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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 23, Number 10 October 2023 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf Arthur Turfa's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf
Clint Travis' Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf Kate Michaelson's Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Tom Getty's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf

Take Your Baby And Run
Carol Youngson
Great Plains Press
9781773371054, $21.95, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: "Take Your Baby And Run: How nurses blew the whistle on Canada's biggest cardiac disaster" is author Carol Youngson's first-hand account of the shocking ineptitude and misogynistic behavior that led to the death of twelve children, primarily infants, under the care of Dr. Jonah Odim at Winnipeg's largest hospital in 1994.

Youngson was the nurse in charge of the cardiac unit and in her expose she details the dysfunctional hospital hierarchy that allowed this tragedy to unfold, leading to the longest running inquiry in Canadian history. Sadly, the themes of "Take Your Baby And Run" continue to be just as relevant today during our current health crisis in Canada and the USA.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with a truly informative Foreword by Lanette Siragusa RN., MN, "Take Your Baby And Run: How nurses blew the whistle on Canada's biggest cardiac disaster" will prove to be of particular and special value to readers with an interest in systemic medical malpractice. Part memoir, part medical malfeasance whistle-blowing, and essential reading for medical reform activists, "Take Your Baby And Run" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Carol Youngson is a retired registered nurse who has spent over two decades working in operating rooms and served as investigator for the Manitoba Department of Justice for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Take Your Baby and Run is her first book.

Andrea Kay

Arthur Turfa's Bookshelf

Dan Beachy-Quick & Bruce Bond
Tupelo Press
9781946482990 $21.95

A few things to mention at the beginning: these are near-sonnets, thirteen lined- poems, purists are forewarned. To this reviewer there is a distinct Rilke/Duino Elegies vibe at play. Whether Rilke influenced this work or not, that fact he came to mind indicates what an excellent work of poetry this is. Finally, the title itself comes from classical Greek and can refer to a servant or subordinate who brings healing or assistance not by means of compulsion, but rather of affection and/or devotion. Or the word refers to a chamber. Therapy, the act of healing, itself is of course derived from the word also. As a result, the tone of the volume is set.

The sonnets are paired and so written that readers cannot tell which of the poets wrote an individual sonnet. What matters more than who wrote what is the content itself. Images abound and repeat as leitmotifs throughout, taken from classical mythology, the Judeo-Christian religions, from philosophy. Animals appear, compared/contrasted with human beings. Readers see repeated references' to and appearances of the herd, the gates of paradise, Charon's ferry, to wounds, to caves.

In fact, the sheer number of these references/appearances requires readers not only to go slowly, but also to re-read. The sonnet form is approachable enough so that re-reading does require too much from readers. A conversational tone runs through the poetry but does not ruin the poetry in doing so.

In the ninth pair of sonnets from the first section comes the initial allusion to Rilke. "Every angel is a monster" (p. 17). Angels come with spoonfuls of medicine, as a therapist, or as a messenger (the actual Greek meaning of the word.

There is a steady progression through the three sections; the poets take readers along with them through the process of discovery. It is a journey well worth one's time. As readers ponder and re-read the book, they may well experience different nuances to the question at hand, just as studying a diamond form different perspectives in different light reveals.

Arthur Turfa

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Hot Iron and Cold Blood: An Anthology of the Weird West
Kenzie Jennings, et al.
Death's Head Press
c/o Dead Sky Publishing
9781639511396, $19.99, PB, 290pp

Synopsis: Desperados and yellow-bellies be warned: The short stories comprising "Hot Iron and Cold Blood: An Anthology of the Weird West" are not typical westerns but tales of the Old West with more than a hint of dark fantasy and outright horror. The contributors are masters of this very special genre of 'anomalous Western and Horror stories set in the Old West.

Readers will encounter cowboys coming up against a chimeric critter of the night; dinosaurs returning as massive poltergeists; Chinese railroad workers who are haunted by invisible frights; outlaws experiencing Cronenbergian body-horror; a fallen-light that stalks mother and daughter upon a wintry prairie; a headless horseman roams the badlands; otherworldly creatures who hunt within our domain; a screaming spectral birds nest within the damned; and gun slinging women with murderous skills who annihilate foolish notions of a man' s world.

These are just a handful of the offerings in this unique collection of western themed spectral lore.

Critique: Each short story comprising, "Hot Iron and Cold Blood: An Anthology of the Weird West " is unique, carefully crafted, and memorable. A fun read from cover to cover and also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.49), "Hot Iron and Cold Blood" is of special interest to fans of the macabre and a welcome and recommended addition to community library Horror/Fantasy collections.

Editorial Note: Dead Sky Publishing (along with its Death's Head Press imprint) publishes work that is inherently dark across a spectrum of genres and formats. From non-fiction to memoirs, from comic books to novels, from art books and photography books to short story collections.

The Vagrant
Dan Rockwell, author
John David Mann, author
BenBella Books
9781637743706, $25.95, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: Have you ever wondered, "If I could go back in time and talk to my twenty-year-old self, what would I say?" In "The Vagrant: The Inner Journey of Leadership: A Parable" by co-authors Dan Rockwell and John David Mann, a brash young executive, Bob, finds himself asking that exact question when his world is turned upside down.

The Vagrant follows Bob, who is a bright, up-and-coming leader in the health care business and leads a team of forty at a large city hospital. When he is called up to the seventh floor one fine spring morning, he fully expects a promotion in line with his C-suite aspirations.

Instead, he's fired.

Moments after losing his job, Bob has a strange alleyway confrontation with a homeless man rambling about "the four impediments of the Apocalypse". To Bob, his words are nothing but incoherent ranting, but they soon prove eerily prophetic. In the weeks that follow, Bob loses everything he holds dear incuding his apartment, possessions, reputation, and health, and ends up living on the street -- until chance leads him back to that same alley and he crosses paths with the strange man once again.

"The Vagrant" is a timeless, eye-opening tale of redemption as Bob's tailspin journey through loss and catastrophic failure invites readers to examine the nature of genuine leadership and embark upon their own story of self-discovery.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking story in the form of an extended parable, "The Vagrant: The Inner Journey of Leadership" will have a special appeal and value for readers with an interest in definitions of success, issues of personal finance, as well as the value of motivation and leadership. A work of fiction that has an impressive relevance for dealing with unexpected real world events, "The Vagrant" is highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Vagrant" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note #1: Dan Rockwell is the author of the highly recognized Leadership Freak Blog. His concise and practical articles are read in every country on the planet. Inc. Magazine recognized Dan as a Top 50 Leadership Expert in the English-speaking World, and a Top 100 Speaker. The American Management Association lists Dan as a Top 30 Leader in Business.

Editorial Note #2: John David Mann ( is coauthor of more than thirty books. His classic 2008 parable The Go-Giver (coauthored with Bob Burg) earned the 2017 Living Now Book Award's "Evergreen Medal" for its "contribution to positive global change." His Take the Lead (coauthored with former White House staffer Betsy Myers) was named by Tom Peters and the Washington Post as the "best leadership book of the year."

Carl Logan

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

The Bridge
Matt Brolly, author
Danielle Cohen, narrator
Brilliance Audio
9798400144820, $19.99, MP3-CD (8 Hours 57 Minutes)

Synopsis: When the body of a young woman is discovered in a shipping container in Bristol, the police suspect she was an illegal immigrant whose death was a tragic accident. But their theory is shot down by two pieces of evidence: the container was due to ship out, not in; and, even more sinister, a video camera with a live feed was filming her from a hidden compartment.

Someone watched her die. Slowly.

DI Louise Blackwell is ten weeks pregnant, a fact she has largely kept to herself, and between bouts of morning sickness she now has a murder to investigate. While the docks offer few other clues, the discovery of more live feeds convinces Blackwell that there are other trapped women... and that some of them are still alive.

As she scours historic missing-persons cases looking for a pattern to the abductions, Blackwell finds herself in a race against time to uncover the voyeuristic killer's motive and stop any more women becoming caught in the cruel and deadly game. But with every step being closely monitored, can she outwit a murderer whose method means staying hidden?

Critique: An original and deftly crafted police procedural murder mystery by Matt Brolly, "The Bridge" is superbly narrated by storytelling talents of Danielle Cohen. The result is a vivid and inherently compelling 'theatre of the mind' experience for fans of contemporary 'whodunnit' murder mysteries. "The Bridge" will prove an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal and community library Mystery/Suspense audio book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Matt Brolly ( completed his Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. He is the Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestselling author of the DI Blackwell novels, the DCI Lambert crime novels, the Lynch and Rose thriller The Controller, and the standalone thriller The Running Girls. Matt lives in London with his wife and their two children. You can follow him on Twitter: @MattBrollyUK

Editorial Note #2: Danielle Cohen ( is an Audie nominated, award winning audiobook narrator. She was born in Manchester, England and now lives deep in the woods in Vermont. She has been performing all her life, doing impressions for her family at a very early age and reading the newspaper aloud to anyone who cared to listen! She has a background in theater and television and has been recording audiobooks in her professional home studio since 2015.

Blessing of the Lost Girls
J. A. Jance
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780063010109, $30.00, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Driven by a compulsion that challenges his self-control, the man calling himself Charles Milton prowls the rodeo circuit, hunting young women. He chooses those he believes are the most vulnerable, wandering alone and distracted, before he strikes. For years, he has been meticulous in his methods, abducting, murdering, and disposing of his victims while leaving no evidence of his crimes (or their identities) behind. Indigenous women have become his target of choice, knowing law enforcement's history of ignoring their disappearances.

A cold case has just been assigned to Dan Pardee, a field officer with the newly formed Missing and Murdered Indigenous People's Task Force. Rosa Rios, a young woman of Apache descent and one-time rodeo star, vanished three years ago. Human remains, a homicide victim burned beyond recognition, were discovered in Cochise County around the time she went missing. They have finally been confirmed to be Rosa. With Sheriff Joanna Brady's help, Dan is determined to reopen the case and bring long-awaited justice to Rosa's family. As the orphaned son of a murdered indigenous woman, he feels an even greater, personal obligation to capture this killer.

Joanna's daughter Jennifer is also taking a personal interest in this case, having known Rosa from her own amateur rodeo days. Now a criminal justice major, she's unofficially joining the investigation. And as it becomes clear that Rosa was just one victim of a serial killer, both Jennifer and Dan know they're running out of time to catch an elusive predator who's proven capable of getting away with murder.

Critique: A riveting and deftly crafted novel from cover to cover, "Blessing of the Lost Girls" by J. A. Jance will be of particular interest to fans of police procedural murder mysteries featuring a wily serial killer, an amateur female sleuth. One of the author's Brady & Walker Family series of suspense thriller novels, "Blessings of the Lost Girls" is adamantly recommended picks for community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Blessings of the Lost Girls" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: J. A. Jance ( is author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, the Ali Reynolds series, five interrelated thrillers about the Walker Family, and one volume of poetry.

Clint Travis

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

White Trash and Recycled Nightmares
Rebecca Rowland
Dead Sky Publishing
9781639511204, $19.99, PB, 300pp

Synopsis: A workaholic splits his time between home and hotel rooms until an anonymous cryptic message arrives, setting off a wrinkle in the time continuum and slowly shredding his sanity.

Elsewhere, a woman's jealousy over her spouse's connection with their only child boils over, leading her to see monsters everywhere except the mirror.

University fraternity brothers discover that a cruel prank has dire consequences but the full extent of their punishment is yet to come.

An intrepid hiker explores an abandoned Cold War facility hidden within a Massachusetts mountain only to realize that military secrets aren't the only things buried within.

Critique: An exceptional anthology of her deftly crafted and original stories of witches, wendigos, and werecats to sirens, sadists, and serial killers, with the publication of "White Trash and Recycled Nightmares", author Rebecca Rowland serves her readers a twenty entertaining short stories of cosmic, creature, and quiet horror. With an impressive mastery of the horror fantasy genre, "White Trash and Recycled Nightmares" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Horror Fantasy & Short Story Anthology collections. It should be noted that "White Trash and Recycled Nightmares" features an informative Foreword by Mary SanGiovanni and is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.49).

Editorial Note: Rebecca Rowland ( is the dark fiction author of two fiction collections, one novel, a handful of novellas, and too many short stories. She is also the editor of seven horror anthologies, and her speculative fiction, critical essays, and book reviews regularly appear in a variety of online and print venues. A New England native, Rebecca has lived all over Massachusetts and as a result, chooses to torture most of her characters there. She can be followed on Instagram @Rebecca_Rowland_books

Paris Is Not Dead
Cole Stangler
The New Press
9781620977828, $27.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: The Paris of popular imagination is lined with cobblestone streets and stylish cafes, a beacon for fashionistas and well-heeled tourists. But French-American journalist Cole Stangler, celebrated for his reporting on Paris and French politics, argues that the beating heart of the City of Light lies elsewhere -- in its striving, working-class districts whose residents are being priced out of their hometown today.

With the publication of "Paris Is Not Dead: Surviving Hypergentrification in the City of Light", Cole Strangler explores the past, present, and future of the City of Light through the lens of class conflict, highlighting the outsized role of immigrants in shaping the city's progressive, cosmopolitan, and open-minded character -- at a time when politics nationwide can feel like they're shifting in the opposite direction.

This is the Paris many tourists too often miss: immigrant-heavy districts such as the 18th arrondissement, where crowded street markets still define everyday life. Stangler brings this view of the city to life, combining gripping, street-level reportage, stories of today's working-class Parisians, recent history, and a sweeping analysis of the larger forces shaping the city.

"Paris Is Not Dead" offers a bottom-up portrait of one of the world's most vital urban centers - and a call to action to Francophiles and all who care about the future of cities everywhere.

Critique: Of special relevance and value to readers with an interest in the urban sociology, class, emigration and immigration of Paris, "Paris Is Not Dead: Surviving Hypergentrification in the City of Light" is a seminal, informative, and exceptional study that is impressively well written, organized and presented, While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.59), "Paris Is Not Dead" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections and supplemental Urban Sociology & Urban Social Issues curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Cole Stangler ( is a journalist based in Marseille, France. A contributor to The Nation, Jacobin, and the international news network France 24, he has also published work in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and other outlets.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Before You Call A Pro
Family Handyman, editor
Trusted Media Brands
9781621459750, $19.99, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Many of the routine house repairs outsourced to experts can be accomplished in no time by a handy homeowner with a little know-how. There's no need to pay hundreds of dollars to a professional when you can achieve professional-level results quickly on your own with the aid of the illustrated step-by-step instructional guide and 'how-to' manual that is "Before You Call A Pro".

From the essential skills that everyone should know (such as how to survive a flat tire and how to reset a circuit breaker) to more extensive renovations like upgrading your bathroom and installing new kitchen lighting, Family Handyman's "Before You Call a Pro" covers it all. With expert advice from plumbers, electricians, HVAC specialists, mechanics, painters and more, "Before You Call a Pro" guides its readers through step-by-step home improvement and maintenance projects as well as providing top industry tips for success.

Prevent the type of damage that requires expert service by learning the right way to maintain your appliances, plumbing, roof, lawn, car and more, and perform DIY upgrades that make living in your home feel luxurious -- and without that professional price tag!

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' for the non-specialized general reader, "Before You Call a Pro" is an ideal series of practical, useful tutorials for any and all homeowners or rental managers. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), "Before You Call a Pro" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library DIY Home Repair collections.

Editorial Note: Family Handyman ( is the DIYer's best friend. They are a trusted source for helpful, how-to projects, tips and expert advice for homeowners looking to improve their homes, yards and vehicles. The Family Handyman magazine is the oldest and largest publication for DIYers, and has a circulation of 1 million. Family Handyman also has a streaming channel, "At Home with Family Handyman," which is an enormous archive of impressive builds and hands-on inspiration for making your house a true home.

Climate Inheritance
Rania Ghosn, El Hadi Jazairy, and Design Earth, authors
Actar D
c/o Actar Publishers
9781638400998, $34.95, Flexibound, 152pp

Synopsis: "Climate Inheritance" is a speculative design research publication that reckons with the complexity of world and heritage in the current age of extinction called Anthropocene. The impacts of climate change on heritage sites ranging from Venice flooding to extinction in the Galapagos Islands, have garnered empathetic attention in a media landscape that has otherwise failed to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis.

In a strategic subversion of the media aura of heritage, "Design Earth" by co-authors Rania Ghosn (Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and El Hadi Jazairy (Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan and Director of the Master of Urban Design degree program) casts ten World Heritage sites as narrative figures to visualize pervasive climate risks-rising sea levels, extinction, droughts, air pollution, melting glaciers, material vulnerability, unchecked tourism, and the massive displacement of communities and cultural artifacts-all while situating the present emergency within the wreckages of other ends of world, replete with the salvages of extractivism, racism, and settler colonialism.

The possibilities of such climate inheritances are narrated in drawing triotvchs and mythologies that bequeath other worlds and values.

Critique: With additional informative and insightful contributions of Lucia Allais, David Gissen, Rodney Harrison and Colin Sterling, "Design Earth" is a seminal and critically important contribution to our understanding of how climate change is exacerbating the Anthropocene extinction event and the continuing, increasing, severity and frequency of the multitude of adverse effects that a rapidly advancing global, human activities initiated climate change is happening both now and in the very near future. This flexibound edition of "Design Earth" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended contribution to personal, professional, community, governmental, college, and university library Environmental and Climate Change collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Design Earth is a research practice, founded by Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy in 2010. Their work engages the medium of the speculative architectural project to make public the climate crisis. Design Earth is the recipient of the United States Artist Fellowship, Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, Boghossian Foundation Prize, and ACSA Faculty Design Awards for outstanding work in architecture and related environmental design fields as a critical endeavor.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Delivering the Visitor Experience
Rachel Mackay
Facet Publishing
9781783305506, $73.95, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: The 'Visitor Experience' has been a long neglected aspect of museum practice, receiving less academic attention than areas such as exhibition design or collections care. Despite this, the quality of the visitor experience is the single biggest factor which will influence visitors returning to your museum, or recommending a visit to friends or family.

It is also the area of museum practise that has undergone the biggest change in the last twenty years. The image of the aged security warder shouting at children to not touch the exhibits has long gone. Now, museum visitors expect teams of friendly, knowledgeable and passionate people ready to engage them with the museum in an interactive and enthusiastic way. Expectations have never been higher, and as they grow, museums must develop the visitor experiences they deliver in order to meet them.

With the publication of "Delivering the Visitor Experience: How to Create, Manage and Develop an Unforgettable Visitor Experience at Your Museum", Rachel Mackay discusses the process of delivering a visitor from beginning to end; from opening a new visitor offer and building a team through to future planning and strategies for development. Mackay draws from theories from practitioners and academics, arguing that by examining issues such as motivation and relevance, museum operators can start to truly put themselves in their visitors' shoes and build experiences that are both impactful and unforgettable.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader's benefit with ten page listing of References & Further Reading, and a two page Index, "Delivering the Visitor Experience: How to Create, Manage and Develop an Unforgettable Visitor Experience at Your Museum" by museum curator expert Rachel Mackay is an ideal instruction manual and guide for all museum curators, both experienced and inexperienced alike -- making it an essential, core addition to personal, professional, and academic library Library/Museum Information Science collections and supplemental Library Science/Museum Management curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Delivering the Visitor Experience" is also available in a paperback edition (9781783305490, $45.74) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.99).

Editorial Note: Rachel Mackay ( carved out a career developing and delivering the visitor experience in roles at Madame Tussauds, the Natural History Museum, and Kew Palace. Rachel runs a web resource for museum professionals focused on operations and Visitor Experience planning at, for which she was shortlisted for a Museums and Heritage Award in 2021. Today, Rachel is the Head of Hampton Court Palace for Historic Royal Palaces, where she oversees operational and experience delivery for visitors to Henry VIII's iconic pleasure palace.

The Nourish Me Kitchen
Dr. Erika Siegel
Puffer Print
9798987230428, $120.00, PB, 2 Volume Set, 939pp

Synopsis: Embark on a transformative journey toward holistic well-being with "The Nourish Me Kitchen". This game-changing two-volume masterpiece unlocks your body's potential through functional medicine wisdom, self-care secrets, and nourishing recipes. Revolutionize your approach to health as you discover that food, movement, rest, and self-awareness are your best medicine. Explore practical home remedies, insight for aging gracefully, and learn to work harmoniously with your healthcare providers. No gimmicks, just essential foundations of health, empowering you to claim vitality and a vibrant life.

Volume 1: Essential Health Wisdom

Opening this unique culinary driven health oriented volume invites a naturopathic physician into your kitchen. In this first-of-its-kind functional medicine reference book, Dr. Siegel shares her practical knowledge and time-tested expertise (backed by peer-reviewed research) empowering you to support and heal yourself with food, medicine, home remedies, and simple self care. Discover the foundations of your personal wellness and illuminate the mysteries of how your body works through this integrative, East-meets-West field guide for living vibrantly and aging gracefully.

Volume 2: Wholesome Everyday Recipes

A culinary compendium of 300 flexible and family-friendly recipes to live by, developed in our kitchen with love. Preparing food that tastes good and feels good in your body need not be a struggle. Simple, wholesome foods are often the easiest to make. Wholesome Everyday Recipes from the Nourish Me Kitchen is a well-organized and thorough cookbook that focuses on ease of preparation, deliciousness (passing the Picky Children Test!), nutrient-density, ease of modification for special diets, and ideal food sources. This book truly is for everyone.

Critique: Massive and exeptionally well organized and presented, "The Nourish Me Kitchen" is both a complete course of instruction guide to utilizing food to maintain and improve our physical health and well-being combined with a cornucopia of palate-pleasing, appetite-satisfying, kitchen cook friendly recipes for dishes that create memorable menus for all manner of dining occasions. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $36.00), "The Nourish Me Kitchen" is especially and unreservedly recommended as a unique and enduringly valued addition to personal, professional, and community library Health & Cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Dr. Erika Siegel is a naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, educator, and mom: by nature, a juggler of life's abundance. She's been practicing functional, integrative medicine for nearly 20 years, offering whole-bodied health care and inspiration to thrive. Her comprehensive book-set, "The Nourish Me Kitchen", was diligently created over 15 years while she studied what her patients most needed to learn. Dr. Siegel pursued her doctoral studies in both Western and Eastern Medicine earning her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and masters in Oriental Medicine. Dr. Siegel considers herself a life-long learner; continuously incorporating knowledge and therapies from around the globe ranging from ancient practices to modern conventional medicine. She has learned that the most simple practices, like foundational self-care, are perhaps the most profound.

Julie Summers

Kate Michaelson's Bookshelf

Come With Me
Erin Flanagan
Thomas & Mercer
9781662510328, $16.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: This twisty psychological thriller follows Gwen Maner, a recent widow struggling to navigate single motherhood, a cross-country move, a new job, and one extremely complicated friendship. The book begins with a flashback of Gwen meeting her friend Nicola when both were interns during their final year of college. Although the two women lose touch once Gwen quits her job to get married, their friendship picks up again ten years later when Gwen's husband dies and leaves her drowning in debt. With no work history, Gwen finds herself desperate for a job and calls Nicola, who is all too ready to help. Although they weren't close during their internship, the posh and charismatic Nicola happens to be in search of a new best friend since her last one vanished (hmm, red flag?). Before long, the two are nearly inseparable, and Gwen begins to wonder if that's a good thing. However, she's let Nicola so far into her life that if she takes a stand now, everything she has worked for might come crumbling down.

Critique: Readers will have a hard time putting this book down once they are a few chapters into it due to the relatable protagonist and constantly escalating stakes. Gwen has enough doubts about Nicola that the reader will begin to feel her creeping paranoia. Yet, Flanagan also shows why Gwen has legitimate doubts about her own perceptions. Was she misinterpreting a look or a comment? Being overly sensitive? Flanagan portrays Gwen as a smart, determined woman who is struggling with confidence as she adjusts to a huge life change. Short flashback chapters interspersed throughout the book give readers insight into the antagonist. Eventually, the main narrative and the flashbacks dovetail, building up to a powerful ending. I would highly recommend Come With Me to readers, librarians, and booksellers looking for a character-driven psychological thriller.

Editorial Note: Erin Flanagan is the Edgar Award-winning author of Deer Season and a professor of English at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

The Dead Won't Tell
S.K. Waters
CamCat Books
9780744306033, $16.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The Dead Won't Tell is an amateur-sleuth mystery set in a small Alabama town. Former historian Abbie Adams receives the first big break of her budding journalism career when her boss asks her to look into the story of an unsolved murder from 1969. The victim, Rosalie DuFreyne - one of only a few black students enrolled at the local college at the time - was killed the same night the entire town was out celebrating the moon landing. As Abbie digs into the case, she discovers that Rosalie had a number of connections to the powerful Wexler family. Abbie herself has a fraught history with Frank Wexler, the professor who shot down her doctoral thesis.

Sorting through residents' memories of that fateful night, Abbie uncovers stories of the town's history of segregation, an academic scandal related to the NASA project, and a number of secrets that threaten the reputations of people Abbie has known her whole life. As the trail leads closer to Abbie's former mentor, Frank Wexler, she struggles to maintain her objectivity toward the man who derailed her academic career. The tension mounts as one of the witnesses Abbie interviewed is killed and someone begins tracking her movements. In the end, Abbie is not only racing to meet a deadline, but racing to identify a murderer who is still on the loose and still killing to protect their secrets decades later.

Critique: The Dead Won't Tell is rich with a deep sense of place and a strong cast of varied characters. Waters captures the small Southern community without glossing over racial issues or caricaturing Southerners. Amid all the tension of a gripping murder mystery, this book also provides insight into Abbie's journey to recover from a series of trauma and manages to include moments of humor. A particularly fun subplot features Abbie's old college friend, Joss, who now stars in a TV series about historical mysteries. With his job in trouble, he hopes to save his career by investigating a rumor of hidden treasure in Abbie's town - all while dealing with the loss of his girlfriend and her abduction of his cat Lincoln. Waters also has moments of beautifully lyrical writing about the springtime countryside, but the descriptions never bog down the momentum of the plot. As a traditional mystery with broad appeal, this book would make a nice addition to any library's mystery selection.

Editorial Note: I listened to the audio version of this book. Although the story is mostly in Abbie's point-of-view, there are some small sections in Joss's perspective, so there were two narrators, both of whom I enjoyed. They managed to convey the voices of different characters without distracting from the story itself.

The Bangalore Detective's Club
Harini Nagendra
Pegasus Crime
c/o Simon & Schuster (distribution)
9781639363803, $16.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: This historical mystery follows mathematics scholar Kaveri as she settles in the city of Bangalore, India with her new husband Ramu in 1921. In an early chapter called Swimming in a Sari, readers learn how Kaveri's natural curiosity pushes up against the conventional expectations of upper-class women in India at this time. When Kaveri attends a dinner for her husband's hospital and witnesses the lead-up to a murder, she can't help but lend her empathy and intelligence to the investigation - particularly after someone she comes to know is blamed for the crime.

Critique: From the vibrant descriptions of India's lush landscape and rich history, to the mouth-watering descriptions of food, reading this book feels like taking a trip to 1920s India. Another pleasure of this book is the supporting cast, such as Kaveri's older neighbor, Uma Aunty, who accompanies her in her amateur sleuthing. Although this book offers all the charms of a cozy mystery, it does not glass over social issues of the time, such as the caste system, restrictions on women, and British colonization. This historical mystery will appeal to a range of readers and makes a valuable addition to a library's collection.

Editorial Note: The Bangalore Detective's Club received a number of nominations for best debut mystery, including the prestigious Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha Awards. The second book in this series, Murder Under a Red Moon, was released in March of 2023. The author, Harini Nagendra, is a professor of sustainability at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, India.

Kate Michaelson, Reviewer

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Disobedient Women
Sarah Stankorb
Worthy Books
c/o Worthy Publishing
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781546003809, $27.00, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: A generation of American Christian girls was taught that submitting to men is God's will. They were taught not to question the men in their families or their pastors. They were told to remain sexually pure and trained to feel shame if a man was tempted. Some of these girls were abused and assaulted. Some made to shrink down so small they became a shadow of themselves. To question their leaders was to question God.

All the while, their male leaders built fiefdoms from megachurches and sprawling ministries. They influenced politics and policy. To protect their church's influence, these men covered up and hid their abuse of women and children. American Christian patriarchy, as it rose in political power and cultural sway over the past four decades, hurt many faithful believers. Millions of Americans abandoned churches they once loved.

Yet among those who stayed (and a few who still loved the church they fled), a brave group of women spoke up. They built online megaphones, using the democratizing power of technology to create long-overdue change.

With the publication of "Disobedient Women: How a Small Group of Faithful Women Exposed Abuse, Brought Down Powerful Pastors, and Ignited an Evangelical Reckoning", journalist Sarah Stankorb gives long-overdue recognition for these everyday women as leaders and as voices for a different sort of faith. Their work has driven journalists to help bring abuse stories to national attention. Stankorb weaves together the efforts of these courageous voices in order to present a full, layered portrait of the treatment of women and the fight for change within the modern American church.

"Disobedient Women" is not just a look at the women who have used the internet to bring down the religious power structures that were meant to keep them quiet, but also a picture of the large-scale changes that are happening within evangelical culture regarding women's roles, ultimately underscoring the ways technology has created a place for women to challenge traditional institutions from within.

Critique: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. This applies to the Evangelical hierarchy as much as it does to financial elites and political leaders. "Disobedient Women: How a Small Group of Faithful Women Exposed Abuse, Brought Down Powerful Pastors, and Ignited an Evangelical Reckoning" is a long overdue expose of how girls and women have been the victims of institutionally protected abuse by all too many previously unaccountable leaders within the Evangelical Christian community in America. While highly recommended for personal, community, church, seminary, college, and university library Christian Women's Social Issues collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for clergy, seminary studies, political activists, lawmakers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Disobedient Women" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781668636572, $45.00, CD).

Editorial Note: Sarah Stankorb ( is a journalist and essayist. She was born near Youngstown, Ohio, and often found escape in books. She studied world religions and philosophy at Westminster College, a place surrounded by rolling Pennsylvania farm country. A chance to study abroad in Northern Ireland, then Israel further opened her eyes to how faith (and conflict) can shape people's everyday existence. She earned her master's degree from University of Chicago's Divinity School, where she studied ethics and South Asian religion and history. Hundreds of her pieces have been featured in publications, including: VICE, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Republic, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and others. Her beat spans religion, politics, gender, and power, but is informed by questions of basic morality.

ShApEs and sHaPeS: TOON Level 1
Ivan Brunetti
TOON Books
9781662665172, $13.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Respected art professor Ivan Brunetti still remembers the fun he had playing with shapes as a kid. That is why, in the hands of this gifted author/artist, "ShApEs and sHaPeS" see shapes explode, divide, and multiply, offering young learning-to-read children a basic yet exciting art and math lesson. The kids will laugh as they learn -- and will also see the world in a new way. In "ShApEs and sHaPeS" Brunetti deftly highlights the nature and logic of shapes, laying a foundation for geometry and illustration for children ages 4-6.

Critique: Clever, unique, and fun, "ShApEs and sHaPeS" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Early Learning: Reading collections and supplemental Early Education curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Ivan Brunetti ( lives and works in Chicago as a teacher, editor, illustrator, and cartoonist, usually in that order. He is the author of Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice and Aesthetics: A Memoir, as well as the editor of both volumes of An Anthology of of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories (all from Yale University Press). His drawings occasionally appear in the New Yorker, among other publications. His recent books include Wordplay, 3X4, and Comics: Easy as ABC (all from Toon Books).

Margaret Lane

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Codebreaking: A Practical Guide
Elonka Dunin, auhor
Klaus Schmeh, author
No Starch Press
9781718502727, $29.99, PB, 488pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Codebreaking: A Practical Guide", you can now solve history's most hidden secrets alongside expert codebreakers Elonka Dunin and Klaus Schmeh, as they guide you through the world of encrypted texts.

With a focus on cracking real-world document encryptions (including some crime-based coded mysteries that remain unsolved) you will be introduced to the free computer software that professional cryptographers use, helping you build your skills with state-of-the art tools. You will also be inspired by thrilling success stories, like how the first three parts of Kryptos were broken.

Each chapter introduces you to a specific cryptanalysis technique, and presents factual examples of text encrypted using that scheme ranging from modern postcards to 19-century newspaper ads, war-time telegrams, notes smuggled into prisons, and even entire books written in code. Along the way, you'll work on NSA-developed challenges, detect and break a Caesar cipher, crack an encrypted journal from the movie The Prestige, and so much more!

You will learn: How to crack simple substitution, polyalphabetic, and transposition ciphers; How to use free online cryptanalysis software, like CrypTool 2, to aid your analysis; How to identify clues and patterns to figure out what encryption scheme is being used; How to encrypt your own emails and secret messages.

"Codebreaking: A Practical Guide" is the most up-to-date resource on cryptanalysis published since World War II -- and essential for modern forensic codebreakers, as well as being specifically designed to help amateurs unlock some of history's greatest mysteries.

Critique: Fun, fascinating, and user friendly, "Codebreaking: A Practical Guide" will hold a special appeal and value to readers with an interest in computer based cryptology, web encryption, and even business writing skill development. Expertly written, organized and presented, "Codebreaking: A Practical Guide" is unreservedly recommended as a supplemental Code Breaking curriculum textbook. It should be noted that "Codebreaking: A Practical Guide" also available for personal and professional reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note #1: Elonka Dunin ( is an experienced crypto expert and maintains a list of the world's most famous unsolved codes on her website. Bestselling author Dan Brown even named one of the characters in his Da Vinci Code sequel, The Lost Symbol, after her: "Nola Kaye" is a scrambled form of "Elonka." She is co-founder and co-leader of a group of cryptographers who are working hard to crack the final cipher on the famous Kryptos sculpture at CIA Headquarters, and in 2021 she was invited to give the TEDx talk "2,000 Years of Ordinary Secrets."

Editorial Note #2: Klaus Schmeh is the most-published cryptology author in the world. He has written 15 books (in German) about the subject, as well as over 200 articles, 25 scientific papers, and 1,500 blog posts. He is a member of the editorial board of the scientific magazine, Cryptologia. Schmeh's main fields of interest are codebreaking and the history of encryption. His blog Cipherbrain is read by crypto enthusiasts all over the world. Schmeh is a popular speaker, known for his entertaining presentation style involving self-drawn cartoons and LEGO(R) models. (

Man Alone: The Dark Book
Jack Remick
Sidekick Press
9781958808153, $16.95, PB, 120pp

Synopsis: "Man Alone: The Dark Book" by Jack Remick is set in and around a complex Seattle where Rat City meets the Billionaires' Club.

Zene is a man alone, a man who lives in a chaotic, sexually disruptive and violence-wrecked world. His life ruined after a chain of disappointments and falls-the fruits of his violent nature-Zene runs into Karizma, a love-creature from his past, and he's smitten again, knowing all the while that for him, there's no future in love.

Not your basic romance, for sure!

Critique: Deftly crafted, singularly unique, and provides its readers with an inherently fascinating and emotionally visceral literary experience, "Man Alone: The Dark Book" is a compulsively compelling novella and one which will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. "Man Alone: The Dark Book" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Jack Remick ( is a novelist, poet, essayist. His work includes the novels "Blood"; "Gabriela and The Widow"; "Citadel"; "Doubles in a Game of Chance"; as well as "Satori, Poems" and a book of essays, "What Do I Know".

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Chicken Bone Beach
Ronald Stephens, author
Henrietta Shelton, author
Arcadia Publishing
9781467109574, $23.55, paperback

Chicken Bone Beach In Images Of America

The short local photographic histories in the Images of America Series have taught me a great deal about places I know well and places I don't. Chicken Bone Beach is in the latter category. I was moved in learning about Chicken Bone Beach and its environs in Atlantic City, New Jersey in this new (2023) book by Ronald Stevens, Professor of African American Studies at Purdue University and Henrietta Sheldon, the cofounder and current president of the Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation, Inc., (CBBHF), founded in 1997 to preserve the history of Chicken Bone Beach and of the adjacent Atlantic City Northside, long home to the city's African American population.

Atlantic City historian Heather Perez writes in her Foreword to the book that "images of the beach are often about fun -- the sand, the sea, the surf." This book certainly portrays the fun and joy of a day at the beach but as Perez says it goes deeper. It captures a part of America's and Atlantic City's past in showing the resilience and accomplishment of the Black community in the face of Jim Crow.

From 1900 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Atlantic City the Atlantic City beach was de facto segregated. In about 1930, under pressure from the hotel industry, the portion of the beach for African American use was moved to an area roughly in the center of the beach between Missouri and Mississippi Avenues. Although segregated, the beach was prime real estate. The Missouri Avenue beach became known as "Chicken Bone Beach" largely because its visitors, denied the use of restaurants, brought chicken with them to the beach, often leaving the bones behind.

The book is divided into four chapters. The first chapter focuses on the beach and includes, together with much else, the letters from the hotel industry that lead to the establishment of this area of the beach for Black people. The second part of the book is devoted to the adjacent Northside area of Atlantic City which was home to a large African American community with business leaders including Madame Sarah Spencer Washington, the founder of a series of beauty and hairdressing colleges. The book shows much of Black city life with a focus on the entertainment and music industry with the famed Club Harlem. For years, Club Harlem featured famed jazz musicians together with beautiful showgirls. Chapter 3 focuses on Atlantic City during the Civil Rights Movement, centering upon the Democratic National Convention held in 1964 in Atlantic City. But the images don't stray far from Chicken Bone Beach during its later years. The book's final chapter discusses the activities of the Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation. The Foundation preserves the memory of the beach and the Northside largely through music. It sponsors a series of jazz concerts on the Boardwalk every summer and operates a music school to encourage young people to play and to appreciate jazz. The images and commentary in this portion of the book display an obvious love for and knowledge of jazz. Chicken Bone Beach was designated in 1997 as an Atlantic City Historical Landmark. The book includes a brief bibliography for those wishing to learn more about the beach and about the African American history of Atlantic City.

The book is meticulously researched with beautiful images and insightful commentary. The book focuses on the members of the African American community who made the beach a success, the Beach Patrol, police and fire department officials, doctors, and many others. Those involved with the beach are pictured and named, as is appropriate in preserving their memory. The music in the book sings, particuarly in the chapter devoted to the Northside and in the concluding chapter.

The centerpiece of the book lies in the images of the many people who enjoyed their time at the Chicken Bone Beach. African Americans came to the beach from throughout the Eastern seaboard and elsewhere in the United States as well as from Atlantic City itself. While many celebrities visited the beach over the years, it was largely an attraction to the rising Black middle class. The book includes images of the beachgoers including images of many lovely women.

I learned though this book about the self-taught African American photographer John W. Mosely (1907 -- 1969). Mosely worked largely in Philadelphia for many years where he took many photographs showing the details of African American city life. He also took many photographs of Chicken Bone Beach. Many of the images in this book are by Mosely. The book deserves praise for bringing recognition to this gifted photographer. It was special to get to know his work.

"Chicken Bone Beach" is a wonderful book in Images of America that preserves the memory of a unique place and time. I was glad to have the opportunity to learn about the beach, the Atlantic City Northside, and about the photography of John Mosely.

Beethoven Piano Sonatas, A Short Companion
Charles Rosen, author
Yale University Press
9780300255119, $37.97, hardcover, $25.00, paperback

Music Of A Lifetime

Beethoven's 32 sonatas are the glory of music written for the piano. They are music of Beethoven's lifetime in that their composition spans the period from his early days in Vienna to near the end of his life. In another sense, Beethoven's piano sonatas are the music of my lifetime. I first was exposed to them as an early adolescent through concerts, records, and my own early attempts at playing the easier of them. Today, all too many years later, I still try to play the sonatas and I go to recitals. I listen to them on CDs now instead of records. And I read about them, particularly Charles' Rosen's erudite and eloquent study. With short periods away, Beethoven's piano sonatas are probably the most lasting interest I have had in my life.

Rosen was inspired to write this book by giving a performance of the sonata cycle and to lecture on Beethoven at a summer music festival and school. The book is, on one level, a continuation of Rosen's study, "The Classical Style" with application to the Beethoven sonatas. The book is marked by its wide-ranging references. There is a great deal of specific discussion of Beethoven's piano sonatas, of course, but the book is enriched immeasurably by examples from and discussions Mozart, Haydn, and Schubert, as their works are compared and contrasted with Beethoven's.

The book is divided into two Parts. Part I, "The Tradition" begins with a discussion of the nature and development of the sonata form. Rosen describes well how Beethoven's sonatas have, until very recent years, been a bridge from the world of performance of classical music in the home to its appreciation in the concert hall. This was certainly the case with me.

The book discusses various ways in which the sonatas have been interpreted over the years and attempts to find that elusive quarry -- the manner in which the composer would have interpreted the sonatas. Rosen devotes a great deal of attention to questions of tempo and questions of phrasing, with examples from Beethoven's predecessors. He concludes that modern performers place more emphasis on a smooth legato style than would have been the case in Beethoven's day and that Beethoven's tempos would be somewhat different from those at which we now hear the music. In some cases, tempos would have been faster, but I get the impression that in the main tempos were taken at a slower pace. The book comes with a CD recorded by Guiilio Caesare Ricci which illustrates helpfully many of Rosen's musical examples. Rosen stresses that there is no single way of performing these complex, wonderful pieces of music. His discussion of performance practices still is highly useful in understanding the sonatas and in listening to them.

The second part of the book consists of a chronological discussion of each of the 32 sonatas. The discussion is arranged in five parts: a)the early 18th Century sonatas (the sonatas from opus 2 to opus 22); b) the sonatas of Beethoven growing in popularity and independent style (the sonatas from opus 26 to opus 28) c) the sonatas in which Beethoven attained mastery (the sonatas from opus 31 through opus 81a) d). the sonatas composed during Beethoven's years of stress and personal difficulty (the opus 90 and opus 101 sonatas and the "Hammerklavier" sonata, opus 106); and e)the last sonatas (opus 109. 110,111) In each instance Rosen offers some general comments on the character of each sonata followed by detailed thematic, harmonic and pianistic discussions.

I found it useful in this section of the book to read first Rosen's discussion of the sonatas with which I was most familiar, either by attempting to play them or by repeated hearings over the years. Thus I began with Rosen's discussion of the opus 26 sonata and followed it the the "Waldstein", the "Pathetique" and the opus 90 sonata. I then went through Rosen's discussion work by work as it appeared in the book. There is much to be learned, and Rosen's discussion will be useful in listening to the sonatas and following along with the score or with Rosen's discussion.

It is worth noting that Rosen spends a great deal of time on sonatas which are relatively little performed, particularly the opus 54 (which is given in full on the CD that comes with the book) and with the opus 31 no. 1 sonata. His discussion of these work illuminates them and illuminates Beethoven's output. He also gives thorough discussions of more familiar works particularly the "Moonlight" sonata and the Hammerklavier -- with respect to the latter, he follows-up upon the lengthy analysis of this work in The Classical Style.

Beethoven's piano sonatas are indeed music of a lifetime. If you love them, by playing or by hearing them, you will love this book. If you want to learn about them, this book will be an outstanding guide.

Playing The Beethoven Piano Sonatas
Robert Taub, author
9781574671780, $14.80, paperback

Intelligence And Passion In Playing The Beethoven Piano Sonatas

The Introduction to Tovey's Edition of the Beethoven Sonatas begins: "The Pianoforte Sonatas of Beethoven must always be among the choicest possessions of all who love music and especially of those who make music their main object and study." Robert Taub is a performer and scholar -- he serves as artist-in-residence at Princeton University who has performed frequently and recorded the cycle of Beethoven's 32 sonatas. He has written an excellent if difficult book offering the insights of a performer into Beethoven's great music.

Taub's book will inevitably be compared with Charles Rosen's recent study "Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion." The books share many insights but are written from different perspectives. Rosen's work is broader and more historical in scope. Taub's book is the work of a concert pianist and it reflects, in sometimes a personal way, on how he learned the sonatas, how he interprets each of these remarkably individual works, and how he performs them. There is a great deal of detail on the technique of piano playing as applied to each sonata. We learn how Taub chooses his tempo, how he pedals, how he voices and emphasizes the notes in a chord, the decisions he makes in phrasing and in holding his fingers. We learn when and why he slows down and emphasizes a passage and when and why he strives to play a passage brilliantly. It is a work by a pianist which seems to me to be primarily for other pianists. although much that he says will be of interest to music listeners as well.

In learning and performing a complex work of music such as a Beethoven sonata, Taub writes, a performer makes an implied moral contract with the composer. The contract requires the performer to delve into the music and to internalize it in order to understand what the composer wished to express. The performer effectively promises the composer to bring the music to life so that the audience may understand and be moved by the work -- so that the hearer may respond to and carry the music with him or her. For Taub the moral contract between performer and composer requires careful study of the score and -- particularly in the case of Beethoven -- a study of various editions of a particular work and of Beethoven's sketches, autographs, musical markings, and letters that cast light on how he conceived the work. The performer works with the composers intentions, for the work in its entirety as well as in part, to try to bring something of the power of the music to life. The music itself is inexhaustable and cannot be encompassed in any single performance or interpretation.

Instead of the traditional three-fold division of Beethoven's music, Taub offers a five-fold division of the sonatas. (Rosen offers a five-fold division as well but, interestingly it differs from Taub's) Taub's division of the sonatas is as follows: a). early classical, including the sonatas from opus 2 through opus 22 as well as the two sonatas of opus 49 (13 works); b). seven "experimental" sonatas, including opus 26 through the three works of opus 31; c) the three "post-Heilgenstadt" sonatas, opus 54, 54, 57; d) the three "compressed" sonatas, opus 78, 79, and 81a; and e) the final "transcendent" sonatas, opus 90, 101. 106, 109, 110, 111.

Following a discussion of general musical principles applicable to all the sonatas, Taub describes how he arranged them for performance of the cycle. This is probably the single most interesting part of the book. Taub decided against playing the sonatas simply by following the opus numbers but tried to arrange them thematically. I learned a great deal about Beethoven's sonatas simply from Taub's discussion of how he ordered them and from his discussion of how he chose the works he did for each individual program.

Taub's discussions of each individual sonata, in his nine programs, constitute the heart of the book. The discussions show, indeed, how Taub has thought of and internalized this music in trying to share it with his public. The discussion is fascinating as well in teaching how a performer works and learns. For those who attempt to play this music, as I do, there is a great deal to be learned from Taub's love for this music, his patience and his attention to musical detail. As Rosen did in his book, Taub spends a great deal of time in discussing Beethoven's opus 54 sonata (which lies between the Waldstein and Appassionata sonatas) and which is little performed. But I feel that Taub's heart is mostly with the final "transcendental" sonatas -- opus 90, (which Taub I think properly groups with the last 5 even though this is not usually done) opus 101, opus 106 (the Hammerklavier), 109.110 and 111. There are some interesting details in the book -- we learn that Taub spent 8 years working on the Hammerklavier before venturing a public performance -- and that Benny Goodman once told Taub after a private performance of the Waldstein sonata that a performer who really wanted to play a work such as the Waldstein had to "make it his own". Wise advice and the reference to Benny Goodman makes it special.

Taub has written a detailed, useful, pianistic study of some of the greatest music ever composed.

Mrs. Bridge
Even S. Connell,author, James Salter, afterword
Counterpoint: Anniversary Edition
9781582435688, $12.60, paperback

Mrs. Bridge Meets The Son Of The Morning Star

Evan Connell (1923 -- 2013) was an American author with two disparate masterworks to his credit: his novel "Mrs. Bridge" (1959) and his history, "Son of the Morning Star: General Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn" (1984). I first read "Mrs. Bridge" too many years ago to remember. I remember reading "Son of the Morning Star" in 2010, because I reviewed it online. I loved both books. I just had the good fortune to reread "Mrs. Bridge" for a book group. I thought about the novel for itself and for its relationship with Connell's story of Custer and the American West.

"Mrs. Bridge" is set in Kansas City largely through the early 1930s through the entry of the United States into WW II. Her first name is India; and the reader is told early in the book that "she was never able to get used to it. It seemed to her that her parents must have been thinking of someone else when they named her." And so the name "India" may become something of a stand-in for the unhappy, lonely, disconnected life that becomes the lot of Mrs. Bridge.

Somewhat reluctantly, India marries a young lawyer, Walter Bridge. The couple move to Kansas City where Mr. Bridge works long hours though the years and becomes financially successful. The couple have three children, Douglas, Ruth, and Carolyn. The story follows Mrs. Bridge through shortly after the death of her husband. Connell later wrote a follow-up novel about Mr Bridge.

Mrs. Bridge's story is told in 116 short chapters, vignettes of no more than a page or two. Connell's writing is beautiful and understated. He describes Mrs. Bridge's upper-middle class life, her loneliness, boredom, lack of love, and lack of sexual intimacy. The writing is at times funny and sad, but Connell conveys, without blame or harshness, an unhappy life with little in the way of reflection or meaning.

It is the story of a person. But in its themes of lack of self-knowledge and understanding, I was reminded throughout of Buddhism and the Buddha's Four Noble Truths about suffering, its cause, and its end. Late in the book when Mrs. Bridge's son, Douglas, is in the army, he tells his mother that he has given his religion as Buddhist but the army classified him as Protestant. When Douglas tells his mother of his religious affiliation she says "You did what?" And then, "Well for goodness' sakes, that's an awfully odd thing to write. You're not a Buddhist." This passage can be read as funny, suggesting the young man's and his mother's lack of moorings. But it can also be read as suggesting what is missing in Mrs. Bridge's life: the sense of reflection and meditation on life that many find in the teachings of the Buddha. Perhaps this is the significance of Mrs. Bridge's name "India": odd and out of place but also hinting of a different, reflective way of life with its echo of the place in which the Buddha lived. I have become fascinated with references to Buddhism in American novels. I did not see "Mrs. Bridge" in this light when I first read the novel many years ago.

Names are also important in Connell's book about Custer, with one of Custer's many nicknames, "Son of the Morning Star" contrasting with the more commonplace "Mrs. Bridge". In my review of "Son of the Morning Star" I noted that the subject of the book with its portrayal of "vigorous, passionate, free-wheeling, and romantic individuals" full of wildness, violence and eccentricity could not me more different than "Mrs Bridge" with its portrayal dull, thoughtless conformity.

I thought that Connell was a romantic at heart, if a melancholy romantic, in his telling of the history of Custer and the American West, and that, with all their terrible faults and excesses, he treasured "the life of adventure, risk-taking and feeling." I wrote that Connell's study of Custer was so much a history as "a work of art and a meditation on the American experience." With all their differences, the same could be said of "Mrs Bridge".

I was moved to be able to think about Mrs. Bridge again and to compare her story, through the writing of Evan Connell, to the story of General Custer and the American West.

Son Of The Morning Star: Custer And The Little Bighorn
Evan S. Connell, author
North Point Press
9780865475106, $13.99, paperback

Son Of The Morning Star

Recent [2010] contrasting highly perceptive reader reviews of Evan S. Connell's "Son of the Morning Star" (1984) prompted me to read the book. Connell's book is difficult to classify because it is a broad meditation on Custer, the Battle of Little Bighorn, and the American West. The book is too digressive, introspective, and meditative to be considered a historical narrative. The description of the event at the focus of the book -- the massacre of Custer's Seventh Cavalry at Little Bighorn -- on June 25, 1876, is hazy indeed. Connell largely talks around the famous battle. The book lacks an index to allow the reader to track the specifics of the discussion and to return easily to particular topics --- and I think this is deliberate rather than an oversight.

Apart from this book, Connell is most famous as the author of the novel "Mrs. Bridge" (1959) which I read many years ago. In understated, eloquent writing, Connell's novel tells the story of an upper middle-class American family with its characters limited in their outlook on life, overly cautious, lonely, unfulfilled, bored, and sexually frustrated. The subject of Connell's history could not be more different than that of his novel. Whatever else it may be, in Connell's West we have vigorous, passionate, free-wheeling, and romantic individuals, both Indian and non-Indian. At one point, a character in the history remarks in impeccable French to the effect that "here we are all savages." The West is a large-scale world of passion and action. Describing its excesses, brutality, cruelty, and stupidity, Connell seems to me a romantic, preferring the vigor and eccentricities of these days and people to the quiet conformity of the Bridges. The title of the book, "Son of the Morning Star" bears comparison with the prosaic title "Mrs. Bridge". The Indians bestowed this poetic nickname on Custer. He was a man of notoriety during his short life and of many nicknames, including "Long Hair" or "Yellow Hair" and the cruder sobriquet, "Iron Butt".

Literary works are made by style. Connell's organization of his material and his apparent prolixity can create a sense of frustration and disjointedness in reading; but it makes his tale. Without an introduction or other preliminaries, Connell begins in the middle of his story with the fate of Custer's subordinates, Reno and Benteen, at Little Big Horn. Custer's own fate is indirectly described, through their eyes. The author presupposes, as he may for this event, that the reader already knows the outlines of the famous story. The book then flits forward in time to discuss Reno's subsequent Court of Inquiry over his role in Little Bighorn and the lives of both these characters in the story. Then, Connell leaves Little Bighorn to move back in time to the early days of settlement. We get an introductory overview of Custer's early life, his West Point days, his Civil War service, his courtship, and then the book moves on to other things.

In the process, Connell offers portraits of many participants in Little Bighorn. There are innumerable digressions. Connell picks up a character or event and cannot let it go. The reader learns a great deal and also sees the conflicting evidence and the many different ways of understanding a historical situation. The book does not work as a narrative that tells a coherent story from beginning to end with a perspective that the author outlines for his reader in advance to ease the way. Instead Connell offers a circular account, that shifts focus and time frames and that remains as obscure as does Little Bighorn itself, for all the iconic and legendary character it has assumed. As the book progresses, we get a history of Custer's life in pieces, as well as the of the conflict that led to Little Bighorn and its aftermath. I described Connell as a romantic above for the passion he brings to his story and for the life of adventure, risk-taking and feeling that he obviously treasures. But he does not romanticize characters and events. Gruesomeness, wantonness, death, and human pettiness pervade his account.

Besides its digressive character, Connell's writing is also understated and subdued. His writing is unobtrusive and allows the events and characters he portrays to be shown in their complexity. The book is difficult because it is history, a book about the history of a history, and a personal reflection. More than on Little Bighorn or on the West, Connell shows the reader how perspectives on Custer and on the Battle have changed with time, especially as reflected in art and literature. Many passages of the book explore his own attitude towards Custer and his other protagonists. As battles go, Little Bighorn was small. Custer himself could fairly be regarded as a minor figure rather than as the stuff of legend. Connell shows why Custer, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and the many other characters in his book matter.

"Son of the Morning Star" is not the work to read for a basic history. But it is a work of art and a meditation on the American experience.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Beneath the Lion's Wings
Marie Ohanesian Nardin
Waterline Publishing
9791220025881, $14.99

Beneath the Lion's Wings is set between Venice and Los Angeles. The novel does an admirable job of capturing the essence of Venice. The female protagonist, Victoria, is a thirty-something woman who works as an executive assistant in a talent agency, visits the city on the lagoon and falls in love with a fourth generation gondolier, Alviso. It's a romance that has the usual ups and downs and a few surprises. In particular, the descriptions of local cuisine are exceptional. There is a bit of a surprise along the way. One chapter, fairly early on, drops the story in Venice and reappears in Scandinavia and introduces new characters, with no explanation what so ever, before returning to Venice and resuming the original story. It doesn't become clear until towards the end of the book exactly why this occurred. It felt harsh and out of place.

This Terrible Beauty
Katrin Schuman
Lake Union Publishing
978154202080, $24.95

There's a lot to like about This Terrible Beauty. It is historical fiction at its finest, filled with injustice, sacrifice, and redemption. I was drawn to it, as a former photographer, because Bettina Heilstrom, the female protagonist, is a photojournalist and I was interested in seeing how the author, Katrin Schuman, portrayed photography itself.

The book is told from the points of view of Bettina and her husband, Werner. The setting itself is interesting: Rugen, an island in the remote Baltic Sea, surrounded by Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. Before and during World War II, the island was part of Germany under the Fuhrer and fascism; the Soviets took it over after the war. Under both regimes, the occupants lived under a totalitarian rule with little personal freedom.

Bettina undergoes personal change as she falls in love with a man other than her husband and realizes that she cannot be her true self under the authoritarian regime of the Soviets or her husband, now a head honcho in the Stasi secret police. Art and politics don't seem to blend well for her. Schuman does a great job portraying large-scale elements through small-scale experiences. She must learn to trust herself, her own voice, her own vision in what she photographs. She eventually learns she cannot live a compromised life where her creativity is disparaged.

Though Werner is the villain here, you clearly see him an a complete individual with a deep love for his family. Crippled by polio as a child, he was persecuted, so he is easily seduced by power, even when he questions whether his orders are just.

The Resurrectionist
Paul T. Scheuring
One Light Road, Inc.
9780998450223, $16.99

The Resurrectionist is a gritty, ominous, atmospheric, bleak gothic novel filled with multiple unreliable narrators and dislikable if not despicable characters. Set in London in the early nineteenth century, it shows the life of people surviving in London's worst slum. Job Mowatt has become a criminal to support his lovely young daughter, Ivy. In essence, he's become a body snatcher, digging up recently deceased bodies to sell them to medical schools for dissection. When Dr. Percival Quinn asks Job to steal the body of a pregnant woman, it sets up a chain of events that kept me turning pages to see the bad guys versus the really bad guys. A few of the bad guys have redeeming qualities, but most do not. They must steal bodies to pay for their daily laudanum or alcohol consumption (the hard-core alcoholics are called five- and six-bottle men). One couple goes so far as to kill the cadavers they sell. As a physician I can attest to the need for cadavers to study in medical school - there's nothing that can replace the teaching that comes with dissection - and I appreciate the leaps in progress in human anatomy made possible by grave robbing.

The prose is meticulous and tight, and the story told from multiple points of view. Though a grim portrayal of human life, the book is not without hope as evidenced in the last couple of chapters. e characters are hardened, troubled, and resourceful. And the plot, told from multiple perspectives, is a menacing tale about life, loss, tragedy, desperation, survival, manipulation, abuse, deviance, violence, class disparity, body snatching, and murder.

Dream Wheels
Richard Wagamese
Milkweed Editions
9781571311177, $16.00

This is my second novel by Richard Wagamese and I've put all this other works on my to-be-read pile. In both novels, I was impressed by his prose and his storytelling. I sat up most of the night reading Dream Wheels and had to fight the urge to call my cowboy brother and say, "Read this right now."

Two stories intertwine here, one of Joe Willie Wolfchild, who was severely injured on the bull ride that would have made him best All-Around Cowboy on the rodeo circuit; the other of a young man who's sliding into juvenile delinquency, a jail sentence, and alienation from his mother. Both are angry and hard, living through the darkness of their lives alone. The two stories eventually become one of healing.

Wagamese's prose is as spare as that of Cormac McCarthy's. But that spareness doesn't mean there is no emotion here; in fact the emotions are deep. There is also a spirituality and a closeness to the land and its inhabitants, both animal and human. As a member of a West Texas ranching family, I can attest that Wagamese does an extraordinary job of capturing the violence, terror, fury, and beauty of riding a bull and the affinity of cowboys for their work, their animals, and their land. I have more beautiful lines highlighted on my Kindle than in any other works I've read.

Jeff Kerr
Treaty Oak Publishers
9781943658855, $7.49

Refuge is a bleak, near-future dystopian thriller with disturbing overtones pulled from American current events. Miranda Flores is a young woman, a second-generation immigrant. When the US government starts implanting devices (identity chips) into people to identify "true Americans," her family returns to El Salvador. Eventually the situation in her home country deteriorates, and she pays a coyote to take her across the US-Mexico border.

Refuge should be read as a cautionary tale for what could become of America if we continue on our current path.

Don't Forget to Write
Sara Goodman Confino
Lake Union Publishing
9781662512223, $16.99

Don't Forget to Write is a witty, funny, wry, poignant coming-of-age story with marvelous characters and a bittersweet ending. When the protagonist, Marilyn Kleinman, is caught making out with the rabbi's son in a conservative synagogue in New York City - then refuses to marry him to save her reputation - she's exiled to her great-aunt Ada's in Philadelphia. Her aunt is an unmarried matchmaker who's amassed a fortune and lives her life on her own terms. Here, Marilyn discovers freedom - she can finally envision a world in which she can become an author, not necessarily a wife and mother. As a woman who grew up in the 1960's, in which the novel is set, I fully identified with Marilyn's attempts to spread her wings outside of the role her family and society expect of her, though I was trapped in West Texas.

The dialogue is funny with some great repartee between Marilyn and Ada as the two develop a truly loving relationship. Marilyn comes to appreciate her mother's role as wife and mother even as she wrote her first novel. The characters are vibrant and alive and completely enchanting.

Cities of Women
Kathleen B. Jones
Keylight Books
9781684429998, $30.99

The Cities of Women is a multiple point of view novel that shifts between Verity Frazier, a modern academic, Beatrice, a medieval French artist, and Christine de Pizan, the French-Italian writer for the court of Charles VI, during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The title is a reference to Christine's books, The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies. Recurrent themes include feminism and achieving one's personal goals in life and in one's profession as well as attempts to change the patriarchal world through women's written word and paintings.

The novel captures the medieval period quite well with its staggering differences between the wealthy and the poor, though the Black Death is a great equalizer. So many women are made to feel inferior even when they are experts in their respective fields, and Verity's plight, feeling she's an imposter as an academic and unable to complete her book on the women of the French Revolution, epitomizes this. The writing is poetic at times and the material clearly well-researched. I enjoyed the minutia of details about mixing pigments, making parchment, and how early books were manufactured. at the beginning of each new chapter.

Mixed in with the historical aspects is a modern sapphic romance. I didn't find the love interest, Anastasia, to be very sympathetic and couldn't understand Verity's interest in her. Overall, Cities of Women is a deft look at women who defy the expectations of their times yet remain overlooked by the patriarchy and attempts to place them at greater parity and make them less invisible.

Ithaca (The Songs of Penelope #1)
Claire North
9780316422963, $28.00

Ithaca is an interesting retelling of the Odyssey, but centered on Odysseus's wife, Penelope, who he left behind when he went off to fight the Trojan War. Eighteen years later, she is still alone. Her son Telemachus is growing up, but her kingdom is considered up for grabs since everyone thinks Odysseus is dead. She walks a fine line trying to keep her kingdom from being conquered and her son out of assassins' hands. The narrator is Hera, the goddess wife of Zeus, and with a unique voice. She's a goddess "of a certain age," getting plumper with time, who sees the gods and goddesses in Olympus though unflinching eyes. She's proud, snarky, and often laugh out loud funny as she handles her stepdaughters, Artemis and Aphrodite, who have chosen sides in this conflict, and voices her opinions on her husband, Zeus's love affairs and his tendency to disguise himself as swans and other creatures. Hera herself choses to back Clytemnestra, Penelope's cousin, who has just murdered her husband, Agamemnon, and fled to Ithaca for sanctuary.

The story shifts between past and present tenses and is told in multiple points of view, ranging from third person omniscient, third person limited, second person, to first person. For me, the technique worked, as it emphasizes Hera's omniscience and allows author North to show a more complete story than would have been possible if written solely in Penelope's point of view. While the prose never reaches the epic quality that Madeline Miller does in The Song of Achilles and Circe, I enjoyed Hera's wit and found her an interesting narrator.

Loki's Deceit (Charlemagne Series #2)
Donovan Cook
Boldwood Books
Digital Only, $4.99

Though Loki's Deceit is the second in a series, I was able to get the gist of things without any problems. It relates Norse history just after the time of Charlemagne. Sven the Boar seeks revenge against those who turned his son over to the French. His son is killed, and Sven takes charge of his grandson, Charles, who carries a cross that once belonged to Charlemagne himself. Sven and Charles go back to Ribe and try to fit in there. But betrayal after betrayal remains part of their existence, partly because Charles is a Christian living among those who follow the ancient Norse gods. This is something of a young adult novel, particularly with Charles as one of the protagonists. It didn't give any new insights into that time of history, and the prose lacked the gravitas I'd expect in a retelling of ancient history; i.e. it doesn't rise to the level of Bernard Cornwell's The Last Kingdom series. The book also ends on a whopper of a cliff hanger. That alone is enough to keep me from reading either the preceding book, Odious Betrayal or #3 in the series (which is clearly planned).

Suanne Schafer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Quit Being an Idiot: Life Lessons from The Golden Girls
Bob Pearlman
Hyperion Avenue
c/o Disney Books
9781368077668, $17.99, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: Over the years, Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia have remained roommates, confidants, and best friends no matter what life (or the stray ex) throws their way. Having handled life's messy situations with style and humor, the Girls have a lanai's worth of golden wisdom ready to share with you with the publication of "Quit Being an Idiot: Life Lessons from The Golden Girls" by Bob Pearlman.

Funny, irreverent, and timeless, the life lessons the Golden Girls bring from their television series into your life are guaranteed to put a smile on your face, some warmth into your heart, and maybe even some St. Olaf into your thinking.

Critique: What must be considered essential reading for the legions of Golden Girls fans, "Quit Being an Idiot: Life Lessons from The Golden Girls" will be of particular appeal and value to readers with in interest in the wit and wisdom to be found in this iconic and enduringly memorable television comedy which has outlived its quartet of talented and gifted actresses. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "Quit Being an Idiot: Life Lessons from The Golden Girls" will prove an immediately welcome and enduringly popular pick for community library Television History/Humor collections and supplemental Popular Culture curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Robb Pearlman ( is a pop culturalist and author. He has written more than 45 books for adults and kids, including Live Like a Vulcan, Love Like a Wookiee, Laugh Like a Hobbit; Life Lessons from Bob Ross; What Would Skeletor Do?; The Wit and Wisdom of Star Trek; and The Office: A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary.

A Chance to Breathe: Stories from a 1918 Road Trip
James Gardner
Independently Published
9798988495703, $18.95, HC, 383pp

Synopsis: In August 1918, a group of friends gathered in Western Pennsylvania for a two-week camping road trip, but these were not ordinary friends -- and this was no ordinary time.

With the publication of "A Chance to Breathe: Stories from a 1918 Road Trip", author James Gardner follows Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone, along with a caravan of vehicles and a slew of helpers, on their thousand-mile journey through the heart of America a little over a century ago. Their unlikely and fascinating friendships are matched only by their individual stories. Traversing the countryside by car, these famous campers would be some of the first participants in what would later become a traditional summer staple known as The Great American Road Trip.

Having largely invented the modern world, these "vagabonds" were hoping, at least for a moment, to escape it. And who could blame them? Life in 1918 was exhausting. World War One raged in Europe while humanity braced for yet another wave of the Spanish Flu, which in the end, would prove to be more like a tsunami of a pandemic.

Racing through America's first frontier, the story of Appalachia and West Virginia are brought to light, as are the stories of the people and places encountered along the way. Ultimately, "A Chance to Breathe" is a true story celebrating friendship, adventure, and the indomitable human spirit.

Critique: A seminal work of meticulous historical research and a genuine flair for narrative driven, informative, and entertaining storytelling, "A Chance to Breathe: Stories from a 1918 Road Trip" is an inherently fascinating read and one that will have a very special appeal and value for readers with an interest in the early 20th Century history of the automobile and automotive travel. Unique and a fully engaging read, "A Chance to Breathe" is all the more impressive when considering that it is author James Gardner's debut as a published writer. Especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted that "A Chance to Breathe" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: James Gardner was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. He received his B.A. from The Ohio State University and his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University. A practicing lawyer for more than thirty years, Jim is an avid history buff and a vagabond at heart.

Susan Bethany

Tom Getty's Bookshelf

The Marksman
Robin G. Mercier, Danny Kravitz, Chris Charles, and Ted Goeglein
Level 4 Press
9781646301065, $18.95 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

"The Marksman" tells the story of veteran Jim Hanson, a man who lives in Arizona on the Mexican border. The book characterizes him as a simple, quiet man, principled, only wanting to tend to the land, and spend out his remaining days with a loyal dog. There's a hint that this man is hiding from something. Not anything specific, or that will have any impart on the plot - but a tone, a recognition that the world he once knew has slipped from view. Right from the outset, the story portends rough terrain, one that must be traversed in order to be understood - and reckoned with.

One day, he encounters a young boy, Miguel, and the boy's mother trying to flee Mexico. Hanson doesn't want any problems, only to do what is right: send the pair back where they came from. At least, this is what he believes is the right thing to do. That is until a gang of cartel criminals, led by Mauricio, follow up and demand the boy and his mother's capture - or else. Hanson, an expert marksman, shoots one of the gang and takes protective custody of the boy and his (now dying) mother. It's here where the novel, the story, schisms into parable of violence and humanity.

Hanson is tasked, by the mother's death-bed wish, to usher the boy from Arizona to Chicago - an interesting destination, if symbolic as it is practical. It's hard to get further north without leaving "the land of the free." Hanson believes the trip will be routine - but his expectations only betray his belief in a system that he once fought for. He comes to realize that the road to Chicago is a jungle marked by decay, and danger.

Writers Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz have adapted their screenplay for the 2021 film "The Marksman" - with the help of YA author Ted Goeglein and Robin Mercier - to a novel that takes an action story and underpins it with symbolic and subtextual urgency. Like a plot by Cormac McCarthy, the actions of The Marksman take place against mostly dusty roads, endless highways, motels - desperate backdrops for a surrogate father shepherding his surrogate son not just from a literal 'A' to 'B' point, but for the existential nightmares that define a fringe existence. Just as the Ed Tom Bell character in No Country for Old Man shares a dream of his father guiding him through rough terrain with a horn of fire, marine Jim Hanson ushers his younger charge through a barren wilderness that seemingly has no end. The dangers are not just in the cartels, themselves the classic bandits operating on the outskirts of civilization, but in a system that has neared apocalyptic collapse. Corruption overrules law, bribery smooths the wheels, the police operate, unwittingly, to protect and facilitate systemic crime such as trafficking and drug running. Indeed, the decaying, failing system of borders and laws lays down the main gauntlet for Hanson and Miguel.

While the film had Liam Neeson to bring the character of Jim Hanson to life, the novel, the writing itself, must only deal with the characters as they are on the page. To that, it succeeds greatly. Hanson is as we find him, a man on an existential edge. In the writing, he is chiefly illustrated by his living literally on the border of two nations, his identity already torn between deep, patriotic ties, and an emotional undercurrent that has come to suspect all is not what he once believed. He's isolated himself for a reason. Just as the modern archetype of the post-Clint Eastwood hero, he is a man who has fought for causes, only to be worn out and forgotten. He represents a dying cipher whose only remaining purpose is to ferry across the next generation - one that he has no blood relation to. A passing of the torch transcending family, reaching for the universal.

Charles, Kravitz, Goeglein, and Mercier write their story with stark description and vivid imagery. The sentences are short, Hemingway-esque, leaning toward the visual, the emphatic. The words betray a desperation that's weaved throughout the story. The three provide excellent writing and storytelling.

"The Marksman" speaks to a general unease, and an acceptance of it. Hanson represents a fading generation, aged past any kind of economic or physical usefulness, holding on to values that once made sense long ago, ones that were once foundational, but now superfluous in a world marked by mass migration, seismic demographic shifts, and time's merciless crunch. His character, subconsciously at least, understands that what he once knew is no longer what he now knows. That the story characterizes him as an ace marksman is not without irony. His journey, and its destination, marks not a sacrifice, or even a passing of the torch, but a spiritual acceptance that he must now wander the plains, like John Wayne in "The Searchers," aimlessly searching for a target that is no longer there. "The Marksman" is one of the year's best books.

Tom Getty, Reviewer
Acrolight Pictures, LLC

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

George Pal: Man of Tomorrow
Justin Humphreys
Bear Manor Media
9798887710426 $52.00 pbk / $9.95 Kindle

Synopsis: The authoritative biography of the twentieth century's most influential science fiction filmmaker!

George Pal: Man of Tomorrow chronicles the life and films of the trailblazing producer/director/ animator who fathered modern science fiction cinema. George Pal's classics like Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide, The War of the Worlds, and The Time Machine were a quantum leap forward for the genre's quality, intelligence, and special effects wizardry. When few people in Hollywood - or elsewhere - took science fiction seriously, Pal steadfastly stood by it, paving the way for SF's enormous future popularity and inspiring generations of filmmakers. Pal's beloved The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao elevated cinematic fantasy to new heights.

Written and researched with the full cooperation of the George Pal Estate, Justin Humphreys' George Pal: Man of Tomorrow involved twenty years of exhaustive research in international archives and private collections, including unprecedented access to the Pal family's archive. This definitive, profusely illustrated biography of this visionary movie futurist includes new interviews with over sixty of Pal's coworkers, family members, and admirers in the film industry, dozens of rare photographs, and gorgeous cover art by renowned science fiction illustrator/historian Vincent Di Fate.

Critique: George Pal: Man of Tomorrow is a thorough biography of visionary filmmaker George Pal and the standout science fiction and fantasy movies he created. A handful of black-and-white photographs, appendices, and an index round out this fascinating tour, written with the blessing and cooperation of the George Pal Estate. Science fiction movie connoisseurs will be especially interested in the life-and-times and behind-the-scenes of the man responsible for classic films such as The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that George Pal: Man of Tomorrow is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

Editorial Note: Author Justin Humphreys is a writer, film historian, and curator. His other works include the Rondo Award-winning The Dr. Phibes Companion. George Pal: Man of Tomorrow is his fourth book.

On the Gaze: Dubai and Its New Cosmopolitanisms
Adrianne Kalfopoulou
Fulcrum Publishing
9781682753460, $15.95, PB, 137pp

Synopsis: What does it mean to be cosmopolitan? To be a crossroads, a gathering place, a center for world commerce? With the publication of "On the Gaze: Dubai and Its New Cosmopolitanisms" author Adrianne Kalfopoulou explores the meaning of Dubai as a nation-state at the crossroads of the world, gathering people together from around the world.

Much like Syros in ancient Greece was once at the center of world commerce, Dubai has evolved into a twenty-first-century nexus for new cosmopolitanisms. Both as a port and desert city.

Adrianne Kalfopoulou imagines how Dubai has projected itself onto these screens as an idea for the future (and the present) by exploring the development of Dubai both through the lens of philosophers like Baudrillard and his "hyperreal" as well as by digging into the city's history, from its disastrous collapse as a pearl-diving mecca through its complex evolution into a member of the United Arab Emirates.

Critique: "On The Gaze: Dubai and it's new Cosmopolitanisms" is the story of Dubai as revealed through multiple gazes. Kalfopoulou's stellar writing and her inward searching brings the reader comfortably along with her as she deft examines what Dubai means to her, to the Arab world, and to the world as a whole. Of special value and appeal to readers with an interest in Middle Eastern Studies in general, and the United Arab Emirates History in particular, "On The Gaze: Dubai and it's new Cosmopolitanisms" is highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted that "On The Gaze: Dubai and it's new Cosmopolitanisms" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Adrianne Kalfopoulou is a poet, essayist, and scholar. Her base is in Athens, Greece where she taught for many years at institutions of higher education. She has served as a poetry and nonfiction faculty mentor in the low residency Mile-High MFA program at Regis University, and was the McGee Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Davidson College for 2020-2021. (

Willis M. Buhle

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