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Andrea Kay's Bookshelf
Stover Goes to Camp
Kathy Brodsky, author
Cameron Bennett, illustrator
9780997792225, $19.99, HC, 52pp, www.amazon.com
Stover the pig is going to overnight camp for the very first time! This is a big deal, because he has never spent any time away from home."Camp Welcome" is very diverse, a place where all are welcome. In reality, the campers are different animals -- and they all get along. In the process of being away from home, Stover will experience many new things, including a bout with homesickness. He will also get a chance to try challenging, fun activities, and as his time away from home progresses, he will begin to understand himself and others better. A delightfully original and fully entertaining picture book for children of any age, "Stover Goes to Camp" also includes Life-Skills questions that will lead to further discussion of what it's like to leave home for the first time. While very highly recommended, especially for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Stover Goes to Camp" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781534452824, $5.99, Board Book, 16pp, www.amazon.com
In Silly Lullaby (Sandra Boynton's board book for children ages 1-5), saying goodnight all starts with the big bear observing to the little bear in the red footie pajamas: "Your pajamas are on. There's a duck on your head. I think that this means you are ready for bed." With Silly Lullaby a parent and child can happily curl up for a nap or settle in for bedtime. Charming, entertaining, and just a little silly, "Silly Lullaby" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library board book collections for the very young.
Andy Jordan's Bookshelf
Two Guns West
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444839456, $20.99, PB, 232pp, www.amazon.com
When Bodie and Brand arrive in San Francisco, searching for a kidnapped young woman, the city by the bay doesn't exactly welcome them with open arms. But danger has never stopped these two before - not even when it comes in the form of a deadly Chinese Tong determined to extend its opium empire as far as the east coast. With the help of Captain Richard Hunt, a British agent from Jamaica, all they have to do is bring down the Tong - and its murderous criminal ally Milo Traeger. This time, in his latest novel "Two Guns West", author Neil Hunter has written what could arguably be described as a mystery set in the San Francisco of the Old West. A solid, page-turner of an entertainment from cover to cover, this large print edition of "Two Guns West" is a fully endorsed and highly recommended addition to both personal reading lists and community library Western Fiction collections.
Ann Evans' Bookshelf
Daniel M. Ford
Santa Fe Writer's Project
9781939650993, $14.95 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 255pp, www.amazon.com
Body Broker is a fun read if you like stories narrated by eccentric private detectives. Popular literature is full of them, and lots of my friends have read dozens.
The story doesn't bear much analysis. I got hung up wondering how an obsessive body-builder healthnut would not go to the doctor when his ribs were broken, but Jack Dixon is a superhero, not to be judged by our standards. We long ago got used to wise-ass PIs living on the equivalent of Jack's peanut butter and apples with the occasional glass of milk and a carrot, and beating up people with his bare hands, then the next day doing it again, even with those broken ribs. (Probably broken, you'd have to visit a doctor to know for sure.) James Bond did that sort of thing all the time.
Besides Jack Dixon, the story involves depraved rich people, drugs, a troubled teenager, a seductive but treacherous woman, white supremacy, a frantic mother, a good cop, a houseboat, and more - the standard set of disparate players in a noir detective genre that goes back to Mickey Spillane. The settings are in a world where ordinary peole don't live, either more luxurious or more depraved.
Our fella gets himself into some scary scrapes - going alone into the heart of evil, breaking the law right and left, and doing stupid shit like leaving critical evidence in his car in the parking lot and coming to a gun fight with a knife, but that's all part of the formula to put the reader's adrenalin to work.
His metaphors are clunky, "my voice sounded like a quarter ton of gravel had just been blown through my esophagus," for example. How do you like that one? Maybe I'm wrong; maybe it's great. Metaphors are a matter of personal taste.
Around page 150, just as Jack's self abuse has begun to wear on the reader, the story gets interesting.
In the end, the reader is not sure what indignities Jack has suffered that made him such a self-described "screw up," with so much "self loathing," but for this type of formula literature, do we need to know? The unresolved questions will recede quickly.
There are detective stories with greater literary value, but who cares. Just enjoy it.
Sheryl St. Germain
9780999753446, $17.00, PB, 198pp, www.amazon.com
If I had to choose one category of book to read, it would be prose written by poets. Poets are forced into brevity and mine deep meaning in every syllable to get a worthy point across. When they carry that skill into a longer work, it is thrilling. Patrick Lane's What the Stones Remember is one such long lush banquet, and Sheryl St. Germain's 50 Miles is another. Delight in a couple of excerpts:
I can feel myself back to the falls, kneeling, cupping my hands and dipping them into the water that rushes like arterial blood from the wound in its ice-white skin.
That's the mystery of fog, as anyone who's attempted to drive in it knows, that it does not respond as darkness does to light, by opening up a way, but rather just reveals more of itself. The powers of light are not useful in fog.
The story told in 50 Miles is presented as a series of essays by a mother, St. Germain, whose son, Gray, dies of a drug overdose. The reader knows from the outset that Gray will die, but the essays are presented in the time frame during which she is trying to save him.
The book packs the drama of a spy or detective novel. It begins by acknowledging Gray's death, then creates the suspense by going back to the beginning and bringing the reader through the spine-tingling, unbearably dangerous twists and turns leading to the inevitable ending. 50 Miles is woven with a mystery writer's storytelling sense and the poet's eye for just the right heartstring, just the right nightmare image.
Gray is the scion of a family cursed with addiction and suicide. He is pulled into the downward spiral so familiar to St. Germain herself from the moment he enters public school, where the staff is ill-equipped to deal with him. St. Germain writes, Once a diagnosis of ADD is made of a child, that label tends to dominate, even though the child may be, like Gray, bright, quick, heartbreakingly insightful and imaginative.
St. Germain deals with the worry that comes from phases of maturation familiar to most parents: the kid acts up in class, the young adult avoids his mother, the teenager indulges in destructive behavior. Most parents, however, don't wake up one morning and realize the destruction is not a blip, a phase, it's now the way it is.
Though readers may not be near death themselves or know anyone in immediate threat of it, it is a phantom that visits in our sleep, or a waking nightmare, a drag on our energies. How to live with that phantom is one of mankind's oldest challenges, and St. Germain makes a vibrant contribution by reminding us that one way to keep the past alive and the future touchable is through storytelling.
Her essays connect things, the way poets do: sea stars with her son, spaghetti puttanesca with grief. When Gray dies, her essays are single short, numb, crammed paragraphs, conveying in their brevity the felt futility of words.
Perhaps it is because I am old and carry a burden of regrets, losses, and unresolvable mysteries that this book so connected with me. Nobody becomes old without being forced into making compromised decisions, without letting others make decisions for you, without being battered by the occasional run of bad luck or the oppression of time. For that reason, young people should read this book, too. It is distressing that life will be cruel, but hopeful to know that people can get through it all somehow, and that the life that remains becomes precious, layered, funny, and rich.
Then, suddenly, the poetry turns defensively prosaic with a long first-this-happened-and-then-that-happened chapter on gaming. St. Germain seems to have run out of the energy required to distill this subject into virtuosic prose-poetry.
The book concludes with a chapter on St. Germain's recent support of students struggling with addiction. Her well-informed devotion to the welfare of her students can serve as a guide to others witnessing the grief and seduction of addiction.
These final sections are so different in tone and content from the body of the book that they might be better presented as addenda. In them, St. Germain renounces her muse and becomes a mere mortal again. The sudden loss of poetic power comes as a shock and diminishes the overall effect of her tremendous accomplishment.
Ann Anderson Evans
Ann Skea's Bookshelf
The Far Field
c/o Grove Atlantic
9781611854824, A$29.99, paperback, 432 pages
"I am thirty years old and that is nothing.
I know what this sounds like, and I hesitate to begin with something so obvious, but let me say it anyway, at the risk of sounding naive. And let it stand alongside this: six years ago, a man I knew vanished from his home in the mountains. He vanished in part because of me, because of certain things I said, but also things I did not have, until now, the courage to say."
Shalini begins her story on this serious note. But like her creator, Madhuri Vijay, she is a superb and fluent story-teller and the people, places and events she remembers as her story flows between past and present are vividly present and make it easy to forget her serious purpose.
At the heart of Shalini's story is Bashir Ahmed, an itinerant Kashmiri hawker of beautifully-embroidered Kashmiri clothes. Shalini remembers the first time he knocked at the door of her middle-class home in Bangalore and how, unexpectedly, her mother let him in to display his wares. Shalini, remembers her mother as being a stubborn, sharp-tongued woman who disdained the usual interests of young mothers:
'Shopping? I could hear the slow, mocking smile in her voice.'
"Promise me, Shalini", she demands of her young daughter after mixing with other mothers taking their children to swimming practice at the local pool, "that if I ever become like one of those brainless, fat cows, you'll take a knife and stab me. Promise."
Usually, itinerant door-knockers get short shrift: '"Oh get lost", my mother says. And slams the door.'
But with Bashir it is different. Shalini, who was six at the time, remembers how he laughed at her mother's caustic responses, cleverly turned them to his own advantage, and somehow managed to captivate her. On his occasional return visits he is welcomed, no clothes are displayed, but each time Shalini, too, is captivated by his wonderful story-telling. Eventually, because of troubles in Kashmir, Bashir seeks refuge with the family and is invited by Shalini's father to stay with them.
Like any daughter, her parents' lives and feelings are largely hidden from her. She sees her father as a hard-working businessman, serious, loving, often unable to understand his wife's prickly personality and a little contemptuous of her lack of education. And she ponders the curious relationship which begins to grow between her mother and Bashir, thinking of it as a secret joy which she shared with her mother, and remembering her mother's puzzling behaviour and Bashir's strange anger immediately before he left the house for good.
When her mother dies, Shalini discovers a crudely carved wooden animal amongst her clothes and recognises it as a gift Bashir had given to her (Shalini) on one of his visits:
I carried the creature back to my room, and stood it on my bedside table, the very spot from which my mother had stolen it all those years ago.... I thought only of the wooden beast, sitting beside my pillow, and, out of nowhere, a huge, unbearable joy exploded in me. Just like that, the secret I'd shared with my mother was alive again. Looking back, I think that must have been when I decided to look for him.
Shalini's search for Bashir takes her to a remote Himalayan village in the turbulent northern region of Kashmir. She is politically naive, unaware of the long history of religious conflicts which still haunt the villagers. Growing up in a comfortable middle-class Indian family, she has accepted the class distinctions in her own life and the casual well-meaning attitudes towards Kashmir and its people:
"...we fell in love with Kashmir when we visited. It was for our honeymoon. We stayed on a houseboat, and every morning this old man would float up in a tiny boat full of these beautiful flowers. He would give us this handful, and he would never take any money for them either".
Shalini's experiences in the remote mountain village in which she lives whilst searching for Bashir are very different. Like any stranger, Shalini accepts the way things look and only gradually is she made aware of underlying tensions and of he own misinterpretation of the ways strangers respond to her. Life with the family with whom she stays is hard, the village people are desperately poor, the climate is harsh and living conditions are primitive. She sees the magnificence and beauty of the mountains but they are bare, unforgiving and dangerous. And there are bandits, corrupt officials, random military searches, and political unrest.
Shalini believes she has made friends, especially with Amina, Bashir's daughter-in-law, and her small son, Riyaz. And she tries her best to help, but without knowing the reality of the situation she inevitably makes mistakes, and some of them are dangerous, for herself and for others.
Eventually, Shalini has to return to her former life in Bangalore, to with her memories, to live with the consequences of her misunderstandings, and to remember the people she left in the mountains and whose difficult lives she briefly shared. In the end, she considers the purpose of her own story-telling:
"I am aware that I am taking no risks by recounting any of this, that for people like me, safe and protected, even the greatest risk is, ultimately, an indulgence. I am aware of the likely futility of all that I have told here, and, I am aware, too, of the thousand ways I have tried to excuse myself in the telling of it. All the same, whatever the flaws of this story or confession or whatever it has turned out to be, let it stand."
Shalini is a complex and believable character and Madhuri Vijay tells her story simply and with great skill. This is a compelling and fascinating book, but hidden beneath the surface of Shalini's story is a warning. We are daily exposed to media reports of terrorism and of ongoing conflict in disputed territories, not just in India and Kashmir but around the world. It is easy to sit comfortably in our homes and distract ourselves with other things (like reading this story for example). Or we may try to help in some way. But without deep knowledge of the situation or first-hand experience of it we, like Shalini, may unknowingly do more harm than good.
Tim & Tigon (A Young Reader's edition of On the Trail of Genghis Khan)
9781760554293, A$18.99, paperback, 335pages
"What are you going to do when the wolves attack? What about when the thieves steal your horses?"
"You are going to ride to Hungary... and you are not carrying a gun?"
Tim Cope's early meetings with the nomads of Mongolia convinced them that he was crazy. But his fear as he started his 10,000 kilometer horseback trek in the footsteps of the ancient warrior, Genghis Khan, was not wolves, thieves or the harsh climate and terrain he would face, but fear of his horses. His early experience with horses had been of being thrown from one at the age of seven and shipped to hospital with a broken arm. Since then he had been on a five-day pack-horse trip, had some advice from a horse expert, and had spent just a handful of days in the saddle. As he set off across the nomad lands of the European steppe with his three Mongolian horses, he was terrified: "I imagined being thrown off, kicked, bitten and not being able to control a wild, bolting horse".
His fears were not unfounded. Mongolian horses are known to be either calm or temperamental. Two of the first three horses Tim bought were of the latter kind - wild and temperamental. Later, in Kazakhstan, he had Ogonyok, who got spooked by the sound of his own farts; Zhamba, who kicked and bucked and annoyed the other horses; and Taskonir, who once took a bite out of Tim's back leaving broken skin and bruising which took a week to heal.
Horses, wolves and thieves were not the only challenges which faced Tim as he set out to make a long-held dream come true. There were high mountains to cross, desserts and bogs, and temperatures which ranged from deathly cold (-50 degrees centigrade) to "scorching summers where, it was rumoured, you could become dried out and mummified in a single day".
Then, just six days into his journey, two of Tim's horses were stolen while he slept. As so often happened on this journey, a local man rescued him, bringing back his horses, then inviting Tim to his ger (a traditional, felt-walled tent) for a drink of fermented mare's milk. It had "a couple of blowflies floating belly-up on the surface", but Tim didn't mind at all, because "A man without friends", as the man told him, quoting a traditional saying, "is as small as a palm. A man with friends is as big as the steppe". Time and again, Tim was to find that this was true. But the dog, Tigon, too, was often his rescuer.
Tim first met Tigon at a nomadic village camp on the borders of Kazakhstan. Invited to dinner at the home of Aset, Tim was surprised by two warm paws on his chest and moist doggy breath on his cheek, only to glance up and see "two milky white paws vanish into the night". "He likes you", said Aset, who had agreed to be Tim's guide for the next few days. But Tim was annoyed when Aset brought this skinny young dog who "looked as if he might struggle to stay upright in a stiff breeze" with them when they set off. He was even more annoyed when a few days later Aset declared: "In our country dogs choose their owner. Tigon is yours", then left to return to his village. Tim had no choice but to accept him.
Tigon, Aset had assured Tim, was a 'tazi', a fast, hunting dog, unafraid of wolves. But Tigon was young, and adept at sneaking into Tim's sleeping bag, happy that Tim would protect him from wolves. He was also in the habit of pretending to be asleep when it was time to get up. And, of course, he became Tim's faithful companion and won his heart.
Throughout the book, Tim and Tigon share the dangers - and the food, some of which ("freshly boiled camel's head", for example) is a bit daunting. Tigon ranges far and wide hunting foxes and hares as Tim rides. He disappears and re-appears, bravely protects Tim and the horses by facing off a threatening stallion, and, at one point, herds inquisitive camels towards them instead of away from them. His ambitious chase of a wild boar, leads to an ignominious retreat from a whole family of vengeful pigs. He is all ears and tail on distant horizons, and he is a delight. Tigon, like Tim, has adventures. He gets sick, is kidnapped and beaten, is run-down by the first car he encounters, and gets trapped on a railway line. He is also Tim's comforter through a period of grief when Tim's father, back in Australia, unexpectedly dies.
As well as being a record of his friendship with Tigon, and of his own interactions with the local people, Tim writes of how he comes to understand the nomadic way of life and some of the bloody history of Genghis Khan's conquests. He writes, too, of the changes which Soviet control of many of the countries has brought to nomadic people, few of whom now live a traditional nomadic life, although they still observe many old traditions.
Like all good adventure stories, Tim and Tigon share encounters with bickering guides, aggressive drunks, thieves, gun-wielding locals, poachers and police. They also survive dangerous terrains, a local war, and near-death experiences. Unlike the early explorers, Tim could use his mobile phone to keep in touch with his family, and GPS to help him navigate, except when both were frozen solid and would not work. He also speaks Russian. Nevertheless, the dangers, the personal learning experience, the chance to learn new things and the knowledge of nomadic life which he gained, made him determined to tell this story as a way of inspiring young readers to be brave, to be unafraid to take risks, and to have fun.
"This story is for you", he writes, "so that you can step into the saddle and ride towards your dreams". But it is also a way of reminding himself "to never stop making new friends or nurturing old ones and to never let go of dreams".
And How Are You, Dr Sacks: A biographical memoir of Oliver Sacks
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
9780374236410, A$39.99, hardback, 383 pages
In the early 1980s, twenty-nine-year-old Lawrence Weschler had just become a staff writer at the New Yorker. Having finished a book-length biography of Californian Light and Space artist, Robert Irwin, he was looking for a subject upon whom he could "direct the sort of slow long-term attention" he had lavished on his previous subject. Oliver Sacks came to mind, because Weschler had already established a rapport with him through correspondence about a proposed film of Sack's book, Awakenings, for which Weschler had written a preliminary screenplay.
So, for the next four years, Weschler shared a great deal of Oliver Sacks's life. He accompanied him to hospitals; listened to some of his patient consultations; interviewed his publishers, people who worked with him, and his closest childhood friends; debated with him and discussed literature, philosophy and Jewish mysticism; and he documented and commented on their meetings, phone-calls, e-mails and letters. After four years the two had become friends, and Sacks had become god-father to Weschler's daughter, Sara.
Sacks then asked Weschler to abandon the project.
Not until shortly before his death did Sacks relent, and he then asked his friend to complete the work. And How Are You, Dr Sacks is the result, and its title is based on the very personal and caring question with which Oliver Sacks often approached his patients.
What comes across most strongly in Weschler's profile is the conflicted brilliance of his subject. Sacks was a great bear of a man, an award-winning weight-lifter, a tireless long-distance swimmer, a man who could consume dangerous quantities of addictive drugs without dying from overdoses, and, eventually, a highly successful writer. He was also deeply empathetic towards his patients, worked tirelessly for their well-being, and was desperately determined to bring medicine from cold, symptom-medication based treatments to what, today, would be described as a holistic regard for the patient. He was also stubborn, insecure, prone to childish outbursts of rage and, as he described himself: "a man of vehement dispositions, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all [his] passions".
Late in life Sacks recognised his own problem of prosopagnosia (or an in ability to recognise faces), and although he recognised people by their voices, posture, gestures and gait, this face-blindness added to his insecurities. And he was also in almost complete denial about his homosexuality and his thirty-five-year sexual celibacy, recognising it but refusing to publicly acknowledge it. It was this which initially resulted in his ban on the continuation of Weschler's profile.
Weschler writes well. He provides a vivid and detailed picture of Sacks as a man and as a neurologist, a philosopher, a doctor and a friend. He does not skate over Sacks's failings and he does justice to his brilliance in the field of "Romantic" science (the science of the individual person) and the influence of his work on patients in particular and medicine in general.
Inevitably, given the time-period of Weschler's profile, there is a great deal of information about Awakenings, its patients, and the play and film made of the book. And "The Leg Book" with Sacks's writer's-block and paranoia over it, also features at some length. There is also much to enjoy in this book. Descriptions of Oliver's prodigious appetite, for example. He would absent-mindedly, and often, eat from his neighbour's plate. And Jonathan Miller, one of his oldest friends, remembers how food "simply converged on Oliver....gradually you noticed that all the food was gravitating to his end of the table, where it quietly and systematically got eaten". Sacks's twenty-one day residency at a writer's colony resulted in a twenty-eight pounds weight gain: "He accomplished this in part due to the superb breakfasts and dinners but especially to the buffet lunches." Oliver gradually increased the number of his visits to these until he was "coming down at eleven and staying until four. Each new group would proclaim "Oh, Ollie, good! You're with our shift", not realising that he was with all their shifts".
Oliver's obsessive behaviour showed itself in his passion for ferns, for the Periodic Table, for cuttlefish, for drugs, for motor-bikes ridden at dangerous speeds, and, especially, for writing. Editors regularly despaired over the possibility of curtailing the flow of revisions and other additional material which flowed their way, even after a book was officially finished. Oliver's own report about one article he had sent to the editor of the New York Review of Books was: "Oh I think he liked it, though I think I made his life more difficult by sending him seventeen more revised versions". Other editors leaned to simply cut or ignore Oliver's excesses.
My only complaint about this book is that Weschler is so used to writing lengthy pieces for The New Yorker that towards the end of the book I felt I had heard almost too much about Oliver Sacks, and I wished the book had been shorter.
Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer
Carl Logan's Bookshelf
RF Electronics for Electronic Warfare
Richard A. Poisel
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630817053, $149.00, HC, 600pp, www.artechhouse.com
Synopsis: "RF Electronics for Electronic Warfare" by Richard A. Poisel is exciting new resource investigates the function of RF communication in electronic warfare systems and provides in-depth coverage of how RF signals must be constructed to perform jamming missions, which prevent a receiver from properly extracting a target signal.
Technical descriptions of oscillators and modulators, which generate the RF signals, are presented and explored. Power supplies that generate adequate power for fueling high power amplifiers are also described and their operations investigated.
Oscillator basics, including principles of oscillator operation, phase locked loop synthesizers and direct digital synthesis are examined. Fundamentals of RF communications, including power supplies for RF power amplifiers, are included, making it useful for both novice and advanced practitioners.
Critique: Expertly organized and presented, "RF Electronics for Electronic Warfare" is an ideal curriculum textbook that deftly combines electronic warfare with oscillator design and analysis, making it unreservedly recommended for professional, military, college, and university library Electronic Warfare collections and supplemental studies lists.
Editorial Note: Richard A. Poisel is a senior engineering fellow at Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Arizona. He was formerly the chief scientist at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. Dr. Poisel is also the author of Modern Communications Jamming Principles and Techniques, Second Edition, Introduction to Communication Electronic Warfare Systems, Second Edition, Target Acquisition in Communication Electronic Warfare Systems, and Electronic Warfare Target Location Methods.
Promoting Sustainable Local and Community Economic Development
Roland V. Anglin
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781420088106, $90.95, HC, 302pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Growing local economies, empowering communities, revitalizing downtowns, developing entrepreneurship, building leadership, and enhancing nonprofits -- you can achieve all these benefits and more with a comprehensive and strategic revitalization plan. Chronicling the struggle of local revitalization as organizers move from trial and error to effective revitalization strategies, "Promoting Sustainable Local and Community Economic Development" by Roland V. Anglin documents the current transformation in community revitalization from market-based incentives to mixed strategies of public sector learning, partnerships, and community capacity.
Knowledge about the field and what works is growing, but not always publicized and readily accessible. This reference surveys the breadth of innovative place and people development practices, presenting lessons and examples at a general and textured level, putting information about innovative ways to change, influence, and improve the economic development process within easy reach.
Dr. Anglin brings his unique vantage point to the topic; his experience as a practitioner and applied academic allowed him to see how community economic development practices grow over time in size, scale, and impact. He highlights the difference between what is now termed community economic development (CED) and traditional local economic development practice, specifically the priority placed on community involvement in economic development partnerships between the private sector and government. "Promoting Sustainable Local and Community Economic Development" includes case studies that demonstrate what has and has not worked in revitalization efforts, as well as how active public and private sector partnerships have been the most effective in revitalization efforts. A Resource Guide is included at the end of the book for readers who may want a more expansive understanding of community economic development.
Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Promoting Sustainable Local and Community Economic Development" is an ideal curriculum textbook for college and university Government & Education courses. While very highly recommended as a core addition to corporate and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, government policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Promoting Sustainable Local and Community Economic Development" is also available in a paperback edition (9781138379947, $56.00) and in a digital book format (eTextbook, $15.39).
Editorial Note: Roland V. Anglin is the Director of the Initiative for Regional and Community Transformation (IRCT) at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Dr. Anglin's career spans over twenty years of working in the public, educational, and philanthropic sectors. In all his professional positions, Dr. Anglin has focused on promoting economic and community development in and for marginalized communities.
The Lie of Global Prosperity
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583677667, $89.00, HC, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "We're making headway on global poverty," proclaimed multi-billionaire Bill Gates. "Decline of Global Extreme Poverty Continues," reports the World Bank. "How did the global poverty rate halve in 20 years?" inquires The Economist.
But in "The Lie of Global Prosperity: How Neoliberals Distort Data to Mask Poverty and Exploitation", Seth Donnelly (a public high school teacher in the Bay Area of California, where he has taught social studies for nearly two decades) answers: "It didn't!"
In fact, according to Donnelly, virtually nothing about these glad tidings proclaiming plummeting global poverty rates is true. It's just that trend-setting neoliberal experts and institutions need us to believe that global capitalism, now unfettered in the wake of the Cold War and bolstered by Information Technology, has ushered in a new phase of international human prosperity.
"The Lie of Global Prosperity" is short book that step-by-step deconstructs the assumption that global poverty has fallen dramatically, and lays bare the spurious methods of poverty measurement and data on which the dominant prosperity narrative depends. It is a carefully researched documentation that global poverty (and the inequalities and misery that flourish within it) remains massive, afflicting the majority of the world's population.
Donnelly goes further to analyze just how global poverty, rather than being reduced, is actually reproduced by the imperatives of capital accumulation on a global scale. Just as the global, environmental catastrophe cannot be resolved within capitalism, rooted as it is in contemporary mechanisms of exploitation and plunder, neither can human poverty be effectively eliminated by neoliberal "advances".
Critique: Exceptionally well written, "The Lie of Global Prosperity: How Neoliberals Distort Data to Mask Poverty and Exploitation" will prove to be of immense informative value for both professional economists and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. An iconoclastic and exceptionally informative study, while "The Lie of Global Prosperity is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.19).
Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf
Carol Smallwood Interviews Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series for writers including USA Book News' winner for The Frugal Book Promoter in its third edition was an instructor for UCLA Extension's renowned Writers' Program for nearly a decade. She was named Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by members of the California Legislature and Women Who Make Life Happen, by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper.
"[Carolyn Howard-Johnson] is an incessant promoter who develops and shares new approaches for book promotion." ~Marilyn Ross, founder Small Publishers of North America and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing.
Carol Smallwood: I'll begin with your award winning The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't. What led you to develop it?
CHJ: Mistakes. I made so many promotion mistakes with my first book, the award-winning novel This Is the Place! Even with a background in publicity, marketing, and journalism. Not least of which were these two nearly universally false assumptions:
1. Your publisher will assign you a publicist and all your book's promotion will be taken care of.
2. Once an author realizes that she must take her book's promotion in hand, a publicist is essential and one book publicist is about as good as the other.
Naturally, Carol, I had to share my experiences. I guess I've got that sharing streak that most teachers have in my blood. Oh, then there was that little thing: I wanted to share all my booboos and lessons with other authors so I applied to do a class at UCLA and they accepted. And, yep, there I was with tons of marketing books - none of them that addressed the special needs of authors!
Carol Smallwood: What is your favorite way for poets to promote?
CHJ: My favorite is, of course, that anyone, even the shyest can promote. There are lots of ways to do that and resources discussed in The Frugal Book Promoter.
Carol Smallwood: What is unique about you is your belief that authors should work together to promote their work. Tell us a little about your experience in helping and sharing your knowledge:
CHJ: Awwww. It isn't that unique. I studied publicity at USC (University of Southern California). It wasn't my major, but I had a fantastic professor, head of the publicity department there. He was a former president of a big airline. He taught us that one of the first rules of real publicity is that it shouldn't be proprietary. My way of rewording that principle is, "the universe is so full of opportunity there is plenty to go around." My other favorite is, "What one can do, two can do better." Thus cross-promotion is one of the best ways to make one's efforts do double duty. No. It's a way to make one's promotion efforts take quantum leaps. An example of how that works is a new blog I started. The New Book Review (www.thenewbookreview.blogspot.com) is something that takes me only minutes when I post a new review. Anyone can submit one. Reader. Author. Reviewer. After they've submitted and I post, they let their contacts know about it and that benefits them, me, and also all of the other authors who have ever participated on the blog. Submission guidelines are in a tab at the top of the home page and in the left column lest anyone should miss them. Following them exactly allows me to keep doing it free.
Carol Smallwood: What would you say is the unique selling point of your book compared to similar ones that are on the market?
CHJ: It's fun to read. And everything in it is based on my own personal, practical experience. Not pie-in-the-sky marketing principles. It also addresses the fears that many of us have about anything to do with marketing.
Carol Smallwood: I know you have written other books, too. Can you tell me a bit about them?
CHJ: Well, the next one after The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't is The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success.
Together they comprise the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. There will be more to come.
This Frugal book is also based on practical experience. One of the classes I taught at UCLA Extension Writers' Program was on independent editing. Between that and the query and cover letters and media releases that I get across my desk (I also consult) I kept seeing the same errors over and over again. It feels as if little gremlins were picking at the possibilities of these author's success. They often weren't big things, nothing a high school teacher would pick on. But they were instant tipoffs that these authors weren't yet professional or hadn't done their homework. That's a big disadvantage when these gatekeepers - people like editors, producers, contest judges, publishers, agents - have many hundreds such documents move across their desk every week. They may toss something that is very promising based on a bad mood coupled with an inane comment like, "I always wanted to write." Think! One has one page (maybe even only the first paragraph of that one page!) to convince a gatekeeper to keep reading. I bet 90% of new authors use that writing line, and usually in the first sentence. And it doesn't really say much. So The Frugal Editor takes a writer through anything from first contact with a gatekeeper through final manuscript. Mind you, I don't encourage a writer to edit his or her manuscript on their own. I do know that the more a writer knows about editing, the better partner she or he will be for any editor, any publisher.
Carol Smallwood: How long you've been writing and what made you get into the literary field?
CHJ: I started my journalism career in high school. All the cutest, smartest, most talented boys were on the newspaper staff. I finally wrote the novel I'd always wanted to write when I got cancer and realized that if we keep putting off our heart's desire, we may never get a chance to do what we consider most important.. Writing is a healer. I've been cancer free since I started writing my novel - twenty-five years ago.
Carol Smallwood: Who are the people most instrumental in your growth as a writer?
CHJ: If I started naming names I might forget someone. Let's just say that creative writing is nothing like journalism, copywriting, or other kinds of writing I had done. Without UCLA's Writers' Program (http://www.uclaextension.edu), I may never have gotten that first novel published. Of course, I taught there after I took those classes and published. It felt as if I was passing along the love.
Carol Smallwood: From your experience, what key ingredients do new writers need to succeed in the book industry?
CHJ: Curiosity and a lack of pride. The false kind of pride. We'll never become great writers unless we have open minds and an awareness that we don't know everything.
Carol Smallwood: Do you have a website where readers may learn more about your work?
CHJ: At http://www.howtodoitfrugally.com there is a page for each of my books including my creative nonfiction, my poetry, my novel and more. But there are also lots of pages of information. Resources for writers and readers, a free article page, etc.
Carol Smallwood: Are you working on new material?
CHJ. I am always working on poetry. I am very proud of my most recent poetry book, Imperfect Echoes.
Writer's Digest gave it an honorable mention.
Carol Smallwood: Do you have any appearances planned?
Always. My next is a Writers Conference headed by Kathleen Kaiser in Oxnard, CA. Learn more on my SharingwithWriters blog at:
Carol Smallwood: What are some resources for writers that you would recommend?
CHJ: They aren't my own, but I do a "Back to Literature" column for MyShelf.com and love to recommend the entire site for both readers and writers. I also contribute to WritersontheMove.com blog.
A book I always recommend to my consulting/editing clients is Tom Chiarella's Writing Dialogue.
Carol Smallwood: Thanks, Carolyn. I'm looking forward to your future projects. I became familiar with your books when they were recommended by my publishers after their acceptance to help promote them.
Carol Smallwood Interviews Hadley Moore
Hadley Moore's short story collection Not Dead Yet and Other Stories won Autumn House Press's 2018 fiction contest.
Not Dead Yet and Other Stories
Autumn House Press
Smallwood: Not Dead Yet has contemporary characters dealing squarely with universal problems. Which of the characters did you find the easiest to write about? How long did it take to complete the collection?
Moore: I say this all the time, but it is true: the process is so mysterious. For me, it isn't so much that certain characters are easier or harder to write as that whole stories are. I can look at the table of contents of this book and remember what it was like to draft and revise each story - which I wrote relatively quickly; which went through multiple revisions, sometimes in fits and starts over years; which I thought I might never finish - but I can't tell you why. The process is likely determined by a combination of how well-formed the idea was to begin with, whether I received useful feedback from a reader on an early draft, how much uninterrupted time I had to work on it, and many other factors related to all the as-yet unknown ways our brains operate. I just have to accept that when I start a new project there isn't any way to know how it will go.
This book took about ten years to complete, during which time I also focused on other work. Each story felt like a discreet project, and it didn't occur to me until I had most of them drafted that I might be heading toward a full collection.
Smallwood: Do you write poetry or nonfiction? When did you begin to write character centered fiction?
Moore: I admire poetry but I don't write it; everything that comes out of me is a sentence. And if I have an urge to write nonfiction, it's usually about fiction books or fiction writing, but I haven't published an essay in years. All of this is to say fiction is my literary home.
In my early twenties I started dabbling in essays, then I got an MS in journalism, and it was a few years after that that I finally decided to try fiction. I was twenty-nine when I started my master of fine arts (MFA) program.
Smallwood: We connected through Michigan Writers https://www.michwriters.org. Please expand on what you shared in an interview with Midwestern Gothic: "There's an austerity to the Midwest that doesn't lend itself to self-promotion."
Moore: This was in response to a question about why there isn't so much acknowledgment of a regional school of writing of the Midwest as there is of, say, the West or the South. I don't have a comprehensive answer, but I do think it has something to do with the unassuming nature of (at least parts of) the Midwest. That's a stereotype and a sweeping generalization, but there are certainly aspects of truth to it.
Smallwood: How do you manage to include humor, even absurdity, in difficult situations?
Moore: It's just the way my brain works! Not everything I write is funny, but much of it has an element of gallows humor. It's something that presents itself early in drafting, as part of the tone and a character's situation or worldview. I like to say my life's motto is "Laugh or slit your wrists," which I realize can come off as both overly dark and also flippant, but life is hard. You have to laugh at it.
Smallwood: Do you find male characters more challenging to delineate?
Moore: No. I don't think we're so different, really, in what motivates us and what we obsess over and what the stakes are in our lives.
Smallwood: What magazines has your work appeared?
Moore: Many literary journals: McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Witness, the Indiana Review, and others. Many of these are housed in and receive support from universities. I keep an updated list on my website: http://www.hadleymoore.net/disc.htm.
Smallwood: What is your literary training, background:
Moore: I earned my MFA from the wonderful Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, where my teachers were Maud Casey, CJ Hribal, Erin McGraw, Michael Parker, and Steven Schwartz. They were all excellent. I was very lucky.
I also participated in the Association of Writers & Writing Programs' Writer to Writer Mentorship Program with the writer Christine Sneed, who has been so generous and encouraging.
Smallwood: What are you working on now and what advice can you share with those wanting to be published:
I'd like to find a home for a novel manuscript I've revised several times, and my current project is shaping up to be thematically linked stories about the assassinations of the 1960s.
Persistence is the key. Writing has to be work you would do no matter what. Publishing ambition is great, but artistic ambition must precede it.
Smallwood: Where can readers learn more about your work:
My website is www.hadleymoore.net, and I very recently got on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HadleyMoore10.
Carol Smallwood Interviews Mary Mackey
The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams
Marsh Hawk Press
ISBN-10: 0996991123 $14.39 pbk / $2.99 Kindle
Mary Mackey, with a B.A. from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The University of Michigan, is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet. Maxine Hong Kingston noted: "Mary Mackey's poems are powerful, beautiful, and have extraordinary range. This is the poetry of a woman who has lived richly, and felt deeply. May her concern for the planet help save it.
Smallwood: Your eighth poetry collection, The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams won the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award for the Best Book Published by a Small Press. What are other previous important recognitions?
In 2018 The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams and my novel The Village of Bones both won a Women's Spirituality Book Award from The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). In 2012 another collection of my poetry Sugar Zone won a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence, and was a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards. In 2004, I received a Foremother of Women's Spirituality Movement Award from CIIS, and in 1985 California State University, Sacramento, gave me their Outstanding Scholarly Achievement Award.
Smallwood: The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams covers an amazingly rich, highly admired, varied and long poetry collection. How did you come up with the title?
The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams is not only the title of the collection; it's the title of one of the poems, which first appeared in my previous collection Sugar Zone. As soon as I decided to put the poem in my new collection, I knew its title was also the perfect title for the whole thing. Jaguars have a special meaning for me. I have lived off and on in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America for many years, including the times I have spent in the Brazilian Amazon. In the jungle, jaguars are the top predators.They are beautiful, huge, and powerful. The shamans of the upper Amazon have said that when they go on vision quests, they become jaguars who prowl through the dream worlds. In my poetry, jaguars symbolize a force that connects ordinary reality with other realities, which in many ways is what poetry itself does, particularly the kind of poetry I write, which has mystical elements. Also we all have "jaguars' that prowl our dreams: powerful, mysterious things that hunt us down.
Smallwood: Part One contains forty-eight new poems including twenty-one set in Western Kentucky from 1742 to 1975; and twenty-six explores the tropical jungle outside and within us with a quality of the surreal. Part Two offers seventy-eight poems drawn from earlier collections. Do you write other genres besides poetry?
Yes. I've written fourteen novels, one of which made The New York Times Bestseller List. I also write screenplays and have feature film credits. In addition, I write nonfiction essays and memoir, plus blog posts that give writing advice designed to be useful both for writers and educators.
Smallwood: When did you begin writing and what advice would you give new writers?
I began seriously writing poetry when I was eleven years old. I started writing novels after I finished my doctoral dissertation because I realized that if I could write 350 pages of literary criticism on The Darwinian Revolution and the Nineteenth Century Novel, I could probably write a full-length novel. Before that, writing a novel seemed like an impossibly long task.
The best advice I can give new writers is: 1) revise, revise, revise until you have made your work as good as possible 2) never give up. My first commercial novel McCarthy's List was rejected by 250 publishers. I revised it twelve times (on a typewriter!) and six major publishing houses bid on it. Doubleday published it, and it even got reviewed in The New York Times.
Smallwood: Please tell readers about being in the 1970s Women's Movement and consciousness raising:
That's a long story - longer perhaps than any novels I've ever written. The short version is that women involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War movement became increasingly conscious that they were second-class citizens as far as the men in these movements were concerned. For example, if a women spoke up in a meeting, the men often did not listen to what she had to say or dismissed it out of hand. Feeling that equality should mean equality, groups of women banded together and began to try to level the playing field.
I can't begin to describe all the things we did in this small space, but imagine living in a time when birth control was illegal in some states; when a woman couldn't get credit without her husband's signature; when you almost never saw a woman doctor, a woman lawyer, a woman member of Congress, a woman news anchor; a time when all the property (in most states) belonged to the husband and during a divorce a woman could lose her children; a time when LGBTQ people were persecuted and imprisoned, when African-American women were terrorized and subjected to Jim Crow Laws; a time when domestic abuse was not generally considered a crime; when there were no refuges for battered women, when rape victims were blamed for being raped because they had "asked for it."
The women of the 1970's Women's Movement first met in groups to raise our own consciousness of these injustices and then went out into the world to try to change the consciousness of the American people. Right now, many of the rights we fought so hard for are under attack. I remember what the world was like for women in 1964, and I think it would be a tragedy if we went back there.
Smallwood: When I contacted you through Cristina Deptula of Synchronized Chaos: http://synchchaos.com, you were in Brazil. What is your connection with the area which is so evident to your writing?
My connection with Brazil stems from my lifelong connection with and interest in tropical rainforests, which have inspired my poetry and prose for decades. I first visited the part of Brazil which lies in the upper Amazon in 1971, before the forests were logged and burned and before so many species vanished. I have returned to Brazil for repeated visits since, particularly in the last twenty-eight years since my marriage to Angus Wright, whose research focused on the environment there. I was in Brazil when you first tried to contact me, because my husband and I were attending the World Environmental History Conference where he presented a paper on environmental issues.
Smallwood: What are you working on now?
Right now I am working on two things:
1. A series of prophetic poems about climate change
2. A very funny piece that I haven't titled yet, but it keeps me smiling.
Smallwood: Readers will enjoy Mary's website:
Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf
Joy V. Smith
9780359516575, $16.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 296pp, www.amazon.com
This author's favorite genre is science fiction and I'm sure that helped her imagination as she wrote this book. Here is a "rule" the protagonist, Lacie, remembers when in a tight spot.
"...remember the course on Blending into Other Cultures, aka Undercover Coping. Among non-humanoids, acting lost and scared can work. On humanoid planets, find out what other humans are doing that you can do. Do it."
Lacie's parents have to leave her and she manages to cope with the help of what she learned in class and technology. Danger is close at hand many times which is often solved with brainy and complex solutions.
I found the information from classes such as Blending into Other Cultures aka Undercover Coping to be believable. The names of the ships, security characters, robots, aliens, and planets were clever and fun to read. There is a character map in the back of the book (instead of a family tree) to help keep the many characters, humanoids, princesses, miners, families, and interactive plants straight. The ships and robots have personalities and can adapt to changes and grow in knowledge.
Characters are suspicious of each other at first as it is difficult to tell which are trustworthy. Being safe is of utmost importance and there is cloaking and traveling and secrecy involved. An energy net pulls a damaged ship to where it can be repaired. A school is a central focus, SAKAWE, and people with criminal intent take it over for some time. Students, however, are not injured. (less)
Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Selling Americans on America
Gerry Souter & Janet Souter
Sartoris Literary Group
9781733969109, $34.95, HC, 292pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In 2018, a full decade after the damaging recession of 2008, under the Trump administration America was barely hanging onto its democratic values, shaken by a profound mistrust in government, with freedom of speech under attack and thousands of refugees seeking asylum in America. Compounding those problems were economic inequality, a loss of common civility, and a failure to provide for the needs of returning warriors. By 2019, the fabric of American society was barely holding together.
In "Selling Americans on America: Journey into a Troubled Nation", Gerry and Janet Souter tells of another turbulent era that was Post World War II -- when a phenomenon called the "Freedom Train" reignited the faits of its citizens in a country that was riddled with dissent, anxiety and mistrust in its leaders.
In 1945-46 more than five million workers enlisted in labor strikes across the country. The constant fear of communist infiltration dominated the headlines. Returning GIs demanded jobs and housing. Government entities continued war-time meat and dairy rationing. Displaced Persons fleeing war-torn Europe poured into the country. Overseeing the chaos was a president nobody elected, coupled with a bitter, divisive Congress.
To renew citizens' unity and pride in their nation, a privately funded consortium of advertising, civic, and entertainment professionals created a product to literally "Sell Americans on America." To help carry their message of hope, they assembled 130 priceless documents including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation. Combined with a media blitz of songs, operettas, radio shows, and local festivities, the train reminded Americans that "Freedom is Everybody's Job."
Critique: "Selling Americans on America: Journey into a Troubled Nation" is a timely examination of a period of 20th Century American history that is directly relevant to our currently polarized politics and the animosity that condition is perpetuating in the form of a deadlocked federal government that, because of corruption produced by the Trump administration, is threatening the continuation of our democracy as we have known it these past several decades. While very highly recommended as a core addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Political Science and 20th Century collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Selling Americans on America: Journey into a Troubled Nation" is also available in a paperback edition (9781733969147, $21.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).
Steven T. Bramble
9781732576612, $16.50, PB, 375pp
Synopsis: Cole Scott-Knox-Under, an idealistic technophobe purposefully relegating himself to a minimum-wage fast food job, suddenly notices he is suffering from a strange neurosis: inanimate objects appear to be speaking to him, and the symptoms are worsening.
Hallucinations of lethal drink lids, personified congratulations balloons, desperate old VHS tapes, buried-alive beepers, a holocaust of waste, and chatty styrofoam cups threaten to sever him from his family, friends and job. Or are they hallucinations at all?
"Disposable Thought" is the final installment of author Steven Bramble's triptych of novels about technology & madness, sends characters both animate and inanimate on a sweeping adventure into neurosis, metaphysics, drinking, garbage, crazed artists and entrepreneurs, powerful furniture magnates, family politics, world revolution, hyperbolic intellectuals, and, eventually, into South Dakota.
"Disposable Thought" is weird dark comedy that deftly examines one of the foundational pieces of U.S. modernity and crisis -- disposability, in all its concrete and abstract forms.
Critique: Showcasing a distinctive narrative storytelling style that is as iconoclastic as it is inherently fascinating, "Disposable Thought" is an extraordinary and fully entertaining read from cover to cover -- making it an unreservedly endorsed and recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections.
9781944866426, $15.95, PB, 214pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: 16-year-old June is a corn-detasseling flag twirler who lives in a small conservative town in the early 90s Midwest. Her family is dysfunctional but her boyfriend (known to the reader only as "My Boyfriend") has a family who is emotionally and physically abusive.
Looking for alternatives to the lives of the women who surround her, June becomes obsessed with the actress Jean Seberg (best known for her starring role in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless) as well as Joan of Arc. After being raped by an acquaintance, June withdraws and begins to live mostly through Seberg's films.
Offered these lives as alternatives to her own, June is left to wonder: Can anyone truly transcend their circumstances, or does having a dream mean death -- literally and metaphorically?
Critique: A dramatically crafted and deftly thought-provoking novel by an author with an impressively genuine flair for originality and a distinctively reader engaging narrative storytelling style, Brandi Homan's "Burn Fortune" is highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Burn Fortune" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).
Dave Smith's Bookshelf
Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time
G. H. Mosson
Finishing Line Press
9781635348491, $14.99 PB, 29pp, www.amazon.com
Mr. Mosson's new book about a father raising two children is sensitive to readers who want to feel poetry still has an appealing mystery while providing poems of immediacy about the younger days of family life. The long poem "Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time" is demanding in the way of all puzzles but rewarding in the way the mind discovers answers. It is followed by a sequence of overt lyrics of dreamy walks in the moonlight. It makes a nifty counterpart to the long mystery title poem. Anyone who likes a good pursuit will enjoy the title poem and this chapbook.
Dave Smith, Reviewer
Djelloul Marbrook's Bookshelf
G. H. Mosson & Marcus Colasurdo
PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623
c/o Independent Publishers Group (distributor)
9781629635132, $5.95 Pamphlet, $1.99 Kindle, 32pp, www.amazon.com
Heart X-rays offers sequence of poems, if read as cantos, that tackle the emotional and technological entanglements of our times in the "epic" fashion, in poems titled: "Street Scene," "Charlestown" (after the church shooting there), "Soul Kitchen," "Game On," and "Exit the Gift Shop." The authority of the high lonesome is present here - the authority of Nashville, which lies in witness. These poems are the heart in the act of witness. The authors, in a demonstration of democratic commitment making no distinction as to who wrote which poem, reveal to us the cutting edge, the real news of our society as opposed to the white noise of our society which we call news in our surrender to corporate myth-making. Recommended.
Djelloul Marbrook, Reviewer
Edward Eddy's Bookshelf
Selling Americans on America: Journey into a Troubled Nation
Gerry and Janet Souter
Sartoris Literary Group
9781733969147; $34.96 HC, 286pp
9781733969147, $21.95PB, $9.95 Kindle, www.amazon.com
"A Timely and Informative Piece"
Selling Americans on America is a detailed description of the nation-wide efforts resulting in the first Freedom Train that toured the country in the late 1940s. The authors describe the historical events in detail from inception to execution, laying out the intermingling of inputs from all the key players. They describe how the backdrop of cultural, social and political issues provided the grist for the promotion of the idea from its inception to execution.
The authors catalogue the input of heavy hitters from every field of endeavor who helped to shape the project, including government officials, business and industry entrepreneurs, advertising moguls and entertainment movers and shakers -- all of whom left their footprint on the final product.
The book strikes me as a sort of visual travelogue depicting the evolution of events encountered during some 37,000 miles of the Freedom Train's journey through the contiguous forty-eight states.
For me, the book was an interesting and eye-opening account chronicling the efforts of our national leaders to address the postwar issues troubling the nation's core. It's a timely and informative piece and should be read by all who are concerned for these current times of fractured national identity.
Dr. Edward A. Eddy
Glenn Dallas' Bookshelf
And Then I Met Elvis...
9781985693456, $7.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Tim's life sucks. At 13, he's saddled with a mother who prefers booze and abuse to actual parenting. He's periodically shuffled into new school systems whenever she bottoms out. The trailer park he now calls home is embarrassing. And the first three people he meets at his new school are bullying douchebags.
Summer isn't looking much better for young Tim, given his mother's domineering new boyfriend. Thankfully, there are two bright spots this summer for Tim. One is the beautiful older woman across the way who knows her music and relies on Tim for babysitting duties. The other is the kid who just moved into the trailer park and reminds him of Elvis. Throughout the summer, Tim learns a lot from both, slowly figuring out who he wants to be. He makes mistakes along the way, of course, but he also learns valuable lessons that will serve him for a lifetime. All thanks to Elvis, an unattainable woman, and a trailer park.
And Then I Met Elvis... starts off unassumingly. In fact, the opening thirty pages or so are downright unpleasant, really hammering home how miserable and terrible the protagonist's life is. But if you power through those thirty pages - - and you should - it transforms into a worthwhile journey toward adulthood.
What separates this novel from many coming-of-age tales is that it is utterly effortless in how relatable it manages to be. Being bullied in school. Discovering those songs that speak to you. Taking that first step of self-discovery and rebellion by doing something you think is incredibly cool and other people find completely peculiar. Having that unrequited crush on someone older and more sophisticated that both gives you hope and dashes your spirits from time to time. Those moments speak to the reader on a deep emotional level, bypassing superficial cliches and connecting on a harmonic frequency you might've forgotten about (or repressed or simply put aside to process later). Bari makes those moments feel natural and easy. That is far harder, and far more rare, than you might think. Even the big story moments that you know have to come full circle - confronting the bully, for instance - don't play out like you'd expect. Instead, the scene is both funnier AND more satisfying because of its little quirks and unlikelihoods.
We all have those friendships and relationships that change us irrevocably when we're young, and yet they never seem to survive into adulthood. Instead, they are these islands in your past, brief maelstroms of insight and love and humor and struggle that become milestones. And Then I Met Elvis... captures that energy, that singular strangeness, beautifully.
Glenn Dallas, Reviewer
Seattle Book Review
Grace Cavalieri's Bookshelf
September 2019 Exemplars
An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo. W.W. Norton and Company. 109 pages.
The Grace of Distance by Matthew Thorburn. LSU Press. 84 pages.
I Will Destroy You by Nick Flynn, Graywolf Press. 70 pages.
The River Twice by Kathleen Graber. Princeton University Press. 112 pages
Before Our Eyes, New and Selected Poems, 1975-2017. By Eleanor Wilner. Princeton University Press. 232 pages.
Not Only/But Also by Anne Higgins. Duck Lake Books.67 pages.
Queen of Jacks: New and Selected Poems by Stellasue Lee. Bombshelter Press. 273 pages.
From The Notebooks of Korah's Daughter by Linda Stern Zisquit. New Walk Editions. 26 pages.
We Is, poems and art by Sami Miranda. ZOZOBRA Publishing.
Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets. Milkweed Editions.83 pages.
Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever. CavenKerry Press. 68 pages.
Prodigal by Michael. C. Davis. New Academia Publishing. 42 pages.
4:PM COUNT, edited by Jim Reese. Artist-in-Residence Program, NEA, 205 pages.
The Poetry of Detroit Music, edited by Jim Daniels and M.L. Liebler. Michigan State University Press. 430 pages.
A Constellation of Kisses edited by Diane Lockward. Terrapin Books. 180 pages.
The Only Home We Know by Robin Chapman. Tebot Bach Press. 91 pages
Cage of Lit Glass by Charles Kell. Autumn House Press. 83 pages.
Sword of Glass by Peter Schireson. Broadstone books. 66 pages.
Ransom Street by Claire Millikin. 2Leaf Press. 125 pages.
An American Sunrise
W.W. Norton and Company
9781324003861, $25.95, 109 pages
Over the years, Harjo's built a body of poems that reveal Native Americans' spiritual history with lyrical insight and hypnotic magic. An American Sunrise adds richly to the canon. Inspired by lineage, we see power in the tragic. There's also joy and melodic moments that come only after delving into the dark.
"Memory Sack:" "That first cry opens the earth door. /We joined the ancestor road. /With our pack of memories/Slung slack on our backs/We venture into the circle/Of destruction, /Which is the circle/Of creation/And make more - "
In the poem "Cehotosakvtes," two women sing as their people move over the Trail of Tears. One in the front, one in the back, in their native tongue, this song: "Do not get tired/ Don't be discouraged. Be determined, / Come. Together let's go toward the highest place."
Harjo is the poet of authenticity, whose past combines with a poetic imagination to revisit scenes. The stunning "Washing My Mother's Body" is a five-page poem with thematic strands found throughout the book - a revisiting, remembering, rectifying.
Never do we see a hardy people reduced to fragility. Harjo's poems are fables of what endures under the harshest circumstances. The family stays with honor. "In A Time of War" is unforgettable, highly charged, with an unwavering commitment to life from a place of rubble. "Someone has to make it out alive, sang a grandfather to his grandson, //his granddaughter, as he blew his most powerful song into the/hearts of the children. //There it would be hidden from the soldiers..."
These poems, read together, are prayers for justice, peace, and memory. Inspired by pain and - through rigor and the flint of poetic courage - they become testaments. Harjo's success is due in no small part to writing personal history from difficult circumstances. And her compassion.
Joy Harjo is the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States.
For Shan Goshorn, December 3, 2018
This is the first morning we are without you on earth.
The sun greeted us after a week of rain
In your eastern green and mountain homelands.
Plants are fed, the river restored, and you have been woven
Into a path of embracing stars of all colors
Now free of the suffering that shapes us here.
We all learn to let go, like learning how to walk
When we first arrive here.
All those you thought you lost now circle you
And you are free of pain and heartbreak.
Don't look back, keep going.
We will carry your memory here, until we join you
In just a little while, in one blink of star time.
The Grace of Distance
9780807170762, $18.95, 84 pages
A new book by Thorburn is a pleasure. His familiar voice is a smooth-speaking one which imagines the poem into being with some of the finest lyrics in print. Thorburn takes a moment, explores it, then turns it on its head with a new sensibility. Where he excels is in the patient unfolding of story where he lays a platform then slowly changes those thoughts to extraordinary ideas that shed new light. To read this book is to feel satisfied by language refreshed, sweetly composed with honesty and grace.
Birds before Winter
Dabbing lather across my chin, I picture you: bent low
over the tap, drinking from your cupped hands.
You probably aren't even up yet. Hair a tangle
on the covers, eyelids made pale by the sun.
Sweeping the back step I find a cricket,
wings laced with frost. The leaves keep falling.
I look for you in all the things that are not you.
The plate of milk, left by the cat, sours.
You must be filling the red teapot
with water now, measuring green tea.
The birds wing their way south. They take
the sky with them, each black scrap.
I Will Destroy You
9781644450024, $16.00, 70 pages
Flynn's writing is so natural sometimes we feel we are in the same room with him; and what belongs to the writer is given easily to the reader. Flynn's poetic knowledge includes those two most necessary elements: originality and surprise. These poems are reconstructions from childhood traumas, and the hunger that moves us forward. But make no mistake, this gorgeous book is more than how to survive. Each poem is a compelling dynamic where language is shattered and rebuilt to convey truths that are haunting and beautiful. Nobody bends a lyric the way Flynn does to break the heart: " Vulture, follow me up: here is the arm/ my mother held me aloft with (as//well as she could, until she couldn't), it/is cut free of her body now, pulled// away from her shoulder, away/ from her breath, as you point// your wing toward her offered heart, toward me - ..." (Sky Burial.)
I admit you haven't' heard from me
in a while. In me there's a little liar.
And a little thief. And a little whore.
Forgive me - while writing these words
I was lost in a trance . . . the sky wild
blue, fruit trees jeweled with ice . . . if not
for what I'd promised, I wouldn't be here
at all. You were with me when I found that
box in the basement - opening it was like
entering a room & having (at last!) someone else
breathe for me. No one, as you know,
sets out to lose their mind. This poem began
as a secret - not from you, I didn't know you
then. Now, it wears its shame like a halo.
Please, take it, rip it up, put it in your glass.
We can watch it dissolve.
The River Twice
Princeton University Press
9780691193212, $17.95, 112 pages
I don't know where this poet has been all my life, but I've certainly missed her - those long lines that float us through ache and love and quarrels. The only thing that parallels exquisite thought is the poem that carries it. Whether she's picking up dog excrement or tasting a bitter peach, or considering Mary Shelley, every word is placed exactly. From the stellar poem "Self-Portrait" these lines: "... For a time I lived between two brothers - / one with a door of iron; the other with no door/at all ... Our mother was a black Singer/ sewing machine. Our father, a pair of red dice... "She also can challenge language with its many disguises.
A Rhetoric (part 1 from a six-part poem)
Or how how we say what we say says everything
we don't actually say but somehow mean, even if
what we mean is, frankly, very mean & not in the end
what we thought we intended. Not simply chiasmus
or pathos or logos but more than anyone can imagine:
visual rhetoric, virtual rhetoric, vernacular rhetoric,
cultural rhetoric, the rhetoric of the first-person shooter,
the rhetoric of the team, the mediated landscape, disputed
landscape, the rhetoric of the drone. The rhetoric
of soundscapes, soundtracks, sound effects: each click
of the keyboard, the clatter of the skateboard, the chatter
of the switchboard, & the rhetoric of the closed captioning
whose scrolling announces Today the government is closed,
that says, Let us welcome the new Minister of Loneliness.
Before Our Eyes, New and Selected Poems, 1975-2017
Princeton University Press
9780691193335, $17.95, 232 pages
A collection of poetry spanning 40 years cannot be given fair enough review. These sample poems from eight books are a portrait of the writer's life where we see a poet inspired by nature, history, mythology and societal challenges - passions centralized by authority and a learned background. You won't find confessional poems, sensationalism, exposes, or literary gossip because Wilner goes for big ideas and surfs them to poetic conclusions. Her poetry is introspective and therefore instructive, with images that shimmer, while the narrative voice makes its accounts vivid - every poem offers an atmosphere of care for the reader. Here's a life between covers, a life of thought, with the poem as benefactor.
Hope said Emily (her life now
versions in anyone's mouth -
the plaything of posterity,
as we are shaken in the moment's
lawless jaws, white and lethal as
the crocodile's teeth) is a thing
with feathers, but so few, so blue,
and such short wings, vestigial,
it was not meant to fly
but to abide, here, deep in leaves,
thick in the scent of summer green,
the air dusted with pollen;
nearby, the long drumroll of the surf,
and there, under the sky's immensity of blue,
a scatter of feathers on the ocean waves
where wide- winged Icarus flew.
Not Only/ But Also
Duck Lake Books
9781943900183, $15.99, 67 pages
Anne Higgins leads a life of poetry; and also, a God - centered life. She's not, however, a poetry proselytizer or persuader. She just writes poems about the radiance of the ordinary. Inspired by nature, art and literature, these poems are like bathing in a fresh stream of cool crystal-clear water.
the first unfairness of the world,
the first game of unfairness.
Not a chair for everyone,
not a beautiful body or face
not a quick brain
not a finger for the keys,
a mouth for the reed,
an eye for the form,
a hand for the brush.
Queen of Jacks: New and Selected Poems
$TBA 273 pages
A mother naps for five minutes; a child remembers 25-cent movies; a father is released from a detox center; a kitten jumps up onto the lap; a stained marriage is released; a lecture is due at 9 AM. How do these topics make poems? What are we allowed to write about? Stellasue Lee is a renowned teacher of poetry because she shares her secrets. Every concrete fact of our lives is worthy: that memory - even painful - is a virtue for the writer; that each well-made poetic structure upgrades all poetry.
The book is in six parts and harks back to childhood events but leaves none without meaning that resonates. The prevailing thought of this book is how resourceful the poet is, wasting nothing, how each poem is like no other, how one must dig into the soul for the material, and how more human we are for each slice of experience. At times, Lee interrogates the world to find what she can restore. These poems have various social conditions in which to find a center. This poet has crossed continents of living and documents every step. Each poem is a unique guide.
I think I've begun to heal.
sometimes in whole hours
without drawing a ragged
breath in grief. I can be engaged
in the single act of...
oh, let's say dusting,
nothing at all save the weather,
or I need to check
the birdfeeder. Beds
meals get served, clothes
books are consumed,
and my heart
beats steady in its small
satchel inside my chest.
From The Notebooks of Korah's Daughter
Linda Stern Zisquit
New Walk Editions
$TBA 26 pages
The Hebrew Bible combines with Jewish folklore here. The legendary Korah actually had sons in Jewish story, but no daughters. Zisquit imagines a daughter where each poem begins with a line from a Hebrew psalm. 21 poems create a mythic world from the past in rhythmic language. 21 tiny literary scenes with a consistent voice make Korah's daughter good company for the reader with her psychological changes and elegant language - a girl now created that will never go away.
...more desirable than gold [Ps. 19]
He spoke after love of honey.
The sun that shone behind him
blazed around us
though we were in shadow.
A bee dozed by.
If there is suffering there is also memory.
There is no utterance, there are no words
whose sound goes unheard:
speech of tree and whisper of stone.
I cannot forget the moment of his breath
or the light around his face,
a tree rustling,
pebbles stirring beneath us.
He said tomorrow and meant yesterday.
Gold becomes dim in the eyes
of the tired, the fire ceases to rage.
Only the sun still burns
with the glint of his gaze.
We Is, poems and art
This poetry pops off the page, makes you glad tomorrow is another day where we'll get more of it. These bright exuberant poems shake with a rhythmic center, energizing the page. Maybe it's because Miranda is also an artist and has many vocabularies. He explains his title in a two-page poem, here are sample stanzas: "... We is the dance/that shakes and rolls/down city streets, /shimmies into markets/for fresh fruit, / salsas against traffic... We is home/carried into conversation, /about a crowing rooster, /a ritual, dancing and medicine/to cure what ails us."
So you can see Miranda's work is all about healing. Part of that points to our plights, turning them to lore just to activate the message. Miranda knows grief and loss. His poems know guns and knives - but seen altogether, the book feels like a force for good.
I am the seed
carried by a bird,
asking a sacrifice
for each mile I travel in its beak.
I go without guarantee
where I land will be a welcoming place.
I prepare to root myself
bury the most important
bits of me, wait until I can grow
where I become
the distance I have travelled.
Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers
9781571315205, $16.00, 83 pages
This book is written from hard country, "Men around here only touch when they fuck in a back seat..."
And other times 'touching,' can come from pain and isolation; and will galvanize the soul to life, and to poetry. Skeets' lines are sporadic, giving energy, momentum, suspense - sometimes utterances, sometimes imagistic, always impromptu. In this disparate style, we'll find the emotional range of longing, thirst moving into love-making, a rhetoric of danger broken into lines. We're always clear there's a master controlling this writing. Someone capable is in charge.
Woven through the work is landscape, the geography surrounds a world of masculinity. The sex act becomes a wider experience beyond lust. It stands for humanity, another way to be, a channel where one can belong. This is the hard brush of despair. And Skeets captures it in terrifying, beautiful, pulsating language.
A bar called Eddie's sits at the end of the world. By the tracks,
drunk men get some sleep. My father's uncle tries to get some
under a long bed truck. The truck backs up to go home.
I arrange my father's boarding school soap bones on white space
and call it a poem. Like my father, I come upon death
staggering into the house with beer on the breath.
Margo Taft Stever
9781933880709, $16.00, 68 pages
This is a zenith book for Margo Stever. She takes complicated stories and unfolds them with clarity and personal style. The outstanding Section Two centralizes on Peter R. Taft, the poet's great-grandfather, institutionalized in the Cincinnati Sanitarium for a mental disorder. It's believed that Taft (half-brother of President Taft) was wrongfully diagnosed by an unfair 19th century custom, without sound medical information. Letters written by Taft to his father were converted to poems by Stever and become all the more powerful for compression into poetic form. The letters, already lucid and concise, prove this was not a deranged mind. Corresponding letters from the hospital superintendent are chilling for their lack of psychiatric expertise and compassion. This book, with all its varied subjects, proves that every event is an opportunity for poetry.
One poem to note, section One is "Worst Mother." It just goes to show that poet/mothers can't win. They give emotional energy and their kids would rather go to the mall. "See, instead, this picture/of you as a child/with bare feet - /the one in which you have/cherubs wings, /gossamer everywhere."
Cell and bone
more servile than the elbow
and more birdlike
than the nose.
Thin fingers fan out
like spokes on a half-moon
wheel, or the toes of a balled
A hand can be a monastery,
fingers bent in repose,
or a slaughterhouse
where nothing is safe.
ALSO, ON THE BEST BOOKS LIST FOR FALL
Michael. C. Davis
New Academia Publishing
9781732698895, $20.00, 42 pages
A sparkling debut.
Cleaning the Catch
As a child attending to my father's love -
fishing - I refused to clean
the bass, pumpkin-ear, and bream we caught.
Killing the cold quivering flesh
made me squeamish, infinitely sad.
So, he would sever the head
from behind the gills, then split
the belly and spill the guts.
Tail to absent head, I would drive the knife
like a razor, against the grain, scattering the salty
scales into the bright air.
When it came time for my mother to die,
ridden by cancer, she too quivered.
How I wanted her to stay.
And on that dock I find
one iridescent scale still clings.
Life lost, both wanted and wanting
Edited by Jim Reese
Artist-in-Residence Program, NEA
Terrall E. Tillman, Sr. is incarcerated in Federal Prison Camp Yankton, S.D. and is one of 20 artists and writers featured in this groundbreaking program where creative writing is taught by editor Jim Reese.
Yangton is an unusually merciful environment that produces graduates in a college program under Mount Marty College:
One Individual featured:
Tillman, born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, this former teen father has defied the odds of over eighteen years in federal prison and twenty-five years of street life in SCLA, triumphing away from poverty and the "thug" life, selling drugs, indulging in violence and tainted in addiction!
Earning various education and professional certifications, and now armed with years of adept knowledge and proficiency in educating, T.E. Tillman, Sr. has assisted hundreds of civilians and inmates regain their focus and strengths as they battle their misfortunes and stand up to become better and stronger human beings.
"Having a different kind of demeanor and mindset than the other black inmates already here who are predominately from the Midwest and Southwest, I've struggled to open up to them and/or find common ground to build a little rapport with some of them.
When I was first got here to Yankton after being at Taft Correctional Institution in Central California for thirty-three months, where the building structures and compound were bland and close in proximity, I was overwhelmed with how spread out this institution's structures are. I was very pleased to be in a much better and healthier environment as far as the atmosphere and natural community surroundings. The air quality here is great, and I'm fond of the landscaping of the facility along with all the variety of trees, plants beautiful pollen-filled flowers."
The Poetry of Detroit Music
edited by Jim Daniels and M.L. Liebler
Michigan State University Press
9781611863369, $29.95, 430 pages
138 contributors including every good name in poetry you can imagine in a brilliant beast of a book by two editors, already luminaries, who know what they're doing.
I'm goin' to Detroit, get myself a good job
I'm goin' to Detroit, get myself a good job
Tried to stay around here with the starvation mob
I'm goin' to get a job, up there in Mr. Ford's place
I'm goin' to get a job, up there in Mr. Ford's place
Stop these eatless days from starin' me in the face
When I start to makin' money, she don't need to come around
When I start to makin' money, she don't need to come around
'Cause I don't want her now, Lord. I'm Detroit bound
Because they got wild women in Detroit
That's all I want to see
Because they got wild women in Detroit
That's all I want to see
Wild women and bad whisky would make a fool out of me
Arthur "Blind" Blake
The Poetry of Detroit Music
A Constellation of Kisses
Edited by Diane Lockward
9781947896178, $18.99, 180 pages
The Queen of anthologies gives us another keepsake with dozens of kissing cousins who are poets.
A Girl I Kissed When I was Sixteen
1967, the summer of love
She had this way, at the end of a kiss,
or between kisses, of running her tongue
light and wet around my lips,
a slow circumference along
the open hungry mouth of me.
every time it made me shiver
and lurch, involuntarily quiver,
even shudder. She thought it was funny
and smiled, so that when she resumed
kissing, I was kissing her smile,
which meant another kind of thrill.
We were in the rumpus room,
her parents' basement. Pool table,
pinball machine, fridge full of beer.
I wasn't encouraged to do anymore,
just kiss her and hold her. If I'd been able
to, I would've. I wanted to, I know,
but I was so lost, other stuff
didn't matter. It was enough,
kissing, her licking my lips just so.
The Only Home We Know
Tebot Bach Press
9781939678577, $16.00, 91 pages
One of America's most loved poets shares a rich life in new poems. Keep this one on the night stand.
Sometime in your eighties or nineties
the ruin might begin -
a little getting lost, a word here
and there avoiding the light,
just out of sight - but then
a memory clear as a bell
for your eight-year-old birthday,
your yellow pinafore
and the taste of the yellow cake
with its chocolate frosting
and the crepe paper streamers
sticky and your brother blowing
that whistle that curls out like a tongue -
the day flares up in the house
candles still burning.
Cage of Lit Glass
Autumn House Press
9781938769399, $16.95, 83 pages
A debut book from a meteor on the rise.
Built, torn down, then built
again. A small stone structure
in the middle
of this snowy wasteland
Where we met & sucked
cold air into our smoke-
burnt lungs. Colder autumn.
Tractor cap off & rag
dipped into gas to start
a small fire. Your scarf
was wet & smelled
like a mix of cinnamon & piss.
Dragging your nails across
my lower back, zeroing in
on what the mind empties out.
I took you there, all evidence
against. Still remember? Cold
no longer cold. Red house far
up the road. Wrecked nausea
a little money took away.
Two sheets tied together, red
too. Dress flat & ripped.
my arms scraped raw by
the almost frozen thorns
poking through the dirt into our skin.
Sword of Glass
9781937968557, $16.50, 66 pages.
Human, spiritual, funny, sad, perceptive, conscious, exuberant, inimitable, sexy, chaste.
I woke last night
in the dark thinking
about a time I loved
Wide awake, I went to the window,
watched the slow moon sink, and thought
about how we'd hold hands in the dark,
how we'd wonder aloud
if somewhere in our bodies
we might already have cancer.
We were a chaos -
even our happiness
was not very happy.
9781940939902, $16.99, 125 pages
"The Geography of Losing and Getting Lost." This poet was held prisoner as a young person; the soul, poetry says, cannot be held captive.
Hotel Room Atonement
I never tell anyone about my father, a limit
where the photograph folds
toward God. In backyard super 8,
my baby sister dances naked,
wet leaves stick to her skin.
I never tell the truth about myself; thus,
in bad dreams, the stone cutters by the highway
turn their heads
and the old women say,
it was bound to happen.
Grace Cavalieri, Reviewer & Maryland's Poet Laureate
Washington Independent Review of Books
Helen C.'s Bookshelf
The Verse After the Verse
John (Doc) Shear
Book Venture Publishing
9781641667289, $24.95 HC, $3.99 Kindle
9781641667289, $4.50 PB, 112 pages, www.amazon.com
Almost all of us have our favorite Bible scripture that is usually comprised of one verse. What about the verse that follows? Do we ever think that far ahead? Doc Shear takes 12 of the most quoted scriptures and forges ahead to the "verse after the verse" in order to give us a more complete meaning.
The author's penchant for storytelling enables him to weave his personal experience into the meanings, of the verses, very much like Jesus did with His parables. This book captured me as a reader - I finished it in short order.
Of course, this is a book that one will read more than once. Thanks John (Doc) Shear for a wonderful book.
Israel Drazin's Bookshelf
Timber Creek Press
Many readers, me included, are convinced that Ken Farmer is at the top of the list of writers of western fiction, the top three, with Zane Grey (1872-1939) and Elmore Leonard (1925-2013). His books are very enjoyable. I read them all. He is a marine corps veteran, an actor with 21 credits such as deputy Kyle in Silverado, and the judge in The President's Man. He also produced, directed, and wrote movies. He won the Laramie Award for Historical Western Novel and also for Classic Western Novel.
His novels are easy and fun to read, the dialogue is western, the action in each book is pure western, there is western history in his books and lots of humor. His characters, both good and bad are depicted realistically. There is also frequent likable ribbing between characters. He is sometimes quoted by the fictional characters in his books. And, what is unusual for westerns, but fits right in, is science fiction, with strange things sometimes happening that a shaman can sometimes explain, and the visit to earth of a charming short traveler from another planet who is more than a couple of hundred years old, whose space ship crashed on earth, who is waiting for other travelers from out of space to come and rescue her. In addition to her unusual advanced age and her ability to pass as a child here on earth, she has some healing powers and can become invisible.
In this volume, "Steeldust," two cops from 2018 are unaccountably transported back in time 120 years to 1898. They are six-foot eight inches Detective Darrell Ulysses Bone and his partner Inspector Loraine Rodriguez. They become involved in several adventures, including: A seventeen-year-old girl who is able to train horses by speaking to them who wants to capture a stallion named Steeldust. So, too, does a vicious man with vicious sons who are willing to kill to get what they want. The father hired several gunmen to help him. They murdered a family and burned the family's home. The two future cops meet Sheriff Mason and his wife US Marshal Fiona Flynn. She reads a lot and frequently quotes from classical literature. She is the fastest at the draw; one second her hands are empty and then a pistol appears in both hands. She can shoot with each hand and never misses. The two have a significant impact upon the lives of the cops of the future.
They also meet other interesting people and become involved in a stage coach robbery and in a pursuit of thugs who kidnaped a person, and chase escapees from jail, and more. They need to find out how they can return to their own time. Readers will enjoy this book immensely and look forward to the book that follows it.
Timber Creek Press
Ken Farmer's very enjoyable book "Bone" is a continuation of his prior novel "Steeldust," but people who did not read the prior book will still be able to enjoy this one because the book explains all that needs to be explained from the prior volume.
Farmer's novels are easy and fun to read, the dialogue is western, the action in each book is pure western, there is western history in his books and lots of humor. His characters, both good and bad are depicted realistically. There is also frequent likable ribbing between characters. And, what is unusual for westerns, but fits right in, is science fiction, with strange things sometimes happening that a shaman can sometimes explain, and the visit to earth of a charming short traveler from another planet who is 2,000-years-old, whose space ship crashed on earth, who is waiting for other travelers from out of space to come and rescue her. In addition to her unusual advanced age and her ability to pass as a child here on earth, she has some healing powers and can become invisible. She heals several people in this novel. While waiting to be saved by people from her planet, she lived with nice people who adopted her, the great grand-uncle of Bone.
We learn much in Farmer's books, such as the Secret Service was formed by Allan Pinkerton who was an undercover spy for the Union in what the South called the War of Northern Aggression. We also learn that in 1898, there was a train robbery in Texas every three days. Also, many believed that an Indian tribe who believed in a God called Jehovah was descendant of the Jewish ten lost tribes. And many believe Billy the Kid was not killed. And a blue moon is a second full moon in a calendar month.
This novel introduces readers to the true living legend US Marshal Bass Reeves who appeared in many other books by Farmer, but this is the first time he appears in this series. Reeves was unable to read or write but had a photographic memory. He also could smell the natural odor of people from a distance and could distinguish one person's natural scent from another's. He was assigned with members of the Secret Service and Marshals the job to protect Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt who was on a hunting trip. The members of the two services are helped by two cops from 2018 who were unaccountably transported back in time 120 years from 2018 to 1898. They are six-foot eight inches Detective Darrell Ulysses Bone and his partner Inspector Loraine Rodriguez. Besides being an excellent detective and shooter, Rodriguez frequently quote from ancients such as Emperor Marcus Aurelius and the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. The two are unable to be transported forward to their own time until a Blue Moon.
The Spanish government came to believe, properly so, that Roosevelt was the main hawk in Washington who was pushing the government to kick Spain out of Cuba and the Philippines. Spain hired over a dozen men to kidnap Roosevelt.
Bone and Rodriguez get involved in many adventures, including stopping a robbery of a store and a train robbery, and protecting the future president, and seeing Sasquatch and his fierce feline who save a man from a bear.
Readers will enjoy this book immensely and look forward to the books in the Bone series that follows it.
Timber Creek Press
I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I have enjoyed every book that Ken Farmer wrote. I am convinced that Ken Farmer is one of the best writers of western fiction today, and he is among the top three ever, with Zane Grey (1872-1939) and Elmore Leonard (1925-2013). His books are very enjoyable. He won the Laramie Award for Historical Western Novel and also for Classic Western Novel.
This book "Bone's Law" is a continuation of his prior two novels "Steeldust" and "Bone," but people who did not read the prior books will still be able to enjoy this one because this book explains all that needs to be explained from the prior volumes. The "Bone" series focuses on two cops from 2018 who were unaccountably transported back in time 120 years from 2018 to 1898. They are six-foot eight inches Detective Darrell Ulysses Bone and his partner Inspector Loraine Rodriguez. Besides being an excellent detective and shooter, Rodriguez frequently quotes from ancients such as a 13th century Persian writer. The two are unable to be transported forward to their own time until a Blue Moon, when two full moons occur in one calendar month.
This novel, as all of Farmer's novels, is easy and fun to read, the dialogue is western, the action in each book is pure western, there is western history in his books and lots of humor. His characters, both good and bad are depicted realistically. There is also frequent likable ribbing between characters. And, what is unusual for westerns, but fits right in, is science fiction, with strange things sometimes happening that a shaman can sometimes explain, and the visit to earth of a charming short friendly traveler from another planet who is 2,000-years-old, whose space ship crashed on earth, who is waiting for other travelers from out of space to come and rescue her. She has some healing powers and can become invisible. She heals several people in this novel. While waiting to be saved by travelers from her planet, she lived with a nice couple who adopted her, the great grand-uncle and aunt of Bone.
In this novel, some person or persons has viciously killed seven members of a posse who tracked and killed some outlaws about eight years ago. The person or persons are unknown. The only obvious known fact is that the purpose of the killings is revenge. The last surviving member of the posse is Sheriff Mason Flynn, who is the great grandfather of Bone. Bone and Rodriguez join several law officers in trying to save Sheriff Flynn's life and capturing or killing the person or persons who want to kill him. Bone comes up with a plan.
Bone and Rodriguez get involved in many adventures, including stopping a gunfight in a saloon between two drunk brothers, stopping an attempted rape of Rodriguez by three cowpokes, forcing them to walk back to town without boots and half naked, and stopping a stage coach robbery.
The most significant event occurred when Rodriguez is shot during the stage coach robbery, is near death, and Bone learns something about his feelings for her. Among other things, he becomes so emotional that when the stage coach rushes to get to a doctor and looses a wheel, Bone lifts the coach by himself to help replace the wheel.
We learn much in this book besides the fascinating plot, such as finding indications that an Indian tribe may be descendant of the "Ten Lost Israelite Tribes" because they call their God Jehovah and use the Menorah, the Jewish candelabrum, as one of their symbols, the origin of the cute child toy the Teddy bear. We also learn that one of Bone's laws is, "In any moment of decision or crises... the worst thing you can do...is nothing."
Readers will enjoy this book immensely and look forward to the books in the Bone series that follows it.
Bone and Loraine
Timber Creek Press
"Bone and Loraine" is the fourth book in Ken Farmer's superb new series of western dramas. I enjoyed all four and look forward to reading the next three. I suggest that people read my former three reviews to learn about this excellent writer and the characters he has in this series. Although part of a series, this book can stand on its own. Anything that needs to be known from the former books is stated in this one.
Very briefly, the main characters are two detectives from 2018, Bone and Loraine, who had been inexplicably sent back 120 years to 1898 where Bone meets his great grandparents, a sheriff and a deputy marshal, and other famous law people. Bone is six foot eight inches while Loraine is five foot three. One of the very interesting characters in the novel is Lucy who is 2,000 years old. She is a very likable and helpful alien whose spaceship crashed on earth. She is waiting for fellow travelers to come rescue her. She has a number of powers that earth people lack: an ability to become invisible, to read minds even at a large distance, and a power to heal. We are also introduced to Bone's godfather, Padrino, a 70-year-old retired marine that no sensible person should want to tangle with. He was a Mater Gunnery Sergeant, the highest enlisted rank in the Marine Corps. He finds a way to go back from 2018 to 1898 to help his godson.
Bone and Loraine marry in this book and decide to go on a honeymoon to San Antonio together with his great grandparent who had married a few months back, who hadn't taken a honeymoon and decided to do a double honeymoon with Bone and Loraine. The two detectives are unable to get back to 2018 until a Blue Moon, when there are two full moons in a single calendar month.
The four become involved in thwarting several criminal affairs. In their honeymoon hotel, in Bone and Loraine's room, seven men were found dead by hanging at different recent times, apparently all seven committed suicide. Bone and Loraine figure out who killed the seven men and why.
The two also stop a train robbery, and with the help of a couple of law men and Padrino, they become involved in a shootout very similar to the one that Wyatt Earp was involved at the OK Corral. In this fight, Bone, Larraine, and others were outgunned two to one.
Readers will certainly enjoy this book.
Timber Creek Press
Ken Farmer, as I wrote in my reviews of his books, is, in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best writers of western fiction today. "Bone's Gold" is the fifth book in his excellent new series of western dramas. I enjoyed every one of his books and all five of the new ones and look forward to reading the next two. Readers may want to read my former four reviews to learn about this excellent writer and the fascinating characters he has in this series. Although part of a series, this book can stand on its own. Ken Farmer makes sure that anything that needs to be known from the former books is stated in this one.
Very briefly, the main characters are two detectives from 2018, Bone and Loraine, who had been inexplicably sent back 120 years to 1898 where Bone meets his great grandparents, a sheriff and a deputy marshal, and other famous law people. Bone is six foot eight inches while Loraine is five foot three. The two fall in love in 1898, or more precisely, realize they were in love for four years, while they constantly fought each other, and they get married in 1898.
Another of the many very interesting characters in the novel is Lucy who is 2,000 years old. She is a very likable and helpful alien whose spaceship crashed on earth. She is waiting for fellow travelers to come rescue her. She is short, as members of her planet are, and has a number of powers that earth people lack. She is able with the help of a bracelet to become invisible, to read minds even at a large distance, and a power to heal. Bone's godfather, Padrino, a 70-year-old retired marine that no sensible person should want to tangle with, a Mater Gunnery Sergeant, the highest enlisted rank in the Marine Corps, also found a way to go back from 2018 to 1898 and he helps his godson in the many adventures including shootouts in which Bone and Loraine become involved.
In this novel, Padrino, Bone, and Laraine find a valuable gold statute with a huge priceless ruby in its center that Bone and Padrino's Peruvian ancestors had brought to Texas two-thousand years ago. They know that the Peruvians brought other treasures and decided to look for it. Unfortunately, some thugs heard about the find and decided to hire some gunslingers and do all they can to take the treasure from the three. This results in many shootouts, the killing of one of them, and the others seeking revenge. There are also some other fascinating events. For example, the three discover a way to communicate by a smart phone they brought with them from 2018 from 1898 to police 120 years ahead of their present time. Also, Ken farmer is an expert historian and he informs us about many interesting events. Besides adventure of the pursuit of the three by a half dozen thugs and the search for hidden jewels, the novel is filled with lots of delightful humor. And there are a few subplots, such as the finding a six-year-old female child who bonds with Padrino and saves his life.
There is no doubt but that readers will certainly enjoy this book.
Timber Creek Press
"Bone's Enigma" is the last of the six books by Ken Farmer involving two fascinating characters, two detectives from 2018, Bone and Loraine, who had been inexplicably sent back 120 years to 1898 where Bone meets his great grandparents, a sheriff and a deputy marshal, and other famous law people.
I read every page of the six books and enjoyed every one of them. The books are delightful. Farmer writes "I strive for historical accuracy in all my novels as well as the accurate depiction of horses. Horsemanship. Tack, firearms, social mores and correct dialogue of the period." He does so masterfully and this adds to the fun of reading his books.
Readers may want to read my former five reviews to learn about this excellent writer and the fascinating characters he has in this series. Although part of a series, this book can stand on its own. Ken Farmer makes sure that anything that needs to be known from the former books is stated in this one.
This book focuses on a killer from 2019 who somehow got transported back to 1898 as did Bone and Loraine. He joined up with a band of eight ruthless killers of 1898 and joined them as the group tried to escape from the law that was following them. The novel introduces us to a new character, a beautiful highly competent 23-year-old crack-shot Pinkerton detective, Silke Justice, who joins Bone, Loraine, Bone's godfather who was also transported back to the old west from the future, and the famed Deputy US Marshal Bas Reeves, who in real life captured over 3,000 criminals. The five find dead body after dead body as they chase the gang of cutthroats. Two of the murdered victims were Silke's parents and Silke wants to be the one who kills the gang leader.
This book will be followed by a spin-off from the Bone & Loraine series that will deal with the fascinating beauty Silke Justice who learnt her skills from an Indian master.
There is much to enjoy in this novel, including shoot-outs, bank robberies, and finding out the strange Enigma. It is hard to put down. I read each in a day or two. I am sure others will enjoy the book as I did.
Timber Creek Press
Ken Farmer published six delightful books that focus on the adventures of two fascinating highly competent detectives from 2018, Bone and Loraine, and Bone's godfather, a seventy-year-old ex-marine Mater Gunnery Sergeant, who had been inexplicably sent back 120 years to 1898 where Bone meets his great grandparents, and famous law people. The three become involved in all kinds of adventures including gun fights and stage coach robberies.
Ken Farmer's books are not only filled with adventure. They also have humor and dialogue which perfectly mimics that manner of speaking of the time. He also sprinkles his book with science fiction and includes Lucy who is 2,000 years old. She is a very likable and helpful alien whose spaceship crashed on earth. She is waiting for fellow travelers to come rescue her. She is short, as members of her planet are, and has a number of powers that earth people lack. She is able with the help of a bracelet to become invisible, to read minds even at a large distance, and a power to heal.
This book is a spin-off from the six. It continues with these characters, but adds another, Silke Justice, an extremely competent Pinkerton detective whose parents were murdered by a gang of thugs. She is a fascinating beauty who learnt unusual skills from an American Indian master. Silke gets involved in several gun fights in this novel, and also uses Kungfu against a loud-mouth cowpoke who belittles her because she is a woman. She is inducted into an Indian tribe in an interesting ceremony because of the help she gave the tribe.
This book stands alone. Farmer is careful to explain anything from prior books that one needs to know.
All the gun fighters who murdered Silke's parents were killed except for one who is leading a gang of cutthroats that are robbing trains of huge amounts of money. Silke and her friends know who this man is and are trying to find him. He is Duce Walton. But they also know that Duce is receiving directions from another person who is telling him when large money shipments are being made. They have no idea who this person is, although it seems that the person is an insider. The gang kills people during their robberies for no other reason but to slow down any chasing posse.
Readers will enjoy this novel, the interactions between the people in it, the suspense, the humor, the various asides that Farmer skillfully tells us about the wild west of the late 1800s, such as the murder of Indians and their horses, and the chases after murdering thugs.
Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer
Jack Mason's Bookshelf
The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks
Stephen Lyman & Chris Bunting
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9784805314951, $19.99, HC, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Japan is home to some of the world's most interesting alcoholic beverages that range from traditional Sake and Shochu, to globally acclaimed and award winning Japanese whiskys, beers, wines and cocktails.
"The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks" is a comprehensive and impressively informative survey of Japanese drinks by experts Stephen Lyman and Chris Bunting who collectively cover all the main types of beverages found in Japanese bars and restaurants, as well as supermarkets and liquor stores around the world.
"The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks" has chapters on Sake, Shochu, whisky, wine, beer, Awamori (a moonshine-like liquor from Okinawa), Umeshu plum wine and other fruit wines. There is also a fascinating chapter on modern Japanese-style cocktails -- complete with recipes so you can get the authentic experience, including: the Sour Plum Cordial; the Sakura Martini; the Improved Shochu Cocktail; and the Far East Side Cocktail.
Thorough descriptions of the varieties of each beverage are given along with the history, production methods, current trends and how to drink them. Detailed bar and buyer's guides at the back of the book list specialist establishments where readers can go to enjoy and purchase the drinks, both in Japan and cities around the world, including London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, Shanghai and more!
"The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks" is an indispensable book for anyone interested in brewing, distilling, new cocktails or Japanese culture, travel and cuisine.
Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography, "The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks" is an extraordinary, unique, informative, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Japanese Culture collections in general, and Japanese alcoholic drink supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).
To Those Gods Beyond
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9781900565813, $23.95, HC, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "To Those Gods Beyond" is a comprised of a combination of two key works by the Italian avant-garde writer Giorgio Manganelli (1922 - 90) and a major addition to the small number of his works available in English.
In the 1960s Manganelli was a member, along with Umberto Eco and Eduardo Sanguinetti, of the Gruppo 63 movement, and a close friend of Italo Calvino, who provides an enthusiastic foreword that describes "To Those Gods Beyond" (1972) as a "heraldic bestiary" that "launches into a crescendo of variations on its main theme, the self-aggrandisement of a lucid megalomaniac."
Perhaps the best known of his works included here, "An Impossible Love," comprises an epistolary exchange between Hamlet and the Princess of Cleves conducted with a "verbal catapult" as the universes about them descend into oblivion. All is overseen by gods beyond whom an endless array of other gods lie in wait, intent on torment. Everything seemingly finite or known in our world becomes infinite and unknown.
"To Those Gods Beyond" is prefaced by Manganelli's notorious manifesto "Literature as Deception" (1967), in which he describes the "literary object" as something cynical, corrupt and devoted only to turning human suffering into exquisite figures of speech. This is a major new offering of work by this important writer, heralded by Calvino as an "erudite acrobat who twirls around the trapeze of rhetoric above the timeless void of meaning."
Critique: Impressively organized and presented, "To Those Gods Beyond" is an elegant, extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Contemporary Literary Studies collections in general, and Giorgio Manganelli supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
Green Growth That Works
Lisa Mandle, et al.
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781642830033, $35.00, PB, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Rapid economic development has been a boon to human well-being. It has lifted millions out of poverty, raised standards of living, and increased life expectancies. But economic development comes at a significant cost to natural capital in the form of the fertile soils, forests, coastal marshes, farmland that support all life on earth, including our own.
The dilemma of our times is to figure out how to improve the human condition without destroying nature's. If ecosystems collapse, so eventually will human civilization. One answer is inclusive green growth through the efficient use of natural resources. Inclusive green growth minimizes pollution and strengthens communities against natural disasters while reducing poverty through improved access to health, education, and services. Its genius lies in working with nature rather than against it.
"Green Growth That Works: Natural Capital Policy and Finance Mechanisms Around the World" is the first practical guide to bring together pragmatic finance and policy tools that can make investment in natural capital both attractive and commonplace. The contributors to "Green Growth That Works" present six mechanisms that demonstrate a range of approaches used around the globe to conserve and restore earth's myriad ecosystems, including: Government subsidies; Regulatory-driven mitigation: Voluntary conservation; Water funds; Market-based transactions; Bilateral and multilateral payments.
Through a series of real-world case studies, "Green Growth That Works" addresses questions such as: How can we channel economic incentives to make conservation and restoration desirable? What approaches have worked best? How can governments, businesses, NGOs, and individuals work together successfully?
Pioneered by leading scholars from the Natural Capital Project, "Green Growth That Works" is valuable compendium of proven techniques can guide agencies and organizations eager to make green growth work anywhere in the world.
Critique: Impressively informative, exceptional in organization and presentation, "Green Growth That Works: Natural Capital Policy and Finance Mechanisms Around the World" is an extraordinary addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Business & Economics collections in general, and Environmental Economics supplemental studies reading lists in particular. A timely and valued contribution to our on-going national dialogue with respect to the subject of Green Energy as a source of emancipation from our dependence on the petroleum industry and trying to restrain Climate Change, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, environmental activists, corporate executives, and governmental policy makers, that "Green Growth That Works" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $32.25).
Jane Cohen's Bookshelf
The Great Memory Show of 1943: A spoof on the secret army of Usk
Oakley Books Ltd.
9781916027909, 8.99 Brit. pounds, PB, 242pp
This is just so funny, I laughed from the first page till the very last. It deals with events that really did happen, though few people know about them, but it does so in a most irreverent way. As the South Wales Argus reported, the book is controversial and the paper published comments that show there are some who are not happy with this, but it has the potential to do for the Town of Usk, what Gavin and Stacey did for Barry Island.
Jane Lael's Bookshelf
Books without Borders: Homer, Aeschylus, Galileo, Melville and Madison Go to China
Martha C. Franks
9780999305928 $18.00 pbk
9780999305925 $9.00 Kindle amazon.com
In the Chinese school system, students are silent. They read, they listen to the teacher, they memorize information, and they take tests. It was a total surprise to them when their new American teacher, Martha Franks, requested that they read Homer's Iliad, respond with their own ideas, and then share those ideas out loud in class. This was alien to them, difficult, and challenging. They felt and expressed their consternation and irritation - and that's where it all began. Author/lawyer Martha Franks, in her brilliantly written book, details day-by-day, month-by-month, the process of teaching the students to think for themselves, to speak up, to share, and to get comfortable with it all.
Ms. Franks was in China because of questions, hopes, and fears swirling around the subject of how to educate young Chinese students in the light of China's growing openness to the world. In her Chronicle of Higher Education article "Bucking Cultural Norms, Asia Tries Liberal Arts" (Feb 2012), Karin Fischer states: "The global economy is placing new demands on international hubs like Hong Kong and Singapore and opening up China's once-closed markets to overseas investment. Not only do new hires in these places have to collaborate with counterparts around the globe, they're also competing for jobs. And they're not faring well, dinged for inflexible thinking, inability to work in teams, and lack of creativity. Casting their eyes West, reformers have latched onto American-style liberal, or general, education as a way to foster more nimble and adaptable thinkers."
While the Chinese test-taking approach to education has produced a certain level of competence, some of China's leaders quietly acknowledge there is little creativity, and wonder if the liberal arts are the answer. Thus, a number of experimental schools similar to the Dalton School are finding official, albeit cautious, support from the Communist government. The balance sought is a delicate one. Creativity in medicinal doses - yes; the possibility of deeper real change - not if it is de-stabilizing. As Ms. Franks describes in her book, the Party sometimes came to the classroom to oversee these educational experiments. One day Party members visited the classroom as her students were discussing Aeschylus' Oresteia, a book about whether justice should be decided on an individual basis, as ancient Greek heroes did, or whether it was a matter for the State. She recounts:
The Party officials and I nodded at each other. The class continued, although dynamics shifted.
"What the state wants must win," asserted Jack. I wondered if the presence of the Communist Party members had prompted that statement.
"Tell me why you believe that," I responded. Then I wondered if my own reaction was a little blunted for the benefit of the silent presence in the room.
"The community is more important," he responded, seemingly a little ill at ease. "The state must come first." Did he glance at one of the men? Sara tried a peace-making approach: "The state is advantaged by tranquility, so it should promote cooperation, even if the state has the power to show more strength, to compel." Suddenly Janie came in, perhaps not liking the atmosphere of caution. She said defiantly, head thrown back, "The state's justice will be for its own benefit. The state must be challenged by individuals."
There was no reaction from the still figures outside the circle. After a moment of waiting, I took the class to another place in the text and we read aloud for a while before continuing the discussion on a different point. A few minutes later, the Communist Party officials left the room.
It was impossible to tell what had been in their minds, or whether they even understood English. They might well have been completely unaware of the subject of our conversation, seeing only that Chinese students were speaking up in a second language. Nor could I be at sure that the students had reacted with the self-consciousness that my imagination had supplied. In any case, as far as I know, there was no consequence to the inspection.
Yet I didn't like the effect it had seemed to have on me or the students - the feeling that we needed to censor ourselves. In one of Grant's classes about the time of the Communist Party's inspection, a student turned in a paper proposing that the right way to resolve political questions was "we listen to those in authority, we agree and we obey." When Grant asked her about that position, she was surprised that he had taken it seriously. "That's just what you say in papers," she said. I didn't like such thinking. For my grandiose hopes of global conversation to come true, people would have to avoid that constraint and speak freely what they feel, think and believe.
The book describes many classroom scenes as Ms. Franks steadfastly and unpretentiously demonstrates a different concept of teaching. Her refusal to provide "the right answer" to the students brought with it some awkward, almost painful silences. Her attempts to pose the right question at the right moment in the right way required discipline and resolve on her part.
Slowly the students responded, then reveled in considering questions such as, "What is the best life?" "Does human suffering have any meaning?" "What is justice and how can it be realized?"
Ms. Franks, through reading and discussing Frankenstein and Flatland with her students, raised in their minds for the first time a distinction between knowledge and wisdom. In our scientific age do we still need wisdom? If we do, then as the Book of Job asks, 'Where can wisdom be found?' This discussion is as relevant to classrooms in America as it is to classrooms in China.
Another kind of education takes place in these pages. It is the education of Ms. Franks herself as she confronts her own assumptions and pre-suppositions about books and arguments that she has been familiar with her whole adult life. She sees for the first time, and enables her readers to see, the powerful strangeness of many of our Western texts and habits of mind. She does this by allowing herself to see through the eyes of her students for whom most of these texts have no prior context at all.
During her two years in China Ms. Franks undertook the mirror-image of the task she was asking of her students. She read a number of China's most widely known and respected classics, visited sites such as the Forbidden City, the Palace of Heaven, the Great Wall, and the Lecture Hall and Grave of Confucius. She absorbed Chinese landscapes and talked to Chinese who had never before even seen a person from the West.
The passages that describe these experiences read like travelogues from a wondrous journey few of us will ever take. Ms. Franks is both drawn towards and often baffled by what she finds in the same way her students are vis-a-vis Western texts. These parts of her book raise it to the level of an important volley in the highly-charged issue of what education might be in a world beyond nationalisms.
Ms. Franks brings her narrative to a close with these words:
There would be no wrapping up into a neat bundle of certainty - that's not what the liberal arts are about. Instead, I hoped that in some future I could imagine, these students would carry a memory of our time together and hear, always, all their lives, that it matters what they feel, think, and believe.
To whom does it matter? To all of us. The stakes are high.
Jane Lael, Reviewer
US-China Review Volume XLIII Summer, 2019
Jen Lis' Bookshelf
The White Curtain
Daniel A. Birchmore, author
Gail Lucas, illustrator
Cucumber Island Storytellers
1887813098, $39.98, www.amazon.com
I was fortunate enough to receive this book as a gift.
A beautiful white curtain hangs in the window of a fine lady's home. It is the talk and admiration of the lady and her friends, but one day, it gets blown out the window and has its first taste of adventure. Only to land in a mud pile not far away and be brought back and cleaned, the curtain is not deterred and looks for another chance to get out and see the world. Not long after, it does just that, landing with a family whose children use it as a sail and later as a table cloth. Eventually, the curtain ends up in a second hand store, and who should buy it, but the fine lady. Happy to be home, but not fully satisfied, the curtain again hangs in its window, waiting for another opportunity to fly.
As I read this book, I couldn't help but wonder if this was perhaps based on a true story of a curtain that the author either owned or recalled as a child. I think perhaps one of the things that stands out about this book is the illustrations and "facial expressions" of the curtain which will likely appeal to children. The expressions just make this curtain seem so warm, friendly, happy, and of course, adventurous. After all, considering it ended up in a mud puddle on its first outing, the curtain displays a great deal of pluck and bravery as it seizes the next opportunity to fly out the window!
The story is straightforward, simple, and easy to follow for young readers. However, the author manages to work in words such as "mahogany" and "luxuriantly" which are less common in children's books, but provide the opportunity for increasing vocabulary...which is fantastic! Additionally, parents will appreciate the creativity and resourcefulness of the children using the curtain at play and at mealtimes.
The Bride Test
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780451490827, $7.76, www.amazon.com
The romance between M (Esme) and Khai starts when Khai's mother makes a trip to Vietnam to find her son a wife. On the surface, the two seem they could never fit, but as walls are torn down, could that change?
Hoang's second novel and a follow up to The Kiss Quotient, though different,did not disappoint. In some ways, it is the typical love story of an unlikely pair. And in many, this is not at all a typical love story. For some reason, when I started reading I felt M (Esme) was not a terribly likable character. However, throughout the course of the book, I discovered her to be a strong and honorable woman, and my opinion did an about face. The author does an excellent job of weaving a romance that is much more than surface deep. Perhaps what I love most about this book is the sense of being completely, and perhaps mostly, yourself when with the person you love.
If you like romance or romantic comedies, this is a great summer (or really anytime) read.
Odie Speaks for the First Time about Brothers and Sisters
DaBarbara Branic Davis
Page Publishing, Inc
9781682131879, $12.95, www.amazon.com
Odie is a puppy with a special gift who is adopted by a family with three children, Sissy, Gidget, and Puck. The three children all have different interests, but they all have at least two things in common: they love playing together, and they love Odie. The story tells of the different adventures the children have together through the course of their make believe games. Finally, they invent a game in which they are trying to break a spell that will allow their favorite pup Odie to speak to them. Much to their surprise, after a great deal of patience and teamwork, their dog does the unbelievable and speaks to them in rhyme! Odie's gift is just for him and the children, as he tells them he will return to barking as usual if others come around. The story ends with the promise of new adventures.
This is such a wonderful family story. While the harmony that the kids seem to experience day in and day out with each other may not be how things are every day with siblings, it does show how things are on the best of days with siblings. I love that the kids in this story seem to get along and be best friends. It lines up with what I was always told growing up and what I try to pass on to my kids...your siblings are your best friends! Certainly my kids being friends during their lives ranks high on my hopes as a parent.
Despite the apparent ease of the children's friendship with each other, they also show they can stick together to work on a problem. They do this through pretend play, but that seems perfectly appropriate for children.
The themes of teamwork, patience, use of the imagination, and brothers and sisters getting along are sure to be winners for parents.
The illustrations are big and bright in this book, and really seemed to capture the attention of my 5-year-old. The author says to look for more adventures with Odie and the kids. I look forward to that and hope the children will involve the parents in their new found secret with their pup.
Lincoln Tells a Joke; How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country)
Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, authors
Stacy Innerst, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
9780544668287, $6.01, amazon.com
This biography of Abraham Lincoln geared for children takes a unique approach by highlighting Lincoln's sense of humor throughout his life.
The biography is complete in terms of addressing Lincoln's life from birth to death. Throughout the book, the authors use his quotes to show the way in which Lincoln was able to breath a bit of humor into nearly any situation. This is really doubly impressive when considering the difficulties and serious situations he dealt with throughout his life.
The acrylic illustrations are somewhat whimsical and different from what is typically found in children's books. They are also interesting and compliment the story well.
Expect young readers to learn something about the 16thpresident from this book, but also a sense of the importance that humor can play in life, especially when the going gets hard.
Marilyn Sadler, author
Roger Bollen, illustrator
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Alistair Grittle is tidy, self-disciplined, and excels at school (even raising both hands when he knows the answer to a question). When an elephant from the zoo follows him home after one of his regularly scheduled weekend zoo trips, poor Alistair's usually very ordered life is completely disrupted. After taking practical steps of attempting to call the zoo to see if they may be missing an elephant, Alistair accepts he is stuck with the visitor all week. He takes this all in stride, and makes it through the entire week.
One of five Alistair books by Marily Sadler, the publication date is 1983, but no doubt kids and parents today will find it funny and refreshing. I recall having this story read to me as a kid, and I perhaps find it even more entertaining as an adult. Let's be honest; it's amazing. Alistair is an absolutely loveable character, and the nonchalant way he handles the curveball thrown to him when an elephant follows him home from zoo is simply perfect. Parents and kids will certainly share lots of laughs while reading this book. As a bonus, reading this to slightly older children may provide a teaching moment about rolling with the punches when things don't go our way. As much as kids and parents love their routines, everyone knows stuff happens. You can't stop an elephant from following you home; you just have to go with it.
I was unable to find this book available for sale new at bookstores, but definitely look for it at second hand stores or online, or at your library.
The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity
Eucalyptus Media Group
9781635820508, $6.98, www.amazon.com
Themes of happiness, truth, lies, and the power to change the world are discussed in a simple, practical, and easy to read manner. In 114 pages and 15 quick chapters, Kelly provides real-world, everyday tips to overcoming the lie. Techniques including stories and parables, interesting facts, and straight forward directions are used to demonstrate the thesis of the book.
This is an easy read and well worth the time. Written by a Catholic motivational speaker and consultant, this book is not just for Catholics. It undoubtedly applies to all Christians. I would also argue that non-Christians would find valuable insights and practical ideas in this book. It challenges, but also leaves the reader an overall feeling of hope for the future. An excellent choice for a quick read with big impact.
What is the biggest lie in the history of Christianity? You will have to read it to find out.
Jen E. Lis, Reviewer
Joel Dennstedt's Bookshelf
Chronicles of Hope: The Anquietas
Peter E. Randall Publisher LLC
ISBN Audio Book: 9780997156744, $TBA
ISBN Softcover: 9780997156720, $18.88, 217pp
ISBN E-book: 9780997156737, $8.88, www.amazon.com
If one is compelled by personality or inclination to view Lois Hermann's book Chronicles of Hope: The Anquietas, Book 1 (written in cooperation with Gary Scott, her client) as a metaphorical treatment of psychological health, so be it. That reader will still gain some insight and guidance for processing his/her personal psychological energy. But a true believer, one who accepts our co-existence as both human and transcendent, with access to even greater knowledge and revelation by way of even higher transcendent beings - in this case through channeled sessions prompted within deep hypnosis - such a reader will find the material in this book permeating their awareness, thereby leading them toward increasing positivity and health.
In The Anquietas, a Greek name denoting "the ancient ones", Lois Hermann relates the highest wisdom shared by a collective group of transcendent beings concerned with the current state of humanity, our impact on the Earth, and more profoundly upon Gaia, Earth's spiritual identity. In the honored tradition of the Seth material, published decades ago, this current material concentrates on and emphasizes the free-will capacity of humans to direct our own destinies, but also on the fact that we create our own realities, and we are therefore responsible and accountable for all our fateful actions. Anticipating a looming crisis with unforetold results, the Anquietas remind us through their admonitions to first cleanse ourselves of excessively negative energetics in order to regain a necessary balance with positivity, and then to determine our own future from this more stable place. With the help of Lois Hermann and Gary Scott, they also suggest some practical ways to do this.
Joel R. Dennstedt, Reviewer
John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Discover Joy in Work
Shundrawn A. Thomas
PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
9780830845743, $22.00, HC, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Discover Joy in Work: Transforming Your Occupation into Your Vocation", business executive Shundrawn Thomas reveals how work is intended to produce lasting value and should be meaningful and productive.
A healthy attitude toward work and the workplace requires intentionality and effort. Thomas helps us to a greater understanding of our abilities and passions, which in turn will help us develop into the people we are meant to be. He addresses issues of work ethic, character formation, and work-life synergy to find better harmony between what we do and who we are.
Through empirical research and real-life stories, Thomas reveals fundamental truths in easy-to-remember concepts for joy at work regardless of occupation, age, or career stage. His principle message is that we are all designed to flourish in our workplace and are invited to go on a personal journey to transcend our occupation and discover our true vocation.
Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "Discover Joy in Work: Transforming Your Occupation into Your Vocation" is a unique and informative study that is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, corporate, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Discover Joy in Work" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.99).
African Americans in Nkrumah's Ghana
Joseph E. Holloway
New World African Press
9781643160252, $49.95, PB, 493pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "African Americans in Nkrumah's Ghana" by Joseph E. Hollowy deftly examines how a small group of African Americans emigrated from the U.S to Ghana during the 1950s to 1966, and contributed to the formulation of Nkrumah's Pan African policy to unite Black Africa and African Americans throughout the word. These African Americans created a critical mass of artists, artisans, educators, dentists, doctors electrical engineers, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, scholars, and teachers. These expatriates had a greater impact on Ghana's domestic and foreign policy.
Critique: An exceptional and seminal work of exhaustive research and meticulous scholarship, "African Americans in Nkrumah's Ghana" is an extraordinarily informative and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections, as well as supplemental studies lists for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.
Editorial Note: Joseph E. Holloway, is a retired Professor of Pan African Studies at California State University, Northridge, and [now Africana Studies]. Dr. Holloway is nationally and internationally known for his publications and scholarship on Africa, particular Liberia. He is a former Ford scholar at Cornell University and more recently a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana [2013-2015]. He has written widely on the American South from Black slave owners in Louisiana to the Charles Deslondes slave rebellion in New Orleans in 1811. He is a specialist in Diasporic Studies with a specialty in African and African American history and culture. He is the author of twenty books including his bestseller Africanisms in American Culture, twice nominated for the Melville J. Herskovits Award for academic scholarship. Some of his other books includes Liberian Diplomacy in Africa, (1981), A History of Slave Insurrections in the United States , An Introduction to Classical African Civilizations (2005), and Neither Black Nor White: The Saga of an American Family. He is co-author (with Winifred K. Vass) of The African Heritage of American English (Indiana University Press, 1993), and editor of The Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish Science Temple Movement.
American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era
Kevin K. Gaines
University of North Carolina Press
116 South Boundary Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-3808
9780807858936, $39.95, PB, 360pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In 1957 Ghana became one of the first sub-Saharan African nations to gain independence from colonial rule. Over the next decade, hundreds of African Americans (including Martin Luther King Jr., George Padmore, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, Pauli Murray, and Muhammad Ali) visited or settled in Ghana.
In "American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era", Kevin K. Gaines explains what attracted these Americans to Ghana and how their new community was shaped by the convergence of the Cold War, the rise of the U.S. civil rights movement, and the decolonization of Africa.
Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's president, posed a direct challenge to U.S. hegemony by promoting a vision of African liberation, continental unity, and West Indian federation. Although the number of African American expatriates in Ghana was small, in espousing a transnational American citizenship defined by solidarities with African peoples, these activists along with their allies in the United States waged a fundamental, if largely forgotten, struggle over the meaning and content of the cornerstone of American citizenship (the right to vote) conferred on African Americans by civil rights reform legislation.
Critique: An impressively researched, exceptionally informative, extraordinarily well organized and presented study, "American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era" is a seminal work of scholarship that includes a thirteen page Bibliography and a twenty-five page Index. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections and supplemental studies, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.19).
Willoughby's World of Wonder
9780991321698, $19.95, PB, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Willoughby's, as it was popularly known, was created by noted cryptozoologist and naturalist, Angus Willoughby. For half a century, this unique reference guide was used as a textbook in many universities around the globe, and was considered a primary reference of many cryptozoological societies and organizations. Years of painstaking research and expert restoration have yielded the amazing rebirth of this treasured book, which is as important today as it was when it was originally published.
Every single page of Willoughby's is lavishly illustrated, with 136 strange beasts and curious creatures, each listed with an illustration and complete description. Included are many traditional beasts and folk, such as Pixies, Fearies, Sprites, Unicorns, and Gargoyles; but this is not your usual bestiary, filled with the tired old, familiar creatures. The majority of Willoughby's is a host of strange folk and odd creatures the likes of which you have never seen before!
Discover the tiny Beelephants and Air Horses; marvel at the mighty Leocornus; learn about the Storytelling Dragons; befriend the wily Spriggans and Pigwidgeons; search for the treasure-filled burrow of the Magpie Dragon; beware the Jinx and the Bogeyman! All these amazing beasties and more are sorted into nine categories: Fey Folk; Wee Folk; Great Folk; Wyre Folk; Creatures Amongst Us; Creatures of the Land, Sea, and Air; and Creatures of the Night.
Critique: This international edition of "Willoughby's World of Wonder", is a unique and entertaining fictional reproduction of the famous 1882 Field Guide to Strange Beasts & Curious Creatures. Overflowing with whimsy and delight from cover to cover, "Willoughby's World of Wonder" features beautiful, black-and-white Victorian engravings printed on fine white paper. Suitable for adults and young adults, "Willoughby's World of Wonder" will enthrall readers of all ages and is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.
Julie Summers' Bookshelf
Grow Old With Me
Lucy Rose Fischer
9781733509121, $19.95, PB, 80pp
Synopsis: Lucy Rose Fischer is a Minnesota artist and author who had a 25-year career as a researcher, specializing in the study of aging. more. "Grow Old With Me" is her fifth book on the subject of aging. In it she blends her own distinctive art style with a kind of free verse commentary style prose that offers universally recognizable observations on growing old with a loved one, with having adult children, with having grandchildren.
Critique: An entertaining, insightfully informative, and occasionally joyous read, "Grow Old With Me" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community library and senior center collections.
Patti A. Williams
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982220785, $33.95, HC, 222pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Sometimes, it takes profound change to move us forward, out of our comfort zone, and into the place where true wisdom lies. However, when this change comes in the form of a traumatic event, it can shake the very foundation on which one has built trust and security.
"Becoming Bearheart: One Woman's Journey to Find Peace After Trauma" is a gripping memoir in which Patti Williams chronicles her life from the horrifying moment in March 1986 when she learned her mother had been murdered through the aftermath as the world she knew slowly began to fall apart.
Overwhelmed with profound feelings of loss, heartache, and abandonment, Patti embarked on a spiritual journey that took her to the deepest, darkest places of her soul where she had to courageously battle to find her way back into the light and onto a path of peace. Led by the spirit of her mother, Patti discloses how she eventually connected with her inner-warrior to rediscover her personal power, the meaning of self-love, and ultimately her true life's destiny.
"Becoming Bearheart" is the inspiring true story of one woman's journey to connect with the strongest version of herself and heal from personal trauma.
Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Becoming Bearheart: One Woman's Journey to Find Peace After Trauma" is an extraordinary and compelling life story. While strongly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Becoming Bearheart" is also available in a paperback edition (9781982220761, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).
From Risk to Resilience
Jenny Rae Armstrong
P.O. Box 866, Harrisonburg, VA 22803
9781513804101, $29.99, HC, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Educating women is the most effective way to combat extreme poverty, slash child mortality rates, and build healthy communities. But first a girl must navigate the minefields of childhood and adolescence. Will she get pregnant or finish her education? Will she be trafficked or taught a trade? Will she be abused by authority figures or equipped for leadership?
In "From Risk to Resilience: How Empowering Young Women Can Change Everything" author Jenny Rae Armstrong deftly weaves the stories of young women between the ages of twelve and twenty-one into a tapestry of hope.
A gender justice advocate Jenny Rae Armstrong illuminates the dangers common to women and girls around the world: gender-based violence, child marriage, healthcare gaps, and damaging social attitudes. She also delves into narratives of women in Scripture, examining theologies of oppression that contain and crush women's potential, and theologies of shalom that lift women up.
Drawing on resources from the gender justice movement and from heroines of the Bible, Armstrong offers a stirring call to action, with practical ways that churches and individuals can help girls around the globe thrive.
Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "From Risk to Resilience: How Empowering Young Women Can Change Everything" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, church, and academic library Contemporary Women's Issues collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "From Risk to Resilience" is also available in a paperback edition (9781513804095, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).
Editorial Note: Jenny Rae Armstrong is an award-winning writer and teaching pastor at Darrow Road Wesleyan Church in Superior, Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications including Today's Christian Woman RELEVANT, Mutuality, and Red Letter Christians, and her articles on gender justice and empowering women and girls have won three Evangelical Press Association awards and two Associated Church Press awards. She is the author of Don't Hide Your Light Under a Laundry Basket and a youth curriculum, Called Out! Armstrong has degrees from the University of Northwestern and North Park Theological Seminary. Covenant Companion recognized her one of the Evangelical Covenant Church's 40 under 40.
Girl, You Got This!
1760-F Airline Hwy, #203, Hollister, CA 950243
9781933455426, $19.95, PB, 114pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Girl, You Got This!: A Fitness Trainer's Personal Strategies for Success Transitioning into Motherhood" by Brittany Renz is a complete guide to setting yourself up for success while transitioning to motherhood.
The 'real world practical' and experience based advice comes from an expert as Brittany is a wife, mother of one and a half kids (a three-year-old girl and soon-to-be born baby boy), entrepreneur, and personal trainer.
In "Girl, You Got This!, Brittany deftly and accessibly shares her knowledge and experience to walk her readers through all of the phases of pregnancy, from before conception to delivery -- and ways to stay fit during each phase.
Critique: A perfect gift book for expectant mothers, "Girl, You Got This!: A Fitness Trainer's Personal Strategies for Success Transitioning into Motherhood" features color photograph illustrations and is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal and community library collections.
The Joy of Uber Driving
She Writes Press
9781631525674, $16.95, PB, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Yamini Redewill is an Uber driver in San Francisco -- one of a growing number of rideshare drivers around the world. What makes her unique is that she's a seventy-nine-year-old single woman who views her Uber driving as a form of spiritual practice!
In the pages of "The Joy of Uber Driving" she chronicles the unexpected corkscrew twists and turns Redewill encounters on the road to love and happiness. How could she know that all those fabulous dreams she cherished as a younger woman were just illusions on the way to reality and would vanish like dust in the wind?
But ultimately, her wild ride through life (which includes obsessive love on Catalina; sex, drugs, and alcohol in Hollywood; eleven years of celibacy in Buddhism, and Tantric sex and spirituality in India) helps her wend her way to her authentic self and to creative fulfillment in the winter of her life.
In "The Joy of Uber Driving", Yamini Redewill shares the wisdom that comes from living a full life of heart-centered passion, as well as the self-awareness that has allowed her to be the happy, confident, creative, and young "old broad" she now finds herself to be.
Critique: A deftly written, thought provoking, and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Joy of Uber Driving" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Joy of Uber Driving" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).
The Art of Disney Costuming
Jeff Kurt & the Staff of the Walt Disney Archives
c/o Disney Book Group
1200 Grand Central Avenue, Glendale, CA 91201
9781484741221, $45.00, HC, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Walt Disney Archives was established by Roy O. Disney, Walt Disney's brother and Chairman of Board, who determined that significant assets and documents relating to the history of The Walt Disney Company should be gathered and preserved, and that the recollections of key employees should be documented.
Chief Archivist Emeritus Dave Smith was officially hired for this purpose on June 22, 1970, and since then, the Walt Disney Archives has curated millions of historic items, including books, art, awards, photographs, merchandise, props, costumes, and much more. The Archives team has assisted in research and review of hundreds of scholarly and documentary works in varied media and produced numerous exhibits for the presentation of the The Walt Disney Company's respected and beloved history to the public.
Jeff Kurtti is a leading authority on The Walt Disney Company, its founder, and its history. He is the author of more than thirty books, a writer-director of award-winning documentary content, and a respected public speaker. For several years, he worked for Walt Disney Imagineering, the theme park design division of The Walt Disney Company, and then for the Corporate Special Projects department of Disney. He was creative director, content consultant, and media producer for The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
The collaborative team of Jeff Kurtti and the staff members of the Walt Disney Archives have now published "The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between" so that the legions of Disney fans can now fully appreciate the imagination, passion, and attention to detail invested in each Disney costume showcased in this gorgeous illustrated coffee table book!
The elegant and adventurous array of dresses, uniforms, and other attire is a feast for the eyes and a fascinating examination of pure craft and of the brilliant, creative minds behind it, beginning with a summation of the costumes created for Disney animation, early live action, and television, along with show wardrobes sported at the Disney Parks by Audio-Animatronics figures and Cast Members.
The next section details a timeless case study: Cinderella's ball gown. A diverse group of designers has been called upon over the years to address and improvise the creative and practical needs each time the fairy tale Cinderella has been reimagined. Each project has brought with it inherent cultural challenges when bringing a familiar and beloved tale to life again and again, and all have yielded stunning and distinct results.
At last, the full galleries (organized by the character archetypes of heroes and villains, and those complex, always interesting, "spaces between") showcase costumes across more than thirty Disney films. At each turn, this very special volume offers a one-of-a-kind backstage view of remarkable works of art, and it inspires a true appreciation for the highly skilled and talented costumers who created them.
Critique: A pure and nostalgic pleasure to simply browse through, "The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between" is impressively informative and in this oversized coffee table style edition (11.2 x 0.9 x 14.4 inches ) would be an especially appropriate and enduringly popular selection for library Memorial Fund acquisitions. Simply stated, "The Art of Disney Costuming" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal, community, college, and academic library collections.
Americana: Farmhouses and Manors of Long Island
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764357862, $39.99, HC, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Set between the sound and the sea, Long Island is home to some of America's most intriguing country houses.
Kyle Marshall is a designer based in New York City and the Long Island hamlet of Locust Valley. He is the creative director for Bunny Williams Home and was formerly a furniture designer for Ralph Lauren Home. He graduated from Rhode Island School of Design.
In "Americana: Farmhouses and Manors of Long Island", Marshall draws upon his experience and expertise to highlight the best architectural examples while also telling the story of each through outstanding contemporary color photography.
The dwellings, which began as 17th-century homesteads and 18th-century, high-style plantation manor houses, embody centuries of ownership and building activity -- an aesthetic evolution shaped by both Dutch and English colonial influences and proximity to the cultural crossroads of Long Island Sound and New York City. These many-layered homes, both large and small, have anchored successive generations engaged in living well amid evolving American taste, each generation expanding, altering, and redefining them in accordance with popular trends and personal eccentricities.
Representing the best of maverick Americana, their charmed interiors exude warmth, comfort, and familiarity and contain wonderful old objects and materials that will satiate all who hunger for old houses.
Critique: An informative delight to page through, "Americana: Farmhouses and Manors of Long Island" is a unique, profusely illustrated, and extraordinary study that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library American Architectural History collections in general, and Long Island regional history supplemental studies lists in particular.
The Macho Paradox
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781492697121, $26.99, HC, 446pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Now in a newly revised and updated second edition that includes current studies, politics, and discussions, "The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help" by Jackson Katz shows how violence against women is a male issue as well as a female one -- and how we can come together to stop it.
Written by pioneering anti-violence educator Jackson Katz, this newly expanded edition of "The Macho Paradox" incorporates the voices and experiences of women and men who have confronted the problem from all angles, the discussions surrounding currents events in politics and pop-culture, and where the violence is ignored or encouraged in our upbringing. Katz also offers cogent explanations for why so many men harass and hurt women, and he shows what can be done to stop the violence.
By working together as allies, Katz shows how all genders can end the abuse and mistreatment of women.
Critique: An ideal and valued contribution to our on-going national dialogue with respect to violence and sexual assaults against women, "The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help" is enhanced with the inclusion of a six page Bibliography, fifteen pages of Notes, and a fourteen page Index. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Gender Studies collections and supplemental studies curriculums, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, women's rights advocates, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Macho Paradox" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: Jackson Kats holds a Ph.D. and has long been a major figure and thought leader in the growing global movement of men working to promote gender equality and prevent gender violence. He is co-founder of the multiracial, mixed-gender Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, one of the longest-running and most widely influential gender violence prevention programs in North America, and the first major program of its kind in the sports culture and the military. Katz is one of the early architects of the "bystander" approach to prevention. He is the creator of the award-winning Tough Guise video series and author of numerous articles, as well as Man Enough? Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity. His TEDx talk: Violence against Women - It's a Men's Issue, has been viewed more than four million times. An acclaimed public speaker, Katz has delivered thousands of lectures and conducted trainings in all 50 states, 8 Canadian provinces and on every continent except Antarctica.
K.C. Finn's Bookshelf
Born - Against All Odds
9781622539758, $15.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 268pp, www.amazon.com
Born - Against All Odds is a work of dramatic literary fiction penned by author Hope Silver. Translated from its original Russian by Krystyna Steiger, this unusual narrative takes us on the conceptual path of how human beings come into form, discussing the nature of souls waiting to be born. This spiritual work concerns a single soul called Peace, who spots a woman whom he feels would be the ideal mother to bring him into the world. We journey with Peace on his desire to be born, asking important questions about life and its purpose, as well as human nature along the way.
Part spiritual discussion, part magical realism, this fantasy and literary work combines the serious and the surreal with excellent balance. Author Hope Silver develops characters with a seamless fluidity alongside the plot, never pausing to delve into too much conceptual explanation or backstory, which allows us to get to know Peace, Lera and the rest of the cast as you would get to know new friends.
The concept of souls choosing where to be born is an interesting and heartfelt journey that is well told, with many ups and downs and issues that will keep you questioning long after you finish the actual novel. The prose too is elegantly formed to paint ethereal images of the pre-existence of souls, compared to the earthy qualities of the human form as it walks the planet.
Overall, Born - Against All Odds is a dramatic, uplifting and thought-provoking piece of literature that anyone can enjoy..
K.C. Finn, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite (5 stars).
Kimmy S.'s Bookshelf
Christian Faith Publishing
9781644925256, $26.95, HC / $9.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
This is a wonderful and beautifully written book about one man's struggles and unwavering determination to live a respectable and honorable life despite the seemingly endless difficulties. It is an inspiring tale of love, courage, perseverance, integrity and faith. It shows how a man with nothing to show for himself but his work ethics and credibility can make it through and be among the best in what he does. Moreover, it depicts how God works in mysterious ways by sending someone the worst person to bring out the best in him, and using the most unlikely person to bring about the change that the best and finest people could not.
The author creates admirable and endearing characters including Sam Schultz and Kyle and Sarah Williams. In the end, however, I find Stephanie Schultz my favorite. She is patient, smart and kind and she lives by her faith through and through.
The part I like the most in the book is when Barnabas was presented a choice between ending his financial difficulties for good and doing what is right without any indication of getting anything in return. For me, it was the greatest manifestation of honorability.
Kirk Bane's Bookshelf
Texas Entertainers: Lone Stars in Profile
The History Press
9781467141512, $21.99, paperback, 160 pages, www.amazon.com
Bartee Haile, author of the popular syndicated column "This Week in Texas History," has assembled a clearly written collection of engaging essays discussing more than forty famous entertainers from across the Lone Star State. His subjects, all born in the latter half of the nineteenth or early part of the twentieth century, include musicians, actors, directors, producers, dancers, comedians, and writers. A number of these entertainers hailed from rural and small town Texas. "Their rustic upbringing," Haile asserts, "gave them a natural down-home appeal that audiences found endearing." Others came from Texas cities.
Haile provides concise, fascinating profiles of such artists and performers as Gene Autry (Tioga), Cyd Charisse (Amarillo), Joan Crawford (San Antonio), Buddy Holly (Lubbock), Waylon Jennings (Littlefield), Carolyn Jones (Amarillo), Roy Orbison (Vernon), Katherine Anne Porter (Indian Creek), Tex Ritter (Murvaul), and Chill Wills (Seagoville). Haile also includes pieces on Fort Worth native Roger Miller, who penned and performed the smash hits "Dang Me," "Chug-a-Lug," and "King of the Road"; Dallas-born producer Aaron Spelling, known for The Mod Squad, Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, Dynasty, and other popular television programs; and "I Fought the Law" rocker Bobby Fuller, from Goose Creek, who met a mysterious and untimely end in Los Angeles in 1966.
In addition to Texas Entertainers, the author has also published Texas Depression-Era Desperadoes (2014), Texas Boomtowns: A History of Blood and Oil (2015), and Unforgettable Texans (2017). Haile's books will undoubtedly appeal to readers interested in Lone Star history and popular culture.
Dr. Kirk Bane, Reviewer
Central Texas Historical Association
9781982214548, $39.95 HC
9781982214524, $22.99 PB
$3.99 Kindle, 336pp, www.amazon.com
A debut spiritual book explores the quest for meaning in life.
Kokatay begins her wide-ranging work on the Big Island of Hawaii with an incident in January 2018 that nobody living there at that time will likely ever forget: the instance when their phones relayed an emergency notice that a ballistic missile was incoming. For 38 minutes, until the all-clear signal was sent, Hawaiians thought they were moments away from incineration.
The author uses the profound relief and inner questioning of that startling event as a parallel for the age-old human search for profound meaning in life. "I wonder how we can experience being truly awake and alive in the present without being on the verge of dying," Kokatay ponders. "Maybe the answer is by coming face-to-face with the reality that we conveniently try to ignore: that we are on the verge of dying."
The fateful episode came as a kind of culmination in a lifetime of seeking deeper meaning in, among other places, "temples, ashrams, and ancient caves in India."
In a series of quick, anecdotal chapters drawing on stories from her years working at a hospice, the author synthesizes a series of "non-principles" underlying the struggles of existence, sentiments like "Allow life to touch and teach you," "See that you are not in control," "Be empty and open," and "Embrace what is." The spotlight on these ideas is sharpened by "Contemplation" questions and comments ending each chapter, things like "Reflect on what it means to live life rather than a concept of life" or "Reflect on heartbreak and suffering as an opportunity for awakening to wholeness." Kokatay colors in these self-help generalities with vivid tales of her travels in India (and very movingly of the feel and tenor of life in Hawaii).
The end result is a heartfelt book probing the meaning of life in intriguingly nondenominational terms, creating from multiple spiritual traditions a more general conception of sacredness in everyday occurrences.
A broad and engaging guide to a deeper personal philosophy.
A Handful of Worldliness
Cozy Cat Press
9781946063762, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 215pp, www.amazon.com
Fanny Spendlove is one of the most popular hosts on GHN (Gotta Have It Now! home shopping network). So fans and co-workers are shocked when one day, after lying down for a rest in her dressing room, Fanny never wakes up.
The death appears natural, but Detective Will Tenney has his doubts. Grodin's recurring protagonist (Assistant Professor of Astronomy & Physics, Edwina Goodman) is instantly likable and endearing. While Edwina is indisputably intelligent, she's humble and never condescending. She also unabashedly embraces her nerdiness. She, for example, has no qualms about telling Will about when she first saw the periodic table as a fifth grader and was in such awe she literally fainted.
The story is brimming with memorable characters; several have their own narrative perspectives, including Fanny, Mary Lou, and even Tennessee GHN superfan Amaleen Stuckey, who's part of a studio tour on the day of the murder. Many of these characters make believable suspects, and the red herrings aren't immediately obvious.
Short scenes and Will's quick, direct interviews keep the pace brisk. There are insightful moments, like the detective's noting certain suspects who "hide behind doublespeak and vagaries. They were language con men...people who blithely refashioned the meanings and usages of words as they went along, to suit their own purposes."
It's delightful watching Edwina work the case, as ideas typically come to her in dreams. But her theories on the killer's identity are primarily conjecture and no more convincing than those pointing to other suspects, leaving Will to drum up evidence to support her arguments: "That's your department....I'm sure you'll figure it out."
An indelible sleuth and colorful supporting characters enliven this whodunit."
Climbing Boy Productions
9781073057450, $15.00 PB, $7.00 Kindle, 304pp, www.amazon.com
In this series opener and pastiche sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883), Jim Hawkins' plans to become a doctor are scuttled when he's forced into another seaborne adventure.
It's four years after the events described in Treasure Island, said here to have been written as a memoir by James "Jim" Hawkins. Jim, now 17, has enough takings from his treasure and his book to make him a rich man. Most of the money is held in trust until Jim is 21, but it's time to consider a profession. He decides that, like family friend Dr. David Livesey, he too will become a physician and help "make the world a better place." Dr. Livesey arranges for an apprenticeship to his friend, Dr. John Taylor, a surgeon at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London. While waiting for a boat to London, Jim can stay with Dr. Livesey's sister in Plymouth.
All well and good - but while in Plymouth, Jim is press-ganged aboard the ominously named HMS Barabbas and put to work as captain's steward, becoming apprenticed to Dr. Wilequet, knowledgeable but usually drunk. Jim soon learns that not all pirates sail under the skull and bones, and that his own memoir - which mentions still-buried treasure - has put him in danger. He'll need courage, wits, and luck to get back to dry land.
Jeapes (The Xenocide Mission, 2018, etc.) offers a nicely judged take on a classic historical adventure novel. With an occasional slip into modern diction, Jeapes generally reproduces the speech rhythms and vocabulary of Stevenson's novel successfully, and he provides vividly authentic descriptions of life (and death) aboard ship: "Jim just had a moment to see the water around the target erupt with white splashes, before the cloud of smoke that had burst from the guns blew back across the ship. A chemical stink tore at the back of his throat and stung his eyes."
Moments of humor, a little romance, and just desserts help enliven the sometimes-dark proceedings.
A well-written, fast-paced, and satisfying historical adventure.
Kjirsten Blander's Bookshelf
Fragments From a Mobile Life
Red Mountain Press
9780998514048, $25.95, PB, 344pp, www.amazon.com
Fragments From a Mobile Life by Margaret Sullivan is a personal memoir, to be sure, but it is also a travelogue, parenting manual, and an outline for finding one's path in a world of constant change. An American born in 1934 China, Sullivan's long journey as a global rolling stone is a fascinating one. In Fragments, the reader travels with her as she moves through foreign service posts and returns to the States, then ships out and returns again and again with various incarnations of her family as her four children grow and begin lives of their own. As Sullivan's de facto "two-fer" trailing spouse "career" with her diplomat husband evolves over time, she evolves as her own woman over more than eight decades.
The book is structured in short chapters, fragments, of just a few paragraphs to a few pages, allowing the reader to take in Sullivan's memories at leisure without losing important plot details. Some chapters are simply fond remembrances of a food or smell, some are more complex, interesting history lessons and then-current events. All are written in the gentle, conversational tone of a very aware mother and grandmother - the kind you'd want to have for her loving acceptance of those around her and the obvious affection, pride, and respect she has for her four adult children and young adult grandchildren.
The main theme knit throughout Fragments are identity, belonging, and otherness. A secondary theme is the changing role of American women in the 20th century.
The most interesting story that threads throughout the book is Sullivan's changing sense of identity. She always knew from whence she came (the China-born daughter of Protestant missionaries with very deep roots in US soil), yet her personal growth from the type of wife and mother expected in the 1950s through the changing expectations for required volunteer work as a foreign service wife to becoming a globally-recognized expert in cross-cultural programming to writing and editing well-respected books to developing an artistic career.
For some, identity and belonging comes from being rooted in a place. It didn't work that way for the quintessentially American Sullivan family, representing the United States across Southeast Asia and West Africa, since they were from so many places. Sullivan and her family learned how to be in a place while not of a place whilst still being themselves, adding new bits of belongingness as they moved around the world. They also had front-row seats as the 20th century unfolded, sitting "ringside as new countries struggled to define themselves."
Despite residing at various international posts for a number of years and learning about her host countries quickly, Sullivan would always be the other to locals. However, she still found community amongst others in foreign service and some internationally minded locals, relationships that have lasted a lifetime. She illustrates how to help mitigate otherness by learning and respecting different cultures and manners - even those that feel beyond foreign, like the time she shook hands with a cannibal.
A secondary theme is the changing role of American women in the 20th century as illustrated through the life of this singular woman. Women of Sullivan's generation are becoming rare treasures. The lessons they learned, the social battles they fought, and the voices they amplified are all important for young women to know. Sullivan and her cohort of women paved the path for women of today.
Fragments is a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting journey through time and place with Margaret Sullivan.
Kjirsten K.J. Blander, Reviewer
Writer-Editor, Las Vegas, NV
Lila Seidman's Bookshelf
The Shadows of 1915
Golden Antelope Press
9781936135721, $19.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 218pp, www.amazon.com
A new novel, 'The Shadows of 1915,' centers on lingering memories of the Armenian Genocide.
"The Shadows of 1915," released this spring, centers on the tension between family and cultural loyalty and the justice system. It's one of just a handful of fiction books written in English about the Armenian Genocide, according to author Jerry Burger.
It's a stuffy summer night in Fresno in 1953. Half-Irish Teresa, trying to grapple with her Armenian fiance Mihran's cultural identity, asks him if he will teach their children to hate the Turks.
Surrounded by figures that he registers as ancestral ghosts, Mihran thinks for a moment.
"Hate is not a solution," Mihran says. "But neither is forgetting."
The conundrum of how to forgive and not forget, laid out in a condensed scene from the recently released novel "The Shadows of 1915," becomes a recurring theme in the work by Jerry Burger. It's a contradiction that continues to haunt the contemporary Armenian community, according to Burger, a retired Santa Clara University psychology professor.
"Reasonable people would say that hate is not a solution, especially hating the children and great-grandchildren of the people who committed atrocities," Burger said. "Yet, somehow to forget all the suffering, all the horror that went on, would make it seem like it was for naught. [They] need to keep the memories alive, and they need to move on."
Released this past spring, "Shadows" is set into action by an interaction between Turkish college students and sons of Armenian Genocide survivors. Amid the fallout, the characters must synthesize their family and community loyalties with the legal system and personal beliefs.
It's just one of a handful of fiction works written in English to tackle the Armenian Genocide, according to Burger. He said he's aware of only about eight or nine other novels in existence, and almost all were written by people with Armenian backgrounds.
Increasing awareness of the tragedy - and how it reverberates today - partially inspired Burger to write "Shadows." It's his first novel.
Growing up in Fresno - though later than the mid-'50s when the book is set - Burger said he had plenty of Armenian friends. He knew all about the genocide and many Armenians' negative feelings about the Turks.
To his surprise, many of his well-read, well-educated friends who lived outside of Fresno, where there is a large Armenian community, knew nothing about the Armenian Genocide that began in 1915 and claimed more than a million lives.
Its minimal representation in English-language literature and film is partially why "it has fallen out of awareness in our larger culture," Burger said.
He was attuned to the fact that he was writing about a community he didn't belong to, "and thought it was important to get it right," he said.
"I was sensitive to [the idea of cultural appropriation] and didn't rely on stereotypes," he added.
To do that, he interviewed several people who grew up in what was once called Armenian Town in Fresno. One man he met, Berge Bulbulian, had written "The Fresno Armenians," which is filled with details about the exact community on which Burger wanted to focus his novel. (There is also a short scene in the novel involving Glendale.)
In particular, one story told to his wife, Marlene, many years ago haunted him and became the basis for a pivotal scene in the book. During an interview, a woman described to Marlene Burger, a former reporter, how she lost her infant daughter during the genocide.
Besides raising awareness, Jerry Burger said he hopes his novel "leaves people with more questions than answers" - which he said is the hallmark of good literature.
"These are people in a situation where there are no easy answers," he said.
Published by Golden Antelope Press, "Shadows of 1915" is available as an e-book on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble.
Lila Seidman, Reviewer
Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309483988, $70.00, PB, 618pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The strengths and abilities children develop from infancy through adolescence are crucial for their physical, emotional, and cognitive growth, which in turn help them to achieve success in school and to become responsible, economically self-sufficient, and healthy adults. Capable, responsible, and healthy adults are clearly the foundation of a well-functioning and prosperous society, yet America's future is not as secure as it could be because millions of American children live in families with incomes below the poverty line. A wealth of evidence suggests that a lack of adequate economic resources for families with children compromises these children's ability to grow and achieve adult success, hurting them and the broader society.
"A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty" comprehensively reviews the research on linkages between child poverty and child well-being, and analyzes the poverty-reducing effects of major assistance programs directed at children and families. This report also provides policy and program recommendations for reducing the number of children living in poverty in the United States by half within 10 years.
Critique: A critically important and valued contribution to our on-going national political and cultural dialogue with respect to child poverty in America today, "A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty" is an unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections, as well as the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, government policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062836069, $12.99, PB, 352pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In a forgotten corner of Wales, a young girl languishes in a home for troubled children. Abandoned by her parents because of her violent streak, Jessie (at the age of ten) is at risk of becoming just another lost soul in the foster system.
Precocious and bold, Jessie is convinced she is possessed by the devil and utterly unprepared for the arrival of therapist, educational psychologist, and special education teacher Torey Hayden. Armed with patience, compassion, and unconditional love, Hayden begins working with Jessie once a week. But when Jessie makes a stunning accusation against one of Hayden's colleagues (a man Hayden implicitly trusts) Hayden's work doubles: now she must not only get to the root of Jessie's troubles, but also find out if what the girl alleges is true.
A moving, compelling, and inspiring true account, "Lost Child: The True Story of a Girl Who Couldn't Ask for Help" is a powerful testament of Torey Hayden's extraordinary ability to reach children who many have given up on -- and a reminder of how patience and love can ultimately prevail.
Critique: An absorbing, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring account of a troubled child and a woman determined to help her, "Lost Child: The True Story of a Girl Who Couldn't Ask for Help" is an especially recommended addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lost Child" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982688226, $34.99, CD).
An Illustrated Ziyarah Guide to Iraq
Moulana Nabi R. Mir (Abidi)
Kisa Kids Publications
c/o Al-Kisa Foundation
9781683121220, $14.00, 413pp, www.kisakids.org
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A): If people knew the reward for performing the ziyarah of Imam Husayn (A), their souls would leave their bodies in remorse, and they would die longing for it.
One of the most recommended acts in Islam is performing ziyarah of the Ma'soomeen. The purpose of ziyarah (pilgrimage) is to visit and form a connection with the holy personalities and places you are visiting. Due to a lack of resources in English, however, many native English speakers struggle with forming this connection.
"The Illustrated Ziyarah Guide to Iraq: seeks to fulfill this need by trying to provide every za'ir with a copy in hand to maximize their ziyarah experience. The guide features: 400+ full-color pages; Descriptive images and maps; Historical information and facts; Biographies of holy personalities; Step-by-step ziyarat etiquette; Line-by-line ziyarat/du'as with simple, accurate English translations.
Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well organized and accessibly presented, "An Illustrated Ziyarah Guide to Iraq" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that there is also a spiral-bound edition of "An Illustrated Ziyarah Guide to Iraq" (9781683121213, $25.00, www.amazon.com).
Our Children and Future
Lulu Publishing Services
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781483419503, $19.95, PB, 170pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Our children and their future need more care and hope in this rapidly changing and uncertain world, so it is the responsibility of families, educators and society to engage differently with children and with each other for better results in preparing our children for what they will inevitably encounter if they are to succeed.
Many parents and school personnel rear and teach children using outdated practices that may no longer effectively prepare children for their future challenges and opportunities. "Our Children and Future: Lessons in Family and School Engagement" is a guide book specifically intended to help older adolescents mature and adults upgrade and adjust their actions and skills. They will both learn lessons from their pasts for better decision making while making sense of today.
This can also result in better engagement with children and each other for improved family well-being and academic achievement. Then more children can realize hope for more success in their futures. "Our Children and Future" is a practical instruction guide and manual that will be used repeatedly from birth through high school graduation and beyond to impact individuals, families, schools, communities and our nation.
Critique: Impressively and exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, "Our Children and Future: Lessons in Family and School Engagement" by Dr. DeBora Mapp is extraordinarily innovative, 'real world practical' in application, and an ultimately inspiring read for parents, teachers and other caregivers seeking to prepare children of all ages and backgrounds to have and hone the life skills necessary to deal with whatever the future presents to them. "Our Children and Future" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.
The OM Factor
Seven Ways Press
9781733813600, $16.95, PB, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: How can successful women flourish when they're caught in a never-ending battle of seemingly conflicting interests: ambitions to pursue demanding careers, dedication to home and family, desire for intellectual self-improvement, and yearning for fulfillment of emotional and spiritual needs?
Now in a fully revised and updated second edition, "The OM Factor: A Woman's Spiritual Guide to Leadership" by Alka Dhillon draws upon her years of experience and expertise as a CEO and successful entrepreneur to provide your key to both immediate and long-term fixes to deal with stress, anxiety, and imbalance in your life. Dhillon's holistic approach to well-being incorporates seven easily applicable "plug-and-play" tools designed to deliver instant and effective results in emotionally challenging situations. You will also learn to cultivate seven important traits to achieve a spiritual evolution.
Each trait is accompanied by a corresponding yoga pose, designed to be used easily and quickly wherever you are to enhance your practice for lasting results. Together, this creates an infinitely adaptable toolbox you can use in any aspect of your life.
"The OM Factor" covers: How to meditate effectively for the shortest amount of time to see real results and change your current situation; How to diffuse high-conflict situations on the spot and heal from old emotional wounds; The ultimate value of investing in yourself and the profitable ripple-effect it has on your career and business; The scientifically proven power of seven specific ancient affirmations and key traits that create a shift in thinking and changes your reality.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized, presented, effective, real world practical and thoroughly 'user friendly' in format, "The OM Factor: A Woman's Spiritual Guide to Leadership" is unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The OM Factor" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Made to Change the World
Post Hill Press
9781642931419, $21.00, HC, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: All his life, Derek Evans felt a spiritual pull to be a part of something greater than himself, but it wasn't until he and a friend embarked on a transformational trip to LA's infamous skid row that he found his true calling. They returned home with a plan to build a mission-minded business that would change the world -- one T-shirt at a time.
When their "Spread Love, It's the Nashville Way" grassroots campaign to raise money for people recovering from homelessness and addiction caught the attention of celebrities like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, it went viral and ignited a global movement to end homelessness, child hunger, and human trafficking.
"Made to Change the World: How Ordinary People Are Called To Do Extraordinary Work, The Story of Project 615" is both an inside look at one man's passionate drive to make a difference, and a call to action for anyone who has ever dreamed of being a part of something that changes the world.
Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Made to Change the World: How Ordinary People Are Called To Do Extraordinary Work, The Story of Project 615" is an extraordinary story and one that should be a part of every community, college, and university library collection in the country. Deserving as wide a readership as possible, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Made to Change the World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Your Digital Undertaker
9781999450151, $43.99, HC, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Your Digital Undertaker: Exploring Death in the Digital Age in Canada" is an exploration that includes simple diagrams, easy to understand scenarios, and user options that require only a couple of mouse clicks. You'll learn your digital life is not isolated from your physical life, as technology is the new player at the estate planning table. Cracking the code to digital death and its afterlife requires deciphering the code for your regular and physical life. By the end of "Your Digital Undertaker", you will feel armed with questions and a perspective on how to tackle your digital life in the context of your overall estate.
You might even walk away inspired to get on with dealing with your will and estate plan with estate planning professionals. If you are a named executor in a will or appointed in a Power of Attorney, "Your Digital Undertaker" is for you as well, as it might motivate you to ask a lot more questions about your role before you get handed "digital hell in a hand basket." For those having the challenging conversations with their parents, family members or clients, let "Your Digital Undertaker" ask some of the basic questions and open the door for a meaningful discussion.
Critique: If you are an adult Canadian who uses e-mail and surfs the internet, "Your Digital Undertaker: Exploring Death in the Digital Age in Canada" by Sharon Hartung is for you. While highly recommended for community and academic libraries throughout Canada, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Your Digital Undertaker" is also available in a paperback edition (9781999450144, $24.49), and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.74).
Ask A Suffragist
April Young Bennett
Brown Blackwell Books
9781733823906, $25.99, HC, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: America's First Feminists covers the 1830s through the 1860s, when the idea of equality for women was new and its supporters were vilified. In addition to suffrage, these early activists fought for abolition, temperance, racial justice, education, career opportunities, women's ordination and the right to wear pants instead of those exasperating dresses and petticoats.
Each individual chapter comprising "Ask a Suffragist: Stories and Wisdom from America's First Feminists" considers a question today's feminists might ask the great feminists of the past. How can we make our voices heard, like Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who defied their slave-holding background to become abolitionists? How do we break the glass ceiling, like Harriot Hunt and Elizabeth Blackwell, who opened the field of medicine to women, or Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who became the first black American woman to edit a newspaper?
"America's First Feminists" celebrates diversity instead of neatly pointing readers into one right way of living. The passionate, inspired and flawed people who started the American feminist movement often disagreed with each other. Well-known suffragists like Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone are featured, as are lesser-known suffragists whose contributions are often overlooked. America's First Feminists includes women of color such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Maria W. Stewart, male feminists such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison and immigrants to the United States such as Ernestine Rose and Marie Zakrzewska.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Ask a Suffragist: Stories and Wisdom from America's First Feminists" is enhanced with the inclusion of a three page Timeline; a twenty-page listing of Citations, and a four page Index. While especially endorsed and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Women's History collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Ask a Suffragist" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: April Young Bennett began studying the lives of suffragists to inform her own activism. She has campaigned for better state and federal laws addressing the wage gap, healthcare, education and juvenile justice and for gender equity within her modern-day patriarchal religious community. As an organizer of the Ordain Women movement, she led hundreds of women and men in marches and demonstrations that attracted national attention. April helps feminists of different faiths share ideas and collaborate toward common goals at the Religious Feminism Podcast. She blogs about Mormon feminism at Exponent II, an organization that began during the second wave feminist movement, named after a nineteenth century Mormon suffragist newspaper. Anyone interested can learn more about April at her web site at www.aprilyoungb.com.
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski
9781941887066, $14.95, 311 pgs
Set in 1960s American Samoa, Mango Rash recounts Nan Sanders Pokerwinski's transformation from typical Oklahoma teen to world traveller.
Samoa presents the perfect backdrop for adolescence. Pokerwinski's family arrives during a wave of heightened American influence on the island; it is changing as much as Nancy. Over the course of her 11 month stay, she falls in love (more than once), makes new friends, rebels more than she ever has, dances, tutors elementary students, ocaissions an indoor disaster, as well as witnesses a disastrous hurricane, and watches expats come and go. She gets sick. She considers her experience like palolo, "a delicacy to be scooped up and devoured.... Gobbling it all down before it was gone" (148).
In careful attention to language, Pokerwinski relishes each new experience, from unforgettable to mundane. Her science writing background shows through in her keen observations of her exotic environment. Each chapter begins with a quote about Samoa or a Samoan idiom, establishing a clear theme for the chapter's stories. She delves into Samoan vocabulary for wisdom. (A helpful glossary of all words used follows at the end). Italicized sections act as interludes, probing deeper into Samoan life or Pokerwinski's inner thoughts. Inspired by Margaret Mead's book about Samoa, Pokerwinski's reflections lean toward social experiment, engaging with culture more than studying it. She relates how Samoa influences her shifting identity. In this way, her book appeals beyond an insightful glimpse into Samoa; it sounds a global message about self-awareness and making sense of memory.
The epilogue hints that there is more of the story to come. This taste of Pokerwinski's adventurous life is enough to pique interest in a sequel.
Part coming-of-age, part anthropology, part travelogue, Mango Rash highlights teenage turbulence with Samoan flair.
Blue Mingo Press
9780990420828, $18.99, paperback
Blood Creek, the first book in Kimberly Collins' Mingo Chronicle series, depicts the 1912 West Virginia Mine Wars from the perspective of a feisty triangle of blood sisters.
Ellie, the main character, is having an affair with the town sheriff. When her lover confronts her husband, things get ugly. Ellie escapes to Charleston, leaving behind a baby daughter. Cousin Polly raises baby Deannie while her husband leads miners to unionize along with Ellie's sister, Jolene, and her husband. In Charleston, Ellie falls into the inner circle of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, hired by the coal companies to squelch miners. Ellie relays messages about the coal operators' plans back to Jolene and Polly. After a year of spying, Ellie questions whether her new lavish life is worth all the risk.
The novel is just the right mix of mountain grit, romance, intrigue and solidarity. In four parts, the chapters are discrete episodes told in chronological order. Pacing is swift. Action dominates, with timely pauses for intimacy and tidbits of women's wisdom. Dialogue celebrates West Virginia dialect. A pinnacle of the story is Mother Jones' speech on behalf of miners. She is the rabble rousing voice of the workers and their families, motivating all who hear her. While she remains a minor character, she embodies the earthy, hell-bent spirit of Ellie, Polly, and Jolene. Many characters, like Mother Jones, are based on true figures. A helpful description at the start of the book sorts fact from fiction.
The three blood sisters share a keen intuition and determination, but the differences in their personalities create a dynamic interplay. Ellie's sex appeal offsets Polly's motherliness and Jolene's smarts. Together, and with their various partners - including maids, midwives, musicians and kids - they create a homespun tapestry of personal relationships as a backdrop to the political excitement.
Vitriol between miners and operators is real, coming across in descriptions of actual battles as well as imagined heartaches. The story definitely argues in favor of the miners. The bad guys are plain evil; no nuance there.
Female heroines do their part to fight for justice in Blood Creek.
Mari Carlson, Reviewer
Marj Charlier's Bookshelf
The Dog Went Over the Mountain Travels with Albie: An American Journey
Pegusus Books Ltd.
148 W. 37th St., New York, NY 10018
9781643132013, $27.95, Hardcover, $15.45, Kindle, 267 pages
When John Steinbeck decided to take a 10,000-mile trip around the United States with his wife's dog Charley in 1960, he said he was doing it to reacquaint himself with the country. He believed that it was "criminal" to continue to write about an America that he didn't really know anymore - he'd been living in New York and traveling mostly in Europe.
When Peter Zheutlin decided to take a six-week trip with his dog, Albie, retracing Steinbeck's journey - albeit backwards to accommodate the weather - he writes that he "wanted to take in the country one more time in a single big sweep, to regain a measure of its grandeur and breadth and to do so in the company of Albie, a genial and loving canine companion."
Like Steinbeck, however, the frightening proximity of the end of his life drew him as well. He embarked from Boston "to once and for all, wrestle to the ground, or at least to a draw, a dread of mortality that has gnawed at me for as long as I can remember." Albie, a rescue lab mix, was the perfect companion for such a trip because of his ability to be "very present in the moment," Zheutlin writes. "I aspire to be more like Albie in that way and hoped that after spending several weeks on the road alone with him some of his sangfroid would rub off."
What he finds as he travels, when possible, secondary roads away from the interstate highways, is both heartening and disheartening, and one of the joys of this book is his willingness to honestly record his reaction to both. (More on that in a moment.) Zheutlin's trip - via BMW convertible with Massachusetts plates - starts in his home in New England, winds through the South to New Orleans, takes in parts of historic Route 66 in the Southwest, reaches into California and Oregon, and finishes in a mad, homesick dash across the northern tier of states.
The book is charming, in no small part because of Albie's constant presence, and in some measure, it's also enlightening. It's full of interesting characters - some Zheutlin had already met and was revisiting, some whom he meets for the first time enroute. He is tolerant, giving even those he knows he'll disagree with the chance to speak their mind and demonstrate their humanity. He lets them talk directly to us, often contributing his reaction to their words only after he's moved on. The judgments we end up with are his, yes, but he gives everyone a say, and this is, after all, his book.
Steinbeck was foremost a novelist, and Zheutlin is a non-fiction writer (this is his seventh book) who is, therefore, understandably less inclined to take liberties with Albie's cognitive abilities than Steinbeck did with Charley. While Steinbeck had frequent "conversations" with Charley as a way of communicating his thoughts to the reader, Zheutlin shares his thoughts with us directly. He frequently talks with Albie - as in "how are you doing back there?" - but he's not a fool about Albie's vocabulary, and is realistic about what Albie sees when they stop to take in the scenery. He recognizes that he and Albie are on entirely different trips: Zheutlin with knowledge of what they're doing out on the road and when (and if) they're going home; the affable and angelic Albie oblivious to the reason for it, and, Zheutlin admits, perhaps not enjoying it all that much. Albie is polite to strangers, tolerant of their constant movement and long drives, and respectful of whatever hotel room or friend's accommodations Zheutlin places him in. He's rewarded with plenty of treats (McDonald's hamburgers and ice cream cones) and the chance to accompany Zheutlin into any establishment that will accept his presence. For all of those reasons, Zheutlin is compassionate and kind to his canine companion in a way that made me tear up at times. (Okay, I admit it: I'm a sucker for a rescue dog.)
There is another reason I appreciated this book: It can be dangerous for writers to be honest about what they see in America these days. People take offense, and although that has always been the case, now the offended are likely to blast the perpetrator on social media or dox a writer, researching and publishing private information over the Internet with an intent to harm. (Or writing a one- or two-star review on Amazon.) That's what makes this book, to me refreshing. Zheutlin pulls no punches. He writes honestly about the ugliness of many of America's fast-food and strip-mall lined thoroughfares. He reacts quickly and critically to Confederate flags and other signs of anachronistic attitudes, particularly in the South. He questions the quality of life in small, run-down, out-of-luck towns he passes (quickly) through, admitting occasionally that maybe he'd see something different if he stayed longer and sought out more of their residents. He may be at his most Pollyanna at those moments of fantasy, and I'm glad they don't last long. I spent 12 years traveling rural America as a reporter, and I know plenty of dead places drained not only of humans, but many times also of humanity.
On the other hand, I share his estimation that most of those we disagree with politically and philosophically are still decent people you can share a breakfast or a beer with and come out richer and more broad-minded for it. Zheutlin appreciates kindness, open-mindedness, art, music, landscapes and conversation. He shares the best with us, as well as the worst, and if readers get nothing more from his investigation across America, it is a pleasant journey with two pleasant companions.
Once More We Saw Stars
9781524733537, $25.00, Hardcover, $12.99, Kindle, 239 pages
Many readers are going to love this book. I don't doubt it. It is well-written and emotionally honest. For those who have lost a child it may well be cathartic. I'm certain it was for the author.
You can probably sense that I wasn't as crazy about it as the rest of the world. Of the 157 consumer reviews on Amazon, 89% are five-star. Only five are one-star, and two of those because he makes a negative comment about Trump. (Get over it, folks. A lot of people don't like him.)
First, my positive reaction: The ability to write so honestly and evocatively about the emotional turmoil of a tragic event like this is truly a gift. Perhaps the author's experience writing about the arts has taught him how to reach deep inside himself for visceral and multi-sensory responses. Or perhaps he's just naturally talented that way. His prose is perfect. Just perfect. No other adjectives or adverbs necessary.
Now, the negative: After the first section, which tells the story of the accident that killed Greene's two-year-old daughter and his (and his wife's) decision to turn off the life-support systems and donate organs, the book falls down a rabbit hole. To be more precise: Greene and his wife fall down a rabbit hole. Their years-long efforts to find some kind of spiritual escape from the reality of death, and find something that would make sense of this senseless tragedy delivers them into the hands of faith-healers, shamans, and those who say they communicate with the dead. And even if he briefly doubts these miracles at first, Greene retains no skepticism about any of this.
I understand that it is difficult to make sense of a tragic death like this. I lost a very close loved one recently (a suicide, already two years ago), and I am still barely able to talk about it without breaking down emotionally. My mind runs back to that horrible phone call every time I lie down to sleep. I struggle through the guilt, the magical thinking, the self-loathing that follows a needless, sometimes random death.
Perhaps I am too much of a scientist at heart for this book. Too much of his story describes his attempts to connect with her in some afterlife incarnation, or find a spiritual purpose in the tragedy. I kept hoping Greene would come to his senses and reject what I would call hooey. I wanted him to get his feet back on the ground and survive his daughter's death with grace. In the end, he and his wife do make concrete progress in moving on without leaving her behind - which perhaps is the only real answer any of us has to the death of someone we love.
I recommend this book only with this caveat: It will be appreciated most by those who have experienced such a tragedy and who might be willing to indulge in Greene's kind of metaphysical experimentation. Also, for writers who are struggling to put their real emotions down on the page - there's something to be learned here. Otherwise, probably not.
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781501133480, $28.00, Hardcover, $14.95, Kindle, 464 pages
I was tempted, as I sat down to write this review, to look at other reviews that have been written about this book to see why so many reviewers liked it. Although its current heavily discounted price and its very short tenure on the NYT list may indicate otherwise, it was well-received as a break-through for author, Weiner, best known as an early practitioner of chick-lit.
I resisted the temptation to peek at what others had written because I want to be honest with you and not be swayed by others' opinions. I didn't like it. I'm sorry I wasted my time and money with it.
I had read a couple of earlier Weiner novels, both of which seemed shallow and naive, so I was reluctant to read this one. But then I read Hungry Heart, the author's memoir about trying to control her weight to meet societal expectations, and I found it engrossing and insightful. So, I thought: Give this new novel a try. I bought it at the not-discounted price of $28 at one of my favorite independent bookstores, which means I invested big in this open-mindedness.
(There are spoilers in this review. Skip to the last paragraph if you wish to avoid them.) The novel tells the story of two sisters who are as different as sisters often are: one an independent, rebellious tomboy; the other a pretty, prim and obedient sweetie. The tomboy has many lesbian affairs, some quite serious, until she gets married, which she chooses in order to quit having to fight her way through life. The sweetie goes to college, becomes a renegade who gets to travel and experiment with rebellion in the way her tomboy sister wanted to, but eventually settles into a commune and into marriage as well. There's a lot more "this happens, then this happens" to these stories, as the 464-page length of this novel may indicate.
The problem with this novel started for me right at the beginning. Not only is Weiner's prose here not nearly as polished and pleasurable as it was in her memoir (this happens, then this happens, then this happens...), but the first chapters of the novel are as full of cliches as anything I have read from a major publishing house in years.
The tomboy, Jo, of course, chooses "dungarees" over dresses, prefers to swing from tree branches rather than play with dolls, and determines she is a lesbian by the time she's in junior high and starts to experiment with her sexuality. I know many lesbians, and not a one of them fits this stereotype.
Her eventual marriage makes her dependent on her undependable husband, and she chafes against her life until he leaves her for her best friend, and she returns to the love of her life. The prim and proper sister, Bethie, takes her rebellion into drugs and counterculture, and suffers abuses at the hands of men, presumably because she's so pretty and feminine. She ends up successful and childless, not dependent on men, but happy to be married to one.
I was amazed at the level of misogamy expressed here by Weiner through her characters. There is one good husband and one good father represented in 464 pages, but the rest of the men: either "off with their heads" or meh. It's a good thing that the children born to one of the protagonists are all girls, or Weiner would be trashing those offspring as well. I was disappointed by the cliche of the lesbian character - she's tall, athletic, and cuts her hair short, as if there is one set of genes endemic to all gay women that brings out these characteristics. In fact, the entire book is full of tropes, from infidel and demanding husbands to athletic lesbians to unhappy housewives to spoiled children to consciousness-raising groupies. I couldn't help but roll my eyes, and by the time I finished this over-long collection of tropes, my eyes were sore from it.
I might be the only reviewer in America who didn't like Mrs. Everything, but, honestly, I do not recommend this book.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780812996548, $27.00, Hardcover, $13.99, Kindle
I may be the only fiction reader in America who did not read Olive Kitteridge. So, perhaps I am the only reviewer who will ever write about this book without coming to it with a pre-conceived notion of what it should be.
Publishing industry experts have told me that the average star-rating falls dramatically once a book receives a big award, and Olive Kitteridge is a perfect example. Although it won a Pulitzer Prize for Literature, only 50% of its reviews on Amazon give it five stars. Some suggest that reflects jealousy from other writers, but I believe that's probably a function of the way big awards set unrealistic expectations.
In any case, I expected Olive, Again to be wonderful and in many (perhaps most) ways it is. I also expected it to be a fairly traditional novel, given the number of people I knew who professed to love the first Olive, and in some ways it was. In some ways it wasn't. While the book moves chronologically through time (the appropriate flashbacks and backstory notwithstanding), it doesn't rely so much on a plot as on character arcs. Also, not traditionally, the story is only sometimes about the protagonist. What is special about it is the prose. Impeccable. It often made me smile.
This "novel" is more a collection of short stories about people in the town of Crosby, Maine, where everyone, it seems, knows Olive. As a former schoolteacher, she knows nearly everyone in town as a former student or the parent of one. She has also lived in Crosby her entire adult life. Therefore, all the stories - including those that aren't even tangentially about her - mention her at least once, which helps hold the "novel" together. These mentions also give us a different perspective on Olive's personality. While we readers might enjoy Olive's honesty, wit, and inability to deceive - even when it might make her more acceptable - others aren't always fans of her out-spoken, blustery and crusty ways.
What Strout does well here is make the most of small moments and small interactions while credibly relaying the inner thoughts of the characters involved as they happen. She doesn't overreach for conclusions or epiphanies, but comfortably and confidently lets the quotidian stand for the quotidian. We see a young teenager, just discovering her budding sexuality, oblige a silent, lusting old man by uncovering and touching herself in full view. The girl enjoys it, even while she senses it is wrong. She weighs the benefits (he gives her a few to 100 dollars each time) with the risks (who's he going to tell?) and the downside (a bit of guilt and fear of getting caught). What we don't get from Strout is some kind of moral conclusion, other than what some might read into the fact that the girl ends up hiding and then losing the money she earned.
This view of life as a collection of small moments becomes the final statement in Olive's life, as she contemplates her own death at and after a neighbor's funeral: "But it was almost over, after all, her life. It swelled behind her like a sardine fishing net, all sorts of useless seaweed and broken bits of shells and the tiny, shining fish - all those hundreds of students she had taught, the girls and boys in high school she had passed in the corridor when she was a high school girl herself (many - most - would be dead by now), the billion streaks of emotion she'd had as she'd looked at sunrises, sunsets, the different hands of waitresses who had placed before her cups of coffee - All of it gone, or about to go."
If there is a lesson intended here, and I'm not sure there is, it might be this: don't expect too much of life. It is a series of moments that become random memories and may not add up to a whole lot. Take comfort in knowing that it's not supposed to. Olive wraps it up thus: "I do not have a clue who I have been. Truthfully, I do not understand a thing."
I recommend this book, and I can assure you, you do not have to read the first Olive first to enjoy it.
(My digital advance copy of Olive, Again was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.)
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Spiegel & Grau
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780399588198, $18, Paperback, $13.99, Kindle, 228 pages
Known as the "most successful comedian in South Africa," Trevor Noah released this book in hardcover in 2016, but the paperback has only been available this year.
Noah's story is (kind of) a Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches tale of an impoverished boy who rises above his circumstances to become a TV celebrity in America. (He is the host of The Daily Show, once the domain of John Stewart.) But if you think a rags-to-riches trajectory need be a straight line from the bottom left corner to the top right, his memoir will disabuse you of that idea very quickly.
Noah's book publicity reports Born a Crime is "always hilarious." Even when taken with the grain of salt most publicity statements deserve, that's still an overstatement. In many places, this book is sober, dark, eerie, sad, and thoughtful. It definitely did not have me "rolling on the floor in laughter," as Trevor's website promises.
But that doesn't mean there aren't some comedic moments and some funny tales. Noah doesn't take himself seriously, and even if you're not laughing at him, he seems at times to be laughing at himself, especially when he talks about his own awkwardness and naivete as a youngster. His attempts at dating and romance, in particular, are sweetly funny. His love and respect for his mother is apparent, and while his stories about her aren't always funny, either, they will certainly make you feel good.
Much of the book, however, covers the very sobering reality of growing up somewhere between black and white in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, and it isn't at all funny. Stories of his impoverished (eating caterpillars for subsistence) childhood, life in the ghettos of black homelands, life "in the hood," a business venture built on music piracy, time in jail, and the day his mother was shot by his abusive stepfather are surprising and sometimes bizarre. Some of them make you uncomfortable. But despite their pathos, Noah never pities himself or makes excuses.
He does make excuses for others, with good reason. In a particularly enlightening chapter, he describes how much he learned by hanging out with Andrew, a good friend who was white. (With a black mother and white, European father, Noah was either described as "colored," "white," or "black" by his countrymen, depending on how their skin color compared with his.) Without his white friend's help, Noah writes, "I never would have mastered the world of music piracy or lived a life of endless McDonald's." Andrew's friendship gave him insight into how privileged people lived, worked, and studied, and when Andrew left for college, he gave Noah his CD writer.
"What he did, on a small scale, showed me how important it is to empower the dispossessed and the disenfranchised in the wake of oppression." Noah continues: "People love to say, 'Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime.' What they don't say is, 'And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.'" Later, in describing the vast unemployment and lack of opportunity for young men in post-apartheid South Africa, he brings his point home to the hood this way: "So for many young men in South Africa, freedom looks like this: Every morning they wake up, maybe their parents go to work or maybe not. Then they go outside and chill on the corner the whole day, talking shit. They're free, they've been taught how to fish, but no one will give them a fishing rod."
And, yes, there are plenty of words in this book that the FCC does not allow on network TV. But it's a book for grownups, not children.
I highly recommend this book as a great primer for people (like me) who know little about life in South Africa during and after apartheid - especially life for non-whites. But don't expect to roll on the floor laughing.
Marj Charlier, Reviewer
Marlan Warren's Bookshelf
Poetic Prescriptions for Plaguing Problems: Biblical Remedies For When Life Bites
Poetic Prescriptions Publishing
9780998395210 $9.95 pbk / $TBA Kindle
"Buzz off, Beezlebub!"
POETIC PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PLAGUING PROBLEMS: BIBLICAL REMEDIES FOR WHEN LIFE BITES shines with author Katherine Norland's warts-and-all honesty regarding her own struggles, and her pure desire to lead others out of the dark spiritual vacuums of their own making and into the Light of God's Grace. The book's stated purpose is to answer two questions that the author would ask whenever the chips were down:
"Where is God in all this? How can I get Him to answer my prayers?"
Norland cleverly and meticulously structures the book to reflect her own hard-won journey to Salvation by dividing it into four sections with humorous titles:
I. The Plague: It's Like a Locust Infestation
II. Aware: Place Roach Motels in Every Room
III. Combat: Armed with Pesticide, Wearing a Flypaper Dress
IV. Eradicate: Time to Tent the House
Norland's talent for crafting original imagery comes through in such poems as "Chasing Scraps," which depicts the dead-end nature of getting caught up in the rat race of life, and offers this remedy:
"It seems that only God can change my ways;
With Him I'd get my cheese and leave the maze.
My body tires out and I collapse.
Look up to see I was just chasing scraps."
This book will appeal to anyone who is hungry for spiritual growth and willing to accompany this bruised, but triumphant, poet on a pilgrimage through the plagues, pestilence, and heart-wrenching struggles of life, where trials must be faced and devilish temptations eradicated until each battle is won with the one-two punch of telling Beezlebub to "Buzz off!" and believing that God does indeed hear our prayers, if we have the courage to pray.
This book is the third in Katherine Norland's POETIC PRESCRIPTIONS series, which also include POETIC PRESCRIPTIONS FOR ETERNAL YOUTH: EXAMINING EARTHLY BEAUTY FROM A HEAVENLY PERSPECTIVE and POETIC PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PESKY PROBLEMS. Both available on Amazon.
Marlan Warren, Reviewer
Marty Duncan's Bookshelf
Night of the Fox
Simon & Schuster
0671637274, $14.95, 316 pp.
An American Colonel (Kelso) has been swept off a Motor Torpedo Boat into the English Channel during an attack by German MTBs. He has survived with a leg broken in multiple places. He is floating in a rubber raft ...and washes up on the shore of Jersey, an English island occupied by Germans. There is a wrinkle: Col Kelso knows when and where the D-Day Invasion will be staged; Allied Command is frantic to see Kelso rescued or killed to prevent him being tortured.
Night of the Fox describes the efforts of an SOE officer (Special Operations Executive) named Martineau who is trained to kill. His partner ia a Jersey girl, fluent in French, trained nurse (Sarah) who takes on the role of a French tart to enter Jersey with Martineau, who will portray a German Standartenführer with the power of the Gestapo.
By sheer coincidence General Rommel has a Jewish actor portraying himself on Jersey; Martineau discovers he is not Rommel and they plan an escape from Jersey using the daily mail plane.
Sarah is telling this story from hind-sight, 40 years after the events. Higgins gives us the comfort of knowing what lives the characters led after 1945. And we can be thankful; we must know how Martineau and Sarah lived after the war. WTG Higgins!
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781455576388, $10.00, PB, 479pp.
Secret Service Agent Michelle Maxwell stands outside a door while her charge, a Presidential candidate, meets with the recent widow of the candidate's good friend. The dead man was dying from cancer. The candidate's visit to his coffin "happens" to fit the candidate's schedule.
While she waits, the candidate vanishes.
Her career is ruined. The Secret Service assigns her to desk work for the next year: managing reservations and supplies for the several candidates who are "under" Secret Service protection. But Maxwell goes into the history of the incident when a candidate was gunned down in "the split second" Sean King took his eyes off the candidate. He has gone to Law School after "retiring" from the Service.
Sean King has rebuilt his life, built a cabin on a lake and works a legal office for local residents. Together, they will re-visit the dilapidated hotel where his candidate was murdered. Maxwell is intent on finding what distracted King in that split second when the elevator opened.
There are moments in our lives when we face challenges. For me, at Howard Lake (1981) it was facing the Lead Striker during the Teacher Strike, in an alley where we drew a line in the dirt to separate where the strikers could stand without interfering with the replacement teachers who were arriving. It was a pivotal moment. The strikers believed they could manipulate the school administration. We had to stand our ground in front of 350 supporters and cameras from three TV stations.
Maxwell and King stand their ground. They hope to identify the man behind the "split second" distractions.
The Street Lawyer
Island Books (Dell Publishing)
c/o Random House
0440225701, $7.99, PB, 1998, 449pp
Grisham introduces the reader to the very real world of the homeless in our nation's capital. His fictional attorney sees the world of homeless people who sleep under bridges or on park benches. The story revolves around a homeless family (a mother and her four children) who die while sleeping in a car during a snow blizzard. We suspect a snowplow may have plugged the car's exhaust and the five persons died peacefully in their sleep.
The death of Lontae Burton and her four small children illustrates the sad, tragic lives of the homeless. She was a drug addict, forced to work as a prostitute, a mother at 15, with new twins at 18, and baby at 20. She is 21 years old and lost in the nameless community of the homeless. She has found a small apartment inside a warehouse ($100 a month, all cash, no records) and is making a life for her kids. Until they are evicted from the warehouse. Four days later her family dies during a long, two-day blizzard.
The novel's protagonist Michael Brock is an associate in a legal firm with 400 attorneys. He is well on the road to becoming a partner in the firm. His wife is serving a surgical residency. Their future is promising, until Michael helps a 'Street Lawyer' serve meals at a shelter and Michael meets and observes four-year-old son of Lontae Burton, called Ontario. He quickly plans to help the family with clothes, food, toys and games for the children. But the Burtons disappear, back to their abandoned car in the heavy snow.
A paralegal in his firm alerts Michael to the illegal, immoral evictions of the 18 residents and children evicted from the warehouse. A client of Michael's firm is about to demolish the warehouse to build a postal service building. And the story flows from that illegal action as Michael 'liberates' a file from an attorney's files.
Having lived all my life in 'Middle America,' the descriptions of the homeless create in me a sense that most of us are not aware of the plight of the homeless and we are challenged to help where we can. (After I wrote that, the press announced the conversion of an old motel into housing for the homeless in my home town). WTG!
c/o Random House
0345410173, $13.95, 1988, 326 pp
Hank and Catherine have moved from the 'big city' (Minneapolis, MN) to a village some people call a 'po-dunk' village, or a slow spot on the highway with 800 residents. They bring their son Brendan and their 'Grandfather' who is approaching ninety years old. Their mission: to see if they can open and improve a local grocery store AND overcome Catherine's longing, nostalgia and belief in the big city.
This is the story of Brendan's halting steps to become a friend with the local high school kids in 1944, near the end of WW II. It is the story of Hank's desire to create something for himself. Grand Opening describes, in blunt details, no details spared, what people discovered in small Minnesota cities: there were two factions: the Catholics and the Lutherans. In one of my small villages, Amboy, there were the long-time residents and the newcomers. In Howard Lake there were the Evangelical Lutherans and the 'other' Lutheran church. The Catholics went to church in Waverly (the honorable Hubert Humphrey's town) or in Winsted with its Catholic supporters.
In Hassler's village of Plum (half-way between Rochester and Winona) there are two factions which try to control the village. The Lutherans shop at Leggett's Grocery, while the Catholics shop at Hank's. The characters are real. Hassler helps the reader understand his deftly drawn characters. We see a seventh-grade boy as he enters a new school. We know the mind of Grandfather, who still glories in his career as a fireman on the railroad. And we see the reactions of Catherine to the bigots in Plum.
This is also the story of Dodger, a young man with a history of stealing things and a great longing to be accepted by a 'family' member while he lives with Hank, Catherine, Brendan and Grandfather. He is about to leave Plum to live with his father; he steals presents for his Plum family. But the angry long-time employee in Hank's Grocery starts a fire; the cooler burns through the floor and kills Dodger.
Grand Opening meets the reader's expectations. It is a graphic description of life as I remember it in small-town Minnesota with its bigots and its some-time 'flirts.'
Marty Duncan, Reviewer
Michael Carson's Bookshelf
The San Francisco Civic Center
James W. Haas
University of Nevada Press
Mail Stop 0166, Reno, NV, 89557-0166
9781948908153, $34.95, HC, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: James W. Haas is an author, attorney, and expert on San Francisco's Civic Center history and politics. He has lived in San Francisco most of his life and spent more than forty years engaged in civic projects, including the restoration and completion of San Francisco's Civic Center.
In "The San Francisco Civic Center: A History of the Design, Controversies, and Realization of a City Beautiful Masterpiece", Haas tells the complete story of San Francisco's Civic Center and how it became one of the most complete developments envisioned by any American city.
Originally planned and designed by John Galen Howard in 1912, the San Francisco Civic Center is considered in both design and materials one of the finest achievements of the American reformist City Beautiful movement, an urban design movement that began more than a century ago.
Haas meticulously unravels the Civic Center's story of perseverance and dysfunction, providing an understanding and appreciation of this local and national treasure. He discusses why the Civic Center was built, how it became central to the urban planning initiatives of San Francisco in the early twentieth century, and how the site held onto its founders' vision despite heated public debates about its function and achievement. He also delves into the vision for the future and related national trends in city planning and the architectural and art movements that influenced those trends.
Riddled with inspiration and leadership as well as controversy, the San Francisco Civic Center, is a stunning manifestation of the confident spirit of one of America's most dynamic and creative cities.
Critique: Enhanced with some fifty b/w photographs, "The San Francisco Civic Center: A History of the Design, Controversies, and Realization of a City Beautiful Masterpiece" is exceptionally informative and a deftly presented study that is unreservedly recommended for college and university library Urban Development collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The San Francisco Civic Center" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $32.98).
Alvarado's Pin-up Nudes, second edition
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764358074, $39.99, HC, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Robert Alvarado is a professional photographer who is rejuvenating the pin-up style of the classic eras. He has more than 80 thousand fans who follow him on Instagram @alvaradopinups
In a new second edition, Alvarado uses his trademark innovative technique to blur the line between photography and illustration in "Alvarado's Pin-up Nudes". Relying on subtle costuming to add color, texture, humor, and homage to his images, Alvarado focuses on the female form in these more than 160 pin-up nudes.
From providing heavily inked and stilletoed beauties to sexy Storm Troopers and the innocence of the girl next door, Alvarado uses his creativity in themes, models, and styling to produce work steeped in popular culture with nods to the pioneers of pin-up, including Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren.
Critique: Raising images of the female form to a high art, this newly published second edition of "Alvarado's Pin-up Nudes" is an extraordinary coffee-table style (9 x 0.8 x 12 inches) volume would grace any serious art collector's personal collection and is unreservedly endorsed for college and university library Contemporary Art collections.
Civility: George Washington's 110 Rules for Today
Steven Michael Selzer
Andrews McMeel Publishing
1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64106-2109
9781524852443, $16.99, HC, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Rudeness. Crudeness. Thoughtlessness. Hostility. From the Trump administration spokespeople, to political rallies in our present election cycle, to our electronic messaging with one another, uncivilized behavior is everywhere -- but most especially in our polarized politics!
We all recognize how much happier we would be if the prevailing culture were a civil one.
Sometimes, in order to move forward, we need to take a long look back. At the age of fourteen, George Washington wrote 110 guidelines to cultivate civility and orient himself toward others, which he called Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.
In the pages of "Civility: George Washington's 110 Rules for Today", author Steven Selzer examines and expands on Washington's rules, proving they're still as necessary today as they were 250 years ago. With subjects ranging from media literacy to choosing friends to nail biting, the principles and proposals in Civility will enable readers to better handle interpersonal conflicts, conduct business, manage everyday stress with grace, and treat their fellow citizens with more respect.
Critique: Historically speaking, one of the symptoms foretelling the fall of a civilization has been the dominating condition of incivility in public discourse. In our current age of Twitter in particular, and Social Media in general, incivility is the rule and not the exception. There has never in our country, since the end of the American Civil War, been such a need for "Civility: George Washington's 110 Rules for Today" to be read by every citizen who cares about such things as social justice, honest political discourse, and our national security. While unreservedly endorsed and urgently recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political/social activists, governmental policy makers, and politicians of all parties, that "Civility: George Washington's 110 Rules for Today" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Rd., #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578597062, $19.95, PB, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: From pyramids and underground bunkers to watery graves and ancient astronauts, "Lost Civilizations: The Secret Histories and Suppressed Technologies of the Ancients" by Jim Willis examines the archaeological evidence and the traces left behind by more than 70 ancient civilizations, including: Atlantis; Gobekli Tepe; The Anasazi disappearance in the American Southwest; Nazca Lines of Peru; Turkey's Catalhoyuk; The Denisovan Ancestors departure; Amazon Cities in the Jungle; Neanderthal Ancestors extinction; The Eden Stories of Theoretical Physics; Underground Cities of the Grand Canyon; and a great many more!
From ancient Egypt, middle America, and the Nubian Desert to the frozen Antarctica, underwater ruins of Asia, and clues of visits by ancient aliens, "Lost Civilizations" explores the unanswered questions about the true origins of man. Might there have been advanced civilizations long before the days of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia? What do 3D imaging and new underwater mapping technology reveal? What do prehistoric artifacts, architecture, carvings, maps, and monoliths tell us? Were rising waters, erupting volcanoes, catastrophic solar flares, comet or asteroid fragments or some other unimaginable cataclysmic disasters the death of these advanced civilizations?
Touring the world and reviewing the scientific evidence, "Lost Civilizations" ties together historical events in one part of the world that produced actual effects in others. Uncovering hidden and suppressed pasts of technologically and culturally advanced ancient civilizations, it looks at how modern civilization compares and contrasts to those who have gone before. It will leave you with the sense that what has happened to past advanced civilizations might very well be happening again in our own time!
Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of more than 120 photos and graphics, a helpful four page bibliography for Further Reading, and an extensive seven page Index, "Lost Civilizations: The Secret Histories and Suppressed Technologies of the Ancients" is impressively well written, deftly organized and expertly presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition for the personal lists of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, as well as community and academic library collections.
Michael J. Carson
Molly Martin's Bookshelf
Russell The Sheep
9780060598488, $17.99, Hardcover
Rob Scotton's Russell the Sheep presents Little Listener/Readers to the idiosyncratic world of Scotton and his imaginative characters.
Russell, and his family and friends live in Frogsbottom Field where it is the close of a long, active day. We see the sheep are getting ready for the night.
Grandma continues her knitting, while one sheep is scrubbing his teeth, one other member of the flock has collected his Teddy Bear, Russell and his friend Frog watch as one after the other of the group settle down for the night. Shortly everyone is fast asleep.
Everyone except Russell, that is; he is just not sleepy. Soon he wonders if his fleece is just too warm. He changes positions, and soon we see the fleece is hanging from a tree as the shivering Russell realizes, that too hot, is not it.
He tries to discover a different place to sleep. Suddenly, he has a brilliant idea, he will count things. Well no; not sleepy.
What is Russell to do? Will he ever get to sleep?
Osage County First Grade looked intently at the cover of the book I was holding. They even recognized Scotton's name. Another of novelist Scotton's characters, Splat the Cat, was a long-time beloved of the Little Learners; they were very willing to welcome one more of Scotton's characters.
This child pleasing picture book is a fine size for teacher reading aloud to Little Learners at the end of the day as we congregate on the rug for some listening to reading of a class favorite at the close of our day. I like that.
As it found with the Splat the Cat series. Russell is also presented by Scotton; pictures are large, fill most of the two page spreads, and offer a line or two of text.
The fanciful sheep are just plain entertaining to view. Plump bodies, scrawny little stick legs and quirky faces all add to the fun. From the first page of the work where we spy Russell relishing a late afternoon swing; the pictures present lots of discussion starters. Russell and his quartet of skinny legs, blue and white striped hat and friend Frog seem very much as work completed by Little Learners.
As I turn the pages and Little Learners take note of the commonplace activities of preparing for night; children chatter about the fact that they too brush their teeth, or mom allows them a cup of hot chocolate, and they too burrow under a favored quilt or blanket.
I find the hefty rectangle shaped sheep bodies along with their super skinny sticklike legs to be entertaining, and spot on for the tale. The first read through I did with the class following purchase at the yearly book fair rang with mirth.
Russell minus his fleece can be seen dressed in white polka dot, blue underwear; meanwhile upside-down members of the flock, legs pointing straight up; with a quilt draped over their body, slumber nearby.
Grandpa Sheep, attired in striped jammies is sleep walking, Grand ma's dentures are in a bowl of water; at last, Russell is slumbering.
All in all, Rob Scotton's Russell the Sheep is just plain an amusing book to share at the end of the day.
As with the Splat the Cat books, Russell is habitually chosen by Little readers to be used as their free time reading choice during DEAR reading, and as the book they want to take hope to share with family and friends, as well as the child of the day choice for Mrs. M to read aloud.
Stimulating Read, Happy to Recommend for a special child's birthday, or for gifting the class on the first day of a new school term or just because.
Harry the Dirty Dog
Margaret Bloy Graham
9780060268657, $17.99, Hardcover, 32 pages
Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham's Harry the Dirty Dog has been an endearing classroom and child favorite beginning in the mid-1950s when it first was published and continuing right on to today.
Harry, the white dog with black spots loves everything.
That is Harry loves everything except for baths. When Harry notices his kids gathering the things preparing for a bath for Harry; he knows the bath is a certainty when he hears the taps running.
Harry seizes the scrubbing brush, and hurries to bury it in his special hiding place located in the back garden. Then to make sure he will not be placed into that tub of water; Harry runs away from home. Harry spends the entire day playing outside. Harry scampers down to frolic with the men who are patching the roadway; which leaves him more than a little grimy. He romps by the railway and soon he becomes even filthier from the fumes. Harry and some of his dog friends enjoy an exciting game of tag running through a muddy field. When Harry notices a coal truck he has a great time slithering down its chute.
Before long Harry is a black dog with not many white spots. He has had a delightful day burrowing and sliding in mud and paving asphalt. At last it is time to return home. Harry is a weary and famished white dog with black spots, and he's starting to be concerned that his family might think he has really run away, forever.
Harry scurries home, eager to find food, his cozy bed and comfort from his family. Oh no, Harry is so grubby he looks like a black dog with white spots. Even his own family can't identify him.
Harry sets about trying to show his family he is Harry. First he does all his best tricks - he skips and barks, he flippity flops, and he floppity flips. He pretends to be dead, and he rolls over. But no one realizes that he is Harry.
Harry began to fear that even though his escapade was so much enjoyable; just maybe he should have thought it through a little more before he ran away. Suddenly a notion popped into his head.
Harry zoomed out to the garden and briskly started to dig. Immediately after he uncovered what he needed; Harry, with his family in fast chase, hurried into the house and dashed right up the stairs. The family found Harry sitting in the tub, clinching in his teeth the cleaning brush he had buried earlier. A lathered up cleaning soon discloses just who it is sitting in that tub.
It was great to be home. After dinner, Harry fell asleep in his own bed, happily dreaming of how much fun he had had getting dirty. Harry slept so soundly, he didn't even feel the scrubbing brush he had secreted under his pillow.'
My resident critics always hurried to the rug for reading time. Harry the Dirty Dog continues to be a long time favorite in my K-1 classrooms. Over those 35+ years of teaching little people nothing changed concerning their common love for the little white dog with black spots.
Written in 1956 by the husband and wife team of children's author Gene Zion and illustrated by Margery Bloy Graham, Harry appears sprightly and playful in each of the Harry books. Harry is always full of energy.
As it appears to most children I have known, Harry views the world as an enjoyable, jubilant place.
As a long time classroom teacher I like the presentation of the books; Harry faces a tricky situation needing to be resolved, he makes some unfortunate choices as well as some good ones, images are child friendly and unfussy and jargon is well suited to emergent readers. What more could I want from a book meant to be read aloud to and with little people?
Conversation always accompanies the reading of books for my resident critics. Little learners are provided opportunity to articulate their own frustrations and annoyances when they are talking about Harry and do not have to disclose that the problems and poor choices he faces are frequently comparable to those they too face.
Harry and his life problems afford an opening for talking about what bothers us, without having to tell everyone that the situation is ours.
Harry is not just an ill-disciplined fellow, he is simply a juvenile fellow; much as are the little people in my classes. As students chat about their own responses to situations, suitable or not; the kids begin to realize that sometimes there is a better way to get things done rather than just blurting out, leaping out or rushsing ahead without thinking.
Always thumbs up for Harry the Dirty Dog from Osage County Kindergarteners and First Graders in Mrs. M's class.
Harry is a book excellent for gift giving as well as for a child's personal library shelf addition, good for classroom, public, school and homeschool library lists. Happy to recommend.
Molly Martin, Reviewer
Nancy Kors' Bookshelf
Oh, Little Ham of Buffalo: A Korean Adoption Memoir
Joanna H. Kraus, author
Timothy Y. Kraus, contributor
9781612254296, $10.99, PB, 70pp, www.amazon.com
"These are going to be your new parents," Yang Kun's grandmother told him as she flipped through a photo album of the strangest looking people he had ever seen. They had white faces. Were they ghosts or real people? Eight years old, Yang Kun had no idea what his grandmother was talking about.
"How would you like to fly on a big airplane to America?" his uncle asked. That excited him. He couldn't wait to tell his best friend about it when he returned.
After a grueling three day flight from Seoul, with layovers in Tokyo and Anchorage, Yang Kun arrived at New York's JFK airport.. A crowd of those white pasty faces was screaming as he and the other children, just like him, stepped off the plane.
Moments later, those people in the photos rushed over and whisked him away in a car. The lady showed him a stuffed bear. Petrified, he screamed the whole ride to Poughkeepsie. Yang Kun had never had a toy before, and was sure these weird looking strangers had killed the little bear and now they were going to kill and stuff him too.
When the car stopped, they led him into a building with stairs and different rooms. Why were there so many? At home there was only one, and we all slept together. Why were they making me sleep alone on something so high? Do they want me to fall and hurt myself? Why did they send me here? I want to go home!
Yang Kun knew his fate was sealed when the pasty white people filled a big tub with hot water and wanted him to get in. Hot water was for cooking rice. Was this how they killed the little bear?
"Oh, Little Ham of Buffalo" is a brutally honest and insightful memoir of Joanna, Ted and Tim's journey to become a family. It's a must read for adoption professionals and parents who adopt an older child from a foreign country.
Nancy Kors, Ph.D.
Reviewer & Adoption Counselor
Paul Lappen's Bookshelf
Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work and Remake the World
9781524758769, $26.00, 262 pages
What if the US Government started depositing $1000 every month in the bank account of everyone in America, with no strings attached? Sounds incredible, doesn't it? This book gives the details.
No doubt, some people will use the money to purchase items that are not healthy, like cigarettes, liquor or hard drugs. The vast majority of people will use the money to pay overdue bills, or stock up at the grocery store, or make a long-delayed trip to the dentist or doctor. The Universal Basic Income (or UBI) is meant to replace some, or all, of the current welfare system, which seems to be designed to be as confusing as possible.
Why should America consider a UBI now? It is not China, or immigration from Central America that will put millions of people out of work, it is automation (especially the rise of artificial intelligence). Not all of those newly unemployed will find new, 21st century jobs. Establishing a UBI will give these people a reliable amount of money each month, and it is easier, and cheaper, than pushing millions more people into an already overloaded welfare system.
How will America pay for it? The estimated cost of giving every American citizen $1000 per month, every month, is just under $4 trillion (the present size of the entire US economy). The closing of many tax loopholes, and the raising of many tax rates will have to happen to even come close to raising that amount.
This is a gem of a book. It is very thought-provoking, and very easy to understand. A UBI will help fill the "cracks" through which many low-income people fall. Here is an excellent place to start that discussion.
Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power Noam Chomsky
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York NY 10013
9781609807368, $19.95, 174 pages
The "American Dream" is a central pillar of life in the United States. Work hard, and you can be rich and happy. This book gives a very different view.
Over the past several decades, tax policy has been designed to benefit those at the top of the income triangle. Maybe a few percent of the benefit of a tax cut will actually reach those at the middle-income level, but the vast majority of the benefit will go to the top One-Tenth of One Percent. The public reason for tax cuts is that they supposedly increase investment and create jobs. A much better way to do that is to allocate that money to working-class people, who will use that money on clothes and groceries, not on a second (or third) home.
Social Security is based on the principle of solidarity, which means caring for others. That automatically makes it a bad thing (in the eyes of the super-rich). A way to destroy it is to de-fund it. The system won't work, so people will get angry, and demand something else.
For those who want a third party in America, voting for it every four years is not enough. You must be constantly be working at the local level, developing the system that goes from the city council to Congress. That is how the Tea Party got started.
This is an excellent and eye-opening book. Based on a movie of the same name, this gives a very easy to understand look at how America Really Works. Whether you see the movie, or read this book, this is very highly recommended.
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
Pedro Gonzalez's Bookshelf
John Deere: Yesterday & Today
John Deere & Company
Robert N. Pripps
Publications International, Ltd.
John Deere & Company is an iconic American company. The company was started in 1837 by John Deere, a plow-maker. John Deere created the first plow in the industrial world from a broken saw blade. What is significant about this early form of farm machine implement is that it allowed farmers to work the difficult to cultivate fields of northern Illinois. That region has a heavy soil that farmers refer to as "gumbo." In addition to the resistance that this type of soil offers farmers, it is also up to seven feet deep in places, making it easy for beast of burden and farm equipment to sink into the ground.
John Deere & Company began to build farm tractors in 1912 and grew steadily, creating agricultural and industrial equipment that has profoundly impacted the well-being and livelihood of people throughout the world.
Among the company's many well-known machines are the Waterloo Boy Model N - John Deere's first tractor - the Model A, which was produced for almost 20 years, and the Model D. Eventually, John Deere & Company began to expand by building other industrial plows, spreaders, planters, harrowers and tillers.
Today, the John Deere & Company brand enjoys tremendous world recognition. The company is a consummate example of a successful American company for its ability to weather many challenging growing pains and changing financial times, and still be able to develop into a global competitor.
John Deere: Yesterday & Today is an instructive and insightful history of John Deere & Company, from its infancy to owing a vast share of the world's industrial machines and products market. The book delivers the reader into a web of historical data that spans over 180 years of one man's fortitude, the essence of economic reality in modern times, and a company's proficient know-how and willingness to make it easier to feed people throughout the world
Pedro Blas Gonzalez
Peggy Wifph's Bookshelf
The Orangutan Rescue Gang
Joyce Major, author
Ann Creel, editor
Steve Mead, illustrator
9780578438313, $9.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 200pp, www.amazon.com
Joyce Major entertains us in The Orangutan Rescue Gang when Jaylynn has a connection with an orphaned orangutan because she also feels abandoned and lonely without her mother. Her father doesn't understand the important need she has to rescue this wild animal and reunite it with its mother. Children are resilient, but the author sees into the heart of this child and understands her train of thought. Jaylynn misses her mother and is hurt that she chose a job over her. Jaylynn is so consumed by the rescue of Little O that she makes several poor decisions. She recruits a few friends to help her, but she finds that without an adult to help, she has lied, forged a letter, and snuck out of the house. Though she has done wrong and will have to face her father, is she is doing the best for this baby orangutan?
The Orangutan Rescue Gang is so much more than a child's book about orangutans; it is a piece of history in Joyce Major's life. She is a veteran in world travel and volunteering in remote places that require an English teacher. Joyce is an advocate for animals in danger, particularly orangutans. Her character, Jaylynn, is a complicated girl who represents millions of girls whose parents are separated. The author astonishes readers with the correlation between Jaylynn's feelings of abandonment by her mother with the little creature chained up and beaten by the Maniac Man. Readers will enjoy the ending, though it differs from the original plan. The author's involvement in caring for orangutans and raising awareness is commendable. I think children will really enjoy this novel.
Peggy Jo Wifph, Reviewer
Readers Favorite Review
To the Survivors: One Man's Journey as a Rape Crisis Counselor with True Stories of Sexual Violence
9781490931661, $12.95 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 268pp, www.amazon.com
Rape counselor Uttaro draws upon his years of experience to warn that sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people suspect, and provides a moving series of survivor stories. Uttaro persuasively argues that each survivor's story is unique -- and this militates one-size-fits-all advice.
The surprising revelations of the survivors Uttaro interviews corroborate his claim that justice is an individual concept that depends on what redress survivors seek. Uttaro's assurances that survivors are not defined by sexual abuse offer the possibility of a positive resolution.
This book is both informative for the general public and supportive for those who have suffered sexual abuse. It is hard to imagine that members of either group will not gain from reading it.
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Meister Eckhart: Philosopher of Christianity
Kurt Flasch, author
Anne Schindel and Aaron Vanides, translators
Yale University Press
Eckhart The Philosopher
Meister Eckhart (1260 -- 1328) receives substantial attention both in scholarly literature and in various forms of spiritual cultures. Eckhart is usually thought of under the vague term "mysticism". He is thought to have sought a personal, experiential approach to understanding God rather than an approach through logic and reason or revelation.
Kurt Flasch's book "Meister Eckhart: Philosopher of Christianity" takes issue with a mystical approach to Eckhart. Indeed, Flasch is commendably wary of broad terms, such as "mystic", "idealist", "realist" and the like that are frequently used of individual philosophers and that tend to conceal more than they reveal. Flasch argues that Eckhart is a philosopher in the broadest sense in that he tries to give reasons for what he believes particularly in the matters of religious convictions and in matters concerning the nature of reality. He finds little of mysticism in Eckhart. Flasch, a scholar of Eckhart for over 60 years is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Ruhr University, Bochum. Published in 2011, his book was translated into English in 2015 by Anne Schindel and Aaron Vanides.
Although I have read works by and about Eckhart over the years, Flasch's book was my first by a contemporary German scholar. The references in the book's detailed bibliography are almost entirely German. (I noticed only one title in English.) If for no other reason, this book is worthwhile in showing the nature of current German scholarship and thinking about Eckhart. The book gave me a different perspective on Eckhart from other works I have read.
Flasch's book gives an overview of Eckhart's life and thought in its historical context. The book for the most part proceeds chronologically with Eckart's life and writings, to the extent that the latter can be dated. The book is highly erudite in its discussions of the ancient and medieval philosophy that Eckhart knew and to which he responded. For all its difficulty, this book can be read by those with an interest in Eckhart who are not scholars.
Most admirers of Eckhart probably are most familiar with his German sermons. Flasch discusses the sermons in his book, but he places them in the context of Eckhart's Latin writings. These works are dry, difficult, and not known to most readers. The importance of the Latin writings is to show the continuity and nature of Eckhart's thought. He spoke and wrote as a philosopher giving reasons for his views. Some modern readers of Eckhart tend to downplay the characteristics of his thought that resulted in the Papal condemnation by John XXII in the year after Eckhart's death. Flasch argues that Eckhart's thinking was indeed contrary to that of the Church in many respects and that Eckhart, an outsider, was trying to formulate a new understanding and philosophical basis for Christianity. To simplify greatly, Eckhart's thought was based upon his view of mind and of his understanding of reality. Eckhart saw reality primarily in universals, such as Being, Truth, Justice rather than in particulars. He rejected the philosophical nominalism that sees reality as consisting of individuals that would come to the fore shortly after his death.
Flasch takes the reader through some of Eckhart's Latin writings, including his projected long work the "Opus triparitum" which was never completed, and some of Eckhart's scriptural commentaries, including his studies of Genesis, the Wisdom literature, and Exodus. Flasch gives great emphasis to Eckhart's commentary on the logos in the Gospel of John. The studies of Eckhart's Latin writings is meant to dispel the view of Eckhart as a mystic and to show the concept of rationality underlying his thought.
Flasch discusses the German sermons but he wisely limits his focus to a close reading of passages in two works, including Eckhart's discussion of the story of Mary and Martha from the Gospel of Luke. He also dispels certain views of Eckhart's sermons that are frequently heard and that I in fact thought to be true -- such as the belief that Eckhart's sermons are only transcriptions by others of what Eckhart said and the belief that Eckhart preached primarily to women.
Together with the commentary on John the work of Eckhart's that receives most attention is the German "Book of Divine Consolation" with Flasch dates later in Eckhart's career than is sometimes done in earlier scholarship. He sees this book as setting out Eckhart's thought in a rigorous way with argument and as dispelling notions of Eckhart as primarily a mystic.
The final sections of the book discuss Eckhart's trial and defense together with the condemnatory bull issued by the pope.
This is an outstanding study of Eckhart that helped me see him differently and I think more truly than I had done. Readers with a serious interest in Eckhart will want to get to know Flasch's study.
Herman Melville, author
Hershel Parker, editor
Library of America
Melville's Complete Poems In The Library Of America
This year commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Herman Melville. (August 1, 1819 -- 1891). In celebration of his life and accomplishment, the Library of America has published this volume of Melville's Complete Poems, marking the first time that all of Melville's poetry has been gathered together and made accessible in a single volume. Hershel Parker, a lifelong Melville scholar and the author of a three-volume biography of Melville, edited the volume and prepared the notes on the texts and a chronology of Melville's life. The texts of the poems are based on the definitive Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Complete Works. Parker himself edited the final two volumes that consist of the final sections included in this LOA volume. Melville's novels and stories have long been available in three large LOA volumes, beginning with the LOA's first volume published in 1982, With the publication of Melville's poetry, Melville's complete writings are now available in the LOA. It was truly a labor of love to edit and publish this volume. Readers of American literature are in Parker's and the LOA's debt.
Melville's poetry is much less well-known that his novels and stories, such as "Moby-Dick" and "Bartelby". His career as a poet began in about 1860, after his apparent failure as a novelist. With the exception of his short novel, "Billy Budd" Melville wrote only poetry from 1860 until the end of his life. His poetry has always received mixed critical reviews at best. It is in a unique style with jagged meters and rhymes and difficult allusions. Still the meter is adopted to the complexity of Melville's thought and observations. With this volume, readers will have the opportunity to explore the poetry carefully and over time.
The four volumes of poetry Melville published in his life all are included. The centerpiece of the volume is Melville's lengthy and long-neglected poem "Clarel" which he published in 1876. At 18,000 lines, "Clarel" is the longest poem written by an American. It is based on a journey Melville took to the Holy Land in 1856-1857. The poem explores Melville's lifelong preoccupation with issues of religious faith and doubt, particularly with the rise of the theory of evolution. It explores many other themes as well, including issues of love and sexuality and politics. The title character is a student of theology and he takes a journey in the Holy Land in the company of other pilgrims who discuss and debate large religious and philosophical questions. The book is difficult and is best read with the aid of a commentary. I read the poem this past year as my own commemoration of Melville's anniversary. The poem will never be popular but it is a gift to have it available.
The most accessible volume of Melville's poetry is "Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War" published in 1867. This book consists of poems gleaned from journalistic reports of the events of the Civil War. The volume is reflective and thoughtful and captures the ambiguity and tragedy of the War more than it does heroic combat. This is the strength of the volume, together with its unusual but poignant meter and verse. "Battle-Pieces" concludes with an essay in which Melville urges a reconciliationist approach to the South. I have read and enjoyed "Battle-Pieces many times over the years, and the work is a good place to start for readers new to Melville's poetry.
Late in his life, Melville published two books of poetry at his own expense. Only 25 volumes of each were printed, suggesting that the books were personal and intended for family and close friends. "John Marr and Other Sailors" is a beautifully reflective work of short and long poems and prose sections in which Melville recollects his early life at sea. The second book "Timoleon" is broader-themed but also centers on wandering and on history. Melville's frequently anthologized poems "After the Pleasure Party" and "The Age of the Antonines" are included in this volume, together with much more.
Melville had been working on two additional volumes, "Weeds and Wildings Chiefly with a Rose or Two" and "Parthenope" at the time of his death. These volumes were carefully edited by Parker for the Newberry edition and are included here. Some of the poems in these collections were likely written before 1860 for Melville's first failed attempt to publish a volume of poetry. Melville wrote long prose introductions to some of the poems. I found the most accessible part of these volumes were the many poems about roses and flowers mostly included in "Weeds and Wildings". These poems are quiet and beautiful. The poems in "Parthenope" gave me trouble on my first readings.
The volume concludes with Melville's uncollected poetry. Perhaps Melville's most familiar poem "Billy in the Darbies" which he used to conclude "Billy Budd" is included here, with much besides.
It is hard to pick a representative sample of Melville's poetry to quote out of this large, mixed body of poems. Thus, I will conclude with the final poem of the volume, a slight work titled "Adieu". It seems a fitting way to end.
"Ring down! The curtain falls, and ye
Will go your ways. Yet think of me.
And genial take what's genial given
And long be happy under heaven."
This book of Melville's complete poems amply fulfills the mission of the Library of America in presenting the best of America's cultural heritage.
Romuald Dzemo's Bookshelf
Publish with Purpose: A Goal-Oriented Framework for Publishing Success
Tara R. Alemany
Emerald Lake Books
9781945847158, $13.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 126pp, www.amazon.com
Publish with Purpose: A Goal-Oriented Framework for Publishing Success by Tara R. Alemany is a practical guide to a successful writing and publishing career. With the number of book publishing options in the market, authors still find themselves trapped, unsure of what to do when it comes to getting their book in front of the right audience. While writing can be hard work, marketing a book can be even more demanding. Making the right decisions when it comes to publishing tools and an effective marketing strategy is the secret to not only getting books to the right audiences but building a career that is fruitful. In this self-help book, the author offers great advice and helps authors with tools they need to create a winning publishing strategy.
Tara R. Alemany breaks ground for both new and existing authors and discusses the importance of knowing why they write and connecting that why to the needs of their audiences. This book will help any writer learn the art of defining their purpose of writing, of knowing who their audience is, and of writing a book that addresses concrete needs while helping the author reach specific goals. The author explains the framework in this book and what it is designed to achieve: reader experience and the experience the author wants them to have, the author and their business, and the overall impact of the book. The ideas in this book are well arranged and the bullet points, combined with the step by step process, make a great working tool for readers. Publish with Purpose: A Goal-Oriented Framework for Publishing Success is written in an easy-to-understand conversational style that makes for a great reading experience. Filled with wisdom and insight, it is an excellent companion on the publishing path.
The Savage War: The Black Phantom Chronicles (Book 1)
Emerald Lake Books
9781945847059, $18.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 394pp, www.amazon.com
The Savage War: The Black Phantom Chronicles Book 1 by Esther Wallace opens with an interesting conversation between Bozzic and his son, Arnacin, in which the father gives his eleven-year-old son documentation of an ocean-faring vessel, a legacy handed down from father to son over the years. In this first entry in The Black Phantom Chronicles, Arnacin receives this singular mission to recreate the vessel. Follow this epic adventure as he gets shipwrecked on the shores of Mira where he is attacked by savages fighting to regain their ancestral lands. Saved by the people of Mira, Arnacin pledges them loyalty. But he quickly finds himself embroiled in a war he never bargained for, unable to accept the actions of the king of Mira that only makes matters worse. Can he rebuild his ship and find his way home or will he find his destiny in Mira?
This is an ingeniously plotted novel that is fast-paced and filled with action and focused scenes. There is a kind of ritual that opens the narrative, establishing a custom that is passed from father to son, allowing readers an idea of a tradition that reflects the setting in which the story takes place. Arnacin is a young protagonist who grows in wisdom, but he is a character that has internal battles of his own. I loved the way the author allows his humanity to come out in the narrative, a personality that is characterized by "humility, compassion, and intense feeling of responsibility" and these are the values at the center of the internal conflict when he has to make difficult choices. The Savage War is well written with a vivid setting; deft and balanced, and featuring characters that are interesting and real.
Romuald Dzemo, Reviewer
Ruffina Oserio's Bookshelf
Emerald Lake Books
9781945847202, $17.99 HC, $4.99 Kindle, 384pp, www.amazon.com
War's Ending by A.J. Park is a well-written novel that will delight fans of fantasy, with a powerful plot, an exciting setting, and memorable characters. In the company of her uncle, Telthan Almorin, the king of the island nation of Almoria, Shalyrie Almorin is more than excited to discover the colonies. Her excitement changes into a very bad experience while in the colony when she is injured and abducted in a raid. But something strange happens - her captors heal her wounds. An attempt on her life reveals a deadly conspiracy against her by her own people. Kalleck has fought a war he knows he can't win and all he wants is to end the bloodshed, but the future is gloomy and he believes that Shalyrie might be the one to help end the war. But can they work together to ensure there is peace?
The first thing that caught my attention when I started reading this novel is the beauty of the language. I was particularly pulled in by the exciting description of the scene as the ship is approaching the shoreline. The characters are vividly portrayed and the author ensures the character arc is impeccable. The conflict is introduced quickly and while the pacing is leisurely in the beginning, the characters get a feel of the day-to-day life of the protagonist as she navigates a new terrain. A.J. Park leads readers slowly into the story and then sets off at a very fast pace. The conflict escalates pretty quickly and I enjoyed the use of irony. The wonderful writing, composed of short chapters and well-calculated paragraphs, makes for an enjoyable read, but what will stick with readers more are the rock-solid characters. War's Ending is an enticing read, indeed.
Ruffina Oserio, Reviewer
Ruth Latta's Bookshelf
9780980153286, $9.99, PB, 280pp
9780980153293, $2.99, Ebook, www.amazon.com
Stewart Kellerman's Swan Song is an entertaining story about a couple who retire to Florida in the 1980s. Through the witty first person narration of the protagonist, Selma Waxler, the author shows the concerns of older adults, which are pretty much the same in the 21st century as they were in the 1980s.
When Selma's husband Sid retires from his teaching position in Yonkers, New York, in 1981, they move to a retirement development, Pelican Pond, on the "space coast" of Florida. In their mid-sixties, these "young" seniors, still in relatively good health, are able to enjoy many activities. Selma participates in fitness and music programs and charitable organizations, but Sid's favourite activity is "pull-ups". "He'd pull on the lever of his La-Z-Boy to make the back go down and the footrest go up," says Selma.
When Sid wants to attend a talk on money management, she is elated that he's tearing himself away from the TV. "Little did I realize," she says, "once the genie was out I wouldn't be able to get him back in the bottle."
Selma's best friends' husbands are also at loose ends without their jobs. Kitty's husband, Leo, has his mind on the hardware business he left behind in New York in the hands of their daughter. Rose's husband, Sol, eats. Kitty, Rose and Selma still have their work as homemakers and are better than their spouses at socializing.
The heartwarming story of the three women friends is a unifying thread in the novel. They met as children living on Livonia Avenue in Brooklyn, and became inseparable. Kitty, "the brave one", introduced the other two to Chinese food, and pursued her love of dance into a career at Radio City Music Hall. Rose and Selma, had more prosaic jobs, Rose in the garment industry and Selma in a shoe store. Several times she tells the reader that she did not merely sell shoes, but did accounts, and that her high school teachers all wanted her to go on to college. Higher education, however, was beyond her parents' means.
Through flashbacks, readers learn about Selma's parents' generation One of the most inspiring characters is Zissel, Selma's mother, who immigrated to America in 1907 and worked in sweatshop conditions until the International Ladies Garment Workers Union improved things. Though she married a carpenter from her home village in Russia who earned a living in America, she always worked outside the home, progressing in her craft to embroidering designer dresses and making wedding gowns. She mothered Selma's friend Kitty and offered her money for her dance lessons.
"The hardest work in life is to be idle, Selma," she said in her old age. Selma carries on her mother's tradition of kindness to others, hard work and caution with money. Listening to real estate developer, Arlee Sparling, talk about "wealth management", her suspicions are aroused. He's too friendly - "a false front like the town in a cowboy movie." Dismissive of conservative investments, he warns his audience that if they do nothing with their money they'll outlive their savings.
Sid's involvement with Arlee Sparling's mortgage and real estate schemes is the spine of the novel, providing the dramatic tension, but Selma is the heart of the story. Her humour, reminiscences and her common sense opinions bring the story to life. When she raises objections to Sid investing their money, he dismisses her, saying "Women just don't understand these things." When she asks, "Why can't we stop when we're ahead?" he replies: "If it were up to you the human race would still be crawling on all fours."
After Sid's financial adventures bring the novel to a climax, the rest of the story shows the sadder aspects of old age. Even so, we see the characters savouring everyday pleasures and blessings, and staying connected to friends who come through for each other in crises.
While the back cover blurb of Swan Song has a condescending tone, the front cover is delightful. A photograph shows three smiling young women in 1930s finery, out on the town, smile at the camera. In her Foreword, Kellerman's wife, author Patricia T. O'Connor, says that it's a family photo of Kellerman's mother Edith, flanked by her two best friends. Both of Kellerman's parents, now deceased, gave him information about growing up in New York City in the early 20th century. Swan Song's appeal lies in the characters, who, in O'Connor's words, "are universal and at the same time so utterly individual."
For more information on Ruth Latta's upcoming novel, Votes, Love and War, about the Manitoba women's suffrage movement and World War I, visit her blog, http://ruthlatta.blogspot.com
Ruth Latta, Reviewer
Compulsive Reader (August 2019)
Stephen Jenkins' Bookshelf
Only A Few Bones: A True Account Off The Rolling Fork Tragedy
John Philip Collet
9780970132703, $18.00, PB, 436pp, www.amazon.com
John Philip Colletta is an experienced genealogist and lecturer who has written several books and articles on the subject.
In Only A Few Bones, he attempts to solve the mystery of what really happened to his great great grandfather and four other victims on the Night of March 4 1873 at Rolling Fork Landing in Mississippi. Newspapers and court records reported that four victims were killed and incinerated in his family's rural Mississippi County Store. However, after hearing various family stores about what actually happened, Colletta decided to do his own 30 year investigation. In this book, he reveals his findings which are based on interviews with his ancestors and family documents He cites these sources frequently in footnotes at the end of each chapter.
I loved this book for two reasons. First, as a lover of a good mystery, I found that this book was an interesting and well written story filled with many twists and turns. Second, I loved how Colletta made his ancestors come alive. This book could serve as an excellent model for anybody who is interested in turning genealogical facts into a compelling family history. Recommended for Genealogists, family historians, or mystery lovers.
Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
You Can See More From Up Here
Golden Antelope Press
I was captured by Mark Guerin's You Can See More From Up Here from the first sentence. The relationships in reporter Walker McGuire's life are gradually amped up in an engaging way as is the suspense. The reader has ample opportunity to bond with each character as they are well-delineated. The prose is superbly written. In 1974, when Walker was 19, he returned home from his first year of college for the summer to work in the assembly line of an automobile manufacturing plant. The events of that summer haunt him until he returns to Belford, Illinois, thirty years later. Because of that summer, he's been in self-imposed exile, only rarely visiting his family. Now, his father is in a coma after having had an automobile accident. Walker is looking for answers that his father never gave in the past and is now unable to give. This book shows the long-lasting fall-out from toxic relationships, alcoholism, and child abuse, yet the villains are as finely drawn as the protagonist. Guerin unpeels the American psyche like an onion, exposing race relations, and immigration (legal and illegal), class and socioeconomic differences that, unfortunately, still exist. He also weaves together the past and the present seamlessly with an astonishing twist the ties everything together.
The Resurrectionist of Caligo
Wendy Trimboli, Alicia Zaloga
The Resurrectionist of Caligo is a gothic fantasy with Victorian England overtones, Jack-the-Ripper type murders, political intrigue, a bit of romance, and some magic tossed into the mix. It's a delight to read with an original plot, inventive vocabulary, unique world-building, and compelling characters. I was immediately drawn into this world.
Roger Weathersby scrapes out a living by robbing graves to give to medical schools while he dreams of becoming a doctor. (As a physician who's dissected cadavers, this was quite appealing. There's his junior side-kick, Ada, who he calls Ghostofmary. Then there's the headstrong Princess Sibylla, a distant-heir to the throne of Myrcnia. The royal family rules by divine right and the aid of their magical skills.
I loved the magic, the struggle between science and magic., and the political intrigue that develops when the Emperor of Kalishka pays a state visit to Myrncnia. The descriptions of the capital city of Myrcnia, Caligo, are excellent.
The Queen Con
Meghan Scott Molin
The Queen Con by Meghan Scott Molin is a humorous contemporary mystery/romantic comedy with diverse characters: a geeky female main character (Michael-Grace), her straight-laced cop boyfriend (Matteo), and her drag-queen best friend (Lawrence) along with beaucoup geeksters as secondary characters. As with the prior novel in the series, the tone is slightly snarky, and the pace clips along rapidly, keeping me fully focused on the novel. Most enjoyable is that MG, tired of men trying to change her, has given up on relationships, yet remains a woman fully-functioning on her own. She is courageous and determined, doesn't wait around to be "saved" by a man, and remains delightfully geeky and, though comfortable with herself, a bit out of place in the real world. The slow-burn sexual tension between MG and Matteo is charming. The blend of romance and mystery is deftly woven. People who enjoy Star Trek, classic comic books, mysteries, and contemporary romantic comedies will enjoy this book.
The Lies We Tell (The Undertaker's Daughter Book #2)
This is the second in the Undertaker's Daughter series. I felt I should have read book #1 before starting this one as insufficient transitions and not enough back story included, so I was unable to get comfortable in the characters and setting. Also, I hate books that end on cliff-hangers, and this one certainly does that.
Overall, I felt this attempted to be another series akin to Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series; however, the Undertaker's Daughter series lacks the sophistication of the Scarpetta series as well as the quality of writing. This is built as romantic suspense, but the romance is minimal (which I am okay with), but if you are a romance reader, you'll be disappointed. There are abundant twists and turns, many of which don't feel intrinsic to the storyline. Typically I can get so involved in a book like this that I stay up all night reading it. I was able to put this down without difficulty at bedtime and, due to its multiple inconsistencies and erratic quality of writing, had trouble wanting to pick it back up the next evening.
The Flight Girls
A World War II novel from a woman's point of view, The Flight Girls follows a young Texas woman who, despite her privileged life in Dallas, leaves the security of home and family to fly military aircraft for the US Army. The main character, Audrey, is strong and self-sufficient with the dream of owning the local airport. I knew about the brave women of the WASP program before reading the novel, but Salazar's writing made those women come to life with its historical details. These women - early feminists every one, even if they wouldn't admit it - did the sometimes deadly aviation work of transporting military planes to free up men in the war. Audrey, who's training military pilots in Hawaii, witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor and all its horror. A native Texan, I found the descriptions of Sweetwater, San Antonio, and Abilene believable. A good read.
From Smokeless Fire: Summoned
M. A. Guglielmo
M.A. Guglielmo's debut novel, Summoned, is a light-hearted, fun read which should appeal to older YA readers. Daniel Goldstein, a Jewish gaming designer, is told by his grandmother's ghost to summon a jinn to save the world from fallen angels. He ends up with a supernatural party girl. Zahara, who introduces him to her friend, Zaid. The three combine forces to battle the angels. The dialogue is zippy and laced with sarcasm. It was enjoyable to read a paranormal book with new-to-me Middle Eastern mythology.
Past This Point
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
I read this book because I'd heard that it was apocalyptic fiction from a woman's point of view, which seems to be relatively rare. I enjoyed it thoroughly. As a physician, I've been trained to anticipate influenza epidemics and pandemics. The medical aspects were plausible enough that I could suspend disbelief. Karis Hylen has essentially become a hermit, trying to recover from her latest failed relationship. That antisocial trait, however, keeps her from being infected with a fatal influenza strain. She ends up trapped in her apartment with only Zeke, her dog, for companionship. Author Mabry manages to make Karis's psychological decline believable as she watches friends and neighbors die off. The risk to her personal safety increases as fellow New Yorkers become more desperate. Karis survives with only carefully rationed telephone calls to her parents to keep her sane - and long conversations with Zeke. Definitely worth reading.
Rare Bird Books
435 South Spring Street, Suite 302, Los Angeles CA 90013
Neon Empire is a dystopian novel in keeping with works by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. The author vividly describes a plausible near-future world in which social media is even more overt than it is now. The city, Eutopia, has been built on a Native American Reservation and thus can avoid various legalities in other parts of America. Eutopic is like Las Vegas on steroids, with various sections of the city duplicating the Old World (Paris, Berlin, Rome, etc) as Europe is now under travel advisories. The buildings, like the Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, are shells with the insides being stores for high-end consumer goods (Apple, trendy Italian designers, etc), spas, and casinos. Tourists can monetize their stays in the city. Life there is frenzied and glittering while f filled with drugs, sex, and murder and other violent crimes (some of which are staged and other real).
The world-building and story were enough to keep me turning pages. Jaded, manipulative, self-centered, and self-promoting, the characters were appropriate, in keeping with life in Eutopia, though not necessarily agreeable to read. There is a big plot point left hanging in the air, so perhaps a sequel is in order?
Not an enjoyable read, but a necessary one, as our culture is becoming more and more dominated by social media. Neon Empire shows us where we are heading - and it's more scary than 1984.
Suanne Schafer, Reviewer
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Central Saint Martins Foundation in Art + Design
Lucy Alexander & Timothy Meara
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781781575994, $29.99, PB, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Central Saint Martins is a world-famous arts and design college and part of University of the Arts London. It is internationally renowned for the creative energy of its students, staff and graduates. Fundamental to study at the college are experimentation, innovation, risk taking, questioning and discovery, within a highly supportive learning environment, no matter which discipline you choose to study. The school is synonymous with success. Alumni include Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Jarvis Cocker and Joshua Oppenheimer.
"Central Saint Martins Foundation in Art + Design: Key lessons in fashion, fine art, graphic and three-dimensional design" is the official course book for the Central Saint Martins' Foundation diploma and includes key lessons in fashion, fine art, graphic and three-dimensional design.
Critique: A profusely and beautifully illustrated textbook, "Central Saint Martins Foundation in Art + Design" is an informative and thought-provoking volume that is unreservedly recommended and endorsed for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections.
Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781786637888, $24.95, PB, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the politics of an austerity Britain, disabled people have been recast as worthless scroungers. From social care to the benefits system, politicians and the media alike have made the case that Britain's 12 million disabled people are nothing but a drain on the public purse.
In "Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People", journalist and campaigner Frances Ryan exposes the disturbing reality, telling the stories of those most affected by this devastating regime. It is at once both a damning indictment of a safety net so compromised it strangles many of those it catches and a passionate demand for an end to austerity, which hits hardest those most in need.
Critique: An erudite, detailed and documented indictment of a callused and uncaring political class in Britain (and one not unfamiliar in America under a Trump administration) that denigrates humanitarian ethics in favor of economic aggrandizement of the ruling class, "Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People" is a powerful statement of a compelling social issue that demands redress on the part of anyone who espouses a Judeo-Christian perspective on how the poor, the lame, and the imprisoned should be treated by a just society. While unreservedly endorsed and recommended for community and academic library Social Justice collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, government policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: Dr. Frances Ryan is a journalist, broadcaster and campaigner. Named one of the UK's most influential disabled people by the Shaw Trust in 2018, her work has taken her to lecture halls, the Women of the World Festival, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour and The World Tonight, BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show, BBC Sunday Politics, Channel 4 News and more. Her weekly Guardian column, Hardworking Britain, has been at the forefront of coverage of austerity over the last decade. She has a doctorate in politics from The University of Nottingham. Ryan was highly commended Specialist Journalist of the Year at the 2019 National Press Awards for her work on disability, as well as short listed for the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain's Social Evils 2019.
Becoming Super Woman
10300 N. Central Expressway, Ste 400, Dallas, TX 75204
9781946885937, $26.95, HC, 350pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: For years women have been told that success means having it all and doing it all. But the pressure to work more and harder at "it all" is a daunting and intimating expectation that all too often results in frustration and an overwhelming sense of personal failure.
In "Becoming Super Woman: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Go from Burnout to Balance", Nicole Lapin candidly shares her own story of career burnout and the diagnosis that prompted her to take her mental health seriously, for the first time ever. Along the way, she discovered that not only was this priority shift not a defeat, it was the key to unlock even greater accomplishments.
"Becoming Super Woman" lays out an actionable, 12-step plan to guide you in taking control and becoming the she-ro of your own story, with the skills it takes to be a real super woman -- skills we should (but often don't) learn growing up, from emotional regulation and boundary setting to interpersonal effectiveness and self-care. Reading "Becoming Super Woman" is like getting a pep talk from your whip-smart, no-nonsense best friend (who also happens to be a megasuccessful businesswoman).
Critique: Impressively and genuinely presented, "Becoming Super Woman" is a 'real world practical' perspective on the concept that it is basic happiness that results in success -- not success automatically resulting in a state of happiness. Offering a do-it-yourself blueprint to deal with debilitating burnout and restoring an effective balance to our lives, "Becoming Super Woman" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Becoming Super Woman" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.49) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781978691742, $24.99, MP3 CD).
William Morris's Flowers
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500480458, $19.95, HC, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A leading figure of the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris (1834 - 1896) is one of the best-known and most popular of all British designers. A passionate advocate of craftsmanship over mass production, he designed a huge variety of objects, but it is his spectacular carpet, fabric, and wallpaper patterns that have continued to capture the popular imagination and influence interior designers and the decorative arts. Around six hundred such designs are attributed to Morris, most of which are based on nature, including trees, plants, and flowers.
Compiled with commentary by Rowan Bain (Senior Curator at the William Morris Gallery), "William Morris's Flowers" is a beautifully designed, little volume that offers a wealth of designs by Morris where flowers are the principal motif. The text traces the origins of Morris's flower-based designs: his own gardens at the Red House in Kent; sixteenth- and seventeenth-century herbals; illuminated medieval manuscripts; late medieval and Renaissance tapestries; and the range of decorated objects, particularly from the Islamic world, that Morris studied at the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Critique: Featuring 120 color illustrations, this exquisite and informative edition of "William Morris's Flowers" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Art History collections in general, and William Morris supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
When You Can't Believe Your Eyes
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398092825, $28.95, PB, 196pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "When You Can't Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery" was first projected in 2004, when author Hannah Fairbairn was teaching interpersonal skills at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts. The experiences of her adult students and her own experience of sight lost convinced her that everyone losing vision needs access to good information about the process of adjustment to losing sight and practical ways to use assertive speech.
"When You Can't Believe Your Eyes" is specifically intended for anyone going through vision loss, their friends, and families. It will inform readers how to get expert professional help, face the trauma of loss, and navigate the world using speech more than sight.
Each of the twelve chapters comprising "When You Can't Believe Your Eyes" contain many short sections and bullet-point lists, intended to facilitate access to the right information. It begins where you begin at the doctor's office or the hospital. Since vision loss takes many forms, there are suggestions for questions you might ask to get a clear diagnosis and the best treatment.
Part One also has a description of legal blindness and possible prevention, advice about your job, and tips for life at home. Part Two is about believing in yourself as you deal with the loss, the anger, and the fear before you come up for air and consider training. Parts Three and Four describe using assertive speech and action in all kinds of settings as your independence and confidence increase. Part Five gives detailed information about everything from dating, and caring for babies to senior living, volunteering, and retaining your job.
It is hoped that by reading and trying out the suggestions, the reader will recover full confidence, become a positive, assertive communicator, and lead a satisfying life. Because vision loss happens mostly in older years, "When You Can't Believe Your Eyes" is written with seniors particularly in mind.
Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "When You Can't Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery" should be considered essential reading for anyone having to deal with diminishing eyesight due to accident, illness, or simple old age. Thoroughly accessible to the non-specialist general reader, "When You Can't Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.
God Gave Us the Bible
Lisa Tawn Bergren, author
David Holm, illustrator
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
10807 New Allegiance Drive Suite 500, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780735291904, $17.99, HC, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "God Gave Us the Bible: Forty-Five Favorite Stories for Little Ones" introduces children to the love story between God and his people. Ideal for kids aged 3 to 7, "God Gave Us the Bible" is written by author Lisa Tawn Bergren in a framework where Little Cub and her animal friends reflects many of the questions young readers have about Bible stories. Charmingly illustrated by David Holm, "God Gave Us the Bible" is comprised of forty-five Bible stories and concepts that every child should know including like Noah and the Ark, the Birth of Jesus, and Jesus Feeds the 5,000. Each story is aptly presented in a very warm, conversational, reassuring manner.
Critique: Inspiring, entertaining, informative, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in presentation, "God Gave Us the Bible: Forty-Five Favorite Stories for Little Ones" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for family, Sunday School, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "God Gave Us the Bible" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).
Darien and the Moonlight Well
Jeanne Kunce, author
Craig Kunce, illustrator
9781944734237, $13.99, PB, 232pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Long and long ago, three close friends (ruler, healer, and sorceress) led the kingdom of Telinoria in harmony. An age of prosperity and peace had begun. But it was not to last. A scheming baron by the name of Radburn set diabolical plans in motion and threatened to destroy everything the trio had built, including their friendship.
Now, Darien's own relationship problems with her cousin Emily are an unwelcome interruption from her mission to learn more about the secretive Miss Millie. Trapped together, the two girls unexpectedly become witnesses to pivotal events in Telinorian history.
As the tale unfolds, will Darien finally discover the truth about her mysterious neighbor and the lady's role in Telinoria's tumultuous past? Can she overcome her resentments to find the patience she needs to repair the rift between herself and her cousin?
Darien beholds the rise of a great evil, glimpses the wonder and intrigue of castle life, experiences a friend's tragic loss, and searches for the elusive answers she so desperately desires.
Critique: The third and deftly crafted title in author Jeanne Kunce's simply outstanding Dairen series for young readers 8-12, "Darien and the Moonlight Well" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to middle school and community library collections and personal reading lists.
Experiences of a Lifetime
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781973653677, $33.95, HC, 216pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Unusual experiences as a child and teenager continued throughout adulthood for Donald Brown. From being held by a gang in the top of the Great Pyramid to a night on an Indian reservation to roping fish, "Experiences of a Lifetime" is a biographical compendium of unique experiences that will stimulate the reader to explore the many others that are included.
Each individually recorded and presented experience is followed by a life application and appropriate scripture. It is hoped that the reader will be inspired to see God's purpose or ability to strengthen his or her faith through life's experiences.
Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Experiences of a Lifetime" is a uniquely thought-provoking and highly recommended addition to community, church, and academic library Religion/Spirituality collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Experiences of a Lifetime" is also available in a paperback edition (9781973653660, $17.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf
The Starlight Club 10: Love, Romance, and Murder in Anaheim
Black Horse Publishing
B07X2D2KNF, $5.04, 248 Pages
Bobby has driven up from Florida to spend Christmas with his daughter Lynn, her husband Ted, and their three children in Connecticut. These are special times as the years go by for Lynn and Bobby to spend time together, and for Lyn to hear tales of the glory days of the famous Starlight Club in Brooklyn, New York.
This story begins in 1962 with an unpleasant patron causing Ernie the bartender to take physical action against him. However, it appears that there is more to this incident that at first meets the eye, and when Red hears who is behind the problems and that the reason behind it is money laundering, he realises that it is time to take the matter in hand. Surrounded by loyal men who do what they must do in this underground world, Red realises that it is also important to keep the police and judicial system happy with pay-outs to smooth over any problems, even if is becoming increasingly expensive.
Meanwhile Joey is asked to once again look after movie mogul daughter June Morganstein in Los Angeles, something he is happy to do as he is madly in love with her. After an attempt on her life, Joey gets to the bottom of the mystery of why she needs protection and discovers that she has a gambling addiction which has got out of control. However, calling for assistance from other members of Red's workforce unveils dirty deeds at the gambling club she frequents, and the owner's alliances with villains and a Mexican drug cartels. Seizing the opportunity to nip trouble in the bud Red and his men take matters into their own control, with the unofficial backing of the new Captain of the 10th Precinct Captain Lou Garner.
Reading the Starlight Club series is a real delight, within the pages of each of the books you are transported back in time to Brooklyn, and into a world where crime bosses rule the streets and yet are respected, even by the law. Through Red, Trenchie, Joey and all the characters who have been so important to the structure of the stories the everyday lives, loves, dangers and even celebrities of the time come alive. The comradeship these brothers in arms share, dangerous and often deadly activities, and underhand dealings are revealed. However, running through every story are strong veins of loyalty and respect which span generations.
Whether you are looking to read a really good story, love crime and gangster novels, or enjoy this period of history, I can guarantee you will not want to put down this exciting story, and it will leave you wanting more.
Okefenokee Joe Enterprises
9780997337105, $24.99, 214 Pages
When I finished reading this incredible book, I turned to my husband and said, "WOW, how can a review ever give this book the acclamation it deserves?"
The author had his first real taste of nature and the natural world when he was sent aged 9 to the YMCA Camp Carson, in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. At first he missed his mum and dad, however, before long, it was the wildness and natural world of Camp Carson he craved when back home. He loved being amongst the natural world, discovered a fascination for it - especially snakes. With this came, a deeper understanding of God's work in giving us the wonderful natural world, which is all around us.
After a successful career as a singer/songwriter/entertainer for over twenty years, burnt out and tired of the Nashville scene, his marriage in tatters, he cancelled his remaining shows. A broken man, at the age of 41, in desperation, while others would have started on the way to ruin, he remembered those years he had spent at camp in childhood, and the love he had of camping. Searching for answers and with only a tent and other essentials provided by a friend, he set off in his jeep into the swamps of South Central Florida. Alone with his thoughts, he began to ask God for guidance and became one with nature. He learned how to trap and sell snakes, surviving by his skills, he was beginning to find inner peace.
It was the offer of work by another friend who managed the famous Okefenokee Swamp Park near Waycross in Georgia which was to take him onto the next stage of his life.
The great Okefenokee Swamp is in the south east of Georgia. It is not really a swamp and contains many small islands. Covering about seven hundred and fifty square miles, it is a large designated wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, and is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with all its wildlife protected by law. Heaven indeed, and the place which the author would call home for the next nine years. And what an interesting nine years they were.
Through the vividly descriptive writing of this talented man, we the readers are treated to some amazing stories and observations about the animals who live with, and around him. We discover how he befriends the abandoned dog, who is to become his canine companion Swampy before he moved to the park in South Central Florida, and how the next day Swampy appeared in the jeep ready to go with him on the adventure to his new home. Indeed, it is Swampy who finds the little calico kitten Skeeter, who becomes part of their small family, in the picnic area of the park.
However, we also learn through these tales of the animals, which are truly wild and live alongside him, and through his example realize that their territory is not automatically ours to walk over and claim. As he says, true wild animals are born to be self-reliant and self-sufficient; it is the way God intended them to be.
I loved the way that throughout this amazing book the emphasis is on understanding nature, living with it, respecting it, and recognizing that the creatures around us have just as much right to be on this earth as we do. There is so much to learn at the turn of every page, and even more if you read between the lines and take away from it the understanding that the natural world is out there for all to enjoy.
However, in the natural world there is also cruelty, and the author doesn't hide this side from his readers; after all, 'nature is not cruel, it is just sublimely indifferent' as anyone with a pet cat will tell you.
After over nine years at the Okefenokee Swamp Park, 'Okefenokee Joe' as he had become known decided to spread the word, and for over four decades he has done just that. He has delivered his "Earth Day Every Day" message to school children of all ages, bringing along with him a selection of native venomous and non-venomous snakes, to help as visual aids, and in teaching the children to be 'swampwise.' He has written, recorded and sang songs praising all God's creations, and now he has written this truly amazing book, and I for one am in total awe of what this man has achieved.
The author has also released an audiobook "Swampwise Secrets Songs and Stories from the Land of the Trembling Earth!" and will soon be releasing "Snake Hunter Snake Talk."
In Summary: Throughout this amazing period of his life the author learned how to be 'swampwise' - really looking at, studying and taking notice of his surroundings. In this modern world, where 'Mindfullness' is very much the 'in' word, how I wish more people could be like the author and learn to appreciate the amazing natural world around us the same way. Highly Recommended!
I Is God: The Journey Begins
9781691481231, $9.95, 95 Pages
This deeply psychological book, is the methodical reinterpretation of the metaphor of the Bible. The author Geir Gigja was born in Iceland, a country known since ancient times as the land of fire and ice, the gateway to heaven and hell, the beginning and the end. Since childhood he has had a fascination with language, its influences on the bible and Icelandic sagas, and the different meanings which can be attributed to words. Then as a young man an accident resulted in him being in a coma, that period of time, when he was aware yet unable to communicate led him to a lifetime's journey of discovery and to the meaning of 'I,' and the culmination of this is this book, I IS God.
The author believes that 'I' is our inner spirit, the 'us' which makes each one of us unique, even before consciousness, when we were in a state of oblivion, the time when we were a very small child, that time when we existed, but before our state of awareness arrived.
By explaining why I IS God, the author believes that his readers will be able to use their new awareness and understanding to discover for themselves the true meanings of some of the classic biblical stories such as the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, the Flood of Noah, and the Tower of Babel.
Because the uniqueness of each person's I, no one can see the I which lies within every one of us, it is our very being, our essence. He explains that all everyone or thing else sees as us, is in fact simply our image, a representation of us and not who we are really are. Its presence is with us always as we evolve throughout our lives, awakening our minds, making us conscious of the decisions we make, and of the resulting consequences of them, and in doing so it continually influences our destiny, making us the people we are.
In conclusion: This is an extremely thought provoking and enlightening book. "I IS God" is the first book in a series, and I eagerly await its sequel which is called "Out of The Mist: The Story of Abraham and the Twelve Tribes."
B07WR1GMVB, $1.24, 416 Pages
As soon as I opened the first page of this exciting legal thriller I knew I wouldn't be able to put it down. Straight away the lead character Odell Moore's incredible presence and power as one of New York's most successful lawyers captured my attention. Little did I realise that underneath the formidable, confident, presence which is Odell's face to the world, lies a much more complex character, one which continues to unravel and offer new surprises right until the very last page.
The story begins with a celebration, it's champagne all around as the lawyers at the prestigious international firm TGO congratulate themselves on having won the "Bounty" deal, and as their leader Odell Moore, affectionately known as The General, must celebrate this a major victory with them.
However today Odell's mind is elsewhere, it is with his new wife, beautiful southern belle Dee. The couple have just returned from their secret wedding in Vegas and Dee is on her way to break the news of their marriage to her parents. How will her mother react, and what impact will their marriage have on her father, a deeply racist Alabama senator, when he learns her new husband is an African American?
Odell's rise to the top of his profession has been achieved by sheer determination and he has fought for recognition and respect every step of the way. This is the way it is if you want to succeed in this business, in a profession which is ruthless, cut throat even. However, Odell is not the only one fired with a deep hunger and ambition. Jackson Sherman, Odell's young underling, is hungry for success, sure of his own potential and unwilling to let anything get in his way. His rise through the ranks at TGO seems destined to succeed, but will it? When the seeds of doubt are planted in Jackson's mind he discovers his darker side, a side which will stop at nothing in order to succeed.
The author's best-selling first book "Breakdown" told the story of the rise and fall of the iconic Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie, and in this his first work of fiction he uses his vast experience in the world of law to treat his readers into a glimpse of what life is really like for these high achievers, the glitzy and glamor, the toll on relationships, and what really happens in their lives both inside and outside the boardroom.
This story is a modern day take on Shakespeare's famous tragedy Othello, and Odell like Othello is soon to learn that you can trust no-one, and when you are sitting high up on your pedestal, there are plenty of people who are watching, and waiting for you to fall.
I just loved this exciting fast-paced thriller. Right from the first page there's a wonderful mix of excitement, revelation and expectation as the plot evolves and new discoveries about the characters are made. Highly recommended!
Available from Amazon
Halloween Howler (Super Speed Sam Book 10)
Monty J. McClaine
9781534736153, $5.99, 83 Pages
My little granddaughter and I just love the Super Speed Sam stories which feature Sam the superhero basset hound and his family, dad, Marty ( I mean Monty) McClaine, his wife, their young son Jack whose always getting into trouble, and little Molly, Jack's younger sister.
This special Halloween Howler story brings all the excitement of Halloween, and the theatrical abilities of Super Speed Sam together in a story which will captivate every child who reads it, just like it captivated my granddaughter when she visited the other day.
The stage is set straight from the start for an exciting Halloween night in the McClaine household, all the family are cleverly dressed in suitably scary costumes, and their English neighbour, after telling them about the tradition of Guy Fawkes in the UK have promised some amazing fireworks.
Everyone is looking forward to a fun evening, however Sam is a little sad at being kept indoors. The family know that fireworks will scare him and it is for his own good, however he decides to watch the proceedings from Jack's bedroom window, and it is a good job he does...
Times have been hard for the wolf pack which live in the local woodlands, and hunger has forced them into the outskirts of the town. Keeping to the shadows the wolf pack nervously creep about searching for something to eat. Of course, they don't know its Halloween night, and they can't know the difference between the sound of fireworks going off, and sound of the guns which cruelly hunt and kill them.
When they unwittingly arrive in the McClaine garden, scared and very defensive, Sam is instantly alerted to his family's danger, but what can he do, and will his super powers be enough to overcome these wild animals and save his family?
Excitement and fun is the name of the game in this wonderful children's book which celebrates this special 'scary' night of the year.
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Suzie Housley's Bookshelf
Ayden The Astronaut: A Rhyming Story About Loving Earth And Its Animals (Past, Present and Future Series)
Helen G., author
Celine S., illustrator
Series: Past, Present and Future Series (Book 2)
9781951433031, $10.99, Paperback: 32 pages
"Let the adventure begin"
Ayden the Astronaut and his friend Amelia, and his dog "Zoom" all live on the moon. Earth is a planet that calls out to Ayden's soul for his Grandfather told him stories of the time he had lived there.
Ayden decides to visit Earth, so along with his friends, the adventure begins. In their space shuttle they go, the places they see is beautiful to behold. Where will they exploration lead them into this uncharted land? Will they find friends or danger in this vast land?
AYDEN THE ASTRONAUT is a beautifully illustrated book that presents a vast variety of characters. Children will delight at the level of detail that makes the characters seem to jump off the page.
Helen G. is an exceptional author who has mastered writing a book with much substance and meaning. There is a wealth of life lessons that are explored in this book. This author has a true writer's voice, one where the literary world will come to remember and appreciate.
Mya the Mermaid
Helen G., author
Celine S., illustrator
9781951433048, $10.99, Paperback: 32 pages
Wishes do come true...
Mya the Mermaid loved to sing but her greatest wish was to be able to go ashore and play with her friends. She spoke her wish out into the universe and it was heard by a Fairy Godmother. Seeing how much Mya wanted to explore the world the Fairy Godmother gave her legs.
With her newfound gift what first will Mya do? Will she go onshore to play with her friends? Or will she set out to explore the world?
MYA THE MERMAID features beautiful illustrations that allow the story to come to life. As an added bonus theirs a section that a parent can use to help their child navigate the world. The suggestions offer ways to remind your child of diversity and different cultures.
Helen G has a true author's voice. The words she has selected and the characters that she introduced enhance this book. I feel children will grow to love Mya and the magical environment that radiates from the pages of this book.
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf
American Conspiracies and Cover-Ups
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510742970, $27.99, HC, 456pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Douglas Cirignano's work on alternative histories has appeared on Alex Jones; Prison Planet, Aventures de la Histoire magazine, and the Independent Institute. Now in "American Conspiracies and Cover-Ups: JFK, 9/11, the Fed, Rigged Elections, Suppressed Cancer Cures, and the Greatest Conspiracies of Our Time" he draws upon his exhaustive research and a number of key interviews to reveal the obscure and troubling backgrounds to such historical events as: The American government's foreknowledge of the attacks of Pearl Harbor and September, 11, 2001; The truth behind the assassinations of John F; Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; The creation of the IRS to bail out the banking system; The suppression of cancer cures and cheap alternative energy systems.
"American Conspiracies and Cover-Ups" is an impressive compendium that tackles such questions as whether or not the Federal Reserve System unconstitutional; Elections made fraudulent by hacked voting machines -- and so much more as conspiracy expert Douglas Cirignano brings together interviews with the brightest and most knowledgeable minds in the alternative history world to create the definitive guide to our country's biggest secrets.
These interviews include: Jim Marrs on the New World Order; Noam Chomsky on mainstream media; The JFK assassination with LBJ's lawyer; Veteran and author Robert B. Stinnet on Pearl Harbor; G. Edward Griffin on the Federal Reserve Bank; Dr. William F. Pepper on MLK's assassination; Professor David Ray Griffin on 9/11; and many others!
Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, and iconoclastic compendium of detailed information, "American Conspiracies and Cover-Ups" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, conspiracy buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "American Conspiracies and Cover-Ups" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781721385416, $29.99, MP3 CD).
Edward W. Blyden's Intellectual Transformations
Harry N. K. Odamtten
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611863208, $49.95, PB, 292pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Distinguished by its multidisciplinary dexterity, "Edward W. Blyden's Intellectual Transformations: Afropublicanism, Pan-Africanism, Islam, and the Indigenous West African Church" by Harry N. K. Odamtten is a masterfully woven reinterpretation of the life, travels, and scholarship of Edward Wilmot Blyden (3 August 1832 - 7 February 1912), arguably the most influential Black intellectual of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
It traces Blyden's various moments of intellectual transformation through the multiple lenses of ethnicity, race, religion, and identity in the historical context of Atlantic exchanges, the Back-to-Africa movement, colonialism, and the global Black intellectual movement. In "Edward W. Blyden's Intellectual Transformations", Blyden is shown as an African public intellectual who sought to reshape ideas about Africa circulating in the Atlantic world.
"Edward W. Blyden's Intellectual Transformations" also highlights Blyden's contributions to different public spheres in Europe, in the Jewish Diaspora, in the Muslim and Christian world of West Africa, and among Blacks in the United States. Additionally, "Edward W. Blyden's Intellectual Transformations" places Blyden at the pinnacle of Afropublicanism in order to emphasize his public intellectualism, his rootedness in the African historical experience, and the scholarship he produced about Africa and the African Diaspora.
Critique: The newest addition to the Ruth Simms Hamilton African Diaspora series from the Michigan State University Press, "Edward W. Blyden's Intellectual Transformations" is an impressively informative and exceptionally well presented scholarly study and an unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library American Biography collections in general, and West African History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
Editorial Note: Harry N. K. Odamtten is Assistant Professor of African and Atlantic History at Santa Clara University and an intellectual and social historian. He is the 2018 Francisco Jimenez Inclusive Excellence Award for Faculty recipient, a Compton Africa Peace Fellow, and a Donald Lammers Graduate Award recipient. He is an editor for the Journal of West African History, and has been published in various journals and edited volumes.
Duh!: 100 Bar Trivia Questions You Should Know
Christopher D. Short, editor
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781507210499, $14.99, PB, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The best trivia questions are usually the ones that are right on the tip of your tongue -- so obvious that you may not know the answer offhand, but you should.
In"Duh!: 100 Bar Trivia Questions You Should Know", America's foremost masters of pub quiz, Geeks Who Drink, will take trivia lovers on a voyage through 100 of our face-palmiest questions. Along the way, we'll explore the blind hills and corners that make random knowledge so much fun.
In hilarious, informative, bite-size essays, we'll explore such not-really-mysteries as: How many stars are on the Texas state flag?; Odlaw is the nemesis of what kid book character?; What's the last word in the King James Bible?
Even if you already know the "what" (and you might not!) "Duh!: 100 Bar Trivia Questions You Should Know" will fill in the "why". And the when, where, and how. By the end you may feel dumber, but you'll be smarter. Guaranteed!
Critique: Deftly compiled, edited, organized and presented by Christopher D. Short (who was a six-time champion on the TV show 'Jeopardy'), "Duh!: 100 Bar Trivia Questions You Should Know" is a must for anyone wanting to have and share the fun of a drinking quiz at their favorite watering hole. While unreservedly recommended for neighborhood bar, community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Duh!: 100 Bar Trivia Questions You Should Know" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).
The Family Edge
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 93657
9781641701402, $19.99, PB, 241pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Family Edge" by Gibb Dyer focuses on what is arguably the most important asset any entrepreneur or business owner needs to successfully compete in today's volatile market place.
After more than thirty years consulting for Fortune 100 companies, international organizations, and family businesses around the world, Dyer confirms that the secret ingredient to business and entrepreneurial success is not an MBA from a great school, a fantastic marketing plan, or even a blue ocean strategy. It's access to three types of capital: financial, social, and human. Dyer's three decades worth of research and data conclude statistically that the most effective and successful entrepreneurs have immediate access to these three all within their family.
A groundbreaking book for any business owner, family business, or budding entrepreneur, "The Family Edge" provides clear evidence and powerful tools to help entrepreneurs and corporate executives to leverage the asset they need but have probably not paid enough attention to -- family capital!
Critique: A unique and informative compendium of research, insights, common sense, and experienced business acumen, "The Family Edge: How Your Biggest Competitive Advantage in Business Isn't What You've Been Taught... It's Your Family" is an unreservedly endorsed and highly recommended addition for community, corporate, college and university library Business Management collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of business students, academia, entrepreneurs, business managers, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Family Edge" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).
Amazon: Managing Extraordinary Success in 5-D Value
Morgan James Publishing
9781642794380 $19.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com
Synopsis: In Amazon: Managing Extraordinary Success in 5-D Value, Benjamin Wall offers structured insights into strategically managing value in the key relationships to customers, personnel, business partners, and investors in order to improve value management at any company.
The extraordinary success of Amazon is due to market-leading strength in three "dimensions" of value: owning the mightiest supply chain to deliver fastest and cheapest the broadest range of products, enhancing what customers and business partners are doing when using the website / online ecosystem, and knowing how to implement the optimal terms and conditions in the after-sales customer experience. Wall takes a look at the unique managerial skill of Amazon and how each of these organizational areas operates externally and internally according to a separate business logic based on a dimension of value.
In an original examination, Wall systematically evaluates Amazon by categorizing and connecting its external and internal success factors to dimensions of value. Each "score" on an external success factor is linked to an internal success factor in managing processes, organizational culture, and the business model, so that managers and leaders can enhance their own internal success factors and move towards the same successful external factors. Amazon looks to the future where the near-term promise of the company is evaluated to be in the development from online to omnichannel retail, including the sale of services, by reviving out of Amazon's past the fourth dimension of value: feeling how to integrate value. The long-term potential of Amazon is set in the context of a sustainable future for retail, based on trends arising today in meaning across multiple communities, which is the emerging fifth dimension of value. Amazon is projected to operate in this value dimension again as a disruptor, and with Wall's help, managers and leaders can reach for the same kind of success.
Critique: The online retail giant Amazon has fundamentally transformed commerce, and expanded its market horizons far beyond bookselling. Amazon: Managing Extraordinary Success in 5-D Value examines valuable business that can be learned from Amazon's extraordinary success. Chapters scrutinize how Amazon successfully disrupted the market to its benefit, and how Amazon exemplifies the concept of "5-D value" in its managerial practices. One particularly fascinating chapter discusses the sale of services (such as travel tickets, hotel bookings, insurance policies, banking services, or event tickets) as a possible future expansion of Amazon's marketplace. Amazon: Managing Extraordinary Success in 5-D Value is an excellent reference and resource, and a choice pick for entrepreneurs and management professionals. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Amazon: Managing Extraordinary Success in 5-D Value is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Willis M. Buhle
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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