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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 6 June 2017 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf
Micah's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf  

Cowper's Bookshelf

Street Food
Bruce Kraig and Colleen Taylor Sen, editors
Surrey Books
c/o Agate Publishing
1328 Greenleaf Street, Evanston, IL 60202
9781572842236 $24.95

Synopsis: An estimated 2.6 billion people worldwide eat street food every day. Once associated with developing countries, street food has spread around the globe, particularly in the United States, where a variety of food trucks, top chefs, and trendy pop-up restaurants specialize in grab-and-go fare. Now more than ever, readers are interested in finding and tasting the different street foods prepared and consumed around the world.

Globe-trotters in search of the street-food experience will find information about street-food superpowers - such as China, India, and Mexico - and countries where street food plays a less important role, such as those in northern Europe. Contributed by the world's leading food historians, the book's entries provide a detailed look at vendor culture, fun facts, and illuminating statistics, as well as some historical and environmental background on specific foods.

First published in 2013, this reconceived version of Street Food is a comprehensive look at the world's best street food, a must-have for travelers and foodies alike.

Critique: Street Food: Everything You Need to Know About Open-Air Stands, Carts & Food Trucks Across the Globe lives up to its title as a vivid tour of the culinary history and proliferation of street foods sold about the world. From Guyana's salara (a yeast bread with sweet red coconut filling, sold in slices) to the mititei (spicy meat patties) of Romania and much more, Street Food is a consummate gustatory tour, and the next best thing to enjoying these numerous delicacies in person! Highly recommended especially for connoisseurs.

I Heard Your Dog Died
Bonnie Kreitler
Rambling Dog Publications
PO Box 547, Southport, CT 06612-0547
9780997065374, $15.95, PB, 96pp,

Synopsis: What do you say to a child whose dog, their best friend, is fatally injured by a car as the youngster watches? Confronted with this dilemma, a caring neighbor reaches into distant memories to recall a story of life and death imagined as a Big Play. Together the pair explores questions about why bad things happen, feelings of blame and guilt, ghost dogs and animal souls. As anger shifts to acceptance, the youngster learns how to let go of hurt, honor the old dog, and imagine a future with a new pet. But neither neighbor imagines the surprising end of this journey through grief.

With magical zentangle-style dog illustrations by Carole Ohl, the story unfolds through dialogue alone. Author Bonnie Kreitler leaves the genders and descriptive details of the child and the adult to her readers' imaginations, inviting them to participate in creating the storyline in ways that reflect their own experiences of living, loving, and dying.

Critique: Unique, original, insightful, compelling, extraordinary, "I Heard Your Dog Died: Imaginings for Those Who Have Lost a Pet" is a very special, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end. Although a work of fiction, "I Heard Your Dog Died" has an undeniable resonance with real world experiences with children and their families who have beloved pets. While unreservedly and strongly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Heard Your Dog Died" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Bell Tolls
R. Franklin James
Camel Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603812177, $15.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Hollis Morgan has survived imprisonment, received a pardon and persevered to finally become a probate attorney. Tough as she is, her newest case will further test her mettle. She discovers her client, Matthias Bell, is a deceased blackmailer whose last wish was to return the damaging documents letting his victims off the hook. It falls to Hollis to give them the good news. But it becomes apparent that Bell was murdered, and the victims of "Bell's tolls" are now suspects. Hollis' white-collar criminal past has left her with keen survival instincts.

A gifted liar herself, she knows a liar when she sees one. A lot of people in this case are lying and one is a killer. On top of that, she's also representing a dying stripper, a wealthy widow whose estranged daughter spurns her attempts at reconciliation, but whose husband sees the potential inheritance as mending all wounds.

Clients aside, Hollis is defensive and wary. Her mother, who hasn't spoken to her for years, needs a kidney, and Hollis is a match, but neither are ready to put away the past. With Hollis' fiance and emotional support off on an undercover mission for Homeland Security, she must count on her own survival instincts.

She is swept along on an emotional roller coaster as her absent love and her family's coldness take their own toll. Work is her salvation. The specter of a killer keeps her focused. Hollis has always had to rely on her wits, but now she finds that others who don't have her well-being in mind are relying on them as well.

Critique: "The Bell Tolls" is the fifth book in novelist Franklin James' outstanding 'Hollis Morgan Mystery' series and continues to document her genuine flair for originality and her complete master of the mystery genre. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "The Bell Tolls" is also available in a Kindle format ($4.95).

Art Therapy and the Creative Process
Cynthia Pearson, Samuel Mann, Alfredo Zotti
Applied Metapsychology International Press
c/o Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615992973, $47.95, HC, 152pp,

Synopsis: International voices from across the globe come together in the pages of "Art Therapy and the Creative Process" to share their perspectives on art, the artist's process, and how art has been therapeutic for them.

In the first section, the three primary contributors (Alfredo Zotti, Samuel Mann, and Cynthia Pearson) create a triple commentary on a piece of art. Zotti paints a picture, Mann analyzes it, and Pearson writes a poem to complement it.

In later sections, various artists share why they write, paint, play music, or take photographs, including what their individual mediums mean to them, what they may mean to others, why they have chosen various art forms, how art allows them an opportunity to escape from the world, and how it can also help them heal.

Artists will find kindred spirits in "Art Therapy and the Creative Process". Lovers of literature, music, and art in all its forms will gain insight into artists' souls, how they view the world a little differently, and why.

"Art Therapy and the Creative Process" gives art a purpose beyond what most of us usually think of it having -- that art is a way to keep us all sane in a maddening world and it gives us the opportunity to create something to heal that same world that wounds us.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated, impressively informative, exceptionally thought-provoking, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Art Therapy and the Creative Process" is an especially recommended addition to professional, community, and academic library Art Criticism & Theory collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Art Therapy and the Creative Process" is also available in a paperback edition from Loving Healing Press (9781615992966, $34.95), as well as in a Kindle format ($9.95).

Unexpected Recoveries
Tom Monte
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004001, $17.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: In "Unexpected Recoveries: Seven Steps to Healing Body, Mind, & Soul When Serious Illness Strikes", author Tom Monte draws upon his more than 30 years of experience and expertise to combine modern medical know-how, ancient healing practices, and a healing diet to provide a comprehensive and practical guidebook for physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery.

"Unexpected Recoveries" addresses such conditions as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, chronic pain, Crohn's disease, degenerative bone conditions, and more. Readers are provided with a seven-step program to help them on their journey of healing, with each and every step designed to be flexible. Factors such as mental attitude, lifestyle, diet, and exercise are discussed in an informative and easy-to-read manner. Along this journey, readers are introduced to twelve people who have recovered from incurable illness. Also included are a helpful resource section, a twenty-one-day menu planner, and over sixty kitchen-tested recipes.

Critique: Especially commended to the attention of patients whose doctors told them there is no cure, no treatment proven to eliminate their particular condition, the underlying message of "Unexpected Recoveries" is that such a diagnostic pronouncement doesn't mean that healing isn't possible, that the information comprising "Unexpected Recoveries" can be a powerful tool to change the course of their medical condition. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Unexpected Recoveries" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Health/Medicine collections. It should be noted for patients, their caregivers, medical students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Unexpected Recoveries" is also available in a Kindle format ($17.05).

Living Love, The Yoga of Yama & Niyama
Maetreyii Ma
Ananda Gurukula Publishing
9780986304712, $14.48, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: "Living Love, The Yoga of Yama & Niyama: Timeless Teachings for Transformation and Awakening" by Maetreyii Ma (who is a licensed psychologist with a doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology, a teacher of yogic philosophy and ancient wisdom, an ERYT 500 yoga teacher, and an ordained yogic minister, or Acharya) is a unique blend of the ancient teachings of yoga and modern psychology. It provides basic life principles to live by and offers teachings for happiness, compassion, self-love and self-realization.

These ancient teachings of yoga give you the guidelines to face the difficulties of life. "Living Love, The Yoga of Yama & Niyama" leads you through processes that can help you shift negative beliefs and thought patterns, transform your relationship with yourself and others and ultimately your life, It gives simple practices that can resolve, solve, clarify, heal, purify, fend off confusion, dispel error and light your way into developing a deeper connection with your true divine nature. "Living Love, The Yoga of Yama & Niyama" is a practical guide to living a deep and fulfilling life that will move you towards awakening to the deepest love within you.

Critique: An ideal guidebook for personal transformation and awakening through the yogic practice of a distinctively practical mysticism, "Living Love, The Yoga of Yama & Niyama" is an extraordinary and impressively well written, organized and presented work that will have a very special and lasting appeal to students of yoga and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Living Love, The Yoga of Yama & Niyama" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.50).

Problem Solved
Cheryl Strauss Einhorn
Career Press Inc.
12 Parish Drive, Wayne, NJ 07470
9781632650863, $16.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Problem solving begins with some critically important questions such as: Where do you start? How do you know where to look for information and evaluate its quality and bias? How can you feel confident that you are making a careful and thoroughly researched decision?

Whether you are deciding between colleges, navigating a career decision, helping your aging parents find the right housing, or expanding your business, "Problem Solved: A Powerful System for Making Complex Decisions with Confidence and Conviction" by Cheryl Strauss Einhorn (an investigative journalist and founder of CSE Consulting, a strategic consulting practice) will show you how to use the powerful AREA Method to make complex personal and professional decisions with confidence and conviction.

Cheryl's AREA Method coaches you to make smarter, better decisions because it: Recognizes that research is a fundamental part of decision making and breaks down the process into a series of easy-to-follow steps; Solves for problematic mental shortcuts such as bias, judgment, and assumptions; Builds in strategic stops that help you chunk your learning, stay focused, and make your work work for you; Provides a flexible and repeatable process that acts as a feedback loop.

Life is filled with uncertainty, but that uncertainty needn't hobble us. "Problem Solved" offers a proactive way to work with, and work through, ambiguity to make thoughtful, confident decisions despite our uncertain and volatile world.

Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized, informatively presented, "Problem Solved: A Powerful System for Making Complex Decisions with Confidence and Conviction" is an effective and practical life-enhancing read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for community and academic library Self-Help collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Problem Solved" is also available in a Kindle format ($10.82). Librarians should be aware that "Problem Solved" is also available in a complete and unabridged audio book edition (Blackstone Audio, 9781504741200, $29.95, CD).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Rising Sun Memories 1942-45
Stuart James
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781537788692, $11.66,

Charles was only two when World War II changed Britain and led him to grow up in the aftermath of chaos. This prompts him to join the RAF when he becomes of age, where he is deployed overseas to Singapore and meets Chinese soldier Mr. Goh, who battled the Japanese in Singapore. As Charles slowly comes to know of a different side to the war by one who personally experienced its brutality on a daily military level, two generations affected by the conflict come together with memories that present very different views of the war's nature and long-term effects.

Rising Sun Memories sounds like a memoir because, despite its fictional characters, it is imbibed with the essence of World War II history and challenges, with many of its stories based on true facts.

As a child, "Charles, like all small boys, found the war quite exciting and although very young he spent a great deal of time playing with friends in the delightful Nonsuch Park Cheam which backed on to the grandparent's house in Anne Boleyn's Walk." His family's involvement and response to bombings is often practical and imparts more a sense of adventure than horror. to the young lad: "Young Charles witnessed a great deal of activity during the war, uncles returning occasionally in khaki, various honorary American and Canadian uncles returning with his mother under the influence of alcohol, many old family friends too old to serve in the forces, and numerous other mysterious acquaintances of his mother involved, it would seem, in black market activities. During bombing raids, the family climbed into a cupboard under the stairs as grandfather had no intention of having a bomb shelter spoil his attractive garden."

In the aftermath of the war, Charles lives through quite an unhappy and poor number of years, as post-war recovery efforts challenge his parents and everyone around him. Worried that his son seems devoid of ambition, his father enrolls him in the RAF's early program in an effort to give Charles direction; and it is there that he truly comes of age, and where Rising Sun Memories emerges from the foundation of wartime chaos to gain a vivid momentum.

The story's focus on the juxtaposition of two very different World War II personalities and their experiences makes it a pleasure to read. As Charles listens to Goh's experiences, battlefield clashes come to life in a way he never experienced during his childhood. Readers learn of how a war holds many different perspectives even as they absorb elements of this particular battle and one soldier's observations: "To make the pursuit of the Japs more difficult, Colonel Hok had wisely decided to take a Malay tracker with them on the operation in case any diversions were required. This strange little man wearing just a loincloth seemed to know every inch of the forest for many miles in all directions." (Colonel Hok is the commanding officer of the Malayan People Anti-Japanese army unit MPAJA, of which Goh Kim is a member.)

The result is a powerful, evocative perspective of cultural, religious and military clashes that test the psyche of soldier Goh in a manner that draws Charles into events of the past and their far-ranging consequences for the present.

How soldiers experience love and talk about peace and the future under such circumstances, and how Goh forges a life and vision for himself outside of military circles, makes for an absorbing, revealing story that follows battles, revenge, loss, and struggles in an occupied country that changes Goh's world.

Anyone interested in stories of World War II will find this fictional saga engrossing and filled with action. It begins slowly and takes time to build its story and characters, which may irritate readers who look for a faster pace, but the speed appears after these foundations have been well laid, and the story line is stronger and much more satisfying, as a result.

No World War II collection should be without this engrossing story of how terrible times are endured.

Travel with Kids
Edward Cox
Nomadic Dragon Books
9780997132625, $14.99,

Travel with Kids isn't just about packing up the kids for a short journey, but focuses on international travel and various age groups, and is recommended for parents who plan on going overseas with the entire family.

Where other books about activities with children come from parents who achieved success, Edward Cox traveled through and lived in Europe as a child, so part of his insight comes from his own background and how his parents introduced him to a passion for travel and other cultures, which continues to this day.

Where conventional wisdom would say that once the children begin to arrive, travel is over, Cox maintains that with a few adjustments, travel can be part of a family's experiences no matter how young the children are. And so he and his wife took their first overseas trip with their child when he was less than one year old, celebrating his first birthday in Japan and navigating the country's subways with a stroller. Ten years later, the family is still traveling.

Travel with Kids is all about the nuts and bolts of adapting travel plans to a child's physical and mental requirements. Chapters replete with travel photos throughout discuss budgeting time, money and energy during the trip, show how to consider different types of destinations based on family needs, and discusses kid-friendly accommodations, modifying travel plans to incorporate family activities and handling the effects of culture shock on a child, surveying the pros and cons of traveling with kids from infants to teens.

This family focus offers insights on how to adapt to different overseas locales and their impact on different age groups. The recommendations are quite specific, as with the ones for teens:

* Anticipate potential friction points before leaving home

* Set clear expectations for activities that the family will do together

* Work with your teenager to plan separate activities she can do alone or with a group

* Create ground rules for screen time

* Give teens responsibility for their own passports, luggage, etc."

Those who relish travel and who want to assure that travel and educational opportunities continue for the entire family will appreciate the overseas focus of Travel with Kids, which offers far more depth and detail and a refreshing alternative to most travel books that consider domestic adventures alone.

Any parent who envisions seeing the world with a child of any age must have this primer for success.

Incision Decisions
Kaye Newton
Linland Press
9780692832547, eBook price:, $7.99, Paperback price:, $13.55,

Incision Decisions: A Guide to Getting Through Surgery, Recovery, and Your Hospital Stay is all about making good decisions, from the introduction of the idea of any kind of operation and questions it brings to finding a good hospital or surgeon, coping with post-surgical restrictions while keeping home and family together, and how to understand and pay for medical bills.

Kaye Newton had three active kids, a part-time job, a pet, and a busy schedule when she faced major surgery. Expecting to be largely out of commission for six weeks, she scrambled to put together a game plan that would include tapping generous offers of help and arranging them into a workable schedule, identifying areas where she needed further assistance, and working to understand hospital processes and procedures.

When other medical emergencies hit over the months, she was able to apply this game plan to simplify many aspects of the process, and she presents these organizational tips in Incision Decisions with the idea that readers will want to be actively engaged in managing their hospitalization and recovery.

This requirement translates to an interest in being organized, proactive, and inquiring; and it requires of its reader both an attention to detail and an interest in taking charge of many processes rather than leaving them to others.

Chapters cover everything from how to research about and locate the best surgeon to considering traveling to get that superior surgeon, using caregiving websites to help organize transportation, food, and other needs, and handling kids' worries and needs.

From Newton's personal experience with anesthesia and her review of various options to setting up a house for crutches and testing them before they are needed, there are a wealth of practical tips and admonishments that any new to surgery will either learn the hard way or through the precise, user-friendly coverage of this book.

Who wants to learn from the school of hard knocks when Incision Decisions: A Guide to Getting Through Surgery, Recovery, and Your Hospital Stay contributes to making surgery a more understandable, easier process? This book should be given to every patient by surgeons and nurses who care about more than just a procedure's outcome.

Cooperative Games for a Cooperative World
Dada Maheshvarananda
Inner World Publications
9781881717584, $19.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle,

Cooperative Games for a Cooperative World: Facilitating Trust, Communication, and Spiritual Connection belongs in the collection of any educator or leader working with youth because it offers an approach quite different than that of competition-oriented team-building: instead, it advocates activities based on cooperative processes.

Play is key to human mental health and happiness; but its current incarnations emphasize competition, winners, and losers. Cooperative play keeps the healthy concepts and adds healthier values to the mix with opportunities for learning tools that can build better cooperative habits for future business and interpersonal applications.

Chapters discuss various ways of changing games and survey special challenges, such as how group size influences opportunities for sharing and friendship, how to build a better understanding of how money and economic concerns affect preferences in entertainment and participatory choices, and how to use yogic routines, such as deep breathing, to understand the basics of changing breathing to influence thinking.

Facilitation tips for each exercise encourage leaders to participate, as well, and offer important guidelines for understanding how to best guide cooperative games so that participants learn the most from them.

From the initial overview of each game's concept and themes to its organization, templates, instructions, and keys to adding relaxation techniques and discussions that cement the learning experience, this collection leaves nothing to wonder about. It is a 'must' for leaders working with youth, who would change the competition-oriented structure of team-building to a cooperative effort that incorporates a better understanding of physical and mental techniques to build better participation.

The Magical Cloud
Cesar Sanchez
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781365563638, $14.99, Amazon ASIN: B06XZVKSZD



Twenty-six adventures and some four hundred pages of detail sound like a lot for a format that reads like a simple picture book for kids; but The Magical Cloud has not one but a series of messages to impart, and each story contributes a small piece to a bigger picture.

The premise is simple: a magical cloud travels around the world, allows some people to live in it, and is driven by Clop, a friendly creature who primarily likes to eat and play.

Star and her sister Crystal live there and play with other beings such as Light, an artist who takes care of the cloud and keeps it looking bright, and Sparks - both girls who love to dance and involve their friends in adventures.

There are also boys who are Thunders (they are tasked with creating new games for the group, keeping everyone entertained) and Comets (boys and girls who, like the reader, enjoy playing, but also sometimes learn).

All these beings look like well-dressed children, and their presence might lead one to believe the cloud would feel a bit crowded at times - but there are no limits to imagination, and the cloud accommodates everyone.

Crystal and Star share their dream of meeting children from other countries so they can play and interact, but they have to reach out to children on Earth, first.

At first this book seems like a simple set of stories; but adults who chose it for bedtime reading will quickly find that each tale holds a message and potential for much discussion, pairing dreams with problem-solving abilities and special challenges for kids to think about.

The best use of this book will be as a series of read-aloud, interactive opportunities for parents and kids. As parents read through the magical adventures and encounters, they can also comment on its underlying messages about team spirit, play, goals and differences between kids, and sharing and hope.

The processes of achieving all these positive experiences, presented against a backdrop of magical exploration, imparts an emotionally uplifting feel that parents will want to investigate with their kids, even though the book and its language is intended for not just read-aloud, but self-guided pursuit by youngsters through grades 3-4.

Uplifting and fun, The Magical Cloud is not one story or adventure but a series of interconnected experiences recommended for parents seeking a blend of fantasy and events that support imagination and cooperative behaviors, all supported by large-sized, colorful drawings throughout.

On the Edge of Death
Ciara Ballintyne
Evolved Publishing
9781622530335, $17.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle,
iBooks -

Book Two of 'The Sundered Oath' series involves Ellaeva, avatar of the Death Goddess, in a dual quest to find her lost family and solve a murder at the same time; so readers of On the Edge of Death can anticipate this story to involve both a murder investigation and a personal quest, set against the backdrop of social struggles.

The story opens with a caution and a bang as Ellaeva perceives the inherent conflict of interest between two opposing roles in her life: "A Battle Priestess of the death goddess isn't supposed to have friends, family or lovers, and Ellaeva was learning first-hand why not."

Friends and family are all threatened by Ellaeva's position - but they aren't relationships she's supposed to cultivate. Despite the power of her position, she's really in no place to ask for other favors to stay the deaths of those she has chosen to love.

If giving up the sword to follow through on her investigation is a requirement, so be it. Readers will find themselves relating with Ellaeva as she makes the kinds of decisions that question her chosen paths in life and their impact on everyone around, and will discover that the action is as much based on psychological connections and influences as upon battles and murder investigations.

As she faces capture, torture, death, and politics, she relentlessly probes the very facets of society that have hidden purposes from her and which have created some of the illusions which shape her world.

Fans of powerful fantasy female protagonists will relish Ellaeva, who responds with sassy confrontation to challenging situations: ""Does my mouse want to come out to play?" "That depends. Do you want to dance with me?" Ellaeva quick-stepped to the door, hoping to catch the Voice by surprise or get close enough to frighten her, but the other woman stood a good three feet away, her arms folded over her chest."

The cat-and-mouse game operates on many levels, so fantasy readers should anticipate a level of complexity that runs the gamut from social and political observation to psychological self-inspection and physical clashes.

In some ways the story offers elements of a sword-and-sorcery production, replete with battles and the feints and recoveries of swordplay. In other ways, it's at once a murder mystery and a psychological self-inspection where a priestess devoted to truth and justice faces an evil force in the world that hides under the cloak of politics and family. The story's ability to weave a tone that doesn't neatly fit into many of the predictable devices of fantasy genre writing imparts a sense of surprise to events which make twists and turns throughout as Ellaeva's seemingly-singular quest unravels the strands that connect her world.

While the setting and characters created in the first book, In the Company of the Dead, will lend background depth to this sequel, it's not a requirement that the first be consulted in order for new readers to immediately immerse themselves in Ellaeva's world. Returning fans will find many engrossing expansions of themes hinted at in the opening story, while newcomers will quickly be immersed in Ellaeva's purposes and challenges and the actions surrounding her choices.

Both will find this a powerful epic fantasy production worthy of reading, re-reading, and recommendation.

Dying Light
Donald Griswold
Maitri River Publications
9780692869116, $2.99

The best stories start out with a compelling 'bang' of originality - that said, it's important to note that this impact is not often seen in the usual novel. But Dying Light holds this immediacy and promise in its first few paragraphs, which offer a refreshingly original language and focus that makes it hard to put down from the very start: "We've all got a story we're just dying to tell. A searing truth. An itchy secret. A deep, unresolved hurt. Sometimes we only need a nameless stranger in a quiet place, at an opportune time, for our chance to unburden ...So on my flight, I let the blonde woman next to me talk while she drank Smirnoff, turned away from a disintegrating marriage, and questioned everything. That was Julia in 2C."

The plot thickens, however, because this isn't a singular story, but a series of interwoven tales that offer complexity and a sense of futuristic intrigue that is not easily categorized or absorbed.

Documentary filmmaker Benjamin Beal leads a life marked by broken relationships, dreams, and objectives, flitting like a butterfly from one possibility to another, but never landing anywhere for very long.

His latest fling is but another casual notch on a peg that is only emotionally driven by his documentaries; the latest being The Crowdsource 7, about crowdsourcing living organ donors.

What elements and circumstances could turn an emotionally bankrupt professional into a spiritual being? How does death bring with it the possibility of transformation? And how does Benjamin navigate a suddenly much-changed world to find new inspiration and meaning?

Texas culture and personas blend with specifics on documentary filming and angles and Benjamin's choices and changes, melding together a seemingly-disparate set of observations from a filmmaker who finds himself drawn into his latest production in a way he couldn't have anticipated.

The same is true for the reader: Dying Light opens with a bang, changes its premises several times, then settles down for a powerful, evocative read filled with different angles on Benjamin's processes. At times, the reader feels like a movie viewer, following the moments when the observer becomes part of his own story line as Benjamin moves from a recorder of events to a participant in them.

"Everyone has a story with plot twists," the protagonist maintains. Dying Light mimics life's nuances by throwing in quite a few changes in pace, action, and intention, keeping readers on their toes throughout a vivid, immediate story that shifts its perspective as often as its characters change course in their lives.

Readers seeking a memorable story filled with poetic phrases, thought-provoking moments, and a non-linear plot that challenges one to think will find Dying Light the perfect ticket for an absorbing, winning, reflective read.

An appropriate summary of the entire plot is reflected in one of Dying Light's most powerful statements: "Lisa told me that people lost their way in Austin all the time. I challenged her on that observation just for fun. After all, what did I know? "Maybe they don't lose themselves," I offered for consideration. "Maybe these people just find who they really are. Maybe it only looks like they're lost."

Bubble Wrap Girl
Kari van Wakeren
Beaver's Pond Press, Inc.
7108 Ohms Lane, Edina, MN 55439
9781592987993, $17.95, HC,

Izzy loves being active and playing games: there's only one problem. Activity often translates to pain as she trips, falls off her bike, bangs body parts, and slips. Like any normal child, she doesn't like getting hurt - and so her parents decide on a radical solution.

At first Izzy loves her changed circumstances. She can encounter the outside world without fear and she can play as hard as she wants without getting hurt. However, safety comes with a price, and Izzy eventually must decide if that price is worth paying.

Bubble Wrap Girl is a fun picture book with a message about choices, costs, and the price of engagement and non-engagement. It features colorful drawings by CA Nobins, who brings Izzy's dilemmas to life, and it holds simple one- to three-sentence descriptions that lend to either parental read-aloud or early reader pursuit. Most of all, it provides a dilemma and reviews the merits of a solution that holds the power to change how Izzy chooses to interact with her world.

Engaging, different, and fun, Bubble Wrap Girl packages its uncommon message with an unexpected twist that kids and their parents will relish.

The Redemption of Charlie McCoy
CD Wilsher
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B01N2TKO5O, $2.99 Kindle,

In The Redemption of Charlie McCoy, Charlie is pinpointed in the burglary of a mob boss's home - but he's not going to accept this guilt and let his partner in crime escape scott free, and so he turns the tables and escapes with incriminating evidence that sets both the mob and the cops on his trail.

What follows is a cat-and-mouse game between two powerful forces as Charlie literally holds the bag on key information that both desperately want. This is the worst time to become embroiled in a family complication, but when his ex saddles him with a stubborn, rebellious teenage daughter, it's the icing on his cake of complexity.

Now Charlie has yet another thing to worry about - something that is at once precious and obstinately dangerous. Amy becomes his complete responsibility when the mob finds and murders his ex - and proves a greater problem than anything he's confronted in his life.

As events unwind in The Redemption of Charlie McCoy, scenes move from mobs and madness to a semblance of family connections as Charlie not only attempts to live up to his responsibilities, but finds some iota of normalcy in a life turned upside down as he builds a new relationship with his estranged daughter. Readers will find the personal saga of Charlie's past and present as attractive as the portrait of his conflicted life.

A laundromat's dirty laundry, a daughter who asks way too many questions for comfort, a bright young cop who falls into the pockets of the mob, and Charlie's passion for not going back to prison all coalesce into a vivid story that churns with special interests, intrigue, and complicated personal relationships affected by frame-ups, damning computer evidence, and a race against time.

The pace may be fast, but the story doesn't sacrifice personal interactions and growth for the sake of action. The revelations about cops, mob bosses, and Charlie and his daughter are interwoven deftly into the larger story and become compelling subplots in their own right. As readers grapple with a convicted felon's attempts to right wrongs and forge some kind of alternative life, they are drawn into a story that blends intrigue and detective investigations with a criminal's newfound purpose in life.

The result is a moving account of changing family and social relationships that skirts the fine line of criminal behavior and draws readers into a story that holds no easy solutions. Fans of detective stories, tales about mob encounters, and action-packed sagas filled with shootings and conflicting special interests will find The Redemption of Charlie McCoy an engrossing story of a manhunt gone awry on more than one level.

Too Much MacTiggle
Antionette Melendez
Balmore House Publishing
9780996952514, $8.95,

Nobody will buy the troublesome puppy with short, stubby legs and a propensity for trouble: that's what pet shop owner Mr. Teeply thinks as he tries to care for a feisty Scottish terrier puppy who needs a loving owner.

But Mr. Teeply has named him 'Too Too Much' because he doubts that anyone will adopt and love him. What can Mr. Teeply do but offer up his troublesome charge for free, to a good home?

In another house, an elderly man who is becoming forgetful and his loving wife espy an unusual ad for a free puppy, and decide to act. But will the feisty little puppy with a taste for trouble be too much for the old couple?

This chapter book holds many simple, delightful moments that young readers will appreciate: the heart-warming story of a puppy who wants to be loved, an account of how the right home opens up, and a story of adjustments on all sides.

The adventures of Too Too Much as he explores his new home are fun and simple. One never quite knows what trouble Too Too Much will get into, or what its ultimate result will be. Will he cause too many problems for his new owners?

A lovely story of a dog's adjustment to his new home and his family's challenges in handling his impulses creates an engrossing tale that young chapter book readers will relish as they learn how a troublesome personality finds a place in the world.

It is presumed the picture book will be illustrated; but illustrations were not seen by this reviewer.

The Cosmic Machine
Scott Bembenek
Zoari Press
9780997934106, $11.99,

The appearance of The Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It could not be more timely amid the furor in the U.S. about science's process, meaning, and whether or not its research and results should be public information. Readers who seek an overview of basic scientific principles and their impact on everyday life will find The Cosmic Machine a synthesis of various disciplines and their scientific premises which offers an easy way of absorbing these basics.

The story begins with the earliest scientific inquirers and documents the rich history of science's foundation discoveries through the eyes of an author who is himself a scientist, and who seeks a clear understanding of the process untainted by high drama and embellishment.

Injecting the 'popular' back into science is no light task and involves a balance between keeping the science accessible to lay readers, making it interesting enough to engage non-scientists, and being certain it's accurate enough to be authoritative. Of all these tasks, the 'lively' portion is the biggest challenge, and where competing books often fall short. The Cosmic Machine succeeds on all accounts.

Chapters eschew the drier textbook format in favor of a 'science story' approach that takes four keys topics central to physics and chemistry and uses chapters divisions to take these broad topics down to the newcomer's level. Yes, there are supporting equations; but they can easily be skipped. Yes, there's solid science - but it's presented in such a way that lay readers will find it not just accessible, but interesting: "Historically it's very difficult, perhaps impossible, to clearly tell when alchemy ended and chemistry began. In fact, these words were pretty much interchangeable until around the end of the seventeenth century."

The presence of numerous supportive footnotes would seem to detract somewhat from this feel of an easy-access historical overview, but those who turn to The Cosmic Machine for its scientific enlightenment will find these a plus, supporting contentions with added notes and insights in stark contrast to the kinds of footnotes that merely cite bibliographic material: "It would be hard to imagine that alchemy didn't shape some of Newton's ideas, perhaps even some of the "more respectable" ones we know him for. Indeed, it seems that his studies in alchemy led him to appreciate something very fundamentally and ultimately important about atoms: they are affected by both the forces of attraction and repulsion; they "push" and "pull" at each other in varying degrees. There has even been speculation that his knowledge of the attractive nature of atoms led him to his law of gravity. We'll never know this for sure."

As Scott Bembenek peppers the biographies of major scientists into his history of discoveries and their impact on human history and affairs, readers gain special knowledge of the underlying influences on particular courses of investigation.

The result is a science history that straddles the line between a casual read and a scientific survey: one which adeptly juxtaposes science facts and human lives in a survey of scientific concepts and how they evolved. Neo-scientists and lay readers will find the approach creates the perfect blend of hard science and social discussion of its meaning in human affairs.

Undeterred: KKK Target, KKK Witness
Tracey Brame
NB Bookshelf
9780692822753, $17.99,

In a different year, Undeterred: KKK Target, KKK Witness might have seemed a relatively singular, limited history of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan's reactions to a diversifying America; but given the events of the last election, there is renewed interest in the KKK; and thus no better time for Undeterred to hit the market with its history and revelations. The KKK have been labeled 'America's forgotten terrorists' by some, so a history of one segment of this group's wider operations is key to understanding how they function and is certainly a special undertaking; especially as Tracey Brame's focus is on the messages they impart, which permeated her own Midwestern life and roots.

This personal approach adds an extra dimension to the social and political account as chapters are introduced with a powerful prologue that says why all Americans should be interested in this topic ("...what President Trump says and does on the issue of diversity in the coming months and years will write a history of exclusion or inclusion. Awaken yourself. A nation asleep is a nation in danger.") and how a liberal Indiana college town fell under the spell of the 'grand dragon' and his divisive messages: "Even if many did not agree with this behavior, the majority stayed silent, tacitly giving approval of the Klan's depredating treatment of others."

If readers anticipate a staid history from this introduction, they might be disappointed. Brame chooses the form of autobiography to document the Klan's involvement in her life, so Undeterred might at first feel like the story of a woman's traumatic experience and recovery; not a history of the KKK. Readers who appreciate the fact that this is a focus on how beliefs, heritage, family relationships and social forces entwine in such a way that KKK-style ideas can enter everyday life will find it rich in discovery and process, and will find this approach far more enlightening than a dispassionate historical overview could have achieved.

A big part of the story discusses PTSD and its lasting impact on life choices and perspectives. A concurrent focus on Brame's social and political evolution clarifies the beliefs and approaches of conservative systems and others she comes into contact with: "We are a conservative state. No one wants you helping people. We believe that people should help themselves within their own group. We help our own people. We don't want to help everyone else."

Liberal readers who might chafe at some of the KKK's contentions and perspectives but who remain distant from their influence would do well to take a close look at this autobiography, which is replete with passages such as the one above, which clarify and illustrate different ways of thinking about social systems and political involvement.

These personal connections and insights drive the information gleaned from first person experiences and provide many surprising revelations: "Once you leave "KKK territory," as they label it, they have to keep in touch with you. The Klan has to make sure that you won't reveal what they did to you, so they have an insurance person threaten you. Pictures and videos did not convince them that I would not eventually get better and write a book, revealing them and their tactics. Specifically, Dr. Tohm Hrisamolaz was not satisfied that he had sufficiently threat-ened me. I was in shock when he and his people were threatening me, and there was no guarantee that coming out of shock would make me compliant with KKK wishes. Unsure that it has successfully deterred you, the KKK continues to touch your life. These "revisits" help them gain new information and ideas to determine their next steps. The KKK is no longer a group of old men riding around on horses looking for something or someone to burn. They are bigoted people with cell phones, Internet access, and other technology, who stay con-nected and rally with each other in person or online."

Readers of any political persuasion who want to know more about the ideals, politics, perspectives, history and methodology of the KKK should look no further than this eye-opening story to get the "inside scoop" on what's happening with the Klan's movement and how it's affecting American lives and politics.

Very highly recommended as a 'must' read for every American, no matter what their political inclination.

From the Difficulty
Mr. M
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781524571719, $29.99 HC,
9781524571733, $3.99 Kindle,

The protagonist of this story, 'From the Difficulty' (FD), tells of a life where he was born to an elite father and a semi-illiterate mother; driven, at an early age, to help his family earn money by working the farm and selling things.

He lives an unnamed, politically unstable country replete with civil war, a dictatorial government, and freedom fighters. As FD's home becomes a center for mobilization and struggle, one of the many lessons he learns from his youth is what side he's on - and what happens to those who harbor rebels.

As the difference between the country's war zones and those areas insulated from much of the conflict are adeptly described in the course of FD's movements with his family ("This area was so peaceful that most people never even believed that there was a serious war going on in the country and people were dying every day."), so readers are introduced to the coming of age of a boy introduced to war and struggle - and strong family ties - at an early age, who grows up to become a leader.

But which world will he reside in? "...a place perceived by many as a land which flows with milk and honey", or a land in which he would "sometimes wonder about what happened to the value of education and where was the American dream hiding." Such is New York City in America, and such is the life of a spirited immigrant who has high hopes for the future despite a background that leads him to wonder about the source of the freedoms he's heard so much about.

One of the strengths in From the Difficulty lies in its ability to trace the route of a young man who questions struggles, class separation, economic despair and hope, and the foundations of freedom. Through FD's eyes and varied experiences, readers receive social, political and economic connections which at time read like fiction and other times like nonfiction: "You find people like Warren Buffet. He wakes up every morning to go to work, and then you find us at the bottom of the pyramid who go to work in order to put food on the table and also pay rent..."

This fluctuating voice of experience may stymie those who anticipate a singular course of thought or a purely fictional approach to issues of poverty and change, but will delight others who want their social observation couched in a fictional protagonist's journey through life. At time the focus shifts from FD's experience to the narrator's observations and opinions ("'One can ask, what happened?' I don't have the answers." With FD as "a member of the club of financial difficulties") but there continues to be no easy solutions despite his ambitions and his achievements.

The piece holds value as an intriguing story of God's blessings, choices in spending time, money, and social and political effort, and key philosophical and moral questions ("You keep wondering who is benefitting from your existence.") that create a thought-provoking story for anyone interested in social issues and dreams of being well-paid.

A Life Worthwhile
K.C. Swanson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781524571719, $29.99 HC
9781542985680, $19.99 PB
B01NBTPHZ4, $3.99 Kindle,

23-year-old "new adult" Wisconsin bachelor Gage has finally found his purpose in life as a financial planner, which brings him newfound feelings of success and security. But is a safe job enough for a meaningful life? Gage is not as successful in his relationships, and heartbreak has resulted from them and stymied his feelings of overall self-worth and success.

A Life Worthwhile holds several time shifts as Gage moves from his present to past events. A smoother transition between past and future might have made it easier to follow these changes, but readers who move from the 23-year-old's present life to his past relationship with Sherri at the age of 21 will only briefly feel hindered by the shift as they absorb the roots of his failed relationship, his scrappy responses to life, and an attitude that is at once brash and heartbreaking, leading him on a downward spiral.

His brother Roy has been down the same road of questioning what makes life worth living, but therapy has guided him back to a positive approach. Can Gage's life pose the same opportunities with a little help and a revised attitude on life?

As A Life Worthwhile traverses family relationships, ups and downs, and Gage's search for a sense of place, it deftly describes the influences that keep him on track as well as those which lead him astray. The process of a new adult finding his life's purpose and path is nicely described: "Many college students did not declare a major until their junior year, they first concentrated on liberal studies that were required by any curriculum and then based their decision on the classes enjoyed the most. Gage contemplated his options over the next week, doing so most intently while fishing after work. For a reason unknown to him, he did very poorly on the streams every night which made him realize that life would go on if he had to leave the Upper Peninsula."

Too few new adult novels take the time to trace the series of encounters, pressures, and changes that lead a young adult to take his first steps into the world and make choices to shape his psyche and life's purpose. K.C. Swanson's novel closely follows Gage's footsteps and decisions, from his sexual relationship with Josie after a miscommunication nearly kills their attraction to the grief that gives him new purpose at an untimely death.

Life is filled with challenges and choices. A Life Worthwhile provides a fine review of these influences and is a powerful novel highly recommended for new adults who want a wider-reaching coming of age story surrounding the post-teen years than most can offer.

Moriarty Takes His Medicine
Anna Castle
Anna Castle, Publisher
9781945382062, $14.99 paper
ASIN: B01MY7B3SO, $4.99 ebook

Mystery and humor are not often bedfellows in the intrigue genre, but in Moriarty Takes His Medicine, they are not only strange companions, but they successfully work hand-in-hand to create an inviting, fun read that alternately has readers laughing and scratching their heads.

Picture a focus not just on Sherlock Holmes' investigations, but the character of Professor Moriarty: one which keeps the action vivid, but considers it from a different angle, and which doesn't ban Mrs. Moriarty from the headlines, either.

In this latest adventure, the Professor and his Mrs. face their new marriage, life together, and a host of secrets keeping them at arm's length - including a case too challenging for even the great Sherlock Holmes. Given the nature of all these circumstances, how can the newly-formed dynamic duo solve their case and address their maintain newfound marital blend of bliss and discord at the same time?

As events unfold, Holmes finds himself requiring the assistance of Angelina Moriarty to solve a case where a woman can go where men cannot, and as she places herself in danger to get at the heart of a murdering physician's routines, Moriarty, Holmes and Watson must work together on their greatest case yet.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes will welcome the different perspectives provided throughout Moriarty Takes His Medicine, which illustrate not just the investigation but the motives and approaches of all involved: "Every word, even the complaints, tells me how much you love your husband. Otherwise, you'd talk about something else. Let's try to remember why you married him in the first place." More sensible advice. Would he bother if he meant to murder her in a few weeks? But she played along. She remembered perfectly why she'd married James Moriarty. He'd saved her life and as they went on from there, she'd fallen in love with him."

A captured wife, a clever and devious doctor, and women in disguise ... all the trappings of a Holmes case are embellished and enhanced throughout, contributing to a mystery whose tension is well-drawn and whose plot is satisfyingly unpredictable and complex.

Especially recommended for fans of Sherlock Holmes, this addition to a growing series continues to add nuances and details that grow characters and present plots that are engaging, fun, and complex.

The Happy Chip
Dennis Meredith
9781939118226, $16.95,

It sounds like the typical recreational drug experience carried to extreme: extreme ecstasy, followed by death. Only this isn't the result of a drug, but a nanochip injected into the bodies of willing hosts who receive the benefits of its monitoring and a happy life. And death wasn't supposed to be the ultimate outcome of its happiness rush.

After setting this foundation, The Happy Chip's hard sci-fi plot takes off, traversing a near-future world in which a corporation selling joy enters the darker world of marketing death. The latter is a secret that biographer/writer Brad stumbles upon in the course of documenting the life of the company's founder, placing him in the position of investigating not just one man's background or a company's revolutionary evolution, but its darker side - especially when he discovers that a deeper truth exists that involves who controls such chips and who has seen their potential for use as a force for world domination.

As Brad moves deeper into dangerous discoveries, forming some unlikely alliances in the process, he discovers that his life and those of his family are threatened. While this fact may be predictable, what isn't always a given is the course of events that course through a thriller that excels in high-octane twists and turns.

Hard sci-fi typically foregoes this tension in favor of scientific and fantasy focuses, but The Happy Chip is particularly notable for its juxtaposition of all these qualities, which will delight sci-fi audiences and thriller readers alike, drawing its audience from both genres.

Another satisfying note is that Dennis Meredith is careful to explain how a writer falls into the role of an investigator and how he handles the process so deftly: "This was a chess game between two experienced bullshitters, he decided. He had his chessmen; Lundgren had his. Brad spent the next hour plotting out as many strategies as he could think of to figure out what to do next. They ranged from doing nothing, to abandoning the project, to doing what his training at BU taught him - investigate."

As manipulation and betrayal, hormone-induced control and high-flying emotions, and control algorithms that permeate portable smartphones and devices begin to change the world, only one man may guard the gateway between humanity and its next incarnation.

The Happy Chip's special blend of terrorism and high-tech threat is believable, engrossing, and hard to predict: the perfect thriller for readers seeking a solid blend of science and danger in their adventure stories, and very highly recommended for its ultimate consideration of madness, sanity, and what happens when knowledge turns into an opportunity for unlimited power.

The Reluctant Trophy Wife
Judith Petres Balogh
Independently Published
9781520576602, $14.95,

The Reluctant Trophy Wife tells of Clyde, a controlling and calm personality, and his younger, romantic, amiable and possibly malleable wife Lena. Events take a dark turn when a crime occurs and Clyde worries about his reputation being tarnished to the point that he decides to send Lena away to ensure the media don't interview her and reveal damaging facts that could taint his image.

The trouble is: Lena's sojourn to Europe evolves into a journey of awakening as she meets new people who encourage her towards independence, something she's never felt in her life before.

Can one really go home again? And can Clyde accept a changed wife who outwardly is the same but psychologically is much different? The contrasts between outward image and inner psyche are enticingly portrayed from the start as an opening scene juxtaposes the two before a party takes place: "To the mistress of the house elegance was synonymous with simplicity, and her table, set for ten, was indeed a case in point. It was the kind that does not come cheaply. The centerpiece of white roses was in quiet harmony with the pristine white of the china, the noble silverware and the glittering crystals. She stepped back for a moment in the semi-dark room and scrutinized the total effect. It satisfied her. The tapered white candles in the silver holder above eye level were already lit, and the flames in the fireplace shimmered with warm glow, giving the necessary subdued enchantment to the carefully built scene. The strapless black evening gown draped artfully around her slender figure was a showy contrast to the general white and silver glimmer. The effect was not calculated but in spite of its innocence, or perhaps because of it, quite dramatic."

Lena enjoys things 'without distractions', but this quest for simplicity and ease changes heavily through the course of her story and even though she is college-educated, she's somehow missed the aesthetics of inner awakening.

The distance allows her to reflect on her life ("...she felt as she did in her dreams: far from everybody, alone and lost, pointlessly floating on unchartered waters and with each passing day, just like in the dreams, the waves drove her ever farther from her goal .Clyde would be working or reading about issues that were bound to come up for discussion or perhaps he would be conducting telephone calls. She could read, or listen to music. She could make up menus for upcoming dinners, or plan her social calendar, or call somebody. None of these occupations had a bit of romance, or the fragrance of tea just infused, let alone expectations of nuptial bliss.") It also affords a safe place where she can experiment with and make changes, and as she reconsiders her life, Lena comes to many revelations that first need to be absorbed, then ultimately brought back home.

Under another hand, it would have been all too tempting to keep this conversion light. Lena could have moved from a shallow personality to a tepid one, her romance and marriage could have taken center stage over her personal development, or her marriage could have been set aside.

But Judith Petres Balogh chooses no easy paths for her protagonist or her story, and so readers used to the more casual evolution of the romance genre will instead find far more depth and psychological insight in this story of a wife who seems to have everything, but needs more.

From the evolution of her writing abilities to newfound friendships and their impact, Lena discovers happiness in making the most of her abilities, the pleasure of a slower-paced village lifestyle in Hungary, and the comfort of her own company which places her at odds with her previously-accepted role as a trophy wife: "She discovered the pleasure of being her own company, and knew that she was gradually developing a streak in her character, which was at odds with her role as the trophy wife."

Now, what will she do about Clyde, whose persona and habits had made her his perfect choice? This point of unhappiness in the midst of her brand new strength will prove the catalyst of even more change - this one involving two people - in a story which is grippingly revealing and hard to put down. Lena's educated, literary perspective on life is one of the story's many powerful points, which identifies how such a woman can fall under a spell, and what happens when she awakens to her place in the world.

While romance readers will likely pick up the story for its reference to wives and relationships, to deem The Reluctant Trophy Wife a romance is not quite correct. Readers of women's literature and fiction will find it holds far more depth and is more a story of a woman's coming of age (as an adult), the changes it introduces to her as an individual and her marriage, and how two people grapple with friendship and love when an unplanned exile becomes a focal point for positive change.

Burn Country
Michael J. McCann
The Plaid Raccoon Press
9781927884102, $5.99 ebook
9781927884096, $24.99 print

Detective Inspector Ellie March has her hands full when a series of rural arson fires results in the death of a senator and social activist, but there's more going on in the Canadian-based novel Burn Country than a simple firebug, as Ellie soon discovers.

What begins as an arson investigation and then evolves into a homicide takes even more deadly turns as Ellie finds her case holds national security implications and a political conflict she never imagined nor wanted.

Burn Country's attention to detail and satisfyingly unexpected twists of plot are done well, incorporating references to the neuroscience of magic and studies on misdirection and perception, a daughter's dream of riding in the Olympics (which boxes a doting grandfather into a financial corner), and a professor of art history's encounter with a poor, cantankerous artist.

What do these scenarios have to do with arson? They ultimately contribute to a bigger picture that just keeps on expanding and opening as circumstances evolve.

It should be noted that Burn Country is the second book in the March and Walker Crime Novel series and the sequel to Sorrow Lake, which was nominated for the 2015 Hammett Prize. Police investigations are intricately detailed, but there is no sacrifice of strong characterization during the process, and a satisfyingly diverse cast of special interests keep readers guessing and involved.

As detective stories go, Burn Country leans towards a far more complex read than most, as it delves into a range of social, political and psychological issues and develops different characters. Readers who enjoy complex mysteries with winding plots and involving scenes - especially those featuring a diversity of special interests and their perspectives - will find this story as exceptional and powerful as Sorrow Lake, while newcomers will be delighted to discover that no prior familiarity with its predecessor is needed in order to appreciate the plot and characters of Burn Country.

The Sisters: A Mystery of Good and Evil, Horror and Suspense
Don Sloan
ASIN: B00JIV3FMW, $7.99,

Fourteen three-story Victorian houses have stood on the beach of Cape May for over a hundred years. Sordid events have taken place within their walls and somehow still seem alive, whispered between the ghostly houses in modern times.

Nathan and Sarah are a young couple who inadvertently stumble into these interconnected houses of horror overseen by the silent and malevolent Sisters. Try owning one of these houses as a legacy of evil is passed down between generations. Try living in one. Nathan and Sarah face a great challenge that has no easy resolution. And the houses have their own persona and plots: a detail that initially lends some degree of confusion to the story because perspectives shift from human to structure's perspective, and it's simply unexpected.

Once readers absorb the true nature of the Sisters and the forces at work in the houses, all hell breaks loose. Literally. What may initially be perceived as a slow beginning by readers who look for high-octane tension from the start turns delightfully creepy as chapters reveal the intent and terror of the Sisters and fourteen interconnected house histories.

Dreams and nightmares have a way of coming to life and mingling with reality in such a scenario, and as house memories (in italics) blend with reality's events, readers are treated to a slowly-evolving horror that toes the line between actual circumstance and supernatural observation and memory.

As Sarah and Nathan review the ghost stories surrounding the old houses and make their own determinations as to what is really going on, readers become steeped in a growing sense of horror about the future and, like the boiling frog, soon find themselves immersed in the story's unpredictably dangerous circumstances and evolution.

As dream states transport them out of time and space and reveal truths, Sarah and Nathan face more than whispering voices as they confront a force that delights on feeding on fresh blood.

These are not ordinary houses, and the crime scenes are not ordinary crime scenes. Don Sloan excels in taking commonplace scenes, people, and situations and turning them on end to make them come alive in unexpected ways. Another strength of this horror story lies in its focus on different personalities; both human in the present and supernatural, from the past. The juxtaposition of these thoughts, intentions, and motivations is beautifully done.

Readers seeking action thrillers may find parts of this story build too slowly for their taste; but that's the proof of a quality pudding: its ability to create a more powerful foundation by careful detail than quick heart-pounding action from the start. The latter becomes evident in abundance, however, as the story line builds on its roots - and that's what makes The Sisters a superior read, especially recommended for fans of horror and ghost stories.

Never Mind the Rules: The Alternative Dating Guide for Girls Who Wanna Rock!
Susan Hyatt and Lina Lecaro
Generation X Media
9781543044683, $9.99,

Relationship and dating books are a dime a dozen, but Never Mind the Rules takes a different approach to the subject which makes it a standout among a plethora of advice guides, and should be considered by anyone who wants a modern approach to dating.

Several things contribute to this difference: for one, it advocates self-development and independence rather than snagging a date or landing a relationship, and so it begins with the foundation any strong girl or woman will want to develop first. Chapters tell how to foster such independence and come from two friends who were involved in the music world (one was a rock 'n roll band member; the other a music journalist), who shared a boyfriend, and whose romantic histories involved many relationships that led to in-depth experiences with the dating world which are imparted here.

Additionally, Susan Hyatt is not just a musician, but is currently in graduate school to become a marriage and family therapist in a few years; so her perspective combines a professional eye with worldly experiences in a manner few advice guides can claim to achieve.

Clarity and candidness about sex and complicated emotional ties are part of this guide; so if it's a casual skim over the surface of dating that is desired, look elsewhere. Never Mind the Rules pulls no punches in its admonitions, tips, discussions of common traps, and admonishment for women to create their own "dating rules" regardless of trends or social pressure. As an additional note, Never Mind the Rules is not just a book, but a community of women who get together at events and have a private Facebook page where they share dating stories and get advice and input from all members. It's a great forum for dating; but it's invite only through their website (

From online dating and social networking to interviews with rock stars and others, who survey their worst dates and why things went awry, the tone blends interviews with assessments of making, breaking, or leaving open connections in a number of ways.

Social media is one of the topics, for example, and discussions evaluate many candid options: "It goes without saying that if you and the guy you're into are both on Facebook, but are not "friends" on the site, THAT is a problem. It usually means he has something to hide. (See story at end of this chapter). But what if you are connected and it doesn't work out? You have a few different options. Here, when to hide, filter, un-friend and block...

Stay Connected- If you and a guy date casually or fool around and it just doesn't work out, but decide to stay friends mutually, remaining connected on social media is fine. Just know that even if you weren't that into him, seeing pics of him with other girls may irritate or worse, make your question your feelings. The good news is he might see pics of you with other guys as well, and regret not holding onto your hotness."

From red flag alerts and dating gay men to the practical side of falling madly in love and considering a serious commitment, Never Mind the Rules should be the dating guide in every teenager's coming-of-age arsenal, and will even offer many an experienced adult the benefits of street savvy and wisdom about the modern dating scene.

Never Mind the Rules is very highly recommended as a unique, spicy alternative to the usual dry dating and relationship coverage, and should ideally be a coming-of-age gift to all girls leaving home.

The Deuce
Symm Hawes McCord, M.D.
W&B Publishers
9781635540659, $17.99,

World War II novels abound; but few are as specific or as revealing as The Deuce, which focuses on the efforts and experiences of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. While its main characters are fictional, the overall setting of the story and events are straight from history, and the author is quite clear about the points which move from fiction to nonfiction: "I have attempted to make much of the data and history of the "Five-O-Deuce" as accurate as possible. The characters are non-fictional down to the Regimental and Battalion Commanders. The Company, platoon and squad level members and leaders are mostly fictional names. The dates and sequences of battles and movements are as accurate as possible."

With such an introduction, one doesn't expect the degree of insights that flow immediately from interactions between characters and their experiences, but this is just the first strength to a story that takes historical facts and turns them personal: "In recent years, Harvey Donovan had these night terrors maybe every six months. When he first returned from the war, back in 1945, they happened every night, and he would be totally exhausted when he finally stopped shaking. He always referred to his fear as "they". He had never told Lucy who "they" were, what had happened during the war, or what was happening in his dreams. She had never pressed him for answers; although she pretty well knew who "they" were and what was happening in his dreams by his actions and vocalizations, and, of course, knowing that he had spent those years in the Army during that great war."

As Harve confronts his wartime demons and the experience of battling in a war that consumes his life, readers on board for the ride learn a great deal about battles, bravery, and immediate battlefield sensations: "At 5:45 AM there was a sudden flash in the direction of the beach, and a few seconds later, the sound caught up. The naval bombardment of the beaches of Normandy had begun. That first round was followed by an ever increasing crescendo of exploding shells and flashes in the sky. All of the men were probably mistakenly thinking the same thing...if they hit the beach hard enough with the bombardment, maybe the landing troops wouldn't have so much resistance when they got there. They couldn't have been more wrong."

Special missions, tough battles, and the circumstances which make "The Deuce" a respected team which stands out among many fighting units build the foundation of a military story that is about survival, finding love and peace in a turbulent world and its aftermath, and coming to grips with a series of confrontations that not only test lives and loyalty, but involve lengthy battles and continuous struggles.

The impact of such conditions and their lasting effects is another plus of The Deuce, which moves between battle immediacy to how the effects of the war experience linger to affect Harve's peacetime life.

Details about the camaraderie between soldiers and the changing nature of their ultimate job as war conditions change make for many descriptions that deftly capture both the special nature of The Deuce and the circumstances that lead to their successes and failures.

Ultimately, it's a hard-hitting World War II story that asks hard questions in the course of examining a particularly courageous unit's actions and choices, revealing much about the nature and changing challenges of military life in the field: "After many days of search and destroy, the first squad, third platoon, of B Company, 3rd Battalion, of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment found themselves in a continuing effort to find Germans and kill or capture them. When would it end? When would this damned war be over? It was difficult to accept life that now seemed to exist within the Deuce, solely to hunt down and kill Germans, who were becoming more and more like animals in a cage, but also more than willing to give themselves up if given the chance. And that is what began to happen."

Readers seeking a gripping, moving saga that paints a powerful portrait of a particular unit's actions and achievements during World War II will find much to like in The Deuce, which should be part of any collection strong in historical fiction about World War II battlefield encounters. It's highly recommended for its engrossing portraits of soldiers who exhibit both individual courage and the ability to join together in powerful unity.

The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Wizards
Steve LeBel
Argon Press
9780990883159 and 9780990883142
9780990883135 ebook
Amazon Link (ebook -, $3.99):
Amazon Link (print, $15.95):

The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Wizards is a young adult fantasy that tells of a youthful god who fixes universes for a living. His latest task is to repair Protox, a planet fraught with civil war and, as it turns out, which is under the influence of an evil wizard whose effort to spark chaos proves far more effective than Bernie's efforts to save his project.

If Bernie doesn't succeed, Protox will be destroyed - but more importantly, his failure will hold especially dangerous implications for his own world of gods and broken universe manipulations.

This story adds to others in the 'Universe Builders' series about Bernie, but stands well on its own for newcomers who may be unfamiliar with the series. True, it holds a wide cast of characters which could become confusing to newcomers; but it also holds the ability to paint a logical portrait of its setting and purpose with a short prologue (which will delight prior fans needing a memory jog) and then move on from there with yet another Bernie problem-solving mission.

Christian readers might chafe at the notion of a universe manipulated by gods, much less a young, inexperienced god - but the purpose of this fantasy doesn't reside in religious implications, but in the real dilemma of a young person in charge of seeing that order is maintained in his part of the universe; and what happens when events spiral out of control on his watch.

An excellent survey of these responsibilities lies in early dialogue: "I can see you're a bit squeamish, Bernie. If you're going to fix things around here, you need to toughen up." "Yes, Sir. I've been told that before." "You have to think of this like growing a garden. Sometimes there are weeds, and we have to get rid of them, otherwise there'll be no room for the flowers."

Do demonstrations of intelligence and emotions equate to having a soul? Bernie's Photox assignment and problem becomes much more complicated as he grapples with bigger questions, little lives, and great powers.

Budding gods with good faith confront worlds both under their control and outside of their experience in The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Wizards, which is packed with insights about special abilities and their real worth, leading directly into previously uncharted territory as it considers the evolution of friendships and the real powers of wizards, gods, and those with fewer special abilities.

Young adults will find it an engrossing read filled with a satisfying blend of action, philosophical reflection, and unexpected insights on relationships which excels in surprises and compelling new beginnings from disastrous situations.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Led Zeppelin on Led Zeppelin
Hank Bordowitz, editor
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613738801 $18.99 pbk / $12.26 Kindle

Synopsis: In a series of more than 50 interviews that span seven decades, many never before seen in print, this is the story of Led Zeppelin told by the people who knew it best - the members of the band. This book shoots down the folklore and assumptions about Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham, and presents the band's full history, from when Jimmy Page was playing skiffle to the day the band was honored by the Kennedy Center for their contribution to American and global culture. Led Zeppelin on Led Zeppelin captures the ideas of all of the band's members at the time they created classics like "Whole Lot of Love," "Stairway to Heaven," and "Kashmir," but also captures the idea of the band itself as it created the music that changed popular culture.

Critique: This anthology of interviews is an absolute "must-read" for fans of the Led Zeppelin rock band. Almost the entire volume consists of Led Zeppelin in their own words; an index allows for quick lookup and easy reference. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Led Zeppelin on Led Zeppelin is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.26).

Comparative Public Management
Kenneth J. Meier, Amanda Rutherford, Claudia N. Avellaneda, editors
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626164000, $64.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: While the field of public management has become increasingly international, research and policy recommendations that work for one country often do not work for another. Why, for example, is managerial networking important in the United States, moderately effective in the United Kingdom, and of little consequence in the Netherlands?

"Comparative Public Management: Why National, Environmental, and Organizational Context Matters" argues that scholars must find a better way to account for political, environmental, and organizational contexts to build a more general model of public management. The editors of "Comparative Public Management" propose a framework in which context influences the types of managerial actions that can be used effectively in public organizations.

After introducing the innovative framework, "Comparative Public Management" offers seven empirical chapters that feature cases from seven countries and a range of policy areas (health, education, taxation, and local governance) showing how management affects performance in different contexts. Following these empirical tests, "Comparative Public Management" examines themes that emerge across cases and seeks to set an agenda for future research.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Kenneth J. Meier (who holds the Charles H. Gregory Chair in Liberal Arts and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Texas A& M University, and is also the editor in chief of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory); Amanda N. Rutherford (Assistant Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University); and Claudia N. Avellaneda (Associate Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. ), "Comparative Public Management" is especially commended to the attention of students and scholars of public administration and public policy.

Providing a comprehensive comparative assessment of management's impact on organizational performance, the seven major essays comprising "Comparative Public Management" are enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, tables, a twenty-eight pages list of References, a four page listing of the contributors and their credentials, and a four page Index. While unreservedly recommended as a critically important addition to community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Comparative Public Management" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626164017, $32.95) and a Kindle format ($31.28).

Your Caius Aquilla
John Andrew Fredrick
Rare Bird Books
453 South Spring Street, Suite 302, Los Angeles, CA 90013
9781945572562, $15.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: "Your Caius Aquilla" by John Andrew Fredrick is set in ancient Rome, and is composed of hilarious letters between a doting and brave but quite bumbling legionary and his beautiful, zaftig wife, Lora. While Caius fights barbarians (and fights off -- often unsuccessfully -- homosexual feelings for his fellow soldiers), Lora cossets their to-her adorable (and very cruel) children, while fending off lovers of both sexes.

While handsome Caius Aquilla is a singularly brave Roman legionnaire, his brother-soldiers keep on having mishaps (fatal, no less) whenever he's around. A situation which doesn't endear him to them one little bit.

One day, however, humping back to base camp with his platoon after a successful fray against some Gauls or Picts (he never seems to know which barbarians he's subduing), he spies a diminutive general being attacked by a swarm of killer wasps. Thinking fast, Caius throws himself upon the general (who, in attempting to swat away the mad, deadly insects, has fallen from his horse), thus sparing the superior officer a possible fatal fate. Caius thusly goes from pariah to golden boy, and shortly the hand of destiny (and a spelling error in the ranks' roll sheet) sends him home from campaigning -- home to his to-say-the-least fanciful and beautiful wife Lora, where things really go off the rails.

Critique: "Your Caius Aquilla" is a gem of a satirical novel a reveals author John Andrew Fredick's impressive flair for originality in creating memorable characters and an entertaining story that is an inherently fascination read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Your Caius Aquilla" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.72).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Gravity's Angels
Michael Swanwick
Frog Books
9781583940297, $16.95,

"Gravity's Angels" is a collection of 13 short stories gathered together in one anthology. Through the years they have appeared in major science fiction publications and some are outstanding. The tales show that Swanwick can write chilling works covering a wide range of subjects in the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Gravity's Angels" is an older collection but it gives readers an insight into to see his evolution as a writer.

The Devil's Workshop
Stephen J. Cannelle
Harper Torch
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780380732210, $6.99

The creator of such TV shows as "Hunter," "The Rockford Files," and "Silk Stalkings" Cannell turned his talents to writing novels. Steadily his works improved over the years as he continued to produce books before his death. "The Devil's Workshop" has a sinister plot of secret government testing at a chemical warfare facility. The story is filled with believable characters and a frightening scenario of a government cover-up. The pacing is rapid with an awesome conclusion. "The Devil's Workshop" is very entertaining but will have readers wondering what covert operations of this nature we really have in place.

The Garden of Rama
Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553298178, $7.99

The authors continue to delve into the world of Rama, Clarke began in Rendezvous With Rama" At times the novel is confusing as the characters are not very believable while the ending is too obscure and boring. Some of the subtle clues of Rama are once more revealed but like the other two works in the series, there is nothing concrete as to who and what the characters are really dealing with. "Garden of Rama" should have revealed everything and been the final story because the authors continually highlighted the fact of "Everything comes in threes" and it is the third installment of Rama.

The Big Picture
Douglas Kennedy
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780786889433, $7.99

"The Big Picture" is very tightly written fast paced page turner. Ben Bradford has everything anyone could ever want. A wife, two sons, a house in Connecticut, and a partnership at a prestigious law firm in New York. But this perfect existence has flaws that set up a situation that changes the whole rest of the story. It all changes when an event in Ben's life is revealed. Even the writing of the novel is altered to be a lot faster. "The Big Picture' begins at a slow pace but changes to its final shattering conclusion.

The Damagers
Donald Hamilton
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
978044914871, $4.99

Matt Helm is sent to investigate the mysterious deaths of three captains of a beautiful yacht. He tangles with a crew of dangerous women, an Arab terrorist, squad, and an elite organization of death dealing specialists led by a psychopath Matt has encountered once before. Matt Helm novels are always a sure bet of good adventure reading and "The Damagers" shows why the novels of Donald Hamilton are so much fun to read.

Gold The Final Science Fiction Collection
Isaac Asimov
Harper Voyager
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780060556528, $14.99

The author of over 500 titles went out in style with "Gold The Final Science Fiction Collection." There are 13 fiction stories while he also wrote pieces on plot, character, irony, plagiarism, symbolism and reviewing. This only touches the surface as the good doctor also delved into many other aspects of the subject of science fiction. "Gold The Final Science Fiction Collection" exemplifies why we are so lucky that Isaac Asimov came through this life and left such a great body of work over a long period of years. There is no question, he is greatly missed.

The Titan Game
Niven Busch
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780394575377, $17.95

Normally Busch is a gifted storyteller. Unfortunately with "The Titan Game" he has lost sight of the objective to tell a good story. The beginning in which a scientist is killed by his own robotic invention, kicks off a tale that one expects to continue to build, instead the novel rambles endlessly. "The Titan Game" is unclear, unexciting and not very suspenseful.

The Babe Signed My Shoe
Ernie Harwell
Edited by Goff Upward
Diamond Communications Inc.
9780912083967, $21.95

The only radio announcer to ever be traded for baseball players and who is a Hall-of - Famer tells some personal tales as well as interesting stories of the game of baseball in "The Babe Signed My Shoe." Harwell also talks about fellow sports writers and his last broadcast for the Detroit Tigers. The accounts are baseball history by one of the best voices of the game. No fan of baseball should miss" The Babe Signed My Shoe."

Old Turtle
Text by Douglas Wood
Watercolors by Cheng-Khoe Chee
Pfeifer-Hamilton Publishers
8665 Airport Rd, Middelton WI 53562
978043909080, $17.95

Readers are touched in "Old Turtle" by the author's symbolism as they were with Richard Bach's "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." "Old Turtle" is an enchanting fable, like the Oz books, written for children but also for adults. The story concerns and promotes a deeper understanding of the planet and our relationships with all the beings who inhabit it. "Old Turtle" is one of those rare titles that is inspiring to all ages.

Voices of the Earth
Written and Illustrated by Kristin Parquhar
Eco-Alert Publications
9780963286406, $7.95

"Voices of the Earth" is the first of a series of books that tells about the different animals who co-exist with the residents of the state of Florida. Written for children adults can learn as well about the subjects the author writes about. To also enhance the enjoyment Parquhar also has presented artwork that individuals can color themselves. "Voices of the Earth" is a fun book for all ages to learn and enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9781524783020, $16.86, PB, $13.99 Kindle
9780399593574, $27.00, Hardcover, 414 pp,

From the publisher: Lee Child's iconic anti-hero Jack Reacher is the stuff made of legend - a larger-than-life man who is "loved by women, feared by men, and respected by all". Now, following twelve consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, Child offers the ultimate Reacher reading experience... which includes an exciting, all-new Reacher novella, as well as Child's eleven previously published short stories featuring Reacher. This pulse-pounding collection marks the first time that all of Lee Child's short fiction starring Reacher has been available in the same place at the same time. "No Middle Name" begins with "Too Much Time," a new work of short fiction that finds Reacher in a hollowed-out town in Maine, where he witnesses a random bag-snatching but sees much more than a simple crime. In his trademark tight and propulsive prose, Child sets Reacher and his "lizard brain" off for a case where there is more than meets the eye - and Reacher, as always, won't rest until a wrong is righted.

The longest of these tales runs 68 pages, with most falling between 36 and 53 pages in length, the shortest running 4, 6, 10 and 11, but no matter the brevity or length, these are all tales of Jack Reacher, and that's pretty much all it takes to make it a must read. The very first, referred to in the previous quoted paragraph, was written contemporaneously, in 2017; the others between 1999 and 2016. Reacher's brother, Joe, makes an appearance more than once, which I found very interesting (Joe has been in previous books). As readers know, Reacher is a military cop, at present 35 years old, a major with twelve years in, with rare attributes: He is brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6' 5" and 250 pounds. In one of the tales, which takes place in Paris, Reacher is 13 years old; in another, he is 16, and in another he is approaching 17. One story is in Georgia, in 1989. A few of the stories take place in New York City, primarily in sites in or around area bars in Greenwich Village. (In another, Shea Stadium is referenced, with, unfortunately, the Mets losing to the Cubs by two to one. (Full disclosure: I am a die-hard Mets fan.) But Yankee Stadium gets a mention as well, although without a game in progress.) And two of the tales take place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, interestingly.

So obviously there is a wide range of geography and time found here, but the most (only?) crucial thing can be summed up in two words: "Child" and "Reacher." And what could be better than that?

Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Book of Frank: ISIS and the Archangel Platoon
Walt Browning
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B014943ZE0, $3.99, 398 pages, 2015
9781517077471, $19.99, PB,

The Book of Frank is a well detailed military action/adventure. It has locational and operational details that bring a reality and a rich tapestry to set the story in. This highlights the only shortcoming of the tale. Superficial contemporary myths are used to motivate and justify many of the events and actions in the story. People and history are more complex. The simple black and white answers mislead the reader more than they push the action in the story. Simple myths motivate populations but they are secondary to individual and historic events.

ISIS terrorists have taken control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria. They indiscriminately murder and enslave the conquered populations in the name of their own religious and social beliefs. A small group of nuns and orphans are stranded behind ISIS lines. Nations are unwilling to actively get into another guerrilla war that will take years and billions of dollars to fight from across the world. The nuns get a message out asking for help. The Catholic Church spreads the word about the orphans' situation, in hopes that someone might be able to help. A small group of ex-soldiers, who still privately train like they were in the military, decide to try to get the orphans out. The Catholic Church is willing to cover the cost of sending this team of warriors to Iraq but is unwilling to publically acknowledge the actions. The Church doesn't want to add another religion into the multi-faith genocidal war being fought by ISIS.

Frank, ex-marine and Jesuit novitiate, finds out about the operation and joins the group. His personal conflicts have brought him to the decision to help these orphans. This internal struggle and the motivations of a handful of other characters in the story to commit to this dangerous action drive the story.

The Book of Frank is an easy war action/adventure to recommend. Its surprisingly detailed locations and military planning are a joy to find in an independently produced book. Matched with solid character driven actions the story is satisfying on many levels.

Kevin L. Nielsen
Future House Publishing
c/o Amazon Digital Services LLC
B012CB4S66, $2.99 ebook, 278 pages
9780989125376, $12.95, PB,

Sands is the first book in a fantasy series about a magical desert world filled with man eating creatures that travel under the sand. The world building is solid but there are gaps. The gaps might be filled later in the series but they are apparent in the first book. The only other significant problem with the story is that there are a few continuity skips.

For most of the year, the Sharani Desert is safe for the scattered clans living across its expanse. But, during its final few months of the year, the genesauri come out of hibernation and the scattered clans have to make it to the Oasis or get eaten. This year something strange is happening. The genesauri come out of hibernation weeks early while the clans are miles away from the Oasis.

Lhaurel is a young woman who doesn't fit in with the rest of the clan. She kills a genesauri before it slaughters her only friend in the clan. She is sentenced to death. She is saved by a group of desert wanderers. Can she learn what she is and how to survive in her world where everything is changing now that the genesauri have been unleashed?

Sands is a well written action/adventure fantasy. Any reader in this genre should enjoy the story. The character development and world building is very solid. It just misses being a top pick in this genre. A touch more work on the continuity stutters is all it would take. With its reasonable price, it is an easy recommendation.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Hike Smart
Ann Marie Brown & Terra Breeden
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510708518, $14.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Compiling knowledge from more than thirty years of hiking, "Hike Smart: Tips and Tactics for Improving Your Treks" by the team of Ann Marie Brown (the author of more than thirteen hiking guide books and is a dedicated California outdoorswoman) and fly-fishing, backpacking journalist Terra Breeden includes hundreds of tips, tactics, and techniques all aimed at helping their readers to become a better hiker.

"Hike Smart" includes: Dozens of trail dos and don'ts; Pointers on choosing the right gear for your hike along with an emphasis on boots and packs; Advice on negotiating different terrains; Recommendations on how-to deal with unexpected on-trail situations; Stories and interviews from hikers who've conquered tough trails; Beautiful color photos of some of America's most majestic hikes; and so much more!

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Hike Smart" will prove to be of immense interest and value for first-timer's preparing for their inaugural trek, as well as veteran hikers looking to be even more efficient when enjoying their outdoor hiking experience. Accessible to readers at all levels of experience, "Hike Smart" is a complete and comprehensive instructional guide that is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of hiking enthusiasts and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted that "Hiking Smart" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.87).

Punk Avenue
Phil Marcade
Three Rooms Press
561 Hudson Street, #33, New York, NY 10014
9781941110492, $15.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: "Punk Avenue: The New York City Underground 1972-1982" is an intimate look at author Paris-born Phil Marcade's first ten years in the United States where drifted from Boston to the West Coast and back, before winding up in New York City and becoming immersed in the early punk rock scene.

From backrooms of Max's and CBGB's to the Tropicana Hotel in Los Angeles and back, "Punk Avenue" is comprised of stories from someone at the heart of the era, a collection of first-hand tales about spending a Provincetown summer with photographer Nan Goldin and actor-writer Cookie Mueller, having the Ramones play their very first gig at his party, working with Blondie's Debbie Harry on French lyrics for her songs, enjoying Thanksgiving with Johnny Thunders' mother, and starting the beloved NYC punk-blues band The Senders.

Along the way, he relates how he smoked a joint with Bob Marley, falls down a mountain, gets attacked by Nancy Spungen's junkie cat, become a junkie himself, adopts a dog who eats his pot, opens for The Clash at Bond's Casino, opens a store named Rebop on Seventh Avenue, throws up in some girl's mouth, talks about vacuum cleaners with Sid Vicious, lives thru the Blackout of 1977, gets glue in his eye, gets mugged at knife point, plays drums with Johnny Thunders' band Gang War, sets some guy's attache-case on fire, listens to pre-famous Madonna singing in the rehearsal studio next to his, gets mugged at gun point, O.D.s on heroin, gets saved by a gentle giant named Bill.

Critique: An incredibly informed and informative biography of a man that includes the rise and fall a unique genre in American music history, "Punk Avenue: The New York City Underground 1972-1982" is a truly riveting read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Punk Avenue" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.99).

The Encyclopedic Philosophy of Michel Serres
Keith Moser
Anaphora Literary Press
1898 Athens Street, Brownsville, TX 78520
9781681142340, $20.00, PB, 268pp,

Synopsis: French philosopher and author Michael Serres's prolific body of work paints a rending portrait of what it means for a sentient being to live in the modern world. Serres's explanation of what engaging in philosophical inquiry entails encouraged the imagining the present and future ramifications of certain trajectories that are clearly visible all around us. From 1968 to the present, Serres has been generating forceful, prophetic visions in his works that mingle philosophy, religion, theology, contemporary science, and literature.

Critique: "The Encyclopedic Philosophy of Michel Serres: Writing the Modern World and Anticipating the Future" by Keith Moser (Associate Professor of French at Mississippi State University) is the first comprehensive study dedicated to the interdisciplinary French philosopher and author Michel Serres. Enhanced with the inclusion of a fourteen page listing of References and a two page Index, "The Encyclopedic Philosophy of Michel Serres" is a seminal and insightful work of simply outstanding scholarship and very highly recommended for college and university library Contemporary Philosophy collections in general, and Michel Serres supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Master Coach
Gregg Thompson
SelectBooks, Inc.
87 Walker Street, Suite B1, New York City, NY 10013
9781590794197, $22.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Today, coaching is recognized to be one of the most effective human resource development processes available, and it is becoming increasingly popular in organizations of all sizes. Faced with historically low levels of employee engagement (as little as 13% according to Gallup's latest survey), business leaders see coaching as key to unlocking the human talent, creativity, and innovation that is hiding in plain sight in their workplaces. And rather than bring in external coaches for this purpose, they want to integrate coaching into their company culture -- a 2015 study by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that 81% of organizations surveyed planned to train managers/leaders in coaching skills.

"The Master Coach" by Gregg Thompson (President of Bluepoint Leadership Development) is written for these leaders, and is perfectly positioned to become the definitive book on the topic. Drawing on the wealth of experience that has made Gregg Thompson and Bluepoint Leadership Development the choice of numerous Fortune 100 companies, it illuminates the essence of what it takes to be a great coach. "The Master Coach" will appeal to leaders at all organization levels, showing them how to make a significant shift in their attitudes, values and behaviors and become more coach-like in all of their daily interactions and conversations.

Based on the simple but profound 3Cs Coaching Model, "The Master Coach" offers a proven approach asserting that to master the art of coaching one must have an exemplary Character that invites the trust of others, be able to form rapid Connections with others at deeply personal level, and have the ability to initiate and guide intense, attitude-changing Conversations. At every step, Thompson reminds readers that coaching is not merely about what the coach says or does; it is about who he or she is.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is informed and informative, "The Master Coach" is a complete course of instruction under one cover. Exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Master Coach" is enhanced with the inclusion of an appendix (Getting the Most out of Leadership Coaching: A Guide for the Talent), three pages of notes, and a ten page index. While very highly recommended for corporate, community, and academic library Business Management collections and supplemental studies lists, will prove to be an invaluable instruction guide for business students, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

East-West Literary Imagination
Yoshinobu Hakutani
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th St., Columbia, MO 65211
9780826220806, $60.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: "East-West Literary Imagination: Cultural Exchanges from Yeats to Morrison" by Yoshinobu Hakutani (Professor of English and University Distinguished Scholar at Kent State University in Ohio) is study traces the shaping presence of cultural interactions, arguing that American literature has become a hybridization of Eastern and Western literary traditions.

Cultural exchanges between the East and West began in the early decades of the nineteenth century as American transcendentalists explored Eastern philosophies and arts. Hakutani deftly examines this influence through the works of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. He further demonstrates the East-West exchange through discussions of the interactions by modernists such as Yone Noguchi, Yeats, Pound, Camus, and Kerouac.

Finally, Professor Hakutani ably argues that African American literature, represented by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and James Emanuel, is postmodern. Their works exhibit their concerted efforts to abolish marginality and extend referentiality, exemplifying the postmodern East-West crossroads of cultures. A fuller understanding of their work is gained by situating them within this cultural conversation. The writings of Wright, for example, take on their full significance only when they are read, not as part of a national literature, but as an index to an evolving literature of cultural exchanges.

Critique: An inherently thoughtful, insightful, exceptionally well written, organized and presented work of original and seminal scholarship, "East-West Literary Imagination: Cultural Exchanges from Yeats to Morrison" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Literary Studies collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "East-West Literary Imagination" is also available in a Kindle format ($57.00).

Meridian Qigong Exercises
Dr. Yange, Jwing-Ming
YMAA Publications
PO Box 480, Wolfeboro, NH 03894-0480
9781594394133, $19.95, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: Each morning before getting out of bed, Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming (a world-renowned author, scholar, and teacher, who has been involved in Chinese martial arts since 1961, and maintains over 55 schools in 18 countries) practices a series of movements he has combined based on decades of experience. In "Meridian Qigong Exercises: Combining Qigong, Yoga, & Acupressure", Dr. Yang teaches his special daily exercise routine.

In "Meridian Qigong Exercises" he reveals a unique combination of simple yoga stretches, qigong movements, and acupressure techniques that can relieve energy stagnation and rejuvenate the entire body. All the exercises can be performed lying down or sitting, if preferred. Meridian qigong will quickly improve general health, helping to heal and prevent injuries. With regular practice readers will notice their entire body feels loose and comfortable, reacting to stress with a greater sense of calm, and with an increasing circulation. "

"Meridian Qigong Exercises" will enable the reader to: Understand the link between yoga and qigong; Learn basic acupressure with traditional tui na (pushing and grabbing) and dian xue (cavity pressing) techniques; Supplement your qigong practice with yoga stretches; Know which acupoints and meridians to stimulate; Relieve many common ailments, including insomnia.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "Meridian Qigong Exercises: Combining Qigong, Yoga, & Acupressure" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal instruction manual and guide that is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, dojo, and academic library Health & Fitness collections in general, and Qigong supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists of yoga students, qigong practitioners, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Meridian Qigong Exercises" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99).

Pirate Women
Laura Sook Duncombe
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613736012, $26.99, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: While 17th and 18th century piracy was a male dominated profession, there were notable female buccaneers active in this hazardous practice. "Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas" by Laura Sook Duncombe tells the story of women, both real and legendary, who through the ages sailed alongside (and sometimes in command of) their male counterparts.

These women came from all walks of life but had one thing in common: a desire for freedom. History has largely ignored these female swashbucklers, until now. Here are their stories, ranging from ancient Norse princess Alfhild and warrior Rusla, to Sayyida al-Hurra of the Barbary corsairs, and from Grace O'Malley, who terrorized shipping operations around the British Isles during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, to Cheng I Sao, who commanded a fleet of four hundred ships off China in the early nineteenth century.

In "Pirate Women" Duncombe also looks beyond the stories to the storytellers and mythmakers. What biases and agendas motivated them? What did they leave out? "Pirate Women" explores why and how these stories are told and passed down, and how history changes depending on who is recording it.

Critique: It is not well known that pirate crews were essentially democratic with the crew members electing who would lead them. The role of women in pirate communities and crews has been heretofore obscure but is now fully and comprehensively revealed in a deftly written and impressively organized and presented volume that will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of Women's History students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.63). Librarians should note that there is also a complete and unabridged audio book edition of "Pirate Women" (Tantor Media, 9781541408357, $39.99, CD).

The Artful Educator
Sue Cowley
Crown House Publishing
81 Brook Hills Circle, White Plains, NY 10605
9781785831157, $22.95, PB, 216pp,

Sue Cowley is a writer, presenter and teacher trainer, and the author of more than 25 books on education. In "The Artful Educator: Imaginative, Innovative and Creative Approaches to Teaching" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to explain and demonstrate how classroom teachers can become artists, sculptors, actors, dancers, musicians, playwrights, poets, designers and directors, no matter which subject or age group they happen to be teaching.

The artful educator paints the air with ideas and weaves magic with words. They aren't afraid of a little risk, or of planning and delivering lessons a little differently. Learn how to be more creative, experimental, playful and imaginative in the methods you use to manage your classroom, and in the myriad ways in which you help your students to learn.

"The Artful Educator" reveals what an artful attitude to education looks like, with plenty of practical, real-life ideas for artful teaching and learning. Offering inspiring examples of how colleagues in a range of settings, from early years to secondary and further education, are already using artful approaches in their classrooms, "The Artful Educator" shows how to engage with an artful side, reinvigorate an approach to teaching and inspire both teachers and their students with the pure joy of learning.

Getting artful can involve borrowing techniques from the arts to use in teaching, getting learners hands-on with creating artworks themselves and also engaging learners with great existing works of art, cultivating the cultural capital that comes from this in the process.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, packed from cover to cover with practical suggestions specifically designed to inspire classroom teachers to take creative risks with students of all ages, "The Artful Educator" is ideal instructional resource for trainees, NQTs and experienced teachers alike. Simply stated, "The Artful Educator" is very highly recommended for school district, college, and university library Teacher Education collections as well as the personal reading lists of student teachers and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Food on the Page
Megan J. Elias
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812249170, $34.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: From barbecue to Jell-O molds to burrito bowls, American cuisine has a history that spans a vast patchwork of traditions, crazes, and quirks. A close look at these foods and the recipes behind them unearths a vivid map of American foodways: how Americans thought about food, how they described it, and what foods were in and out of style at different times.

In "Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture" by Megan J. Elias (Director of Online Courses at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History) offers the first comprehensive history of American cookbooks from the early 1800s to the present day. Following food writing through trends such as the Southern nostalgia that emerged in the late nineteenth century, the Francophilia of the 1940s, countercultural cooking in the 1970s, and today's cult of locally sourced ingredients, Megan reveals that what we read about food influences us just as much as what we taste.

Examining a wealth of fascinating archival material (and rediscovering several all-American culinary delicacies and oddities in the process) Megan explores the role words play in the creation of taste on both a personal and a national level. From Fannie Farmer to The Joy of Cooking to food blogs, Megan argues that American cookbook writers have commented on national cuisine while tempting their readers to the table. By taking cookbooks seriously as a genre and by tracing their genealogy, "Food on the Page" explains where contemporary assumptions about American food came from and where they might lead.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative introduction (Words About Food) and an epilogue (What Should We Read for Dinner?), thirty pages of Notes, a six page Selected Bibliography, and a fourteen page Index, "Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture" is a seminal work of extraordinary scholarship and very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Food on the Page" is also available in a Kindle format ($23.62).

Making Local Food Work
Brandi Janssen
University of Iowa Press
100 Kuhl House, 119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609384920, $27.50, PB, 230pp,

Synopsis: When it comes to local food, it takes more than "knowing your farmer". In "Making Local Food Work: The Challenges and Opportunities of Today's Small Farmers", Brandi Janssen (a researcher and advocate for local food systems, and is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa, and the director of Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health) takes on some of the myths about how the local food system works and what it needs to thrive.

Advocates claim that small biodiverse farms will fundamentally change farming, rural communities, and the American diet. For many, simply by knowing our farmers we become champions of a new way of eating that revolutionizes our economy and society. But that argument ignores the fact that if local food is to succeed, it requires many of the trappings of conventional food production, including processors, middle men, inspectors, and regulators.

By listening to and working alongside people trying to build a local food system in Iowa, Professor Janssen uncovers the complex realities of making it work. Although the state is better known for its vast fields of conventionally grown corn and soybeans, it has long boasted a robust network of small, diverse farms, community supported agriculture enterprises, and farmers' markets.

As she picks tomatoes, processes wheatgrass, and joins a parents' committee trying to buy local lettuce for a school lunch, Professor Janssen asks how small farmers and CSA owners deal with farmers' market regulations, neighbors who spray pesticides on crops or lawns, and sanitary regulations on meat processing and milk production. How can they meet the needs of large buyers like school districts? Who does the hard work of planting, weeding, harvesting, and processing? Is local food production benefitting rural communities as much as advocates claim?

In answering these questions, Professor Janssen displays the pragmatism and level-headedness one would expect of the heartland, much like the farmers and processors profiled here. It's doable, she states, but we're going to have to do more than shop at our local farmers' market to make it happen.

Critique: An informed and informative introduction to what local food means today and what it might be tomorrow, "Making Local Food Work" is exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented. A model of seminal, thoughtful and thought-provoking scholarship, "Making Local Food Work" is an inherently compelling study. Enhanced with twelve pages of Notes and a nine page Index, "Making Local Food Work" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers that "Making Local Food Work" is also available in a Kindle format ($24.20).

Through the Shadowlands
Julie Rehmeyer
Rodale Press
733 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781623367657, $25.99, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Julie Rehmeyer felt like she was going to the desert to die. Julie fully expected to be breathing at the end of the trip -- but driving into Death Valley felt like giving up, surrendering. She'd spent years battling a mysterious illness so extreme that she often couldn't turn over in her bed. The top specialists in the world were powerless to help, and research on her disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, was at a near standstill.

Having exhausted the plausible ideas, Julie turned to an implausible one. Going against both her instincts and her training as a science journalist and mathematician, she followed the advice of strangers she'd met on the Internet. Their theory that it was the mold in her home and possessions that was making her sick. This originally struck her as wacky pseudoscience, but these people reported having recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome just as severe as hers.

To test the theory that toxic mold was making her sick, Julie drove into the desert alone, leaving behind everything she owned. She wasn't even certain she was well enough to take care of herself once she was there. She felt stripped not only of the life she'd known, but any future she could imagine.

With only her scientific savvy, investigative journalism skills, and dog, Frances, to rely on, Julie carved out her own path to wellness -- and uncovered how shocking scientific neglect and misconduct had forced her and millions of others to go it alone. In stunning prose, she describes how her illness transformed her understanding of science, medicine, and spirituality. Through the Shadowlands brings scientific authority to a misunderstood disease and spins an incredible and compelling story of tenacity, resourcefulness, acceptance, and love.

Critique: A potentially life saving medical memoir, "Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand" is an inherently fascinating and deeply personal account that is as informative and thoughtful as it is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, organization and presentation. While an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both personal and community library Health/Medicine and American Biography collections, it should be noted for the personal lists of non-specialist general readers that "Through the Shadowlands" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Please Explain "Terrorism" To Me!
Laurie Zelinger, PhD, author
Ann Israeli, illustrator
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615992928, $37.95 HC, 99781615992911, $24.95 PB, $5.95 Kindle,

"Please Explain 'Terrorism' To Me" is subtitled "A Story for Children, P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom for their Parents." It is simply written, attractively illustrated, and intended to be read by students age 7 and up. Sensitively written from a middle school boy's point of view, "Please Explain Terrorism To Me" has many strengths as an educational resource on a difficult but necessary current topic.

The boy is aware of an event of terrorism through media coverage, and through the responses of teachers and parents and others in his life. He is confused and frightened when the topic of terrorism is somehow avoided by his parents, even though he continues to go through his normal daily routines. Finally, the school begins to do Lockdown drills and other practice procedures to prepare all students for unsafe events and threats.

The boy's parents have quiet, serious discussions with him about his questions about terrorism. As a family, they work to prepare a realistic plan for protection and guided awareness. The boy also experiences a sort of bully named Jack at school, who takes his chips away every day. At the end of the story, the boy decides to bring up the topic of how to deal with Jack, the boy who has been threatening and bullying him.

The context of this development is mainly encouraging, for the boy is openly discussing a scary threat that he has been dealing with alone at school without telling anyone. Hopefully solutions will be worked out that enable the boy to feel protected and safe at school from bullies, as well as from terrorists, who are much bigger bullies.

Most helpful in "Please Explain Terrorism to Me" is the section For Parents with "P-E-A-R-L-S" an acronym which stands for prepare, explain, answer, reassure, listen, and safeguard. Each step is carefully explained so as to make parents more attuned to the most effective way to balance protectiveness with realistic preparation for danger. A favorite quote: "In short, we want to make our children aware of, but not paralyzed by, the world they live in."

"Please Explain 'Terrorism' To Me" is an excellent resource for children and parents to educate and empower young people to find ways to keep safe in a changing world.

Growing God's Apple Tree at the Twenty-Four Homes
Arthur Ketterling, author/illustrator
Lighthouse Christian Publishing
9781532845987, $6.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle,

Jack lived at an apartment at the Twenty-Four Homes, where Landlord Art gave him a sickly apple tree to be his own tree to love, if he wanted it. Jack wanted to love and grow God's apple tree, so he accepted and named it Jack's Happy Apple Tree. It had never grown any apples before. Jack watered his apple tree and pruned it and cared for it, but it did not bear apples in the fall, because it had not yet become a happy apple tree.

Jack's one pride and joy was a prizewinning birdhouse that he kept on a special shelf in his room. One day Jack was sad to see a bird's nest fall from a tree after a stormy night, scattering little broken eggs. Jack looked at his birdhouse inside and thought something did not seem right. His birdhouse seemed like a favorite pair of old shoes that no longer fit him, and no longer gave him the same happiness and joy they once did.

Jack thought of a song from Sunday School about finding the greatest treasure there is to be found, that will never fade away, "God's treasure chest of everlasting joy that waits for you and me when we make God become our heart's home and grow into be - God's apple tree." Jack was determined to grow into be God's apple tree.

That fall Jack's Happy Apple Tree became truly happy, and grew a huge crop of apples to share with everyone at Twenty-Four Homes. Jack also decided the following spring to share the love he felt growing in his heart. With the help of Landlord Art, he gave his beloved birdhouse to be a fine spring home for birds raising nestlings, placed on top of a long stout pole.

Jack had the joy of watching birds come, build their nest and hatch their eggs, with lots of chirping and singing. Jack thought, "I know just how you feel birdhouse. We've both become a home filled with our very own treasure of joy. It feels great to have God living with me on the inside. It feels great to be alive. it feels great to be God's apple tree!"

"Growing God's Apple Tree at the Twenty-Four Homes" is an unusual, sensitive story about how a boy named Jack discovered his own special way to invite God to become a part of his own heart's home, so that he could grow to become God's beloved apple tree. The introduction frames the story: "When God lives in our hearts; God lives where we eat and God lives where we sleep. We are never alone, because when God lives in our hearts - we become God's home......(This is) a story about God becoming the home of a special heart there." Simple, crayon illustrations help to bring this simple story to life.

This is a story created by children for sharing and thinking and growing, for readers of all ages.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Ethnicity and Criminal Justice in the Era of Mass Incarceration
Martin Guevara Urbina & Sofia Espinoza Alvarez
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398091538, $49.95, PB, 356pp,

Synopsis: "Ethnicity and Criminal Justice in the Era of Mass Incarceration: A Critical Reader on the Latino Experience" is designed as a Latino reader in criminal justice, covering a much broader spectrum of the Latino experience in criminal justice and society, while giving readers a broad overview of the Latino experience in a single volume. Considering the shifting trends in demographics and the current state of the criminal justice system, along with the current political climate, "Ethnicity and Criminal Justice in the Era of Mass Incarceration" is timely and of critical significance for the academic, political, and social arena.

The authors of this study, Martin Guevara Urbina (Professor of Criminal Justice, Sul Ross State University) and Sofia Espinoza Alvarez (Founder and President of Fundacion Empower Mexico, A. C., San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico) report, along with eight other contributors, sound evidence that testifies to a historical legacy of violence, brutality, manipulation, oppression, marginalization, prejudice, discrimination, power, and control, and to white America's continued fear about ethnic and racial minorities, a movement that continues in the twenty-first century as we have been witnessing during the 2015-2016 presidential race, highly charged with anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican political rhetoric.

A central objective of this book is to demystify and expose the ways in which ideas of ethnicity, race, gender, and class uphold the functioning and legitimacy of the criminal justice system. In this mission, rather than attempting to develop a single explanation for the Latino experience in policing, the courts, and the penal system, "Ethnicity and Criminal Justice in the Era of Mass Incarceration" presents a variety of studies and perspectives that illustrate alternative ways of interpreting crime, punishment, safety, equality, and justice.

The findings reveal that race, ethnicity, gender, class, and several other variables continue to play a significant role in the legal decision-making process. With the social control (from police brutality to immigration) discourse reaching unprecedented levels, "Ethnicity and Criminal Justice in the Era of Mass Incarceration" will have broad appeal for students, police officers, advocates/activists, attorneys, the media, and the general public.

Critique: "Ethnicity and Criminal Justice in the Era of Mass Incarceration" is a timely and comprehensive study that is as impressively informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. A model of research based scholarship, "Ethnicity and Criminal Justice in the Era of Mass Incarceration" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to professional reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library Contemporary Judicial Studies collections.

Biosecurity Dilemmas
Christian Enemark
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626164031, $64.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Biosecurity Dilemmas: Dreaded Diseases, Ethical Responses, and the Health of Nations" by Christian Enemark (Professor of International Relations at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom) examines conflicting values and interests in the practice of "biosecurity", the safeguarding of populations against infectious diseases through security policies. Biosecurity encompasses both the natural occurrence of deadly disease outbreaks and the use of biological weapons. Professor Enemark focuses on six dreaded diseases that governments and international organizations give high priority for research, regulation, surveillance, and rapid response: pandemic influenza, drug-resistant tuberculosis, smallpox, Ebola, plague, and anthrax. "Biosecurity Dilemmas" is organized around four ethical dilemmas that arise when fear causes these diseases to be framed in terms of national or international security: protect or proliferate, secure or stifle, remedy or overkill, and attention or neglect. For instance, will prioritizing research into defending against a rare event such as a bioterrorist attack divert funds away from research into commonly occurring diseases? Or will securitizing a particular disease actually stifle research progress owing to security classification measures?

Critique: In "Biosecurity Dilemmas: Dreaded Diseases, Ethical Responses, and the Health of Nations", Professor Enemark provides a comprehensive analysis of the ethics of securitizing disease and explores ideas and policy recommendations about biological arms control, global health security, and public health ethics. This seminal work of outstanding scholarship is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. Enhanced with the inclusion of tables, a list of abbreviations, an eight page Selected Bibliography, and an eight page Index, "Biosecurity Dilemmas" is a timely, extraordinary, and impressively informative addition to both community and academic library Bioethics & International Affairs collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Biosecurity Dilemmas" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626164048, $32.95) and in a Kindle format ($26.40).

Talking Machine West
Michael A. Amundson
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806156040, $34.95, 208pp,

Synopsis: Many associate early western music with the likes of radio and film stars Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, but America's first western music craze predates these "singing cowboys" by decades. Written by Tin Pan Alley songsters in the era before radio, the first popular cowboy and Indian songs circulated as piano sheet music and as cylinder and disc recordings played on wind-up talking machines.

The colorful fantasies of western life depicted in these songs capitalized on popular fascination with the West stoked by Buffalo Bill's Wild West shows, Owen Wister's novel The Virginian, and Edwin S. Porter's film The Great Train Robbery. The talking machine music industry, centered in New York City, used state-of-the-art recording and printing technology to produce and advertise songs about the American West.

"Talking Machine West: A History and Catalogue of Tin Pan Alley's Western Recordings, 1902 - 1918" by Michael A. Amundson (Professor of History at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff) brings together for the first time the variety of cowboy, cowgirl, and Indian music recorded and sold for mass consumption between 1902 and 1918.

In the introductory chapters, Professor Amundson explains how this music reflected the nostalgic passing of the Indian and the frontier while incorporating modern ragtime music and the racial attitudes of Jim Crow America. Hardly Old West ditties, the songs gave voice to changing ideas about Indians and assimilation, cowboys, the frontier, the rise of the New Woman, and ethnic and racial equality.

In the second part, a chronological catalogue of fifty-four western recordings provides the full lyrics and history of each song and reproduces in full color the cover art of extant period sheet music. Each entry also describes the song's composer(s), lyricist(s), and sheet music illustrator and directs readers to online digitized recordings of each song.

Gorgeously illustrated throughout, "Talking Machine West" is as entertaining as it is informative, offering the first comprehensive account of popular western recorded music in its earliest form.

Critique: A truly impressive work of seminal scholarship and beautifully illustrated with 70 color and 3 b/w illustrations, "Talking Machine West" is enhanced with the inclusion of a six page Bibliography and a seven page Index. Exceptionally informative and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Talking Machine West" is an outstanding and highly recommended addition to community and academic library 20th Century American Popular Music collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Training for Harvest - Stopping for the One, Believing for the Multitudes
Rolland & Heidi Baker
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
97801768410785, $24.95, 2017, 268 Pages

Equipping and Training - Preparation for World Mission and Reaping a Harvest

"Training for Harvest" is and interactive workbook designed to recruit, equip and train men and women for Kingdom ministry assignments around the world. The manual is designed as a training tool for anyone who has answered the call to become a part of a team dedicated to reaping the harvest of nations around the world. Participants will receive a clear sense of purpose and destiny, experience transformation, know intimacy with Jesus, grow in their faith, and access the resources of heaven for ministering signs, wonders, and miracles.

The book is made of 16 sessions, topical lessons, exploring who God is, who you are, and the components of your assignment. Each session contains:

A Session Summary

Main Concepts from the Session

Devotional Challenges with in depth reflective questions

The main concept studied in each session builds in a progression of foundational truths, for example: An introduction to Jesus, the centrality of the cross, friendship with God, and God's sovereignty.

Part Two includes our identity, overshadowed by God's presence, the results of a yielded life and true holiness. Part Three looks what it means to appropriate Christ; find God's will and direction, and commitment. Part Four looks at mission basics: Cultural assimilation, language learning, and dealing with culture shock.

Roland and Heidi Baker, have a vision for global outreach and mission. After serving as missionaries in Indonesia and Hong Kong, the Bakers followed God's leading to Mozambique in southeast Africa in 1995. Through their ministry, they see God at work by miraculously providing food for thousands of children every day. The Bakers are founders and Directors of Iris Global, a network of more than 15,000 churches, Bible schools, primary schools and remote outreach programs. They live in Mozambique, Africa.

The Bakers deliver a bold message, bathed in prayer, with a positive, powerful affirmation of the awesomeness of God's greatness and the potential of the challenge of Global Harvest. "Training for Harvest - Stopping for the One, Believing for the Multitudes" is highly endorsed by International Christian leaders serving in Global ministries around the world.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Manifesting the Blessings of God - How to Receive Every Promise and Provision That Heaven Has Made Available
Steven Brooks
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410761, $15.99, 2017, 224 pages

Miraculous Breakthroughs - Activating the Process of Manifesting the Blessings of God

"Manifesting the Blessings of God" is packed with practical Bible based strategies, principles and stories that tell of faith's trials and triumphs and illustrate how prayer supported by stepping out in faith, results in experiencing God's blessings, his healings, and produce great exploits of faith.

These stories of provision and fulfilled promises will resonate with followers of Jesus who are seeking a deeper revelation of faith, insight into discerning the will of God, and for those who are longing to see unaccomplished dreams rewarded.

Bestselling author and prophetic teacher Steven Brooks is recognized for his ministry in Global Revival, evangelism, and the manifestation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in signs, wonders, and miracles.

Brooks stresses the importance of exercising the spiritual disciplines of renewing your mind, exercising faith for answered prayer, wrestling with God, learning lessons from the nighthawk, and praying in the spirit.

"Manifesting the Blessings of God - How to Receive Every Promise and Provision That Heaven Has Made Available" is a book you will want to read, reread, study, and pursue the actions suggested in each chapter.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Growing in Grace - Daily Devotions for Hungry Hearts
Paul and Billie Tsika
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409918, $16.99, 2016, 384 pages

Inspiring Devotional Thoughts for Beginning Your Day - A Character Building Process

"Growing in Grace" concentrates on getting to know God more intimately to enable you to grow in grace and in likeness of Jesus. The book is uniquely designed to include a Scripture passage, a word of encouragement, an inspirational challenge and a prayer to start your day. Seven themes prepare the reader for a spiritual journey that infuses and imparts wisdom, transforms fear to fortitude, gives instructions for a balanced life, provides guidelines for commitment and choice, reveals secrets of the joy of praise and prayer, the benefits of blessing, and the reward of relinquishing control to rely and rest on strength from above.

I am deeply awed by the powerful prayers of praise, adoration, and worship; challenged by the soul searching prayers of confession; strengthened by the petitions for guidance, and understanding, and blessed by the prayers of thanksgiving for God's love, gift of life, protection, grace, and faithfulness.

"Growing in Grace - Daily Devotions for Hungry Hearts" is an excellent model for establishing the discipline of spending an intimate time with God each morning. These short inspiring devotions are also ideal for adding a vibrant new freshness to an established devotional pattern; strengthened and empowered by a few quiet intimate moments with the heavenly Father.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

40 Days to Wholeness - Body, Soul, and Spirit
Beni Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
97807687410846, $16.99, 2017, 184 pages

A Devotional Guide Leading to a Healthy and Free Lifestyle

In her book "40 Days to Wholeness - Body, Soul and Spirit" Beni Johnson masterfully presents a progressive positive approach to attain and maintain a lifestyle of health and wholeness from the starting point to a natural sense of relationship of physical health, mental acuity, and spiritual power.

Each of the 40 days open with a carefully selected passage from the scriptures, a word of practical instruction, encouragement or motivation drawn from Beni's own pursuit healthy living and wholeness. A unique feature of the book is the thematic continuity and consistency by putting an emphasis on "Body, Soul, and "Spirit." The instructions, words of encouragement, and prayers with declarations of thanksgiving strengthen the reader for their journey.

I found the chapters addressing: the importance of a support circle, practicing self-control, and pressing toward the goal to be especially helpful and motivating. The suggestions for being intentional about keeping an exercise journal resonated with me.

Christians who have struggled with basic discipline in exercise, diet, and devotional consistency will find Beni Johnson's "40 Days to Wholeness - Body, Soul and Spirit" practical, easy to implement, and motivating. Highly recommended.

The book is a part of the Healthy and Free video curriculum. A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Giant Slayers - Ground Rules for Overcoming Life's Biggest Obstacles
Leif Hetland
Destiny Image Publishers
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768407877, $16.99, 2017, 208 pages

Fulfilling Your Destiny by Slaying the Giants in Your Life

In his book "Giant Slayers - Ground Rules for Overcoming Life's Biggest Obstacles" bestselling author Leif Hetland uses examples from the life of David, slayer of the giant Goliath in the land of Israel centuries ago. We can learn lessons and principles from the events in David's life, as recorded in Old Testament.

Hetland also shares lessons from the giants he has faced in his own life. Hetland provides the reader with twelve practical ground rules, designed to equip readers to overcome the obstacles faced regularly; timely parallels from the Scriptures for living out these principles in contemporary life situations.

Part One covers four insights important for "Positioning for Battle."

Part Two provides a clearly structured battle plan, a logical step by step process for "Stepping on to the Field."

Part Three, challenges the reader with the final steps for "Taking Victory."

Leif Hetland, founder and president of Global Missions Awareness, ministers worldwide imparting God's love through healing, evangelism, and apostolic authority.

Unique features of the book are found in the challenging questions to ponder section and in the power declaration statements which reinforce the truths and applications found within the context of each chapter.

"Giant Slayers - Ground Rules for Overcoming Life's Biggest Obstacles" is a book for every believer looking for a new impartation of supernatural power for an overcoming life and the advance God's Kingdom.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Challenging Questions to Ponder

The Powerful declarations statements that highlight and reinforce applications taken from the message and content of each chapter.

The Seer's Path, an Invitation to Experience Heaven, Angels, and the Invisible Realm of the Spirit
Ana Werner
Destiny Image Books, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410709, $15.99, 2017, 176 Pages

Exciting Insights and Essentials to Entering into and Experiencing the Realm of the Spirit

In her book "The Seer's Path, an Invitation to Experience Heaven, Angels, and the Invisible Realm of the Spirit" Ana Werner describes her incredible encounters with the Lord Jesus. Throughout the book Werner addresses questions regarding the gift of the Seer, the marvels of heaven, spiritual; warfare, revelatory visions, and evangelizing.

"The Seer's Path" is uniquely organized using the term "activation" as it relates to specific chapter themes, prayers, and discussion questions. I found the "activation prayers" to be wonderful models, preparing hearts for worship, thanksgiving, and introspection, leading to soul searching confession, and commitment. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter are carefully designed for self-examination, leading to a commitment to take specific action.

This is a book that will resonate with anyone seeking a deeper understanding of what it means to experience more of God, the fullness of his power and the reality of knowing his presence

Werner is passionate about her message, direct in her approach, and powerful in her presentation. She is confident in her writing style and known for her transparency, spirit filled ministry, and love for sharing the heart of Jesus and the message of the gospel.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Furious Sound of Glory - Unleashing Heaven on Earth through a Supernatural Generation, Jeff Jansen
Destiny Image Publisher's Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
97807688410822, $ 15.99, 2017, 222 pages

In his book "The Furious Sound of Glory - Unleashing Heaven on Earth" Jeff Jansen weaves Biblical examples from the Old and New Testaments with contemporary life stories and testimonies of miraculous healing, deliverance from demonic strongholds, and God's power at work in the lives of Jesus, the Apostles, and a present day generation of "radical revivalists empowered to minister miracles through the power of God's Spirit.

Jeff's writing is designed to nurture Christ followers to grow in their faith, know God intimately, and experience supernatural encounters with Him. Jeff's research is impeccable and thoroughly documented. His vivid insight and word pictures create visual images that enhance the reader's understanding between the worlds of the visible and invisible and between the natural and Spiritual.

This is a book that can use to open the eyes of the reader to see what God is doing in this generation to empower believers to become world changers. Readers are encouraged to respond to the call, prayerfully seek discernment and carefully investigate the scriptures, study the content, determine the context, explore Jensen's interpretation and analyze his conclusions and join in the harvest to come.

The book is endorsed by highly respected Revivalist leaders, Pentecostal Pastors and lay leaders, as destined to become "a textbook that will shape the course of world history." Other Theologians and Denominational pastors will find Jansen's writing insightful as a valuable resource for preparing a new generation committed to join in the release of the "fresh new sound of heaven" and the lighting revival fires around the world.

Jeff Jansen is a present day revivalist, internationally recognized for his apostolic message which demonstrates the glory and supernatural power of God let loose. Jensen writes of a strategic "Breakthrough which enables transformation, revealing the intentions and purposes of God... a season of unprecedented miracles signs, and wonders."

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Man's Search for Meaning: Young Adult Edition
Viktor E. Frankl
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807067994, $10.99, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: The late Viktor Emil Frankl (26 March 1905 - 2 September 1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. He was also a Holocaust survivor.

Viktor E. Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" is a classic work of Holocaust literature that has riveted generations of readers. Like Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl" and Elie Wiesel's "Night", Viktor Frankl's masterpiece is a timeless examination of life in the Nazi death camps. At the same time, Frankl's universal lessons for coping with suffering and finding one's purpose in life offer an unforgettable message for readers seeking solace and guidance.

This young adult edition from Beacon Press features the entirety of Frankl's Holocaust memoir and an abridged version of his writing on psychology, supplemented with photographs, a map of the concentration camps, a glossary of terms, a selection of Frankl's letters and speeches, and a timeline of his life and of important events in the Holocaust. These supplementary materials vividly bring Frankl's story to life, serving as valuable teaching and learning tools. A foreword by renowned novelist John Boyne provides a stirring testament to the lasting power of Frankl's moral vision.

Critique: Simply stated, Viktor E. Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning: Young Adult Edition" should be a part of every highschool, community, college, and university library Holocaust collections for adolescent and young adult readers ages 16 to 26. Especially is this so in our current age of internet-based Alt-Right political forces that include neo-Nazi holocaust deniers.

Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity
Louis A. Del Monte
Potomac Books
c/o University of Nebraska Press
233 North 8th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588-0255
9781612348964, $29.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Nanotechnology is predicted to be a main driver of technology and business in this century and holds the promise of higher performance materials, intelligent systems and new production methods with significant impact for all aspects of society. Nanoweapon is the name given to military technology currently under development which seeks to exploit the power of nanotechnology in the modern battlefield. Nanoweapons just might render humanity extinct in the near future. This is a notion that is frightening and shocking but potentially true.

In "Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity", author Louis A. Del Monte (an award-winning physicist and speaker and is the chief executive officer of Del Monte and Associates, Inc.) describes the most deadly generation of military weapons the world has ever encountered. With dimensions one-thousandth the diameter of a single strand of human hair, this technology threatens to eradicate humanity as it incites world governments to compete in the deadliest arms race ever.

In his insightful and prescient account of this risky and radical technology, Del Monte predicts that nanoweapons will dominate the battlefield of the future and will help determine the superpowers of the twenty-first century. He traces the emergence of nanotechnology, discusses the current development of nanoweapons (such as the "mini-nuke", a device that weighs five pounds and carries the power of one hundred tons of TNT) and offers concrete recommendations, founded in historical precedent, for controlling their proliferation and avoiding human annihilation.

Most critically, Nanoweapons addresses the question: Will it be possible to develop, deploy, and use nanoweapons in warfare without rendering humanity extinct?

Critique: A groundbreaking read that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity" is an extraordinary study whose importance cannot be underestimated given the military industrial complex that drives so much of our national and international policies today. A critically important and seminal work, "Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Military Technology collections in general, and nanoweaponry supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for students, professionals, national defense policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity" is also available in a Kindle format ($16.17).

Largie Castle: A Rifled Nest
Mary Gladstone
9781939434302, $33.00, HC, 346pp,

Synopsis: Angus Macdonald was born in a castle, shared rooms with the pagan Broonie & the Archbishop, and, though a second son, destined to inherit an ancient Scottish name and a large property, influenced by his Crabbe and Lockhart ancestors, trained to be an effective agent of Empire through his classical, sporting education, which included Oxford University, where he rowed, flew and became a student of history.

Angus Macdonald looked forward to a bright future.

He joined the Argylls and embarked on a military career that put him on the front line in Malaya, in WW2, as Chief of Staff to various Commanders, where he lived in tents, out-ran tanks in his baby Fiat, and escaped, only to die at sea in unknown circumstances.

Sixty years later, his niece Mary Gladstone sets out to retrace his life to find out why her uncle's mysterious death had so deeply affected her family. With scant evidence due to Angus's restraint and love of solitude, Mary succeeds in writing her uncle's biography in "Largie Castle: A Rifled Nest", a tour de force account giving her uncle a living place in the British narrative.

By recreating her uncle's life, Mary Gladstone confronts the controversy surrounding his death. She searches the record, correcting a wrong, a code of honor betrayed by a jackal, a slander that brought death in another form. Her quest is like that of her Lockhart ancestor who rode to the crusades with the heart of King Robert the Bruce.

In the years after WW2, Largie castle, roofless through neglect, was reduced to a rubble of stones & with it the Mary Gladstone's own sense of self and family. Gaining full understanding, she ends with an inspired disquisition on the British Empire, that nicely defines its evolving and layered character.

Critique: An erudite, deftly crafted, impressively informative, and inherently engaging study of the life and times of Angus Macdonald, "Largie Castle: A Rifled Nest" is an exceptional and very highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library 20th Century Biography collections.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Thirst
Jo Nesbo
Translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385352161, $26.95/34.00, Hardcover, 480 pp., May 9, 2017

In UK:
Harvill Secker
c/o Random House
9781911215288, 20.99 BPS, Hardcover, 544 pp.

Harry Hole, Norway's most experienced serial murder detective, is content to no longer serve on the murder squad, instead lecturing at the police college and living happily after marrying Rakel three years ago. Unfortunately, such bliss is interrupted when evidence of a possible murder too difficult to solve leads the police chief to blackmail Harry into joining the hunt. And then he jumps in with both feet.

It turns out that the villain in a previous novel in the series, "Police," may be the sought-after culprit, especially when Harry recognizes the killer's MO. As the frustrating hunt continues, we learn more about vampirism than, perhaps, we'd like. It appears that the murderer has a taste for drinking the victim's blood. And Nesbo delves into the subject deeply and often.

In this, the eleventh Harry Hole novel, the author once again demonstrates why the series is so popular: a plot so well-developed that the reader hardly notices the length of the book. And the twist that draws the tale to an end certainly is an added fillip. "The Thirst" demonstrates to what lengths Harry Hole will go to solve a case.

Highly recommended.

The Burial Hour
Jeffery Deaver
Grand Central Publishing
237 ParkAve., NY, NY 10017
9781455536375, 459 pp., $28.00 Hardcover, April 11, 2017

In UK:
Hodder & Stoughton
9781473618671, 18.99 BPS, Hardcover, May 3, 2017, 480 pp.

The latest Lincoln Rhyme mystery novel begins with an argument between the criminologist and his aide, Thom, about the forthcoming marriage of Rhyme and supercop Amelia Sachs. The controversy centers on where the honeymoon should take place, with unsentimental Lincoln lobbying for Greenland, where he can observe some new method or other, and Thom suggesting someplace more romantic. Then fate intervenes in the form of an abduction and an odd form of murder, a hanging with a noose made of a cello gut string.

When the victim is rescued in the nick of time by Sachs, the perpetrator, a mental health escapee from an institution, apparently goes to Italy, where Sachs and Rhyme follow only to be treated shabbily by the Italian police and prosecutor. Eventually, somehow all work together to solve the mystery, only after at least three more abductions take place.

Unlike previous entries in the series, forensic analysis is done by an Italian woman, albeit a capable technician, with Rhyme and Sachs only able to read the results. On the whole, this novel is less satisfying than previous books in the series. Perhaps the author strained as he based the plot on a controversial topic: cascading immigration overwhelming the country. Also, the conclusion is hardly in sync with previous novels featuring the criminologist. However, it raises the question of whether the author is preparing readers for a seismic shift in future plotting. Since there are glimmers of the old Lincoln Rhyme, this entry, as all previous ones, is recommended.

Murder on the Quai
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616958084, $15.95, Paperback, 336 pp., May 2, 2017

After 15 Aimee Leduc mysteries, Cara Black turned her attention backward in time to the start of Aimee's career, providing a back story to her beginnings as a detective, and introducing some of the basics which inhabit subsequent novels, namely how she met Rene Friant, her partner in Leduc Detective, and acquired Miles Davis, her bichon frise. At the time, Aimee was a first-year medical student, hating every moment.

Then one day while Aimee was in her father's office, as he was about to leave for Berlin to obtain the Stasi file on his renegade wife, who had disappeared years before, a distant relation asks him to find a young woman who perhaps was the last person to see her father before he was murdered. Instead, Aimee takes the case on herself as her father had refused to do so before he left.

From that point on, all the attributes of an Aimee Leduc mystery flow: Aimee getting into all kinds of danger; all the flavor and smells of Paris streets and neighborhoods; the give-and-take between Aimee and her godfather and high police official Morbier; Aimee's passion for discounted fashion clothes; among other common features of the series. Since it was her first case, the progress is not as smooth as future investigations, as she stumbles and learns, but unquestionably the book is recommended as an introduction to her subsequent adventures.

Manitou Canyon
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476749273, $16.00, Paperback, 320 pp., May 2, 2017

Of the fifteen volumes in the excellent Cork O'Connor series, this latest is one of the best. It finds Cork in the midst of at least two conspiracies during which he probably learns more about himself than he has in a long time. It is November, a month in which he has undergone several tragedies, including the death of his wife. In a depressed mood, his daughter's wedding looms in a couple of weeks.

Cork is approached by the grandchildren of a boyhood friend he has not seen in decades, who has gone missing in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, to try to find the man despite a two-week search-and-rescue operation having failed and efforts called off. Instead of the couple of days by which Cork promised his daughter to return, he and the accompanying granddaughter go missing as well. And this leads to some of the best writing and descriptions in a series that abounds in such efforts as Cork and the woman are captured and with their captors trudge and canoe northward to Canada.

Meanwhile back home Cork's family and friends realize something has gone wrong and they fly to Raspberry Lake looking for him. With winter setting in, it becomes a race not only for survival for the group that captured Cork, but also for his rescuers. As is usual, the author gives the reader deep insight not only into Ojibwe culture but the Northwoods environment in which the story takes place.

Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Conversations with Cayce
Sherry Ward
Cove Publishing
PO Box 350, Cave Creek, AZ 85317
9780997970210, $14.94, PB, 237pp,

Synopsis: Charles Thomas Cayce was an ordinary kid who liked baseball and fishing and hanging out with his friends. He had little interest in the accomplishments of his late grandfather, the renowned psychic Edgar Cayce, and as he grew older, his parents' involvement with the Association for Research and Enlightenment became a source of embarrassment. Why did they have to be into such weird stuff?

His attitude changed when he looked at the life reading his grandfather had given for him just hours after he was born. It spoke of the kind of person he would be, as well as events that nobody could have known about in advance. His "weird" family had been right all along. But that led to a different conundrum. If Edgar Cayce had been capable of predicting major developments in Charles Thomas's life, did that mean he had no control over his own destiny? What if he wanted something different for himself than the reading laid out?

"Conversations with Cayce: Edgar's Grandson, Charles Thomas" chronicles Charles's journey from indifferent skeptic to president of the ARE.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and informative read from beginning to end, "Conversations with Cayce" is a 'must' for anyone with an interest in the life and work of Edgar Cayce. Charles Thomas's musings on his famous grandfather, and in his own otherworldly experiences, and his unique contributions to the work of Egard Cayce and the ARE are unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections in general, and Edgar Cayce supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Conversations with Cayce" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

The Homes of Hope Story
Sean Lambert with Adam Mitchell
YWAM Publishing
PO Box 55787, Seattle, WA 98155
9781576589922, $23.99, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: As a teenager, Sean Lambert left college in 1979 to join Youth With A Mission (YWAM), now one of the world's largest mission organizations. His first overseas mission was to Thailand, where he assisted thousands of Cambodian and Laotian war refugees. His experiences there taught him how to minister to people by addressing both their spiritual and their practical needs.

After Thailand, Sean joined the staff of YWAM Los Angeles, was married, and with his wife, Janet, began mobilizing hundreds of youth each year in short-term outreaches.

In 1990, Sean and his daughter Andrea traveled with a team to Tijuana, Mexico, to build a home for a poor family. Andrea's plea for a family living in an abandoned bus led Sean to mobilize a second group to build a home for the poor. Since 1990 the Homes of Hope vision has continued to expand.

"The Homes of Hope Story: It Matters to This One" gives a behind-the-scenes account of how God has led Sean and Janet in engaging the poor and how thousands have joined with them in discovering the joy of giving. It's also an insightful guide to leadership, chronicling both the successes and the failures in the journey of founding a ministry and trusting in God for its growth.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "The Homes of Hope Story: It Matters to This One" is an extraordinary, inspired and inspiring biography of a man and a mission. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Homes of Hope Story" is unreservedly recommended for community, church, and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Homes of Hope Story" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

There Goes the Neighborhood
Ali Noorani
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633883079, $25.00, HC, 319pp,

Synopsis: "There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration" by Ali Noorani (Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, an advocacy organization promoting the value of immigrants and immigration) is compelling approach to the immigration debate takes the reader behind the blaring headlines and into communities grappling with the reality of new immigrants and the changing nature of American identity.

Noorani interviewed almost fifty local and national leaders ranging from law enforcement and business communities, to immigrant and faith communities, to illustrate the challenges and opportunities they face. From high school principals to church pastors to sheriffs, "There Goes the Neighborhood" reveals that most people are working to advance society's interests, not exploiting a crisis at the expense of one community. As Noorani shows, some cities and regions have reached a happy conclusion, while others struggle to find balance.

Whether describing a pastor preaching to the need to welcome the stranger, a sheriff engaging the Muslim community, or a farmer's wind-whipped face moistened by tears as he tells the story of his farmworkers being deported, "There Goes the Neighborhood" helps readers to realize that America's immigration debate isn't about policy; it is about the culture and values that make America what it is.

The people on the front lines of America's cultural and demographic debate are Southern Baptist pastors in South Carolina, attorneys general in Utah or Indiana, Texas businessmen, and many more. Their combined voices make clear that all of them are working to make America a welcome place for everyone, long-established citizens and new arrivals alike.

Especially now, when we feel our identity, culture, and values changing shape, the collective message from all the diverse voices represented in "There Goes the Neighborhood" ultimately express hope for the future.

Critique: Timely, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration" is an extraordinary and critically important contribution to our current ongoing national discussion and therefore unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "There Goes the Neighborhood" is also available in a Kindle format ($11.99).

Paul T. Vogel

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

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