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Deborah Stevenson, author
Morgan Spicer, illustrator
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10001
9780999515815, $22.95 HC, $14.88 PB, 38pp, Ages 5-7, www.amazon.com
As most kids will agree, visiting grandparents is absolutely awesome! Think about it...you're talking home cooking, extra treats (that Mom always says 'no' to), and so much more. Joel is one of those lucky buggers who is spending his school break with Grandma Gussie and Grandpa Morris at their home in Florida. A place called Delray Retirement Village. Now...there are a few downsides to the visit, like always getting your cheeks pinched; and life can get a little boring when everyone goes to bed so early, but Joel is hoping beyond hope that he will have an adventure.
As soon as Joel arrives, his wonderful grandparents are right there to greet him (and, yes, pinch those cheeks of his). But once the pinching is over with, Joel smiles as they drive to the retirement community to begin their visit. The home cooked meal is awesome, as expected, but just as a bit of boredom is about to arrive, a moving van bigger than any Joel has ever seen pulls up on the cul-de-sac and parks. Out comes two extremely large elephants, moving into one of the houses across the street. There is a massive 'buzz' all about the retirement community in regards to the new residents, but Morris and Gussie go right over to introduce themselves and welcome their new neighbors.
The elephants are the Helfand family; Martha and Lou. It turns out that they are retiring here in Florida now that their circus days have come to an end. From water aerobics in the pool to lazing around on the sunny beach, both families spend time together. Other residents of the village are not as nice, like Mrs. Fox and Mr. and Mrs. Bell. They are more than a little annoyed when Mr. Helfand jumps into the pool and causes them to become soaking wet. But when a frightening event occurs and Mr. Helfand's large trunk is needed, those negative opinions soon change. Although furniture gets broken, and many other humorous things occur, Joel ends up having the adventure of a lifetime.
This fantastic author/illustrator team, who also put together the award-winning title Soaring Soren, have a true gift. The fun plot addresses exactly where elephants go to retire and is based on the fact that circuses were banned from using the incredible animals in shows to improve the elephants' health and welfare. The illustrations are vibrant, beautifully done, and will inspire ALL artists out there to chase their future dreams. This recipe of great story and brilliant drawings come together to make this book unforgettable. So unforgettable that your own grandchild may just see it and beg you to read it 24/7...at least, that's what happened in my house. (Oy!)
Quill Says: An incredible read that's entertaining, exciting, and downright awesome!
For more information on Oy, Elephants!, please visit the publisher's website at: www.FrogPrinceBooks.net
Before We Died (Rivers, Book 1)
Five Directions Press
9781947044166, $15.99, pbk
9781947044173, $9.99 Kindle amazon.com
Christina Francine, Reviewer
"Bax grit his teeth and arched his back but the men on either side of him grabbed him and held him still. The chief dug deeply. I could see the river of fluids - pus and blood, and maybe a surviving maggot or two--" (112).
An unwaveringly real and achingly heartwarming tale about two brothers caught in a web of deception.
Schweighardt's novel Before We Died is an exciting tale about two young Irish American brothers who go to South America to make money to help support their mother. The oldest will soon marry his sweetheart. The time is around 1908 when rubber trees provided the world with its hunger for tires, hoses, and shoe soles. The problem lies with the intention to harm others through deception and lies for personal gain. Like many others told they could make a fair wage through hard work, the two brothers, Jack and Baxter, are lured to the rainforest to harvest rubber and soon find themselves in debt. They're not sure they'll ever see home again and not only because of scam. The rubber tappers more often die from starvation, yellow fever, or from malaria.
Schweighardt's strategy elevates the work from ordinary to sobering when she reminds readers about humankind's ability for evil, humor, and profound love - the kind one brother gives to another. She weaves a story about the insatiable ability some people have to allow abuse, suffering, and death of others in order to obtain power and riches. Though Jack and Baxter argue, curse, and consistently threaten one another, they're determined to keep the other safe, even at a momentous cost. Readers will be mesmerized and pull for the brothers, laugh at their playful antics, worry for them, and understand when they roll around on the ground fighting.
The storytelling provides an exciting journey that at the same time leaves readers wondering how some people justify what they do to others.
Do the Wrong Thing
Malcolm van Delst
Frog Style Media
9780994755018, $2.99, eBook
Jack Messenger, Reviewer
On several occasions, I was fortunate to hear Malcolm van Delst, a writer based in Vancouver, Canada, read aloud from a work-in-progress called Do the Wrong Thing. The extracts she read left me puzzled and intrigued: I was unable to grasp exactly what the book was meant to be about, and exactly what she aimed to achieve. Do the Wrong Thing seemed to consist principally of details and fragments - often, details of fragments - set down more or less at random, from the life of a young woman whom I took to be the author herself. Now that I have read book one of Do the Wrong Thing (others are yet to be published), I am still puzzled, but the mists have cleared enough for me to relish the journey even while the destination remains obscure.
It's unwise to review something that has yet to appear in its entirety, as any surprises in store can overturn assumptions and thoroughly embarrass the reviewer. Suffice to say, Do the Wrong Thing is - so far, at least - a kaleidoscope of memories linked by subconscious attraction and the sudden remembrances provoked by the work of recording them. This might sound chaotic and unsatisfying; however, if one relaxes into the book, so to speak, and travel with no thought to arriving, things start to happen. To use an analogy that quickly sprang to mind while reading, it is as if we are watching a family's 8mm home movies, randomly and with little context other than the comments and exclamations of the hosts. It is we who do the job of interpretation.
In some ways, Do the Wrong Thing is a metafictional novel (memoir? meditation? remembered dream?) par excellence, for it contains deliberate errors, metatextual tags, lists and poems, plus the occasional illustration. The writer's own voice breaks through the text with apologies and excuses and explanations of her difficulties in remembering/reconstructing the past. Gradually, one comes to know the mind of the rememberer, and/or the mind of the central character, until the immediacy of the encounter between reader and author feels exhilaratingly personal and intimate. It is as if we are in the unmediated presence of another consciousness.
Conventional minds such as my own tend to baulk at this kind of approach, but Do the Wrong Thing is powerfully seductive: it is possible to enjoy it almost against one's will. Ava's journey from toddler to puberty is accompanied by parents, uncles and aunts, school friends, cats and farm animals and, above all, an ever-expanding host of brothers and sisters (it is a Roman Catholic household). There is an oddly timeless feel to this largely rural milieu, so that it is abruptly surprising to learn we have reached the 1970s, for example, when David Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers caused teeny-boppers' hearts to flutter.
The perils of childhood and the kind of mystified insightfulness it often possesses are brought to bear on parents, in particular, but also on the changing loyalties and precarious alliances between school friends, as well as the menacing unknowability of certain teachers and older brothers and cousins. Children have to be tough and remember to forget the things that frighten them.
There is a gathering storm behind book one. Teenage years are the next to be recollected, I presume, and they have been presaged by an increasingly virulent rejection of organized religion (the gruesome crucifixions and bleeding hearts on display throughout the family home are thoroughly repellent). Something nasty might be waiting patiently for the opportunity to strike; at any rate, some significant break, some defining moment, will surely take place because, one senses, it is from beyond that pivotal point that recollection and reassessment are made possible.
Where exactly is Do the Wrong Thing headed? Does it know? These questions cannot yet be answered, but we can look forward to making up our own minds as more is revealed. I, for one, will be along for the ride.
Transcendent Zero Press
Niles Reddick, Reviewer
Ryan Guth's latest release, a revised and expanded edition of his first book Home Truths (Transcendent Zero Press; first edition published in 2006 by Alsop Review Press), is a poetry and prose collection that a reader can read in one sitting because it simply can't be put down. Guth, who holds the Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati, has been published in many prestigious literary journals and magazines including "Lummox," "Iron Horse," "Bryant Literary Review," and "Third Coast Review."
Since Home Truths covers the gamut of family life across multiple generations, several characters make an appearance. One of my favorite descriptions is a memory of childhood, where the narrator spends time in his grandmother's attic in different seasons. The language and description combined with the emotional serenity experienced, and the truth that nature always wins, left this reader wanting to go home, go to the attic, and see if I could replicate the experience.
When the grandfather dies, the funeral home becomes the grandmother's business. While there are sprinklings of great stories related to funeral homes, there's also a melancholy feel for the family who falls on difficult times because it's now a woman-owned business in a time when such was not seen in a favorable light. In addition, difficult times are forced on the family because of free market competition. We don't often think about the funeral business as a business - but those who work in it certainly have to, and they experience all the same problems of any business in a society driven by capitalism, as the book shows.
There are memorable characters who illustrate the love and tension in the family when they don't meet expectations, like Unk:
Grandma always said
that Unk had been their mother's favorite.
Mostly, she believed, because
their father had thought so little of him:
no damn good for catching
pigs or girls, that one.
And dumb as a post besides!
For the reader who is a connoisseur of unique collections, Home Truths is a fine one, extremely well done and impressive, and I found myself thinking time and again: "What a colorful cast of family members and characters and what beautiful detail." Other than the pure enjoyment from each and every page, an added bonus for this writer was I found inspiration in my own long forgotten stories. Home Truths is a must read.
What Matters Most
Helen Bea Kirk
9780692943267, $14.95 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 225pp, www.amazon.com
Jack Magnus, Reviewer
Review Rating: 5 Stars
What Matters Most is a contemporary Southern fiction novel written by Helen Bea Kirk. When Meagan Morris entered King's Pawn, she was on a mission -- to try to reclaim those mementos which were all she had left of her family and her deceased husband. Someone had robbed her of everything that mattered to her: the jewelry her mother and other relatives had passed on to her; the guitar her uncle had given her; the red speed bag Paxton had inscribed when he gave it to her as a present. Methodically, she tracked down each stolen item through Drakeslist and then robbed the seller at gunpoint, figuring either they belonged to the gang who robbed her or were complicit in passing her stuff along.
King's Pawn was different from the other pawn shops where she hunted for her family's jewelry. The bearded man behind the counter evoked memories of her Uncle Abe, and both he and his big German Shepherd dog were watching her with suspicion. She couldn't blame them. Dressed in Paxton's military gear, with sunglasses, knit cap and false teeth disguising her appearance, it was clearly obvious that something was wrong. When she held him up for the pearl necklace she had been looking at, he managed to trigger off the store alarm, but when the police arrived, King just couldn't find it in himself to turn her over to the authorities. Meagan was stunned as he put that pearl necklace in a shopping bag and added a jewelry case. In the turmoil, she had left behind the photograph showing the items that had been stolen from her. King put it in his shirt pocket to study later on. There was a mystery behind all this that he was determined to solve.
Helen Bea Kirk's contemporary Southern fiction novel, What Matters Most, is an engaging and beautifully written story that had me smiling as I read it. King Pullman and Meagan Morris are marvelous main characters whose worlds, which initially seem so far apart, somehow come together as Meagan works to regather the mementos that are all she has left of her family. I particularly enjoyed the unconventionality of these two characters: Meagan is strong and competent, and her marriage, which hints at being decidedly less than optimal and on the abusive side, has left her in no doubt about her abilities to stand up for herself. King, while the image of the handsome and virile landowner, seems almost passive as he waits for her to make the first move and marvels when he finds her hidden under his bed, getting a secret frisson of excitement knowing she'll see him as he walks toward the shower undressed. Kirk's supporting cast is equally memorable, and her plot moves very well indeed. What Matters Most is very highly recommended.
One Man's Maine: Essays on a Love Affair
Green Writers Press
9780998260426, $19.95 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 214pp, www.amazon.com
Jim Krosschell's book, One Man's Maine, is both thoughtful and provocative. Published by Green Writers Press, a Vermont based publisher whose mission is to spread a message of hope and renewal, the book is all of that.
Jim's "from away" with a home in Owls Head, and he's a very strong environmentalist. I most enjoyed his chapters on Maine's wild critters, from moose and deer to yellow finches and crabs. While he is critical of moose hunters, I forgive him for that. Having never hunted, he doesn't really understand that hunting is not all about killing.
Jim has a unique way of expressing his appreciation for our state, from moss and lichen on a mountaintop to rockweed in the ocean, and he has strong feelings for our wild places.
Here's a good example from his chapter titled "Human Natures."
"Land (and sea) is not just a vast therapist's couch. We crave wild land. Wildness is a mother, the original gene pool. We attempt to co-opt wild experiences - RVs, zip lines, parasailing, glam-camping - at our peril; Mother Nature sees right through these propitiations. Only in preserving and feeling wilderness are we stating that we understand the worst of human nature, and embrace it."
And later, at the end of that chapter, is this: "How desperately important it is, then, to bring together people and nature, to take a kid to a vernal pool deep in the woods where she learns what a frog is and must be, let alone how it feels to hold one in her hand, in her wild, untamed, and mortal heart."
Boy, he got that right.
I also appreciated his chapter on trash. Like me, Jim picks up roadside trash. I've written a lot about road slobs, and helped create a new project called Keep Maine Clean, at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Resource Recovery Association. The Association is about to launch its project, which will build an army of those of us who pick up roadside trash, and encourage others to join us.
I expect Jim Krosschell will be joining us, because he describes our motivation very well: "He does it mostly in gratitude to the place, to keep it good looking, to remove evidence of disrespect, to belong to it, and if a passerby notices and nods, or feels shame and doesn't litter the next time, then that's a bonus. Besides, a trash-picker would surely be considered an integral part of the community."
You got that right too Jim! Perhaps you'll allow us to include your Trash story in one of our Keep Maine Clean newsletters.
Seven Days In July: A Historical Account Of The Battle Of Atlanta
Kenneth A. Griffiths
Indigo River Publishing
9780990485704, $18.95, PB, 584pp, www.amazon.com
Seven Days in July is a day to day account of the Battle of Atlanta. The author, Kenneth A. Griffith is an Atlanta Resident and civil war scholar who served on active duty in the United States Army. It includes detailed, compelling and exciting stories about the battles that helped shape this key campaign in the Civil War. These show how bloody and violent this war really was.
The author's description of the men who fought in the war are mostly fictional. However, they do an excellent job of making this battle seem more real to the reader. He illustrates the various personality conflicts among the various generals. He also describes the reactions and feelings of the troops at times of low morale. His biographical sketches of many of these key figures help provide some interesting historical perspective.
This was an enjoyable and interesting book to read. I would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the civil war or who enjoys reading good historical fiction.
The TRIBAL Case
Theresa M. Janson
Red Garnet Press
9780692064610, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 188pp, www.amazon.com
Janson offers a face-paced, gripping multiple murder mystery with an intense storyline that smartly reveals the protagonist's past personal traumas and present-day conflicts. Janson enriches this detective story with humor and sizzling romance.
Prose is clear and often poetic, with well integrated foreshadowing and authentic details relating to the work of an FBI agent and criminal profiler.
Readers will be easily emotionally invested in Janson's unique, character-driven mystery that integrates questions of cultural identity and deftly explores the lasting impact of violence and abuse.
Janson's cast is comprised of contemporary, diverse characters as described through her protagonist's witty and discerning voice. Two polar opposite love interests will keep readers entertained, while the protagonist herself is a strong and inspiring survivor of personal traumas.
The Swan Keeper
PO Box 69, Morrison, CO 80465
9781948598033, $17.95 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Laura Elliot, Reviewer
Bucks, Books, & Beyond
Genre: General Fiction
My Rating: ****
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
About the Book:
Lilly is a young girl who can't wait to turn eleven years old. She lives in what seems an idyllic setting in the mountains of rural Montana with her parents and fourteen year old sister. Her father is an avid photographer and has a particular interest in photographing trumpeter swans in the marshlands near their family home.
Lilly is like any young girl and spends her days in her make believe world and fantasies that she is a kindred spirit of the swans her father photographs. Although the swans are beautiful and rare they are at risk from hunters and having witnessed the slaughter of one of the baby swans, Lilly's father is convinced he knows who the 'swan killer' is.
On the day Lilly turns eleven, her only wish is to see the swans and the family make a day of it by riding their bikes out to the swans' nest in the marshlands. While Lilly climbs a tree pretending she is in the hands of a giant she witnesses a man senselessly shoot her parents with a shotgun.
Although Lilly looks into the eyes of the killer, when she recounts her story to the sheriff and anyone who will listen, no one believes her. For who would believe the words of a young girl who spends her days in the world of make-believe?
You can order your copy of 'The Swan Keeper' on Amazon at:
You can probably tell from the four stars I have given that I enjoyed this book, but what I wasn't expecting was quite how much I would enjoy it.
The authors writing style is like none i've come across and her use of imagery and descriptive prose throughout is really beautiful. I've never visited Montana, but the detailed descriptions the author gives of the mountainside and the marshlands made me feel like i'd been on a visit there after I had finished the book.
The author captures what it's like to be eleven and that feeling of desperation when no one takes you seriously or believes what you say. It's ironic really that Lilly struggles throughout with the morals of telling little white lies that all children tell, yet the one thing she doesn't lie about, who shot her parents, is the one thing she's actually telling the truth about.
This book delves into family relationships, the beauty of nature and animals, whilst weaving a lovely coming of age theme. Wonderfully written and a book I was not expecting to enjoy as much as I did. I thoroughly recommend anyone who likes their fiction with these themes to add 'The Swan Keeper' to their bookshelf.
About the Author
Milana Marsenich lives in Northwest Montana near Flathead Lake at the base of the beautiful Mission Mountains. Western Writers of America selected her debut novel, Copper Sky, as a Spur Award finalist for Best Western Historical Novel. Milana has an M.Ed. in Mental Health Counselling from Montana State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. She has previously published in Montana Quarterly, Big Sky Journal, The Polishing Stone, and Feminist Studies. She has a short story included in the Montana Quarterly book Montana, Warts and All: The Best From Our First Decade.
Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit
House of Anansi Press
9781487003609, $19.95, PB, 60pp, www.amazon.com
Without a doubt, the easiest badge to affix to Mikko Harvey's delightfully imaginative debut poetry collection Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit is "surrealism" - a badge I know Harvey wears with a proud sheepishness. Like me, Harvey both adores the treasured history of American surrealism but is also apprehensive about the accuracy of the term in relation to his work. Certainly, the spirits of Tate, Strand, Edson and Ruefle haunt these poems, but Harvey's work embodies its own strange landscape. It exists in a kind of corner of those masters' kingdom, a corner that surely shares a border with the area that, on our most unimaginative days, most of us would call "the real world." Because despite the many moments of violence in these poems, perhaps what remains the most disconcerting aspect of Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit is how truly realistic each poem is. It's rare in Harvey's work that something unreal happens. Rather, unlikely is Harvey's realm of choice.
When regular people find themselves in entirely conceivable yet nonetheless surprising situations, as happens in most of these poems, readers are forced to reimagine what is possible in this world. And that is the miracle of the work in this collection. For as much as we may prefer to refuse the possibility, a child could pull a dead cat out of a backpack in the middle of the mall, a secret society could annually sacrifice a person for performing the most realistic bird call, and someone could concoct a complicated scheme to cure boys of shyness by teaching them to murder rabbits, which of course backfires.
Tempting as it might be to focus on the violent turns that populate Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit, the more important and pervasive mood of these poems is actually tenderness. Time and again, quiet, anxious, and awkward speakers try and fail and try again to connect with those closest to them. A young man ruins a relationship by forgetting to say "Bless you" after a sneeze. An undiscussed disease barricades a father from his son. A phlebotomist and her patient fail to see eye-to-eye on the value of drinking blood. More often than not, personality and the very wish to connect are exactly what ruin the effort.
The wonder of surrealism is that it helps put absurdity into perspective. In Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit, Harvey's fantastic situations are as likely to undermine a speaker as "real-life" forces such as religion, war, groupthink, and expectations of beauty, obligation, family, and love. And when you think about it, as Harvey's collection asks us to do, are these societal forces actually less absurd than, say, a giant pair of scissors? Or, as we are urged to consider in "Pastry Conference," does the idea of humans coming together to discuss baked goods really seem any less ridiculous than squirrels performing ritual sacrifice? You may be inclined to respond "Yes," but read Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit and see if Harvey hasn't convinced you by the end.
A poet's job is to see the world in new ways, and that's exactly what Harvey does here. The best poems in Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit remind us of the infinite possibilities outside of our narrow existence. What Harvey sees in this collection is that the borders of reality are more malleable, shifting, and expansive than life's normal drudgery encourages us to notice. Reading Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit is an exciting reminder. But most importantly - like the playground the speaker of "I Built a Playground" constructs for his ex - this collection is simply a lot of off-kilter fun.
Hope Blooms: Organ Donation, the Rose Parade, and Our Journey to Save Lives
Advantage Media Group
65 Gadsden St, Charleston, SC 29401
9781599329482, $39.99 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 360pp, www.amazon.com
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly PWxyz LLC. Used by permission.
Stewart movingly chronicles the story of how the subject of organ and tissue donation became the centerpiece of beautiful floral tributes in Pasadena, Calif.'s famous Rose Parade ("America's New Year Celebration"). As chair of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float Committee, he is uniquely well-equipped to write this detailed, 12-year account of how the idea of publicizing organ donations at the Rose Parade, first hatched in 2002, became a reality. Themes executed have included 2004's A Symphony of Life, 2006's Life Transformed, 2008's Life Takes Flight, and 2010's New Life Rises. Floats have introduced recipients to their donors, or to the families of their donors, for the first time, and have united fellow recipients with each other - a pair of riders invited onto the float one year had received heart transplants at the same time and hospital while they were still infants. The Donate Life initiative has also shed light on lesser-known organ donation streams, such as living donation kidney chains, in which would-be donors incompatible with their preferred recipient instead pass the donation onto someone else in need. Stewart's passion for his cause shines through this inspiring narrative.
Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey into the Unknown
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780060194161, $26.66 HC, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Pedro Blas Gonzalez, Reviewer
Professor of Philosophy, Barry University
The original Mercury Project Seven astronaut group was assembled from a pool of military test pilots. These were the men who initiated America's space program in the 1950s. Being the first American astronauts was immensely stressful given that the list of unknowns, what-to-expect, and what-if scenarios seemed endless at the time.
Gordon Cooper was chosen because of his flying ability and seemingly natural prowess as a flyer. At Edward Air force base, Cooper and other pilots like John Glenn, were breaking speed and altitude records. Cooper flew the F 102, F-106 and U-2, among many others aircrafts. Gordon Cooper was born in Oklahoma, on March 6, 1927.
Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey into the Unknown is a biography that takes the reader on a roller coaster of exploration and adventure. Cooper's book ranks in the top tier of astronaut books, of which there are quite a few. Leap of Faith was published in 2000. The best of these is arguably Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins' 1974 book Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys.
What makes Cooper's book distinctive is the personable style of the writing and the substance of its narrative. Cooper's language is never technical or boring, as is often a criticism pinned on many books, where the main aim of the work is other than literary. Cooper's life, he tells us, was from the start inspired by aviation and rocketry. As a young boy, he was fascinated with Robert Goddard's rocket science.
Cooper is candid that his greatest fear was to encounter the unknown and not be able to achieve his mission. Beyond informing the reader of what character traits motivate test pilots and astronauts like Cooper, Leap of Faith must be read as a book of American history. Cooper is careful to detail the "space race," as this portion of twentieth century history is referred to today between the US and the Soviet Union. The author takes the reader through the success and failure of the fledgling American space program, when NASA was young and bold. He describes the nature of aerospace engineering and the aspirations of the people who built the early rockets that placed manned-capsules in Earth orbit.
The Mercury Project ran from 1958 to 1963, and employed the use of Redstone and Atlas rockets. The Gemini Project saw the second phase of the American space program. This phase developed the Titan II rocket from the Titan II missile. Both of these space programs were the precursors of the Apollo Program (1961-1972), which culminated with Americans landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. The first crewed Apollo mission was Apollo 7, in October 1968, and the last was Apollo 17, on December 1972. The Apollo program utilized the biggest and most powerful rocket that man has ever created to this day, the Saturn V.
Leap of Faith is as much about the difficulties that the early astronauts encountered, as it is a lively history of NASA in its infancy. Cooper tells the reader how he learned to fly with his father in a Curtiss Robin high-wing airplane. Some of the most interesting parts of the book have to do with Cooper's friendship with Wernher von Braun, the German engineer who created the V-2, which was eventually to play such an instrumental role in the creation of the Saturn V rocket. Equally interesting is Cooper's discussion of UFO's and what the possibility of extraterrestrial life might signify for human beings. People who have seen Cooper speak in interviews will appreciate his easy-going manner and writing in Leap of Faith.
Flashbulb Danger: Selected Poems 1988-2018
Jack Phillips Lowe
Middle Island Press
9780999493977, $11.99, Trade Paperback, 224 pages, www.amazon.com
Elizabeth Melvin, Reviewer
Windy City Reviews / Chicago Writers Association
Flashbulb Dangeris a collection of poems capturing the modern day miasma in clear accessible language. Author Jack Phillips Lowe provides a general sense of disdain with a low swell of humor. Whether you are a poetry aficionado or a total novice, the reader can engage with these quippy narratives, letting the deeper meaning of the poems resonate off the eloquently painted images. JPL's work achieves the depth of poetry in an understandable language with accessibility to the work. It is quintessentially American - invasive and snarky.
The selected poems in this collection create a visceral experience exploring Americana and the characters within. The work is segmented into three periods based on year. The author finds narrative poetry liberating, and refers to the classical tradition of Bukowski; he finds the flourish in the end of the poems. "I didn't have to just say what I felt; I could illustrate it." He allows the reader to marvel at the backstory and fill in the blanks.
The collection is chronological but there is a sense of channel surfing in exploring a vast tableau of the human condition in digestible segments. While narrative poetry is a classical form, JPL avoids many of the modern poetic conceits that usually alienate readers from the experience of poetry. His work is a modern homage to ballad tales and epic poetry yet his heroes are mundane, foolish, small, and human. Taking cultural paragons like James Dean, Jim Morrison, and Charles Bukowski, he cracks the veneer of the public persona and taps the vein of humanity. The icons become vulnerable, much like the Greek gods on their polished Olympus.
JPL's characters are subtle yet expressive. A great example is the character of Buchman, who appears in four poems of this collection, in the second and third sections of the book. Buchman appears first in the poem "snapped,"filling out "what felt like his 433rdonline job application," and quickly, "Like a dead branch in a winter storm/Buchman snapped." From the first poem, Buchman presents himself as the American everyman in dire straits, living in his parents' basement. His situation is one usually glossed over or minimized but, in the poem, we feel the tremulous pain running under the surface of his existence. He appears again in the poem "Coo-Coo-Cachew" where, finally employed, Buchman uses humor to insulate himself against an outraged customer. JPL emulates the use of humor as a mask, a barrier, and in minimizing daily troubles, just another human feature of getting through the world. It's easy to laugh right along with Buchman. We get another shorter poem reflecting his parents through his own eyes. By now, Buchman is like a lost friend, resurfacing in "The Sky Cried" and we spend our final moment with Buchman lamenting the passing of Tom Petty.
Petty is a mere mention in that poem but other poems find themselves dedicated to cultural icons like Jim Morrison, Charles Bukowski, and Jack Kerouac. JPL approaches these characters on a human level with the familiarity of a friend allowing us to come to the table with fictional moments of humanity. He takes them off the pedestal and brings them to the table for a beer. Some of the most impactful poems read like letters to influential figures, such as "Amelia Earhart Pancake." The most moving piece appears in the final section of the book, a poem called "My Backhanded Reward," which JPL frames as a letter to author Joe Bolton, who was a great influence. His tone reflects love, respect, and the wounded anger that only comes from true friendship. The ability to reach these intimate moments so quickly is a great joy in the collected works.
Over a 30+ year career, JPL has abandoned the pretensions of poets that can isolate the work from readership. His examination of pop culture and modern American mythology is precise and humorous yet appears like a crack in the foundation of the culture, allowing readers to explore and expand conceptually in the work. The poems are easy on the surface but shake loose deeper thoughts, so they are good for a quick read and a long think.
Starting from San Francisco: A Life in Writing
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781544200590, $9.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 48pp, www.amazon.com
Gerald Hausman, Reviewer
Stay Thirsty Magazine
As the author states in this affecting memoir, "No one can avoid the journey of his life, which is why we turn to artists, whose visions often provide a lens by which we can see ourselves."
David Kherdian, as it happened, used many lenses himself as a writer, and his friends in the business of writing were many and varied. In San Francisco, he knew Ferlinghetti, Snyder, Whalen, Meltzer, Everson, Saroyan.
He also knew many of the publishers and printers, and was the first of the few who published a singular and luminous bibliography of their work - this was in the sixties, well before fame had sprinkled gold dust on these now legendary literary names.
When I traveled with Kherdian to San Francisco he took me to Richard Brautigan's house where the author had painted his bare feet in different colors so that the floor was imprinted with his footprints. That way, stoned or drunk, he could find his way from room to room in the dark.
Eli's Story: A Twentieth-Century Jewish Life
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814344941, $74.99, HC, 342pp, www.amazon.com
"Eli's Story: A Twentieth-Century Jewish Life" by Meri-Jane Rochelson (who is Professor Emerita of English at Florida International University) is first and foremost a biography. Its subject is Eli G. Rochelson, MD (1907-1984), who is Professor Rochelson's father. At its core is Eli's story in his own words, taken from an interview he did with his son, Burt Rochelson, in the mid-1970s. "Eli's Story" is the personal account of a man whose life and memory spanned two world wars, several migrations, an educational odyssey, the massive disruption of the Holocaust, and finally, a frustrating yet ultimately successful effort to restore his professional credentials and identity, as well as reestablish family life. A valued addition to the growing library of Holocaust narratives and an inherently fascinating memoir of 'an interesting life live out in interesting times', "Eli's Story" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library 20th Century Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Eli's Story" is also available in a paperback edition (9780814340219, $27.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.99).
Beware Of Memories
Dr. Patrick K. Jaynes & Darlien C. Breeze
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781986039321, $17.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 318pp, www.amazon.com
Neuroscientist Dr. Patrick Jaynes and entrepreneur Darlien Breeze present Beware of Memories, a "soft" science fiction novel that weaves an exquisite web of international intrigue, accented with a dash of romance. An alien race has approached Earth with seemingly peaceful intentions, but could a self-serving motive lurk beneath their civilized overtures? An extraordinary technological breakthrough is introduced, with the limitless potential to help people relive past events - or warp their minds by planting false memories! Captivating to the final page, Beware of Memories is highly recommended.
Natural and Home Remedies for Aging Well
Bottom Line Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781492665793, $19.99, PB, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Americans spend a fortune each day on prescription drugs, and if you're over the age of 50 the cost and complications of conventional health treatments can be overwhelming. There are other options, more natural and simpler to use, that can empower you to take back the control of your own body, and restore your vitality. With insight from over 100 of the world's top health experts, "Natural and Home Remedies for Aging Well: 196 Alternative Health and Wellness Secrets That Will Change Your Life" is a go-to guide that provides practical and effective advice on a vast array of topics, including: Over-the-counter and homemade remedies; Foods that fight disease and ease pain; Weight loss and exercise essentials; Brain fitness and healthy sleeping habits. Exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Natural and Home Remedies for Aging Well" is especially recommended for community library Health/Medicine instructional reference collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of anyone wanting to stay fit and lean, avoid or treat a condition, or simply seeking occasional substitutes to the traditional medical options, that "Natural and Home Remedies for Aging Well" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, 124 Byers Road, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9780993108686, $22.00, PB, 320pp, www.amazon.com
"Witchbroom" is a novel by author Lawrence Scott that presents a visionary history of a Caribbean Spanish/French Creole family and an island over four centuries and concluding with its 20th-century independence. With innovative tone and content, "Witchbroom" is a carnival of tales about crime and passion as told by the narrator Lavren, who is both male and female. As a unique and original novel "Witchbroom" heralded a new generation of modernist Caribbean writers who, like Scott, broke away from a predominantly realist literary tradition as "Witchbroom" identifies more with magic realism. A richly entertaining and many layered read, its hermaphrodite narrator brings a contemporary flavor to the novel. The title Witchbroom refers to a fungus that attacks cocoa trees, and is also used as a metaphor for the decline of the island's plantocracy. An inherently fascinating and iconoclastic read from beginning to end, "Witchbroom" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).
To Ride The Savage Hills
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444837926, $20.99, PB, Large Print, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Marshal Ed Pruitt had been transporting rapist and murder Sam Trask to justice when, following an accident, Trask murdered the driver and escaped. Now Marshal Pruitt wants bounty hunter Bodie, recovering from a savage beating, to bring Trask in before the wanted man can make good his escape by crossing the line into Canada. But what should be a straightforward pursuit soon turns into something far more puzzling. Trask is a killer, yet some people are unexpectedly willing to cover for him -- even to the point of hiring one man to shoot him from ambush and three others send out to hunt him down and kill him by any means possible. As Bodie rides the savage hills, facing bullets and treacherous weather, he proves that he's the toughest manhunter the West will ever see despite being beat up and shot. Another riveting bounty hunter tale from the pen of Neil Hunter, "To Ride The Savage Hills" is a an enthralling read from first page to last and very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of western fans and community library Western Fiction collections.
Living with Hitler
Herbert Dohring, Karl Wilhelm Krause, & Anna Plaim
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781784382971, $34.95, HC, 240pp, www.amazon.com
The collaborative project of Hitler's Bodyguard Karl Krause (1934-39), his house administrator Herbert Dohring (1935-43) and chambermaid Anna Plaim (1941-43), "Living with Hitler: Accounts of Hitler's Household Staff" is collection personal, eyewitness accounts that reveals the personal life of Adolph Hitler from the unique perspective of members of his household. From these unique accounts we get a deeper sense of Hitler in close proximity, expanding and enhancing our understanding of Hitler as a three dimensional character, especially from subjects like Plaim who only knew Hitler's home life, having rarely left Berghof. "Living with Hitler" is able to shed light on his likes and dislikes from foods to his hobbies, creating a strange sense of humanity. This collection also provides the reader with fresh anecdotes, observations and portraits of Hitler's entourage and relatives. Plaim's images of Eva Braun come from finding torn fragments in the bin, whilst Dohring sheds light on Martin Bormann's demeanour. An unusually informative and inherently riveting read, "Living with Hitler" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Living with Hitler" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.97).
The White Book
Deborah Smith, Translator
9781846276958, A$19.99, paperback, 161 pages
The White Book is a meditative book. It is a small white book, its chapters tiny and set on the pages with whiteness around them. Its mood is calm and its language poetic. And it needs to be read slowly and in quietness.
It begins with a list: Swaddling bands / Newborn gown / Salt / Snow / Ice / Moon / Rice... all white things which the writer ponders as she contemplated her need to write this book. And writing it, she hopes, will be "transformative, would itself transform, into something like white ointment applied to a swelling, like gauze laid over a wound".
There is an underlying grief to be healed. She writes of the premature birth of a baby "white as a moon-shaped rice cake" - a baby girl who died, and who would have been her elder sister. She dreams of her - her 'onni', who would have scolded her, helped her with her homework, cared about her.
Moving to a strange European city she finds whiteness everywhere - in light, snow, fog. It seems to reflect the fragility of life, the need, as in this war-devastated city, to re-create, rebuild, incorporating into the new everything which has gone before. She begins, then, to recreate a life for her dead sister.
She imagines, again, her sister's birth, her mother's plea "Don't die. For God's sake don't die", and the sudden flood of milk filling her mother's breasts. "She. I think of her living to drink that milk", she begins. And chapter-by-brief-chapter, page-by-page, she gives her sister life.
Nothing about this book is maudlin. Whiteness and light flood it. Only the few photographs are in black-and-white, and they, too, are images for contemplation.
Han Kang is Korean and her books have already won international prizes. Deborah Smith translates this book seamlessly and its language is seductive, sophisticated and beautiful. This is indeed a transformative and transforming book about love, grief and life.
9781526601186, A$29.99, paperback, 244 pages
Two unlikeable people: Frances, a sixty-five-year-old American woman who all her life has used wealth (her father's, then her husband's) and her own beauty to behave exactly as she pleases. And Malcolm, the self-focussed, unmotivated, adult son she trails in her wake. For a long time I thought the cat, Small Frank, was the most likable character in the book but then he turned out to be the reincarnation of her very unpleasant, dead, husband.
French Exit is a farce and I am not particularly fond of farces. Some readers will, no doubt, find the bizarre, ridiculous situations hilarious but they just made me think of crazy surrealist paintings. For a long time I wondered why I was bothering to read on, but the cat had me hooked.
The 'plot' is simple. Frances, who is now a widow, uses up all her inheritance and moves with her son to a friend's unoccupied apartment in Paris. Not surprisingly Frances, has only this one friend. Malcolm has an on-off girlfriend who seems to have fallen in love with his insular lack of interest in life but, typically, he abandons her back in New York.
On the unprofessional advice of her lawyer, and with the help of a shady figure called Ralph Rudy, Frances salvages as much money as she can from her possessions. Then she departs for Paris on a cruise ship with 17,000 Euros in cash in a holdall under the Valium-comatose body of Small Frank. Once in Paris, she makes two decisions. One: to spend all the money. Two: to kill the cat.
Small Frank comes to know of Frances's murderous intent so he escapes. But finding rough living difficult he attempts to commit suicide by throwing himself off the Eiffel Tower - twice. Both times he survives and limps away "taking bitter solace from the thought that he would likely die from malnutrition in the near future".
Frances then employs a clairvoyant to find and communicate with Small Frank and at the seance we learn how the cat came to embody the spirit of the dead husband.
Much of the action is fuelled by alcohol and the various characters which appear in the book are people with problems who just happen to be drawn into Frances's chaotic life.
Frances spends or gives away all her money. The final scene of this drama, so-to-speak, could have been played as high melodrama but the style throughout the book is flat and unemotional. We are disengaged observers and, since Frances's actions are signalled ahead of their occurrence, there is no drama.
The 'Coda' is inconsequential. And the last we see of Small Frank is as "a mangy figure" sitting outside Frances's Paris apartment gazing up at her window. It is all rather anti-climatic. And although Patrick deWitt is clearly a talented writer I remained unmoved.
9781526602718, A$24.99, hardback, 42 pages
This is a beautiful, heartfelt and very moving book.
"My dear Marwan", it begins, as a father remembers his own childhood in his grandfather's farmhouse outside Hom. "I wish you had not been so young", he tells his small son. "You wouldn't have forgotten the farmhouse, the soot on its stone walls, the creek where your uncles and I built a thousand boyhood dams". He remembers, too, the bustling Old City, the grand souk, "the crowded lanes smelling of fried kibbeh" and evening walks there with the boy and his mother. All this went, like a dream, when war came.
Now, they stand on a beach waiting for a boat. "Hold my hand" he says. "Nothing will happen to you".
But we know this is only a prayer and that bad things did and do happen to those fleeing their homes because of unbearable conflict.
Kahlid Hosseini, as well as being author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, is also a UNHCR advocate for refugees. He wrote this book in memory of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, who drowned while attempting to reach Greece in 2015 and whose death caused an outcry around the world. In an interview with Vaishna Roy for The Hindu, he said that as a father himself, he imagined "all the countless fathers who've been forced by war and persecution to make the agonising decision to put their loved ones aboard unsafe, unseaworthy boats and place the lives of their families in the hands of smugglers".
Sea Prayer grew from Hosseini's belief in the power of stories to inspire, anger and move us. It was first published as an animated story on the Guardian website. Now, on the third anniversary of that drowning, Hosseini and artist Dan Williams remind us again that families with small children are still leaving behind all that they know and love and making these terrifying journeys.
The publishers will donate a percentage of the cost of this book to UNHCR the Refugee Agency dedicated to supporting refugees and other forcibly removed people around the world.
Allen & Unwin
9781760630560, A$29.99, paperback, 350 pages
The date is 1993. In the small Australian town of Cedar Valley, just off the coastal highway south of Sydney, "low-slung houses" sit among grassy, tree-lined paths, there are garden gnomes on the lawns and cicadas sing. As in her first novel, Greenwood, Holly Throsby immerses the reader in the life of a small Australian town.
Two strangers come into town on the same day. The man, in a smart, slightly old-fashioned suit, sits down on the pavement outside Cora Franks's Curios and Old Wares shop, and dies. There is nothing on him to identify him and an autopsy finds that he probably died of an unknown poison. This is the first mystery of the book.
Benny Miller is also a stranger in this town. She is a twenty-one-year-old from Sydney who has come to live in a cottage owned by an old friend of her mother. Benny's mother abandoned the family when Benny was five months old. Benny saw her a few times when she was little but has never seen her since. Now her mother has died and she wants to know more about her and hopes that her mother's old friend, who frequently appears in Benny's treasured photographs of her mother, will help. This is the second mystery.
Benny discovers that her mother once lived and worked in Cedar Valley, and that some of the locals knew her. The locals discuss her amongst themselves as a woman they didn't trust, so there is a mystery there, too. And there are suggestions of a connection between Benny's mother, Vivian Moon, and the dead stranger.
Locals eventually recall another mystery death forty-five years earlier in a beach-side suburb of Adelaide. This "Somerton Man" died, unidentified, in the same kind of suit and with the same objects on his pockets, including, in a fob pocket, a fragment of the Sufi poem The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam. A similar fragment is found on the Cedar Valley corpse tucked into the tiny pocket inside the waist-band of his trousers.
Locals also, belatedly, recall seeing a strange, smartly dressed blonde woman, who spent some time in Cora's shop looking at expensive watches then was seen bending down and talking to the stranger on the pavement. This new clue is added to the investigation.
Meanwhile, the reaction of the locals, the gossip, and the trivia of everyday life centred around the kitchen, the garden, the pub and the rival book-clubs fill the pages of the book.
The pace of the book is slow. We do not really get to know the characters. Benny sometimes cries but on the whole she is "stoic". The police investigation is plodding. And the major event in the town (occupying two chapters) is the memorial service and wake organised by the townsfolk for the dead stranger, which everyone attends.
The solution to all the mysteries, which happens in the final pages of the book, is undramatic and barely believable. And the strange blonde woman's involvement is a false lead.
For me, this book lacked suspense and was a disappointment.
Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer
Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon
Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781680510799, $21.95, PB, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a newly and fully revised second edition of "Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon" finds veteran author Bonnie Henderson partnered with hiker, writer, and parent of young children, Zach Urness.
Covering over 121 hikes, most of which are within an hour's drive of major population centers such as Portland, Salem, Ashland, and Bend, "Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon" also includes:
Weekend or vacation destinations around the state with hiking trails and other family-fun activities; "Best of" lists that highlight groups of top 5 hikes with special features to help parents select trips their kids will enjoy; Improved access details, including GPS trailhead coordinates and info on permits and fees.
"Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon" additionally features: Notes about barrier-free or ADA-accessible trails and suitability for jogging strollers; Tips and strategies for hiking with kids -- how to motivate them, what's appropriate for different ages, sidebars with games, nature facts, and more; Concise, accurate driving directions; Full color photos throughout.
Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented in a thoroughly 'user friendly' and accessible 'take along' pocket sized paperback edition, it should be noted that "Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) as well.
War, Women, and Power
Marie E. Berry
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781108416184, $99.99, HC, 294pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Rwanda and Bosnia both experienced mass violence in the early 1990s. Less than ten years later, Rwandans surprisingly elected the world's highest level of women to parliament.
In Bosnia, women launched thousands of community organizations that became spaces for informal political participation. The political mobilization of women in both countries complicates the popular image of women as merely the victims and spoils of war.
In the pages of "War, Women, and Power: From Violence to Mobilization in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina" and through a close examination of these cases, Marie E. Berry (Associate Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver) deftly unpacks the puzzling relationship between war and women's political mobilization.
Drawing from over 260 interviews with women in both countries, Professor Berry insightfully argues that war can reconfigure gendered power relations by precipitating demographic, economic, and cultural shifts. In the aftermath, however, many of the gains women made were set back. "War, Women, and Power" offers an entirely new view of women and war and includes concrete suggestions for policy makers, development organizations, and activists supporting women's rights.
Critique: A sterling work of impeccable scholarship that is as informed and informative as it is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "War, Women, and Power: From Violence to Mobilization in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina" is highly and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library International Studies and Women's Studies collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "War, Women, and Power" is also available in a paperback edition (9781108401517, $34.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.24).
Gathering of Sisters
P.O. Box 866, Harrisonburg, VA 22803
9781513803388, $27.99, HC, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Once a week Darla Weaver bundles her children into the buggy, hitches up her spirited mare, and drives six miles to the farm where she grew up. There she gathers with her four sisters and their children for a day with their mother.
In "Gathering of Sisters: A Year With My Old Order Mennonite Family", Weaver writes about her horse-and-buggy Mennonite family and the weekly women's gatherings that keep them connected. On warm days, the children play and fish and build houses of hay in the barn. In the winter, everyone stays close to the woodstove, with puzzles and games and crocheting.
No matter the weather, the Tuesday get-togethers of this Old Order Mennonite family keep them grounded and centered in their love for God and for each other, even when raising an occasional loving but knowing eyebrow at each other.
The rest of the week is full of laundry, and errands, and work that never ends. But Tuesdays is about being sisters, daughters, and mothers.
Critique: "Family", Weaver writes about her horse-and-buggy " is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of: A Day in the Life of the Author; FAQ about Old Order Mennonites - The Author Answers; two pages of Notes; and a one page author biography, While very highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Gathering of Sisters: A Year With My Old Order Mennonite Family" is also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781513803371, $14.99).
Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter
9780735211377, $27.00, HC, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Jennifer Dulski is the head of Groups at Facebook, as well as a former president of Change.org. In "Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter" she draws upon her experience and expertise to explain to her readers how they can turn their particular mission into a movement that creates change -- whether it is with a startup business or a political campaign, at a Fortune 500 company or working with a local community group, as an intern or a corporate CEO.
Jennifer Dulski's primary message is that anyone can spark change if they believe in the power of taking action, no matter where, or how small, they start. She also explains how to create a clear vision, inspire supporters, persuade decision makers, navigate criticism, and more. She pairs her own experience as a startup founder, tech executive, and social change leader with powerful stories of movement leaders from both business and activism.
Give the current state of world affairs at home and abroad, we need movement starters more than ever. "Purposeful" is simply packed from cover to cover with 'real world' practical advice and illustrated with inspiring true stories of movement starters from all walks of life, "Purposeful" is meant to empower the reader to start their own political or entrepreneurial movement and make a positive mark upon the world.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informative, well organized and presented, "Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, political activists, and members of the business community, that "Purposeful" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).
Digital Literacy Unpacked
Katharine Reedy & Jo Parker, editors
9781783301973, $91.02, PB, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Digital Literacy Unpacked brings together a wide range of diverse perspectives on digital and information literacy that provide a comprehensive blend of theory and practice for library and information professionals. The contributors to "Digital Literacy Unpacked" demonstrates the importance of digital literacy in all areas of life, the centrality of critical thinking (a key element of both digital and information literacy), and the essential role of library and information professionals in leading digital literacy developments. It highlights the partnerships needed to deliver excellence and presents case studies from a range of practitioners world-wide.
"Digital Literacy Unpacked" covers the approaches to digital literacy, including a discussion of terminology, institutional approaches, and existing frameworks; provides an overview of digital literacy in HE and examples of good practice; deals with openness and digital literacy with a discussion of OERs and MOOCs; addresses the myth of digital natives; promotes developing digital capabilities for staff; is specifically intended for the professional development for librarians; and showcases digital inclusion and lifelong employability in a digital world.
Useful reading for library and information professionals business, academic, corporate, governmental, and institutional leaders and managers, it will also be of practical interest for educational technologists, learning and teaching professionals, and anyone with an interest in developing digital and information literacy capabilities in their students, teachers and customers.
Critique: An exceptionally informative collection of contributed articles and essays by experts in the field, "Digital Literacy Unpacked" is a critically important addition to corporate, governmental, academic, and community library information technology collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
The League of Regrettable Sidekicks
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781683690764, $24.95, HC, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Being a superhero is hard work, which is why so many comic book superheroes rely on a sidekick for help. Someone who can watch the hero's back, help search for clues, or, if nothing else, give the hero someone to talk to. But just as not every superhero achieves the glory of Batman, not all sidekicks are as capable as the Batman's Boy Wonder.
In "The League of Regrettable Sidekicks", author, cartoonist and graphic designer, and comic book fan Jon Morris discusses some of the strangest iterations of the sidekick phenomenon, and in the process explores how important these characters were to comic book storytelling. For example there are plucky but forgotten helpers like Thunderfoot (explosive-soled assistant to the Human Bomb), heroic super-pets (like Frosting, polar bear pal of space hero Norge Benson), fan favorites (like Rick Jones, sidekick to half of the Marvel Universe), and obscure partners of iconic heroes (Superman Junior's career barely got off the ground).
Plus: pernicious profiles of regrettable henchmen and minions, the sidekicks of the supervillain world. Vintage art from the comics completes the experience.
Drawing on the entire history of the medium, "The League of Regrettable Sidekicks" celebrates characters and stories that haven't seen the light of day in decades, pulling from defunct and long-forgotten comics publishers as well as DC and Marvel.
Critique: Throughout "The League of Regrettable Sidekicks", Jon Morris provides fascinating insight and an informative context, as well as his signature mockery of and affection for these overlooked treasures from comic book history. While enthusiastically and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated comic book fans that "The League of Regrettable Sidekicks" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).
Dr. Benjamin Rush
Harlow Giles Unger
Da Capo Press
c/o Hachette Book Group
53 State Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02109
9780306824326, $28.00, HC, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Benjamin Rush (January 4, 1746 - April 19, 1813) was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a civic leader in Philadelphia, where he was a physician, politician, social reformer, humanitarian, and educator as well as the founder of Dickinson College. Rush attended the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. He served as Surgeon General of the Continental Army and became a professor of chemistry, medical theory, and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania. (Wikipedia)
Ninety percent of Americans could not vote and did not enjoy rights to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness when our Founding Fathers proclaimed, "all men are created equal". Alone among those who signed the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush heard the cries of those other, deprived Americans and stepped forth as the nation's first great humanitarian and social reformer.
It was Dr. Benjamin Rush who led the Founding Fathers in calling for abolition of slavery, equal rights for women, improved medical care for injured troops, free health care for the poor, slum clearance, citywide sanitation, an end to child labor, free universal public education, humane treatment and therapy for the mentally ill, prison reform, and an end to capital punishment.
Using archival material from Edinburgh, London, Paris, and Philadelphia, as well as significant new materials from Rush's descendants and historical societies, "Dr. Benjamin Rush: The Founding Father Who Healed a Wounded Nation" by historian Harlow Giles Unger (who is a former Distinguished Visiting Fellow at George Washington's Mount Vernon) is new and definitive biography that restores Dr. Benjamin Rush to his rightful place in American history as the Founding Father of American civil rights, medical care and psychiatry.
Critique: Impressively informative, exceptional in scope and execution, "Dr. Benjamin Rush: The Founding Father Who Healed a Wounded Nation" is an extraordinary and deftly written biography that should be considered an essential and core addition to community and academic library American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dr. Benjamin Rush: The Founding Father Who Healed a Wounded Nation" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).
U.S. Submarines Since 1945
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781591145998, $84.95, HC, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a newly revised and updated edition, "U.S. Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History", naval analysts and historian Norman Friedman describes the technical, political and operational forces that shaped a vital element of U.S. sea power. For example, he examines the evolution in missions, such as forward-based antisubmarine warfare and strategic deterrence, that transformed the submarine from its former subsidiary role to the center of national power.
"U.S. Submarines Since 1945" is also the story of a technological revolution: first the emergence of fast diesel-electric craft, then the shock of nuclear power, followed by the appearance of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Nowhere else is there so complete or sophisticated an account of the development of the U.S. submarine force, including not only the hulls, but also the weapons and sensors they carry. "U.S. Submarines Since 1945" details what submarines were ordered, what weapons and propulsion systems they had, how they performed, and what sonars and combat systems were developed.
This illustrated design history contains more than 100 photographs and more than 100 line drawings, including specially commissioned artwork from technical illustrator James L. Christley. These exclusive illustrations, along with the incisive text, capture the excitement of a revolutionary period in submarine development.
In this significantly revised edition, Friedman explores what has happened since the Cold War, which means both new classes and new technology (some of it applied to existing submarines). New material includes weapons and sensors as they have developed since 1995. This new technology is explained in the context of very different post-Cold-War priorities. In addition, Friedman includes new information that has become available on submarines described in the earlier edition.
Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "U.S. Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History" is a definitive study that is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal, essential, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library American Naval History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Willis M. Buhle
Common Sense Police Supervision
Gerald W. Garner
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398092306, $49.95 PB, $49.95 eBook, 362pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a newly revised, fully updated, and significantly expanded sixth edition, "Common Sense Police Supervision: Practical Tips for the First-line Leader" by Gerald W. Garner is a practical hands-on instruction manual and reference that is packed from cover to cover with step-by-step guidelines and suggestions for carrying out a multitude of leadership tasks and responsibilities focused on a changing work force that serves an equally changing and complex society.
While emphasizing the real value of common sense in good leadership practices, "Common Sense Police Supervision" furnishes the aspiring novice or veteran police supervisor with specific advice on how to train, counsel, inspect, discipline, and assess the performance of his or her subordinates.
"Common Sense Police Supervision" effectively enable law enforcement officers and supervisors to fulfill the role of being a planner, a problem resolution officer, and effective communicator within as well as outside the law enforcement organization.
Major topics covered by "Common Sense Police Supervision" include: What supervision means and what you need to know; Supervisory ethics, professional responsibilities as a teacher, inspector, advocate, and role model; The key qualities of true leadership; The vital job as an evaluator of employee performance, discipline in the correction process, oral and written communication skills; The skills needed when dealing with the news media; Assistance in planning a career as a first-line leader in supervision; The skills necessary for effective counseling; Managing external and internal complaints; An effective role in community policing and customer service; and Effective leadership of different generations.
Each individual chapter concludes with a brief Points to Remember that provides a quickly-read and easily remembered checklist of the chapter's salient points. This sixth edition of "Common Sense Police Supervision" furnishes many more practical, helpful, and real-life examples pertaining to leadership issues, while offering a realistic approach to the challenging task of providing strong, effective leadership to front-line employees in a dynamic, demanding profession.
Critique: Impressively informative, 'real world practical', comprehensive, and thoroughly 'user friendly in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, this new sixth edition of "Common Sense Police Supervision: Practical Tips for the First-line Leader" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended textbook for Police Academy curriculums, as well as a critically important addition to college and university library Police Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that there is also a companion workbook available ("A Study Guide For Common Sense police Supervision", 9780398092320, $26.95, PB, Spiral Bound) and in a digital book format (eBook, 9780398092337, $26.95).
Radiography in the Digital Age
Quinn B. Carroll
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398092146, $109.95 HC, $109.95 eBook, 900pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and significantly expanded, peer reviewed third edition, "Radiography in the Digital Age: Physics - Exposure - Radiation Biology" by Quinn B. Caroll, M.Ed, R.T. provides just the right focus and scope for the practice of radiography in this digital age, covering four entire courses in a typical radiography program.
The entire emphasis of foundational physics has been adjusted in order to properly support the specific information on digital imaging that will follow. The paradigm shift in imaging terminology is reflected by the careful phrasing of concepts, accurate descriptions and clear illustrations throughout "Radiography in the Digital Age".
There are 713 illustrations, including meticulous color line drawings, numerous photographs and stark radiographs. The two chapters on digital image processing alone include 60 beautifully executed illustrations. Foundational chapters on math and basic physics maintain a focus on energy physics. Obsolete and extraneous material has been eliminated, while concepts supporting digital imaging are more thoroughly discussed.
All discussion of electricity is limited to only those concepts which bear directly upon the production of x-rays in the x-ray tube. Following is a full discussion of the x-ray beam and its interactions within the patient, the production and characteristics of subject contrast, and an emphasis on the practical application of radiographic technique. This is conventional information, but the terminology and descriptions used have been adapted with great care to the digital environment.
No fewer than ten chapters are devoted directly to digital imaging, providing extensive coverage of the physics of digital image capture, digital processing techniques, and the practical applications of both CR and DR. Image display systems are brought up to date with the physics of LCD screens and electronic images. PACS and medical imaging informatics are also covered. Chapters on Radiation Biology and Protection include an unflinching look at current issues and radiation protection in practice. The radiation biology is clearly presented with numerous lucid illustrations, and a balanced perspective on radiation and its medical use is developed.
To reinforce mathematical concepts for the student, dozens of practice exercises are strategically dispersed throughout the chapters, with answer keys provided in the appendix. Extensive review questions at the end of each chapter give a thorough, comprehensive review of the material learned. The Instructor Resources for "Radiography in the Digital Age" (available on disc), includes the answer key for all chapter review questions and a bank of over 1500 multiple-choice questions for instructors use. It also includes 35 laboratory exercises, including 15 that demonstrate the applications of CR equipment.
Critique: Comprehensive, exceptionally well organized and presented, an ideal and thoroughly 'student friendly' textbook for college and university curriculums, "Radiography in the Digital Age" is unreservedly recommended for academic library Health/Medicine reference collections. It should be noted that there is an accompanying student workbook available (Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 9780398092238, $44.95, 336pp).
The Black Prince and the Capture of a King: Poitiers 1356
Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781612004518, $32.95, HC, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Edward of Woodstock, known to history as the Black Prince (15 June 1330 - 8 June 1376), was the eldest son of King Edward III of England, and thus the heir to the English throne. He died before his father and so never became king. His son, Richard II, would succeed to the throne instead. Edward nevertheless still earned distinction as one of the most successful English commanders during the Hundred Years' War, being regarded by his contemporaries as a model of chivalry and one of the greatest knights of his age. (Wikipedia)
The capture of a king in the course of a battle was a relatively rare event. This, the climactic event of the Black Prince's first campaign as commander, came at the end of nearly a year of campaigning across the southwest of France.
The battle of Poitiers in 1356 is less well known than more famous clashes such as Agincourt, however, Poitiers was no less dramatic, and equally important in terms of the course of the Hundred Years War. The capture of King Jean brought France to the brink of total defeat, and led to one of the most devastating and destructive periods in French history. It is not exaggeration to say that the battle of Poitiers changed the course of history for both France and England.
In the summer of 1356 the Prince and his army drove northward towards the Loire, attacking once again deep into French territory. This time he met real opposition: the full French army led by King Jean and many of the leading nobility of France, some of them veterans of the defeat at Crecy ten years before. Outnumbered, the Prince fell back, but in September he turned near the city of Poitiers to make a stand.
The battle that followed was a tense encounter. The French had learned much from the disastrous defeat at Crecy, and took time to organize and prepare before attacking. Their advance was deliberate and well-planned, yet the result was the same. Once again, English and Welsh archers wrought mayhem among the French ranks. The French formations disintegrated, and a violent counterattack by English men-at-arms caused it to dissolve entirely. King Jean and his eldest son made a final stand with some of their followers, but in the end they were forced to surrender and were taken back to England as prisoners.
The core of the book is a day-by-day description of the campaign of July-September 1356, climaxing with a detailed description of the Battle of Poitiers itself. The detailed account and analysis of the battle and the campaigns that led up to it has a strong focus on the people involved in the campaign: ordinary men-at-arms and noncombatants as well as princes and nobles.
Critique: "The Black Prince and the Capture of a King: Poitiers 1356" by the team of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel is an impressively informative historical study that reads as smoothly as a best-seller historical novel. An erudite work of impeccable scholarship and an inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "The Black Prince and the Capture of a King: Poitiers 1356" is a very highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Black Prince and the Capture of a King: Poitiers 1356" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.77).
The Soul of Judaism
Bruce D. Haynes
New York University Press
838 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003
9781479811236, $39.00, HC, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: One of the fundamental questions that has echoed down the millennia is: What makes a Jew? "The Soul of Judaism: Jews of African Descent in America" by Bruce D. Haynes (Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis and a Senior Fellow in the Urban Ethnography Project at Yale University) traces the history of Jews of African descent in America and the counter-narratives they have put forward as they stake their claims to Jewishness.
"The Soul of Judaism" offers the first exploration of the full diversity of Black Jews, including bi-racial Jews of both matrilineal and patrilineal descent; adoptees; black converts to Judaism; and Black Hebrews and Israelites, who trace their Jewish roots to Africa and challenge the dominant western paradigm of Jews as white and of European descent.
Blending historical analysis and oral history, Professor Haynes showcases the lives of Black Jews within the Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstruction and Reform movements, as well as the religious approaches that push the boundaries of the common forms of Judaism we know today. He illuminates how in the quest to claim whiteness, American Jews of European descent gained the freedom to express their identity fluidly while African Americans have continued to be seen as a fixed racial group. "The Soul of Judaism" demonstrates that racial ascription has been shaping Jewish selfhood for centuries. Pushing us to reassess the boundaries between race and ethnicity, it offers insight into how Black Jewish individuals strive to assert their dual identities and find acceptance within their respective communities.
Putting to rest the simplistic notion that Jews are white and that Black Jews are therefore a contradiction, Professor Haynes ably argues that we can no longer pigeonhole Black Hebrews and Israelites as exotic, militant, and nationalistic sects outside the boundaries of mainstream Jewish thought and community life. "The Soul of Judaism" spurs the reader to consider the significance of the growing population of self-identified Black Jews and its implications for the future of American Jewry.
Critique: An impressively erudite work of impeccable scholarship throughout, "The Soul of Judaism: Jews of African Descent in America" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of twelve pages of Notes; a twenty page Bibliography; and a fourteen page Index. While an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to synagogue, community, college, and university library Judaic History collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, rabbis, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Soul of Judaism" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $37.05).
Michael J. Carson
How to Read Donald Duck
Ariel Dorfman & Armand Mattelart
9781944869830, $21.00, HC, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Originally published in 1971 in Chile, where the entire third edition was dumped into the ocean by the Chilean Navy and bonfires were held to destroy earlier editions, "How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic" by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart reveals the imperialist, capitalist ideology at work in one of Walt Disney's most beloved cartoon characters.
Focusing on the hapless mice and ducks of Disney, including three nephews (Huey, Dewey and Louie) who are curiously parentless, their Uncle Donald who is always short of cash, and their impossibly wealthy Uncle Scrooge, "How to Read Donald Duck" dissects the narratives of dependency and social aspiration that define the Disney corpus.
The Disney corporation recognized the challenge and, when the book was translated and imported into the United States in 1975, managed to have all 4,000 copies impounded. Ultimately, 1,500 copies of the book were allowed into the country, the rest of the shipment was blocked, and until now no American publisher has re-released the book, which has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. (The original English language edition is now a collector's item.)
A devastating indictment of a media giant, a document of twentieth-century political upheaval, and a reminder of the dark potential of pop culture, "How to Read Donald Duck" was published in seventeen languages -- and with this Or Books edition is now available once again, together with a new introduction by Ariel Dorfman.
Critique: An inherently fascinating, 'time lost', and iconoclastic analytical study, "How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "How to Read Donald Duck" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Black Diamond Fall
1201 Hudson Street, #211S, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9781947993341, $26.00, HC, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Luc Flanders has just finished playing a game of pond hockey with his college roommates when he realizes he has lost something precious and goes back to the ice to find it. He never returns, and the police department in Middlebury, Vermont are divided in their assessment of what may have happened to him.
Some feel that Flanders left on his own accord and is deliberately out of touch. Others, including detectives Nick Jenkins and Helen Kennedy, suspect that harm may have come to him. As the search for Luc Flanders widens and intensifies, suspicions about several different people, including his Middlebury College roommates and ex-girlfriend arise.
Unfortunately, Sam Solomon an older man with whom Luc has been having a secret relationship, cannot prove his whereabouts during the hours when the younger man may have disappeared and Solomon, too, comes under suspicion.
As Luke Flanders disappears, the Robert Frost house near the Middlebury campus is vandalized. And there seems to be a link between the two events that the police are determined to discover.
Critique: Joseph Olshan is the author of ten previous novels including Cloudland, Nightswimmer and The Conversion. He is also the Publisher of Delphinium Books. His latest novel, "Black Diamond Fall", is a mystery based upon and uniting by two real events that occurred at Middlebury College: the disappearance of a student during winter break and the vandalism of the Robert Frost Homestead located on one of the outer campuses. The result is another riveting mystery from a true master of the genre, While very highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "Black Diamond Fall" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
The Fuehrer's Blood
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781533680204, $16.00, PB, 362pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Han or 'The Shadow' as they call him is Hitler's most trusted henchman & sniper who was last seen deep within illicit Russian territory. Now, on the 1st day of May 1945 the world rejoices as Hitler's tyranny is crushed. The Red army has triumphantly marched into Berlin and right up to Hitler's doorstep.
On this fateful night, a mysterious band of Germans christened 'Blood Moon' unite in an underground shelter in Berlin. These men prepare for an unusual mission to march into a secret Red army operation base run by the ruthless Russian warlord Konstantin.
At such an hour into the war only dire straits can push someone to do so and hence these Germans traverse to reach Han for he holds many secrets of the Reich. Secrets that can help them live free lives.
While the Germans embark on this mission a terrible probability tips the scale against them. For in reality, Hitler has disappeared without trace and a startling new possibility comes to fore suggesting that the Nazi dictator still lives. An undying audacity of hope keeps them alive as they are thrust into their worst nightmares in Konstantin's extermination camp.
The Germans accidently stumble upon Hitler's personal diary that leads to bigger pieces of the puzzle as they evade death at every step. They must now race against time to procure the necessary information and not only reach Han but also hunt down Hitler.
Critique: A deftly crafted suspense thriller that is a simply riveting read from first page to last, "The Fuehrer's Blood" showcases author Shreyans Zaveri's genuine flair as a novelist for the creation of memorable characters having to deal with unexpected twists, turns and cliff-hanger surprises. "The Fuehrer's Blood" is the stuff of which blockbuster movies are made! While very highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Fuehrer's Blood" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
George the Orphan Crow and the Creatures of Blossom Valley
Andrews UK Limited
In "George the Orphan Crow...," British author Helen Fox introduces readers to the delightful creatures of Blossom Valley. The unusual fairy-tale-like fantasy offers a story of moral and immoral choices among critters with extraordinary human-like characteristics reminiscent of a very large family. Thelma, a kind, but shrewd and loving spider is the leader of this blended family.
However, the story begins with the loss of a young crows' parents by a group of pheasant hunters. The shots that brought them down jolted Plato the owl awake and he flew down to investigate only to find a young crow lost, alone and grieving.
Plato learned the crow had only been called son, so he renamed him George and told him about Blossom Valley where he could find a new home and make new friends. Friends such as a stout red squirrel named Bond or Conti, the singing frog even an enchanting choir of ants.
He also spoke about Mr. B Rabbit, the tap-dancing champion, Granny Hedgehog, a young crow named Alfie and other newcomers such as five-spot ladybird Rosa and her three daughters. However, the most respected and beautiful of all the creatures were the beautiful, magical and mysterious butterflies, especially the two named Prince Orpheo and Princess Estella.
George listened to all that Plato had said, thanked him and flew off unsure of what to do. In the far distance he saw trees seeming to beckon him and he believed it was a sign. So George abruptly changed course in mid-air and flew toward Penny Wood and Blossom Valley in search of friends and a new home.
George couldn't know he would soon be entangled in jealousy, deceit and an evil scheme that would cause war to break out among the idyllic creatures of Blossom Valley and the story begins.
Helen captures the delightful creatures of Blossom Valley through entertaining dialogue, creative names and vivid descriptions that create charming human-like characteristics readers can identify with as they struggle with choices of good and evil.
Themes of compassion, family and unity are explored as well as the costs of deceit, jealousy and betrayal that portray valuable life lessons. The magical story is filled with exceptional characterizations and dialogue and I recommend it highly, especially for ages eight through adult.
Lethal Target (The Line of Duty,' # 2)
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496423740, $14.99, www.tyndale.com
In "Lethal Target," book two of Janice Cantore's "Line of Duty" series, the focus is again on drugs with the added contentious issues of legalized pot farms and a vote to legalize marijuana within the city limits of Rogue's Hollow. However, it's also a complex tale of murder, deceit and faith challenges complete with multifaceted characterizations, authentic details and action scenes, even a subtle hint of romance.
Yet romance was the furthest thing from Police Chief Tess O'Rourke's thoughts right now. She thought when she arrested California drug smuggler Roger Marshall last year the drug problem would end. Yet, opiate addiction, "drug overdose," and drug related deaths remained a problem.
With the most recent an eighteen-year-old reported DOA by the graveyard patrol officer. Even though the grieving mother and the boy's best friend said he never used drugs. However, when Tess arrived on scene to inspect the boy's room she saw a needle and white powder residue in the evidence bags. She also noted an open screenless window with a ten-foot drop and smashed bushes below.
During the interview Tess learned a group of kids had gathered the night before to celebrate leaving for college. They had met at their favorite party spot and some older guys from the Hang Ten pot farm had joined them.
Tess knew the Hang Ten was the largest of three legally licensed pot farms and they were difficult and obnoxious people to deal with. She also knew the farm owner believed the town discriminated against him and had "taken on 'hired muscle'" because of it. All of which left Tess with suspicions and unanswered questions.
Why and how was the farm involved? "Had a new and deadlier drug supply chain cropped up" and were they part of it? Then again why would a college bound honor student who never used drugs commit suicide? And what about the open window and smashed bushes below? Tess couldn't yet know those questions would unleash a dangerous investigation that would not only threaten the town, but also the lives of those she cared about and ruin her law enforcement career.
Thus, begins an intriguing story that rings with authenticity penned by a retired Long Beach police officer that could be pulled from today's headlines. The light touch of romance and questions of faith are well integrated into a suspenseful storyline that keeps pages turning until the end.
Gail Welborn, Reviewer
How to Be Less Stupid About Race
Crystal M. Fleming
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807050774, $23.95, HC, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Crystal M. Fleming is a writer and sociologist who researches racism in the United States and abroad. She has earned degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University and is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana studies at Stony Brook University. Professor Fleming writes about race, sexuality, and politics for publications including The Root, Black Agenda Report, Vox, and Everyday Feminism, and has tens of thousands of followers on social media.
In "How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide" she draws upon her expertise to provide the reader with an essential guide to breaking through the half-truths and ridiculous misconceptions that have thoroughly corrupted the way race is represented in the classroom, pop culture, media, and politics.
Centuries after our nation was founded on genocide, settler colonialism, and slavery, many Americans are kinda-sorta-maybe waking up to the reality that our racial politics are (still) garbage. But in the midst of this reckoning, widespread denial and misunderstandings about race persist, even as white supremacy and racial injustice are more visible than ever before.
Combining no-holds-barred social critique, humorous personal anecdotes, and analysis of the latest interdisciplinary scholarship on systemic racism, Professor Fleming provides a fresh, accessible, and irreverent take on everything that's wrong with our "national conversation about race".
Drawing upon critical race theory, as well as her own experiences as a queer black millennial college professor and researcher, Professor Fleming unveils how systemic racism exposes us all to racial ignorance -- and provides a road map for transforming our knowledge into concrete social change.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide" is an extraordinary and timely study that should be an essential part of every community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collection. It should be noted for students, academia, racial equality advocates, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "How to Be Less Stupid About Race" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781974923564, $24.99, CD).
The Secret Life of the Human Body
Firefly Books Ltd.
9780228100935, $24.95, PB, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Most of us take our body for granted and are never aware of its amazing capabilities. The Secret Life of the Human Body reveals just how intricate and fascinating our body is.
Using offbeat illustrations and concise text, "The Secret Life of the Human Body" by John Clancy (who was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of East Anglia, UK) examines the symphony of interconnections and interdependencies that keeps us alive.
For example, there are seven octillion atoms making up the human body distributed among the organs, tissues, nerves, fibers, fluids and more which ensure that the entire system runs smoothly as we go about our daily life, totally unaware -- or that the body has 15 "other senses" or that our eyes are capable of seeing the Andromeda galaxy 2.5 million light years away?
Critique: Exceptionally informative, impressively well written, organized and presented, packed with illustrations and useful diagrams, "The Secret Life of the Human Body" is extraordinarily 'reader friendly' and will prove to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to personal, school, and community library Human Biology collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Growing Couple Intimacy
William E. Krill, Jr.
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615993871, $18.95, HC, 74pp, www.amazon.com
In the pages of "Growing Couple Intimacy: Improving Love, Sex, and Relationships", Bill Krill provides a specific focus on the subject of couple intimacy in terms of: Expand our understanding of the power of intimacy in couples; Learning new and stimulating ways to interact with our partner to enhance bonding; Exploring the possibilities of pushing the limits of six kinds of intimacy; Advancing our relationship with exercises that can be done together or solo; Relating at a deeper level than previously thought possible; Recharging our passion for our relationship and our partner.
Critique: Practical, insightful, informative, and inspiring, "Growing Couple Intimacy: Improving Love, Sex, and Relationships" is impressively 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Human Sexuality instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Growing Couple Intimacy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.95).
Catherine Leroux, author
Lazer Lederhendler, translator
9781771962070, $14.95, PB, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In 2001, a woman's skeleton was found in the woods overlooking Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital. Despite an audit of the hospital's patient records, a forensic reconstruction of the woman's face, missing-person appeals, and DNA tests that revealed not only where she had lived, but how she ate, the woman was never identified. Assigned the name Madame Victoria, her remains were placed in a box in an evidence room and, eventually, forgotten.
But not by Catherine Leroux, who constructs in her form-bending Madame Victoria twelve different histories for the unknown woman. Like musical variations repeating a theme, each Victoria meets her end only after Leroux resurrects her, replacing the anonymous circumstances of her death with a vivid re-imagining of her possible lives. And in doing so, Madame Victoria becomes much more than the story of one unknown and unnamed woman: it becomes a celebration of the lives and legacies of unknown women everywhere.
Critique: Offering a unique and inherently fascinating approach to narrative storytelling, and ably translated into English by Lazer Lederhendler for an American readership, "Madame Victoria" by Catherine Leroux is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Madame Victoria" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.95).
Brian Ward & Patrick Huber
Vanderbilt University Press
VU Station B 351813, Nashville, TN 37235-1813
9780826521750, $39.95, HC, 480pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The collaborative work of Brian Ward (Professor in American Studies at Northumbria University) and Patrick Huber (Professor of History, Missouri University of Science and Technology), and co-published by Vanderbilt University Press and the Country Music Foundation Press, "A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music on Record" offers the first comprehensive account of the diverse group of men and women who pioneered artists-and-repertoire (A&R) work in the early US recording industry.
In the process, they helped create much of what we now think of as American roots music. Resourceful, innovative, and, at times, shockingly unscrupulous, they scouted and signed many of the singers and musicians who came to define American roots music between the two world wars. They also shaped the repertoires and musical styles of their discoveries, supervised recording sessions, and then devised marketing campaigns to sell the resulting records.
By World War II, they had helped redefine the canons of American popular music and established the basic structure and practices of the modern recording industry. Moreover, though their musical interests, talents, and sensibilities varied enormously, these A&R pioneers created the template for the job that would subsequently become known as "record producer."
Without Ralph Peer, Art Satherley, Frank Walker, Polk C. Brockman, Eli Oberstein, Don Law, Lester Melrose, J. Mayo Williams, John Hammond, Helen Oakley Dance, and a whole army of lesser known but often hugely influential A&R representatives, the music of Bessie Smith and Bob Wills, of the Carter Family and Count Basie, of Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers may never have found its way onto commercial records and into the heart of America's musical heritage.
Critique: An exceptionally detailed and documented study reflecting a rigorous and impeccable scholarship, "A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music on Record" is a unique and impressively informative history. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a list of figures, abbreviations used in notes, and informative introduction, eighty-six pages of notes, a twenty-eight page listing of sources, and a thirty page index, "A&R Pioneers" is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to personal, community, college, and university library American Music History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A&R Pioneers" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
T. Rex Generations
Ted Rechlin, author/illustrator
c/o Farcountry Press
PO Box 5630, Helena, MT 59604
9781591522294, $19.95, HC, 96pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Author and illustrator Ted Rechlin has been drawing pictures and telling stories since he was three years old. While his drawings have gotten much better, his stories haven't really changed much. They're still about superheroes, bears, wolves, sharks, monsters, and lots of dinosaur.
With his latest publication, "T. Rex Generations", Rechlin welcomes readers of all ages to the fun and dangerous world of the Mesozoic era. "T. Rex Generations", features a T. Rex named Cobalt as he protects a new generation of T. Rex dinosaurs.
The graphic novel style adventure follows Cobalt's hatchlings as they navigate the wild and perilous lands of prehistoric Montana. With an entirely new cast of dangerous dinos (such as the formidable Dakota Raptor and armored Ankylosaurus) "T. Rex Generations" features the latest science to showcase an epic tale of heroic proportions.
Critique: As historically accurate as the current state of Paleontology can establish, "T. Rex Generations" is as entertaining as it is informative and absolutely certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to the personal reading lists of all dinosaur enthusiasts from 6 to 66, as well as school and community library dinosaur book collections.
Bureau of Spies
Steven T. Usdin
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633884762, $26.00, HC, 360pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Covert intelligence gathering, propaganda, fake news stories, dirty tricks -- these are the standard tools of spy craft which have been used for the last seven decades by agents hiding in plain sight in Washington's National Press Building. "Bureau of Spies: The Secret Connections between Espionage and Journalism in Washington" by journalist Steven T. Usdin (Washington editor of BioCentury) is a revealing and documented study that tells the story of espionage conducted by both US and foreign intelligence operatives just blocks from the White House. Herein are detailed how spies for Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, and the CIA have operated from the offices, corridors, and bars of this well-known press center to collect military, political, and commercial secrets.
As Usdin's extensive research shows, efforts to influence American elections by foreign governments are nothing new, and WikiLeaks is not the first antisecrecy group to dump huge quantities of classified data into the public domain. Among other cases, "Bureau of Spies" documents the work of a journalist who created a secret intelligence organization that reported directly to President Franklin Roosevelt and two generations of Soviet spies who operated undercover as TASS reporters and ran circles around the FBI. "Bureau of Spies" also reveals the important roles played by journalists in the Cuban missile crisis, and presents information about a spy involved in the Watergate break-in who had earlier spied on Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater for then-President Lyndon Johnson.
Based on interviews with retired CIA, NSA, FBI, and KGB officers, as well as declassified and leaked intelligence documents, "Bureau of Spies" provides a fascinating historical narrative showing how the worlds of journalism and intelligence sometimes overlap and highlights the ethical quandaries that espionage invariably creates.
Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read from cover to cover, "Bureau of Spies: The Secret Connections between Espionage and Journalism in Washington" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library History of Journalism collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of journalism students, academia, practicing journalists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Bureau of Spies" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).
Peter Anthony Gryffin
PO Box 480, Wolfeboro, NH 03894-0480
9781594396175, $15.95, PB, 152pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Presenting over ten years of research into how and why tai chi benefits health from an evidence-based, medical perspective, "Mindful Exercise: Metarobics, Healing, and the Power of Tai Chi" by Dr. Peter Anthony Gryffin demonstrates the link between health and metarobics -- his term for slow, meditative exercises that enhance blood oxygen saturation, diffusion, and oxygen-based metabolism. Metarobics (including tai chi, qigong, and yoga) with a special focus on relaxation and deep breathing.
Showing that these exercises offer a wide range of benefits for treating chronic disease, Dr. Gryffin cites numerous scientific studies as well as testimonials from patients who have experienced the natural healing benefits of metarobic exercise. Many have surmounted chronic health problems to improve their quality of life. Some even overcame grave diagnoses.
"Mindful Exercise" features: More than 120 scientific studies on tai chi and other metarobic exercises; More than 50 case stories from tai chi qigong, and yoga practitioners; Clear, straightforward language; Tested guidelines to improve your metarobic exercise and maximize health benefits.
Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Mindful Exercise: Metarobics, Healing, and the Power of Tai Chi" is impressively informative and very highly recommended for personal and community library Tai Chi and Health/Fitness collections. It should be noted that "Mindful Exercise" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Baby's First Hashtag
Susan Allan & Scott Feschuk
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
9781771621915, $12.95, Board Book, 28pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: With twenty-six Instagram-style photos accompanied by sharp and witty rhyming couplets, this sturdy abecedarian board book is baby's first glimpse at the world they will one day grow up to inhabit -- a world of hashtags, memes, manbuns, quinoa and organically sourced plaid. Forget learning to count or differentiating between farm animals. So what modern babies really need to develop is a strong sense of irony. And E is for #eyeglasses, prescription or fake.
Critique: The collaborative work of Susan Allan and Scott Feschuk, "Baby's First Hashtag", although in the format of a classic board book, is not really for babies -- although they will still find the glossy cardboard pages a satisfying chew! Instead, "Baby's First Hashtag" makes a perfect shower gift to amuse soon-to-be and new parents as they make the painful-yet-rewarding transition from 'kid free adult hood' to the sleepless and exhausting dedication of parenthood.
Ethereal Visions: Illuminated Tarot Deck
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
9781572819252, $23.95, Cards, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In creating his "Ethereal Visions: Illuminated Tarot Deck", tarot enthusiast Matt Hughes has drawn inspiration from the Art Nouveau movement, adopting its distinctive style and meticulous approach to craftsmanship. The artist has also created two additional cards to supplement the traditional Major Arcana. Every detailed image in the 80-card deck is hand drawn and colored. Each card is illuminated with gold foil stamping, to elegant effect. "Ethereal Vision" also includes a 48-page booklet.
It is interesting to note that Matt Hughes is a self-taught artist who focuses on the aesthetic approaches referred to today as "The Golden Age of Illustration". His style combines inspiration from the Art Nouveau, Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist movements, to produce an artistic expression uniquely his own.
Critique: A breathtakingly beautiful tarot card set, "Ethereal Visions" fully lives up to the promise of being an inspiringly illuminated source for truly memorable tarot readings, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal and professional tarot card collection.
The Sound of Nonsense
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781501324543 $24.95 amazon.com
Synopsis: In The Sound of Nonsense, Richard Elliott highlights the importance of sound in understanding the 'nonsense' of writers such as Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, James Joyce and Mervyn Peake, before connecting this noisy writing to works which engage more directly with sound, including sound poetry, experimental music and pop. By emphasizing sonic factors, Elliott makes new and fascinating connections between a wide range of artistic examples to ultimately build a case for the importance of sound in creating, maintaining and disrupting meaning.
Critique: Part of "The Study of Sound" series edited by Michael Bull, The Sound of Nonsense draws connections between the study of "nonsense" penned by classic writers (including Lewis Carroll, James Joyce, and more) and the understanding of sound. The sonic elements of prose poetry, experimental music, and more can be compared and contrasted with written passages, in order to create or destroy meaning as needed. "Like scatting and vocalese, doo-wop offers an example of singers emulating instruments while also giving an insight into the relationship between semantic and non-semantic writing." An intriguing analysis written especially for academics and literary scholars, The Sound of Nonsense is an excellent contribution to college and graduate school literary studies shelves.
New World Library
9781608685028 $15.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com
Synopsis: Countless times throughout our lives, we're presented with a choice to help another soul. Rescuing Ladybugs highlights the true stories of remarkable people who didn't look away from seemingly impossible-to-change situations and instead worked to save animals. Prepare to be transported to Borneo to release orangutans, Brazil to protect jaguars, Africa to connect with chimpanzees and elephants, the Maldives to free mantas, and Indonesia, the only place where dragons still exist in the wild.
Critique: Rescuing Ladybugs: Inspirational Encounters with Animals That Changed the World collects true-life stories of people who labored to protect animals, and in turn found greater meaning and enrichment in their own lives. Here are tales of conservation efforts to protect orangutans, jaguars, chimpanzees, elephants, mantas, Komodo dragons and much more. Rescuing Ladybugs is heartwarming, life-affirming, and highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Rescuing Ladybugs is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Witches' Almanac Animals: Friends and Familiars
The Witches' Almanac, Ltd.
c/o Red Wheel Weiser
9781881098461 $12.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com
Synopsis: Founded in 1971 by Elizabeth Pepper, the long-time art director of Gourmet magazine, The Witches' Almanac is a witty, literate, and sophisticated publication that appeals to general readers as well as hard-core Wiccans and magicians. On one level, it is a pop reference that will fascinate anyone interested in folklore, mythology, and culture, but on another, it is the most sophisticated and wide-ranging annual guide available today for occultists and mysticism enthusiasts.
Modeled after the Old Farmers' Almanac, it includes information related to the annual moon calendar (weather forecasts and horoscopes), as well as legends, rituals, herbal secrets, mystic incantations, interviews, and many a curious tale of good and evil. Although it is an annual publication, only about 15 percent of the content is specific to the date range of each issue.
The theme of Issue 38 (Spring 2019 to Spring 2020) is Animals: Friends and Familiars. Also included are the following articles: "Beer and Witches," "Gargoyles," "Horseshoes," "Transgender in the Craft," and "Coefficient of Weirdness, Part 3." New authors include Sorita d'Este, Lon Milo DuQuette, David Rankine, and Mat Auryn.
Critique: The Witches' Almanac Animals: Friends and Familiars is filled to the brim with metaphysical information. Black-and-white illustrations, extensive horoscope details, articles such as "Beer and Witches" and "Transgender in the Craft" and more round out this accessible, reader-friendly resource that will prove fascinating to craft practitioners and lay readers alike. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Witches' Almanac Animals: Friends and Familiars is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Inside the Gate: Sigrid Undset's like at Bjerkebaek
Nan Bentzen Skille
Translated by Tiina Nunnally
University of Minnesota Press
(First published 2003 by H. Aschehoug & Co., Norway)
Nan Bentzen Skille's intimate biography of Sigrid Undset, Inside the Gate, crafts a dignified picture of the Norwegian Nobel Prize winner within her own property.
Undset first comes to Bjerkebaek, in Lillehammer, her father's ancestral land, in 1919, to escape Oslo and a dissolving marriage. She eventually buys the property and enlarges it to include two homes, out buildings and a luscious garden. Her status as a prestigious writer and critic of Nazi Germany force her to flee to America during WWII. After the war, she comes back eager to help restore Norway and her home.
The organized layout of the book, it's intimate details, and its focus on close family and friends clearly reinforce the central themes in Uorganizedndset's publications.
Primarily chronological, and written in a casual tone, the book is easy to read. Information is neatly categorized under chapter headings, mirroring Undset's well managed way of commanding her many endeavors. At its height, Bjerkebaek was more like a patrician household (although under "Mistress" rule) or a manicured garden than a dwelling in a small town; everything and everyone had its rightful place. In the spirit of Carl Linne, whom Undset admired, the book's orderly layout conveys her intention to unearth the telos at work in her plots, how people are drawn by a destiny or sense of purpose.
The author draws from news articles, letters, photos and Unset's publications to cull her information. Undset's niche is historical novels. Her father, an archeologist, passed on to her a love of the documenting, as well as dramatizing, the past. One of the most delightful aspects of the read is the use of Undset's accounting books. Learning what is bought and sold, and when, the book imagines the ins and outs of daily life. This biography pays tribute to Undset's passion and skill for research in its anecdotal contents.
The book shows Undest's devotion to those around her in its focus on key players at Bjerkebaek. She would not have been able to work without Mathea Mortenstuen, housekeeper, nanny and friend. She gets a whole chapter to herself, as do her kids and her Catholic community. Undset's devotion comes at a cost, however; her Catholicism and her out-spoken diatribes against the Nazis put her at risk of losing the Nobel prize. The book sheds light on the consequences of her "fight for all you hold dear" attitude for her household, and on all those depending on her.
A colorful biography that reads like a novel, Inside the Gate is a glimpse into an author whose relevance goes beyond the pages she writes.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
9780525522119, $26.00, hardcover, July 10, 2018
Rising literary star Ottessa Moshfegh's latest novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, turns waking and sleeping, among other dichotomies, on their heads.
The narrator begins her hibernation a little over a year before 9/11. Her parents having died her junior year at Columbia, she lives off a cushy inheritance and a pittance working at an art gallery in New York City. She decides to sleep off a bout of ennui and unease with the help of a pharmacy's worth of pills. Her best friend, Reva, doesn't help, interrupting with her diets, her mother's fatal illness and boyfriend troubles. The hope is that, doing nothing, she'll wake up refreshed, the past dead and buried, the present worth facing and future worth striving towards.
Moshfegh's crystalline prose point to a lucid end to a murky state. Despite not knowing what day it is and not remembering what she's done while asleep, the narrator's description is chronological and candid. Her distance, her frigidity, as her boyfriend calls it, lends itself to keen observation. The point is to look at her life from the fresh perspective of sleep, that is, clearly, frankly, but also subconsciously and elusively.
The characters do not portray their prescribed roles. Reva is "best friend" but the narrator doesn't like her. "Reva was a magnet for my angst. She sucked it right out of me" (204). Instead of catharsis, Reva leaves no room for the narrator to feel, except irritation. When her doctor, who wears a food stained neck brace and a lap cat, asks who her hero is, she remarks, "Whoopi Goldberg." Neither of these two sources of humor and healing provides the narrator any real relief. Trevor, the narrator's "boyfriend," has no time for her. And the man who does is an artist made famous for ejaculating on a canvas and killing dogs to stuff them. The characters matter for who they are not, who they fail to be for each other.
The end is just the beginning. The emptiness and vapidness that put her to sleep become a relief; "...glory was mundane" (285). The Twin Towers collapse as the narrator finishes hibernating. And with that, the book spins all logic upside down.
This is not a primarily philosophical read. The zany anecdotes of a sleeping life bop along against the Big Apple cityscape, in all its hustle and bustle as well as its boredom and loneliness. The pace is as quick and punchy as ordering at a downtown deli counter. But despite the entertaining tone, the impact is as stark as death.
Mari Carlson, Reviewer
Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change
Janelle S. Wong
Russell Sage Foundation
112 East 64th Street, New York, NY 10065
9780871548931, $24.95, PB, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: As immigration from Asia and Latin America reshapes the demographic composition of the U.S., some analysts have anticipated the decline of conservative white evangelicals' influence in politics. Yet, Donald Trump captured a larger share of the white evangelical vote in the 2016 election than any candidate in the previous four presidential elections. Why has the political clout of white evangelicals persisted at a time of increased racial and ethnic diversity? In Immigrants, "Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change", by Janelle Wong (Professor of American Studies and Asian American Studies, University of Maryland) examines a new generation of Asian American and Latino evangelicals and offers an account of why demographic change has not contributed to a political realignment.
Asian Americans and Latinos currently constitute 13 percent of evangelicals, and their churches are among the largest, fastest growing organizations in their communities. While evangelical identity is associated with conservative politics, Professor Wong draws from national surveys and interviews to show that non-white evangelicals express political attitudes that are significantly less conservative than those of their white counterparts. Black, Asian American, and Latino evangelicals are much more likely to support policies such as expanded immigration rights, increased taxation of the wealthy, and government interventions to slow climate change. As Professor Wong argues, non-white evangelicals' experiences as members of racial or ethnic minority groups often lead them to adopt more progressive political views compared to their white counterparts.
However, despite their growth in numbers, non-white evangelicals (particularly Asian Americans and Latinos) are concentrated outside of swing states, have lower levels of political participation than white evangelicals, and are less likely to be targeted by political campaigns. As a result, white evangelicals dominate the evangelical policy agenda and are overrepresented at the polls. Also, many white evangelicals have adopted even more conservative political views in response to rapid demographic change, perceiving, for example, that discrimination against Christians now rivals discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities.
Professor Wong demonstrates that immigrant evangelicals are neither "natural" Republicans nor "natural" Democrats. By examining the changing demographics of the evangelical movement, Immigrants, "Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change" sheds light on an understudied constituency that has yet to find its political home.
Critique: An erudite and detailed work of impeccable scholarship, "Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change" is an extraordinary study that is enhanced of Illustrations; an Appendix (2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey); eight pages of Notes; an eighteen page listing of References, and a five page Index. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Political Science collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that"Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.72).
Big Business and Hitler
Jacques R. Pauwels
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781459409767, $27.95, PB, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: For big business in Germany and around the world, Hitler and his National Socialist party were good news. Business was bad in the 1930s, and for multinational corporations Germany was a bright spot in a world suffering from the Great Depression. As Jacques R. Pauwels explains in this book, corporations were delighted with the profits that came from re-arming Germany, and then supplying both sides of the Second World War.
Recent historical research in Germany has laid bare the links between Hitler's regime and big German firms. Scholars have now also documented the role of American firms (General Motors, IBM, Standard Oil, Ford, and many others) whose German subsidiaries eagerly sold equipment, weapons, and fuel needed for the German war machine. A key roadblock to America's late entry into the Second World War was behind-the-scenes pressure from US corporations seeking to protect their profitable business selling to both sides.
Basing his work on the recent findings of scholars in many European countries and the US, Pauwels explains how Hitler gained and held the support of powerful business interests who found the well-liked one-party fascist government, ready and willing to protect the property and profits of big business. He documents the role of the many multinationals in business today who supported Hitler and gained from the Nazi government's horrendous measures.
Critique: An impressively detailed and exceptionally well written study by historian and academician Jacques R. Pauwels, "Big Business and Hitler" presents an extraordinary contribution to our understanding of the role corporations and the leading industrialists of Weimar German and the Unites States played in the rise and dominance of Adolph Hitler. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Big Business and Hitler" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.95).
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781501321054 $110.00 amazon.com
Synopsis: What can the sounds of today tell us about the future? Can an analysis of sound and sonic practices allow us to make reliable predictions in relation to wider social phenomena? And what might they tell us about technology in a world where futurology is such a frenzied and busy field? In order to answer these questions, this book tests a range of propositions that connect noise, sound and music to political, economic and technological events. Hence it is a book about historical trajectories and conflicting ideas about time and the necessity to re-contextualize and interpret them in the digital age.
Critique: A philosophical work written especially for expert scholars, Future Sounds: The Temporality of Noise examines what human perceptions of sound, from "noise" to "music" and everything in between, tell us about human society, with emphasis on how sound can be used to predict shifts in political, technological, and economic climates. Future Sounds further extrapolates how sound can be interpreted to perceive the present and the future in the context of the modern digital age. Highly recommended, especially for college and graduate school library collections.
Thread For Pearls: A Story of Resilient Hope
Elfenworks Productions, LLC
9780999707104, $8.95, Perfect Paperback, 448 pages, 2018
Lauren Speeth's Thread For Pearls A story of RESILIENT HOPE is a chronicle of ten chapters covering 446 pages.
Start with a Bang! Chapter 1 opens in 1963 when an eerie stillness follows Eighteen-month-old Fiona's dropping her rattle and Mom reaches down for it.
Fiona, a purplish bump appearing on her head lays strangely quiet in the seat.
Before the chapter ends Mom, Peggy will divorce Wolf, Fiona's father. For a time Fiona will live with her father and his new wife and their daughters and visit Mom and older sister Karen now and then.
India It is 1971 and Fiona and her family are off; Wolf, Pop and Hanna, Mum, and the family are moving to India. While there, family weathers stomach upset as they get used local bacteria, Fiona is bitten by a monkey at the bazaar, and has a tooth pulled by local dentist.
Pop and Mum endeavor to provide educational opportunity for untouchables.
Suddenly, after a year in India, Fiona's life is turned upside down.
Hundreds of Acres of Mystic Wolf and Hanna decided to buy and run a communal farm. The summer of 1973 was a good one for Fiona who was earning Girl Scout Badges. Wolf was mesmerized by the Watergate hearings.
Fiona was enjoying her life, scouting and school when unexpectedly Mum and her sisters again disappeared. Pop told Fiona he needed her money. They went to the bank and she closed her savings account.
Fiona's beloved dog, Regis, must be left behind.
Once again Fiona's world is turned topsy turvy.
City Girl Wolf's purple truck made one final trip, to Philly and Gram's house. Fiona sat down to a real cooked meal in a house having running water, and a clean bed to sleep in.
A flight to Tennessee brought Fiona a visit with her Mother, the first in quite a while. Mother is now into Eastern Religion.
Lingering earaches ensued following the trip to and from the ashram.
Once again Fiona's life it turned upside down when Wolf lands a job working as a research scientist in Detroit. Fiona will soon be 12, it is 1974. The war in Vietnam draws to a close. Fiona happily welcomes a pet skunk Hogan and Rudy a golden-brown ferret to the apartment she shares with her father.
A visit to Toronto to visit Hanna and her sisters was a treat and all too short for Fiona. Two weeks later Wolf received a devastating telephone call from Toronto police.
Hogan and Rudy must be left behind.
Fiona realizes that when things are bad they can always get worse.
Mother Time for High School and Fiona is in California, she is spending some time living in her Mother's house. Impacted wisdom teeth, earthquakes, and horseback riding are part of her life. Making new friends, and insightful discussions re the Vietnam war are part of Fiona's life. And, an aha moment finish the chapter.
Sunny Days Aikido practice at a dojo, trying her hand at house painting, receiving high praise for playing her Viola well, first date, unexplained feelings begin to trip up a budding relationship, and Mother's Day are included in the day to day activities.
Trips key parties, the great deinstitutionalization of the mid 60s, an acid trip ends in a trip to the ER, Mother witnesses and reports a murder, Fiona's discussion of pot usage during trips to a 'therapist' leads to friction with Mother.
Away, Again! Fiona is to spend a year as an exchange student in Argentina, a near deadly situation is resolved and Fiona's expected year ends two weeks after it began.
She's Back A disillusioned Fiona returns to California. Baptism, Jonestown and Mother's search for liberation and enlightenment listening to a 'therapist' having no training of comprehension of the problems caused by inept therapy, causes Fiona to feel she is on a roller coaster.
As she had done most of her life Fiona had an 'in case' suitcase containing a little money, change of clothing and a few essentials always in her closet. Fiona added a little more clothing, allergy tablets and aspirin. Maybe just maybe, if need be, she could take her beloved poodle with her.
Fiona opts to try the High School Proficiency test in preparation for leaving High School at the end of her Junior year.
Taste of Freedom A VW Bug, gift from Mother to carry Fiona to and from Mills College, an unexpected failure and renewed success precede Mother's telephoned call to Fiona at college. Mother has made the decision to sell her house and move to New Zealand.
'The Big One' is foretold to take place in 1985. Mother does not intend to be there when California falls into the sea. Mother has already sent Starlight, Fiona's beloved poodle to live with a former student on the East Coast.
Fiona has a decision to make; give up, go on, take hold of her life? .....
From the Dedication: "As we work to make sense of life, gathering experiences like pearls for a necklace, it becomes clear that the thread on which we choose to hang our pearls of experience is as essential as the pearls themselves."
Despite its heft and cumbersome length, I found Lauren Speeth's Thread for Pearls to be a thought-provoking novel.
The narrative presents a deftly crafted tale relating the journey of a young woman who manages to face, accept and overcome what many would believe to be an impossible childhood. Periods of normalcy are interspersed with periods that are anything but normal, receiving and unexpectedly having pets given away, or left behind, left on her own way too often by both her Mother and Wolf cause Fiona to do much of the raising of herself.
Daring and complex, the narrative grasps reader interest and holds it fast. On the pages of Fiona's life beginning during her toddler days to that of a determined young woman attending college; The Reader comes to understand the Resilient Hope essential to inspire Fiona in her search for the storybook family and home she never fully realized during her childhood.
Time spent at Grams' house, as well as the periods when Mum, Hanna, and her sisters are present are the periods of calmness, regular schooling, wholesome meals, routine and happy times interspersed into the narrative which also has aspects of total disarray, adults who respond little as adults or parents who simply drag their children with little thought to the well-being, education, needs or hopes; along on the latest impulse, caprice or whim to strike one the other parent.
Because I was born in the Bay Area, California, and grew up during the time period presented in the story; I find the references to familiar circumstances, situations and dates to be poignant, memory stirring, and stimulating.
Characters are presented with all the warts, idiosyncrasies, metiers, successes and failures as are found in most of us. At times; they are nearly an all too realistic crowd. As a teacher who taught children in California during the time period of the narrative; I recognize certain behaviors and situations, in memory, of many of my students and their parents.
It is obvious that Wolf provides his daughter unrestricted acceptance and parental love, however the smoky marijuana haze in which he lives most of the time prevents him using the intellect he possesses or the parenting skills Fiona needs. Her mother is lost in her own self-awareness including only her needs, wants, and desires, as she demands much of her daughter and is out of touch with Fiona's wishes or needs or even what encourages Fiona.
Fiona's resilience does help keep her centered despite life that changes too often and too unpredictably. Her internal anguish is apparent, loss of adored pets is difficult at best for children. Fiona having to leave Regis and Hogan and Rudy behind with little prior explanation or given away in the case of her cherished poodle by a mother who decided Fiona would not be able to care for her, and didn't tell Fiona until the dog was gone and living on the East Coast, is especially difficult to read.
The author notes "Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental."
Difficult, Interesting read Happy to Recommend for the YA to Adult Reading Audience, High School and Public Library, Home library Shelf and for the Counselor's book collection to share with clients for discussion. 5 stars
War and Peaces
Zumaya Eclectic; First World English Language ed. edition
9781612713182, $14.99, Paperback, 244 pages, November 22, 2016
Chester Aaron's War and Peaces is a work of 10 short stories packed into 229 pages. This is not the first writing I have reviewed for writer Aaron, it may, for me, be the most compelling.
Inaugural work is The Scent of Thyme, setting WW2, Sergeant Sabini is writing a letter home following a period of combat.
The Size of It and the entire 71st Armored Infantry Battalion had been pulled back from the front lines after suffering terrible losses during 31 days of continuous combat. Pvt. Clarence Dobbins discovers a way to be able to send money home for his family in Arkansas.
Winterswijk in 1945 Ben had only seen Holland from the ground.
Thirty Minutes in Bologna Charley is in Italy. He is in Bologna. He is in the Old City of Bologna.
Oh, Babe... It is Patsy Hennessy's birthday, and she is the only person in the entire Moonbeam Nursing Home who sees Henry Hennessy standing here at the head of her bed, the only person in the entire world who hears Henry Hennessey singing....
Oh, babe, I hate to go.
Here's to You Chief Joseph and Angus Mackenzie draws his last breath.
Nick's Star Fourteen-year-old Nick loses a foot and finds new meaning for his life.
Shuzoku Benjamin Kahn, 80 something, writer, lives alone following his divorce when he is reminded by a petite Japanese woman that they actually met some 52 years ago. Actually it was 52 years, ten months. Ben's present life is destined to undergo some changes.
The End of Summer It is spring 1956, Joey and his friends, Kearney, Jughead and Roman paddle their boats in Conequenessing Creek. Horseplay, Rain with Lightning and only three boys will return to school for the new term beginning in two days.
The End is the Beginning Chester Aaron's first published writing was a short piece, less than 3 pages in length. Aaron, a freshman at UCLA following military service in the US Army's 20th Armored Division, Heavy Weapons Company, Heavy Machine Gun Platoon. Aaron participated in the liberation of Dachau.
'I held in my hand yesterday all the agonies and pleasures, all the heartaches and joys, all the miseries and contentments, as is possible for one being to possess. ... For today I held in this hand a small bar of soap made of the bones and ashes of men women and children - victims of the Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen.'
Afterword: is an interview conducted in 2013 by Celeste Brausell for inclusion in the Veterans History Project of the US Library of Congress.
On the pages of Chester Aaron's War and Peaces Writer Aaron presents a perhaps not known picture of military in the stark reality of an accomplished writer who has not only read about WW2, but lived through some of the hellish days of the war.
I grew up in a time when young men were compelled register for the draft and it was a given that military service was something to be completed by all who were physically and mentally fit. We all had relatives, neighbors and school acquaintances who joined the military whether as a way to insure acceptance in the branch they preferred or via the draft when the notice to report arrived in the mail.
Writer Aaron's narrations present a peek into some of the military hi jinks, or sorrows, miseries, or not so miserable circumstances of military life. Interspersed with the narratives centered in military are the ones taken from peace time children playing in a creek, a visit from a woman who remembered the fear she felt prior to meeting him for the X rays he took of her. She was one of the victims of Hiroshima.
I found War and Peaces to be very readable, it is not a feel good little bundle of fluff, but is good writing compressed into 10 or so pages per anecdote crafter by a master writer who is capable of bringing the reader to tears, or laughter. Aaron tackles subjects and notions that many writers would not attempt.
I do not keep all the books I receive for review, as with other Chester Aaron books I have reviewed, War and Peaces will be kept, placed on a book shelf and taken down now and then for a re read of all or some of the vignettes presented.
Note: not for everyone, some frank, even raw language and subject matter, some profanity. For those who get their knickers in a knot regard frank, raw language and/or subject matter, or profanity you will likely not enjoy reading War and Peaces.
All in all I am happy to recommend War and Peaces for those who enjoy a selection of short stories penned by a master story teller.
Happy to Recommend for the College and Public Library, for History buffs, military enthusiasts and for anyone who enjoys short stories.
Diana Her True Story, revised edition
Simon & Schuster
9781476752815, $35.50, Hardcover, 464 pages, April 13, 2013
Acknowledgements Andrew Morton tells Readers 1997, "The Biography of The Princess of Wales is unique in that the story contained in its pages would never have appeared had it not been for the whole-hearted cooperation of Diana, Princess of Wales."
Foreword 'Amid the tears and the flowers, there was guilt, shame, and anger at the royal family who abandoned her and at the mass media who hounded her.'
In Her Own Words transcribed from tapes prepared by Diana. Some of the subjects she discusses are of her Childhood, School Days, her father's illness. Her parents' divorce and remarriages, including step parents. She talks of meeting the Prince of Wales, Marrying into the Royal Family, Meeting Camilla, overhearing Charles declare on the telephone prior to their marriage, 'No matter what happens I will always love you.' And Diana discusses the wedding, Honeymoon, and Pregnancy.
Relations with the royal family, Diana notes are set against Years of suffering including media and family dismissal of her concerns re Camilla, and the coldness and isolation she experienced in her marriage. She mentions the devastation she realized when Charles had returned to Camilla, or perhaps had never really broken with Camila.
Diana talks of her Aids and other charity work, along with discussion of her Countess Spencer grandmother and of her own children. She says she is 'demented about her sons, and, that it is mutual'. And, she mentions following the divorce that she plans to remarry, or live with someone.
On the pages the thirteen chapters, following the transcribed tapes Diana allowed author Morton to use, Diana's life is recounted.
I Was Supposed To Be a Boy six year old Diana would long carry the upset, rebuff, remoteness and breach of trust caused by her parent's break up.
Just Call Me Sir Theirs, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, seems to be a most unusual romance. She was given permission to call him Charles when they became engaged; prior to engagement he called her Diana, she called him Sir.
This chapter chronicles events leading up to the night before the wedding.
Such Hope In My Heart The days leading up to the wedding were fraught with uncertainty.
My Cries For Help She told friends, "One minute I was a nobody, the next minute I was Princess of Wales, mother, media toy, member of this family, and it was just too much for one person to handle."
'Darling, I'm About To Disappear' biographer Morton provides glimpses into Diana's life, and friends. When the Queen asked Diana to suggest two single girls for the guest list for the party planned following Royal Ascot race week; Diana offered the names of friends Susie Fenwick and Diana's cousin, Sarah Ferguson.
Morton makes a brief reference to Prince Charles having jealousy of Andrew during the time his brother served with 'some distinction' as a helicopter pilot during the Falklands War.
And, Morton mentions the negative and unflattering attitude Charles directed toward his wife, in particular an impromptu performance on the stage of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden with ballet star Wayne Sleep when Diana and Sleep performed a routine. Publicly Charles expressed his amazement at Diana's performance, in private he voiced his disapproval. 'She was undignified, too thin, and too showy.'
Morton notes that the totally negative attitude was one Diana had come to expect from Charles.
Diana's 'pencil slim physique' became tabloid fodder. During a visit to the Vancouver Expo Diana fainted. 'Darling, I think I'm about to disappear,' and slid to the floor. Her lady-in-waiting and the couples private secretary helped to a private room.
My Life Has Changed Its Course Diana learned that she could handle ticklish situations while on a skiing trip. An unexpected avalanche and death of Major Hugh Lindsay propelled Diana into action gathering Hugh's possessions for return to his wife, preparing for end of the trip.
The tragedy taught Diana she could not only cope with crisis, but was able to remain clear headed and take command of the situation.
Diana's decision to take hold of her life, learn about bulimia and move forward was, Morton relates, derided by her husband and member of the staff. A few months later the improvement was evident.
Continued reading, seeking answers and reaching out to others helped Diana regain much of what had been smothered in her personality. Her appearance, outlook on life and sense of confidence changed for the better.
In 1990, Morton relates, when Prince Charles in hospital for arm surgery following a polo spill Diana had what was to be come a life changing event. While visiting patients in the hospital she chanced upon a man sitting sadly, holding his wife's hand following her collapse with brain hemorrhage. Diana asked if she might join them, and sat holding one of the wife's hands and one of the husband's until doctors told them the wife had deceased.
The gratitude expressed by the family deeply touched the young woman who had long thought herself worthless.
In 1991 Diana related to friends that she did not care much for the glamour events, 'I would rather be doing something useful.'
I Don't Rattle Their Cages June 1991 Prince William suffered a depressed fracture of the skull. Prince Charles assured that his son was in safe hands left the hospital to attend a performance of Tosca and was host a group of European Union officials, later in the evening Charles boarded a train to North Yorkshire to attend an environmental study.
Morton recounts a number of instances in which Charles and Diana increasingly grew apart, 'this much discussed union begun with high hopes had reached a point an impasse.'
I Did My Best Writer Morton notes, 'The contrast between Diana's real interests and the role assigned for her by her Palace 'minders' was clearly demonstrated in March 1992. On the same day she was guest of honour at the Ideal Home Exhibition, and, that evening made an impassioned and revelatory speech about Aids.'
We'd Run Out of Steam biographer Morton reveals that in the days following her death and the world-wide desire to somehow, perhaps out of guilt, deify Diana; 'there was a time when she was seen as a destructive influence upon the whole fabric of the British monarchy.'
Following discussion, she and Charles with Queen Elizabeth regarding the pair separating, Diana related that she felt deep profound sadness because they had struggled to keep the marriage going, 'but we'd both run out of steam.'
My Acting Career Is Over At Kensington Palace only a few items were left as reminders of Prince Charles time there. At Highgrove every trace of Diana was removed.
For several months Diana's routine varied little, up early, breakfast, to the gym, hair dresser, chatting with friends on the telephone, correspondence, lunch, often alone, other times with friends, during afternoon receive representatives of her charities, or visit her office at St James Palace, or drive to sons' schools, or perhaps reading.
Prince Charles' public image had taken a real hit during the months prior to the separation. Then in January 1993 tabloid newspapers published tape recorded conversations said to be recorded in 1989 between Charles and Camila. The tasteless, intimate conversation filled with declaration of affection combined with childish lewd comments, caused many to begin questioning Charles' fitness to rule.
Biographer Morton notes, neither Prince Charles or Camila refuted the tapes.
Diana announced her withdrawal from public life for a time.
I Am Going To Be Me For years Diana had been judged on the basis of being, she now determined to be judged for doing. Voice coaches, public panning of her efforts, feelings of empathy for the downtrodden, disengaged and troubled were not always met with understanding.
February 1996, 'the saddest day of my life' Diana announced she would agree to a non-contested divorce.
Tell Me Yes Diana's skill in public life was an intuitive affinity to use her office to promote her causes. Her inherent nature drew her to the dying, diseased and dispossessed.
The People's Princess Slowly Diana developed a true affinity for providing comfort and caring to those most in need of it. Her quiet endeavours won out over time. She was no longer viewed almost universally as an embittered woman, only seeking to upstage her husband, seeking to make trouble, seeking attention, or wanting to embarrass her husband and his family.
Diana noted not long before her death, 'I feel much closer to people at the bottom than to people at the top, and they -the royal family- don't forgive me for it.'
Rather she has come to be viewed almost universally as a woman who truly hoped to offer care and comfort.
Index begins on page 284 and ends on page 288
Author, profiler Andrew Morton has revisited secret tapes he and Diana made to make known surprising new understandings into her life as a member of the royal family in addition to what she was thinking. Biographer Morton reflects per Diana's legacy and her continuing significance for the present royal family as her children are now grown and taking their place in the mix.
Notwithstanding the sadness and isolation, she felt during her marriage, Diana became a confident, stunning, caring woman who contributed more than many to others.
Diana: Her True Story Commemorative Edition With Material Including Her Own Words presents a distressing glimpse into the life and thinking of the diffident, hopeful teenager who married a man twice her age who was the scion of the royal house of England.
Probing various of Diana's most life-changing moments some joyous and others not, allows the reader to more understand what shaped a little girl who was far more resilient than she thought herself to be.
From the outset of her relationship with Prince Charles, Lady Diana Spencer felt enormous pressure exerted especially by Charles and others of the royal family, media and society in general; to not only conform to myriad unwritten rules but to realize intuitively what she should and should not do as the wife of the man who one day was expected to ascend to the throne. Diana WAS of a family of peerage, however, the Spencers were pretty far removed from the status of the royal family.
Diana's tapes indicate her reaction to how she was treated by Prince Charles and the royal family caused her to feel reviled, rebuff, isolation, and loneliness. Diana's reaction to her realization that Charles was in a relationship with Camila prior to their marriage, during their marriage and after their marriage served to increase her insecurity and jealousy of Camila.
Transcriptions of Diana's own words located in the beginning of this book were revealing, often poignant and often distressing. The midsection of the book set down by the author fills in some of the gaps.
On the whole the book is an informative, moving read it presents an awful presentation of Prince Charles and his long time mistress, more recently wife Camila.
It is difficult to not form opinions regarding Diana, Charles and Camila. Between Diana's youth and romantic notions regarding marriage and Charles allegiance to Camila their marriage really did not seem to have much chance for success. It is difficult to read of Diana's anger, angst and upset as she realized that her role was not what she thought it would be when she agreed to marriage with the scion of the royal family.
Diana's caring for her children and people in general was noteworthy, her work with underprivileged, Aids, land mines are but some of the issues she tackled during the years following her divorce.
I found reading the words transcribed from the tapes Diana made to be compelling. It is obvious that Diana had expected a relationship most of us entertain as teens. Sadly that was not to be and her despair comes through.
As with most others who had watched the wedding on TV and followed the narrative of the courtship, marriage, and finally the divorce I had hoped her marriage would succeed for her sake, her children's sake and the British people as a whole. Sadly that was not to be.
Diana's pain and dogged determination to not let the pain shape her, is something I find admirable. Rather than wallow in the very public humiliation Diana proved her pluck and mettle and became what she had hoped to be; The People's Princess.
Two collections of color photos showing Diana and friends as teens, and another presenting Diana at her wedding, her children, charitable work and finally her funeral add much to the book.
Well written. Happy to recommend for the home, school and public library, for history buffs, royal watchers, Diana enthusiasts and anyone who just enjoys a good book.
Astonishing Animal ABC
Gullane Children's Books
9781862338678, $TBA, Paperback, 32 pages, March 1, 2012
Charles Fuge's Astonishing Animal ABC from the front cover filled with a delighted Bear, two elated mice and a gleeful, not so, extinct Dodo on to the back cover graced with two elated mice and another not so, extinct, zany woolly mammoth.
The animal alphabet begins with A, arty aardvark
B, bouncing bear
We see arty brush in hand, pallet in the other, wearing an artist's smock, his canvas shows bouncing bear up on the easel. Bouncing is bouncing on his trampoline
I particularly enjoyed the next page, we see C, cozy cobra curled up in a comfy chair. The artwork is great fun one big boot, cozy lolling against a pillow in his chair, a steaming cup held in his coil on the arm of the chair, on the wall a family picture with wife, little cozy and dad. In his coils we see his snuggle teddy bear.
What a great discussion starter!! All around, words with c, the art work, daisies in a vase, the whole is a great take, motivator and all around fun look.
Osage County First Grade loves the silly, goofy, crazy and wacky. Each day we have an activity using alphabet. ABC, alphabet books are chosen very often as one of the DEAR free reading use books to be used when the assigned reading book work is finished.
Dancing Dodo, enormous egg, held tightly by an incensed toothy dinosaur who is glaring at Fat flamingo feeling frightened, on one leg is another really fun page.
Girl gorilla, Hare on ice, Jolly jackal and his joyful jumping mice, share a two page spread.
King Koala grins triumphantly, having just KOed Lion who lies on the floor prone, he is seeing stars.
Mouse at market is asking what do Mammoths cost?
And, the next fully filled page is another page Osage County First Grade giggles and laughs as it comes up; Nasty narwhal grins an evil grin, Outraged owl is being forced at swords' point off the pier. Pirate penguin wields the sword and is joined by his panther who is on the prowl.
Shhh, quite quiet quail, rhinos roar, snoozy sloth needs sleep why won't they let him snore?
And on the next two page spread finds tortoise training a unicorn.
On the next page we find a worried walrus peering through the door window as the vet -- Vaughn, a Viking vole checks Vulture's throat.
And worried walrus appears next with Vaughn, walrus is holding his x-ray, Vaughn is holding walrus' chart, x-ray yak mans the light.
And finally turning the page all the animals are gathered, staring at the zooming ...... next page....... Zuzza zozza zizza ZAK
ZAK IS THE BEST YET!!!! Orange hair, big grin, blue fur, What fun!!
Osage County First Grade often chooses Charles Fuge's Astonishing Animal ABC as one of our books to read before going home. It is a fun book, the class enjoys this book, and Mrs Martin does too.
This paperback, edition produced by Scholastic was purchased at our yearly school fair. It has withstood several years of classroom usage and shows little sign of wear despite being carried home very often for reading at home, being taken to the desk for alphabet work, chosen for DEAR reading time, and chosen for reading on the rug before going home.
I am happy to recommend this delightful, well crafted book for classroom usage, for gifting a birthday child and for the classroom library shelf, the school and public library.
While I purchased my copy from the school book fair, it is also available on Amazon and other online sites.
Click, Clack, Boo!
Illustrator Betsy Lewin
Series: A Click Clack Book
Atheneum Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition
9781442465534, $17.99, Hardcover, 40 pages, August 13, 2013
Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin have created another fun click clack book. Osage county is very fond of the click clack books.
Click, Clack, Boo! A tricky treat opens with a grumpy Farmer Brown frowning, sitting on a really big jack-o-lantern, and unhappy because he does not like Halloween.
Witches give him nightmares, and pirates give him shivers.
It is almost Halloween and he cannot wait for it to be over.
Farmer Brown's solution to the problem is to leave a bowl of candy on the porch, put up a DO NOT DISTURB sign, pull down the shades and lock the door.
Of course out at the barn the Halloween party has just begun. Chickens dressed in their ghost costumes are pretty cut. Spooky spider webs add to the decor. A whole crowd of beautiful mice princesses wearing purple dresses and tiaras hurry across the field.
Spooky little sheep witches quietly open the barn door, cats dressed with bat wings tap at the barn window.
Farmer Brown checks the lock on his door, in case, he hears a spooky sound and he peeks through the window. There! Out by the trees is a dark creature. Farmer Brown rushes to jump into his bed and pull up the covers.
More spooky noises sound and they are coming closer! Farmer Brown hears the creak of boards on the front porch, and a tap, tap, tapping on the door!
Back under the covers he goes, and he hears a quack, quack, quackle!
QUACKLE? Farmer Brown rushes to the door, and checks the front porch, the candy bowl is gone!
A note is tacked to his front door! Farmer Brown runs to check his barn. And gets a BIG surprise.
During my years teaching First Grade to Osage County Little Learners Doreen cronin's click clack series was a growing group and they were growing both in numbers and in popularity with my students.
The first click clack book was click clack moo. Osage County First Grade fell in love with the first reading, often bring a click clack book for reading on the rug at days end and for taking as 'the free reading' edition during DEAR reading period and as a fun book to use when class work was completed and a few minutes of free choice activity was awarded.
Each fall the annual Book Fair was anticipated with excitement, and Little Reader's hurried to locate a book to buy with their carefully wrapped money parents had handed to Little Reader's when it was our turn to 'shop'. And, the Little Reader's checked the offerings as well to see if any of their favorite authors including Doreen Cronin had a new offering Mrs M might buy for the classroom!
Click, Clack, Boo! A tricky treat has proven to be as well done, child friendly and child pleasing as was Click Clack Moo. Our copy was carefully put into our October box and brought out to cheers and giggles and sparkling eyes as our new month began, was enjoyed often and put away glumly, at last, as we readied for our Halloween celebration, and the beginning of November.
One of the things I miss most now that I am retired, after not seeing those smiling faces and bright, sparkling eyes each day, is not reading to, listening to and sharing the joy of books we all enjoyed on a daily basis.
I find Click, Clack, Boo! A tricky treat written by Doreen Cronin, to be a charming addition to my classroom. It is a well written tale, illustrations rendered by Betsy Lewin are just plain fun, vocabulary used is kid friendly, filled with lots of bounce and verve.
Happy to recommend Click, Clack, Boo! A tricky treat for the Primary classroom, K-3, for the class, school and public library children's section, for gifting a well-loved child as a reward, or just because.
Molly Martin, Reviewer
Beat Bop: A Varian Pike Mystery
Cold Chair Books
9781720766087, $12.99, PB
B07FF12C6P, $2.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
Smooth jazz-loving private investigator Varian Pike meets enlightened, poetry-quoting thief Ronnie Hayes at the very beginning of the excellent new P.I. mystery Beat Bop, by master storyteller Jack deWitt. And the unlikely duo immediately form an investigative alliance that is at once highly entertaining and totally unique among novels in this genre.
After a back alley fight that's quickly decided in their favor despite the size advantage of their two oafish adversaries, Pike and Hayes find they are kindred spirits, despite their considerable age difference.
Both can handle themselves in a pinch, both love Thelonius Monk, and both have a view of the laws of the land as more akin to guidelines than actual rules.
But it's the next pivotal event that truly bonds this fascinating twosome -- the murder of a man in a suburban home that Hayes is about to burgle. His original objective is to recover incriminating photos of one of Pike's young clients. But he has to beat a hasty retreat when police arrive to investigate.
And so, with that, one of the best mysteries this year is well and truly set in motion.
Beat Bop is a confidently-written, erudite novel with major and minor characters that rise well above the standard hard-boiled detective fare. More given to flights of philosophy than to fast-paced car chases, this exceptional read is a thinking man's -- or woman's -- noir mystery, steeped as it is in arcane knowledge of past jazz greats and lyrical poetry by the likes of Walt Whitman.
But back to the plot, which thickens, as they say, when hoodlums tail Pike ceaselessly, pausing just long enough to fire off a round or two at him. He then must connect the Byzantine trail of dots that pepper the path from the brutal murder of the tabloids reporter in a quiet suburb to the yellow journalist's unfinished story on a hinky investment firm in the Big Apple.
Pike and Hayes must weave carefully through an ever-growing collection of colorful characters designed skillfully by the author to enrich the storyline and enhance the mystery. These players jump fully formed into the reader's consciousness through some of the most well-written descriptions we've seen in awhile:
"He always reminded me of a cartoon rat, big ugly head on a skinny body. We knew each other a little. We didn't like each other a lot." And,
"His hair was slicked down with enough grease to lube a Mack truck."
Pike and Hayes keep at their task despite the worst that can be thrown their way by felonious thugs and corrupt cops, and eventually find a way to pit the bad guys against each other, resulting in the mega fatal "Greenwich Massacre."
But one of the most satisfying aspects of this book -- aside from the salty dialogue and 4D characters -- is the ending, which doesn't offer a happily-ever-after vibe, but rather a sense that characters will play out their own special karma for good or for ill.
Kinda like real life.
We award Beat Bop our very highest rating of five-plus stars. It's the one mystery this year you won't want to miss.
And, by the way, readers should take note that this is the second Varian Pike mystery created by this outstanding author. Find the others, entitled Hoochie Coochie Man, and Delicious Little Traitor, on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and booktopia.com.au.
The Moving Blade
Raked Gravel Press
9781942410164, $15.98, PB www.amazon.com
B07GCYRY61, $2.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
A respected American diplomat is stabbed to death and a private investigator is carved up like an overlarge sashimi in the opening pages of this masterful mystery set in modern-day Japan.
It then falls to Tokyo P.D. detective Hiroshi Shimizu to try and find the one responsible for both these violent acts and to see if there might be a link.
This is a first-rate murder mystery, played out against the exotic urban backdrop of Japan's largest city, and expertly written by an acclaimed author who is clearly at home there. Indeed, the book is as much an intimate guide to Japanese customs and timeworn cultural ways as it is a thrilling whodunit.
But there's more at stake here than just finding two ruthless killers -- if in fact the murders were done by two separate people. Bernard Mattson, a top expert on Pacific Rim policy matters, was the unfortunate stabbing victim. He was scheduled to give a seachange speech at an international conference in a few days that reportedly would have had a dramatic effect on relations between Japan and the U.S. And that speech has disappeared.
So all eyes fall on Mattson's gorgeous young daughter, who arrives just after the murder, expecting a long-anticipated reunion with her famous father. Instead, she joins Hiroshi in a methodical quest to find both the murderers and the missing manuscript.
She finds she has a target on her back, however, as the most likely holder of the unknown papers. And just like that, she requires police protection, 24/7 -- though she chafes at the measure. Even after burglars brutally tie her up during a failed search of her father's house and leave her to slowly suffocate, she stubbornly refuses to return to New York.
The plotline then moves along apace, expertly intertwining new investigative revelations with cinematic chase scenes on foot through first one crowded Tokyo neighborhood, then another, then an airport, then -- actually, we lost count. But unlike many cliched characters in modern day mysteries, honorable detective Hiroshi-san shows an endearing penchant for making all-too-human mental lapses that repeatedly throw others into dire physical jeopardy.
Still other cast members are similarly satisfying. A detective colleague of Hiroshi's, a former sumo wrestler named Sakaguchi, frequently steals scenes by using his sheer bulk to even the odds in confrontations with the bad guys. And even the minor characters come vividly to life through the author's lyrical descriptive abilities:
"To the side, a third man leaned on the counter, one leg propped on a stack of old encyclopedias. He was thin as a sumo judge's gunbai fan, with stringy grey hair down both sides of his sunken face. The taut pucker of smoker's wrinkles held his last comment unfinished as they turned silently towards Sakaguchi."
Seriously, does good writing get any better than that? Such turns of phrase are standard fare throughout the novel, which is the second in a series. We look eagerly forward to the next installment.
But to wrap this one up, the author mixes a dynamite detective story with a compelling argument cum expose on the prolonged existence of American military bases on Japanese soil and around the world. But this call for change is delivered very subtly through the author's main and secondary characters, and enumerated with a quiet authority that is never preachy. This carefully researched aspect of the book presents a model for other writers who try -- and fail -- to deliver a moral message inside a work of fiction.
Five-plus stars to The Moving Blade. We say to readers, come for a satisfying story -- but stay for an immersive experience in Japanese ways and a better-than-Frommer's guide to Tokyo. You'll be glad you did.
Orchid and the Wasp
c/o Crown Publishing
9781524761103, $26.00, July 10, 2018
Caoilinn Hughes' writing in Orchid and the Wasp is superb, almost lyrical, in parts. I highlighted more lines in my Kindle than in almost any book I've bought and reread certain lines over and over. That said, the book is not without its flaws. It is a hard read. Despite the brilliant writing, a plot I thought I'd enjoy, and interesting characters, I had a difficult time connecting.
The protagonist has a unique voice and presence. Gael Foess is a prime example of an unreliable, unsympathetic protagonist. She is a precocious, super smart, annoying, preteen con artist who completely lacks boundaries. Her unmarried parents, a financier father and an orchestra conductor mother, had children to promote the father's political ends. As the Irish economic crisis deepens, the father leaves the family. Over the course of the book, Gael becomes an anti-heroine. At times she is extremely protective of her mother and brother, and only occasionally becomes somewhat likable. As Gael's ability to con expands, she raises the stakes and manipulates and uses people with premeditated cunning. She makes many mistakes and relies on her native cunning to save her neck. She repeatedly repeats the same type of mistake believing she's doing the right thing.
There is some dialect I found difficult to read. In the middle of the book, Gael's interaction with an elderly man on a first-class flight to New York seems far too drawn-out for the transition it is. Orchid and the Wasp tackles dysfunctional family dynamics, fluid sexuality, the economy and politics with a high-powered magnifying glass. Hughes captures her locations (Dublin, London, and New York) with ease and accuracy. Overall, a mixed bag of a book.
Though I Get Home
The Feminist Press
9781936932160, $16.95, April 10th 2018
Though I Get Home is the literary debut of YZ Chin. Born and raised in Taiping, Malaysia, Ms. Chin moved to the United States when she was nineteen, and wrote this book while working as a software engineer. The book consists of a series of short stories, interrelated somewhat along the lines of those in Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. The interconnection of the stories in Though I Get Home is somewhat more tenuous than those in Goon Squad.
While music pulsates through Goon Squad, silence - rather the threat of being silenced - percolates through Though I Get Home and provides the warp of Chin's tapestry. The weft is formed by diverse characters as they navigate their muddled lives against the panorama of political and social turmoil that forms modern Malaysia. A butler from the days when Malaysia was a British colony, a grandfather who eats at KFC and gambles on time the monsoon rain will begin, a girl chosen by the Divine Leader to be his pleasure girl, a young man who's working - like Chin herself - in America, and a man who works for the Religious Department, patrolling the city looking for fornicators all populate this book. Isa Sin, a frustrated writer, provides the fixed point around which these other characters rotate. She is held prisoner in Malaysia's infamous Kamunting Detention Center. Like Penelope, Chin's weaves these shifting points of view into a tapestry that gives the reader tantalizing glimpses of clarity before eventually revealing the events on which she actually focused.
A side-note here is cultural appropriation with disastrous results. An American woman becomes the lover of Howie Ho, the Malaysian man working in the States, simply to pick his brain about his homeland. She uses what he tells her to write poems about the Malaysian government - poems that it finds obscene - and attributes them to Isa Sin.
Chin's prose is deft, subtle, and evocative of the times and landscapes of Malaysia. The reader indirectly learns of Malaysia's colonial past as well as its current authoritarian regime. The stories are intelligent and probe existential and political anguish in compelling ways that make her subjects accessible to her readers.
Never Deceive a Viscount
Renee Ann Miller
c/o Kensington Books
9781420144598, $4.99, May 29, 2018
I enjoy a good romance as a break from the usual literary fare I read and write. Never Deceive a Viscount continues the Infamous Lords series and is another charming historical romance with witty dialogue between orphaned portraitist Emma Trafford who's raising her brother and sister between painting session. Simon Marlton, Viscount Adler, is shunned by the ton because of his stepmother's lies. Their romance hits a few bumps in the road (harrowing run-ins with loan sharks and a neighborhood break-in) but is true to the genre. It uses several romance tropes: the alpha male, mistaken identity, tortured hero, and jilted bride.
Suanne Schafer, Reviewer
La Petite Josette en Provence
9780464923077, $16.99, 44 Pages
France captured the hearts of southern California born and raised author Ashley and her husband Michael in 2003, when they arrived in Provence with their four young children. Ashley was studying abroad for degrees in French Culture Studies and Business, and whilst Ashley participated in her university work, Michael and the children became immersed in the French culture and language. Trips out exploring their adopted country led to a love of the region, and after returning to the USA to complete her degrees, Ashley and her husband returned with their youngest child to Provence in 2010.
It is perhaps these experiences into the French way of life as an expat which inspired Ashley to create this clever little story. It is written primarily in English, but also has many phrases written, and explained in French also. I think this enriches the story and enables the reader to enjoy a truly bilingual experience.
The setting is the beautiful village of Les Baux-de-Provence. It is a listed heritage site, is noted as "one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France" ("Station classee"). Its ruined castle, and history make it the ideal foil for the wonderful journey of discovery, which La Petite Josette and her big sister Anne-Laure embark upon in this story.
There is great excitement in the household, the family are going for a day out! The girls can't wait for mum to pack the picnic, and dad to get the car ready. Eagerly they watch the beautiful countryside, the vast vineyards, and olive groves go by on their way to their hilltop destination, Les Baux-de-Provence. However it is the village's hilltop ruined castle which captivates the girls' imagination.
As they look around it, papa explains its history, and the girls are caught up in the atmosphere, looking over the ramparts, seeing the village below, and even some troglodyte caves!
What an exciting day, they have, there is so much to see and do! But all good things must come to an end, and it is two tired girls who return home at the end of a wonderful day, and clutched in her hand La Petite Josette holds a very special souvenir.
A lovely story, one to be treasured forever, beautifully illustrated by the author and her husband's talented daughter Martinique Louise Fisher. Highly Recommended!
Available from Amazon in Paperback
One Pilgrim's Tips, Tricks, Advice, Stories and Insights for the Next Pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago
Scott E. Bell
9781981042609, $24.99, 155 Pages
Confession time, I brought this book because I am longing to hike the Camino de Santiago and I wanted a honest to goodness, personal opinion of what it is really like to do this amazing walk.
I couldn't have chosen a better book. The author Scott Bell somehow manages to encourage his readers to participate in the Camino whilst giving a warts 'n all, no holds barred account of his own journey.
Scott starting his adventure at Saint Pied du Port in southern France, although there are various starting points. As we walk this beautiful, historical, journey with him he not only honestly gives his opinions on the sheer physical and mental strain which is put on the body, but he then offers advice on how to overcome them.
Of course on such a long route, accommodation is also very important, and the author discusses the various types of accommodation available, and the pros and cons of each, including some nasty little critters.
For some people the Camino is a spiritual journey, for others it gives them the time to find themselves, some are youth groups, friends, and others are families. During his travels he met and befriended many people from across the world, each with their own story, and reason for doing the Camino, and so human interest stories abound throughout the book.
The one overwhelming thing about this book is that it is truly one man's journey, recounted with the purpose of helping others discover not only what they will need to undertake it, but also what they don't need. The size of your backpack and weightiness of unnecessary gear is discussed and recommendations given by the self-named 'snail' of the route.
As the author says, the Camino de Santiago is different for each person, and during their journey that person will discover things about themselves they never knew before.
I found this book totally enthralling, and reading it, the author has inspired me to walk my own Camino when I can. I have to say though that even if you have no intention of doing the Camino, this book is jam packed with wonderful information about the villages and landscapes which the walk goes through and it is littered with historically interesting facts. Highly Recommended!
Available from Amazon in Paperback
Swerve: The Little Bastards 2
9781732637900, $15.00, 370 pages
In SWERVE, we return with Jim Lindsay to America in the 1950's, the era of rock n' roll, fast cars seemingly eternal youth. Discover what it was like to live that life, with the thrills and consequences captured in this exciting sequel to his unforgettable The Little Bastards.
The story opens with the main character Sonny Mitchell's parents reading in the news of the antics, (which happened at the end of the last book) their son had been up to and their outcome. At this point I would like to say that although this is a sequel, this book happily stands alone.
Sonny soon discovers that once his notoriety settles down he still has a lot about life to learn. The Little bastards are growing up, yet being typical boys, they cling onto their youth, and through the authors vividly descriptive writing, the reader tumbles through Sonny and his friend's lives experiencing through them the fun, freedom, and innocence, which young people enjoyed at this time. Their antics are wide and varied, from tracking down the local legend Lucifer, discover girls, larking around, getting into scrapes, and finding out ways of making money so they could do up their precious cars, you name it they are up to it.
However, despite their fun ways and the thrills and spills of the drag racing scene, the boys are growing up. With his friends beginning to get serious and his own hormones rising, Sonny knows there is only one girl for him, but can he overcome her father's prejudices and prove himself a worthy suitor?
Refreshingly open and entertaining, Swerve really does allow the reader to time travel back to an era which had so much to offer which was new and full of potential. And yet, through Sonny we glimpse underneath the 'brave new world' facade and discover the traditional outlook of the older generation at this time, and how totally revolutionary this era really was to them.
A wonderful story, not a biography, yet it could be as the author has put so much of his memories of his childhood into it. Highly recommended.
Available from Amazon in Paperback
Under the Escalator
George M. C. Held
Filsinger & Co. Ltd.
9780916754235, $12.00, 16 Pages
George Held is the author of 20 poetry books, including the wonderful 'NEIGHBORS' series of children's books which were loved by my nature loving little granddaughter. He is a former English professor, who holds degrees from Brown, the University of Hawaii, and Rutgers, and he also taught on a Fulbright in Czechoslovakia.
In this new release children's book, written in rhyme, he explores the world of fantasy, and this story is an excellent introduction to this genre for children.
The story centres around an escalator, a common mode of transport for many years enabling people to reach to different levels in buildings. However, even some adults are unsure of them, the way the steps appear in front of you, then suddenly they slip away flat at the end...
What would happen if you didn't get off?
Well, in this mysterious yet exciting story, a boy decides to ride the escalator all the way around, just to see what is under it. This captivated the imagination of my granddaughter, and she was fascinated to discover who, or what was under it, and what happened to him on his little adventure.
This is a very clever story is very engaging, and a great way to open conversations with young children. It has been wonderfully and vividly illustrated by the talented Bryan Canniff.
Available from Amazon in Paperback
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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