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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 11 November 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

Know What Matters: Lessons from a Lifetime of Transformations
Ron Shaich
Harvard Business Review Press
9781647825591, $30.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Ron Shaich is a business visionary who has been part of building three iconic restaurant brands: Au Bon Pain, Panera Bread, and now Cava. Along the way, he developed "fast casual," a $100 billion-plus segment of the industry. Now he reveals what he learned about entrepreneurship, running large enterprises, business transformation, and life itself. He illustrates these lessons with his experiences turning a 400-square-foot cookie store into 2,400 restaurants with $5 billion in revenue, delivering annual investor returns of 25 percent over two decades, and outperforming both Starbucks and Chipotle. How did Shaich succeed repeatedly in such a notoriously tough industry? By discovering today what will matter tomorrow and never hesitating to undertake sweeping transformations in order to get the job done.

With the publication of "Know What Matters: Lessons from a Lifetime of Transformations" Shaich offers clear-headed lessons for the entire life cycle of an enterprise, from bootstrapping a startup to going public to managing large companies to selling a business. And the relevance of his message doesn't end in the boardroom. He challenges readers to grapple with how the business impacts life, sharing his own struggles and setbacks with as much candor as he describes his successes.

Telling yourself the truth, knowing what really matters, and getting it done is the path to creating and sustaining a meaningful life, a market-leading business, and even a healthier society. Shaich's reflections are sometimes practical ("Make smart bets"), sometimes philosophical ("Conduct an annual pre-mortem"), often challenging ("You don't own the business, the business owns you"), and always incisive ("You take the money, I'll take control."). Know What Matters is a powerful guide to building transformative businesses while leading a life you respect and leaving a positive impact on the world.

Critique: As informative and insightful as it is motivational and inspiring, "Know What Matters: Lessons from a Lifetime of Transformations" is an extraordinary read from start to finish and of substantial value for readers with an interest in entrepreneurial leadership, motivation, and the economics and corporate management issues related to the business of hospitality, travel, and tourism. While highly recommended for community and college/university library Business Management collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for MBA students, academia, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Know What Matters: Lessons from a Lifetime of Transformations" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Ron Shaich ( is the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Panera Bread and of Au Bon Pain and is the current Chairman and lead investor in Cava, Tatte, Life Alive, and Level99. Shaich makes his investments through Act III Holdings, a $1 billion-plus evergreen investment vehicle. In Shaich's last two decades as CEO, Panera generated annualized shareholder returns of 25 percent and was the best performing stock in the restaurant industry. Shaich is often credited with defining the $80 billion fast casual segment and is known for continually disrupting industry paradigms to find new ways to build companies of value and with values. Shaich has twice been recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, was selected as the 2018 Restaurant Leader of the Year, and was presented the prestigious Nation's Restaurant News Pioneer Award as one of the most significant contributors in the history of the restaurant industry, joining the ranks of Colonel Harland Sanders, Ray Kroc, Norman Brinker, and J. Willard Marriott.

Live to See the Day: Coming of Age in American Poverty
Nikhil Goyal
Metropolitan Books
c/o Henry Holt & Company
9781250850065, $29.99, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Kensington, Philadelphia, is distinguished only by its poverty. It is home to Ryan, Giancarlos, and Emmanuel, three Puerto Rican children who live among the most marginalized families in the United States. "Live to See the Day: Coming of Age in American Poverty" is the story of their coming-of-age, which is beset by violence in the form of homelessness, hunger, incarceration, stray bullets, sexual and physical assault, the hypermasculine logic of the streets, and the drug trade. In Kensington, eighteenth birthdays are not rites of passage but statistical miracles.

One mistake drives Ryan out of middle school and into the juvenile justice pipeline. For Emmanuel, his queerness means his mother's rejection and sleeping in shelters. School closures and budget cuts inspire Giancarlos to lead walkouts, which get him kicked out of the system. Although all three are high school dropouts, they are on a quest to defy their fate and their neighborhood and get high school diplomas.

In a triumph of empathy and drawing on nearly a decade of reporting, sociologist and policymaker Nikhil Goyal follows Ryan, Giancarlos, and Emmanuel on their mission, plunging deep into their lives as they strive to resist their designated place in the social hierarchy. In the process, "Live to See the Day" confronts a new age of American poverty, after the end of "welfare as we know it," after "zero tolerance" in schools criminalized a generation of students, after the odds of making it out are ever slighter.

Critique: Of special and particular value to readers with an interest in Hispanic/American demographic studies, endemic poverty, education and the sociology of class, "Live to See the Day: Coming of Age in American Poverty" is a stellar study of meticulous scholarship and emotional resonance. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Live to See the Day: Coming of Age in American Poverty" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community and college/university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of sociology students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Live to See the Day: Coming of Age in American Poverty" is also available in a paperback edition (9781250850058, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Nikhil Goyal ( is a sociologist and policymaker who served as senior policy advisor on education and children for Chairman Senator Bernie Sanders on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and Committee on the Budget. He developed education, child care, and child tax credit federal legislation as well as a tuition-free college program for incarcerated people and correctional workers in Vermont. He has appeared on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC, and written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time, The Nation, and other publications. Goyal earned his B.A. at Goddard College and M.Phil and Ph.D at the University of Cambridge.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Rolo the Pet Earthling
Hans Ness
Zira Press
9798988037101, $9.99 paperback/$6.99 ebook/ $9.99 audiobook

Rolo the Pet Earthling turns ideas of aliens, humans, and pets upside down as it presents the story of a human boy who grows up being alien Zira's pet, but then begins to wonder about his origins.

Advanced elementary to middle-grade readers will find Rolo's story a compelling take on the usual pet or alien fantasy when Rolo's self-inspection is sparked by an animal rights protest:

"Until this moment, he had never really wondered why he was a pet. All his life, he had been a pet. And all the other earthlings too. And all the generations before them, and before them. But was it always that way? Why did no one ever talk about that? Was it a secret?"

The adventure unfolds as Rolo escapes, uncovers the truth about his origins and status, and then faces some difficult decisions about how he wants to live.

On her own mission to find her pet before the earthling-catchers do, Zira finds her life and perspective changed, as well, by her relationship with Rolo and the reality of his world.

Hans Ness crafts an intriguing adventure, while illustrator Sofia Komarenko peppers the story with colorful embellishments to add further value and attraction to the engaging, creative tale.

Rolo's probe of his past reveals many thought-provoking questions about animals, pets, rights, and wrongs that will also lend to important discussions in classrooms and between adults and kids.

Libraries and readers won't want to miss Rolo's adventures. They are heartwarming, fun, and thought-provoking:

"Cut the Leash!" He looked up wistfully at the bright star, the one he imagined was Earth. He now felt foolish to think he could go there. Earth might not be real. Or it might be an awful place. And how would he even get there? Or find it? He had gotten his hopes up for nothing. And he didn't even know about Earth until today, so why was it suddenly so important?"

In the Pace of the Path
Alan Bern
UnCollected Press
9798986724379, $18.99

Alan Bern's fictionalized memoir In the Pace of the Path also represents a diverse array of styles as he moves between free verse poetry and prose to build the story of his life in Berkeley and his career in the public library system.

Bern steps away from the library reference desk to pursue the atmosphere of Berkeley from various vantage points past and present. He captures this milieu with vignettes that move between experiences with the fluid viscosity of time travel and psychological self-inspection.

His utilization of these literary forms to juxtapose such experiences and observations creates a satisfying interplay between the "pathways that lead to home" and the places that occupy center stage at select moments in the narrator's life.

As he walks the spiral paths of Indian Rock Park and moves between reference desk and alleyway, readers begin to understand that the feel and presence of his words are more than just an invitation, but a sharing of the experiences of the streets and byways of Berkeley that bring that town and its culture to life.

Bern writes with an evocative hand that also embraces philosophical reflection:

"What I really want to grow is a dream that makes me see a dream that sees me. And everything as it can be. From the dream's eyes would I be caught in cooling winds, in a soundtrack of persistent chimes, would I fly above the life I live, rise into mountains of my highest imaginings, an ocean I've never visited, a deep valley from a picture book I read as a child, a clarity beyond clarity as I've known it."

In many ways, Bern's work defies any attempts at neat categorization. As a memoir embellished with fictional components, it challenges pat filing as either an autobiography or a novel. As a special blend of prose and poetry, it can fall under 'literature' but doesn't adhere to any set expectations of what that form embraces.

A literary acquisition that features a powerful sense of place and growth, In the Pace of the Path will find a welcome home in libraries strong in literary genre-bending works whose intrinsic value lies as much in its fluidity as in its multifaceted tribute to the human spirit and its earthly ties.

True North
Randall DeVallance
Beacon Publishing Group
9781961504011, $16.99 Paper/$7.99 ebook

True North is a literary novel of business, enlightenment, and transformation. It incorporates a wry satirical sense of irony to life as a sales rep at True North, LLC, Salvatore "Sal" Slocum, finds his life and business savvy put to new tests.

Company owner Burt Leathers places Sal in a different position, then views the fruits of his decision in success ratios that exceed anything Sal or the company could have achieved before his loss of memory and concurrent strange attraction. It's a scenario made all the more puzzling by the fact that, before this, Sal was only an average achiever and employee.

Leathers has more than profited from Sal's situation. It's time to hand Sal the reins of the company. But, leadership evolves from strange places and a bequest of power isn't always the gift it seems, as Sal discovers when he learns of the real reason Burt has decided to retire.

Randall DeVallance employs extensive dialogue between characters to cement individual psyches and pursuits. These bring the story to life, adding to the sense of irony and special interests exhibited by the characters as their situations change. The dialogues and reflections that permeate this tale provide food for thought about business, special interests, and subterfuge alike:

"I'm rather pleased with how that came off," said Leathers, once his crossword had been amended.

Stilton nodded. "Not nearly the pushback we had expected. I thought I was in for a long day, but aside from that one question about refreshments everyone just seemed to accept the fact that Sal's the boss now."

Leathers grunted, but said nothing. He had noticed that as well. It was the only thing that dampened his pleasure at how smoothly his plan had gone. He and Stilton had spent the previous evening workshopping an intricate explanation for why Leathers needed to step aside temporarily...It wasn't the wasted time that bothered Leathers so much as learning that his workforce saw him as replaceable. Better to suffer a hard truth than a bullet to the head, he reasoned, but that didn't mean his pride was any less wounded."

As a business book and a concurrent drama of shifting relationships both in the financial and interpersonal relationship sectors, True North charts a course that is inviting, fun, and thought-provoking all in one.

An ability to present a literary piece that works on different levels is not uncommon; but what Randall DeVallance creates here is a unique romp through life's changes and dovetailed lives. This translates to perfect debate and discussion material for book clubs.

Libraries and readers interested in novels rooted in both business and personal pursuits will discover True North to be a captivating draw that's hard to put down, weaving drama into bigger-picture dilemmas:

"I don't know what I expected, letting a compass plan out my life."

Schlepping Across the Nile
Aaron Zevy
Tumbleweed Press Inc.
9781778201769, $17.99

Schlepping Across the Nile: Collected Stories gathers vignettes and memoirs from Aaron Zevy's first three books, compiling them into an adventure story that follows the odyssey of the first-born son of an Ashkenazi father and Sephardic mother. Zevy opens his tale with the trademark humor that made his prior publications major attractions:

"This story begins with a phone call from my cousin Morris. It also begins with something I almost never do when getting a phone call from my cousin Morris. I answer it. Right away, I am reminded of the benefit of screening."

Like too many who deem themselves successful in relationships, Morris holds the answer to almost every dilemma Zevy faces in his life:

"Your problem is you go out with Ashkenazi women instead of finding yourself a nice Egyptian Jewish woman. Somebody with similar history, food and culture. Someone you have something in common with."

The solution, besides adhering more strictly to screening one's phone calls? Take up the challenge with a journey that explores Egyptian Jewish ancestry and legacy.

Schlepping Across the Nile is a memoir, travelogue, and ethnic inspection steeped in elements of misadventure and high drama. It embraces a range of Jewish traditions and experiences, from a blind date during Seder to the special ironies of his family's experiences:

"My favorite part of the seder is L'dor Va Dor. In every generation we are to regard ourselves as if we ourselves had gone out of Egypt. I love that. Because this is when my mom would say 'I did go out of Egypt.'"

That wry sense of humor and ironic inspections mentioned previously keeps these stories light, but thought-provoking.

Whether it's hurling a juicy Arabic insult during a poker game by Egyptians or listening to blind date war stories, Zevy embeds his writing with personal experience, observational prowess, and just plain fun. These elements are punctuated with black and white photos throughout for added visual impact.

While the likely audience for this literary and social observation will be Jewish readers, Zevy's ability to reach beyond a set ethnic group to engage, educate, and entertain audiences of all origins makes Schlepping Across the Nile of widespread attraction to anyone who seeking a series of rollicking fun, interesting short works.

Whether Zevy is making observations about generational differences in the process of pursuing love and dates or steeped in Jewish traditions and heritage, his works offer inspections that are cemented by his dry insights throughout:

"...'blind' is such a misnomer that it is laughable. This generation has seen more pictures of their prospective dates than I have of my entire family collectively. When we went in blind, we really went in blind. Armed with no more, especially if the set up was from a female friend, than weathered adjectives about bubbly personalities and shared interests, and creatively ambitious promises about looks."

Libraries and readers looking for particularly compelling short vignettes about love, life, and culture will find Schlepping Across the Nile a major attraction. It's not just for audiences of Jewish readers, but highly recommended for book clubs and discussion groups looking for an easy read that holds deceptively thought-provoking impact.

AGENDA 2060: AI and The View from Space
A.I. Fabler
Wild & Lawless Ltd.
9781738603107, $17.99 Paperback/$29.95 Hardcover/$5.99 eBook

AGENDA 2060: AI and The View from Space follows AGENDA 2060:The Future as It Happens, continuing the fantasy satire begun in the first book and expanding its reach to new and old readers alike. An introduction recaps the collapse of world economic systems in 2036 and the emergence of a World Government based on a series of social justice articles and ideals (presented as AGENDA 2060).

The story continues here with an opening paragraph that exemplifies just how and why A.I. Fabler's writings are so originally creative and compelling:

"The main thought in Levon Tofler's mind as he careened across the tropical ocean eleven hundred miles south and east of Miami at over six hundred miles per hour was that, as crazy ideas went, this was right up there."

Alexa Smythe has spent two years in space, returning with a message that threatens this carefully constructed new world order. She also represents an attack on the elite-driven authoritarian control that has saved the world. This makes her a danger both to herself (in many ways) and to the established new rules which successfully lifted humanity out of its economic crash.

The question of whether artificial intelligence can save humanity from itself without compromising humankind's own impetus towards self-destruction adds a bigger picture to the pursuits of individuals who each believes that their chosen path to redemption is the right one.

There is also an intersection and uncertain marriage between technological and social and spiritual pursuits:

"Following the events of the evening, Alexa's Aurora Tofler was twinkling on Levon's canvas the next morning like never before. Her words the previous day had already transformed what was a technological scheme into a spiritual dreamtime."

These add additional layers of thought into a story which follows the unwinding of social order by considering who controls that impetus for change, and whether their ultimate visions of the future are benevolent or dangerous in nature.

As conflicts in space, on Earth, and between individuals and technological expansion evolve, A.I. Fabler creates another memorable, satirical interplay. It will especially delight sci-fi readers who like their works embedded on a more intellectual level than most approaches to AI.

Billed as 'novel' so as to catch the eye of non-sci-fi audiences, AGENDA 2060: AI and The View from Space is a wide-reaching, eye-opening tale that both expands upon the prior book and stands nicely alone. It's a story that will provoke laughter, higher-level thinking, and attention from a disparate audience of thinkers.

Libraries seeking collection additions that hold the potential to reach past genre readers and into general-interest audiences will find AGENDA 2060: AI and The View from Space a delightful romp through social order, irony and satire, and the ongoing evolution of humanity.

The Jericho Manuscript
Julian Doyle
Independently Published
9798386292461, $13.81 Paper/$5.66 ebook

Think of a blend of Sherlock Holmes and The DaVinci Code when considering the attraction of The Jericho Manuscript, which offers more than a taste of each as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson pursue a murderer that tests even the great investigators' combined prowess.

Canon Alfred Lilly is found dead in the midst of translating the now-missing Jericho Manuscript. The chase for the murderer and the missing manuscript sends Holmes and Watson to Paris and beyond, as the investigative duo tackle their greatest case that leads to a truth far beyond even their wildest expectations.

Julian Doyle crafts a tale that moves the classic detective from the arena of investigator to thriller status as the tense, world-hopping tale moves from a crime to an investigation of Biblical prophecy and facts.

The Jericho Manuscript's threat and ability to change the world becomes just as dangerous a pursuit as that of a murderous entity that will stop at nothing to suppress the truth. These issues inject religious and social dilemmas into a story that traverses many different worlds as Holmes and Watson find their usual problem-solving approach lands them into the heart of political and religious intrigue.

Julian Doyle's special brand of history and mystery is certain to rock many a religious sentiment. Sherlock's probe sends seismic tremors of realization into previously concrete mindsets and perceptions.

Perhaps the greatest impact of The Jericho Manuscript lies in its ability to craft unusual religious and historical questions that will lead to vigorous debate just as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code succeeded in doing. Many may expect a whodunit to evolve, but won't anticipate the delightful interplays of religious and historical inspection that drive the case, adding depth and intrigue to Holmes and Watson's struggle to discover the truth.

The many allusions to prior Sherlock Holmes adventures will delight and intrigue fans who have followed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic writings:

"'Tell me what do you make of the story of his resurrection?'

Holmes thought for a while, 'What did I tell you when we confronted the legendry beast of the Baskervilles?'

I remembered what Holmes had said, 'If we are dealing with forces outside the ordinary laws of nature, there is an end to our investigation.'

'Lazarus' resurrection certainly appears to be outside the laws of nature,' said Holmes."

Packed with photos and historical revelations, The Jericho Manuscript is highly recommended reading for those book clubs and individuals that would take a closer look at belief systems through the unusual close inspective lens of a classic Sherlock Holmes crime approach. When paired with a powerful interplay between crime investigation, redemption, and faith that clash to create a new reality, the allure is powerful.

The nature of both reality and fiction is questioned in a crime thriller that holds many satisfying twists and turns. The plot dense enough to attract intellectuals who eschew simplicity in their reading choices, preferring the rich complexity of a well-done story steeped in many possible reinterpretations of accepted history.

Between the Sky and the Sea
Lisa Kline
Dragonblade Publishing, Inc
9798375696164, $13.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Between the Sky and the Sea is inspired by a legend and presents a nautical tale of shipwreck and the difficult choices faced by two survivors in the 1800s. Lisa Kline fictionalizes the facts, adding drama and further depth to the original story of the sinking of steamship Pulaski, whose remains were discovered off the coast of North Carolina in 2018.

The two survivors of this disaster (Mr. Ridge and Miss Oslow from Savannah) stayed alive for four days on floating settees before they were rescued, but many questions about their experience and relationship remained unanswered. Extensive research uncovered a love story that is translated here in an extraordinarily compelling tale of 1800s history and romance.

From catching fish using earrings as a lure to envisioning a revised life after rescue, the story follows the process of tragedy, survival, and lasting impact with the lure of high drama. This pairs well with historical details that came from Lisa Kline's extensive research of known facts surrounding both the disaster and the relationship between its sole survivors.

Exactly how the shipwreck changes Lavinia in many ways after rescue is as key to the story as the event itself. This differentiates Between the Sky and the Sea from other tales of adversity and rescue, lending deeper psychological currents to events than the efforts of Mr. Ridge to assure their mutual survival. Lavinia's initial desire to live as an independent woman is transformed by her experience, opening her eyes to vastly revised choices and opportunities.

From a quasi-marriage (which might not be entirely acceptable or legal in society's eyes) to Livvy's new position as a tainted woman who still takes charge of her own destiny, Kline creates a moving story that focuses on many different elements of survival beyond a shipwreck's initial impact.

The changes Livvy experiences are on par with the challenges faced by women of her times, while history interplays with drama in a way that laces both with more detail than a reader might expect from a historical novel. The plot also considers social evolution and the fears and confrontations faced by women of the times.

The result may be chosen by historical novel readers for its extensive background research; by women's fiction readers for its realistic, astute analysis of the barriers women faced in their efforts to control their own destinies; and by general-interest readers attracted by the scenario of a shipwreck romance and survival story that proves to be so much more.

Libraries and readers looking for a tale which promises entertainment, then delivers a powerful punch of social inspection, will find Between the Sky and the Sea compellingly easy to recommend and hard to put down.

The Medusa Murders
Joy Ann Ribar
Wine Glass Press
9781959078203, $17.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

The first book in the Bay Browning mystery series, The Medusa Murders, introduces Bay Browning ("L.L." to her friends and colleagues at the university), whose expertise as the head of the literature department and authority on mythology is tapped to help solve a puzzling series of murders.

The last thing Bay considered from her opportunities was that she could become a detective or participant in solving crime. However, she can be relentless. This personality trait serves her well as she pursues myths and truths in a captivating pairing of possibilities that leads her from a set course in her career down a dangerous path of discovery.

The process involves developing relationships with all kinds of people, which are outlined in a story replete with satisfying characters that contribute to Bay's own development with dialogues that feel both realistic and involving:

"Downing took a swig of beer. 'I didn't figure you for a beer person. I sort of expected something lofty - wine at the very least.'

Bay shifted awkwardly in her chair; she didn't appreciate being pegged. 'Shouldn't we discuss the case, Detective?'

Downing relaxed a notch. 'Nope. We should discuss the menu. Almost everything on it includes pork, so I hope you're not a vegan.'"

As pursuit of the Medusa Murderer brings Bay into contact with a diverse cast of characters, readers will realize that the complexity and allure of these situations represent psychological building blocks of realization and action that move Bay and others far from their comfort zones of predictability.

Joy Ann Ribar cultivates an atmosphere of growth as Bay exhibits defiance, stubbornness, and admits her failings as an investigator while maintaining her determination to contribute her expertise to a case that relies on her strengths for resolution.

As events lead to an inevitable face-off and a confrontation with not only Medusa, but the mercurial menace of Bay's own special brand of savvy, readers will relish the progression of a story that sizzles with thriller elements, draws with mystery steeped in myth, and eventually takes a course that many won't see coming.

Mystery enthusiasts looking for more complexity and challenge than the cozy mystery genre offers will appreciate the tension and compulsion of a story that grows relationships, individuals, and careers during a careening course towards disaster and discovery.

The Medusa Murders should be in any library collection strong in murder mysteries that reside a cut above the ordinary.

Hot Berry Punch
Bradford Tatum
Soft Moon Press
9798988742302, $6.99 ebook

Hot Berry Punch is a novel that crosses the line between pioneer romance and fantasy, and will appeal to readers who like genre-busting stories that defy pat categorization. Its odd-coupling blend of pioneer relationship and paranormal examination employs the first person to reveal the roots of an ordinary life which becomes extraordinary:

"I was born ignorant. Nothing augured my fate. No hellhounds bayed upon their misty moors, no frantic bats fled their belfries like cracks through a twilight teacup when I first tasted the ethers of this world. There was nothing in my birth that would have ever suggested a prolonged association with despair, bloody death, or horror. Anymore than there was evidence that my life would be dedicated toward a constant pursuit of love and being loved."

Thus opens a tale set in the 1800s that swirls around Emma-May Shinnecock, who was born on the rugged prairies and raised largely apart from the staid trappings of urban civilized society.

What led to Emma-May's relatively wild upbringing? Her parents opted to forego the civilized world for the relative freedom of the unknown:

"Silas had seen too much of the civilized world and Cora was fed up with that world's constant contradictions and so it was decided they would do what few of the innocent and the jaded were doing in those days. They would swap the raw disappointments of their respective pasts for a shared terror of the future and go West."

Bradford Tatum assures that history and events wind nicely into the story as a rise in population assures that those who go missing won't be noted, and no mystery will swirl around their absence.

This marriage between paranormal fiction and Western, especially when combined with a powerful woman who steps into her special abilities and revised future, works well. Emma-May is a feisty character with a no-nonsense approach to life. Her attitude is reflected in dialogue that is raw, candid, and powerful:

"Why wouldn't I take a pull of berry punch from any sucker fool enough to think he could bed me? You want me to keep culling from the streets? Listen, you're looking at this the wrong way. Folks in this town don't give two cold shits about the likes of us. Hell, if they knew what we really were, they'd run us out of here with pitch forks and torches."

It's also notable that Emma-May plays many roles as the town madam, the preacher's wife, and more. The secrets which follow her and the motivations that drive her lifestyles and choices assume center stage in a story steeped in vampire encounters and concerns, a quest for true love, and a series of encounters that tests the mettle and opportunities of women in the Wild West.

From manipulative plans fueled by the rush of recent challenges to Emma's reputation as "...the Little Bad Weather, as they called me, that stole their brothers' thunder and hacksawed through a handful of their best," Tatum's one-two punch of action and revised realizations about life and opportunity form a compelling story. It neatly defies any formula approach to Western, women's novel, or paranormal writing.

Libraries that choose crossover tales replete in rich dialogue, vivid confrontations, and unusual dilemmas will find Hot Berry Punch hides high drama in an unassuming title, and deserves to be richly recommended to readers who look for original stories packed with satisfying twists and turns.

Dr. Ian D. Brooks, MS
Independently Published
9781735975009, $19.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Intention: Building Capabilities to Transform Your Story deserves a place on any bookshelf where self-help and transformation is of interest, reaching audiences interested in both with a framework for successful change.

Its motivational approach begins with cementing intention and supporting its presence, exploring how to make adjustments that led to consistent new behavior patterns. Drawings and reflective personal inquiries accompany these directions, adding visual cues and strength to discussions that range from success methods and rates of return to building a "principle of you" that rests on revised direction, experience, and exercises that reinforce new abilities.

Dr. Brooks includes his own experiences as well as those of clients to follow the concrete paths taken to cement career and personal goals alike. As the CEO and founder of Rhodes Smith LLC, his consulting firm has helped many a business achieve its goals via routines and exercises that apply equally well to individual pursuits both within and outside of the business community. His attention to personal details and examples of his own reflective processes lends real-world insights to his stories:

"I was not in search for feedback for myself, but I found it empowering to acknowledge my own emotion in the moment where I had a choice to take action. This story first reflects the vulnerably associated with taking action and doing something different. Your awareness of being in the moment when you're taking action builds your capability to manage difficult outcomes."

From the incalculable results of pushing boundaries to re-prioritizing goals, seeking help, and applying wisdom and direction in ways that support new habits, Dr. Brooks reviews a wealth of examples that show how to not only achieve, but sustain transformations and persevere against all odds.

Libraries and readers looking for a lively link between real-world experience and the enactment of strategies for change will find Intention appropriate not only for individual pursuit, but (perhaps especially) useful in group situations, whether they be book clubs or psychological groups debating and supporting the goal of better understanding how change works.

Mad Dash
Sage Evans
Everaye Press
9798988328117, $16.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

The first book in the West Creek Ranch series, Mad Dash, is about felons, love, family ranching, and trick riding, embedding romance with rural flavors and finishing the dish with rich country descriptions that are compelling from the novel's opening lines: "My grand plans meet their demise during an argument with an old lady over beef jerky."

This story, set in the high country of Higgins, Wyoming, unfolds with a learning curve as Christa confronts a jerky thief, the trick-riding Corbett brothers, and her infatuation with Carter Corbett, who has been the object of her fantasies since childhood.

The impact of childhood dreams, adult realities, and a changing environment leads Christa and her readers into a story laced with ironic humor and interactions that support both romance and personal growth. These are cemented by dialogues between characters that are invitingly easy on the eye and heart:

"I'm turning into the same gawking teenager who sat with Skyler for hours fantasizing about what it would be like if we could marry those men. We would live in houses next door to each other on their massive ranch and raise beautiful families. We'd have adorable sons who could ride like the wind and crush their fathers' rodeo records. The fantasies, coming from a girl like me, felt ridiculous.

'You're drooling.' It's Skyler's voice near my ear."

Sage Evans presents a tale that changes points of view between Carter and Christa, presented in chapter headings which make it easy for readers to absorb these shifting perspectives. The different tones of the narrators emphasize and outline the meeting of the minds and hearts that fires Christa and Carter to confront their dreams - and one another:

"In all brutal honesty, my little brother is fucked up. Has been since the night he knocked the shit out of Cody Harris, the drunk driver who killed our parents. But I didn't tell Christa that when she asked about him. I didn't tell her anything about the strange bond my brother and I share or how it's made us connected and disconnected simultaneously."

As secrets, truths, and contrasts between two very different families come to light, Evans builds a wider set of insights and perspectives that draw readers into the milieu of the small town and its influences on the main characters in her story. Their ideals and thoughts come to light in satisfying contrasts that keep the action and events personal and thought-provoking:

"Maybe there is no perfect love story. There's only love. Precious, powerful, and terrifying."

The resulting love story about flaws, transformation, and coming together will delight libraries and readers seeking a vigorous combination of small-town tale, examination of life and love, and revelations about power, praise, and the process of riding recklessly into love.

Third Wheel
Richard R. Becker
Copywrite, Ink.
9798985381139, $29.95Hardcover/$16.99 Paper/$8.95 ebook/$17.99 Audio

In Third Wheel, teen Brady Wilks struggles to fit in to the desert city of Las Vegas, where he is lucky enough to have a few good friends. The trouble lies in location. This Mob-run town is filled with drugs and illicit activities, and Brady's best friend's associate Alex is a pusher operating an illicit business under the very nose of his cop father, in their own house. Dangerous times, indeed, as Brady must navigate the good and bad guys to find his own place in this mercurial world.

Richard R. Becker creates a moving story of shifting friendships buffeted by drugs, booze, and influences that challenge Brady to make decisions about his place not only in his circle of friends, but the wider world.

The social influences and impacts of conformity shape Brady's choices starkly, early in the story:

"What stood out was that I was lying on my back in my best friend's yard, and he wasn't offering me a hand up as he did from the pool. He looked at me with a strange expression, somewhere between disappointment and pity... We had been best friends for closing in on three years, and it never occurred to me that this might change. But something had changed. Maybe Alex wasn't a third wheel as much as I was anymore. Or maybe that's the way Alex wanted me to feel by leaving me out on the collection visit. It was hard to know."

The connections between Las Vegas's milieu and Brady's coming of age are particularly notable, reflective of the mixed bag of influences most urban areas hold as young people come of age and make hard choices:

"That's what it was all about in Las Vegas. You were on the inside or the outside, and I was always on the inside with a gram of confidence and an ounce of doubt."

In a nutshell, this disparity between insiders and outsiders drives a story in which a young man must make decisions about where he stands, influenced by best friends and newcomers who too quickly move from outsiders to influencers.

As adult concerns ranging from murder to missing evidence surface, Brady is ever more challenged to find a different place in the world and make better decisions that will affect not just his relationships, but his future.

From the values gleaned from the Church of Satan which are adapted to fit individual objectives to chosen friends and those which simply assume positions of power and influence, Becker spins a story that rests firmly on many different types of moves as his parents try to help and Brady finds that the social influences in Nevada follow him everywhere.

When tragedy strikes, it matters not his locale or his relationships - Brady is forced to take a hard look at consequences of friendships and actions that sometimes prove irreversible. Throughout this process, Becker writes with a passionate, descriptive hand that pulls young adults into Brady's emotions, responses, and choices:

"The four of them just looked at me like I was a freshly lit fireworks fountain on the Fourth of July. Everybody knows something will happen as the tiny coil of fuse glows, but there is a hesitation when nobody knows exactly what kind of fireworks it might be. Will it be a small ribbon of lights buzzing around like bees, a wailing siren that forces you to press your palms to your ears, or an explosion that makes younger kids tuck their heads in the nearest lap? It was a dud. When one of the officers apologized, I sat on the floor in front of them. I didn't scream or cry or explode. I just quietly surrendered and melted before them."

This kind of writing doesn't just craft a coming-of-age saga, but holds the power to immerse readers in deeper levels of social inspection that connect individual perception and values to bigger-picture thinking about crime, justice, and redemption.

Everyone wants to help Brady, especially when death rears. Few, however, understand the depths of pain which can emerge from a seemingly privileged life. This sends Brady on journeys far from his upbringing, accompanied by friends who each face their own trials of individualism and empowerment.

The multifaceted nature of these struggles, insights on friendships and hard choices, and the nature of intrigue which spins a story of lies and truths makes for a standout in YA literature which also will serve as a powerful discussion point for YA book clubs examining titles about growth and relationships.

Libraries and readers seeking strong, complex tales of outsiders and insiders will find Third Wheel compelling.

The Hand of God
Paul McCarthy
Majic-12 Publishing
9798988760313, $33.95 Hardcover/$23.95 Paper/$9.95 ebook

The Hand of God examines the science, technology, military and social issues surrounding nuclear weaponry, creating a discourse that sounds like others on these topics - but is not. Its major difference lies in an attention to not just detail and history, but doing so in a way that proves fast-paced and compelling.

Because it's neither a textbook by a scientist nor a political discourse by a social issues analyst, The Hand of God is not intended to compete with other surveys more in-depth in nature, but provides a comprehensive overview of the subject that general-interest readers can more quickly and easily absorb.

There is not a strict chronological arrangement to these discussions, either, which connect with one another via interconnected ideas much like the Internet. Ordinary readers thus receive an engaging discourse that is information-rich, but presented on a level that allows for greater engagement with the subject.

Take the chapter on the space race which emerged from the cold war, for example. It pinpoints the foundations of why space became a political contest between US and Soviet Union military interests:

"On October 4, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth. While many across the world admired the Russian space achievement, the United States government and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) knew better - Sputnik wasn't a mere test satellite - it was the beginning of the Soviets' ICBM program."

As he reviews such history and events, Paul McCarthy heavily footnotes his account so that readers can refer to source material for further reading. He provides links within the greater contexts of social and political events and also includes many startling revelations which do not reside in other books about nuclear development:

"In the 1950s, the United States commissioned a classified worldwide study called Project SUNSHINE to determine the uptake of strontium-90 and effects stemming from Sr-90 being put into the environment from nuclear testing. Bones of 1,500-6,000 cadavers, many of them babies, were gathered from half a dozen countries ranging from Europe to Australia, with 26 "bone collection sites" located worldwide, shipping the remains to Chicago and New York. Children's remains were used, sometimes without their families' permission, because children are particularly susceptible to the uptake of Sr-90 since they have growing bones and bodies."

Ultimately (for this particular study, its approach, and its results), "The findings of Project SUNSHINE and later analyses are perhaps as disturbing as the study's methodology itself, and these findings helped to put an end to nuclear testing worldwide."

These and other insights emerge in the course of a powerful assessment of war and peace and the high costs of human choices that influence the atomic age.

The underlying issues, results, and arguments of both sides of the nuclear discussion receive thought-provoking discourses that will lend particularly well to classroom and group discussions:

"Beyond considerations of whether nuclear weapons promote peace or threaten to destroy it irrevocably are questions of morality."

The Hand of God is a survey less rigid in its scientific and political probes, more wide-ranging than most, and offers a more balanced approach that defies pat answers, toes the line between taking ideological sides, and cites extensive supporting materials in its survey.

Libraries and readers seeking a more approachable history and survey to the whys and hows of national nuclear weaponry choices will find much food for thought in The Hand of God.

The Elk in the Glade
Bruce E. Whitacre
Crown Rock Media
9781946116253, $20.00, PB, 80pp

The Elk in the Glade: The World of Pioneer and Painter Jennie Hicks belongs in any arts collection strong in paintings, biography, and poetry; but it doesn't assume the usual nonfiction structure of a prose memoir.

Bruce E. Whitacre instead chooses poetry to capture the life of Jennie Hicks, the author's great-grandmother and a family legend. This personal presentation succeeds in capturing the life and influences of this Nebraskan daughter of pioneer stock, weaving family stories and memories into a story which sometimes blurs the lines between prose and poem, but which always features a steady rhythm and revealing hand.

Vivid accounts of Jennie's beginnings and artistic development bring home the effort of this creative artist to forge a place for working on her craft:

"They found Jennie in one of Arthur's old shirts,/the pantry wall lined with three paintings:/a mountain cabin, a howling wolf, a cowboy on horseback/fighting through a blizzard to make his log cabin in the night."

Beautiful color reproductions of her art pepper the story, which will interest even readers who may hold little prior familiarity with the artist, her family, or the times.

Bruce E. Whitacre's ability to capture this support network and the extraordinary efforts of Jennie Hicks in a manner that reaches beyond the usual literary or arts reader makes her story appealing to a much wider audience.

Presented along with the visual and mental artist's hand,

The Elk in the Glade proves much more than a review of the artist's productions. It delves into her life and, even more importantly, the family relationships and experiences that influenced the presence of tragedy, healing, and creative impetus in her artworks.

In the end, the poetic reflections about her legacy prove just as heavy a draw as Jennie's life and artistic choices:

"The picture of two lions painted by Jennie/at the birth of my father, her first grandchild,/floated with the river of the seven houses/in seventeen years - my youth in one town - /until it became home itself."

Libraries and readers interested in stories of 19th century female artists who emerged from backgrounds that originally had little to do with art will find The Elk in the Glade accessible, captivating, and nicely rooted in Nebraskan history and culture.

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: Lady of the Loch
Brian James Gage
K13 Press
9798854235297, $26.99, HC, 77pp
9798396594852, $19.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle

The graphic novel The Nosferatu Conspiracy: Lady of the Loch was adapted from the novel trilogy and written with AI assisted artwork.

More so than most graphic novels, Brian James Gage attends to creating a heightened sense of drama through black and white and color artistic renditions of place and people. These reflect the depth and delicacy of works of art in and of themselves.

Opening in 1894 Rumania, where the isle of the "black ruler" Vlad Dracula rises from Loch Dracul, the atmospheric images (whether they be of dark landscapes or people who row through them in pursuit of Loch monsters and fortune) come to immediate life in a manner that belays the more familiar cartoon drawings of too many graphic works. Gage returns the fine art to the form of graphic fiction - and that is no light accomplishment when it comes to the genre, which is replete in visuals that too often fall short of the talents of their writers.

As events evolve, the winning countenances which lace the story with compelling portraits of men and women under siege create just as enticing an allure as Gage's tale of investigations and struggles that emerge on a battlefield of supernatural clashes.

The history, segues between black and white and rich color imagery, and high drama cultivated by a more interactive role taken by characters, plot, and art ups the ante for graphic novel quality by creating an integrated display of suspense and discovery that readers will find impossible to put down.

Gage's production may also be used as a lure to those who tend to view graphic novels as amateur and superior only in plot, serving as an example of artistic possibilities created by a successful marriage of plot and art.

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: Lady of the Loch is absolutely compelling, impossible to put down, and highly recommended for any graphic novel collection. Perhaps especially, it will draw non-genre readers with the promise of a thriller, the art of a modern creative force, and the lure of supernatural confrontations that operate on many levels.

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater
S. Yerucham
Independently Published
9781669857303, $50.99 Hardcover/$32.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater represents a melding of philosophy and drama. This approach challenges the boundaries of fiction and nonfiction as it follows a teen's explorations of self-discovery and awakening (a process that evolved well into adulthood) on a level that embraces both psychological and sociological awareness and evolution.

From the beginning, S. Yerucham's ability to move beyond staid prose to a vigorous brand of descriptive prowess exhibits the ability to draw readers into a theme which may at first seem ordinary, but fulfills its promise of attraction in extraordinary ways. For example:

"If you desire any kind of unity of soul or mind, then the consequences of drug experiments must be considered, particularly the ones in which you wander around physically and mentally, further scattering your tangled mind...The greatest rebellion is to think and feel for yourself; awkward displays of chaos and self-destruction are mere spectacles which weaken true inner freedom. Many sadly believe it natural to embrace one's desires and fulfill them. However, what is truly natural for human beings is to use the power of reflection to discern whether the pursuit and/or fulfillment of each desire is in the long term or even short term destructive for oneself or others."

As the protagonist embarks on physical and mental journeys that move from Indiana to India, his nomadic life teeters between madness and enlightenment, carrying readers along for a heady ride that involves more than a memoir or even fictional road trip alone could accomplish.

As he takes resolute steps, as a student, into "consuming anarchy," the narrator deconstructs his life and its driving forces, entering into an effort of rebirth that charts new courses and realizations which intersect between world experience and mindful growth.

At this point, it should be cautioned that True Stories of the Philosophical Theater is no light-hearted road trip or world-hopping romp. It represents a deep and thought-provoking special brand of social, psychological, spiritual and philosophical reflection that deserves a reader's committed time to absorb slowly and effectively.

Best digested in short reads that extend the already-formidable length of this journey (almost 800 pages), the deceptively simple portrait of a young man who abandons academic pursuits for bohemian lifestyles and explorations includes deeper levels of inspection that will provoke and drive readers to reconsider their own growth processes.

From absurdism's particular take on reality to social sins, communal views and values, and the infusion of new experiences which each serve to break down traditions and accepted worldviews, Yerucham moves through a self-imposed exile overseas to reveal the foundations of transformation which move the narrator to new places and homes that continually challenge his mindset.

Readers along for this ride should anticipate no easy flow of logical connections, but a sometimes-discordant set of experiences that speak with equal power and bows to obsessions, "wild transformations in mind and body," and shifting academic philosophical thinking.

The stories in this collection display movement. Thus, they should be read in their entirety, not skimmed, as their flow and progression are one of the strong points of this collection.

At many points, the spiritual insights also spark pause for thought:

"In one sense, a smooth holy life (or any life, for that matter) is a handicap to spiritual progress."

These pauses may also give rise to discussion points in book club and group settings on various levels of spiritual, philosophical, and psychological debate. The narrator's sampling of many paths in the course of his journey lends well to similar, existentially rich realizations on the parts of analytical readers.

In a nutshell, True Stories of the Philosophical Theater represents a transgression of traditional thinking, allowing readers to enter into realms of higher-level processing of experiences that, on their surface, represent road trips but, more deeply, reflect the heart of transformative experience.

Libraries and readers seeking a story that crosses the line between fictional drama and nonfiction memoir, using discovery and revelation as the heartbeat of attraction and growth, will find True Stories of the Philosophical Theater a compendium of growth-inducing experience. It deserves a deep attention to detail and reflection for its many multifaceted themes, from masculine and feminine influences to the Yin and Yang of attachments that grow, challenge, and contrast opportunities and options.

One may anticipate such journeys from children of the sixties. S. Yerucham demonstrates, here, that children of different generations can also shatter the doctrines and illusions of established thought to arrive at realizations and truths that empower life and craft different visions of possibility.

El Pinatero
Rey U. Barrera
Independently Published
9798370274787, $12.50

Young adults receive surprisingly few leisure stories featuring strong Hispanic protagonists, but El Pinatero - The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Pena fills the gap for mature teens. It blends folklore and history with a fictional action story that adds mystery to the story of a Latino struggling to realize his dreams.

Hispanic culture embedded into Simon-Alejandro's story provides readers with engrossing surveys of family and Latino celebration traditions. The plot originated as a movie mockumentary idea, and then practically wrote itself as this book.

Translating the initial screenplay into a novel when COVID struck, Rey U. Barrera bases some of his characters on real people as he spins the yarn of La Pinata Brava, an outlawed sport that produced a legendary pinata puller.

Simon's small family incorporates many warm facets that are presented in this story, from a proclivity towards exaggerations to family tales used to impart lessons to the young. These early family interactions and friendly jabs power a story as firmly rooted in family connections as it is in an evolving mystery that drives Simon to confront both his dreams and nightmares.

Would he turn away an opportunity for adventure? Of course not. Neither will he pass on a chance to realize his dream:

"He wanted pinata pulling to become more than just a hobby that didn't pay much. Here were people that made a living by creating professional-grade pinatas and ropes for someone like him: someone who was ridiculed by his friends and family for thinking that a living could be made from pulling pinatas."

YAs who choose this story for its Hispanic roots won't be disappointed, but readers needn't be Latino in order to understand and appreciate the story's roots - nor its attraction as Simon undertakes new challenges on the cusp of adulthood at age eighteen, yet still uncertain of his abilities and future.

Wide-ranging discussions about bullying, fighting, and cultural understanding all come into play as El Pinatero unfolds a special blend of drama, action, and psychological insights. Simon's struggle to reconcile elements of his secret life with his small family's interactions also provides key moments of insight and inspection. These drive the plot as much as his ambitions.

Libraries looking for novels which are steeped in Hispanic traditions and flavor, accessible to all ethic groups, and spin a story replete with moving through the awkwardness of new relationships with self and others will find El Pinatero - The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Pena a multifaceted read that is hard to easily categorize and just as difficult to put down.

Heavenly Empress
Victor Cunrui Xiong
Ainosco Press
9789866286803, $24.00 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Heavenly Empress: The Age of Wu Zetian: A Novel of Tang and Wu Zhou China is a "history in the guise of a historical novel" which stays truer to its history component over embellishing the facts. This makes it a worthy pursuit for anyone seeking an accurate exploration of Chinese history and events.

China is quite different from the modern Western world in unexpected ways (to Westerners), from how time is divided to the solar-lunar calendar based on Chinese months, which is largely incompatible from the Julian calendar. In some cases, Victor Cunrui Xiong has adopted Western methods to ease reader understanding. In others, Westerners are required to absorb Chinese history and facts in different ways, which lends to the authenticity of this representation and a better understand of China's Tang era.

Influenced by the literary works of Western writers over the last two centuries, Xiong tailors a work that, itself, is a tribute to world literature's tried and tested approach to creating historical fiction that both educates and resonates.

The saga features emotional revelations of royalty and the disparate forms of rebellion undertaken by women, playboys, and serious rebels who aspire to the throne to the movements of expeditionary armies; political campaigns that turn Consort Wu to Empress Wu (who stands "at the pinnacle of the world"), and the battles between princes, rebels, and families. Xiong explores not just the politics of the times, but the familial and emotional forces at work within and outside of groups.

These surveys feature satisfying contrasts of political and social ambitions between rich and poor and royalty and commoner with an astute eye to covering the historical facts of the time in a style that proves compelling even to readers who may hold little prior knowledge of Chinese history.

The cultural observations, intrigue, and actions of a wide cast of characters of necessity demands that readers hold an attention to detail as shifting political maneuvers and encounters embellish the characters and their connections.

While it would not be accurate to portray Heavenly Empress as a light entertainment, Xiong accomplishes his goal of personalizing the politics and motivations of the times. He creates a story which offers many insights about the Tang era, court proceedings, and the contrasts between opposing forces that would rule China's internal and external affairs.

From how Tang rule was permanently restored in China to the role and power of a woman who toppled a seemingly unshaken dynasty and replaced it with her own operation, which lasted for over a decade, Xiong's story of how a male monopoly on power was shaken, overcome, and replaced will prove of special interest to women studying world history and women's roles in power.

Libraries and book clubs seeking novels steeped in fact and enlightening in their history and portrait of how women overcome impossible political repression to become rulers will find Heavenly Empress offers not only numerous facts, but many opportunities for wider discussions about China's history and women's roles as leaders.

I Will Love You Forever and Always
Sarah M. Thomas Mariano
Atmosphere Press
9781646068319, $17.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper

The picture book I Will Love You Forever and Always offers an unusual blend of whimsy and emotion-driven connection that will particularly appeal to read-aloud parents seeking a different vision of love and sharing.

Sarah M. Thomas Mariano's fantasy, blended with real-world attraction, creates a story that is compelling:

"Sometimes, you and I have sparkly, spectacular days. We shimmy down waterslides, eat strawberry shortcake and have silly water fights sprayed from our trunks."

The sense of fun is furthered in colorful illustrations by Sarah Gledhill, who brings to life the message of sharing, unconditional love, and changing life circumstances that may revise settings, but never erodes the underlying love connections between parent and child.

Different animals and their interactions are displayed as the message of ongoing love is profiled:

"There will be tough days too. Sometimes, we will disagree and argue. You might shout, "You're the worst alligator mom in the world!" Or, your dad will snap at you for not cleaning up your muddy swamp room."

This enhances the diversity of the story and the varied conditions under which love may be tested, but also solidifies an ongoing message that translates well between not only revised situations, but diverse families.

"I will love you forever and always" is the ongoing litany of this uplifting story. It's one that comes to life in a picture book that promotes warmth, engaging conversations, and positive insights and dialogue between adults and children.

Skinventurez: The Sunscreaming Summer
Dr. Tamara Lazic Strugar
Skinventurez LLC
9798853758667, $25.99 Hardcover/$15.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Skinventurez: The Sunscreaming Summer is a graphic novel with a health message about summer fun, skin care, and cloudy days. Toeing the line between a picture book and a graphic novel, this chapter book follows kids on their summer holiday, reviewing the winning game of being "sun smart" in their skin care.

Dr. Tamara Lazic Strugar doesn't just focus on physical health. From a too-pale father whose ghostly countenance may mean he's swallowed a spirit to a boy who is afraid of too many things, her tale of summer fun embraces a broader spectrum of adventures and interpersonal relationships to portray kids who tackle physical and mental health issues alike.

Lea Embeli's engaging art supplements the story of kids' summer interactions and how Dr. Lazic is called upon to help one sunburned child.

Ghosts, ice cream sundaes, and skin care usually don't intersect in kids' books. Skinventurez: The Sunscreaming Summer is a study in childhood adventure that imparts several important messages about relationships and self-care.

Its unusual blend of chapter book, graphic novel, and picture book story will engage young readers on more than one level, earning it recommendation for elementary-level libraries and readers looking for a blend of entertainment and out-of-the-box thinking.

Murder in Fourth Position
Lori Robbins
Level Best Books
9781685124489, $16.95 Paper/$5.99 Ebook

Murder in Fourth Position expands the On Pointe ballet-based mystery world with another compelling situation that attracts ballerina Leah Siderova (who is "on the wrong side of thirty") to both opportunity and disaster.

Her leap from ballet to Broadway in an effort to continue performing results in a debut that demands she play a dual role, but also fueling her decisions is her undercover investigation of Amber Castle, the show's star, who is facing threats and danger.

From the physical aches and demands of rehearsals to a special assignment where Leah plays a very different part ("My role as her alter ego required me to reflect in movement what she expressed in words, and from the audience's perspective, it would indeed look as if we were two sides of one person."), Murder in Fourth Position will delight readers with a prior interest in ballet and Broadway productions. This audience will find the evolving mystery as engrossing as Leah's career challenges.

Surveying closed rehearsals and elderly friends who try to help to amateur dancers already surprisingly well-versed in tackling crime, Lori Robbins crafts another powerful performing arts exploration. It dovetails mystery and problem-solving with behind-the-scenes action, all tempered by the drama of evolving interpersonal relationships and motives.

An insider's attention to performance requirements invites dancers, actors, and non-artists alike to follow Leah's insights and aspirations:

"A series of short, inventive dances, all very different from each other, succeeded each other at a rapid pace. Many of the performers had body types that didn't conform to the usual balletic silhouette, which delighted me. Bryan was noncommittal regarding the choreography, but I was both fascinated and inspired. I'd always been the instrument of someone else's artistic vision. Would I ever have the courage to take the lead myself?"

Murder in Fourth Position is thoroughly engrossing, giving insights into script development and work-arounds that challenge all participants in different ways.

Libraries and readers interested in mysteries that expand beyond whodunit territory to embrace the special world of performing arts - especially those who have been attracted to and entertained by the prior books in the series - will find Leah's latest challenges make for thoroughly engrossing reading.

Only for the Brave at Heart: Essays Rethinking Race, Crime, and Justice
Leon E. Pettiway
Meishin Press
9798989182008, $29.99 Paper/$23.99 ebook

Only for the Brave at Heart: Essays Rethinking Race, Crime, and Justice offers a scholarly reflection on several important social issues and takes an unusual path by incorporating Afrocentric and Buddhist ideas in its analysis. Dr. Leon E. Pettiway undertakes a critical examination of the writings of scholars in several fields of social inquiry, from sociology and criminology to black studies and philosophy.

His critique represents a very different understanding of ethnic and racial experiences, given the dreams and realities conjured by race, and he considers how race influences such disparate subjects as concepts of injustice and liberation, self-identity, and race relations.

These essays open with a powerful account of how black men and women die in America because of police violence. It is a hailstorm of bullets, perceptions, and prejudice that create opportunities for death and other threats to shroud the daily lives of African Americans.

Dr. Pettiway pulls no punches in identifying and documenting the ongoing effects of prejudice that simmers through America's melting pot:

"The death of George Floyd set tongues to wagging and unleashed protests and demonstrations across the country. Some politicians believed the looting, vandalism, and violence that ensued were linked to the radical left, but others spoke of the systemic racism, the antiblackness, that shatters the lives of non-whites in this country. While many Americans are sick and tired of the violence held in antiblackness, the solution will not be found in understanding the divide between police and the minority communities they serve. A solution will not be found by elevating the voices of good police officers who are committed to justice or by getting behind an array of social justice initiatives that supposedly help minority communities. None of this will get to the root cause. The solutions to our problem can only be found in understanding the nature of the American mind."

Since this and other admonitions drive a powerful and forceful critique that demands candid conversations and a national examination that may prove painful to many a reader, it is apparent that Only for the Brave at Heart lives up to its title. It promotes and provokes difficult discussions that should lie at the heart of any group or individual consideration concerning white privilege and the tendency to frame crime and offenders through a racialized lens:

"White perpetrators of matricide, patricide, school shootings, white-collar offenses, serial killing, hate crimes, insurrection, and mass murder, as well as white street criminals, are not seen as dangerous in the same way as people of color who commit crimes."

Dr. Pettiway peels away layers of prejudice that affect and infect American culture and its members regardless of their race. His commentary reveals the raw skin of historical precedent and the roots of our failures in the judicial systems that actually orchestrate the injustices these systems are mandated to remedy because purveyors of justice do not address the underlying racial issues that frame their perceptions and decisions.

He also offers principles and perceptions from Buddhism, African philosophy, and spirituality to provide a thought-provoking contrast to the Eurocentric framing that typically underlies our normal examinations of race and racial inequity.

The result is a scholarly, yet accessible critique that lends to a rare opportunity to reach academic and non-academic readers alike. In that regard, these essays may be considered pivot points in those difficult discussions where new viewpoints are necessary, where prior discussions seemed over-considered, and where our approaches to these issues haven't changed.

Libraries and readers seeking hard-hitting, challenging, enlightening essays that probe the foundations of the paradoxes found in the Eurocentric worldview will find Only for the Brave at Heart especially appropriate reading for those interested in the construction of race, crime, justice, and other social issues in America. Ideally, it also will be employed as classroom debate material, appealing to educators with heavily footnoted references and supportive bibliographic material.

The Wildebeest and a Bunch of Crock and Other Animal Story Poems
Jeffry Glover
Poems for Pleasure Press
9781948854054, $22.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Poetry collections are typically geared to a particular audience of either adults or children, but the special attraction of The Wildebeest and a Bunch of Crock and Other Animal Story Poems lies in its unusual ability to appeal to all ages, across the board. This lends it an appeal most verse doesn't hold, giving it the potential to become a family affair for read-aloud fun.

Mary Bausman's cover illustration opens the attraction, featuring a circle of hungry crocs and a somewhat puzzled and frightened wildebeest. The title is followed by a fable about this scenario which displays Glover's signature blend of storytelling and rhyme that works its magic on readers:

"On the high muddy banks of the river Zambezi
Stood a brave wildebeest; he was feeling uneasy
Since he wanted to cross where the river was wide,
But he feared muddy waters where danger could hide.
In the water below lay a fierce crocodile.
Cunning, his teeth betrayed a sly smile.
The game that he played we could call hide-and-seek,
Which he learned as a youth in his home, Mozambique."

The wildebeest knows "crocs are liars" and that the deal they have struck may be tainted ("Your time's running out. Hurry up if you can./Just do it, get through it, don't worry about a thing./Action's what counts. Action gives your life zing."). But he still is challenged to do the only thing he can to meet his goal.

The story unfolds with a delightful sense of zany fun and reflective thinking, leading into other animal-centric tales where monkeys present one condition for their appreciation, skunk scents can be blessings, and bears ignore bees in pursuit of their goals.

Underlying discussion points are featured in each poem, yet the gentle whimsy and animal facts and fancies are the major draw, holding dual opportunities for entertainment and enlightenment. Jeffry Glover's delightful creation, with its aura of whimsy, may be wrapped in the guise of entertainment, but it holds reflection and fun that appeals on more than one level.

Adults who choose this collection as a family read-aloud will discover many opportunities for discussion about life values and approaches. These will translate to hours of fun and interactive pleasure, while libraries that choose The Wildebeest and a Bunch of Crock and Other Animal Story Poems for its solid verse and appealing cover will find its underlying value lends to greater appreciation of nature and wildlife and the lessons it can hold for humans.

O'Shaughnessy Investigations, Inc.: The Cases Nobody Wanted
A.G. Russo
Independently Published
B0CJ228TXX, $4.99, Kindle

The setting is Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 1942. Twenty-eight-year-old Maeve O'Shaughnessy, owner of O'Shaughnessy Investigations, has exactly $1.15 to her name. This is supposed to last her for a week - until tough guy Vic Marino stalks her into her office and makes a proposal she can't resist.

Vic is there to help her. But Maeve maintains that she doesn't need help - especially his. But he's a man on a mission, and his determination drives them both into investigations nobody else wanted (and, perhaps, neither do they).

A.G. Russo injects the hardboiled detective tone of the 1940s world into his story, creating dialogues that are gritty, spicy, and realistic:

"'Who the hell do you think you are coming in here and telling me what you like and what you don't like?'

'I'm the guy who's gonna help you make some dough. You do need dough, don't you? The last time you had a client was two months ago.'

She crossed her arms, 'The War...'

'The War, yeah, yeah. Your brother gets drafted. The other two sign up to go with him leaving you and another brother, fifteen-year-old string bean Jimmy, who's supposed to act as your muscle, to take care of this thriving enterprise. Except you have no experience in this line of work. Let's just say, 'Your heart's not in it.' As a result, you're gonna be outta business sooner than you can say 'smart mouth.'"

As a sense of the times, its politics, and the burdens of the war come to bear on a number of cases and interactions, Vic, Maeve, and other characters form connections that bring them into not just intrigue, but a living sense of the history of the times:

"During the Depression of the 1930s everyone suffered, even the rich. It was hard times for all and people helped each other if they could. Americans coming through that together meant something. Now they were being asked to struggle again. But because so many servicemen were killed at Pearl Harbor, Americans had a cause that they all shared - fight the Fascists and keep the threat and the war from coming home. Yet, now the grim reality, the depths of the sacrifices, and the grief of their losses was devastating."

As one who initially was against the idea of America entering the war, Maeve finds her life and beliefs challenged not only by her brothers' involvement in battle, but the circumstances which play out at home to place her in the unusual position of maintaining a business she feels she can't properly tackle.

In an era where women are "dames," Maeve stands out as a bad cook and good investigator, evolving a skill set that carries them into new circumstances while creating a home for younger brother Jimmy and a new, unexpected life.

The result is a compelling story steeped in World War II history, social and political issues, and the evolution of unexpected relationships and careers which all fall under the umbrella of growth and commitment. This is book one of three. As World War II progresses, will Maeve and Vic have similarly compelling experiences ahead?

Libraries looking for mysteries firmly grounded in a sense of times, place, and transition will welcome the vivid discoveries Maeve and Vic face on more than one level, and will find O'Shaughnessy Investigations, Inc.: The Cases Nobody Wanted a major attraction.

Ancient Mysteries of the Urban Legion
Dave Agans
B. Mirthy & Sons
9780986170942, $2.99 ebook, $15.00 paperback

Ancient Mysteries of the Urban Legion gives another Urban Legion satire to audiences both new and formerly appreciative of the other novels of humorous fiction, bringing the Wacko Conspiracy Group and a madcap world of zany conflicts to new heights.

Lynn Grady's insistence on investigating Master Chuushin's Zen meditation center, where an ecumenical mob scene has erupted between Baptists, the Mothers of Zion, and the Granite State Congregationalists, drives a story which delves into urban legends, religious fervor, and biotech enhancements. These include Menutti, a thinking cat with a talent for chemistry, and a host of crazy circumstances.

Outcomes are not only unpredictable, but represent a romp through not-so-evil geniuses, pampered and purrfect cats, and moral and ethical choices faced by secret hospitals involved in illicit transplants (among other scenarios).

All are presented with a signature brand of fast action, unexpected twists and turns, and wry humor which is embedded into the dialogues and interactions of all characters:

"Damn," Meg whispered, turning to give her personal witness camera a panoramic view. "I reckon we should've expected the refrigerators for an organ transplant operation. But I didn't expect it to be so huge. Or so automated."

Mike nodded.

"Or so busy. They must be stealin' a lot of kidneys."

From the comments of Zen-mind (which permeate the story and fill it with an offbeat philosophical atmosphere) to goons, cats, and confrontations, the antics of scoundrels and a cast of characters with vested interests in artifacts and thievery makes for a hilarious tale that laces intrigue with satire.

Libraries and readers either familiar with the prior Urban Legion books or new to this scenario will equally find delightful the observations and confrontations outlined in Ancient Mysteries of the Urban Legion. Its wry tone of mystery and sarcasm keeps readers laughing and thinking, enhancing the Urban Legion trilogy as a whole with its cat-centric struggle between humans and feline influences (among many other facets).

Santa Claus: The Beginning
Terry Broxson
Atmosphere Press
9798891320130 $15.00 paperback/$TBA hardcover

Santa Claus: The Beginning pairs lovely color illustrations with the enchanting story of a toymaker who reinvents the holiday season. It is filled with elements the entire family can enjoy and appreciate, from the presence of angelic influences and magic to the forces that lead to Santa's first global trip on Christmas Eve, 1840.

The magic opens in the 1800s with the origins of Rudolph Stern Toys and two budding young orphan carvers whose creations and skills lead them to become adopted into a home and trade.

Terry Broxson presents a straightforward, attractive atmosphere as the story of their success unfolds: "Rudolph Stern introduced Benjamin Timmons and John Nicholas to the world of toy making. They would become toy makers extraordinaire."

Simple messages and lessons about values over money, ability, and economics are embedded into the tale, creating rich discussion points that adults will find attractive and young listeners thought-provoking.

From Santa's evolving magical abilities to the personal connections that keep purpose, intention, and realizations growth-oriented, Santa Claus: The Beginning creates a thoroughly delightful tale that proves inviting, magical, and is embedded with important values and considerations.

The result is especially highly recommended for family pursuit and enjoyment, but especially for libraries seeking special books that move from picture book status to involved adventure that feature the ability to attract all ages. Readers find Santa Claus: The Beginning the perfect item of choice for an unusual holiday acquisition that holds lessons for year-round enlightenment.

Crack the Sky
Fiona Kolodzy
Plum Drive Media
9798987199046, $16.95 Paper/$7.95 ebook

Sci-fi readers seeking opening series titles replete with impossible realms combined with the thriller genre's penchant for action-packed scenarios will find this first book in The LEAP Conspiracy to be thoroughly engrossing.

Imagine a human space colony which has become lost. Generations later, an aquatically modified presence on the water planet faces invasion by air-beathers who introduce complexity and special interests into their lives.

Complicating matters is a coveted longevity product that the planet harbors; a negotiator who feels constrained by his mission and the watery environment which forces him to feel "trapped in this suit, buried alive under water;" and a legendary colony which (as it turns out) was not really lost. It was written off as expendable ... until the water planet of Marna, abandoned by the LEAP Corporation, attracts central focus for its unprecedented promise and discovery.

Charged with making First Contact with the colony, diplomat Devon Arkovic finds his mission and skills unexpectedly challenged not only by its watery environment, but by rebel Annika Sharone, who chafes at the idea that her world and people will bow to the mercenary goals of air-breathers on other planets.

It is Devon's job to see that his negotiations succeed in producing wealth beyond imagination. It is Annika's to prevent her people from being exploited.

As the two strong characters find their special interests unexpectedly entwined, discovery and tension builds in a story marked as much by political and personal transformation as it is by a meeting of minds between two connected (but very different) worlds.

Fiona Kolodzy creates a story that virtually explodes with action, but features astute character development that keeps its politics personal and events unexpected and compelling.

As the story unfolds, corporate greed and evolutionary results take center stage in a developing relationship that tests the duty of a diplomat and the budding connections between a lovely young woman and a virtual alien to her world.

Kolodzy is especially adept at capturing the thoughts of this diplomat as he comes to realize just what his attempts and offers represent to this world:

"Scylla sure sounds like another evil despot and even Suni doesn't disagree. There is so much going on here that I didn't understand before I opened negotiations. If only I'd had more time to get to know this culture first. What a mess I've made. Now a dangerous, calculating thug is going to have control over the galaxy's Glaeon supply. And LEAP will probably just go along with whatever Scylla wants to do. Alistair's investors are totally focussed on getting rich. They won't care if an entire population of aquatics is enslaved by their own leader to boost the Glaeon harvest. And I'll be blamed for launching the whole hideous scenario. Damn."
The interplay of social, personal, and moral and ethical quandaries creates a moving story that proves hard to put down or easily predict.

Readers seeking a sci-fi setting that then expands to embrace not just personal attraction, but changing goals and choices will find Crack the Sky a compelling visionary story that reinvents the notion of wealth and expands notions of the pursuit of personal ambition and special interests.

Libraries seeking an acquisition that is solidly written and packed with unexpected twists and turns will want to add Crack the Sky to their collections and recommend it not just to sci-fi reader groups, but patrons interested in more than a light dash of thriller genre devices.

If Pain Could Make Music
Ron Morin
Independently Published
9798389294462, $16.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

How does an adult recover from the legacy of sexual abuse as a child during the 1950s when such events were not acknowledged? If Pain Could Make Music follows the revelations of Lemeilleur, a young man who comes to the slow realization of the lasting impact of his sexual abuse and trauma, and the limited options he has for working past the pain of his discoveries.

Lemeilleur's experiences read like a biography, incorporate the pain and passion of fiction, and capture the efforts of a young man whose goal is to "stop feeling bad about his life."

As he forms relationships, struggles with sexual offers and the emotions they spark, and tries to feel a love that he knows he should harbor but can't quite touch, readers receive a thought-provoking tale of anguish. This might trigger some who also struggle with past abuse, but will enlighten most about the special nature of this kind of healing journey.

Ron Morin peppers Lemeilleur's explorations with thought-provoking growth insights:

"...words were nothing in themselves. Until words rang with truth they are nothing but harlequins out to thwart their master. He had to start over again. Mice had loved him, and Lemeilleur hadn't FELT it!"

Awakening to feelings sparks a wellspring of unacknowledged emotions that compel Lemeilleur past the books that have provided him with both foundations and boundaries.

"Would Lemeilleur end up like Mice: paralyzed in a fear so great love was forever locked out?"
Few novels address the specter of male sexual abuse, much less the impact of such abuse taking place during times when sexual abuse was barely acknowledged; much less by men.

Libraries and readers looking for passionate, heartfelt novels that capture personal and community crisis alike will find If Pain Could Make Music a powerful study of the impact, healing, and fractured results of abuse.

American Pied Piper
Sam Foster
Agave Americana Books
9798988406402, $16.95

The third and final book of the American Trilogy takes place in Beardstown, Illinois, as the early years of the 20th century are just evolving.

Sam Clark is serving as a guide on a hunting trip for his father's boss, Cunningham, who is the manager of the entire line of the Missouri, Kansas and Eastern Railroad. The railroad has overshadowed his short life, but Sam's strength and ambition comes from bigger dreams than working in a factory town:

"I was born and raised in the only town named for a railroad - Missouri, MO, Kansas, KAN and Eastern, E. MOKANE. My father has cooked in the railroad hotel my whole life. Everyone here works for the railroad. But I would like to drive for one."

Sam steps into his future as an adult and enters into adult relationships, but he never abandons his passion for the outdoors, hunting, or fielding the kinds of ambitions and purposes others hold for his future.

As depression years, the railroad's rise and fall, and friendships evolve, Sam finds that politics keeps affecting his future - whether he wants to be involved or not:

"Wherever we go, we got union problems. But here, here in Beardstown, it never goes away. Never. Most of downstate Illinois votes Republican. They're all independent cusses and vote that way. Chicago is the exception. They all want to cling to a group to get the result they want. Hell, this town is so Democratic, it not only has a full slate of elected Democrats running the place, it didn't even vote for Lincoln. Not even in '64 for God's sake. We have more trouble here than anywhere south of Chicago and don't see that changing. We'll move."

Sam's ability to absorb and redefine wealth translates to a winning story. It unfolds a compelling saga of American transition, growth, and hard decisions as the town's growing prosperity brings with it new questions of virtue, vice, and choice.

Sam's ability to review and reflect the town's history serves as a mirror image of American growth, featuring thought-provoking insights about the evolutionary process:

"When I arrived at the beginning of the century, we were almost fifteen thousand here and with everything prosperity and culture could provide. When the river traffic died, we'd have collapsed but saved ourselves by bringing in the rail. When you were a boy, we were something over ten thousand but still prosperous. The rail left after you did, in '40, and now we're seven thousand and going broke. If we don't create something new, we will die. Driving liberty out will squeeze out creativity, and there will be no one to come up with the next new thing, the thing that would have saved us. Beardstown may not be a proper place, but it is a free place, and freedom is both more important and valuable than propriety. Free trumps good."

Sam Foster's ability to create a panoramic portrait of the evolving country translates to a story that holds the sweeping appeal of an epic saga, the allure of an ordinary American who grows from boyhood to senior citizen as transformative events unfold, and the history of a life and town affected by fraud, new dreams, opportunity, and courage.

The tests of moral, ethical, and political ambition that accompany Sam's journey creates a thought-provoking tale that not only serves as a fitting conclusion to the trilogy as a whole, but can stand alone as a representative piece of American experience and history.

Libraries and readers seeking fiction that reflects the concurrent rise and fall of individuals and nations (as well as the American values and ideals that accompany them) will find American Pied Piper a compelling story replete in a blend of history and experience that invites book club discussion.

A Boy Who Loved Me
Wilson Semitti
Atmosphere Press
9781639884032, $16.99

A Boy Who Loved Me follows a gay relationship that evolved between a Ugandan man and an English boy. It spans nearly two decades with passionate memoir of a personal awakening that challenged status quo, identity, and not just the social but the political impact of coming out as gay in a world replete with violence and intolerance.

Wilson Semitti's memoir is far wider-ranging than most accounts because of these ethnic roots and reflections, as well as its globe-hopping author's encounters with different forms of perception and prejudice in other cultures.

Also at play is the sickle cell anemia diagnosis Semitti refuses to let define him even as he also rejects the notion that his African roots or cultural background can dictate sexual attraction and inclination.

The multifaceted aspects of his story elevate it above the usual tale of coming-of-age and coming out as gay, lending A Boy Who Loved Me a deeper form of inspection that will lead readers to reconsider their own underlying prejudices and reactions in life.

Semitti writes with an evocative attention to detail and discovery:

" my lifetime I have faced systematic racism almost every day even from close friends who have no clue that their actions might be perceived differently or might even have an effect on me. It has never bothered me before especially if it's someone I consider to be a friend. I knew it's not their true intention to hurt me. I always ignored immediately the notion that they might be racist, it was always easier to see the brighter side of things. I started thinking that maybe I am feeling the way I feel because of the negativity from a few friends whom I told that I was off to China and had a lot to say from why I had decided to go to a place where I am bound to be mistreated because of my skin colour, etc."

He also pulls no punches in identifying sources of racism not just in the usual places, but within the black community itself:

"I had listened but I didn't allow that way of thinking because I don't see the world the way they saw it and I never believe anything till I see it for myself. Plus, the more people say such things, the more I am even intrigued. Besides, my view and perspective on the racism subject is somewhat so different from other people because all my best friends are all Caucasians. Generally, I have very few black friends and if my memory serves me right, the worst that has ever been done to me is by people of my skin colour."

A Boy Who Loved Me may sound like another memoir of gay experience, but to define it solely as such would be to do the writing a grave injustice.

Its wider-ranging insights about prejudice and people deserves attention from not just gay readers and those seeking to better understand their experience, but by anyone interested in how cultures encounter one another, view each other through different mindsets and preconceptions, and adapt to differences, change, and opportunities.

All these facets set A Boy Who Loved Me above many others, making it a strong recommendation. It will prove an attraction not just for libraries seeking memoirs about gay growth and discovery, but for book clubs discussing issues of racism, shifting worldviews, and cross-cultural encounters in China, Thailand, England and beyond that come not from the usual Caucasian perspective, but someone whose roots are African.

Necromancy the Musical
Debbie Hibbert
Monster Ivy Publishing
9781955060172, $16.99 Paper/$24.99 Hardcover

"'A normal dad wouldn't take his sixteen-year-old to visit a murder victim,' I say 'A normal daughter wouldn't be able to talk to the dead.' -- He has a point."

Necromancy the Musical is a compelling teen mystery and supernatural affair that spices a sense of intrigue with unusual discoveries. These elements combine with a wry sense of humor that lends comic relief to the very serious subject of New Orleans teen detective CeCe LeBlanc's unusual talents and detections.

Debbie Hibbert delves into the world of high drama and secret lives in a manner that will attract and hold the attentions of teens looking for stories that don't neatly fit into set expectations and developments.

Actress CeCe discovers that her two very different worlds collide in unusual ways when she is drawn into circumstances that test her drama and performance abilities as well as her equally powerful investigative skills.

Debbie Hibbert paints surprising portraits along the way as the story evolves, from passive-aggressive posturing and relationship quandaries to the special challenges of fielding a peculiar form of icy magic and reconciling it with her own objectives and talents.

"Combining what you know with what you're experiencing will be hard."

Cece's evolutionary process takes place on different levels, from romantic interests and attractions to the danger in a charge to both catch a killer and resolve the relationship challenges in her life.

Teens receive a blend of modern fantasy, thriller, mystery, and psychological development in a story that defies pat genre classification. It features an appealing attention to detailed character and plot developments that read with the compelling high drama of a play and the astute psychological depth of a work immersed in growth challenges.

Necromancy the Musical's ability to evolve its own special flavors of attraction makes it an appealing leisure read. CeCe loves drama. Hibbert does, too. The appealing mix of drama and intrigue flavors a story that proves hard to predict or put down as CeCe navigates challenging physical and psychic worlds.

Libraries and teen readers seeking stories that don't conform to predictable outcomes, but build their tension from solid action and discovery, will find Necromancy the Musical a hit.

Elisabeth Haggblade
Glass Spider Publishing
9781957917344, $17.99 Paper/$8.99 ebook

Trauterose: Growing Up in Postwar Munich is a memoir widely recommended for young adults, family members, and educators. It weaves a story of late war and postwar experiences with those of an immigrant who navigates learning English, conflicts with new cultures and encounters with prejudice, and growing up in the shadow of World War II in postwar Germany.

Haggblade was orphaned at birth and early on learned survival traits as a foster child placed with a former SS officer's family. When her foster mother passed, she was sent to a children's home run by Catholic Sisters which added new dimensions to her experience and perceptions.

While it might have been tempting to focus solely on personal events for this memoir, one of its values lies in Haggblade's ability to represent family and social issues from the perspective of a young woman who was able to transform her life under difficult circumstances.

From deep connections between music and belief to geographic influences on Munich experience and social isolation, Haggblade tackles a range of encounters that lend to deeper understanding of the social, political, and psychological currents of her life and times.

Grounded by her coming of age and memories of different cultures and choices, Trauterose offers a diverse range of insights as the author navigates events that led her through a challenging time in Germany's history. She explores how one young woman grew beyond her childhood influences and country's borders.

Libraries seeking powerful, personal memoirs that hold political and social lessons and insights will find Trauterose a study in adaptation, survival, and growth. It also deserves attention from young adult and adult book clubs seeking memoirs that reflect not just individual experience, but a sense of the culture and times.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

The Fog Ladies: Date With Death
Susan McCormick
The Wild Rose Press Inc
9781509249817, $18.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

"The Fog Ladies" series of cozy mysteries are always fun reading, and the newest installment, "The Fog Ladies: Date With Death" is purely entertaining all the way through. This time some of the ladies want to indulge in senior singles dating. They attend meetings until one of the members dies in a strange way. At first police rule the death an accident. Later it is obvious he was murdered. From then on the ladies and nurse Sarah are on guard as other murders happen as they wonder if one of them is the culprit. Things intensify as they delve into the clues of who the agent of death. McCormick deftly shows these ladies live life to the fullest even under some of the darkest situations. As always Susan McCormick fills the tales with comic relief and one of those to mention here, is her description of the events after the funeral of one of the victims, and the difference of food provided by men or women. "The Fog Ladies" have always been fun reading and "The Fog Ladies: Date With Death" is one of the best page turners for anyone who enjoys the mystery genre.

Stuart Woods And Brett Battles
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593188484, $29.00 HC / $14.99 Kindle

Whether Teddy Fay is in a Stone Barrington story or one of his own, he has always been one of the most interesting characters created by Stuart Woods, as evidenced in the 6th Teddy Fay adventure "Obsession" Fay who plays many roles in the movie corporation he is a part of, is asked by Stone Barrington to investigate the situation of a kidnapping of a friends wife. Teddy delves further to track down the kidnappers and bring the woman home as well as he several other plot twists that help propel the story along to its end. "Obsession" is one of the best Woods tales that will have readers turning pages at a roller coaster pace to the conclusion.

Jack Frost: Rise of the Fallen, Book 1
T. D Raymond
Haniel House Press
9781737418849, $13.50 pbk / $14.99 Kindle

Science Fiction/Fantasy has a brilliant new voice in the genre with T.D. Raymond's "Jack Frost: Rise of the Fallen, Book 1" Jack Spinelli, learns the person he has always thought of as his mom really isn't and every other thing he has believed is not true either. Now he is on a quest to find out the truth. Raymond's prose easily flow the story masterfully, along with characters, different conflicts and situations that drive the narrative through the strange world Raymond has created. "Jack Frost: Rise of the Fallen, Book 1" is entertaining fare from start to finish.

The Complete Married With Children Book
Denise Noe
Bear Manor Media
9781829331898, $15.00 pbk / $8.00 Kindle

Some have never liked the show Married With Children while others say too bad, its funny. "The Complete Married With Children Book" takes readers through the world of a sitcom that broke all established norms, that helped launch the struggling Fox network. Exposed are things like how many pilots were done, casting calls, who originally played different roles guest stars, where some of the characters names came from and of course the woman who in the fourth season instigated a campaign against the floundering show that instigated its popularity for seven more seasons. "The Complete Married With Children Book" propels readers along to learn so many unknown facts no fan should be without.

Memories From The Microphone: A Century of Baseball Broadcasting
Curet Smith
Mango Publishing
9781642506754, $19.95 pbk / $10.44 Kindle

From everything about "Memories From The Microphone: A Century of Baseball Broadcasting" it appearance seemed like a great book about the National pastime and the coverage of it. Sadly for me Smith does a poor job of creating interest. Instead he name drops a lot of people with no real explanations of who they are. Examples are Ernie Harwell, Harry Carey, Dizzy Dean Pee Wee Reese are just a few of the people he mentions. "Memories From The Microphone: A Century of Baseball Broadcasting" had the potential to be a great book especially with the Foreword by Brooks Robinson, a former Baltimore Oriel player and sportscaster that prepared readers through the world he was so much a part of and the connection of radio and tv coverage of Baseball but falls so short that is not worthy of any fans attention.

Baseball Memories & Dreams
Mango Publishing
9781642508772, $29.95 HC / $8.99 Kindle

"Baseball Memories & Dreams: Reflections on the National Pastime from the Baseball Hall of Fame" is a great wonderful book that captures the game for fans like no other title ever has. Throughout the work there are writings from ballplayers themselves, historical significance of the game, racism, for players and when Hank Aron broke the record of Babe Ruth, coverage through the years, the comedy skit that made its way to the hall of fame and a lot fill the pages of this great coffee table book. "Baseball Memories & Dreams" is the ultimate title for any fan of the game to enjoy.

Project F
Written by Jeanne Duprau
Random House Children's Books
c/o Penguin Random House LLC
978593643808, $17.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

"Project F" though marketed as a YA, is actually a very good science fiction novel for all ages to enjoy. The future is very different, as there are no means of transportation of fossil fuels. They have been outlawed by world populations to help save the planet. Thirteen-year-old Keith is given the task to bring a relative back to move in with him and his parents after the death of her mom and dad in a freak accident. Along the way a mistake happens where he has access to top secret information, that has the potential to change everything of his world. "Project F" is a timely story of greed, and lack of respect for the law by those whose priorities are more important than anything else.

Looking Up
Stephan Pastis
Aladdin Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster
978166592962, $13.99 HC / $9.99 Kindle

"Looking Up" combines two art forms to tell the story of young Saint, who some would say is a bit weird. She loves medieval knights, saving birthday pinatas and other strange things. Lately she is not happy with changes in her neighborhood of business being forced to close. She makes it a priority to save what little she can. "Looking Up" has many fundamental principles communities have forgotten that would make the world a better place if there was a return to some of them.

Ethan and the Strays
John Sullivan, author
Hatem Aly, illustrator
A Paula Wiseman Book
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781534471320, $18.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

"Ethan and the Strays" is a fun filled title for everyone no matter the age to enjoy. Ethan is a little boy who is always looking for something to do. He decides to do something about the growing population of stray cats that are in the neighborhood. What he comes up with is interesting and educational as he is committed to his task. "Ethan and the Strays" is filled with many underlying premises for so many of to use in our everyday lives

Show Us How You Say Hello!
Dave Alkins, illustrator
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593649176, $10.99 HC / $6.99 Kindle

"Show Us How You Say Hello!" presents GoNoodle characters in another fun educational title that all ages can marvel at the beauty of the artwork as well as learn the many ways to say around the world hello. Kids books like "Show Us How You Say Hello!" do a great job of getting points across with these funny looking memorable character

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Ladies' Day
Lisa Williams Kline
CamCat Books
9780744309157, $27.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Fifteen years after her troubled daughter Julie ran away from home, Beth Sawyer stumbles across a newspaper photograph of an up-and-coming teen golfer, who not only shares her last name, but also looks just like her daughter. Sky Sawyer couldn't possibly be her granddaughter -- or could she?

With her sort-of-functional life spinning out of control (and let's not get started on her soon-to-be-married ex-husband) Beth meets Barry, a fellow golfer whom she accidentally hits with her golf ball. Will he take her to court or to dinner?

When Sky Sawyer joins her high school golf team, she hopes that the mother she thought dead may still be alive and seek her out at the championship tournament. But when she discovers that the man who raised her is not her father and a woman claiming to be her long-lost grandmother appears, her world falls apart.

With Beth and Sky fighting to gain what they both had lost, can they finally get a second chance at a happily ever after?

Critique: An original, deftly crafted, inherently memorable novel from start to finish, "Ladies' Day" showcases author Lisa Kline's genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling style the fully engages the reader's rapt attention with its introduction of inherently intersting characters and unexpected plot twists, A fun read from cover to cover, "Ladies' Day" will hold a very special interest for fans of contemporary women's fiction and prove an enduringly popular pick for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ladies' Day" is also available in a paperback edition (9780744309188, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Lisa Williams Kline ( is also the author of the novel "Between the Sky and the Sea" (Dragonblade), a short story collection called "Take Me" (Main Street Rag), an essay collection called "The Ruby Mirror" (The Bridge) and ten novels for young readers. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama, Skirt, Sasee, moonShine review, The Press 53 Awards Anthology, Sand Hills Literary Magazine, and Idol Talk, among others.

Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges, third edition
Steven M. Southwick, MD, author
Dennis S. Charney, MD, author
Jonathan M. DePierro, PhD, author
Cambridge University Press
9781009299749, $16.95, PB, 244pp

Synopsis: Life inevitably presents us all with challenges. Most of us at some point will be struck by major traumas such as the sudden death of a loved one, a debilitating disease, or a natural disaster. What differentiates us is how we respond.

That is why this new third edition of "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges" is such an important book in which three experts in trauma and resilience answer key questions such as What helps people adapt to life's most challenging situations?, How can you build up your own resilience?, and What do we know about the science of resilience?

Combining cutting-edge scientific research with the personal experiences of individuals who have survived some of the most traumatic events imaginable, including the COVID-19 pandemic, "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges" provides a practical resource that can be used time and time again. The experts describe ten key resilience factors, including facing fear, optimism, and relying on role models, through the experiences and personal reflections of highly resilient survivors. Each resilience factor will help you to adapt and grow from stressful life events and will bring hope and inspiration for overcoming adversity.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this new third edition of "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges" by co-authors Steven M. Southwick, Dennis S. Charney, and Jonathan M. DePierro will be of particular and very special import for readers with an interest in popular psychology and mental health. Highly recommended for both mental health workers and non-specialist general readers with an interst in the subject, "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges: 3rd Edition" is highly recommended as a critically important addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Psychology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges: 3rd Edition" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note #1: Steven Southwick, MD, was Glenn H. Greenberg Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, PTSD, and Resilience at Yale University Medical School and Medical Director Emeritus of the Clinical Neuroscience Division of the National Center for PTSD of the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Southwick was one of the world's leading experts in psychological trauma and human resilience. His collaborations with Dr. Dennis Charney led to foundational discoveries about the biology and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, and factors that support resilience. His own resilience while fighting advanced prostate cancer for five years was an inspiration to his friends, colleagues, and family. He passed away on April 20, 2022, and this book, which he worked on through his final weeks, is dedicated to his life and legacy.

Editorial Note #2: Dennis S. Charney, MD, is Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs for the Mount Sinai Health System. Dr. Charney is a world expert in the neurobiology of mood and anxiety disorders. He has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the causes of anxiety, fear, and depression, and among his discoveries is use of ketamine for the treatment of depression - a major advance in the past fifty years of clinical care. He also focuses on understanding the psychology and biology of human resilience, which has included work with natural disaster survivors, combat veterans, and COVID-19 frontline healthcare workers. He has over 600 publications to his name, including books, chapters, and academic articles. In 2016 he was the victim of a violent crime that tested his personal resilience.

Editorial Note #3: Jonathan M. DePierro, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Associate Director of Mount Sinai's Center for Stress, Resilience, and Personal Growth. Dr. DePierro, a clinical psychologist, is an expert in psychological resilience and the treatment of trauma-related mental health conditions. After many years working with individuals impacted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he now focuses on supporting the mental health needs of healthcare workers. Having experienced extensive bullying throughout his childhood, he learned important lessons about resilience that continue to inform his clinical and research work.

Whose Samosa is it Anyway?
Sonal Ved
India Viking
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780670092406, $19.95, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Did the European traders come before the Arab conquerors? Can you say cinnamon is an Indian spice even though it first grew in Sri Lanka on the Indian subcontinent? What are the origins of chutney and samosa or of the fruit punch, and how are they connected to India? Who taught us how to make ladi pav, and how did the Burmese khow suey land up on the wedding menus of Marwaris?

With the publication of "Whose Samosa is it Anyway?: The Story of Where 'Indian' Food Really Came From", author and Vogue India food editor Sonal Ved answers to the most basic questions about Indian food -- only to conclude that there is no such thing as a definitive Indian cuisine and that there are as many hyper-local Indian cuisines as there are Indian states.

Critique: A true dedicated foodie's delight, "Whose Samosa is it Anyway?: The Story of Where 'Indian' Food Really Came From" is as fascinating as it is informative. An impressive history of the cuisine of Indea, "Whose Samosa is it Anyway?" will prove an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Food History/Science collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Whose Samosa is it Anyway?" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780143460060, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: Sonal Ved ( is the content director at India Food Network, Tastemade India and the food editor at Vogue India. Her second cookbook Tiffin was listed in the New York Times as one of the must-have cookbooks for Fall 2018. Apart from writing about food, she also hosts cooking shows for Tastemade. Her words have appeared in food publications such as Food52 and Thrillist.

God's Monsters
Esther J. Hamori
Broadleaf Books
9781506486321, $28.99, HC, 296pp

Synopsis: Traditional interpretations of the creatures of the Bible have had their sharp, unsavory edges sanded down, transforming them into celestial beings of glory and light -- or chubby, happy cherubs.

Those cherubs? They are actually hybrid guardian monsters, more closely associated with the Egyptian sphinx than with flying babies. And the seraphim? Winged serpents sent to mete out God's vengeance. Demons aren't at war with angels; they're a distinct supernatural species used by Satan and by God. The pattern is chilling. Most of these monsters aren't God's opponents -- they're God's entourage!

Killer angels, plague demons, manipulative spirits, creatures with an alarming number of wings (and eyes all over) -- these shapeshifters and realm-crossers act with stunning brutality, each reflecting a facet of God's own monstrosity.

Confronting God's monsters (and the God-monster) may be uncomfortable, but the Bible is richer for their presence. It's not only richer; the stories of the monsters of the Bible can be as fun, surprising, and interesting as any mythology. For anyone interested in monsters, myths, folklore, demons, and more, "God's Monsters: Vengeful Spirits, Deadly Angels, Hybrid Creatures, and Divine Hitmen of the Bible" by Esther J. Hajmori is an entertaining and informative deep dive into the creaturely strangeness of the Bible.

Critique: Fascinating, iconoclastic, memorably informative, "God's Monsters: Vengeful Spirits, Deadly Angels, Hybrid Creatures, and Divine Hitmen of the Bible" will prove to be of immense value to readers with an interest in Christian Angelology/Demonology and Biblical History/Culture. A unique and seminal study that is an unreservedly recommended pick for personal, community, seminary, and college/university library Biblically based Folklore/Mythology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, seminarians, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "God's Monsters: Vengeful Spirits, Deadly Angels, Hybrid Creatures, and Divine Hitmen of the Bible" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.09).

Editorial Note: Esther J. Hamori ( teaches the popular class "Monster Heaven" at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she is a professor of Hebrew Bible. Specializing in biblical concepts of divine-human contact, and a lifelong devotee of all that is eerie, she is the author of Women's Divination in Biblical Literature: Prophecy, Necromancy, and Other Arts of Knowledge, among other works. She has a PhD in Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East from New York University and an MDiv from Yale Divinity School.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe's Ancient Gods
T. D. Kokoszka
Moon Books
c/o Collective Ink Books
9781803412856, $34.95, PB, 448pp

Synopsis: T.D. Kokoszka grew up in Texas with a Jewish mother and a Polish-American father. While he was aware of roots going back to Eastern Europe from both families, he found it hard to learn very much about them. He knew that Polish people would whack one another with palm leaves around Easter, and he knew that his great-grandmother purportedly believed in forest spirits known as borowy. However, it wasn't until he was in his teens that he became vaguely aware of an ancient people known as the Slavs who gave rise to the Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Slovakian, Slovene, and Czech languages.

It quickly became clear to him that this was a family of cultures currently under-represented in popular culture, and even in western scholarship. Not simply a regurgitation of scholarship from the Soviet period (and presenting new analyses by using previously neglected resources) with the publication of "Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe's Ancient Gods", Kokoszka offers one of the most painstaking scholarly reconstructions of Slavic paganism.

The new resources comprising "Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe's Ancient Gods" include not only an overview of folklore from many different Slavic countries but also comparisons with Ossetian culture and Mordvin culture, as well as a series of Slavic folktales that Kokoszka analyzes in depth. Often making the case that the narratives involved are mythological and shockingly ancient, the reader will recognize many European folktale types and possibly learn to look at these Eastern European folktales differently.

Critique: A seminal and informative work of meticulous scholarship, "Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe's Ancient Gods" will prove to be of particular value to readers with an interest in European Paganism. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe's Ancient Gods" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Paganism/Folklore 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 "Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe's Ancient Gods" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note: T.D. Kokoszka has long cultivated connections with ADF (Arn Draiocht Fein) and utilized their research-oriented methodology for his own purposes. He also used his time at Texas State to research leading scholars like Vernadsky and Ivanits on the topic of Slavic history while simultaneously pursuing his B.S. there.

The Sound of the Future: The Coming Age of Voice Technology
Tobias Dengel, author
Karl Weber, author
Public Affairs Books
c/o Hachette
9781541702363, $30.00, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: Voice is the next new digital technology (remarkably similar in potential impact to the internet and mobile computing) poised to change the way the world works. Tobias Dengel is in the vanguard of this breakthrough, understanding the deep, wide-ranging implications voice will have for every industry. With the publication of "The Sound of the Future: The Coming Age of Voice Technology", he connects the dots about this emerging paradigm to vividly illustrate how business leaders can stay ahead of the game, rather than scrambling to catch up, as voice technology gradually reveals its power, creating a host of new winners and losers.

Using fascinating, colorful stories, Dengel explains how the "voice-first" experience is becoming part of the global technology mainstream, exploring the ways voice will do a better job of serving basic human needs such as safety, speed, accuracy, convenience, and fun, as well as making it possible for hundreds of millions of people around the planet to participate more fully and productively in today's high-tech world by making interactions with technology virtually effortless.

A pervasive technology like the internet and mobile, voice, with applications in marketing, sales, service, manufacturing, and logistics, will change the way we work at every level and every function, driving down costs, boosting productivity, and enabling the creation of entirely new business models.

This is not simply about Siri and Alexa. They are the tantalizing but incomplete precursors of the ultimate interface that will make technology easier, faster, more accurate, and more human.

Critique: In an every evolving world of digital technologies ushered in by the computer, the internet, data processing, and the emergence of artificial intelligence, "The Sound of the Future: The Coming Age of Voice Technology" is essential reading for anyone with an interest in what to expect in the near future wither that interest is personal or professional, cultural or economic. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Sound of the Future" is a seminal, ground- breaking, essential contribution to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Computer Technology, Systems & Planning collections and supplemental curriculum studies list. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, corporate executives, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Sound of the Future" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Tobias Dengel is president of WillowTree, a TELUS International Company, a global leader in digital product design and development, with 13 offices in North America, South America and Europe, headquartered in Charlottesville VA. The company has been named by Inc. magazine to the Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest growing companies for 11 straight years. WillowTree's clients include some of the best-known brands in the world, such as T Mobile, Mastercard, Capital One, HBO, Fox, Time Warner, PepsiCo, Regal Cinemas, Charles Schwab, Johnson & Johnson, Lidl, Wyndham Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inn, Canadian Broadcasting Corp, Synchrony Bank, Edward Jones Investments, and National Geographic. These industry leaders trust WillowTree to design and develop their websites, apps, internal systems and voice interfaces.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Creativity Complex: Art, Tech, and the Seduction of an Idea
Shannon Steen
University of Michigan Press
9780472076277, $80.00, HC, 258pp

Synopsis: "Creativity" is a word that excites and dazzles us. It promises brilliance and achievement, a shield against conformity, a channel for innovation across the arts, sciences, technology, and education, and a mechanism for economic revival and personal success. But it has not always evoked these ideas.

With the publication of "The Creativity Complex: Art, Tech, and the Seduction of an Idea", Shannon Steen (Associate Professor of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies and American Studies at UC Berkeley) traces the history of how creativity has come to mean the things it now does, and explores the ethical implications of how we use this term today for both the arts and for the social world more broadly.

Richly researched, "The Creativity Complex" explores how creativity has been invoked in arenas as varied as Enlightenment debates over the nature of cognition, Victorian-era intelligence research, the Cold War technology race, contemporary K-12 education, and even modern electoral politics. Ultimately, "The Creativity Complex" asks how our ideas about creativity are bound up with those of self-fulfillment, responsibility, and the individual, and how these might seduce us into joining a worldview and even a set of social imperatives that we might otherwise find troubling.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a fourteen page Bibliography, eight pages of Notes, and a four page Index, "The Creativity Complex: Art, Tech, and the Seduction of an Idea" is a seminal and ground-breaking work of meticulous scholarship and of immense and particular value to readers with an interest in the social aspects of technology, ethics/morality, and performing arts history/criticism. An extraordinary and unreservedly recommended pick for community and college/university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Creativity Complex: Art, Tech, and the Seduction of an Idea" is also available in a paperback edition (9780472056279, $34.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.20).

The Science of Agatha Christie
Meg Haedahl, author
Kelly Florence, author
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
9781510773486, $14.99, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Science of Agatha Christie: The Truth Behind Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and More Iconic Characters from the Queen of Crime", gothic media moguls Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence (authors of The Science of Stephen King and co-hosts of the Horror Rewind podcast called "the best horror film podcast out there" by Film Daddy), present a guide to the Agatha Christie stories and supersleuths we all know and love.

Through interviews, literary and film analysis, and bone-chilling discoveries, "The Science of Agatha Christie" uncovers the science behind the sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections that have become an integral part of the modern murder mystery, answering such questions as: What is the science behind the poisons used to commit murders in Agatha Christie's stories?; When did crime investigation become more common as seen in Murder on the Orient Express?; Has science made it possible to uncover the truth behind the investigative powers of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple?; How did Agatha Christie use isolated settings to best explore the psychology of her characters?

Critique: Simply stated, "The Science of Agatha Christie: The Truth Behind Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and More Iconic Characters from the Queen of Crime" by co-authors Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence is an essential and entertaining read that is unreservedly recommended for the legions of Agatha Christie fans. Informative, thoughtful, and inherently fascinating, this paperback edition of"The Science of Agatha Christie" from Skyhorse Publishing is especially recommended for community and college/university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists aspiring/practicing mystery writers, as well as for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the science and literary value of mystery and detective fiction that "The Science of Agatha Christie" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99)

Editorial Note #1: Meg Hafdahl ( is a writer and co-host of the Horror Rewind podcast. Her female-driven horror fiction has been produced for audio by The Wicked Library. She is the author of Her Dark Inheritance, Daughters of Darkness, and the short story series Twisted Reveries.

Editorial Note #2: Kelly Florence ( is a teacher, a mother, and a horror film lover. She is passionate about female representation in all media and particularly in the horror genre. Kelly teaches at Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota, and produces and co-hosts Horror Rewind.

Half a Cup of Sand and Sky
Nadine Bjurstein
Alder House Books
9789198861600, $33.00, HC, 402pp

Synopsis: It is 1977, and the anti-shah protests at Tehran University are intensifying, but Amineh is not like her peers who want a say in the future of their country. Her thoughts are on the beautiful literature of another era and her past of rose harvests and Sufi poetry evenings under the desert sky. A chance encounter with Farzad, an opposition leader and disarmament activist, will thrust her into a life she didn't ask for and didn't want. Nobody wanted the tyranny that is quickly turning worse than the tyranny it replaced. But maybe Amineh has been looking at her life all wrong-Maybe the thing she is seeking is not in the past at all!

Critique: Thoughtful, thought-provoking, deftly crafted, inherently interesting, and memorable, "Half a Cup of Sand and Sky" by Nadine Bjursten will have a special resonance with readers interested in 20th Century historical fiction that raises to the level of award worthy literary excellence. Original, eloquent, compelling, and all the more impressive when considering that "Half a Cup of Sand and Sky" author Nadine Bjursten's debut as a novelist, it is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Half a Cup of Sand and Sky" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Nadine Bjursten ( grew up north of New York City in Garrison and now lives in Lund, Sweden, with her husband and twin daughters. She is the former editor of the Washington, DC-based journal Arms Control Today.

Hafiz's Little Book of Life
Hafiz, author
Erfan Mojib, translator
Gary Gach, translator
Hampton Roads Publishing Company
c/o Red Wheel Weiser (distribution)
Tantor Media (audiobook)
9781642970463, $15.95, PB, 244pp

Synopsis: Khwaje Shams-od-Din Mohammad Hafez-e Shirazi is best known by his pen name Hafez (1325-1390) or Hafiz of Shiraz, and was a Persian lyric poet whose collected works are regarded by many Iranians as one of the highest pinnacles of Persian literature. His works are often found in the homes of Persian speakers, who learn his poems by heart and use them as everyday proverbs and sayings. His life and poems have become the subjects of much analysis, commentary, and interpretation, influencing post-14th century Persian writing more than any other Persian author.

Hafiz remains the most beloved name in all of Persian literature. Indeed, his mystic, lyric poetry is cherished as one of the great achievements of world literature, on a par with Dante, Goethe, and Shakespeare.

Ably translated into English by the team of Erfan Mojib and Gary Gach, "Hafiz's Little Book of Life" is a compendium of more than 250 selections draw from the his lifework of Hafiz. Also included is a vivid portrait of his life and times, translators' notes, an extensive glossary, a bibliography, and an appendix on Hafiz as an oracle.

"Hafiz's Little Book of Life" is the perfect introduction to Hafiz for all lovers of poetry and seekers of love, spirituality, and wisdom. The unforgettable verse of the 14th Century Persian poet Hafiz of Shiraz celebrates love, wit, and exceptional celebrations of life.

Critique: Representing a wealth of verse from a 14th Century Persian poet that showcases the enduring legacy so revered in the centuries to follow down to the present day, "Hafiz's Little Book of Life" is elegant, eloquent, remarkable and memorable. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Inspirational/Religious/Islamic poetry collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Sufism and Islamic poetry that "Hafiz's Little Book of Life" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as an audiobook read by Samara Naeymi on Audible ($TBA) and ($8.99).

Editorial Note #1: Erfan Mojib ( was born in the desert town of Yazd in central Iran. He holds a degree in comparative literature from UM Malaysia and an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Brunswick, Canada. He has published a number of translated works of fiction including Reza Ghassemi's The Spell Chanted by Lambs, Simon Van Booy's Love Begins in Winter and The Illusion of Separateness, Gene Bell-Villada's Garcia Marquez: The Man and His Work, Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot, and Jeanette Winterson's The Passion. He is the recipient of the Tehran School of Art Short Story Award and the David Walker Prize for Creative Writing.

Editorial Note #2: Gary Gach ( has co-translated three books of poetry from Korean by Ko Un: Flowers of a Moment, BOA / Lannan Translation Series (Northern California Book Award for Translation); Ten Thousand Lives, and Songs for Tomorrow. His anthology What Book!? - Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop, (Parallax Press) received an American Book Award from Before Columbus Foundation. He's also author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buddhism" and "Pause, Breathe, Smile".

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told through Hip-Hop
lenny duncan
Broadleaf Books
9781506479026, $27.99, HC, 279pp

Synopsis: James Baldwin, in his famous talk "The Struggle for the Artist's Integrity," suggests that "the poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us." And to understand the truth about the history of Black peoples in America, argues lenny duncan in "Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told through Hip-Hop", we must look to the modern Black poet: the hip-hop artist.

With the publication of "Psalms of My People", artist, scholar, and activist lenny duncan treats the work of hip-hop artists from the last several decades (from N.W.A, Tupac, and Biggie to Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar) like sacred scripture. Their songs and lyrics are given full exegetical treatment (a critical and contextual interpretation of text) and are beautifully illustrated, with a blend of ancient and modern art styles illuminating every page.

All the while, Duncan traces the history of hip-hop, revealing it as a conduit to tell the modern story of Black liberation in this country, following the bloody trail from the end of the Civil Rights Era through the day George Floyd was sacrificed on the streets of America.

"Who else but the hip-hop artist," asks Duncan, "has embodied the cries, pain, and secret concrete ? Whose art? Our art. Whose story is written in the book of life with crimson lines dipped in a well that is 400+ years deep? Whose story? Our story. For whom does God bring down empires? Us."

Critique: Thoughtful, thought-provoking, iconoclastic, insightful, fascinating, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told through Hip-Hop" particular value to readers with an interest in rap music, contemporary popular culture, and is especially recommended for community and college/university library African-American Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told through Hip-Hop" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note: lenny duncan ( is a writer, speaker, scholar, and media producer working at the forefront of racial justice in America. lenny duncan is the author of Dear Church, United States of Grace, and Dear Revolutionaries, and a co-creator of the podcast BlackBerryJams with PRX. A PhD student in historical and cultural studies of religion, lenny duncan is currently researching what they call "a people's history of magic". lenny duncan is originally from West Philadelphia, has hitchhiked thousands of miles on American byways, and makes their home up and down the I-5 with their found family, and in the East Bay area of San Francisco for research.

Psychotherapy With Ghosts trilogy
Joseph S. Covais
New Link Publishing
c/o Mystic Publishers, Inc.

From Mystic Publishers comes "Psychotherapy With Ghosts", a new trilogy of novels by Joseph S. Covais:

"Quiet Room" (9781948266185, $15.95 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 218pp).

In 1970, washed-up psychologist David Weis closes his Manhattan practice and, against the advice of Angela, his urbane fiancee buys an abandoned house on the shore of Lake Champlain. One room is occupied by the ghost of Almira, a lovely, but a troubled young woman who died in 1840.

A series of midnight psychotherapy sessions take place in the "Quiet Room." Together, they analyze the cause of Almira's spiritual entrapment and David confronts his own haunted emotions. A strong bond develops and with it complications for David's real-life relationship with Angela.

Alternating chapters describe the events which led to Almira's unsettled afterlife. In 1840, at her family's isolated estate, young Almira is in a secret love affair with the hired man, Daniel. Her mother's death and her father's immediate remarriage follow. Though desperately in love, Almira and Daniel are discovered. Unless they can find a way to prevent it, Almira's father and the realities of 19th century America will keep them apart.

"Female Academy" (9781948266109, $17.95 PB, $3.81 Kindle, 256pp)

In 1971, Psychotherapist David Weis thought he'd reached a therapeutic completion with his ghostly, lovely patient, Almira... until the true reason for her spiritual entrapment is revealed. The questions raised are more profound than anything psychology can explain. Can David really help without surrendering his own disbelief and risk losing the chance for love in his own life?

Meanwhile, in 1841, life at the Albany Female Academy is complicated. Desperate and young, Almira is thrown into a web of social tensions, animal desire, and secrets built upon secrets. Can she and her forbidden lover, Daniel, succeed in their race against time to marry and find happiness in the face of society's obstacles?

"Bound by Faith" (9781948266536, $18.99, PB, $5.99 Kindle, 320pp)

The tragic end of Almira's life inspires others in two epochs to find meaning in their own. In 1972, David discovers the true meaning of love beyond a world that insists on pleasure for its own sake. In 1842, Rebecca's mission to learn the fate of her beloved friend leads her into the occult world of two mysterious sisters.

Besides Almira's death, the shocking truth uncovered about her own family's past may help her find the courage to turn a new page in her own life.

Critique: 'Psychotherapy With Ghosts' is an amazing three volume saga that will have a very special interest for fans of paranormal romance, ghost stories, and psychological fiction. Author Joseph S. Covais demonstrates his genuine flair as a novelist for originality and the kind of cohesive, narrative driven storytelling style that will full intrigue and entertain his readers throughout this entire three volume saga. Offering a saga with duel stories set in 1840 and 1970, ' that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after all three volumes have been finished and set back upon the shelf, "Quiet Room", "Female Academy", and "Bound by Faith" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Joseph Covais was originally known for his precise replica clothing for museums, historic sites, and the movie industry. In the 1990s, blindness led Covais to a new career as a psychotherapist. Since that time, he has established a practice and teaches psychology at regional colleges. In 2011, Covais published his first book. "Battery" is the story of the 319th Glider Field Artillery in WWII, based on in-depth interviews he conducted with surviving veterans.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Lincoln & Churchill: Statesmen at War
Lewis E. Lehrman
Stackpole Books
Blackstone Audiobooks
9780811719674, $34.95, HC, 544pp

Synopsis: Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, as commanders in chief, led their nations to victory -- Lincoln in the Civil War, Churchill in World War II. In doing so they both became revered leaders -- statesmen for all time. Yet these two world-famous war leaders have never been seriously compared at book length.

Historian Lewis Lehrman, in "Lincoln & Churchill: Statesmen at War", a pathbreaking comparison of both statesmen, finds that Lincoln and Churchill (with very different upbringings and contrasting personalities) led their war efforts, to some extent, in similar ways. As supreme war lords, they were guided not only by principles of honor, duty, freedom, but also by the practical wisdom to know when, where, and how to apply these principles. They made mistakes which Lehrman considers carefully. But the author emphasizes that, despite setbacks, they never gave up.

Even their writings and speeches were swords in battle. Gifted literary stylists, both men relied on the written and spoken word to steel their citizens throughout desperate and prolonged wars. Both of these statesmen unexpectedly left office near the end of their wars -- Lincoln by the bullet, Churchill by the ballot.

Critique: With the publication of "Lincoln & Churchill: Statesmen at War", renowned historian and winner of the Abraham Lincoln Institute of Washington's 2019 book prize, Lewis E. Lehrman, gives new perspective on two of the greatest English-speaking statesmen -- and their remarkable leadership in wars of national survival. A fascinating, informative, thoughtful, insightful read from cover to cover, "Lincoln & Churchill: Statesmen at War" is a unique and welcome pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library biography collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Lincoln & Churchill: Statesmen at War" is also available in a paperback edition (9780811772310, $24.95), in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.15), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781665252522, $59.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Lewis E. Lehrman ( received the National Humanities Medal for his work in American history. He has written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the National Review. His previous books include Lincoln at Peoria and Churchill, Roosevelt & Company.

The Contemporary Leonard Cohen: Response, Reappraisal, and Rediscovery
Kait Pinder, editor
Joel Deshaye, editor
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
9781771125611, $89.99, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: The death of Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 - November 7, 2016) received media attention across the globe, and this international star remains dear to the hearts of many fans. collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Professor Kait Pinder and Professor Joel Deshaye, "The Contemporary Leonard Cohen: Response, Reappraisal, and Rediscovery" examines the diversity of Cohen's art in the wake of his death, positioning him as a contemporary, multi-media artist whose career was framed by the twentieth-century and neoliberal contexts of its production.

The contributors to "The Contemporary Leonard Cohen" borrow the idea of "the contemporary" especially from philosophy and art history, applying it to Cohen for the first time -- not only to the drawings that he included in some of his books but also to his songs, poems, and novels. This idea helps us to understand Cohen's techniques after his postmodern experiments with poems and novels in the 1960s and 1970s. It also helps us to see how his most recent songs, poems, and drawings developed out of that earlier material, including earlier connections to other writers and musicians.

Philosophically, "the contemporary" also sounds out the deep feelings that Cohen's work still generates in readers and listeners. Whether these feelings are spiritual or secular, sincere or ironic, we get them partly from the sense of timeliness and the sense of timelessness in Cohen's lyrics and images, which speak to our own lives and times, our own struggles and survival. From a set of international collaborators, "The Contemporary Leonard Cohen" delivers an appreciative but critical examination of one of our dark luminaries.

Critique: It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that, that "The Contemporary Leonard Cohen: Response, Reappraisal, and Rediscovery" is comprised of twelve erudite essays deftly divided into three major sections, and is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a four page listing of the contributors and their credentials, twenty-four pages of Notes, and an eight page Index. A seminal work of collective and meticulous scholarship, "The Contemporary Leonard Cohen: Response, Reappraisal, and Rediscovery" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Canadian Literary Biography & Criticism collections.

Editorial Note #1: Kait Pinder is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Theatre at Acadia University. Her recent work has appeared in Canadian Literature, Studies in Canadian Literature, and The University of Toronto Quarterly.

Editorial Note #2: Joel Deshaye is a professor at Memorial University. His move to the East Coast stimulated his writing of The American Western in Canadian Literature (forthcoming from the University of Calgary Press). His first book was The Metaphor of Celebrity: Canadian Poetry and the Public, 1955-1980 (2013), which focused partly on Cohen.

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

The Essential Christmas Carol Anthology: 36 Stunning Seasonal Arrangements
(The Best of the Phillip Keveren Series Piano Solo)
Phillip Keveren, arranger
Hal Leonard
9781705198919, $34.99, Spiral bound, 139pp

"The Essential Christmas Carol Anthology" is a scintillating collection of tasteful contemporary arrangements of 36 well known seasonal favorites for piano performance. Desirable and suitable for use in liturgical and music education settings, all arrangements are accessible to the late intermediate pianist.

Phillip Keveren's arrangements have comforting contemporary smooth jazz sounds intermixed with notes of nostalgia and joy, also described as 'styles run(ning) the gamut from jazz ro classical, tender-hearted to fancy-free.' Keveren's touch is always exquisitely sensitive no matter the style.

Included are favorites such as"Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus," "The First Noel," "Here We Come A-Wassailing," "The Huron Carol," "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming," "Still, Still, Still," "The Ukrainian Bell Carol," and many more. Also included are seven medleys of two to five carols each including "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy /God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

Ever old and inviting, always fresh and enticing, Keveren's arrangements of Christmas music is as welcome as the smell of gingerbread and eggnog spice. "The Essential Christmas Carol Anthology" will be hailed and joyously integrated into holiday piano music collections in churches, schools, and private performers.

Pianists can't wait to try out these lovely new arrangements of seasonal favorites!

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Energy Rising: The Neuroscience of Leading with Emotional Power
Dr. Julia DiGangi
Harvard Business Review Press
9781647823450, $32.00, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Your drive to create change, catalyze impact, and build relationships all come from neuroelectrical energy (real, electrical impulses) firing in your brain. Who you are as a person depends on how you work with this energy. When this energy rises within you, you feel empowered and dynamic. But when this energy falls, you feel down, stressed, and defeated.

You may feel as if you don't control your emotional energy, that it's an inevitable consequence of the world around you and the forces bearing down on you. But that's not the case. To reach your full potential, you can learn to recognize and harness the energy in your brain.

With the publication of "Energy Rising: The Neuroscience of Leading with Emotional Power", leading neuropsychologist Julia DiGangi will teach you how through eight "codes." Some of the codes will surprise you. All will fortify you. You will learn why these codes work and how to apply them to your own challenges through exercises and reflections.

When you start viewing your life less about the activities you do and more about the natural energies within and around you, your power to live and lead with impact grows exponentially. Energy Rising offers you a provocative and neuroscientifically accurate path to greater emotional power, influence, and connection, both at work and at home.

DiGangi's lab and clinical work have been conducted at Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown University, the University of Chicago, DePaul, and the University of Illinois Chicago. Her fMRI and EEG research has helped business leaders, parents, couples, educators, and military leaders. Her work, rooted in resilience after extreme stress, will show you how to effectively deal with struggles you currently face. She tells the stories of business leaders, parents, couples, combat veterans, and trauma survivors who used the eight codes to rise.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an Appendix (Connecting the Codes), ten pages of Notes, and a six page Index, "Energy Rising: The Neuroscience of Leading with Emotional Power" is presented in two major sections: 'Understanding Your Emotional Power' and 'Connecting to Others'. Exceptionally informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inherently fascinating, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Energy Rising: The Neuroscience of Leading with Emotional Power" will prove to be of special and particular value to readers with an interest in neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, leadership and motivation. An extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, corporate, community, and college/university library collections, it should be noted that "Energy Rising: The Neuroscience of Leading with Emotional Power" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Dr. Julia DiGangi ( is a neuropsychologist who completed her clinical training at a consortium of Harvard Medical School, Boston University School of Medicine, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. She has nearly two decades of experience studying the connection between our brains and our behavior. Dr. DiGangi has worked with leaders at the White House Press Office, global companies, international NGOs, and US Special Forces. Her understanding of stress, trauma, and resilience is also informed by her work in international development and humanitarian aid, where she served some of the world's most vulnerable communities. The founder of NeuroHealth Partners, a neuropsychology-based consultancy, DiGangi shows people (at work and at home) how to harness the power of the brain to lead more satisfying and emotionally intelligent lives.

The Shape of Knowledge: An Introduction to Paraphilosophy
Benjamin Davies
Iff Books
c/o Collective Ink Books
9781803410227, 29.95, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: "The Shape of Knowledge: An Introduction to Paraphilosophy" is the outcome of a meaningful experience that occurred to Benjamin Davies in 2012. In it are developed the foundations of a new science of philosophy, which promises to provide a solution to the disparity preventing our discourse from progress.

Through the language of the Western canon, "The Shape of Knowledge" exposes the ubiquitous structure that conditions our capacity to reason the truth for our world. Then, through an investigation of the phenomenon of self-reference, in both the processes and products of thought, this structure is shown to necessitate its own existence.

Underscoring it all is a principle of complementarity, which arises as the modality of the rationalisation of paradox. Experience is shown to be a relative process of making sense of the nonsensical nature of reality, and the emergence of paraphilosophy is our means of reconciling the present war of opposites (having now served its purpose) with the nondual nature of self-consciousness.

Paraphilosophy is not an idea to be believed -- it is the idea of the idea, which is our creative spirit. So this work is at root an inquiry into oneself.

Critique: Paraphilosophy is the science of the structure of perspective, truth, reality, and reason, and of how it comes to know itself throughout the passage of time. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Shape of Knowledge: An Introduction to Paraphilosophy" is a complete, comprehensive, informative, eloquent study that will be of special and particular interest to readers with an interest in Jungian psychology and philosophic/Social Science methodologies. While unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Philosophy collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Shape of Knowledge: An Introduction to Paraphilosophy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note: Benjamin Davies is an autodidact from the southwest of England, UK. He began working on his philosophical system after a meaningful experience led him to abandon his nihilistic, materialistic outlook and find a sound explanation for his new understanding through the language of Western philosophy. "The Shape of Knowledge" is the result of nearly a decade of study, struggle, and striving, and over time it has grown into something of considerable weight.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Trilisk Ruins (Parker Interstellar Travels Book 1)
Michael McCloskey
Squidlord LLC
B005Q22AI2, $0.00 Kindle, 309 pages

The Trilisk Ruins is a typical light space opera about trying to understand other space traveling species. Most space operas assume other species would use similar ways to communicate and use logic systems that are relatable to humans. Wienbaum was the first and possibly the best writer to explore alien communications that don't directly translate with humans. McCloskey's attempt is solid but lacks the uniqueness of Wienbaum.

Telisa Relachik is a xenoarchaeologist who refuses to work with the authoritarian government. She decides to join a group of artifact smugglers. Telisa and her group of smugglers sneak past a government blockade on a new site known to have alien artifacts. The group enters an ancient Trilisk complex and becomes trapped in the still functioning ruins. Telisa and her companions have to try to understand how to communicate and understand a species so different they have only a few things in common. If they don't learn fast, they will either die or be arrested by the government.

The Trilisk Ruins is a light contemporary tale that is an intro to a series. There is a placeholding type ending to the book which is solid but leaves most of the plot hanging. The free pricing on the book makes it an easy recommendation. Many SF afficiandos will find the series enjoyable.

Panama Red: Operation: Just Cause Book #1 (Dirk Lasher Thrillers)
David Edward
Frequency99, Inc.
B0992VKNXC, $0.00 Kindle, 315 pages

Panama Red is an action adventure with connections to military and spy tales. The main protagonist. Dirk Lasher, is the typical, too good to be true, agent. The story is fun with a good blend of personal and local details with continuous action.

Army Special Agent Dirk Lasher is relaxing at his Panamanian safe house. He has spent weeks getting to know the locals trying to collect information of any criminal activities that might impact the military or US interests.

After a night of drinking, he wakes to find two men arriving at his safe house who try to hassle him. He takes them out and finds out they are DEA agents. His handler never contacted him about the meet. His safe house is then raided by Noriega's military police. Dirk soon finds out that someone is taking out active US operatives across Panama. Staying one step ahead of the military police and drug dealers, Dirk unravels what is happening and stops the organized attack.

Panama Red is a top shelf contemporary action/thriller. It is an easy recommendation for those who enjoy action/thrillers. It is well enough written that new readers exploring this genre will still enjoy the tale.

S.A. Gorden
Senior Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Murder at the Wilcotts (The Janet Simpson Mysteries)
Sasscer Hill
Independently published
9798392221707, $8.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 84 Pages

Synopsis: Janet is set free from an overbearing husband with his death. Suddenly, she finds herself with a newfound freedom and wealth. Eager to embrace her new life, she purchases a beautiful race filly and indulges in a relaxing winter paradise at a five-star Southern hotel.

Her days of luxurious freedom come to a screeching halt when her newfound love interest's body is found murdered. Janet is shocked that the police see her as the prime suspect. With a killer on the loose in the elegant hotel, Janet had to use her wit and resourcefulness to expose the killer before they struck again.

As her life became more complicated, Janet was relieved to have her niece come to stay with her but soon discovered that a vicious stalker was in hot pursuit of trailing the young woman. With danger lurking around every corner, Janet navigated a maze of threats and difficult situations.

Will she be strong enough to survive, prove her innocence, and save her niece? Or will she be putting herself on a pathway of destruction?

Critique: Murder at the Walcotts is a story of wealth, love, and danger, where one woman's new beginning takes an unexpected turn. Janet's journey is a gripping tale of suspense and intrigue.

Sasscer Hill has written a true page-turner from start to finish, with never a dull moment in sight. Hill's descriptive words come to life as we follow Janet's quest to find true happiness, only to be met with complex challenges at every turn. This is a remarkable tale of survival and strength, showcasing Hill's incredible talent for storytelling.

Your Heart Can Hold The Whole Universe
Rebecca Atanassova
Popsicle Publishing
9781960746238, $2.99 Kindle, $8.99 Paperback, 40pp

Synopsis: Your Heart Can Hold the Whole Universe is a delightful children's book that takes readers on a journey of empathy and compassion. This heartwarming tale celebrates the remarkable qualities of a young boy's dear friend and highlights the boundless capacity of love.

In this enchanting story, children will discover the power of friendship and why the protagonist believes his friend's heart is expansive enough to cradle the entire cosmos. The book is beautifully illustrated and written in a charming and captivating tone that will delight readers of all ages.

Critique: Your Heart Can Hold the Whole Universe is a must-read for anyone who believes in the power of love. I recommend this heartwarming book for parents, teachers, and caregivers to share this powerful tale with their children and encourage them to embrace the values of kindness, empathy, and unconditional love.

Rebecca Atanassova's latest book is a heartwarming tale that overflows with the power of true friendship. In this moving story, readers will be transported to a world where the bonds of friendship are unbreakable and where the love and support of true friends can overcome any obstacle.

Atanassova's writing is both poignant and uplifting, and her message is clear: true friendship is a sacred bond that should be cherished and nurtured. This book will touch readers' hearts of all ages and remind us of the power of love, loyalty, and true friendship.

Ghoul School: Venus Child Trap
Devlin DeGuise, author
Javier Espila, illustrator
Astoria Press
9798218074739, $9.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 84pp (Ages 8-13)

Synopsis: Get ready for a heart-pumping adventure with twelve-year-old Joshua Tate and his friends as they try to save themselves from the Venus Child Trap. What starts as a harmless evening of fun quickly turns into a fight for survival when an unfinished chore becomes a nightmare.

As the group finds themselves trapped in a house filled with deadly vines, they must work together to solve the mystery and defeat the killer plant before it's too late. Will Joshua and his friends come out victorious, or will the consequences of procrastination be fatal?

Critique: Ghoul School Venus Child Trap is a captivating book guaranteed to captivate children and adults alike. With its mesmerizing illustrations that bring the story to life, this enchanting tale will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Prepare to be transported to a world filled with mystery, adventure, and a touch of magic. Whether you're a young reader looking for an exhilarating experience or an adult seeking a nostalgic journey, this book is the ultimate page-turner that will leave you wanting more. Get ready to immerse yourself in a spellbinding adventure like no other.

Devlin DeGuise showcases his exceptional writing skills by delivering a story that is exciting and full of substance. From the first sentence, this book hooked me, and I couldn't put it down.

If you are looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is the one for you. DeGuise's writing style is unique, and he knows how to keep the reader engaged. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good read, and I am confident you will not be disappointed.

Year of the Four Emperors
K.A. Khan
9781039179042,$35.99, Hardcover, $7.99 Kindle, 258pp

Synopsis: Welcome to the Empire of Kristianborg, where humans and vampires battle for power and wealth in K. A. Khans' thrilling novel, Year of the Four Emperors. The death of Emperor Severus, a tyrant who was universally despised, sets off a succession crisis. The four half-brothers, Andronikos, Commodus, Leo, and Zeno, believe they are the rightful heir to the throne. They must confront internal and external threats as they struggle to assert their dominance over the empire.

Through Khans masterful storytelling, we are drawn into the complex world of the four brothers, each with their unique strengths, weaknesses, and enemies. As they each take their turn ruling the empire, their ruthless ambition leads them down dark and treacherous paths. Even their suitability to rule is questioned as they commit heinous acts to pursue power.

But the brothers are not alone in their quest for the throne. A corrupt court and scheming women add to the empire's woes, and each character is forced to manipulate events to their advantage or risk being left behind in the race for power.

Join us in this gripping tale of power and betrayal as we follow the Year of the Four Emperors and witness the rise and fall of those who would rule the Empire of Kristianborg.

Critique: Are you someone who judges a book by its cover? Don't make the same mistake with Year of the Four Emperors! While the story may have flaws, that some may find offensive, it also presents a thought-provoking question about society's resistance to progress and change.

The book may have some awkward phrasing, but its exploration of alliances, grudges, and surviving dangers will leave you wanting more. However, be warned that introducing future events may leave you scratching your head about certain inconsistencies. Despite its imperfections, Year of the Four Emperors is a fantasy novel worth diving into for its more significant themes and intriguing storylines.

Embark on a journey of magic and wonder with K.A. Khan's latest masterpiece. This book perfectly escapes reality, transporting you to a world where anything is possible.

With a cast of characters as diverse as they are captivating, each page is filled with excitement and intrigue. You'll find yourself lost in the vivid descriptions and wholly invested in the fate of the characters. Take advantage of this unforgettable adventure, for it can allow your imagination to run wild!

The Samaritan's Patient
Chevron Ross
AIA Publishing
ABN 32736122056
9781922329554, $TBD, PB, 278pp

Synopsis: Have you ever felt lost and alone in a world that seems to hate you? Teenager Paige Abernathy knows this feeling all too well. After waking up in the hospital with amnesia and facing hostility from everyone around her, she struggles to piece together her past. But when she remembers her involvement in an online group discussing suicide, Paige is driven to make amends for the harm she unwittingly caused.

In today's world, social media has become more than a hobby that helps pass our time away, for some it provides an escape from the real world. Getting caught up in the pressure to present a perfect image to the digital world is easy. But what happens when that image suddenly becomes shattered, and we are left to pick up the pieces of our reputation and self-worth?

Explore the story of one woman's journey to right the wrongs of her social media existence and find a path toward self-acceptance and growth. This book delves into the complexities of social media and the dangers it can have on our lives.

Critique: The Samaritan's Patient is a gripping tale that explores the dark side of social media and the consequences of our actions. Follow Paige as she seeks to make amends for past mistakes and confronts dangers she never knew existed. This book will have you on the edge of your seat as you question the power of redemption and the impact of our online presence.

Chevron Ross presents a gripping tale that delves deep into the twisted underbelly of our online world. Ross's expert storytelling and masterfully crafted characters set him in a league all by himself in the literary world. His skill as a writer outshines his competition. This book is a must-read for anyone looking to understand the dangers of our digital age. This thought-provoking and emotionally charged novel shows the risks social media can have on our lives.

Dierdra & the Morning Glory Fairies
Dalyce Elliott Young
Beaver's Pond Press, Inc.
9781643436456, $19.95, Hardcover, 56 pp

Synopsis: Once upon a thyme, Dierdra became fascinated by her grandmother's garden, for she felt it was a magical place of peace and harmony.

While playing with her triplet sisters, Debbie and Darla, she convinced them to plant their crops. The girls embarked on their journey with the leftover seeds from their grandmother's garden. As they tended to their garden, they faced many challenges, with predators threatening to destroy their precious plants.

Will the triplets be strong enough to fight to protect their blooming adventure? Or will the girls be unable to overcome these obstacles and not get a chance to see their harvest come to fruition?

Critique: Step into the magical world of Dierdra & the Morning Glory Fairies, where determination and sisterhood reign supreme. In this mesmerizing journey, you'll witness the power of family bonding and hard work as they produce a bountiful harvest.

The beautiful illustrations effortlessly bring the story to life, making it an unforgettable experience. Join Dierdra and her family as they navigate challenges and celebrate their victories. This heartwarming tale is a must-read for anyone who believes in the power of determination and the strength of sisterhood. Don't miss out on this enchanting adventure!

Dalyce Elliott Young takes us on a journey with a family that knows how to stick together through thick and thin. In her latest creation, she masterfully showcases how a little teamwork, a lot of determination, and a dash of humor can go a long way in conquering any challenges that come our way. So, buckle up and get ready to join this dynamic family on an adventure of a lifetime.

Editorial Note: Dalyce Elliott Young's first book, Ellie & the Golden Cricket, won a Moonbeam Children's Book Award in 2015. Her second book, Dierdra & the Morning Glory Fairies, grew out of her family's love for gardening. Her mother's beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, along with her "green thumb" advice, motivated Dalyce and her sister to run their own landscape design and care business for twenty-five years. Dalyce is a triplet, and she has two children and eight grandchildren. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and is married to the poet, Timothy Young. Visit the authors website to learn more about her

Life in the Shadows: A Story of Resilience
Kathleen Geuder Martin
Pinecone Book Company
9781949053173, $14.95 PB, $4.95 Kindle, 149pp

Synopsis: In 1947, the world was harsh for the family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as they battled with their alcoholic and schizophrenic father. But amidst the turmoil, there was a ray of hope - seven-year-old Kady, whose unbreakable spirit brought joy to the family.

With heart-wrenching honesty, this story takes you through the complexity of family dynamics and the struggle to hold it together in the face of adversity. But despite the challenges, the family persevered, and Kady's spirit shone through, reminding us all that hope can triumph over even the darkest times. Join us in this emotional journey as we experience the resilience of the human spirit and the power of family bonds.

Critique: Life in the Shadows: A Story of Resilience is a powerful book that sheds light on the ongoing struggle with mental health stigma. Despite our progress as a society, many still feel the shame and isolation Martin experienced during the 1950s.

His story is a poignant reminder of the emotional difficulties faced by those struggling with mental health and those who love and support them. Through his words, readers gain a deeper understanding of the impact of mental illness and are inspired to build bridges of understanding and compassion.

Kathleen Geuder Martin's book, Life in the Shadows: A Story of Resilience, shines a light on the ongoing battle with mental health stigma and the emotional difficulties faced by those who struggle with mental illness and those who love and support them.

Martin's poignant words and vivid descriptions paint a picture of the horrors she endured growing up, providing readers with a deeper understanding of the impact of mental illness.

"Life in the Shadows: A Story of Resilience" is a powerful message that we must build bridges of compassion and understanding to support those battling mental illness. This book is a must-read if you or someone you love is struggling with mental health. It will inspire you to find your resilience and fight for a brighter future.

ET Here Now! Believe it or UFO It!
Tucker G. and Grand Bob
Spalding Publishing
9798858905523, $39.99, HC, 82pp
9781935803010, $13.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Are you still a skeptic who believes we are alone in the universe? Well, it's time to open your eyes and accept the truth! ET has arrived, and we have the undeniable proof. ET Here Now! Believe it or UFO It! Presents a bold look into proving that ETs and UFOs have their place in this world.

Many believe that for over 70 years, the United States Government has been hiding the truth about ET and UFO visitations, denying any knowledge of its existence. But who holds the key to this enigma? This book will introduce you to facts and theories that that will have you asking what if?

With the government refusing to reveal or confirm any information about UFOs and ETs, they remain tight-lipped when questioned about their existence. But fear not, as this book's keys to our children's future lie in unlocking the unlimited potential of zero-point energy, antigravity propulsion, and time travel. So, are you ready to leap of faith and open your mind to discover the truth about the unknown?

Critique: ET Here Now! Believe it or UFO It! It is filled with groundbreaking research and evidence. This book can convince you that extraterrestrial life and UFOs are not just a figment of our imagination.

Believe it or not, the truth is out there, and this book has all the answers and evidence to make you a believer! So, be aware and join us on this journey of discovery. It's time to embrace reality and let ET into our world.

Are you ready to have your mind blown? Tucker G. and Grand Bob have written a book unlike any other. Their groundbreaking theory on ETs and UFOs will leave you shocked and fascinated. The evidence they present to support their claims is nothing short of astounding. You'll find yourself asking how did they find this? And why haven't we heard about this before?

If you're tired of the same old theories and want to explore something truly unique and thought-provoking, this book is for you. Tucker G. and Grand Bob's research will challenge everything you thought you knew about ETs and UFOs. Don't miss out on this incredible journey of discovery. Get a copy today and prepare to have your beliefs abducted by aliens! While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), ET Here Now! Believe It or UFO It! is highly recommended for elementary school, middle school, highschool, and community library UFO collections for young readers ages 8-18.

Never Less (The Pablo & Mindy Mysteries Book 1)
Geoffrey Wells
Ice Wine Producations
9798986383613,$12.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 203pp

Synopsis: Mindy and Pablo are on a mission to save their fathers from addiction. After stumbling upon an old Prohibition tunnel leading to an abandoned mill, they discover drugs are being smuggled out of there. Mindy's father, Dr. McKay, has been a victim of painkiller addiction since a car accident, and it has taken a toll on his mental and physical health. Meanwhile, Pablo is a DACA kid, constantly worried about the potential for his family's deportation.

Their journey to uncover the truth leads them to an elderly farmer, who becomes their mentor but warns them to stay away from the mill. Despite the warning, they witness a murder over street drugs that closely resemble the pills that Dr. McKay is taking. Pablo becomes captured, leaving Mindy as his sole connection to the outside world.

With determination and courage, Mindy and Pablo continue to uncover the dark secrets of the mill and risk their lives to save their fathers. Will they succeed in bringing hope and cure to their families?

Critique: "Never Less: We all need a safety net, but need a true friend even more" provides a moving story that follows two friends who are determined to save their fathers from the grips of drugs. Through their journey, readers will witness the unbreakable bond of true friendship and the power of the human spirit to overcome even the most significant challenges.

Wells' writing is poignant and insightful, shedding light on the seriousness of drug addiction today. The solid and well-developed characters bring unique qualities to the story. As they face obstacles and adversity, they demonstrate the true meaning of friendship and the importance of never giving up hope. This book is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of friendship to overcome even the most difficult of circumstances.

Editorial Note: Geoffrey Wells ( was born in Welkom, South Africa. He spent a childhood moving from one mining town to another with his mother and mining consultant father who read the classics to Geoffrey and his three sisters. Geoffrey's diverse interests in playing piano and drums, cross-country running, observing elephants, and climbing the Drakensberg Mountains led to his writing short stories. There is a listing of his books at

The Curse of Moonseed Manor
D. Lieber
Ink & Magick, LLC
9781951239282, $24.95, HC, 306pp
9781951239299, $14.95, PB, 308pp
9781951239305, $4.99 ebook

Synopsis: Are you ready to be transported to a world of mystery and intrigue? Meet Wren Mabry, a woman who has been through it all yet remains determined to turn her life around. When offered a job at the notoriously private Moonseed Manor, she sees it as the perfect opportunity to start anew.

As she delves deeper into the mansion's dark history, she realizes there may be more to her new job than meets the eye. Mr. William Courtland Bennings, the cold and alluring owner of the Manor, and Watt, the flirtatious and sexy caretaker, only add to the eerie atmosphere.

When Wren discovers a book of poetry filled with ghosts, curses, and revenge, she realizes that her adventure has just begun. Join Wren on her journey of self-discovery as she uncovers the secrets of Moonseed Manor and the unknown poet who reawakens her soul.

Is Moonseed Manor a chance for redemption for Wren or a gateway to horror? Only time will tell as she unravels the Manor's and its inhabitants' secrets.

Critique: The Curse of Moonseed Manor is a gothic masterpiece that will delight and thrill readers of all ages. This exceptional offering by this talented author is a testament to their mastery of storytelling. With her vivid and descriptive words, she has brought to life the perfect setting of Moonseed Manor - a place that exudes an eerie but fascinating appeal that will keep you turning the pages.

This gothic tale is a true gem that will transport you to a different world and immerse you in its dark secrets and mysteries. Whether you are a genre fan or simply looking for a great read, The Curse of Moonseed Manor will leave you spellbound.

D. Lieber's latest masterpiece is a true testament to the power of storytelling. With richly developed, relatable, and unique characters, this book is a must-read for anyone seeking an unforgettable literary experience. From start to finish, you'll be drawn into a world of adventure, romance, and mystery that will leave you breathless.

Editorial Note: D. Lieber has a wanderlust that would make a butterfly envious. When she isn't planning her next physical adventure, she's recklessly jumping from one fictional world to another. Her love of reading led her to earn a Bachelor's in English from Wright State University. Beyond her skeptic and slightly pessimistic mind, Lieber wants to believe. She has been many places (from Canada to England, France to Italy, Germany to Russia) believing that a better world comes from putting a face on "other." She is a romantic idealist at heart, always fighting to keep her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds.

Just Imagine A More Beautiful World
Christine McDonald, author
Julene Ewert, illustrator
Independently Published
9798985444834, hardback, $16.99, 31pp
9798985444810, softback, $16.00

Synopsis: To promote creativity and imagination among her students, Ms. Burns has assigned a new project that involves creating a world out of cardboard. This assignment allows students to express their ideas and create a safe space that reflects their individuality.

By providing the freedom to design their cardboard world, Ms. Burns hopes to inspire her students to think outside the box and develop their creativity. The project is a collaborative effort that encourages students to work together, share ideas, and problem-solve as a team.

Critique: Just Imagine A More Beautiful World encourages young readers to let their imaginations run wild and embrace their individualism. The book is a beautiful example of how thinking outside the box can help inspire and create a unique space for oneself. Through its engaging storyline and beautiful illustrations, the book showcases the idea that everyone has individuality, making them special and unique.

If you are looking for a book that promotes creativity, teamwork, self-expression, and self-confidence in children? Look no further than Christine McDonald's book, Just Imagine A More Beautiful World. With engaging storytelling and beautiful illustrations, this book is a must-have addition to any child's library.

McDonald's talent as a writer shine brightly in this thought-provoking book that encourages children to think independently and work together to grow and learn valuable life lessons. As a parent, educator, or anyone who wants to instill these critical values in the next generation.

Editorial Note: Christine McDonald is a Washington-based scientist, poet and writer. She has amassed a sizable following and reader base with her work and hopes to continue to engross readers with her literary prowess.

Kansas Genexistential: Essays from the Heartland
Amber Fraley
Anamcara Press LLC
1960462113, $21.99 PB, 140pp
9781960462114, $29.99 HB

Synopsis: Are you ready for a hilarious and insightful journey through the life of a GenXer in the Midwest? Look no further than Amber Fraley's collection of essays, Kansas Genexistential - Essays from the Heartland.

With her witty and irreverent writing style, Fraley shares stories about everything from experimenting with homemade hemp-smoking methods in college to navigating midlife as a GenXer.

You'll laugh out loud as she describes the odd characters she's encountered throughout her life and how she's learned about social justice over time. But it's not all laughs - Fraley also delves into serious topics like reproductive justice and menopause with a refreshing mix of humor and compassion.

Critique: As a proud GenXer, I was immediately drawn to the powerful and thought-provoking essays in Kansas Genexistential. This collection truly speaks to the heart and soul of our generation, capturing the unique experiences and perspectives that define us as the generation that broke the mold when created.

From the struggles of growing up in the shadow of the Baby Boomers to the challenges of navigating a rapidly changing world, these essays are a bold and emotional testament to the resilience and resilience of GenX. Whether you're a fellow member of our generation or simply curious about what makes us tick, this book is a must-read.

Amber Fraley exhibits a bold and unique writing style. With a stunning book cover that catches the eye and insightful essays that capture the true essence of being a GenXer, this is a must-read for anyone looking for a fresh and exciting perspective.

Fraley's writing is hilarious and thought-provoking, blending seamlessly to create an exceptional reading experience. Take advantage of the brilliance of this talented author, for she is in a league by herself.

Beautiful Dangerous - Philly Heat Series
Becky Flade
Tirgearr Publishing
B0CFR6JTZG, $3.99 Kindle, 223 Pages

Synopsis: After the tragic murder of her brother, Public Defender Hannah Patel found solace in her career and family. But when a dangerous stalker threatens her safety, Detective Doyle Murphy steps in for protection.

As they spend more time together, their connection grows more assertive, as does the stalker's obsession. Can they overcome the madness and let love win? Detective Murphy is determined to defend more than just justice - he's protecting Hannah's life and heart.

Critique: Are you ready for a heart-pounding, breathtaking romance? Look no further than Beautiful Dangerous! This suspenseful tale is full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

Becky Flade has crafted a masterpiece with her smooth, concise writing style, and the level of suspense she presents is genuinely unparalleled. If you're a fan of classic romances, you'll love this modern take on the genre. Don't miss out on the chance to be swept off your feet by this delightful book!

Father of the Future
Darren Dash
Home of the Damned ltd
B0CD2Q74DY, $2.99 Kindle, 174 Pages

Synopsis: Cassique is a time-traveling Fixer from AD 2853 who is responsible for fixing past problems that threaten the world of the twenty-ninth century.

Cassique's job has never been easy, but it becomes more complicated when he starts questioning whether the docile and VR-obsessed people of his present deserve a reset. This dangerous thought puts him at odds with Father, the world-running super-computer who disapproves of any form of rebellion.

To complicate matters, Cassique suspects that Father might be listening in on their every move. Nevertheless, Cassique is determined to make time travel work in their favor and return control to humanity. He embarks on a mission with a couple of relatively famous figures from the past to tackle this daunting challenge. Will he succeed in balancing the past with the present?

Critique: Father of the Future is a gripping Science Fiction book that promises to take you on a heart-pumping adventure. Written by the talented author Darren Dash, this book is a true masterpiece set to take the literary world by storm. With a plot filled with twists and turns, you will be hooked from the first page to the last.

Dash's fast-paced and action-packed writing makes it impossible to put this book down. The characters are well-crafted, adding depth and substance to the story while keeping the pace swift and understandable. Father of the Future is a book destined to win many awards and will leave a lasting impression on readers.

If you're a fan of Science Fiction or just looking for a thrilling read, Father of the Future should be at the top of your list. Get ready to discover a new world and join a fanbase of readers who have already fallen in love with this epic adventure.

Marin Darmonkow
9781989661215, $24.99, HC, 36pp
9781989661345, $14.99, PB
9781989661277, $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Have you ever heard a story that brought you to tears? The story of Art, the autistic and artistic circus virtuoso, and his beloved teddy bear will do just that. Art lived in a silent world but found magic in his Teddy Bear.

Together, they performed for royalty from One Thousand and One Kingdoms. It was a performance that left the audience in awe. But after that performance, the only trace of Art and his Teddy Bear were found in a battered old suitcase filled with his hand-drawn illustrations. It's a heartbreaking tale that reminds us of the power of love and the magic of Art.

Critique: Are you feeling lost in the darkness of life's challenges? Do you need a glimmer of hope to guide you through? Look no further than the inspiring words left by a silent man that read, "Do What You Dream."

These powerful last words from a man who faced his struggles remind us that we should never let anything hold us back from living the life we desire. It's time to break free from fear and doubt and pursue our dreams passionately and purposefully. Let Art be your guiding light towards a brighter future.

Marin Darmonkow's book is a masterpiece of minimalism that packs a powerful punch. With very few words, Darmonkow has created a work of tremendous substance and depth, leaving readers to explore the vast possibilities of Art's fate after his final performance.

This book is a testament to the power of imagination, as readers are invited to carve out their interpretations of Art's story. Darmonkow's writing is both mesmerizing and thought-provoking, leaving a lasting impression.

Penn Anderson
Independently Published
9798988749301, $8.99 Kindle, $18.99 Paperback, 612pp

Synopsis: Brush is a stunning retelling of an ancient folktale. This heartwarming and humorous story follows the journey of two strangers and offers unforgettable scenes that will keep you on the edge.

Get ready for the ride of a lifetime with Chris, a prosperous entrepreneur, and Jo, a mysterious woman with a store on Main Street. Their paths cross when Chris stumbles upon a magical paintbrush, leading them on a path of adventure and self-discovery. Join them as they navigate through unexpected twists and turns, with delightful detours that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Critique: Brush beautifully captures the struggles and triumphs of two individuals whose paths cross unexpectedly. With a writing style that is both professional and inviting, Brush is a must-read for anyone seeking a heartwarming and inspiring story.

Join the journey of an enchanting world created by Penn Anderson, a masterful author who has woven a tale filled with richly developed characters that will leave you captivated until the very last page.

As you read the first page, you, too, will get an opportunity to immerse yourself in the magical world of BRUSH. Get ready to paint your imagination with this enthralling book!

Editorial Note: BRUSH is the debut book of author Penn Anderson. It is a must-read for anyone who loves discovering characters with substance and meaning. Visit to learn more about this talented author.

Secrets We Keep
Valeriya Goffe
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
9781509252466, $18.99, 321pp, Trade Paperback
9781509252473, $5.99 Kindle, Digital

Anna Levenko had it all - the talent, the potential, and the drive to become the next big name in tennis, but fate had other plans for her. Despite the setbacks, Anna never stopped pursuing her dreams. She obtained a business degree and worked tirelessly, juggling an unpaid job and a family with many responsibilities.

Yet, she found something was missing - the thrill of chasing after her true passion. Anna took a chance and told a little white lie that changed her life forever. Her dream job was within reach, but it wasn't all sunshine and roses. Anna's first project in Tanzania was a disaster, and her love life was non-existent.

Will Anna be strong enough to live out her dream? Can she persevere through the challenges and finally have her resilience to succeed pay off?

Secrets We Keep allows us to see life in Anna's eyes. She is a shining example of what it means to pursue your dreams with unwavering determination.

Valeriya Goffe is a talented author whose story makes the reader feel that success can be possible, no matter the odds. Readers will gain inspiration from Anna's story and learn from her to never stop chasing after what you truly desire.

Hello, My Name is Bunny - Tokyo
Matt Bloom, author
Pippa Mayell, illustrator
Positivity Publishing LLC
9780997642582, $21.99, HC, 82pp
9780997642575, $14.99, PB
9780997642599, $5.99, Kindle

Prepare to be whiskered away into the thrilling world of Bunny Doogle Simmons-Bloom, the fearless feline adventurer! This five-and-a-half-year-old nine-pound American Tuxedo female cat has lived a life that would make even the most seasoned travelers green with envy. With her dad, Robert, being a United States diplomat, Bunny has explored every corner of the globe.

Bunny's story turns unexpectedly when she stumbles upon a mysterious group of cats and an enigmatic older man in the alley outside her apartment. Intrigued and determined, Bunny embarks on a journey that will reveal the secrets they seem to be hiding.

As we follow Bunny's pawprints through this thrilling tale, we'll uncover the hidden lives of these alley cats and the lives they protect. Their adventures will take us to the farthest corners of the world, from bustling cities to ancient ruins, all while unraveling a tale of friendship, loyalty, and the power of curiosity.

Get ready to be captivated by Bunny and her extraordinary escapades in Tokyo. You're in for an unforgettable journey as she uncovers the truth behind the secret alley society. This tale will leave you purring with delight and yearning for more!

Matt Bloom has created a cast of characters that are diverse and unique, each with a personality that will make you fall in love with them. I would like to congratulate him on this remarkable series of books. He has truly outdone himself with this collection. It's no surprise that his characters spoke to my heart and touched my soul. This is a book that will be cherished by all who take the time to read it.

The W Word: One Woman's Journey To and Through Widowhood
Jo Horne
Bucket Line Books
9781733722742, $13.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 238pp

In the heartfelt memoir, The 'W' Word: One Woman's Journey To and Through Widowhood, author Jo Horne takes readers on a poignant journey of love, loss, and self-discovery. She shares her raw and intimate experience of navigating the unfamiliar territory of widowhood after her husband of 40 years passes away following a long illness.

The 'W' Word is more than just a story of grief; it is a testament to the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit. Jo's words are filled with grace, humor, and unwavering bravery. Her narrative reminds us that even in the face of unimaginable loss, we can find the strength to move forward and discover joy again.

Jo Horne's story resonates deeply, reminding us that amidst the pain, there is hope and that we can uncover new possibilities and embrace life with renewed vigor through healing. This memoir serves as a compassionate and uplifting tribute to all who have experienced loss and anyone seeking solace and inspiration in their own personal journey.

The Haunting of Elmwood Manor (The Pekin Dewlap Mysteries Book 1)
Pamela McCord
Acorn Publishing LLC
9781947392465, $18.99 HC, 214pp (Ages 10-13)
9781947392458, $10.99 PB, 212pp
B07P2RMRHG, $ 4.95 Kindle, $5.95 Audiobook

Have you ever wanted to see a ghost? Pekin Dewlap and her friends Amber and Scout are on a mission to make that happen. They have started a ghostbusting business, but things take a serious turn when they try to solve the disappearance of Miranda Talbert, who went missing in 1918 and has haunted Elmwood Manor for the last century.

As they delve deeper into the mystery of Miranda's disappearance, Pekin finds herself developing feelings for Scout while trying to console a frightened Amber. However, their mission becomes threatened by an angry ghost determined to stop them at all costs. Will these ghostbusters overcome this obstacle and help Miranda find peace, or will their business come to a screeching halt?

The Haunting of Elmwood Manor is a gripping novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The characters are well-developed and will take you on a merry ride to explore the paranormal.

Pamela McCord, is an incredibly talented author. This book is a true masterpiece that will captivate readers with its intricate plot and vivid storytelling. Prepare to be enthralled as you navigate through a maze of twists and turns, never knowing what awaits you on the next page. McCord's impeccable writing style and attention to detail will transport you into the haunting world of Elmwood Manor, where secrets lurk behind every corner. Get ready for an unforgettable reading experience that will leave you breathless.

Half Cup of Sand and Sky
Nadine Bjursten
Alder House Books
9789198861617, $17.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 402pp

The enchanting novel Half a Cup of Sand and Sky follows Amineh, a young woman from the quaint village of Qamsar, embarking on a life-changing adventure in Tehran. With high hopes and dreams of becoming a novelist, Amineh finds herself entangled in a web of revolution and activism amidst the backdrop of the Shah's reign.

As the year is 1977, Amineh navigates her way through a tumultuous era, where protests against the Shah's regime erupt, fueled by the tragic death of a classmate. Amidst the chaos, Amineh finds solace in her friendships, particularly with her close companion Ava and the passionate Farzad, who captures her heart and introduces her to GR12, an international organization dedicated to disarming nuclear weapons.

Amineh finds herself navigating the challenges of balancing her traditional values and her desire for revolution. Amineh struggles to find her place in the world as she faces the turmoil of war and loss. Which direction will the winds take her to find her place in the world?

Half a Cup of Sand and Sky is a powerful and thought-provoking tale that delves into the intricate dynamics of love, politics, and the pursuit of personal identity. Readers will have a chance to immerse themselves in a world where the beauty of roses coexists with the enthusiasm of revolution.

Nadine Bjursten is a brilliant author who has written an outstanding story. This exceptional story will ignite your imagination and touch your heart. Join Amineh as she navigates the complexities of her aspirations, forms unbreakable bonds of friendship, and confronts the ever-present struggle for change. With its inspiring and evocative exploration of the human spirit, Half a Cup of Sand and Sky is a must-read for anyone seeking a genuinely transforming reading experience.

Treasures of the Jeweler (Chronicles of Twierks Book 3)
Tetyana Butler
Independently Published
9781948503051, $14.99 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 287pp (Ages 12-18)

Step into the mystical world of Attl and discover the captivating tale of Piromis, a master jeweler. Renowned for his unparalleled talent, Piromis caught the magician of Twierks and selected him to be his jeweler.

Through this prestigious position, Piromis entered the realm of supernatural artifacts. Among them are the Clock of Mages, a mysterious time-travel device, and the Eye of the Gods, a mystical artifact that unveils past and future events.

The Eye of Gods reveals to Piromis that the future of Attl would be known as Atlantis. Today, the magnificent creations of Piromis endure, but his magical secrets are about to be unveiled.

Treasures of the Jeweler is a captivating tale that is a must-read for anyone who loves a thrilling adventure filled with magical characters and a world of wonder.

Tetyana Butler's masterful storytelling and beautifully crafted prose will transport you to a realm of intrigue and mystery that will leave you breathless. On this enchanting journey, you will discover the treasures within this magical book's pages.

Souljourner: A Karmic Crime Story
Paul Steven Stone
Fahrenheit Press
9781912526956, $24.95, HC, $0.99 Kindle, 276pp

Souljourner is a gripping novel that takes readers on an emotional journey through the eyes of David Rockwood Worthington. It's a story that delves into the depths of human nature and shows how even the worst decisions can have life-altering consequences.

David's life turns for the worse when he finds himself serving a life sentence for murdering his third wife. His life spirals out of control as rival gangs threaten him, claiming he owes them millions of dollars. To make matters worse, the IRS accuses him of having millions in a secret foreign account.

As readers follow David's journey through the prison, they will be on the edge of their seats, wondering if he will survive the dangerous situation, he finds himself in. Will he be able to overcome the challenges he faces, or will he become the next victim of the gangs?

Souljourner is a story of redemption and survival that will tug at your heartstrings. It's a must-read for anyone who loves a fascinating tale of human resilience in adversity.

Paul Steven Stone has written a thriller that delves into the mysterious and ominous world of David Rockwood Worthington. You'll be captivated by the twists and turns of this roller coaster ride, never knowing what fate awaits our protagonist. Stone's masterful storytelling will keep you on the edge of your seat, leaving you guessing until the end.

The Dragon Garden: A Pingzi & Benzel Mystery (The Pingzi & Benzel Mystery Series)
Resa Nelson
Independently Published
9798399397375, $12.95, PB, 216pp
$2.99 Kindle, $19.95 Audio, $17.99 iTunes

Pingzi Po is the only known demon queller in the Far East. The title has allowed her to live a life of freedom. When a man threatens to replace her as the rightful demon queller, Pingzi finds her world turned upside down in the blink of an eye.

Pingzi Po, is a skilled warrior, determined to defend her honor and prove her worth when she travels to face her opponent. However, she didn't anticipate she would be defeated and stripped of her title, leaving her feeling defeated and vulnerable. With the emperor's looming threat of marriage for political gain, Pingzi Po's independence is at risk.

Pingzi Po faces a difficult decision - whether to live without the freedoms she cherishes as a demon queller or to go against the emperor's wishes. Her bravery will be tested as she navigates uncharted territories and faces unexpected challenges. Will she be able to overcome them and emerge victorious?

The Dragon Garden is a captivating story of a powerful female protagonist forced to confront an uncertain future after losing her demon queller title. As she grapples with the challenges of her new reality, she must dig deep within herself to find the strength and courage to forge a new path forward.

Resa Nelson's book is a must-read for anyone who loves stories that inspire you to overcome any obstacle. This book is an incredible journey of one courageous girl who defies the odds in hopes of emerging victorious. The characters are well-developed, and you will quickly get absorbed in their world and root for them every step of the way.

Suzie Housley
Senior Reviewer

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

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