a step-by-step approach to following Brad's logic and his special abilities, connecting the dots of a mystery that perhaps no other person could solve.

His detailed descriptions of how these processes affect Karen and Brad's pursuit of the truth creates a compellingly realistic atmosphere, engrossing readers in a murder mystery that rests not just on revelations, but dangerous gambits.

Libraries and readers needn't be familiar with the prior Brad and Karen mysteries in order to appreciate the nuances and approaches of The Fifth Student. With its surprises, unexpected news, and Special Agent Karen Richmond's involvement in young, bright undergrad student Penny's life and scholarship, The Fifth Student proves a rich story that highlights its intrigue with revelations readers won't see coming in an academic atmosphere that is filled with revelation and revised possibilities for achievement.

Sun Child of the Moor
Tricia D. Wagner
Independently Published
9798398767193, $3.99 eBook; $16.99 paperback

In Sun Child of the Moor, fourteen-year-old Bastian has been stalked by a dark force since he was a child. His earliest memories portend something waiting for him at night, and so he fears the darkness and its goblins and other forces which apparently only he can see.

Bastian's fears seem rooted in his England childhood experiences where the mythos of the Sylphic Kingdom, filled with goblins and dragons, has often seemed more real to him than his everyday life. It's a baggage he's carried across the sea to his new home in San Francisco, and one which continually plagues his dreams and life.

Predictably, Bastian's worries prove real as his family returns to England in a move that reawakens the worst of his nightmares. Night terrors aren't the only thing he struggles with. Life-threatening asthma attacks are not only a constant event, but lend to the feeling of something ominous threatening his life.

Readers that choose this fantasy will find the story steeped in the interplay between fantasy and real-life confrontations as Bastian learns pathways to new skills and healing from Master Sayre, Bastian's new Ryudo martial arts teacher.

His teacher is a rare and good friend who acknowledges Sylphic frights and possibilities while providing Bastian with the tools for fighting imaginary and real forces. His deepening involvement in Bastian's struggles introduces new realms of possibility (both physically and mentally) as Bastian comes to new realizations about the duties and possibilities of a legendary Sun Child able to battle evil forces and how to wield the power and the responsibilities that come with it.

Teens receive a vivid story that intersects fantasy, physical struggles that play out on internal and external fields of controversy, and elements of building strength that come not just from revised perceptions, but visualization lessons. These elements add strength into the equation of magic versus reality.

Libraries and readers will find that this story goes beyond the anticipated coming-of-age of a young man who is faced with uncommon danger to delve into the nature of wielding powerful growth in a socially responsible, aware manner.

The story and its lively, engaging action will encourage discussion and debate in teen circles about the consequences of special abilities and the contrast between imagination and reality, making Sun Child of the Moor a top recommendation above many other action-packed fantasies for this age group.

Sun Child of the Moor concludes definitively, but leaves the door more than ajar for more adventures.

Library Lin's Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs
Linda Maxie
Spoon Creek Press
9798985923421, $19.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 298pp

Library Lin's Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs is written by a retired librarian with a lifetime of making nonfiction recommendations to her patrons. Her first reference book, Library Lin's Curated Collection of Superlative Nonfiction, did not include biographies or memoirs solely because this subject would have made the reference far too weighty. Clearly, these categories deserved a book of their own. And here it is.

After defining the difference between a biography, autobiography, and memoir in her introduction, Linda Maxie chooses a theme subject listing to organize the books into these categories. This allows readers to choose books based on their interests, whether ethnic group experience, explorers or activists, travelogues and immigrant experiences, or social, political, or artistic figures.

It's important to note that these category choices, besides adeptly organizing and defining their subjects, represent the bulk of biographical and memoir topics, allowing readers who choose by themes to easily access other writings which represent major contributions in these areas.

She also includes a "collective biography" at the end of some of these chapters - listings of associated books that provide "brief narratives of two or more people's lives."

It should be noted that these works are largely contemporary in nature. While some from the 1970s and 80s are included in the listings, the bulk of writings are from the 1990s and 2000s. This approach to organizing and promoting modern writings will especially appeal to audiences looking not for historic works already well featured, but those which stand out in the modern scheme of new books.

As for the synopses themselves, Maxie creates detailed yet succinct descriptions that embrace the intention, presentation, and importance of each book in its broader category. One good example of such a descriptor appears in the chapter on Indigenous Peoples for Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert's book The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman.

"Bruce Albert is a close friend of Brazilian Davi Kopenawa, a shaman and spokesperson for the Yanomami. Albert helps his friend tell the story of his childhood, his initiation as a shaman, and his experiences with cultural outsiders like government workers, missionaries, and cattle ranchers. The devastation his people have endured led him to become a global activist for them. In his pursuit of justice, he has traveled the globe to show people how industrialized society and its greed have been destroying the planet. Then, through his own culture and experience, he tries to show another way."

Maxie is candid about the effort involved in defining and selecting categories and books to be included or excluded from them. Her introduction holds almost as much food for thought about this process of creating a reference list as the rest of the book holds important keys for identifying significant works in each subject:

"People are mixtures of good and bad. I decided early on that judging these people was not my role. Some have recently found themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. Rather than classify people based on mistakes, I placed them under what they are most known for. For lawbreakers and people who harmed or killed many, I put them in "Law and the Prison System." And not everyone in that chapter qualifies as a lawbreaker. Some are there simply because a big part of their story involves arrest or incarceration. In other words, my chapters and my groupings are not perfect. I'm only partially satisfied with them myself."

The result is a powerful, useful reference that lends as much to leisure browsing through its significant descriptors as it does in its primary purpose - to point out the rich wellsprings of works that might otherwise be missed in the sea of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs being published today.

Libraries, reading groups, and any reader interested in biographical and autobiographical productions needs to have this book not only in their collections, but on prominent display. It can be used as a focal point for identifying and choosing significant, thought-provoking writings that may be unfamiliar to them.

The Reluctant Ones
David B. Bond
Independently Published
B0CB7XZNSS, $3.99 (Kindle)

A ball of fire crashes to Earth in a "glorious explosion," bringing with it three infants who are placed in foster homes until they come of age. The alien visitation scenario in The Reluctant Ones thus evolves into a very different scenario than most First Contact alien stories - one in which a farming couple is told that the strange crashed aircraft is an experimental military vehicle.

Fast forward to a bullying situation, in which fifteen-year-old Yara taps into abilities she never knew she had in response to physical threats. Zayne, too, is fifteen and is responding to an emergency when his powers come to light. And Xenia is a teen genius who talks to animals.

David B. Bond unfolds a story in which this trio not only exhibits unusual abilities, but is being secretly followed by the military, which aims to exploit these superpowers. But, before they can, monsters emerge to test these forces in unusual ways. These reluctant young heroes may prove the only force able to defy them. If they dare.

Their initial response to danger is to not respond at all. Seasoned by past experience and charged with hiding, these reluctant young heroes find they can't always command their powers or control their emotional responses.

Bond creates a shifting, realistic interplay between the teens and the battle they are pulled into. Their emotional reactions to adversity prove an unsettling key to success as the struggles continue, connecting the dots of reaction and action in new ways the cooperative trio begin to perceive both within themselves and from one another: "There was no way of telling how long it would have taken anyone else to connect the dots, but Xenia did it immediately. Whatever that bubble was, Yara was doing it."

Bigger-picture thinking about decisions that are humane, inhumane, and either reckless or intelligent permeate an action-packed story that presents not only the coming-of-age of three potentially powerful young people, but the forces on all sides that would influence and manipulate their evolving abilities.

Teens and new adults interested in stories of super powered individuals struggling to step into adult decision-making roles will find The Reluctant Ones replete with unpredictable action, confrontations with monsters who assume various guises, and a different perspective on what makes for aliens and humans that casts an original and unpredictable light on the usual alien encounter scenario.

Libraries and readers interested in alien stories that are very different from the norm will appreciate the ability of The Reluctant Ones to create thought-provoking moments that ultimately examine the true nature of alien and human interactions and definitions.

Space Ships & Other Trips: A Short Story Collection Book II
Raven Oak
Grey Sun Press
9781947712089, $13.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 186pp

Readers of speculative fiction well know how relatively scarce this genre is, compared to the profuse writings of the sci-fi and fantasy worlds. Space Ships & Other Trips: A Short Story Collection Book II represents works from the last decade of Raven Oak's writing career, gathering stories that represent the diversity and possibilities in the speculative fiction genre.

"The Loss of Luna" opens the collection with the vivid story of sentient celestial beings and contemplative relationships between Earth and the stars. The ethereal relationship between Luna and Earth is explored in an otherworldly dialogue that creates both an extraordinary interplay and possibilities that become "lost in the brilliance of life." To feel the processes of planets that hold the ability to reflect on former connections, loss, love, and beyond in a milieu where humans and life is but an adjunct to stellar events gives much pause for contemplation.

"Drip" is another story that opens with how night brings not respite, but the solidifying horror of nightmares of real-world events as viruses and wildfires consume the nation. Is there a trick to sleeping, or to survival under such news and circumstances? Is the dripping sound from the tub a leak, or a portent of rain?

Anyone who suffers from insomnia well knows the night terrors that too easily replace counting sheep, and the background noise that become foreground portents of danger. In this case, the climate change brought to the foreground is but one thought that challenges the wanna-be sleeper's efforts.

Each story reflects philosophical and psychological power through speculations that consider real-world experiences in a new light. Each offers compelling insights, whether they are about technology, human impact, or the nature of living.

Readers of speculative fiction well know how rare is the opportunity to digest a treasure trove of works that truly reflect parallel worlds of reality.

Space Ships & Other Trips: A Short Story Collection Book II is a sterling example of the genre's flexibility and thought-provoking opportunities. It should be a mainstay in any library strong in speculative works, on the reading lists of anyone attracted to thought-provoking short pieces, and used as discussion material for book clubs interested in engaging subjects about life's meaning and impact.

Critical Habitat
Terrence King
Penguins & Ducks Press
9798988120926, $23.99 HC, $17.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle

Sci-fi readers interested in futuristic dystopian worlds in which environmental issues come infused with social inspection and ongoing ecological transitions will find Critical Habitat a powerful story of rebellion and power plays. The fate of nature both hangs in the balance and influences human outcomes and struggles in this story.

The trappings of technology-infused futuristic human endeavors, from giant robot sentries to smart pills and secret weapons, meet the last of the honeybees head-on in a clash replete with inviting insights into what it means to be human, a survivor, or a fighter.

Terrence King creates a compelling scenario in which the remnants of humanity remain conflicted about their fate and confused about their connections to nature. Descriptions of the events that led to this state are vividly woven into the plot:

"Scavenger nomads of the desert, Loners had succumbed to disease from the land. She had heard about the devolved humans, their physical depravity unleashed. They congregated in groups supposedly, in ruins. She knew to shy away from the crumbling metropolises, where the worst of the creatures buoyed a framework of haggling and plague. Danger was where Loners and their devolved cousins, the Reavers, were, and she was going to avoid them as much as fighting itself.

'In the dark,' Sun Bin added, 'they become animals. Their hunger pulls out the worst humanity has seen.'

'I've seen the worst humanity brings,' Mel said."

The worst and best of intentions come to light in graphic, action-packed scenes that juxtapose adventure with thought-provoking moments. These encourage readers to reflect on man, nature, and the pivot points connecting and affecting both.

There are really three battles going on: between generals, rebels, and Mother Nature. King intersects these interests using vivid language and unexpected twists that represent forks in the road of intention as the last of the bees are protected in an unexpected gambit to survive.

What does it mean to be a rebel, a hero, or the destroyer of habitat and civilization?

More than a 'cli-fi' read about the uncertain future, Critical Habitat holds the attraction of an ecology statement, the action and intrigue of a thriller, the political draw of clashing ideologies, and the soft drone of bees that survive against all odds despite of and due to human intervention in their lives.
Libraries and readers that choose Critical Habitat will find many intriguing discussion points, food for thought, and reflections in a dystopian novel that evolves in unexpected directions.

Florence My Love
Graceann K. Deters
Legacy Notes Press
9798218187897, $15.99 Paper/$6.99 Kindle

Libraries and readers looking for biographies about women in theater will want to acquire and study Florence My Love: The Remarkable Life of a Chautauqua Star. It follows the life of author Graceann K. Deters's mother-in-law Florence Poling, offering a rare glimpse into the theater world of the earlier part of the 20th century. It reveals how an Iowa farm girl traveled the world and made her impact upon it far from home.

Florence achieved many goals uncommon for a woman of her times, from enrolling in a prestigious music college and obtaining a degree in an era where women rarely went to college at all to contributing her vivid singing voice to Chautauqua, one of the largest and most revered cultural movements in the history of the United States and Canada.

Readers might think that daughter-in-law Graceann's story stems from unprecedented personal access to the stories, but it was her discovery of Florence's record of her achievements (newspaper clippings, programs, and memorabilia) that led to her exploration of this remarkable story and its eventual publication here.

Serendipity is a funny thing, because Florence's biography does more than focus on one woman's remarkable achievements. It explore her times, the history and contributions of Chautauqua, and the hidden history of a woman whose passion for living her life against all odds resulted in a distance from her son and family that largely played down her achievements.

Another reason why this biography was even possible in all of its detail is that Florence saved virtually every program from every single recital she'd participated in, along with newspaper articles.

The temptation to focus on Florence's life and impact was great, but an even stronger mandate was to support Florence's belief that music changes the world. And so the story unfolds powerful connections between Florence's evolving life in music and the social changes it brings to her milieu and the country as a whole.

Deters captures a strong sense of place as well as that of purpose and career evolution from the start, crafting a compelling, rich loam of insights that readers will find appealing:
"Florence Poling was born in America's Midwest, surrounded by neverending emptiness: sky, land, water. Surrounded by farmland in its stark and unrelenting presence, and a horizon so expansive it could swallow you whole. Even now, all these years later, if you drive 50 miles from the depths of any midwestern city, you'll be devoured by rolling hills and flat expanses of fertile soil. Florence found it unnerving, all that emptiness, at once gorgeous and devastating. But here it was that her roots were planted."

Because the story reads with the excitement, passion, and personal attention of a novel, it incorporates the draw and drama of fiction into its nonfiction story. This adds additional layers of understanding to Florence's milieu and personal struggles in life: "No matter how much you know a thing, it can still knock you down just as if you never saw it coming."

The story moves through Florence's world and then into her influence on Graceann's husband Bill, tracing decisions, perspectives, and choices influenced by the sum of her life (even though its full processes weren't common knowledge to her son).

Between the "unending charisma" that gained her numerous easy friendships to the travels that connected her to the music world and the correspondences that kept her grounded, Florence's vivid milieu comes to life in a biography that celebrates faith, family, and creative endeavors alike.

Deters crafts a celebratory story that is vivid in its descriptions, taking the time to ground Florence's world in a sense of place and purpose:

"As always, the end of summer brought with it a sudden and inescapable pang of panic. Florence could feel the open road and the opportunity for performances and rapt audiences collapse around her as the world pulled into greater darkness and chill. As she sat on a bench overlooking the Mississippi river, Florence tried and failed to fight off the dread and instead enjoy the late August sun falling through the oak trees overhead and the curve of gold that was the river below. "Itchy" is what John had called it - another name for the same energy that had always compelled Florence to look to the horizon. The only solution, in this moment anyway, was to think of what was right in front of her: a performance that evening at The Sheldon Theater in downtown Red Wing."

The result is lively, personal, eye-opening, and celebratory. Anyone interested in music, theater, and women's shifting roles in the world will relish the romance, career, and travels captured in Florence My Love.

Under the Southern Cross
Aurion du Preez
Anaphora Literary Press
9798595602006, $25.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 352pp

When aging missionary John Rice goes missing in Botswana, young American schoolteacher Benjamin Greene is sent by his church to investigate, only to find himself caught in the crossfire of a war that engulfs the southern African region in Under the Southern Cross.

Ben is still learning many things - about the world, his mission, and navigating the cultural, religious, and political world of South Africa. His interactions and discoveries carry readers into new environments as he is forced to examine his prejudices, preconceptions, and his own faith in the process of discovery and investigation:

"Providing aid to underdeveloped countries had a ring of intrigue and significance that Ben had not seen in his personal ministry, or in his upbringing for that matter. He ardently believed in a humanitarian expression of Christian faith, but he didn't often see it demonstrated in a bold and sacrificial manner."

As Ben navigates unfamiliar territory that tests his heart and soul, Christian readers will appreciate a journey that explores the concept and fostering of missionary work as well as the impacts of the vanishing world of apartheid on Christian endeavors.

The juxtaposition of flawed characters with equally flawed systems and concepts of justice and salvation makes for not just engrossing reading, but thought-provoking insights that, of necessity, require a slow consumption by those who will be forced to reconsider their own beliefs and attitudes about missions and the impact of charitable activities.

From a harrowing experience in Momanga that almost claims Ben's life to political and religious clashes that force special interests and disparate groups to struggle for survival in a strange new world, Aurion du Preez endeavors to capture a complex world's mercurial threads of intention and change for present-day readers. In this, he more than succeeds; but the revelations don't come without effort on the part of readers to not just absorb the fictional progression of the novel, but understand its underlying impact on their own belief systems.

As naive young pastor Ben discovers far more challenges than he had anticipated from his mandate, readers walk in Ben's shoes to gain new possibilities from what feels like a series of disasters that can hold no positive outcome:

"I need to know you'll move on to a new life. I know we all once believed we had a special calling, and our lives were led by the Holy Spirit. Then it all fell apart, in different ways for all three of us. But life isn't over. We just have to believe there's a life beyond the walls of Castle Rock, and far away from the grip of Alexander Van Hemel. Millions of refugees have survived a lot worse."

While Under the Southern Cross can and should be marketed as a Christian novel, to pigeonhole it as nothing but would be to do it a grave disservice by limiting its audience too much.

As a powerful survey of the beliefs and influences of a bygone era which test the mettle and faith of all sides, Under the Southern Cross proves a mind-rattling foray into social and political issues that hold concurrent power with Christian faith and its special interests and objectives.

Not only Christian collections, but general-interest libraries seeking to acquire thought-provoking stories of missionary work and political entanglements will find Under the Southern Cross a delight. It should be recommended, as well, to book clubs and reading groups with a special interest in fiction that follows social and spiritual transformations with a keen eye to questioning the foundations of faith and intention that underlie them.

"I was concerned for your soul," Alexander said. "And loyalty to the church. You just couldn't keep those screwy liberal ideas out of your head."

"I was always searching," Ben said. "I guess our ideas of truth and right were different, yours and mine."

Bacon Master of the Apocalypse
Frank Morin
Whipsaw Press
9781946910271, $29.99 HC, $15.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle

Bacon Master of the Apocalypse is a rich introduction to the Bacon Master series that sets the stage for a mouth-watering romp into apocalyptic and culinary circles.

Chapter headings rich in humorous food references ("The Icing on the Cake of Fallen Dreams," "The Mixing Bowl of Divine Intervention") capture the culinary wizardry that offers unique and creative twists on the epic fantasy genre that will expand its audience into strange arenas, such as culinary circles and foodies who may never have chosen a fantasy read before.

From its opening salvo, Bacon Master of the Apocalypse injects delicious experiences into its plot: "Rasher Dilskin shoved an entire cream-filled pastry into his mouth and savored the explosion of sugary sweetness. No enhancements by confectioners or muffin mages. Just pure, uncomplicated pleasure."

The lack of complications is about to be filled in by something not so sweet as Bacon Master Rasher employs his secret to gaining "extra sizzle" to the events in life which swirl around him to challenge his world and status.

Frank Morin's ability to create richly mouth-watering scenarios of fast-paced action touched with a topping of ironic humor makes for a story that is unpredictable and delightfully full-bodied.

Hero Rasher may be a superhuman warrior on some levels; but on others he is a somewhat fearful hero whose mild aspirations and powers are tapped when monsters invade the kingdom and a bacon-tinged superhero is forced to come to the rescue.

The social and political intrigues which swirl around this unlikely savior are delightfully rendered throughout. Think The Princess Bride, with its undercurrents of serious action, tempered by the sassy irony of a bacon-infused personality whose bumbling powers work against one another way too often.

Both successful and a flawed character, Rasher is called upon to rise above cakes and foodie concerns to enter a battle he holds little hope of winning as he faces down Reapers, a Food Court who may yet remove him from the war, and hero finders who couldn't find anyone better to tap.

Sci-fi readers who look for rampant humor in their stories will find it in droves in Bacon Master of the Apocalypse, which holds the uncommon ability to pair side-splitting chuckles with thought-provoking insights into the makings of a hero, a war, and a culinary disaster alike.

While Bacon Master of the Apocalypse will likely be chosen for its epic fantasy promise, libraries and readers who look for greater literary prowess and themes that promise to expand the initial audience from sci-fi to general interest reading will find the book attractive and unique.

It's highly recommended not just for individual and book club pursuit, but possibly movie expansion. Its ribald humor and world-romping encounters are vivid, nicely presented, and flavored with all the attraction of culinary art and fantastic encounters alike.

ReForm: Combating the Algorithmic Mutation
Scott Bollens
Atmosphere Press
9781639888603, $15.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 344pp

Although its title sounds like this book will be a mathematical exploration, Scott Bollens has crafted an admirable sci-fi adventure in ReForm: Combating the Algorithmic Mutation that takes a step away from the familiar classic Colossus to posit a world in which a supercomputer's domination and war has taken place not just in the outside world, but in the chip-laden brains of humanity.

As the story opens, humanity appears to have won. The computer's control factor has ceased. Or, has it?
Computer addictions are on the rise, the chip-encouraged violence of humanity is ebbing, and the interconnect supercomputer that has fostered these dangers is actually reinventing itself.

Computer domination is not a new theme - but its self-transformation into a different form of human dictatorship is, as assaulted, numbed citizens find themselves as in thrall through the comparatively, seemingly benign computer program of ReForm as they did during its violence-inducing phase during the Turmoil.

ReForm isn't just a story of computer versus man, however. It also presents the efforts of a flawed human investigator whose seizures have confined him to a mental institution, surprisingly, insulating him from some of the computer-generated influences of this strange new world. In his case, the flaw is a survival trait as Jared Rohde faces a difficult choice between regaining an independent form of cognitive thinking or succumbing to the allure of computer addiction and its alluring fantasy environment.

His ReStart field work may be over, but Jared's new mandates and life is just beginning. Sci-fi readers will walk in his shoes as Jared faces a new understanding about his life and everything that influences and directs it. Under computer control, how can reality itself be defined and recognized; and what constitutes quality of life?

As Jared pursues answers, his readers will appreciate the vivid first-person reflections that will spark discussions and higher-level thinking about artificial regulation and computer attractions in modern society. The passages of reflection and history are thought-provoking:

"Life under the interconnect God is buffered and cushioned from direct experiences such as this. So many denizens in our country have no awareness of such things happening. Their internalized manufactured mental spaces cannot see such beautiful analog phenomena. The fabricated space feels safe, so we buy into it. It is all curated."

When is a perfect life imperfect? When it is recognized as an illusion and an incarnation of control at the hands of an outsider who just so happens to be artificial.

As Jared struggles under the hands of humans and machines determined to take away his executive function under the guise of ReStart and connectivity, readers will be prompted to reconsider their own computer relationships and addictions.

The path to freedom takes on an unfamiliar feel as Jared makes discoveries about human nature, choices, and "The raw interconnectedness of all the natural elements. The organized complexity that is beyond the reach of machine and man."

Libraries will thus find ReForm: Combating the Algorithmic Mutation not only thoroughly engrossing and appropriate for sci-fi readers interested in issues of computer domination and direction, but perfect for book club reading groups engaged in thoughtful discussions over life's meaning, direction, and what happens when control is willingly and purposefully relinquished.

Missed Cue
Lynn Slaughter
Melange Books
B0CB72TDVX, $5.99, Kindle ($2.99 Amazon)

There's a reason why a ballet production of Romeo and Juliet could seem so stunningly realistic and compelling. And that reason is death.

The sudden demise of a ballerina onstage could have come from natural causes, but detective Caitlin O'Connor doesn't think so in Missed Cue. What killed Juliet/Lydia is all too real, as a missed cue reveals.

As the mystery evolves, other missed cues arise. There are many possible perps and motives for murder - but there is no actual evidence that a murder took place. Caitlin is missing the cues that would point her in the right direction. Ironically, the missed cues and puzzles of her own life relationships and choices mirror the failings of the young ballerina as Caitlin's probe of Lydia's life reveals the connections and options that contributed to her demise.

Lynn Slaughter's special brand of intrigue lies not just in identifying a perp and murder modus operandi, but in closely examining the methods, perceptions, and impact of the investigator's life as she navigates murky waters both onstage and off.

As threats fall closer to home and lead Caitlin to realize that Lydia's life isn't the only one at stake, readers are led into a world of disillusionment, anxiety patterns, and anguish that explores a soap opera series of dramatic connections while still considering that the death may not, in fact, be a homicide.

Unable to make a clean break from her relationships with married men and their confusing consequences, Caitlin finds her life too closely tied to Lydia's demise and its puzzles as she navigates her own treacherous world and comes closer to both solving problems and revealing deadly new ones. The time and attention Slaughter gives to building Caitlin's personal dilemmas and weaving them into her own motives for action and inaction provide fine psychological tension and realistic drama:

"I slept fitfully that night and beat myself up all Saturday morning for my inability to make a clean break from Chet. All I'd had to say was I no longer cared in the same way, and I knew he'd leave me alone. Yet I couldn't do it. I felt hopelessly stuck, confused."

The story's move between whodunit to how characters fall prey to dangerous forces in their lives creates an intriguing contrast between worlds which evolves to make Caitlin's personal dilemmas every bit as compelling and convoluted as her professional investigation.

The result is a winning murder mystery that lures genre readers with a case of murder and matters of the heart which may not even be a crime at all.

Libraries and readers looking for a different take on intrigue and explorations of the worlds of dancers who live on the edge in more than one way will find Missed Cue a compelling murder mystery filled with delightful revelations and unexpected relationship results.

Honeymoon at Sea
Jennifer Silva Redmond
9781738945207, $22.99, PB, 240pp

Honeymoon at Sea is a memoir about relationship-building, a seafaring adventure, and a year spent living in close quarters on a twenty-six-foot sailboat. From the start, Jennifer Silva Redmond admits that the major attraction to this journey wasn't about the experience of sailing the Pacific Coast, but about the atmosphere it embraced:

"When I recount our first long sea voyage, the number one question people ask is: "How did you two get along so well in that tiny space?" My reply is always the same: If you are in love and like spending a great deal of time together then a small boat has room to spare. If you aren't thrilled to be with your partner twenty-four hours a day, then no yacht in the world is big enough."

The second common question is: does she like living on a sailboat. The answer is no. She loves it. And this love permeates a story of exploration and discovery that heads into previously uncharted waters for the author and stories of revelation for her readers as they vicariously sail along with her.

One striking feature of this journey is that Redmond cultivates a "you are here" feel throughout, taking the time to incorporate descriptions of the passages and processes of living on a sailboat full-time:

"We barely made it to sunset, but it was worth staying awake for. The hills had turned a deep violet and the sky was illuminated with golds and deep reds, all reflected on dramatic cloud formations that spread across the cerulean sky in rose, gold, and hot pink billows and streaks. The water of the bay reflected all the colors on its glassy surface, mirroring the celestial glory. La Paz sunsets are justly famous, and though I am still partial to dawns, sunset would prove to be a highpoint of each day to come."

This isn't just a lone venture: Redmond meets fellow nautical families, couples, and individuals along the way who each represent another facet of adventurous boating life: "The next day on the beach at the Annual La Paz Dinghy Regatta we met another unusual couple. Mike and Karen Riley were completing a circumnavigation... on a 24- foot Columbia. Yes, they had the same kind of boat as us, even smaller than ours. And their sailboat had no engine."

Sailors, readers who would live the sailing dream through the pages of personal experience, and those who would navigate their own treacherous relationship waters to better understand their lives and the lure of travel will find Honeymoon at Sea especially revealing in its ability to traverse other cultures while exploring the nautical world's characters and challenges.

As she works on being fluent in Spanish and in the language of love and independence, Redmond finds she is growing into her prowess as a writer and a sailor alike. She brings her readers along for an unexpected foray into new experiences that will especially delight armchair travelers interested in stories of living simpler lives and experiencing such riches.

Libraries and readers attracted to warm stories of love, relationship-building, journeys, and life encounters who find the sailing experience especially inviting will find the rich and warm-hearted stories of growth and discovery to be alluring and compelling in Honeymoon at Sea, as the author's relationships and family expand.

Ghosts of Mr. Baker
Brian Zaffino
Atmosphere Press
9781639888696, $15.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 42pp

While Ghosts of Mr. Baker may sound like a supernatural exploration, it actually represents poetry and prose that resonates on different levels of awareness, leading readers through time and space in a literary effort designed to engage audiences by capturing the unseen, mysteries of life and afterlife, and the evolution of complex relationships between self and the world: "Freedom is running with the blind/not listening to the suffocation of a brain."

Brian Zaffino is "forever chasing ghosts," but these are spirits of conscious and subconscious nature whose elusive countenances accompany happiness and realizations that typically "only last a moment." Also inherent in these inspections of life, self, and ghostly echoes are reflections on God's place in this greater scheme of haunted life: "God doesn't hear dead men/but I hope he answers them/unless the phone ringing in the distance/simply can't be picked up."

Zaffino creates both a tribute to Mr. Baker ("Hobey", who is "hockey royalty") and an inspiration and an acknowledgement of the ghostly echoes and influences of the past, with icons of wonder guiding present-day life. His inclusion of a childhood girlfriend's summation of his group of friends and their milieu is captured in a pointed prose tribute to Mr. Baker's lasting influence:

"It's kinda scary how similar you all are. All really good looking, really good hockey players, really funny, and have all these other musical or artistical talents but somehow are all still so insanely sad about life... I don't know, something about all of you St. Paul's hockey boys."

The meat of these works lies in making sense of life, recognizing home, and acknowledging the impact the spirits and souls of people hold on everyday lives that unfold alongside or without them.

"I swore I'd never run away/So god bless the broken force that always brings us back." Ghosts of Mr. Baker 's haunting reflections on faith, loss, growth, and falling in love with past and present memories will earn it a place in any library strong in contemporary works blending autobiographical experience and bigger-picture thinking about the ghosts that influence life, and how we become them, in spirit.

Linda Yianolatos
Independently Published
9798387781384, $9.99 PB, $1.50 Kindle, 26pp

CHILDREN, A WORD PLEASE! is a rhyming picture book emphasizing that words can change the world, and informs the very young that words can do all kinds of good in the world, from "bringing comfort on a sad day" to spreading love.

Conversely, words can spread discord and hate, if not chosen and utilized properly.

Linda Yianolatos employs vivid, colorful illustration examples of kids interacting with the world to support her contentions about words, showing how even kids can save lives by listening to others' words as well as using their own voices more thoughtfully.

The contrast between supportive word use and those which harm receive equal emphasis: "Others cut worse than a knife. These words are remembered for the rest of your life."

Yianolatos teaches kids by example, showing them how words can not only harm or support others, but boomerang back to do the same to oneself.

Teachers and read-aloud parents who would show kids the power of word choices have few better picks than CHILDREN, A WORD PLEASE! to encourage realizations about word power and how it works in daily life. Its uplifting, thought-provoking message needs to be heard by many who choose this book. Ideally, the book will also be used as an interactive discussion point in children's reading groups supporting child empowerment and empathy.

The Blue Whale Sings From Afar
Josefina Berard
Atmosphere Press
9781639888115, $12.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 64pp

The Blue Whale Sings From Afar intersects nature with human affairs, binding its free verse explorations with a sense of color and purpose that swim through revelations as sweet and poignant as the poem 'The Swan Who Sang With a Heart,' in which the flow of identity, purpose, and purity evolves from the ordinary effort of drinking a cup of coffee: "A white swan was swimming in my coffee/As in a pond of everlasting sweetness.../The swan, he had a heart with him/The heart of forgotten times..."

Josefina Berard unearths poetic reflection from cups of tea or coffee, Victorian afternoons, and attempts to grasp the elusive daily act of living a full life when purpose and pleasure pull away.

Each carefully crafted piece is like a jigsaw puzzle, both able to stand on its own and yet contributing a broader sense of perspective to the greater efforts. Such an example lies in 'With a Cat's Leap':

"So, to the harbor I went/To feel the sea, the boats, the stripped garments/And the sense of freedom to the core./To love the rain dripping in my face/And love the rain dripping in my soul."

Whether stripping away dark matters of the soul or fully embracing and thus exposing them to the reader's eye, this collection holds a unified connection to nature. Quests for peace and the opportunity of holding gems of seasonal change and poetic evolution live side by side here, in The Blue Whale Sings From Afar.

Libraries seeking strong, contemporary free verse examples of literary connections to nature will find The Blue Whale Sings From Afar a fine example of celebrating life and nature in all its incarnations. As one season ends and another opens, so the flow of these poems move betwixt opportunities and observations, ever into the light of an accessible form of literary inspection that promises to reach a wide audience.

Funeral Daze
Dorian Box
Friction Press
9781734639940, $11.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle

Funeral Daze is a macabre and hilarious novel that intersects the lives of several bizarre and oddly compelling characters. It centers on the current dilemma facing a former lottery winner who was once framed for murder and aided by a family of morticians that included seven-year-old embalming expert Jessica. Fast forward five years, and Jessica is now tapping Danny for help.

When the mortuary is suddenly sold and her family vanishes, Jessica's return portends more nefarious influences as she reveals her mission to locate her missing parents and get their funeral home back.

Jessica's dilemmas force Danny into a form of payback he never saw coming as he unwillingly gives her refuge for a night, only to find he's become entangled in yet another strange dilemma.

As if its plot didn't portend hilarious moments, Dorian Box's descriptions present satirical and fun observations of social norms in the year 2000 which are wry, delightfully original examinations:

"Welcome future lawyers of America!" The greeting boomed through a massive sound system erected for the post-ceremony celebration, headlined by a classic rock band that had two legitimate hits in the seventies and featured one of the original roadies. A few lazy whoops. The graduates lounged in various states of intoxication on blankets and chairs scattered across the law school plaza. Many had broadly interpreted Florida Casual on the invitations to include swimsuits, although No Nudity signs spoke to the solemnity of the occasion."

These insights and observations, delivered with the deadpan wit infecting otherwise-solemn occasions and circumstances, lend Funeral Daze a decidedly light romp through situations of intrigue and investigation:

"These are the doors for loading and unloading clients. They lead straight into the embalming room and... darn."

"What's wrong?"

"They changed the lock."

He almost blurted Great! "That's too bad," he said. "Let's get out of here."

By now, it should be apparent that Funeral Daze is remarkable for its wit, its sense of discovery and adventure, and its unlikely juxtaposition of two characters that keep their own failures and determination close to their hearts.

Extortion, drugs, and murder are normally not laughing matters. They are here. As Danny enters into the role of unwilling guardian more than willing to let the savvy twelve-year-old Jessica manage her own affairs, a scheme pulls both of them into a centrifuge of threat and unpredictable disasters that just keep coming.

Dorian Box masterfully directs the story into a series of unpredictable and uproarious events that are deliciously ironic, unexpectedly thought-provoking, and always edgy and dark.

Fans of the prior Psycho-Tropics will find this rollicking sequel worthy of the same acclaim, while newcomers will find this story stands nicely alone with its heartwarming attractions.

Libraries and readers looking for a satirical novel centered in modern Florida that exposes the underbelly of simmering special interests there will find Funeral Daze packed with memorable moments and satirical criminal encounters of the best kind.

Glove Shy
Janet Hurley
Lystra Books & Literary Services
9798985008357, $18.85 PB,$7.99 Kindle, 386pp

Glove Shy: A Sister's Reckoning demonstrates what the memoir format can do under the right hands and approach. On the surface, it details a family affair based on journals, letters, emails, interviews, press clippings, biographies, autobiographies, photos, public documents, and artifacts. Under this veneer of well-researched study into boxing history and a brother's involvements are also heartfelt stories of personal interactions, and growth that reach through generations with influence and power.

The opening salvo of description clearly makes this connection from the start:

"THAP, thap, THAP, thap, THAP, thap-thap-thap-thap. Our ten-year-old son, Liam, is hitting the heavy bag, the sound now in concert with my heartbeat. If he were older, with more weight behind his blows, I might be hearing thud, thud, thud. Maybe even punctuated with those airy-raspy sounds that come from exhaling through the nose, the sounds every boxer makes when throwing a punch. Sounds that resonate from my childhood, from a basement in a ranch-style house in upstate New York, where my older brother, Brian, attacked this same heavy bag, fervent, at first, with ambition."

Family live revolved around these sounds in author Janet Hurley's youth, when her older brother Brian chose boxing as his goal and the sky seemed to be the limit for his abilities.

While boxing takes the center ring of family developments, its incarnation and growth leads to and influences family interactions as underlying emotional forces simmer beneath the veneer of a family effort to foster a child's success in the world.

Whether winning or losing, this story of brother Brian's boxing efforts, broader insights, and their impact on the family (which both comes apart and together in unexpected ways) creates an interplay of faith, determination, and flawed perspectives that are gripping and astutely examined.

From fellow boxer Andy Schott's experiences and battles to bigger-picture questions of how walls and bridges are chosen and built both within and outside of the family, readers will find far more going on here than a singular account of the boxing world or a brother's life.

Janet Hurley's special form of reckoning and remembrance draws readers into a milieu of battles and conflict that move beyond the ring and into the heart:

"For years, I remembered the flicks of white bread that my mother spewed out as so much yeasty venom. Now, I can see it was desperation. It wasn't that Andy took Brian's place as the golden boy at the gym, or that he had the amateur career Brian always wanted, or that he got to turn pro. The real sin was that Andy was able to leave boxing behind him, move on, take on the next challenge. He could look back with a realistic eye and no regrets. And then, to add insult to injury, he had my trust and confidence, something Brian had squandered so many years before."

The resulting candid, raw take on family affairs, success, and relationship-building and deconstruction is highly recommended for libraries seeking powerful memoirs of growth, healing, and transformation. It will also attract book clubs and psychology groups looking for particularly revealing discussion points and insights that come from the world of boxing and family decisions and dynamics.

There Are No Answers Here, Only Questions
Charles Bruce McIntyre
Tall Clover Publishing
9781088082027, $27.99 Hardcover/$17.27 Paper/$11.49 ebook

There Are No Answers Here, Only Questions details transitions and life-changing moments that happened not once, but twice, nearly concurrently, marking big changes in Charles Bruce McIntyre's life that resonate to this day.

One story covers selling the business he'd built for over thirty years. The other involves his battle with cancer. Both transitions introduced cathartic changes which would transform the remainder of his life in different and unexpected ways.

Readers who choose There Are No Answers Here, Only Questions for its dual themes of professional and personal transformation will find the memoir also introduces a particular form of philosophical life inspection. This holds insights and thought-provoking moments for anyone on their own journeys through transitional moments.

As McIntyre reveals business campaigns and approaches that proved successful, he also probes the underlying questions and objectives of his ventures:

"My campaign had worked. Visibility and exposure, or what some call "connections," might be the most misunderstood privilege of all...We won contests, Broker of the Year, and other awards. Herb never regretted his decision, and I never forgot the lesson of not taking no when there's a yes if you keep looking."

More than a story of individual achievement and struggle, McIntyre's reflections on business and personal life decisions reflect a greater purpose and results:

"My plan was simple: our folks needed an advantage, a leg up, an unleveled playing field that sloped in their favor for a change. "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day, but teach him to fish, and he eats for a lifetime," wrote Lao Tzu, the contemporary of Confucius. And we wanted our fishermen successful - we'd stock the pond."

From community-building involvements and support systems to applying some of these concepts to his own world, McIntyre creates a set of questions, responses, and ultimate answers that embrace the meanings of philanthropic thinking, business goals, and life.

Libraries and readers seeking a wide-ranging memoir that elevates beyond business or personal adversity to reach into community circles and opportunities for growth and transformation will find There Are No Answers Here, Only Questions astute, hard-hitting, and unexpectedly inclusive in its move between business and personal pursuits and personal choice and perspective's impact on other circles. Ideally, it also will be profiled in book clubs seeking memoirs that hold inspiration, enlightenment, and examples of building and disseminating power into the world.

The Fortress
T. A. Styles
Transcendence Press
9798987968406, $16.99 PB, 306pp

As the story opens, Sim has shot to death his wife and young daughter two weeks earlier. He's no murderer, however, but a compassionate father and husband who has saved them agony from a torturous disease which has killed off most of the world.

Yes, he's robbed them of life - but what kind of life was it destined to be? When young Elizabeth appears in his life, it's at just the right moment, her redemption seeming a salve for his sins. Is Sim a coward for not following through on the suicide pact with his wife, or has he saved himself for a higher purpose?

As T.A. Styles unfolds the events in The Fortress, a sense of fate, survival tactics, and redemption permeates this now-lonely man's life, helping him navigate a strange new world post-pandemic.

The rise of such post-virus survival novels since COVID has been prominent, but what sets The Fortress apart from others is its story of how Sim becomes involved in building a bastion of survival against all odds. He assembles and directs a band of orphans who learn the rudiments of hunting, gathering, and confronting man and nature through his guidance.

Rare moments of ironic humor pepper a story about fate and survival that personalize these orphans and their new leader and lives, but it's the world-rebuilding focus, which juxtaposes different kinds of survivors with confrontations that stem from a fortress of promise and pain, that makes The Fortress stand out from the crowd.

Styles incorporates a sense of building not just safety, but family from seemingly disparate influences as the tale evolves. Life goes on despite its seeming end, and despite the fate many of the characters face in their efforts to salvage the remnants of civilization.

Thought-provoking passages about growing new connections and who really saves whom in the struggle for reinventing life and humanity provide fodder for book club discussion, making The Fortress a recommendation for reading groups interested in comparing the events and perspectives of end-of-the-world scenarios that hold new beginnings and powerfully compelling characters a cut above the norm.

Libraries and readers interested in dystopian stories that embrace bigger-picture thinking about the choices in living or dying will find The Fortress hard to put down, action-packed, and astute in its contrast between different types of survivors of all ages, and their choices.

No, You're Crazy
Jeff Beamish
Roundfire Books
9781803412160, $21.95 PB, $9.49 Kindle, 384pp

No, You're Crazy is an unusual coming-of-age novel about sixteen-year-old Ashlee Sutton, whose particular (and peculiar) form of mental illness translates to a belief that she can see the future.

Ashlee is on the run from both her ability and those who would use it to their advantage. All she really wants is peace, but even strangers pursue her with different intentions in mind: "Even if he wants to help, can't he see that I want to be left alone? That all I desire in this world is to be free of everyone else and the pain that comes with them."

Between family ties, misdiagnoses and perceptions of what constitute mental illness and extraordinary abilities, and Ashlee's own desire to detach from her body and life to find the peace and freedom she imagines await her, the story evolves many delightfully unexpected threads of connection and realization. Ashlee's journey carries readers into a milieu in which her vision of the perfect life is debatable.

Underlying her journey is the uncertain evolving faith that things can change - even for the better, and against all odds.

As her conviction that people can change their own reality translates to revised relationships with her grandfather and life, readers receive a thought-provoking story that comes not just from Ashlee's experiences and perspective, but the lives and influences of those around her, such as her grandfather:

"It was a glimpse of eternity that hinted at all life's answers, one that told a story of distant places and cultures that forever changed for better and worse, even if the faces taking them in never did. And in this never-ending panorama, a greater truth screamed to be heard: that something far more precious was being squandered with each passing second, with each rush of wind and water. Maybe Ashlee was right that we all get to choose our own reality."

These shifting perspectives from other characters lend further insights and depth to Ashlee's life and beliefs, expanding her personality and perceptions in a manner that links her to family, friends, and choices that redirect her belief system and values.

Teen to new adult readers will find Ashlee's exploration and evolution thoroughly engrossing. It holds the kind of attraction that expands a compelling saga of being lost, found, and coming full circle to recognize the real value of life.

Libraries and readers seeking unusual novels of growth and evolution will find Ashlee's story a remarkable effort that brings to life a teen's compelling vision of her possible futures and the impact of her choices in the world:

"Kimberly can't understand why someone with my ability to look into the future is unable to see everything that awaits. I am not sure myself. Maybe we aren't meant to see all things or have all the answers. Maybe some are meant to reveal themselves as surprises, forcing us to respond on the double from the heart."

The Cassandra Curse
Sallie Bissell
Atmosphere Press
9781639889006, $16.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 296pp

The Cassandra Curse follows twin Augusta Delaney as she traverses her life with newfound realizations about her latent abilities and their impact on everyone around her.

Augusta is a portrait painter. When her abilities change to produce pictures that reflect a person's soul after an attack changes her life, she is compelled (both by her new realizations and the disappearance of her twin) to seek answers for not just her revised artistic abilities, but the questions that they bring.

Desperate to uncover the secrets that reside just beyond her perception of reality and her newfound talents, Augusta begins to understand that a man in whom she has begun to place her love and trust may be the force that has influenced her transformation and now threatens her future.

Sallie Bissell creates a compelling story that centers on dreams, recovered memories, and truths that Augusta is able to unlock in various ways. Love can all too quickly "shrivel into hate," as Augusta discovers when she 'reads' her lover, only to find truths she never quite wanted to know.

Does she harbor a power, a curse, or a blessing?

Bissell's ability to unlock key moments of realization and transformation as Augusta navigates a vastly changed world after an attack creates an engrossing story of intrigue and psychological discovery. The balance between love, hate, and powerful new realizations about the world is tempered by a mystery which draws Augusta and her readers into a milieu marked by new opportunities and concurrent dangers.

From murder and kidnappings to power plays, the tension is nicely developed and unpredictable:
"I felt as if I were the last speaker of a dying language, understood by nobody but me. Kirk said, "Look, I know how badly you want to find out what happened to your brother. That's totally normal. Everybody needs to know the why of the shitty things that happen to them. But you're chasing a ghost, something drawn from Jules's imagination." He kissed my palm, as if to convince me further. "For the last time, Gus. Give this up. Cartoon characters don't jump off the page and have ailing art professors murdered."

Libraries and readers interested in an intriguing first-person story of discovery and survival will find The Cassandra Curse especially astute in its cat-and-mouse game between disparate forces that hold game-changing impact not just on personal lives, but everything and everyone involved.

Behind the Lies
Maren Cooper
She Writes Press
9781647425876, $17.95 PB, $9.95 Kindle, 256pp

In Behind the Lies, boss Chet Sutherland is more than a legend in biotech circles who has been grooming Will to be

BioteKem's next CEO. He's been like a father to Will. So when Will is called on the carpet with accusations of impropriety by Chet, he's flabbergasted. Underlying his concern is the fact that Chet isn't acting like himself at all.

The truth is that Chet is right, in some ways. But this involves knowledge nearly impossible for him to have, and when Chet's life hangs on a thread hours later, it's up to Will to find out what's going on.

The story that evolves embraces intrigue and mounting threats that come from both personal and professional circles as a cyberattack pairs with Will's efforts to help Chet's family in the face of a devastating illness.

Obviously, Chet uncovered some kind of truth that is haunting and daunting. As Will searches for answers of his own, he finds Chet's course fraught with deadly danger that lies closer to home than he'd expected.

Maren Cooper creates a powerful entanglement of strong personalities and business pursuits as the mystery grows. She weaves the realistic story of Will's transgressions and his own secrets with the bigger picture challenges of Chet's discoveries and their implications for Will's future.
As BioteKem investigations heat up, readers are led through a rabbit warren of possibilities that will keep even the most avid thriller or mystery reader guessing about outcomes and nefarious involvements.

In building the mystery around a suddenly-imploded close relationship and following outcomes into unexpected arenas, Cooper crafts a business-centered story of intrigue which is hard to put down.

Libraries and readers seeking mysteries especially powerful in connecting emotional, technological, and business dots of contention will find Behind the Lies an intriguing survey of rebuilding rock-solid business and marriage foundations against all odds.

Transform the World
B. Morris Allen,
Other Worlds Ink
9781955778534, $6.99 eBook, $19.99 paperback; $29.99 hardcover

Transform the World: Fourteen Sci-Fi Writers Change the Planet features a satisfyingly diverse set of visions of the future that come from a single question: how could the world work better?

Whether the writer choose to run with issues of equality, pay inequity, environmental issues, or other subjects, the result contributes a powerful tone of achievement and positivity to subjects that usually receive somewhat grim predictions in the sci-fi worlds of the future.

Take 'Default' by Xauri' EL Zwaan, for one example. The story opens with an ordinary busy day in Joy's world. Climate engineering has shown some success in addressing climate change issues, but her teen child is obsessed with ranking and achievement while Joy herself considers her own options: "To really make it big in the Luxe market, you had to do something that brought in a lot of revenue without having to share it with too many other people."

Joy admits she feels she's "...drifting farther and farther away from the life I wanted" as she contributes to greasing the wheels of Plex society while feeling like she's helping others more than herself.

As issues of labor choice, gaming's allure, and the promises and failures of social obligation and work affect Joy and her child's relationship and disparate visions of their future and its attractions, readers receive a thought-provoking examination of freedom, responsibility, and ambition that is challenged by futuristic pressures and scenarios.

Each story builds a very different vision of how the world could work better, how it's evolved, and how characters reconsider their own motivations and participation in society to affect the future.

More so than most sci-fi short story collections about future social issues, these short stories encourage dialogue and discussion about what elements could work better for the planet and its people.

Libraries and readers looking for especially diverse, thought-provoking sci-fi forays into not only what works, but why, will find Transform the World a potent gathering of forces that juxtapose tales of hope, social inspection, and a feeling of peaceful opportunity into the sci-fi short story world.

Tangled Iron Cages on the Prairie
Cecil Homer
Atmosphere Press
9781639884056, $14.95 PB, $7.95 Kindle, 150pp

Tangled Iron Cages on the Prairie offers a lesson in Midwestern culture and irony as it inspects not the wagon train era, but the wild ride of modern times in the 1960s. Three main characters (Bob, Jennifer and Helen) explore their world and its influence through flashbacks, intersected experiences, and lives that resonate with Illinois culture and period influences.

The uncommon literary devices Cecil Homer employs in this study will prove especially accessible and appreciated by students of Midwestern contemporary literature, who will find in the story and its presentation build a powerfully compelling atmosphere in which values and experiences are put to the test of self-imposed limitations from these same perceptions.

What is the message, here? Just as the Bible is not always evident in its revelations, so the characters discover that life, too, harbors an element of disguise and puzzle that both thwarts and supports a search for truth and meaning.

Each character reflects on their circumstances, life trajectory, and the nature of this journey in different ways. Readers can expect philosophical, historical, and psychological insights to emerge, all centered in Midwestern values and experience, as the disparate topics grow to embrace history and origins:

"Plainsboro is an unusual name for a town; how did it come about? Here on the plains of Illinois, it seems right to call a town Plains. But that is too ordinary, so why was "boro" added? The Scotch Irish from North Carolina did it. Our town had no name except "Jones" after the first grocer. He was a crook - hanged, which created a problem for the citizens. At the time, there was a large number of country folks from North Carolina - the Scotch Irish. They wanted a name to remind them of back home as a way to mitigate the loss and sorrow from moving west. That is, if they chose a good name for the town it might bring good fortune. Goldsboro was first proposed by a would-be promoter and marketer of the day."

Readers familiar with Midwestern psychology and culture will be especially appreciative of the threads of each that Homer winds into his tale as the comedic farce plays out and the characters contemplate exciting new lives and opportunities.

As graduation and the promise of transformation looms, the story assumes added attractions of love, grief, and moving between worlds as the contest between Plainsboro and Seattle's lures plays out.

Libraries and readers seeking books rooted in contemporary Midwest culture and promises will find Tangled Iron Cages on the Prairie an excellent literary study that deserves discussion and debate in any book club or reading group interested in self-imposed cages and limitations and the blossoming of friends, lovers, and new adults.

Its heartfelt characters and their interconnected lives and ambitions keep readers thoroughly engaged and lightly challenged by the format and diversity of perspectives and experiences.

Running at Hialeah
Don Marinelli
Atmosphere Press
9781639884445, $19.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 464pp

Running at Hialeah presents an effort to return home, with perhaps-misguided and certainly unexpected results. Retired New York City bus driver Bernie Buccellato journeys to South Florida after his father's death to reclaim the family home and cast his father's cremated remains at the Hialeah racetrack. Both seem outwardly logical, simple goals, but promises of freedom seldom turn out to be easy (nor is returning home), and so events unfold that prove anything but predictable.

Don Marinelli presents a believable, engrossing tale that is partially based on his own life and fully intriguing, adding twists of humor into the reflective process that will bring smiles of recognition and ironic acknowledgement to the reader's face:

"Bernie had that rare gift of being able to think on his feet. Ever since reading Tom Sawyer in elementary school, Bernie admired Tom's ability to get other people to do his work. Reading how Tom was able to get kids in his neighborhood to give him small trinkets and treasures for the 'privilege' of doing his tedious work sounded very much like the way the wise guys in Brooklyn operated. Sure, the difference was that instead of utilizing reverse psychology to convince the suckers, they simply threatened to bash in their skulls. The process might have been different, but the result was the same. Alas, times change. Bernie conceded he might have lacked Tom Sawyer's persuasive skills, but he had something Tom lacked: cash."

As the politics surrounding South Florida special interests, the Hialeah Racetrack, and Bernie's objectives come to life, Marinelli creates a satisfying romp through disparate cultural contrasts as New York culture meets South Florida and comes up unexpectedly short-handed in strategy and reaction.

Ironic humor permeates dilemmas, leading readers not only to absorb the disparities in lives and special interests, but the dramatic and intriguing responses of characters to circumstances beyond their control or ken:

"What do you think this means?" Yolanda asked tenderly.

"Don't know, really, other than the clock is ticking," Bernie surmised. "Hopefully, I'll find out more when I go in today. I imagine everyone's going to be bummed. Mr. Testone stressed that without those prime winter dates, Hialeah might not be able to make it financially. It might have to close, shut down... shit. Oh, the inhumanity of it all."

Readers of novels about South Florida will want to add Running at Hialeah to the list of inviting stories that are hilarious, culturally inclusive and reflective, and revealing on more than one level as Yolanda, Bernie, and others find their fates tied to Hialeah's finishing line.

It's time for Bernie to shift matters into high gear, time for readers to appreciate the race against time and purpose that evolves from his effort, and time for libraries and book clubs to place Running at Hialeah on reading lists as a top recommendation. It's worthy of reading, laughing, and discussion as Brooklynite Bernie builds an unexpected new life purpose in "the most unlikely of places."

Harvest: Short Stories
Richard Scharine
Atmosphere Press
9781639888849, $15.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 154pp

Harvest: Short Stories is a literary continuation of the collection Richard Scharine introduced in The Past We Step Into, offering six tales that move from the author's Wisconsin roots to his health struggles as an adult.

Each story demonstrates that the notions of survival and growth in America may not be as cut-and-dried as some would think as a progression through the years continues to expand the notion of fruitful life experiences and strength.

The opening story 'Harvest' chronicles a coming-of-age in the late 1940s, where family farms that portended a blossoming empire have turned into communities where the Temple family hierarchy raises more than crops, but beliefs:

"If Peggy were to describe her calling, after automatically listing her community-determined categories of wife, mother,

Christian, etc., she would say that she was a Witness: someone who saw the world as truthfully as possible, evaluated it according to a standard, but withheld judgment out of love and pity. It's a calling she would have liked to pass on to the son who stands impatiently by her side."

From inheritances, tenants, and other evidences of power and control to a child's blossoming perceptions of what these hierarchies mean to his life and future, Scharine captures the sense of the Midwest and its local color. He doesn't remain captivated and rooted in this environment, but expands the stories to other milieus as this central influencer also moves into other territories, there to take root under new environments and experiences.

Under his hand, these stories grow as deeply as their characters, resting on preliminary roots of experience, but gravitating into American cultural and social encounters that also translate their power and impact into life perceptions and perspectives: "Rik knew immediately what he was searching for and why he didn't want to be questioned."

The stories evolve different characters, ideals of homestead and hearth, and reflect changing social and political times in America.

Libraries and readers seeking literary yet accessible productions that capture the heartbeat of American experience will find Harvest: Short Stories an evocative, thought-provoking attraction that deserves profile in book clubs interested in literary works tracing American communities and growth.

Tales From the Hereafter
Ted Myers
Deuxmers, LLC
9781944521189, $14.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle

Stories about the hereafter are typically gloomy, scary, or ominous. Ted Myers here imagines some seventeen post-death experiences, offering first-person accounts "direct from the afterlife" which vary wildly in their notions of heaven, hell, and whatever lies in-between.

Take the opening short story, 'Bardo Train to Canarsie.' This opens with an unexpected bang as the narrator admits that death is not all he'd thought it was going to be:

"My body had been dead for two days. I could hear my brother monks chanting the mantra of the dead the whole time: "Go to the Light. Do not be distracted by the demons of the bardo..." If this was the bardo, it certainly was not what I was expecting."

The narrator's effort to "go to the light" results in a subway encounter with the ragged Leroy C.V. Jones, a poet (and possible demon) who doesn't just interfere, but messes with the narrator's vision of his final mission to go towards the right light.

As he faces tricks in locating and leading Leroy into the fabled white Light of Canarsie, readers will be surprised at the course his final mission takes.

Compare this to 'For All Eternity,' in which a fifty-year marriage doesn't end with death, but contains new opportunities and insights that redefine commitment.

"I want to go where Sarah goes." But is this even possible, given the new truth that emerges to thwart the narrator's deepest desire?

Each story provides a thought-provoking twist that will prove unexpected and surprising. Each tale offers a startling new vision of the afterlife, its purposes, and ironic results that stem not just from choice, but new realizations.

The stories also excel with surprising diversity, whether exploring the afterlife of a Black worker, a monk, or dreams that fall into truths that shake the afterlife.

Libraries and readers seeking a powerful compendium of thoughts about what an afterlife could ultimately bring and mean, especially those involved in book club or spiritual discussion groups interested in literary works that excel in their disparate visions of these possibilities, will find Tales From the Hereafter a hard-hitting series of vignettes that grasp with creative surprises and unpredictable scenarios and outcomes.

Zen and the Art of Navigating College
Peter Klein
Mascot Books
9781637555088, $24.95 PB, $12.99 Kindle, 224pp

So many books have been written about the college experience that one might wonder at the need for yet another, but Zen and the Art of Navigating College: An Inquiry into the True Nature of Education and the Power of Self-Discovery is as much an art form as it is a guide to higher education, and deserves acclaim for its unusual approach as well as its many insights.

The foundation of this survey lies in its teachings on how to look beyond typical and ordinary perceptions and pursuits of higher education to consider the hidden hazards and opportunities of navigating a foreign realm like college.

This bigger picture involves learning how to strategize, network, and self-promote, showing students how to consider others and present their abilities and potential in a revised light.

Peter Klein's focus on maximizing the outcome and potential of college expands his subject beyond the usual 'how to' realm and into areas of fostering achievement, discovery, and a life approach that will carry new adults through and past their college years with routines that apply equally well to life.

Readers may be surprised to learn that Zen and the Art of Navigating College isn't a catch-all promotion for higher learning. Klein points out that major problems are inherent in the pursuit of something different. He points out the signs of these portending obstacles, as well as strategies for either avoiding or learning from them.

These obstacles are typically not reviewed in books for the college-bound such as this, but they are ever-present, and are one of the many ways a college education can unwittingly go awry: "Another danger to be aware of is that higher education is often laced with indoctrination. Some indoctrination is supplied under the approval of the institution, while other forms of indoctrination are propagated by fellow students and others affiliated with the university, though what they are offering may not be sanctioned by the college."

Armed with special knowledge of the opportunities and dangers of such pursuits, readers of all ages will find Zen and the Art of Navigating College covers not just educational quandaries, but social, political, psychological, and spiritual tests inherent in the college milieu, yet rarely presented to students as other areas to be aware of.

The result is a different kind of college educational overview that should be a graduation present to any college-bound student who would take these lessons and run with them into life.

Libraries seeking materials that lend especially well to college-bound book discussion groups should make Zen and the Art of Navigating College a mainstay.

I Am the Tree
Kelly Bauer and Stella Maris
Seize the Moon
9798988210603, $18.95, HC, 32pp

I Am the Tree's lovely picture book message stems from author Kelly Bauer's personal experiences during a retreat in nature, and sports an especially provocative opening about an ordinary girl who longs to lead a different life:

"Once there was a girl. She felt like an ordinary girl even though people often told her she was an extra-ordinary girl. She longed for adventure, freedom, and love. She wanted to dance and create and invent things. But instead, she lived an ordinary life."

The young protagonist feels stuck in her world, which has become a scary place to her.

As Kelly Bauer and Stella Maris explore this young girl's perceptions, reactions, and attempts to rise above adversity, there are plenty of vivid opportunities for parents to teach the very young about the process of adaptation and perseverance on a different level than most picture book stories provide.

The girl flees into nature, where she bathes in its rejuvenating countenance: "She looked up to the sky, opened her mouth, and stuck out her tongue to taste the rain drops... they were like little drops of magic."

Her experiences and ability to tap natural wonders to return a sense of possibility into her own stuck life translates to a simple but powerful message all adults should place at the top of their interactive reading lists with the very young.

I Am the Tree may be one of the best picture book reads of 2023 to date. Its extraordinary power reaches adult and child minds on many levels and its reflections promise new interactive experiences, discussions, and life lessons.

Any library interested in provocative, wide-ranging messages for all ages will find I Am the Tree absolutely compelling, while parents and individuals will consider it worthy of personal collection keepsake status, to pass down between generations:

"When she got to it, she hugged the tree. She pressed her face into it. It felt like a hug from all that she knew love

should be. The tree asked her to sit and stay for a while.

To rest. To forget about all that she was running from.

She needed that. And she couldn't explain it, but this felt more real than anything she had ever known before."

ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future
Mark Lavine
Independently Published
9798218130947, $14.95 Paper/$4.95 ebook

ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future will reach young adult sci-fi fans with its compelling saga of the haves and the have-nots in 2315. Endless youth is available for those lucky enough to qualify, but this means that others will fall short of this ideal life. Trouble seems inevitable.

And so these 'forever children' are isolated from the majority of others who must live out regular lifespans in the world outside of the hives.

Kianno and Seelin are two very different children in this futuristic world who face impossible choices and events. Their decision to trade places to experience disparate lives of both opportunity and angst will not only change their futures, but affect the set protocols and processes of their society.

Mark Lavine's story evolves a thought-provoking series of dilemmas about the moral and ethical conundrums inherent in both worlds. Young adults will be especially intrigued by the questions which the characters confront in the course of their dangerous social experiment to test their boundaries and lives: "How does it feel to grow again, Kianno, like the rest of us? How does it feel to finally leave your childhood behind?"

From kidnapping and a conversion process to new revelations that Kianno and Seelin navigate through increasing danger, Lavine paints a powerful story of a futuristic world whose foundations are coming apart in more than one way.

As politics and violence collide, Kianno and Seelin prove to be on the cusp of world-changing decisions that test them all.

The special value of ForeverChild lies in its strong character developments, its juxtaposition of bigger life questions that affect the entire social structure, and the action embedded into Kianno and Seelin's lives and choices.

Lavine creates enough detail and insights to produce an especially thought-provoking story of a future world teetering on both destruction and rebirth. This lends itself especially well to classroom and book club discussion, making ForeverChild a top recommendation for collections seeking more depth and debate opportunities from their sci-fi acquisitions than most books offer to this age group.

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

On His Majesty's Secret Service
Charlie Higson
Ian Fleming Publications Ltd
97819157970, $19.00 HC, $12.99 Kindle

From time to time through the years I check to see if there is a new Bond book in the works, coming out or out that I did not know about. On His Majesty's Secret Service is one, and I have to say I did not have high hopes on his YA series of Bond books that were not very impressive. Surprisingly, Higson is one of the best in a long time like, Anthony Horowitz who wrote three fantastic Bond adventures. Higson captured the Fleming style like few of the Bond authors. His masterful descriptions worthy of Fleming, a virtuoso of the printed word add so much to the story. The plot centers around the coronation of Charles to be King of England in May sixth 2023 and a madman who believes he is the heir to the throne, and a crazy plan to take it over or so it seems. As it unfolds until it is revealed its even more sinister. Bond is as fresh in the present as he is the only thing that stands in the way, On His Majesty's Secret Service should be recognized as the celebration book of 70 years of James Bond Thrillers as Fleming began the world's most famous secret agent in Casino Royale in 1953. All in all On His Majesty's Secret Service is a great title that celebrates Bond in so many ways including the play on the original Fleming On Her Majesty's Secret Service one of the best in book and film. Some people may find length of On His Majesty's Secret Service to be a bit short for a novel. The paperbacks from the 1960's, now collector items, were about the same length. We can hope Higson is asked back, to write more new missions for Bond James Bond 007.

Double Or Nothing
Kim Sherwood
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
9780063236516, $30.00 HC, $11.99 Kindle

"Double Or Nothing" is a disappointing novel shortly into the work. The catchy title suggests it is a possible James Bond novel. Well it is without 007 whose whereabouts are unknown. M, Moneypenny, and other 00s are though but all seem to not tie together. "Double Or Nothing" should also be recognized for two other aspects. Like On His Majesty's Secret Service" "Double Or Nothing" is one of two books endorsed by the estate of Ian Fleming, seventy years after "Casino Royale" the first Fleming Bond novel. "Double Or Nothing" is also the first of three related Bond adventures by the first female author. Fingers crossed that her next titles work out better than "Double Or Nothing."

Robert B. Parkers Bad Influence: A Sunny Randall Novel
Alison Gaylin
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593540527, $29.00 HC/ $14.99 Kindle

Sunny Randall is back in a new thrilling mystery by a brand-new author. Alison Gaylin fits right in with the style of snappy dialogue interesting characters and a plot that moves along at a breakneck pace to it conclusion. Sunny is hired by a woman named Bethany to protect her client Blake James, who has someone out to kill him. As Sunny tracks the clues to the identity of the mysterious person she follows a twisting turning path to reveal the suspect. "Bad Influence" is sure to please fans of Sunny Randall.

Murder for Liar
Verlin Darrow
The Wild Rose Press
9781509248971, $17.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

"Murder for Liar" is a fast-paced nail-biting suspenseful novel to the very end. Therapist Tom Dashiel's life is changed forever when a new client begins sessions with him. From then on he follows the path of a serial killer and a bizarre set of circumstances of a darker seamier side world few ever experience. "Murder for Liar" is a masterfully told story with sinister layered characters, crisp writing, that moves along with roller coaster speed to its enthralling conclusion.

They're Here! There Goes the Neighborhood
Edited by Hank Davis and CW Korsgaard
9781982192747, $18.00 pbk, $8.99 Kindle

Aliens have always been a major part of science fiction and "They're Here! There Goes the Neighborhood, is filled with great short fiction that is filled with all kinds of them. The editors have included many by major authors from many years ago back in print to appear to many new readers. Some of those are Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon, Neil Gaiman, Allen Steele, Spider Robinson, and Robert Silverberg while there are also lesser-known writers like Steven Diamond or Michael Shaara whose story is one of the finest long-lost ones of a character who has a dilemma to use or not use abilities he has that will much more than what he is trying to save, or Anthony Boucher Nine Finger Jack and Mames H. Schmitz An Incident on Route 12 are some to look add to your reading tastes. "They're Here! There Goes the Neighborhood" is another outstanding collection of the finest tales of alien encounters.

Picture Day
Sarah Sax
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
97805933306871, $13.99 HC/ $8.99 Kindle

"Picture Day" is a new entry into the world of graphic novels by a major publisher that is sure to please Comicon, or Megacon attendees that are geared to this artform. "Picture Day" begins with kids having to get ready for the annual event of a middle school of the student picture day where they have to wear and look good the photographer for their class pictures in the future yearbook. Viv takes a drastic step to be remembered by other students. Usually this form of storytelling that is super heroes of DC or Marvel characters that are easy to read and follow. For me "Picture Day" seems disjointed portions of story not connected to anything, that was a disappointment.

Tony Bennett: A Little Golden Books Biography
Deborah Hopkinson, author
Barbara Bongini, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
9780593645109, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

"Tony Bennett A Little Golden Book" reveals so many things about the beloved singer Tony Bennet in one of the newest biographies in the series. Author Hopkinson delves into his first leanings to being an entertainer, when and where he marched for civil rights, how he broke into the business, his name before it became Tony Bennett, his family background, and a lot more about Tony Bennett. "Tony Bennett A Little Golden Books Biography" is another great educational read for all ages

John McCain: A Little Golden Books Biography
Gram Adams author
John Jovin, illustrator
Random House Children's Books
9780593645086, $5.99 HC / $5.99 Kindle

Gram Adams celebrates John McCain in "John McCain A Little Golden Book Biography" Revealed are many facts of he is from a proud military service family, how that was a part of his life to serve the country he loved in many ways to being called a Maverick and honors bestowed to him in life and after his death. After reading "John McCain A Little Golden Book" readers will have a deeper respect for the man who is a dying breed of America politician, war hero and family man.

Ready, Set, Run: The Amazing New York City Marathon
Leslie Kimmelman & Jessie Hartland
Random House Studio
9780593433653, $18.99 HC/ $11.99 Kindle

The New York Marathon now one of the most celebrated runs in the world is now the kids' book "Ready, Set, Run: The Amazing New York City Marathon." Through prose and art work the combined talents reveal many things most of us never have known until like what do runners eat before the race, how do they train, what age person can enter, how long and what neighborhoods are included, how many participants and what part of the year is the event held. Also included are interesting facts by the author about how long the race has been in existence as well as other fascinating information. "Ready, Set, Run" is for anyone to learn more about a yearly event that brings people from all over the world to participate.

Peanuts: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Charles M. Schultz
Simon Spotlight
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665934954, $14.99 HC / $7.99 Kindle

Charlie Brown has had many different forms and "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" is now a new kids' book with beautiful new artwork as well as prose that once again tell the story of the annual cartoon classic that runs on TV once a year. Though it is the same story it is wonderful to have another way to enjoy with the loved characters who show you are never too old to enjoy Charlie Brown. This version of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" compliments very well whatever type of disc you may have to further enjoy year-round this classic story.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Born Innocent: Protecting the Dependents of Accused Caregivers
Michael J. Sullivan
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780197671238, $83.00, HC, 264pp

Synopsis: Over seven percent of all children in the United States (more than 5 million children) have experienced a parental incarceration, and an estimated 2.7 million children currently have a parent who is incarcerated. An additional 5 million children under age 18 live with at least one parent who is unauthorized to be in the United States and faces deportation. Children and other dependents suffer the collateral consequences of "preventive justice" measures increasingly used by liberal democratic countries to combat a broad range of suspected crime and anti-state activities. But what does the state owe to the innocent dependents of accused caregivers?

With the publication of "Born Innocent: Protecting the Dependents of Accused Caregivers", Professor Michael J. Sullivan explores the impact of vicarious punishment on children, with a particular focus on children in socioeconomically disadvantaged and racialized communities that are disproportionately subject to family separation based on their identity, allegiances, and immigration status. Professor Sullivan advocates a turn from retribution to rehabilitation for convicted offenders, with a view towards helping them to become more effective caregivers who can continue to support their dependents during their sentence.

"Born Innocent" goes beyond the children's rights literature on the collateral consequences of punishment to consider how "punishment drift" creates problems for both retributive and utilitarian theories of punishment. Professor Sullivan draws on care ethics theory to widen our understanding of the range of collateral victims of punishment as well as possible rehabilitative and restorative measures. Professor Sullivan also considers the limits of this approach, especially where it pertains to offenders who victimize their families, and those who resist rehabilitation and persist in anti-state actions that harm others.

Critique: A seminal, ground-breaking, timely thoughtful and thought-provoking study, "Born Innocent: Protecting the Dependents of Accused Caregivers" provides one of the first unified treatments of state-sponsored family separation and its impact on disadvantaged citizens and immigrants. Especially given its relevance to the current social/political issues with respect to DACA juveniles and young adults, and the continuing escalating numbers of incarcerated parents, "Born Innocent" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections. Informatively enhanced with the inclusion of a fifty page bibliography of References, fourteen pages of Notes, and an eight page Index, "Born Innocent" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $78.85).

Editorial Note: Michael J. Sullivan is Associate Professor of International Studies and Global Affairs at St. Mary's University. His research interests include citizenship, immigration, children's rights, civil-military relations, criminal justice, and race, ethnicity, and politics. He is the author of Earned Citizenship and numerous published articles in journals including International Migration; Politics, Groups, and Identities; Journal of Borderlands Studies; and Social Politics, among others. (

Talking on Eggshells: Soft Skills for Hard Conversations
Sam Horn
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608688494, $19.95, PB, 360pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Talking on Eggshells: Soft Skills for Hard Conversations", public speaking expert Sam Horn shows her readers how to speak up instead of shut down, how to face challenges head-on instead of run the other way, and how to keep your cool even when others don't?

"Talking on Eggshells" is inspiring DIY instruction guide that shares everyday character-building situations and offers examples of what to say and not to say so you'll never be tongue-tied or tongue-twisted again.

Sam Horn's relatable, real-life stories and energizing, instantly usable insights will help you think on your feet, reduce stress, and deal more proactively and diplomatically with bosses, coworkers, customers, friends, family members, partners, children, even that date who just ghosted you. You will refer to "Talking on Eggshells" as the essential go-to guide for clearly communicating what you want and need to get the results you desire and deserve.

Critique: Impressively well written and exceptionally 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Talking on Eggshells: Soft Skills for Hard Conversations" is especially commended to the attention of readers with an interest in family conflict resolution and communication skills improvement. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Talking on Eggshells" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Sam Horn ( is the founder and CEO of the Intrigue Agency and the Tongue Fu!(R) Training Institute. As a communication strategist, she helps people design and deliver one-of-a-kind presentations, pitches, books, businesses, and brands that scale their impact. She is also an in-demand keynoter and trainer for organizations like Intel, Oracle, and Accenture. Her three TEDx talks and numerous books (including Tongue Fu!, POP!, and Got Your Attention?) have been featured in the New York Times, Fast Company, and Forbes.

Equals in Learning and Piety
Beverly Mack
University of Wisconsin Press
728 State Street, Suite 443, Madison, WI 53706-1418
9780299342609, $79.95, HC, 276pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Equals in Learning and Piety: Muslim Women Scholars in Nigeria and North America" Professor Beverly Mack presents an intellectual history of the 'Yan Taru (Associates) movement, a women-led Islamic educational organization that continues to this day in both northern Nigeria and in the United States.

Drawing on extensive scholarship across disciplines including history, Islamic studies, anthropology, gender and women's studies, and literary studies (and alongside rigorous ethnographic research and interviews with leading Nigerian Muslim scholars) Professor Mack argues that this formidable Muslim women's movement consolidated the religious and social order established by the Sokoto Jihad in the early nineteenth century.

Professor Mack also shows how women scholars instructed rural Hausa and Fulani women in Muslim ethics, doctrine, traditions, and behavior that followed and replaced the traumatic experience of warfare unleashed by the Jihad. She documents that these unique social engagements shaped people's agency in the dynamic process of social change throughout the nineteenth century. Women imaginatively reconciled Muslim reformist doctrines and traditional practices in Nigeria, and these doctrines have continued to be influential in the diaspora, especially among Black American Muslims in the United States in the twenty-first century.

With this major investigation of a little-studied phenomenon, Professor Mack demonstrates the importance of women to the religious, political, and social transformation of Nigerian Muslim society.

Critique: A seminal study that will be of particular value to students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Islamic Women's History, "Equals in Learning and Piety: Muslim Women Scholars in Nigeria and North America" also features a number of illustrations, figures, maps, and tables, along with a six page Glossary, ten pages of Notes, a ten page bibliography of References, and a nine page Index. A masterpiece of original scholarship, "Equals in Learning and Piety: Muslim Women Scholars in Nigeria and North America" is particularly recommended as a ground-breaking work of meticulous scholarship for personal, professional, and academic library supplemental Islamic Cultural Studies curriculum lists.

Editorial Note: Beverly Mack ( is Professor Emerita of African Studies in the Department of African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas. Her books include Educating Muslim Women: The West African Legacy of Nana Asma'u (with Jean Boyd) and Muslim Women Sing: Hausa Popular Song. She has written widely on Muslim women, particularly scholars, in Nigeria.

On Digital Advocacy
Katie Boue
Fulcrum Publishing
9781682753453, $15.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Whether you hike, bike, camp, climb, hunt, ride, paddle, paint, or garden -- whatever way you get out and enjoy nature, you will inevitably leave an impact on the outdoors every time you step out your front door. Every step your boots take down dusty trails, every bolt your clip draws into, every time you cruise down a dirt road, till the soil, you will leave an impact.

While outdoor recreation inherently leaves an impact on the land, we can still work to offset that impact by advocating for earth in our own circles, online and in our neighborhoods. The question is, can we use the digital space to protect the outdoors while still protecting our human spirit?

We all share a responsibility to protect our planet (especially those in the outdoor industry) and in this digital age, access to advocacy is abundant. Social media hands us the tools to get educated, gather resources, organize and empower ourselves on whatever slice of the "save the planet" pie tickles your appetite to do good.

The opportunity and potential for digital advocacy is dizzying -- but what happens when we begin to tangle our personal identities with our pursuit of saving a dying earth? As users of public lands, we have an ethical responsibility to the planet. As inhabitants of our identities, we have an ethical responsibility to ourselves, too.

With the publication of "On Digital Advocacy: Saving the Planet While Preserving Our Humanity", environmentalist and outdoors recreationalist Katie Boue covers such topics as: The two types of advocacy; Becoming an advocate for the outdoor industry; Voting for the outdoor spaces you love the most; The advocacy retention cycle; Online bullying and stalking.

Critique: Impressively informed and succinctly informative, "On Digital Advocacy: Saving the Planet While Preserving Our Humanity" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal combination of instructional reference guide and 'how-to' manual to advocate for making our outdoor recreations as environmentally sound as possible. While a highly recommended addition to community and academic library Environmental Policy & Outdoor Recreation collections and supplemental curriculum lists, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "On Digital Advocacy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Katie Boue ( believes we all belong in nature and have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth and communities around us. She is a Cuban-American outdoor advocate, gardener, adventurer, and budding bird-watcher. When she's not out communing with nature, Katie spends time as an award-winning marketing strategist, writer, and content creator. Katie was the recipient of the Hero for the Planet Award at the Outdoor Media Summit in 2017.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Digital Legend and Belief
Andrew Peck
University of Wisconsin Press
728 State Street, Suite 443, Madison, WI 53706-1418
9780299343408, $79.95, HC, 266pp

Synopsis: The internet brings new urgency to the study of folklore. The digital networks we use every day amplify the capacity of legends to spread swiftly, define threats, and inform action.

Using the case of a particularly popular digital bogeyman known as the Slender Man, with the publication of "Digital Legend and Belief: The Slender Man, Folklore, and the Media", Professor Andrew Peck brings the study of legends into the twenty-first century. Professor Peck explains not only how legends circulate in the digital swirl of the internet but also how the internet affects how legends seep into our offline lives and into the mass media we consume. What happens, he asks, when legends go online? How does the internet enable the creation of new legends? How do these ideas go viral? How do tradition and technology interact to construct collaborative beliefs?

Professor Peck argues that the story of the Slender Man is really a story about the changing nature of belief in the age of the internet. Widely adopted digital technologies, from smartphones to social media, offer vast potential for extending traditional and expressive social behaviors in new ways. As such, understanding the online landscape of contemporary folklore is crucial for grasping the formation and circulation of belief in the digital age.

Ultimately, Professor Peck argues that advancing our comprehension of legends online can help us better understand how similar belief genres (like fake news, conspiracy theories, hoaxes, rumors, meme culture, and anti-expert movements) are enabled by digital media.

Critique: A timely and knowledgeable contribution that is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of illustrations, an Appendix (Legends and Internet Culture), twenty pages of Notes, a twenty-four page bibliography of References, and a sixteen page Index, "Digital Legend and Belief: The Slender Man, Folklore, and the Media" is an extraordinary, ground-breaking and seminal study that will be of particular interest to students of folklore/mythology and communications/media studies. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Digital Legend and Belief: The Slender Man, Folklore, and the Media" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections and supplemental Internet/Communications curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Andrew Peck ( is an Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication at Miami University. He is also the co-editor of Folklore and Social Media. He has published many articles and chapters on the folkloric figure known as the Slender Man, digital legends, internet memes, and fake news.

Loki's Book of Magic and Mischief
Robb Pearlman, author
Smart Pop
c/o BenBella Books
9781637741627, $19.95, PB, 104pp

Synopsis: Everyone loves magic! Especially Marvel Comics' Loki, who's mastery of magic makes him one of the most dangerous (and beloved) antiheroes in all of The Nine Realms. And now, for the first time ever, with the publication of "Loki's Book of Magic and Mischief: Tricks and Deceptions from the Prince of Illusions" Loki shares the secrets behind performing 35 tricks!

Enhanced throughout with classic Marvel comic book art and full-color photographs that illustrate easy-to-learn step-by-step instructions, readers of all ages will learn ways to amaze their friends, impress their family, and trick their goody two-shoes brother.

And with guest appearances by other Marvel magic-wielders, including Doctor Strange, Wong, and The Scarlet Witch, Loki's Book of Magic and Mischief offers something for every magic and Marvel fan!

Critique: A whole lot of fun from first page to last, "Loki's Book of Magic and Mischief: Tricks and Deceptions from the Prince of Illusions" is the collaborative effort of author Robb Pearlman and the folks at Marvel Comics. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99), "Loki's Book of Magic and Mischief: Tricks and Deceptions from the Prince of Illusions" is a unique, fascinating, and unreservedly recommended pick for community library collections and the legions of Loki fans.

Editorial Note #2: Robb Pearlman ( is a pop culturalist and is the author of more than 70 books for grown-ups and kids.

Editorial Note #2: Marvel Entertainment, LLC (a wholly - owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company), is one of the world's most prominent character - based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Nones, second edition
Ryan P. Burge
Fortress Press
9781506488240, $23.99, PB, 200pp

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated second edition, "The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going" by Ryan P. Burge details a comprehensive picture of an increasingly significant group -- Americans who say they have no religious affiliation.

The growth of the 'nones' in American society has been dramatic. In 1972, just 5 percent of Americans claimed "no religion" on the General Social Survey. In 2018, that number rose to 23.7 percent, making the nones as numerous as both evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics. Every indication is that the nones will be the largest 'religious' group in the United States in the next decade.

With the publication of "The Nones", Burge illustrates his precise but accessible descriptions with charts and graphs drawn from more than a dozen carefully curated datasets, some tracking changes in American religion over a long period of time, others large enough to allow a statistical deep dive on subgroups such as atheists or agnostics.

Burge also draws on data that tracks how individuals move in and out of religion over time, helping readers to understand what type of people become nones and what factors lead an individual to return to religion. This newly revised second edition includes substantial updates with new chapters and current statistical and demographic information.

"The Nones" gives interested readers a nuanced, accurate, and meaningful picture of the growing number of Americans who say that they have no religious affiliation. Burge also explains how this rise happened, who the nones are, and what they mean for the future of organized and traditional American religion.

Critique: Unique, original, fascinating, insightful, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, This new and expanded second edition of "The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, seminary, college, and university library Sociology of Religion collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: A pastor in the American Baptist Church, Ryan P. Burge is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Eastern Illinois University. Author of numerous journal articles, he is also the cofounder of and a frequent contributor to Religion in Public, a forum for scholars of religion and politics to make their work accessible to a general audience. (

The Leaping Hare Nature Almanac
Leaping Hare Press Staff, author
Raluca Spatacean, illustrator
Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711285385, $28.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: Strikingly designed, lovingly crafted and filled with nature affirmations, activities and reflections, "The Leaping Hare Nature Almanac: Your Yearlong Mindful Guide to Reconnecting with Nature" is a gorgeous book featuring the illustrations of Romanian artist Raluca Spatacean, and will help you connect to the seasons, be empowered by eco-spirituality, and be mindful of nature all year long.

Each individual page comprising "The Leaping Hare Nature Almanac" shares an eco-insight for nature connection, and the yearlong structure means that activities are tailored for the natural seasonal rhythms which guide us through winter, spring, summer and fall.

Pick out the month and rest your mind's eye on the pages ahead. Discover seasonal affirmations, nature rituals, recipes, eco-reflections and growing tips for nature connection, mindfulness and empowerment in this earthy guide to creating daily eco-aware habits.

"The Leaping Hare Nature Almanac" is packed from cover to cover with ideas for finding fresh inspiration every day in nature to help you live your most mindful life.

Critique: Impressively informative, inspiring, organized and presented, "The Leaping Hare Nature Almanac: Your Yearlong Mindful Guide to Reconnecting with Nature" is especially recommended to the attention of readers with an interest in: Practical ways to connect with nature, from growing flowers and vegetables to making knotweed preserve; Mindful reflections including tuning into the beauty of birdsong; Star-gazing practices as meditative practices; Nature meditations and visualizations to connect spiritually with the natural world -- and more!

While an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Nature Appreciation and Self-Esteem/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Leaping Hare Nature Almanac: Your Yearlong Mindful Guide to Reconnecting with Nature" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.54).

Editorial Note #1: Raluca Spatacean ( aka @madebyralu is a Romanian illustrator who is inspired by the balancing elements of wellbeing and the natural world. In 2013

Editorial Note #2: Leaping Hare Press ( creates beautiful books to inspire and empower readers to translate ethical and spiritual values into practical, meaningful life choices. Penned by heart-led and expert authors, their conscious living titles embrace community spirit and explore ecological principles in a positive way -- delivering that feel-good factor too.

Platinum Widow
Gregory William Mank
BearManor Media
9798887711706, $43.00, HC, 358pp

Synopsis: In "Platinum Widow: Who Killed Jean Harlow's Husband?", prodigal private investigator Porter Down, takes a perilously deep dive into one of the most notorious unsolved Hollywood mystery of all time!

A work of fiction based on an historical incident, in Platinum Widow", author Gregory William Mank takes the reader on a wild and wicked time machine ride back to Golden Age Hollywood, and the events surrounding the shocking death of MGM producer Paul Bern, 65 days (and nights) after his marriage to Platinum Blonde Bombshell, Jean Harlow.

Was it suicide? Was it murder? This fascinating novel weaves exhaustive research with fictional flourishes, including a deadly female pornographer/blackmailer. Cameo appearances from such Big Screen luminaries as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Fredric March, Lionel Atwill, Louis B. Mayer, and Irving Thalberg abound.

And what part might the notorious real-life mobster/Harlow's previous paramour and protector "Longie" Zwillman, have played in the events surrounding Bern's death?

Critique: Ultimately (and based on the real-life events of 91-years-ago) "Platinum Widow: Who Killed Jean Harlow's Husband?" offers a fictional (but quite credible) solution to Bern's demise,. A sordid yet heart-breaking saga, "Platinum widow is the second novel in Gregory Mank's 'Porter Down Hollywood Mysteries' series (following the acclaimed "Frankenstein's Witch: St. Lizzie, Pray for Us"), and includes photographs relevant to the case and suspects. While particularly recommended as a popular addition to community library Historical Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Platinum Widow" is also available in a paperback edition (9798887711690, $33.00).

Editorial Note: Gregory William Mank ( is currently working on his third "Porter Down Hollywood Mystery" for BearManor Media. As yet untitled, it involves a vampire (?) killer amok in 1935 Hollywood during the filming of the Bela Lugosi/Lionel Barrymore/Elizabeth Allan/Lionel Atwill/Carroll Borland classic film Mark of the Vampire.

My Israel Seventy Faces of the Land
Nechemia (Chemi) J. Peres, author
Ilan Greenfield, author
Gefen Publishing House
c/o Storch
255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9789657023358, $45.00, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: In the brief history of the State of Israel, what the Israelis have achieved collectively as a people exceeds the brightest dreams of their founding fathers -- and perhaps beyond their imagination.

The story of Israel is a story of the Jewish people. It is a story of a diversified society that continues to thrive and grow strong, from one generation to another.

With the publication of "My Israel Seventy Faces of the Land", co-authors Chemi Peres and Ilan Greenfield offer an armchair journey of discovery that is specifically designed to learn about Israel through the eyes of people they have met over the years -- people whose hard work and dreams they learned to respect.

It all started with a childhood friend, Ilan Greenfield, who became accompany Chemi Peres for this journey of a lifetime. The two of them decided to invite some seventy individuals, women and men from all walks of life, to share with them their own individual perspectives on what they consider to be "My Israel."

Each of them was asked to choose one place that represents for them the essence of being an Israeli and sharing why they picked that specific location.

The result of their work is put forward in the pages of "My Israel Seventy Faces of the Land", showing the magic of a colorful landscape. This project will give the reader an opportunity to meet and learn about the people participating in this volume and to be exposed to some of the most beautiful and interesting spots in Israel -- whether you are seeing them for the first time or getting reacquainted through different lenses.

Critique Beautifully presented in a large format (11.75 x 1 x 9.5 inches, 1 pound) coffee-table style hardcover edition from the Gefen Publishing House, "My Israel Seventy Faces of the Land" is especially recommended to the attention of readers with an interest in Israeli/Palestine history, Israel travel guides, and travel photography. Of special note is that there is a photo of each contributor whose commentary is accompanied often includes additional and impressive photography. A perfect volume for browsing through and an ideal Israel themed gift or memento, "My Israel Seventy Faces of the Land" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, synagogue, college, and university library Israel Culture/History collection.

Editorial Note: Chemi Peres is one of Israel's foremost venture capital and innovation pioneers, serving as Managing Partner and cofounder of Pitango Venture Capital, Israel's leading venture capital group, with a portfolio of some three hundred high-tech start-ups and enterprises with global operations. Chemi is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, Israel's leading nonprofit organization, established in 1996 by his late father, Israel's ninth President and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

Editorial Note #2: Ilan Greenfield is one of Israel's leading publishers. Since 1982, he has been the owner and CEO of Gefen Publishing House, a privately owned publishing house founded by his parents, Hana Greenfield and Murray Greenfield. Ilan served as treasurer of Telem, the Movement for Zionist Fulfilment. He is also a licensed tour guide in Israel and is a founder of the Ein Prat Leadership Academy, on whose board of directors he has served since its founding in 2001. Ilan serves as a Vice President at NewsRael, a unique twenty-four seven Israel news app founded in 2020. Greenfield was chosen by the Algemeiner as one of the Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2022.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Romania at the Paris Peace Conference
Sherman David Spector
Center for Romanian Studies
c/o Histria Books
9781592111404, $34.99, HC, 358pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Romania at the Paris Peace Conference: A Study of the Diplomacy of Ioan I.C. Bratianu" by Professor Sherman David Spector (who is a noted American specialist on Romanian history), focuses on Romania at the Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920) and specifically studies the diplomacy of Ioan I.C. Bratianu during World War I and in its aftermath that led to the formation of Greater Romania.

"Romania at the Paris Peace Conference" describes the successful struggle waged by the Romanian government for recognition of the provisions of the secret treaty of 1916 and, in addition, for approval of the de facto annexation of Bessarabia, carried out in 1918 with the encouragement of the Central Powers. A substantial share of the credit for this achievement, Spector asserts, must be given to Ioan I.C. Bratianu, a stubborn, over-bearing, yet skillful negotiator who answered all attempts to delineate more equitable frontiers with a rigid restatement of Romania's full claims.

Bratianu was a master of that subtle, farsighted, and somewhat disreputable diplomacy, in other times referred to as "Byzantine." Like his Byzantine forebears, Bratianu was adept in the art of playing nations against each other for his own benefit. The uncertainty in which he left the Great Powers as to which side Romania would eventually join was a masterpiece of political strategy. Vacillation as a diplomatic art was brought to its loftiest height of perfection by Romanian rulers during the centuries of precarious existence wedged between the Turks, Magyars, and Slavs.

Bratianu proved a worthy successor to his predecessors. From 1914 to 1916, he executed one of the most notable acts of political tightrope walking. The Germans assumed he would never fight against them but feared he might not fight for them. The Allies doubted if he would ever fight for them but hoped he would not fight against them. Finally, he threw in with the Allies at the decisive moment, and the results were catastrophic.

But out of the catastrophe, Romania emerged with her territory and population doubled, becoming the sixth-largest country in Europe and the dominant state in Southeastern Europe.

Critique: A brilliant and exceptionally well written, organized and presented study that is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a forty-eight page Bibliography and a an eight page Index of Names, "Romania at the Paris Peace Conference: A Study of the Diplomacy of Ioan I.C. Bratianu" by Professor Sherman David Spector is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library 20th Century Romanian History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Romania at the Paris Peace Conference is also available in a paperback edition (9781592112067, $29.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Sherman David Spector (1927-2008) was a professor of history at Russell Sage College in New York. A noted American specialist on the history of the Romanians, apart from Romania at the Paris Peace Conference, first published in 1962, Professor Spector was the author of A History of the Balkan Peoples (with Rene Ristelhueber), published in 1972. In 1964 and 1970, he was Fulbright-Hays professor at the University of Bucharest.

Isaac Vincent Joslin
Ohio University Press
215 Columbus Road, Suite 101, Athens, OH 45701
9780896803299, $80.00, HC, 324pp

Synopsis: Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic, philosophy of science, and history that explores the intersection of the African diaspora culture with science and technology. It addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora through technoculture and speculative fiction, encompassing a range of media and artists with a shared interest in envisioning black futures that stem from Afro-diasporic experiences. While Afrofuturism is most commonly associated with science fiction, it can also encompass other speculative genres such as fantasy, alternate history, and magic realism. The term was coined by Mark Dery, an American Cultural critic in 1993 and explored in the late 1990s through conversations led by Alondra Nelson. (Wikipedia)

Generally attributed to the Western imagination, science fiction is a literary genre that has expressed projected technological progress since the Industrial Revolution. However, certain fantastical elements in African literary expressions lend themselves to science fiction interpretations, both utopian and dystopian. When the concept of science is divorced from its Western, rationalist, materialist, positivist underpinnings, science fiction represents a broad imaginative space that supersedes the limits of this world. Whether it be on the moon, under the sea, or elsewhere within the imaginative universe, Afrofuturist readings of select films, novels, short stories, plays, and poems reveal a similarly emancipatory African future that is firmly rooted in its own cultural mythologies, cosmologies, and philosophies.

With the publication of "Afrofuturisms: Ecology, Humanity, and Francophone Cultural Expressions", Professor Isaac Joslin identifies the contours and modalities of a speculative, futurist science fiction rooted in the sociocultural and geopolitical context of continental African imaginaries. Constructing an arc that begins with gender identity and cultural plurality as the bases for an inherently multicultural society, this project traces the essential role of language and narrativity in processing traumas that stem from the violence of colonial and neocolonial interventions in African societies.

Professor Joslin then outlines the influential role of discursive media that construct divisions and create illusions about societal success, belonging, and exclusion, while also identifying alternative critical existential mythologies that promote commonality and social solidarity. The trajectory proceeds with a critical analysis of the role of education in affirming collective identity in the era of globalization; the book also assesses the market-driven violence that undermines efforts to instill and promote cultural and social autonomy.

Lastly, "Afrofturisms" proposes an egalitarian and ecological ethos of communal engagement with and respect for the diversity of the human and natural worlds.

Critique: A seminal and ground breaking study, "Afrofuturisms: Ecology, Humanity, and Francophone Cultural Expressions" will prove to be of immense and enduring interest to students of African American Literary Criticism and Science Fiction/Fantasy History/Criticism. Enhanced with the inclusion of a twelve page listing of References, fifty-two pages of Notes, and a thirteen page Index, "Afrofuturisms" is a unique and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Afrofuturisms" is also available from the Ohio University Press in a paperback edition (9780896803305, $36.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $35.10).

Editorial Note: Isaac Vincent Joslin ( is an assistant professor of French at Arizona State University, where his research interests include theories of representation, theories of cultural hybridity, ecocriticism, and African futurisms. His journal publications include articles in the International Journal of Francophone Studies, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, African Literature Today, French Review, Oeuvres et Critiques, and Nouvelles Etudes Francophones.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Deter, Disrupt, or Deceive
Robert Chesney, editor
Max Smeets, editor
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781647123307, $110.95, HC, 318pp

Synopsis: The concept and growing reality of "cyber war" has played a dominant role in both academic and popular discourse concerning the nature of statecraft in the cyber domain.

However, this lens of war and its expectations for death and destruction may distort rather than help clarify the nature of cyber competition and conflict. Are cyber activities actually more like an intelligence contest, where both states and nonstate actors grapple for information advantage below the threshold of war?

Collaboratively compiled by co-editors Robert Chesney and Max Smeets, "Deter, Disrupt, or Deceive: Assessing Cyber Conflict as an Intelligence Contest" shows that re-framing cyber competition as an intelligence contest will improve our ability to analyze and strategize about cyber events and policy.

The contributors to this study debate the logics and implications of this re-framing. They examine this intelligence concept across several areas of cyber security policy and in different national contexts. Taken as a whole, the chapters give rise to a unique dialogue, illustrating areas of agreement and disagreement among leading experts and placing all of it in conversation with the larger fields of international relations and intelligence studies.

Critique: Cyber security for democratic elections, corporate/governmental databases, and more are already under daily attack from state sponsors to criminal hackers is a major issue for the survival of our democracy and national security.

"Deter, Disrupt, or Deceive: Assessing Cyber Conflict as an Intelligence Contest" is a timely and essential contribution on the subject of cyber war as its contributors offers and identifies a new way for scholars, practitioners, and students to understand statecraft in the cyber domain and in the rapidly evolving Cyber Era.

Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a listing of the contributors and their credentials, as well as a useful index, "Deter, Disrupt, or Deceive: Assessing Cyber Conflict as an Intelligence Contest" is a seminal and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, governmental, college, and university library Military Strategy, Political Intelligence, and National/International Security collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

It should be noted that "Deter, Disrupt, or Deceive" is also available in a paperback edition (9781647123260, $36.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.99).

Editorial Note #1: Robert Chesney ( is the Dean of the University of Texas School of Law, where he also holds the James A. Baker III Chair in the Rule of Law and World Affairs. He is also a co-founder of and contributor to the blog Lawfare and co-host of the National Security Law Podcast.

Editorial Note #2: Max Smeets ( is a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich and Director of the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative. He is also the author of 'No Shortcuts: Why States Struggle to Develop a Military Cyber-Force' (Oxford University Press | Hurst Publishers, 2022)

Psychedelic Cults and Outlaw Churches
Mike Marinacci
Park Street Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644117071, $24.99, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: From LSD-powered guru Timothy Leary to cannabis sex cults to psychedelic outlaw churches, with the publication of "Psychedelic Cults and Outlaw Churches: LSD, Cannabis, and Spiritual Sacraments in Underground America", author Mike Marinacci presents a comprehensive tour of North American religious sects and spiritual groups who use entheogens and psychoactive drugs in the search for higher consciousness, mystical insight, and spiritual enlightenment.

Exploring prominent churches and cults in depth, Marinacci examines the lives of their colorful leaders, the origins of their unorthodox beliefs, the controversial practices of their congregants, and their many conflicts with both law enforcement and public opinion.

He also looks at the Native American Church and their legal battle over their peyote rituals, the cannabis sex temple known as the Psychedelic Venus Church, the murderous end of the LSD-therapy cult known as the Church of Naturalism, and several other major groups and temples of psychedelic spirituality.

Finally, Marinacci offers an encyclopedic survey of dozens of minor organizations, many of which have never before been documented in an authoritative source.

Sharing personal interviews and anecdotes about the strange outrageous adventures of religious psychonauts alongside rare photos and illustrations, "Psychedelic Cults and Outlaw Churches: LSD, Cannabis, and Spiritual Sacraments in Underground America" is an extensively researched study of underground psychedelic religious sects in the United States reveals their spiritual and cultural influence from the 1960s to the present day.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an Appendix (Psychedelic Substances and Their Associated Sects), a thirteen page Bibliography, and a twelve page Index, "Psychedelic Cults and Outlaw Churches: LSD, Cannabis, and Spiritual Sacraments in Underground America" is a seminal study and will be of immense value to readers with an interest in Religious Cults, Native American Religion, and psychoactive drug use in popular American subcultures. While an original and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Psychedelic Cults and Outlaw Churches: LSD, Cannabis, and Spiritual Sacraments in Underground America" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Mike Marinacci is an independent expert on psychedelic spiritual groups and nontraditional American religious sects. He is the author of California Jesus and Mysterious California and coauthor of Weird California. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Music and Music Instruments Do You Know?
Julie Delas, author
Didier Balicevic & Robert Barborini, illustrators
Isabelle Jacque & Cristian Turdera, illustrators
Twirl Editions Milan / Bayard Group
c/o Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9782408042530, $16.99 hardback, 93 pages

"Music and Musical Instruments" by Julie Delas is an informative, concise, imaginative, color illustrated children's guide to music.

Divided into color coded titled chapters on musical instruments, making music, jobs in music, and listening to music, every page contains carefully illustrated examples of music and music making. Colors are rich and details are amusing, while children of different racial backgrounds are featured as examples.

Diagrams showcasing many instruments ranging from voices and sounds of nature, to brass, woodwinds, percussion, strings, electronic and more! Of special note is a two page spread on unique instruments and medieval instruments, for background.

Each two page layout has intriguing sidebars with extra tidbits of information outlined in color on the right far side. At the end of the chapter is a two page spread titled Let's Review! All the chapters follow this organizational format to deliver a sound, high quality guide to music, and instruments, with high appeal to kids age 6-7 and up.

In all four succeeding chapters, a wealth of information about music is explored and presented, from music festivals to opera houses, concerts, and dance performances. Jobs associated with music that are presented include music therapist, composer, making instruments, touring, DJ and musicologist.

For a fine review of all things relating to music around the world, "Music and Musical Instruments" is an excellent source, filled with fun, color, and invitations to children to explore the world of music.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Raising Resilient Bees
Eric & Joy McEwen, authors
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001
9781645021940, $34.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Simply stated, bees are argriculturally essential for supporting the human race. When bees become an endangered species, the we humans are as well.

Global pests and diseases present an unprecedented challenge for the modern honey bee. Hobby and commercial beekeepers alike continue to experience troubling rates of mortality for their colonies, with potentially deleterious consequences for the stability of our wider ecosystems and overall food security. It is time for a global focus on restoring the health of the shared apiary through naturally reared, genetically diverse, and resilient lines of bees.

With the publication of "Raising Resilient Bees: Heritage Techniques to Mitigate Mites, Preserve Locally Adapted Genetics, and Grow Your Apiary", bee keeping experts Eric and Joy McEwen establishes these parameters and provides guidance for new and experienced beekeepers alike offering a sustainable, natural, and repeatable model of care for hive health and production -- effectively safeguarding the honey bee from the known threats of today and the unknown threats of the future.

The husband and wife team of Eric and Joy McEwen combine their two decades worth of beekeeping experience, experiments, and professional production to deliver groundbreaking methods in queen-rearing, varroa mite management, and Natural Nest hive design.

For readers with an interest in bee keeping, either as a hobby or as a profession, "Raising Resilient Bees includes: Revived and adapted heritage Integrated Pest Management techniques; How to naturally rear queens and select for resilient, mite-resistant genetic lines without relying on swarming or grafting; Key tenets of apicentric beekeeping; Advice for establishing a flourishing and sustainable business with beekeeping at the center; How to naturally rear bees with distinctive characteristics suitable to their locale.

As in large-scale agriculture, the trend toward genetic homogenization is having long-term implications for bees' capacity to withstand diverse environmental stressors. With expert advice, enthusiasm, and easy-to-follow instructions, "Raising Resilient Bees" delivers important and timely information for every beekeeper to create a healthier future.

Critique: Simply stated, "Raising Resilient Bees: Heritage Techniques to Mitigate Mites, Preserve Locally Adapted Genetics, and Grow Your Apiary" is essential reading for anyone who aspires to keep bees, and has a great deal of practical value as a resource for even the more experienced beekeeper. Nicely illustrated with color photographic images, informatively comprehensive, exceptionally 'reader friendly in organization and presentation, "Raising Resilient Bees" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library bee keeping collections and as a textbook for supplemental Animal Husbandry and Entomology curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for agricultural students, academia, amateur and professional beekeepers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Raising Resilient Bees" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.49).

Editorial Note #1: Eric McEwen heads the beekeeping operation for Diggin' Livin' Farm & Apiaries ( He holds a bachelor of science degree in botany and plant pathology from Oregon State University. He has spent the last 20 years experimenting with the development of organic management practices while tending approximately 700 honey bee colonies. A former mentor for the Oregon State University Master Beekeeper Program, Eric has served as the Southern Oregon Representative on the Oregon State Beekeepers Association administrative board. He is also a member of the Adaptive Bee Breeders Alliance, a SARE-funded consortium of honey bee professionals and academics collaborating on stock improvement focused breeding efforts. He is the originator and manufacturer of Natural Nest beehives, an improved style of 8-frame Langstroth equipment for organic beekeeping. Eric is also a trained botanist and naturalist who loves the wild side of the great outdoors.

Editorial Note #2: Joy McEwen manages Diggin' Livin' Farm & Apiaries, a homestead, organic farm, and commercial beekeeping operation. She holds two bachelor of science degrees, as well as a master of science in environmental science from Oregon State University. When she isn't tending hives or farming, she works as an apitherapist with a practice in southern Oregon and makes a line of jun beverages called Honey Bee Brews. Joy is a committee member on the USDA Farm Service Agency board for Josephine and Jackson Counties, Oregon, and serves as a board member on the Illinois Valley Watershed Council, as well as a board member for the American Apitherapy Society.

Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future
Chris Smaje
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001
9781915294166, $19.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: One of the few voices to challenge the AgroBusiness propaganda on the future of food and farming (and the importance of the restoration of nature for human health) is academic, farmer and author Chris Smaje. With the publication of "Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future: The Case For an Ecological Food System and Against Manufactured Foods", Smaje presents his defense of small-scale farming and a robust critique of Monbiot's vision for an urban and industrialized future.

Responding to any portrayal of an urban, high-energy, industrially manufactured food future as the answer to our current crises, and its unchallenged acceptance within the environmental discourse, Smaje was compelled to challenge AgroBusiness derived evidence and conclusions while at the same time presenting powerful counter arguments and advocating a low-carbon agrarian localism that puts power in the hands of local communities, not high-tech corporates.

Critique: An eloquent and articulate defense of agroecological, small-scale farming and a robust critique of an industrialized future, "Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future: The Case For an Ecological Food System and Against Manufactured Foods" by Chris Smaje is critically important reading for anyone with an interest in learning about the difference between a congenial, ecological living and a dystopian, factory-centered existence. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Sustainable Agriculture collections and supplemental Environmental Economics curriculum studies lists, it should be noted that "Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future: The Case For an Ecological Food System and Against Manufactured Foods" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Langford Sarah ( is also the author of "In Your Defence". For ten years, she worked in criminal and family law in London. In 2017 she moved to Suffolk and, together with her husband, took on the management of his small family farm, an experience she wrote about in her book :Rooted: Stories of Life, Land and a Farming Revolution". She now lives between Southwest London and Suffolk.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Bitter Past (Ellie Matthews Novels Book 1)
Caroline Fardig
Severn River Publishing
9781648754692, $17.99 paper
B074LDYHSP, $2.99 ebook, 328 pages

Bitter Past is a CSI style detective mystery. It has a closer feel to the real thing than most CSI novels. Bitter does this by giving more time to the hours it takes to investigate crime scenes and the hours to run the needed tests. It also looks closely at the variety of different personalities that could make up a forensic lab and police force.

Professor Ellie Matthews has burnt out as the head of the sheriff's forensic lab and started teaching forensics at the local college. When a murder of a student activist that Ellie knew occurs with a variety of suspects, all of whom, she knows from her current job, Ellie is asked by the local sheriff to help. Ellie owes the sheriff, who has been her friend and mentor from childhood.

Ellie starts working the case, which soon turns into multiple cases, and struggles with memories of the burnout she suffered just a few years ago. The closer she gets to solving the mysteries the closer the mysteries come to her current life and the more dangerous they become to her.

Bitter Past is an easy to recommend CSI style detective mystery. Strong characters, the illusion of real forensics and a twisty plot that makes you work hard to unravel the mystery. The intense story might be too much for the cozy readers but the solving of the story is fun.

Kaine's Sanction (Shattered Empire Book 1)
D.M. Pruden
Fuzzy Slipper Publishing
9781989341186, $19.99 paper
B07NCGSTRC, $3.99 ebook, 247 pages

Kaine's Sanction is pure old style space opera. That is both its strength and its weakness. With contemporary science, you can fill in details that had to be avoided with half a century old science. Many social and inter-alien relations have already been explored by classic authors. Instead of exploring new ground or leveraging previous ideas into the narration, Purden just rehashes the old.

Cadet Hayden Kaine is talented but he is also a screw-up. He makes an enemy of an admiral and is transferred out of the academy and to a relic of an old ship UEF Scimitar. The ship is half staffed and is being sent on a rescue mission to the edge of the empire. An archeologist, at a failed colony, has requested help. He has discovered something important.

Scimitar arrives in the colony system and is nearly immediately attacked. Many of the crew are killed or injured. Hayden is the highest ranking officer who is still able to take command. The Scimitar has stumbled into an interstellar war between opponents much more advance than humans. Hayden has to take his damaged ship and thread a needle between the fighting aliens and survive long enough to protect the human race.

Kaine's Sanction is a reasonable space opera that most readers in this genre will find enjoyable. The depth of character development is lacking. except for the main protagonist, Hayden. The story is typical in the genre with minor variations. With decades of already published space operas to choose from, Sanction is a nice secondary choice. But there is always a place for a good fill-in tale.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Murder at the Pontchartrain (The Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series Book 6)
Kathleen Kaska
Anamcara Press LLC
PO Box 442072, Lawrence, Kansas 66044-2072
9781941237953, $8.49 Kindle; $31.99 Hardcover, 280 pages

Sydney Lockhart's long-awaited trip to New Orleans takes an unexpected turn when her fiance, Ralph Dixon, is unjustly imprisoned for murder. Determined to clear his name, Sydney embarks on a daring quest for justice that takes her on a wild ride through the heart of the Voodoo capital.

With the help of her cousin Ruth, the two fearless detectives follow a trail of clues that lead them to unexpected places and test their courage at every turn. Will Sydney be able to unravel the mystery and prove Ralph's innocence, or will they find themselves immersed in a world of dark magic and danger?

Murder at the Pontchartrain showcases Sydney and Ruth as they set out on an exhilarating adventure filled with twists, turns, and the black power of evil. This book is assured to call out to the heart of mystery lovers.

Kathleen Kaska is the Queen of Mystery! This book is the 4th in The Sydney Lockhart Mystery series. Kaska's storytelling prowess shines through as she weaves together a captivating murder mystery filled with a wide variety of exceptional elements. From the atmospheric settings to the intricate plot, every page is a testament to the author's talent and dedication to the genre.

I Love You All, Please Leave - Essays on COVID Lockdowns and Psych Lockups
Victoria Carlisle
Victoria Carlisle Press
9798987459300, $15.95 paperback, 200 pages
9798987459317, $7.99 ebook

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the world in countless ways. People have had to adjust to a new way of life, one that involves lockdowns, social distancing, and fear for one's own health and the health of loved ones. However, author Victoria Carlisle has found a way to bring some lightheartedness to the situation through her book.

Carlisle shares her personal experiences during the pandemic as a mother and wife. Despite the challenges and stress of this world situation, Carlisle manages to find humor in the small moments of life. Her journey towards self-acceptance and mental health during the pandemic has transformed her, and her humor is a testament to her resilience.

I Love You All, Please Leave - Essays on COVID Lockdowns and Psych Lockups is a refreshing take on the pandemic, reminding readers that even in the darkest of times, there is still room for laughter and joy.

Victoria Carlisle's provides a refreshing spin on what has been one of the darkest times in recent history. Not only will you gain valuable insights into the epidemic, but you'll also find yourself laughing out loud at Carlisle's humorous anecdotes. I personally found myself wiping tears of joy from my eyes on multiple occasions. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to see the lighter side of an otherwise challenging situation.

Dragons Springs & Other Things - A Short Story Collection: Book 1
Raven Oak
Grey Sun Press
9781947712065 $12.99 Paperback, $4.99 Kindle

Dragon Springs & Other Things is a mesmerizing debut collection by the talented author and artist Raven Oak. This captivating anthology combines a decade's mystical tales, showcasing Oak's versatility and mastery of various genres, including gothic and urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic, and steampunk.

Within the pages of this enchanting book, readers will encounter myriad extraordinary characters and settings. Get ready to meet coffee-drinking ghosts, shape-shifting individuals, elemental spirits with protective and harmful tendencies, skilled assassins, magical pockets, and delightfully snarky creatures.

Dragon Springs Other Things contains twelve stories, six never-before-seen stories which will leave readers spellbound. Notably, this collection includes two tales that spotlight the beloved character, Ida, from Oak's acclaimed Boahim Trilogy.

Prepare to be transported to worlds beyond imagination as you embark on this thrilling literary journey with Raven Oak. Dragon Springs Other Things is a must-read for fans of fantasy, and those seeking an unforgettable escape into the realms of magic, mystery, and wonder.

The sheer variety found within the pages of this one book is a testament to Raven Oak's remarkable talent and creativity. From thrilling adventures to poignant dramas, from fantastical realms to contemporary settings, she effortlessly weaves together a tapestry of captivating stories that leave a lasting impression on her readers. Raven Oak's name is sure to be etched in the annals of literature as she continues to enchant audiences with her unparalleled storytelling prowess.

Leaving a Charmed Life: A True Story of Choosing Authentic Happiness
Kadian Grant
Creative Courage Press
9781959921004, $18.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 208pp

At the age of six, Kadian leaves the beautiful country of Jamaica and moves to New York with her twin brothers. Her peaceful world goes spinning out of control when she finds herself a victim of abuse under her parent's roof. As she tries to cope with the trauma, Kadian starts to lose touch with her identity and transforms into Charm, a tough and resilient woman determined to survive in a harsh world.

With a strong will and determined spirit, Charm manages to overcome the obstacles that threaten her existence and becomes a successful woman. However, she always remembers the promise she made to herself to live her life differently and strives to leave a better legacy for future generations.

Will Charm maintain the smoke screen of her life she shows the world? Or will her true identity one day come to the surface?

Leaving a Charmed Life: A True Story of Choosing Authentic Happiness is an inspiring journey of Charm as she shares her story of resilience, perseverance, and triumph over adversity.

Kadian Grant's memoir is a touching and insightful account of her journey of self-discovery and survival. Through her raw and honest prose, Grant invites readers into her innermost thoughts and emotions, sharing a part of herself that is both vulnerable and empowering. Her memoir is a testament to the power of self-discovery and exploration and is sure to captivate readers with its heartfelt and relatable story.

The Tame Man
Dana Burnell
AIA Publishing
c/o Tahlia Newland Enterprises
ABN: 60524816736
ABN: 32736122056
9781922329493, $4.99 Kindle, $12.99 Paperback, 264pp

Rubicon Baines, a former ITV star, moves from Illinois to London, where she changes her identity and becomes an overnight sensation. Several years later, Rubicon meets her childhood friend Jenn Bellwether and introduces her to her inner circle.

Jenn, a Midwesterner with strong religious values, inserts herself into the life of London doctor Mark Everleigh, a widower struggling to connect with his teenage son Simon. Introducing American family values into Mark's family creates pressure and tension that soon leave everyone gasping for a way out. However, Mark finds a way out in the form of Rubicon herself.

The Tame Man is a novel that explores the complexities of love, death, and complex life in London and how our past can impact our future decisions.

Dana Burnell's writing style is fresh, appealing and provides maximum enjoyment. Each scene in the book is masterfully crafted, and the characters are unforgettable. I predict this book will be well-received in the literary world and highly recommend it to anyone looking for an engaging read.

Campfire in the Basement
Darrell J. Pedersen
River Place Press
9798986268132, $14.95, PB, 236pp
9798986268170, $8.99, Kindle

In his captivating memoir, Campfire in the Basement, the author takes us on a nostalgic journey through his mischievous and memorable childhood. From ill-fated campfire escapades in the basement to the comical mishaps of caring for the class goldfish over Christmas, Pedersen's stories will transport readers back to a time when life was filled with innocence and wonder.

Through his candid and heartfelt storytelling, the author reminds us of the simple joys of growing up in a small town where old country stores were a haven for sweet treats, and every young boy dreamed of emulating the heroic cowboys found on black and white televisions. But amidst the laughter and adventure, Campfire in the Basement also delves into the deeper emotions of heartache, loss, and the bittersweet goodbyes that shape our lives.

While these poignant recollections may tug at the heartstrings, they ultimately create a perfect balance of relatable anecdotes and raw authenticity. This book is not just a memoir; it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of faith to guide us through joyous moments and trials.

Darrell J. Pedersen, stand up and take a well-deserved bow for a well-done job. From the first page to the last, Campfire in the Basement will captivate readers with its vivid imagery, relatable characters, and timeless themes. It is a reminder that amidst life's challenges, there is always room for laughter, love, and the purest of joys.

The Birds That Saved Me
J.P. Steed, author
Norah Steed, illustrator
Ghow Press LLC
9781960554000, $26.95 HC, $16.95 PB, 198pp

Steed's memoir is a captivating exploration of the world of birds and the simple pleasures of everyday life. In his excellent debut, Steed offers thought-provoking insights that delve into finding joy in ordinary moments. The author's engaging voice and poignant reflections on life and hardships make this memoir remarkable.

Focusing on birds and birding, this book goes beyond mere facts and figures. Steed takes readers on a journey through old myths, legends, and local folklore while sharing intriguing details about his childhood growing up on an acreage in Willamette, Oregon. This rural setting inspired him to break out of his shell and embrace social gatherings, ultimately changing his perspective on life.

Through Steed's eyes, readers are given a fresh perspective. His profound insights on how small joys can help us survive difficult times are enlightening and inspiring. As a bonus, this memoir comes to life with the outstanding illustrations by Norah Steed, whose brilliant artwork perfectly complements the author's words.

Steed's Memoir, The Birds That Saved Me is a must-read for those seeking a captivating memoir that combines nature, personal growth, and the beauty of everyday life. Prepare to be enchanted by the wisdom and charm found within these pages.

Veronique's Moon
Patti Finn
Gilded Orange Books
9798986060026, $0.99 Kindle
9798986060033, $7.99 Paperback, 132pp

In the captivating sequel to Veronique Clair's story, the determined Frenchwoman embarks on a journey across France to the illustrious home of Madame Jeanne du Barry, former mistress to King Louis XV.

With dreams of sewing for the wealthiest women in France, Veronique soon realizes that fitting into this new world is not as easy as she had hoped. From the oppressive house manager to the arrogant Governor of Louveciennes, every encounter reminds Veronique of her limited place in society.

Veronique struggles to find time for her passion amidst a whirlwind of regret, she questions whether this new chapter was worth sacrificing her parents' peace of mind and a comfortable, albeit loveless, arranged marriage.

Veronique's Moon showcases the idyllic town of Louveciennes, France, as Veronique Clair navigates the challenges of the Chateau du Barry and discovers if she has made the right decision to upend her life for the pursuit of her dreams.

Patti Finn's skillful writing brings each scene to life, immersing readers in the characters' lives and allowing them to connect deeply with their experiences. The masterful storytelling keeps readers hooked from beginning to end, making it a truly engrossing read.

One aspect that stands out in this book is the stunning cover design. With its alluring visuals and captivating aesthetics, the cover is an irresistible invitation for readers to delve into the pages within. Its appeal adds an extra layer of excitement and intrigue to the overall reading experience.

The Prettiest Street in Savannah
Jack Cawthon
Independently Published
9798218129880, $22.99, (Hardcover)
9798218129866, $14.99, (Paperback)
9798218129873, $2.99 Kindle, 314pp

Sixteen-year-old Billy Ray Shuman and his family faced many challenges and difficulties. With his father's mysterious departure and his mother, Jolene, chronically ill and nearing the end of her life, Billy Ray finds himself overwhelmed with anger and sadness. To provide stability for Billy Ray and his younger brother Jeb, Jolene's sister, Becky, has offered them a home. However, Aunt Becky's limited resources and volatile husband, Roy, present additional difficulties for the struggling family.

In the wake of tragedy and facing a threat to his freedom, Billy Ray finds himself in a desperate situation. With his brother's future on the line, he must find a way to redeem himself in the eyes of the authorities, the school administration, and even his own family. Feeling isolated and alone, Billy Ray's life turns unexpectedly when he meets Jenny, a remarkable lady who helps him discover his worth and inner strength.

Will Billy Ray navigate the trials of life and discover that he has the wisdom and courage to confront his fears and rise above the challenges he faces? Or will he succumb to the darkness that threatens to consume him?

The Prettiest Street in Savannah is a thought-provoking story of resilience as Billy Ray's journey inspires us all to confront our fears and rise above the challenges that life throws our way.

Jack Cawthon is a writer with a purpose and an unparalleled ability to transport readers into the heart of his stories. With his remarkable talent for descriptive storytelling, Cawthon allows readers to step into the storyline and fully experience the emotions and sensations of his characters. His unique trait sets him apart from the competition, making him a true standout in the literary world.

Hamelin Stoop: The Battle of Parthogen
Robert B. Sloan
Twelve Gates Publishing
9798987857106 (Paperback), $14.99, 343pp
9798987857113 (Hardcover), $TBA
9798987857120 (eBook), $3.99 Kindle

Layla's return to her family on the other side of the Atrium of the Worlds is bittersweet as she faces the imminent loss of her newfound little sister. Together with Charissa and Eraina, they embark on a desperate mission to awaken Princess Sophia from her coma. However, as they struggle to find a solution, Hamelin must confront the consequences of his impulsive actions that have brought the eagle back to his home.

The city of Parthogen remains under the tyrannical reign of Chimera's wicked son, Landon. With his army and a ferocious pack of dogs, he continues to hold the city captive, growing more audacious in his attacks against King Carr's encampment. The fate of both Princess Sophia and Parthogen hangs in the balance, and it is up to Hamelin and his friends to save them.

Time is of the essence as Landon's reinforcements draw near, threatening to seal the doom of the Land of Gloaming forever. Will Layla, Charissa, Eraina, and Hamelin be able to rescue Princess Sophia and liberate Parthogen from Landon's clutches before it's too late? Join them in this gripping race against time that will test their bravery and determination to the limit.

Hamelin Stoop: The Battle of Parthogen, is the fourth book in the Hamelin Stoop series. It's a well-written fantasy adventure filled with fast pace action and adventure. The characters are strong and determined. Each one lends a solid voice to this wonderful book.

Robert B. Sloan has done an outstanding job writing Hamelin Stoop: The Battle of Parthogen. This well-written fantasy adventure is filled with fast-paced action and thrilling moments that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. The characters in this book are strong, determined, and each one lends a solid voice to the story. You will be swept away from the first few pages into a world you won't want to leave until you read the last page.

DELOS: The Moon's Eye
Blake Miller
Hierophant Press
9781088142325, $20.99, PB, $4.99 Kindle, 441pp

DELOS: The Moon's Eye takes readers on a thrilling and captivating journey into a magikal world filled with adventure and mystery. In this second installment of the epic fantasy series, the story expands even further, offering readers an even larger scope of the magical realm.

When Cynthia Summers and Kaden Krossway discover that the Lil of Lurkur has gone missing, they join forces with Alec Mulsiver and a surprising fourth companion to embark on a quest to find her. Their journey takes them deep into the mysterious Lurkur Woods, where they make a haunting discovery about the fate of the Lil. Determined to save her life, they must venture into Diluvium and undertake the perilous Quest of Six Waters.

The Quest of Six Waters is a treacherous trial that no one has survived in over 6,000 years. As Cynthia, Kaden, and Alec face unimaginable challenges and encounter ancient secrets, they are driven by their unwavering determination to obtain the Seventh Water, the key to saving the Lil's life.

DELOS: The Moon's Eye is a gripping continuation of the incredible saga of Cynthia, Kaden, and Alec. With climaxes and anticlimaxes aplenty, this thrilling fantasy series will keep readers glued to the pages, eagerly awaiting each new twist and turn in the magical world of Delos.

Blake Miller has written a gripping tale that is a masterclass in storytelling that will keep readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Filled with non-stop action and suspense, Miller's latest work is a true page-turner.

Black Wing Sky
Kaylin McFarren
Creative Edge Publishing, LLC
9798372293366, $3.99 Kindle, $13.95 PB, 349pp

Lucifer's soldiers have captured a Seven-Star General of the Archangel Army of Heaven, marking a turning point in the war between Heaven and Hell. Samara Daemonium, a fierce warrior, believed this would bring victory for Hell and a peaceful future with her soulmate, Damian Hunter.

As evil threatens to consume the planet of Nexus, Samara must summon all her strength and determination to fight against the deadly Black Dragon, but the challenges continue. Samara's peaceful future with her soulmate is shattered as she embarks on a perilous quest to protect her family from Lucifer, the heinous ruler of Hell, and his daughter Lucinda.

Will Samara find the strength to overcome her inner demons and defeat the forces of evil? Can she save her family and the entire planet from destruction?

Black Wing Sky delves into thought-provoking themes of good versus evil, exploring the true source of the motives behind each and questioning whether the two can ever be separated or remain an eternal struggle.

Kaylin McFarren expertly weaves a tale of salacious and sinister power struggles in Black Wing Sky. Through McFarren's masterful storytelling and vivid descriptions, readers will be fully immersed in this epic tale until the end. Black Wing Sky will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they race toward the epic conclusion of the Gehenna series.

An Otherwise Perfect Plan
Ken Schafer
Moon Jumper Press
9781958456033, $16.99, Paperback, 276pp
9781958456040, $26.99 Hard Cover, $5.99 Kindle

Join Gwen Pendergrass on her journey as she navigates the challenges of her life - from being a free-lunch student living in a cramped apartment with a kitchen that seems out to get her, to dealing with dysfunctional high school teachers and her own unruly emotions. Through it all, Gwen finds solace in her friendship with Peter, a fellow loner who shares her love for books, banter, and contemplating the absurdities of the universe.

But when Gwen's mom is presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reclaim the life she gave up, their world is turned upside down. Will Gwen understand the changes and find her path amid it all?

An Otherwise Perfect Plan: A Novel of Mystery, Love, and of Chocolate That Defies Description is a contemporary coming-of-age story that will captivate readers with its unique narrative style and relatable characters. In this book, a quirky teenage girl takes center stage, infusing the tale with sarcasm, hyperbole, and wild flights of fancy.

Ken Schafer has written a must-read for anyone seeking a heartwarming and humorous tale of self-discovery. Get ready to be swept away by Gwen's unique voice and her extraordinary journey.

Those People Behind Us
Mary Camarillo
She Writes Press
9781647425654, $9.49 Kindle, $17.95 Paperback

This captivating story delves into the lives of five neighbors, each grappling with the challenges of a politically divided town, soaring housing prices, and personal struggles.

Real estate agent Lisa Kensington juggles her demanding job, a shopaholic husband, an overbearing mother, and rebellious teenagers. Meanwhile, Vietnam veteran Ray Gorman cares for his aging mother. Ex-convict Keith Nelson lives in his car near his parent's house, and sixteen-year-old Josh Kowalski copes with his father's abandonment through the music he produces with his drumming. Aerobics teacher Jeannette Larsen turns to reckless behavior as she distances herself from her husband.

As these characters navigate betrayal, death, financial decline, and loneliness, they discover that they share a deep connection despite their differences. Through their journeys, they search for a sense of home and community in a neighborhood where belonging is contentious.

Those People Behind Us is a thought-provoking novel that will leave readers pondering the power of unity in the face of adversity. Prepare to be captivated by this compelling story.

Mary Camarillo should be proud of the new literary masterpiece that is sure to captivate readers around the globe. This novel boasts a cast of well-developed and compelling characters, each with a unique voice. With its heartwarming hometown feel, the story delves into the lives of these characters as they navigate the challenges of real-life problems. Prepare to be enchanted by this special offering, every scene will want to learn more about this delightful story.

The Buster Clan: An American Saga
K.P. Kollenborn
Independently Published.
9798391711186 (Softcover), $18.00, (Kindle) $6.99
9798392939657 (Hardcover), $26.00, 541pp

This captivating narrative takes readers on a journey through United States' history by exploring the lives of the Busters, a pioneering American family. Within the pages of this book, you will uncover authentic and freshly told stories that shed light on the American experience.

As you delve into the pages of this book, you will witness the Busters' adventurous spirit as they ventured to Texas, California, and Colorado before the consolidation of the Pacific Railroad and the onset of the gold rushes. Their unwavering patriotism led them to fight in all American wars, even experiencing the bitter division of family combat during the Civil War. However, through the Reconstruction of the South, unification prevailed, highlighting the resilience and determination of the Buster Clan.

The Buster Clan: An American Saga offers a unique perspective on American history, presenting a collection of Buster narratives and archives that bring to life the significant events that shaped the nation. From their humble beginnings as farmers and slave owners to their role in the benefits and consequences of Manifest Destiny, the Busters were deeply intertwined with the trajectory of the United States.

K.P. Kollenborn's talent as a writer has provided a profound exploration of the American identity, weaving together the grand tapestry of history with the personal sagas of individuals whose lives were deeply affected by events. This book offers a fresh perspective, shedding light on lesser-known stories that have shaped the fabric of America. The enduring spirit of the American people and a celebration of the rich tapestry of our nation's history.

A.C. Jett
ISBN: TBD; Price: TBD, 408pp
Format: Electronic and Paperback

In this gripping tale, two teenagers, Tommy Jurczyk and Bobby Portilla, mysteriously vanish, prompting Detective Al Esposito to take on the case. As the investigation progresses, Tommy is found alive but with no recollection of his past, while Bobby's tortured body is discovered by a fisherman in the ocean. Detective Esposito soon realizes that a malevolent force is at play, weaving an eerie, atmospheric narrative that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

Identity is a captivating novel by Jett that combines elements of mystery, suspense, and exploration of gender identity. Set in the quaint seaside town of Full Moon Cay, the story follows a gender-fluid teenager who becomes entangled in a murder investigation after the suspicious death of his best friend. The town's peaceful facade shatters as dark secrets unravel, and the protagonist navigates through a web of intrigue and danger.

A.C. Jett has proven to be a skillful storytelling author who masterfully intertwines mystery and horror, delivering spine-tingling scares that will leave readers yearning for more. Readers will be transported into an unknown, horror, and self-discovery world, with threads of LGBTQ experiences woven throughout. Jett's skillful storytelling effortlessly weaves these distinct narratives together, creating a compelling and complete whole. Prepare to be shocked and moved, an ending that will leave you pondering long after you turn the final page.

They Were All Loyal
Melissa Irene Burrowes
ISBN: TBD; Price: $TBD; 325pp
Format: Electronic, Paperback, and Hardback

Thirty-eight-old James Tresser is the youngest head of government. He's committed to being the best leader for the people of Sarrilla. His political staff consists of highly efficient Susan Ferry, the heart of his political administration, and his Press Secretary, Stanley Parnell.

In an unexpected turn of events, Emperor Li of Longguo has personally extended an olive branch of peace to the nation, seeking to resolve the recent poaching incident that has strained the diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Emperor's gesture comes after our nation was found guilty of disregarding a Sarrillian law by engaging in the illegal poaching of an endangered species.

Emperor Li's decision to directly address the matter demonstrates his commitment to finding a peaceful resolution and preventing further escalation of tensions. It signifies an opportunity for both nations to engage in meaningful dialogue and work towards a mutually beneficial outcome.

Will James be willing to accept Emperor Li's peace offering? Or will he think the offer of peace comes with higher consequences?

They were all Loyal is an outstanding novel filled with various irresistible elements that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. From lies and torture to treason and murder, this gripping tale offers an unforgettable reading experience. Each scene is expertly crafted, immersing readers in a suspenseful journey where they are left guessing what will come next. Prepare to be enthralled by the plot's intricacies and the characters' depth.

With her captivating storytelling and well-developed characters, Melissa Irene Burrowes is sure to become a rising star in the literary world. In her latest work, she takes readers on a journey that blurs the line between fiction and reality, leaving her readers longing for more.

The Confessions of Gabriel Ash
Lee Polevoi
Running Wild Press
9781955062589, $18.59, 322pp (paperback)
9781955062596, $9.49 (Kindle)

Gabriel Ash, once hailed as a hero for saving the life of King Josef of Keshnev, finds himself in a dire predicament four decades later. Ash is accused of attempting to assassinate the very dictator under whom he once served as ambassador, and he sees his life take a dramatic turn.

For years, Ash has dutifully represented the fictional East European nation of Keshnev at the United Nations, faithfully echoing the Soviet propaganda against the West. However, behind closed doors, he indulges in the decadent pleasures of New York City, blurring the lines between his allegiance and personal desires.

The turning point comes during the Falkland Islands conflict in 1982. Unable to suppress his feelings any longer, Ash boldly speaks out against colonialism in front of the U.N. Security Council. Little does he know that this act of defiance will have far-reaching consequences, not only for himself but for others as well.

Soon after his impassioned speech, Ash is imprisoned in a remote castle deep within the "Lesser Alps" of a Warsaw Pact satellite state. Comrade Pavel, a menacing figure, offers him a chance to record his "confessions" before facing a tribunal.

As Ash reflects on his journey, the reader can delve into his tumultuous past. Born to American missionaries, he and his family moved to Europe following the tragic death of his younger brother from tuberculosis. This significant event shapes Ash's life, leading him to conflicting loyalties and personal struggles.

The Confessions of Gabriel Ash is a mesmerizing novel that effortlessly weaves together a tale full of surprises and intrigue. The book takes readers on an unforgettable journey through time, exploring the lives of fascinating characters and the events that shaped their world.

Lee Polevoi's writing is rich and vivid, bringing to life the sights, sounds, and emotions of the past authentically and engrossingly. This captivating historical drama is a must-read for all book lovers. From the opening pages, readers will be engrossed in accurately portraying historical events and characters as they navigate the intricacies and complexities of a different time.

Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery (MayaVerse Book 1)
Millicent Eidson
Maya Maguire Media
9781955481014 (Ebook), $9.99 Kindle
9781955481021 (Hardback), $24.19, 342pp
9781955481007 (Paperback), $14.99
9781955481038 (Large Print), $19.99
$9.99 Kindle, $24.19 Hardback, $14.99 Paperback, $19.99 Large Print

A talented veterinary epidemiologist, Maya Maguire, has joined a well-known Federal team investigating a deadly anthrax outbreak. The outbreak, suspected to be linked to climate change, poses a significant threat to public health. The CDC orders Maya to leave her home base in New Mexico to join the team in Arizona, where the outbreak occurs.

The Bacillus anthracis bacterium produces spores, and its deadly nature is evident from the potential of thousands of lives at risk. The outbreak's source remains unknown, but its association with climate change is a crucial factor that needs to be explored. If left unchecked, this outbreak has the potential to cause widespread devastation and loss of life.

Maya Maguire's expertise and experience as a veterinary epidemiologist make her a valuable addition to the team. Maya will play a crucial role in unraveling the mysteries surrounding this deadly anthrax microbe. Will the team succeed in bringing an end to the fatal disease?

Embark on an exhilarating journey as the enigmatic puzzle surrounding the anthrax attack finally comes to light. In Anthracis, readers will be captivated by a trio of compelling characters, each possessing unique skills and vulnerabilities, working together to unravel the complex mystery. As the narrative unfolds, these individuals become integral to the progression of the plot, their distinct contributions injecting the story with depth and excitement.

Millicent Eidson's talent is showcased in this one book. It is filled with elements that readers often need help finding in similar titles. I found there was never a dull moment with each page I turned. This highly anticipated book is set to captivate readers from start to finish. With abundant elements often elusive in similar titles, this literary masterpiece promises to keep readers engaged and entertained with every turn of the page. Millicent Eidson's unparalleled talent shines through in this remarkable work, ensuring a thrilling reading experience. I confidently predict that this offering will be warmly embraced by the literary world, solidifying Millicent Eidson's place among the most esteemed authors of our time.

Margaret's Last Prayer - A Soldier's Heart
Gary Baysinger
See Square Press
9798218088194, $2.99, Kindle

Fourteen-year-old Margaret Laemmer's path crossed with two gypsy boys in a daring rescue. Little did she know that it would set a chain of events spanning generations in motion. As a reward for her selfless act, Margaret receives a pair of amulets from the boys' grateful mother, promising good fortune for those who possess them.

Years later, as Margaret's sons set out on their journeys, she passes down the amulets to them, instilling her deep longing for family unity into these precious talismans. The amulets become more than just trinkets - they become carriers of hope, love, and the desire for reunion.

In a twist of fate, as the world is engulfed in the turmoil of the Second World War, two soldiers from opposing sides find themselves on the banks of the Elbe River in Germany. Unbeknownst to them, they bear identical amulets, forever linking their destinies. These amulets passed down through generations, hold the power to bridge divides and bring loved ones back together.

Margaret's Last Prayer - A Soldier's Heart is a captivating tale of courage, fate, and the enduring bonds that transcend time. Experience the magic of the amulets as they weave their way through history, reminding us of the strength of the human spirit and the power of hope.

Gary Baysinger's writing style is unforgettable, leaving a lasting impression on everyone who reads his work. Get ready to be enthralled by this incredible tale that keeps you turning the pages until the end.

Suzie Housley
Senior Reviewer

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

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