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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 24, Number 5 May 2024 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Ann Skea's Bookshelf C.A. Gray's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf
Clint Travis' Bookshelf Diane Donovan's Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf
Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf
Kate Michaelson's Bookshelf Kirk Bane's Bookshelf Laurie Nguyen's Bookshelf
Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf    

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

Miranda Darling
Scribe US
9781957363875, $24.00 hc / $22.80 Kindle 320pp.

Winona Dalloway, like Mrs Dalloway in Virginia Woolf's novel of that name, often finds herself 'lilting between observing life from the outside and the desire to be fully present in it.' There are echoes of Virginia Woolf's novel throughout Thunderhead but Winona, unlike Woolf's heroine, questions and resists the urge to conform. She is helped by the voices in her head, which are like the voices we all hear but do not acknowledge - voices of reason, desire, knowledge and self justification. For Winona, they are 'The Voice of Hard Facts' (represented in bold type); the voice of wants, desires, emotions (italics); and the voice of knowledge (bold italics), for example:

'Perhaps you, Winona, are single handedly spearheading the re-wilding of suburbia.

I see myself as a zebra, walking down New South Head Road during rush-hour, parting traffic, hardy and independent.


The idea pleases me very much.

You embody every deviant characteristic of that list - do you realize...?

The thought is not as pleasing as being the zebra.

Please focus on the work you need to do.'

Since we are party to Winona's thoughts, she decides that it might help if she describes what she 'looks like from the outside', which she does in detail, but ends:

'Oh, but I forgot to tell you the funniest bit of all! You will laugh. I am Wife#3.'

She is married to a man she refers to throughout as 'He', 'Him' or (once) 'The Husband'. 'He' is known to be 'charming', and Winona sees him described in a glossy weekly magazine as 'a Local Figure of Note in the Community', with a photograph showing 'everybody looking very pleased with him'. She is regarded as a 'very lucky' woman, but she knows that 'He' and she 'no longer have a shared vision... share the same reality'. For 'Him' 'it is more important to exist in a reality everyone can see'. She, as 'He' sees it, 'made things up for a living', which was 'unsafe' - 'problematic and ill-defined and, as such, best shrugged off or, even better, ignored entirely'.

Winona tries hard to learn 'How to Be' in 'His' world. Before her marriage she had loved adventure, travelled the world, and held down an important job 'analysing emerging threats and challenges'. Once she became pregnant, she left her job and 'chose to write romantic fiction', because she 'thought the genre would make him feel safe', but also so that she could imagine revisiting the exotic places she once knew. She is successful but 'not enough to be a threat'. The 'Voice of Hard Facts', typically, tells her: 'You make the life of your characters seem desirable so you can accept your own' and 'This kind of thinking will destroy you. Please focus on the task in hand. Where is your list?'

Winona's lists are

'useful evidence that I had participated, that I had been present, that I had done what was expected, that I had noticed the world around me.'

They include shopping lists; 'BOUNDARIES THAT SHOULD NOT BE CROSSED BY WINONA DALLOWAY'; 'COLOURATIONS...', (which was a list which 'formed itself' while Winona was being questioned by a psychologist 'He' had booked an appointment with for her); abstract things like 'CAUSES OF SILENCE...'; and, especially, lists that work 'backwards', so that Winona can cross off things she has already done and add another bead to her 'nascent necklace of success.... 'Click''.

Winona is not mad. She is imaginative, capable, adores her two little boys ('the boys. My hearts'), and has developed strategies to help her negotiate situations in which she feels alien:

'I do not share the Goals of the Collective Project of Life around me. My passivity masks my rebellion nicely. The refusal to want what others want is an act of resistance in itself, just as is walking the street with no destination (la flâneuse), just as is stopping to notice the cat on the wall, watching us; or drifting away from the conversation at dinners I cannot refuse to attend, smiling silently through another description of the work ethic of the newest nanny.

My resistance lies in disappearance, in my non-participation, in my silent no: I will not play my part in the collective delusion.'

'He', in the guise of protecting and supporting her, has built an 'exoskeleton' around her. 'You are too sensitive', 'He' tells her. 'Too emotional' - taking my hand - 'you need to manage yourself. You will make yourself sick'.... 'Everyone else just thinks you're crazy, but I don't. You just can't cope with real life'. And 'You need help'. 'He' has scheduled all her daily appointments and commitments in a shared diary he created on her phone, and constantly reminds her of them and gives her orders by text messages. Winona suspects that he goes through her things - her purse, her drawers - and checks her phone messages.

He sometimes falls into rages in which the children, too, suffer, and Winona once told 'He could not come home unless He dealt with His rage'. He did consult 'a guru', who, apparently, told him that 'His rage was an expression of His masculinity'.

On another occasion, Winona told him to leave. 'How did that go?' asked 'The Voice of Hard Facts':

'The voice was snide, but I chose to answer the question as if it were not.

He ignored me. I said it three times. I couldn't say it again - I would sound mad. He already thinks I am mad. It's like He couldn't hear me. Like I was aurally invisible. Like his ears couldn't find my voice.....

He just kept sorting through His shirts, choosing His socks to match. It's like I had vanished in my own presence. I was totally invisible.'

Winona is aware that she had been different before she met 'Him': 'I went to lectures and talks and exhibitions, I had goals and worked with passion, writing articles and giving talks'. She was 'the arrow and not the bow'. Now, she has 'lost all confidence in how to navigate The World'. She resists, but she is becoming 'exhausted by the effort to constant insert myself into my own life'.

The voices she has come to rely on encourage her. 'To do the incredible, you must believe in the impossible' her self-defending voice tells her; and 'You cannot allow yourself to doubt your moral universe, Win,' says 'The Voice of Hard Truths'. When this voice tells her 'You have woken to your power to disrupt. What will you do with it?', she vows to 'leave the script that has been written' for her. And 'make Unauthorised Changes to the narrative.'

Thunderhead follows Winona through a single day, from the moment she gets up, through her tasks, her imaginative story-telling dilemmas, her 'dance of courtesy' with other people, her fears and her joys, to the moment an approaching storm scares the boys and she leaves 'His' guests, to whom she is serving the perfect dinner she has prepared, and goes to comfort them. Then, 'the storm is inside the house' and 'the bearded thunderhead flashing with lightening, spewing crashes of thunder' explodes. 'Expletives pelt us like hail', and terrifying mayhem follows.

Winona is a compelling character, full of life and humour, and Miranda Darling draws you into her life so thoroughly that Thunderhead becomes a powerful and gripping experience of the insidious and subtle effects of coercive control. Only when I had finished the book did I wonder about Wife#1, who quietly made an escape to Bali to teach 'muscular yoga', and Wife#2 who ended up, 'sweet' but 'vacant', in an 'assisted living home'. Had they, like Winona, challenged the script that 'He' was writing for them, or had Wife#2, been destroyed by it?

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

C.A. Gray's Bookshelf

Jaguar Prophecies
Jeff Wheeler
9781662505560, $16.99 pbk / $5.99 Kindle

This is definitely a different genre for Jeff Wheeler - urban fantasy rather than high fantasy. It's set in the real world, present day, and this continues the Dresden Codex series. I wasn't that into the first book in this series, for some reason. I think I just didn't identify with the characters enough to be emotionally involved with them. I felt the same at the beginning of this book, but they grew on me as the stakes grew even higher.

The story follows Jonathan Roth, a NYT bestselling author whom I suspect is at least to some degree based on Wheeler himself, and his teenage children, Suki, and twin boys. His wife Serena didn't appear in this installment, as at the end of the last book, Roth was forced to leave her behind in Mexico in a diabetic coma after they won the Mayan Death Games, with the assumption that she would never wake up. His family won the financial spoils from their opponents, as well as a promise that they would survive the coming apocalypse, when the Jaguar priests from the ancient Maya taking over the world in retaliation for their conquest thousands of years earlier. But they lost their freedom, as they weren't allowed to speak of what they knew, and Jacob, the leader of the shapeshifting priesthood, kept tabs on them at all times.

Suspecting that they were not entirely safe, Roth found a safehouse off the grid, and with his newfound wealth, hired private guards for his family. Meanwhile, Roth couldn't sit by and wait for the end of the world, though; instead, he wrote a new book under a pseudonym about all of it, and was doing research to learn more of their plans and ultimately expose them. This is what sets off the chain of events in this book: Jacob and his henchmen are after Roth and his family once again, and Roth must enlist the help of a skeptical FBI agent in order to survive.

Once the action gets going, I raced through to the end.

My rating: ****

Language: none

Sexual content: none

Violence: none

Political content: none

All Stirred Up
Brianne Moore
Center Point Pub
9781638087953, $16.99 pbk / $13.99 Kindle

This was a cute chick lit story that checked all the boxes, and felt just a bit like a Beth Moran story too, in the sense that it was clean and feel-good. It's also very much like every other story similar to it, but sometimes that's ok.

A 30-something single girl runs into an ex from years ago, whom she never got over. He never got over her either, but she broke his heart. He thinks she never really cared about him, while she thinks he'll never forgive her, even though she had her reasons and crises going on at the time. They're both chefs, and she manages a family restaurant. He comes back into town, and opens his own restaurant. A malicious journalist pits them against each other, creating tension, until they realize what's going on and manage to fall back into at least friendship. Complications with those around them ensue, and the old story of what happened between them, as it really was, finally comes to light. Then there's a happily ever after.

I finished it a few weeks ago and I honestly don't remember a lot more details than that, because as I said, it's pretty forgettable. But I enjoyed it while I was listening.

My rating: ****

Language: if there was any, it wasn't much

Violence: none

Sexual content: a little but not much

Political content: if there was any, it wasn't much

C.A. Gray, Reviewer

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Age of Secrets
Gerald Bellett
Meier Publishing
9781778287411, $19.99

Synopsis: During the Watergate hearings, one man wanted to tell a spellbound nation secrets about the Nixon White House, the CIA and Howard Hughes. He could have told them why the burglary happened but that was not what the Committee wanted to hear. To keep him from telling his secrets, he was persecuted, jailed and forced into exile in Canada. His name is John Meier; his employer was Howard Hughes. "Age of Secrets: The Conspiracy that Toppled Richard Nixon and the Hidden Death of Howard Hughes" is his story.

Former U.S. Senate candidate John Meier had Top Secret security clearance with the U.S. Government and has been referred to in the media as the man who brought down President of the United States Richard Nixon in Watergate, the greatest political scandal in U.S. history. Meier was the right-hand man to Howard Hughes, the world's richest individual, and Meier was the first person to expose the CIA's connection to the Hughes Organization and the only person to call for a congressional hearing into the death of Howard Hughes.

Meier was responsible for the CIA's creation of the legal term Glomar Response, when an agency refuses to confirm or deny the existence of records or information, he was an intelligence agent with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and he was involved with preventing the assassination of President of the Dominican Republic Joaquin Balaguer.

Howard Hughes supplied the CIA with a cover organization to hide anything they possess or do. When Meier opted out of the organization, he became an impediment to its continued existence.

John Meier was also an American diplomat who operated at the highest levels of the federal government including as Vice Chairman of the Humphrey-Muskie National Finance Committee, during Vice President of the United States Hubert Humphrey's Presidential Campaign, serving on President Richard Nixon's Task Force on Resources and Environment and a Special Consultant to Nixon's Environmental Quality Advisory Committee, and an advisor to several U.S. Senators including Senators Hubert Humphrey, Robert F. Kennedy, and Mike Gravel, who credited Meier with preventing the spread of nuclear power within the United States.

The full U.S. Senate Watergate Committee granted Meier immunity, in order for Meier to testify at a public Watergate hearing on the relationships between the Nixon Administration and Howard Hughes. Meier was the next person to testify to tell the world what he knew, but the Watergate hearings went back into secret session to prevent Meier from revealing what he was going to expose as he was told his testimony would be too damaging and that a lot of people were worried that too much would be uncovered about Howard Hughes' dealings beyond President Nixon.

Meier has been a major source to the media, including America's top investigative reporter, The Washington Post's Jack Anderson, and attempted to then expose what he knew through the media, with the CIA pursuing Meier across the U.S., Canada, UK, Japan, Australia, Tonga, and the Dominican Republic to stop him at all cost, including framing him for a number of offences including murder, and attempting to assassinate him.

In the Afterword of "Age of Secrets", Meier sums up his politically motivated battle by saying "My story is one of a man devastated by a corrupt system. Our governments are increasingly disrespectful of basic human rights such that we can no longer legitimately call our nations democracies. I hope that this story will contribute to changing this course".

Critique: A true and classic insider whistle-blower eye-witness story, "Age of Secrets: The Conspiracy that Toppled Richard Nixon and the Hidden Death of Howard Hughes" by Gerald Bellett will be of immense value to readers with an interest in political corruption, misconduct, espionage and intelligence gathering. Offering unprecedented insights into Watergate, the CIA, and the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, "Age of Secrets" is unreservedly recommended as an informative and compelling pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Political Science & 20th Century American History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Age of Secrets" is also available in a paperback edition (9781778287411, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Gerald Bellett is a reporter with the Vancouver Sun in British Columbia. Since 1974, he has written about John Meier and his monumental struggle with the White House, the CIA and the Howard Hughes organization. The story took him across North America from the deserts of Nevada, where he found the hidden gold mines of Howard Hughes, to the dangerous streets of Harlem in search of a CIA agent on the run. Bellett exposed the CIA's infiltration of the Hughes organization and the agency's use of Howard Hughes to supply its favored politicians with campaign contributions. Bellett has won a number of awards including a National Newspaper Award for being part of the Sun's reporting team that wrote a series concerning a notorious serial killer. Born in Liverpool, England, Bellett has lived in Canada since 1966 and now resides near Vancouver.

Sail, Steam, and Diesel: Moving Cargo on the Great Lakes
Eric Hirsimaki
Michigan State University Press
9781611864441, $79.95, HC, 696pp

Synopsis: Water transportation has played a key role in the Great Lakes region's settlement and economic growth, from providing entry into the new lake states to offering cheap transportation for the goods they produced.

There are numerous tales surrounding the Great Lakes shipping trade, but few storytellers have addressed the factors that influenced the use, design, and evolution of the ships that sailed the inland seas. With the publication of "Sail, Steam, and Diesel: Moving Cargo on the Great Lakes", maritime historian Eric Hirsimaki provides a comprehensive overview of the evolution of Great Lakes ships over the centuries, from small birch-bark canoes originally used in the region to the massive thousand-footers of today.

"Sail, Steam, and Diesel" also examines the economics of vessel operation in the context of the expanding scope of the shipping industry, which was crucial in catapulting America into becoming an industrial juggernaut. The captains of industry and the sailors whose labor propelled the trade populate this account, which also offers solemn acknowledgment of the high cost paid in both lost ships and lives.

Although they might not realize it, millions of Americans have owed their livelihoods to the Great Lakes boats, and "Sail, Steam, and Diesel" is an excellent approach to recognizing the importance of this regional industry.

Critique: Of special and particular value to readers with an interest in American Maritime History, this large format (8.5 x 1.5 x 11 inches, 4.8 pounds) hardcover edition of "Sail, Steam, and Diesel: Moving Cargo on the Great Lakes" from the Michigan State University Press is informatively enhanced for the reader's benefit with the inclusion of a sixteen page Bibliography, thirty-five pages of Notes, and a nineteen page Index. Nicely illustrated with the occasion B/W and captioned historical photo, "Sail, Steam, and Diesel: Moving Cargo on the Great Lakes" is an impressively thorough and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library American Maritime History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Eric Hirsimaki spent his forty-year career working in various facets of the Great Lakes shipping industry. He has sailed on the lakes, worked in the fleet office, been an engineer for a marine construction firm, worked for a major ore-hauling railroad, and been involved in lower lake dock operations and management. He has written several books; one, Lima: The History, was nominated for the 1986 Railroad Book of the Year by the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society. He has authored dozens of articles concerning Great Lakes shipping and railroad subjects for historical societies and commercial publications and been featured in several public television productions concerning the Great Lakes and railroads.

Carl Logan

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 40
Jody Lynn Nye, editor
Galaxy Press
9781619867741, $22.95, PB, 504pp

Synopsis: Twelve captivating tales from the best new writers of the year as selected by Writers of the Future Contest judges accompanied by three more from L. Ron Hubbard, Nancy Kress, S.M. Stirling. Each is accompanied by a full-color illustration. Included are:

"When her owner goes missing, a digital housecat must become more than simulation to find her dearest companion through the virtual world. - "The Edge of Where My Light Is Cast" by Sky McKinnon, art by Carina Zhang

No one came to his brother's funeral. Not even the spirits. Etienne knew it was his fault. - "Son, Spirit, Snake" by Jack Nash, art by Pedro N.

Man overboard is a nightmare scenario for any sailor, but Lieutenant Susan Guidry is also running out of air - and the nearest help is light years away. - "Nonzero" by Tom Vandermolen, art by Jennifer Mellen

Mac wanted to invent a cocktail to burn itself upon the pages of history - but this one had some unexpected side effects. - "The Last Drop" by L. Ron Hubbard and L. Sprague de Camp, art by Chris Arias

Dementia has landed Dan Kennedy in Graydon Manor, and what's left of his life ahead seems dismal, but a pair of impossible visitors bring unexpected hope. - "The Imagalisk" by Galen Westlake, art by Arthur Haywood

When a teenage swamp witch fears her mama will be killed, she utilizes her wits and the magic of the bayou - no matter the cost to her own soul. - "Life and Death and Love in the Bayou" by Stephannie Tallent, art by Ashley Cassaday

Our exodus family awoke on the new world - a paradise inexplicably teeming with Earth life, the Promise fulfilled. But 154 of us are missing.... - "Five Days Until Sunset" by Lance Robinson, art by Steve Bentley

Spirits were supposed to lurk beneath the Lake of Death, hungry and patient and hostile to all life. - "Shaman Dreams" by S.M. Stirling, art by Dan dos Santos

A new app lets users see through the eyes of any human in history, but it's not long before the secrets of the past catch up with the present. - "The Wall Isn't a Circle" by Rosalyn Robilliard, art by Guelly Rivera

In the shadows of Teddy Roosevelt's wendigo hunt, a Native American boy resolves to turn the tables on his captors, setting his sights on the ultimate prey - America's Great Chief. - "Da-ko-ta" by Amir Agoora, art by Connor Chamberlain

When squids from outer space take over, a punk-rock P.I. must crawl out of her own miserable existence to find her client's daughter - and maybe a way out. - "Squiddy" by John Eric Schleicher, art by Tyler Vail

Another outbreak? This time it's a virus with an eighty percent infection rate that affects personality changes... permanently. - "Halo" by Nancy Kress, art by Lucas Durham

Planet K2-18b is almost dead, humanity is enslaved, and it's Rickard's fault. Now in his twilight years, he'd give an arm and a leg for redemption. Literally. - "Ashes to Ashes, Blood to Carbonfiber" by James Davies, art by May Zheng

What if magic could undo the unthinkable, and undo Death itself? Would you use it no matter the cost? What would you sacrifice for love? - "Summer of Thirty Years" by Lisa Silverthorne, art by Gigi Hooper

Joe is a prospector tasked with exploring the cosmos on behalf of an all-powerful government. Breadna is a toaster. There have been weirder love stories, but that's unlikely. - "Butter Side Down" by Kal M, art by Selena Meraki

Critique: Deftly edited by Jody Lynn Nye and comprising the work of 24 award-winning science fiction authors and Illustrators, as well as featuring a 16-page color gallery of artwork, "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 40" showcases powerful and original science fiction stories that explore uncharted worlds and reveal unlimited possibilities. Of special note are the bonus Art and Writing Tips from Gregory Benford, Bob Eggleton, L. Ron Hubbard, and Dean Wesley Smith. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 40" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Jody Lynn Nye ( is the author of more than 50 books, including fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as some 170 short stories -- many of them with a humorous bent. She is on Facebook as Jody Lynn Nye and can be followed on Twitter @JodyLynnNye

The Blue Butterfly of Cochin
Ariana Mizrahi, author
Siona Benjamin, illustrator
Kalaniot Books
9798986396569, $19.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: The collaborative work of author/storyteller Ariana Mizrahi and artist/illustrator Siona Benjamin, "The Blue Butterfly of Cochin" from Kalaniot Books is a picture book story about the ancient Jewish community of India experienced a mass immigration to Israel in the 1950s.

"The Blue Butterfly of Cochin" follows Leah as she struggles to come to terms with leaving her beloved India and moving to the newly-formed country of Israel. Accompanied by a magical butterfly and through dream-like illustrations, both Leah and the young reader are transported from the lush Indian coastline to the awesome beauty of the Israeli desert.

Critique: Featuring the gallery quality artwork of Siona Benjamin, the visually memorable images make a perfect support and framework for author Ariana Mizrahi's unique and entertaining story. A unique, fun, and delightful read from start to finish, "The Blue Butterfly of Cochin" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school (Kindergarten through Fourth Grade), and community library Jewish themed picture book collections and personal reading lists for children ages 5-10.

Editorial Note #1: Ariana Mizrahi is a writer, teacher, director, and doctorate candidate in education leadership and innovation at The Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University in New York City. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ariana enjoys reflecting on her diverse background as a proud Hispanic Jew. Ariana is also the Director of Hebrew Language Instruction at Yeshiva Har Torah in Little Neck, New York.

Editorial Note #2: Siona Benjamin ( is a painter from Mumbai, now living in the United States. Her work reflects her background as a Jew raised in a Hindu and Muslim India. Siona has a MFA in painting and a second MFA in theater set design. She was awarded two Fulbright Fellowships, one in India and a second in Israel. She has exhibited her work in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Siona does private and public art commissions, while also selling and exhibiting in galleries and museums.

Clint Travis

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The Malthus Fraud
Robert Dees
Commons Press
9781737481096, $15.00, PB, 81pp

The Malthus Fraud provides history students and readers with a specific, narrow, and important focus on Thomas Malthus and the authoritative perspective presented in his Essay on the Principle of Population, which set the standards for conversations about overpopulation, social crisis management, and the rise and fall of early civilizations from the Roman Empire and the Hundred Years War (both of which have long been analyzed with bows to "Malthusian mechanisms").

But, what if this authoritative approach and perspective were wrong?

Robert Dees provides a damning, eye-opening argument in The Malthus Fraud, which should engage and challenge history students already well versed in Malthus's traditional thinking. He pinpoints both the value and the fallacies of this analytical paradigm:

"Putting aside his ludicrous claims that Rome suffered from overpopulation and that its farmers did themselves in, he did put his finger on the key issue: finding a scapegoat to exonerate the political leaders from guilt for the misery they cause is the whole point of the Malthus fraud."

Malthus argued against capitalistic greed as a source of social ailments and failures, instead placing the onus on the working class's proclivity to 'overpopulate'.

Dees returns the discussion to a critique of not just Malthus, but the foundations of arguments which shaped discussions and perceptions of the times for centuries of history scholars. He presents important questions and answers not only about the origins and inspirations of Malthus's perspective, but its impact on historical interpretation processes:

" did this devout worshipper of the status quo and its ruling elite explain the ongoing misery in England, which, by definition, was the best of all possible worlds?"

Through this analysis, the roots of dogma and misguided interpretations and perspectives are revealed in a manner that offers many insights for classrooms interested in not just historical analysis and Malthus, but the underlying belief systems that dictate its process:
"...his core argument - that a revolution in social relations could have no effect on these "laws" of nature and of God - was dead wrong. The attempt to salvage Malthus conceals the fact that the technological revolution of the 1800s was the result of prior revolutions in social and property relations. Social revolutions and the resulting technological advances made all the difference, disproving all of Malthus's dogma."

The result is of critical importance to historians, scholars, and student debate groups who already hold familiarity with Malthus and the long-term impact of his approach.

Libraries and readers seeking books that explore the foundations of religious and political dogma to consider their lasting influence on social issues and historical approaches will find The Malthus Fraud thought-provoking, astute, and certainly controversial in its contentions - perfect fodder for classroom and history buff discussion groups.

The Power of Peasants: Economics and Politics of Farming in Medieval Germany
Robert Dees
Commons Press
9781737481058, $35.00, PB, 1794pp

The Power of Peasants: Economics and Politics of Farming in Medieval Germany is a two-volume history set that adopts a unique approach to medieval historical record. It provides a review of civilization's events through the perspective of farmers, from the initial building of civilization in Northern Europe to its continuing challenges via feudal systems and farmer struggles.

The rise and fall of Rome, the rebuilding of the Church during Charlemagne's times, and the agricultural revolutions which have (until now) been relatively understated (in comparison to the industrial revolutions that advanced cultivation and civilization-building tools) are all covered in exquisite detail.

While this level of inspection may challenge readers seeking a simple overview of the times, it will delight those who look for well-researched intricacy and detail in their historical references:

"One historian described the early scratch plow as nothing more than "an enlarged digging-stick dragged by a pair of oxen." This is true, but it was also the most important scientific invention ever, as it was "the first application of non-human power to agriculture." 84 Its use increased productivity and made possible humans' transition from barbarism to civilization. Originally carved from a single piece of wood, it tore open the soil; broke it up into a texture suited to promoting new plant growth; allowed for better water retention, irrigation, and aeration; and helped kill weeds. Wooden plowshares, of course, broke and wore out quickly. During the 500s BCE the iron plowshare appeared in Italy, but one survey found an almost total absence of iron plowshares there during the Roman Period, in contrast to an abundance in northern border regions and in barbarian territory."

The heavy presence of footnoted references assures that these relationships between prior scholarship and the reassessments Robert Dees makes here about relationships between farmers, economics, and political and social transformations of the times are well supported by supplemental, authoritative reading material. This means that scholars can easily move from Dees 's contention to source materials that support his reinterpretations and contentions.

From the rise of peasant wealth in the late 1400s after some 150 years of poverty and its social and political impact to changing labor forces, laws, methods, and perceptions, Dees creates a powerful survey that does far more than recap common knowledge.

In his carefully researched study and associations between impacts and outcomes, Dees provides a focus which may at first seem narrower than more general overviews of civilization's rises and falls, but ultimately proves an invaluable microscopic consideration of how farmer, laborer, and peasant groups each contributed to the outcomes and efforts of humanity to reach new heights.

The second volume moves beyond feudal society, profiling changes in England, Holland, and beyond which move from a thirty-year war to the rise of populations and accompanying struggles with famine and disease.

From collapses and reformations to ongoing peasant and farmer roles and influences in the reshaping of societies, Dees crafts an examination that, at its heart, reshapes many common perceptions of these times and their influencing factors.

Brief introductory histories of circumstances that led to these major changes assure that readers holding minimal background of the times (but much interest in their outcomes and events) will not be lost, as the stories unfold.

Cross-country contrasts provide intriguing reflections on not only what happened, but why:

"Again in contrast to Germany, in the Netherlands the growing wealth of the general population drove up the price of livestock products more quickly than that of grain, so farmers had an incentive to specialize in more profitable dairy products. In some areas, the number of cattle per farm increased 50 percent between 1570 and 1680, while it fell in Germany."

Dees considers the shifting control over the means of production, its economic and power portents, influences on prosperity and the eventual translation from Europe to the Americas, and how agricultural and farmer influences and freedoms fostered many of these movements and growth processes. History readers and general-interest audiences with an affinity for the past will find many new ideas here. These will test traditional presentations and challenge shallower reviews of the times.

Libraries and readers seeking in-depth, authoritative, well-researched considerations of labor, power plays and transfers, and the basic elements and influences of farmers and peasants on the key events that moved civilization forward and prompted its growth and expansion will find The Power of Peasants: Economics and Politics of Farming in Medieval Germany surprisingly accessible, delightfully enlightening reading.

The often-startling, eye-opening, thought-provoking contentions are exceptional and hard-hitting:

"In northern Europe, free barbarians developed a more productive agriculture, with which they produced more food, more farmers, more warriors, until they overran the empire. The early medieval period was a brawl over whether slavery would survive. The farmers half-won, abolishing slavery, but were held in serfdom."

The Power of Peasants: Economics and Politics of Farming in Medieval Germany is very highly recommended; ideally to a much wider audience than its scholarship, size, and subject would seem to indicate.

The book may at first appear weighty and daunting, both in its size and subject matter. However, $35 for a 2-volume set that offers almost two thousand pages of detail is a bargain. Book clubs and classrooms that hold a special interest in either medieval history or early labor issues and peasant populations will find The Power of Peasants: Economics and Politics of Farming in Medieval Germany creates plenty of insights and opportunity for lively contemporary discourses about historic events, peasant perspectives and influences, and the ultimate growth of civilization through their efforts.

A Brief History of England: 4000 BCE - Yesterday
Robert Dees
Commons Press
9781737481072, $15.00, PB, 98pp

The booklet A Brief History of England is an excerpt from The Power of Peasants: Economics and Politics of Farming in Medieval Germany (also by Robert Dees), and synthesizes the information provided in the far more extensive volume to a degree that general-interest readers can readily access its value.

This 98-page booklet is essentially a reprint of Chapter 12 in The Power of Peasants, with minor editing. In a nutshell, it serves as an outstanding introduction to the weightier book, as well as a stand-alone history that shows that England's very different development was the result of the farmers there winning some rights, in stark contrast to what happened in Germany after the peasants were defeated in the Peasant War.

The booklet's lively reinterpretation of historical events will prove exciting and pointed to readers considering Europe 's foundation of economics, farming, and cultural shifts. On the English Civil War of the 1640s:

"Once the fight started in the streets, everyone else had to pick a side. This radical action by the "meaner sort" frightened the king's supporters into organizing a military response, which in turn forced the more moderate opposition in parliament into taking the lead of the popular forces, both in self-defense against the king and to regain control over the people. Two opposing armies formed."

Extensive footnoted references in the Endnotes section and a supporting set of sources, paired with an index, reinforces the stand-alone nature of this important introduction.

A Brief History of England is highly recommended for students of economics and European history who hold special and particular interest in agricultural developments and the political impact of farmer uprisings.

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

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

The Promise of Liberty: A Passover Haggada
Stuart Halpern & Jacob Kupietzky
Maggid Books
c/o Koren Publishers
9781592646258, $29.95, 264 pages

A new superb Haggada

Maggid Books' 2024, "The Promise of Liberty, A Passover Haggada," is superb. It tells the story of the Israelite exodus from Egyptian slavery over 3,300 years ago and reveals the many lessons applicable today, especially what freedom means in Judaism and America.

Unbeknownst to many, the Sidur, the daily prayer book, Machzor, the holiday prayer book, and the Passover Haggada used at the Passover Seder meal and ceremony are not mere collections of ideas. They are rich with diverse and often conflicting notions, not presented for blind acceptance but to engage readers, provoke thought, and inspire a deeper understanding of the world and oneself.

The three include rational and mystical notions and ideas not meant to be applicable today. Readers can choose, but let the ideas challenge them. Some should even be rejected by everyone or given a sensible interpretation. An example is the Siddur and Machzor prayer for men to read, thanking God for not making them women. It can be interpreted as teaching the man to thank God that men have more biblical commands to observe than women.

The new Haggada contains much more than the traditional Hebrew text with easy-to-understand modern English translation. It also has detailed explanations of the many ceremonies with instructions on how to do them, fifteen scholarly, easy-to-read essays, such as Israel's Enemies, Lincoln Dying on Passover, An American Moses, An American Josua, The Power of Imagination, and America's Favorite Prophet. Virtually every page has paintings or drawings, and many famous Jewish and American leaders are mentioned and their teachings narrated.

An example is the introduction to the tale of Absalom Jones, born in 1746 and freed from slavery at age 38. He became the first African American ordained by the Episcopal Church in 1802. We are told how and why the story of the Israelite exodus from Egyptian slavery inspired him.

"The Promise of Liberty, A Passover Haggada" is not just a book but a gateway to a deeper understanding of Judaism, America, and the concept of freedom. It is a beacon of inspiration, urging us to delve further into these rich and complex subjects.

Empowering Seder Conversations Passover Haggadah
Leora Ashman et al.
Urim Publications
9789655243703, $25.95, 128 pages

Very instructive Haggadah

The new 2024 Urim Publications "Empowering Seder Conversations Passover Haggadah" is very instructive. The Passover Seder is a family meal and ceremony, frequently with guests, using an ancient book called Haggadah, "The Telling," which contains multiple ancient writings designed to encourage participants to think about Jewish history, freedom, and the future and speak about the biblical story of the Israelites' exodus under Moses' leadership from Egyptian slavery over 3,000 years ago. The ancient Jewish sages encouraged Seder leaders to seek ways to prompt participants to offer their thoughts about the departure and freedom and its meaning today because the Seder, the Haggadah used during it, and the ceremonies in it teach people today how to improve themselves and all that is created.

The Urim Haggadah contains many thoughtful insights into the meaning of the exodus, the Seder, and Passover that will enlighten the participants and spark conversation. The insights also address history, freedom, pain, adversity, loneliness, love, and loss, among many others.

Thirty-five Jewish men and women contributed short essays to stimulate participation. One points out that Moses tried to persuade God not to send him to Egypt by saying, "I am not a man of many words." However, tonight, we read how he led the Israelites from slavery. Doesn't this show that limited words can achieve great things? Can you think of examples?

Another wrote, among much else, that we need to understand the root of Israel's Egyptian slavery. Didn't it all begin when Jacob's sons, Joseph's brothers, showed hatred and envy? Doesn't this tell us some things about what bitterness can lead to?

Still, another wrote, if Elijah is such a mighty prophet, why do we have to open the door for him at the Seder? Does this reveal something about opening the door for freedom?

A fourth reminded readers that the Israelites collapsed in fear when they saw the Egyptian chariots chasing after them and pleaded with Moses to let them return to Egypt and slavery. What does this tell us about human nature, fear, freedom, and how we should think and act?

The book details all the tools needed for the Seder and provides seven pages of instruction on managing the meal and ceremonies. The traditional Hebrew text of the Haggadah and an easy-to-read English translation are included with explanations. There are Seder instruction icons, a Hebrew copy of the biblical book Song of Songs, traditionally read in synagogues during Passover, which deals with love, is also included, and more.

Becoming Elijah, Prophet of Transformation
Daniel C. Matt
Yale University Press
9780300242706, $26.00 hc / $12.99 Kindle, 248 pages

Daniel C. Matt's book "Becoming Elijah, Prophet of Transformation" is a testament to his profound expertise in Kabbalah and Jewish thought. It is excellent and intellectually stimulating, as well as a balanced blend of scholarly depth and accessibility. This unique combination makes the book engaging and even fascinating, challenging our thinking and propelling us towards self-improvement. Matt, a leading authority on Kabbalah, has been widely recognized for his monumental contribution to the history of Jewish thought with his nine-volume translation of the mystical book Zohar.

After a comprehensive seven-page introduction, the book delves into the prophet's career as stated in the Bible, providing a solid foundation for the subsequent chapters. The second chapter is a treasure trove of dozens of fascinating rabbinical tales where Elijah aids various people after he is taken in a fiery chariot to heaven. These stories, with their timeless lessons, are as applicable today as they were centuries ago. For example, "Elijah reveals that divine truth embraces multiple and conflicting possibilities of meaning."

The third chapter is a fascinating exploration of how the Elijah tales influenced Kabbalah, the Zohar, and the messianic pretender Shabbetai Tsevi, some of whose followers claim Elijah anointed him and taught him mystic ideas. In chapter four, we embark on an exciting journey through the history of the figure Elijah in Christianity, including in the New Testament and the Crusades, as well as his influence on Islam.

The fifth chapter brings us back to the present, relating Elijah's role in Jewish rituals today. Many were first instituted in the Middle Ages, including the Passover Seder, circumcision, and Shabbat. In it, we read many interpretations of why these practices were instituted, including some that contradict others. Matt ends this section by inspiring us to experience Elijah today and telling us how this is done.

The book is structured in a reader-friendly manner. The five chapters, each offering a unique perspective on Elijah, conclude on page 156. This is followed by a comprehensive note section, providing additional insights and references until page 194. Pages 195 through 209 contain a detailed bibliography, allowing readers to explore the subject. The book concludes with a general index until page 221, followed by an index of sources until page 230, making it effortless for readers to locate specific topics or references of interest.

Reading and reviewing his book reminds me of a lesson I learned decades ago. Ancient sages stressed we can and should learn from everybody. Teachers can and should also learn from students. The same day I began this review, I sent my fifty-sixth book to my publisher. In it, I stressed that we can learn from secular literature, television dramas, and even jokes.

Daniel Matt takes an entirely different approach in his commentary on the Bible than I do. As a scholar involved with the Torah, you can call my approach textualism. I seek to understand what biblical words, sentences, and paragraphs mean, not what message, moral teaching, or mystical idea we can squeeze out of the words. (As a lawyer, I am not a textualist regarding the US Constitution.) Matt stresses the mystical while I focus on what the Bible is actually saying, not what we read into it. While he spent forty-two pages telling us what the Bible states about Elijah and used the rest of his excellent book discussing related subjects, I published a book "Who Really Was the Biblical Elijah?" with over 150 pages, mostly analyzing the biblical text to see what the author wanted us to know. I came to a different conclusion about Elijah than Daniel Matt. But this does not matter.

I enjoyed Matt's book. It made me think. It did not change my mind, or how I write, yet it enlarged what I knew, and I found the many tales about post-biblical Elijah in Judaism, Christianity, and other cultures fascinating. We must respect and listen to opinions that differ from ours. We learn from these ideas and improve, move faster to becoming all we can be, improve our ability to treat other humans, animals, and the inanimate as we want to be treated, and move the world to a better age.

Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Isfahan: Architecture and Urban Experience in Early Modern Iran
Farshid Emami
Penn State University Press
9780271095523, $112.95, HC, 276pp

Synopsis: A vibrant urban settlement from medieval times and the royal seat of the Safavid dynasty, the city of Isfahan emerged as a great metropolis during the seventeenth century. Using key sources, "Isfahan: Architecture and Urban Experience in Early Modern Iran" by Farshid Emami (Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at Rice University) reconstructs the spaces and senses of this dynamic city.

Focusing on nuances of urban experience, Emami expands our understanding of Isfahan in a global context. He takes the reader on an evocative journey through the city's markets, promenades, and coffeehouses, bringing to life the social landscapes that animated the lives of urban dwellers and shaped their perceptions of themselves and the world.

In doing so, Emami reveals seventeenth-century Isfahan as more than a cluster of beautiful monuments and gardens. It was a cosmopolitan city, where senses and materials, nature and artifice, and ritual and sociability acted in unison, engendering urban experiences that became paramount across the globe during the early modern period.

Drawing extensively on Persian literary and visual sources, including the "Guide for Strolling in Isfahan', Farshid Emami's exhaustive study, "Isfahan: Architecture and Urban Experience in Early Modern Iran", casts new light on the history of a major Eurasian city and opens up new possibilities for cross-cultural studies of urban experience in the early modern period.

Critique: This large format (9 x 1.03 x 10 inches) hardcover edition of "Isfahan: Architecture and Urban Experience in Early Modern Iran" from Penn State University Press is informatively enhanced for the reader's benefit with numerous illustrations, a ten page Appendix (Guide for Strolling in Isfahan), fourteen pages of Notes, a twelve page Bibliography, and a six page Index. A superbly crafted and detailed study, "Isfahan: Architecture and Urban Experience in Early Modern Iran" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, college and university library Architectural & Art History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. Seminal and ground breaking, it should also be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Isfahan: Architecture and Urban Experience in Early Modern Iran" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $68.49).

Lumberjack: Inside an Era in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Willisam S. Crowe
Modern History Press
9781615998081, $37.95, HC, 142pp

Synopsis: Now in a 70th Anniversary Edition from Modern History Press, "Lumberjack: Inside an Era in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" by William S. Crowe is a firsthand account of the lumbering era during the white pine boom years of the late 1800s to early 1900s in the northern U.S.

It was an era when millions of board feet of logs were cut in deep woods camps, driven down the rivers to the sawmills and shipped by schooner and barge to build a nation. This anniversary edition includes 78 historical photographs and illustrations, a glossary, editors' notes, maps, and so much more.

Critique: This large format (8.5 x 0.38 x 11 inches, 1.37 pounds) paperback edition of William S. Crowe's "Lumberjack: Inside an Era in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" from Modern History Press is co-edited by Lynn McGlothlin Emerick and Ann McGlothlin Weller. An inherently fascinating and informative read from start to finish, "Lumberjack: Inside an Era in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" is enhanced for the reader's benefit with seventy historic B/W photos. While highly recommended for community and college/university library American Forests & Forestry History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted that "Lumberjack: Inside an Era in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9780965057738, $21.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.95).

Editorial Note: William Crowe "lived in interesting times" and his life story highlights the building of lumbering towns at the turn of the last century, as well as the remarkable experiences of many young men and women of his era. As a 17 year old time boy for one of the largest lumbering companies in the northwoods, then as head bookkeeper and finally as owner of the company, Crowe was in a unique position to observe the entire lumbering operation in the white pine boom years of the late 1800s to the early 1900s --- from the logging camps of winter, to the river drives of spring, into the sawmills and onto the lumber schooners for transport on the Great Lakes.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

It Rose From The Tomb
Peter Norman, et al.
TwoMorrows Publishing
9781605491233, $31.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: Rising from the depths of history comes an all-new examination of the 20th Century's best horror comics, written by Peter Normanton (editor of From The Tomb, the UK's preeminent magazine on the genre).

From the pulps and seminal horror comics of the 1940s, through ones they tried to ban in the 1950s, this tome explores how the genre survived the introduction of the Comics Code, before making its terrifying return during the 1960s and 1970s. Come face-to-face with the early days of ACG's alarming line, every horror comic from June 1953, hypodermic horrors, DC's Gothic romance comics, Marvel's Giant-Size terrors, Skywald and Warren's chillers, and Atlas Seaboard's shocking magazines.

This 192-page full-color opus exhumes Bernie Wrightson's darkest constructs, plus artwork by Frank Frazetta, Neal Adams, Mike Kaluta, Steve Ditko, Matt Fox, Warren Kremer, Lee Elias, Bill Everett, Russ Heath, The Gurch, and many more. Simply stated, "It Rose From The Tomb: Celebrating the 20th Century's best horror comics" is a once-in-a-lifetime spine-chiller that is so good, it's frightening!

Critique: This large format (8 x 1 x 11 inches, 1.55 pounds) paperback edition of "It Rose From The Tomb" from TwoMorrows Publishing is information packed, profusely illustrated, and an absolute 'must' for the legions of 20th Century horror comics. "It Rose From The Tomb" is unabashedly recommended for both community and college/university library collections, and the personal reading lists of horror comic fans ages 16 to 96.

Editorial Note: Peter Normanton has edited and published the horror comics fanzine From the Tomb for eight years and has recently published the 28th issue. He is widely admired for supporting the work of horror artists and small publishers. He lives in Rochdale, England.

After Nativism: Belonging in an Age of Intolerance
Ash Amin
Polity Books
c/o Wiley Publishing Grup
9781509557301, $64.95, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Increasingly, many people in democracies are turning to a strong arm authoritarian politics for reassurance against globalization, uncertainty and precarity. In countries ranging from the US and the UK to Brazil, India and Turkey, support has grown for a nativist politics attacking migrants, minorities, liberals and elites as enemies of the nation. Is there a politics of belonging that progressive forces could mobilize to counteract these trends?

With the publication of "After Nativism: Belonging in an Age of Intolerance", Professor Ash Amin takes up this question, arguing that disarming nativism will require more than improving the security and wellbeing of the 'left-behind'.

The lines drawn by nativism are of an affective nature about imagined community, with meanings of belonging and voice lying at the heart of popular perceptions of just dues. This, argues Professor Amin, is the territory that progressive forces (liberal, social democratic, socialist) need in order to reclaim in order to shift public sentiment away from xenophobic intolerance towards one of commonality amid difference as a basis for facing existential risk and uncertainty.

"After Nativism" proposes a relational politics of belonging premised on the encounter, fugitive aesthetics, public interest politics, collaboration over common existential threats, and daily collectives and infrastructures of wellbeing. There is ground for progressives to mount a counter-aesthetics of belonging that will convince the discontents of neoliberal globalization that there is a better alternative to nativism.

Critique: "After Nativism: Belonging in an Age of Intolerance" is a timely study that is an invaluable and much needed contribution to our current national dialogue if we are to reduce the political and cultural divisions that currently provide genuine threats to the stability and endurance of our American style democracy. A work of substantial substance and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "After Nativism" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Regional & Human Geography collections and supplemental Contemporary Political Science curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "After Nativism" is also available in a paperback edition (9781509557318, $22.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.00).

Editorial Note: Ash Amin ( is the Emeritus 1931 Professor of Geography at the University of Cambridge.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

The Mindful Medium
Alison Grey
6th Books
c/o Collective Ink Books
9781803412658, $15.95, PB, 248pp

Synopsis: Everyone has a unique journey, a life purpose, and an inner light which guides them. You simply need to listen.

With the publication of "The Mindful Medium", Alison Grey has created an inspiring, practical guide for awakening. She applies her knowledge and understanding of the spirit world to help you understand yourself better, to change to a more positive mind-set, and to develop your own healing and intuitive gifts with easy, practical step-by-step exercises and visualisations.

Detailing the initial signs she received from guides, angels, and her loved ones, Alison acknowledges how these first steps of her own journey led her to where she is today - a successful psychic medium, healer, spiritual teacher and counselor. Her teaching weaves a fascinating and accessible alternative way of thinking, encouraging mediums to deepen their own intuitive and psychic skills while helping them to find answers to life's important questions.

Critique: Life changing, life enhancing, spirituality developing, inherently fascinating, inspired and inspiring, "The Mindful Medium" is especially and unreservedly recommended reading for anyone with an interest in becoming a medium or gaining an improved understanding of the metaphysics of guided meditation and psychic awareness. While highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Spirituality & Metaphysical Studies collections, it should be noted that Alison Grey's "The Mindful Medium" from 6th Books is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Alison Grey is a Reiki master, crystal healer and PLR regressionist, as well as a psychic, medium, healer and spiritual teacher. When she isn't giving professional readings that incorporate guidance and spiritual counsel, she is running successful spiritual and healing development circles, as well as mentorship programs. She is based in the beautiful Cotswolds, UK. (

A New Antiquity: Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400-1600
Alessandra Russo
Penn State University Press
9780271095691, $98.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: We tend to think of sixteenth-century European artistic theory as separate from the artworks displayed in the non-European sections of museums. But with the publication of "A New Antiquity: Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400-1600", Professor Alessandra Russo argues otherwise. Instead of considering the European experience of "New World" artifacts and materials through the lenses of "curiosity" and "exoticism", Professor Russo asks a different question: What impact have these works had on the way we currently think about (and theorize) the arts?

Centering her study on a vast corpus of early modern textual and visual sources, Professor Russo contends that the subtlety and inventiveness of the myriad of American, Asian, and African creations that were pillaged, exchanged, and often eventually destroyed in the context of Iberian colonization (including sculpture, painting, metalwork, mosaic, carving, architecture, and masonry) actually challenged and revolutionized sixteenth-century European definitions of what art is and what it means to be human. In this way, artifacts coming from outside Europe between 1400 and 1600 played a definitive role in what are considered distinctively European transformations: the redefinition of the frontier between the "mechanical" and the "liberal" arts and a new conception of the figure of the artist.

Critique: Informatively enhanced with the inclusion of numerous illustrations, twenty-nine pages of Notes, a twenty-four page Bibliography, and a twelve page Index,"A New Antiquity: Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400-1600" is an impressively seminal and ground-breaking study that will compel a rethinking of the heretofore existing conceptions of Renaissance art and early modern humanity. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A New Antiquity: Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400-1600" is unreservedly recommended, especially for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Art History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for art students, academia, historians, and non-specialist readers with an interest in the subject that "A New Antiquity: Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400-1600" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $79.99).

Editorial Note: Alessandra Russo ( is Professor in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University. She is the author of The Untranslatable Image: A Mestizo History of the Arts in New Spain, 1500-1600 and is a co-editor of Images Take Flight: Feather Art in Mexico and Europe.

Julie Summers

Kate Michaelson's Bookshelf

Whereabouts Unknown
Meredith Doench
Bold Strokes Books
9781635556476, $18.95 paperback

Synopsis: When two teenage Ohio girls go missing--one in Dayton and one in the suburbs of Cleveland--Detective Theo Madsen has a hunch the unsolved cases are related. For one thing, both girls left their cell phones and bloody handprints behind. In the midst of recovering from a gunshot wound, Theo is determined to find justice for the girls and regain her footing as a police officer. The story unfolds from the perspectives of Theo and Annabelle, one of the missing girls who is being held captive. Doench reveals just enough through each point-of-view character to keep the reader in suspense while also anticipating how the two characters' paths will collide--the only question is whether they will come together soon enough for Theo to save Annabelle.

Critique: Doench delivers a standout mystery, steadily ramping up the suspense until the book is nearly impossible to put down. Even with the fast-paced plot, Theo, Annabelle, and the supporting cast are thoroughly developed, three-dimensional characters who come alive on the page. Aside from the storytelling, I appreciated the diversity of the characters, including Theo and Annabelle, who are respectively coping with injury and chronic illness.

Editorial note: Doench is also the author of the Luce Hansen Thriller Series. The first book in that series, Crossed, won the 2017 Nancy Dasher Award.

The Bone Pendant Girls
Terry Friedman
CamCat Books
9780744307924, $27.99 hardback

Synopsis: Andi has communicated with spirits since she was a child, but when she buys two pendants carved from bone, the spirits of two missing girls attach to her and won't let her go until she finds justice for them. Andi is reluctant to get involved, but when the man who abducted the girls comes after her, she's left with no choice. With the support of her best friend and a private investigator, Andi traces the "Fisherman" from Pennsylvania to South Carolina where police want her to act as a lure to draw him into a trap. Unfortunately for Andi, they have underestimated the Fisherman--a terrifying and formidable antagonist whom Andi must face on her own.

Critique: This book boasts engaging characters, starting with Andi, whose quirky voice and dry humor drew me in from the start. The strong supporting cast includes Fiona, Andy's best friend, and Eli, the investigator who becomes Andi's love interest. Another strength of this book were Friedman's atmospheric descriptions of everything from the landscape to the supernatural elements. From the wintery Pennsylvania parks to South Carolina bogs and apparitions, you will feel like you're right there with Andi. Bone Pendant Girls offers an intoxicating mix of humor, humanity, and horror. While Friedman tackles very tough issues and doesn't shy away from the tragedy of the girls' abductions, she also shows moments of levity with the spirits of the two teens and depicts everything through the lens of Andi's wit. Bone Pendant Girls will appeal to readers looking for a paranormal thriller told from a fresh, original perspective.

Editorial note: The Bone Pendant Girls is Friedman's debut novel and was a finalist for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award.

Kate Michaelson, Reviewer

Kirk Bane's Bookshelf

The Clash on the Clash: Interviews and Encounters
Edited by Sean Egan
Chicago Review Press
9781613737453, $30.00 hc

The Clash stand as one of rock and roll's most iconic bands. Specializing in punk rock, they also played rockabilly, ska, funk, reggae, and dub. Although other members belonged to the group at various times, the band's classic incarnation included rhythm guitarist and main lyricist Joe Strummer, lead guitarist Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, and drummer Topper Headon. During the outfit's ten-year lifespan, 1976-1986, the British musicians released six albums: The Clash (1977); Give'em Enough Rope (1978); London Calling (1979), typically considered their best record; Sandinista! (1980); Combat Rock (1982); and Cut the Crap (1985). The Clash, particularly Strummer, were politically aware, outspoken adherents of leftist views. They staunchly opposed monarchy, U. S. imperialism, white supremacy, and the rich and well-born. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, and the following year, Rolling Stone magazine awarded the Clash the 28th position on its "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" list.

Containing more than twenty-five articles and interviews, The Clash on the Clash provides an informative and entertaining history of the group. Adeptly edited by Sean Egan, the volume offers perceptive pieces by such leading music journalists as Lester Bangs, Nick Kent, Mikal Gilmore, Caroline Coon, Charles Shaar Murray, Chris Salewicz, Tony Parsons, Kris Needs, and Lenny Kaye. Egan also provides several insightful contributions. The articles and interviews cover the years 1976-2014 and were gathered from such important British and American publications as Melody Maker, New Musical Express, Record Mirror, Zigzag, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Creem.

The book's interviews are especially valuable. "Clash interviews," Egan observes, "were multitudinous and mesmerizing. Infused with the messianic punk spirit, the Clash engaged with the press like no rock group before or since, treating the interview almost as an address to the nation." In short, he continues, "the Clash's back pages are voluminous, crackle with controversy, and constitute a snapshot of a uniquely fractious period in modern history, music - and politics - wise."

Replete with thought-provoking declarations from "The Only Band That Matters," Egan's exceptional compilation will appeal to fans of pop culture, especially those politically engaged.

Kirk Bane

Laurie Nguyen's Bookshelf

With Ash on Their Faces - Yezidi Women and the Islamic State
Catty Otten
OR Books
9781944869458, $25.00 hc / $8.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

With Ash on Their Faces: Yezidi Women and the Islamic State by Cathy Otten is an investigative biography detailing the horrors the Yezidi community has experienced under ISIS, with an emphasis on the abuse the Yezidi women have faced. The book is separated into four parts, with Yezidi men and women voicing their tragedies and resilience. Part 1: The Fall of Sinjar paints the gruesome reality of how Sinjar fell to ISIS, alongside the inner conflicts that allowed the terrorists to gain control in just one morning. Part II: The Women of Kojo represent the Yezidi who were forcibly converted and the women who were raped and enslaved on a nightly basis. Part III: The Accomplice reveals the betrayals the women experienced when they witnessed fellow neighbors, whom they were once able to rely on, now seeking to continue ISIS's barbarism. Finally, in the Epilogue, despite a precious few members of the community reunited, the Yezidis face a precarious position vulnerable to the whims of politics and prejudice.

I was at a Recycled Reads store in Austin when I encountered this book. I wanted to learn more about the plights of the Middle East. Since my husband and I discussed how ISIS destabilized the region, I saw this book and decided Otten's work would be my first introduction to their difficulties. I picked up the book, paid my dollar, and started reading.

I was not disappointed in the least. Otten's empathy and investigative nature are the primary reasons the accounts are so primally terrifying as they are beautiful. I loved the complexity that Otten exposes through the eyes of Yezidi women, from learning how child soldiers were trained and programmed by both ISIS and the Kurdistan's Worker Party to the complicated relationship that ISIS brides have with the organization themselves. One thing I know is that, despite the brutality of what they faced, the Yezidis never lost their strong sense of honor. Women were willing to sacrifice their own lives if it meant preserving their dignity, whether it be fighting to save themselves or others, rubbing their faces and hair with ash so that they wouldn't be taken by the enemy, scratching and bloodying "themselves in an attempt to make themselves unattractive to [slavers]." At times, they would kill themselves just to avoid the shame of being unable to return to their families.

I was particularly astounded by Leila, a Yezidi woman who, after being bought by her uncle Muhammed, had expected safety. But rather than offer her sanctuary, he sold her again. Perhaps he couldn't deal with the guilt or the fact that he had betrayed his own family to satisfy his sins. Either way, if she ever met him again, if I were in her shoes, I would be more than willing to "let him burn."

Eerily enough, there are parallels from the tragedy of the Yezidi community to other well-known moral massacres humanity habitually partakes in. The younger generation in 2014 was taken by ISIS because they saw the corruption that swept up Iraq. They didn't know what to do and so clung to the only voice of reason at the time. It was similar to how the current American generation feels, especially with the rise in political unrest, economic instability, and social injustice. Moreover, similar to the experiences of Yezidi men and women, during the Atlantic Slave Trade, African slaves were treated little better than cattle. While some may proclaim these injustices were just casualties of war, the same casualties can be seen in the African diaspora. Although the diaspora lasted longer than the catastrophes within the Yezidi, the trauma created will be present throughout future generations.

The Yezidi reminds me of yet another book filled with personal essays about what it meant to live in America as a feminist. When the Yezidi women were targeted, and ISIS attempted to replace their culture with their interpretation of Islam, I harshly remembered the words of one Jennifer Dimarco, since "as a woman, nothing is ever handed to you. You have to fight for everything. And a fighter faces the world head on."

Otten's understanding of the cruelties inflicted on the Yezidi community helps the reader understand the injustices they face and the obstacles they must overcome, psychologically or otherwise. Readers who are interested in learning more about the groups that ISIS has ravaged, as well as the resilience that was cultivated from such trauma. As such, I would give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.

Laurie Nguyen, Reviewer

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Friends of Dorothy: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Icons
Anthony Uzarowcki, author
Alejandro Mogollo Diez, illustrator
Imagine Publishing
c/o Charlesbridge Publishing
9781623543518, $24.99, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: What makes a gay icon? -- Free, uninhibited expression; an open mind; creativity; and bravery.

With the publication of "Friends of Dorothy: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Icons" author Anthony Uzarowcki celebrates a wide range of people with the strength, vulnerability, charisma, and style that set them apart and gave them status with the queer community.

Queer icons include supporters of LGBTQIA+ rights such as Marsha P. Johnson, and others like Divine and RuPaul who shattered social barriers to become important cultural ambassadors of queerness, changing the world in the process. Other icons are timeless entertainers with unique appeal, from Judy Garland and Bette Midler to Grace Jones and Lady Gaga.

This memorable and informative collection welcomes readers into a flamboyant world populated by larger-than-life figures who inspired LGBTQIA+ people over the decades, creating controversy, challenging conventions, and sometimes putting their own lives on the line in order for new generations to live in a more equal and accepting world.

With spectacular color portraits by artist Alejandro Mogollo Diez, the dramatic visual style perfectly captures the flair and panache of these figures.

Critique: Of special and particular attraction to readers with an interest in LBGTQ+ histories and biographies, "Friends of Dorothy: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Icons" is a unique, prized, and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, community, and college/university library LBGTQ+ and Theatre Biography/History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Friends of Dorothy: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Icons" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note #1: Anthony Uzarowski is the author of Jessica Lange: An Adventurer's Heart and coauthor of Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies. He has written numerous articles on cinema and the arts, with his work appearing in the Guardian, Film International, Gay Times, Queerty, and many other publications.

Editorial Note #2: Alejandro Mogollo Diez is a Spanish artist and illustrator from Seville. He studied art, film, and photography at Cornell University before becoming an art director and graphic designer. His unique illustrations, inspired by classic Hollywood and pop culture, have garnered the attention of many celebrities, including Madonna, who has shared his work on social media. His work has been previously featured in Encyclopedia Madonnica and MLVC60.

Skid Dogs
Emkelia Symington-Fedy
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
9781771623643, $29.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: In 1991, Emelia Symington-Fedy stumbled upon a tight-knit group of girls hanging out on the secluded railroad tracks intersecting her small rural town -- and became "best friends" with them overnight in the way only fifteen-year-olds can. Unsupervised and wild, the girls navigated teenage friendship dynamics, toyed with adult vices, and explored their growing sexuality.

Two decades later an eighteen-year-old girl is murdered on Halloween on the same tracks, and Symington-Fedy returns to her hometown to stay with her mother, who is fearful of a murderer at large. The victim was simply taking a shortcut to her friend's house -- just like Emelia's gang had done so many times in their day. While the media fixates on why the girl dared to be alone on the tracks, Symington-Fedy slowly comes to terms with the mistreatment of her own teenage body and the twenty years of silence between her former friends.

Critique: Deftly combining the candid intimacy of a memoir with the gripping narrative of true crime story, with the publication of "Skid Dogs" Emelia Symington-Fedy reveals her life story, including a bold and often darkly humorous first-hand account of nineties rape culture, as well as the sexual coercion that still permeates girlhood and the subtle ways that misogyny continues to impact women's lives daily. Especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections, it should be noted that "Skid Dogs" is also readily available in a complete and unabridged audio book edition (Tantor Audio, 9798212952118, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Emelia Symington-Fedy ( grew up in Armstrong, British Columbia. She has worked as an essayist, storyteller, and documentary producer for CBC Radio and is co-artistic director of The Chop Theatre. She is the creator of the popular blog and radio show that became an audiobook, Trying to Be Good: The Healing Powers of Lying, Cheating, Stealing, and Drugs.

Margaret Lane

Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf

The Search for Atlantis
Dr. Steve P. Kershaw
Simon and Schuster
9781681778594, $27.95 hc / $12.99 Kindle, 420 pgs.

The existence of Atlantis has been a topic of conversation and contention since the days of the Ancient Greeks. Plato, one of the most famous Greek philosophers, wrote widely about the existence of the "island of Atlantis." Dr. Steve P. Kershaw, professor and tutor of Classics at Oxford University, has written an interesting history of how Plato and his philosophical descendants viewed Atlantis. The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato's Ideal State (New York, Pegasus Books, 2022, xi, 426 pgs., $27.95) is a highly readable recounting of the evolution of the idea of Atlantis and how that idea has been conceived as the quintessential state by both free-spirits and Fascists alike. Such is the evolution of a widely disputed philosophical concept.

The Search for Atlantis is an excellent narrative history. Dr. Kershaw understands that his subject is just as interesting to general readers as it is to academic specialists. He writes for the reader that is only fairly familiar with Atlantis and the reader who teaches philosophy on a post-secondary level. The sources used by Dr. Kershaw are ancient works from the Greek world and modern volumes that have a background in pseudohistory. Dr. Kershaw weaves these sources into a text that, despite the small print, reads like a historical novel.

The Search for Atlantis is just the book that can spark an interest in classical history. The world of the Ancient Greeks is still relevant for our current generation. Modern societies can learn a great deal from the inquisitiveness that characterized the Ancient Greeks. Dr. Kershaw has written a masterful history and a foundational piece of Greek History or Western Civilization classroom. The Search for Atlantis is nonfiction writing at the highest level.

The Secret History of Bigfoot
John O'Connor
9781464216633 $26.99 hc / $8.57 Kindle, 288pgs.

Americans have always been eager to answer the questions of life that have intrigued us since we came to these lands. One of the biggest questions of the last half-century has been the quest to finally find that most elusive of creatures: Bigfoot. John O'Connor, in his debut work, The Secret History of Bigfoot: Field Notes on a North American Monster, (Napierville: Sourcebooks, 2024, 288 pgs., $26.99), has written a masterful tale of his year chasing Bigfoot and getting to know his fellow hunters who are referred to as "Bigfooters." O'Connor leads the reader on an adventure from the wilds of Oregon and California, to the other side of the continent and the primeval forests of Maine. Along the way he meets everyone from a veteran who is dedicated to the quest to a wildlife scientist that is not sure of exactly what is "out there."

The Secret History is well-written and easy to read. It is a tale of a wide variety of aspects of the current American conspiracy culture and how easy it can be for average Americans to become a part of that culture. O'Connor gives equal time to mysterious creatures and mythmaking that has undergirded American culture for centuries. The importance with which "Bigfooters" place the quest should not be mistaken for a wild-goose chase but should be viewed as something that is important to people who are inspired to believe in Bigfoot. This importance serves as a foundational piece of O'Connor's writing. It makes the narrative flow amazingly well.

The Secret History is an excellent debut volume. O'Connor writes with ease and with a confidence that it takes to tackle such a subject. The imagery in O'Connors' writing is also an essential part of the story and helps the reader visualize Bigfoot and his searchers. The Secret History deserves a place on the bookshelf of any reader interested in what makes us American. It is a useful guidebook on our road to the mysteries of life.

Matthew W. McCarty, EdD

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Atlas of Shipwrecks and Fortunes of the Sea
Cyril Hofstein, author
Karin Doering-Froger, illustrator
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
9780764367267, $29.99, HC, 136pp

Synopsis: From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, from the Baltic Sea to the Caribbean, the Antarctic, and the Indian Ocean; from ancient history to the present day, the short tales comprising "Atlas of Shipwrecks and Fortunes of the Sea" by Cyril Hofstein cover all aspects of high-seas adventure and feature prominent human incidents and tragic events. Combining tales of adventures and legends, they fuel the imagination of all those captivated by the sea and its sailors.

The most-famous stories are part of our maritime heritage, like the legend of the Flying Dutchman, which inspired the ghost ship in Pirates of the Caribbean, or the fire that destroyed the MS Georges Philippar off the coast of Somalia, causing the death of senior reporter Albert Londres, who was then returning from China.

Some are based on real historical events, like the sinking of La Belle, which put an end to the conquest of North America by the French, or the historic duel between the CSS Alabama, a Confederate raider, and a Union frigate USS Kearsarge, which moved the American Civil War to the English Channel.

Many more have been long forgotten and are ready to come to life again in the pages of "Atlas of Shipwrecks and Fortunes of the Sea".

Critique: Profusely illustrated with images, symbols and maps by Karin Doering-Froger to accompany author and shipwreck expert Cyril Hofstein, "Atlas of Shipwrecks and Fortunes of the Sea" will prove of immense value to readers with an interest in piracy and maritime ship history, as well as proving to be a unique and popular addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Maritime History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: A trained historian who is passionate about the maritime world, sailors' lore, and the lives of seafarers, Cyril Hofstein made his first forays into writing for the maritime journal Chasse-Maree.

Editorial Note#2: Karin Doering-Froger is an illustrator who puts her passion for art into practice by fostering talented young artists.

Beautiful Beaches Coloring Book
Eric Dowdle
Walter Foster Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780760385364, $14.99, PB, 80pp

Synopsis: Folk artist Eric Dowdle is well-known for his brightly colored paintings of famous cities and landmarks from around the world. The coloring pages comprising the "Beautiful Beaches Coloring Book" were created from his intricately detailed artwork and lend themselves perfectly to armchair travelers and adult coloring enthusiasts.

Original full-color illustrations alongside the coloring pages offer inspiration for color choices, and the abundance of detail filling every inch of the page provides hours of relaxing entertainment, with complex outlines to challenge and inspire.

From international beaches to scenic seascapes, Beautiful Beaches allows you to explore famous coastal destinations through the eyes of an artist. This adult coloring book is comprised of 40 coloring pages, with original full-color illustrations for guidance, detailed scenes of famous beaches and coastal destinations, and features quality paper with one-sided artwork for easy display.

Critique: With the publication of the "Beautiful Beaches: Coloring Book", folk artist Eric Dowdle offers a new way to experience his art with this coloring book series from Walter Foster Publishing. Each one of these coloring books features Dowdle's most iconic and popular paintings of famous cities and international landmarks, from Buckingham Palace to the National Parks. Also available in the Dowdle Coloring Book series are "National Parks", "America the Beautiful", and "Around the World". Offering hours and hours of quiet and contemplative fun, this paperback edition of "Beautiful Beaches: Coloring Book" is unreservedly recommended.

Editorial Note: Eric Dowdle ( transforms his paintings into popular puzzles enjoyed all over the world. With more than 30 million puzzles sold, Eric is best known for his depictions of cities and local landmarks and for weaving stories and hidden images into every painting. He has shared his travel expertise and artistic view of the world on the radio program Traveling with Eric Dowdle, as well as two television shows focusing on travel and art, Painting the Town with Eric Dowdle on PBS and The Piece Maker on the Magnolia Network. Eric has garnered hundreds of awards and recognition of his art and his charitable giving throughout his career.

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

The Poems of John Dewey
JoAnn Boydston, editor
Southern Illinois University Press
9780809308002, Archive, or $6.54, hardback (used)

John Dewey As Poet

The philosopher John Dewey (1859--1952) is not usually thought of as a poet. Over his long life, he was stolid, unromantic, and down to earth writing for both scholars and for the general public. And his prose style was difficult, turgid and unclear. Dewey does not make things easy for his readers and his philosophical works are notoriously obscure. And yet. Dewey published no poetry in his lifetime. But in the back of his desk drawer and in his wastebasket in his office at Columbia, there were found a stash of poems that ultimately came into the possession of Dewey's family and friends. The poems were subjected to painstaking scholarly examination which established their authenticity. At length, in 1977, Dewey's poems as a volume, "The Poems of John Dewey" in "The Collected Works of John Dewey", the definitive scholarly edition of Dewey's writings under the editorship of Jo Ann Boydston (1924 -- 2011). The book consists of 98 poems Dewey wrote primarily between 1910 -- 1918 together with Boydston's own extensive Introduction.

As a student of Dewey's philosophy and a reader of poetry, I was interested in this volume. But what drove me to the book was my reading of the 1925 novel "Bread Givers" by Anzia Yezierska (1880 -- 1970). Yezierska was born in Poland and came to America at the age of 9 with her large family. Her father was an Orthodox Rabbi and Torah Scholar. She was raised in poverty in New York City's Lower East Side where, with a strong independent streak, she left home as a young woman, went to college and became a writer. Her works were rediscovered in the 1970s through the influence of feminist scholars. In 1917--18, Yezierska and Dewey had a romantic relationship. Yezierska was in her early 30s while Dewey was already nearing 60. Both were married. The relationship was intense on both sides but apparently never consummated. Dewey would spend three years in China and resisted Yezierska's attepts to resume the relationship when he returned. The relationship was significant in the lives of both the novelist and story writer and the philosopher. It released emotion in Dewey and he wrote love poems to Yezierska, some of which he gave to her. I loved Yezierska's novel and wanted to read Dewey's poems and to learn about their relationship.

Boydston's Introduction gives a great deal of attention to the relationship between Dewey and Yezierska. She examines Dewey's poems for what they say about the relationship, about what it meant to him, and about why it ended. She examines as well the writings of Yezierska which make many references to her relationship with Dewey (less in "Bread Givers" than in some other works). The love poems, as well as the other poems in this volume, helped show me an emotional side of Dewey I hadn't seen before. He had never intended these private non-literary poems to be published.

One of the poems to Yezierska is titled "Two Weeks", the longest poem in the collection and, in Boydston's view, the best of Dewey's poems. The poem says a great deal about the course of the relationship, showing both Dewey's feelings and his realization that the relationship could not continue. The following passage shows something of the relationship and of Dewey's poetry.

"Does she now think or write or rest?
What happens at this minute -- it's just eight--
Has she written or shall I wait
In sweet trouble of expectancy
For some fresh wonder yet to be?
Whate'er, howe'er you move or rest
I see your body's breathing
The curving of your breast
And hear the warm thoughts seething.
I watch the lovely eyes that visions hold
Even in the tortured tangles of the tenement
Of a life that's free and bold.
I feel the hand that for a brief moment
Has been in mine, and dream that you are near
To talk with, and that I can hear
Your crystallized speech
As we converse, each to each."

Dewey's poems to Yezierska are moving and emotive. There are other poems in the collection. Boydston has organized the poems into four groups: Lyric poems, Nature Poems, Philosophical Poems, and Poems for Children. The poems are uneven but many are interesting in themselves and they are interesting for what they show about Dewey. In addition to the love poems, Dewey's themes include nature, death, God, and America. The philosophical poems cast interesting light on Dewey's thought as expressed in his philosophical books. The poems I enjoyed include "Creation" from the "Nature" section, "America", "The New World", and "Unfaith" from the philosophical poems, and the untitled poem no. 92 from the children's poems. The poems helped me understand Dewey and worked as poems in their own right.

Dewey made no claim to be a poet. It is unlikely that the poems in this volume would be anthologized as warranting inclusion in America's rich poetic tradition. American poetry is still not fully appreciated by many readers. Even so, this volume is special, not only in an academic sense of preserving writings of a great philosopher. Something hidden and private in these works, especially the poems to Yezierska, speaks to the heart and mind.

Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems (American Poets Project #13)
Emma Lazarus, author, John Hollander, editor
Library of America
9781931082778, $20.00, hardback

The Poetry Of Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus (1848 -- 1887) is known for her sonnet "The New Colossus" written in 1883 as part of a fundraising effort for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus's poem has become as iconic as the statue itself in celebrating the ideal and promise of America as a beacon of liberty, a refuge to the oppressed, and an inspiration to the world.

Lazarus's poems remain little-known beyond her famous sonnet, and this is most unfortunate. Throughout her short life, Lazarus articulated a vision of the United States and its potential that retains its power to move the reader. Although she never became a practicing Jew, Emma Lazarus became increasingly drawn to Judaism during the later years of her life. She wrote eloquent poetry on Jewish themes, worked to assist the many immigrants coming to the United States from Eastern Europe, and wrote and spoke with courage against the Pogroms in Russia and against anti-Semitism. Lazarus was the first, and still one of the best, Jewish-American poets who addressed both the nature of a secular, pluralistic United States and the role of Judaism within it in her poetry.

The American Poets Project of the Library of America has been producing a series of small volumes with the goal of making significant American poetry accessible to a wide audience. This short volume, "Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems" is part of the series. It was published in 2005 with a thoughtful introduction by John Hollander, himself a distinguished poet who has written on Jewish-American themes. This brief volume will give the reader an excellent overview of Lazarus's poetry.

Lazarus was born to a wealthy assimilated Jewish family in New York City. She received an excellent education and began publishing poetry at the age of 16. Her youthful poetry is largely of a romantic character. Lazarus began to write about Jewish themes in an 1881 collection of poetry, "Songs of a Semite." Hollander's collection includes a variety of poems from Lazarus's early efforts, poems with Jewish themes, an excellent selection of Lazarus's uncollected poetry (not published in a book) and selections from her translations of Heine and of medieval Jewish poets.

The two themes that remain strongest with me in reading this collection are Lazarus's devotion to the United States and her interest in Judaism. The Civil War was an impetus to much of her writing, and early poems such as "The Day of Dead Soldiers", "Heroe's" and "The South" are meditations on the meaning of the war and on its aftermath. Other early poems such as "Niagra", "Long Island Sound" and an untitled sonnet on Mount Khatadin (which reminded me of Thoreau's "The Maine Woods") celebrate the United States through its description of places. The poem "How Long" is an Emersonian celebration of the New World which exhorts Americans to develop their own ideals and not be slavish imitators of Europe. And, of course, the greatest of Lazarus's American poems is her famous sonnet.

Lazarus never joined a synagogue, but her poetry on Jewish themes is inspiring and challenging for her vision of what was valuable in her heritage and for her efforts to contribute, in a distinctively Jewish voice to American secularism. She celebrates Jewish thinkers and poets such as Maimonides, Ibn Gabirol, and Spinoza. Lazarus's poem, "On the Jewish New Year" concludes that the Holiday's reflections show "How strength of supreme suffering still is ours/ For Truth and Law and Love." The poem "In Exile" portrays rural Texas rather than urban New York City, as the place of a new life for some Jewish immigrants. Other poems condemn Anti-Semitism and urge the establishment of a Jewish settlement in what was then Palestine. Her modernistic prose poem "By the Waters of Babylon" is an eloquent exploration of Jewish learning and history. It considers in terms that will be uncomfortable to some readers the acculturation of the East European Jewish immigrants to the United States. This poem is essential for understanding Lazarus's attitude towards her Judaism. The poem "1492" ties the Jewish expulsion from Spain and Columbus's voyage with the beacon of the New World and the theme of "The New Colossus". In the New World, for Lazarus, "There falls each ancient barrier that the art/Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear/Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart."

Among other poetry in this volume, the remarkable sonnet "Assurance" appears to speak of Lazarus's own sexuality. Lazarus was a lover of music and a pianist. Several works in this collection are devoted to the music of Robert Schumann, but the finest of her works with a musical theme is the sequence of four sonnets, "Chopin". The poem "Outside the Church" tells something of Lazarus's religious beliefs while the sonnet "The Cranes of Ibycus" reminded me of Yeats's later poem, "Leda and the Swan."

The American Poets Project has done a service in publishing this collection of Emma Lazarus's poetry. Her work and vision deserve to be remembered.

Bread Givers
Anzia Yezierska, author
Persea Books
9780892552900, $14.45, paperback

A Young Immigrant Woman On Hester Street

Hester Street on New York City's Lower East Side has become emblematic of the American Jewish immigrant experience. It is celebrated in a 1975 film based upon a story by Abraham Cahan and in many works of immigrant literature, including this outstanding novel of 1925, "Bread Givers" by Anzia Yezierska. Yezierska (1880 -- 1970) was born in Poland and came to the United States with her family just before the 20th Century. Her father was a learned, Orthodox scholar of the Torah and Talmud. Yezierska was a born storyteller and writer and "Bread Givers" is an imaginative novel drawn loosely from her experiences, heavily embellished and dramatized.

Her novel tells the story of a young girl who chafes under Orthodoxy and under her controlling father and who seeks her own life and, as she says to become a person. Yezierska's work was forgotten for many years but was revisited in the 1970s with the rise of feminism. The book is told in the first person by Sara Smolinksy, beginning when she is about ten and continuing through her young womanhood to about the age of twenty-seven. Sara is the youngest of four daughters of a rabbi, who devotes full-time to the study of Jewish texts and brings in no income. The four daughters and the wife struggle with menial jobs to support the rabbi and the family at a level of poverty.

The novel describes in no uncertain terms a familial arrangement that today would be called patriarchal. The father is controlling, bullying of his family and forces bad marriages on each of the first three daughters, after each has had love interests elsewhere. Young Sara rebels and leaves the family. She takes a miserable room by herself and struggles to take college preparatory courses to become a teacher. With great effort and sacrifice she is able to pursue her education and her dream of independence. She remains lonely for family and for love and male companionship.

"Bread Givers" is a passionate, emotive, melodramatic novel. It has the feel of immigrant life in the fractured English of its characters, in its portrayal of claustrophobic, crowded tenements and rooming houses, of pushcarts and peddlers, and of poverty. The father in this book who devotes his days to religious study is highly atypical as the book shows many male characters who strive hard to escape poverty and to find material success. The book also shows poets, dreamers, and scholars among the children of the ghetto.

American Jewish literature and life often dwell upon gender and feminist related themes, and this is certainly the case in Yezierska's novel. Reb Smolinsky many times expresses what he presents as a Jewish textual account of the relationship between the sexes in which a relationship with a man is necessary for the fulfillment of a woman. His wife and four daughters disagree in their ways, but only Sara has the strong will of her father to rebel and leave. The book has many feminist elements, but it would be unfair to see it as a feminist tract. There is a great deal in the book about the need for love, family and sexuality as opposed to (or in addition to) independence and career. Sara learns that independence and career are not enough to make her happy or to fulfill her dream of becoming a person. The book captures in its emotive writing something of the passions and ambiguities in the relations between the sexes.

The book explores issues even more basic that relations between the sexes. The book strongly rejects the Jewish Orthodoxy practiced by Reb Smolinsky. It also questions the relentless pursuit of money and of material success practiced as a means to escape the poverty of the ghetto by most of the characters with the partial exception of the Reb. The book suggests the importance of learning, reflection, and wisdom which may perhaps be found and practiced in many ways. There is some sympathy after all for Reb Smolinsky and his devotion to a life of prayer and study. Still, I found the book largely celebrates American secular life as liberating and as offering individual persons the opportunity to choose for themselves the life they find meaningful and rewarding.

I have read other literature set on the Lower East Side, including works by Abraham Cahan, mentioned above, Henry Roth, Charles Reznikoff, and Michael Gold. I have no family from that area and have never even visited, but I always feel a deep tug of familiarity and recognition. I felt at home with Anzia Yezierska and loved her novel. It brought home to me Jewish immigrant life together with an appreciation for the breadth and precious nature of the American experience.

Emma Lazarus
Esther Schor, author
Schocken Books
9780805211665, $14.15, paperback

A Woman I Would Like You To Know

With the words of the title of this review, Esther Schor introduces the reader to Emma Lazarus (1849 -1887)in her newly-published biography of this late-nineteenth Century American poet, essayist, novelist, critic, and social activist for newly-arrived immigrants. Schor is Professor of English at Princeton University, a poet in her own right, and the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley. Her biography of Emma Lazarus is part of a series of books called "Jewish Encounters" edited by Jonathan Rosen and "devoted to the promotion of Jewish literature, culture, and ideas."

Emma Lazarus is known to most readers only as the author of the sonnet "The New Colossus" which ultimately achieved iconic status with its inscription on the Statue of Liberty. But there is much more to Emma Lazarus than this great poem, as Schor convincingly demonstrates. Schor writes in an accessible, colloquial style that shows great affection and understanding for Lazarus. Although Schor's book includes a substantial amount of analysis of Lazarus's literary work, the focus of the book lies in bringing Emma Lazarus herself to life. Schor's biography, while not constituting the last word on Emma Lazarus, fulfills its goal of showing why Lazarus is worth knowing. Even with this book, and other studies of Emma Lazarus, she remains a complex and elusive figure.

Lazarus was born to an assimilated family of wealthy New York Jews who had lived in the United States for at least four generations. Lazarus received an outstanding private education and became known as a prodigy when her first volume of poems, written between the ages of 14 and 16 was published by her father. As a young woman, Emma Lazarus attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson and had a complicated relationship with him, as Schor discusses at length. Lazarus visited Emerson in Concord twice near the end of his life and became friends with his daughter Ellen. Lazarus was a highly connected woman with friends, male and female, among the most culturally and politically influential people in the United States.

Lazarus made impressive contributions to poetry besides "The New Colossus" and wrote influential essays and reviews as well. Her best work, such as "The New Colossus" deals with her vision of America and with the place of Judaism in the United States. In fact her work tends to fuse together these two subjects. As Schor suggests, Emma Lazarus became the first of what would become a long series of Jewish-American writers who would try to express what they deemed to be the ideals of Judaism in secular and literary rather than in traditionally religious terms. Schor argues that Lazarus's work shows an interpenetration of American and Jewish ideals, with America providing freedom, liberty, and economic and cultural opportunity, while Jewish ideals expanded upon concepts of social justice and ethics within the American framework.

Schor argues that there was a Jewish undercurrent to Lazarus's works from its earliest stages, beginning with her poem "In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport." Lazarus translated Heine and medieval Jewish poets, and, in 1881 published a volume of poetry titled "Songs of a Semite" which expanded upon Jewish themes. She wrote influential essays which exposed anti-semitism and the Russian Pogroms and considered the meaning of Judaism in American. She worked actively for the well-being of Jewish immigrants to the United States and was among the first to champion the idea of a homeland for Jews in what was then Palestine to escape the ravages of European anti-semitism.

Lazarus remained secular throughout her life, and her own religious convictions can, I think best be described as a sort of nebulous theism. She described herself as an "outsider" to both Judaism and Christianity and, as Schor points out, anticipated the choices and the ambiguities that many American Jews struggle with today in considering their own relationship to Judaism. The complexities of Lazarus's views of Judaism are well-illustrated in a poem she wrote late in her life, "By the Waters of Babylon", the first prose-poem to be written in English. Schor gives a good analysis of this poem, and of many others.

As Schor emphasizes, Lazarus was a paradoxical figure in that she never lost her aristocratic, bearing as a member of America's privileged class and yet worked tirelessly for the health, education and culture of the new immigrants and, with her poem on the Statue of Liberty, redefined the meaning of this national symbol before it was even constructed. For all her activism, Lazarus never quite lost her basic conservatism -- a paradoxical combination that I continue to find fascinating. Emma Lazarus also remains difficult as a person, behind the ambiguities of her friendships with men and women and her Victorian reserve. Lazarus never married. She wrote, but did not publish, a remarkably suggestive sonnet, titled "Assurance" which for many readers, offers insight into Lazarus's own sexuality.

Emma Lazarus has been an inspiration to me for her vision of the United States and for her commitment to an ethical, active Judaism with a deeply secular cast. Schor's book will introduce the reader to an American writer who deserves increased recognition. Schor's book also includes an excellent sampling of Lazarus's poetry. Readers who would like to read more of Emma Lazarus may be interested in the selection of her poetry titled "Emma Lazarus" edited by John Hollander in the American Poets Project series of the Library of America.

Not One of Them in Place: Modern Poetry and Jewish American Identity
Norman Finklestein, author
State University of New York Press
9780791449837, $25.00 hardcover (used)

Technicians Of The Sacred

The poetry written by Twentieth Century American Jews has recently received substantial critical attention. In 1976, Harold Bloom wrote an influential article, "The Sorrows of American-Jewish Poetry" critical of the work of American Jewish poets, such as Charles Reznikoff, for failing to keep alive in their writings the prophetic, moral character of the Jewish Scriptures. In 1997, Steve Rubin edited an anthology, "Telling and Remembering", containing selections from over thirty Jewish-American poets.

With this as a background, Finklestein's book attempts to determine what in American Jewish poetry is significant and why it is so. He tries to select a number of writers illustrating important trends in Jewish-American poetry and to explain their significance. The result is a challenging book, in places as difficult to follow as some of the poets it discusses, but one that can bring focus to reading. In my case, the book introduced me to poets I hadn't known about before.

Finklestein divides Jewish poets into to groups which basically fall within the broad divide of Twentieth Century American poetry: the objectivists and the symbolists. The leading objectivist poets are Charles Reznikoff and Louis Zukofsky and their late Twentieth Century successors. Their writing is spare and fact-based. As far as Jewish content is concerned, the attitude towards Jewish tradition becomes one primarily of history -- with a loss of traditional religious belief -- and an attempt to make something of this history in one's life as an American.

The "symbolist" school is an attempt to continue the romantic tradition in poetry, with ancestors in Blake, Whitman, and, in the Twentieth Century Wallace Stevens. Finklestein discusses Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish as the representative poem of this movement, even though Ginsberg has strong objectivist components as well, and even though Ginsberg left Judaism and disclaimed any ties to it. Finlestein also discusses the religious poetry of Alan Grossman and the "Ethnopoetics" of Jerome Rothenberg. Grossman, in particular, he sees as attempting to bring back a religious dimension to poetry and to American Jewish life.

As Finklestein recognizes, generalizations are treacherous. It is difficult to separate issues particular to Jewish-American poetry from broader issues common to American or contemporary poetry or to isolate issues as particularly bearing upon Jewish-American writers. In broad terms, though, he finds the writers he discusses have a sense of themselves as American and yet carry forward something of Jewishness. At the close of his book he alludes to a description by Jerome Rothenberg of Jewish poets as "technicians of the sacred" with one foot in modernity and secular America and the other foot in an attempt to recover something of the Divine and the Transcendent, whether this is viewed in specifically Jewish terms or not. In addition, he claims to find an underlying sense of affirming the value of life in the poetry.
There is a rich body of work produced by Twentieth Century American poets that remains to be discovered. The work of Jewish Americans forms part of this work. Some of the writers discussed in this book may be obscure, but the book will encourage the reader to explore further the canon of American-Jewish poetry.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

The Peace: A Warrior's Journey
Romeo Dallaire
Random House Canada
9780345814401, $25.00

I have read all four books written by Romeo Dallaire (Shake Hands with the Devil; They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children; Waiting for First Light; and his newest, The Peace: A Warrior's Journey). I find him to be a humanist and a great humanitarian.

Dallaire was the commander of the United Nations forces in Rwanda, the ones who were supposed to keep the peace there. Despite his warnings of a genocide, one occurred, one which no nation in the world would commit to helping stop. Left with PTSD from the horrors he saw, Dallaire has struggled with psychiatric issues, yet continued to fight to keep the Rwandan genocide from fading into the woodwork. I applaud his growth as a human being and his unwavering efforts to bring genocide and child soldiers to the forefront.

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Dallaire posits that the world needs a new way of dealing with conflict in this post-Cold War era. I quite agree. The end of the two great World Wars and the Cold War has not brought the predicted peace. Instead, we have had a century of genocides and, because of the increased level violence, more than 90 million people are displaced within their countries or refugees outside their countries.

In this most recent book, Dallaire seems to have reevaluated his life and overcome many of his PTSD symptoms and has begun fighting for a new way of maintaining world peace ("...the warrior in me realized that the true attainment of peace is not 'victory,' but the prevention of violence in the first place.") and human security. ("Human security was about so much more than freedom from conflict. It was also freedom from want and freedom from fear [and] included access to clean water, housing, food and medical care ... religious and cultural liberty ... and protection from political instability and environmental disaster." Only when humanity has achieved these lofty goals can we truly realize our potential as human beings.

Virtuous Women
Ann Goltz
Quiet Publications
9780999521519 $16.99

Virtuous Women is a complex novel of faith in a changing world. Hope Wagner is being raised in a fundamentally religious family. Her mother dies giving birth to her eleventh child, but the father refuses to seek medical attention, feeling that physicians are shysters. Hope, at fifteen, assumes the role of mother to her ten siblings. She cooks all the meals, supervises the children in their chores and behavior, homeschools them, does the laundry, shoes for the groceries, and is woefully unappreciated. The father, Micheal, is a staunch unrelenting man, a deacon in a fundamental sect whose interpretation of the Bible appears akin to the Taliban's interpretation of the Koran. Women are helpmeets permitted no interests outside the home. There is no room in Michael's eyes or those of his God for errors of any sort, much less sin of any sort. Hope is forced to set aside her dreams a lifestyle unlike that of her father and her prospects for marriage to care for his home and children.

The prose is simple and understated, in keeping with the no-frills lives of this family. Goltz skillfully navigates the intersection of fundamental Christians living in a world that no longer suits them. These are the MAGA base. Michael's sons are "future warriors in the battle to bring American and the world back to Christ" while his daughters, if not "raised to understand the importance of Christian motherhood, they would abandon their families and be deceived by the lies of feminism and worldly self-fulfillment." Overall this is a thought-provoking novel that

Looks at the darker side of fundamentalism and shows how the patriarchal structure of the family perpetuates the oppression of children, leaving them no autonomy in the pursuance of their own lives. This book will definitely haunt you.

Mistress Masham's Repose
T. H. White
NYRB Children's Collection
9780141368733, $3.99 ebook

In the last year or two I've embarked on re-reading those books by T.H. White (The Once and Future King, The Sword in the Stone, Witch in the Wood, The Ill-made Knight) as well as H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, who turns to the guidance of T.H. White as she raises a goshawk. Long a King Arthur fan, I first read The Once and Future King (a series of linked novels) before I became an adolescent and read them aloud to my little brothers. It was the basis of the Disney animated film, The Sword in the Stone. Mistress Masham's Repose is a new-to-me book, and I read it as I have always enjoyed White's sense of humor and his profound philosophical and political insights. He doesn't drift from his usual form in this children's book. It is wryly funny but with serious undertones and certainly should give youngsters food for thought. The illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg are marvelous.

Maria Masham, a ten-year-old orphan, lives on her downtrodden family estate, cared for by a hired nanny and the local curate, who are determined to deprive her of a decent childhood and to strip her and her inheritance of every possible cent. Maria discovers a secret on an deserted island on her estate - descendants of Gulliver's Lilliputians. She at first thinks she has the right to make them her toys, and gradually realizes she must treat them as equals, though they are only inches tall. She must protect them from the evil in her life - which is an even bigger threat to these little folks; her nanny and the curate will sell them as circus attractions to become rich.

All We Were Promised
Ashton Lattimore
Ballantine Books
9780593600153, $30.00

All We Were Promised, a debut novel by Aston Lattimore gives a different historical perspective on Philadelphia history. The book involves three young Black women in quite disparate levels of society. The main character, Charlotte, was named Carrie as a child and grew up in the antebellum south. A now-free escaped slave, she works as a maid in a nice home in Society Hill but feels as inhibited - if not as mistreated - as she'd been as a slave. Her father, Jack, forced her to escape with him to Philadelphia just before Carrie is to be sold off to help their owner pay off debts. The second character, Nell, is a member of the Black upper middle class and has never done a day's work in her life. A budding abolitionist, she befriends Carrie/Charlotte. Part way through the story, the third girl emerges when Evie, a fellow slave and friend of Charlotte's, arrives in Philadelphia and by chance encounters Charlotte. Evie asks Charlotte to help her escape as well.

Lattimore does a great job blending her fictional characters with real historical personages. As a former fifteen-year resident of Philadelphia, the setting feels authentic. All We Were Promised shows the plight of Blacks in one of the more progressive cities in America in the 1830s. Despite its progressiveness, Philadelphia was gradually eroding the rights of Blacks by decreasing how much their votes counted in elections, and "sojourner" laws allowed slaves to continue to be enslaved as long as they were not within the city more than six months. After that, they would be deemed free. Blacks could still be randomly picked up off the streets, even if free, and returned to the South. Race riots were common as the country was in an economic downturn, and Whites felt Blacks were taking away jobs. The climax shows the very real dangers Blacks faced in the City of Brotherly Love and the birthplace of American Liberty.

Tres Navarre Mystery series
Rick Riordan
c/o Random House
9780553576443, $8.99

Having read most of Rick Riordan's young adult series, I decided to switch to his adult mystery series which I started eons ago and enjoyed but somehow never finished. The Tres Navarre series includes seven books, Big Red Tequila, The Widower's Two Step, The Last King of Texas, The Devil Went Down to Austin, Southtown, Mission Road, and Rebel Island.

Riordan used to live in San Antonio, and he really captures the atmosphere and the topography of the city. Having lived there three times in the past fifty years, I can easily picture every passing mile the protagonist, Jackson (Tres) Navarre, drives through the area. Tres has returned to San Antonio after bugging out when his cop father was killed. Tres is a bit of an atypical hero. He lived in San Francisco, earning a Ph.D. in medieval literature, becoming a Tai Chi master, and working as an enforcer for a legal firm. His life in San Antonio isn't much different other than he's working on getting his private investigator's license. Tres is a good guy, tries to be decent, tries to uphold the spirit if not the letter of the law, but he keeps getting beat up, shot at, threatened, and running afoul of local law enforcement for not knowing when to step out of the picture.

The series is humorous though not as funny as Riordan's young adult works. I enjoyed reading them. They definitely capture the atmosphere of South Texas, San Antonio in particular, with a wide cast of characters that ring true to life, from his artistic mother to his old high school buddies.

Douglas Preston
Forge Books
9780765317704, $29.99

I'll be upfront and say I'm a long-time fan of Michael Crichton and the Jurassic Park series of books and movies. If you enjoy that sort of sci-fi/thriller, this is the book for you. I read it in its entirety in one night. I simply couldn't put it down.

Erebus Resort, a safari-type resort populated with prehistoric animals recreated via genetic manipulation, is set in the Colorado wilderness. The uber-wealthy can pay for backpacking trips to see wooly mammoths and other creatures up close and personal. When a newly-wed couple disappears, law enforcement presumes an eco-terrorist group is responsible. As incident piles upon incident, the resort starts to crumble. The last ten chapters or so reveal how wrong they are.

Preston takes current genetic research and turns it in a horror story as he depicts the pros and cons of mankind resurrecting extinct species. He does this quite successfully without bogging the reader down in arcane scientific terms. Like Jurassic Park, it's a marvelous cautionary tale on hubris of man as well as our rapacious appetite for destruction in the guise of progress. The afterword was an interesting read as well.

Preston's prose is tight. The suspense bounds off the page. The female protagonist, Frances Cash, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's agent in charge, is an atypical female in modern fiction: overweight but fit, sharp-tongued, and outspoken. However, Preston seems overly concerned about her diet and size. The remaining characters are full-realized and interesting (other than the surprise folks at the end who work as a mob rather than individuals).

Juris Ex Machina
John Maly
Highlander Press

Juris Ex Machina is a genre-bending science fiction thriller set in the distant future. The city of Arcadia exists under a dome, and all its functions are controlled by artificial intelligence. Computers have taken over so entirely that they are the "jury" that decides the guilt or innocence of criminals. The story chapters are interspersed with excerpts from books both real (Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay) and imaginary (A Brief History of the Wychwood Penal Facility by A. R. Wilchcombe) which provide a background history of the means men used historically when judging the crimes of others.

The book starts out in a fairly light tone with a young man, Rainville, living his ordinary life. He's a typical young adult whose crimes are limited to flash mob shoplifting and scamming pizza delivery robots out of their wares. The tone soon deepens.

This book has the most unusual ticking bomb I've ever read: a toaster. A rather anachronistic product, it works like any other conventional toaster - but inside lies a lethal circuit that destroys a section of Arcadia. Rainville is captured, wrongfully convicted, and sent to Wychwood prison outside the dome. Here, the tone darkens as this relatively innocent man is subjected to the horrors of Wychwood Penal Facility, enduring the torments of being inside, seeing people killed before his eyes, and the degradation of all the inmates into their most violent and primitive state. Rainville must escape and join forces with his lawyer and girlfriend to save the city of Arcadia from an unknown terrorist.

The world building here is extraordinary. I was easily able to suspend disbelief and enter life in Arcadia. The author has degrees in law and computer engineering and has worked in computer technology litigation, so he is well-versed in his subject matter. Juris Ex Machina is well worth reading for its insights into artificial intelligence.

In the Shadow of the Pyrenees: The Freedom Trail to Spain
Kathryn Gauci
Ebony Publishing
9798863436289, $19.00

In the Shadow of the Pyrenees is another of Kathryn Gauci's impeccably researched historical fiction novels set during World War II. I've read many WW2 historical fiction books over the years, but never one set in along the French-Spanish border. France has fallen to the Germans, and the Vichy government, headed by Marshal Philippe Petain, is ruling in Germany's name. The Maquis Resistance, local guerrilla groups, are resisting German occupation. Also thrown into the mix are Spaniards who opposed Franco during the Spanish Civil War who have escaped to France.

Set against this taut backdrop, is the story of the Joubert family, told in several points of view. Armand Joubert was a schoolteacher in the village of Mont-Saint-Jean in the Donezan region of France. He and his daughter work for the French resistance. Gauci gives us a close view of the war as it influences the area as well as the humanitarian efforts and the work of the Maquis. Joubert and his daughter face immense danger in their efforts to help others, French maquis and Allied soldiers, to escape into Spain.

Gauci's thorough research gives us a close-up view of daily heroism in the Pyrenees. The atrocities committed by Germans are neither glorified nor glossed over. An excellent read.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

How to Read a Book
Monica Wood
Mariner Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780063243675, $28.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: Violet Powell is a twenty-two-year-old from rural Abbott Falls, Maine, who is being released from prison after serving twenty-two months for a drunk-driving crash that killed a local kindergarten teacher.

Harriet Larson is a retired English teacher who runs the prison book club who is facing the unsettling prospect of an empty nest.

Frank Daigle is a retired machinist who hasn't yet come to grips with the complications of his marriage to the woman Violet killed.

When these three encounter each other one morning in a bookstore in Portland (Violet to buy the novel she was reading in the prison book club before her release, Harriet to choose the next title for the women who remain, and Frank to dispatch his duties as the store handyman) their lives begin to intersect in transformative ways.

"How to Read a Book" by Monica Wood is an unsparingly honest and profoundly hopeful story about letting go of guilt, seizing second chances, and the power of books to change our lives. With the heart, wit, grace, and depth of understanding that has characterized her work as a novelist, Monica Wood illuminates the decisions that define a life and the kindnesses that make life worth living.

Critique: Original, eloquent, deftly crafted, as well as an inherently interesting and fun read from start to finish, "How to Read a Book" will be of special interest to fans of women's friendship novels of discover and redemption. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Read a Book" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Monica Wood ( is a novelist, memoirist, and playwright; a recipient of the Maine Humanities Council Carlson Prize for contributions to the public humanities; and a recipient of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Distinguished Achievement Award for contributions to the literary arts.

Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom
Gemma Clark
Crown House Publishing
9781785837142, $22.95, PB, 170pp

Synopsis: Artificial intelligence (AI) undoubtedly sparks debate among teachers. Questions arise about the trajectory of this new technology: where will it take us?; how will we differentiate between student-authored work and AI-generated content?; what impact will it have on the dynamics of learning and teaching within schools? These are all crucial topics for discussion, yet AI has already become an integral part of our reality, and Gemma Clark firmly believes that embracing its potential is in our best interests.

In an era defined by technological advancements, "Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom: 101 ways to save time, cut your workload and enhance your creativity" by Gemma Clark stands as an indispensable and informative resource that holds the key to transforming teaching and learning. For educators burdened by bureaucratic tasks that divert precious time from actual teaching, "Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom" offers a lifeline. It showcases how AI-powered tools can alleviate administrative burdens, enabling teachers to focus more on crafting personalised and imaginative lessons that resonate with young minds. From automating report-writing processes to facilitating content creation, "Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom" imparts tangible methods to streamline workflows and elevate teaching quality.

Other examples of the value of AI in primary eduction include:

1.Spelling Lessons: Save time when planning your spelling lessons by using AI to automatically generate a comprehensive list of phonemes or 'sounds suitable for teaching young children.'

2. Mindfulness in the Classroom: If you are interested in incorporating mindfulness games and activities to assist children in relaxation and focus, AI can provide valuable suggestions for fostering pupil (and staff) wellbeing.

3. PE Lessons: You don't have to be an expert in sport to teach PE. Whether it's tennis, football, rugby or running, AI can offer suggestions for activities, warm-ups and cool-downs to use in your PE lessons.

4. Art Lessons: AI can be an excellent resource for planning art lessons, especially when seeking suggestions to emphasize one of the eight elements, such as line, shape, form, colour, value, texture, space, and value.

5. Maths Lessons: As with spelling, AI can significantly reduce the time spent on creating maths questions and simplify the process of differentiation.

"Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom" is packed from cover to cover with practical strategies, engaging activities and useful tips and tricks that will save teachers time and energy as well as transferrable lesson plans with step-by-step instructions. Backed up by real-world examples throughout, "Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom" empowers classroom teachers to embrace AI as a tool in fostering enhanced learning experiences, while also reclaiming invaluable time for pedagogical creativity.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented by Gemma Clark, "Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom: 101 ways to save time, cut your workload and enhance your creativity" is an ideal introduction and comprehensive guide to one hundred innovative ways to effectively integrate artificial intelligence into primary education, enhancing learning experiences and streamlining administrative tasks for teachers and their students. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.80), "Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom" is a seminal and ground-breaking study that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, school district, and college/university library Contemporary Education and Teacher Education collections and workshop/in-service training curriculums.

Editorial Note: Gemma Clark ( is an experienced primary teacher based in Scotland. She is dedicated to student and teacher wellbeing and creating innovative ways to inspire a love for learning. Gemma also holds a degree in psychology, teaches yoga, mindfulness, and meditation and manages a teacher well-being group.

Susan Bethany

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Histories of Ecological Design: An Unfinished Cyclopedia
Lydia Kallipoliti
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers
9781638400738, $31.95, PB, 276pp

Synopsis: There have been many accounts on the history of ecology and others on the migration of ecological thought to design and architecture practice. Yet, the work of a focused and expanded history of ecological design is still much needed.

With the publication of "Histories of Ecological Design: An Unfinished Cyclopedia", Professor Lydia Kallipoliti presents conflicting definitions and concepts of architects and designers and the parallel histories of their intellectual positions toward environmental thought from the 19th century to today.

To survey the formation of this field, the history of ecological design will be not be exclusively examined chronologically, but also in connected worldviews, each rendering evolving perceptions of nature, its relation to culture, and the occupation of the natural world by human and non-human subjects.

Critique: The eighteen chapters comprising "Histories of Ecological Design: An Unfinished Cyclopedia" are organized by Professor Lydia Kallipoliti into three main sections (Naturalism; Synthetic Naturalism; Dark Naturalism), and enhanced for the reader's benefit with the inclusion of a Bibliography. Of special and particular interest to readers concerned with sustainability, green design, and environmental policy development/practice", "Histories of Ecological Design: An Unfinished Cyclopedia". This paperback edition of "Histories of Ecological Design: An Unfinished Cyclopedia" from Actar D is especially recommended for personal and professional reading lists, as well as college/university library supplemental Environmental Science curriculum studies and collections.

Editorial Note: Lydia Kallipoliti is an architect, engineer and scholar whose research focuses on the intersections of architecture, technology and environmental politics. She is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Cooper Union in New York. Previously she has taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she directed the MSArch program, Syracuse University, Columbia University, Pratt Institute and the University of Technology Sydney; she was also a visiting fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Born to Never Die
Andrew Oghena
Christian Faith Publishing
9798892432047, $18.95, PB, 92pp

Synopsis: "Born to Never Die" by Andrew Oghena is a response to (and explanation of) the true meaning of one of the most fundamental promises of Jesus Christ to be found in the New Testament. "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though he has died, he shall live. And everyone who lives and believes in me shall not die for eternity." (John 11:25-26).

Oghena surveys the biblical story of how the human body (male and female) were originally created by God in the Garden of Eden. How the physical body was infused by the soul when God breathed life into Adam. Attention is paid to such issues as the nature of the soul, location of the soul, the function/purpose of the soul, what God has to say about the length of human life, death, and the destiny of both the body and the soul.

Also addressed is what it means to 'Abide in Jesus Christ", the meaning of the Beatitudes, the necessity for bearing up against our own sins, shortcomings, and inevitable disappointments with the help of our faith in God and Christ, and the necessity of (and what it means to) becoming like a child, as well as becoming 'Born Again'.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, biblically based, erudite and eloquent, "Born to Never Die" is exceptionally insightful, well written, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. Simply stated, "Born to Never Die" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, church, community, and college/university library Christian Studies collections. It will be especially valued reading for clergy, seminary students, and all members of the Roman Catholic Christian community.

Editorial Note: Andrew Oghena is a member of the Roman Catholic faith, the Blue Army (a Catholic society that promotes the message of Our Lady of Fatima), and the Knights of Columbus (a society that promotes family and defends the Christian Faith).

Willis M. Buhle

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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