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The Oasis Within
9780692500477, $14.99 (PB), $22.95 (HC), $8.69 (Kindle), 194pp, www.amazon.com
"The Oasis Within", by Dr. Tom Morris is his first book of philosophy written in a fiction format. Being a first, one would think there would be flaws in the attempt. However, there are no flaws here. Just a beautifully written piece of fiction filled with complex philosophical concepts broken down into language easily understood by young and old alike.
As Walid and his Uncle Ali, cross the desert with a caravan, there is ample opportunity for Uncle Ali to share his wisdom and experience with young, Walid. Each vista and new experience provides a venue to explain life management techniques to his young nephew. That the book tells a story and still instills one with the wisdom of the Stoics, provides for some very interesting reading.
I will share this work with my eight-year old grandson and use the book as a mapping system for helping him to better cope with society and live a happier, healthier life.
I am excited to see Dr. Morris finally take his wisdom and experience into a fictional format. He has said there is more to come in the "Oasis" series and I for one, cannot wait for the next installment.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781594634710, $24.95, www.amazon.com
Chris Boersma Smith, Reviewer
Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic is a New Must-Have Creativity Book that's 85% Great, But 15% Conflicts with Christian Teachings
I couldn't resist Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. As an Eat Pray Love fan who is also an author, textile artist, and Creativity Coach, I pre-ordered the audiobook. Twenty minutes into it, captivated, I knew I'd also want a hardcover version. Elizabeth Gilbert's remarkable writing skills blend down-to-earth descriptions and analogies with humor and charming (although sometimes vulgar) language play. Moreover, listening to Gilbert's lilting voice as she reads her own work was as delightful for Big Magic as it was for Eat Pray Love. Her own struggles and successes render her opinions on the subject quite credible, unless perhaps the reader is acutely aware of Gilbert's extraordinary writing talent and largely lacks confidence in his or her own.
Right off the bat Gilbert says:
"I don't know your capacities, your aspirations, your longing, your secret talents. But surely something wonderful is sheltered inside you. I say this with all confidence, because I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels - that's creative living."
So, Gilbert would say - and as a Christian Creativity Coach I'd agree - the book is for everyone. Most Christians would say "God" or "The Creator" rather than "the universe," and might not attribute trickster motives to that source, but yes, I believe we're all endowed with gifts for creative living. In the '90s Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way could have transformed or fascinated anyone with an interest in creative living. Likewise, Big Magic is equally applicable for athletes, scientists, gardeners, homemakers, entrepreneurs, and hobbyists as well as for those pursuing creativity in fields involving art and craft, whether written, visual, or performance-oriented . . . and it's worth reading even if you've already devoured Julia Cameron's work.
Indeed, Big Magic is an encouraging creativity book that's 85% great, although roughly 15% conflicts with Biblical teachings. I'd advise Christians, therefore, to enjoy this book by a gifted and captivating New York Times bestselling author, without being led astray by its spiritual but non-Christian explanations and suggestions.
Let me offer some contrasts between Gilbert's approach and a Biblical approach.
Gilbert says you're entitled to live a creative life because you're allowed to be here and to have a vision and a voice. Biblically, you have a purpose that entails living a creative life, the best version of yourself. As per Ephesians 2:10, you are God's handiwork created specifically to do good work that God prepared in advance for you. You're intended to be here in order to manifest that work using your God-given gifts - and to do so with reliance upon trust, freedom, and divine guidance.
Big Magic is about the hunt to uncover the jewels of creative life within you through courage. Courage is recognizing fear and acting in spite of it. Gilbert lists three pages of creativity-blocking fears and then encourages readers to make plenty of space for fear to co-exist with creativity, with some limits set by talking to the fears. Most of us have tried to be courageous in the face of fear, with fear and its accompanying procrastination, resistance, and perfectionism often creeping back and creating daunting roadblocks.
Here is my strongest reservation about Gilbert's approach: The Bible repeatedly says that Christians are to "Fear not." Jesus's life and teachings show that fears (such as those that block creativity) can be attributed to the lingering effects of emotional wounds or of dark, unclean spirits. Jesus came to heal and to set believers free in this earthly life, as well as in the hereafter. Although complete freedom through Christ is a far better solution than constantly fighting to keep fears quiet and in the back seat, many Christians have unfortunately missed this part of Christianity: they have not yet learned how to get free from the emotional wounds that keep us bound and fearful.
We are to imitate Christ, who routinely drove out demonic spirits, healed those in need of healing, and empowered or elevated even the lowly. We need to spread the good news of exactly how to obtain freedom from emotional wounds and fear, through a process that opens us up to fearlessly fulfilling our creative purposes. Along with heart work and forgiveness, this a growing area of Protestant and Catholic ministries in which I work.
Gilbert personifies Creativity and describes how ideas work - which I find an intriguing speculation. The Bible speaks of humans being made in the image and likeness of the Creator, whose very essence is creativity. From a Christian viewpoint, therefore, the Holy Spirit that dwells within often provides inspiration and ideas, frequently inspiring more than one individual similarly.
Gilbert advises you to not expect your creative life to support you financially. Yet in Matthew 6:33, the Bible speaks of God's provision and abundance as long as you are seeking first the Kingdom of God and God's righteousness (moral ways). And the prayers that are answered - even those that at first appear to be within the realm of the impossible - are those that Christ's followers present believing that the answers to those prayers are already underway. In Matthew 21:21-22, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, . . . even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." Too often, Christians hope but do not believe or trust. But expectation of success can be learned, practiced, and achieved when expectation is coupled with letting go and acting with surrender to and trust in God and God's guidance. Such belief is in keeping with God's intent, so expectations of financial success from your creative work should not be routinely abandoned as Gilbert suggests.
To be clear, Big Magic doesn't deny or ignore the existence or possible existence of God, but in trying to sound inclusive and spiritual but not religious, Gilbert excludes some of the key components of living a creative Christian life, which certainly ought not be disregarded by creative Christians - for they add powerfully and divinely to one's likelihood of creative fulfillment and to the joy of a holy assignment well executed!
Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto
Mark R. Levin
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416562870, $18.85( HC); $12.23(PB), 245 pp., www.amazon.com
Dr. John Olushola Magbadelo
The founding of America had its roots in the ideas and philosophies of great thinkers like Adam Smith, Charles Montesquieu, John Locke, and Edmund Burke. The Declaration of Independence by the founders of the United States of America was greatly influenced by the desire to enthrone the principles and laws of nature that guarantee the preservation and protection of the inalienable rights of all men including their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That Charter of American Independence which contains the desires and objectives of the founders has been guiding the political development of the United States of America since its birth to some extent. Indeed, the document has continued to be the yardstick for assessing successive American governments to ascertain their level of compliance with or deviation from it.
The book under review is a treatise on the declining influence of conservatism in American politics contrary to the vision of the founders of the United States of America. The author believes that the values encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence were conservative in import and essence. According to the author, it was this deviation from the envisaged path of conservatism charted by the founders that has been responsible for the ascendance of statism or "soft tyranny" in the United States of America- a development resulting in diminishing liberty of Americans over the years. Thus, the book is a clarion call for the restoration of the foundational agenda of implanting conservatism in the body polity of American society.
The book has ten chapters and an epilogue. The first chapter provides a panoramic view of the major arguments of the book, pointing out the different implications of the transition from conservatism to statism for the liberty of Americans. The second chapter elucidates on the concepts of statism and conservatism. It describes communism, national socialism, fascism, economic socialism, monarchism, feudalism and militarism as varying manifestations of statist's Utopia while classifying free market economy, self-government, and right to acquire and retain property as vital elements of conservatism. Chapter three examines the religious inclinations and predisposition of the founders of America in comparison with the evident secularism that currently pervades American society- a shift that the author blamed on the resort of the Statist to stigmatize religion. Chapter four points out the different and conflicting perceptions of the statist and the Conservative about the Constitution. The author is of the opinion that whilst the conservative affirms the sanctity, inviolability and immutability of the Constitution, the statist does not believe in the immutability of the Constitution. Chapter five highlights how the Statist has at different times in American history sought to empower the federal government at the expense of the governments of the federating states- a situation that contrasted sharply with the understanding of the Conservative about American Federalism.
Chapter six detailed the series of efforts by the Statist to violate the property rights of individual in utter disregard for the Constitution while pointing out that the Conservative upholds the free Market dictum as encapsulated in the Constitution. Chapter seven reveals how the Statist has over the years intensified the growing dependence of Americans on government through the deployment of Social Security, medicare, Medicaid, and other social insurance schemes. Chapter eight exposes statist's utilization of fear-mongering to promote public health and environmental scares as a cunningly devised mechanism for further circumscribing the liberty of American people. Chapter nine takes a swipe at the immigration policy by the Statist which allows illegal immigrants including criminals and terrorists into the United States without the consent of the American people- a policy which is the exact opposite of that of the Conservative. Chapter ten condemns the tardiness often displayed by the Statist in prosecuting American security policies and wars- a situation that the Conservative view as an impediment to America's national security interest.
In an epilogue titled: "A Conservative Manifesto" which concludes the book, the author details the policies and strategies that would help the Conservative to resist the devouring encroachment by the Statist on the liberty of Americans. The policies cover taxation, environment, judges, the administrative state, government education, immigration, entitlements, foreign policy and security, faith and the constitution.
As interesting and convincing as the arguments in the book may appear, they are value laden. The author did not leave anyone in doubt of his predilection for conservatism in American body polity. The passionate concern displayed in all the chapters of the book in exonerating the Conservative from blame for what is considered as denigration of the values and principles of the founders of American society by successive American governments makes our author an ideologue of conservatism. This robs the book of any claim to scientific analysis of the phenomena and issues that elicited our author's concern.
Implied in our author's theorizing on conservatism is his belief in the prospects of self-government in contemporary American society. That itself is an utopian idea which lacks empirical validity in the face of the ever growing complexity of modern human society in which the level of technological attainment, sophistication and enlightenment has worsened the severity of competition among different interest groups, thereby necessitating the existence of a central government or supra-authority to mediate among competing interest groups. Self-government of the conservative mould broaches anarchy, and it is unrealistic.
There is a sense in which the book could be described as a megaphone for free market and private property rights. The author is derisive of the social security and insurance schemes of the government for certain categories of Americans. He would have preferred an unregulated economy in which the government would allow the private sector free hand to determine the nature and character of the country's social system.
However, the book is a well-written publication which chronicles the contending policy issues in American politics between modern democratic liberalism and conservatism. The book is revolutionary in its advocacy for change from statism to conservatism- a transition it believes requires concerted efforts on the part of the Conservative whose knowledge of the requisite steps and strategies for advancing the agenda of conservatism in American society would be enhanced by the Manifesto embedded in the book. Overall, the book is an important addition to the literature on American politics and administration. It is useful to teachers and students of International Politics and especially for those specializing in American Affairs across countries of the world.
In the Course of Human Events: An Interpretative Exploration of the American Revolution
James Kirby Martin
AHM Publishing Corporation
Arlington Heights, Illinois 60004
9780882957951, $28.99, 320pp, www.amazon.com
There have been many articles, papers, and monographs written about the famous American Revolution, but none are as thoughtful and intellect as James Kirby Martin's book, In the Course of Human Events: An Interpretative Exploration of the American Revolution. Instead of just surveying the basic events in the eight year revolution, Martin takes his book to another level by pointing out and overly explaining how and why the society of the ill-prepared, rugged colonists rose up and tackled the strong might of their mother country.
Martin, now a professor of history at the University of Houston in Texas, starts out his expandable and rich academic career by writing this book about his expertise, the revolutionary war period in the history of this young nation. The book also explains in depth about what happened at the dawn of the revolution with the completion of the French and Indian Wars and the lawful passages of the many taxation acts produced by Parliament starting in 1765. Throughout In the Course of Human Events, the narrative whips through the main points of the revolution, as heard in an history class at school, and slows down to describe the civilian life in the war, especially the happenings of the Founding Fathers; their intentions, their actions, and the pressure installed upon them by most of the general public to produce the basic foundations of the new republican government as fast as possible, complete with partisan politics and equal representation, and having the idea that this document was desperately needed for the young colonies to boost their little ego in defeating the tyranny and oppression of the King. As Martin concludes his book, he reveals a final chapter, explaining why the revolutionaries went to war in such a desperate time. While the rebels went to battle with freedom ringing in their ears, the Fathers knew that this revolution was not just about their Declaration of Independence, but also about the delicate but glorious change they were producing, where the future of the nation would be hung in balance by the many imperfect human effects, and the oncoming sufferings and hardships the civilians would have to endure in order to find the true path to democracy.
Martin's intention for this book was probably to educate the general public on the episodes of the revolution that is rarely taught in schools; in this monograph, the reader is about to learn about the faults of the Founding Fathers, the impact the Declaration of Independence and other important events had on the young nation; and the American 'identity', which was slowly being brought from the ground under and unraveled for the world and future to see. Martin uses a variety of scholarly sources to bring across his many points, including other books, archival selections, and historical articles. As I am very interested in the American Revolution, and will be conducting my own research about this early period in graduate school next year, Martin's book, In the Course of Human Events has changed the way how I now view the rapidly-changing struggle for American independence; this book is a definite read for everyone, historians, young and old people, and students alike. Not only will this valid information add to the vast knowledge of the revolution you might already have had from grade school, but in time, you will be able to discover the small pin of light, which shone through the eyes of the nation's Fathers, whom were ready to take the chance, risk their lives to tackle the beast of oppression, follow the unseen dream, and form the beginnings of an common democratic identity which would be renown all over the planet in the many years to come.
An Invincible Summer
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
ASIN: B015ZZFP4K, $2.85 (Kindle)
9781518615085, $13.99 (PB), 364pp, www.amazon.com
Kevin Peter, Reviewer
"Nothing carries meaning. People carry meaning. We are the porters of importance." - Jarod Kintz
Author Betta Ferrendelli's 'An Invincible Summer' is a tour de force into the inner workings of the American justice department and about a group of people whose lives are changed forever at the end of a landmark case. Jaime Monroe is a young do-gooder of an attorney working with the Denver DA. Enter Ashleigh Roberts, a young cheerful girl with mental disability who is strained to fight against her own mother, to ascertain her right over her own body and life. Leigh Roberts is the mother trying to do what's best for her only daughter. Jamie becomes Ashleigh's attorney and the ensuing trial affects these three women's lives in a profound manner.
When you pick up a book from a known author, you know there will be a familiar nod to their past writing in their new work as well. And in Ferrendelli's latest, you get the staple, troubled young woman, an insight into the workings of the law enforcement agencies, flawed but good at heart male characters and so on. But what makes An Invincible Summer stand out is that the issues discussed here have widespread medical, moral and social implications in the real world too. It should generate discussions and talks regarding an issue that usually doesn't find space in the mainstream media. And this is a mighty big achievement for a fiction book that at its core is an entertaining read about a female attorney's life.
The author deserves appreciation for getting right the nuances and language right in describing and writing dialogues for a person with metal disability. It isn't offensive or stereotypical and there's an air of believability around the character. Of course there are a few diversions here and there but you have to expect that in a fictional read. The strength in research shows while it's discussing diseases and in the manner attorneys, judges and the courtrooms have been portrayed.
The strength and layers to the relationship the various characters have in this book is worth talking about. In Betta's books men and women have intense and complicated relationships that are romantic and sometimes platonic in nature. It brings great mystery to these characters and readability to the narrative.
The only negative I felt were the one too many sub-plots involving the secondary characters in the first half; it takes away the focus from the chief protagonists without contributing much.
Jaime is immensely likeable and has a grace about her. Although she is suffering from an intense mental trauma and is constantly trying to make amends for it, she is a brave and courageous woman. She is a fighter, someone who never gives up and is excellent hero material. She has all the trappings of becoming a vital character in future stories centered around her. The book also has a bunch of well etched out characters in Leigh, Ashleigh, Drew, Tia, etc who contribute immensely to make this both a feel-good and an inspirational read.
Mother's love, independence, letting go of your past & atonement are key themes discussed in this book.
Betrayal's Dust Book Two Of The Amorous Trilogy
Vina St. Fran
Tessa Shapcott, editor
Zam Publishing LLC
9780996139434, $15.00, 314pp, www.amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Multicultural Romance/Erotic Romance
Betrayal's Dust is the second book in the Amorous Trilogy that follows the 1st installment, "One Foot Outside The Door". The story starts off with Cyndarella Bazzi and her clan enjoying their life as a family. Cyn and Bashar are parents to a set of identical twin boys, and their oldest, Nadia, all under the age of 8. The Bazzi's commitment to each other remains passionately intact, but Bashar's controlling ways wears on his wife. Denise and Sean struggle to deal with her inability to conceive, and issues with infidelity. Denise is desperate to save her marriage, but is it worth saving? Vette Vern is beside herself with relationship insecurity. Lou Burns, her older long-term lover has yet to put a ring on it, and Vette's resentment gives her a roving eye. Octavia "Tavie" Slade, and Orville are the newest couple to emerge, but Orville's ex-wife, Geneva, has explosive information that doesn't bode well for the lovers.
Ms. St. Fran reintroduces Mackenzie Dooley, into the fray, and he reconnects with Tavie. Tavie is broken, and coming to grips with the reality of her poor choices with men. Here is an excerpt that highlights the exchange between Mackenzie and Tavie.
"Mack, I must be doing something wrong to keep drawing these losers to me! I mean, this scenario keeps occurring on some level, but with a different cast of characters," Tavie reflected.
"I was one of those losers, remember?"
Betrayal's Dust lives up to its title as the couples are all impacted by duplicity on many levels. Cyn and Bashar face a family crisis that threatens their union after a revelation that triggers Cyn's undisclosed eating disorder that impacts her health. Bashar comes to her aid while coping with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
As with "One Foot Outside The Door", the sex scenes are sexy, naughty, and playfully flirts with BDSM, though very lightly.
Vina St. Fran is not an accidental author. She is the real deal. Brilliantly written from beginning to end and a highly recommended read!
Voices of the Damned
Short, Scary Tales Publications
9781909640351, 19.95 Brit. pounds trade hardcover (224 pages)
9781909640405, 27.95 Brit. pounds deluxe hardcover (224 pages)
Lee Allen Howard, Reviewer
Barbie Wilde, author of The Venus Complex, channels the Voices of the Damned in her collection of dark, often sexually charged, horror and fantasy stories from Short, Scary Tales Publications. The book, beautifully punctuated with sinister and disturbing art that sets the mood for every tale, is available October 31, 2015, as a full-color standard print trade hardcover and a full-color premium print deluxe edition hardcover.
Eleven stories haunt the collection, with three starring Sister Cilice, a nun gone bad (very bad). The Cilicium stories are based on the mythology and characters of The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, who also provides cover and interior art along with Nick Percival, Steve McGinnis, Daniele Sierra, Eric Gross, Tara Bush, Vincent Sammy, and Ben Baldwin.
The Cilicium Trilogy explores the profanation of the holy amidst sexual fantasies of pain. Other highlights include "Zulu Zombies," a rollicking London adventure with South African monsters, and "American Mutant," about an illegitimate kid from creepsville who's chock full of televangelical hypocrisy.
"Valeska," new for the collection and particularly well written, is a longer story with more room to develop a rich complexity. Reminiscent of Michael Faber's Under the Skin, Wilde's writing here is satisfyingly more mature when compared to her earlier stories. It portrays an old-world mythos and milieu that would develop nicely into a novel.
The collection includes a foreword by Chris Alexander, editor-in-chief of Fangoria, and an afterword by the film-making Soska Sisters, Jen and Sylv, who say, "Voices of the Damned makes for a very lovely gift for someone dear who strays from the herd... or who aspires to in their most secretive of feverish dirty dreams."
DADLY Wisdom: Untold Stories That Represent the True Faces of Fatherhood
Jennifer Karin Jordan
Motivational Press, Inc.
Marlan Warren, Reviewer
Genre: Family Relationships
"I view all my children as angels of God whom He has entrusted to my care." - Darwin Bicknell ("Wisdom from a Stepdad") "DADLY Wisdom"
I could not read Jennifer K. Jordan's "DADLY Wisdom" without thinking of my own father. He took his parenting role very seriously, and would have appreciated a book like "DADLY Wisdom," which sets out to honor all fathers everywhere, and was inspired by Jordan's love for her father. Both her parents were no longer alive when she interviewed her first dad. Now, fourteen years later, "DADLY Wisdom" has emerged with over 50 fathers' stories. The California author spoke not only with American-born dads, but sought out men whose roots ranged from Germany to Afghanistan to Japan.
What I expected were sugar-sweet tales told by fathers who would want to put themselves in the best light possible. What I got was impressive honesty, and a nearly anthropological study of what makes good fathers tick.
"It's incredible to see my heart in someone else's body." - Gabriel Hall ("Yoga Dad") "DADLY Wisdom"
Fathers include a yoga teacher; golf entrepreneur; magazine editor; artist; actor; Holocaust survivor; pastors; as well as Japanese Americans who experienced World War II "internment" and battle. On board are also fathers outside of the nuclear family paradigm: foster dad, divorced dad and stepdad.
One of the most moving moments is when Holocaust survivor Bernard Sayone must explain to his son what happened to his own father at the hands of the Nazis. In a world that often values machismo in all its various forms, it's refreshing to hear tales of male sensitivity, longing and heartbreak.
"I teach my kids to be honest, whether they are alone or someone is watching." - Bob Gilder ("Integrity") "DADLY Wisdom"
All the fathers speak with admirable candor about their relationship to their children, and their view of fatherhood itself. As different as they are, they all seem to agree on one thing: lead your children by example.
"There isn't just one way to be a father." - Pastor Bayless Conley, Cottonwood Church ("God in All") "DADLY Wisdom"
Each chapter concludes with an uplifting author suggestion of how to honor the wisdom shared by each dad, such as: "Today let's be people that others can count on."
If I were packing a Time Capsule, "DADLY Wisdom" would be one of the first items I'd put into it. For if the world should almost end in fire or ice, it would be nice to show future generations the good that men were once capable of doing.
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pederson and The Churchill Club
Farrar Straus Giroux Books For Young Readers
175 Fifth Avenue, New York 10010
9780374302726, $14.15, www.amazon.com
Mary T Kincaid, Reviewer
This is a story of history told to Phillip Hoose by Knud Pederson one of the founders of the Churchill Club. It is the story of the school boys who started the resistence to their German Occupiers. The boys were so angry at the government of Denmark and King for just allowing the Germans to march in and occupy their country without any resistence that they started the movement. When they were arrested and put on trial by their government at the request of the Nazis it rallied the Danish people into resisting. Most of the original boys were ninth graders in a northern school in Aalborg.
Here is the opening:
"April 9, 1940. It was a breakfast like any other until the dishes started to rattle. Then an all-alert siren pierced the morning calm and the sky above Odense, Denmark, thundered with sound. The Pederson family pushed back their chairs, raced outside, and looked up. Suspended above them in close formation was a squadron of dark airplanes. They were flying ominously low, no more than three hundred meters above the ground. The black marks on each wing tagged them as German warplanes. Scraps of green paper fluttered down.
Knud Pederson, fourteen, stepped over and plucked one from the lawn. "OPROP!" it began. Slightly misspelled, that meant something like "Attention!" in Danish. Though the leaflet, addressed to "Danish Soldiers and the Danish People," was written in an error-filled garble of German, Danish, and Norwegian, the point was unmistakable. German military forces had invaded Denmark and were now occupying the country, The leaflet explained that they had arrived to "protect" the Danes from the sinister English and French, that Denmark had become a "protectorate" of Germany. So there was no need to worry: everyone was protected now. Danes should go on with their lives as usual."
Anyone who enjoys history will enjoy this book. Knud Pederson became the leader of a group of boys who learned how to become a nuisance to their occupiers. They eventually moved up from rewiring barracks and communications to securing weapons and blowing up the airport.
This true story is also a testament to the power of even young people to change people's minds. The Nazis moved from being annoyed by their mischief to declaring them enemies of the state, eventually capturing them and putting them on trial. It was the publicity of the trial that galvanized the nation of Denmark into resisting the Nazis. They eventually moved every Danish Jew from their country right before the Nazi rounded them up.
It is a remarkable story of the heroics of a group of young boys who stood up to the mighty army of Hitler and eventually won.
I give it five out of five stars. I'm a history fan and a fan of young people who are willing to act on behalf of what they believe.
River Sanctuary Publishing
P.O. Box 1561, Felton, CA 95018
9781935914471, $15.95, 229 pages, www.amazon.com
One need not like cats to enjoy Sophy Burnham's delightful novel, Love, Alba. In fact, if, like me, you dislike those frisky little critters or, like some people, have a fear of them, this book might very well change your mind.
Told through the eyes of a clever little feline, Love, Alba is a romantic comedy set in Washington DC. Lorna, our two-legged heroine, has just moved into a downtown flat with her cat, Alba, A woman in her early sixties (though, truthfully, this was not always believable), she encounters her downstairs neighbor, David, and his cat, Goliath, as they barge into her apartment while she is arranging furniture late at night after she has just moved in. David, a lawyer with an important hearing the next morning, is rattled by Lorna's furniture shuffling which is preventing him from getting to sleep. Lorna immediately pounces on him for bursting into her apartment unannounced but, predictably, they soon fall in love, though neither wants to admit it. The catch: David, in his forties, is young enough to be Lorna's son.
Meanwhile, Lorna's best friend, the lovelorn Nikki, an art conservator who also happens to be younger than Lorna, has just broken up with her boyfriend/about-to-be-fiancee, Jeremy, who has suddenly been smitten with the ruthless and shallow Penelope, a socialite and would-be politician. Nikki meets David, falls in love (or so we are led to believe) and, as they say, the plot thickens, forcing Lorna to choose between friendship and her own personal yearnings.
Enter Charlie, David's friend from New York, who Nikki believes to be in love with Lorna, and we now have a hodgepodge of mismatched relationships, involving the three main characters, as well as Charlie, Jeremy and Penelope, that leaves the reader longing for an amicable resolution. And while the formula in this charming modern day comedy lets us know that it will all, indeed, be resolved, we continue reading to find out just how.
And throughout it all we have Alba, our elegant feline narrator who is friends with Puma, Nikki's aging cat, and soon befriends (falls in love with?) Goliath who, we imagine, is as large as his name implies. Alba not only bemusedly narrates the events in the story but gives us insight into the motives and weaknesses of the "two-leggeds.," constantly commenting on the twisted webs they weave in their seemingly convoluted lives and wondering why they can't simply be less complicated. Like cats, for example.
Burnham, a New York Times bestselling author, best known for A Book of Angels, renders a tale in beautiful prose that keeps you wanting to read. And though there are some weaknesses in the story (Lorna's age, for example, and the somewhat forced attempts at broaching paranormal phenomena where cats communicate telepathically with one another), Love, Alba is such fun to read that you'll wish it never came to an end.
Poor, Poor Ophelia
9781941298497, $11.99, www.amazon.com
The book Poor, Poor Ophelia by author Carolyn Weston is a murder-mystery novel full of twists and turns. Set in 1970s California, the book begins with a woman named Holly Berry being fished out of the ocean, dead. Al Krug, a grizzled veteran detective, and Casey Kellog, the youngest detective on the police force, are given the case. The two detectives begin to search through Berry's personal life and discover more questions than answers.
Berry has lived an interesting life. A classic free loving hippie, she had met a man, David Farr, at a party and spent the weekend with him. She went missing afterward, and he became the prime suspect. Throughout the story, Krug and Kellog butt heads as their ideas clash. Krug is happy to finger the blame with Farr, but Kellog wants to look deeper. Farr goes out to try to prove his innocence, and goes off the grid as he tracks down people that knew Holly. He succeeds, and what he learns only leads to more questions. He call to tell the detectives what he has learned, and after he does that he is kidnapped by the same person who killed Holly. Now that he has been taken, it is up to Krug and Kellog to put the pieces together to solve the case, and save Farr's life.
This was a very intriguing read. As with all murder-mysteries, it is full of twists and turns, but it was written in a way that wasn't predictable, and nothing was given away throughout the story. The climax was very exciting, and when the final plot twist was revealed I was caught completely by surprise. The way that Weston presented the backstory and presented very believable plot twists put her, in my mind, in a category of very skilled writers. I enjoyed the book, and I would recommend this book to any reader who loves mystery novels. It isn't particularly long, but is long enough to include several plot twists that catch the reader by surprise.
The Iron Bridge
Lee D. Anderson
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781453823019, $16.95, 644pp, www.amazon.com
Paul Goat Allen
I read and review approximately 200 books per year for B&N and other literary publications and have done so for the last decade. Lee Anderson's The Iron Bridge--as of yet unpublished--is one of the most unforgettable and profoundly moving stories I have read during that period. Laugh-out-loud funny in some places and able to make me weep uncontrollably in others, this post-Depression Era novel is as brutally honest and straightforward as the hard-working North Country lumberjacks and miners it features.
A novel of two rambunctious cousins--University of Wisconsin Badger football star Albert "Sonny" Laarson and John Nehls--coming to grips with adulthood, the masterfully compless storyline includes themes of acceptance, love, honor, and accountability. While attending Wisconsin U, Sonny and John are free spirits, living life in the fast lane and not caring about the consequences. Drinking every night, womanizing and brawling, the two are like grown-up versions of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Even after graduation, their idyllic lifestyle continues as the two are drafted by the Dallas Drillers of the newly created American Football League. If northern Wisconsin was a hedonistic playground for the two handsome football stars, Texas is like Heaven on Earth. With more money than they've ever seen before, Sonny and John are soon overwhelmed with the temptations of fame and fortune. William Blake wrote that "the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" and in Sonny and John's case, that couldn't be truer. The two wild cousins soon find themselves back in Wisconsin staring cold hard reality straight in the face. And they don't like what they see...
Anderson adeptly interweaves in the stories of others close to Sonny and John--Sonny's hard-working Swede father Edwin and his mother Anna; Sonny's girlfriend Lesley; Bonny, a beautiful woman who has always loved Sony from afar; and John's vile alcoholic father--and by doing so, creates a realistic, three-dimensional perspective of the two cousins. These aren't just football jocks or wild boys; they are two very complex people with incredibly dark--and fascinating--histories.
The brilliance of this novel is in the characters. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will be able to related with Sonny's family--the unconditional love, the horrific secrets, the financial struggles, the hopes and dreams, the inevitability of death--this is a page-turner of the highest order.
Plan and simple: I loved this novel and could not put it down. The conclusion brought deep sadness, not only because of what transpired in the book but also because I realized that the story of the northern Wisconsin family was at an end. If this novel isn't eventually, published, I will eat all 566 pages.
Jupiter Works on Commission
Jack Phillips Lowe
Middle Island Press
P.O. Box 354, West Union, WV 26456
9780692506882, $9.00, www.amazon.com
Megan DiBello, Reviewer
Like an acrostic poem of the words "average joe", Jack Phillips Lowe's book, Jupiter Works on Commission, runs like the x axis of vignettes defining the relationship between social classes in real life chronicles where humans wear their career to work. A harsh reality most encounter is the need for survival in an economy of living to learn to love to work. If you want to know what it's like to live in America's society, read what feels like a biography of one who built this country with generations of hard work. From the normalcy of Norman Rockwell to those stepping outside of his paintings and into a more modern summation of a Dorothea Lange photograph, Lowe creates citizens who wear a library of masks; made from hourly wages, salaries, and the emotions that derive from tired feet, the need for a good meal, and a safe place to call home. In his honest approach towards defining a civilian, with non-cynical commentary, it is aptly remarkable how his historical timeline drives off the x and y axis of this acrostic lifestyle he creates, to show how life is more like a parabola. Like getting a rejection letter in the mail, his words push kind to a new xy generation.
Everything and a Happy Ending
560 Herndon Parkway Suite 120, Herndon VA 20170
9780578166032, $24.95, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Dr. Maryel McKinley
Tia has managed to capture in words her journey with three interconnected relationships as she pays homage to three special men in her life. She has that uncanny capability to seize your attention and make you feel as though you're her closest friend & that rare ability true artists share - she pulls on your heartstrings until you feel her thoughts. Tia writes with honest love; even in her pain there is love. Her actions in alignment with her intention - to do no harm & ultimately express only love. She's captured in words what most of us have trouble just attempting to think about - wanting to be the best person we can be. By sharing her innermost being with the world you too may learn to fly like a beautiful butterfly as Tia so naturally does just by being honest and learning to live as herself.
The Wizard and the White House
Little Feather Books, Inc.
9780991332977, $14.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 226pp, www.amazon.com
"It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak." ~ Neil Gaiman, Dream Country
Satire has long been used to mask biting social commentary. The works of Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain spring to mind. Science fiction/fantasy, a more recent genre, has been used to the same effect as well.
So it was with great interest and high expectations that I read The Wizard and the White House by Mike Maggio. Combining elements of both genres, the premise is deliciously intriguing: What happens when the President of the United States wakes up one day without a mouth?
President Gerald Wellington Thorne (clearly a play on the name of a former White House occupant) is a likeable, simple, religious man from Texas clearly out of his depth. When he finds himself without a mouth, he begins a journey of self-discovery. After all, what use is a mouthpiece without a mouth?
Meanwhile, on the other side of Washington, D.C., Larry White wakes up hungover with a severe pain in his head and an extra mouth under his nose. Unbeknownst to him, that mouth utters words coming from the President.
That same morning in the capital, Fuzzaluddin Choudry, a Pakistani immigrant, hears from a mysterious waterspout in the Tidal Basin that he has been chosen to protect the President, who is in grave danger.
The cause of this mischief is an evil wizard Sharir, casting spells and manipulating people from a cave in the Hindu Kush. His unwilling apprentice is Akram, a local shepherd forced into servitude.
After his initial panic, President Thorne has to adjust to his mute condition, even though clarity of thought and speech have never been his strong suits. Despite this disability, he has to manage his cabinet as well as a flu-like pandemic that breaks out suddenly. Unfortunately, the First Lady is quite unsupportive, leaving the President to struggle by himself.
Thorne concludes that he is both a mouthpiece and a figurehead whose words and actions are determined by others. His epiphany:
"What mattered was what was forced upon him, however subtly, by powers beyond his control, what he, knowingly or unknowingly, ultimately succumbed to. Even the decisions he made on a daily basis ... were not really his. Never had been, and never would be."
Unlike the First Lady, the wives of both Larry and Choudry undergo supernatural transformations and feature prominently in battling Sharir's plots and spells. Larry's wife, Pearl, helps Thorne and Choudry confront Sharir, while Choudry's wife, Amina, is instrumental in aiding those afflicted by the pandemic.
Throughout the book, Mr. Maggio highlights the role religion plays in each character's life. A deeply religious character ends his journey with a better understanding of his fellow man, even one not of his religion. Other characters who are not religious are influenced by the faith and strength of those who are, making them better persons by the story's end.
The message Mr. Maggio imparts is one of fellowship and acceptance despite superficial differences. There is even empathy for the political class being driven by ambition as well as difficult circumstances and choices. Finally, Mr. Maggio also highlights the cyclical nature of life and politics as usual.
Mr. Maggio goes to great lengths to develop both major and minor characters. His primary device is the interior monologue, where he attempts to flesh out characters by presenting their thoughts, prejudices, schemes, and motivations.
However, he overloads these interior monologues with too many parenthetical elements. The result is lengthy, meandering passages that hinder rather than aid character development. For example, I found three consecutive paragraphs in one passage that each contained a sentence with 98, 99, and 77 words. The record-holder must surely be on page 159, which has a sentence running 176 words.
Another consequence of the lengthy interior monologues is the leisurely pace of the book. There is little sense of motion or advancement of the plot. Indeed, amid the dense descriptive paragraphs, one struggles to find the verb that moves the story along.
Ultimately, Mr. Maggio's ambition is admirable, but his satire is more "feel good" than incisive. Admittedly, I was hoping for more of Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, a marvelous dystopian novel of the future/present. At the least, I was hoping for something akin to Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. The Wizard and the White House does not reach the thought-provoking levels of these other books, leaving the reader with a light socio-political fairy tale that has a familiar ending.
Nevertheless, I hope The Wizard and the White House is a harbinger of stories to come. Going into the second decade after September 11, 2001, perhaps other authors will begin to reflect and write about a time when it seemed we all lived under a long, strange spell.
The Joyful Table
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781499007428, $117.69, www.amazon.com
"The Joyful Table" is a beautifully illustrated, 324 page compendium comprised of more than 150 thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' paleo diet inspired recipes that are gluten and grain free. Each recipe is presented with a succinct commentary, preparation time, and serving/portion numbers, a list of ingredients, and easy-to-follow step-by-step cooking instructions. The recipes themselves range from a Chocolate Coconut Smoothie; a Rainbow Salad; Seasoned Fries; and Savory Pancakes; to Lamb and Rosemary Pies; Thai Fish Cakes; Banana and Blueberry Muffins, Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Icing; and Marshmallow Frosting. Of special note is the section dedicated to the Basics: Chicken Broth/Stock; Dairy Free Milks; Cashew Probiotic Cheeze; Cashew Sour Cream; Roasted Almond Butter; Sunflower Butter; Coconut Butter; Cashew Butter; Chocolate Cashew Butter. "The Joyful Table" is an impressive and very highly recommended addition to any personal, professional, gourmet, or community library cookbook collection! It should be noted that "The Joyful Table" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).
Copyright for Archivists and Records Managers, fifth edition
7 Ridgmount Street
London, England, WC1E 7AE
9781856049290 $99.95 www.facetpublishing.co.uk
Now in an updated fifth edition modified to include the latest developments in United Kingdom copyright law, Copyright for Archivists and Records Managers is a "must-have" for archive and reference professionals based in the UK. The updated content includes major revisions in the sections about copyright exceptions; additional information about dealing with copyright including acknowledgment and liability; and consideration of copyright cases that have come before the courts. From literary and dramatic works to email and internet databases, Copyright for Archivists and Records Managers covers virtually every written material imaginable, and distills British copyright law into plain terms accessible to readers of all backgrounds. It should be noted that Copyright for Archivists and Records Managers cannot substitute for the counsel of an attorney trained in UK copyright law, but rather is an extremely useful resource for minimizing the risk of costly litigation, or for preparing oneself prior to meeting with a litigation professional who charges by the hour.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Faber & Faber Ltd.
74-77 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DA, UK
9780571323760, $24.99, (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle), 114pages, www.amazon.com
This is a strange and wonderful book - sad, funny, realistic, fanciful, moving and utterly bizarre by turns. Ithas attracted comments like "astonishing", "extraordinary" and "truly remarkable", and it was long-listed for the 2015 Guardian First Book Award.
It is a book about grief and Crow - not Ted Hughes' Crow, although the father of the two small boys in the book is a Ted Hughes scholar, but about Crow: "a template...a myth to be slipped into".
This Crow arrives in the aftermath of the sudden death of the man's wife - the boys' mother. He intends to be "friend, excuse, deus ex machina, joke, symptom...analyst and babysitter". And he erupts into the family home as a vulgar, crude, combative, confronting, amoral, ridiculous presence - pure crow, performing, as he says, "crow stuff". His idea of "therapeutic method" is just to be there, getting in the way, commenting, telling stories and grounding everything in what, in a rare philosophical moment, he calls his "highly articulated care programme".
The voices of Dad, the Boys and Crow alternate in brief passages of text which are sometimes poetry, sometimes prose, sometimes metaphor, dreams or fairy tale, and which are often funny and always quite unique. This strange mixture effectively captures the disorientating power of grief, and the need to carry on with the everyday activites of living. Dad cares for the boys and argues and fights with Crow, which seems to help him. The Boys behave like any small boys, they quarrel and fight, make up stories about their mother's death, annoy their father and care for him with simple acts of kindness: "Some of the time we tell the truth", says one, because." It's one way of being nice to Dad". And Crow cares for them all as best he can, confusing them, lying to them, horrifying them and making them laugh and cry.
In an interview in The Guardian (12 Sept. 2015), Max Porter spoke of experiencing the death of his father when he was just six years old. Some of that experience makes its way into this book, but mostly it is a unique creation. And this small volume is beautifully crafted in every way, from the writing to the presentation of the book itself, with its black, cawing crow perched atop the words of the title on the cover and its varied page-layouts.
Some of the references in the book will be recognised by Ted Hughes' readers, which is delightful but not essential. Some of the other references are more obscure but exactly right for the context in which they occur. Crow, for example, boastingly mentions St Vincent of Lisbon, without elaboration. St Vincent was a martyr whose body was protected by ravens. Crow also refers to "George-Dyer-on-the-shitter" (a Francis Bacon painting) and "Grunewald, the nails in the hand", art and artists which are perfectly suited to bodily functions and death, about which Crow seems to know a great deal.
Such an unusual book takes a little getting used to and its humour is sometime black and often crazy, but the very oddness of the book works a kind of magic, not just for Dad and the Boys, but for the reader, too.
The Heart Goes Last
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781408867785, $32.99 (paperback), $13.99 (Kindle), 306 pages, www.amazon.com
Margaret Atwood messes with our heads, as one of the character in this book might say. Just when you think this is a straightforward dystopia novel, where society has broken down and new ways of living have been designed, she surprises you with a plot twist and keeps you guessing about the outcome. She also plumbs the psychological depths of her characters and poses moral dilemmas. In a chapter called 'Headgame', for example, there are questions of trust and responsibility - can you trust someone who says that for the greater good you must allow yourself to be given what will apparently be a lethal injection but you will not die; and can you administer that injection to someone you love believing it to be lethal?
Stan and Charmaine have been living a fairly comfortable married life until a sudden countrywide economic disaster causes them, like many others, to lose their jobs and their home. They are living in their car, surviving on Charmaine's casual job in a sleazy bar, which funds only a minimal amount of petrol, stale doughnuts and instant coffee made in the car with a plug-in cup warmer. And they must be ever-ready to drive away from crazy solitaries and roving gangs who threaten to rob, rape and possibly kill them.
They are in a desperate state when, in a quiet moment in the bar, Charmaine see a TV advert seemingly directed straight at her. It offers an ordered life, satisfying work, a house with a luxurious bathroom and soft towels, and a king-size bed with floral sheets. "The Positron Project is accepting new members now", says the man on the screen. Charmaine and Stan decide to apply for an interview, which they pass, and having been shown around the project and told something about it they are allowed a short period back in the world outside the Project's gated town to think about it. The only disadvantage seems to be that once they are in, it is permanent.
Stan's brother, Conor, who is apparently prospering by suspect means, warns him not to sign anything. But the chance seems too good to miss, so Stan ignores this advice and he and Charmaine join the project.
For a while, everything seems to work well. They share a house with another couple, and each month one couple lives in the house in the model town of Consilience, work in a satisfying jobs, and earn Posidollars, whilst the other couple live in the twin city of Positron Prison, which has comfortable cells and where guards and prisoners share the work, and the environment is designed to be economically productive and to rehabilitate genuine criminals. The motto of the whole project is: CONSILIENCE = CONS + RESILIENCE. DO TIME NOW. BUY TIME FOR THE FUTURE. The couples alternate, month and month about, and are never supposed to meet.
As time goes by both Stan and Charmaine develop sexual obsessions about the other couple who share the house. Stan's obsession is full of sexual fantasies and is all in his head. Charmaine, however, actually meets the other man and explores with him her own unexpectedly passionate sexual desires. And, of course, nothing is as secret as any of them believe.
The results of this takes the story into a different, more complex and disturbing realm in which the dark underside of the Project is gradually revealed. Psychological pressures, conformity, distrust, guilt, sexual desire - all become driving forces. The twists in the plot are unexpected and the situations often bizarre. And the whole thing is also very funny.
As usual, Margaret Atwood exaggerates current trends and extrapolates from current scientific research to present us with some worrying possibilities. But she does so, very often, with her tongue firmly in her cheek and with great humour. She has great skill in creating characters we can recognise and making their speech and behaviour exactly what we would expect of them. They are, perhaps a little caricatured, and the plot often stretches our credulity to the limits, but most readers will nevertheless thoroughly enjoy the book.
The Blue Touch Paper: A Memoir
Faber & Faber Ltd.
74-77 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DA, UK
9780571294336, $39.99 (hardback), $14.99 (Kindle), 347 pages, www.amazion.com
I only really became aware of David Hare when I saw his trio of plays performed at the National Theatre in the 1990s. I found Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges and Absence of War pithy and enjoyable, and they left me with interesting questions to ponder about Great Britain's national institutions - the Church of England, British justice and Labour Party politics. Amy's View, which I saw later, also dealt with thorny cultural and political issues, but I was completely unaware of Hare's long experience in radical experimental theatre, and of the way in which his strong socialist beliefs have shaped his career and his work.
The Blue Touch Paper is a memoir which covers Hare's childhood, his education, his early fascination with film, his involvement in co-operative theatre, and his life up to the early 1980s when he became Associate Director of the National Theatre. It is, he says, "the story of my apprenticeship" - of the way in which "a young man became a dramatist" and of "the cost and effect" of that. He ends his 'Foreword' with the claim that his life "has been no different from anyone else's: both everything and nothing". Few, however, have crammed in so much creativity and achievement.
Hare describes his childhood as having been shaped by the absence of his father, who was purser on a P&O liner and was away for eleven months of the year, and his mother, who was "intelligent and sensitive" but naturally nervous. His own insecurity and over-sensitivity was shaped, too, by life in suburban Bexhill-On-Sea where everyone was class-conscious and watchful and critical of their neighbours. His greatest pleasure at that time was to get lost, something which caused no particular distress to anyone else.
School days, first at local prep-schools, then as a bright scholarship-boy at the prestigious Anglican public school, Lancing College, did nothing to make him more confident. Lancing, initially, felt like a foreign country in which everyone else knew, quite naturally, how to behave. However, he did make one friend with whom he shared a passion for film and, being close to London, they would spend their holidays seeing as many films as they could afford.
Hare's account of growing up and of schooling in those years shows just how much society and education have changed. At junior school, there were teachers with homosexual tendencies but parents were watchful and the boys knew who to avoid. He was aware of one teacher who "fled town in the manner of schoolmasters at that time, without notice and for no given reason"; of one who was platonically in love with a boy in his class and who transferred this love to him; and his mother ended his friendship with a teacher who would take him to concerts, films and plays. There was no fuss and no particular worry about these situations, as there would be now. Lancing was "as austere as its purpose". There were no lavish brochures, and no luxurious accommodation to attract overseas students. The school was cold, the boys often dirty because of few laundry facilities, and the food "would have provoked a mutiny in a mid-Victorian poor-house". But the education there was liberal and good, and debate and independent thinking were encouraged. At Lancing, Hare became sceptical of authority and began to question religious practices. He began, as he says, to scrutinise the authenticity of public performance - to become "a voyeur" - a practice which became invaluable to him as a director when any falseness in the acting or the play was immediately apparent to him.
From Lancing, Hare won an open scholarship to Cambridge University. He chose Jesus College, because he had been deeply impressed by the writings of the eminent New Left thinker, Raymond Williams, who taught there. First, in order to make money for a trip to America, he became a relief teacher at Cranleigh School, where a fellow teacher introduced him to traditional jazz and this, like film, became a lifelong passion. In America, he travelled the country by Greyhound bus; spent a week in New Orleans living on "oysters, doughnuts and jazz"; and had a short, unsuccessful career as a vacuum-cleaner salesman in Manhattan. Political dissent in America was, he says, an eye-opener for him.
Cambridge was a disappointment. Raymond Williams palmed off his teaching to others and the teaching of literature seemed to be impossibly rigid. Hare quotes Ted Hughes as saying that you could only come out of Cambridge a creative writer by "scrambling through the barbed wire and the camp searchlights". Yet, the opportunities Hare had there through film and other clubs which exposed him to the newest ideas; through the experimental theatre group which gave him his first experience as an actor; through the friends he made, many of whom went on the have highly successful creative careers; all these were invaluable.
After Cambridge, Hare and some friends established The Portable Theatre - a co-operatively run theatre which had no fixed home but travelled around the country producing and performing old and new plays and sharing the expenses and the profits (if any). This was the first of many times Hare put his socialist principles into practice in his career. It was the first time, too, that when a promised script did not eventuate he wrote a play. In four days, on a portable typewriter perched on his knee as they drove "from gig to gig", he wrote a script from which he learned that he had the ability to write dialogue.
Hare writes interestingly and with flair about his experiences in radical, experimental, fringe theatre, in film-making and in directing and writing plays. He is equally interesting discussing theatre politics at the time when he became 'Literary Manager' at the Royal Court Theatre, then later a Director there. He notes the changes which have taken place in the theatre world, the energies which were encouraged and allowed to flourish and the freedoms which have been lost.
He writes of the friends, colleagues, well-know and less well-known actors, directors and others with whom he has shared ventures which sometimes flopped and which were sometime hugely successful. At the same time, he writes of his own life, his marriage, fatherhood, and the love affair with Kate Nelligan which destroyed his marriage.
Always, he writes honestly and revealingly about the world and the experiences which have made him a playwright and director. And he ends this memoir with the death and funeral of his mother just as a new phase of his life is beginning.
Ann Skea, Reviewer
The No-Nonsense Guide To Green Parenting
UIT Cambridge Ltd.
c/o Independent Publishers Group
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9780857842541, $26.99, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting: How to Raise Your Child, Help Save the Planet and Not Go Mad" by Kate Blincoe is a fun, practical, and inspirational guide, with which the reader will learn how to maintain their green values while raising their children, engaging with nature, and getting outdoors -- all without feeling guilty about the inevitable compromises. Aimed at parents of zero to 10-year-olds, this book takes a humorous and lighthearted look at all things green and nature inspired. Based on Kate Blincoe's own experiences as an eco-aware parent, The message of "The No-Nonsense Guide To Green Parenting" is that it's not about being perfect, rather it's about giving it a try, feeling the benefits for your family, and having fun while you do it. "The No-Nonsense Guide To Green Parenting" is a guide that provides essential advice on food and eating, eco-buying, learning and playing, family-friendly foraging, growing plants and food with your family, green days out, activities and parties, green parenting in the city, and balancing your green ideals in a busy life. Author Kate Blincoe's pragmatic approach will inspire her readers to balance green living with the realities of raising children.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in content, commentary, and presentation, "The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting: How to Raise Your Child, Help Save the Planet and Not Go Mad" will prove to be an invaluable instructional guide for parents wanting to raise their children with an appreciation for nature and our responsibilities as caretakers and consumers of what nature provides all living things in general, and we humans in particular. "The No-Nonsense Guide To Green Parenting" is very highly recommended for community library Parenting Studies instructional reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The No-Nonsense Guide To Green Parenting" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.48).
Justice Is for the Lonely
101 Park Avenue, Suite 210, Oklahoma City, OK 73102
9780990370024, $25.99, 436pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A former Dallas football star lies in a coma after heart surgery. When his family sues, alleging gross negligence, millions of dollars and reputations are at stake. Kristen Kerry is surprised when she is assigned to the defense team -- until she learns that her job is to entice the doctor's lawyer, notorious womanizer Michael Stern, into a joint defense, then double-cross him during trial. At the same time, Stern plans on backstabbing Kristen -- after he has gotten what he wants. Unknown to either of them, Stern has made an enemy of a partner in his firm, willing to enlist a murderer to extract revenge on both Kristen and Stern. Only Kristen (with her access to hospital records) can identify the killer and save Stern from the death penalty.
Critique: Inherently fascination and thoroughly absorbing with many an unanticipated plot twist and turn, "Justice is for the Lonely" is the first in author Steve Clark's 'Kristen Kerry' series of mystery/suspense novels with a special focus on the principled, but sometimes reckless, lady lawyer. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of any and all mystery buffs that "Justice is for the Lonely" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
The Tree of Life
990 Fort Street, Suite 300, Victoria, BC, Canada, VSV 3K2
9781460266335, $29.99, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Charlotte lives with her grandfather in a house with a secret: The Tower Room. It is the one room in which she's been forbidden to snoop. Charlotte, however, is eleven years old and has a mind of her own, and when she and her friend Henry hide beneath the table of the Tower Room one afternoon in May, they overhear part of a conversation they were not meant to hear and are drawn into an adventure they could scarcely have imagined. Thrown back in time sixty years, they find themselves unwittingly involved in the imminent disappearance of a family heirloom with a colourful and uncertain past. But families too have their secrets, and the reasons behind them are rarely straightforward, and it is unclear what role Charlotte and Henry are meant to play if they are ever to return to their own time. A fascinating portrait of Toronto in the spring of 1939, The Tree of Life explores the nature of family, loss, and what it means to find one's place in the world.
Critique: It is all the more impressive when considering that "The Tree of Life" is author Dawn Davis' debut as a novelist. Exceptionally well written, "The Tree of Life" launches what promises to be a four volume 'Tower Room' series and is an absolutely absorbing read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Tree of Life" is also available in a paperback edition (9781460266342, $19.99) and in a Kindle format ($4.99).
The Dance Theatre of Jean Cocteau
Frank W. D. Ries
Dance Books Ltd.
Dance Horizons (distributor)
c/o Princeton Book Company
614 Route 130, Highstown, NJ 08520
9781852731694, $55.00, 262pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In an artistic career spanning five decades, and for which he was best known as poet, artist, dramatist, designer and film-maker, Jean Cocteau was also involved directly, and indirectly, with nearly twenty ballets. While he was not, in the strictest sense a choreographer, his influence on such works as 'Parade', 'Le Jeune Homme et la Mort', 'Orphee', and 'La Dame a la Licorne' was all-pervasive - from the poesie of the dramatic action to lighting, costume and set design. His creations, in collaboration with composers, and choreographers, were fully integrated theatre pieces. Frank Ries (a noted dance historian and an iconic professor/performer at the University of California, Santa Barbara) researched all of Cocteau's ballets and, using interviews, Cocteau's own writings, reviews and critiques (some of which have never previously been translated) presents "The Dance Theatre of Jean Cocteau", a survey and analysis of Cocteau's involvement in the world of dance. "The Dance Theatre of Jean Cocteau" recreates, from a new perspective, a portrait of a poet charged by Serge Diaghilev in pre-World War I Paris to "Astonish me!" and who made that command the inspiration of his career in dance.
Critique: An impressively researched and presented work of seminal scholarship, "The Dance Theatre of Jean Cocteau" by the late Professor Frank Ries (1950 - 2010) is an critically important study that is enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-six pages of Notes; an eight page Bibliography; and a twenty-three page Index. Very highly recommended for academic library History of Dance reference collections in general, and History of Ballet supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
The Book of SHE
Sara Avant Stover
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608682898, $16.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Today all women face many challenging transitions on their pilgrimage from girlhood through womanhood including menses, love and heartbreak, motherhood, menopause. Devoid of a central narrative, these rites of passage too often happen in shame and secrecy, leaving women doubting their personal power and self-worth. Yoga and meditation instructor, bestselling author, and inspirational speaker Sara Avant Stover saw how women erroneously viewed these initiations as "curses" and sought to present a new model that reflected the power and wisdom unique to the feminine path. In "The Book of SHE: Your Heroine's Journey into the Heart of Feminine Power" Stover celebrates all that it means to be a woman, from mythological underpinnings to the cycles of our day-to-day lives. Drawing on archetypes including Mary Magdalene, the Dark Goddess, and Green Tara, Stover will guide you on a journey home to psychological wholeness, personal empowerment, and, ultimately, full feminine spiritual Awakening. Brimming with mystery and magic, this provocative book makes ancient wisdom and healing practices accessible to every woman who is ready to revel in her full femininity, both the dark and the light, through joyfully becoming the heroine of her own life.
Critique: A truly exceptional, informed and informative read from beginning to end, "The Book of SHE: Your Heroine's Journey into the Heart of Feminine Power" does for the women of the 21st Century what Betty Friedan's "Feminine Mystique" did for their mothers and grandmothers in the second half of the 20th Century. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Feminist Studies and Women's Issues collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Book of She" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Confessions Of A Camo Queen
PO Box 5630, Helena, MT 59604
9781560376286, $12.95, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Does your man's interior design sense involve dead animals? Is your fridge stocked with styrofoam cups of earthworms, deer glands in plastic sandwich bags, and whole dead birds? Does he keep a can of elk estrus spray next to his deodorant? Congratulations, you're in love with an outdoorsman! You are indeed a true camo queen! In "Confessions of a Camo Queen: Living with an Outdoorsman", Montana wife and mom Kristen Berube commiserates with her hunting widow sisters everywhere in an irreverent, laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays, with chapters on Camouflage Lingerie, the Romance of Camping, Primal Home Decor, and more.
Critique: Impressively well written with both wit and wisdom, "Confessions of a Camo Queen: Living with an Outdoorsman" is a thoroughly 'laugh-out-loud' commentary from beginning to end. Delightful, entertaining, and all-too-true, "Confessions Of A Camo Queen" is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Confessions Of A Camo Queen" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).
A Call From Spooner Street
Mill City Press
322 First Avenue North, 5th floor, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781634135818, $15.00, 314pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Three generations of strong-minded Rosens have gone their own ways, keeping a safe distance from each other. When Peter Rosen, the octogenarian emigre professor, takes a bad fall in the snow, his estranged adult daughter Marlene begins flying regularly to Madison. Long days on Spooner Street amidst her ailing father's beloved German books enable Marlene to let go of old bitterness and rekindle her love for him. When her son, Noah, returns from Africa for a last visit with his grandfather, he instigates a deeper honesty, love and forgiveness among all three Rosens.
Critique: A deftly crafted novel by a truly gifted author and one that will hold the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end, "A Call From Spooner Street" by Carol Ascher is very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Call From Spooner Street" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781628725797, $24.99, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Until John Wilson met the warm, wise woman who became his fourth wife, the object of his most intense devotion had always been the work of William Shakespeare. From his feat of memorizing Romeo and Juliet and half a dozen other plays as a student to his evangelical zeal as a professor, John's faith in the Bard has shaped his life. But now his mental powers have been diminished by dementia, and his wife has reluctantly moved him to a residential care facility. Even there, as he struggles to understand what's going on around him, John's knowledge of the plays helps him make sense of his fractured world. Yet, when his only child, Miranda (with whom he has not spoken since a devastating misunderstanding a decade ago) comes to visit, John begins to question some of his deepest convictions. In his devotion to Shakespeare, did he lose his way? Did he wrong the child who wronged him? The story of an imperfect father and a wounded daughter's efforts to achieve some authentic connection even now, "Still Time" celebrates redemption and the gift of second chances. It is that rare novel that ends on a resounding note of hope, reminding us that there is always time to live fully and love deeply, so long as we are alive.
Critique: A deftly crafted and thoroughly absorbing novel from beginning to end, Jean Hegland's thoroughly entertaining novel "Still Time" is very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Still Time" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).
Pass It On
Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434709073, $15.99, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Parents often experience a "freak out" moment when they realize their children's view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home. Most parents spend more time helping their kids succeed at academics or athletics than infusing shared spiritual experiences into the rhythm of everyday family life. While the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual Rites of Passage Experiences contained in "Pass It On: Building a Legacy of Faith for Your Children through Practical and Memorable Experiences" make it easy for your family to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation. Forever change the direction of your family's spiritual legacy starting now with "Pass It On"!
Critique: As informative and practical as it is insightful and inspiring, "Pass It On: Building a Legacy of Faith for Your Children through Practical and Memorable Experiences" is exceptionally 'reader friendly' in content organization and presentation. Very highly recommended for church and community library Parenting & Christian Studies reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pass It On" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.38).
Black Lawrence Press
9781625579256, $13.95, 70pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The time: creeping toward the millennium, yet before Y2K panic inspires everyone to stockpile bottled water and cheap wine. The place: a Midwestern metropolis with echoes of Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, a city trying to preserve the past as a future arrives with gut rehabs and shuttered churches. The dramatis personae: corner bar denizens, bad girls with big plans, novels and their writers, a petulant lake, flocks of grandmothers with rosaries, a wrecking ball or two. Mary Biddinger's fourth full-length collection of poems, "Small Enterprise" introduces us to a world of risk and risk management, a continual struggle to stay afloat, and a hot triangular romance between man, woman, and city.
Critique: An impressive anthology of wonderfully crafted verse, "Small Enterprise" is an inherently fascinating and thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end. Simply stated, "Small Enterprise" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library American Poetry collections.
Elizabeth J. Duncan
9781629531915, $24.99, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A Catskills resort's production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet takes a wickedly ironic turn when the leading lady, Lauren Richmond, is first poisoned and then stabbed. Who would extinguish the life of such a beautiful young thespian? Who wouldn't? Seems like just about everyone had a motive to pull the ropes on her final curtain call. At the center of this Shakespearian tragedy is Charlotte Fairfax, formerly the costume mistress of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Upstate New York is a long way from the royal stage, but Charlotte is always the queen of her domain. As this small production's costume designer, she has stitched her way into everyone's lives, learning more than anyone could possibly imagine about the rise and fall of Lauren Richmond. But curiosity killed the cat. And it might well kill the costume designer.
Critique: An impressively crafted mystery that is a fully absorbing and inherently fascinating read from beginning to end -- and one that plays fair with the reader from first page to last, Elizabeth Duncan's "Untimely Death" is very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Untimely Death" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.59).
The Producer's Daughter
9781611290752, $24.99, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The golden girl wife of a celebrity producer takes a lethal dose of poison in her bedroom. Twenty years later, her daughter Hannah is convicted of stealing a hundred thousand dollar necklace. And when Hannah attempts to change from wild child to purposeful young woman, she begins to uncover secrets that will make her the target for murder. A suspenseful and witty page-turner that combines a murder mystery and a love story, with Hollywood financial intrigue and the unearthing of old family secrets.
Critique: An absolutely absorbing read from first page to last, "The Producer's Daughter" is a deftly written novel that clearly demonstrates author Linday Marcott mastery of the mystery/suspense genre. Very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted that "The Producer's Daughter" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Fairy Tale Girl
Spring Street Publishing
PO Box 2463, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
9780996044011, $28.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Based on the diaries that author Susan Branch has kept since she was in her 20s, "The Fairy Tale Girl" is an illustrated memoir that is charmingly designed in Susan's style with her whimsical watercolors and personal photographs. It's an enchanting story of love and loss, mystery and magic that begins in a geranium-colored house in California, and ends up, like any good fairy tale, on the right side of the rabbit hole, in a small cottage in the woods on the New England Island of Martha's Vineyard. "The Fairy Tale Girl" humorously explores Susan's journey as an artist and as a girl/woman, from the 1950s through the 1980s. In "The Fairy Tale Girl" we get a revealing view of Susan's early life as the oldest of eight children and the marriage she imagined would be forever; it's filled with inspiration, romance and discovery, and a leap into the unknown. Journey back to the olden days with Susan, to the land of happily-ever-after, where men were men and girls just wanted to have fun. Bring a hankie, we think you might need it.
Critique: Exceptionally well written and an inherently fascinating read from beginning to end. Enhanced throughout with the inclusion of a profusion of colorful illustrations and images, "The Fairy Tale Girl" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.
Don't Just Sit There
PO Box 482, Carlsborg, WA 98324
9781943370009, $12.95, 152pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Currently health research strongly suggests that sitting for a long time is not good for human health. The body was made to be in motion at least as much (if not more) that it was made for sitting down. Is getting healthier as simple as kicking over your chair and standing all day in front of the same computer, under the same fluorescent lighting or is there something more to be learned from the data about how people work best? "Don't Just Sit There" by Katy Bowman (who as a biomechanist by training has helped thousands reduce chronic pain, increase bone density, and improve metabolic health through movement and proper alignment) explains why swapping one static position for another isn't taking a big enough look at the problem, and provides corrective exercise and lifestyle solutions to help you safely and effectively transition away from the conventional office set-up allowing you to reap the enormous benefits of moving more throughout the day while getting your work done. "Don't Just Sit There" explains how conventional office arrangements are capping our level of health and why this can't be offset with a daily bout of exercise; that sitting and screen-time are two different variables and should be treated as such; offers corrective exercises to sit, stand, and move better without leaving your office; and shows how to boost your creativity and energy levels at the office With clear, science-based explanations, "Don't Just Sit There" lays out the issues created by conventional office environments, and describes in detail the steps necessary to transition to a more dynamic set-up safely and effectively. With over twenty exercises, "Don't Just Sit There" is a must-have for anyone hoping to increase their daily movement and improve their health without sacrificing their productivity.
Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well informed and informative, "Don't Just Sit There" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in content and presentation, making it very highly recommended for personal and community library Health & Exercise instructional reference collections for the non-specialist general reader.
Reflexology Made Easy
Earth Dancer Books
c/o Findhorn Press
Delft Cottage, Dykle Forres Iv36 2TF, Scotland, UK
9781844096664, $9.95, 80pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Reflexology is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body. Reflex zone massage can be a direct and effective aid for many small daily complaints, but you have to learn 'the how' and 'the where'. "Reflexology Made Easy: Self-Help Techniques For Everyday Ailments" is a handy reference book that explains just how to find relief from headaches, colds and fear of flying, along with coping with long car journeys or lengthy days at your computer, all with just a few reflex zone massage strokes.
Critique: Informed and informative, "Reflexology Made Easy: Self-Help Techniques For Everyday Ailments" is very highly recommended for non-specialist general readers with an interest in alternative medicine. Also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99), it should be noted for older readers that the type font used in the paperback edition of "Reflexology Made Easy" is quite small and would require excellent vision to easily scan.
Traditional Weavers Of Guatemala
Deborah Chandler & Teresa Cordon, authors
Joe Coca, photographer
9780983886075, $34.95, 152pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives" presents portraits of Guatemalan artisans working in the ancient traditions of the Maya paired with insights into the creation of the textiles and the events that have affected their work. Weaving, spinning, and basket making have sustained the Maya economically and culturally against the pressures of change and a 36-year civil war that decimated their population. Their persistence in continuing traditional art has created some of the loveliest, most colorful textiles the world has ever known. Guatemalan artisans share their personal histories, hopes, and dreams along with the products of their hands and looms. Their stories show determination in the face of unimaginable loss and hardship which instill an appreciation for the textiles themselves and for the strong people who create them.
Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated with full color photographic images, "Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives" is a unique, informative, and inherently fascinating read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections, "Traditional Weavers Of Guatemala" will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf.
The Atheist Who Didn't Exist
c/o Lion Hudson
9780857216106 $14.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle www.lionhudson.com
Synopsis: Addressing some of the more popular atheist sound bites about the Christian faith, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist clears the space for a deeper and more honest discussion about the big questions of life.
Our culture now assumes that atheism is the default position indeed, the only position for anyone who wishes to be seen as educated, contemporary, and urbane. In the media, atheism is usually portrayed as scientific and rational versus religion, which is seen as stuffy, outdated, and irrational.
Blending humor with serious thought, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist will help readers to think a little deeper about the popular claims of atheism. Whether the reader is a Christian who desires to be able to start a conversation with secular friends or simply an agnostic dissatisfied with some of the arguments that pass for serious thought, Andy Bannister shows that when it comes to the most important questions of life, we need to move beyond simplistic sound bites.
Critique: A thoughtful and thought-provoking Christian response to the arguments of atheism, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist presents the case for belief in God with wit, style, and verve. Author Andy Bannister does not disparage or condemn atheism and its adherents; instead, he rationally challenges the fundamental precepts of unbelief. Topics covered include why life without God is meaningless; why God is really needed to be good; why faith in God does not mean one is insane; why science cannot explain the entirety of reality; and much more. The Atheist Who Didn't Exist is highly recommended for readers of all religions.
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
9781137526786 $30.00 hc / $21.92 Kindle www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The way that buyers buy products and services has been changing for years. Customers are more informed, aware of their choices and smarter about purchasing decisions. Companies that want to survive in this buyer-led digital age have to become much more customer focused or they will wither away. Author Carlos Hidalgo understands how companies need to change their marketing and sales functions to provide customers with information, service and relationship to make a smart purchasing choice. In Driving Demand Hidalgo provides a guidebook for companies that want to transform, but simply are perplexed by how to change. It is not enough to simply speak about 'change management' in an organization. Change management has to begin with a process that is first fully planned providing the details of how people, process, content, technology, and KPIs will be aligned throughout the organization to ensure a common demand generation approach that is federated across the organization.
In this book, Hidalgo provides a prescriptive roadmap that organizations can follow to ensure that the changes that are made become part of the DNA of their organization. This ensures that true transformation occurs - doing things differently instead of just doing different things.
Critique: Enlightening and practical, Driving Demand is a reference and resource for managers that lays out its concepts and strategies in plain terms. Chapters address how to align content to one's buyer, optimize data and technology, create a culture of accountability, and more. A "must-read" for business-to-business marketers!
Let's Make Money, Honey
Barry Silverstein and Sharon Wood
9780996576000 $16.95 www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business is about a baby boomer couple who start a small service business as a second career. As much as it is a good story, Let's Make Money, Honey is also a how-to guide that covers planning, financing, outfitting, and launching a service business, as well as operations, marketing, sales, customer service, and managing growth. Included are useful tools to help couples assess their business interests and compatibility.
Inspiring and instructional, Let's Make Money, Honey will help couples consider whether to start a service business together - or provide those ready to move forward with a blueprint for success. Packed with detailed how-to advice based on real-world experience, Let's Make Money, Honey is a must-read for self-starter couples of all ages and especially those exploring encore careers.
Critique: Let's Make Money, Honey is an absolute "must-read" for couples grappling with the challenges of balancing love and a joint venture in today's service economy. Practical-minded, informative, and sprinkled with true tales from the authors' personal experience, Let's make Money, Honey is highly recommended.
Waste to Wealth: The Circular Economy Advantage
Peter Lacy & Jakob Rutqvist
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
9781137530684 $35.00 hc / $29.15 Kindle www.palgrave-usa.com
Synopsis: The circular economy may be about to drive the biggest transformation in business since the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago - $4.5 trillion in additional economic output by 2030 - through a radical departure from the traditional 'take, make, waste' production and consumption models.
Adopting a circular approach - decoupling growth from the use of natural resources - achieves two things: first organizations protect themselves from rising and volatile commodity prices, become more resilient to supply disruptions, and reduce their environmental footprint. More importantly, by extending their core customer value chain beyond design, production and sales into product use - where most customer value is created - companies begin to rethink their customer relationships, enabling them to create unassailable competitive advantage.
Lacy and Rutqvist present disruptive strategies that help both planet and profit through the circular economy. They set out five business models that promote circular growth alongside the technologies and capabilities required to turn them into competitive advantage - from deploying sustainable resources to the sharing economy - each illustrated with case studies that examine the key challenges and suggestions to help organizations scale their efforts. They offer you the Circular Advantage.
Critique: Waste to Wealth: The Circular Economy Advantage uses case studies to reveal that a sustainable business model emphasizing "recovery and recycling" can be a solid competitive advantage, especially in a modern age of increasing scarcity of natural resources. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Waste to Wealth offers an invaluable perspective and is worthy of the highest recommendation for economists, business professionals, and political strategists looking for long-term goals that benefit both private industry and the public at large. It should be noted that Waste to Wealth is also available in a Kindle edition ($29.15).
The Humbug Murders: An Ebenezer Scrooge Mystery
L. J. Oliver
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476792347, $7.99, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "The Humbug Murders: An Ebenezer Scrooge Mystery", Ebenezer Scrooge investigates a shocking murder trying to solve it before he himself becomes the next victim. Scrooge considers himself a rational man with a keen sense of deductive reasoning developed from years of business dealings. But that changes one night when he's visited by the ghost of his former boss and friend, Fezziwig, who mysteriously warns him that three more will die, and ultimately Ebenezer himself -- if he doesn't get to the bottom of a vast conspiracy. When he wakes the next day, Scrooge discovers that not only is Fezziwig dead, but Scrooge is under arrest as all evidence points toward himself. It seems that Scrooge's calling card was found in the cold, dead hand of Fezziwig's body, and someone scribbled "Humbug" in blood on the floor nearby. Now, Scrooge must race against the pocket watch to clear his name, protect his interests, and find out who killed his last true friend before the "Humbug Killer" strikes again. Joining Scrooge in his adventures is a spunky sidekick named Adelaide, who matches his wits at every turn, plus the Artful Dodger, Fagin, Belle, Pickwick, and even Charles Dickens himself as a reporter dealing in the lurid details of London's alleyway crimes.
Synopsis: A delightful homage to British mysteries, Victorian London, and Charles Dickens, "The Humbug Murders: An Ebenezer Scrooge Mystery" is a simply wonderful treat for all mystery buffs. A riveting read from beginning to end, and a mystery/suspense novel that plays fair with it's readers at every unexpected plot twist and turn, "The Humbug Murders" will leave its fully entertained readers looking eagerly toward more mystery tales featuring Charles Dickens-based characters! Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.
Kenneth Wishnia, editor
PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623
9781629631110, $17.95, 448pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Kenneth Wishnia, "Jewish Noir: Contemporary Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds" is an anthology that includes the work of numerous authors such as Marge Piercy, Harlan Ellison, S. J. Rozan, Nancy Richler, Moe Prager (Reed Farrel Coleman), Wendy Hornsby, Charles Ardai, and Kenneth Wishnia. The short stories explore such issues as the Holocaust and its long-term effects on subsequent generations, anti-Semitism in the mid- and late-20th-century United States, and the dark side of the Diaspora (e.g., the decline of revolutionary fervor, the passing of generations, the Golden Ghetto, etc.). The stories in this collection include "Trajectories," Marge Piercy's story of the divergent paths taken by two young men from the slums of Cleveland and Detroit in a rapidly changing post - WW II society; "Some You Lose," Nancy Richler's empathetic exploration of the emotional and psychological challenges of trying to sum up a man's life in a eulogy; and "Yahrzeit Candle," Stephen Jay Schwartz's take on the subtle horrors of the inevitable passing of time. These works include many "teachable moments" about the history of prejudice, the contradictions of ethnic identity, and assimilation into American society and culture.
Critique: A unique and absorbing read from beginning to end, the thirty-three short stories comprising "Jewish Noir: Contemporary Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds" are true noir classics by authors who are masters of the genre. Very strongly recommended for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Jewish Noir" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die
Keith Elliot Greenberg
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group
19 West 21st Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10010
9781480360303, $24.99, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: James Dean's Final Hours", readers take an evocative journey with author Keith Elliot Greenberg as he pieces together the puzzle of the movie idol James Dean's final day and its everlasting impact. Greenberg traveled to Dean's hometown to talk with folks who knew the star, and all the way to the California roads that underlay the tires of the actor's infamous Porsche Spyder. Taking the story back and forth in time, Greenberg gives insight into what drove Dean to live on the edge the early loss of his mother, his relentless drive to explore for the sake of his craft. Dean once said, "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today." He lived to experience, and the one love that compared to his love of acting was his love of racing cars. Greenberg puts the event in historical context, reflecting on the world Dean lived in at the time, an era after World War II, the end of the Korean War, the advent of rock and roll, with the sixties coming down the pike. The star's too-soon departure froze him as a symbol of American Cool, and as proven by the 20,000 people who return to Dean's grave each year to pay homage, a major influence on youth culture for myriad generations. With fresh interviews with insiders, riveting storytelling, and acute attention to details from vehicle specs to Dean's stops along the way (including for an ominous speeding ticket) to how the news reached the world Greenberg delivers a thoughtful look at this historical moment.
Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well researched, deftly written, organized and presented, "Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: James Dean's Final Hours" is a compelling and inherently fascinating read from beginning to end. A 'must' for the legions of James Dean fans, "Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.12).
Cinco Puntos Press
701 Texas, El Paso, Texas 79901
9781941026144, $16.95, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Frank Delgado is no thief. He co-owns a failing Cuban restaurant in Manhattan's Upper East Side. The restaurant, like Frank, is rudderless. Lost. He decides he'll save the restaurant by traveling to Cuba to steal the legendary chicken recipe from the famed El Ajillo restaurant in Havana. The recipe is a state secret, so prized that no cook knows the whole recipe. But Frank's rationale is ironclad -- Fidel stole the secret from his family, so he will steal it back. He will triumphantly bring that recipe back to Manhattan and turn his fortunes around. Frank has no interest in Cuba. His parents fled after the Revolution. His dead father spent his life erasing all traces of Cuba from his heart with barbeques, television, lawn mowing and alcohol. So Frank is not prepared for the real Cuba. Sure, he gets beat up and almost killed, the secret service threatens him, but in the midst of the chaos, he falls in love with a prostitute and the city, and he unwraps the heroic story of his parents' life. Cuba begins to bind Frank together, the way a good sofrito binds the flavors of a Cuban dish.
Critic: Exceptionally well written and all the more impressive considering that "Sofrito" is Haitian American writer and photojournalist Phillipe Diederich's debut as a novelist. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sofrito" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).
Karen Hunger Parshall, Michael T. Walton, bruce t. Moran, editors
Truman State University Press
100 East Normal Street, Kirksville, MO 63501-4221
9781612481340, $50.00 (Library Binding), 328pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Bridging Traditions: Alchemy, Chemistry, and Paracelsian Practices in the Early Modern Era" explores the connections between apparently different zones of comprehension and experience magic and experiment, alchemy and mechanics, practical mathematics and geometrical mysticism, things earthy and heavenly, and especially science and medicine by focusing on points of intersection among alchemy, chemistry, and Paracelsian medical philosophy. In exploring the varieties of natural knowledge in the early modern era, the contributors pay tribute to the work of Allen Debus, whose own endeavors cleared the way for scholars to examine subjects that were once snubbed as suitable only to the refuse heap of the history of science.
Critique: Comprised of eleven erudite and seminal articles of impressive scholarship, "Bridging Traditions: Alchemy, Chemistry, and Paracelsian Practices in the Early Modern Era " is enhanced with the inclusion of numerous illustrations, a succinctly informative Introduction, a three page list of Contributors, and a thirty-one page Index. Of special note is Karen Hunger Parshall's "Crafting the Chemical Interpretation of Nature: The Work of Allen G. Debus" and Heinz Schott's "On the Imagery of Nature in the Late medieval and Early Modern Periods". A unique and highly recommended addition to academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bridging Traditions" is also available in a Kindle edition ($39.99).
Gillian F. Taylor
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444825381, $20.99, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: 'Set a thief to catch a thief!' It's a risky strategy for a lawman to take, but Sheriff Darrow has very personal reasons for wanting to catch bank robber Tom Croucher. Forced to stay in Wyoming, Darrow is relying on two convicted criminals, Tomcat Billy and Irish, to do the job for him. But Tomcat hates Darrow, while Irish wants to go straight. They join Croucher's gang, but who deserves their loyalty - the outlaw or the sheriff?
Critique: Simply stated, "Darrow's Gamble" is a terrific action/adventure western novel of the first order and clearly documents author Gillian F. Taylor as a master of the genre. This large print edition is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections and is very highly recommended to all western novel buffs!
I Can Give You Anything But Love
Rizzoli Ex Libris
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9780847846863, $25.95, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "I Can Give You Anything But Love" by novelist, playwright, filmmaker, and artist Gary Indiana is the long-awaited memoir from one of the most acclaimed radical writers in American literature. With "I Can Give You Anything but Love", Gary Indiana has composed a literary, unabashedly wicked, and revealing montage of excursions into his life and work ranging from his early days growing up gay in rural New Hampshire, to his escape to Haight-Ashbury in the post - summer-of-love era, to the sweltering 1970s in Los Angeles, and ultimately his existence in New York in the 1980s as a bona fide downtown personality. Interspersed throughout his vivid recollections are present-day chapters set against the louche culture and raw sexuality of Cuba, where he has lived and worked occasionally for the past fifteen years. Connoisseurs will recognize "I Can Give You Anything But Love" as Gary Indiana's most personal memoir yet and includes the same mixture of humor and realism, philosophy and immediacy, that have long confused the definitions of genre applied to his writing. Vivid, atmospheric, revealing, and entertaining, "I Can Give You Anything But Love" is an engrossing read and a serious contribution to the genres of gay and literary memoir.
Critique: Original, intimate, candid, riveting, informative, iconoclastic, and a terrific read from beginning to end, "I Can Give You Anything But Love" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "I Can Give You Anything But Love" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).
Willis M. Buhle
Matthew S. Hiley
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626342033, $16.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Dwayne Devero is just like you and me, except he simply doesn't care any more. He's had enough. He's done with people living life wrong. You'll do it right, or he'll bury you under the bases at the ballpark where he coaches. It's just that simple. Tired of poor decisions being made all around him, from the politics of player positions on his son's little league baseball team to the philandering of his wife in his own bedroom, Dwayne decides that breaking is better than bending. What follows is a wild ride full of carnage and revenge, led by a man who will stop at absolutely nothing to bring honor back to his family, his community, and children's baseball. "Baseball Dads" is a pitch black comedy in which one man takes on the duty of bludgeoning honor back into a sometimes dishonorable world.
Critique: A compelling and inherently fascinating read, "Baseball Dads" clearly documents author Matthew S. Hiley's impressive skills and originality as a novelist. An absorbing and thoroughly entertaining read from beginning to end, "Baseball Dads" is recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Baseball Dads" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.99).
H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition
John L. Steadman
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781578635870, $22.95, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Modern practicing occultists have argued that renowned horror writer H. P. Lovecraft was in possession of in-depth knowledge of black magick. Literary scholars claim that he was a master of his genre and craft, and his findings are purely psychological, nothing more. Was Lovecraft a practitioner of the dark arts himself? Was he privileged to knowledge that cannot be otherwise explained? Weaving the life story of Lovecraft in and out of an analysis of various modern magickal systems, John L. Steadman (Professor of English, Olivet College in Michigan) has found direct and concrete examples laid out in "H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism" that demonstrate that Lovecraft's works and specifically his Cthulhu Mythos and his creation of the Necronomicon are a legitimate basis for a working magickal system. Whether you believe Lovecraft had supernatural powers or not, no one can argue against Lovecraft's profound influence on many modern black arts and the darker currents of western occultism.
Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, and deftly presented read from beginning to end, "H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism" will prove to be of immense interest to Lovecraft enthusiasts. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Literary Studies and Metaphysical Studies reference collections, it should be noted that for personal reading lists "H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).
Ervin R. Stutzman
1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
9780836199093, $14.99, 338pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Unwilling captive or adopted son? Amish teen Joseph Hochstetler is taken into captivity by Native Americans during the French and Indian War. Initially he resists the Indians attempts to help him adapt to their ways their food, games, and relaxed pace of life. In this story of forbidden love, Joseph finds himself pressed between his unfolding romance with a young Indian woman and the tug of his heritage. His eyes newly opened to the wrongs committed by the white settlers, Joseph determines never to go back to his Amish community. But the encroaching British army soon forces the Indians to give up their captives under threat of death. Based on actual events, Joseph s Dilemma traces the wrenching dilemma of a young man caught between his Amish past, his love for a woman, and an unknown future.
Critique: "Joseph's Dilemma" is the sequel to "Jacob s Choice" (9780836196818, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle), and the second volume of of Ervin Stuzman's outstanding 'Return to Northkill' trilogy. Another impressively researched and deftly crafted novel framed against Amish and native American cultures, "Joseph's Dilemma" is an absorbing and entertaining read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Joseph's Dilemma" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Mark R. Tercek & Jonathan S. Adams
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610916950, $18.00, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive By Investing in Nature", Mark Tercek (CEO of The Nature Conservancy) and Jonathan Adams (former investment banker, and science writer) persuasively argue that nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make. The forests, floodplains, and oyster reefs often seen simply as raw materials or as obstacles to be cleared in the name of progress are, in fact as important to our future prosperity as technology or law or business innovation. The collaborative authors cover a number of issues including: Who invests in nature, and why?; What rates of return can it produce?; When is protecting nature a good investment?. With stories from the South Pacific to the California coast, from the Andes to the Gulf of Mexico and even to New York City, "Nature's Fortune" shows how viewing nature as green infrastructure allows for breakthroughs not only in conservation generally, but in protecting water supplies, enhancing the health of fisheries, making cities more sustainable, livable, and safe, and dealing with unavoidable climate change, but in economic progress as well. Organizations obviously depend on the environment for key resources such as water, trees, and land. But they can also reap substantial commercial benefits in the form of risk mitigation, cost reduction, new investment opportunities, and the protection of assets. Once leaders learn how to account for nature in financial terms, they can incorporate that value into the organization's decisions and activities, just as habitually as they consider cost, revenue, and ROI.
Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive By Investing in Nature" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content, organization and presentation, making it essential reading that is especially recommended for business leaders, corporate managers, investors, environmentalists, and governmental policy makers. "Nature's Fortune" is a strongly recommended and timely addition to community, corporate, environmental NGOs, governmental, and academic library Environmental Issues reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Nature's Fortune" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.57).
The Rhythms of Jewish Living
Rabbi Marc D. Angel
Jewish Lights Publishing
PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781580238342, $18.99, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Judaism has provided the spiritual framework for millions of people for thousands of years. Yet its basic beliefs and observances often are disconnected from their original intent in our modern day. With his engaging overview of the sacred times, places and ideas of Judaism, Rabbi Marc D. Angel gently reclaims the natural, balanced and insightful teachings of Sephardic Judaism that can and should imbue modern Jewish spirituality in the pages of "The Rhythms of Jewish Living". Rabbi Angel draws on many classic sources, illuminating the influence of the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry and the great mystics of sixteenth-century Safed on the Sephardic tradition. The result is an approach to Judaism that is deep, rich and diverse.
Critique: Rabbi Marc D. Angel is the founder and director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (www.jewishideas.org), as well as Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City. In "The Rhythms of Jewish Living" Rabbi Angel draws upon his many years of experience and expertise ti write an inherently absorbing treatise on modern Jewish spirituality that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Simply stated, "The Rhythms of Jewish Living" is highly commended for scholars and non-specialist readers with an interest in contemporary Judaism. Very highly recommended for synagogue, community, and academic library Judaic Studies reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Rhythms of Jewish Living" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.19).
The Secret Of Chabad
Rabbi David Eliezrie
The Toby Press
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776
9781592643707, $29.95, 448pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Considered one of the most influential movements in modern Judaism, writers have speculated for decades about the unparalleled success of Chabad Lubavitch. In "The Secret of Chabad", Rabbi David Eliezrie depicts the events, philosophies, and personalities that have made Chabad Lubavitch a worldwide phenomenon in Judaism. From his unique style weaving together narrative and fact, history and philosophical insight, interviews with shluchim and Chabad leaders from across the globe, and personal recollection emerges a world rich in tradition and the enormous love for fellow Jews that is embodied by the shluchim. In the pages of "The Secret Of Chabad", Rabbi Eliezrie combines the insider's perspective of a long-time Chabad shaliach with the storytelling flair of a prolific writer.
Critique: Rabbi David Eliezrie is a veteran Chabad shaliach in Yorba Linda, California, and was previously the Jewish chaplain at the University of Miami. He is the president of the Rabbinical Council of Orange County and Long Beach, sits on the board of the Jewish Federation and Family Services of Orange County, and is active in local and national Jewish affairs. In "The Secret Of Chabad' Rabbi Eliezrie draws upon his years of experience and expertise to provide an informative and comprehensive introduction to an important aspect of contemporary Judaism. Very highly recommended for synagogue, community, and academic library Judaic Studies reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Secret of Chabad" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).
The Ashtabula Hat Trick
Gray & Company, Publishers
9781938441714, $24.95, 243pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The people of Queenstown, Ohio, don't take kindly to strangers. But they have no choice in the matter after a man's body is found in a local park, pants unzipped and stabbed through the heart, and then a second man's body turns up days later, his head bashed in. Local law enforcement needs help with the town's first-ever murder investigation. Private investigator Milan Jacovich tags along when his main squeeze, Cleveland homicide detective Tobe Blaine, is dispatched to rural Ashtabula County to handle the case. Word travels fast in the small town, and the mixed-race couple receives a cold welcome. The motel manager doesn't like their looks, the coroner conveniently forgets key details, and patrons at the local watering hole flaunt their disrespect for Tobe's out-of-town badge and her skin color. Milan enlists his young assistant, Kevin "K.O." O'Bannion, to glean information from the town's teens, who tell tales of their parents' fervent devotion to their local pastor, an outspoken bigot. Did homophobia factor in the murders? Looming over the case is nearby Conneaut prison which privately run, overcrowded, and rumored to employ some questionable methods (as well as many local residents). Inside its walls, a powerful convict known as "The Prophet" just might have the information Tobe and Milan need to solve the case if they can just get him to talk. Queenstown might only be an hour's drive from Cleveland, but Milan, Tobe, and K.O. find themselves strangers in a strange land. They also soon find themselves neck-deep in serious trouble.
Critique: Les Roberts (past president of both the Private Eye Writers of America and the American Crime Writer's League) is a master of the mystery genre. "The Ashtabula Hat Trick" is the sixteenth and latest addition to the outstanding Milan Jacovich mystery series. Another deftly crafted mystery novel of surprising twists and unexpected turns, "The Ashtabula Hat Trick" is very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of mystery buffs that "The Ashtabula Hat Trick" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Language of Salvation
1190 Summerset Drive, Wooster, OH 44691
9781941337097, $15.99, 256pp, www.amazon.com
"The Language of Salvation: Discovering the Riches of What It Means to Be Saved" by Victor Kuligin (Academic Dean and Lecturer at Bible Institute of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa) is an informed and informative theological study of thirteen different terms used in the Bible, all of which combine to convey the richness of a single concept: salvation. While explaining what each term means, Professor Kuligin deftly points out how each of these facets of biblical salvation can be used when sharing the gospel. Erudite, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Language of Salvation" is an impressive contribution to Biblical Studies curriculums and will prove of interest to scholars and non-professional readers with an interest in Christian theology. Highly recommended for seminary, church, and academic library Religion/Spirituality reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Language of Salvation" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).
Freedom and the Self
Steven M. Cahn & Maureen Eckert
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231161527, $75.00, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will", published in 2010 by Columbia University Press, presented David Foster Wallace's challenge to Richard Taylor's argument for fatalism. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Steven M. Cahn (Professor of Philosophy, Graduate Center of the City University of New York) and Maureen Eckert (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Darmouth), "Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace" is an anthology of articles by notable philosophers engage directly with that work and assess Wallace's reply to Taylor as well as other aspects of Wallace's thought. With an introduction by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert, this collection includes essays by William Hasker (Huntington University), Gila Sher (University of California, San Diego), Marcello Oreste Fiocco (University of California, Irvine), Daniel R. Kelly (Purdue University), Nathan Ballantyne (Fordham University), Justin Tosi (University of Arizona), and Maureen Eckert. These scholars and thinkers explore Wallace's philosophical and literary work, illustrating remarkable ways in which his philosophical views influenced and were influenced by themes developed in his other writings, both fictional and nonfictional. Together with "Fate, Time, and Language", this critical set unlocks key components of Wallace's work and its traces in modern literature and thought.
Critique: An impressive anthology of seminal scholarship, "Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace" is strongly recommended for academic library Contemporary Philosophy reference collections in general, and David Foster Wallace supplemental studies reading lists in particular. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Freedom and the Self" is also available in a paperback edition (9780231161534, $25.00) and in a Kindle format ($14.74).
Questions Jesus Asks
New Leaf Publishing Group
PO Box 726, Green Forest, AR 72638
9780892217342, $12.99, 188pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Jesus rarely answered questions He was asked, but instead turned the tables by asking a piercing question of His own. Questions Jesus Asks goes through a broad spectrum of these, dealing with issues like morality, suffering, humility, faith, and much more. In "Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity" by Israel Wayne (an author and conference speaker who has a passion for defending the Christian faith and promoting a Biblical world view), appreciative readers will explore the unique paradox of Jesus' divinity and humanity; be challenged by the questions Jesus asks each of us; and learn more about Jesus and find the answers to your own life's questions.
Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity" is very highly recommended, especially to all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Questions Jesus Asks" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Capone, the Cobbs, and Me
University of West Alabama
Station 22, Livingston, AL 35470
9781604891492, $30.00, 204pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Baseball big-leaguer Mort Hart, trapped between an insane Al Capone and a vengeful Ty Cobb must use his wits to save his skin and the skin of the woman he loves, Charlene, Cobb's wife. Mort is also suspected of 'knowing too much' by a mob murderer, Jimmy, who tries to kill Mort. And Cobb suspects Mort's affair with Charlene and has good reason to kill Mort as well. Both Mort and Charlene (she an excellent pianist) are attracted to the fascinating Mezz Mezzrow, jazz bandleader, friend of Louis Armstrong, marijuana seller and 'voluntary Negro.' Mezz involves Mort in a secret burial of a murder victim and ultimately makes both Mort and himself police suspects. At the story's climax, Mort finds himself pulling the trigger of a pistol aimed at Cobb, even as Cobb pulls the trigger of a pistol aimed at Mort. Capone, maddened by tertiary syphilis, stands nearby, watching in psychopathic fascination. As on the cover of a noir paperback, Charlene also looks on, fingertips suspended at her kissable lips. Will it be her husband to die? Or will it be Mort, her lover?
Critique: Impressively well written from first page to last, "Capone, the Cobbs, and Me" is a deftly constructed and thoroughly entertaining novel that documents Rex Burwell as an exceptionally gifted novelist. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, for personal reading lists it should be noted that "Capone, the Cobbs, and Me" is also available in a paperback edition (9781604891485, $17.95).
Understanding Mass Incarceration
The New Press
126 Wall Street, floor 31, New York, NY 10005-4007
9781620970676, $17.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time" by writer, researcher, teacher, and social justice advocate James Kilgore offers the first comprehensive overview of the incarceration apparatus put in place by the world's largest jailer: the United States. Drawing on a growing body of academic and professional work, "Understanding Mass Incarceration" describes in plain English the many competing theories of criminal justice ranging from rehabilitation to retribution, to restorative justice, to justice reinvestment. In a lively and accessible style, "Understanding Mass Incarceration" illuminates the difference between prisons and jails, probation and parole, laying out key concepts and policies such as the War on Drugs, broken windows policing, three-strikes sentencing, the school-to-prison pipeline, recidivism, and prison privatization. Informed by the crucial lenses of race and gender, he addresses issues typically omitted from the discussion: the rapidly increasing incarceration of women, Latinos, and transgender people; the growing imprisonment of immigrants; and the devastating impact of mass incarceration on communities. Both as a field guide and as a primer, "Understanding Mass Incarceration" is an essential resource for those engaged in criminal justice activism as well as those new to the subject.
Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time" is especially commended to the attention of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the current national controversy over America's criminal imprisonment policies that have resulted in the incarceration of more than two and a half million Americans. Impressively informed and informative, "Understanding Mass Incarceration" is highly recommended for both community and academic library Judicial Studies, Penology Studies, and Contemporary Social issues reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Understanding Mass Incarceration" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).
City of Echoes
Thomas & Mercer
9781477827727, $15.95, 360pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: On Detective Matt Jones's first night working Homicide in LA, he's called to investigate a particularly violent murder case: a man has been gunned down in a parking lot off Hollywood Boulevard, his bullet-riddled body immediately pegged as the work of a serial robber who has been haunting the Strip for months. Driven by the grisly killing, Jones and his hot-tempered partner, Denny Cabrera, jump headfirst into the investigation. But as Jones uncovers evidence that links the crime to a brutal, ritualized murder that occurred eighteen months prior, he begins to suspect that there's more going on beneath the surface. When Jones discovers shocking, deep-seated corruption; a high-level cover-up; and his own personal ties to the rising body count, he's no longer sure he can trust anyone, even himself.
Critique: A riveting hard-boiled murder mystery of the first order, "City of Echoes" is an absorbing and entertaining read from first page to last and documents novelist Robert Ellis as a master of the genre. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of mystery buffs that "City of Echoes" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).
Not I, Not other than I
Russel Williams, author
Steve Taylor, editor
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781782797296, $15.95, 171pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Russel Williams was born in London in 1921. He now lives in lives in Atherton, near Manchester, UK, with his wife Joyce. Since 1974, he has been the president of The Buddhist Society of Manchester. Deftly edited by Steve Taylor, "Not I, Not other than I: The Life And Teachings Of Russel Williams" is a compendium of the thought and writings of Russel Williams, who is one of the most remarkable enlightened spiritual teachers of our time. After an early life of extreme hardship (leaving school at the age of 11, and becoming an orphan shortly afterwards) Williams underwent a spiritual awakening at the age of 29. Since the late 1950s, he has been a spiritual teacher, and is still actively teaching now, at the age of 94. Previously, Russel has avoided publicity and never published any writings or transcripts of his talks, preferring to work quietly with small groups. "Not I, Not other than I" is the first time any details of his teachings or of his life have appeared in print. "Not I, Not other than I" is partly a record of his teachings, and partly also the story of his extraordinary life. Working with well-known spiritual author Steve Taylor (who has attended Russel's meetings regularly since the 1990s) Russel has created a profound text which will surely become known as a classic of spiritual literature.
Critique: "Not I, Not other than I: The Life And Teachings Of Russel Williams" is an enormously important contribution to the study of religion and spirituality. An absorbing read from beginning to end, "Not I, Not other than I" is as thoughtful and thought-provoking, as it is inspired and inspiring. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Not I, Not other than I" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.09).
New Directions Publishing Corporation
80 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
9780811224345, $24.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Ranging from the 17th century to our current moment, and crossing multiple continents, "Counternarratives" is comprised of stories and novellas by John Keen that draw upon memoirs, newspaper accounts, detective stories, interrogation transcripts, and speculative fiction to create new and strange perspectives on our past and present. "An Outtake" chronicles an escaped slave's take on liberty and the American Revolution;"The Strange History of Our Lady of the Sorrows" presents a bizarre series of events that unfold in a nineteenth-century Kentucky convent; "The Aeronauts" soars between bustling Philadelphia, still-rustic Washington, and the theater of the U.S. Civil War; "Rivers," presents a free Jim meeting up decades later with his former raftmate Huckleberry Finn; and in "Acrobatique," the subject of a famous Edgar Degas painting talks back.
Critique: A uniquely gifted storyteller of an iconoclastic originality that borders on the eccentric, "Counternarratives" is an absolutely absorbing read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Counternarratives" will also available in a paperback edition (9780811225526, $16.95, May 2016) as well as in a Kindle format ($11.99).
Every Landlord's Guide to Managing Property
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413322156, $29.99, 464pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Every Landlord's Guide to Managing Property: Best Practices, From Move-In to Move-Out" by experienced landlord Michael Boyer is specifically designed for the novice landlord who own a single-family home, condo, or small (less than four unit) multiplex. This informed and informative instructional guide will show them how to keep their day job and manage their properties (and tenants) on the side. It also provides the best practical and legal compliance advice for small-time landlords who want to manage and grow a successful rental property business with a personalized approach and minimal hassle and cost. "Every Landlord's Guide to Managing Property" focuses on everyday skills the do-it-yourself landlord needs, including property oversight and maintenance, effective communication with tenants, and general management. It covers a wide range of topics, such as how to: market and differentiate your rental units from the competition; handle nitty-gritty maintenance from snow removal to toilet clogs to painting; screen and deal with tenant issues like late rent payments, pet problems, clutter, unauthorized occupants, and other conflicts; track income and expenses for filing taxes and completing Schedule E; hire and work with outside contractors, lawyers, and other help; and so much more.
Critique: Simply stated, "Every Landlord's Guide to Managing Property: Best Practices, From Move-In to Move-Out" is the ultimate property management guide for the novice landlord and has a great deal of relevant value for even the more experienced property owner. Of special note is the section devoted to 'Tracking Landlord Income and Expenses for Tax Time'. Practical, comprehensive, informed and informative, "Every Landlord's Guide to Managing Property" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Small Business collections. It should be pointed out that "Every Landlord's Guide to Managing Property" is also available in a Kindle edition ($34.02).
Why on Earth Would Anyone Build That
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791381336, $18.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Why on Earth Would Anyone Build That: Modern Architecture Explained" by architectural and design historian John Zukowsky presents a global examination of boundary-pushing architecture challenges our perceptions of how buildings ought to look -- and reveals how even the most unusual constructions can achieve iconic status. In this fascinating exploration of 100 controversial buildings, readers will discover not only how each building was constructed, but also the motivation behind its design, and the ensuing debates. Readers will learn why erecting the Longaberger Basket Company headquarters was no picnic; why the Guggenheim Museum in New York City inspired hate mail from artists who would later display their works there; and whether Chicago's Sears Tower or the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur won the "spire debate," officially becoming the world's tallest building. Thematically grouping these buildings into categories that reflect their most pronounced features, architectural historian John Zukowsky discusses each structure in detail, interweaving relevant biographical factors and sociocultural influences that impacted the architects' distinctive designs. The result is a lively, generously illustrated synthesis of diverse architectural values, and a fascinating look at the past century's most innovative architects. From St. Louis's famous arch to the"Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium in Beijing, readers will learn the rich and complex stories behind the world's more unconventional structures.
Critique: An absolute "must read" for architecture students, professional architects, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in modern architecture, "Why on Earth Would Anyone Build That: Modern Architecture Explained" is a profusely illustrated, exceptionally informative, impressively written and presented course of instructive commentary. "Why on Earth Would Anyone Build That" is enthusiastically recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Architecture reference collections in general, and Modern Architectural supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
Banner of Truth
PO Box 621, Carlisle, PA 17013
9781848716155, $30.00, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Scottish Theology" traces the development of theological thought as it was worked out in the life of the church in Scotland after the Reformation. It is far from a neat and straightforward story. But John Macleod, in no way neglecting the details or the personalities involved, recounts it in such a way as to draw attention to the broad themes and the big principles that were at stake in the debates and controversies which took place amidst ongoing changes in the realms of church and state. At one level, Macleod's narrative is an historical document in itself a Reformed, evangelical, and Presbyterian interpretation of the events that it describes. But it is much more significant than a mere historical source. The issues documented the relationship between church and state; the authority of Scripture; the nature of the atonement; intra-church conflict; the persecution of Christians; the church's missionary responsibility all have a resounding contemporary significance, and especially so with the hindsight of the developments that have taken place since the conclusion of Macleod's narrative. A judicious consideration of history is a sure way to promote humility, and a careful study of Macleod's account will enable readers to appreciate more fully the distinctive theological inheritance of Scotland, and to be thankful for the way God has worked in his providence to use this heritage to build and preserve his church down through the centuries to the present day.
Critique: As relevant and impressive a theological work today as it was when first published in 1953, "Scottish Theology" by John MacLeod (Professor of Greek and New Testament Exegesis in what is now the Edinburgh Theological Seminary from 1906 to 1913, and Minister of the Free North Church in Inverness from 1913 to 1930) is strongly recommended reading academic library Christian Studies and Religion/Spirituality reference collections, as well as for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation with an interest in evangelical and Protestant theology.
Michael J. Carson
The African Queen
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316289108, $14.99, (Paperback), 246pp, www.amazon.com
Who doesn't have flickers of memories of the famed film THE AFRICAN QUEEN starring the crusty acerbic Humphrey Bogart, as Allnut- the disreputable Cockney, and the staid priggish Catherine Hepburn, as Rose-an unattractive brittle English Spinster missionary, and their danger fraught adventure wending their way down a jungle river in Africa in a dilapidated belching steam boat while fighting everything, including oppressive African heat, malaria, spirts of wild rapids, their own survival fears and least of all the brutal Germans of WW1.
If you want to build upon those spotty memories, or be introduced to it as a stranger, owing the film is not shown in re-runs like the weekly staple showings of 'YOU'VE GOT MAIL' and 'BOURNE IDENTITY', I say READ THE BOOK!
Yes, there is a wonderful book, first published in 1935, authored by Englishman C.S. Forester. Don't feel bad if you hadn't a clue that the genesis of the film was actually born of Forester's unlikely romantic adventure novel. I myself didn't know it until I stumbled upon it in a small library, an ancient tiny browning hard cover book, wrapped in crackling old plastic that smelled of old library that cried out "I'm a classic" while buried between piles of current cliche novels crowding the corner nook.
Once opened I must say I couldn't put it down. There was a whole new world to explore beyond the physical visuals of the film. You'll experience a wonderful wash of the characters inner hearts and minds throughout the adventure, their thoughts and feelings unrepressed by the limits of the film media, for one of the strengths of the written word is it has no bounds, no limits of shooting locations and actors lines.
The written word in this case expresses more fully the transformation of the prudish old maid, Rose Stacy, cloistered at a crude African mission, dutifully toiling at her brothers side, marinated in a religious fervor that kept her obediently stunted in the growth of her own personality - into a freed exhilarated woman of passion and strength-cast to the helm of a rickety steamboat steering it boldly through the wild rapids and thick mangroves with the wind and spray of nature assaulting her at every turn, determined to launch a counter attack on the Germans who had burned down the mission and killed her brother, in her way to "strike a blow for Old England."
And no less, CS Forester wove in the transformation of Charlie Allnut, a reprobate, self-centered, un-shaven hard drinking low life rat, employed by the Belgian Gold mining company as an engineer, who somehow gives in to Rose's mission "to strike a blow for Old England", (the 'ole England he had no particularly strong allegiance to since it was one that had relegated him to a permanent lower cast in society), only because of his growing admiration for her determination and spirit, doing his part by keeping the old gal-his beloved asthmatic riverboat with a belching boiler, going long enough to get the quest done. And most touching is his kind attempt to give her the one thing as an English-woman she desires above all, a hot cup of tea, by turning some swill jungle river water into a steaming pot of something resembling the stuff, augmented with a few lumps of illicit sugar he had pilfered only before the Germans had a chance to do the same.
The manifestation of the mismatched pair's joint force in love and purpose is most poignantly expressed in the metamorphosis of the cooing tones they adopt in addressing one another. "Yes, Miss," melds into a reverent "ROSY Dear," and "Mr. Allnut" softens to a gooey "Ooh, Charlie."
The visuals conjured in my mind from Forrester's written word were much grander and more palpable than anything Hollywood could create with a toy boat running down a stream, or sprayed water at some actors on a backlot.
The AFRICAN QUEEN is a delightful and fluid read, tinged with an Englishman's wonderfully eloquent turn of a phrase before it succumbed to Hollywood's 1950's whims. And if you can get a hold of the old browning hard cover book, even better, you'll find a great foreword about the life of C.S. Forester.
It may entice you to see the film again.
The Maltese Falcon
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781883011673, $35.00, 946pp, www.amazon.com
First off-Dashiell Hammett-What a great name! It oozes exotic foreign charm and wit though he was indeed an American.
And what is more American than the Gumshoe Novel.
Dashiell Hammett is the undisputed Father of the American Detective Genre. His colorful early Twentieth Century writing style depicting a corral of underworld characters smacks of attitude without the heavy vulgarity that infiltrates Mafioso novels and gangster movies of our day, though most undoubtedly they spawned from the influence of his writings.
Dashiell Hammett's complex stories sweep you along in a stream of colorful metaphors..... how about this:
"She was a lanky sunburned girl whose tan dress of thin woolen stuff clung to her with an effect of dampness. White teeth glistened in the crescent of her timid smile. Her facial prettiness was perhaps five years past it's best moment,"
"He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan. He smiled without separating his lips. All the V's in his face grew longer. His face was stupid in it's calmness."
......mixed with a puzzling collection of enigmatic characters who somehow fit into a bigger puzzle called the plot.
In the MALTESE FALCON, even if you have a hard time wondering who to trust, and you have no clue where the story is headed, Dashiell Hammett's language alone will keep you well entertained. You're swept along while treated to the banter of a street wise detective protecting the innocent or not so innocent dame from the underbelly, figuring once the wise-ass hard bitten hero figures it out you will too.
The author's words linger on a thousand minute actions that seem to speak volumes. Who else could compose, a paragraph that feels like a rolling melody describing the simple act of a ballsy detective rolling out tobacco flakes into a cigarette between his fingers.
Of course there are dead bodies, odd shady men, plenty of curvaceous woman, irritated coppers- all wanting to get their hands on a statue of a falcon, the history of which will leave you scratching your head, huh?
Within the scope of Dashiell Hammett's other writings, I have found THE MALTESE FALCON to be the crème-de-la-crème of his novels, the freshest of his works. By comparison, THE DAIN CURSE, THE GLASS KEY and THE RED HARVEST, I felt were infested with redundant characters- too many dirty rats, shooting from too many directions, too many times after which the star detective calmly retreats to a hotel room for a drink and a short nap only to start anew at sunrise, in the same small town with the another round of more rats, more chasing and more shootings. Who could be left after that! (Later in life, once Hammett himself recognized he had a "style", he felt it was "the death blow of every writer" so he stopped writing.)
The MALTESE FALCON in many ways reads like a screenplay, driven by dialogue, allowing you to be a witness to every scene so you can figure out the case right alongside Detective Spade. Though you might find yourself as stumped as he is with all the obtuse pieces of the puzzle that don't quite fit. And that's what makes the book even more worthwhile as an accompaniment to the movie...you can back-peddle pages and revisit the clues.
Most of the original snappy dialogue from the novel looks to have made it into the third and most successful of THE MALTESE FALCON films, made in 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor. It is in my opinion a true translation of book to big screen.
The biographical notes on his life are also interesting. He fashioned many of the cast of his novel characters from real life people he encountered while working as a detective for the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency. And it seems his personal life was as colorful as his stories, sopped with heavy drinking, affairs and subversive political activities.
The MALTESE FALCON is worth a read, or re-read, as well as the fresh look at the film if you haven't seen it. And maybe that's the mark of great writing, it calls you back to experience it again and again.
A Christmas Carol
730 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
0590412930, $2.50, 122pp, www.amazon.com
In 1834 Charles Dickens gave a Christmas present to the world that keeps on giving when he penned the book A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
It's simple message being- the importance of caring about others for the sake of one's own soul.
Ah, old Dickens, a man atop the food chain of early English literature.
For those who are reticent to face the effort of digesting Dickens brilliant but meaty early English dialect sentences that can go on for a paragraph or sometimes half a page, you may want to put a toe in the water with this classic. It's a compact 125 page tale, encompassing a night and day in the life of the old money lender Ebenezer Scrooge, described by Dickens as thus:
"A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner. Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him: he iced his office in the dog days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas."
In other words, he was not a nice human being.
In fact "Scrooge" has become a common place expression well-worn to present day we use to label someone cheap, ill-tempered, nasty, a party pooper..etc. You get the picture.
In plain English, Scrooge was the perfect candidate for a "soul makeover."
The catalyst of transformation for such a hardened character, whose afterlife was on track to be condemned to a living Hell, could only be made by some shocking blow. And Dickens delivers it to Scrooge; at the hand of a ghostly apparition of his former business partner Marley-a man cut of the same sinister cloth, a lovely young woman from his youth, his nephew who never waivers in his kindness for his beloved uncle, the crippled young boy- Tiny Tim- of his employee Bob Cratchit, and Death -which he's forced to squarely look in the face. Only a huge dose of introspection manages to pry open the old-man's heart, all in the cause of doing so before it's too late.
This book, as is the case with most of Dickens stories, is set in early 1800's England, among the pitiful squalor of the impecunious lower classes. He so vividly paints pictures with words, like a Norman Rockwell illustration, capturing the everydayness of their cold dark poverty tinged with a palette of burned charcoal and pale colors. Only "those with the spark of kindness in their hearts had flesh of warmer glow and tender bloom."
It was as if his mission was to nag at the conscience of 19th century English society with the question "are we rightly caring for the poor, especially the children?" For at that time there were no soup kitchens, government welfare programs nor the emergence yet of the Salvation Army corps, ( which actually was established in England in the 1850's), rather the condemnation of those poor souls to workhouses and prisons.
But even though this dark theme is encompassed in most of his work, it isn't all grim. There's always some ray of hope that lends to a happy ending. Some nobler character who steps up to the plate to make the world of at least one English- man or woman's life a better place.
Don't settle for thinking you know the story because you've seen one of the many film versions. (The 1951 British version with Alastair Sim- directed by Brian Desmond Hurst ranks at the top.) Dickens words on paper demand much more attention than the movie.
The best gift you could give the people you hold dear, is a READING of the original Dickens Book-A CHRISTMAS CAROL - ALOUD- as you huddle together in the spirit of the holidays, as they would have done 181 years ago. I'm sure it will touch a few hearts and cause a few shared tears and be a lesson to one and all.
In taking a worthwhile page from Dickens :
Maybe within us all, is the power to render (someone) happy or unhappy, to make (their) service light or burdensome, a pleasure or a toil. (Our) power lies in words and looks, in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count'em up. The happiness (we) give (can be) quite as great as if it costs a fortune.
In the words of Tiny Tim, "God Bless you, one and all."
Where the Red Fern Grows
A Yearling Book
c/o Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036
9780440412670, $5.99, 212pp, www.amazon.com
WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS is the touching story of a boy's affliction "by that wonderful disease of puppy love," not of the pretty girl kind but of the dog variety, a couple of red blood coon hunting hounds to be exact, "the kind a boy can play with, even eat and sleep with."
Written from the loving memories the author had of his youth spent prowling the hills and river bottoms of the Oklahoma Ozarks with his own hound, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS takes you on a wonderful journey with Billy, a young boy trying to prove to himself and his dogs that he can measure up to the challenges of the wilds and outsmart the wiliest coons around.
I was afraid I wouldn't have much to comment on beyond the storyline, and the great storytelling of the author especially since I didn't grow-up a rough and tumble boy, but as I read the book I found Rawls compelling tale encompassed so much more:
A glimpse into, "The brain of an eleven year old (who) can dream some fantastic dreams," and the sacrificing efforts a child will expend to make those dreams come true.
That the dogs we hold so dear become a mirror of ourselves, so human in their emotions, and in many ways become like our children looking for our acknowledgement, direction at our hand, our affection, our pride in them.
That there are hard won lessons in life learned when we're young that serve us well throughout our lives;
DETERMINATION-Don't start things you're not going to finish.
COMMITMENT- We must fulfill promises we've made whatever the hardship. "If a man's word isn't any good- he's no good himself,"
LOSS- Love, hurt and loss are a part of the cycle of life.
FAITH- That childhoods are filled with so many happy moments, "On my way home, I didn't walk on the ground. I was way up in the clouds just skipping along." Then so many painful ones, "Walking back through the camp I could feel the cold fingers of doubt squeezing my heart." And it's FAITH, that ethereal emotion we must cling to that helps us make sense of it all.
FAMILY- That Grandpa's and extended family can be the most valuable ally in a child's life.
Punctuated in Wilson Rawls down to earth yet rich writing are a garden of metaphors and just plain lovely passages. Here, a description of the fall landscape and the hooting of a hound dog in that very place:
"Looking to the mountains around us I saw the mysterious artist who comes at night had paid us a visit. I wondered how he could paint so many different colors in one night-red, wine, yellow and rust."
"Even old Dan felt the pleasant atmosphere. His long red tail fanned the air. Once he raise his head and bawled. I stood still and listened to the droning tones of his deep voice. The sound seemed to be trapped for an instant in the thick timber. It rolled around under the tall white sycamores, beat its way through the wild cane, and found freedom out over the clear blue waters of the river. The sound, following the river's course, rolled like the beat of a jungle drum."
There are many reasons a book earns the adjective of "CLASSIC." And this one has them all. WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS is a must read for young boys and dog-lovers, as well as everyone else. It's a mix of Old Yeller, The Waltons, a bit of Lassie and a lot of heart.
Full Disclosure: For most of my life I had no great love of dogs. As I saw them all they did was bark and bite people, annoyingly sniff and accost you. And though I was told to look them in the eye so they know you you're not afraid, yeah right, try that when your friends Doberman is gnarling and leaping at you. I could handle Lassie and Old Yeller...they were up on the movie screen, they seemed wonderful. But there weren't any Collies or Irish setters in my neck of the woods of New Jersey.
That all ended a few years ago when we were given a gift of a hairy frightened white Terrier Mutt, my husband and I call Abby. (Actually she was to be called Agatha, nickname Aggie, but when the big day came my excited husband uttered, "What the heck was I gonna call her, Abby? Oh yeah...COME HERE Abby.") My husband loved her right off...she looked just like his old bachelor buddy, "Oscar," (which was the reason my step-daughter chose her) whose whole existence was sleeping and following him around, whom he referred to as a Sheep dog, though whenever I point out the proper breed of sheep dog he always says-"no, that's nothing like Oscar."
I was thrown into the role of dog-mother without a clue and after many years of having Abby trailing at my side, after numerous trips to the vet, I have become a dog- lover and as my husband often says, "she's just like you."
The film version of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS is equally a CLASSIC.
Gnostic Mysteries Of Sex
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620554210, $19.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Gnostic Mysteries of Sex: Sophia the Wild One and Erotic Christianity", author Tobias Churton (Britain's leading scholar of Western Esotericism, a world authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism) takes the reader on an exploration of the sexual practices and doctrinal secrets of Gnosticism. "Gnostic Mysteries Of Sex" reconstructs the lost world of Gnostic spiritual-erotic experience through examination of every surviving text written by heresiologists; investigates the sexual gnosis practices of the Barbelo Gnostics of the 2nd century and their connections to the Gnostic Aeon Sophia, the Wild Lady of Wisdom; and explains the vital significance of "the seed" as a sacrament in Gnostic practice.
Examining every surviving text written by heresiologists, accounts often ignored in favor of the famous Nag Hammadi Library, Tobias Churton reveals the most secret inner teaching passed down by initiated societies: the tradition of sexual gnosis--higher union with God through the sacrament of sex. Discovering actual sex practices hidden within the writings of the Church's authorities, he reconstructs the lost world of Gnostic spiritual-erotic experience as taught by initiated masters and mistresses and practiced by Christian couples seeking spiritual freedom from the world.
Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Gnostic Mysteries of Sex: Sophia the Wild One and Erotic Christianity" is a complete course of instruction under one cover and should be considered essential reading for anyone studying the Gnosticism movement and practices of the first three centuries of Christianity. Impressively informed and informative, as well as thoroughly 'reader friendly' throughout, "Gnostic Mysteries Of Sex" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies, Gnostic Studies, and Ancient Christianity Studies reference collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists. It should be noted that "Gnostic Mysteries Of Sex" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
18 Wheels of Horror
Edited by Eric Miller
Big Time Books
9780990686613 $14.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Psychotic killers, devious ghosts, alien monsters, howling storms, undead creatures, and other dark forces haunt the highways and the truckers who drive them in these 18 chilling tales!
A ghostly voice on a trucker's CB radio knows more about his life than it should... Two drivers find their cargo gives them inhuman appetites... A boy in a truck stop encounters a supernatural force that threatens to destroy the world... The hypnotic singing lulling a driver to sleep might not be coming from the tires... A fender-bender between a big rig and a four wheeler is not as accidental as it seems... The sinister cargo lurking in a rock and roll band's fleet of trucks is unleashed at their final show...
Hit the road with this anthology of trucking horror fiction!
Critique: A diverse assortment of breakout authors contribute to this high-octane anthology of trucker-themed horror. All stories are brand new (written in 2015) and brimming with spine-tingling excitement! 18 Wheels of Horror is enthusiastically recommended for fans of oily thrills and chills. It should be noted that 18 Wheels of Horror is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).
Season of the Crow
Barry D. Yelton
Strider Nolan Media, Inc
9781932045567, $9.95, 332pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Civil War is over, but the battle rages on. Embittered former Confederates bring down a reign of terror upon blacks and whites alike in North Carolina's hill country. They soon collide with other ex-Confederates who want only to put the fighting behind them and live in peace. Once they were comrades in arms. Now these war weary men find themselves in a deadly conflict with each other. A former Confederate Captain declares himself a Colonel and forms a "vigilance committee" composed of a band of murderous former soldiers and local criminals. They terrorize, rape and kill black people in a quiet corner of western North Carolina. Meanwhile a humble family of ex-slaves begins a treacherous journey fleeing persecution and violence in Charleston to find Francis Yelton, an ex-Confederate they believe will help them find a home free from the hate and violence of the plantation country. Francis comes home but he and his comrades soon determine to return to Virginia to bring back the body of a fallen comrade. They endure a dangerous journey only to come home to a virtual cauldron of violence and fear. Once again they take up arms, but this time they are not fighting the Yankees. This war is with an enemy that seems as ethereal as a ghost but as deadly as any they faced with Lee's army in Virginia.
Critique: Deftly written by a master storyteller, "Season of the Crow" by Barry D. Yelton is a thoroughly absorbing and solidly entertaining historical novel from beginning to end. Very highly recommended and certain to be a compelling addition to community library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Season of the Crow" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).
Yahweh to Hell
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781491759899 $23.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Yahweh to Hell comes at a time in our nation's political discourse when the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room is Christian Dominionism. Renowned author and satirist Rich Woods returns, and this time he's got the twenty-first century version of the Republican Party in his sights. With an uncommon perspective and singular wit, Woods systematically dissects the runaway bigotry, social regression, misogyny, economic illiteracy and overall lack of rationale in the fundamentalist Christian dominated Tea Party/GOP. At times brutally funny, and/or gut-wrenchingly astute, Woods is unique amongst his peers in his ability to combine acumen with unapologetic mockery. Yet while Y2H oscillates back and forth between sobriety and satire, it manages to shine a light in the darkest parts of American politics. Indeed, Rich Woods demonstrates -once again-that he is equally adept with both a scalpel, and a chainsaw.
Critique: With a lightning wit and a sharp tongue, Richard Woods flatly lays out why religion and politics in America need to be kept separate more than ever before. Woods is particularly acerbic about the rising influence of the fundamentalist Christian dominated Tea Party, and its virtual takeover of the Republican Party. Yahweh to Hell is at once both uproarious and sobering, and even those who take issue with Woods' point of view will find his arguments compelling and his insights thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
The Raping Of Ava DeSantis
Rockefeller Publishing Group
9780996565202, $16.95, 418pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Set in 1991 in Atlanta, Georgia, "The Raping of Ava DeSantis" by Mylo Carbia tells the story of a working class college student who is brutally attacked by three wealthy fraternity brothers, then confronted with the decision of a lifetime: accept money to stay quiet or seek justice with the police. What she does in response is the basis of this captivating woman's revenge thriller that will have readers talking for years to come. With brilliantly written characters, bone-chilling, fast-paced scenes and a double twist ending, "The Raping of Ava DeSantis" is the perfect blend of suspense, thriller and horror.
Critique: Recommended for mature readers only, "The Raping Of Ava DeSantis" is an especially well crafted, compelling, and complex novel. It should be noted that "The Raping Of Ava DeSantis" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).
Jim Huggins & Russ Dougherty
Oak Tara Publishing
2206 N. Main St., Suite 343, Wheaton, IL 60187
9781602903234, $9.99, http://www.oaktara.com
Footprints, a story of healing and love, takes place after years of neglect and abuse in the lives of a young boy named David and a German shepherd dog named Smokey. It's an emotional story of restoration that proves the "God of Israel really does work in mysterious ways" as it says in Isaiah 45:15.
David grew up under the harsh hand and critical eye of a cruel father and resentful grandmother whose words and actions left searing scars in the young boy. After his mother's tragic car accident David's father left him with his grandparents and went away with his brother. The young boy grew up feeling "abandoned, alone" and rejected except for an occasional kind word from his grandfather who taught him about spiritual matters.
After graduation the young man enlisted in the Army and entered basic training where he was surprised to "earn respect based on accomplishments." His military service also taught him to be a leader, "a startling revelation to a boy who had been told he was 'useless.'"
When he left the military he searched for a dog to fill the ever-present hole in his heart and found a "beautiful German shepherd" at a German Shepherd Rescue shelter. Eighty-six families had tried to adopt the seemingly unfriendly dog but Smokey's abuse-caused anti-social behavior made him bark, bare his teeth and frighten everyone away.
However when David entered the shelter's interview room the typically unfriendly dog ran and sat beside him, even allowed him to ruffle his fur. Clearly Smokey had made his choice and it was love at first sight for both of them. Then again perhaps the dog saw his own need for acceptance and unconditional love reflected in David or it might just be God working out His plan in each of their lives.
Thus begins David and Smokey's entertaining and inspirational journey of transformation, a journey that would result in K-9 Reading Programs for children and Assistance Dog Therapy Programs for the impaired and elderly. Theirs is a miraculous story of healing, God-inspired forgiveness and service that prompts the author to write, "angels are real and some even have fur."
Black and white photos sprinkled throughout the book enhance and add to David's story and the amazing dog who became his "first angel."
Memoirs of an Angel: True Stories of Service Through Love
Oak Tara Publishing
2206 N. Main St., Suite 343, Wheaton, IL 60187
9781602901964, $11.99 http://www.oaktara.com
Memoirs of an Angel continues the story that inspired the "Footprints" book, screenplay, movie and DVD produced by New Shepherd Films about German Shepherds, Smokey, Cadie and Simba. The fictional character of David is replaced with Jim Huggins the author who lived the stories he writes about in this book. Click on live links for pictures and more information.
Huggins describes the most "unlikely of helpers for the most unlikely and surprising of tasks" in this amazing, God-designed journey that turned into a "walk of faith." The result of miraculous events he saw in his own life, that of the German shepherd's and all those they touched.
Smokey, Jim's first "most unlikely angel" who began the "legacy of shepherds" story is now a cherished memory. However the loss of the beautiful German shepherd who had become his confidant and cherished friend ignited Huggins' life-long sense of abandonment. "Memoirs of an Angel" begins with their story of unconditional love and devotion that concludes with a mysterious "crayon drawing of Smokey in heaven." Kleenex required.
Then there's the story of the unwanted shepherd in this YouTube video Jim would come to know as Cadie. She was "an award-winning shepherd - the recipient of the prestigious Boomerang Award," writes Jim. Cadie had been rescued by a shelter similar to American German Shepherd Rescue after three years of abuse. Animal shelters have animals returned once or twice from prospective owners; however Cadie had been returned six times which earned her the Boomerang Award and "permanent foster" status. An event that caused Jim to write, "both of us made the Dean's list at the School of Hard Knocks"
They had made the Dean's list and graduated with honors, however neither of them could know the difficulties they would soon face. From preconceived ideas about dogs, to ignorance of service dogs, political correctness and fear, all seemingly overwhelming obstacles. Such as the superintendent of schools in this YouTube clip We're done here who feared Cadie's teaching children how to read would make teachers look bad when teachers were in contract negotiations.
Stories and pictures of Cadie's first meeting with three-year-old Emma, and the shepherd's unanticipated introduction to Piccolo, the family's American Eskimo dog will prompt laughter. The story of Cadie's wild dash into the dentist's office when she hears a child scream in this YouTube, visiting the dentist reveals how unique and special Cadie was in alog with many other stories.
It's been a privilege to read and review such emotional stories of hope and restoration in spite of previous neglect and abuse. While some narratives bring tears, others prompt smiles and bursts of laughter and still others inspire hope and faith.
The extraordinary "Legacy of Shepherds" continues, now with Simba, a German shepherd who carries on Smokey and Cadie's tradition of children's K-9 Reading Programs and Assistance Dog Therapy Programs for the elderly. Their extraordinary stories prove,"Just because you have a bad past doesn't mean you can't have a great future."
Gail Welborn, Reviewer
I Only Quote From the Best: Revisiting Hollywood's Golden Age
Compilation and Noted by Candie Graham
Dedication by Ernest Borgnine
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578164434, $19.95, www.amazon.com
The author has a great idea in collecting many of the great lines in films from the years of 1939 to 1959 that are often overlooked. Many of these films still have life on TCM that helps them to find many new viewers. Films of this day had certain restrictions but they hold up even today and Miss Graham has done a wonderful job of collecting over 500 lines from so many of these older films. She also keeps alive the actors names like Melvin Douglas, Greta Garbo, Ernest Borgnine, and many others. Each listing includes the name of the film, the year and the company that made the movie. Movie buffs of all ages will enjoy reliving the golden age of movie making with "I Only Quote From the Best: Revisiting Hollywood's Golden Age."
Andy & Don The Making of a Friendship and A Classic American TV Show
Daniel de Vise
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
978147647736, $26.00, www.amazon.com
Daniel de Vise brother in law to Don Knotts, tells the most detailed account of the lives of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts in "Andy & Don The Making of a Friendship and A Classic American TV Show. We learn about the two men where they both came from, what they were like before they got into comedy, their first big breaks, when they first worked together. Later there is much more revealed about the Andy Griffith Show than ever before. We learn why Don left the show but came back for several guest appearances, why Andy decided to end the show and how there were several spin-off series. But the book does not end there because it is not just about the show but also both men's careers throughout the rest of their lives. Andy struggled until he got "Matlock" while Don worked in many films and other TV shows including "Three's Company" At times there are some negatives that are very surprising about Andy Griffith but the book is a very revealing look at two men who worked together to make the series "The Andy Griffith Show" the classic that it is today. Fans of both actors will not want to miss this one.
The Wit And Wisdom of Downton Abbey
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250093608, $15.99, www.amazon.com
Downton Abbey has continued to excel in world wide popularity for six seasons. We in this country will see the sixth and final season starting in January 2016. With The Wit And Wisdom of Downton Abbey it is easy to see why the show is such a crowd pleaser. Jessica Fellowes discusses in her introduction some of the reasons why the show is so successful, among them are the scenery, the actors and the writing by Julian Fellowes. As is true with any book, movie, play or TV show the first thing has to be the writing and here we see why Julian Fellowes is so good. These are many of the great lines the characters delivered each season including some from the new one. Reading the lines on the pages of "The Wit And Wisdom of Downton Abbey" helps us remember many of the best episodes throughout the years. No fan of the show should miss "The Wit And Wisdom of Downton Abbey.
Drinking in America Our Secret History
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455513871, $28.00 www.amazon.com
Susan Cheever in "Drinking in America Our Secret History" studies the effect of alcohol on many aspects of the country's history. From the Boston Tea Party to the Presidency of Richard Nixon she reveals many little known facts that are interesting. Covered also are the two President Adams and their families, other political figures and she devotes much of the book to her own drinking problem as well as other authors including her father John Cheever. "Drinking in America" at times has many shocking revelations of the role alcohol has played in our country that is a great addition to the legends of this nation.
Killing the Messenger
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455533763, $28.00 www.amazon.com
"Killing the Messenger" for the first time reveals how a major conservative newspaper tried to destroy the Clintons back when Bill Clinton became President. Brock was one of the people hired to do the job who turned on them because he could not live with the idea of making up stories to accomplish the task of the conservatives. He changed political parties and began to work for Democrats throughout the nation forming several watchdog organizations to monitor conservative media, operatives and candidates who attacked other Democrats. "Killing the Messenger" is also very timely as Brock takes readers behind the scenes of how groups are trying to destroy Hillary Clinton's campaign for 2016. "Killing the Messenger" is a fast paced non fiction work that reveals the dirty side of politics that voters hate in campaigns.
Climate Change A Brief History of the Last 50 Million Years
Harlow A. Hyde
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781937952822, $14.95, www.amazon.com
The author takes readers in "Climate Change" on a long journey through the evolution of the weather of the planet from the beginning to the present. He shows that climate change is something that happens very frequently throughout the history of the globe. He also talks abut how animals and humans contribute to climate change. "....every human being is a heat engine throwing off heat more than 40 degrees above the warmest year in history. The most basic human biological functions necessary to sustain life for a short time, particularly respiration, but also perspiration and elimination -all these heat the planet. Even human deaths heat the planet...Pets often require medical care, eat processed food, and use energy and generate heat in their own right." These are factors that contribute to climate change. What he does not address is what we know now as Global Warming that is caused by many different things we are doing to our universe. He also only uses a model of the 48 states of the United States and not what has been happening throughout the world. Hyde's "Climate Change" book has a lot to say but just does not go far enough to address the weather problems we have today
My Brother Puck
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781937952709, $15.95, www.amazon.com
Isabella is a young girl who tells about her brother Ethan who has autism. She tries to show that her Ethan is a person who thinks and acts different because of his autism. She even has a nickname for Ethan because the family went to a hockey game where he was given a hockey puck by one of the players. He then collects pucks thus the nickname stuck. "My Brother Puck" compassionately shows how family members deal with a member who has Autism and tries to teach other people that an Autistic individual is still a person just a little bit different.
Release Your Treasures
Twana B Fortune
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781937592808, $18.95, www.amazon.com
"Release Your Treasures" reveals that all of us have many different talents that we may not be aware of. The author shows why it's important to compliment people for what they do, when and where it is appropriate to use a cell phone and other electronics, how to turn negatives into positives, and many exercises people can conduct to teach how to look deeper into themselves. "Release Your Treasures" is an easy to follow self help title that is very timely.
Star Trek The Next Generation Warped
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
978147679058, $16.00 www.amazon.com
As a celebration of the close to fifty years of "Star Trek" there will be many new titles released in the next year. This is one of them. The Premise is that there is an 8th season of "Star Trek The Next Generation" that was never shown. Here for the first time are the episodes that never made it to the screen. Actually Mike McMahan has written a fun authorized parody of the world of "Star Trek" that is laugh out loud fun reading for any "Trek" fan.
Cathy Finch White
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington IN 47403
9781467061551, $17.99, www.amazon.com
A young boy named Bobby has a knee problem that prevents him from playing basketball on a team. He refuses to believe that he will never be able to participate in the game he loves. Through determination and prayer to God he never doubts that he will one day be able to play. "Bobby's Faith" is a positive message to kids and adults that good things can come out of bad if you make it happen.
At Death's Window
110 E. 59th St., NY, NY 10022
9781780295503, $28.95 (HC), 248pp; $19.99 (PB), 256 pp, www.amazon.com
To describe this book as a police procedural does not do it justice at all. The author presents a loving portrayal of the maritime community of Lynn and its surrounding villages, churches and even its graveyards, but it is the seascape along the North Norfolk coast that gets most of the attention, making it almost a living presence. The newest in the Shaw & Valentine Mysteries, it features DI Peter Shaw, who lives with his wife, Lena, and their young daughter Fran, who together run the Old Beach Cafe after having fled London six years earlier, and heads up a CID unit at King's Lynn with DS George Valentine, 58 years old, widowed and a lifetime smoker, a man who "loathed boats and the people in them," and "dimly aware that his life was in some ways illuminated by the deaths of others." The two have worked together for six years, but Valentine had worked under Shaw's father years ago and he and Peter Shaw had known each other for the 30 years Valentine had been with the CID. Other members of the force include Max Warren, chief constable; Tom Hadden, former Home Office specialist now head of West Norfolk's forensic science unit; and Paul Twine, "point man" on the team, all wonderfully well-drawn characters.
In the early pages of the book two cases present themselves, the first being a dead body discovered in the waters of Mitchell's Bank, brutally murdered. In addition, there have been burglaries at seventeen properties which comprise the entire village of Burnham Marsh. These seem to be attacks not only on the physical residences, but on second home ownership in general, something that doesn't seem controversial at first glance but which proves to be very much so. (There are apparently over 6,000 second homes in the area.) There are graffiti scrawls left very prominently in the buildings, each with political messages (summed up by one character thusly: "I don't think it's right for people to have two homes when so many people have none"). Lastly, there appears to be a turf war with respect to the lucrative samphire trade (samphire being "a slightly salty sea asparagus"). And about ten days later, another dead body is found. The novel proceeds at a leisurely pace, as the investigations of the different cases proceed.
This is the fifth book in the Shaw & Valentine Mysteries, and I must admit it is my introduction to them. The sixth entry, Death on Demand, is due out in the US in November of 2015, and I will be sure not to miss it. I have to assume that it too will be recommended reading, as is this one.
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Publishing
276 Fifth Ave., NYC 10001
9781477822180, $15.95, Paperback, 316 pp, www.amazon.com/thomasandmercer
The newest entry in the Detective Jackson series opens in the early morning hours on Friday, November 21st, the week before Thanksgiving, with the weather unseasonably cold and intermittent snow falling in Eugene, Oregon, and moves swiftly by its end to Thanksgiving eve. The pages in between that brief time span are filled with a police investigation of not one, but several deaths and other assorted crimes, including sexual assault and blackmail. The first sentence of the book is undeniably eye-catching: "Your daughter is a whore." This is a text message received by the mother of a young girl, to which is attached a video displaying an assault on their apparently unconscious daughter, together with a blackmail threat.
The scene soon changes to a homeless camp in town, where Police Officer Danny Thompson is doing what he does annually as the temperatures drop: giving out donated jackets, blankets and other items donated throughout the year to the town's growing homeless population, which the most recent survey had put at nearly 1,800. Shockingly, very shortly afterwards Officer Thompson is stabbed to death. The case is assigned to Detective Wade Jackson of the Violent Crimes unit. He is unable to work the case with his partner of 13 years, Rob Schakowski ["Schak" to all], as the latter was the dead police officer's cousin, as close as if they were brothers. Things get more complicated when the body of an apparently homeless man is found in the area, an apparent suicide, and the first assumption is that he is the killer. Schak soon has his own investigation under way when the body of a girl who has committed suicide is discovered in her bedroom by her parents; she is the young woman whose parents were being blackmailed by the pervert who had e-mailed the sex video. The tension builds as the sexual assaults seem to be escalating.
The other cops in the unit who readers know from past series entries are here as well, Jackson's mentee, Lara Evans; Michael Quince; and their boss, Sgt. Denise Lammers, as well as Sophie Speranza, a reporter on the local newspaper, now in fear of losing her job in that economically-threatened industry. The two investigations are the main story lines of this suspenseful, page-turning novel, although the always interesting private lives of Jackson and Schak, Sophie and Lara, are on full display here as well. A terrific addition to the series, with a shocking resolution, the novel is recommended.
Shark Skin Suite
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062240026, $13.99, Paperback, 336 pp, www.amazon.com
From the publisher: "Bottom feeders beware: The Sunshine State's favorite psychotic killer and lovable Floridaphile, Serge Storms, has found a new calling, legal eagle, and he's going to make a killing as a crusading attorney - - and star as a dashing lawyer on the big screen - - in this madcap escapade . . . When it comes to swimming with the sharks, there is no bigger kahuna than Serge Storms. Binging on a marathon of legal movies set in Florida, Serge finds his vocation: the law. Never mind law school or that degree; Serge becomes a freelance fixer - - wildcat paralegal and pilgrim to the hallowed places where legal classics of the big screen such as Body Heat, Cool Hand Luke, and Absence of Malice were filmed practically in his own backyard."
I found it nearly impossible to summarize the plot of this book; suffice it to say that I began and ended the book with a silly smile on my face, which was the default display for much of everything in between. As stated above, much of the novel is an homage to those classic films; to say that Serge is a movie buff is a huge understatement. In addition, the author captures the feel of the Florida streets in, e.g., downtown Miami: "The foot traffic was determined in the midday heat. Folded newspapers, briefcases, take-out bags with Cuban sandwiches. A teenager sprinted up the middle of the street with a fistful of wristwatches. A whiskered man on the corner of Flagler had been screaming and kicking his own bicycle for five minutes. A shopowner chasing the shoplifting teen was hit by an ambulance. One of the folded newspapers told of a mysterious eyeball the size of a cantaloupe that had washed upon the beach. Everything was normal. Pedestrians continued chatting on cell phones."
The author's writing style is certainly unique, and the resulting work is recommended. Just what I needed after a fairly steady recent diet of dark, death- and danger-filled books. (Although I should perhaps add that there are a couple of dead bodies before the book comes to a close.)
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616954871, $25.95, Hardcover, 304 pp, www.amazon.com
From the publisher: "Tom Bettany is working at a meat processing plant in France when he gets a voicemail from an Englishwoman he doesn't know telling him that his estranged 26-year-old son, Liam, fell to his death from his London balcony, where he was smoking pot. Now for the first time since he cut all ties years ago, Bettany returns home to London to find out the truth about his son's death. Maybe it's the guilt he feels about losing touch with his son that's gnawing at him, or maybe he's actually put his finger on a labyrinthine plot. Either way he'll get to the bottom of the tragedy, no matter whose feathers he has to ruffle. But more than a few people are interested to hear Bettany is back in town, from incarcerated mob bosses to those in the highest echelons of MI5. He might have thought he'd left it all behind when he first skipped town, but nobody really just walks away."
"Labyrinthine" is an apt adjective, because there is a lot going on in this novel. But that doesn't mean that it's difficult to follow, and the author ties up [almost] all of the loose ends before the conclusion. Tom Bettany is a complex man, having been a member of the Intelligence Service and spending the best part of a decade undercover before dropping out of the game and reverting to his own name and persona. But as the title indicates, and as the author repeats, here reflecting on those who have been in the clandestine services, "He didn't often think about his past, but that too was the undercover mentality. The person you used to be was sealed off, boxed tight, locked shut, and you walked away. But nobody really walked. . . His past was a collage of different identities, none of them realer than any other. And none, in the end, walked away from." And not to put too fine a point on it, "Nobody walks away, though. Everyone comes home in the end, one way or another." Now Bettany has returned to England after seven years, having left after his wife's death from an inoperable brain tumor and his son turning his grief into irrationally holding his father to blame. They hadn't spoken in four years, and now he is dead. There is a slow but rising undercurrent of suspense, the reader knowing that there is danger ahead but when it arrives, it is from theretofore unexpected sources.
I loved the writing. Just to give a few snippets: "Bettany had forgotten that getting round London resembled descriptions of warfare. Long stretches of boredom interspersed with moments of panic.... He liked being at home in the city, glass of wine in hand, looking out at the lights of London, tracing in their winkings and blinkings thousands of stories he'd never know. It made him feel like a poet, if not the kind who ever wrote a poem . . . To utter threats would have been the little boy boasting that he wasn't scared of wolves, because he wasn't in a forest. But wolves had a way of bringing the forest with them. It didn't matter where you were. It was where they were that counted." The novel is cannily plotted, and thoroughly enjoyable. This may be my first Mick Herron novel, but it certainly won't be my last. Recommended.
The Beige Man
An Irene Huss Investigation Set in Sweden
Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616954000, $26.95 (HC), $19.99 (PB), 310 pp, www.amazon.com
This is the 7th and newest in the series featuring Inspector Irene Huss, head of the Violent Crimes Unit of the Goteborg police in the west of Sweden and former jujitsu champion more than 20 years ago (now past 40). It is February, and they have been enduring a very harsh winter (not unexpectedly). As the story opens, the police are in hot pursuit of a BMW automobile which had been reported stolen. As the policemen are chasing the car, they witness that same car as it hits a pedestrian, sending him crashing into the ground before it continues to speed along the roadway, leaving its victim lying where he landed. Ultimately, the ensuing investigation reveals that the dead man was a retired police officer known to most of the cops looking for the killers. And things only get worse from there: Shortly after this episode, the body of a young girl, perhaps twelve or thirteen years old, is discovered in a root cellar a short distance away, the body apparently having been there for several months.
Her colleagues are still Superintendent Sven Andersson [62 and seriously overweight, with high blood pressure and asthma, now something of a lame duck, as he was about to move to the Cold Case Squad], and Tommy Persson, and Hanna Rauhala, with whom she was frequently partnered
The story lines alternate between the crime-solving and Irene's personal life, itself very interesting. Her home life centers around her gourmet chef husband and her twin daughters, now 19 years old and about to begin independent lives (always a challenge for the about-to-be empty-nest parents), and her mother, Gerd (77 years old and becoming more frail) and her 82-year-old significant other, Sture.
As the investigation proceeds, there are indications that sex slavery is involved, and the Human Trafficking Unit joins the hunt. The head of that unit offers "The fact is that human trafficking today turns over more money than the narcotics trade." The investigation takes Irene to Tenerife, where the body count rises precipitously. She is told "the demand from the clients rules the market. . . If they're ready to pay, then everything is for sale, and I mean everything."
I loved the tip-of-the-hat given to the late Ed McBain and his 87th Precinct tales. The plot is somewhat complex, but no less interesting for that, and the writing is very good.
What You See
Hank Phillippi Ryan
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765374950, $25.99, Hardcover, 384 pp, www.amazon.com
Jane Ryland returns in this newest entry in the wonderful series by Hank Phillippi Ryan. After having been an award-winning investigative tv reporter before she lost that job a year ago for refusing to give up a source (her 3rd job in five years, most recently at the Boston Register a month ago), Jane, now 34 years old, has been tasked, on a free-lance basis, by Channel 2 News to cover a breaking story, just outside of City Hall.
In the opening pages, Detective Jake Brogan, grandson of a former Commissioner, one of the city's top homicide cops and Jane's "significant other," and his partner, Paul DeLuca, are following up on a call to 911 about a man's stabbing, in broad daylight at noontime in early June along the "visitor magnet" Freedom Trail, across the street from Faneuil Hall. An ambulance is on the way, as is the Medical Examiner. As DeLuca says, "Wall-to-wall spectators, the good news and the bad news." In today's world, most, if not all of them, were texting, calling, and taking photos, possibly of the stabbing itself. This is the scene Jane arrives on, her video camera in hand. Right behind her is Bobby Land, a photographer wanna-be, hoping this is his big chance, waiting to tell her that he had caught the whole thing on camera.
A second story line introduces Tenley Siskel, working for the past 3 weeks at City Hall doing traffic surveillance, filling in during vacation time through her mother, the Mayor's Chief of Staff for the last 8 years, both of them still recovering from the death of her sister. Another story line has Jane trying to locate her niece, 9-year-old Gracie, almost on the eve of a family wedding where she is to be the flower girl; she has disappeared, apparently taken by her stepfather.
The author manages to give us all of this, which takes place within a 36-hour period, in page-turning manner, spinning out the suspense in her distinctive fashion. She also gives us a couple of instances of words to live by: "Families were not always easy," and "Why did all of reality have to be recorded? Life never just happened anymore. Memories had to be indelible, every event captured. And shared." The ubiquity of cameras/surveillance in today's world is inescapable.
Another excellent entry in the series, and one which is highly recommended.
The Forgotten Girls
Translated from the Danish by Signe Rod Golly
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 100017
9781455581528, $26.00, Hardcover, 320 pp.
9781455581511, $14.99, Paperback, 352 pp.
Louise Rick, forty years old and formerly (and for 8 years) with the Homicide Department of the National Police, is in her second week as technical manager of the Special Search Agency, a newly established unit of the Search Department. We are told that each year sixteen to seventeen hundred people were reported missing in Denmark, one out of five of which involve a crime. Those investigations fall to this unit, still in its one-year trial period. When a woman's body is found near the edge of a forest, the police are unable to identify her. When it is determined that no one matching her description has been reported missing, and that the woman appears to have been dead for about a week, Louise and her colleague Eik Nordstrom are tasked with the investigation, which becomes more and more complex as it goes along.
The woman's body was found in the Avnso Lake area, one which Louise knew well despite the fact that she had left there 21 years earlier, her family having moved there when she was in 5th grade and moved away when she was twenty, but still knew every road and lane and most of the people living there.
The characters, of Louise and her colleagues and friends, are wonderfully well-drawn. Each of them has his/her own personal tragedies in their past still resonating now, which is kind of the theme throughout this tale - decades-old events still haunting the lives of those affected.
The "forgotten girls" of the title were among many children housed decades earlier in an institution for the mentally disabled, who were almost entirely separated from their families and "left to their own devices," with life-altering consequences.
An absolute page-turner, and definitely recommended.
The Murder of Harriet Krohn
Translated by James Anderson
c/o Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780544570191, $14.95, Paperback, 256 pp, www.amazon.com
This newest book by the author of the lauded Inspector Sejer series is presented from the point of view of Charles Olav ("Charlo") Torp, a widower just over 50, unemployed for the past two years after he was found to have pilfered a relatively small amount of money, following the discovery of which he was fired on the spot. An inveterate gambler, and in serious debt, he is terrified by the thought of what the unsavory people from whom he borrowed the money have in mind for him as his debt grows ever larger. And worst of all, his greatest humiliation comes from the fact that money he had promised to his 16-year-old daughter has been gambled away, along with everything else. He has been completely estranged from her ever since.
He comes to the conclusion, out of utter despair, that he must steal a valuable antique silver collection owned by a wealthy woman in her late seventies so he can pay off his debts and start a new life, and familiarizes himself with her habits and the area where she lives. The reader sees all of this from Charlo's point of view, the events leading up to the planned burglary, and the crime itself which, as the title intimates, results in the woman's death when Carlo becomes violent after his victim does not simply succumb and give him her money and valuables.
The question for the reader becomes: Do I want to go inside the mind of a murderer? Surprisingly, I found myself sympathizing with him, despite the brutality of the crime, to the extent that when Charlo things that "perhaps he'll get away with it. Some people do escape," this reader couldn't help but think, "maybe he will," and wants him to do so.
The author's series protagonist, Inspector Sejer, makes a critical appearance relatively late in the novel, and what ensues is a battle of wills as much as anything else. There is nothing that Charlo will not do to try to salvage his new life and his re-established relationship with his daughter, but who will prevail? This is a very different kind of book, from this author and to this reader, but I do not hesitate to recommend it.
The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband
E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen
2143 Wooddale Dr., Woodbury MN 55125
9780738743509, $14.99, Paperback, 279 pp., www.amazon.com
Samuel Hoenig, the protagonist and first-person narrator in the second book in the series (following the wonderful The Question of the Missing Head last year) by E.J. Copperman, is 30 years old and still living with his mother. His business, Questions Answered, was opened six months ago in Piscataway, New Jersey, and as the tale begins a woman about 27 years old who introduces herself as Mrs. Sheila McInerney hires him to answer a rather startling question: "Who is the man in my bed who calls himself my husband?" She relates a scenario wherein she met this man at a party, shared a few glasses of red wine with him, and has no memory of the next three days, at which point he told her that they were so taken with each other that they married on the 2nd of those days.
Samuel was diagnosed at the age of 16 with Asperger's Syndrome, has an IQ that he describes as "barely in the genius range," and depends to a large extent on his mother to interpret social cues for him. He modestly says "I have a talent for observation and research. Most people have some talent. That happens to be mine." To assist him in answering the question with regard to which he has been hired, he persuades a former client, Janet Washburn, to work for him. She proves herself an invaluable assistant as he works to untangle the question posed, not an easy job by any means. When first one, then another dead body is found, things get much more complex.
The author's trademark humor is on display in nearly every sentence of this delightful book, with suspense ratcheting up till nearly its conclusion. I must admit to some moments of confusion with the large cast of characters, at times difficult to differentiate among. As I said about the first book in the series, perhaps one of the most intriguing things about this series has to do with the character of Samuel, whose Asperger's he believes is not a disorder, but merely a "facet of his personality." He tends to be obsessive about some things, e.g., the Beatles and the New York Yankees (which this Mets fan skimmed hurriedly). Although perhaps not suspenseful in the usual way one might expect, I devoured this book in little more than twenty-four hours. I probably don't have to add that I loved it, and it is highly recommended.
All the Paths of Shadow
Sizzling Lizard Press
B00BWVEL4C (ISBN 1618770039), $1.99 (Kindle), $16.63 (PB), 485 pages, www.amazon.com
All the Paths of Shadow is a very good steam punk novel. Steam punk is a style of SF that takes the technology of the late 1800s and blends it into new worlds. Steam punk tries to recreate the feel of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells while adding in more modern science and/or magic.
All the Paths doesn't create a completely new world but modifies our historic world into a slightly different existence and adds in magic. Meralda Ovis is the new mage of Tirlin. An accord meeting will be taking place that irons out the political disputes between the nations in this region of the world. Her king has ordered her to block the shadow of a huge magical tower for his key speech finalizing the decisions made during the accords. A group of other mages want the accords to fail and a new country has decided to be recognized at the accords. When Meralda first tries to adjust the shadow of the magical tower, she releases the locks of a series of spells that could mean the end to Tirlin. That is just the beginning of her problems as the first of many attempts on her life follows.
All the Paths of Shadow is well written steam punk. It doesn't try to do too much and it has a fast and readable plot line. It is an easy recommendation for anyone wanting to try the genre and it is a fun weekend read for those who enjoy steam punk. All the Paths is hard to critique because it such a smooth and effortless read.
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B007Q2X9WQ, $2.99, ebook, 332 pages, www.amazon.com
Greenmantle is a great spy story from a hundred years ago. It is a sequel to the 39 Steps of Hitchcock fame. It is a story that holds up with the best Ian Fleming's James Bond tales. Greenmantle has less romance than Bond but just as much action. The story is unusually current for a century old yarn. It is the middle of WWI and the Germans are trying to start a religious war in the Middle East to change the course of the fighting. The language and narrative are a bit outdated but they hold up well and have a more down to earth feel than many modern stories.
Richard Hannay is a Major in the British Army on leave in the English countryside recovering from battle wounds when he is called to London. He is told about a German plan to start a Holy War in the Middle East and is asked to volunteer for the task of discovering what the plans are and stop them if he can. He is given the opportunity to select his own team for the job. To solve this puzzle he will have to infiltrate the heart of Germany and make his way across Europe to Turkey in just a matter of months. Thus starts this nonstop action spy tale.
Greenmantle is a strong historical story that brings the feel of WWI to contemporary readers. The story is also better plotted and organized than many of the current crop of bestselling spy action/adventures. It brings to focus how fanatical religious fervor today is nothing new but something that is a part of history. A few people will force themselves to find problems with the language and social bias but the core story is more than enough to balance any modern societal qualms. Greenmantle is a must read for any action/adventure reader. If you like Hitchcock and Bond, you will love Greenmantle.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
The Magical World of Moss Gardening
133 S.W. Second Avenue, Suite 450, Portland OR 97204-3527
9781604696479, $34.95, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Mosses are small flowerless plants that usually grow in dense green clumps or mats, in damp or shady locations. The individual plants are usually composed of simple, one-cell thick leaves, covering a thin stem that supports them but does not conduct water and nutrients (nonvascular).[ They do not have seeds or any vascular tissue. Mosses are a gardener's dream. These emerald beauties thrive where nothing else grows, and they provide year-round interest in all climates. Deer-resistant and immune to typical garden insects and diseases, mosses offer erosion control and help prevent water run-off. Try placing these magical plants between rocks, along pathways, or even as a lawn for a velvety green backdrop. The variations in color, texture, shape, and even size will amaze you. "The Magical World of Moss Gardening" is an inspiring guide by gardening expert Annie Martin that covers the essentials for creating an extraordinary moss garden. With profiles of the best mosses to grow and expert tips on planting and care, any amateur gardening can now create fascinating combinations and establish a verdant oasis to enjoy for years to come.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is beautifully illustrated and thoroughly 'user friendly' in content and presentation, "The Magical World of Moss Gardening" is very highly recommended and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Gardening & Landscaping instructional reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "The Magical World of Moss Gardening" is also available in a Kindle edition ($24.89).
The Complete Guide to Making Wire Jewelry
Wing Mun Devenney
250 Wireless Boulevard, Hauppauge, NY 11788
9781438006550, $22.99, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Wire is a wonderful, versatile, and forgiving material for making jewelry and is available in an exciting range of shapes, sizes, and colors. Easily combined with leather, cords, crystals, beads, and stones, wire also has manipulative qualities that make it perfect for techniques such as wrapping, bending, forming, twisting, weaving, knotting, and knitting. In "The Complete Guide to Making Wire Jewelry: Techniques, Projects, and Jig Patterns From Beginner to Advanced", professional jewelry designer and teacher Wing Mun Devenney (well known for her stunning contemporary pieces) gives readers guidance for design ideas and inspiration, setting up the workspace, and assembling materials and tools; instruction on wire-forming methods for beginning to advanced jewelry makers, including the use of jigs, mandrels, and spiral makers; countless shapes and forms, repetitive patterns for jewelry chains and sets, and advice on how to turn simple pieces of wire into finished pieces of jewelry with handmade wire findings; step-by-step instructions for 12 projects, including earrings, bangles, bracelets, necklaces, and more. "The Complete Guide to Making Wire Jewelry" invaluable guide will provide beginning hobbyists and advanced crafters alike with the necessary skills, vision, and know-how to develop and create their own spectacular jewelry designs.
Critique: Profusely illustrated and thoroughly 'user friendly' in content and presentation, "The Complete Guide to Making Wire Jewelry: Techniques, Projects, and Jig Patterns From Beginner to Advanced" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Jewelry Crafts instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "The Complete Guide to Making Wire Jewelry" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.00).
This Picture I Gift: An Armenian Memoir
c/o Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780692030509, $65.00, 112pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "This Picture I Gift: An Armenian Memoir" photojournalist and visual artist Michelle Andonian visually documents a timeless vision of Armenia and Armenians. As Michelle Andonian comes to terms with the life of her grandmother, a survivor of the twentieth century's first genocide, she documents a journey that spanned one hundred years and three generations through photographs and memoirs. In captivating photographic detail, "This Picture I Gift: An Armenian Memoir" revisits and explores lost historical lands and landmarks, bringing them together with present-day Armenia to honor an ancient people determined to live on.
Critique: Beautiful and memorable images are compiled in a unique compendium showcasing not only a land and its people, but the photographer's legacy to future generations. Flawlessly reproduced and a delight to simply browse through, "This Picture I Gift: An Armenian Memoir" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Photographic Studies reference collections.
The Making Friends Program
Paddy C. Favazza, et al.
Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781598579215, $34.95, 152pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Bullying prevention starts with helping young children understand and accept diversity -- and the earlier that happens the better. That's why school teams needs "The Making Friends Program: Supporting Acceptance in Your K-2 Classroom", a ready-to-use resource that is a simple, fun, and effective way to promote social acceptance in the critical early years of attitude development. Perfect for K - 2 classrooms, "The Making Friends Program" presents the field-tested, research-based Making Friends program, a toolbox of adaptable, practical strategies that fit right into your regular school day. Classroom teachers will be able to help their students respect and accept each other's differences through three methods: 1) reading diversity-themed stories and conducting brief whole-class discussions; 2) forming small learning groups that encourage children from diverse backgrounds to play and interact; and 3) sharing the storybooks you read with families so they can continue discussions at home. Aligned with DEC/NAEYC recommended practices and the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, this proven program will boost students' social and academic skills as you create a welcoming, inclusive, and culturally responsive classroom.
Critique: "The Making Friends Program: Supporting Acceptance in Your K-2 Classroom" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in design, composition, content, and presentation, making it very highly recommended as a K-2 curriculum supplement. Simply stated, no elementary school educational reference collection should be without a copy of "The Making Friends Program".
Modern Curriculum for Gifted and Advanced Academic Students
Todd Kettler, editor
PO Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714-8813
9781618214737, $49.95, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Modern Curriculum for Gifted and Advanced Academic Students" directly addresses the need for advanced curriculum design in an age of national standards and 21st-century learning innovations. The text and its authors work from the assumption that the most advanced learners need a qualitatively different design of learning experiences in order to develop their potential into outstanding achievement, answering the question, "How should we design learning experiences for our most advanced academic students in the foundational curriculum areas?" "Modern Curriculum for Gifted and Advanced Academic Students" provides the most contemporary thinking about how to design in-depth courses of study in the foundational curriculum areas with a high degree of complexity and advanced content. "Modern Curriculum for Gifted and Advanced Academic Students" includes chapters articulating specific design components like creative thinking, critical thinking, and authentic research, but also subject-specific chapters in mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies to demonstrate application of those design components.
Critique: Compiled and edited by Todd Kettler (Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education at the University of North Texas), "Modern Curriculum for Gifted and Advanced Academic Students" is comprised of twenty erudite articles deftly organized into three major sections: Modern Approaches to Gifted Education Curriculum; Components of Modern Gifted Education Curriculum; Developing Domain Expertise through Rigorous Curriculum Design. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Modern Curriculum for Gifted and Advanced Academic Students" should be considered essential reading for anyone developing a gifted and talented school curriculum for public or private school systems. An invaluable contribution to professional and academic library Educational Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted that "Modern Curriculum for Gifted and Advanced Academic Students" is also available in a Kindle edition ($31.23).
Nina Rappaport, editor
Yale School of Architecture
c/o Actar D
151 Grand Street, 5th floor, New York, NY 10013
9781940291604, $35.00, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Nina Rappaport "Cultural Cues: Joe Day, Adib Cure & Carie Penabad, Tom Wiscombe, Adib Cure & Carie Penabad" is part of the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Assistant Professorship of Architectural Design series originally designed for the benefit of students in architectural design at the Yale School of Architecture. "Cultural Cues" includes the advanced studio research of Joe Day of Deegan Day Design in "NOWplex," Tom Wiscombe of Tom Wiscombe Architecture in "The Broad Redux," and Adib Cure and Carie Penabad of Cure & Penabad in "Havana. Housing in the Historic City Center." Sited in Los Angeles and Havana, these studio projects explore contemporary interpretations of the implications of cinema, the museum, and the house taking cues from their complex cultural and urban context. Along with the student work, interviews with the architects about the work of their professional offices, and essays framing the Yale studios are combined with insight into the pedagogical approach of these practitioner-educators.
Critique: As unique and instructive as it is inherently fascinating and insightful, "Cultural Cues: Joe Day, Adib Cure & Carie Penabad, Tom Wiscombe, Adib Cure & Carie Penabad" is a strongly recommended addition to personal, professional, and academic library Architecture reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Casada: A History of an Italian Village and Its People
Anna Comis, author
Isabel Comis Degenaars, translator
9781627872751, $20.95, 274pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Anna Comis was born in the ancient Italian village, known as Casada. For centuries, her ancestors had inhabited the "beautiful little country" surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains. After her family relocated, her parents' stories of their cherished native village continued to connect Anna with her birthplace. Years later, driven by a desire to preserve her heritage, Anna began collecting documents, anecdotes, articles, and old photographs. "Casada: A History of an Italian Village and Its People" contains the fruits of her exhaustive research. Half a world away, Isabel Comis Degenaars also grew up hearing stories of Casada shared by her father, whose parents immigrated to America in the 1920s in search of work and the chance to start a new life. A 2010 visit to her grandparent's ancestral home inspired her to translate her cousin Anna's book into English. She also relates her own family's challenging journey from the green mountains of Italy into the dark coal mines of Pennsylvania including research of early mining life in the coal patch of Francis Mine. From two cousins separated by distance and culture, comes a rich history of shared lineage set in a land that continues to inspire and haunt those drawn to its verdant hills and valleys.
Critique: Impressively well written and ably translated into English, "Casada: A History of an Italian Village and Its People" is an inherently fascinating and informative read from beginning to end. An exceptional account of life in a small rural Italian village, "Casada" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.
The Spirit Of Flamenco
Museum of New Mexico Press
PO Box 2087, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2087
9780890136089, $39.95, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Spirit of Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico" by Nicolasa Chavez (Curator of Spanish Colonial & Contemporary Hispano/Latino Collections at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico) is a beautiful book that deftly explores the origins, influences, development and appreciation of flamenco as a highly respected art form on the world stage. This folkloric tradition of music, song, and dance began in the caves of Andalusia and was shaped over centuries by a multitude of cultural and regional influences, including Roman, Jewish, Greek, Indian, and Moorish. Flamenco's introduction to the U.S. in the roaring twenties coincided with a "Spanish craze" and in the 1950's legendary flamenco stars including the Italian-American flamenco dancer-choreographer Jose Greco were popular attractions at nightclubs and concert halls in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, flamenco found a permanent home in New Mexico, a state with a large population of Hispanic residents interested in learning about and preserving traditional and cultural Spanish folk traditions. Prominent flamenco artists emerged including native New Mexican choreographer-dancer Maria Benitez. Flamenco's accouterments (costumes, musicians, instruments and dancers) are part of the story.
Critique: Informed and informative, "The Spirit of Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico" is an extraordinarily illustrated compendium that lays out the history of this distinctive folk dance. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Spirit Of Flamenco" is enthusiastically recommended for personal, community, and academic library Music History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
The Syrian Jewelry Box
Carina Sue Burns
Morgan James Publishing
4410 E Claiborne Square, Suite 334, Hampton VA 23666-2071
9781630475826, $17.95, 260pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Carina Rourke is a young American growing up in blissful innocence in the Middle East until at age fifteen she is captivated by an obsessive desire to search inside of her mother's forbidden jewelry box. Carina discovers a shocking family secret. On the heels of her discovery, she and her family pursue her father's dream; an exotic drive through the Middle East and Europe, which serves as a metaphoric journey for the woman Carina becomes a silent nomad searching for identity. When they reach Paris, the city's temptations engulf her. French pastries become a dangerous addiction and an accomplice in silence. And so does the love of a mysterious Tunisian. Many years later, as a married mother in Holland, Carina draws on her father's wisdom to finally confront the family secret to heal herself and her family.
Critique: An exceptionally well written and deftly crafted entertainment that will fully absorb the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end, "The Syrian Jewelry Box: A Daughter's Journey for Truth" by Carina Sue Burns is an original and highly recommended addition to community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Syrian Jewelry Box: A Daughter's Journey for Truth" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
The Expert Expert Witness
Stanley L. Brodsky & Thomas G. Gutheil
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
9781433820557, $29.95, 232pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In this expanded second edition of "The Expert Expert Witness: More Maxims and Guidelines for Testifying in Court", forensic psychiatrist Stanley L. Brodsky is joined by forensic psychiatrist Thomas Gutheil in the creation of an instructive guide specifically designed to teach expert witnesses new and improved techniques for giving effective testimony in a court of law. With sharp wit, The collaborative authors pull lessons from real-life scenarios that will amuse readers and prepare them for direct and cross-examination.
Critique: For over 20 years, Stanley Brodsky s books have been essential guides for psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals who are called to testify as expert witnesses. "The Expert Expert Witness: More Maxims and Guidelines for Testifying in Court" is but the most recent addition to a truly impressive legacy and should be considered essential reading for students and practicing psychologists and psychiatrists -- especially since it is quite likely that sometime in the course of their professional careers they will be called upon to give testimony in a court with respect to a client or patient. "The Expert Expert Witness: More Maxims and Guidelines for Testifying in Court" should be considered an essential, core addition to professional and academic library Psychology/Psychiatry reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Gearing Up for Learning Beyond K-12
555 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404
9781942496359, $14.95, 72pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Changing technologies-as well as demographics, economics, and education policies-are rapidly transforming higher education. "Gearing Up for Learning Beyond K-12" is a short, reader-friendly book that explores current trends in post-secondary education and focuses on developments most likely to impact its future. The author Bryan Alexander (a futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher, working in the field of how technology transforms education) analyzes why we must rethink our understanding of life beyond high school to better prepare students for careers, further education, and economic prosperity. "Gearing Up for Learning Beyond K-12" explores how technology has transformed, and will continue to transform, higher education; analyzes the cultural, economic, racial, and social changes influencing and creating gaps in higher education; provides understanding with respect to the reasons for a perceived cost/value crisis in American higher education; considers why the number of American students enrolled in United States colleges has decreased since 2012 in spite of an overall population increase; imagines the advantages that less expensive, alternative campuses may offer; reviews the learning tools that learners may access without visiting campus or enrolling in college.
Critique: Succinctly organized and exceptionally well presented, "Gearing Up for Learning Beyond K-12" is a quick and easy read that will prove invaluable and informative read that is recommended for education professionals, governmental education policy makers, as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in higher education issues and policies. "Gearing Up for Learning Beyond K-12" is strongly recommended for community and academic library Educational Studies reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Gearing Up for Learning Beyond K-12" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.19).
The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting
c/o Independent Publishers Group
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9780857842541, $26.99, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting: How to Raise Your Child, Help Save the Planet and Not Go Mad" by Kate Blincoe is a fun, practical, and inspirational guide for maintaining parental green values while raising children, engaging with nature, and getting outdoors -- all without feeling guilty about the inevitable compromises. Specifically written for parents of newborns to 10-year-olds, "The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting" takes a humorous and lighthearted look at all things green and nature inspired. Based on her own experiences as an eco-aware parent, Kate Blincoe's message is that it's not about being perfect, rather it's about giving it a try, feeling the benefits for your family, and having fun while you do it. "The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting" is a guide that provides essential advice on food and eating, eco-buying, learning and playing, family-friendly foraging, growing plants and food with your family, green days out, activities and parties, green parenting in the city, and balancing your green ideals in a busy life. Kate's pragmatic approach in "The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting" will inspire parents to balance green living with the realities of raising children.
Critique: As impressively well written, organized, presented, as it is informed, informative, and practical, "The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting: How to Raise Your Child, Help Save the Planet and Not Go Mad" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library Parenting collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.48).
Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture
Faye Hammill & Michelle Smith
University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E1
9781772120837, $49.95, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: As commercial magazines began to flourish in the 1920s, they promoted an expanding network of luxury railway hotels and transatlantic liner routes. The leading monthlies - among them Mayfair, Chatelaine, and La Revue Moderne - presented travel as both a mode of self-improvement and a way of negotiating national identity. The collaborative work of Faye Hammill (Professor of English, University of Strathclyde, UK) and Michelle Smith (Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, University of Strathclyde, UK), "Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture: Canadian Periodicals in English and French, 1925-1960" announces a new cross-cultural approach to periodical studies, reading both French- and English-language magazines in relation to an emerging transatlantic middlebrow culture. "Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture" argues that mainstream magazines were forged a connection between upward mobility and geographic mobility. Students and scholars of Canadian studies, cultural and social history, publishing, literary studies, cultural studies, communications studies, and print culture will find "Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture), a first in the study of Canadian middlebrow culture, will be a 'must read'!
Critique: An impressively written, organized and presented collaboration of original and seminal scholarship, "Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture: Canadian Periodicals in English and French, 1925-1960" should be a required addition to academic library 20th Century Canadian Popular Culture reference collection and supplemental studies reading lists.
Why, God?: Suffering Through Cancer into Faith
Margaret Caslisle Cupit & Edward Henderson
Resource Publications, Inc.
c/o Wipf & Stock
5369 Camden Avenue #260, San Jose, CA 95124
9781625644787, $20.00, 172pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A nineteen-year-old chemistry major at Rhodes College is selected to spend the summer after her freshman year doing research at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Instead, she finds herself a patient there, fighting a life-threatening form of pediatric cancer and suffering through a year of aggressive chemotherapy and surgery. Refusing to believe what many tell her-that the cancer was all part of "God's plan" - she finds solace in journaling and begins a discussion with her grandfather, a university professor specializing in philosophy of religion. Through her experiences and writing about them, the student discovers that she may be a person of faith after all-just not in the way she expected. Her grandfather has selected and arranged the journal entries and their faith conversation and has commented on them in order to bring out the spiritual dimensions of her experience. He learns from his granddaughter that faith comes more through experience than through ideas. Co-authors Margaret Caslisle Cupit and Edward Henderson hope "Why, God?: Suffering Through Cancer into Faith" will help other sufferers recognize the presence of a loving God in the midst of pain, uncertainty and death.
Critique: As candidly thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is simply inspired and inspiring, "Why, God?: Suffering Through Cancer into Faith" is a compelling read from beginning to end and very highly recommended as an extraordinary addition to church and community library collections. Especially commended to the attention of anyone having to deal with the prospect of a terminal illness or other life threatening affliction, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Why, God?" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
100 Things I Learned in Heaven
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781452522913 $35.95 hc
9781452522890 $17.99 sc
Synopsis: In her new spiritual, inspirational memoir, Karen Bauer shares with readers her compelling spiritual journey and actual visitations to heaven, where she learned one hundred life-changing truths from God and the angels. And through her journey, she discovers her life's calling and purpose. Although the author's experiences and journey are incomprehensible to limited human understanding, she tells her story in such down-to-earth language and vivid imagery that readers have the sense that they are traveling right along beside her, thus lending credibility to her story and profound message.
Critique: 100 Things I Learned in Heaven presents the author's authentic testimony of the her personal contact with angels, revealed through hypnotherapy. Heart-touching and enlightening, 100 Things I Learned in Heaven is brimming with hope, love, joy, and beauty. The wisdom of angels brings tears to one's eyes.
Jingle Bells: A Magical Cut Paper Edition
James Lord Pierpont, author
Niroot Puttapipat, illustrator
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763678210, $19.99, www.amazon.com
Jingle Bells - technically a winter, not a Christmas song - gets a deliberate holiday twist in this follow-up to Puttapipat's exquisite, 2007 cut-paper edition of "The Night Before Christmas."
A richly dressed, nineteenth-century couple in a horse-drawn sleigh are headed to a family Christmas gathering with an evergreen tree and a sack full of presents in the back.
They pass by a pond with skaters, a family headed to church and a caroling party before being greeted by family members outside a stately home.
Throughout, the predominantly black and white illustrations are punctuated by color - a red gift sack, green tree, red cardinals and berries in the woods, and the red skirt of an ice skater. Church and home windows glow a soft orange.
A series of paper cut-outs - Puttapipat's speciality - culminate in a fabulously intricate, delicate pop-up page finale.
"Jingle Bells: A Magical Cut Paper Edition" is a work of art, and the second in a growing series of very special holiday books.
Angela McAllister, author
Grahame Baker-Smith, illustrator
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763679644, $16.99, www.amazon.com
A boy name Tom sacrifices beloved wooden possessions - a pair of skis, a treehouse ladder - as firewood to keep his grandmother warm in a bitter, long winter. But will his efforts be enough to keep his grandmother alive until spring? And are he and a mysterious new friend ready to exchange their favorite, icy season for warm sunshine and flowers?
Winter's Child has definite mythological twists - the mysterious child is the indulged but ultimately reticent son of Winter. As long as he remains playing outside, the cold and snowy season continues. Only when he finally makes the choice to call, does his father arrive and whisk him home.
The boys enjoy a winter wonderland, playing by day and night. Amid deep drifts and frozen waterfalls, they meet polar bears, make chimes out of icicles, and ride on reindeer.
But as the situation with his family becomes desperate, Tom shares that woe with his new friend. While at first resistant, his friend finally relents and head homes so spring can come.
The story is both joyous - the complete freedom of children playing winter - and poignant - the desperate reality of cold and starvation, one child's choice to try to help stave off disaster, and another child's choice to allow change. It's a story about generosity and love, friendship - and selfishness.
The illustrations flit between breathtaking, glittering winter vistas and a pale, hollow-cheeked grandmother, huddle under thin blankets, who is resigned that she will never again experience warmth.
Beautiful in its storytelling depth and illustrations that celebrate the crystalline splendor of a powder snow bowl on skis; the northern lights; bushes and evergreens decorated, icing-like with snow; and even mythological ice-and-snowflake horses. The amount of imagination that went into the horses alone, and the illustrative skill required to bring them vividly to life, is spectacular.
"Winter's Child" is a beautiful, beautiful book sure to be a new winter classic.
I Am a Bear
Jean-Francois Dumont, author and illustrator
Eerdman's Books for Young Readers
c/o Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
2140 Oak Industrial Dr., NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802854476, $16.00, www.amazon.com
Urban homelessness gets a gentle face in this story about a bear who finds himself living on the street. The correlations to real-life homelessness issues are clear and purposeful.
The bear lives under some cardboard boxes, and is chased away by owners of butcher and bakery shops and grocers. People are frightened of him, and ultimately they come to pretend he's not there.
But as he sinks into the shadows, a little girl notices him - and despite her father's admonitions, returns again and again to be his friend.
Bringing issues like homelessness down to a child-reader level isn't easy. Dumont beautifully succeeds, with one of those special picture books that older children may get the most out of.
The illustrations help bring the subject down to a child's level, with scenes that capture the bear's sadness, societal rejection and isolation, but spare young readers the potentially scary intensity of a real-life situation.
It's just the right lens. Young readers will instantly relate to the girl befriending a sad, lonely bear. He's a soft, accessible character and the perfect catalyst to get the conversation started about real-life homelessness.
Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer
The Final Pet Stop
Helping Tales Publishers
940 Highgate Dr, Lewisville, TX 75067
9780989428255, $12.99, www.amazon.com
James Martinez, along with his talented illustrator has published another great children's book. This time he talks about grief for a pet. He has Patches, from "Patches Awesome Day", discuss this very important emotion shared by all of us with his "Fuzzy Friend". Timothy T. Civick has chosen a squirrel as the "Fuzzy Friend", although it could be any animal.
James addresses the loss of a pet by explaining "The Final Pet Stop" as a wonderful place where the pets are always playing and are never sick. He describes all of their activities and explains that there are different places for different animals.
Children will be comforted as they learn to deal with the loss of their best friend, no matter what kind of pet it is. The book is a great one for parents to read to their children as they help the children sort out their feelings.
As Patches says, speaking of "The Final Pet Stop":
"You only have to look to the clouds
To know that it's there"
The rhyming quality of James' writing is soothing and creates a very positive approach to a sensitive subject.
Be sure to check out his other books:
The Dinosaur's New Shoes
The Most Incredible Journey
Diamonds in the Ruff
Patches Awesome Day
Un Marillos Dia con Patches (Spanish edition)
And watch for more books by this gifted author and talented illustrator. Part of the sales of the books goes to various charities.
Kathleen Rice Adams
Prairie Rose Publications
9781503191655, $12.48, pb; ASIN: B00PJEEKCG, $2.99 Kindle
Kathleen Rice Adams can write - as witnessed by (no, not as an owlhoot) her years of journalistic (columns and investigative reporting), short story, ghosting and now her debut novel Prodigal Gun. Having read several of her short stories published in anthologies, I can attest to the best of the west (especially Texas) she puts into her work.
Prodigal Gun relates not only a western story of the proverbial range war, but the best of the west romance and twists that you don't see coming until they have passed you by.
"He kicked the door shut and backed against the wall. With a halfhearted flick of his fingers, he knocked up the black hat's wide brim...and Jessie stared into the face of a ghost.
Her heart skidded to a stop."
In that instant, 16 years fell away as Jessie Caine recognized a man she had thought was long dead. Through the pages of this well-written western, Kathleen Rice Adams tells a love story surrounded by a range war and hidden secrets that are sure to explode in gunfire or heartbreak, or both. Jessie, widow of Will, one brother and in love with Mason, the other allegedly long dead brother, has fought to keep the family ranch. She shows a strength that we don't see in many women in western stories. She had started a new breed of cow, then has to take care of a wounded Mason. Her feminine side is revealed as the storyline proceeds in Kathleen's description of the love that was re-building between Mason and Jessie. The range war of sheep men versus cowmen has all of the elements to shatter the lives on two ranches. The plot turns and twists really surprise and keep the reader enchanted to the unanticipated end.
Mason is a very conflicted man who can only be brought back to his rightful place through the love and understanding of Jessie.
Be sure to read this superb story. Kathleen Rice Adams will become your new go-to author. She knows her history and can weave a tale beyond all expectations.
Kathleen is a Texan, born and bred, living with her self-styled Hole in the Web Gang of rescued Chihuahuas, who keep her in line. Her Texas roots (the good and the bad) are shown in her writing and her steadfast support of so many of her author friends. You can read more of her stories in anthologies of short stories published by Prairie Rose Publications.
It's Always Sunny and Philosophy
Roger Hunt & Robert Arp
Open Court Publishing Company
70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601
9780812698916, $19.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the pages of "It's Always Sunny and Philosophy", contributing philosophers wittily and expertly uncover amazing philosophical insights from the endlessly fascinating TV show, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Greg Littmann shows how the values of the gang are the same as those of Homeric heroes. Christopher Ketcham argues that the Church should make Charlie a saint, partly because It's Always Sunny is "all about free will." Russ Hamer shows how closely the gang's activities comply with the scientific method. Kyle Alkema and Adam Barkman analyze the way the gang perceives happiness and how they try to get it. Charlotte Knowles considers whether Heidegger would consider members of the gang authentic or inauthentic -- and concludes that they're a bit of both. Skyler King examines the morality of the gang's behavior by the standard of how they respond to extreme suffering. Ethan Chambers agrees that each of the five central characters is a terrible person, but argues that they are not truly to blame for their actions. Fenner Tanswell demonstrates that many of the gang's wrong actions result not from immoral motives but from illogical thinking. And Robert Arp compiles a hilarious list of historical examples where people acted even more foolishly than the Philadelphia Five.
Critique: An inherently fascinating reading, "It's Always Sunny and Philosophy" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Especially recommended to the attention to the fans of the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, this anthology of articles is very highly recommended for academic library Popular Culture & Philosophy reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "It's Always Sunny and Philosophy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).
Fernando A. Blanco
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road
Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212851, $74.95, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Neoliberal Bonds: Undoing Memory in Chilean Art and Literature" by Fernando A. Blanco (Professor of Spanish, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania) analyzes the sociocultural processes that have reshaped subjectivities in post-Pinochet Chile. By creatively exploring the intersections among memory, gender, post-trauma, sociology, psychoanalysis, and neoliberalism, "Neoliberal Bonds" draws on Lacan's notion of perversion to critique the subjective fantasies that people create to compensate for the loss of the social bond in the wake of a dictatorship founded on individualism, competition, and privatization. Neoliberal Bonds vehemently criticizes how Chile's transition governments, through a series of political and legal maneuvers, created the state's official memory narratives. Blanco argues that the state, the media, academia, and the neoliberal market colluded to colonize and mediatize the "memory scene". In contrast to these official narratives, "Neoliberal Bonds" analyzes alternative memory accounts within the visual arts and literature that push back against the state, its institutions, and its economic allies. These alternative memory narratives highlight the ontological fracture of the new neoliberal subjects; they also bring into sharp relief the urgent need for democratization that still poses a challenge to Chile a quarter century after its "transition to democracy" began.
Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship, "Neoliberal Bonds: Undoing Memory in Chilean Art and Literature" is enhanced with the inclusion of eight illustrations, six pages of Works Cited, and a fifteen page Index. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Neoliberal Bonds" is strongly recommended as a core addition to academic library 20th Century Chilean Literary Studies reference collections. It should be noted that "Neoliberal Bonds" is also available in a Multimedia CD format ($14.95).
Walking the Night Road
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231167529, $75.00, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Walking the Night Road: Coming of Age in Grief" speaks to the experience of caring for a loved one with a terminal illness and the difficulties of encountering death. Alexandra Butler, daughter of the Pulitzer Prize-winning gerontologist Robert N. Butler and respected social worker and psychotherapist Myrna Lewis, composes a lyrical yet unsparing portrait of caring for her mother during her sudden, quick decline from brain cancer. Her rich account shares the strains of caregiving on both the provider and the person receiving care and recognizes the personal and professional sacrifices caregivers must make to fulfill the role. More than a memoir of dying and grief, Butler's account also tests many of the theories her parents pioneered in their work on healthy aging. Authors of such seminal works as "The New Love and Sex After 60" (Amazon.com, Kindle $12.99), Butler's parents were forced to rethink many of the tenets they lived by while Myrna was incapacitated, and Butler's father found himself relying heavily on his daughter to provide his wife's care. Butler's poignant and unflinching story is therefore a rare examination of the intimate aspects of aging and death experienced by practitioners who suddenly find themselves in the difficult position of the clients they once treated.
Critique: Candid, insightful, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Walking the Night Road: Coming of Age in Grief" is a unique and compelling read from beginning to end. Very well written, organized and presented, "Walking the Night Road" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Walking the Night Road" is also available in a paperback edition (9780231167536, $24.95).
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781785350726, $16.95, 257pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: It's August 1962, and Colin Crampton, the Brighton Evening Chronicle's crime reporter, is desperate for a front-page story. But it's the silly season for news and the only tip-off Crampton has is about the disappearance of the seafront's crazy-golf proprietor, Arnold Trumper. Crampton thinks the story is about as useful as a set of concrete water-wings. But when he learns that Trumper's vanishing act is linked to an unsolved murder, he scents a front-page scoop. Powerful people are determined Crampton must not discover the truth. But he is quite prepared to use every newspaper scam in the book to land his exclusive. The trouble is it's his girlfriend, feisty Australian Shirley, who too often ends up on the wrong end when a scam goes wrong. Crampton has to overcome dangers they never mentioned at journalism school before he writes his story.
Critique: "Headline Murder" by Pater Bartram is a skillfully constructed mystery that plays fair with the reader and hold's the reader's rapt attention from first page to last. Very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Headline Murder" is also available in an inexpensive Kindle edition ($0.99).
Latino Access to Higher Education
Martin Guevara Urbina & Claudia Rodriguez Wright
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398090913, $43.95, 282pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Even though it is the fastest growing minority group in the country, the ethnic realities of Latinos have received minimal attention. Therefore, with Latinos projected as the upcoming U.S. population majority, the central goal of "Latino Access to Higher Education: Ethnic Realities and New Directions for the Twenty-first Century" is to document the Latino experience in the world of academia, focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on first-generation Latino students in higher education, delineating the dynamics of the educational journey, while situating their experiences within the ethnic community, the overall American society, and the international community. The text focuses on (1) ethnic realities including Latino student access to higher education, retention, graduation rates, and career success; (2) analysis of historic trends; (3) extensive review of prior empirical studies; (4) a holistic portrayal of education in the U.S.; (5) a qualitative study conducted in an institution of higher education in Texas, placing the stories of participating Latino students in theoretical context; (6) vivid documentation of historically entrenched racial ideologies in American education; (7) exploration of potential solutions to historical and contemporary barriers confronting Latino students; (8) development of a model of empowerment for Latino students; (9) information for the establishment of a balanced educational system; (10) accountability of higher education institutions; (11) review of revolutionizing education in the midst of current globalization; and (12) venturing into the future of Latino education in the overall American experience. Finally, "Latino Access to Higher Education" seeks to examine not only America's racism that is evident, but also the structural, cultural, and ideological forces that have influenced and continue to perpetuate the current educational situation for Latinos.
Critique: The collaborative work of Martin Guevara Urbina (Professor of Criminal Justice in the Department of Natural & Behavioral Sciences at Sul Ross State University--Rio Grande College, and an adjunct instructor of Sociology for Southwest Texas Junior College) and Claudia Rodriguez Wright (Director of Admissions/Records and Student Services, Sul Ross State University--Rio Grande College, Ohio), "Latino Access to Higher Education: Ethnic Realities and New Directions for the Twenty-first Century" is enhanced with the inclusion of numerous illustrations, six pages of Notes, twenty-three pages of References, and a twelve page Index. An impressive and deftly crafted work of seminal scholarship, "Latino Access to Higher Education" is especially recommended for professional and academic library Latino Studies, Educational Studies, and American Demography Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Gubbeen: The Story of a Working Farm and Its Foods
c/o National Book Network
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781909487246, $35.00, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Gubbeen: The Story of a Working Farm and Its Foods" is an exceptional insight into the running of a farm that follows traditional ways of growing food and rearing animals. The Ferguson family produces more than 50 different types of foods off the West Cork Gulf Stream, Ireland, where their farm is located. Into the family's sixth generation of toil and labor on the scenic Gubbeen farm, the Fergusons strive to keep the land productive and healthy, ensuring biodiversity, sustained environment and animal welfare. In the pages of "Gubbeen", Tom and Giana Ferguson, and their children, Fingal and Clovisse, take you through the inner workings of each of their specialties: looking after animals (poultry, pigs and cows), cheese-making, smoking meats and growing your own fruits and vegetables. Tom has worked the land all his life, following the old farming ways of his forbearers while Giana controls the dairy as well as keeping a keen eye on the poultry. She also manages the award-winning Gubben cheese, internationally renowned as one of the best farmhouse cheeses in Ireland. Fingal uses the pigs to make bacon and smoked goods from the Smokehouse (and has a sideline in creating beautiful knives for famous chefs) including smoked Gubben cheese, and generously uses herbs from his sister's garden for his cures. Clovisse grows chemical-free vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers in the Kitchen Garden, and makes use of the waste by composting or feeding it to the chickens and pigs. Readers who can only dream about owning a farm like Gubbeen will find themselves longing for the rustic lives of Tom, Giana, Final and Clovisse. Readers will also find appetizing recipes that celebrate the farm's produce. Anyone interested in cheese, charcuterie or smoked produce will learn from a family of long-standing tradition. There are photos of heart-achingly adorable animals and breathtaking views of the lush green farm over the coast. Delight in the homey undertones of each family member's voice as the Fergusons share their time-honored philosophy and day-to-day stories over some wholesome meals.
Critique: Exceptionally well written and an inherently fascination read from beginning to end, "Gubbeen: The Story of a Working Farm and Its Foods" is impressively informative and beautifully illustrated throughout. Offering a wealth of unique and compelling insights into the operations of a contemporary family farm, "Gubbeen" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community collections and academic library Agriculture/Farming supplemental studies reading lists.
From the Great Wall to the Great Collider
Steve Nadis & Shing-Tung Yau
International Press of Boston
PO Box 502, Somerville, MA 02143
9781571463104, $29.50, 214pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson was a sensational triumph and the culmination of a 48-year-long search that put the finishing touches on the so-called "Standard Model" of particle physics. While the celebrations were still underway, researchers in China were making plans to continue the centuries-old quest to identify the fundamental building blocks of nature. More specifically, they began laying the groundwork for a giant accelerator (up to 100 kilometers in circumference) that would transport physics into a previously inaccessible, high-energy realm where a host of new particles, and perhaps a sweeping new symmetry, might be found. The case for such an instrument is compelling: Even though the Standard Model can describe the behavior of particles with astounding accuracy, it is incomplete. The theory has little to say about the Big Bang, gravity, dark matter, dark energy, and other far-reaching phenomena. "From the Great Wall to the Great Collider: China and the Quest to Uncover the Inner Workings of the Universe", co-written by Steve Nadis (a graduate of Hampshire College and a Contributing Editor to Astronomy and Discover magazines) and Shing-Tung Yau (William Caspar Graustein Professor of Mathematics and Professor of Physics at Harvard University) explains how an ambitious new machine on the scale of China's proposed "Great Collider" could provide us with a fuller understanding of the origins of our universe and its most basic constituents.
Critique: An inherently fascinating read that is enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-nine pages of color photographs, "From the Great Wall to the Great Collider: China and the Quest to Uncover the Inner Workings of the Universe" is a compellingly informed and informative presentation that needs to be a part of every college and university library Particle Physics Science and Contemporary Chinese Cultural reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. With the addition of an informative Prologue (The Next Great Wall), Introduction (A Clarion Call), an Epilogue (What Lies Beneath), twenty-four pages of Notes, and a fifty-nine page Index, it should be noted that "From the Great Wall to the Great Collider" is ideal for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in contemporary Chinese contributions to the advancement of science.
The Atheism That Saved Me
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781490886121, $33.95, 204pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Bob Morlan was a young boy growing up in southern Illinois, who was the product of a broken family. After dealing with the heartbreak of his family's dysfunction and brokenness, he spent time on the streets, and lost himself. Morlan, totally disillusioned by faltering role models, was filled with anger and rage. Without college as an option after high school, he enlisted in the army and while serving in the military, came to the conclusion that God did not exist. Years later in the face of an adoption that was unraveling, after the loss of two children, the emotional welfare of his wife hung in the balance, and he found himself in a state of despair. With absolutely no options left, his desperation forced him to pray to a God he did not believe in. Filled with light-hearted stories of his youth, poignant experiences in the army, a heart-warming love story, and the redemption of an atheist turned Christian, "The Atheism That Saved Me" is a religious biography will compel readers to examine their own walk with Christ.
Critique: As candid and exceptional as it is informative and ultimately inspiring, "The Atheism That Saved Me" is strongly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation, as well as all agnostics and atheists regardless of their philosophical perspectives regarding the Divine. "The Atheism That Saved Me" is very highly recommended for church, community, and academic library Religion/Spirituality reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Atheism That Saved Me" is also available in a paperback edition (9781490886114, $17.95) and in a Kindle format ($4.99).
The Liminal War
Small Beer Press
150 Pleasant Street, Suite 306, Easthampton, MA 01027-1875
9781618731012, $16.00, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A man with a questionable past and the ability to hurt or heal with his thoughts alone, when Taggert's adopted daughter goes missing he suspects the hand of an old enemy. He gathers friends, family, and even those who don't quite trust that he has left his violent past behind. But their search leads them to an unexpected place, the past, and the consequences of their journey have a price that is higher than they can afford.
Critique: A riveting novel that will hold the science fiction enthusiast's rapt attention from beginning to end, "The Liminal War" by Ayize Jama-Everett showcases an original and imaginative talent on the part of its author. "The Liminal War" is very highly recommended for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Liminal War" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.69).
Religion: A Discovery in Comics
Margreet de Heer
160 Broadway, Ste. 700, East Wing
New York, NY 10038
9781561639946 $17.99 www.nbmpub.com
Synopsis: Explaining the five major religions and modern spirituality in clear, colorful chapters, this illustrated primer is a great way to introduce a complex topic. In her easily accessible style, Margreet de Heer explores religious history and practices in an unbiased way and with a dash of humor, and makes it approachable for those with little knowledge of the subject. It offers a fresh look from different perspectives on the phenomenon of religion; the backgrounds and history of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism; and makes the point that religion is something that should unite us, not drive us apart.
Critique: Colorful, cartoon-like illustrations take the reader on a fascinating tour. The visual metaphor of "walking on eggshells" permeates Margreet de Heer's graphic novel overview and brief history of the major religions of the world, because religion is at best an extremely sensitive subject. Yet de Heer perseveres, asserting that religion is essentially about "experiencing a connection with the bigger totality". De Heer recognizes the importance of the major world religions, but does not sanitize their darker aspects, to the extent that she deliberately incurs accusations of blasphemy... from atheists as well as from fundamentalists! Religion: A Discovery in Comics is eyebrow-raising, forward-thinking, and thought-provoking.
Bauhaus on the Swan
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781742585987, $55.00, 158pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: German artist Elise Blumann (1897-1990) arrived in Western Australia in 1938, having fled Nazi Germany in 1934. With her husband and two sons, she set up home on the banks of the Swan River, and began to paint. Over the next ten years, she produced a series of portraits set against the river and the Indian Ocean, and pursued an analysis of plant forms such as the zamia palm, xanthorrhoea, banksia, and the majestic melaleuca, to brilliant effect. "Bauhaus on the Swan: Elise Blumann, an emigre artist in Western Australia, 1938-1948" by Sally Quinn is a study that traces Blumann's formative student years in Berlin and her first decade in Australia, where the artist reinvented her working method in response to the intense light and color of the local landscape. The challenges presented by this new physical environment resulted in bold and evocative interpretations of the land. Blumann was a conservative modernist, but the Perth art scene was not prepared for her expressive style, and when she exhibited for the first time in 1944, her art was met with bewilderment. "Bauhaus on the Swan" considers attitudes to modernism in Perth, as well as the influence on local culture of European refugees and emigres newly arrived in the city. Working in relative isolation and with little critical support, Elise Blumann produced a striking body of work, which prefigured a flourishing of progressive art in Perth from the late 1940s. As the first major art historical study of the painter, "Bauhaus on the Swan" establishes Blumann as a significant figure in the story of Australian modernism. "Bauhaus on the Swan" features over 150 works by Blumann, as well as many photographs from the artist's life.
Critique: Replete with flawlessly reproduced images of the artist's work enhanced with an informed and informative commentary, "Bauhaus on the Swan: Elise Blumann, An Emigre Artist in Western Australia, 1938-1948" is a major work of seminal scholarship by Sally Quinn (Curator of the University of Western Australia Art Collection) and is very highly recommended for personal and academic library 20th Century Art History reference collections in general, and Australian Art History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
You Are Woman, You Are Divine
Over and Above Press
9780990792475, $24.95, 352pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The modern woman often does not know herself as a goddess; her feminine energy is out of balance and her divine essence has yet to awaken. But the time has come, right now, for women to know that being female is special, sacred, and divine. "You Are Woman, You Are Divine: The Modern Woman's Journey Back to The Goddess" is an inspiring, poetic and magically potent book will entice women of all ages to explore and activate their relationship with the divine, feminine and most sacred part of themselves?the goddess within. Back to the Goddess founder Renee Starr takes women on an enchanting, empowering journey, offering ancient wisdom in a fresh, modern way to help woman reclaim all the beauty, grace, and strength that being female is.
Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Foreword by professional fashion designer Raquel Allegra, "You Are Woman, You Are Divine: The Modern Woman's Journey Back to The Goddess" is a compelling read that is as thoughtful as it is thought-provoking. "You Are Woman, You Are Divine" is one of those unusual books that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf.
Integration: The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life
Ann Betz & Karen Kimsey-House
Change Makers Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781782798651, $20.95, 188pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: We live in a world of both profound separation and deep longing for connection. In "Integration: The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life", co-authors Ann Betz (co-founder of BEabove Leadership, and an international expert on the intersection of neuroscience, coaching, and human transformation) and Karen Kimsey-House (co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute, the largest in-person coach training company in the world) explore not only the historical and spiritual history of our disconnection and its cost to individual and societal well-being, but also provide a compelling, neuroscience-based argument for how to make the next "great turning" of human development: becoming more integrated human beings. They invite you to accompany them through a road map to integration by exploring in detail the Co-Active model, originally used by coaches, but with practical application to business, parents, teachers, and anyone with a desire to be more effective, connected, and whole. Richly illustrated with true stories of integration in action, as well as current research in neuroscience, "Integration: The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life" provides a guide to reaching our full potential within ourselves, with each other, in groups and organizations and with society at large.
Critique: Exceptionally 'reader friendly' in composition and presentation, "Integration: The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Ideal for the non-specialist general reader, "Integration: The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Integration: The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Creating A Beautiful Mess
10 Yorkton Court, St. Paul, MN 55117-1065
9781605543864, $15.95, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Parents will especially appreciate "Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences for a Joyous Childhood" by early childhood educator Ann Gadzikowski because it is as much fun is it is helpful. "Creating A Beautiful Mess" isn't about parenting rights or wrongs; it's about playful, joyous play experiences for childhood that are universal. "Creating A Beautiful Mess" boils down the essential play experiences in an accessible, practical, and easy way. The chapters represent an optimal balance among experiences that support learning, provide physical activity, encourage creative expression, and promote social and family connections.
Critique: Exceptionally well organized and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, "Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences for a Joyous Childhood" is as informed and informative as it is practical and easily applicable for parents with no formal childhood education training. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Parenting Studies reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Creating a Beautiful Mess" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).
413 South Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
9781622034291, $16.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. It can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., something perceived as being positive or desirable). Addiction recovery requires a serious commitment, yet that doesn't mean it has to be a bleak, never-ending struggle. "Recovering Joy: A Mindful Life After Addiction" offers a deeply insightful look at how we can cultivate positive mind states within the challenging context of addiction. Through reflections, self-inquiry, and mindfulness practices, "Recovering Joy" reveals how we can better act in accordance with our core values, cultivate healthy and satisfying relationships, renew our sense of playfulness, and find the unexpected joys in the journey of recovery.
Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Recovering Joy: A Mindful Life After Addiction" is an informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. A compelling read from beginning to end, "Recovering Joy" will prove to be of significant value to anyone struggling the problems of addiction. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Health/Medicine reference collections is general, and Addiction Treatment supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for the non-specialist general reader that "Recovering Joy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
It's My Life: My Struggle with Mental Illness
Biographical Publishing Company
95 Sycamore Drive, Prospect, CT 06712-1493
9780991352180, $15.95, 147pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: When she wrote "It's My Life: My Struggle with Mental Illness", Irma Desjardins-Kelly was a 69 year old woman, mother of 2 children, a faithful wife for the past 34 years and had lived all her life in Canada in the beautiful Maritime provinces on the Atlantic coast. Irma had a happy childhood, was the third child of a family of 11 children and the oldest of 6 girls. At seventeen, Irma entered a cloister in Montreal, Quebec. Two years later, she started to have mental health problems. Irma was hospitalized 6 or 7 times and barely earned her living by holding on to several jobs while being sick. Under psychiatric care during a 15 year period, Irma's psychiatrist had promised her to "get me out of there". With much constant struggle and iron will Irma finally came out of my misery. At the age of 35, Irma got married and then became a mother at the age of 37, and again at the age of 45. Irma now live in Moncton, New-Brunswick and prior to her retirement, worked for several years in a transition home for people suffering from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
Critique: Exceptionally well written with an impressive candor, "It's My Life: My Struggle with Mental Illness" is an inherently fascinating read from beginning to end -- and one that will be especially interesting to anyone struggling with a mental illness of their own and wondering if their lives will ever be able to turn out to their satisfaction. "It's My Life" is very highly recommended for community library biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "It's My Life" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.95).
Red Deer Press
c/o Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited
195 Allstate Parkway, Markham, Ontario, Canada, L3R 4T8
9780889955387, $14.95, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In 1916, scientist William Dawe leads a palaeontological expedition into the badlands of Alberta, obsessed with achieving world renown by discovering dinosaur fossils. Fifty years later, his daughter, Anna, enters these same badlands. In her visit to the expedition site, she exposes not only the absurdity of her father's work, but also the folly of his male ambition.
Critique: An impressively well crafted novel and one that holds the reader's full attention from beginning to end, "Badlands" by Robert Kroetsch is a compelling read and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists it should be noted that "Badlands" won the Governor Generals Award for Literature.
Bridget Burke Ravizza & Julie Donovan Massey
The Liturgical Press
St. John's Abbey, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321-7500
9780814637043, $19.95, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Project Holiness: Marriage as a Workshop for Everyday Saints" celebrates the holiness of the ordinary and the goodness of married discipleship. Vatican II's Lumen Gentium reminds all Roman Catholics of the universal call to holiness. Each person, lay and ordained alike, shares this vocation to holiness, this call to sainthood. For most adult Catholics, it is within the context of vowed, married life that the joyful and challenging path to sainthood is traveled. Based on an extensive qualitative study of long-lasting Catholic marriages, Bridget Burke Ravizza (Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin) and Julie Donovan Massey (Senior Director for Mission and Ministry at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin) examine the virtues, values, and practices that ground flourishing marriages and lead married partners to holiness.
Critique: An impressive and collaborative work, "Project Holiness: Marriage as a Workshop for Everyday Saints" is enhanced with the inclusion of a ten page Appendix; eighteen pages of Notes; and an eighteen page Index. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Project Holiness" is highly recommended for church and seminary Christian Studies reference collections. Ideal for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in Catholic perspectives on the subject of marriage, it should be noted that "Project Holiness" is also available in Kindle edition ($15.99).
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0451
9780878397945, $14.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Vices are outlawed in Cloquet in 1918 except on the Island. There, loggers can have the time of their lives with drink, women of the night, and poker games. When the city is threatened by fire, the virtuous citizens of Cloquet have to overcome their prejudice in order to survive. Everything is destroyed except the Island. As one reporter commented, "The Devil takes care of his own."
Critique: "The Island" is a superbly crafted novel from beginning to end and showcases author Nancy Lee's clearly impressive storytelling talents. Very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Island" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Exploring Tarot Using Radiant Rider-Waite
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
9781572818095, $14.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Written with thoroughness and clarity by Avia Venefica (a certified medium, tarotist, and dream interpreter), "Exploring Tarot Using Radiant Rider-Waite" is an insightful guide that walks the reader through the meanings of each of the 78 cards and explains how to interpret them in a spread. Illustrated with the Radiant Rider- Waite Tarot, this instruction manual is a thoroughly user friendly handbook for beginners as well as of enduring value to experienced readers wanting to refresh their tarot skills.
Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Exploring Tarot Using Radiant Rider-Waite" is a complete course of instruction under one cover and very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies reference collections in general, and Tarot Reading supplemental studies lists in particular.
The Spiritual Awakening Guide
Mary Mueller Shutan
Delft Cottage, Dykle Forres Iv36 2TF, Scotland, UK
9781844096718, $19.95, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "The Spiritual Awakening Guide: Kundalini, Psychic Abilities, and the Conditioned Layers of Reality", Mary Mueller Shutan (an acupuncturist, herbalist, CranioSacral therapist, Zero Balancer, and spiritual healer) presents the concept of the twelve layers that cover an awakened state. Ms. Shutan has synthesized years of research and seeking into a comprehensive guide to awakening. She addresses every step of the spiritual journey, starting with the Self and showing how family, ancestral, past lives, karmic, archetypal, and other larger layers such as societal, cultural, global, and cosmic energies condition us to sleep and obscure our realization of an awakened state. Instructions for how to navigate through each of these layers and how to recognize where we are in our spiritual journey are included each step of the way along with common physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms that may be experienced.
Critique: An inherently fascinating read, "The Spiritual Awakening Guide: Kundalini, Psychic Abilities, and the Conditioned Layers of Reality" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Spiritual Awakening Guide" is completely 'user friendly' and commended to the attention of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in metaphysical studies. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Spiritual Awakening Guide" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
God Speaks: What He Says, What He Means
Craig A. Evans
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617954818, $15.99, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Explore and examine the depth of the Bible with evangelical scholar Dr. Craig Evans in the pages of "God Speaks: What He Says, What He Means". No matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the Bible, "God Speaks" will bring its timeless truth alive as you view it with fresh eyes and apply its restorative power to your life. Far from a dusty old book of do's and don'ts, the Bible is a relevant and eternal message of love and reconciliation that holds the power to shape society and transform lives. Dr. Craig Evans, a consultant on Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's blockbuster miniseries The Bible, unfolds Scripture with compelling clarity. "God Speaks" will equip you to provide answers to skeptics' questions about the Bible's true message. "God Speaks: What He Says, What He Means" examines the Bible as a force for progress in economics, justice, charity, and human rights; explores the Bible's power to shape culture and transform individual lives; extols God's deeply resonant message of forgiveness and hope for all; and equips readers with tools to understand Scripture to apply its ever-enduring precepts to daily living.
Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized and presented, "God Speaks: What He Says, What He Means" should be considered critical important reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted that "God Speaks: What He Says, What He Means" is also available for personal reading lists in a Kindle edition ($10.49).
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781938436116, $15.95, 244pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Dot Meyerhoff has barely settled into her new job as a psychologist for the Kenilworth Police Department when Ben Gomez, a troubled young rookie that she tries to counsel, commits suicide without any warning and leaves a note blaming her. Overnight, her promising new start becomes a nightmare. At stake is her job, her reputation, her license to practice, and her already battered sense of self-worth. Dot resolves to find out not just what led Ben to kill himself, but why her psychologist ex husband, the man she most wants to avoid, recommended that Ben be hired in the first place. Ben's surviving family and everyone else connected to him are determined to keep Ben's story a secret, by any means necessary. Even Ben, from the grave, has secrets to keep. Right from the start, Dot's investigation efforts get her into trouble. First she alienates Ben's training officer, who is barely managing to hold onto his own job. With the police chief watching over her shoulder, she tries to help the officer with disastrous consequences. After reaching out to console Ben's pregnant--and slightly sociopathic--widow, Dot winds up embroiled in the affairs of her incredibly dysfunctional family. Dot's troubles are compounded by a post-divorce romance, the ex who still has a hold over her, and an unwelcome visit from his new wife. By the time she uncovers the real reasons behind Ben's suicide and brings the people responsible to justice, Dot has not only resurrected belief in herself, she has also acquired some surprisingly useful new skills: impersonating a public official, burglary, and assault with a deadly weapon.
Critique: A deftly crafted novel of compelling complexity, "Burying Ben" is an inherently absorbing read from beginning to end and marks author Ellen Kirschman as a novelist of exceptional storytelling talent. Very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Burying Ben" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).
To Light a Fire
Terry Blackhawk & Peter Markus, editors
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814341179, $16.95, 168pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The InsideOut Literary Arts Project (iO) began in 1995 in five Detroit high schools, with weekly classroom visits by a writer-in-residence, the publication of a literary journal for each school, and the mission of encouraging students to use poetry to "think broadly, create bravely, and share their voices with the wider world." Twenty years later, the program serves some five thousand K-12 students per year, has received national exposure and accolades (including a recent visit to the White House), and has seen numerous student writers recognized for their creativity and performance. In "To Light a Fire: 20 Years with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project", founding director Terry Blackhawk and senior writer Peter Markus collect the experiences of writers who have participated in InsideOut over the years to give readers an inside look at the urban classroom and the creative spark of Detroit's students. In short and insightful essays, contributors discuss how iO's creative magic happened during the course of their work in Detroit schools. Poets such as Jamaal May, John Rybicki, Robert Fanning, and Francine J. Harris describe the many ways that poetry can be used as a tool to reach others, and how poetic work shaped them as teachers in return. Contributors describe nurturing a love of language, guiding excursions into imagination, and helping students find their own voices. They also describe the difficulties of getting through to kids, the challenges of oversized classrooms, and of working with children who seem to have been forgotten. Despite their own frequent angst and personal uncertainties about doing the right thing, they describe the joys and rewards that come from believing in students and supporting the risks that they take as writers. "To Light a Fire" captures the story-one poet, poem, and poetic moment at a time-of helping students to discover they can imagine, dream, and speak in a way that will make people listen. Fellow educators, poets, and creative writers will be moved and inspired by this collection.
Critique: As impressive as the project it documents, "To Light a Fire: 20 Years with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project" is part of the outstanding Wayne State University Press 'Made in Michigan Writers Series' and an exceptionally well organized and presented compendium of twenty-two erudite and informative article essays that provide exceptional insight and an occasional inspiration for the reader. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Literary Arts Education reference collections and supplemental studies curriculums, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "To Light a Fire" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.74).
Leading with Purpose
Over and Above Press
9780990792437, $24.95, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Imagine every employee in a company galvanized around a common vision and a shared purpose, treating that company as if it were their own, clearly understanding their specific role, managing the day-to-day chaos, and staying focused on the goals that matter most. Now imagine being the transformational and visionary leader of this company. "Leading with Purpose: How to Engage, Empower & Encourage Your People to Reach Their Full Potential" by author and business management expert Marc Koehler provides a practical blueprint to make this happen. It takes the reader step-by-step through the creation of a simple, but powerful "one-page" plan and then shows how to use it to develop an engaged and empowered team that collectively drives success, solves problems, and manages change. Of special note is the inclusion of a one page plan that coordinates with the Leading with Purpose online platform (www.leadwithpurpose.com) to which all readers get a free trial.
Critique: Impressive well written, exceptionally well informed and informative, "Leading with Purpose: How to Engage, Empower & Encourage Your People to Reach Their Full Potential" should be considered a 'must read' for anyone having the responsibility for corporate management at any level. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and content, "Leading with Purpose" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, corporate, community, and academic library Business Management reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
You've Heard These Hands
Don Randi & Karen Nishimura
Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing
33 Plymouth St, Suite 302, Montclair, NJ 07042
9781495008825, $24.99, 254pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Even if they weren't aware of it, as a keyboard musician, composer, arranger, music director, and record producer, Don Randi has thrilled music lovers for years. He played keyboards on over a thousand popular recordings and was a member of the remarkable "Wrecking Crew" of studio musicians during the explosive pop music era of the 1960s and early 1970s. Nancy Sinatra, the Beach Boys, the Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr., Neil Diamond, and Linda Ronstadt are among the many music greats Randi has worked with and writes about in You've Heard These Hands . For many years, only music industry insiders, close friends, and jazz fans who visit Randi's nightclub, the Baked Potato, have heard him tell some of the amazing, heartfelt, and hilarious personal stories in this collection. Now everyone can discover the in-studio, behind-the-scenes, and on-tour tales from the man whose hands we've heard playing on our favorite hit tunes. "You've Heard These Hands: From the Wall of Sound to the Wrecking Crew and Other Incredible Stories" will capture the attention and emotion of its readers, who won't be able to resist sharing Randi's stories with their friends.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "You've Heard These Hands: From the Wall of Sound to the Wrecking Crew and Other Incredible Stories" is essential reading for the legions of Don Randi fans and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library American Music History collections.
The People's Lawyer
Frank J. Kelley & Jack Lessenberry
c/o Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814341322, $34.99, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: After several years as a small-town lawyer in Alpena, Frank J. Kelley was unexpectedly appointed Michigan's attorney general at the end of 1961. He never suspected that he would continue to serve until 1999, a national record. During that time, he worked with everyone from John and Bobby Kennedy to Bill Clinton and jump-started the careers of dozens of politicians and public figures, including U.S. Senator Carl Levin and Governors James Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm. In The People's Lawyer: The Life and Times of Frank J. Kelley, the Nation's Longest-Serving Attorney General, Kelley and co-author Jack Lessenberry reflect on the personal and professional journey of the so-called godfather of the Michigan Democratic Party during his incredible life and thirty-seven years in office. "The People's Lawyer" chronicles Kelley's early life as the son of second-generation Irish immigrants, whose father, Frank E. Kelley, started out as a Detroit saloon keeper and became a respected Democratic Party leader. Kelley tells of becoming the first of his family to go to college and law school, his early days as a lawyer in northern Michigan, and how he transformed the office of attorney general as an active crusader for the people. Among other accomplishments, Kelley describes establishing the first Office of Consumer Protection in the country, taking on Michigan's public utility companies, helping to end racially restrictive real estate practices, and helping to initiate the multibillion-dollar Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in 1998. Kelley frames his work against a backdrop of the social and political upheaval of his times, including the 1967 Detroit riots, the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. All those interested in American history and legal history will enjoy this highly readable, entertaining account of Kelley's life of public service.
Critique: An inherently fascinating and exceptionally well written read from beginning to end, "The People's Lawyer: The Life and Times of Frank J. Kelley, the Nation's Longest-Serving Attorney General" is strongly recommended for both community and academic library American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The People's Lawyer" is also available in a Kindle edition ($24.09).
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781612518602, $32.95, 248pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: From unpromising beginnings in March 1942, the Allied submarine base at Fremantle on the west coast of Australia became a vital part of the Allied offensive against Japan. Pushed back from the Philippines and the Netherlands' East Indies, American submariners, accompanied by a small group of Dutch forces, retreated to Fremantle as a last resort. The location was chosen for its good harbor and the fact that it was outside the range of land-based Japanese aircraft. Unfortunately the base was also far from their patrol areas and supply lines, and it was difficult to reinforce should the enemy attack. Thanks largely to a welcoming civilian population, morale quickly improved. The hospitality and sense of belonging fostered by Western Australians became legendary among Allied submariners and remains central to their wartime memories. Perhaps as a result of such a positive experience, the Allied forces became much more successful in combat. Intertwining social and military history, "Fremantle's Submarines: How Allied Submariners and Western Australians Helped to Win the War in the Pacific" by Michael Sturma (Professor of History and Leader of Humanities at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia) relates how courage, cooperation, and community made Fremantle arguably the most successful military outpost of World War II from the standpoint of troop morale.
Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Fremantle's Submarines: How Allied Submariners and Western Australians Helped to Win the War in the Pacific" is an exceptionally informed and informative military history and one that will prove of enduring value and interest to scholars and non-specialist general readers with an interest in World War II submarine warfare. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library World War II reference collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fremantle's Submarines" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.12).
250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781555977153, $26.00, 368pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: It's the late 1960s. The Pinch, once a thriving Jewish community centered on North Main Street in Memphis, has been reduced to a single tenant. Lenny Sklarew awaits the draft by peddling drugs and shelving books--until he learns he is a character in a book about the rise and fall of this very Pinch. Muni Pinsker, who authored the book in an enchanted day containing years, arrived in the neighborhood at its height and was smitten by an alluring tightrope walker. Muni's own story is dovetailed by that of his uncle Pinchas Pin, whose epic journey to North Main Street forms the book's spine. Steve Stern interweaves these tales with an ingenious structure that merges past with present, and his wildly inventive fabulism surpasses everything he's done before. Together, these intersecting stories transform the real-world experience of Lenny, whose fate determines the future of the Pinch, in this brilliant, unforgettable novel.
Critique: An extraordinary and deftly crafted read from first page to last, "The Pinch" is one of those rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Pinch" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).
Who Can Afford to Improvise?
Fordham University Press
2546 Belmont Avenue
University Box L, Bronx, NY 10458-5172
9780823268481, $29.95, 352pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 - December 1, 1987) was an African-American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. More than a quarter-century after his death, James Baldwin remains an unparalleled figure in American literature and African American cultural politics. In "Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listeners", Ed Pavlic (Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia) offers an unconventional, lyrical, and accessible meditation on the life, writings, and legacy of James Baldwin and their relationship to the lyric tradition in black music, from gospel and blues to jazz and R&B. Based on unprecedented access to private correspondence and unpublished manuscripts and attuned to a musically inclined poet's skill in close listening, "Who Can Afford to Improvise?" frames a new narrative of James Baldwin's work and life.
Critique: A seminal work of stellar scholarship based upon exhaustive research, "Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listeners" is an essential study with respect to the life, accomplishments, and enduring influence of James Baldwin on a variety of American popular music forms. Enhanced with twenty-six pages of Notes, a six page Bibliography, and a twenty-three page Index, "Who Can Afford to Improvise?" is strongly recommended for both community and academic library American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Who Can Afford to Improvise?" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Return to Order
PO Box 1337, Hanover, PA 17331
9780988214804, $21.95, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In times of crisis, we are forced to reexamine our ways and ponder our future. It is in this framework that we need to consider our present economic plight and the charting of our path forward. In his penetrating analysis of contemporary society, author John Horvat focuses on the present crisis with great insight and clarity in "Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society--Where We've Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go". He claims modern economy has become cold, impersonal, and out of balance. Gone are the human elements of honor and trust so essential to our daily lives. Society has discarded the natural restraining influence of the human institutions and values that should temper our economic activities. "Return to Order" is a clarion call that invites us to reconnect with those institutions and values by applying the timeless principles of an organic Christian order. Horvat presents a refreshing picture of this order, so wonderfully adapted to our human nature. He describes the calming influence of those natural regulating institutions such as custom, family, community, the Christian State, and the Church. A return to order is not only possible but crucial. Based on nearly twenty years of ground-breaking research, "Return to Order" shows us how to make it happen.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society--Where We've Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be considered as an essential study by scholars and non-specialist readers with an interest in restoring contemporary American society to a faith-based standard of equity, balance, fairness, and justice.
Beyond Scylla and Charybdis
Birgitte Beggild Johannsen & Konrad Ottenheym
University Press of Southern Denmark
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9788776023225, $36.00, 358pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The political landscape of early modern continental Europe was dominated by two rival superpowers: the Habsburgs of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire versus the French Kingdom of the Valois and Bourbon monarchs. Age-old struggles for hegemony, seniority, and precedence stimulated both parties to distinguish themselves from one another, while at the same time influencing essential aspects of court life, including courtly etiquette and diplomatic ceremonies. They also determined court architecture. Satellite courts, more closely related to these superpowers, could visually expose their loyalty to a specific faction by implementing its specific system of codes and adapting particular spatial arrangements or decorations. But, what were the strategies of the 'others' - the independent, though less dominant European courts beyond the Habsburg and Valois/Bourbon spheres? How did these courts respond to the overwhelming cultural impulses as 'neutral' neighbors, allies, or even as enemies, in a figurative sense navigating beyond the dangers of the mythic whirlpool of Charybdis and the rock on the opposite side, the home of the fearful monster Scylla? Were they only blind followers of fashion, or did they instead develop a 'third' language of court culture in a discourse with native and traditional ways of expression, often of ancient origin and quite as venerable as the Habsburg and Valois/Bourbon paradigms? Such topics were debated at a conference organized in 2012 in Denmark by the Palatium project, a research networking program of the European Science Foundation. "Beyond Scylla and Charybdis: European Courts and Court Residences outside Habsburg and Valois/Bourbon Territories 1500-1700" presents 23 case studies, ranging from Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and England, to Russia, the Low Countries, Italy, and Portugal, among others.
Critique: A significant contribution to European History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists, "Beyond Scylla and Charybdis: European Courts and Court Residences outside Habsburg and Valois/Bourbon Territories 1500-1700" is a truly impressive compendium of articulate and exceptional contributions by a roster of articular and erudite scholars. Enhanced with the inclusion of a thirty-two page Bibliography and a seven page Index, "Beyond Scylla and Charybdis" should be considered an essential and core addition to academic library collections.
Wildlife of the World
Don E. Wilson, editorial consultant
DK Publishing, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781465438041, $50.00, 480pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Produced in association with the Smithsonian Institution, "Wildlife of the World" takes the reader on a visually augmented journey through some of the most scenic and rich animal habitats ranging from the Amazon rain forests to the Himalayas, from the Sahara to the South Pole, and being informatively introduced to the most important animals in each ecosystem along the way. In "Wildlife of the World" truly spectacular portrait-style photography brings the reader "face-to-face" with individual animals in up-close and engrossing profiles on how the animals interact with their environments, mate, survive, and even play. From the shaggy musk ox foraging in the Canadian high arctic to the angered Scottish wildcat prowling the Highlands to the rock-climbing gelada monkey of Ethiopia, each animal featured in "Wildlife of the World" plays a key role in its environment. An additional eighty-page illustrated reference section on the animal kingdom explains the animal groups and profiles additional species.
Critique: A magnificently produced coffee-table style book, "Wildlife of the World" is a simple joy to browse through page by page. As informed and informative as it is beautifully presented from beginning to end, "Wildlife of the World" is very highly recommended for all wildlife enthusiasts, and should be considered an essential addition to both community and academic library Wildlife Studies reference collections. Indeed, "Wildlife of the World" would be a most appropriate and appreciated acquisition choice as a library Memorial Fund acquisition.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780375701429, $15.95 PB, $35.50 HC, www.amazon.com
In his novel, American Pastoral, Philip Roth examines an American community and its ethos in the late 20th century. The plot of the novel is revealed early. The first few chapters tell us that there is a bombing, a murder and a fractured family. The rest of the book is dedicated to creating a rationale for these basic facts. In exploring the rationale, Roth paints a tableau of post-WWII USA, as he sees it.
Some authors put great distance between themselves and their work. Readers are left to to look for traces of the writer's life in different characters and scenes. Roth is not of this school. Though he uses an alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, to speak for him it is obvious that Roth's experiences infuse the perspective of this narrator. Both men are writers who grew up in Newark. Both came from a middle class Jewish family and both attended Weequahic High School.
Throughout American Pastoral, it is Zuckerman's voice we hear and his conjecture about events we are obliged to consider. What really happened in February of 1968, when Merry Levov planted a bomb in the local post office and killed the community doctor? We never learn the answer to this question. All we learn is what Zuckerman imagines might have happened. And we learn about Philip Roth's 'America'.
This is not everybody's America. Many people will not recognize themselves, their family or friends in Roth's characters. Readers may, though, recognize a zeitgeist, a moment in time when rationality seemed to be in abeyance, when the young were so divorced from 'traditional' values that some took to making bombs and blowing up buildings. When some took to murder.
The 'America' of Philip Roth is irrational and untrustworthy. It is fitting, therefore, that the central act of American Pastoral be committed by a deranged teenager - or is she deranged? That's Zuckerman's theory--though he openly admits that others, closer to the event, might offer a different view. Zuckerman's description of the bombing, its causes and consequences are fantasy and yet it is his intricately woven tale that becomes the substance of Roth's book.
I didn't enjoy reading American Pastoral. I especially didn't enjoy the clinical treatment of sex scenes. Also off-putting was Roth's inclination toward verbal excess. Gynecological detail and verbosity aside, I'm glad I read the book. This is not a masterpiece, but it does have the potential to become a cultural touchstone, the kind of epoch-defining work that Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy has become.
Both An American Tragedy and American Pastoral may be flawed, but each manages to sum up an era in a way few other works do. Dreiser's novel, set in early 20th century USA, describes a stiflingly hierarchical social order. Class division drives the protagonist to murder. Roth, capturing the last years of the 20th century, describes a universe in which order is literally blown up. Murder is an instrument of protest not against an individual or a particular institution, but against the very idea of structure.
Roth's characters are unmoored. Truth has no enduring quality, trust is an archaic notion. Numb, and without insight into themselves or others, Roth's characters wander the last days of the 20th century through the tedium of survival.
I recommend American Pastoral. The novel may not entertain, but it will likely endure the test of time and be considered, in the future, a significant American novel.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594487873, $25.95, (hc)
9781594485640, $16.00, (pb), www.us.penguingroup.com
In Unfamiliar Fishes Sarah Vowell describes Hawaii's colonial history from 1778, when Captain James Cooke first stepped on Hawaiian soil, to the last day of Hawaiian sovereignty in 1898. On that last day, a United States Congressional Resolution to annex Hawaii went into effect. The one hundred and twenty years between Cooke's landing and Hawaii's annexation saw the native population of Hawaii whittled to less than a third of its precolonial number and its culture suppressed by successive waves of missionaries, investors and adventurers.
Sarah Vowell has written a profoundly moving account of Hawaii's colonization. For readers who cringe at the thought of reading a history book, go bravely forward. Vowell is an amusing writer. She engages and informs, though she never stoops to embellishing the actual record with invented conversations or scenes.
Unfamiliar Fishes is true to the facts, but what a rich trove of facts this book offers. Vowell seems to have at her finger tips a plethora of anecdotes to enrich her narrative. She describes, for example, the life trajectory of one Walter Gibson, who by most accounts was a rascal, but who became the Prime Minister of Hawaii. Before reaching this pinnacle, Gibson converted to Mormonism, was excommunicated by that church and founded a newspaper. These are just a few of his exploits. In the end, this erstwhile empire builder had to flee the islands in order to save his life. He died not long after as a penniless refugee, in San Francisco.
Vowell brings to her book a particular insight, one gained from an awareness of her own family's history. The author is a descendant of the Cherokee people, a people who, in 1838 and 1839, were obliged by Andrew Jackson to cross the US in a deadly migration. This march resulted in such loss of life that it came to be known as the Trail of Tears.
The Cherokee were a sovereign nation before the The Trail of Tears. Afterwards, they became transplants in unfamiliar territory (Oklahoma), where they attempted to lay down roots and preserve their traditions.
There is a clear connection drawn in Unfamiliar Fishes between US expansionist ideology and the destruction of culture, not only of the Cherokee and Hawaiian peoples, but of many other peoples as well. Vowell cites speeches and writings by US leaders, including those of Theodore Roosevelt, in which US conquests were justified by the belief that it was the nation's Manifest Destiny to expand, not only on the North American continent but beyond its shores.
I read Unfamiliar Fishes after completing another book that dealt with the history of Hawaii: Lost Kingdom, Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure, by Julia Flynn Siler. The Siler book focuses especially on the fate of Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. Siler's book is a more traditional history than Vowell's. Lost Kingdom is the longer book and is annotated--while Vowell's is not. Siler provides a very detailed explanation of events surrounding the annexation of Hawaii. Her book certainly helped me to understand the historic context of this period. However, if only one of these two books is to be chosen, I believe the casual reader would probably prefer Vowell's.
I enthusiastically recommend Unfamiliar Fishes. Read the book if you are curious about American history, indigenous culture or Hawaii. Read it if you simply want to be entertained. Vowell will answer questions you likely never thought of asking. She will take you on a journey. At the end of this journey, I'm pretty sure you won't be able to look at a Dole pineapple, in the same way, ever again.
A. G. Moore
Nancy Kilpatrick, editor
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
PO Box 1714, Calgary, AB, T2P 2L7, Canada
9781770530621, $15.95, 274 pages, http://www.edgewebsite.com
Many things in life have an ending or an expiration date. It can range from the food in your refrigerator, to the finish of a horse race, to the stopping of a stop-watch, to the end of a person's life. That's what this group of new stories is all about.
Stuck in that split second before dying (or not dying) in an auto accident, a woman gets to see how her family will survive, both with her and without her. Fascinated by death from an early age, a woman becomes an EMT to get as close to death as possible. She learns that when a person's time has come, getting in the way, and bringing them back to life, is not a good idea. Death makes several appearances in this book.
A group of present-day ghost hunters gets a little too close to the ghost of Lizzie Borden and her axe. A young boy is visiting his very sick younger brother in the hospital; the younger brother's life expectancy is down to minutes. Does he tell his younger brother what he really thinks, that there is nothing after this life, except blackness and decay? On the other hand, does Older Brother tell Younger Brother that he is going to nice place full of green grass, where he will meet his deceased grandparents?
When a person dies suddenly, like in an auto accident, is there someone nearby to help them get to the Other Side, or do they have to find their own way? There are a couple of stories about people who, from the outside, look to be in an irreversible coma, but, on the inside, they are very much alive.
I enjoyed reading this book. All of the stories are excellent; some of them actually reach the level of Wow. Only a couple of stories get into actual horror. Death will affect everyone eventually; these tales provide some possible ways that it will happen. This is highly recommended.
Colleen Anderson and Steve Vernon, editors
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB, T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781770530447, $16.95, 271 pages, http://www.edgewebsite.com
Here is another compendium of weird stories from north of the border, in Canada.
A new mother can't leave her baby alone for a second, out of fear that The Wall will devour the child. It's a creature that creeps along walls, looking like a shadow, and with very sharp teeth. On the other side of The Wall is a land of torment straight from Hell. Another story looks at the difference between people who are spiritual without believing in a specific religion, and those who are absolutely sure of the infallibility of religious doctrine, for instance, without being spiritual. What if all newborns are genetically tested, and the "non-believers" are killed?
A doll tells a little girl a story about vultures who go down chimneys, and kidnap little children as they sleep. They are taken to the deep, dark Underground, where the goblins live. The "lucky" ones are cooked and eaten, and the "unlucky" ones are sent to the mines as slaves. A young man visits his grandfather's grave, which now has an interactive video of Grandpa (the software needs some diagnostic help). He also burns his worthless Ph.D. in Education, because there no longer are any live school teachers.
All over the world, strange spheres appear and tell people "touch me and you will get twenty thousand dollars" (or win a cow, or save one hundred acres of rainforest, etc.). Their prizes come due in sixty days. Do they actually get their prizes?
As usual with this series, this is a first-rate group of stories. They are not specifically science fiction, or fantasy, or horror, but somewhere in the middle. They are the sort of tales that could easily be on a TV show like The Twilight Zone. It is very much worth reading.
Black and White Cinema: A Short History
Wheeler Winston Dixon
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick NJ 08901
9780813572413, $27.95, 256 pages, http://www.rutgerspress.rutgers.edu
I got an advance copy of this book, and after seeing it recommended on TCM, all I have to say is that it is a really interesting book. Most movie histories focus on the actors or director. This book focuses on the cinematographer, the person running the camera (also known as the Director of Photography, or D.P.).
Black and white film, even during the silent movie era, allowed an opportunity to experiment with light and shadow, and camera angles, in order to create a mood. Some directors were happy to give their D.P. free rein to light a scene the way they thought best, knowing that what showed up on the screen would be amazing. Other directors planned every bit of a scene, including the lighting, ahead of time, giving the D.P. not much to do except run the camera.
For every great film that was made, like "Citizen Kane" or "Casablanca", hundreds of cheap, lesser-quality B-pictures were produced. During the height of the studio "system", in the 1930's and 1940's, an Oscar-winning D.P., as an employee of one of the studios, might be obligated to work on a low-budget film, that if made today, would go straight to video. Each studio owned their own chain of theaters, which needed a constant supply of movies, so Hollywood really was a factory, churning out film after film. People needed an escape from the Great Depression and World War II, so they went to the movies.
The 1950's and 1960's were the era of Cold War paranoia, and New Wave cinema. It was also the time of the introduction of various "versions" of color movies, like Panavision or Cinemascope. Some of the D.P.'s profiled in this book were able to make the transition to TV and color films; others were not so fortunate. The last great black and white film was 1962's "Psycho."
The author starts the book by mentioning that the vast majority of films from the early days are no longer available, at all. The reasons include improper storage of film canisters, human stupidity, or the fact that movie film does not last forever. A film might be a boring, amateurishly done piece of schlock, but it is still a piece of film history, and it is still gone, forever. A number of the films mentioned in this book are not available anywhere.
This book is highly recommended for really passionate fans of old movies, people who are familiar with names like Gregg Toland, Nicholas Musuraca and John Alton. For the rest of us, this is a really interesting look at black and white films. Yes, it is well worth reading.
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
Feiwel & Friends
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250043238, $16.99, 256 pages, www.amazon.com
When the giant cat named Crenshaw surfs back into Jackson's life, he's pretty sure it's a bad sign. The last time the cat who looks like he's wearing a furry tuxedo hung out with Jackson, his family was between homes. In other words they were homeless and living in their van. Jackson is between fourth and fifth grade and he's pretty sure from the signals his parents are sending out, they are about to be between homes - again. Jackson's frustration mounts as his parents start to sell off stuff and collect the rest of their belongings for the big yard sale. He knows exactly what's going on but they won't talk to him about it. The last thing Jackson needs is a jelly-bean-eating imaginary cat, especially one as weird (he takes bubble baths) and rude (he drools on the pillow) as Crenshaw. But sometimes friendship comes from the most unexpected places. "Crenshaw" focuses on the hardships of one middle class family to expose the impacts of hunger and homelessness on the mind and spirit of a child.
B is for Bear
1904 Third Avenue, Suite 710, Seattle, WA 98101
9781632170392, $16.99, 32 pages, www.amazon.com
E is for excellent! Finally an alphabet book for nature lovers and dedicated "to all of those who let children run a little wild." Each letter of the alphabet is depicted with things found in nature from A is for acorn to Z for catching some "Zzzs" in an outdoor hammock. Viano's Pacific Northwest roots are revealed in her choice of images. A fun fact about each image can be found at the bottom of the page. The inclusion of K for kids is a welcome invitation to young readers. Viano's captivating illustrations are intricate cuttings from black paper which have been digitally enhanced. With each page framed in black, the overall appearance is art deco au natural. "B is for Bear" is an eye-catching book that will bring out the wild in your child.
The Foxglove Killings
2614 South Timberline Road, Suite 109, Fort Collins, CO 80525
9781633751651, $16.99, 390 pages, www.amazon.com
Behind the quaint little tourist town facade of Emerald Cove, there's a turf war going on between the townies and cakes - the rich kids - and Nova and her best-friend-with-benefits, Alex are right in the thick of it. Things turn grisly when they discover a mutilated deer carcass in the park. Next a dead raccoon is found on a cake's front porch. Then two cakes are murdered. The killings all share one common clue - a purple foxglove stuck in the victims' mouths. Everyone in town, including the cops, believes the cakes are being targeted. Amid heightened fears, the tension between the townies and the cakes escalates. Violence from the past rears its ugly head and the teens are literally at each other's throats. Nova and Alex get caught up in the battle and pull a stupid stunt that puts the focus on them. Meanwhile a secret admirer is sending Nova creepy love notes that make her wonder if she's the next victim. Even though author Tara Kelly sprinkles plenty of crumbs through the maze of murder and mayhem, this is one whodunit that keeps readers guessing. A raw and honest portrayal of teen passion and angst, "The Foxglove Killings" will keep you up at night.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
T. T. Michael
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781517180744, $9.84, 340 Pages, www.amazon.com
Language: English; Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller
Disasters, and the people who cause them, are etched in the very core of a nation. The horrific attacks of July 14th, 2051 by Hariq Jihad ('Fire War') had such an effect, and because of them the United Continental States of America was formed uniting USA, Canada and Mexico.
Years later, with no terrorism threats, and stability reigning, the people are happy with President Meyers, the man who has been the driving instrument, and has made this happen. The country is run under a tightly controlled, inflexible system, people know what to do, and where their loyalties must lie. However, there are others who do not agree...
President Meyers needs to be surrounded by loyal protection. When Gunnery Sergeant Anthony Jackson is offered the chance to become part of his security detail, it is the perfect opportunity for the Marine, coming just at the right time and providing much needed stability for him, his wife and two little girls.
However, as the years pass by and his girls grow older, Anthony discovers that they have wills of their own, and do not follow blindly like the majority. Also, he is tormented by an incident in the past which he must put to rest.
Will his loyalty to the President and all he stands for, stand strong when his family need him, and their lives may be in danger?
This is a powerful and thought provoking futuristic thriller, which certainly opens your eyes to the possibility of a very different world in years to come...
Mini Farming: Sustainability with A Backyard Farm
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781517102241, $9.57, 136 Pages, www.amazon.com
Language: English; Genre: Sustainable Living
We actually have a smallholding, and once you have made the jump to living this sort of life, have an active vegetable patch, and a few animals, you never look back!
It starts quite sensibly by looking at backyard farming, what it entails, how much room you will need, and how much you actually have. The author then goes into what you would like to do, and, if you live in a built up area, what you might have to check on before you begin.
All types and sizes of gardens are discussed, from large plots to patio and vertical planting, there's something in it for everyone. It then goes on in this section to discuss some of the crops, both vegetable and fruit, that you may wish to grow, and their storage. Garden maintenance and pests are also brought up, before we move to the next section, farm animals.
Animals and birds add a whole new dimension to your project, and naturally the first ones which are mentioned are the ever popular chickens, quail, ducks and geese. The author then goes on to goats, sheep, and pigs.
All this produce has to be preserved, for use out of season and this is covered too.
At the end there is a sample year in the life of a mini farmer to give a taste of how the seasons go, for those who have no experience.
Overall a very interesting and informative guide which broadly covers a wide range of farming options.
Right diamond, wrong pocket
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508872993, $12.00, www.amazon.com
Language: English; Genre: Teen & Young Adult
Rich and his mother can't believe their luck when they win a free yacht trip. Once on-board Rich makes friends with Stan and his little sister Mitzi.
They boys enjoy exploring, however, when a diamond is stolen right there, in the middle of the sea, the boys decide the culprit must be on board, and are determined to discover who it is.
As the young sleuths investigate, the plot thickens. They make discoveries, survive dangerous events and come up with clever ideas, as they learn more about their fellow guests, but the question is - who stole the diamond?
This is a really great adventure story, written brilliantly to captivate the imagination of any child. It has a fantastic plot, plenty of twists and turns and a good ending. An all-round thumbs up from me.
Help! I'm a Kitty Mom: How to Raise an Orphaned Kitten (The Mewtopia Diaries Book 1)
Amazon Digital Services
B00T34H4DK, $3.05, 44 Pages, www.amazon.com
Language: English; Genre: Animal Welfare
This book is amazing. I have never had occasion to bring up new born kittens, but if I ever do I shall be so pleased that I downloaded this book as it contains a wealth of information.
The author has vast experience of raising kittens from a very young age, and the whole book is a full of important information on the subject. What's more the author is happy to offer advice and help if needed.
From the start, she looks into the options available if you find, or are bought a litter in a honest way, discusses the realities of the situation, the time and attention which is involved, and of course the tremendous rewards which can be gained.
A must have book for anyone who cares for animals, full of practical advice.
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
9781483558004, $1.99, 80 pages
Em and her friends are starting high school. It is an exciting time for the group. Em's phone is never far from her. In fact she would be lost without it.
When her phone starts to do weird things she is worried that something is about to malfunction on it. Then a mysterious App appears on her phone. When she opens it she sees that is seems to deliver messages from "Angels". She figures that this is all in good nature fun. When the messages start to come true, she is afraid of what the future will hold and tries to delete it.
The App refuses to be removed, and then it sends a message that devastates Em. Will this life alternating message come true? How will it affect her life?
THE DOWNLOAD is an outstanding teenage read. The author has done a wonderful job in presently a very real to life book. I found this book was on that kept my full attention. How the layers of the overall context are revealed will have you holding your breath to see how it ends.
Ann Strawn has done a magnificent job in writing THE DOWNLOAD. So often, it is hard to capture the attention of a teenager. I feel that by her incorporating the use of a smartphone made the story more appealing to people in this age group. I feel the story is so good a teenager could easily highly recommend it to their friends.
B00E6HPT40, $3.99, 211 pages
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Homicide Detective Susan Ciarelli never expected her career to be in such turmoil. While in her custody she actually shot a suspected criminal. The event immediate went viral on the news. Now she finds herself suspended from her job and may be facing charges against her actions.
Susan tries to forget about the mess her life is and decides to drown her sorrows in drink. While intoxicated she manages to throw out her back. She seeks out the services of Chiropractic Bob Kessler. She hopes the treatment will help with her injury.
Dr. Bob Kessler feels as his is about to suffer job burn out. His business is thriving, but his success is not generating the happy reaction that should be occurring. To complicate matters more his father, a retired jewel thief, was shot and murdered.
When Bob finds out that Susan is his latest client he sees her skills as a LAPD Detective could be used to his advantage. He wants to get to the bottom of his father's murder. Will he convince Susan to use her skills to help solve the murder?
Minor Adjustment is delightfully surprising at every turn! At first upon reading the description, I thought I was about to dive into a straight mystery/suspense novel. Little did I know the author uses humor to enrich the story, bringing the characters to life in unexpected ways. The blend of genres offers unique, high-level entertainment, reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey.
Geoff Geib has done exceptional work with his first novel. I was quite taken with his ability to create an energetic, involving detective story and am eagerly anticipating his next work.
Sky: Child, Interrupted
ECONO Publishing Company
EBook: 9781329210998, $3.99
Paperback: 9780692488485, $15.99
Hardcover: 9781329210981, $27.99 238 pages
Bill met Rinska while he was sitting in at a group session. He learned that she preferred the shortened version of her name "Rini". She was in counseling trying to win back the custody of her daughter. He was there working as an interns towards a degree as a social worker.
From the moment Bill met Rini she instantly captured his heart with her soul filled eyes. Shortly, the two of them found themselves inseparable. Together in each other's arms they found a love neither one expected to experience.
When Rini learns that she is pregnant and due in the spring the couple is overjoyed. The two sees it as a means to start a new life together. As the years progress the couple and the newborn live a happy life. Then all of it is threatened when a misunderstanding brings to the door the Department of Human Services of Ellsworth, Maine, Child Protective Division.
Will they be able to keep their family together? When their actions against their daughter come under investigation?
SKY: CHILD, INTERRUPTED is a compelling book that is assured to provide an emotional jolt to anyone's life. Through the pages you see how one family is threatened by false charges. As I read this book I was intrigued enough to research more of the Ellsworth, Maine Child Protective Division and learn how corrupt their system was at one time.
This book has a true to life feeling that has you questioning whether it is fiction or real life drama. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is searching for a riveting reading experience that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
False Flag: Able Thunder
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B013VT4796, $2.99, 180 pages
Evil forces plot to set up a real life scenario involving a weapon of mass destruction. The plan involves using a nuclear device to target a large city and kill thousands. Their plan is to make it look like it was is Islamic terrorists. To make the event look authentic they will use three young Muslim men to sacrifice their lives. Once the plan is carried out a major war in the Middle East will break out.
Gordon Mitchell is a CIA Veteran who was once a member of the elite Special Forces. He runs a successful security company. When he learns the world is endanger of a mass destruction he puts his skills to the test to save the country.
Will Gordon be quick enough to stop the man men intent on their pathway to destruction? Or will he jeopardize his own life to try to uphold freedom and prevent another world war?
FALSE FLAG: ABLE THUNDER provides a heart pounding adventure. This book realistically portrays the "what if" scenario of the world we know today. Many times as I read this book I stopped, reflected, and realized that the scenes that were playing out in this book could actually be occurring in real life as we know it today.
Michael Mitzell has done a magnificent job in writing this book. Those who enjoy a high action military adventure will not be disappointed. I highly recommend this author for his writing style is very life like. More than one his words raised the hair up my neck and I got chill bumps of what was yet to occur.
Waves of Reprisal
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
$2.29 Kindle 244 pages
Hanyma has always been known as a strong willed female. She dreamed of the day when she could break free from her life and discover the world on her own terms. Then her life drastically changes before her eyes.
Now she finds that vengeance is her constant companion. She is hell bent to bring to justice those that has wronged her. Through her quest to conquer the enemy she meets an unlikely wayfarer from Kepler. Will her instincts and quick with keep her far ahead of those who wish to destroy her?
When I first laid eyes on the beautiful futuristic cover design of WAVES OF REPRISAL, I knew that I was about to embark on a unique experience. This book sets the bar high for one of the best in its class. The characters are three dimensional that they offer a wealth of meaningful substance that sets this book far above similar titles.
Malcolm Little has done an outstanding job is writing this book. His writing style could make a Science Fiction/Fantasy fan out of anyone. I highly recommend this book for it is well researched and projects a very life like tale.
Veronica R. Tabares
Sun Break Publishing
9781609160074, $5.99 pbk, 284 pages
Autumn's sophomore year is disrupted when she finds herself a victim of cyber bullying. The situation escalated so severely, she was forced to transfer to another school. With a new school she hopes to make a new start, and that begins with a new look and attitude.
Then Autumn is happy to hear her best friend, Sophie Rose is transferring to her new school. She thinks with her friend by her side there is nothing she can conquer. When Sophie stays away from her she is puzzled at why once her best friend is now so distant.
Then her world is once again uprooted when tragedy strikes. Autumn is determined that she is going to take matters into her own hands and put an end to this virtual nightmare. Will she succeed in stopping those that wish to destroy her?
GRAY ZONE is a magnificent book that takes a very serious topic and presents it in a very informative and professional manner. The topic of cyber bulling is one that is literally taking our teenage population by storm. It is one that I feel is out of control. I feel this book would be a tremendous asset if every teen would take the time to read it.
Veronica R. Tabares is to be commended on writing such a thought provoking book. I was highly impressed with her writing style and look forward to seeing future titles in the future. I find this book showcases that she is an author that can take a difficult topic and turn it into a masterpiece.
Mile Marker 59
B. J. Betts
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781412237566, $9.99, 164 pages, www.amazon.com
"Now, he believed there was something out here. He just didn't know what. A feeling of dread washed over him whenever he stepped from the cruiser in response to automobile accidents here. Something tangible filled the air; he could feel it. Something dark - - and evil."
Marissa Daniels has everything many people desire. She is successful with her career as a pediatric surgical nurse and would soon be marrying the love of her life who happens to be a handsome orthopedic surgeon. With their best friends, the four are returning from a relaxing outing in Sturgis and looking forward to her upcoming wedding.
What seemed a certainly changed instantly. Brody James is driving home along Interstate 29 with Marissa in the front seats and their, Evie and Tyler Brooks snoozing in back. Brody asks for something cool to drink so Marissa twists around in the seat to reach the cooler. She just needs another inch or two so she temporarily releases her seatbelt.
As she is reaching, turning and stretching into the back seat, a wolf bounds onto the hood of the car. Naturally, Brody swerves in an attempt to throw the beast.
Seconds later, the car is overturned with Marissa being thrown from the vehicle. The wolf seems to view her as prey and runs to her, immediately pinning her to the ground with its paws. The creature tears into her side causing Marissa to scream as she hears her friends also screaming and smelling gasoline. She is helpless and isn't able to save them before the car burst into flames.
Marissa survives however she is still haunted by her friends' screams and the wolf who changed her life.
Slowly she physically heals and returns to her career, heavily carrying the burden of the guilt by being alive. Every night is filled with the nightmares of those few seconds. What really happened? Certainly wolves do not attack cars on the interstate in western Iowa. What can explain this, logically? She doesn't believe in ghosts, but was that really a wolf?
Marissa decides that she need answers so she returns to the town near where the accident happened at Mile Marker 59 near Cutter's Bend, Iowa. She quickly learns that this wolf has appeared to others and has caused many accidents becoming a local legend. With the help of the local sheriff, Michael Morris and another accident victim, the three hope to put an end to their nightmares and to stop this creature, whether supernatural or real from hurting anyone else.
Council Bluffs' native, B. J. Betts married her high school sweetheart while raising their children. Previously she has written Saigon Moon and Echoes in the Night which are both set in the Vietnam War and inspired by her grandson who served in Iraq. She in a member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Authors of the Heartland.
Who would most enjoy this novel? Even though it involves the supernatural, Mile Marker 59 is still a romance book with an intended audience of middle-aged women.
Come Rain or Come Shine
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399167454, $27.95, 290 pages, www.amazon.com
"I'm gonna love like nobody loved you, Come Rain or Come Shine."
These famous song lyrics are the center of Jan Karon's latest Mitford book featuring the wedding of Dooley and Lace.
Dooley Kavanaugh has graduated and is beginning his veterinarian practice back at his home in Mitford. He is choosing to marry his long-time love, Lace Harper in a simple, down-home ceremony. The couple wants simplicity so instead of caterers, they are having a potluck and a friend in providing the music.
For those who have never read any of the books by Jan Karon, don't read this novel first. You really need to know the characters featured in the Mitford series since much of this story relies on the reader knowing the history from events in the first five books beginning with At Home in Mitford, A Light in the Window, These High, Green Hills, Out to Canaan and A New Song. With twelve Mitford novels now in this series, the first five are a prerequisite before reading this newest novel.
For any author writing a dozen novel featuring the same characters, some of the novels are more enjoyable than others. No one can continually redevelop the continuing characters. Whether it is just too much familiarity or losing the passion and love of the characters along the way, it is difficult to maintain the same energy level throughout the entire series. Unfortunately Come Rain or Come Shine just is not as enjoyable as the first five books. The delight in the simple things were the gifts of the first five, this just concludes a long expected event.
These books are light reading, no crime, little danger, just people doing their best in everyday life with a strong belief in God and taking time to smell the roses along the way while finding the laughter in everyday events. Unlike the previous novels, this particular novel seemed to have one plot and everything aimed at this high point as opposed to Karon's previous novels with interwoven plots overlapping and complementing each other.
Actually, I found Come Rain or Come Shine to drag in many places, almost feeling contrived at times and being obviously predictable. For some reason, Karon did not delve into the little events in the everyday lives of these characters but literally focused exclusively on the wedding, not the loving and caring relationships with the characters.
Perhaps the problem was not the book but my expectation. I expect more involvement in these books not a linear approach to the climax which is obviously the wedding. Since the wedding was a simplification, did Karon also simplify the story?
Who would enjoy this novel? The novel is strictly for Mitford fans who have been demanding more from Karon. If you are not acquainted with Karon's writing, do not read this book. The book is Christian based and leans towards the romance genre with its predictability.
My concern regards the lack of love of these longtime characters. Perhaps it's time for Karon to develop a new series.
The Red Notebook
Antoine Laurain, author
Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken, translators
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781908313867, $14.95, 159 pages, www.amazon.com
"The gap between his ideal and his reality was too great. The weight turned into an anguish which was succeeded by the intolerable idea that he was wasting his life - or even that he had already wasted it."
This is a reflection of the main character, Laurent Letellier who is a middle-aged male owner of a book store in Paris in a rare literary gem, The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain and translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce. By that one sentence, the mood is set for a masterful tale with an eloquent gift of word choices perfectly reflecting the characters.
Paris is a well-respected city for fashion. Finding an obviously pricey purse abandoned, Laurent Letellier looks for who is the owner. However, no one is around who would own the purse. So what does he do?
As a middle-aged male and responsible business owner of a bookstore, Laurent wants to do the right thing. What if the purse had belonged to his daughter? What would he expect and want a stranger to do in these circumstances? Should he look inside the purse? As a responsible adult and good citizen, he visits the local police station with the purse. Unfortunately they offer no assistance in returning the purse to the owner.
This purse is expensive and unusual, likely expensive. While missing the wallet and cell phone, there are numerous other clues to the identity of the owner. The most unusual inhabitant of this purse is a red notebook and autographed copy of a book. Could the author know who owns the purse? Most likely, no.
Why hasn't the owner contacted the police about the purse? With the only clue being a laundry tag, Laurent decides to continue this investigation. Why wouldn't she pick up her laundry?
With only the purse and its contents, Laurent begins his quest to find the owner. How do you balance this personal goal without it becoming an obsession? What is wrong with doing the right thing?
The Red Notebook is a gem. The writing is lush with the reader being inside Laurent's mind, understanding his daily life while weighing the conflicts of this purse. The characters are well-developed, the plot is simple but intriguing with words swirling and interweaving into a masterful short tale.
This small book is a masterpiece for both the author Antoine Laurain and the translators Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken who perfectly matched the differences of the languages and best selecting the words and phrases to reflect the author's masterful tale.
Witches Protection Program
Michael Phillip Cash
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781511411349, $12.99, Trade Paperback, 222 pages, www.amazon.com
It is well known that many law enforcement agencies have special divisions, some even have secret branches for specific purposes. Who are the people who work in these branches? Why are some secret? What do these people know that the general public is not privileged to know?
Wes Rockville is part of a successful law enforcement family. However he feels as if he is a failure being the black sheep of the family. Currently Wes is facing the humiliation of being reassigned, a type of Black Ops within the police department dealing with witches. Yes, that is correct, witches.
Added to the shock and disbelief is his first assignment. He is to discover and stop a billion-dollar cosmetic company who utilizes their witchcraft skills with hopes of ruling the world. Part of this job is to protect Morgan Pendragon from her aunt's manipulations and curses.
Fortunately his partner is longtime witch protector, Alastair Verne. Will Alastair be able to save the career that Wes is quickly loosing.
Witches Protection Program is a fun book to read. The good witches and bad being the Willa and the Davina. Do witches have to be in one or the other? Can a witch be somewhere in-between?
There are some things which are not completely revealed to the reader but they are also not explained to the rookie Wes. Does this mean that there will be further cases and adventures?
Michael Phillip Cash frequently is known for his intense science fiction, bordering on horror. Witches Protection Program proves that he is not limited to one genre and enjoys having a good laugh in the fantasy world.
The characters are well-developed and flawed but human enough errors to be laughable. The story is fast-paced and moves quickly making you regretting that the tale was not longer. Hopefully there will be further adventures for the Witches Protection Program.
Who would enjoy this book? Any adult reader could enjoy this quirky novel. The introduction immediately hooks you with Wes failing and feeling hopeless and quickly enters the world of what appears to be magic. Wes is a skeptic. Will he begin to believe in witches? Do witches ever used powers to control you? Do you need help from Witches Protection Program?
The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420132267, $7.99, Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages, www.amazon.com
'Plato wrote that originally men and women were one creature but their strength threatened the gods. So Zeus split them in half and each half spends it life trying to find its mate. To become complete once again.'
Does each person spend their life looking for their other half? Is fate involved in each of our lives?
The unexpected guest at the wedding is Jackson Quincy Graham Channing who is visiting England for the first time. As a banker in New York, this journey is somewhat of a surprise to Jackson who just discovered that his long departed father is alive. His mother choose for Jackson to believe for thirty years that his father was deceased. Now that father and son are reunited, he is excited and thrilled to meet his family on his father's side while also giving himself some space due to his anger with his mother.
Fortunately for Jack, he has an inherited title and family wealth on his father's side. What a wonderful opportunity for him. Where will he finally live?
Jack also has an intended love in New York, Lucy. The two have grown up together and are each other's best friends. Even though their family's see that the two are likely to be married, each of them are hesitant to actually marry.
Jack arrives in England meeting his new family at a family wedding for Camille, Lady Lydingham to Grayson Elliott. As a newcomer, he obviously is unacquainted with his cousins but is drawn to Lady Theodosia Winslow who has secrets of her own.
Theodosia, Teddy with her mother plans weddings and major events for the wealthy. Yes, she is one of them, but when her father died, he left his wife and daughter with immense debt. This is one of Teddy's secrets that has driven her to work to pay off his debts while appearing not to need the money.
Yes, admittedly this is my first Victoria Alexander novel. She is a legend among romance writers. Much of the novel is dialogue that argues, teases, discusses and reveals much of the characters and how the intended couple grows slowly closer together. At times, it feels that there is no action, just dialogue which is likely realistic.
Victoria Alexander has worked as an award winning television reporter and journalist before she decided to become a full-time writer in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1995, she had her first book published and has successfully published thirty-one novels in the romance genre.
I was surprised at the constant twists in the story making the predictable romance interesting until the last page. Some of these twists do feel contrived but in this particular story, they are enjoyable with many loose ends neatly concluding at the end.
Robin Mason and Michael Mason
Brooklin, Ontario, Canada
9780994837103, $12.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 284 pages, www.amazon.com
"In the center of a small glade in a deep wood, an animal crouched, hidden within the shadow of a pillar of blood-red stone. One paw rested on the cool, rough granite. The eyes of the animal closed. It breathed quietly, its flanks rising and falling; its black nose quivered. It seemed to be listening...sensing. All around, the forest was still...The glade echoed with the sound of its fury. And with its fear...Danger was coming-they could feel it, though none but the beast from the glade knew what it was."
Most people don't enjoy moving to a new home and that is true for Jax. In England, Jackson who goes by the name of Jax, plays ball, has his friends from school and was enjoying life.
Change is part of life and his father moves the family to a remote wooded area of Oregon. The idea of starting over at a new school in a different country and making new friends does not seem exciting. In this area, the closest neighbors are just an elderly couple who happen to own the land and who live a little distance away. Jax feels as if he is living in the middle of nowhere, completely isolated with only his parents.
For lack of anything to do, Jax begins to discover the wooded areas and begins to communicate with nature. He quickly learns of the animals who inhabit these woods and with the assistance of a little magic. As he daily grows closer to nature, he also begins to respect each animal's perspective of the world around them including their fears and daily joys while still maintaining the predator/prey relationship in nature.
The theme of land conservation vs. suburban sprawl is well-stated throughout the novel. With the suggested audience being children 8-12, Oldenglen weaves a magical tale for all readers. This could easily be a read aloud book for children 6-9 with fairly short chapters or chapters that are divided. This novel is ideal for teachers as it is a rich resource of literary elements, especially foreshadowing.
This joint father/son writing team is excellent. Characters are well-developed, the setting is rich with descriptions allowing the reader to visualize each event as the story progresses, and a plot that seems predictable but has twists and turns keeping the reader engaged to the last page.
The authors masterfully use a bit of humor throughout the story. A great example of this is the discussion about Jax's paw coverings which are obviously, shoes. "No self-respecting creature covers their paw prints."
With the authors, being father and son, both were born in England. The idea of the story is a result of the family renting a large estate in British Columbia, Canada years ago obviously when Robin was young. Robin who is a lawyer today, actually resides in a twelve-acre forest. For his father, Michael Mason, this is his first novel. He has earned a doctorate in English literature and is a published poet and playwright.
The idea of doing what is right even when you have no voice is prevalent. One or two against the world is a theme that rings true on every page.
"For both, the worst summer had become the best summer ever, one they didn't want to end. Every day was magical. Everything was magical - everything except the unwanted and seemingly increasing human presence in the glen."
Oldenglen is the first novel in this series that will be a trilogy entitled the Oldenglen Chronicles. I unquestionably look forward to the entire series in this new and invigorating series by this masterful storytelling father/son duo.
A Lady for the Lawman
9781517355364, $11.99, 203 pages
"Arianna sputtered then stomped her foot and narrowed her eyes, her gumption returning full strength. Oh, he was irritating, and no kind of a gentleman whatsoever."
Life for a single female living in Omaha during 1870 could not have been easy. Arianna Quincy had a plan as she entered Weikert-Second Mercantile, she needed to buy a few things, find a job to support herself, and unquestionably begin to live a new life. She needs to no longer be a burden to her family who has many mouths to feed. She knows that this her chance to be independent earning money of her own and had hopes for a job at the store. With her cousin already working there, this connection could be her first step.
What she didn't plan on was to have the store robbed. As Arianna is choosing material to buy for a new dress and carrying the bolt of material, a man enters the store with a gun. As the gunman was forces the clerk to give him the money, Arianna observes another customer silently grabbing a shovel. This other customer quietly mouths to her to drop the bolt of cloth she is holding. At the instant of the thump, the man strikes the robber with the shovel in his ribs.
That is how Arianna meets the new deputy, Jason Reynolds. He definitely is intrigued with Arianna but she does not want to be bothered by a man. She wants to focus on her new life, not a man. Jason feels a strong attraction to Arianna. Will either of them find what they are searching for?
What she doesn't know is that Jason is a Pinkerton agent working on an undercover assignment. With direct instructions from President Ulysses S. Grant, he is searching for a former soldier who might be in possession of the stolen gold from the Confederacy, the legendary treasure of Jefferson Davis.
A Lady for the Lawman is the sequel to Tweedt's first book in this series, A Bride for the Sheriff. Both books are Christian-based romantic novels based in Omaha, Nebraska after the conclusion of the American Civil War. These books are research based about what life would be like in the frontier town of Omaha at the edge of civilization.
The story is rich on realism of the time period with authentic characters focused on their day-to-day survival in Omaha. Living in this time period was not usually easy even though the times were simpler.
With the integration of the gold of the Confederacy, this story delves into an issue that still has many unanswered questions. Supposedly the gold was to finance the war when the South would again rise to power and to a country just recovering from a crippling war. The threat was genuine.
Jewell Tweedt uses her hometown as the setting for these books. She daily lives in history teaching middle school students while residing in her home in western Iowa.
Who would enjoy these books? These books are written for female readers who enjoy romance surrounding people living a Christian life.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425275184, $9.99, Paperback, 416 pp, www.amazon.com
Just having finished his last assignment, Virgil Flowers of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was looking forward to some quiet time. And then he gets a telephone call from his friend, Johnson Johnson, requesting him to come solve what amounts to a dognapping problem in the small town of Trippton. It seems someone has been stealing dogs from the town's residents, presumably for sale to medical laboratories and other uses.
Instead, when Virgil gets there he gets more than he can chew on: First the murder of a reporter on the local weekly newspaper, which leads Virgil to uncover a massive fraud by members of the school board, followed by additional murders. Some quiet time! From that point, Virgil just plods on to the inevitable conclusion. The reader is never in any doubt about the identity of the culprits. It only remains to find out how it all comes together.
The Virgil Flowers series is now eight novels (and counting). He is an entertaining protagonist, and the stories are well written and enjoyable. "Deadline" seems a little long, but the pages turn quickly, and the novel is recommended.
Book 2: The Chronicles of the Invaders Trilogy
John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard
Emily Bestler Books / Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476757155, $26.00, Hardcover, 437 pp, www.amazon.com
Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y ODZ
9781476609726, 16.99 BPS, Hardcover, 496 pp.
9781472209757, 7.99 BPS, Paperback
The middle novel in a planned trilogy about earthling Paul Kerr and his beloved Syl Hellias, an alien female born on planet Earth, continues in separate adventures that keep them apart. After Syl aided Paul and his brother in escaping from Edinburgh castle in Conquest, they were subsequently captured and given a choice to join the brigades, eventually assigned to investigate a distant planet. Syl, on the other hand is given the option with her friend Ani of entering the sisterhood on a moon satellite of the Illyri planet and trained to become a member of the order.
Individually, Paul and Syl during their separate adventures discover an evil so horrible it could destroy the Earth and the rest of the known world. As they struggle with their knowledge they must find ways to develop their abilities and make known the truth of what they have learned, much less to save everything before it is destroyed.
While the books were primarily intended for a teenage audience, an adult can also read and enjoy the novel, which is no less a scifi fantasy and what is loosely a love story. The two novels, and the third yet to come, were written by John Connolly, the Irish novelist perhaps best known for the Charlie Parker mysteries, and his partner and mother of his two sons, Jennifer Ridyard. This is not the first time Mr. Connolly has turned his attention from Charlie Parker to a different type of novel. He also is the author of a trilogy for younger readers and even a modern fairy tale. Now we have the completion of another trilogy to look forward to. Empire, like Conquest, is recommended.
Mightier Than the Sword: The Clifton Chronicles, Vol. 5
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250034519, $27.99/32.50 CA$, Hardcover, 400 pp.
9781250079022, $15.99/18.50 CA$, 416 pp, Paperback
The Clifton Chronicles were originally planned to be five novels. Since this book is number five, the series has been expanded to seven (and counting). So this latest volume continues the saga of the Clifton and Barrington clans and their assorted problems and successes. Frankly, I'm not so sure it is a tale worth telling, however well written it is.
The machinations of Lady Virginia and Major Fisher continue to plague Emma and Seb in their respective roles as Chairman of Barrington Shipping and up-and-coming banker. And Emma's husband, mystery writer Harry Clifton, takes on the Soviet regime to free a jailed author of a banned novel when he becomes President of English PEN. Then there is Seb's relationship with Alex, which presents the reader with a side issue.
All in all it is not a very exciting story, certainly less than the level of and possibly merely a rehash of already established features in former novels in the series. Perhaps, it might be generous to say that these are developments arising from the past. But this reader became tired reading the all-too-familiar comments and scheming of the various characters. The only really interesting part of the book (possible spoiler alert) was the section where Harry attempts to obtain the only known copy of the banned book in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), followed by his arrest and jailing. And finally, this reader failed to understand why the banned book caused such consternation to begin with when all the facts were known.
As already noted, Mr. Archer certainly can write, and provides an entertaining novel, and on that basis it is recommended.
Want You Dead
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250070319, $16.99, Paperback, 402 pp., www.amazon.com
Peter James writes fascinating police procedurals, and this novel lives up to that reputation if the reader plows through the first half of the book. Unfortunately, the first half of the book is a catalogue of acts perpetrated by Bryce Laurent, who turns out to be a sociopath, murderer, and arsonist. The plot is relatively simple: Bryce and Red Cameron have a torrid love affair until she learns the truth about Bryce's background and all the lies he'd told her. Proof was a detective's report commissioned by her mother.
When she breaks off with Bryce, Red is subjected to all kinds of acts of revenge, and Bryce commits such terrorism as he can against her and her parents. Then the chase begins, with Detective Superintendent Roy Grace counting the minutes until his wedding to Cleo and their short honeymoon. Will they get away, or will Grace adhere to his longstanding policy of obeying the call to duty? I urge you to read on and find out.
This reader found the initial part of the novel tedious, filled with repetition, as the author attempted to set the tone and establish the basis for Laurent's character. It just seemed, to me, to be too much, and I felt it should have been cut to a large degree. The latter part of the novel was truly exciting, though, and up to the expectations of a Roy Grace procedural, and therefore the novel is recommended.
(It should perhaps be noted that I am presently immersed in the author's newest in hardcover, You Are Dead, and thoroughly enjoying it!)
You Are Dead
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250065711, $26.99, Hardcover, 417 pp., www.amazon.com
It was inevitable: A serial killer, and a real psycho at that, in Brighton finally offers Detective Superintendent Roy Grace a challenge in the eleventh novel in this distinguished series. Called the Brighton Brander, his MO is to burn U R Dead on his victims' right thighs after abducting them and keeping them encased in a coffin-like container for a period of time while he toys with them.
What makes this plot more interesting is that the current wave of snatches may be related to murders many years before, discovered when workmen uncover skeletons buried under a paved path being dug up. The ensuing police procedural, painstakingly described, a trademark of the author, follows Grace's investigation, which characteristically combines minimal clues and maximum leaps of faith.
Grace also is confronted with another conundrum: He is now married to his longtime girlfriend, Cleo, and has a young son, but a woman who turns up in a German hospital comatose after being struck by a taxi resembles Sandy, his wife who disappeared 10 years before. One drawback to an otherwise outstanding book is the conclusion, which, to these eyes at least, appears to be deliberately, but unnecessarily, manufactured, to provide the basis for the next volume. I would guess that Mr. James can create new plots and characters without regurgitating old ones. Be that as it may, the novel is nonetheless recommended.
Saints of New York
141 Wooster St., NY, NY 10012
9781468312157, $16.95, Paperback, 464 pp, www.amazon.com
This lengthy novel could easily have been split into two or three books: a police procedural, a psychological study of a troubled man, or even a look into the lives of a troubled family or two. Instead, it wraps up all three themes in a single volume with Frank Parrish, a gifted but undisciplined NYPD detective, as the protagonist.
Parrish, the son of one of the most respected and decorated NYPD detectives, knows that his father was dirty. And because of that, he attempts to follow a different path. Nevertheless, in trying to do the right thing, he too often breaks the rules, and so is on a short leash at the job. He also drinks heavily, has his license suspended and is forced to undergo psychotherapy. He also is divorced, and has a troubled relationship with his daughter and exwife.
Frank becomes obsessed with a single case, involving what appear to be young girls being made to participate in snuff movies. He discovers at least six such cases, all tied by a common thread: the girls were orphaned and under the jurisdiction of family services, leading to the conclusion that someone in that organization was responsible either for the murders or for identifying potential victims for someone else.
The plots run together, as Parrish seeks to discover the truth: of his relationship with his deceased father and of his children, as well as the case that drives him to virtual distraction. At times, this reader felt the novel was overwritten and badly in need of editing. However, maybe this approach is necessary to achieve the full picture of the tormented character. In any event, despite those reservations, the novel is recommended.
Cane and Abe
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062295415, $9.99, Paperback, 464 pp, www.amazon.com
The author, a practicing Florida attorney, has written several excellent legal thrillers, keeping readers in suspense, especially with dramatic courtroom scenes. Unfortunately, this novel fails to live up to the standards set in previous efforts. It is understandable. Mr. Grippando set out to write a standalone in a different mode, reflecting the big bad boys in the sugar-growing industry. However, the novel is neither fish nor fowl.
The main character, Abe Beckham, is a top prosecutor in the Miami State Attorney's office, and is involved in an attempt to identify and capture a serial killer of white women married to or sleeping with black men. But an FBI profiler suspects Abe as a "person of interest" with the first of many unnecessary complications in a forced plot. About the only meaningful relevance of the sugar industry is the bodies left along land owned by the largest producer of sugar cane and another victim, a black attorney, with whom Abe had a one-night stand, who worked for the company, also murdered. And on and on does the author introduce extraneous information and red herrings, often neglecting later to tie it all together.
All this is not to say that the novel is not written ably, with Mr. Grippando's usual customary clarity and forthrightness. But the story could have been made simpler and, perhaps, it might have made more sense if the conclusion was explained more fully, rather than just presented and left floating in the air.
Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt
Henry Holt and Company
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780805093995, $28.00, Hardcover, 333 pp, www.amazon.com
Captain Ahab had his frustration in a white whale. The Wild Geese, five free-ranging policemen in the stormy Bronx, four of whom are now retired, have theirs in the form of the "whites," the perpetrators who walked away from their crimes, never apprehended and convicted. Only Billy Graves remains on the job, sort of, while the others are enjoying their pensions pursuing other endeavors, ranging from mortician to real estate mogul.
Because of a fluke shot which Billy made at an attacking dope peddler which penetrated his body and continued on to kill a little boy, Billy's career was utterly sidetracked. He is buried as the head of a night squad of misfits which pick up cases between midnight and 8 am, only to turn them over to daytime detectives. But Billy takes the job seriously, especially when he discovers the whites, one by one, are being murdered, and he suspects his four friends. What to do? Bring them to an accounting or turn the other cheek? Meanwhile, Billy faces another dilemma: someone is harassing and even assaulting his family.
These themes are so interestingly presented that the reader must keep turning pages. The descriptions of New York City and The Bronx (where this dyed-in-the-wool Gothamite grew up) are so accurate and graphic that it invokes real nostalgia. There may be too much detail throughout the novel, but such depth is necessary.
All the Old Knives
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250045423, $23.99, Hardcover, 294 pp, www.amazon.com
One day in English Comp, the professor walked in and told our class to write a story solely in dialogue. It was a devilish assignment and put us all to the task. This novel reminds me of that day. The author started out to write an espionage mystery solely within the confines of a lunch between two persons. In a way he succeeds, but not without a little cheating by way of breaks for background and descriptions. Of course, we in our college class could not do that since such material had to come out of the mouths of our characters.
Henry Pelham and Celia ("Cee") Harrison were CIA operatives (and lovers) in Vienna nine years before the fateful lunch. She left to thereafter become a married woman with two babies, living in Carmel-by-the-sea, CA, where the lunch takes place. Each has a secret agenda, Henry to place the blame on Cee for the disaster that took place when the hijackers murdered 120 passengers when their demands were not met; Celia's is not divulged until the conclusion. Meanwhile they continue to chew words and food.
It is an interesting exercise, very much like my and my classmates' efforts way back when. The dialogue is brisk, and the give and take of the two is sparkling. Certainly, the denouement is never telegraphed and the suspense builds. Especially because nothing appears as it seems and the reader continues to be surprised.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399160776, $26.95, Hardcover, 384 pp., www.amazon.com
Game Warden Joe Pickett faces two separate situations in this 15th entry in the long-running popular series. One is highly personal; the other is in keeping with his official duties. To begin with, on a routine inspection, Joe discovers the wholesale slaughter of 21 sage grouse in a breeding area. What makes the situation worse is that Washington is contemplating designating the sage grouse as an endangered species. This fact allows the author to introduce a timely topic in keeping with the established nature of the series featuring ecology and the environment, especially the question of weighing the ramifications of such a determination against the economies of the areas affected. Especially Wyoming, where Joe lives and works. The species inhabits hundreds of thousands of acres and by sealing the area off, oil and gas exploration would be shut off. Joe's uncovering of how and why the birds were killed is a deft touch and is typical of the author's finesse.
The bulk of the novel, however, is devoted to the assault of the Pickets' 18-year-old adopted daughter, April, who is found battered and near dead on a county road. Two plot lines run through the book as a result: finding the culprit and bringing him to justice, and whether she will survive the brutal attack.
Then there's Joe's good friend Nate, in jail but soon to be released under onerous terms. And he undergoes his own trial after he is freed, but plays a pivotal role at the end. It's an action-filled novel, full of surprises. This is the second novel in a row to lack the usual vivid descriptions of the geography, climate and weather usually detailed in the series. But this fact is less important than the deep characterizations and twists in the story.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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