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Penguin Books Ltd
80 Strand London WC2R, England
If a successful historian is one who has the knack for making the past accessible to contemporary readers, then I would say Niall Ferguson is one such historian, especially with his latest book. History has always intrigued me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Civilization, The Six Killer Apps of Western Power. I think the reason I enjoyed it that much was because history is brought to life, which is no small feat.
Even though this a work of non-fiction the author manages to captivate the reader thanks to his literary flair. The questions he attempts to answer are urgent and crucial. He begins his narrative by describing his realization that as the end of the 21st century was near, we are experiencing the end of 500 years of Western domination. A main question he discusses is why a group of small countries in Europe around 1500 came to prevail over the rest of the world. Is it possible to have a prognosis for the future of the Western civilization? He is honest and down-to-earth in his approach stating that no one can claim that everything about with this reign was flawless and that we must refrain from romanticizing history's defeated. What it all boils down to is six central concepts which the author has packaged as applications quite aptly appealing to techy young readers who so desperately need to be historically educated. The final question he raises and which he suggests an answer for is what makes civilization real to the people who partake in it:
"What makes a civilization real to its inhabitants, in the end, is not just the splendid edifices at its center, nor even the smooth function of the institutions they house. At its core, a civilization is the texts that are taught in its schools, learned by its students and recollected in times of tribulation."
This book is for the general public and readers of all ages. A chapter I particularly found interesting was about the American Revolutions, North and South and how they differed, and because of his angle on the subject of the revolution of 1776 which is examined from a British standpoint, in other words from the loser's side. I would say it should be read by everyone who identifies with Western culture whether they live in the West or not, but also by those who inhabit it and enjoy its benefits though are complacent enough to denounce it.
The author is a prominent British historian, who is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford, a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and a visiting professor at the New College of the Humanities. He specializes in international history, economic history with a focus on hyperinflation and the bond markets and British and American imperialism. He is noted for his contrarian perspective. Niall Ferguson has also written, Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Ascent of Money, The Cash Nexus, Colossus, Empire, High Financier, The Pity of War, Virtual History and The War of the World.
I strongly recommend this educating, entertaining and skillfully written account of Western dominion analyzed in the time of its decline. As pointed out by the author, other civilizations on the rise seem to perhaps threaten the West, the real danger lies in the fact that our historical ignorance fuels our deterioration.
Cow Boys and Cattle Men
Jacqueline M. Moore
New York University Press
838 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003
9780814763414, $26.00, www.amazon.com
In a subject that is not read much by history nerds, such as myself, or has not been very developed by historians of the modern age, Jacqueline M. Moore knows how to intrigue her audience, and writes about the life of Texas cow boys and cattle men in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Today, cow boys are lionized as being the heroes of the west, rounding up cattle, and performing numerous acts of courage. The cow boy image seen today in movies (such as "Hondo", starring the legend himself, John Wayne) and TV shows (such as recent TV hits, "Hell on Wheels" and "Longmire") are very different from what a cowboy's life used to be like in the old times. Cow boys did perform many of basic jobs that we associate them with today, such as moving herds of cattle across the plains, delivering mail to numerous cities in the south, and protecting their own interests and families. But in her book, published in cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwestern Studies, Southern Methodist University, "Cow Boys and Cattle Men: Class and Masculinities on the Texas Frontier, 1865-1900", Moore takes her history a step further, by explaining in great detail the other side of the cow boy that is generally unknown.
On the darker less known side, cow boys would participate in illegal trade, steal what they thought was rightfully theirs, start fights and violence and spread terror into the streets, experiment with other cow boys in homosexual fantasies, drink heavily, gamble and lose money, and grab numerous sexual and bedding opportunities with prostitutes in the local whore houses. Moore also explains about the relationships the cow boys had with their bosses, the cattle men, whom were not as kindly portrayed in real life. The cattle men, normally the most influential and wealthiest and educated in societies, had what the cow boys did not have; they used their power to control and tie down the young boys whom were trying to make a decent wage, causing many rifts to open between the two factions. In all, the book lavishly and explicitly ties together the thin unknown threads of a cow boy, and how a boy could start out as a poor youngster, develop close ties with partners in the cattle trade, perform daring and courageous acts to prove his masculinity and bravery, and become a figurehead, and later an glowing icon in the end of what would be called "the Open Frontier".
This book is a very interesting read for all historians, no matter what genre you might like. The subject is very detailed, and as it is not a common topic to pick up on many accounts, there is always something new to learn in every chapter of this book. Moore knows how to effectively use all her sources and ties them in together with in depth information, facts, dates, and events (all of which are from books, dated articles and newspaper clippings, and items from historical archives across Texas) which are woven together in a powerful setting. Cow Boys and Cattle Men is probably intended to educate audiences, especially Americans about their past; inform them of the games of the Open Frontier; and let them know where the iconic cow boy symbol took hold and defining shape.
In a world like today's where there are so many points of views taken on subjects, especially in history (where the writers of history are always the winners), Moore delivers a very direct approach in her book. There is no evidence of any bias or slant; everything is detailed to the point where the reader will slowly begin to get very interested in the life of a cow boy, even when they might have overlooked the subject in the past. I had the wonderful privilege of having Jacqueline Moore as one of my history teachers at Austin College, as well as being my mentor. Not only were her lectures interesting; she knew her stuff. If you had the opportunity to listen to one of Ms. Moore's lectures or was a fellow student of her history classes, then this is definitely a book to read, and educate yourself further in your historical studies of the Progressive and Gilded Ages (whilst at the same time, learning many new facts that you did not already know about cow boys). As a winner of the 2010 T.R. Fehrenbach Book Award (awarded annually the Texas Historical Commission for recognizing the best books about Texas history), Cow Boys and Cattle Men is not only a critically praised book, but also a definite read for everyone; I would highly recommend this book; it was very enjoyable!!
Wrestling with the Devil
Antonio Russo and Tonya Russo Hamilton
9600 Stone Ave North, Seattle, WA 98103
9780982102398, $28.95 (Hard Cover), $19.95 (Paperback)
B008EWZ0TW (Kindle), www.amazon.com
Marlan Warren, Reviewer
Italian American Immigrant Memoir
"I had an outlet for my demons." -- Antonio Russo, "Wrestling with the Devil"
"Wrestling with the Devil (A Story of Sacrifice, Survival and Triumph from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame)" by Antonio Russo and Tonya Russo Hamilton takes readers along the simple-but-not-easy path that Russo took to Honor and the fulfillment of his Destiny. The father-daughter authors give a rare "insider" view of Italian immigrant experience and one determined man's journey from his cozy Neapolitan childhood to his "Italian American Graffiti-meets-Rebel Without a Cause" adolescence in Portland, Oregon to his rather miraculous college wrestling scholarship and finally, to Russo's successful coaching career and induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
We are treated to a slice-of-Italian-American-Life in the 50s and 60s with all the warmth and family confusion, goodwill, great food and "immigrant drive for success" that such a cultural experience often entails. What adds to this memoir's tenderness and heart, and sets it apart, is the equally touching fact that although it is told in First Person, it is actually written by Russo's daughter, Tonya Russo Hamilton, who has spun a compelling, seamless narrative in her father's voice from what must have been hours and hours of taped anecdotes.
Hamilton and her father deliver an honestly told story of a 10-year old Neapolitan boy who gets the shock of his life when his parents suddenly put him on a boat to New York for a "better life," ripping him away from their idyllic but poor world. The post-traumatic stress of "abandonment" eats away at Antonio for the rest of his life, and bedevils him. His parents and siblings eventually do join him, but by then he has had to deal with being shuttled from one relative's home to another after enduring a horrific voyage and arriving as a foreigner in the U.S.A. with no English.
Russo's demons stay with him for a lifetime, and might have led to self-destruction rather than self-construction had it not been for his strong will to succeed and exorcise the "devil" within through pursuit of his chosen passion: wrestling. After dabbling in some teenage pranks that verge on juvenile delinquency, he finally comes to a crossroads that forces him to find his moral compass.
I enjoyed the humor, especially in his loving portrait of his mother, an awesome cook who would tell her children to "go play in the street," and who wished for her son what all mothers wish: that he get a good job, get married and give her grandkids. Russo is fair in his portrayal of his siblings who also faced challenges similar to his own. His sister fared the worst and here the writing offers this poetic gem:
"Catching a glimpse of her smiling was like finding an agate among river rocks."
Reading "Wrestling with the Devil" was like finding an agate among river rocks. An unexpected jewel amid a literary landscape that has brought us so many exaggerated or negative views of Italian life in America.
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN37664
9781606192832, $18.95, 272 Pages, Trade Paperback, www.amazon.com
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Madison's Song is the latest addition to the Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective fantasy/mystery series. Though not the latest instalment, it is a stand-alone, companion book to the series and, though there are mystery elements in it, it is primarily a romantic fantasy.
So far I've read and enjoyed all of the books and this one didn't disappoint. As usual, Amsden delivers a fast-pace, highly entertaining read with fully sympathetic and compelling characters. This time I was especially swept away by the romance between Madison and Scott.
Madison Carter is a sweet, shy music teacher from a small town. When her brother Clinton's life is put in danger, she must unwillingly join forces with Scott Lee, a very alluring and dangerous alpha werewolf, to find Clinton and help him. Scott is slave to the moon, a vicious killer and man-eating monster, but he has a soft spot for Madison, whom he was forced to "mark", make love to, two years ago in order to save her life. Since then, they've been bonded in more ways than both are willing to admit. Needless to say, sparks fly from the very beginning. As they follow the trail to Clinton, they find themselves thrown in a secret lab, prisoners of a psychopathic doctor with a very dark agenda. Romance, suspense, mystery, action and thrills abound, and then some.
Fans of the Cassie Scot series and romantic fantasy will gobble this one up. Amsden hooks us from page one and doesn't let us go until the end. With minimalist descriptions, non-stop action, and skillful characterization, this author delivers a tale that both engages and captivates. I was also impressed by the world building and all the fascinating dynamics about werewolves and their packs. I was able to forget reality and immersed myself into the world of the impossible. Highly recommended!
The Heads of Cerberus
1380 E. 17th St., Suite 2233, Brooklyn NY 11230
9781617209390, $12.95, 172 pages, www.amazon.com
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
This is a rarely reprinted science fiction novel of the early 20th Century about three people suddenly sent on a wild adventure.
Set in Philadelphia of the early 20th Century, Robert Drayton is a young lawyer in ethical trouble. Terry Trenmore is a big, strapping Irishman, full of muscles, but perhaps a bit lacking in brains. Viola is Terry's teenage sister. Through a busted burglary and a bit of intrigue, they are sitting at a table with a mysterious glass bottle in front of them. The sterling silver stopper is shaped into Cerberus, the mythological three-headed dog. It contains "the dust of Purgatory," said to have been collected by Dante himself during his time there. Terry touches the dust, and immediately disappears. Viola and Robert soon follow.
They find themselves in a strangely changed Philadelphia. After just a few minutes on the street, they are arrested for not wearing their number in public. It turns out that they have traveled 200 years into the future, to a dystopian Philadelphia, where everyone has numbers instead of names. They are taken to the Hall of Justice, where the punishment for breaking the law is to be thrown into the Pit of the Past. It is a large pit that is home to a carnivorous creature with steel spikes for teeth. Instead, the three are entered into "democratic" civil service exams, to become part of the ruling class. Actually, the contests are fixed, and the losers die. The ruling class does have names, like Cleverest, Swiftest and Loveliest; they also have total control over the population. History has been suppressed, and literacy is forbidden. Drayton gets in big trouble simply for asking for a newspaper. In 22nd Century Philadelphia, William Penn is worshiped as an angry god, and the Liberty Bell has been turned into a disintegrator machine. Can the three return home? Do they survive this dystopian nightmare?
This novel should be much more available than it has been. It does stereotype its characters, but the author stays away from insulting stereotypes. It certainly works as a dystopian novel, and is very much worth the reader's time.
The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom & the Sea Princess
Nordskog Publishing, Inc.
4562 Westinghouse Street, Suite E, Ventura, CA 93003
9780983195757, $18.50, 472pp, www.amazon.com
"Thank you for the privilege of reading your story. It was pure joy to see your creativity, life lessons and intrinsic knowledge of God come together in your plot, characters and their fascinating stories. Your characters 'ring true' even though 'other worldly' for some. Your exaltation of true love remains the stuff which dreams were and are made of, perhaps yours and mine? and why not? Evil's counterfeit cries out in the sights and sounds of his kingdom in your story's world, but only for a while . . . until right prevails!! Last but not least, the many spellbinding quotes from a storehouse of English literature, enriching the story through your own life of reading and reflection. "
365 Ways to a Stronger You: Balance Your Human Life with Helping Others as a World Server
Women's Intuition Worldwide, LLC
116 Hillsdale Drive, Sterling, VA 20164-1201
9781935214311 $9.99 ebook www.amazon.com
Also published as
Let Today Be a Holiday: 365 Ways to Co-Create with God
9780975253809 $18.95 pbk www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Rose Rosetree's "365 Ways to a Stronger You" is not the usual "Chicken Soup for the Soul"- type message. It goes much deeper than that. You won't just receive temporary feel-good messages. Rose gives you practical methods for improving your life along with the understanding of how it fits into the bigger picture.
Every day it's a new inspirational message; to some, everyday it's a new survival message.
This is the fastest way to get the benefits of spiritual wisdom into your everyday life. And learn how to aggressively transform your life into the one you want.
Written in down-to-earth language yet tempered with quirky humor, Rose challenges the readers to try a new perspective and interpretation of life. Rose just gives possibilities. The reader decides.
"365 Ways to a Stronger You" is written so that readers can understand no matter what their level of interest in spirituality. Readers can cycle through again and again, exploring another year of self-discovery.
Critique: Crammed with thought-provoking ideas to empower the reader, "Let Today Be a Holiday" is very highly recommended for spiritual inspiration, personal growth, and self-healing. It should be noted that this eBook is also available in a paperback edition ($18.95) under the title "Let Today Be a Holiday: 365 Ways to Co-Create with God."
Economic Cataracts Volume 1
Preston Love, Jr.
9780996446419 $24.95 pbk / $5.99 ebook www.amazon.com
Preston Love, Jr., the son of famous Omaha, Nebraska musician Preston Love, presents Economic Cataracts Volume 1, a distillation of his community activist efforts to improve the quality of life of North Omaha. North Omaha has skyrocketing unemployment, poverty, drugs, and crime compared to the city as a whole; its population is mostly African-American. Love identifies the key source of Omaha's ills as joblessness - unemployment impoverishes the population, and desperate people unable to earn money in any legitimate manner turn to drugs or crime. To pull out of the endless vicious cycle, Love strongly advocates greater political involvement, especially among African-Americans; only by participating in politics, and turning out to vote, can the people of North Omaha pressure the government to take initiatives that will bring more jobs to those who desperately need them. The pros and cons of multiple position papers and initiatives for poverty relief are discussed, in this thought-provoking collection with far-reaching implications for impoverished communities nationwide. A handful of black-and-white photographs and newspaper article reproductions are also included.
Daniel L. Sedor
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595501861 $12.95 www.modelbookseries.com
Also available as an ebook, MODEL Coach: A Common Sense Guide for Coaches of Youth Sports applies author Daniel L. Sedor's 30 years of experience in business leadership and youth sports to teach readers the essence of successful coaching. The "MODEL" method is built around five key principles: Mentally prepares, Organizes, Develops every player, Encourages, and Leads by example. This philosophy is designed to better help young people not only engage in sports, but also build character and take away valuable life lessons. "There are other ways a coach influences his players both on and off the field. Most players take their experience from practice home with them. It is not one or two things that influence their feelings about the practice; it is hundreds of little things that accumulate." A reader-friendly resource filled with tips, tricks, and techniques for youth sports coaches, MODEL Coach is highly recommended.
9780988889316 $18.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
Surviving Puberty: Erecting Your Future and Making the Breast Decisions is not exactly a "how-to" guide, but rather an unfiltered journal of the author's own stumbling journey through puberty (complete with many, many thoughts of sex). Because the language is one hundred percent uncensored, Surviving Puberty has a parental advisory warning for explicit content! But there are valuable lessons to be learned in this day-by-day accounting about the craziness that is life and growing up. Sometimes shocking, sometimes hilarious, and always engrossing, Surviving Puberty is highly recommended.
Faber & Faber
74-77 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DA, UK
9780571298358, A$32.99, 304 pages
9780571298358, $15.48, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Simon Armitage makes a good walking companion. Especially if you are accompanying him from the comfort of your armchair.
In 2010, Armitage walked the 265 miles of the Pennine Way, taking no money with him but relying on voluntary contributions put into a (clean) sock at his poetry readings, and on the hospitality of strangers. In 2013, he determined to discover whether the people of Southern England were as helpful and poetry-loving as those in his native North. Choosing the South West Coast Path from Minehead to Land's End, which is almost the same distance as the Pennine Way but with more ups-and-downs, he planned to again be a modern Troubadour, but this time in unfamiliar territory, where accent and dialects differed from his own Yorkshire vernacular.
So, he set off from home with an expensive hat (it came with an instruction manual; a lifetime guarantee against loss or damage; and it was "an environmentally sensitive autumnal browny-green colour"); and a holly stick which he had trimmed himself and which was intended to be, amongst other things, a "cattle prod", "nettle-slayer" and a charm against witches.
Walking Away is a daily record of his journey, of the people who walked and talked with him, of his poetry readings, and of his overnight accommodation, which ranged from a four-poster bed in a stately home to a teenager's bedroom in a B&B where the landlady was absent and room's occupant didn't seem to know his bed was taken.
Far from noticing nothing and "approaching the walk as a task and measuring achievement by miles covered, time taken and kilograms carried", as one woman he met claimed many walkers do, Armitage sees everything around him. He confesses to times when the strenuous path almost saps his spirit, especially towards the end of his journey when he is in constant pain. But still he notices the blackbird on the gate, a walrus-shaped boulder, a red-starfish on the sea-bed, and the flux of land and water.
And one of the delights of this book is his unexpected, but precise, imagery. A peacock in the rain drags "its sodden robes behind it"; a seal "bobs and rolls...like a black turd"; winds and currents mark the ocean with "stretch marks and ceases"; and startled pheasants flap away "as if their tails are on fire". I had to look up the word 'crozzled' to find that it is a Northern English word meaning 'blackened' or 'burned at the edges' (as bacon might be), but it perfectly describes the black, serrated ridges of rock that run into the sea from Hartland Point.
Volunteers ferry his squat green suitcase heavy with books and nicknamed "the Galapagos Turtle" to each destination. And he is as comfortable reading poetry to thirty-nine people in the upstairs room of a cafe as to a pub-full in Penzance. Luckily, that pub was quieter than the Harbour Bar at Clovelly where he competed with the pub-hubbub, the meal service and "gale-force" laughter from the smaller bars next door. After about half-an-hour of that he felt that he had "not so much finished as faded into the background". Reading in a thatched, smoke-filled round-house to an audience seated "in ripple formation" around his enormous, high, canopied four-poster bed was equally challenging.
A day of rain leaves his boots "drowned" and spurting "geysers from holes where stitching gave way earlier in the walk. At Porlock, he pauses to examine the haunted church and to pick out on the harmonium "Oh Will You Wash My father's Shirt" (a short one-fingered sequence of notes which most schoolchildren could play when he was growing up). At Newquay, with sand artist Tony Plant, he tries his hand at dragging a garden rake behind him to create art and finds that it is harder than it looks: "Like writing free verse - all that empty page and every word in the dictionary to choose from". And at St. Agnes his old friend, Slug, turns up, to beg, borrow and blag his way alongside him for a while.
Armitage's photographs throughout the book needed better reproduction than they are give here, and some of them could have looked stunning in colour but are disappointing in black-and-white. My real disappointment with this book, however, is the scarcity of actual poems, especially those like 'Privet' and 'Prometheus' which he talks about in some detail. 'Adder', which is included, is separated from his description of its origins by 43 pages, so that I mistakenly thought it might have been prompted by the "writhing and wriggling tangle" of children's limbs on the page opposite it, or by Armitage's earlier contemplation of a dangerous short-cut across the Taw/Torridge estuary to Appledore, which the imagery does reflect.
Such quibbles about publishers decisions, however, are far outweighed by the pleasure of reading Armitage's poetic, funny, and sometimes crabby and painful descriptions of his Odyssey.
There's a Bear on My Chair
c/o The Crow's Nest
10A Lant Street, London, England, SE1 1QR
9780857633934, A$22.99, HC, http://nosycrow.com/books
9780857633934, $8.81, 32pp, www.amazon.com
This is a large, colourful, delightfully illustrated book with a simple story, two charming characters and a surprise ending.
Mouse is suitably small, and cross about the chair-hogging bear. Bear is amiable and friendly, but stubborn. The chair in question is empty to begin with, as mouse disappears off one side of the book, whilst bear appears on from the other side to occupy it. But mouse soon returns and, tries everything from a nasty glare to a tempting pear to shift this BIG bear from his chair.
The rhymes are simple, the words change size to reflect mouse's growing anger, and there are labels and jokes in the pictures which my six-year-old grand-daughter enjoyed. She also found the surprise ending amusing.
My just-three-years-old grandson enjoyed the pictures and practiced mouse's glare but was not absorbed enough to demand a repeat reading.
Both children were puzzled by the bear's sudden change of clothes and hairstyle, and I suspect that only adults will recognise pop-star fashion in the bear's slightly dated black hair-quiff and fancy jacket. But strange things happen in children's stories, and it was all acceptable in the end. (age-group: 3-6)
Bloomsbury Press USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781632860675, $26.00, 304pp, www.amazon.com
"Beautifully written and intricately constructed" says a blurb on the front cover of this book: and so it is. It is also an enjoyable and absorbing story, although a little confusing at times.
The first chapter begins with a woman, Julia, flying a hawk on the Downs. We hear Julia's thoughts; follow her meeting with her lover, Julian; and, later, share her experience of abuse by her violent husband. But for the next two-thirds of the book it is Julian and his family who fill the pages.
Julia is absent until the end of the book, but it is her absence which haunts Julian. We do not know exactly what happened between them, only that they had been living together since Julia left her husband, and that they have a small daughter, Mira. Now Julia has left Julian. Mira, too, has gone, although we don't know how or why.
Julian's grief, especially for his daughter, is incapacitating. His feisty and assertive mother and his step-father come to help him but, in chapters which jump back-and-forth in time with Julian's memories, we begin to understand that their help is not always as selfless as it seems.
Other kind helpers are Julian's ex girl-friend Katie, now married and with two children of her own, but separated from her husband. And Kurt, an old friend of Julian's, who plays an ambivalent role in his and Julia's lives.
Julia, Julian and Mira had been living in London, but with the help of his step-father, Julian goes into debt to buy the big country house in which he grew up. Although Julia runs a successful plant-hire business with a girl-friend in London, Julian determines that this will be their country paradise - a place for Mira to have the freedom he enjoyed as a boy. Julia commutes several days a week and Katie steps in to help look after Mira whilst Julian, who is a successful author of children's books, writes the novel his publishers are pressuring him for. Katie's boys and Mira become close friends.
The situation is precarious but seems to be working until Mira becomes dangerously ill.
Polly Samson writes with great insight about the emotions and stresses which parents undergo when their child is critically ill in hospital. It is not these, however, which cause Julia and Julian to part, but something more secret and more disturbing - something which is not revealed until the in the final chapters.
There are complicated connections between all the characters in this book and what often seems like kindness and support has complicated origins and results. Polly Samson, however, handles all these tangled threads with great skill and subtlety. Whilst describing what seems to be happening, she manages to suggest the underlying wishes and desires which drive her characters' behaviour, especially that of Julian's mother. And typically, the ending of the book is subtle and satisfying. Not everything is spelled out, there is still much to wonder about, but in a scene where jasmine wreaths leaden glass and vines create double-helix patterns across Julian's desk, the signs are hopeful.
Granta 131: The Map is not the Territory
Sigrid Rausing, Editor
Granta Publications Ltd
12 Addison Avenue, London, England, W11 4QR
9781905881871, A24.99 PB, $16.99 Kindle, 256 pages, http://grantabooks.com
In her 'Introduction', editor and publisher Sigrid Rausing writes that "The pieces in this issue of Granta all are concerned with the difference between the world as we see it and the world as it actually is, beyond our faulty memories and tired understanding".
In some ways this explains the more disorientating pieces in this issue. But other pieces, like Ludmila Ulitskaya's 'Life and Breasts', which deals with the way in which one woman adapts to a diagnosis and treatment for cancer, are quite straightforward. And Janine di Giovanni's 'After Zero Hour' is pure reportage of her experiences in Iraq and of the lives of the people she came to know before and after the American troops left that country. Both pieces offer insight into situations beyond the experience of most people, and both make absorbing reading.
Other pieces, like Jesse Ball's 'The Gentlest Village' and Jon Fosse's 'Dreamed in Stone', are disorientating and imaginatively strange. Kathryn Maris's poem 'It was discovered that gut bacteria were responsible' is truly and wonderfully bizarre. And China Mieville's 'The Buzzard's Egg', in which an elderly slave converses with the idol of a god which (who?) he has spent a lifetime looking after, is curious and unexpectedly moving.
Strangest of all, and I hoped it was a joke but fear it is deadly serious, is the work which Nick Caistor (as translator) and a team of digital-analysis professionals have done with Sebastia Jovani's novel, The Archive. You can see the resulting visual maps of "Contextual Reference Points", "Temporal Sequentiality and Narrative Voices", "Protagonists and their Characterisiation" and "Evolution of the Storyline and its Variable Intensities" on the Granta web-pages as well as in this issue. Visual data projects may be the latest tool for journalists to offer a quick-and-easy way for readers to understand complex networks of facts, but reducing a novel to a series of pictorial graphs is horrifying. Given the results, no doubt a computer could come up with a similarly patterned story. But where is the quality and poetry of the writing? Where is the imaginative response of the individual reader? Such a process is reductive in the extreme and perfect proof that the map is not the territory.
Ian Teh's breathtaking photographic vistas of parts of China's Yellow River and its basin are beautiful but, with his notes expressing his concerns about its current state, they provide sobering evidence of change and degradation. Noemie Goudal's curious photographic images, 'Observatories', however, is let-down by an introduction which tries, but fails, to adequately describe her methods.
Overall, this is a very mixed issue but readers can sample it for themselves at : http://granta.com/
At Hawthorn Time
c/o Bloomsbury Press USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781620409947, $26.00, 288pp, www.amazon.com
"Here is where it all ends". These are the first words of the Prologue, which goes on to describe a horrifying car crash. So a shadow is cast over the rest of the book which, in many other ways too, is an elegy and a lament. It is a lament for endings, nostalgia for times past, and regret for the things which people do to each other and to the world around them.
As if to mitigate all this, and in marked contrast to the everyday, seemingly ordinary, sadnesses in the lives of her characters, Melissa Harrison prefaces each chapter with notes of springtime blossoming and renewal . Old country names are used - "Borage, self-heal, first wild clematis flowers (old-man's beard, travellers joy)" - and the writer of the notes is immersed in the land and sees things most people rarely notice - "Avens, dog's mercury, harebells, vetch. Otter spoor by the river". I did not realise until the end of the book that these notes and the Prologue and Epilogue are provided by Jack, an itinerant man who wants only to keep travelling, taking occasional farm work and living, as best he can, off the land. He seeks out the old by-ways and remembers old customs. He knows the land, knows its creatures, knows things about its past, and sees the changes which have happened and are still happening. He remembers "the graceful elms. So did the rooks: you could hear the loss in their chatter still", but seeing "fugitive" new growth all around him he is hopeful that "One day they might come back. It was something Jack tried to believe."
But Jack's way-of-life is threatened by land-owners who suspect him of poaching and want to move him on; by police who will arrest him for vagrancy; and by house-holders who treat any unkempt stranger with suspicion.
Two of these house-holders are Howard and Kitty. New to the village after a life spent in London, they are strangers to country ways. Kitty has always dreamed of living in the country so that she can immerse herself in her art. But she finds this more difficult than she expects, until a chance meeting with Jack changes the way she looks at things and she sees beyond the conventional prettiness and finds freshness and inspiration in the ordinary things about her: the "Brutal footing of a pylon, the way it was anchored in cow shit and dandelions". Howard immerses himself in his antique-radio-collecting hobby but yearns for London and finds it hard to fit in. Their marriage was already troubled but by letting Kitty follow her dream, Howard hoped to repair it. For the visit of their grown-up children, they maintain a fragile pretence of togetherness, but this cannot last.
Jamie, a young local teenager, lives with his father and his mildly mentally disturbed mother. He works at a big, soul-less local goods depot and also has a Saturday job in a bakery in order to pay for the rebuilding and renovation of an old Corsa car, which is his obsession. His friend, Alex, with whom he has shared much of his life, has suddenly and unexpectedly moved from the next-door farm with his mother and sister, and from early in this book we know that Alex's father has subsequently killed himself.
For Jamie's grandfather, change is un-nerving. His past and present are beginning to merge into each other as his memory becomes unreliable. Once a farmhand, then a prisoner-of-war, then a survivor returning to a very different post-war world to work in a factory, he has always longing to go back to the land. His sudden disappearance precipitates the dramatic ending of this book.
Through other villagers and farmers, we learn something of country life: the changes in farming practices and crops; the influx of farm-labourers from Easter European countries; the modified Rogation Day 'Beating the Bounds' ritual (which Kitty and Howard attend to try and fit into the village community); the gossip and the rumour.
Melissa Harrison writes compassionately and movingly about her people and about the universal need to belong to the land, the community, and to each other. But nature is a strong presence in this book: birds, flowers, smells, colours and traditions, ever changing and ever renewing. Small details of springtime abundance pervade the book but Harrison is also realistic about the fragility of nature and of life. The tiny bruised hawthorn petals in the treads of the wrecked car, which are the final image of the book, beautifully convey her love and her concern.
Sophie and the Sibyl
Bloomsbury Press USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781632860644, $27.00, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Sophie and the Sibyl is advertised on its cover as 'A Victorian Romance'. The Sibyl is George Eliot and this 'Romance' embroiders on the facts of her life. Sophie is purely fictional and is the Heroine of the book's love story. Certainly the book itself has some of the trappings of a Victorian book. There are chapter headings, complete with capitals, to summarise each chapter: "CHAPTER FIVE in which Our Hero strives to redeem himself ", for example; and strident "END OF CHAPTER..." notices.
These chapter headings, however, are more Georgian then Victorian: more in the style of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, then of George Eliot's elegant and often poetic chapter headings. Max, Our Hero, also has Tom-Jones-like erotic moments, some with the feisty, headstrong and virginal Sophie and some with his favourite prostitute at Hetty Keller's bordello, and the description of these is thoroughly modern and unlike anything in George Eliot's books.
Sophie and the Sibyl also plays with fact and fiction in a very modern way, and the narrator's intrusions into the story are offered in thoroughly modern language. "What is the role of the Sibyl?" she asks us in one such intervention. A sibyl is "the prophetess of catastrophe and change. And so this particular Sibyl proved to be". And referring to George Eliot's own 'manifesto' for literature in Adam Bede, she tells us that it is "to equate realism not only with accuracy, but honesty". "Realism", says our skeptical young narrator, "has degenerated into tired commercial cliche, produced by lazy writers out to make a fast buck", and the "high moral purpose, championed by the Sibyl in 1859, does not cut much ice now". She goes on to claim that "we are swamped by what [Eliot] so memorable described as 'silly novels by lady novelists'".
So is Sophie and the Sibyl one such novel? Perhaps. In it, George Eliot comes across as an ugly old woman (although she has "beautiful eyes") and her frequent lectures on arcane subjects became so boring that I eventually skipped them. The core of the book, and the excitement and suspense, are provided by the often tempestuous romance between Our Hero, Max, and Our Heroine, Sophie, both of whom are interesting characters. Sophie, in particular, is a very modern young lady, fiercely independent, rebellious, passionate, beautiful and spoilt. Here addiction to the novels of George Eliot links her to the Sibyl. And Max's role as his brother's emissary brings him under the Sibyl's spell. Max's fictional brother, Wolfgang Duncker, is the Sibyl's publisher - and Duncker Verlag of Berlin were, in fact, George Eliot's German publishers.
So, connections are made and lives intermingle. Many of the facts of Eliot's life and of her 'marriage' to George Lewis are accurately reported but, like the Ancient Greek (possibly Roman) philosopher Lucan, about whom Duncker has Eliot speak often and at length, most of this book is the invention of the author.
Much of Sophie and the Sibyl is an interesting and idiosyncratic romp, but I found that I was more interested in Sophie and Max than in the Sibyl.
Ann Skea, Reviewer
Ann H. Gabhart
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800723415, $14.99, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Carlyn Kearney has spent two lonely years not knowing whether to mourn or to hope after she receives word from the Union Army that her husband is missing. The war ends without further word. Now penniless, in debt, and forced from her home, Carlyn seeks refuge at the Shaker village of Harmony Hill, only to discover that they will not allow her to keep her beloved dog, an animal that has been her faithful companion since her husband went off to war. Sheriff Mitchell Brodie has pity on the lovely young woman and agrees to take the dog. Carlyn is just settling into life as a sister in the Shaker village when she receives a devastating letter confirming her worst fears. As she wrestles with whether to commit herself fully to the Shaker life, mysterious deaths begin to occur, and Carlyn comes under suspicion. Can Sheriff Mitchell help her expose the true culprit?
Critique: Another superbly crafted and thoroughly entertaining novel from a master storyteller, "The Innocent" by Ann H. Gabhart is enthusiastically recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Innocent" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Power Up Your Creative Mind
Kathy Frazier & Elaine Reynolds
Pieces of Learning
1990 Market Road, Marion, IL 62959
9781937113636, $24.95, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Learning and innovation skills increasingly are being recognized as those that separate students who are prepared for a more complex life and work environment in the 21st century from those who are not prepared. The Framework for 21st Century Learning developed a holistic vision of 21st Century teaching to effectively educate and prepare students for the challenges of the future. Mastering common core standards in the content areas forms the knowledge basis and the following skills from P21 (Critical Thinking & Problem Solving, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity & Innovation.) can, at the same time, be integrated into curriculum. "Power Up Your Creative Mind" guides you in the preparation of the classroom environment and the integration of the elements of creativity into the content lessons that are aligned to the common core standards using: Creative connections; Multiple pathways to learning; Innovative instructional strategies that engage students in 21st Century Learning; and Responsive learning environments that value creativity and innovation. Over 100 curriculum activities included in "Power Up Your Creative Mind) specifically address such topics as: Creating a Responsive Learning Environment; Understanding Brain Power and Brain Dominance; Relaxation Strategies; Visualization Techniques; and Creative Thinking Tools including Brainstorming and SCAMPER.
Critique: An impressively 'user friendly' combination of instructional reference and do-it-yourself workbook, "Power Up Your Creative Mind" is very highly recommended for personal and professional Creative Thinking reading lists, seminar, and workshop curriculums.
Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733-1940
Sara L. Van Beck
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611174014, $44.95, 360pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Since their earliest identification in the mid-1500s, more than twenty-eight thousand hybrid daffodils have been named and registered with the Royal Horticulture Society of England. Daffodils began as wildflowers in the Mediterranean basin, then spread and flourished in Europe's alpine and coastal environments. "Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733-1940" traces the history of the garden daffodil including its early days in Europe, especially the Netherlands; the importation of flowering bulbs to colonial America; and plant breeding and the dissemination of plants throughout the United States until World War II.
Illustrated with nearly two hundred color and black-and-white images, "Daffodils in American Gardens" examines gardening by era (European beginnings; colonial, federal, antebellum, and Victorian periods; and World War II) with a comprehensive chapter for daffodils in cemetery plantings. "Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733-1940" combines the disparate disciplines of archaeology and plant science to discover and re-create important gardens in the United States. Combining primary research from a variety of rare publications, especially nursery catalogs and seed lists, author and horticulturist Sara L. Van Beck integrates old and new scientific botany by correlating older, uncertain scientific terms, common names for the daffodil, and modern taxonomies. Historic and modern botanical illustrations embellish the volume and complement Van Beck's narrative.
Case studies of surviving historic gardens from the early Republic era to the twentieth century examine how old daffodils have survived the vagaries of time. Van Beck surveys historic properties in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. This multifaceted history, examining high style, vernacular, and commercial landscape architecture, is geared toward general gardeners interested in heirloom plants and historic gardens. Moreover, extensive endnotes and a comprehensive bibliography document extensive references for professionals working in historic landscapes preservation and garden restoration.
Critique: Horticulturist and plant historian Sara L. Van Beck is an officer of the American Daffodil Society and serves on the board of the Cherokee Garden Library at the Atlanta History Center. Van Beck has worked as a museum curator with the National Park Service and is the former president of the Georgia Daffodil Society. She is co-author of "Daffodils in Florida: A Field Guide to the Coastal South" (Van Beck, 9780975921609, www.amazon.com) and has written articles for the Daffodil Journal, the Magnolia bulletin of the Southern Garden History Society, and Florida Gardening. Her latest work, "Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733-1940" is an impressively informed and informative work of impeccably detailed and seminal scholarship that is beautifully illustrated throughout. "Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733-1940" is an extraordinary accomplishment and very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Horticultural Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
Would I Like Jesus
997 MacArthur Boulevard, Mahwah, NJ 07430
9780809149155, $14.95, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Would I Like Jesus?: A Casual Walk through the Life of Jesus" by Peter Fleming is not an exercise in either theology or historiography. It s more an exploration of simple affection and/or repulsion. "Would I Like Jesus?" seeks to find out, by looking at the account of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew whether we can like him. If Jesus is actually God, then our emotional reaction to him, as opposed to our intellectual response, becomes tremendously important: would we like God if we met him, heard him speak, and saw him in action? Would Jesus teachings and his personality move me to affection for him, so much so that I would change the priorities of my life? Would I like what he has to say? Would I like him?
Critique: Impressively well reasoned, written, organized and presented, "Would I Like Jesus?: A Casual Walk through the Life of Jesus" is an extraordinarily inspired and inspired commentary that will prove to be of intrinsic interest to clergy and lay readers alike. "Would I Like Jesus?: A Casual Walk through the Life of Jesus" is very highly recommended for personal, church, seminary, community, and academic library Christian Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Dadi Janki, Peter Vegso, Kelly Johnson
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757318399, $12.95, 216pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Why do we lose our ability to feel great? And what is 'feeling great' anyway? Is it really possible to feel great in today's world where every day there is some new crisis or disorder? Some new upheaval or unexpected negativity? Where violence is rife? Is feeling great out of place or insensitive to the reality of many people's lives? "Feeling Great: Creating a Life of Optimism, Enthusiasm and Contentment" calls on decades of spiritual study and practical experience to answer these and other essential questions. You will learn what it really means to 'feel great' - and it might not be what you expect. You will discover that feeling great is not about having a good time for a few hours, or having money to spend. It's about putting your life in order and remembering who you really are. It's about practicing the four keys revealed in "Feeling Great" (Enthusiasm, Optimism, Contentment, Respect) then learning how to start acquiring and applying them. The authors' rich descriptions of the sticking points we encounter on our journey through life demonstrate how we can recover our ability to truly feel great -- not as a temporary indulgence, but as a lasting state of being. Now is the time to start feeling great, and "Feeling Great" shows you how easy it can be.
Critique: An impressively well written, organized and presented collaboration, ""Feeling Great: Creating a Life of Optimism, Enthusiasm and Contentment" is profusely informed and informative read that is thoroughly 'user friendly' from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Feeling Great" is also available in an inexpensive Kindle edition ($1.80).
George's Grand Tour
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781908313737, $14.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: At the age of eighty-three, retired butcher George Nicoleau is about to set off on the greatest adventure of his life. George and his neighbor Charles have long dreamt of a road trip, driving the 3,500 kilometers that make up the stages of the Tour de France. And now that George's over-protective daughter has gone to South America, it's time to seize the moment. But just when he feels free of family ties, George's granddaughter Adele starts calling him from London, and he finds himself promising to text her as he travels around France, although he doesn't even know how to use a mobile. George is plagued by doubts, health worries, and an indifference to modern technology. And yet -- might the journey still prove to be everything he had hoped for?
Critique: A modern literary masterpiece by an accomplished and talented novelist, "George's Grand Tour" by Caroline Vermalle is extraordinarily entertaining from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "George's Grand Tour" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Child of the Covenant
c/o Troubador Publishing
9 Priory Business Park, Wistow Road, Kibworth
Leicester, England, L48 0RX
9781784620998, $17.52, 448pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Beyond the boundaries of our own Mortal World lies the Unseen Realm; a supernatural domain inhabited by entities that prey on humans. Mankind knows them as demons, and when the barrier between the two worlds is weakened, only chaos and destruction can ensue. Continuing from Kim's previous novel "The Demon's Call" (978-1783064038, $14.63 PB, $4.99 Kindle), Aidan and Gwyn have formed an uneasy alliance with modern-day wizard Eldritch. The stakes are raised when it becomes apparent that someone else is working to bring about the demon's manifestation, and that they are prepared to kill in order to succeed. When one of the trio is critically injured, the other two must face a terrible choice if they are to defeat the demon. "Child of the Covenant" is the second installment of the 'Dark Places' sequence, a series that taps into the deep core of folklore and legends that exist at the heart of the British and Celtic psyche. With its strong female protagonists, "Child of the Covenant" will have special appeal to those who enjoy stories about fantasy worlds and paranormal activity, as well as to fans of Kim Gravell's "The Demon's Call" who were looking eagerly toward her continuing 'Dark Places' series.
Critique: Another terrifically entertaining read from accomplished novelist Kim Gravell, "Child of the Covenant" is very highly recommended for community library Fantasy Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Child of the Covenant" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).
Possession of a Highlander
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 1004, New York, NY 10016
9781626817098, $14.99, 300pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Brianna Lindsay's grip on the inheritance that is rightly hers hangs by a thread. If the town finds out her father has died, Brianna will be forced into marriage with her loathsome cousin, Lord Robert, and will lose all of Edzell Castle and its lands. To protect her home, she'll have to trust a complete stranger, a brooding Highland barbarian who sweeps into Edzell with a small retinue and insists on replacing her Captain of the Guard. He proves his worth by defeating her men and she has no choice but to accept his offer. Though his motives are suspect, Colin MacKinnon has nobility in his blood and good intentions in coming to Edzell. He seeks his own kingdom, one to rival his father's, and sets out to conquer Brianna in the best way he knows how -- with seduction. Brianna never thought of all the wealth she protects, the one thing she has left completely vulnerable is her heart. Colin never thought that of everything he stands to achieve, he might have to face the unexpected pain of loss. Together, they must navigate a treacherous world of spies and intrigue, of legacy and fidelity, of love and betrayal, to find what is truly worth possessing.
Critique: "Possession of a Highlander" is the second volume in author Madeline Martin's outstanding historical romance series 'Highlander'. A wonderfully entertaining and engaging read from first page to last, "Possession of a Highlander" can be read as a 'stand alone' romance and is very highly recommended for community library Historical Romance Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Possession of a Highlander" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99). Also recommended and still readily available is the first volume of this outstanding series: "Deception of a Highlander" (9781626816329, $14.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle).
Life in New York
4690 Table Mountain Drive, Suite 100, Golden, Colorado 80403
9781936218158, $15.95, 200pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Life in New York: How I Learned to Love Squeegee Men, Token Suckers, Trash Twisters, and Subway Sharks", author Laura Pedersen serves up a hilarious memoir about three decades of city life. Originally from Buffalo, New York, friends thought the seventeen-year-old was suffering from blizzard delirium when she left for Manhattan. Pedersen experiences her adopted city in the best and worst of times while becoming the youngest person to have a seat on the stock exchange, performing stand-up comedy, and writing a column in the New York Times. Neighborhoods that feature chai bars, Pilates studios, and Gymboree were once drug dens, ganglands, and shantytowns. A trip to Central Park often ended in Central Booking, identifying a perp in a lineup. New Yorkers are as diverse as the city they so colorfully inhabit, cautious but generous, brash but welcoming. Both are cleverly captured and showcased through the comedic eye of Pedersen. Enjoy an uproarious romp down memory lane as the city emerges as the modern metropolis we know today.
Critique: Another terrific read from an accomplished author, "Life in New York: How I Learned to Love Squeegee Men, Token Suckers, Trash Twisters, and Subway Sharks" by Laura Pedersen is replete with informative and entertaining New York phenomena and offbeat historical facts, making it very highly recommended for personal and community library collections.
Peace-ing Together Jerusalem
World Council of Churches
9782825416365, $5.50, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Historically, the city of Jerusalem is the symbolic axis of the world, the birthplace of great religious traditions, the ancient site sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and the contemporary center of mighty contention and brutal conflict. The city of Jerusalem evokes fascination, devotion, and deep pain. In "Peace-ing Together Jerusalem", author Clare Amos shares her lifelong engagement with the city, its people, and its history, yielding a loving yet insightful view of the city's dynamic identity. Its biblical and historical roots; its complex symbolic and literary meaning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims; and its present-day tensions are composed by Amos into a complex mosaic that may yet, in some lights, yield a vision of the heavenly city.
Critique: Clare Amos, Program Executive for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, World Council of Churches, and was recently awarded the Lambeth Decorate in Divinity for her work in ecumenical and interreligious encounter. She brings a particular expertise and perspective that is impressively informed and informative, making "Peace-ing Together Jerusalem" a particularly thoughtful and thought-provoking read. Highly recommended for both academia, clergy, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the role of Jerusalem within the context of the three Abrahamic faiths.
Marriage on the Mend
Clint Bragg & Penny a. Bragg
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825442346, $15.99, 248pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Approximately fifty percent of the couples marry will eventual divorce. In order to turn the tide of this stark statistic, couples who have considered or experienced separation or divorce must be given real tools to reconcile, restore, and rebuild their relationships. "Marriage on the Mend: Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, or Divorce" provides these tools for couples in crisis. Clint and Penny Bragg know what it means to be that couple. After being divorced for eleven years and living 3,000 miles from each other, they were remarried -- but the difficult work of restoration continued long after that second ceremony. The Braggs know that couples who reconcile face a unique set of challenges, including unresolved arguments, poor communication habits, unforgiveness, and betrayed trust. Biblically based materials are required to walk through this treacherous territory toward full healing and restoration. "Marriage on the Mend" is a practical, realistic book that identifies roadblocks that may stall relationship progress, recommends ideas to deepen intimacy, offers solutions to effectively handle past hurts and conflicts, and applies Scripture to every aspect of the process in order to proactively stabilize and safeguard the marriage. At the end of each chapter, the Braggs include a prayer for couples to share to help facilitate healing.
Critique: Exceptionally and impressively well written, organized and presented, "Marriage on the Mend: Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, or Divorce" is as realistic and practical as it is informed and informative. Very highly recommended for church and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Marriage on the Mend: Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, or Divorce" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).
Beyond Breaking the Glass
Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener, D.Min.
355 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780881231847, $17.10, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded second edition, "Beyond Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding" by Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener is the perfect instruction manual for today's Jewish couples seeking to wed. "Beyond Breaking the Glass" provides everything necessary to plan a meaningful and spiritual wedding celebration. This compendium explores the rich history of wedding rituals and customs practiced by Jews through the century. Included are multiple options of traditional, contemporary, and creative rituals and prayers for couples of all approaches, orientations, and identities. "Beyond Breaking the Glass" is a rich source of practical information for planning a Jewish wedding, including a variety of ceremonies, checklists, a planning time line, and references. A beautiful guidebook, "Beyond Breaking the Glass" will help all couples create a wedding that will resonate with Jewish tradition while offering the very best of contemporary innovations.
Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly', comprehensive, and adhering to high standards of compliance with respect to Judaic tradition and law, ""Beyond Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, rabbinical, community, and academic library instructional reference collections.
Solve Common Teaching Challenges in Children with Autism
Lara Delmolino, editor
6510 Bells Mill Road, Bethesda, MD 20817
9781606132531, $21.95, 140pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Even veteran teachers of students with autism sometimes need help to determine why their instructional methods are not getting the desired results. In "Solve Common Teaching Challenges in Children with Autism: 8 Essential Strategies for Professionals & Parents", behavior and education experts describe eight potential problem areas, and offer teaching strategies to promote successful learning: Motivation (provide appropriate reinforcement); Manding (teach requesting & responding skills); Learning-to-Learn (teach basic prerequisite skills: attending, waiting for feedback, etc.); Prompting (when to use physical guidance, gesturing, verbal instruction); Language Environment (comprehension aid or distraction?); Learning Opportunities (provide quality over quantity); Individualizing Instruction (tailor it to the student's needs); Skills & Goals (make it meaningful & purposeful). Each chapter offers an illustrative case study, a critical examination of why the problem arises, and practical instructional solutions. Additional material within chapters--a table, glossary, checklist, Q & A, chart, or form--helps readers to further assess the issue. Educators, therapists, and parents familiar with ABA methods will feel empowered by this handy guide and reinvigorated to solve their teaching challenges.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Solve Common Teaching Challenges in Children with Autism: 8 Essential Strategies for Professionals & Parents" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community and academic library Educational Studies and Autism reference collections.
Jews and Genes
Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff & Laurie Zoloth
Jewish Publication Society
2100 Arch Street, 2nd floor, Philadelphia PA 19103-1399
9780827612242, $35.00, 480pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Well aware of Jews having once been the victims of Nazi eugenics policies, many Jews today have an ambivalent attitude toward new genetics and are understandably wary of genetic forms of identity and intervention. At the same time, the Jewish tradition is strongly committed to medical research designed to prevent or cure diseases. "Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought" explores this tension against the backdrop of various important developments in genetics and bioethics, including new advances in stem cell research; genetic mapping, identity, testing, and intervention; and the role of religion and ethics in shaping public policy. "Jews and Genes" brings together leaders in their fields, from all walks of Judaism, to explore these most timely and intriguing topics including the intricacies of the genetic code and the wonders of life, along with cutting-edge science and the ethical issues it raises.
Critique: A seminal body of scholarship collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff (Rector and Sol and Anne Dorff Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at the American Jewish University - Los Angeles) and Laurie Zoloth (Professor of Religious Studies and on the Jewish Studies faculty at Weinberg College, and Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University), "Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought" is comprised of twenty-two informative articles deftly organized into five major sections (Stem Cell Research; Genetic Mapping and Identity; Genetic Testing; Genetic Intervention; The New Genetics and Public Policy). As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Judaic Studies, Genetics, and Bioethics reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.49).
Practice Development in Sport and Performance Psychology
Jim Taylor, editor
c/o Fitness Information Technology
West Virginia University
262 Coliseum, WVU-PE, PO Box 6116
Morgantown, WV 26506-6116
9781935412922, $47.00, 220pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Jim Taylor, PhD, is internationally recognized for his work in the psychology of performance in business, sport, and parenting. He has been a consultant to and has provided individual and group training to executives and businesses throughout the North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In "Practice Development in Sport and Performance Psychology", Taylor presented a practical guide with a step-by-step process for establishing and maintaining a consulting practice for today's sport and performance psychology professionals. Editor Jim Taylor and a talented team of authors provide a foundation of knowledge and skills necessary to establish and maintain a consulting practice and explore the gamut of issues including understanding the progression of professional development, creating a performance model, writing a business plan, using social media, and much more. Each chapter includes a summary and exercises to review and further explore relevant topics covered in "Practice Development in Sport and Performance Psychology".
Critique: Deftly organized into three major sections (Designing; Building; Expanding), "Practice Development in Sport and Performance Psychology" is comprised of ten erudite and informative articles by experts. The result is a seminal work of impressive scholarship and scope, making "Practice Development in Sport and Performance Psychology" very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Sports & Athletics reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Tapping Philanthropy for Development
Lorna Michael Butler & Della E. McMillan, editors
c/o Lynne Rienner Publishers
1800 30th Street, Suite 314, Boulder, CO 80301
9781626371941, $55.00, 250pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In telling the story of an innovative program based at Iowa State University, Lorna Michael Butler, Della McMillan, and their colleagues offer practical, step-by-step advice critical for any organization seeking to fund and manage multifaceted, public-private partnerships for development in "Tapping Philanthropy for Development: Lessons Learned from a Public-Private Partnership in Rural Uganda". The story begins when the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at ISU received large gifts from alumni and friends with a strong interest in Africa. Using that transformative funding, the university established the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) and entered into collaborative, long-term relationships with a university and an NGO in Uganda. "Tapping Philanthropy for Development" draws on the partners experiences to provide a unique roadmap for effectively navigating the challenges involved in obtaining nontraditional funding and in using it well.
Critique: Comprised of nine erudite and seminal articles, "Tapping Philanthropy for Development: Lessons Learned from a Public-Private Partnership in Rural Uganda" is additionally enhanced with the inclusion of an information introduction, numerous illustrations, an epilogue (The partnership Today and Looking Toward the Future), a list of acronyms, a list of major institutional partners in the CSRL Program, a bibliography, a listing of the contributors, and a useful index. A collective work of impeccable scholarship, "Tapping Philanthropy for Development" is very highly recommended for community, NGO, governmental, and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Tapping Philanthropy for Development" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626371958, $25.00).
Happiness is a Warm Carcass
PO Box 5630, Helena, MT 59604
9781591521556, $14.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Author David Peterson has been photographing Yellowstone since 1983. There's a mantra that Peterson hears daily from Yellowstone tourists: How did you become a professional photographer? In answer to the question, or perhaps to dodge it, Peterson has written down twenty years worth of his humorous, partly true stories in the pages of "Happiness is a Warm Carcass: Assorted Sordid Stories from the Photographer in the Midst". Dodging grizzlies, rangers, and oddball tourists in the summer, getting his fill of Asian customs in the winter, Peterson's life is rife with opportunities for hilarity. Thanks to his off-the-wall wit, you'll be laughing at Peterson's misadventures through Yellowstone, southeast Asia, and even Omaha. But mostly, Peterson predicts, you'll be laughing at Peterson.
Critique: A perfect combination of wit and wisdom, humor and humanity, "Happiness is a Warm Carcass: Assorted Sordid Stories from the Photographer in the Midst" is an inherently fascinating, engaging, and entertaining read from first page to last. Very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.
The Whale Chaser
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9780897336109, $24.95, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Tony Ardizzone's novel "The Whale Chaser" is the story of Vince Sansone, the eldest child and only son in a large Italian-American family, who comes of age in 1960s Chicago. A constant disappointment to his embittered father (a fishmonger who shows his displeasure with his fists) Vince finds solace by falling in love. Classmate Marie Santangelo, the neighborhood butcher's winsome daughter, entices him with passionate kisses and the prospect of entering her family's business. Yet he pursues Lucy Sheehan, an older girl with a "reputation," who has also been victimized by the adults in her life. When Vince abruptly flees Chicago he ends up in Tofino, a picturesque fishing town on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. First he works gutting fish, then is hired by Tofino's most colorful dealer, Mr. Zig-Zag, and joins the thriving marijuana trade. Ultimately, through his friendship with Ignatius George, an Ahousaht native, he finds his calling as a whale guide. Vince must come to terms with the consequences of his actions as well as his family's version of la storia segreta, the unspoken story of how his grandfather, like thousands of other Italians and Italian-Americans, was evacuated from prohibited zones on the West Coast and, along with hundreds of others, interned in a prison camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Set in the turbulent decades of the Vietnam War and the drug and hippie counterculture, "The Whale Chaser" is a powerful story about the possibility of redemption.
Critique: Impressively well written from beginning to end, "The Whale Chaser" is a complex and deftly crafted novel that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. Tony Ardizzone is an exceptional novelist and "The Whale Chaser" is very highly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Whale Chaser" is also available in a paperback edition (9780897339230, $16.95) and in a Kindle format ($13.10).
Abraham Lincoln and White America
Brian R. Dirck
University Press of Kansas
2501 West 15th Street, Lawrence, KS 66049
9780700618279, $24.95, 230pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: As "Savior of the Union" and the "Great Emancipator," Abraham Lincoln has been lauded for his courage, wisdom, and moral fiber. Yet Frederick Douglass's assertion that Lincoln was the "white man's president" has been used by some detractors as proof of his fundamentally racist character. Viewed objectively, Lincoln was a white man's president by virtue of his own whiteness and that of the culture that produced him. Until now, however, historians have rarely explored just what this means for our understanding of the man and his actions.
Critique: An impressively informative and thought-provoking work of seminal scholarship, "Abraham Lincoln and White America" by Brian R. Dirck (Professor of History at Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana) is enhanced with the inclusion of thirty pages of Notes, a seven page Bibliography, and a twenty-three page Index. "Abraham Lincoln and White America" is a very highly recommended addition to both community and academic library 19th Century American History and Lincoln Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Abraham Lincoln and White America" is also available in a paperback edition (9780700621118, $22.95) and in a Kindle format ($21.80).
Black Panthers for Beginners
Herb Boyd, author
Lance Tooks, illustrator
155 Main Street, Suite 211, Danbury, CT 06810
9780863161964, $15.95, 153pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Black Panther Party or BPP (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was a revolutionary black nationalist and socialist organization active in the United States from 1966 until 1982, with its only international chapter operating in Algeria from 1969 until 1972. In "Black Panthers for Beginners" journalist and academician Herb Boyd examines the legacy of the Black Panthers, assessing the tangible and the intangible contributions of these young militants, as well as where they went astray. Contains profiles of Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown, David Hilliard and others. " journalist and teacher" is enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations by Lance Tooks throughout.
Critique: A succinct and informative history, "Black Panthers for Beginners" is as informed and informative as it is thoroughly reader friendly from beginning to end. A relatively quick and easy read, "Black Panthers for Beginners" is very highly recommended for personal, community and academic library African American Studies and 20th Century American Political Science Studies reference collections in general, and Black Panthers Party supplemental studies lists in particular.
Survivors And Exiles
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814339053, $46.99, 360pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: After the Holocaust's near complete destruction of European Yiddish cultural centers, the Yiddish language was largely viewed as a remnant of the past, tragically eradicated in its prime. In "Survivors and Exiles: Yiddish Culture after the Holocaust", Jan Schwarz (Associate Professor of Yiddish Studies at Lund University, Sweden) reveals that, on the contrary, Yiddish culture in the two and a half decades after the Holocaust was in dynamic flux. Yiddish writers and cultural organizations maintained a staggering level of activity in fostering publications and performances, collecting archival and historical materials, and launching young literary talents. Professor Schwarz traces the transition from the Old World to the New through the works of seven major Yiddish writers-including well-known figures (Isaac Bashevis Singer, Avrom Sutzkever, Yankev Glatshteyn, and Chaim Grade) and some who are less well known (Leib Rochman, Aaron Zeitlin, and Chava Rosenfarb). The first section, Ground Zero, presents writings forged by the crucible of ghettos and concentration camps in Vilna, Lodz, and Minsk-Mazowiecki. Subsequent sections, Transnational Ashkenaz and Yiddish Letters in New York, examine Yiddish culture behind the Iron Curtain, in Israel and the Americas. Two appendixes list Yiddish publications in the book series Dos poylishe yidntum (published in Buenos Aires, 1946-66) and offer transliterations of Yiddish quotes. "Survivors and Exiles" charts a transnational post-Holocaust network in which the conflicting trends of fragmentation and globalization provided a context for Yiddish literature and artworks of great originality. Schwarz includes a wealth of examples and illustrations from the works under discussion, as well as photographs of creators, making this volume not only a critical commentary on Yiddish culture but also an anthology of sorts.
Critique: An impressively written, organized and presented work of remarkably detailed research, "Survivors and Exiles: Yiddish Culture after the Holocaust" is a truly seminal work of exceptional scholarship. Enhanced with the inclusion of two appendices, thirty-four pages of Notes, a fourteen page Bibliography, and a twenty-one page Index, "Survivors and Exiles" is a valued and very highly recommended addition to community and academic library Yiddish Studies, Holocaust Studies; and Judaic Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Survivors and Exiles" is also available in a Kindle edition ($24.99).
Have Gun - Will Travel
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814339763, $19.99, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: One of the most successful series of its time, Have Gun-Will Travel became a cultural phenomenon in the late 1950s and made its star, Richard Boone, a nationwide celebrity. The series offered viewers an unusual hero in the mysterious, Shakespeare-spouting gunfighter known only as "Paladin" and garnered a loyal fan base, including a large female following. In Have Gun-Will Travel, film scholar Gaylyn Studlar (David May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities and director of the program in film and media studies at Washington University in St. Louis) draws on a remarkably wide range of episodes from the series' six seasons to show its sophisticated experimentation with many established conventions of the Western. Professor Studlar begins by exploring how the series made the television Western sexy, speaking to mid-twentieth century anxieties and aspirations in the sexual realm through its "dandy" protagonist and more liberal expectations of female sexuality. She also explores the show's interest in a variety of historical issues and contemporaneous concerns-including differing notions of justice and the meaning of racial and cultural difference in an era marked by the civil rights movement. Through a production history of Have Gun-Will Travel, Professor Studlar provides insight into the television industry of the late 1950s and early 1960s, showing how, in this transition period in which programming was moving from sponsor to network control, the series' star exercised controversial influence on his show's aesthetics. Because Have Gun-Will Travel was both so popular and so different from its predecessors and rivals, it presents a unique opportunity to examine what pleasures and challenges television Westerns could offer their audiences. Fans of the show as well as scholars of TV history and the Western genre will enjoy this insightful volume.
Critique: Before Have Gun - Will Travel became a television program it was a weekly half-hour radio show of considerable popularity. Professor Studlar'ls informed and informative history of "Have Gun - Will Travel" is the latest entry in the outstanding 'TV Milestones Series from Wayne State University Press and a very highly recommended addition to community and academic library 20th Century American Popular Culture and 20th Century Television History collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Have Gun - Will Travel" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Willis M. Buhle
The Constitution of the United States of America: Modern Edition
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626342088, $24.95, 152pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Constitution has finally been updated and simplified so that everyone can understand it with the release of Henry Bain's "The Constitution of the United States of America: Modern Edition -- Rearranged and Edited for Ease of Reading". For the first time in more than 200 years, a qualified editor has illuminated the Constitution for a modern audience. It has been arranged logically, with the amendments integrated into appropriate earlier locations and the obsolete parts relegated to the back. The text has been divided into short, manageable segments, each with an explanatory heading, and definitions have been included next to the many old-fashioned and unusual terms. The antique spellings, punctuation, and grammatical forms have been modernized.
Critique: Exceptionally well done in both concept and execution, "The Constitution of the United States of America: Modern Edition -- Rearranged and Edited for Ease of Reading" will prove an invaluable and highly desired addition to both school and community library collections. No college or university Constitutional Studies reference collections should be without it. For personal reading lists it should be noted that it is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
A World Without Boundaries
Two Harbors Press
322 First Avenue N., 5th floor, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781634134828, $18.95, 378pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: After the Hmong fled atrocities in southern China, they became trapped in a civil war in Laos and involved in an alliance with the United States, fighting against the Communists expansion in Indochina during the Vietnam War. The Hmong who sided with the United States in the war, however, faced unimaginable suffering. In "A World Without Boundaries", Ge Xiong weaves details of haunting and vivid accounts of the suffering of a people in a social and political culture that perpetuated nepotism, corruption, and wars, while fostering inequality among ethnicities, genders, and socio-economic castes. "A World Without Boundaries" a story of acts of bloodshed, heartbreak, love, and sacrifice, and -- above all -- of a people who continue to endure many difficulties, yet strive to achieve a better life in an increasingly complex world after they have lost everything.
Critique: Ge Xiong, a former teacher and Hmong refugee from Laos, arrived in Shabbona, Illinois, on January 17, 1979, at age 26, without a word of English. While working full-time, Xiong persistently endeavored to learn English. He now has a bachelor's degree in educational policy and community study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His community service and involvement are widely known in the Hmong community throughout Wisconsin. This background gives Ge Xiong a very special and authentic perspective that combines with an impressive talent for writing and laying out the story of his people. He, himself, is an extraordinary example of an extraordinary people and "A World Without Boundaries" is an extraordinary account of the Hmong people in America which should be a part of every community and academic library collection in the country for the benefit of present and future generations of readers. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A World Without Boundaries" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles
PO Box 505, Fredonia, NY 14063
9781935248675, $16.95, 300pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Johnny Riles is in a rough patch. He's lonesome, he's drunk, and someone's murdered his horse. He spends his days searching for the mysterious killer, for his brother's soul, for a sober reason to live. "The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles" by Gregory Hills is an off-kilter tale spun out with dry humor. Johnny Riles delves beneath stark Western landscapes both literal and figurative to unearth the truths behind his nightmares.
Critique: Impressively well written from beginning to end, "The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles" is a terrifically entertaining read and showcases extraordinary and imaginative storytelling abilities on the part of novelist Gregory Hills that will leave his readers looking eagerly toward his next titles. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).
The Fear Of Islam
Todd H. Green
P.O. Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
9781451465495, $24.00, 362pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: American and European societies, particularly in the long wake of the events of 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and London, have struggled with the recurrent problem of Islamophobia, which continues to surface in waves of controversial legislative proposals, public anger over the construction of religious edifices, and outbreaks of violence. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine contributes fuel to the aggressive debate in Western societies and creates the need for measured discussion about religion, fear, prejudice, otherness, and residual colonialist attitudes. "The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West" speaks into this context, offering an introduction to the historical roots and contemporary forms of religious anxiety regarding Islam within the Western world. Tracing the medieval legacy of religious polemics and violence, Green weaves together a narrative that orients the reader to the complex history and issues that originate from this legacy, continuing through to the early and late modern colonial enterprises, the theories of "Orientalism," and the production of religious discourses of alterity and the clash of civilizations that proliferated in the era of 9/11 and the war on terror. "The Fear Of Islam" contains analysis of interviews from figures such as Keith Ellison, John Esposito, Ingrid Mattson, Eboo Patel, Tariq Ramadan, and others.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Timely and critically important reading, "The Fear Of Islam" is very strongly recommended for both community and academic library Islamic Studies and Political Science Studies reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Fear Of Islam" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.49).
Developing Successful Social Media Plans in Sport Organizations
Jimmy Sanderson & Christopher Yandle
West Virginia University
262 Coliseum, WVU-PE, PO Box 6116
Morgantown, WV 26506-6116
9781935412977, $35.00, 98pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Social media platforms have permeated sport at a rapid rate. It is difficult to find an avenue of sport that these communication technologies do not touch. As a result, sport organization personnel have been faced with the challenge of both integrating and optimizing social media. Given the rapid proliferation of social media into sport, organizational approaches are varied. Authors Jimmy Sanderson and Christopher Yandle fill the need for a central resource that can link practical examples with academic research to provide a compelling overview of developing successful social media plans for sport organizations. The content within "Developing Successful Social Media Plans in Sport Organizations" will be beneficial to industry professionals as well as be a useful classroom resource for sport management and sport communication faculty and students. As an additional resource, "Developing Successful Social Media Plans in Sport Organizations" also includes case studies and input from athletic administrators, coaches, and athletes.
Critique: An exceptionally well written, organized and presented collaboration by two sports media experts, "Developing Successful Social Media Plans in Sport Organizations" is critically important reading for anyone charged with media relations for any type of amateur or professional sports organization. Very highly recommended for professional sports organization and academic library Sports Management reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
The Strange Side of the Tracks
Parkhurst Brothers Publishers
9781935166955, $17.00, 284pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Some kids have to grow up fast. "The Strange Side of the Tracks" is the story of Lonnie Tobin, who is one such young man. Weary of the physical abuse his mother is subjected to from his father, Lonnie takes matters into his own hands. Convincing her to flee their fearful home life, son and mother sneak away in the night to the small town of Rocky Branch, where they find peace with her family. It is a corner of the world he thought they had left behind forever. But mysteries abound in this little wooded village, and an unexpected adventure begins when word of a nightly monster on the loose stirs fear among the residents. Young Lonnie soon forgets about his father and becomes fascinated by the story, only to find he might be spending a little too much time on "The Strange Side of the Tracks".
Critique: Author George Avant has a particular and exceptional talent for original storytelling. Impressively well written and engagingly entertaining from beginning to end, "The Strange Side of the Tracks" is very highly recommended for personal lists and community library General Fiction collections.
The United States Army in China, 1900 - 1938
Alfred Emile Cornebise
McFarland, PO Box 611
Jefferson NC 28640
9780786497706, $47.75, 296pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The United States Army in China 1900-1938: A History of the 9th, 14th, 15th and 31st Regiments in the East" by Alfred Emile Cornebise (Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley) is a study of U.S. - Chinese relations involving the U.S. Army, this work focuses at the personnel level on the Army's service in China. While studies have been published of the U.S. Marines' and U.S. Navy's involvement in China, little previous attention has been given the Army's missions in this theater. Operations in China were a key part of the history and traditions of the 9th, 14th, 15th and 31st Regiments, whose coats of arms still feature dragons as symbols of their service there. Many who served in the 15th in China went on to impressive careers as general officers, prompting one soldier to ask "what other infantry regiment of those days can boast of such an alumni list?" Also covered is the 31st Regiments' involvement in Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the prelude of the coming of World War II in Asia.
Critique: A superbly researched, deftly organized, impressively presented, and enormously informative study, "The United States Army in China 1900-1938" is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship that includes illustrations, chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index. "The United States Army in China 1900-1938" will prove a highly prized and valued addition to personal and academic library 20th Century American Military reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Ernst Haas: On Set
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 - 6th Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9783869305875, $70.00, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Ernst Haas (March 2, 1921 - September 12, 1986) was a photojournalist and a pioneering color photographer. "Ernst Haas: On Set focuses upon the film stills of Ernst Haas from 1921to 1986. One of the most accomplished photographers of the 20th century, transgressing the borders between still photography and the moving image, Haas worked with a variety of eminent directors ranging from Vittorio de Sica to John Huston, Gene Kelly and Michael Cimino and depicted cinema genres from suspense (The Third Man, The Train) to the Western (The Oregon Trail, Little Big Man), and from comedy (Miracle in Milan, Love and Death) to musicals (West Side Story, Hello Dolly). Haas inscribed a temporal, filmic dimension into his stills which, when viewed in a sequence, generate movement and narrative. So accomplished was his mastery of color, light and motion that Haas was frequently asked to photograph large group actions from the battle scenes of The Charge of the Light Brigade and the dances of West Side Story to the ski slopes of Downhill Racer. "Ernst Haas: On Set" elucidates a novel perspective on the sets and the stars Haas photographed, and reveals a little-known but crucial dimension of his oeuvre.
Critique: Enhanced with two informative essays on Ernst Haas (John P. Jacob's 'On Set' and Walter Moser's 'Moving Pictures"), then followed in chronological order the film projects associated with Haas, and concluding with the commentary of Haas on the subject of 'Cinema Photography', "Ernst Haas: On Set" is a seminal study richly and profusely illustrated with both black-and-white as well as full color images. An extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community and academic library American Photography reference collections.
Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 - 6th Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9783869305431, $90.00, 424pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Arthur Elgort (born June 8, 1940) is an American fashion photographer best known for his work with Vogue magazine. "Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture" is a comprehensive compilation of his photography, showcasing his world-renowned fashion imagery alongside his personal work. "Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture" spans Elgort's five-decade career and illustrates his longevity as an emulated fashion photographer. His lively and casual shooting style is significantly influenced by his lifelong love of music and dance, particularly jazz and ballet. Elgort's 1971 debut in British Vogue created a sensation in the fashion world where his soon-to-be iconic snapshot style and emphasis on movement and natural light transgressed norms of fashion photography. Elgort subsequently rose to fame working for such distinguished magazines as American, French and Italian Vogue, Interview, GQ, Life and Rolling Stone and shooting advertising campaigns for fashion labels including Chanel, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent.
Critique: With it's flawless production values in reproducing both black-and-white as well as full color photographs, this Steidl edition of "Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture" is a truly impressive coffee-table art book and very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library American Photography and Fashion History reference collections.
A Tale of Light and Shadow
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781609078720, $17.99, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Atolas is a world where swords and daggers both extend life and end it; where magic is feared by all but a few; where feuds and friendships influence kingdoms and courtships. Henry and Isabelle have secretly sworn to marry despite his lowly station. Though Henry is but a carpenter, his devotion drives him to commit an unthinkable act that may cost both of them their lives. Unknown to either, a dark prophecy has set in motion events which will affect not only them, but the thrones of rulers throughout all of Atolas by eclipsing the world in shadow. But all is not lost while hope remains in the guise of an unlikely hero and the strength of friendship.
Critique: "A Tale of Light and Shadow" is heroic fantasy at its very best and documents author Jacob Gowans as an impressively gifted storyteller with a complete mastery of the genre. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Tale of Light and Shadow" is also available in a paperback edition (9781609079819, $9.99), in a Kindle edition ($9.49), and in an audio book MP3 CD format (Blackstone Audio, 9781483096872, $29.95).
Graves' Retreat / Night of Shadows
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781933586861, $20.95, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Graves' Retreat / Night of Shadows" are two historical mysteries by Ed Gorman and set in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In 'Graves' Retreat' a man's past catches up with him when his bank robbing brother comes to town. In 'Night of Shadows' an aspiring woman detective tries to help an aging gunfighter prove his innocence.
Critique: Thanks to Stark House Press, two 'time lost' classics of noir mystery fiction by a master of the genre are once again available to a new generation of appreciative readers under one cover. "Graves' Retreat / Night of Shadows" is very highly recommended for mystery/suspense enthusiasts and for community library collections.
Garland S. Tucker III
3901 Centerville Road, Wilmington, DE 19807-1938
9781610171366, $27.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: What are its foundational principles of American political conservatism, and how did they form the modern conservative movement? in "Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders Who Shaped America, from Jefferson to Reagan", author Garland Tucker tells answers that question in a lively look at fourteen champions of American conservative thought. "Conservative Heroes" offers brief but penetrating profiles of: The Founders who agreed on the two primary purposes of government -- but differed on how best to achieve the balance between them; A pair of nineteenth-century congressional leaders who fought to preserve the founding vision of a limited national government; The towering statesman whose defense of slavery has obscured his considerable contributions to American constitutional history; The last Democratic president to advance conservative principles; The president and treasury secretary who together reduced taxes and the size of the federal government -- and sparked an economic boom; The forgotten leaders (both Democrats) who spearheaded the conservative challenge to FDR's New Deal; The man who revived the GOP as the conservative party; The three driving forces behind the ascent of modern conservatism.
Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders Who Shaped America, from Jefferson to Reagan" will prove to be of immense interest to both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in American political conservatism. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Political Science reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Conservative Heroes" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess
IM Danny Kopee & NM Hal Terrie
Kopec Chess Services
c/o Casemate Publishers
908 Darby Road, Havertown, PA19083
9781483991573, $29.95, 422pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The collaborative work of two chess masters, this newly updated third edition of "Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess: A Knowledge-Based Approach" reflects the testing and evaluation of human and computer chess players for over 30 years. The original work started with the Bratko-Kopec Test in 1982 whereby 24 positions proved very effective in evaluating the leave of both human and computer chessplayers. This led to the development of five tests which comprised the 1997 first edition of this book. For the 2003 edition Kopec and Terrie added two tests bringing them to a total of 182 positions comprising seven tests. These tests are particularly knowledge-based covering all phases and all levels of chess play. The present edition, our third, adds five new tests, covering the openings including Novice (1000-1499) Intermediate (1500-1999), Advanced (2000-2199) and Super-Advance (2200 - 2700). A test covering the subtleties of King and Pawn Endings has also been added. The new 2013 edition also has the all the tests re-ordered by level of difficulty. All in all, there are 304 positions in this new comprehensive edition. "Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess: A Knowledge-Based Approach" promises to be an excellent tool for self-study and for study of chess in classes, as well as an invaluable tool for chess instructors.
Critique: Impressive, informative, and exceptionally well organized and presented, "Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess: A Knowledge-Based Approach" should be considered a 'must' for all aspiring chess players seeking to improve their performance and competitive abilities. Very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library reference collections, it should be noted that "Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Conversations with Architects: In the Age of Celebrity
9783869222998, $49.95, 584pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The ideas of architects are usually conveyed by their buildings. Vladimir Belogolovsky takes a different approach in his new work. The New York-based author gives a detailed picture of contemporary architects - through words. "Conversations with Architects: In the Age of Celebrity" presents interviews with thirty architects which Belogolovsky conducted in the framework of his long-term, international activities as a curator and author. The names of the interviewees read like a "Who-is-Who" of modern architecture. The fame surrounding these avant-garde masters has eclipsed merely professional circles and reached the conscience of the wide general public. Their iconic work has attracted so much attention in recent years in the mass media that it is often referred to as "Starchitecture".
Critique: A unique and invaluable contribution to Architectural Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists, "Conversations with Architects: In the Age of Celebrity" is strongly recommended as an essential addition to professional and academic library reference collections.
No Bull Information
Morgan James Publishing
4410 E Claiborne Square, Suite 334, Hampton VA 23666-2071
9781630471781, $37.00, 166pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "No Bull Information: A Humorous Practical Guide to Help Americans Adapt to the Information Age" by John Gamble (Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Law, Pennsylvania State University) will help you to flourish in our information-dense world. You begin by sharpening your information sensors. Learn how to spot, avoid, and help to correct information absurdities. Meet 'Arnbi' -- your guide on the road to better information. Arnbi has much advice to offer. Usually these are called ARMBisms such as: Too bad, but "simple" is a square peg that seldom fits into the round hole that is our modern world. Facts are necessary but they must be put into context (PUTFiC). Lies, damn lies, and statistics --- cute, but it's not that simple. Winning World War II is a major cause of the health care financing crisis of 2013. In a matter of hours, you will be able to use principles explained in "No Bull Information", take better control of the bull-laden world around you, and take action to improve everything from supermarket pricing to politicians' cliches. You can begin on your way to check out in a supermarket.
Critique: Perhaps one of the most germane, important, iconoclastic, and useful books published for the non-specialist general reader today, "No Bull Information: A Humorous Practical Guide to Help Americans Adapt to the Information Age" is impressively informed and informative. A relatively quick and easy read, "No Bull Information" should be a part of every community and academic library collection. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "No Bull Information" is also available in a paperback edition (9781630471767, $16.00) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).
The Man Who Painted The Universe
Ron Legro & Avi Lank
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
816 State Street, Madison, WI 53575
9780870207112, $22.95, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: As a young boy Frank Kovac Jr. fell deeply in love with stargazing, painting glow-in-the-dark constellations on his bedroom wall and inviting friends to an observatory he built in his Chicago backyard. As he reached adulthood, Kovac did not let go of his childhood dreams of reaching the stars. He began scheming to bring the universe home. While working at a paper mill as a young man, Kovac tirelessly built a 22-foot rotating globe planetarium in the woods. Despite failures and collapses, the amateur astronomer singlehandedly built a North Woods treasure, painting more than 5,000 glowing stars -- dot by dot in glowing paints. Today, Kovac and his unique planetarium take visitors to the stars every day. "The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods" introduces readers to the mild-mannered astronomy enthusiast whose creativity, ingenuity, fervor, and endurance realized a dream of galactic proportions.
Critique: "The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods" is an inherently fascinating, informative, and even inspiring read that will have very special appeal to anyone with an interest in astronomy. Exceptionally well co-written by Ron Legro and Avil Lank, "The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods" is an absolute 'must have' for all Wisconsin community libraries. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.99).
Who Rules Japan?
Leon Wolff, Luke Nottage, Kent Anderson, editors
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781849804103, $120.00, 232pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The dramatic growth of the Japanese economy in the post-war period, and its meltdown in the 1990s, generated major reform recommendations in 2001 from the Justice System Reform Council aimed at greater civic engagement with law. "Who Rules Japan?: Popular Participation in the Japanese Legal Process" examines the regulation and design of the Japanese legal system and contributes a legal perspective to the long-standing debate in Japanese Studies with respect to the fundamental question of just who governs Japan? "Who Rules Japan?" explores the extent to which a new Japanese state has emerged from this reform effort -- one in which the Japanese people participate more freely in the legal system and have a greater stake in Japan's future. Expert contributors from across the globe tackle the question of whether Japan is now a judicial state, upturning earlier views of Japan as an administrative state. "Who Rules Japan?" explores well-known reforms, such as lay participation in criminal justice, but also less well-canvassed topics such as industrial relations, dispute resolution, government lawyers, law within popular culture in Japan, and social welfare and the law. The blend of empiricism, policy analysis, theory and doctrine provides a discerning insight into the impact of the law reform initiatives from the Justice System Reform Council.
Critique: Featuring eight learned contributions from a wide variety of academics, ""Who Rules Japan?: Popular Participation in the Japanese Legal Process" is a seminal work of impressive scholarship that is very highly recommended as a critically important addition to professional, governmental, corporate, and academic library Japanese Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
The Druze: A New Cultural and Historical Appreciation
International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9781859643532, $66.45, 312pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Druze are a much-misunderstood Muslim sect primarily inhabiting the Levant. The Druze have endured centuries of persecution by orthodox elements hostile to Islam's rich sectarian diversity on account of their esoteric divergence from mainstream Islam. As a result, they have become a 'fighting minority,' as described by one of their most illustrious leaders. Druze religious belief branched out from 10th- and 11th-century Shi'ism, and includes elements derived from Islamic mysticism. It enshrines all religious schools, but posits itself as the sole path to mystical knowledge. Druze teachings are kept secret, so libel and slander by their opponents have been generally left uncorrected. The Druze have preferred taqiyya (dissimulation) when independence or freedom of belief proved unattainable, which has exacerbated ignorance of their faith. Such mystification makes any enquiry into Druze doctrine or history a delicate endeavor. "The Druze: A New Cultural and Historical Appreciation" is an valuable study, in which Abbas Halabi (a former judge and professor of law at Universite St-Joseph de Beyrouth, and who currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Beirut and the Arab Countries, and who is himself from a prominent Druze family and closely involved in Lebanese Druze policy) elucidates misconceptions about Druze origins. In a clear style, rich in chronology and analysis, Halabi elaborates on the political role played by the Druze in the history of the region and evaluates their chances of survival in an era when religious tolerance and political democracy are still nascent.
Critique: Exceptionally well informed and informative, "The Druze: A New Cultural and Historical Appreciation" is a detailed and inherently fascinating introduction to the Druze. Impressively well written, organized and presented, "The Druze: A New Cultural and Historical Appreciation" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Islamic Studies collections in general, the Druze supplemental studies lists in particular. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Druze: A New Cultural and Historical Appreciation" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Michael J. Carson
Android Hunters (Corli Saga Book 1)
War Planet Press
c/o Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
155 Suffolk Street, #2R, New York, NY 10002
9781680680027, $10.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
When I was much, much younger I thought I was tough and mean. Boy, did I think I was mean. I always imagined myself telling somebody that was picking on me that if they didn't leave me alone, I'd rip their arm off and beat them to death with it! I always thought that was just a "cool" thing to say. I can't imagine ever doing something like that, but our author has his characters doing this all the time. I mean, androids ripping human arms off and then thrashing everyone in sight with it or our android hunters, who are human, rip off an android arm and beat them to death with it. Whoa, how gruesome! But that's what happens in this book, a lot!
You see, we're in the far, far distant future. Way beyond where androids were common place and used by their creators, humans, to do things humans didn't want to do. And, humans built our androids so well, you almost can't tell which is human and which is android on the outside, that is. Then one day, the Androids decided they were done doing what humans wanted them to do. They felt that humans had made them do way to many terrible, terrible things and now they were going to teach the humans a lesson. So the Androids apparently slaughtered a billion or more humans on a planet some eighty years ago. A billion! Since then, Androids have been hunted down and exterminated. A mistake that humanity should never have created.
Except the Androids don't want to be exterminated and neither does the Primus Collective!
The story is great with a lot of high-tech action and fighting. You'll meet the Android Hunters, a team of tactical specialist that have been "enhanced" to almost equal the strength of an Android. They hate Androids and terminate such on sight with a vengeance. The team you meet seems pretty well balanced. The characters are pretty well developed, but not every thing is clear about their past. You'll find a kind of love story going on between two of the team members which is kind of interesting. And, then you'll meet one Android that thinks he's working directly for God. Yeah, he thinks he's working for THE ONE AND ONLY, but of course he's not. He's just totally psycho, but he's become the Android leader.
Lastly, there's got to be a sequel. Too many things are left hanging at the end of this story to just let it go. And then there's Corli. What is she going to do? Who's side is she on? Heaven help us if she's not on the side of the humans.
I really liked the book, but there are lots and lots of editorial mistakes. Missing words or bad grammar in almost every chapter and on almost every page. Sorry, but they are there and it distracts from the reading. Future books need to have a lot better editing as far as this reader is concerned.
Soldiers (Exodus: Empires at War Book 8)
9781512254792,$19.00 Paperback, $4.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
Missiles, missiles and more missiles. That's about all this book is about. The Empire under Sean the First has finally driven the Casa's out of Empire territory, but they know the Cacas are going to mass for a counterattack someday in the future. Also, Sean knows that he's going to have to take this fight to the Caca's home world before it's over. I tend to agree. Any enemy that wants to eat you has to be completely eradicated.
The Empire has found out that the Cacas have captured the last planet they passed by on their retreat. That planet happens to be New Moscow and it has about seven hundred million people still on it. This planet wasn't exactly part of the Empire. They were going it alone and as such didn't have the ships necessary to evacuate their entire population. So, when the Cacas came, most of the population was still on the planet. As I mentioned earlier, the Cacas eat humans. It's a delicacy for them. And, they eat a lot. Now they have over 700,000,000 humans corralled in camps all over the planet New Moscow and they are processing them through their food processing plants as fast as they can.
Sean and the Empire isn't going to stand by while the Cacas eat that many humans even if they are not directly his subjects. He tells his military staff to plan on getting those people rescued, not to attack the planet and get everyone killed, but safely rescue seven hundred million people. It's obviously going to be a very tough job and it's going to cost a lot of lives. Any type of rescue will involve soldiers on the ground fighting for the defenseless humans.
So, how does the Empire plan to pull this off? That's what the book is about. You'll have to read it to get the details. I'll admit, there was a lot of space battles involving missiles, so much so that I got tired of reading how many missiles were coming towards which group of starships. I must be missing something because I don't understand how missiles fired days away can still hit a target that may or may not be where it was aimed. The battles do get confusing. Nobody in this book is a hero but you do have a cast of characters from the previous books which is what I like.
And another point I'll make, this battle doesn't seem to end in this book. I felt it abruptly shut down there at the end for some reason. I hope the next book comes out soon because there are a lot of lose ends with this one.
The Fall of the Core: Netcast Zero (The Frontiers Saga)
Frontiers Saga Publishing
B00YBGVXVY, $0.99, Kindle ebook, www.amazon.com
Ah, hmm..., what I thought was a book, turned out to be a long short-story. I've written term papers longer than this "book"! I'm really surprised, too, because the author, Ryk Brown, has written a ton of really, really good stuff. His epic, "The Frontiers Saga", has 13 books in the series and I don't think it's done yet! I don't have a clue how this little story is supposed to fit in.
It involves two women at the beginning. Both appear to be bright and intelligent. They are in the news business. One is a "talking head" and the other is her producer. They have a videographer who shoots all their interviews. So, it's a team of three trying to get into the big time with one big story.
They are interviewing a computer expert about a computer virus that's running around Earth causing all sorts of problems. He tells them he's confident they can stop it but it is taking time. They finish that interview, their videographer quits to go to greener pastures, but the two women have to press on. They have another "gig" lined up in Boston. So off on the mag-lev they go.
Now this is in the far, far future, I hope. Everyone or most everyone has been implanted with health nanites and augmented rural messaging devices. These messaging devices allow instant communication through thought just like sending an email. That's how this two women usual converse during their interviews, passing non-verbal messages to each other so the one doing the interviews can ask reasonably intelligent questions and they can stay on topic.
I'm not going to write much more now. If I did, you'd have the entire story in just a few paragraphs! The author wrote just a little more, but not much. It's a good interesting story-line that could and should be developed into a book. But, this effort is not a book.
Lineage (The Technomage Archive, Book 2)
B. J. Keeton
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781495358746,$14.99 paperback, $2.99 Kindle ebook, www.amazon.com
This strange story continues. I say strange because it's not my regular kind of science fiction (military). It's about a group of kids, now grown up, who went to a school to learn to become Charons or Technomages. It's all about nanites. If you don't know what those are, then you're really not into science fiction. Nanites are the coming future. They are simple put, very, very, very tiny machines that work together to get amazing things done. The Charons know how to control nanites and their bodies are full of them.
Ceril, our min character, is a young man that has been through a lot. It's a wonder he's still alive, but he's very much alive and soon out of his hospital bed. He has been in a coma for about three months recovering from his bout with the High Priestess in Jaronya. He lost an arm and part of a leg or both legs, I'm a little confused on that, but he's recovered. How in the heck do you recover from something like that?
Anyway, his recovery was made possible by his "doctors" who filled his body with nanites. Instead of blood, he has nanites running through his veins and now he can "conjure" up a new arm and leg(s) which will work perfectly in place of those that are gone. Yeah, I know. Pretty convenient, but this is science fiction.
Anyway, Ceril and his friends, Saryn, Chuckie, and Harlo, have decided they need to find out who this Untouchable person is who's destroying all the Charons and their schools. To do this, they have to go back to Ternia where Ceril and his Gramps lived and search for clues. This leads them back to a familiar place, Jaronya.
As you read in the first book, "Birthright", Gramps isn't the nice lovable guy we all thought he was. He seems to be pretty crazy to me. Ceril knows there's some kind of connection between the Untouchable and his Gramps, but he just doesn't want to believe it. He has to prove they are not the same person. He hopes to do that in Jaronya. Jaronya is a very strange place. It was created by Gramps and some of his creations are not only weird but dangerous. Ceril and his friends find out their journey is going to cost them dearly; two in particular.
I liked the writing once you get past all the bloody fights. Sword fighting can never be clean, and the author certainly makes it graphically clear that it's not. There's also a lot of just killing for no good reason. Why kill a receptionist who's just sitting at her desk? Someone walks out of a room that Gramps was walking into and he crushes their head. If Gramps is a god, then I certainly wouldn't want to be around him. And what about Ceril? Is he the same as Gramps since they are family, or are they?
The Alliance (Galactic Empire Wars #4)
Raymond L. Weil
Raymond L. Weil Publication, LLC
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781514800614, $12.99 PB, $3.99, Kindle, www.amazon.com
This was a very good story. We continue the series from the point where the Kleese have finally realized that these humans and their Alliance might be a problem after all. They have a new military leader, a Zaltule of the Warrior class, called Supreme Military Overlord Harmock. He is intent on wiping out all the humans and their allies.
This book covers several different military operations which all come together pretty much at the end. Initially, a medium sized group of Marines are deposited on a planet that has a number of Zaltule in control. After being dropped on the planet, the Naval Fleet is attacked and begins defending themselves.
Admiral Adamson soon finds out that his Human and Alliance Fleet just isn't big enough to defeat the Zaltule fleet in the vicinity of the planet where the Marines were dropped. He tries everything he can to get back to that planet and pickup the Marines, but fails to get them all. They have to leave some where around 240 Marines on the planet.
These stranded Marines know they are in deep trouble. Among this group is Lieutenant Ryan Nelson, brother to Colonel (Col) Wade Nelson. Col Nelson is aboard Admiral Adamson's flag ship and he also tries everything possible to rescue his brother and the rest of his Marines, but it isn't going to happen. The fleet does manage to place a drop ship down on the planet so the Marines will have enough supplies even though no one knows when the fleet will make it back.
They do know that the Zaltule won't let the Marines just stay on the planet. Sure enough, while the Marines are trying to hold onto the space port, a drop ship full of Zaltule comes down for them. They expect to be blasted from space, but instead, all the Marines are hit with a stun ray. They wake up later to find themselves on a Zaltule warship wearing collars of obedience. They are now prisoners of the Zaltule!
Meanwhile, Admiral Adamson and Col. Nelson are trying to figure out a way to go after their Marines. Due to some intelligence, they know where they're heading...straight for the Zaltule home world. Apparently, the Supreme Military Overlord wants to interrogate and test these Marines to find out why they are giving the Zaltule so many problems. All Zaltule are superior to any other race or so the Zaltule have always thought. They believe the Humans are vermin just like all the other sub-races, except for Military Overlord Harmock. He has a suspicion that these Humans are every bit the equal of the Zaltule and my even be superior. He needs to find out why.
Admiral Adamson knows that the Deltons, a new Alliance member race, want to try and rescue as many of their top minds from their planet. Unfortunately, their planet is very, very close to the Zaltule home system. Still, a plan is drawn up to do the rescue of the Deltons, and also to find and free the captured Marines, if possible.
I find the story to be very logically laid out. Some of the things they have to do are very risky, but that's what war is all about. Risk taking is almost a way of life for the military. Those that don't take risks, usually have to fight a defensive battle all the time and can be worn down over time. Being bold and risk takers makes the humans and their alliance partners very unpredictable to the Zaltule. So far they haven't figured out that's how humans fight.
I like that the author doesn't dwell on missile count or on the number of ships in this fleet or that fleet. Sometimes authors try to turn their readers into accountants by itemizing every little thing in a battle. This author tells the high points and provides the reason one side wins and then moves on. That's good writing as far as I'm concerned. He also makes his stories cover multiple events during each book. It's not just about one battle and one group of people. Here in this book we follow several streams of action which nicely come to a great ending.
I would encourage anyone who likes science fiction and especially military sci-fi to read this series from the beginning. This is very, very good storytelling.
The Lost Fleet: Galactic Search (A Slavers War Novel)
Raymond L. Weil
Raymond L. Weil Publications LLC
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508854142, $11.99 Paperback, $3.99, Kindle, www.amazon.com
In the last book, three of our heroes were just blasted through a black hole. Along with them was two very large Alliance Fleets and a large contingent of AI ships. No one knows for sure if they survived the galactic vortex expulsion which must have happened on the other side of the black hole. They know where they think the Lost Fleets went, but there's nothing to tell anyone what exactly happened once they reached another galaxy. If they did survive, what about the surviving AIs?
Our heroes are of course Jeremy, Kevin, Angela, Kelsey, and Kate. They are known throughout the galaxy as the Special Five and if you want to know why, then start reading the series from the beginning. I don't really understand what's so special about these five other than they seem to always be in some kind of trouble. Jeremy must be very special since he and only he has been promoted all the way from lowly Cadet to an Admiral in a very short time. Why the other Special Five haven't been treated this way is unknown. Kevin is still a communication guy manning a console in the Command Center usually on Jeremy's Starship. Angela, Kate and Kelsey are all Lieutenants or so it seems and have been Lieutenants since the series started. Admiral Barnes, their current Commanding Officer continually thinks about promoting Kate and Kelsey but never seems to get around to do it.
Anyway, Kate and Kelsey, who happen to be married to Jeremy and Kevin, have gone on the war path to get a rescue mission started to get their husbands back and oh, yeah, the rest of the Lost Fleets. They constantly hammer at the Altons, the Care Bares, and the Admiralty until something is actually done. With everyone's help and lots of money, the Distant Horizon is built and sets off to try and re-create the same event that push/pulled the Lost Fleet through the black hole. They have to make a few stops on the way to the galactic center picking up some knowledge from the Altons home world that wasn't known before and to get an ominous warning from former Fleet Admiral Streth.
Then, using one of the only remaining AI power cells not destroyed in the last book, they drive their starship Distant Horizon, the mightiest starship every built, through the black hole. They are hoping to come out somewhere close to the vicinity of the Lost Fleet and then be able to meet up with Jeremy and his people. Unfortunately, their calculated route must be exact or they could wind up thousands of light-years from the Lost Fleet. Additionally, they have a suspicion that another threat exists in this new galaxy, but they don't know to what extent.
Just as they enter the black hole, a piece of space junk strikes the Distant Horizon throws her off course by centimeters. Over three thousand light years, that error adds up. Who knows where they will end up now.
And now starts the new drama in a new galaxy. Will the Distant Horizon ever meet up with the Lost Fleet? What is the new threat that Fleet Admiral Streth warned them about. He said it was worse than the AIs.
And worst of all, Kevin with Jeremy's fleet is almost out of hamburgers! He might not survive long enough to be rescued! Read the book and eat a hamburger for Kevin!
This is pure space opera at it's fighting. The author does a very good job of keeping you interested in what's going on since it's not all about the "Special Five" all the time. There are other story-lines going on that helps keep you interested. This particular book kind of dwells on the feels of the Special Five and their feeling of being separated for almost four years now. I think it could have been toned down just a little, but of course my Wife says I have no heart anyway! Enjoy the book!
Contact: Find the Missing - Fear the Found
Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
Sterling & Stone
NO ISBN, $4.99 Kindle, $12.99 Paperback
This is the second book in the series. The first book, in case you missed it, was titled, "Invasion". You'll need to read that one to figure out what in whole is going on in this one.
Last time we read, our hero had just mysteriously walked out of his underground bunker that he spent many weeks trying to reach from New York City. His bunker in somewhere in the vicinity of Vail, Colorado. Meyer Dempsey was a self-made billionaire so he could build just about anything he wanted, anywhere he wanted it. For reasons only known to him, he chose this land in Colorado. It was to be a family get-away, but then Meyer started "knowing something was about to happen".
Then the alien ships showed up coming from Jupiter. The telescopes on the back side of the moon capture six objects that clearly had to be made by someone heading for Earth. So, what did everyone on Earth do? They went crazy of course! People started thinking they had to get out of the big cities or go somewhere other than where they were. They had definitely seen too many sic-fi shows on TV. It pretty much turned into chaos right after the videos of the alien ships were shown on national TV.
Meyer Dempsey, even with his billions, rounded up his family and headed for Colorado. How they got there and their adventure on the way is the content of the first book. This book is about what happens after Meyer was "taken" by an alien ship. No, it's not about his contact with the aliens so I don't know why the title say "Contact".
The Dempsey Family, minus Meyer plus his ex-wife Heather, are in the underground bunker for the duration of the alien visitation or for however long it takes. They may be in the bunker for a long, long time. On top of the bunker has grown a hippy community which have gathered here because it was the place that Meyer Dempsey was taken. There are always going to be people who want to be "taken" so they figure this is the place to be and we'll just wait. They are squatting on the land and unfinished house. But, there are others who know of the secure door to something in the pantry of the house. They're not sure what is on the other side of the door, but they have a suspicion that's strong enough to make them want to break in.
So, these five or six guys, all definitely the type you want to invite into your house, are making an effort to break into the underground bunker. Now that Meyer has left, none of the occupants know anything about how the bunker is supposed to operate. For doomsday prepers, they sure did a bad job.
Do the bad guys get into the bunker? I don't know, you have to read the book. What about the aliens? There are stories about some of the "taken" being returned. Will Meyer Dempsey ever return? The story continues to be exciting and somewhat unpredictable. Being enclosed in an underground bunker for a long period of time might not be pleasant for even the sanest people and I don't think all of the Dempsey family is sane to start with. This covers a lot of the emotional turmoil going on with each of the characters in the bunker plus some others. We get some insight into what is happening but not much. This book makes for a good reason to have to read the next book. I enjoyed it and think you will too.
Inevitable: The Future Has Already Happened
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781514232644, $14.43, www.amazon.com
Another fantastic science fiction book sent to me by a publisher. I had no idea what this book might be about so I decided to read it and find out! Am I ever glad I did!
This is probably one of the best written books I have ever read. I don't mean that the story and everything is perfect, it's just that the writing flows so easily that it is an extremely easy book to read, even though it has a ton of technical science jargon. The two main characters, well, three really, are an Egyptologist, a Physicist, and a Molecular Biologist. That's two men and a woman who live in very different parts of the world. The Egyptologist, Dr. Syed Azad is an Egyptian Muslim who lives quite nicely in Cairo. His, at first professional acquaintance, Dr. Jake Banner, lives in California and specifically is on the faculty of Stanford University teaching mathematics and physics. The female of the group, Dr. Linda Cooper, also is a member of the Sanford University faculty and so lives somewhere in the close vicinity of Dr. Banner. She is a very close friend of Jake, but it is right now, just a professional friendship in which they discuss mutual scientific stuff on occasion. Linda doesn't know Dr. Azad, Syed, yet, but she will soon get to know him pretty well.
Syed calls Jake one morning and tells him that he has in his possession an Egyptian tablet of incredible age with something very peculiar inscribed in it. He says he has validated the authenticity of the tablet and its age has been verified through several normal scientific methods used by archeologist. The only problem with this tablet, he tells, Jake, is that it has a the Schrödinger equation inscribed in it! OK, for all you physicists out there, you're going to say, "I know what that is.", and you probably do, but I don't think you'd expect to see an equation just a century old inscribed on a tablet that's dates back to three thousand B.C.! And there could be even more tablets available that have other equations and information that just shouldn't have existed in that time period.
So, these three scientists get together in Egypt at the home of Syed and seek to figure out what this all means. How could the ancient Egyptians know about or be aware of current mathematics involving quantum particles?
The book is part Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and the movie, "Love Story". There is a lot of intrigue and mysterious stuff that these three have to get involved in to secure more tablets and then figure out what they contain. Once they get started, there's no stopping them. They discover some pretty significant information that appears to come from the future; but whose future? There's even a glimpse of a possible cataclysmic event that may happen in our very near future, but will it happen now that they know about it?
Although the science if pretty heavy at times, if you're like me, you'll just let it pass on by overhead. I'm not a scientist, but I can understand some of this stuff. In the end, this book turns out to be very different that what you expect. Remember, I said it was part "Love Story". A very sneaky author, indeed!
Jim Chapman, Reviewer
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780385744645, $12.96, 272pp, http://www.randomhouse.com/kids
Age Range: Middle Grade 9-12 years old
Theme: The theme of Raising Rufus"by David Fulk (Delcorte, 2015), is the power of outcasts. In this case the outcast is a dinosaur born into a world in which it does not belong - much like the boy who loves and raises it.
Basic Plot: Martin Tinker is an 11-year-old boy who lives on a farm. He's an intellectual outcast at school, and a disappointment to his father who would prefer a football-playing son to a science-minded son. Nevertheless, Martin is the frequent target of bullies and avoids the other kids at school whenever possible.
As a replacement for social interaction he engages in entomology (bug collecting), and one day while alone and hunting butterflies, he comes across a large frozen egg. He takes the egg home, and it begins to thaw. As it does, it begins to move around. Eventually it hatches, and what Martin thinks is a deformed lizard ends up growing into a Tyrannosaurus rex.
One of the problems with suddenly finding himself in possession of a dinosaur is that his father has disallowed him any pets, so he tries to keep the T-Rex (he's named, Rufus) hidden in the family's barn.
Unfortunately, feeding its' voracious appetite with ever-increasing amounts of dog food and meat makes hiding Rufus progressively more difficult.
With the help of an equally ostracized new girl in school, Audrey, the two attempt to raise the dinosaur and train it like one might train a dog. But they are found out by Martin's parents. Consequently, Martin's dad decides to sell Rufus to a local circus owner.
The climax of the story occurs as Martin and Audrey attempt to rescue Rufus and turn him over to the junior high school's science teacher, Mr. Eckhart. Mr. Eckhart happens to be a zoologist with scientific connections at the local university.
After an emotional challenge between Martin and his father, his father comes to see Martin's side and refuses the transaction with the circus owner. There is an unlikely deus ex machina of the middle school students who come to defend the dinosaur, and eventually the zoologist-teacher is able to take possession of Rufus along with his science colleagues. Ultimately, they relocate the beast to the Yucatan peninsula where it is seen off by Martin and Audrey, presumably to go on growing up into a full-grown T-Rex.
Setting: Menominee Springs is a fictitious rural town in Wisconsin. It provides the needed forests and farmland to make raising a T-Rex possible, or at least plausible. Ironically, Wisconsin is one of the few places in North America where there are no dinosaur fossils. It was underwater during that time in history, but this irony is important. It suggest a truly unexpected finding that sometimes happens in the least likely of settings, a black swan event, which mirrors Martin's own existence in his particular family setting.
Another irony of the setting created by the author is the final relocation of Rufus. The Yucatan is the sight of the Chicxulub crater. That crater was made by an asteroid that is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Thus the end of "Raising Rufus" occurs at the literal end of dinosaurs.
Character: Fulk is a skilled writer when it comes to creating the character of Martin Tinker. Martin's predisposition for intellectual pursuits is gradually built up over the course of the story through various scenes. In one, his father is trying to teach Martin to catch a football, a task Martin not only detests, but is incapable of accomplishing in that context. However, in one scene, as the football soars past him, it hits the shelf where the newly found egg is resting. Martin dives for the egg and catches it before it hits the ground and breaks. The catch would be an amazing feat in any football game. So we see a foreshadow that suggests Martin is not really incapable, but perhaps too capable to play football.
Another technique the author uses to build the character of Martin is to contrast the thoughts and concerns of the school bullies with those of Martin's own. In one scene, Martin is attempting to slip by the bullies after school. He is able to do so only because they are clumsily debating the veracity of the rumor that if you fart, burp, and sneeze at the same time, you will blow up. One of them claims to have witnessed such an occurrence in a Macdonald's parking lot.
As the character arc of Martin's proceeds through the story, we find him growing increasingly stronger, more courageous, responsible, and even somewhat defiant - owing to the love he has for Rufus. This masterfully ties the characterization of the protagonist to the theme of the novel. By the end of the story, Martin is no longer a scared kid but like a butterfly from a chrysalis, emerges a confident young man.
Symbolism: The central symbolism of the story rests in the dinosaur itself. Here is a unique and exceptionally rare animal that is born into a world where it doesn't fit, doesn't belong, and is in extreme danger owing to the ignorance of those who would capture it. The dinosaur, therefore, symbolizes the plight of all intellectually-gifted youth (geeks and nerds, if you will). They are born into a world that is mostly brutish and ignorant and unable to recognize their unique qualities.
For that reason, it is no surprise when the dinosaur is sold to the circus owner. The circus, itself, symbolizes the shallow illogic of the world. Do we not find parents often moving their kids in whatever professional direction is most lucrative, regardless of their unique abilities? In a symbolic way, they sell their kids to the circus of the world rather than allowing them to pursue their unique destinies. This is especially so with the gifted student.
Martin eventually takes matters into his own hands by saving the dinosaur, and as his character becomes the kind of person who can save a dinosaur, we see that he has become the kind of person who can save his own destiny.
Moral: If we have to pick one moral of this story, perhaps the strongest would be that if something is strange and different, we might not want to impose our own will upon it in order to make it fit our definition of what is the right way to exist. The circus owner felt the best thing for the T-Rex was to be kept as a freak attraction for the rest of its life. Likewise, Martin's football-father felt it only right that Martin should be a good wide receiver. Neither minor character could recognize the beauty in something so rare and different.
Impact: Raising Rufus truly has the power to inspire and encourage young people toward the science of nature by inspiring a pet-owner love for it. It instills a morality focused on environmental and wildlife conservation while at the same time supporting the child who feels more attracted to his or her intellect than the traditional games of society.
Recommendation: Raising Rufus has a science focus, especially zoology. It represents true middle grade literature in that the main character is between the ages of 8-12 (11 in this case), and he's the one who solves the main conflict in the story. There is no swearing, sex, drugs, or graphic violence, and with its simple sentence structure, shorter paragraphs, and Standard English usage, it is palatable for the middle grade audience, while maintaining a fast pace and decided interest.
I think you will want to offer this book to any young man of middle grade age who has an interest in science. But I also have a feeling you're going to want to read it yourself, just as I did. I read it to review it, but I ended up truly enjoying it. It needs to be in libraries and bookstores and readily available. With its light touch of humor, its action, strong central characters, and a very spunky T-Rex, I think we're going to see Raising Rufus made into a major motion picture in the near future. It just stands out as that kind of story.
c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780385744645, $12.96, 240pp, http://www.harpercollins.com
Age Range: Middle Grade 8-12 years old; Grade Level: 3-7
Spoiler Alert: Because this is an in-depth review, it's impossible not to talk about the story from beginning to end. If you feel that would spoil the novel for you, please read Umbrella Summer first before reading this review.
Theme: The theme of Umbrella Summer, by Lisa Graff, (HarperCollins, 2009), is one of loss, grief, and eventual healing. Few middle grade authors are capable of achieving an exposition of this theme in the manner of Lisa Graff. Her use of dark humor, which at once is engaging and yet tragic, forces us to examine what it means to lose a loved one. It illustrates what it means to live beyond the pain of loss.
Basic Plot: Annie Richards is a ten-year-old girl who lost her brother five months prior. Her brother, Jared, had been playing hockey and was hit in the sternum by the puck. Her parents took him to the hospital because of his chest pains, but he was given a clean bill of health and sent home. He died shortly thereafter from what was later discovered to be an aortic dissection.
As a result of his accident, Annie is terrified that something, anything, could happen to her and she could end up dead as well. She becomes obsessed with being careful. When she goes out to play, she does so wearing Band-Aids over any mark or discoloration on her skin. She keeps ace bandages on her ankles to prevent unintended sprains, and dons full padding and a helmet whenever she rides her bike. At the very beginning of the story, we see that she will not even ride her bike down a hill because of the potential danger of going too fast; instead, she climbs off and walks it all the way down.
Since anything might be the cause of her demise, she reads up on all manner of disease and accidents so as to prevent them. She even steals a book about diseases from a neighbor during a yard sale and reads it obsessively in secret.
When the elderly Mrs. Finch, a newly widowed woman, moves into the neighborhood, she and Annie strike up a curious friendship. Together they help each other come to terms with their individual and isolating grief. Mrs. Finch tells Annie that her obsession with illnesses is really an umbrella she puts up to protect herself from the rain of grief she feels over her brother's death. The idea being that if she's worried about being sick, then she is distracted from the pain she has, the sadness that Annie's best friend's father labeled "despondent."
Mrs. Finch goes on to explain that when it's raining you need an umbrella, but if you leave it up too long, it blocks out the sunshine that is sure to follow. Annie agrees with her, and she and Mrs. Finch make a deal to help each other lower their individual umbrellas.
Nevertheless, as her late brother's birthday approaches, her parents become ever more distant from her. Annie is left to deal with her grief on her own. She is forced to come to terms with the reasons for her obsessive-compulsive fears, move past them, or become their prisoner forever.
Eventually, after problems at school and problems with her friends, she begins to see that her way isn't working. Through a series of realizations, and the counseling of Mrs. Finch, she not only finds a way to help herself back into life but finds a way to help her parents come out of their grief as well. Ultimately she learns it takes the help of others to bring down one's own defensive umbrella.
Setting: Cedar Haven, California is the fictitious town where Annie lives with her parents. Her father is a writer, and her best friend's father is a physician. The kids are allowed to ride their bikes around the neighborhood unsupervised, so we get the impression of an upper middle-class setting. The very name "Haven" suggest a safe place to live.
The author's use of an idyllic summer setting, as opposed to a more violent urban environment heightens our sense of tragedy. The death of Jared occurs in a place where nothing bad is supposed to happen. This juxtaposition adds depth to the story and amplifies the impact of its theme.
Character: The main character list includes Annie, herself, Rebecca (her best friend), Doug (the boy she loves to hate), the old lady, Ms. Finch, Annie's mother, Annie's father, Rebecca's father, and of course, Annie's late brother, Jared.
The character arc for Annie is revealed as she moves from scared, obsessive-compulsive hypochondriac, to confident child, taking life by the handlebars and coming to peace with the death of her older brother. Annie, as it turns out, grows up as she grows beyond her grief.
Having said that, I was surprised by Graff's unique ability to create an eminently memorable character with Annie Richards. She acheived this by taking a risk. Since middle grade fiction normally focuses on the main character's reactions to external events, most middle grade uses a third person perspective; however, in this story, the author chooses first person narration to emphasize the subtle humor within the character's thought processes. Ultimately this makes Annie an interesting and unforgettable character--very well done in my opinion.
Symbolism: An obvious symbol in the story is the umbrella. Indeed the cover illustration is that of an umbrella covering a young girl, but to consider the umbrella the central symbolism would be a major error.
Consider that until Mrs. Finch puts forward her theory of an imaginary defensive umbrella created by Annie's hypochondriasis, Annie's obsessive-compulsiveness with illness and injury seems to have a different origin. Annie is being completely ignored by her parents following the death of her brother. His room is kept locked and in exactly the way it was before his demise--as a kind of shrine. Since the grief of his loss consumes her mother to the extent of ignoring her only other child, and since her father has also detached himself from her, it is completely reasonable that Annie views her brother as more important dead than he ever was alive.
For that reason, I believe Annie's hypervigilance symbolizes Annie's own death wish. After all, if she can become dead like her brother, then perhaps her parents will love her as they love him. For Annie, surviving has become a worse demise than being dead.
This same dynamic is present in the book by Judith Guest, Ordinary People. The main character, Conrad, is faced with the same parental message: his brother is more important than he is because his brother is dead.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume the umbrella is not the real central symbol. Rather, I suggest Annie's OCD is the central symbol. Each disease Annie reads about, and claims to be scared of, really represents an essential death wish that scares her more than anything else.
This theory is supported in the text when Annie goes into her father's home office and sees a calendar with a big red circle around her late brother's birthday. She thinks:
He would always be the exact same age he was in February. But next year, on my birthday, I was going to turn eleven, and then the year after that I'd be twelve, and then I'd be older than my older brother. I went back to my room and crawled under the covers, wondering which would be worse--growing older than Jared or catching the plague.
Essentially, what Annie is telling us is that she is unsure whether it is better to go on living or to go ahead and die. How could she ever be more prominent (older) than her brother? How could she ever compete with his death for her parent's attention?
Furthermore, the umbrella as symbol in this work seems forced upon us; it seems too simple. Like a clue that is too obvious in a mystery, it beckons us to look deeper into things. We are overtly informed her hypervigilance is an umbrella to protect her from feeling bad about her brother, but her hypervigilance appears more like a reaction formation against a desire to die and therefore be loved as her brother is loved.
Of course there is another major symbol in this story apart from both the hypochondriasis and the umbrella, and it further supports a theory of an unwanted death wish on the part of Annie. That symbol is the obstacle course her friend Doug keeps trying to get her to engage in. She won't build or participate in an obstacle course, because she is too afraid of being injured.
The obstacle course is mentioned throughout the entire novel, so we know it's a symbol of sorts, and by the end of the story, we see that it truly represents the struggle Annie has had in overcoming the death of her brother and in helping her parents to overcome their grief as well. It is only once she has resolved this struggle, and is once again unified with and loved by her parents, that she then finds the courage to run through Doug's obstacle course.
And that brings us to the end of Umbrella Summer. As Annie completes her character arc, she navigates the obstacle course with Doug and her friend Rebecca, and just before she does so, she tears up a will that she has written out and carried with her at all times. Thus we see that when the symbolism of the obstacle course comes to fruition--when Annie has won her struggle to regain her parents love, when she no longer fears having to die to get it--she destroys her unwanted "will of death."
Moral: An important moral of this story is that we, the living, have a responsibility to go on living even in the face of grief over the loss of a loved one. The gravity of that loss can pull us down like a whirlpool sucking us under the surface, but we have to be strong and find our way out. Of course this is easier said than done, but if we don't do so, we find in the message of Umbrella Summer, that a death can be contagious.
Impact: Unfortunately, as it may present itself on the surface, I don't see Umbrella Summer as particularly useful to a child who has actually lost a loved one. The reason being is that the character of Annie is too outrageous, complex, and specialized to be widely applicable to most children. But therein lies the beauty of it:
Any child reading this book will fall in love with the character of Annie Richards. Graff's skill in characterization ensures it. In so doing, a child may find herself inclined toward the field of medicine. If she then explores the depths of this story and its characters, she may be inclined specifically toward psychology or psychiatry. For that reason, this story is important in that it encourages kids toward those noble fields of endeavor. It romanticizes them--and that is the heart of inspiration.
Recommendation: Umbrella Summer is a must read. It's a classic piece of middle grade literature. This review is late in coming, but this story is timeless, and I'm shocked it never won a national award such as the Newbery. Nevertheless, Lisa Graff has several books out, and she is a prolific writer. Her latest novel, at the time of this writing, is Lost in the Sun (Penguin, May 2015); therefore, I have no doubt with her continuing talent and unique middle grade voice; we will see her star rising very soon.
Edward J. Gordon, Reviewer
Middle Grade Writers Association
Mary Beth Woll & Paul Meier, M.D.
Morgan James Faith
5 Penn Plaza, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10001
9781630475109, $17.99, www.morganjamespublishing.com
Psychiatrist Dr. Paul Meier joins with co-author and Meier Clinic therapist Mary Beth Woll to pen "Growing Stronger: 12 Guidelines Designed to Turn Your Darkest Hour into Your Greatest Victory", an easy-to-understand, faith-based resource for women in crisis. Crisis brings awareness of "the need for change," writes Woll. She believes deep and lasting change must begin with a decision, followed by action that's powered by faith and maintained with "clear guidance and lots of support."
Dr. Meier advocates the "see one, do one, teach one" approach to encourage completion of the "'Twelve Growing Stronger Guidelines' presented in these pages." As women learn how to "overcome crisis," (see one), he writes, "heal and recover (do one) they can identify with and "reach out to other women in crisis.(teach one)"
"Growing Stronger's" guidance is based on scripture, an intimate relationship with Jesus and twelve guidelines that "comfort, encourage, promote recovery and inspire hope for the future." Because "Jesus empowers us to do what we previously could not do in our own strength," writes Woll. "He is the true Higher Power...we are powerless to overcome crisis in our own strength, alone."
Meier and Woll's work encourages a sense of "brokenness that leads to true humility," similar to the addiction recovery programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery, "a biblically based Twelve Steps model." True humility indicates an end to the "self" demanding control which Woll believes is the "doorway to deliverance." When the "self" is no longer indulged submission to God can begin.
Each of twelve segments offers one "Growing Stronger Guideline," a brief principle and a supporting Scripture. Chapters include biblical illustrations, paragraph summaries and conclude with space to note your answers to "Discussion Questions" that reinforce the reading.
Topics consist of how to know God personally, relationships, confession, getting rid of emotional baggage, personal growth, focusing on Christ, perseverance, self-discipline and more. Chapters also include how to:
stay connected to God, church and other Christians
stay in the Word
stay the course, focus on Jesus, not guilt or friends who fear change
don't fear failure, only Jesus was perfect
Dr. Meier's and MB Woll's three-fold goal is to "help women in the church provide healing support for other women" in crisis, to inspire church leaders to start "Growing Stronger Groups," and train therapists to lead such groups. "Growing Stronger's" concepts encourage, inspire and provide a perspective of hope. The book is a must read for anyone in recovery.
Growing Stronger is now available on Kindle. The paperback publishes August 4, 2015.
Ms. Woll, Psychology Today "Find a Therapist", combines years of counseling expertise with her own experiences of "trauma, suffering and grief" to co-author Growing Stronger with Dr. Meier.
Critters Following Jesus: Book 1: Hummingbird
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781631855207, $9.99, https://www.tatepublishing.com/
Oregon author, Lynne Byers begins her debut Critters Following Jesus series with Hummingbird, the story of a colorful little bird who's attracted to the sound of a young girl's humming while she gathers herbs on the outskirts of the city of Nazareth. The little hummer hears the steady buzzing of her own wings when she flies, yet the girl's humming sound is a different melodious sound, "like a song."
Intrigued and fascinated the little hummer "closes her eyes and listens to" the girl's musical sound until she hears the young girl gasp. Hummer's eyes fly open only to see a brilliant white light and hear the girl's basket fall to the ground. Inside the light's radiance stood a beautiful archangel who said, "I am Gabriel sent by God." "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You are going to have a baby boy. You shall name him Jesus."
Thus begins the sweet story of Mary, Joseph and the archangel Gabriel's visit from the author's warmly described "critters" perspective. The familiar Bible story engages children with imaginative and colorful drawings of events as hummingbird follows Mary and Joseph's journey until the Emperor Augustus orders a census and they travel to Bethlehem.
"Humming Bird" is the first in a series of eighteen proposed books told from the viewpoint of a "Donkey," "Sheep," "Kitten" "Camel" and "Ox." With stories that "tell of Jesus' walk on Earth" from each critters unique perspective. The small books are designed to teach as well as entertain children from ages two through seven. They are especially perfect for grandparents to read to grandchildren.
A free audio book download and coupon code is included with the book's purchase. Once downloaded to your computer the audio book can be transferred to an audio CD, iPod or listened to on the computer for a "complete digital entertainment package."
21Days of Grace
2745 Chicory Road, Racine, WI 53403
9781424550234, $14.99, http://broadstreetpublishing.com
Kathy Ide, author, editor, and writing mentor, introduced her new devotional series for fiction lovers in June, just in time for summer reading. 21 Days of Grace, the first book in the fiction series, features twenty-one emotionally engaging stories that celebrate God's unconditional love. Familiar author names include Cindy Woodsmall, Deborah Raney, Cecil Murphey, Nanette Thorsen-Snipes, Angela Hunt, DiAnn Mills, and many more.
The unique devotional series offers fictional devotions in chapter length stories which are easy to complete in one sitting; for example, over breakfast, at lunch, or during a coffee break. Author bios and thought-provoking Scriptures, along with brief life application segments, complete each story. Stories focus on issues common to us all, such as depression, materialism, inability to forgive or be forgiven, pride, and more.
There's something for every reading taste. From Cindy Woodsmall's, "Through a Dark Glass," set in an uncompromising Amish community to Angela Hunt's, "True Confession," an account of consuming guilt. Or Kathy Ide's, "Rag Doll," a story that questions God's love when bad things happen. Then there's Roxanne Andersons' unusual story "The Pain Redemption," which is a fictionalized account of Jesus' conversation with the Father before He left heaven.
Nanette Thorsen-Snipes' story, "Thorns," carries an important message, especially with nearly 20 people per minute suffering from physical abuse at an all-time high, according to national statistics for domestic abuse. And Lori Freeland's story, "There and Back," is about letting go of the past, accepting forgiveness and moving on. This is just a sampling, among many other stories.
Kathy encourages readers who feel moved or blessed by the stories to share their experiences with others at www.FictionDevo.com, and read what others have shared. If a more casual setting is preferred, visit FaceBook.com/FictionDevo to share your thoughts.
I suspect Kathy's new series is destined to become a best seller because of the variety of authors and well-written stories that celebrate God, His grace, His love, and Christ's gift of salvation. This devotion series is designed for readers who already enjoy Christian fiction; however, the books are an excellent gift choice to introduce those who haven't yet discovered the value of Christian fiction.
Future books in this series include: 21 Days of Christmas (October 2015), 21 Days of Love (January 2016), and 21 Days of Joy (April 2016).
21 Days of Grace is an eye-catching gift choice, available in hardcover or Kindle, and 21 Days of Grace: Group Study Guide is also available.
Gail Welborn, Reviewer
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
97812500466, $25.99, www.amazon.com
China and The United States enter into a trade agreement which sets into motion a series of events that leads to a full scale war. The problem is that the deal only benefits the United States. China feels it has been backed up to the wall and must do something to protect itself. They take the first step by crippling the United States nuclear submarine fleet. The situation escalates into a shooting war. "Empire Rising" is a tense nail biting techno thriller that realistically presents how present day trade deals could lead to war.
Cane and Abe
c/o Harper Collins
95 Broadway, New York, NY 100007
9780062295392, $24.99, www.amazon.com
James Grippando has always told a good tale of suspense but "Cane and Abe" is one of his best. Miami prosecutor Abe Beckman's life takes a twisted turn where he is a suspect in a series of cases. One is the disappearance of his wife. Even his most trusted friends are beginning to wonder about him and are not very helpful. He must put the pieces of the puzzle together to prove his innocence. Grippando is a master of the genre and "Cane and Abe" shows why fans of legal thrillers will love this roller coaster ride.
9780578098272, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Kate Hansen meets biologist Kenneth Alexander. As is true in many relationships things start out very well but change quickly when Kate learns that Alexander is not what he seems. He is an evil genius who wants to leave a sick legacy of his greatest accomplishment. Kate is a pawn who realizes she must protect herself by leaving the country and starting her life over again in another country hoping he never finds her. "Dr. Selfish" is a page turner suspenseful novel that any fan of medical thriller genre should not miss.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399169168, $27.95, www.amazon.com
While purchasing a new aircraft Stone Barrington also meets a woman who becomes a new travel companion. Her ex boyfriend seeks revenge on Stone and follows them while they travel abroad. There are several other plot lines that move the story along to its ending. "Hot Pursuit" is another suspenseful tale in the Stone Barrington series.
c/o Penguin Random House LLC
9780345804358, $16.95 www.amazon.com
In "The Distance" Charlotte Atton walks a tense line between socialite and information specialist. She is an expert at taking information about a person and making it disappear. Now she is hired by someone from her past to save his life but she begins to realize that her life is also in danger. "The Distance" is a complicated plot with many twists and turns, strong lead characters, and tense situations for anyone who likes a good espionage novel.
Love is Red
c/o Harper Collins
95 Broadway, New York, NY 100007
9780062346261, $25.99, www.amazon.com
Reading a novel should be an easy task starting from the first page. Unfortunately for me "Love is Red" was one of the most difficult books I have ever tried to read. It took me at least 10 times to read the first chapter and gain nothing from it. Into the second chapter I decided this is not for me because it dealt with a character who is concerned with a man on the street in a sandwich board and whether to look at his anatomy or not. To me this was a total waste of time to read. Someone else may enjoy "Love is Red" but it's not my cup of tea.
Cathy Finch White
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang Oklahoma 73064
9781629025940, $8.99, www.amazon.com
Though "Scary Bully" is very short it has a lot of good messages to kids and parents of ways to deal with a bully. The author shows that often if someone stands up to the actions of a bully that he or she will back down. It also shows that many people would knuckle under rather than challenge someone. "Scary Bully" is a good resource to teach kids to understand how to handle situations like this.
Divorce: What an Education What You Don't Know
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578164083, $26.95, www.amazon.com
There are many things wrong with "Divorce: What an Education What You Don't Know." First the price of $26.95 is over priced for a Trade paperback. The author tells a reason he got married that sounds like a mistake that began his problems. "I met a woman, got married to rid the family of the biological father and adopted her children because he was detrimental to them. After I signed the court documentation and finalized the adoption, I was no longer a part of the family unit thirty days from the exact date." He points this out several times in the book and you can see why he continued to make mistakes. He later made more blunders and blames everyone else but himself including his numerous attorneys and the court system itself. Other errors were the way he paid monies ordered by the court to his ex wife, not understanding that he is not the only person that his attorney represents are just two of many. "Divorce: What an Education What You Don't Know" bad mouths the legal system because the author takes no responsibility for his own actions and is not worth the time of anyone going through a divorce involving children.
Got a Bad Picker?
Jesse Carr MD
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578159584, $12.95, www.amazon.com
Even though "Got a Bad Picker?" is a poor title, the author does have a lot to say about relationships and how to improve them. Some of the things he suggests are hugging and smiling more often, learning that negative actions are not worth it, conducting more acts of kindness, being more grateful for things you have, showing gratitude to others more often. "Got a Bad Picker?" is filled with easy to understand and follow suggestions that can improve a person's life.
Incremental Improvements: Change Your Life One Small Step At A Time
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781503254534, $12.99, www.amazon.com
Author Mike Bordsky teaches people that in business and personal matters they can control their lives by making a few easy changes in their thinking. An example is instead of wanting things now step back and learn that you can achieve more by taking on things a little at a time instead. He talks about weight loss and having small goals, changing relationships in business steadily setting your sights higher and working to get to a better level, and gaining financial independence by step by step procedures instead of trying to get it all at once. "Incremental Improvements: Change Your Life One Small Step At A Time" is an easy to understand guide to a better life.
At the Sharp End of Lightning
NR Bates Publishing
0993190529, $19.99, www.amazon.com
At the Sharp End of Lightning is a fantasy novel and work of fiction written by N.R. Bates.
Yalara is a sea sprite who is on a secret mission to find the missing ones. Helia, an exiled land sprite, is sent on a mission of redemption to find the cause of the thinness (between worlds). Hemophilia, a disease of the blood, has kept Einion from having the normal life that he has always so desperately wanted to have. When a gateway which leads to the past, present and future suddenly opens in the middle of his garden Einion must find the courage to venture through and figure out why he's the only one who can see it. However, what none of them realize is that a dangerous entity from the Daiman world wants the gateway all to himself and he will stop at nothing in order to get it; even if that means killing the only person who holds the key to closing it forever.
Bates' 2015 work of fiction brings together four worlds that are on the verge of destruction. Like us, the characters begin to experience the detrimental cost of a problem in which they themselves do not realize they're helping to create. It reminds us that our environment is just as fragile as our economy and if we are not careful it's going to be our kids and our grand kids who are going to have to pay the price. According to the front cover this is the first book of the Oceanlight series and it's a five star fantasy read.
Gold Avenue Press
0692411275, $5.00, amazon.com
Queensboro, by Thomas Drago, is a mix between mystery and horror.
Ashley Smith attends Crow Creek Elementary and is the brightest student in her fourth grade class. That is until Schreck, the gravedigger at Holt County Cemetery, snatches her from the bus stop one morning. Shortly after, Sheriff Brad Gleason organizes a search party and the impending chase leads to Queensboro, home to Carolina EnTech, a medical research laboratory run by Margaret Ganis (aka The Red Queen). When horror strikes from the nearby woods claiming the lives of several locals no one can believe what they see. In a race against time, it becomes up to the small group of survivors to find the connection between Ashley's kidnapping and the massacre in the woods - if there even is one at all.
Like a play this 2015 novel is broken up into six parts which consists of 104 chapters spanning over the course of 398 pages. At first glance it may seem like a lot but each chapter is short and sweet. It's a page turning thriller that will never let your attention go. Just as the characters - which were all developed in Drago's debut novel of Crow Creek - are beginning to move forward from the devastating loss that the sinkhole left behind, they are thrust into a dark mystery surrounding their neighboring town of Queensboro. Even though you never truly find out the ultimate goal or the reason behind the madness, Alice in Wonderland meets War of the Worlds meets Supernatural is the only way I know to accurately describe it. The ending, however, left a lot to be desired.
Create Space Independent Publishing
1512321060, $14.99, amazon.com
Unstoppable is an erotic romance novel written by Jessika Klide. Published by CreateSpace on May 26, 2015, it's the second installment of the Siri's Heart Saga.
When an unstoppable force of nature threatens to come between their forever, Aurei and Siri flee to his home in Rome where Siri learns all there is to know about a man that no one truly knows. But despite her confidence, Siri will have to come to terms with the fact that her perfect mans deepest darkest secrets have the potential to be even more devastating than her own. The only question is, will Siri choose to stay or will their relationship be undone?
Time will either be the key or it will prove to be the enemy in Klide's sexually driven follow-up novel to Untouchable which will leave you wanting more of Moore. Aurelius Moore that is. The kinky writing style proves to be just as unstoppable as that of its title. It's 318 pages of erotic, romantic and drama filled fun. Undone, the third installment of the Siri's Heart Saga, is coming soon.
Create Space Independent Publishing
1500222901, $9.89, amazon.com
Jaded is a contemporary romance novel written by Michelle Bellon.
Precisely one year after the death of his mother eleven-year-old Reed Dartmouth finds himself instantly attracted to the sassy but cruel new girl next door. As their friendship begins a bond like no other is formed when they come to realize that they both really are one in the same. However, as time passes Reed will come to learn that some wounds just run way to deep to ever fully heal and it makes their love difficult. But when old habits die hard and an obsession for justice puts both their lives in danger, his devotion to her will be tested as he finds out to what lengths a man will go to in order to save the woman that he loves.
Young adult with a small portion of erotic romance mixed in. Bellon's attempt at a complex issue makes for some well developed characters but a progressively slow storyline. Expect to have some mixed emotions.
Gina Marie Stanish, Reviewer
See Also Murder
Larry D. Sweazy
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781633880078, $15.95, Paperback, 250 pp, www.amazon.com
Life in July of 1964 in the small prairie town of Dickinson, North Dakota, might seem to be quiet and unthreatening. Until one morning the bodies of Erik and Lida Knudsen are found murdered in their beds, their throats slit, their young sons sleeping in nearby rooms. When Marjorie Trumaine, Lida's closest friend, and a skilled researcher and professional indexer, who lives in the farm adjacent to the Knudsens, is asked by Stark County Sheriff Hilo Jenkins to investigate the strange copper amulet discovered clutched in the dead man's hand, Marjorie can hardly refuse.
Marjorie has enough on her plate: taking care of her husband, Hank (her former high school sweetheart - they re both now in their mid-thirties), bedridden for years since the accident that left him blind and paralyzed. In order to try to make ends meet, after taking a correspondence course offered by the Department of Agriculture, she has worked for New York publishing houses indexing tomes on unusual subjects (such as her present project dealing with African headhunters), at which she has become somewhat surprisingly good. The amulet takes her into research on Norse mythology and orthography, lores and legends and myths of the Old West. I must admit I stumbled at times over some of the rather arcane (to me) terminology, but the writing is otherwise lyrical, making farmland and the prairie come to life, with their "fierce, unrelenting winters" when "the stars seemed too cold to sparkle," and summers when "daylight seemed to go on forever."
The suspense mounts when another murder takes place, chillingly similar to the first two, shockingly - they are the first murders to take place there in over 25 years, in a town with a population of 10,000 souls. There is no graphic violence, at least not on the page, in this novel, just a menacing green Chevy that keeps reappearing in Marjorie's path. And as someone once said, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't after you. The novel is interesting and well-plotted, and is recommended.
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250071774, $15.99, Paperback, 320 pp.
9781250023445, Hardcover, 304 pp., $24.99, www.amazon.com
On page one of this novel by Jo Bannister we meet Jerome Cardy, a 20-year-old black man, a law student and the son of a respectable hardworking family, who is involved in a minor car accident. But this normally insignificant event sets off paranoia in Jerome, who flees the scene when the other person involved, whose fault it was, insists on calling the police. Jerome's terror become only more portentous when, after his arrest and incarceration, he is found beaten to death in his prison cell, murdered by a psychotic racist who was apparently a stranger to him.
But before that tragic event takes place, the reader meets Gabriel Ash, in his mid-twenties, a well-educated Government analyst before the traumatic events of fours years ago when his wife and two young boys had been taken by persons unknown, their present whereabouts a complete mystery.
Gabriel, suffering from a concussion, had been placed in a cell adjacent to Jerome's. Before later being moved to a different cell (where he was shortly thereafter killed) Jerome had said some things to Gabriel that take on great significance after the murder, telling him that he knew he was going to die, and speaking of a dog he says he used to have, named Othello. These things take on greater significance after he is killed, which Gabriel tries to tell the authorities, who pay no attention to his words. (Gabriel is variously known in the area as "the Norbold village idiot," and "Rambles with Dogs" [a takeoff on Dances with Wolves] as he is always walking his beloved white lurcher, Patience, the dog he'd adopted three months ago and his most frequent conversationalist. Hazel Best, a 26-year-old rookie cop, is the only one who feels there may be something to what Gabriel is telling them.
All the characters are very well-drawn. The plot is well-woven, and the suspense soon escalates. There are hints of police corruption, and the presence of Norbold's "last surviving godfather" hovers in the background until he makes an appearance late in the book. Gabriel is a wonderful creation, as is Hazel, and I absolutely loved the writing. The first book in a series, it was followed in December of 2014 by "Perfect Sins," which in turn will be followed by "Desperate Measures" in December of 2015. A lot of great reading in store!
The Mysterious Press
c/o Grove Atlantic
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
9780802123213, $24.00, Hardcover, 240 pp, www.amazon.com
From the publisher (a succinct plot summary without spoilers]:
The bibliophile community is stunned when a reclusive rare book collector, Adam Diehl, is found on the floor of his Montauk home: hands severed, surrounded by valuable inscribed books and manuscripts that have been vandalized beyond repair. In the weeks following his death, Adam's sister, Meghan, and her lover a sometime literary forger who specializes in the handwriting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle struggle to come to terms with the murder. The police fail to identify a suspect, and the case quickly turns cold. Soon, Meghan's lover begins to receive threatening handwritten letters, ostensibly penned by long-dead authors but really from someone who seems to have disturbing insights into Adam's death. And he quickly realizes that this mystery letter writer will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
There are at least three forgers on the pages of this novel by Bradford Morrow, which provides a glimpse into the mind and the "art" of the forger's work, providing intriguing nuances of the trade. The lyrical prose and poetic writing distinguish this novel, and it is wonderfully entertaining, even as it exposes criminal behavior little suspected by lovers of antiquarian books.
The book opens with a murder, and there is a good deal of suspense leading to the stunning ending. But it is the world of rare books and original manuscripts, of which I knew almost nothing, which is so fascinating. There are insights provided throughout on a whole range of book-related things: "Bookshops were, are, and always shall be chancy, quixotic enterprises at best easier to raise snow leopards in one's living room than keep an independent bookstore afloat." An awareness difficult to avoid these days. And "Book collecting is an act of faith. It's all about the preservation of culture, custodianship." The act of forgery is described as producing feelings of nothing less than lightheartedness and rapture.
A definite change of pace from the usual fare, the novel is recommended.
Atlantic Monthly Press
c/o Grove Atlantic
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
9780802123077, $25.00/27.50 CA$, Hardcover, 288 pp., www.amazon.com
From the publisher (a succinct plot summary, without spoilers):
"A standalone thriller from the acclaimed author of the Inspector Troy series, Sweet Sunday is set during the tumultuous American summer of 1969. It is the summer of Woodstock and the moon landing, and the summer when unassuming PI Turner Raines is forced to investigate his best friend's death. Raines is in his thirties, but he's already a has-been among the things he has been are a broken civil rights worker, a law-school dropout, and a tenth-rate journalist. But as a private eye, he's found his niche. The Vietnam War is ripping the country to pieces, and if your kid dodges the draft, hooks up with a hippie commune, or makes a dash for Canada, Raines in the man to find him. That turbulent May, as Normal Mailer runs for mayor of New York City, Raines leaves the city, chasing a draft-dodging punk all the way to Toronto. But by the time he gets back, his oldest friend, a reporter for the Village Voice, is dead, and Raines' life has changed forever. He finds himself blasted back to the Texas of his childhood, confronted anew with his divided family, and blown into the path of people who know about secret goings-on in Vietnam, stories they may now be willing to tell."
This was a time - an era, I guess - through which I lived, and though it seems very long ago, the feelings and emotions of that period, which ran very high, came back to my mind quit clearly, along with the racial unrest before the end of segregation. I remember well the references made here, such as the "military advisors" (as opposed to "soldiers") sent there by the US Government, "Never trust anyone over thirty," chants of "Hell no, we won't go," and young men publicly [and privately] burning their draft cards. The author makes the old cliche "War is Hell" come to life, and not as a cliche.
The physical descriptions are wonderful: "Jerome, AZ a town that seemed to be made of matchwood and perched on a cliffside to spit in the face of gravity . . . the red and purple streaks that tore across the mountainside above Sedona strata like the plot of a novel . . . the congealed story of the earth's crust writ large on the face of Arizona." And his description of the Statue of Liberty as seen from the Promenade in downtown Brooklyn is absolutely gorgeous.
The investigation into the death of Raines' friend, Mel, described as "a loudmouth, smartass, irritating Jewish runt of a man who never hurt anybody in his entire life," takes him to the men who'd survived and lived to tell the tale of having fought in 'Nam, and what a tale it is. I must admit that there were a couple of times when I had to stop reading and just take a break for a short while. The tale told in this novel is, as well, fascinating, beautifully written if at times harrowing, and it is recommended.
Those Who Wish Me Dead
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316122573, $16.00, Paperback, 432 pp, www.amazon.com
Michael Koryta's newest novel, his tenth, is perhaps his best yet, high praise indeed. (His next book, "Last Words," is due out on August 18, 2015.)
About the title: The reference is to two killers who are hunting (literally and figuratively) 13-year-old Jace Wilson, witness to a horrifying murder, who must not be allowed to live, according to the code of these purely evil men. When Jace's parents refuse to place him into the standard Witness Protection program, they do agree to allow him to leave Indiana and spend the summer in Montana and Wyoming in the care of Ethan Serbin, who runs a summer wilderness survival camp, heading a search-and-rescue team in the mountains the rest of the year and ". . . .working with probation and parole officers from around the country, taking in kids who were facing the threat of lockup somewhere." Jace, considered at high risk, needs to be taken completely off the grid, his real identity hidden even from Ethan, who takes on the task of ensuring his safety, knowing only that Jace is one of the seven youngsters entrusted to him care, but the only one that is there to hide.
The characters created by Mr. Koryta are all memorable in their own way, none more than Ethan. Among the women, Ethan's wife, Allison; Jamie Bennett, former US Marshal, who had taken the survival course with Ethan a year ago; Hannah Faber, 28 years old, in charge of the fire tower cab in the mountains and has her own ghosts which still haunt her after a fatal wildfire a year ago. And Allison's horse, Tango, also recovering from his own wounds, and who will be sorely tested before the tale ends. The weather in those mountains is famously unpredictable, e.g., a blizzard hits on the last day of May, as the story opens. And as the heat of the summer begins to build, the threat of wildfires is never far from anyone's thoughts.
As the suspense mounts, the beauty, and the danger, in the mountains is made palpable, and the writing is gorgeous. A sudden plot twist near the end of the book is jaw-dropping, and I almost simultaneously wanted to close the book for a moment, and keep the pages turning in a race to the end. I loved this book, and it is highly recommended.
The Long Way Home
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250022059, $15.99, Paperback, 400 pp, www.amazon.com
This is the tenth novel by Louise Penny, and the newest in the Chief Inspector Gamache series (that is until the next one, "The Nature of the Beast," is published on August 25, 2015). It takes place eight months after the events in the prior novel, the equally wonderful "How the Light Gets In," and finds Gamache, now in his late fifties, newly retired from his position as head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec, having had enough of murder and killers and anxious to "at long last, rest in peace in the little village in the valley." That, of course, being the village of Three Pines, "so small and obscure it doesn't appear on any map," where he has found a peaceful and worry/anxiety-free existence.
All the other beloved villagers are also present: Myrna, a "large black woman" who had been a practicing psychologist and runs the local bookstore; "demented, drunken, delusional" Ruth Zardo, an eccentric, award-winning poet, and Rosa, her beloved pet duck; Gabri and Olivier, the lovers who run the bistro and the B&B; JeanGuy Beauvoir, formerly Gamache's second-in-command and now his son-in-law. But this time out, the plot centers around Clara Morrow, one of the closest friends that Gamache and his wife, ReineMarie, had in the small village.
Clara is a brilliant artist and portraitist, married to Peter Morrow, a celebrated artist in his own right but now overshadowed by his wife's growing fame and respect. One gains insight into the world of art in these pages, and sees that beauty truly lies in the eyes of the beholder, whether in art or one's surroundings, and presents art in its many nuances, to a far greater degree than I remember in the earlier series entries.
One morning Clara tells Gamache that her husband, from whom she had separated one year prior, has gone missing. The strain in their marriage had caused them to agree to have no contact for a year, and then to reunite on the anniversary of that date. Gamache, aided by JeanGuy, Myrna, Ruth, and Clara herself, embark on a quest to find Peter, taking them to the far reaches of Canada, to places where "time had its own rules." The writing is poetic prose at its best, and, as well as the ubiquitous "lump in the throat" that one finds throughout the book, is completely captivating. Highly recommended.
The Final Silence
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616956158, $15.95, Paperback, 368 pp, www.amazon.com
Stuart Neville's fourth and newest book to take place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, seldom lets the reader forget the history of that place, after the time of "the Troubles" and its history of paramilitary groups the proliferated at that time. Its opening pages describe the last hours, hinted at by the title, of Raymond Drew as he leaves the three-bedroom semi where he'd lived for the past 30 years, the first two of which were shared with "a wife he'd barely known, let alone loved. Dead and buried now, and he hadn't missed her for a moment." He walks along the edge of the river, where a woman and a dog walk past him, the latter "smelling the death on him. His and that of the others."
Upon Raymond's death, that house now becomes the property of his niece, 34-year-old Rea Carlisle, daughter of influential Stormont politician Graham Carlisle. As she and her mother start to clear the house of the dead man's remaining possessions, she finds an upstairs room inexplicably locked; she finds a crowbar and forces the door open, whereupon she discovers a leather-bound book lying on a table, the room's only furniture, and finds, to her horror (akin to that felt by the reader), pages filled with writings describing kidnappings, murders, and similar atrocities. Was her uncle the author of these pages? And for whom were these scenes catalogued, who the intended reader (for surely that is not Rea)?
The opening chapters alternate p.o.v. from Rea and that of disgraced police inspector Jack Lennon, her former lover now under suspension from the force, in denial of the PTSD from which he suffers since the events of a year ago. Lennon had been shot three times, killing his attacker (a policeman himself) and helping a murder suspect flee the country in the process, now seeking a medical pension (he lost his spleen and still is in severe and constant pain), so far to no avail. Lennon becomes a lead suspect in a murder investigation led by DCI Serena Flannagan, with 20 years on the force and going through her own personal travails, and things only become more complicated.
Each of these characters: Lennon, Rea and her mother, Ida, and Flannagan, is dealing with his or her own large personal issues, and the reader feels great empathy for each of them. The plot is ingenious, the pages fly, the ending unexpected. The writing is wonderful, and the book is highly recommended.
Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms
Michelle Perry Higgins
New Year Publishing, LLC
144 Diablo Ranche Court, Danville, CA 94506
9781614310273, $26.95, 114pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Michele Perry Higgins is a financial planner and principal of California Financial Advisors, specializing in wealth management. In "Stocks, Bonds, and Soccer Moms" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to help other women who are juggling motherhood, marriage -- and perhaps a career? Whether you're a career woman or a stay-at-home mom, you want to give your all in every part of your life. Personal time and romance become distant memories and the stress piles high. Sound familiar? There is a solution! "Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Momsd" returns you to that all-important sense of balance, fulfillment, and contentedness in seven clear steps. Put the romance back in your marriage; learn to set boundaries and ask for
help let go of perfectionism and the damaging myth of the "Supermom"; understand the secret principle that will change everything; receive the help you need with your kids and household responsibilities; eliminate energy-sucking, toxic relationships and replace them with a supportive sisterhood; take control of your finances; set clear financial goals; and sleep so much better at night!
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms" is as informed and informative as it is practical and 'user friendly'. A quick and easy read, "Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms" is also available in a paperback edition (9781614310365, $16.95) and in a Kindle format ($2.99).
Gardening with the Moon & Stars
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781782799849, $16.95, 145pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Gardening with the Moon & Stars", author and gardener Elen Sentier brings biodynamics to the ordinary gardener. Sentier is passionate about biodynamics. She feels it's vital to make organics and biodynamics available to as many people as possible if we are to help our earth cope with the increasing demands we humans place upon her. Biodynamics is easy, simple, cheap and super-effective; it's seriously good horticulture too, and it works in whatever size of garden you have, from a window box to several acres. "Gardening with the Moon & Stars" is written in plain down-to-earth language with lots of tips and hints to help you learn how easy it is to use the preparations and work with the star calendar.
Critique: Unique, informative, exceptionally 'user friendly' in tone and substance, "Gardening with the Moon & Stars" is an extraordinary read and very highly recommended for community and academic library Gardening Studies and Metaphysical Studies instructional reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Gardening with the Moon & Stars" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Suspicion at Sanditon
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765327994, $23.99, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Suspicion at Sanditon", a new adventure in Carrie Bebris's award-winning Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series and takes Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy to Sanditon, the setting of Jane Austen's final work. There, accompanied by their friend Miss Charlotte Heywood, they encounter an array of eccentric villagers and visitors. Among Sanditon's most prominent residents: Lady Denham, a childless, twice-widowed dowager with a fortune to bequeath and a flight of distant relations circling for a place in her will. The Darcys have scarcely settled into their lodgings when Lady Denham unexpectedly invites them to a dinner party. Thirteen guests assemble at Sanditon House-but their hostess never appears. As a violent storm rises, a search for Lady Denham begins. The Darcys, like most of their fellow attendees, speculate that one of her ladyship's would-be heirs has grown impatient .?.?. until the guests start to vanish one by one. Does a kidnapper lurk in the centuries-old mansion, or is a still more sinister force at work? As the night grows short, the dwelling's population grows thin, and tales of Sanditon House's storied past emerge, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy find themselves leading a desperate effort to discover what has happened to Lady Denham and the missing guests, before they all-perhaps even Elizabeth and Darcy themselves-disappear.
Critique: Another terrifically entertaining historical novel by Carrie Bebris, "The Suspicion at Sanditon" is very highly recommended for community library Regency Era Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Suspicion at Sanditon" is also available in a paperback edition (9780765328007, $15.99), and in a Kindle format ($10.99).
Every Father's Daughter
Jane Smiley, et al.
McPherson & Company
PO Box 1126, Kingston, NY 12401
9781620540138, $29.95, 302pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Phillip Lopate writes in his introduction to "Every Father's Daughter: Twenty-four Women Writers Remember Their Fathers", what is it about the relationship between fathers and daughters that provokes so much exquisite tenderness, satisfying communion, longing for more, idealization from both ends, followed often if not inevitably by disappointment, hurt, and the need to understand and forgive, or to finger the guilt of not understanding and loving enough? "Every Father's Daughter", is a unique and very special collection of 24 personal essays by women writers writing about their fathers. The editor, Margaret McMullan, is herself a distinguished novelist and educator. About half of these essays were written by invitation for this specific anthology; others were selected by Ms. McMullan and her associate. The contributors include many well-known writers Alice Munro, Jayne Anne Phillips, Alexandra Styron, Ann Hood, Bobbie Ann Mason, Maxine Hong Kingston, among others as well as writers less well-known but no less cogent, inventive, perceptive, lacerating, questioning, or loving of their fathers.
Critique: Unique, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Every Father's Daughter: Twenty-four Women Writers Remember Their Fathers" is a very special anthology that is deeply engaging and exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.
A Higher Standard
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9780738217796, $25.99, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: On June 23, 2008, President George W. Bush nominated Ann Dunwoody as a four-star general in the US Army. This was the first time a woman had ever achieved that rank. The news generated excitement around the world. Now retired after nearly four decades in the Army, Dunwoody shares what she learned along the way, from her first command leading 100 soldiers to her final assignment, in which she led a $60 billion enterprise of over 69,000 employees, including the Army's global supply chain in support of Iraq and Afghanistan. "A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America's First Female Four-Star General" reveals the driving force behind Dunwoody's success in a male dominated American military. While her talent as a logistician and her empathy in dealing with fellow soldiers helped her rise through the ranks, Dunwoody also realized that true leaders never stop learning, refining, growing, and adapting. In "A Higher Standard", Dunwoody details her evolution as a soldier and reveals the core leadership principles that helped her achieve her historic appointment. Dunwoody's strategies are applicable to any leader, no matter the size or scope of the organization. They include lessons such as "Never Walk by a Mistake," a mandate to recognize when something is wrong, big or small, and to hold people accountable. Not only can this save billions for industry, it can sometimes save the lives of soldiers and citizens. She also advises that "Leaders Aren't Invincible -- Don't Try to Be": to be our best, we have to acknowledge our worst. And she encourages readers to "Leverage the Power of Diversity" by creating teams of people from different backgrounds to provide a broad range of ideas and devise the best-informed decisions. With these and other guiding principles, "A Higher Standard" offers practical, tactical advice that everyone can use to lead and achieve with maximum success.
Critique: As impressively well written, organized and presented as Ann Dunwoody herself, "A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America's First Female Four-Star General" is as informed and informative an account as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. A truly extraordinary story, "A Higher Standard" is enthusiastically recommended for community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Higher Standard" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.49) and in an MP3 audio book format (Blackstone, 9781469061344, $29.99).
Justice Is For The Lonely
101 Park Avenue, Suite 210, Oklahoma City, OK 73102
9780990370024, $25.99, 436pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A former Dallas football star lies in a coma after heart surgery. When his family sues, alleging gross negligence, millions of dollars and reputations are at stake. Kristen Kerry is surprised when she is assigned to the defense team -- until she learns that her job is to entice the doctor's lawyer, notorious womanizer Michael Stern, into a joint defense, then double-cross him during trial. At the same time, Stern plans on backstabbing Kristen -- after he has gotten what he wants. Unknown to either of them, Stern has made an enemy of a partner in his firm, willing to enlist a murderer to extract revenge on both Kristen and Stern. Only Kristen (with her access to hospital records) can identify the killer and save Stern from the death penalty.
Critique: Exceptionally well written and engagingly entertaining from beginning to end, "Justice is for the Lonely" clearly establishes author Steve Clark as an impressively gifted novelist. This is the first volume of a series featuring lady lawyer Kristen Kerry and Clark's readers will look eagerly toward his next Kristen Kerry novel. "Justice Is For The Lonely" is very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Justice Is For The Lonely" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
Miss Darcy's Passion
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444824384, $32.50, 360pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: When Dominic Sanford's parents die in a carriage accident, he is packed off to Scotland to be brought up in his uncle's household. Years later, he returns to his dilapidated estate that borders Pemberley. His father's journals have recently come into his possession, raising questions about his parents' deaths. Upon seeing Dominic for the first time at Colonel Fitzwilliam's wedding, Georgiana Darcy feels an immediate attraction. As she assists him in delving deeper into his family's history, they uncover a fiendish web of organized criminality. But Georgiana unwittingly plays a major role in the miscreants' plans and by involving her, Dominic has placed her directly in danger's path.
Critique: An impressively entertaining read from beginning to end, this large print edition of "Miss Darcy's Passion" by Wendy Soliman will prove to be an enduringly popular and highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library Historical Romance collections. It should be noted that "Miss Darcy's Passion" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).
The Earliest Instrument
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
9781576472217, $68.00, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Earliest Instrument: Ritual Power and Fertility Magic of the Flute in Upper Paleolithic Culture" by Lana Neal investigates the earliest known musical instruments within the larger cultural context. Upper Paleolithic flutes are the oldest musical instruments that have survived in the archeological record. The significance of this study lies in the synthesis of various methodologies and sources of evidence to gain an understanding of the place of the instruments in Upper Paleolithic culture. "The Earliest Instrument" is a comprehensive investigation of the artifacts and their ritual and social functions. Upper Paleolithic flutes have been discovered at archeological sites dating from approximately 43,000 to 12,000 years ago. Although humans were most likely creating music prior to this time, the people who entered Europe approximately 43,000 years ago began to create musical instruments that have survived to the present day. Analysis of the artifacts is followed by examination of the archeological contexts, parietal and mobiliary art as it relates to sonic expression, ethnographic examples, and the instrument as it appears in various mythological systems around the world. These instruments were powerful symbols essential to the expression of the most fundamental aspects of life and death. They were symbols of life and thus intrinsically linked to human fertility as well as the fecundity of plants and animals. The flutes were associated with the cycle of life and death and marked important points in this cycle. This investigation provides a new level of insight into the function of music in human culture.
Critique: Academician Lana Neal, in preparation for this seminal study, conducted research and fieldwork at the Museum of Archeology Nationale in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the archaeological site of Isturitz in southern France, and the British Library. The result is a model of original and seminal scholarship, it should be noted that this exceptional study is enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, a Select Bibliography, and a comprehensive Index. "The Earliest Instrument: Ritual Power and Fertility Magic of the Flute in Upper Paleolithic Culture" is an extraordinary study and a critically essential addition to academic library Paleolithic Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists..
Virginia Woolf: A Portrait
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231153560, $35.00, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Virginia Woolf: A Portrait" by the late Viviane Forrester (1925-2013) presents a remarkable portrait of one of the most famous and influential female American authors and offers new information and perspectives on Virginia Woolf's relationships with her family and friends and how they shaped her work. "Virginia Woolf: A Portrait" blends recently unearthed documents, key primary sources, and personal interviews with Woolf's relatives and other acquaintances to render in unmatched detail the Woolf's complicated relationship with her husband, Leonard; her father, Leslie Stephen; and her half-sister, Vanessa Bell. Forrester connects these figures to Woolf's mental breakdown while introducing the concept of "Virginia seule," or Virginia alone: an uncommon paragon of female strength and conviction. Forrester's biography inhabits her characters and vivifies their perspective, weaving a colorful, intense drama that forces readers to rethink their understanding of Woolf, her writing, and her world.
Critique: A model of scholarly research and a seminal work that is essential reading for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the life and writings of this great American writer, "Virginia Woolf: A Portrait" is very highly recommended for both community and academic 20th Century American Literature reference collections in general, and Virginia Woolf supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Virginia Woolf: A Portrait" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.24).
Teach Your Herding Breed to Be a Great Companion Dog
403 South Mission Street, Wenatchee WA 98801
9781617811623, $19.95, 180pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Herding breed dogs such as Border Collies, Corgis, and Australian Shepherds have incredibly strong instinctive behaviors to do the work they were bred for controlling various kinds of livestock. These behaviors manifest themselves in modern herding breed dogs kept as companions or family pets in a number of ways. These include chasing cars and bicyclists, herding kids, nipping at vulnerable heels, barking incessantly, and acting as the fun police in dog parks. All behaviors that are entirely appropriate and necessary when dealing with sheep or cattle, not so great in a suburban neighborhood. Fortunately, these instincts can be redirected in a number of ways that keep these energetic dogs busy and happy as well as out of trouble. That is why so many of these dogs can be taught to excel in agility and obedience trials, love to retrieve, and make great running companions. In "Teach Your Herding Breed to Be a Great Companion Dog: From Obsessive to Outstanding" canine training expert Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell offers solutions to solving and preventing problem behaviors associated with herding breeds living in the modern world.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Teach Your Herding Breed to Be a Great Companion Dog: From Obsessive to Outstanding" is well illustrated, informative, practical, and thoroughly 'user friendly'. A complete course of instruction under one cover, "Teach Your Herding Breed to Be a Great Companion Dog: From Obsessive to Outstanding" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Pets/Wildlife instructional reference collections.
Dennis R. MacDonald
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9780742558915, $34.00, 178pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: American popular culture is well-populated with fictional superheroes: Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and more. Superheroes are not a modern invention; in fact, they are prehistoric. The gods and goddesses of the Greeks, for example, walked on water, flew, visited the land of the dead, and lived forever. Ancient Christians told similar stories about Jesus, their primary superhero, who possessed incredible powers of healing, walked on water, rose from the dead, and more. In "Mythologizing Jesus: From Jewish Teacher to Epic Hero", Dennis R. MacDonald (Professor of New Testament and Christian origins at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, California) shows how the stories told in the Gospels parallel many in Greek and Roman epics with the aim of compelling their readers into life-changing decisions to follow Jesus. Professor MacDonald doesn't call into question the existence of Jesus but rather asks readers to examine the biblical stories about him through a new, mythological lens.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Mythologizing Jesus: From Jewish Teacher to Epic Hero" is enhanced with the inclusion of eight pages of Notes; an appendix (The Gospels of Matthew and John); a two page Bibliography; a two page Index to Classical Greek Literature; and a two page Index to the Gospels and Acts. Highly recommended for both academia and non-specialist general readers alike, "Mythologizing Jesus: From Jewish Teacher to Epic Hero" is very highly recommended for community, seminary, and academic library Christian Studies reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Mythologizing Jesus: From Jewish Teacher to Epic Hero" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.35).
Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes
Denise Grover Swank
Crooked Lane Books
2 Park Avenue, 10th floor, New York, NY 10016
9781629532196, $24.99, 352pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV is bad even before she has a vision of herself dead. She's had plenty of visions, but this one is unique. She's never seen herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered instead of Rose, there's only one thing that's certain: Rose is the prime suspect. With prison looming, Rose realizes she's wasted her life and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before everything falls apart. From drinking a glass of wine to doing "more" with a man, Rose is well on her way to committing a good number of the seven deadly sins, with the help of her hot and mysterious neighbor Joe. Joe is new to town, and it doesn't take a vision for Rose to realize he's got plenty of dangerous secrets of his own. When her house is broken into and someone else she knows is murdered, Rose realizes that dying in the county jail may not be her biggest worry after all!
Critique: Impressively well written, this debut novel by Denise Grover Swant clearly documents the author's exceptional mastery of the romantic suspense genre. "Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes" is very highly recommended and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes" is also available in a paperback edition (9781629533759, $14.99).
Glimpses of Wilderness
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0451
9780878398119, $16.95, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Glimpses of Wilderness" by Kevin Proescholdt shares the author's insights into the nature and value of wilderness areas. Set in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, each of the thirty essays comprising "Glimpses of Wilderness" describes an adventure drawn from Proescholdt's impressive wealth of experiences in the area, and the glimpse into the character of wilderness that it provides. Though set in Minnesota's canoe country wilderness, the perceptions and insights offered in "Glimpses of Wilderness" also pertain to all wilderness areas across the country.
Critique: Exceptionally well written and an inherently fascinating read, "Glimpses of Wilderness" is especially recommended for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in nature in general, and Minnesota's Boundary Water Canoe wilderness area in particular. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Glimpses of Wilderness" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Banksia Lady: Celia Rosser, Botanical Artist
Monash University Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9781922235800, $39.95, www.isbs.com
Synopsis: Celia Rosser is an internationally acclaimed botanical illustrator, who ultimately dedicated her life to painting the entire genus of Banksia -- the only artist to have done such a thing. Celia's dedication to the task put her at the center of the Monash Banksia Project, underwritten by Monash University (Australia) for 25 years and culminating in the production of an extraordinary three-volume florilegium that became one of the great books published in the 20th century. "Banksia Lady: Celia Rosser, Botanical Artist" is the story of the emergence of this impressive artist who grew up in difficult circumstances during the Great Depression and pursued her art partly as a way of protecting herself from the harsher side of life. The narrative stays focused on the path of the artist, as Celia grows up, develops her talent, and learns to understand and take advantage of it. The story follows her struggles to pursue her artistic passion while fulfilling the expectations of women in 1950s to subordinate themselves to their husbands as wives and mothers. In telling this story of Celia Rosser's unparalleled talent and extraordinary achievement, "Banksia Lady: Celia Rosser, Botanical Artist" explores the history of botanical illustration, botany, academia, gardens and their herbarium, and Australia's place in changing the shape of the world.
Critique: Impressively researched, exceptionally well written and presented, "Banksia Lady: Celia Rosser, Botanical Artist" is an extraordinary biography of an extraordinarily gifted woman. Biography Carolyn Landon has done full and complete work in providing the reader with a definitive perspective on the life and accomplishment of one of Australia's most accomplished female artists of the 20th century. "Banksia Lady: Celia Rosser, Botanical Artist" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library 20th Century Biography; Women's Studies; Botanical Studies, and Australia Art History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
No Good Deed
Mary D. Brooks
Bedazzled Ink Publishing Company
9781939562883, $528.53 PB, $0.2.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
"Love is a wild fire that cannot be contained by any mere element known to man." - Cristina Marrero
Author Mary D. Brook's novel 'No Good Deed' is a historical fictional tale about two women. The year's 1951, Eva & Zoe are two star-crossed lovers who have suffered through the war and are now heading back to Australia to settle down and start a family. But life's never that simple and a couple of life-altering events threaten to derail their future. And Eva's paranormal powers and its revelation brings forth secrets & characters from her past that puts an even bigger strain on her love life. But the power of love and family is such that it can overcome even the harshest of challenges life throws its way.
There's great chutzpah in the writing, especially in the novel's dialogues. It's a good wordy novel and a lot of the action takes place and is conveyed through finely written dialogue pieces. The characters are always mouthing clever and smart lines in accordance with their personalities established early on in the book. The novel will sometimes remind you of a movie script with the way each scene has been conceptualized, written and edited to form this seamless narrative that's sure to keep your interest level at a constant. Since it's set in the 1950's a lot of detailing has gone into making the story believable and authentic. This is especially so because being gay and being a gay couple amidst a sea of judgmental heterosexuals would have been harder to pass off in that era compared to today's times.
The lead characters in the book come across as both real and life-like and you imagine them existing outside the confines of the book's narrative as well. The author also deserves praise for her effervescent way of dealing with religion and religious beliefs in the story. She busts many stereotypes along the way and presents various integers in a manner both theists and atheists alike will find acceptable.
There's a bit of back and forth and tidbits in the narrative pertaining to events already taken place in the character's past; for a new reader though all this information might leave them a bit aloof. But if you are willing to overlook a few minor missteps like these, this book can be read as a standalone new novel too. That being said, the ingenuity in the plot line and a couple of memorable characters are more than enough reasons to check out the other books in the series as well.
End of the day classifying it as just a good lesbian love story would be doing it a big injustice; it's a great love story, period.
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781491226780, $6.47, www.amazon.com
"Poverty is the worst form of violence." -Mahatma Gandhi
Author C. Radhakrishnan's novelette 'Agni' is a finely crafted introspection into the emotion of love and its myriad forms. The source of many different emotions found in men can often be traced back to this single emotion. And it's often the tipping point that makes our mind oscillate between the different levels of sanity. The good and the bad that comes out of it have always stupefied humanity and the following story is a fine example of the human mind's predicament when engulfed in an all consuming fire, the Agni (fire) of love.
People born and brought up in the same milieu as the characters in the book will fully appreciate the familiarity and sense of belonging the author's writing conjures up in one's mind. And for the rest of the world perhaps unfamiliar with such native scenes this small book will be a series of awakening to an exotic world full of exotic possibilities. And you needn't understand or have prior knowledge of local customs beforehand to enjoy it, because the scintillating wordplay and vivid imagery will calm your mind and comfort your heart as any soothing lullaby would.
While describing the social and cultural mood of the place a bit of satire creeps into the author's tone but it's all good and you can chuckle at such irrelevance because most of it stands true to the place and the time it's set in. But perhaps a discomforting thought for readers would be that in many places the government machinery still moves at that same lethargic pace as it did almost 50 years ago.
Violence and cruelty form a part of everyday life for the inhabitants of the small village and the protagonist Moosa is their chief mascot. Although it's claimed that such violence is not part of their local traditions, the people simply don't know any better and perhaps it's merely a reflection of the times they lived in where the need for human survival prioritized over feelings of empathy. And nowhere is it more obvious than on various animals that have to bear the brunt of the human animal's flippant attitude towards them, alternating between extreme love and hate.
Moosa is a terror of a man but there is a lot of good in him and inwardly he tries to be a just man but he often succumbs to the expectation of his own conceptualized image. He's a person whose world view is limited by his upbringing and experience and also by his strong bond and love towards his only daughter. Amina, Sulaiman, Mulla, the assistant boy, Kumbhan and a few others are a wonderful group of characters soaked in the local milieu that bring to the forefront delectable flavors of rural customs and life in the interiors.
Birds That Fly Ahead
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition
9781511898324, $19.50, www.amazon.com
"Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we're opened, we're red." - Clive Barker
Author C. Radhakrishnan's novel 'Birds That Fly Ahead' is another book in a series centered around a lead protagonist chronicling the class struggle led by a left leaning extremist movement that mowed through India decades ago and the remnants of which can still be seen today in various trickles and forms. Arjun is a revolutionary, the state has charged him with various cases of murder and heists. But what is the truth? Did he commit all those murders as they claim? Can the murders and violence he perpetrated ever be justified? And if he's not to blame, then who should be held accountable? These are some of the questions we seek answers to in this epic novel saddling both philosophical and political reverberations with ease.
The change in the mood of the narrative shifts dramatically with changes in the story, like a three act play you will see your own mood shift from end to the other while progressing through the set-up, the confrontation and eventual resolution. There's also some wonderful dialogue writing in the book and this back and forth between characters is captivating to listen to. Some may call it a tad superficial, sure but when you are creating this magical narrative on paper, such illusions will have a bit of artificiality to them. But it will still leave you mesmerized and in awe of the language and the beauty of thoughts expressed. The best thing about Kairali Narayanan's translation is that she has been able to absorb and present in entirety the earthy beauty of the author's prose from Malayalam word for word.
Arjun is a byproduct of his circumstances and fate, he grows up quickly than his peers, his evolution speeded up as necessitated by the need to find a solution and escape from the life handed down to him. There's an interesting array of secondary characters that provide stability and wholeness to the story. The author himself appears as the narrator/journalist who becomes the ears and mouth of the reader, hearing what Arjun has to say and asking him whatever's on our mind. The three Urmilas' along with Anuradha reveal the strength and complexity of womanhood and the echelon of love these species are capable of. The editor, the professor and the tribal headman form the trifecta of patriarchal wisdom and knowledge, their philosophical diatribes also reveal the writer's mind and his attitude towards life. Their disclosures are as good any that you find in the eastern or western school of philosophy.
Though not discriminatory, the book's narrative might be able to weave its magic among only a section of the audience even after it's rebirth in the English language. Because Birds That Fly Ahead isn't just a simple novel dealing with a sole emotion, it's an epic book with mighty ambitions that makes you think hard and deep about life and one which succeeds in portraying hard hitting and raw emotions.
Now For a Tearful Smile
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition
9781495273858, $16.20, www.amazon.com
"This may be the curse of human race. Not that we are different from one another, but we are so alike." - Salman Rushdie
Author C. Radhakrishnan's novel 'Now For a Tearful Smile' is an all revealing insight into the sub consciousness and conscience of a nation through the eyes of Arjun, a poet, a revolutionary and an ascetic. Set in the tumultuous post Emergency period in India, the novel chronicles the love story of two people, a man and a woman, a husband and wife both living under false identities. Reiterating how the individual is always bound by the collective; the social, cultural, political and economic milieu of the nation play an important part in shaping the lives of its lead protagonists, often charting the course of their destiny.
The author raises a great deal of philosophical debates and while he provides answers for some, for others he lets the reader be the judge. One of the key themes discussed is mankind's everlasting search to find a lasting solution for human sorrow. In fact, tears and sadness form an integral part of the narrative as does the childlike innocence and joy even in its midst. Other key factors discussed include the effectiveness and eventual futility of an eye-for-eye justice system and man's desire to live freely and openly without fearing anything.
The author takes characters that have a similar philosophy towards life and yet are from diverse backgrounds and meshes their lives to form a bond with you that will last a lifetime. Siddharth Thappa aka Arjun is a multilayered character and is the mainstay of the novel. Branded as a terrorist and a revolutionary by the state, he's this sensitive, empathetic character with high philosophical ideals. His bravery and his steadfast belief in his principles even in times of dire straits and oppression make him a hero in every sense of the word. His love Ani is another resolutely strong character and her courage, tenaciousness and optimism towards life is like a breath of fresh air in the doom and gloom world they exist in. The novel also has an extensive array of characters, an unlikely group of people whose lives get entangled and become dependent on each other, borne out of necessity and fate.
It's not a story that you can read and forget. It will encompass you with its straightforward & brutal honesty and haunt and torment you with the wide range of emotions portrayed. But at the end of it, you will revel and rejoice the artistic flair to capture and celebrate a slice of life seldom discussed or portrayed in fiction.
Kairali Narayanan deserves special mention for her wonderful use of the English language to introduce this special book to the world.
Kevin Peter, Reviewer
Dissent: The History of an American Idea
New York University Press
838 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003
9781479806652, $39.95, 640pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Dissent: The History of an American Idea" examines the key role dissent has played in shaping the United States. It focuses on those who, from colonial days to the present, dissented against the ruling paradigm of their time: from the Puritan Anne Hutchinson and Native American chief Powhatan in the seventeenth century, to the Occupy and Tea Party movements in the twenty-first century. The emphasis is on the way Americans, celebrated figures and anonymous ordinary citizens, responded to what they saw as the injustices that prevented them from fully experiencing their vision of America. Women fought for equal rights; abolitionists sought to destroy slavery; workers organized unions; Indians resisted white encroachment on their land; radicals angrily demanded an end to the dominance of the moneyed interests; civil rights protestors marched to end segregation; antiwar activists took to the streets to protest the nation's wars; and reactionaries, conservatives, and traditionalists in each decade struggled to turn back the clock to a simpler, more secure time. Some dissenters are celebrated heroes of American history, while others are ordinary people: frequently overlooked, but whose stories show that change is often accomplished through grassroots activism. And some are deemed traitors ranging from the Confederates seeking separation from the Union down to Edward Snowden and his revelations of abuse by agencies of the federal government.
Critique: Massively researched, impressively well written, and a seminal work that will be of immense interest to academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in American history, "Dissent: The History of an American Idea" by Ralph Young (Professor of History at Temple University) is very strongly recommended as an essential addition to community and academic library American History and Political Science reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Dissent: The History of an American Idea" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.33).
9781782223818, $11.99, 226pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: With vague images on the canvas of his mind, Hassan moves to Rijja villa at the age of eight. Being the only child in the family with two loving parents, he is bestowed with all the blessings one could dream of. Knowing his family values and status, he looks down upon dysfunctional families which struggle to uplift their pride in society. He does it, without knowing what destiny holds for him. But the bubble is about to burst when dreadful shadows surmount from the past. For the time being, he travels abroad, finds solace in a different land. In search of his identity, to find the truth, he travels back to Karachi-Pakistan, where shocking revelations await him, surprises bring in new twists. History overturns its pages to unravel the missing link and form an image on a jigsaw
Critique: Khurram Arman is a Karachi-born British novelist and banker who spent his early life in Karachi-Pakistan, where he observed how society and religion dictate people's lives; only a handful of people raise their voice against social injustices such as the practice of 'honour' killings, shunning people born out of wedlock, allowing people to misuse blasphemy law for personal benefits. In his debut novel "Lost Hierarchy" he draws upon his own life experiences and observations to deftly craft an inherently thoughtful and thought-provoking work of a kind that will linger in the mind and memory long after "Lost Hierarchy" is finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended for both personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Literary Fiction collections.
Drinking with the Saints
Michael P. Foley
Regnery Publishing, Inc.
300 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001
9781621573265, $26.99, 487pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Pub crawl your way through the sacred seasons with Michael P. Foley's "Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour", an entertaining and useful collection of cocktail recipes, distilled spirits, beer, and wine for virtually every occasion on the Catholic liturgical calendar. One part bartender's guide, one part spiritual manual, a dash of irreverence, and mixed with love: "Drinking with the Saints" is a work that both sinner and saint will savor.
Critique: Unique, nicely illustrated in duo-tone throughout, and organized into two major sections (The Feasts of the Saints; The Liturgical Seasons), "Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour" is enhanced with the inclusion of an informative introduction (How to Use this Book, How to Mix, and How to Toast); two appendices (Reference Gjuide to the Post-Vatican II Calendar; Glossary of Alcohol-Related Terms); a four page listing of Works Consulted; a sixteen page List of Illustrations; an eight page index of Holy Days in Alphabetical Order; and an eight page Index. Also available in a Kindle edition ($14.57), "Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour" is a highly recommended addition to personal, community, academic library collections.
Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg
James A. Hessler, author
Wayne E. Motts, author
Steven A. Stanley, cartographer
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611212006, $37.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: On the afternoon of July 3, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered more than 12,000 Southern infantrymen to undertake what would become the most legendary charge in American military history. This attack, popularly but inaccurately known as "Pickett's Charge," is often considered the turning point of the Civil War's seminal battle of Gettysburg. Although much has been written about the battle itself and Pickett's Charge in particular, "Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg" is the first battlefield guide for this celebrated assault. Authors James A. Hessler (a Licensed Battlefield guide at Gettysburg) and Wayne E. Motts (Chief Executive Officer of The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) have teamed up with one of the Civil War's leading cartographers, Steven A. Stanley to unravel the mysteries of this attack. Grounded in the premise that no better resource exists for understanding this unique event than the battlefield itself, Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg encourages its readers to explore this storied event from a wide variety of perspectives.
Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of full-color original maps, battlefield and historic photographs, human interest stories, examinations of leadership controversies, a full Order of Battle, and a collection of artifacts directly related to the charge, "Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History" is a seminal work of impressive scholarship, detail, and insightful 'reader friendly' commentary. Enhanced with the inclusion of sixteen pages of Notes, a seven page Bibliography, and a comprehensive fifteen page Index, "Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Civil War Studies reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).
The Hepatitis B and Delta Viruses
Christoph Seeger & Stephen Locarnini
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
500 Sunnyside Boulevard, Woodbury NY 11797-2924
9781621820888, $135.00, 363pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Despite the availability of an effective vaccine for hepatitis B, hundreds of millions of people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus can cause serious liver damage and cancer in chronically infected patients. Hepatitis delta virus (HDV), a satellite of HBV, can exacerbate the disease. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Christoph Seeger and Stephen Locarnini, this up-to-date collection medical research articles examines all aspects of HBV and HDV infections and their management. Contributors discuss the HBV and HDV life cycles, their unique characteristics (e.g., the formation of HBV cccDNA), the immune responses they elicit, and the challenges they present to the development of antiviral treatments. The molecular mechanisms that lead to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma are reviewed, as are factors that influence the severity of the disease. Conventional treatments (e.g., interferons), emerging therapeutic strategies, and ongoing efforts to find a cure for chronic infections are also described. "The Hepatitis B and Delta Viruses" includes perspectives on the origins and evolution of these viruses, historical milestones in HBV and HDV research, and insights from animal models (e.g., woodchucks).
Critique: Deftly organized and presented in six major sections (Introduction to Hepatitis B Virus; Virology; Pathogenesis and Natural History; Animal Models; Prevention, Treatment, Control, and Eradication; and Hepatitis Delta Virus), "The Hepatitis B and Delta Viruses" will prove to be a critically essential reference for virologists, clinical and laboratory investigators, and physicians interested in reducing the burden of liver disease caused by HBV and HDV. "The Hepatitis B and Delta Viruses" is strongly recommended for academic library Medical Studies reference collection in general, and hepatitis supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
The Ice is Melting: Ethics in the Arctic
Leif Magne Helgesen, Kim Holmen, Ole Arve Misund, editors
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9788245018431, $64.00, 246pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The ice in the Arctic is melting. Nowhere on Earth can changes in the climate be seen as clearly as here. What is happening? Is the world headed toward catastrophe, or is this only a problem for polar bears and walruses? How will a warmer Arctic affect the living conditions of people further away, in places such as Polynesia and Micronesia? What are the responsibilities of individuals in this situation? The discussion of climate ethics is an important concern. "The Ice is Melting: Ethics in the Arctic" is inspiring and thought-provoking anthology of articles by experts that extends knowledge about the climate and simultaneously invites reflection on the ethical issues involved. The contributors represent a wide range of professions sharing a belief in dialogue and cooperation. They demonstrate how the climate crisis challenges all to work together across disciplinary, professional, and national boundaries.
Critique: An impressive organized and seminal collection of informed and informative scholarly articles, "The Ice is Melting: Ethics in the Arctic" is very strongly recommended as an essential addition to community and academic library Climate Change, Polar Studies, Environmental Studies, and Conservation reference collections, as well as supplemental studies reading lists for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the impact of climate change upon the Arctic.
Copyright, sixth edition
Graham P. Cornish
7 Ridgmount Street, London, England, WC1E 7AE
9781856049702, $66.70, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a fully updated sixth edition, "Copyright: Interpreting the Law for Libraries, Archives and Information Services" by Graham P. Cornish is justifiably considered to be the standard work in its field and indispensable for all librarians and information professionals and who are looking for solutions to their copyright problems. "Copyright" explains the provisions of the UK Copyright Act and supporting legislation in quick and easy question-and-answer form. This latest edition is revised and expanded in the light of new legislation which came into force in 2014/5 and some decisions by the courts which have changed our understanding of what the law means. Areas such as moral rights, originality, databases, and the use of broadcast material in education all receive detailed attention, along with Wikipedia, Creative Commons and Open Archives. Copyright is also considered in the context of social media. All types of material that may attract copyright are considered including: literary, dramatic and musical works; artistic works; sound recordings; films and video; broadcast; databases; computer programs and web sites. The text is amplified by the use of practical examples to illustrate complex points and complemented by a detailed index that enables the enquirer to pinpoint topics and proposed action quickly and accurately. The appendices provide helpful lists of addresses and selected further sources of information.
Critique: Impressively well organized and presented, ""Copyright: Interpreting the Law for Libraries, Archives and Information Services" is an essential and practical instructional reference and guide for librarians, as well as being an exceptionally useful manual for information professionals and any others who are looking for solutions to their copyright problems. No UK community, academic, corporate, or governmental library should be without a copy of ""Copyright: Interpreting the Law for Libraries, Archives and Information Services" accessible to their library staff members at all times.
A Traveling Homeland
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812247244, $24.95, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A word conventionally imbued with melancholy meanings, "diaspora" has been used variously to describe the cataclysmic historical event of displacement, the subsequent geographical scattering of peoples, or the conditions of alienation abroad and yearning for an ancestral home. But as Daniel Boyarin writes in "A Traveling Homeland: The Babylonian Talmud as Diaspora", diaspora may be more constructively construed as a form of cultural hybridity or a mode of analysis. Professor Boyarin (Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley) makes the case that a shared homeland or past and traumatic dissociation are not necessary conditions for diaspora and that Jews carry their homeland with them in diaspora, in the form of textual, interpretive communities built around talmudic study.
Critique: A seminal work of impressively erudite scholarship, "A Traveling Homeland: The Babylonian Talmud as Diaspora" is academically enhanced with the inclusion of thirty pages of Notes; an eight page Bibliography; a twelve page List of Names and Subjects; and a two page Index of Ancient Texts. "A Traveling Homeland" is a very strongly recommended and valued addition to academic library Judaic Studies reference collections and curriculum supplemental studies reading lists.
War at the Edge of the World
Ian James Ross
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781468311211, $26.95, 416pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "War at the Edge of the World" by Ian James Ross is an epic saga set at the end of empire in the reign of the Emperor Constantine. "The War at the Edge of the World" follows newly promoted centurion Aurelius Castus, a veteran soldier defending the receding borders of the Roman Empire, into the tumultuous battle for the future of Rome. Once a soldier in an elite legion from the Danube, now stuck in Britain's provincial backwater, Castus believes his glory days are over. But fate is about to intervene. When the king of the Picts, the savage people beyond Hadrian's Wall, dies in mysterious circumstances, Castus is selected to command the bodyguard of a Roman envoy sent to negotiate with the barbarians. But the diplomatic mission ends in bloody tragedy. Castus and his men are soon fighting for their lives and the legionary discovers that nothing about his doomed mission was ever what it seemed.
Critique: A superbly crafted historical novel of the first rank, "War at the Edge of the World" is the first volume in a new series called ''Twilight of Empire" and establishes author Ian James Ross as an extraordinarily gifted writer. A solid entertainment of unexpected plot twists and turns, "War at the Edge of the World" is very highly recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "War at the Edge of the World" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).
The Best Natural Homemade Skin & Hair Care Products
Robert Rose Inc.
120 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 800
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4P 1E2
9780778805021, $24.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Health-enhancing oils from around the world form the base for all natural cosmetics. With the easy-to-follow recipes comprising "The Best Natural Homemade Skin & Hair Care Products" by Max Gomez -- and utilizing widely available natural ingredients, creating effective, soothing and above all natural creams, balms, face and body oils, exfoliating scrubs, shampoos, shower and bath gels and lip balms is easier than ever. "The Best Natural Homemade Skin & Hair Care Products" features really lovely oils such as monoi oil (a coconut and flower oil that is a staple in beauty and skin regimens in Tahiti), soy oil, nut oils (such as macadamia, almond and peanut), seed oils (such as sesame, hemp, pumpkin seed and flax) and some really beautiful exotic natural oils such as piqui, andiroba, prickly pear seed, tamanu and argan. All these oils have wonderful skin-care properties, and there are specific formulas for all sorts of skin conditions, from dry to oily, from acne-prone to wrinkled, from young to old. Each formula is very easy to make and only requires normal kitchen equipment and a good scale. There are formulas for anti-aging creams, firming recipes to fight against cellulite, freckle- and spot-removing oil, moisturizing facial wrinkle cream, anti-dandruff shampoos and many others.
Critique: Beautifully illustrated in full color throughout, "The Best Natural Homemade Skin & Hair Care Products" is exceptionally well organized and presented, making even the most novice of homemaker able to create 175 professional quality hair and skin care products following the thoroughly 'user friendly' step-by-step recipes. Of special note is the inclusion of a succinct introductory comment and tips for each of the showcased recipes, making "The Best Natural Homemade Skin & Hair Care Products" very highly recommended for personal and community library collections.
Taking Care of Your Child
Robert H. Pantell, James F. Fries, Donald M. Vickery
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107
9780738218359, $21.99, 576pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded ninth edition, "Taking Care of Your Child: A Parent's Illustrated Guide to Complete Medical Care" is once again an indispensable, comprehensive, instructional resource for parents and caregivers. Covering more than 175 health care problems and symptoms, "Taking Care of Your Child" offers the most recent information on critical childcare issues ranging from what to do in the event of a minor injury, to such everyday issues such as common allergies and ailments. "Taking Care of Your Child" is easy to use, even in a crisis: parents can simply look up a symptom to find a complete explanation of probable causes, how to treat the problem at home, and when to see a doctor. With the very latest on ADHD, autism, breast-feeding, childhood depression and obesity, discipline, immunizations, and more, this new ninth edition of "Taking Care of Your Child" also features new sections on youth sports and head trauma, genetic screening, and minimizing risks of medical procedures.
Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly', informed and informative, and also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99), "Taking Care of Your Child: A Parent's Illustrated Guide to Complete Medical Care" is a very strongly recommended home reference for all parents and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Health & Medicine instructional reference collections.
Big Yoga For Less Stress
Meera Patricia Kerr
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004056, $17.95, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: For over thirty-five years yoga instructor Meera Patricia Kerr has taught thousands of men, women, and children how to overcome their anxiety and experience greater physical and emotional health. In "Big Yoga for Less Stress", Meera draws upon her many years of experience and expertise to provide a complete do-it-yourself program of movements and exercises to combat all the stressors in our lives. Part One of "Big Yoga for Less Stress" begins with a clear explanation of what Yoga is, what benefits it offers, and how it can be used as an effective tool to reduce stress. Meera then goes on to provide practical information regarding clothing, mats, and suitable environments, and to emphasize the need to begin with care and avoid initial strains and pains. Part Two of "Big Yoga For Less Stress" offers a wealth of illustrated Yoga postures and movements, breathing techniques, and meditations specifically designed to overcome tension and anxiety. In each case, Meera deftly explains the technique, details its advantages, and offers clear instructions for its use. Easy-to-follow photographs accompany every exercise, while boxed insets provide further insights into Yoga and explore its many fascinating aspects.
Critique: Impressively well presented throughout, "Big Yoga For Less Stress" is thoroughly informed, 'user friendly', and very highly recommended for both personal and community library Health & Medicine instructional reference collections in general, and supplemental yoga studies reading lists in particular.
Debra Bricker Balken, Editor
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812247398, $49.95, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: One of the foremost artists to emerge in Philadelphia in the 1960s, Edna Andrade (1917-2008) is now recognized as an early leader in the Op Art movement. Characterized by pulsating patterns, vivid colors, and a visual immediacy that surpasses narrative meaning, her work explores symmetry and rhythm through geometric design and structures inspired by nature. Andrade sought to create "democratic art" that dispensed with the need for elite aesthetic education or intricate explanations. As a result, her accessible and appealing compositions were often repurposed for commercial art and political campaigns. "Edna Andrade" takes a comprehensive look at the full range of Andrade's work, from her early surreal and figurative landscapes, through several decades of Bauhaus-inspired design and the distinctive geometric patterns of Op Art, to her late-life quasi-abstract studies of the Atlantic coastline. Accompanied by 170 illustrations, including full-color reproductions as well as photographs, drawings, sketches, and notes, the essays situate Andrade's work in the context of movements that surfaced in the United States in the 1960s, such as Minimalism and Pop Art. The first book-length study of her career as an artist and teacher, "Edna Andrade" examines the aesthetic influences, creative development, and enduring legacy of this dynamic twentieth-century artist.
Critique: Exhibiting flawless production values, "Edna Andrade" is a truly impressive body of work and an essential addition to community and academic library American Art History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Raincoast Chronicles 23
Peter A. Robson, editor
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781550177107, $24.95, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: When the first edition of Raincoast Chronicles was produced by a couple of novice publishers in the unlikely location of Pender Harbour in 1972, it boldly announced that it was going "to put BC character on the record." Printed in sepia ink and decorated with the rococo flourishes characteristic of that extravagant era, the unclassifiable journal-cum-serial-book about life on the BC coast struck a nerve and in time became something very close to what it set out to be--a touchstone of British Columbia identity. Soon the term "Raincoast," which had been coined by the editors, was appearing on boats, puppet theatres, interior decorating firms and at least one other publishing enterprise.
Raincoast Chronicles also created another publishing enterprise--Harbour Publishing. Many of the stories that started out as articles in the Chronicles grew into books and so the White family was more or less forced to get into book publishing to deal with them. That undertaking went on to publish some six hundred books (and counting!) about every possible aspect of BC and, in 2014, celebrated its fortieth anniversary in the biz. To honour that occasion this special double issue of Raincoast Chronicles takes a tour down memory lane, selecting a trove of the most outstanding stories in all those Harbour books and republishing them in one volume.
Here are some of Canada's most exciting and iconic writers--Al Purdy, Anne Cameron, Edith Iglauer, Patrick Lane and Grant Lawrence, to start a long list. Here also are stories of disasters at sea, scarcely believable bush plane feats, eerie events at coastal ghost towns and a First Nations elder who has seen so many sasquatches he finds them sort of boring. Full of great drawings and photos, this jumbo anniversary edition of Raincoast Chronicles is a feast of great Pacific Northwest storytelling.
Critique: This 40th Anniversary Edition of the "Raincoast Chronicles" is a literary treasure and very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Canadian Literature and Canadian Publishing History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
The Undecided College Student
Virginia N. Gordon & George E. Steele
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398090678, $44.95, 308pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The world of technology is advancing at a rapid pace. New career fields are emerging, new interdisciplinary majors are being developed, and new college majors are being formed to prepare students for an ever-changing workplace. Now in a newly revised and updated fourth edition "The Undecided College Student: An Academic And Career Advising Challenge" provides extensive and systematic accounts of research (old and new), model programs for assisting students, and diverse theory for understanding the undecided college student. The text of "The Undecided College Student" focuses on the unique needs of college students who are undecided regarding a field of study and/or career path, and the various approaches that advisers and counselors may take. A comprehensive examination of the undecided college student is offered, from a review of the vast research to the practical methods for advising and counseling. "The Undecided College Student" includes many ways in which the Internet serves as a useful tool for assisting the gathering of resources for the undecided college student. In addition, theoretical frameworks relevant to undecided students, types of undecided students, administrative models and scopes of services, program components, and exemplary practices are discussed.
Exceptionally informed and informative, well organize and presented, "The Undecided College Student: An Academic And Career Advising Challenge" is very highly recommended for academic library Educational Guidance & Counseling instructional reference collections, as well as the supplemental studies reading lists for student advisors, school counselors, and academic faculty members.
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781491870204, $27.99, 168pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Black Witch" is the true story of the death of Steve Scott's daughter and the aftermath of that life changing event. "Black Witch" follows the path of a simple man as Scott grapples with his depression and his ideas of God. Scott battles demons, both real and imagined. He confronts the glue that holds life together. "Black Witch" is set against the spectacular backdrop of Alaska.
Critique: A unique and compelling read from beginning to end, "Black Witch" is very highly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Black Witch" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1491870198, $16.95) and in a Kindle format ($3.99).
Among the Wolves: Memoirs of a Wolf Handler
Hubble & Hattie
c/o Veloce House
Parkway Farm Business Park
Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England
9781845847609, $7.72, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Among the Wolves: Memoirs of a Wolf Handler" is about one girl, eleven wolves, and a whole host of heart-warming stories. Toni Shelbourne would never have believed that a phone call, one morning, from a wolf handler at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust would lead to ten years of unique experiences that only a handful of people in the world could ever match. From nursing a wolf with a spinal injury, to raising abandoned cubs, to laying in the sun surrounded by wolves, Toni has experienced them all, and this is her story.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Among the Wolves: Memoirs of a Wolf Handler" is a unique and inherently fascinating read. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.
Safe Dance Practice
Edel Quin, Sonia Rafferty, Charlotte Tomlinson
Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 5076, Champaign, IL 61820-5076
9781450496452, $44.95, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis" The collaborative work of Edel Quin, Sonia Rafferty, and Charlotte Tomlinson who collectively draw upon their almost 60 years of experience and expertise in dance as creative artists, teachers, and researchers, to translate extensive research and evidence-based practice to present and multi-disciplinary approach to the principles of safe practice that are essential to any dance experience. "Safe Dance Practice" presents evidence-based guidelines on implementing diverse principles in practice, informing and supporting dance practitioners in an ever-growing pool of styles and genres. These guidelines and principles are of use not only to dancers and dance educators but also to choreographers, rehearsal and dance company directors, as well as studio dance managers.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Safe Dance Practice" is very highly recommended to professional, community, dance school, and academic library reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Safe Dance Practice" is also available in a Kindle edition ($34.00).
c/o American Library Association
50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611
9780838913307, $55.00, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Libraries are the cultural and informational repositories of the communities they serve and their inclusive, welcoming nature means that all kinds of people pass through doors of the local public library. Not all difficult patrons are dangerous, but some frighten staff and other library users, which can lead to situations that are distracting, troubling, and fraught with liability. For more than a decade, Albrecht, a 15-year police veteran, has presented workshops for libraries on dealing with challenging patrons. His no-nonsense advice will empower library staff in their personal security and give them the tools to confidently communicate with their colleagues, patrons, and members of law enforcement regarding inappropriate behavior. In "Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities" he addresses security issues important to all libraries, including: Specific guidance for common situations, such as unruly teens, unwanted sexual advances, chronically homeless substance abusers, and more; The elements of an effective Code of Conduct and how to enforce it; Tips on how to manage internet usage to minimize potential problems; How to align with patrons and use language that defuses the conflict; Forming partnerships with service organizations, homeless shelters, mental health advocacy groups, and other community resources; How to know when it s time to call the police, plus ideas for increasing law enforcement support; Ways to make the library more secure through changes to facilities. Through the methods outlined in "Library Security", Albrecht effectively demonstrates that communication not only makes library users feel more comfortable but also increases staff morale, ensuring the library is place where everyone feels welcome.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities" is as informed as it is informative. Simply stated, "Library Security" should be read by every library staff member and governing board executive. An absolutely essential addition to professional and academic Library Science reference collection and supplemental studies reading list, it should be noted that "Library Security" is also available in a Kindle edition ($44.00).
Reclaim the Magic
140 Rainbow Ridge Road, Faber, VA 22938
9781937907334, $16.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Our true magnificence is our internal power. Open up to our greater identity and go beyond our programmed boundaries. We are more than just human! We came to earth with the ability to create with our thoughts. We've just forgotten how. "Reclaim the Magic: The Real Secrets to Manifesting Anything You Want" is here to remind us. Reclaim the Magic will evoke a consciousness shift and an awakening within you to manifest your heart's true desires. "Reclaim the Magic" will give you the tools and concepts to claim your natural birthright power as a manifestor, become fully conscious of the abilities you have within yourself, and evolve into your authentic being. You are a spirit in a human body and are much more powerful than you have been led to believe. Since birth, we have been programmed by society, schools, government, religions, and well-meaning but clueless people that we are a victim of circumstances. We have been trained to think, feel, and believe that we have no power. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, we are far from helpless. The truth is, power in life is 1% physical and 99% spiritual. We can release the victim role and instead, adopt the role of deliberate creator. It is a choice we can make that will transform our reality forever. With our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and use of our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial life energies, we can manifest anything we desire.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Reclaim the Magic: The Real Secrets to Manifesting Anything You Want" by entrepreneur, visionary, and intuitive business mentor Lee Milteer is an inherently fascinating read and thoroughly 'user friendly' in message and content. "Reclaim the Magic" is very highly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement instructional reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Reclaim the Magic" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
A Changing China
Yuan Yue & Zhang Jun
Paths International Ltd.
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9781844643615, $120.00, 142pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "A Changing China: Day to Day Life in the New Century" provides a vivid and detailed analysis of life in modern China. It brings together researchers, sociologists, entrepreneurs, and the findings of 20 years of polling research to show how the people of China have coped with the immense changes to their lives in the past two decades. It examines how people in China have had to balance traditional values with modern day demands, how they have emerged as consumers dealing with modern technology, and how they have struggled for a better life. It is a detailed study of the people who were instrumental in the economic success of their country. Written by leading executives at the Beijing-based Horizon Research Consultancy Group, "A Changing China" is rich with data and analysis, and it discusses nearly all aspects of life in China, including love and marriage, changing family relations, fast food, fashion, work and careers, migrant laborers, real estate, investment, shopping online, health care, etc. A constant theme throughout is the phenomenal change that is taking place in the lives of the Chinese people, from their goals and aspirations, to their challenges and achievements.
Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "A Changing China: Day to Day Life in the New Century" is strongly recommended addition to corporate, governmental, and academic library China Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. Exceptionally well organized and presented, "A Changing China" will prove to be fully accessible for both academic and non-specialist general readers with an interest in contemporary Chinese culture and society.
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781780643564, $145.00, 204pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The environmental quality and popularity of any tourist destination is the outcome of sustained development, shaped by the socio-economic and physical dimensions of the local environment. Protecting the "living landscape" requires recognizing, promoting and developing the links between economic, social and environmental objectives. "Tourism Enterprise: Developments, Management and Sustainability" therefore examines the tourism business in terms of "greening" the local economy, people and environment, establishing the green agenda and investigating its application to the tourism sector.
Critique: "Tourism Enterprise: Developments, Management and Sustainability" by David Leslie (currently the Visiting Professor to the Collaborative Tourism Programme at Chengdu University) is impressively informed and informative. Very highly recommended as an essential addition to professional and academic library Tourism Development reference collections and supplemental studies, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tourism Enterprise" is also available in a Kindle edition ($145.00).
Introduction To Mycology In The Tropics
3340 Pilot Knob Road, St. Paul, MN 55121
9780890544594, $189.00, 336pp
Synopsis: "Introduction to Mycology in the Tropics" is a key reference that provides critical information on all major groups of fungi found throughout the world's tropical regions. It provides solid theoretical knowledge of tropical mycology presented in a logical, easy-to-use format for academics, professionals, and enthusiasts. "Introduction to Mycology in the Tropics" applies to a wide range of disciplines, including phytopathology, medicine, naturalism, ecology, botany, zoology, chemistry, biotechnology, and food engineering. Mycologists and others interested in related plant science disciplines will find basic knowledge on fungal diversity, enabling them to recognize fungal groups in the field, analyze cellular structures, and understand the ecological importance of fungi. Those in the food engineering, biotechnology, and medical science disciplines can learn about edible and poisonous mushrooms, as well as medicinal and clinically important fungi used for antibiotics and other active compounds.
"Introduction to Mycology in the Tropics" thoroughly covers Basidiomycota, Ascomycota, lichens, further groups of Fungi, Straminipila (Heterokonta), and slime molds. It offers details on their etymology, systematics, geographical distribution, ecology, morphology, life cycle, biochemical aspects, and importance for humans (positive and negative). In addition to these systematically organized chapters, special topics (e.g., fungi in symbiosis with social insects, mycorrhizae, ethnomycology, fungi pathogenic to humans) are presented in helpful call-out boxes. "http://www.apsnet.org/apsstore/shopapspress/Pages/44594.aspx" features numerous color photographs offer stunning visual coverage of tropical fungi, their interactions with insects and other animals, and plant disease symptoms caused by fungi, helping readers to not only identify fungal groups, specific fungi, and fungus-like organisms but also interpret their interactions.
"Introduction to Mycology in the Tropics" presents diagrams of significant fungal species' life cycles (some presented for the first time in a didactically suitable format, helping readers understand the dynamic) and sometimes highly complex -- development of fungi over time.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Introduction to Mycology in the Tropics" by Meike Piepenbring (Professor of Mycology at the University of Frankfurt ) is available in both English and Spanish editions. Enhanced with the inclusion of comprehensive reference sections for further reading; a detailed glossary; and a comprehensive index, "Introduction to Mycology in the Tropics" is very highly recommended as a curriculum textbook, and should be a part of every professional and academic library Mycology reference collection and supplemental studies reading list.
Konstantin Akinsha, editor
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791354583, $60.00, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Konstantin Akinsha (a contributing editor for ARTnews magazine, New York, as well as a Research Fellow at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany), "Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents of German and Russian Art, 1907-1917" deftly explores the direct connections and collaborations of German and Russian artists and the affinities between both countries' artistic development. "Russian Modernism" maps the Russian version of expressionism and puts it in the context of the history of 20th century art. "Russian Modernism" is dedicated to the radical modernist movements in Russian and German art during the early years of the 20th century. Their development was parallel and often intertwined. Artists such as Vasily Kandinsky or Alexej von Jawlensky are claimed by the Germans but remain Russian artists for the Russians. The Burluk brothers, who became celebrities of the Russian radical art scene, participated in the first exhibition of the Blauer Reiter. Russian artists travelled to Germany and lived there, while their German counterparts were aware of what was shown in Moscow exhibition halls. The diverse art movement "expressionism" was formed in Germany at the beginning of the 1910s and was given the name by the critic Herwarth Walden. Members of groups such as Die Brucke and the Blauer Reiter were initially influenced by the French Fauves movement, and their Russian contemporaries also tried to find new artistic truth in Paris, 'la Ville Lumiere'. However, both in Germany and Russia the new French influence underwent radical transformation. Beautifully illustrated and designed, "Russian Modernism" provides an insight into the work of Russian and German artists in the early years of the 20th century.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is flawless in the production values of the profusion of full color artworks, ""Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents of German and Russian Art, 1907-1917" is a critically important and highly recommended addition to professional, community, and academic library 20th Century Art History reference collections in general, and Russian Modernism Art History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
The House Tells the Story
Adam Van Doren
David R. Godine, Publisher
PO Box 450, Jaffrey, NH 03452
9781567925425, $40.00, 196pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The House Tells the Story: Homes of the American Presidents" is an incredible collaboration featuring a stunning collection of fifteen American Presidential homes (past and present) painted by artist Adam Van Doren and introduced with informative commentary by historian David McCullough. The text is personal and unaffected; Van Doren visited these homes to ensure that he recorded every detail accurately, often becoming acquainted with the former presidents themselves, always trying to portray them in the human environment they created for themselves. The artwork is perceptive and revealing; he misses very little. McCullough puts the history of the homes in perspective in his lucid and perceptive prose.
Critique: A truly exceptional, unique, informative, and superbly illustrated volume, "The House Tells the Story: Homes of the American Presidents" is very highly recommended for community and academic library reference collections and will prove to be of particular interest to non-specialist general readers with an interest in architecture and presidential political history.
The Milli Vanilli Condition
Arte Publico Press
University of Houston
4902 Gulf Freeway, Bldg 19, Rm 100, Houston, TX 77204-2004
9781558858114, $17.95, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Few times in history has the art of pretending enjoyed so much continuity and led to so few consequences as during the hinge-like period between the 20th century and the beginning of the next, Uruguayan poet Eduardo Espina (one of the most original and influential contemporary Latin American poets) asserts in this collection of thirteen essays. He laments the serial falsification of events, as when the German pop duo Milli Vanilli won a Grammy for songs that they in fact did not sing. Even they were seduced by their own deceit, initially denying the accusations. Ultimately, though, the group was stripped of its award.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Milli Vanilli Condition: Essays on Culture in the New Millennium" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. An inherently fascinating, multi-layered read, "The Milli Vanilli Condition" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Milli Vanilli Condition" is also available in a Kindled edition ($9.99).
Waterloo: The Aftermath
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781468311303, $37.50, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the early morning hours of June 19, 1815, more than 50,000 men and 7,000 horses lay dead and wounded on a battlefield just south of Brussels. In the hours, days, weeks and months that followed, news of the battle would begin to shape the consciousness of an age; the battlegrounds would be looted and cleared, its dead buried or burned, its ground and ruins overrun by voyeuristic tourists; the victorious British and Prussian armies would invade France and occupy Paris. And as his enemies within and without France closed in, Napoleon saw no avenue ahead but surrender, exile and captivity. "Waterloo: The Aftermath" by Paul O'Keeffe is a dramatic and documented account of the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo that employs a multiplicity of contemporary sources and viewpoints to create a reading experience that brings into focus as never before the sights, sounds, and smells of the battlefield, of conquest and defeat, of celebration and riot.
Critique: Published for the 200th anniversary of the battle, "Waterloo: The Aftermath" is an impressively researched and superbly crafted history that will prove of immense interest to academia as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the rise and fall of Europe's most famous 19th Century military leader. Very strongly recommended for both community and academic library 18th Century European History collections in general, and Napoleonic Studies supplemental reading lists in particular.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781475808780, $70.00, 233pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: If fewer things in life are more common than talented people who are unsuccessful, it is equally true that fewer things in life are more common than otherwise healthy people making themselves miserable. Combining widely-accepted concepts of human behavior with elements from Rational Emotive Therapy, Positive Psychology, Emotional Intelligence, and most prominently Transactional Analysis, "Rethinking Everything: Personal Growth through Transactional Analysis" by academician and psychologist Neil Bright explores in immediately understandable terms why we act as we do, how we frequently undermine our relationships, why we often cripple our potential, and how we can take greater control of our lives. By providing the language, real-life examples, and behavioral explanations to label, recognize, and examine dysfunctional conduct, "Rethinking Everything: Personal Growth through Transactional Analysis" empowers an awareness-inspired journey towards self-improvement. To that end, the expectation is not for readers of this book to save the world, but rather for those internalizing its insights to rethink everything in saving their own more personal universe.
Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Rethinking Everything: Personal Growth through Transactional Analysis" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. A seminal work of commendable research, "Rethinking Everything" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Psychology/Psychiatry reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Rethinking Everything" is also available in a paperback edition (9781475808797, $30.00) and in a Kindle format ($16.19).
A New Little Ice Age Has Started
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781515158516, $12.95, 130pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "A New Little Ice Age Has Started: How to Survive and Prosper During the next 50 Difficult Years", Lawrence Pierce argues that global warming does not exist, but a New Little Ice Age has already started. Now retired, Pierce was one of British Columbia's leading trial lawyers and has assembled all the evidence to convince even the most devout global warming believer including: The opinions of dozens of scientists who predict a return to Little Ice Age conditions; An explanation of the connection between low sunspots and cold weather; Analysis of the solar cycles that bring climate change and ice ages to Earth; Discussion of the conditions during the last Little Ice Age (1300-1850); Comparison of today's weather events with past ice ages; A complete debunking of the "Global Warming" theory. Pierce discusses the totally corrupt practices of the U.N. IPCC (the organization that delivered the global warming and ocean acidification scares to the world) and warns of the certainty of mass starvation, disease and social unrest, particularly among the poor in Canada and the U.S. and in the Third World. There is hope for North Americans. Warm Zones exist and based on his own experiences as a 'Back to the Land" advocate in the 1970s, he suggests ways to survive and prosper during the next 50 difficult years.
Critique: Iconoclastic, exceptionally well organized and presented in a thoroughly 'reader friendly' manner, "A New Little Ice Age Has Started" is a valued contribution to the ongoing international debate over the issue of climate change and highly recommended for community and academic library Climate Change reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A New Little Ice Age Has Started" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99) and that part of the proceeds of the sale of this book will go to the homeless and hungry in Canada and the United States.
Splash Down: Adventures in Firefighting Series
James McDonald and Brooks Watson
Illustrated by Tony Ganem
Read & Rescue Book Co.
1341 W. Fullerton Avenue, Suite 128, Chicago, IL 60614
B00XQOH1HC, $1.99 Kindle, 25 pages, www.amazon.com
Excitement and fun are in store for this special boy as he heads off to visit his uncle who is a real live firefighter. At the fire station, the boy and his uncle jump into the fire truck where the boy imagines racing off to a raging house fire. But when it comes time to hook up the fire hose to the fire hydrant, he is in for an unexpected splash. Tony Ganem's colorful cartoon illustrations highlight the action with a touch of humor. Written in rhyming text by Chicago firefighters James McDonald and Brooks Watson, "Splash Down" is great way to acquaint junior firefighters with the thrilling and challenging tasks involved in being a firefighter.
Old Salt Press, LLC
296 Varick St., Jersey City, NJ 07302
9781943404001, $8.95, 182 pages, www.amazon.com
Fifteen-year old James McCafferty sees things other people don't see - like dead people. And he hears things other people don't hear - like the voices of dead people. His mother simply cannot deal with him so she ships him off to a fishy summer camp for teen slackers aboard a salty old Chinese junk. In spite of its uplifting moniker "Good Fortune," James senses an aura of doom from the get-go. His new shipmate Ming - the only bright aura on this ship of fools - aptly dubs it a "floating prison." Even Captain Dan, the first mate Miles, and the camp counselor Marty strike him as slightly sinister. What begins as a character-building adventure voyage for seven sullen and resentful teens gradually descends into the macabre. On the open sea, the ghosts and voices of the drowned, the shui gui, multiply exponentially for James. One in particular Yu Chin taunts him mercilessly with his plan to rise from the dead and take over his body. Meanwhile James' clairvoyance about the captain and crew is validated when their hidden agenda is revealed. But nothing prepares these seven shipmates for the panic and terror that await them after Marty and Miles disappear and Captain Dan kicks the bucket.
Collison intertwines nautical lessons and ancient Chinese history and mythology encompassing readers with the sensation of being out-to-sea with these ill-fated souls. "Water Ghosts" is a spine-tingling paranormal thriller that reaches up from the deep and pulls you under.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
Hillary Rodham Clinton: On the Couch
Alma H. Bond. PH. D
P.O. Box 65360 Baltimore, MD 21209-9945
9781610881647 $22.50 Hardcover, 291 Pages
9781610881678 $9.99 e-Book
Hillary Rodham Clinton: On the Couch
There have been so many books written about our former First Lady of AR, First Lady of our country, Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Not all in good light I might add. If you look at the picture on the cover of the book you will see an older lady. The lines on her face are there because she has given almost her whole life to helping others. Look into her eyes and you will find the love she has for our country and her family.
The author shows us what has made her the woman she is today. Starting from her early years growing up with her parents. Her father ruled with an iron hand. He made no concessions when it came to his children. Hillary was the only girl but was treated like her brothers in many ways. When it came to school work a B was not accepted in the Rodham home. It had to be all A's.
I lived in AR for a few years and read what reporters said about her. She was ripped apart on many things. Everything from the way she dressed, to why she put up with Bill Clinton and his women.
Hillary is a strong woman but she is human just like the rest of us. She feels pain, she cries when no one is around. People seem to forget her many accomplishments she has done.
This book has opened my eyes so that I can see who, and why, Hillary is the person that she is. How she has managed to overcome so many obstacles that have come her way. In my own opinion I think some men are intimated by her. Hillary has never been one to pull any punches that are thrown at her. Who currently has the most experience to become our next President? Who has the tenacity to fight in a man's world? I only know that this is one Republican who will vote for her if she runs.
West Bow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
1663, Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449786014 $8.69, 375 Pages
The back of this book will tell you a lot about the story that lies within. But you could never imagine what will happen. While it is a work of fiction there is so much truth in it. It is a book that will haunt me the rest of my life.
This is one of the best books I have read in this genre. The way it is thought out and crafted is brilliant. Right from the start you realize it will not be a book you will want to set aside and do other things. For me it it was hard to set it down and do other things that I had too. I even cried at parts of the story.
The atrocities you will read about are happening in different countries, and America every day. My heart breaks whenever I read about children and adults being tortured.
The author gives us a great story that is filled with realism. Thank you D.J. Williams for working so hard and opening our minds to things we know happens, but do not think about enough.
At the end of this book you will see some of the organizations fighting against slavery and child trafficking. Please everyone take a look for yourselves. You won't regret reading this book. Rated PG
The Starlight Club 6: Double Seven
Black Horse Publishing
B00XIITKZC, $3.32 Kindle, 181 Pages, www.amazon.com
Genre: Crime Thriller
Bob is staying at his daughter Lynn's house in Darien, Connecticut, as bad weather has prevented his return home. At times like these Lynn likes to take advantage of the opportunity to ask her father for some more stories from the famous Starlight Club...
Looking back over the years, Bob decides to tell her about a time when Joey Bones, Bull and Richie swapped the Crown Victoria for a Caddy convertible and drove to Vegas on business for Red. The drive as it turns out was to prove very eventful when Joey decided to pop in and see his sister JoAnne, in Bonner Springs. However, he is none too pleased to discover that her boyfriend, has beaten her up.
When they arrive at her house and confront Brian O'Rourke, the boyfriend, they discover not only is he a thug, he's also a drug dealer. With the thumbs up from the boss they sort out the situation, however, the results of their actions brings about an interesting chain of events.
Big Red knows that getting what you want and making people bend to your will does not necessarily have to be achieved by actual violence, after all when you are that famous, the suggestion is often enough. He also knows that looking after the little guys is important, they will owe you for life, and do whatever is needed, when the time come for you to call in the favor.
With Trenchie happily married, and romance in the air, Red realises that something is missing in his own life, he can have any girl he wants but he wants a wife, and there is only one lady who will fit the bill, Iris, but will she want him? There's only one way to find out...
For Starlight Club fans, these tales are a wonderful insight into the dark underworld of mobster life in New York, where life is cheap, and there's no time for regrets. This book, like others in the series is studded with big names with shady pasts, and gives credence to the clever facade the Starlight Club, and others like it provide.
Another great story from award winning author Joe Corso!
A Murderer's Heart
Julie Elizabeth Powell
B005MEQ4EU, $1.54 Kindle, 154 Pages, www.amazon.com
I thoroughly enjoyed this story!
Dr Anne Blake is a psychiatrist with her own practice and she also helps out at the Tadmore Psychiatric Hospital as well. Unmarried, yet fulfilled in a job she loves, Anne is a kind and thoughtful person, helping everyone she can, both professionally and personally. She is lucky to have a fantastic Personal Assistant, Sam, who seems in tune with her and keeps her professional world in order.
Naturally, when she discovers that a good friend thinks she may be in danger Anne does all she can to help and support her. However, it soon becomes apparent that events are taking a much more sinister turn, there is a killer at large...
As the plot thickens this story evolves wonderfully, with plenty of twists and turns and a surprising ending.
Rampage: A Jason Scarsdale Novel
Black Opal Books
B0102UV6GY, $3.92 Kindle, 300 Pages, www.amazon.com
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Set in Austin, Texas, this story begins with Justin Wayne Cooper a.k.a. Mad Dog, repaying a debt by destroying a grave in the Heavenly Garden Memorial Park. Waiting in the car are Rastaman, and Runt. Fresh out of prison Mad Dog is on a mission to right some wrongs done to Snake, his cellmate. Impressed by his prison tales and hardness, the other two have become willing accomplices. At first it's all a game, a good laugh, an opportunity to get some ready cash, but then the stakes get higher, and when the killings begin, they suddenly realise how Justin got his nickname...
In Alan Brenham's first book, Price of Justice, we met widower, Detective Jason Scarsdale, his daughter Shannon and Dani Mueller. After the events in that book ex Austin PD Crime Analyst Dani moved back home to her family in Garmisch, Germany. However, three years on, Jason and Dani still have a very strong transcontinental relationship, and very soon Shannon and Jason are due to visit Dani and celebrate Shannon's birthday at the same time.
However the holiday isn't here yet and arriving at work, Jason, who has transferred back to Homicide from the Sex Crimes division, is called into his superior's office and informed by Sargent Kipfer, that he has a new partner, a very attractive divorcee called Tatum Harper.
Soon a reluctant Jason, and his new chatty and very keen partner are trying to discover who the reckless killers are, and what links the crimes together. Whilst in the background, Jason's relationship with Dani has taken a strange turn which gives the story an intriguing subplot.
Despite the clues and evidence coming together, nothing will stick, the death toll is rising. Who is the mysterious MD?
If you like reading crime thrillers then you will love Rampage. They say write about what you know and this action-packed plot has been very cleverly written, and has the great attention to detail I have come to expect from Alan Brenham. With his lifetimes experience as a Texas law enforcement officer, criminal prosecutor and defense attorney, the author's in-depth knowledge, and understanding in these fields enables him to take his lucky readers on an unforgettable journey into the dark criminal underworld, its chilling inhabitants and the people who protect us from them.
Between Two Worlds
B00XB81VO2, $1.56 Kindle, 63 Pages, www.amazon.com
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
The story in this book is intriguing.
Can we be two places at one time?
Is it really possible to observe yourself from another dimension?
The story begins in Indiana, with the main character, a graduate student called Rebecca Harrison attending a Halloween party in 2006. However as she leaves the party, the nightmare begins....
Suddenly she is transported back in time to 1983 where she finds herself in her childhood home town of Fanwood, New Jersey. This is only the beginning though. She still has her own name, a local address, although not her childhood one, and people recognise her as an adult!
How can this happen?
How can she be there, and, since she is, is it possible she is also living there as a child, with her family?
What will happen if their paths cross?
Evidently, she has an established life and friends, however deep down she knows something is not right, and then there are the strange dreams.
Confused and unhappy Rebecca craves to know the truth. She is desperate to discover if she can return to 2006.
Will she be able to?
To find out, you will have to read the book!
I found this a fascinating story and it kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page.
Amazon Digital Services
B00SA83ZQU, $4.71 Kindle, 331 Pages, www.amazon.com
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Gillian's world is turned upside down when she is unexpectedly 'released' from her job. Her government funding is revoked after the board decides they did not like a paper she wrote on 'Reactants, resistance, reflexivity and reversal in times of financial and social hardship.'
All of a suddenly her secure life has gone. What will she do? All around her people are getting into debt, being encouraged to spend more than they have, buy things they don't need. Possessions are everything, all that matters. Why? How had the world gotten into this state, and why didn't the powers that be want to hear what she had to say?
Not taking her redundancy laying down Gillian's resolve hardens as she actively strives to understand the financial system and money handling. Living on her savings whilst looking for a job, she soon discovers that it won't be long before she is homeless.
But what about M.O.N.E.Y? The people who work for M.O.N.E.Y live at the Money Farm, which was a series of huge walled islands, linked by bridges, which has been in existence for over 200 years. Gillian becomes obsessed with the M.O.N.E.Y concept. Who are these people, how are they chosen? M.O.N.E.Y is totally self-sufficient, secretive, she has to know more.
How do you become part of M.O.N.E.Y, this amazing organisation whose employees themselves are intriguing?
Then, one day she follows a M.O.N.E.Y employee out of a shop and asks the man the leading question "How do I become one of you?"
This simple question, and his reply changes her life forever.
As she trains and is inducted into the world of M.O.N.E.Y, Gillian soon discovers that she has in fact been chosen. Her militant nature and questioning attitude allows her to think outside the box. However, I wondered, as the story progressed, did M.O.N.E.Y have any idea of what her impact would be?
This was a fascinating book, deep and very thought provoking, it made you wonder...
I will certainly be looking out for more very interesting books by this talented author.
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Tuning In (Dancing to a Different Tune) Book 1
Neal Family Publishing
7025 W Grandridge Blvd., Kennewick, WA 99336
B00OJXZWBQ, $9.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
Michael's life is far from normal for he has the unique talent to be able to read a person's mind. This skill is one that he wants to use for his own benefit. He devises a scheme to set up unsuspecting individuals by conning them into doing what he wants them to do.
Michael questions his existence and why he has the ability to hear people's thoughts. Then he finds himself mixed up with a Mob Boss who is plotting to steal a fortune in jewels. Will Michael find a life of crime is where he needs to be? Or will he discover he is meant for a higher purpose?
Chris Neal has done an outstanding job in writing TUNING IN (DANCING TO A DIFFERENT TUNE). Michael is a character whose youth and enthusiasm for the "whys" of life will keep you highly entertained. I found myself quickly become absorbed throughout the pages as his many adventures unfolded.
It is evident that Mr. Neal has a unique flare to be a writer. He is to be commended on presenting this story in a first person point of view. This style of writing is often hard to accomplish for a seasoned writer, with this being Mr. Neal's first book it is indisputable that his future works will have a strong solid foundation to be built upon. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to seeing more of his future works.
The Mystique of Love Unveiled
L. K. Mickelson
1131 Baretta Dr, Loveland, CO 80538
9780972752718, $4.00 PB, $3.49 Kindle, 207 pages, www.amazon.com
Non-Fiction - Self Help
"Where there is love there is life." ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Love is a splendid thing that has touched all of us. It is unique for no two experiences are ever the same. From the beginning I made an instant connection with this book, for like the author I fell in love at an early age and had a major crush that was never returned. The rejection I felt was overwhelming, I went through many states of depression and question why someone could not return my affection.
With the authors experience he wanted to save someone else from the heartache that he experienced. This book analyzes love from many different angles. I was amazed at how each chapter went into in-depth detail on each one of the many love phases. I also loved how each chapter started with a quote and ended with a memorable scene from a movie.
THE MYSTIQUE OF LOVE UNVEILED is an outstanding book. It is one that you will quickly find yourself getting lost in the pages. As I was reading this book I often thought back WHY didn't I find this book many years ago? The information that I learned throughout the pages could have softened the blow of my many failed love relationships.
L.K. Mickelson is a superb author who was able to turn a negative life experience into a positive lesson learned, one that he felt compelled to share with the world. I applaud an author who is able to produce such a thought provoking book of knowledge. I highly recommend this book to be read by everyone no matter what your age. Love is an emotion that is hard to understand, wreaks havoc on our soul, and leaves us drained. Even though this emotion is such a rollercoaster to experience we all crave its existence!
My Blossoming Orchid
9781484087459, $13.95, 268 pages, Audio Book, Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
Biancia treats life as her play palace. She uses her beauty and her sex appeal to sell her body to men. Her price is set high, for she specializes in her trade. Her clients pride her on giving them the ultimate sexual experience.
The money that Biancia earns feeds her habit with drugs and alcohol. She uses them to escape from the harsh realities of her past. Then through one of her clients a bright ray of hope comes into her life. Jean-Claude is a man like no one she has ever met. He introduces her to a Tantra through this age old Hindu tradition she finds a sensual escape that is more appeal then her addictions.
Will Jean-Claude be able to save Biancia from her own destructive habits? Can the two of them find a love neither one of them expected? Or will the past return to the future and destroy both of them?
"My Blossoming Orchid: A New Age Neo-Tantric Novel Within an Orgasm Guide: The Guide of the Woman Ultimate Pleasure, Book 3" is one outstanding audio. It was my first encounter in exploring the world of audiobooks. I don't think I could have found a more enjoyable experience then this book. Jean-Claude Carvill goes into explicit detail as he relates each one of the erotic scenes. His descriptive word leaves no guessing to the imaginative mind. I immensely enjoyed his writing style. I highly recommend this story and could easily see it being turned into the next hit erotic movie that hits the big screen.
Through Becky's Eyes
Horrors of the Mind Entertainment, LLC
B00LTG3R0E, $4.99, www.helanakline.wix.com/immolation#!, 394 pages
Becky Lawrence was a recent Harvard Law graduate. While she was in college she worked as a law clerk for Judge Charles Woodbury. When the Judge invites her for lunch she accepts his invitation unbeknown how the meeting would change her life.
Judge Charles Woodbury had watched Becky excel in working for him. He knew she had the skills needed to be a successful attorney. He takes it upon himself to write a letter of recommendation. His reference was enough to secure her a position Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Overnight Becky Lawrence, turns into Rebecca Lawrence, Assistant U.S. Attorney. She is assigned to work for Zach Woods, Senior Assistant U.S. Attorney. Zach has the reputation that he will stop at nothing to win a case. She feels the two of them working side by side will give her a leading edge to set her apart from her future competition.
Working with Zach creates an instant chemistry Becky never anticipated. Although Zach is married with a family, but his pursuit of Becky is obvious. To complicate matters more, there is a ghost that makes his present known in the courtroom.
Will Becky throw caution to the wind and give into the demands that Zach is placing on her? Will she be able to solve the mystery of the courtroom phantom? While still keeping a highly polished professional image?
"Through Becky's Eyes" is an exceptional fast paced romance. I am so impressed with H.E. Kline's writing style for she has the unique ability to paint descriptive passages so real to life you question whether this is fact or fiction. I love that fact she incorporated a paranormal element into the overall plot of the story. Zach and Becky chemistry is set at an all-time high. Together they singe the pages as they explore their feelings for each other. I am convinced the literary world rejoiced the day that H.E. Kline first published her debut novel.
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312380908, $27.99, Hardcover, 402 pages, www.amazon.com
Assassins are professionals who are paid to murder others. Who are these people? Many of us demonize assassins as evil people who live isolated lives. Is that reality? Would anyone know that someone was an assassin by their appearance, their movements or their address? In the real world these people are just like you and me and surprisingly have their own code of ethics.
Judd Ryder is one of these people. He has a strange encounter. As he is walking towards his home, he sees himself leaving his house. Curiously he follows his doppelganger and actually witnesses his double's death in a hit-and-run accident that was obviously an intended assassination. As an assassin what actions do you take when someone kills you?
Added to that, what do your double is killed? Do you return to your home and just resume your life? He relies on his associates to unravel this mystery.
It is quickly revealed that a group of six assassins share a secret. Many years ago, all of them were employed by Saddam Hussein to kill his six financial wizards. These financial bankers were hired to hide Saddam's wealth in various accounts and banks throughout the world. With no one banker knowing the secrets of the other five, he felt this was secure. Quickly Saddam realized their individual knowledge of his wealth could possibly be purchased, he decided to have each one killed by a selected assassin. This way there would be no common elements to draw attention to these killings.
Now it appears that each of these assassins is being blackmailed and targeted for death. Why? By whom? Saddam Hussein has been dead for years so who would have all their contact information?
The Assassins is a riveting tale involving the world of spies, assassins, and mercenary soldiers. This is a masterful tale by a storyteller with a realistic imagination based on some actual events and happenings throughout the world. From a Russian training camp resembling an American city called Bedford to on e of the spy capitols of the world in Marrakech to life today in Iraq including much of the politics of Iraq and Iran as well as the Sunnis and Shiites, The Assassins is an adventure into a world most of us would only want to experience through the life in a book.
The characters are realistic with the setting based on research and current events regarding Iraq.
The author Gayle Lynds was raised in Council Bluffs, Iowa and is the author of many bestselling novels. Her novel, The Last Spymaster won the award of the "Novel of the Year" by the Military Writers Society of America, the American Authors Associations, and was a People magazine "Page-Turner of the Week". Publishers Weekly has awarded her novel, Masquerade as one of the top ten spy novels of all time. She also authored three books with Robert Ludlum.
The Great Plains Guide to Buffalo Bill
5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-6921
9780811712934, $19.95, www.amazon.com
Imagine a book that explains real and present day historical tourist sites and the significance of each place in reference to one person's life from their birth to their death recording the memorable events along the way. For the legendary, William Cody who was known as Buffalo Bill, that is exact; Jeff Barnes created in The Great Plains Guide to Buffalo Bill.
Barnes combines a well-balanced biography of Buffalo Bill filtering the legend from the factss. Additionally he uses photographs and maps as he personally visited each of these sites throughout Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Missouri. With each one, he tells the story while also giving current information such as directions, significance, costs involved, and even the hours and days when open and a listing of additional research for the reader about each place.
This book is a non-fiction journey into Buffalo Bill's life written in a fascinating style while allowing the reader to draw conclusions about the personality and character of this Western legend. Barnes informs the reader about conflicting stories and sites to allow the reader to personally decide the authenticity of each event.
For Cody's family, life had to be difficult considering that most of the time he was not with them. The life of being an Army scout or being an entertaining requires constant changes of location. Cody enjoyed his position of respect in both and thrived in creating the person who became legendary.
The book is masterful in separating thi legend from the factual events and even explains events that are questionable with regards to the oftentimes larger than life person.
What is amazing about this nonfiction gem, is its readability. The author writes with a strong personal voice much like a storyteller as he reveals each home, way station, battlefield, ranche, arenas and burial site into an actual image frequently accompanied by a photograph/ Barnes is your personal tour guide allowing the reader to comfortably enjoy the legend of Buffalo Bill and the numerous sites while never leaving their home. (He even mentions sites that you don't want to visit after the rain since they are basically impassable due to the mud.)
Besides the history of Buffalo Bill, many other legends and events are discussed while being labeled in the index concluding the book.
Jeff Barnes has also written The Great Plains Guide to Custer and Forts of the Northern Plains. He spends his time as an historian, trustee of the Nebraska State Historical Society, and is a former newspaper editor while residing in Omaha.
For those of us who would enjoy stopping along way on a long trip to learn about an area or to enjoy traveling from the comfort of your home, The Great Plains Guide to Buffalo Bill is the perfect companion for everyone.
The American Game
1331 N. Cordova St, #M Burbank, CA 91505
9781500420475, $ 12.99, 324 pages, www.amazon.com
Few things throughout the years have unified enemy soldiers.
The most memorable was the singing of "Silent Night" by opposing forces on a Christmas Eve almost a hundred years ago which became problematic for the leadership of both sides. Despite the military leaders and the politicians, most people saw this events as the joining of humanity while temporarily putting aside differences. These instantaneous events prove the vulnerability but also strength of character in all those who were privileged and fortunate enough to be part of the unexpected gifts uniting people.
Jeff McArthur researched the Civil War battles and events discovering that baseball was often successful in unification while political leaders failed with compromises. Yankees facing Rebels sometimes shared an old-fashioned game of baseball. With a variety of ever changing rules, substituting anything available for bases and bats, the game became a unifying element proving that the people are basically the same no matter where they are born or who they choose their alliances.
The American Game excelled with the sense of place and time. For example when some Confederate soldiers were relaxing, they would play a game using stale bread as a ball in a simple game with rules constantly changing to meet the current situation. How many strikes were allowed? What can be used as a bat? How far apart are the bases? These varied as much as the players. The game was called stick ball, cricket, fletch-catch, and city ball with many more other names for what would eventually evolve into baseball.
Another positive and realistic aspect of The American Game was the age of the characters. In almost every time of war, many men were really boys. Viewing the wars through the eyes of boys definitely changes the perspective of the reader. The soldiers on the ground involved with the fighting were boys, as has been frequently found in every war.
Sometimes in this novel, it is difficult to separate the Confederates from the Union soldiers. However this book was written while looking at their commonalities, not their differences. Perhaps this was intentional by the author.
This is not a book for children or teens. The language and events are only for adult readers.
The focus of The American Game is a field somewhere in the middle of Tennessee, The two sides met with a different type of combat, the winning of games. What did they have to do to play ball with the enemy? As the wagers increase so do the risks.
Jeff McArthur is a native of Nebraska. For his education, he studied the film and the television business at New York University leading him into the film industry for fifteen years in Los Angeles. Mr. McArthur has written a variety of fiction and non-fiction books including the Relic Worlds science fiction series and Pro Bono which is about his grandfather's case as a lawyer while defending Caril Ann Fugate. He then wrote The Great Heist-The Biggest Bank Robbery in History. Additionally Jeff McArthur is the author of The Table of Truth and Stolen Souls.
For a different book for the history buffs, the baseball fans, and those who enjoy fresh approaches to both baseball and the American Civil War, read The American Game.
The Adventure of the Plated Spoon and Other Tales of Sherlock Holmes
Authorized and licensed by the Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Loren D. Estleman, editor
10151 Carver Rd., Ste. 200, Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
9781440574504, $26.99 Hardcover, 272 pp, www.amazon.com
This volume is the latest collection of Sherlockian pastiches by a dozen authors ranging from J.M. Barrie, a close friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a short piece by Conan Doyle himself, with a long "short story" anchoring the book by Loren D. Estleman, the editor, which pairs Nick Carter with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on a very timely topic, human trafficking. Most are classic reprints, but four are original stories featuring the famed detective.
Each tale stands on its own, but Holmes characteristically remains a constant, as does his faithful sidekick, Dr. Watson. The situations vary, but Holmes' intellect always rises to the occasion. In an introduction, the editor provides an interesting discussion of the development of the detective novel, from Poe forward. For this feature alone the volume is to be recommended.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250055156, $15.99, Paperback, 313 pp, www.amazon.com
Andy Carpenter may be the frequently wise-cracking irreverent protagonist, but he faces some serious personal situations in this, the latest novel in the series. These are set in motion when his good friend, Lt. Pete Stanton, calls Andy and his girlfriend (and lead investigator), Laurie Collins, to join him quickly. Pete discovered the body of Danny Balfour, an ex-convict he had arrested and then befriended, and Danny's eight-year-old-son has to be taken care of, introducing
Andy and Laurie to the joys of parenthood.
Then, to make matters worse, Pete is arrested and charged with the murder, providing the reader with another wild Andy Carpenter investigation and murder trial.
The story is told with the author's usual wonderful humor, with twists and last-minute solutions at a seemingly losing trial (since the evidence against Pete is overwhelming, albeit planted). An Andy Carpenter novel is always fun to read, and "Hounded" is no exception.
141 Wooster St., NY, NY 10012
9781468310979, $16.95, Paperback, 336 pp, www.amazon.com
New York, both the state and city, almost a century ago, was largely rebuilt by one man, Robert Moses, who ruled the construction of highways and other public projects. In most cases, it was to the benefit of the state and city, but some, like the Cross-Bronx Expressway, destroyed neighborhoods and even entire boroughs. This novel is loosely patterned on such a calamity. It tells of a project to "revitalize" a city by constructing an expressway running to the heart of a city, which is to be torn down and rebuilt at the expense of a variety of ethnic neighborhoods.
The main characters include the Moses stand-in, Nathan Canada, a detective, Torsten Grip and an old left-leaning journalist opposed to the expressway cutting the city in half, Frank Frings. Each provides the author the opportunity to symbolize the corruption involved in creation of the "new" city and the inherent problems surrounding it. A subsidiary story line, which does not seem to have anything to do with the plot, involves a college professor's experiment using LSD, the theft of dynamite from one of the construction sites, police surveillance of radicals and various side issues which only serve to provide less than positive attributes of the city: prostitution, bribery, the effect of "progress" on the poor, and other less-than-desirable attributes.
It is a powerful story told with a somewhat heavy hand, which takes its toll on the reader who has to plow through the various topics until reaching a conclusion which leaves one scratching one's head. It seems to this reader that a less complicated portrayal could have been more effective, omitting much of the heavy-handed scenes which do little to add to the general subject. Nevertheless, it is a tale that should be told and read, and is, therefore, recommended.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425274828, $16.00, Paperback, 400 pp, www.amazon.com
It seems as if nothing is relatively normal in the small Mississippi county in which Quinn Colson serves as sheriff. Or is more like the proverbial corrupt Huey Long Louisiana with politicians on the take and a blind eye to all sorts of shenanigans, including lynching and murder, motorcycle gangs and drugs. All take place in this third novel in the series, and then some.
Carrying over from the previous entry in the series, Quinn and his chief deputy Lillie are facing possible murder charges for the killing a a former sheriff in a shootout that climaxed the previous book. This prospect hangs over them as they are confronted with a cold case which arises from the rape of one teenager and murder of another 37 years before. At the time, a black man was beaten up and lynched. The survivor, now a prominent citizen, told Quinn's uncle, who was sheriff at the time, the wrong man was murdered since she saw the perpetrator two weeks later. Now, Quinn and Lillie undertake to find out the truth. This brings Quinn into the uncomfortable position of contacting his long estranged stuntman father who rode with the motorcycle gang in the period, giving he author the opportunity of inserting italicized introductions to succeeding chapters with historical information, providing the basis for current investigations.
Colson is developing into one of the more interesting protagonists. A former ranger with a deep, inherent feeling for honesty and fairness, he exhibits the sense that law and its practical application is necessary to keep order in the unruly town dominated by q shady board of supervisors. Atkins has created a Faulkner-like collection of believable characters populating suspenseful plots.
Dick Francis's Damage
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425276242, $9.99, Paperback, 448 pp, www.amazon.com
Felix Francis has now written four novels on his own in the highly successful and recognized Dick Francis horseracing mystery series, as well as co-authoring four others. All have been of the high quality one came to expect from pere Francis. Might one suggest that it might be time for his novels to be issued in his own name? Unless, of course, there is a nostalgic, or filial, reason to continue labeling the books "Dick Francis's."
Undercover investigator Jeff Hinkley of the British Horseracing Authority is charged with identifying the person sabotaging various high profile horse races by initially by doping the race entries, and subsequently by other methods. And just to complicate his life, his brother-in-law asks him to find a missing accuser who has falsely testified that his son is a drug dealer, hopefully to convince him to retract his story. Meanwhile, on a personal level, Jeff has to decide how his relationship with his live-in girlfriend is to develop.
Needless to say, the author has the Francis formula down pat, with descriptions of the horse-racing industry real and exciting, and character analysis deep and penetrating. Moreover, insights into Jeff's personality and psyche are sharp and insightful. In fact, all the characterizations are acute, as is the plotting, and the novel is highly recommended.
The Cinderella Murder
Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476763165, $25.99, Hardcover, 303 pp, www.amazon.com
The premise of this novel is based on a television program, "Under Suspicion," investigating an unsolved murder, interviewing and cross-examining the various participants and witnesses, hopefully uncovering new information and possibly even identifying the murderer. The same characters that appeared in a previous book, "I've Got You Under My Skin," inhabit the present one.
The cold case under review involves the 20-year-old unsolved murder of Susan Dempsey, a UCLA co-ed and aspiring actress. The title is derived from the fact that the murder victim lost a shoe while fleeing the perpetrator in Laurel Canyon Park. The story progresses mechanically, and the characters seem somewhat stilted. The novel lists two authors, Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke, but the latter's contribution seems problematical since the writing certainly reads, to this reviewer, more like Ms. Clark's style. I'm guessing that in all probability, Ms. Burke, a law professor, provided the expertise for the legal aspects in the story, the questioning of the "suspects," and the like.
"The Cinderella Murder" is a light read, certainly entertaining and professionally written. Definitely recommended for a summer beach read.
Jack of Spies
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616955366, $27.95 Hardcover, $15.95, 352 pp., Paperback, 352 pp, www.amazon.com
Having concluded the popular "Station" series, which covered the years from prior to World War II to the period following its end, David Downing has now turned his attention to World War I. One thing each series has in common is that the protagonist is a spy, but in this new effort, Jack McColl begins as a part-time contractor for an incipient intelligence arm in HRH Majesty's Admiralty. It is difficult to imagine in this age of the CIA, MI5 and the KGB (in its various incarnations) that there was a time without established spy agencies.
In any event, the story begins when Jack, his brother and a co-worker embark on a world trip beginning in China to sell a British luxury automobile. Jack is asked to gather information on German activities along the way. In China he gathers intelligence on gun emplacements in the German concession, as well naval plans. Then on to San Francisco, where Irish separatists seem to be plotting with Indians seeking independence and Germans apparently supporting their efforts, in an attempt to weaken Great Britain in any future conflict. Next on to New York, after which he is sent to Mexico, where the oil supply to the British navy is being threatened to be cut off.
Along the way, beginning in China, he starts a torrid love affair with a liberated woman (for the times). Unfortunately, her family is involved in the quest for Irish independence, which unduly complicates the relationship, but does help Jack attain a permanent position as an agent. Jack's development as a character begins slowly, but builds as his adventures take him (and the reader) forward, and we learn more about his thinking. The scope of the novel is wide, and the book is deeply researched, an ability for which the author is well-known. Presumably, the forthcoming volumes will take us into the mud and trenches of France, and this reader (and hopefully many others) will be looking forward to reading it. Meanwhile, "Jack" is recommended.
Soul of the Fire
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312656034, $25.99, Hardcover, 289 pp, www.amazon.com
There are two factors the reader can always count on when reading an Inspector Shan novel: An interesting and unusual mystery amidst the sordid details of the oppressed Tibetan people following the takeover of the country by China, the everyday life, the rituals, religion and politics. This novel begins with Shan Tao Yun and his old friend, Lokesh, arrested by Public Security and placed in the back of a truck which then transports them to an unknown location.
They feared they were going to be jailed again for their support of dissident Tibetans. Instead, Shan is appointed to fill a vacancy on an international commission "investigating" Tibetan suicides. Lokesh is incarcerated to pressure Shan to "behave" himself so the commission can ultimately whitewash the series of immolations as that of crime and terrorism rather than as protests. The mystery aspect of the novel takes place almost immediately, as Shan learns his predecessor was murdered instead of suffering a heart attack, as had been believed.
The plot then progresses as Shan attempts to expose and ultimately destroy the commission, as well as help preserve whatever remains of Tibet's past. At the same time, he works to solve the murders and achieve justice. More important, the subject of immolation and the examples of the faith of the Tibetan people are keenly portrayed.
The Washington Stratagem
Bourbon Street Books
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 0022
9780062330017, $15.99, Paperback, 448 pp, www.amazon.com
The U.N. is a complicated organization, and its intrigues, politics, trade-offs and petty jealousies are certainly reflected in this novel, the latest in the Yael Azoulay series, the sequel to "The Geneva Option." The story really is a mishmash which mirrors the unruliness that is reflected within the glass facade of the buildings in Turtle Bay.
The novel encompasses a few story lines: A conspiracy to remove the secretary general from office (it should be noted that Yael acts as a special envoy for the SG), and a plot by a powerful lobbying and security company to take over UN security operations, including peacekeeping forces and, of course, to get rid of Yael, who is deep in the middle of the various aspects.
There is plenty of action throughout, but even this element does little to simplify or enhance what is an awkward book. A major part of the novel refers to a major UN-sponsored peace-keeping conference in Istanbul, attended by the heads of government of the five major powers and countless other world leaders. And, when the reader finally reaches the end of the book, such event is largely ignored. Does it take place? If so, what happens?
Death of Riley
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250053916, $14.99, Paperback, 275 pp, www.amazon.com
Since the introduction to readers of Molly Murphy in the first book in the series, "Murphy's Law," there have been a total of 13 novels so far. "The Death of Riley," now released in a paperback edition, was the second of these. The initial novel in the series brought Molly to Little Old New York from the Emerald Isle and this sequel carries her forward, giving her a taste of the life of a detective by meeting a real gumshoe, Paddy Riley, and attempting to work for him as an apprentice.
Unfortunately, Riley is soon murdered in his office and it is Molly who finds the body. As she does, the assassin is in the next room, and Molly catches a mere glimpse of him as he jumps out of a window to escape. Now Molly has a purpose: find Riley's killer. Two characters, Sid and Gus, who will continue to play an important part in Molly's future life, are introduced in this novel.
The Molly Murphy series is replete with the air of early 20th Century New York City. How many people remember the 6th Avenue El ("6th Avenue" soon replaced by the Avenue of the Americas) or horse-drawn trolley cars and fire engines, as well as historical background? In fact, this novel concludes in Buffalo at the time of the Great Pan-American Exposition and the assassination of President McKinley.
As have been the other entries in the series, the novel is recommended.
The White Ghost
James R. Benn
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616955113, $26.95, Hardcover, 352 pp, www.amazon.com
The Billy Boyle World War II mystery series presents the reader with a double whammy: A thoroughly researched story about the period combined with an excellent crime tale. Until this novel, the series has concentrated on the European Theater of Operations where Billy, a Boston detective in civilian life, serves on the staff of General Eisenhower's Supreme Command, tracing the progress of the war from North Africa through Sicily, Italy and, finally, the Normandy invasion. For a change of pace, this novel takes Billy and his sidekick, Kaz, to the South Pacific.
The impetus for this sudden development is at the behest of Joe Kennedy, who pulls strings to have Billy investigate a murder in the Solomon Islands. The reason for Billy's selection derives from the fact that the body was discovered by Jack Kennedy, who was recovering after the loss of PT 109. The Boyles and the Kennedys had a history back in Boston and the theory was that if Billy exonerated Jack as the perpetrator it would not be questioned, and if he accused the future President of murder it would be the result of a grudge.
The novel develops into more than a historical recounting or a mystery with a detailed look at the war operations in the Solomons, which were occupied by both U.S. and Japanese forces, on land, sea and in the air. And a rousing finish with Billy and Kaz in the middle of a firefight between marines and Japanese infantry. All the novels in the series are equally enjoyable, and "The White Ghost" is highly recommended.
The Rest is Silence
James R. Benn
853 Broadway, NY,NY 10003
9781616955700, $15.95, Paperback, 352 pp
This latest Billy Boyle mystery (the newest one, The White Ghost, is coming out on September 1st), the ninth in the series, takes place in the weeks before the Normandy invasion and is filled with many little-known facts. Did you know, for instance, that there was a practice area in southern England that nearly duplicated Omaha and Utah beaches in western France? Or that the armed forces conducted landings there called Operation Tiger? Or that one such exercise was so snafued by communications errors that it resulted in loss of equipment and lives, and a second was attacked by German naval vessels that sank several transports and resulted in about a thousand deaths? Or that Yogi Berra served on a small boat that shot rockets to blast barbed wire and other impediments to landings? Or even how Yogi got his moniker? So much for examples of why novels in the series reflect the author's impressive scholarship!
Now for the plot. Billy and his sidekick, Kaz, are sent to the area when a body washes ashore, and the powers-that-be are fearful it might be that of a German spy and could be detrimental to the planned invasion. When Billy and Kaz find otherwise, they are confronted with two additional mysteries: First, among the missing victims of the German attack on Operation Tiger are ten officers and NCOs with knowledge of the actual D-Day plans. Billy and Kaz, and later Sgt. "Big Mike," are tasked with inspecting bodies brought back to land to discover whether any of them fell into Nazi hands, which might give the enemy knowledge of the actual plans. Another subplot involves the death of a naval ensign unrelated to the invasion involving civilians, permitting Billy to demonstrate that he hasn't lost his touch as a Boston detective.
Once again, Mr. Benn has written an enthralling mystery combined with an interesting bit of history with the usual flair and clarity of the prior entries in the series.
You Know Who Killed Me
Loren D. Estleman
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765337351, $24.99, Hardcover, 233 pp, www.amazon.com
An Amos Walker novel is more about atmosphere, smart-alecky dialogue, the deterioration of Detroit, and the hard-boiled persona. In this chapter, the plot is complicated by his addiction to painkillers, and the doctor's condition for his release from rehab: get counseling. He does, with extremely unlikely results. Meanwhile, what's an Amos Walker novel without a mystery? And he is presented with one in his somewhat desperate shape by his friend in the Sheriff's department, albeit as a charity case and limited in scope.
The real mystery is who killed Donald Gates just before or after the start of New Year's Day. Detroit is flooded with billboards with his picture and the message: "You Know Who Killed Me." The idea was his 10-year-old son's, and it was paid for by his widow. Amos' assignment is limited to chasing down phone tips resulting from an anonymous $10,000 reward which brings out all the crazies, which the limited Sheriff's staff has no time to investigate. Amos is warned not to contact the widow or look into the case itself. But that never stopped him from going against orders.
All the attributes of previous novels in the series, e.g., the dialogue and attitudes, are present in this one. The prose is equally cynical, a trademark. While the conclusion may not be up to one's expectations, it works for Amos. And that's all that counts.
The Secret Place
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143127512, $17.95, Paperback, 464 pp, www.amazon.com
The police have a tough road to hoe in solving the murder of a young man, a student at a nearby boys' school, when his body is found on the grounds of St. Kilda's, an exclusive girls' school in Dublin. Not only have they the murder to investigate, but they have to deal with the vagaries, conspiracies, foibles, machinations and other characteristics of teenage girls. The case falls to newly appointed murder detective Antoinette Conway and her seasoned partner, but they get nowhere close to finding out who slew Chris Harper.
Then a year later, 16-year-old Holly Mackey, daughter of another detective, brings a postcard posted on a school bulletin board, purporting to indicate that someone at the school knows who the murderer is, to Stephen Moran, a cold case detective whom she knows from a previous case and "trusts." He then brings it to Conway hoping if he helps solve the murder it will gain him entry onto the Murder Squad. Thus begins a long, intricate day at St. Kilda's unraveling the relationships and events at the school.
The plot unfolds in two ways. Chapters are interspersed with what is going on in the present with the actual going on in the past. It is interesting to follow what happens juxtaposed with the clues discovered by the detectives as they proceed in interviewing the girls. The author is well-known for the quality of her writing, and it is quite evident in this novel which, while fascinating and well-written, is a slow read, but richly deserves to be read, and is recommended.
Queen of Hearts
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425260647, $7.99, Paperback, 304 pp, www.amazon.com
Lady Georgiana Bannoch, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and cousin (of sorts) to King George, 35th in line to throne, actually is a penniless person trained in the royal manner with no place to go and nothing to do. She is the daughter of a well-known and often-married mother, Edwina, who invites Georgie to accompany her to America where she wishes to obtain a quickie divorce in Reno. Of course, along the way, they are diverted to Hollywood where a larger-than-life movie mogul named Cy Goldman induces Edwina to star in a period movie about Mary Tudor and the future Queen Elizabeth.
Needless to say, where Georgie is, mysteries and murders are sure to follow. The first mystery begins on the transatlantic ship when a jewel thief steals a valuable ruby from an Indian princess. Presumably the thief is well-known but as yet unidentified to Scotland Yard, and Darcy O'Mara, Georgie's love, is on the trail, enabling him to follow to the West Coast, where the rest of the story plays out, including the murder and its solution.
The Royal Spyness mysteries are always whimsically written and fun to read. This latest novel in the series is no less amusing and enjoyable, far from the noir genre but light and in places even comic, and is recommended.
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062237538, $25.99, Hardcover, 320 pp, www.amazon.com
A common misperception about Israel is that its population is mostly white Sabras (Israeli-born) or Russian or middle European immigrants. But nothing could be further from the truth. There is, of course, a substantial percentage of Arabs. And there is a sizable number of Black Africans. That is the basis for this novel, which presents a graphic picture of the African refugee influx seeking asylum in the Middle Eastern nation.
At the same time the plot centers on the murder of Michal Poleg, a volunteer aid worker whose death gives rise to a murder investigation led by Inspector Anat Nachmias, who is confronted by a dilemma: An Eritrean asylum-seeker has confessed to the murder, but she is unconvinced of his guilt. It is up to her to unravel his reasons for the confession since her higher-ups are gleeful to have a suspect in hand.
And thereby hangs a tale told by Israel's leading crime writer, who is a practicing attorney. The story progresses naturally, as the investigation unfolds. Basically, this is a police procedural, but the plight of the refugees is told with startling clarity adding a true-life picture of how they fare once they cross the border and get to Tel Aviv. The only criticism this reader can offer is that the conclusion comes from left field, with no prior basis or previous clues to support it. Nevertheless, it is a tale well told, and is recommended.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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