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Alex Andy Phuong's Bookshelf
The Weight of a Piano: A Novel
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780525654674, $15.99, Hardcover, $16.00, Paperback, $13.99, Kindle, 336 pages
The power of music is undeniable. It cannot be touched, yet it still has a major impact on how people live. Music is also directly connected to creativity and someone's overall well-being, which is why many people are musicians. Instruments are more than mere objects because of how they can endure (much like music itself) across generations, which is why The Weight of a Piano is such a fantastic novel because of how the "weight" of the titular piano impacts the lives of the characters.
The Weight of a Piano is a symbolic title because of the physical weight of the literal piano that combines with how the figurative weight affects the characters Katya and Clara across generations. Specifically, Katya expresses deep admiration for the piano starting at the age of eight, and loses it while she and her husband immigrate to America. Katya is a unique character because she had lived in the Soviet Union during the 1960s, which meant that history and the piano affected her directly. Chris Cander definitely writes with style while honoring the historical era that formed the beginning of this work of literary fiction.
In contrast, Clara is a modern woman living in Bakersfield, California, in 2012, and the piano places a burden upon her. Clara also has to discover the mysterious backstory of the piano that negatively impacts her, and in doing so bridges the generation gap between 2012 and 1962. This fifty year time span between the two main characters suggests that people are interconnected across time itself, and this novel emphasizes that notion with the piano as the focal point that bridges these two women together. Chris Cander is a phenomenal writer because of how she effortlessly combines history with modernity to create a compelling novel for contemporary readers. Never underestimate the power of music!
Scribe: A Novel
250 3rd Ave N Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781555978181, $9.99, Kindle, $13.16, Paperback, $14.53, MP3 CD, 176 pages
One of the beauties of writing is the writing process itself. There are many synonyms for the word, "writer," including: author, penman, and scribe. Because of the power of writing, it is no surprise that a novel from one of the most respected authors in contemporary fiction would be entitled Scribe: A Novel.
From the same author that wrote Boleto: A Novel, this new novel from Alyson Hagy has elements of both Civil War American fiction while also connecting history with modernity. The plot is a great story that is as powerful as storytelling itself. The novel presents itself as a work of American fiction that will hopefully become a classic years from now (as of 2019). Scribe dares to delve deep into powerful issues that continue to define America as a country, including diseases that affect Americans, what it is like to be an immigrant traveling along the American landscape, and who truly holds power in American society. Hagy writes with dexterity because she has written a compelling novel that is less than 200 pages long. Even though it might not be a long read, it is still an engaging work of fiction that ultimately defines what it truly means to be "American."
Since this novel is about the power of writing and stories, Alyson Hagy has once again written a new masterpiece in American literature that is both original and meta-fictional.
The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illionis 60567-4410
9781492666868, $14.25 HC, $12.10 PB, $9.35 Kindle, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Heddy Lamarr was one of the most dazzling and beautiful actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Her screen credits include The Strange Woman (1946) and Samson and Delilah (1949). Besides the glamour that surrounds this iconic actress, Heddy Lamarr was much more than just a pretty face. She might be widely recognized as an actress, but she was also intelligent, an inventor, and most importantly, a woman. Because of the notion that she (like everyone else) is one-of-a-kind, it is not surprising that a historical fiction novel based on her life would be entitled, The Only Woman in the Room.
Much like Virginia Woolf's classic A Room of One's Own, this novel centers upon the meaning of being a woman in a historical era in which men remained dominant. That is most likely why the titles of both this novel and Virginia Woolf's essay have similar titles. The Only Woman in the Room has both literal and figurative connotations because she might be the only woman in a room (literally), but she is oftentimes more than capable of being who she is when compared to the men who might be near her. The novel itself has a uniquely feminist tone that is very relative to the #MeToo movement ever since Alyssa Milano created that hashtag on Twitter in 2017. More importantly, though, this novel reveals what Heddy Lamarr is as a person rather than simply present her cinematic persona by presenting the fundamental fact that she is her own person. There is also a very humane quality to her depiction because she is human in spite of the fame that made her legacy endure for generations.
This novel does much more than simply retell the life of Heddy Lamarr. The Only Woman in the Room is a spellbinding reading experience that implies that even celebrities are still human just like everyone else in the world. Heddy Lamarr had to work hard to leave her impact on the world, and this novel suggests that she truly is her own person rather than simply a beautiful actress. This novel reminds readers that even the rich and famous are people, too, and that one must never underestimate the value and worth of a person based on physical appearances.
Alex Andy Phuong
Andrea Kay's Bookshelf
You Belong with Me
Fleming H. Revell Company
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800737146, $29.99, HC, 352pp, www.amazon.com
Small-town realtor Hannah Thornton has many talents -- unfortunately, selling houses isn't one of them. When a developer sets his sights on the historic homes in Heritage, Hannah turns to her best friend Luke for help. Will Luke risk his future and confront his past to help her? A deftly crafted and reader absorbing novel by an author with a distinctive and effective flair for narrative driven storytelling, "You Belong with Me" by Tari Faris is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all Tari Faris fans that "You Belong with Me" is also available in a paperback edition (9780800736477, $14.99), and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).
Helping Hedgehog Home
Karin Celestine, photographer
c/o Trafalgar Square Publishing
c/o Independent Publishers Group
9781912213634, $10.99, HC, 48pp, www.amazon.com
When a new fence is put up, Hedgehog is left trapped in her garden and uses the rubbish she collects to build a hot air balloon. However, her efforts lead her to drop in unexpectedly on the Water Voles, and Grandpa Burdock and Grandma Dandelion must be creative in order to get her home. Impressively illustrated throughout with the photography of author Karin Celestine, "Helping Hedgehog Home" is especially recommended for children ages 5-8 and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections. Of special interest are the notes at the back of the book covering how to make any family garden hedgehog friendly, as well as instructions on how to make a papier-mache hot air balloon!
Miss McDoogle Has the Giggles
All That Productions
9780990342281, $10.95, PB, 32pp, www.amazon.com
When Miss McDoogle gets ready for bed, she wiggles her toes and nods her head. Kids will
giggle along with "Miss McDoogle Has the Giggles", a perfect read-aloud story of the quirky
Miss McDoogle. Each night before bed, she has a silly and ridiculous routine that makes kids
giggle along with her. This delightful picture book is sure to be read time and time again. "Miss
McDoogle Has the Giggles" is a great way to make anytime a fun adventure. Children will love
this charming rhyme and humorous read-aloud! Original and thoroughly 'kid friendly', "Miss
McDoogle Has the Giggles" is unreservedly recommended and wholeheartedly endorsed for
family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book
Sharon & Bram
with guest artists Colin Mochrie and Jim Cuddy
$TBA each digital amazon.com
Children's musicians Sharon & Bram are commemorating forty years of performing with the release of four brand new singles. "Different" celebrates diversity; "The Colour Song" plays lightheartedly with homonyms; "Talk About Peace" cherishes hope and love; and "The Hug Song" is inspired by a social movement that promotes hugs as a random act of kindless. All four singles were written by Sharon Hampson's late husband Joe Hampson, and are perfect for adding a sprinkle of happiness to any day.
Andy Jordan's Bookshelf
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444840759, $20.99, PB, Large Print, 272pp, www.amazon.com
When O'Brien, a handsome young drifter, saves Uriah Cahill from a pack of hungry wolves, Cahill explains that he is on his way to join a buffalo-hunting outfit run by Elias Walcott and persuades O'Brien to come along. But the company's foreman, Cyrus McComb, is unwilling to let anyone stop him winning Walcott's daughter. When it becomes clear to O'Brien that the desirable Molly Walcott has fallen passionately in love with him, he and Cahill decide it's time to move on. Fate, however, has other ideas -- beginning with the cold blooded murder of Uriah Cahill by McComb that is the beginning of a blood feud that will conclude in a most unexpected manner! "Rawhide Justice" is a pure western entertainment of a novel from cover to cover -- and this large print edition from the Linford Western Library is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections!
Ann Skea's Bookshelf
9780571336661, A$29.99, Paperback, 395 pages
"The idea of having a knife close by without him even knowing plunges through me in a shock....He will not see it. He will not know it's there. Only I will know that, how close it's got to him, and when he leaves, when I see his figure moving away across the fields, only I will know that there was another scenario already playing out in my mind..."
This is part of the prologue to Crushed, which Kate Hamer structures like a play in three acts: The Fall, The Deep and The Cut. Beneath it all, runs the bloody thread of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Phoebe, who we meet at the start of Act I, is terrified by this "book full of hate". The murders, the witches, the black magic and the power all these have over Macbeth's mind feed her own terrors and mental instability. She wants to destroy the book but can't, because it is the book which she is meant to be studying in her high-school English lessons.
The voices we hear, and the thoughts and emotions which we share in this book, belong to three teenage girls - Phoebe, Orla and Grace.
Phoebe is fey, beautiful and disturbed. She hates her mother, who monitors her every move, secretly (or so she thinks) reads Phoebe's diary, and destroys Phoebe's belongings if she thinks they are unsuitable for her. Phoebe has learned to hide her thoughts and feelings. She writes deceptive entries in her diary and she has invented magical rituals to protect herself:
"Knives aligned, scissors pointing, even hammers in the shed have been placed with care to protect me".
Phoebe is clever, and she knows how to dissemble, but she has come to believe that she can control things with her mind. She devises tests to prove this and when she wills a murder and one occurs on the local town she believes she caused it, sees the bloody results, and is haunted by them.
Orla is in love with Phoebe, but Phoebe is fickle and unpredictable. She recognises, and uses, Orla's needy love and sometimes reciprocates it, sometimes does not, depending on how the mood takes her. Orla's family life is stable and happy but she desperately wishes for
"Love so strong it can turn day into night, then back again....another life to be totally entwined with mine. To have somebody who is mine and mine alone".
Grace is less close to Phoebe and Orla, mainly because she is sole carer for her mother, who has late-stage MS. Keeping her mother alive is Grace's whole life. She is hard on herself, chastises herself for not doing better, not doing more. She neglects her own life and her growing attraction for a young man in a nearby flat, and she defensively fends off the offers of concerned social workers. But she does go to school, although she feels guilty about taking this 'time-out'; and she does occasionally meet up with Phoebe and Orla.
At Phoebe's instigation, the three girls go to an isolated riverside spinney where they take LSD and perform spooky, scary, witch-like magic. They throw offerings into a 'wishing bowl' made by twisted roots at the river's edge. They piss into it to strengthen the magic, and they each make a wish for what they want.
Grace's wish is for "My own life. I want my own glorious life but to have that, to want it, means Mum would have to die" She panics at the thought: "No. No, I'm not wishing that. Don't think I'm wishing that, spirits".
Phoebe wishes simply for freedom from her mother: "The house, the house. I want the house for my own".
Uncannily, and in unexpected ways, the wishes of all three girls come true. But what eventually binds them closely and permanently together are events precipitated by Phoebe's growing obsession with their English teacher and the terrible results of this.
Kate Hamer tells her tale with great skill, weaving the characters, emotions and vulnerabilities of her three girls together so believably that it is easy to feel compassion and concern for them. At the same time, she tells a compelling and suspenseful story which is chillingly full of its own dark magic.
Faber & Faber: The Untold Story
Faber & Faber
9780571339044, A$39.99, Hardback, 400 pages
Toby Faber is the grandson of Geoffrey Faber who, in 1929, established the publishing firm Faber & Faber. He tells the story of Faber & Faber mostly through original documents, which show not only the many successes of the firm but also the many times that it almost folded. The contents of the book clearly show the uncertainty of book publishing in general, and Toby Faber quotes the old joke that "If you want to make a small fortune out of literary publishing, start off with a large one".
It is not only the every-day problems of publishing and marketing books which must be dealt with, but political and historical events also have their impact. Union disputes, strikes, the cutting of electricity supplies, as well as the changing ways in which readers access and buy their books, have all affected the finances of the firm. And there are vivid accounts of wartime bombs, the construction of bomb-shelters, fire-watching duties, bomb-damage, and, especially, the way that wartime paper rationing and wartime taxation laws severely threatened production
On top of all these difficulties, there is the problem of choosing which manuscripts will become successful books. How, for example, could anyone predict the future importance of T.S.Eliot's book, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, when Eliot himself was doubtful about publishing the poems in the first place. He wrote anxiously to Geoffrey Faber that "the various Poems might not be good enough. The matter ... may not be at all amusing" and "there might be a part that children wouldn't like and part that adults wouldn't like and part that nobody would like".
Then there was the advice of one of their manuscript readers that a manuscript by an unknown author called William Golding, entitled Stranger from Within, was "Absurd and uninteresting fantasy .... rubbish + dull. Pointless. Reject". Fortunately, other readers thought differently. Golding's manuscript was published as Lord of the Flies, Golding became one of Faber's most successful authors, and in 1983 he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature.
A less happy decision was to reject George Orwell's Animal Farm.
The pleasure of much of this book is the friendly tone of the exchanges between the early directors and shareholders of the firm, and the eloquence with which they express themselves. There are humorous exchanges, frank opinions and, sometimes, jokes. One joke played by American associates on fellow American, T.S.Eliot, resulted in several mock-serious and wonderfully comic written responses which later Chairmen of Faber & Faber mistook as evidence of a serious rift and kept locked away.
For writers, one of the interests of the book is the number of tentative approaches by Faber editors and directors to young novelists and poets who have since become famous literary figures. It is clear that many of these men and women were offered advice and encouragement, and that they were generally very willing to substantially change or rewrite their work on the advice of Faber editors. The list of famous authors and poets who began their careers with Faber's in this way is long. Many went on to win major literary awards and honours. And being published by Faber & Faber came to be a regarded by authors and poets as a mark of quality and literary merit. Vickram Seth wrote: "I'm very pleased that I am with Faber, which I've admired for a long time". And Peter Carey, after being approached by Faber Editor, Robert McCrum, wrote back "I really don't know what to say except that I am, of course, delighted..... Being a pessimist my only concern is that the world will be totally destroyed before the book comes out".
Becoming known as publishers of good, unconventional and innovative literary works frequently brought Fabers to the attention of the censor. Publication of D.H. Lawrence's pamphlet, Pornography and Obscenity, resulted in police raids and seized publications and required an explanatory letter from Geoffrey Faber to the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. Correspondence with James Joyce, fragments of whose Work in Progress were published in instalments by Faber, is also interesting. These pieces were eventually published in book form as Finnegan's Wake, for which, in the Faber Spring Catalogue for 1939, Eliot provided a carefully worded note. Since the work had been "more talked about and written about during it s [16 year] period of composition than any previous work of English literature", he wrote, "the publishers feel that they should waste no words in describing [it]"
Photographs are scattered throughout the book, and famous names and faces appear in many of them. I especially like a photograph of W.H Auden, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood, taken in 1935, in which they look like three cheeky teenagers.
In the 50 years of Faber's existence, the firm has often been close to failure, merger or take-over, and retirements and the changing nature of directorship and management has meant that close family involvement in the firm diminished as essential new blood was brought in. These days, as Toby Faber writes, "the Faber family owns exactly half of Faber & Faber. During my childhood in the 1970s it owned it all". The letters in last parts of the book reflect something of this loss of close family connections and there is less of the relaxed communication between editors and directors which is evident in earlier letters. Toby Faber, however, is an eloquent story-teller, and his hope that the book "will evoke a sense of fun: both the fun that people (in general) had and (generally) still have while working at Faber" is well fulfilled.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
c/o Allen & Unwin
9781785768934, A$29.99, paperback, 278 pages
"I am scared of my wife's eyes. She can't see out and no one can see in. Look, they are like stones, grey stones, sea stones. Look at her.... Her laughter was gold once, you would have seen as well as heard it. Look at her because I think she is disappearing".
We meet Nuri first as he helps his blind wife, Afra, to dress. It is not until later in the book that we learn how she became blind but it is clear that it happened suddenly and recently. Nuri, too, has changed. His dreams are of murder - a murder he seems to have been involved in. He dreams, too, of his small son, Sami. And he is waiting for Mohammed, a lost, orphaned waif who calls him "Uncle Nuri", to find him.
All of this takes place in an English seaside house where refugees are boarded until their asylum claims have been processed. But a single word, 'Bronze' links a refugee's watch to the second chapter of the book where bronze is "the colour of the city far below": Aleppo.
Aleppo, is where Nuri and Afra fell love, married, had a son, and "lived in a two-bedroom bungalow on the hill. From so high we could see all the unorganised architecture and the beautiful domes and minarets, and far in the distance the citadel peeking through".
In Aleppo, Nuri and his cousin, Mustafa, had been beekeepers. Starting with just a few hives they had harvested and sold honey, invented recipes for honey-based cosmetics and soap, and had become beekeepers on a grand scale. As Nuri remembers,
"I had four beehives in the garden, piled one on top of the other, but the rest were in a field on the outskirts of eastern Aleppo.... We produced at least ten tonnes of honey a year. There were so many bees, and they made me feel alive. When I was away from them it was like a great party had ended".
The families were close. But it was after one of their regular Saturday dinners that Mustafa raised worries about the political situation: "Things will get bad. We all know it, don't we? But we're trying to continue living as we did before". When the trouble starts he sends his wife and daughter away from Aleppo but keeps his teenage son, Firas with him, planning to join them later, in England. Then one night vandals set fire to the beehives. Nothing is left. And before Mustafa and Firas can leave, Firas is brutally murdered. Mustafa leaves alone.
Although the murders and bombing get worse, Nuri cannot persuade Afra that they, too, should go. Only when Sami is killed by a bomb blast and Nuri's life is threatened does she finally agree. So, they begin the dangerous and often terrifying journey from Aleppo to Istanbul, then to a refugee camp in Greece, and, finally to England.
Chapters alternate between their lives in England and Nuri's descriptions of the long journey as refugees, which has left them with terrible memories and which has made them almost strangers to each other. Afra is locked in her blind dependence on Nuri, her silences and her solitude: Nuri is plagued by memories, nightmares and his strange hallucinated meetings with the lost boy, Mohammed.
Because we get to know Nuri and Afra so well, we feel for them and worry about them. Nuri gets to know two other refugees in the boarding house in England. Each is from a different country and each has made their own hazardous way along refugee trails to England. All three are terrified of being sent back to their own countries where their lives are endangered and where they have suffered and seen the most terrible things. And all three men fear the interviews with the English immigration officers which will decide whether or not they will be granted asylum.
Afra, too, must be interviewed but first she must see a doctor about her eyes. In Aleppo Afra was an artist: now she draws by feeling the lines with her fingers. She cannot see, but the doctor can find no physical damage. He draws from her the exact circumstances of her sudden blindness, and its link with Sami's death.
For both Nuri and Afra there is hope, but it is fragile.
This book is beautifully written. There is warmth, compassion, love and beauty in it, especially associated with the bees, which, for Nuri, become a fine thread joining Aleppo and England. But there is also aching sadness, and shocking descriptions of the things refugees have to endure and the horrors, degradation, corruption and violence in some refugee camps.
Christy Lefteri's own parents were refugees from Cyprus. But it is the work which she did as a volunteer at a Unicef supported refugee centre in Athens, and the stories she was told by refugees there which led her to write this book. She has said that these people wanted their stories to be heard, and this has been her way of doing this.
The danger with The Beekeeper of Aleppo, is that Lefteri tells the story of Nuri and Afra so powerfully and movingly that you become absorbed by her story-telling and forget that it is based on real life and on things which are going on in our own world here and now. Nevertheless, Christy Lefteri has done a superb job of creating empathy and understanding for individuals and families who are fleeing from intolerable situations in the hope of finding safety and security.
Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilisation
9781526605702, A$29.99, paperback, 409 pages
By the end of the first chapter, entitled 'Progress', I felt had been brow-beaten by an engineer who sees every aspect of human development as attributable to engineers. "Engineering", he writes, "is wrapped around all of us, like a protective, life-sustaining blanket". To prove this, he tells us that he has "gone back into the past and forward into the future, to demonstrate that engineering is at the heart of human progress".
He does not define the term 'engineer', but, having stated that there is an engineer in every one of us, he applies it to everyone from the stone-age tool maker, to industrialists, geneticists, scientists, atomic and sub-atomic physicists, and more. Only later in the book does he distinguish between different professions. At one point, for example, making the grandiose claim that "engineers save more lives than physicians".
One feels inclined to point out that he has already said that engineers are responsible for creating the atomic bomb and other military weapons which destroy life on a vast scale. However, in this case, he argues for the need for military deterrence as a protective measure, and that human empathy, punishment, responsible government and international agreements will make the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction taboo and "keep would-be barbarians outside the city gates".
It is difficult to know just what sort of reader this book is intended to satisfy. Its sub-title suggests that it deals with Engineering the Future of Civilisation: a pretentious claim. It is magisterial in its overview of the history, development and innovation in everything from industrial change, printing, architecture, travel, biology, genetics, medicine, computers, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine/human interfaces and much more. But anyone who has a background in, or an interest in, science and technology will be familiar with most of what is presented.
For the general reader, Browne writes fluently and personalises his accounts with fragments of his own life. He tells us, for example, that his mother was a survivor of Auschwitz; that he lives "for most of the year" in a palace overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice; that he was 'fortunate enough to travel on Concorde many times"; and that he collects hand-decorated Japanese lacquer pens, with which he chooses to write. He also tells us about his world-wide travels and his many meetings with eminent men and women from a great range of disciplines. All of this distances him from readers whose ordinary every-day lives never include such opportunities. And the scope and extent of the book would make it a challenge for many readers.
Browne, however, has been a very successful businessman and he has been recognised by such prestigious bodies as the Crick Institute for biomedical research, the Royal Society (of which he is a Fellow), and the Royal Academy of Engineers (of which he became President). He is well-qualified to describe the human journey through the historical scientific and technological development. His focus, however, is narrowed to that of an engineer who can see no other way of looking at the world.
Yes, engineered tools have made many surgical procedures quicker, less invasive and more accurate, but it is the knowledge, experience and skill of the medical team using them which determines the outcome for the patient.
Certainly, mechanical developments allow for greater efficiency in manufacture and delivery, for cost saving and mass-production, but the jobs they create are very different to those they replace, and not everyone would agree that this makes their lives better.
It is a pity, too, that the final chapter of the book, 'Imagine', is so short and is devoted to such things as particle-acceleration, ultra-small processors, brain-mapping and artificial intelligence. There is nothing in it about the arts which stimulate the imagination, the use of which is essential for the invention and creation of new technologies; or about the social sciences which help people to come to terms with rapid change; or about the great variety of cultures and peoples who find their own innovative ways of using the tools which engineers invent.
Alice to Prague
Allen & Unwin
9781760529765, A$29.99, Paperback, 342 pages
In Love With the World
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche with Helen Tworkov
9781509899326, A$32.99, Hardback, 268 pages
Alice to Prague and In Love with the World are very different books with different styles and perspectives and with different stories to tell. Yet, fundamentally, the theme of the books is the same. Both authors choose to leave a comfortably familiar and orderly life amongst family and friends. Both set off into strange territories to live amongst people who have totally different backgrounds, experiences and expectations. Both set out full of excitement, optimism and hopes and both, at times, suffer severe disorientation, panic, doubts and terrible loneliness.
As Tanya Heaslip and Mingyur Rinpoche tell their stories it is clear that their past experiences shape their ways of coping with change and each, in their own way, eventually finds happy equilibrium. In Mingyur Rinpoche's Buddhist terms, each dies to their old life and is reborn.
Tanya Heaslip grew up on an outback cattle station run by her parents near Alice Springs in the centre of Australia. From an early age she rode out with her younger siblings to help muster cattle and drive them long distances to cattle yards for transport or castration and branding. Tanya was schooled by the Correspondence School and the School of the Air, but she was also an avid reader, especially of English books about children growing up surrounded by cool, luxuriant green meadows, and stories of fairy-tale castles and magical trees swarming with fairies, pixies and goblins. She would day-dream of these things as she rode in the red dust and blazing sun at the tail of a mob of bellowing cattle, until a shout from the Head Stockman would rouse her:
Oi! Tanya! Whaddya think yer doin' girl? Head in the clouds agin? Move those bloody cattle along.
At the age of twelve she was sent to boarding school in Adelaide and, eventually, she became a lawyer in Alice Springs, but her dreams of seeing the magical places she had read about as a child never left her. A backpacking trip around Europe, however, was a disappointment. She found no enchanted lands, no magic, just freeways, cars, fast-food outlets and pollution. However, a last-minute, un-planned flight to Berlin with her staunch friend, Mick, and the euphoria shared with thousands of Germans at the fall of the Berlin Wall, made her determined to go back, not to Western Europe but to former Communist countries like Czechoslovakia.
Four years later, with the help of a fellow lawyer who had lived and taught in the Czech Republic, her adventure finally began. She left home and flew to Prague. She was alone, she knew no-one there and did not speak the language, she knew nothing of the culture and she was not a teacher, but she had been hired as a 'native speaker of English' to teach teenage students. Her first shock was three hours of wrong queues, wrong box offices, and interrogation by passport and immigration officers I couldn't understand - and undoubtedly never would.
Next was the traffic, the derelict buildings, the identical grey concrete, prison-like blocks of apartments, and the horrific pollution in the town outside Prague where she would live and teach. Her new home would be a tiny bed-sit, with windows locked against the pollution, on the seventh floor of one of these horrible apartment blocks.
My pretence at confidence collapsed...In my heart I was twelve years old again, arriving at boarding school in Adelaide to start a new life behind high stone walls, leaving behind me all that I knew...That was 1975. This was 1994. Not much felt different.
The School, the pupils, and especially the few who spoke reasonable English and befriended her, saved her from despair. So, too, did the sudden inspiration, on seeing a guitar in the classroom, to break the ice by singing an Australian song. To her amazement the students joined in, having heard the song from Czech folk-singers who had put Czech words to it.
Homesickness, loneliness and the isolation of having no common language with other people was acute. This was allayed by a chance meeting with two Czech men returning to their homeland from Australia, to which they had fled as refugees during the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. They immediately befriended her and through them she met Karel, a charismatic older man who showed her a side of Prague which, with its fairy-tale castle, narrow cobbled streets, and its historical association with alchemy and magic, fulfilled all her childhood dreams. She fell in love with Prague and with Karel, but for many reasons there was to be no fairy-tale happy ending.
Tanya's adjustment to Czech life was never easy. She learned to understand the legacies of fear and suspicion left by a harsh Communist regime and how it still affected the lives of the people. And she saw the effects of the more recent withdrawal of State support - the uncertainties and threats of joblessness that this caused. Most of all, she learned confidence and new ways of living and loving. She returned to Australia with new insight and new understanding of herself and the world but she has never stopped loving Prague and its people and has always been drawn back.
Whilst Tanya Heaslip's book is full of her own bright, changeable energies and emotions, Mingyur Rinpoche's book is more studied and serious, and it has a quite different purpose.
It begins dramatically with an escape story which reads like a convict's escape from prison. The escapee, however, is the Buddhist monk, Mingyur Rinpoche, making a secret but well-planned, night-time exit from his monastery in Bodh Gaya, where he is abbot, tulku (the reincarnation of a spiritual adept) and meditation teacher:
In the dark I tiptoed downstairs to the foyer.... I waited for the watchman to pass. Once I calculated that he was farthest from the front door, I opened a window and stepped out onto the small marble porch. I closed the window, flew down six steps to the brick walkway and quickly moved behind the bushes....I waited in the bushes ... and ran the hundred feet to the main gate....I unlocked the padlock, pushed back the gate, and stepped through.
None of the monks will know that their abbot has vanished until noon the next day when his close companion, Lama Soto, will go to his private rooms to rouse him from meditation. Only then would his long letter be discovered explaining that he had begun 'the long retreat' which he had announced a year earlier.
Mingyur Rinpoche's plan was to lose the mask of Self: to remove the shell of privilege, security and respect to which, as a son of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (a revered Tibetan monk and meditation master) he had been born and trained and become accustomed.
His 'ego-suicide' plan was to 'explore the depths of who I really was out in the world, anonymous and alone'. For four years, he will follow the ancient tradition of sadhus and become an itinerant yogi, owning nothing and begging for his food.
His first challenge is the Gaya railway station. He has never bought a ticket for anything, never been unescorted, never travelled with the poorest people. Crushed into the lowest class railway carriage, jammed against the door by people in dirty clothes and with repellent body odour, who totally ignore his Buddhist robes, he feels as if he is amongst aliens:
I didn't feel any connection with these people. Despite my years of practice that achieved spontaneous compassion, I had to reach back into memory for basic reminders....For a few minutes I repeated these reminders with genuine sincerity; then aversion again surfaced.
For the next few weeks in Varanasi, at the railway station and at the corpse-burning Ghats beside the river, then in Kushinagar, where the Buddha died in 487 B.C., Mingyur Rinpoche struggled to accept all the new experiences to which he was exposed. Then when the small amount of money he had taken with him ran out, he exchanged his purple Buddhist robes for a saffron-coloured sadhu's dhoti and began begging for his food. Throughout this time, and later, his long years of training in meditation practices helped him to cope and not to give up and return to his monastery. And he explains these practices as he tells of his experiences, thoughts and emotions.
Anyone who has ever done any Yoga Nidra meditation will recognise many of these techniques: focusing on, visualising, and relaxing each body part from head to toe; paying attention to each breath; taking awareness of sound out into the surroundings, away from the self; becoming aware of constant impermanence - the continuous cycle of change - death and rebirth. Mingyur Rinpoche uses stories, anecdotes and reminiscences, as well as plain explanations to guide the reader through Buddhist meditation practices which he hopes will help us understand our own journeys.
For me, the most difficult part of this book was Mingyur Rinpoche's long and detailed report of his near-death experience when infection and dehydration literally fells him. He understands it all in terms of the Buddhist teachings which have been his whole life, and these are complex and difficult for a non-Buddhist to understand and follow.
Like Tanya Heaslip, Mingyur Rinpoche experienced the sudden death of an old life and the fears, doubts and difficulties of the disorientation and change which this involves. Each of them handles this differently. Tanya by looking outwards to her relationships with others to confirm her own identity: Mingyur Rinpoche by looking inwards to his own resources to find strength in his beliefs and practices. Both learn much about the world and about themselves; and both, eventually, find equilibrium.
Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer
Anthony Avina's Bookshelf
M. N. Snow
9781070719399, $14.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 359pp, www.amazon.com
Cyberpunk? This ain't it. Steam-punk? Wrong again. This is New-Burn® Coal-punk, set in the present of a slightly altered, not too distant future. Belay that, call it future-punk and be done with it.
Global warming fixes have overshot their mark and boomeranged the world into global cooling. With global cooling came the flooding of the lower Great Lakes. Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto, etcetera - all flooded out. A majority of the refugees have been relocated to The Zone, the formerly named Twin Ports of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI - now the third largest city in the North American Protectorate, and easily the coldest.
Four people are drawn together in this wintry port city on the far western edge of Lake Superior.
Delores Manning, a shrewd, New York femme fatale chasing her ex-husband and the money he stole from her.
Wally Moon, back from his fifth combat tour, on three different continents, in a world perpetually at war.
Julie Newman, recently a civilian, laying low and wondering if it's paranoia, or is someone really after her.
Finally, Danny "Java" Vacha (Vuh-SHAY) - who is definitely NOT a private detective. What he is is a combat vet who lives as far off the skyline as possible. However, he has been known to occasionally look into things and, perhaps, to settle the odd score or two for people. And with all the dry-grade digital and wet-grade bio military enhancements he has endured, he can be quite effective at that job.
In Wally Moon's words, "Think of Java as Robin Hood... with a lead-pipe."
Bundle up and enter their bleak world.
And watch your back.
What really stands out about this novel above all else is the effortless way the author blends so many different genres into one narrative. One moment readers are in a future punk style setting filled with people who have been physically and mentally altered or enhanced, and then in the next readers are exploring a noir style mystery with a futuristic military and espionage thriller bend. Yet the narrative never feel confusing or overstocked, instead bringing a new natural mixture of genres that really works in the reader's benefit.
The characters themselves are also a huge draw. In this futuristic, cataclysmically different world the author has created, the characters feel both cinematic and relatable all at once. The core connection these characters share speaks of a story of makeshift families, struggles with the vices of our world and the horrors of war on the human psyche. These deep, emotional and wonderfully told elements of the characters only serve to better enhance the narrative set in this action-packed punk world.
This is a new punk style novel that any fan of cyberpunk, Neo-noir style punk or any other reader of the overall genre will absolutely fall in love with. It's an evenly paced read filled with twists and turns, and creates a detailed image of the scenes playing out in the reader's minds. From mind control and sexually driven body modifications to military black ops and the bonds of a self-made family, this adult noir-punk style novel is beautifully written and a must read book in 2019. If you haven't yet, be sure to grab your copy of M.N. Snow's "Monkey Man" today!
Anthony Avina, Reviewer
Barb Taub's Bookshelf
The Alchemy Of Noise
Lorraine Devon Wilke
She Writes Press
9781631525599, $16.95 PB, $9.95 Kindle, 352pp, www.amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
My Review: 5 out of 5 stars
We once lived in Champaign Illinois, where the University of Illinois' team mascot, Chief Illiniwek, embraced almost every type of cultural stereotyping, from his eagle-feathered war bonnet to his frenzied war dance. Growing calls for The Chief to be retired were opposed - loudly and backed up with considerable donations - by alumni, locals, and even students. My neighbors told me they honestly believed the mascot was "honoring" Native Americans, and couldn't understand what the fuss was about. Despite the complaints of Native Americans including descendants of the Illini tribes, the mascot continued his war dance for almost a century before finally being retired in 2007. Of the 35 men and one woman who served as the mascot, not one was a Native American.
In Lorraine Devon Wilke's troubling and stunningly well-written new book, The Alchemy of Noise, cultural appropriation is the elephant in the room. On the surface, this is a love story between two educated, attractive, and articulate people. Sidonie is manager of an upscale club, The Church. Chris is a sound engineer, owner of his own company, Sound Alchemy. Their tastes and careers overlap, they are sophisticated, successful, and they come from different races.
The alchemy of the title - and the name of Chris' company - refers to the ancient philosophy of refining materials, purifying them, often turning base metals into precious ones. In this case the alchemy refers to noise, and to the power to transform that noise into beautiful sound. But can Sidonie and Chris create and sustain the alchemy to transform all the noise around them into their own beautiful music?
In this narrative, white middle-class Sidonie sees no reason why she shouldn't fall in love with black entrepreneur Chris. As she tells him, "I've never had to think much about it before; race didn't affect me." But she has to think about it when being with Chris means experiencing the endless stream of casual and calculated discrimination and even abuse, the constant questions about whether it's safe or smart or worth the trouble to do something as simple as walk down a street in your own neighborhood.
Sidonie's shock and fury are new to her. But that doesn't prepare her for the generic, ingrained contempt displayed by those she thought she knew - close friends, colleagues, family. Even as Sidonie and Chris painfully navigate these new and dangerous shoals, Chris is arrested, beaten, and accused of raping a child. Sidonie rejects and fights against the casual willingness of police and officials to ignore details like fabricated 'proof' or unabashed lies.
But as time passes, the damage is done to both of them and to their fragile new relationship. Chris' sister Vanessa accuses Sidonie of leading Chris to betray his race. He doubts his own ability to keep fighting. And in a moment when all she's heard seems to support the unthinkable possibility that there is truth in the accusations, Sidonie's own love and faith falter.
There are supporting characters who play important roles in the story and in Chris and Sidonie's relationship. First, there are the mothers. Chris' wise and well-educated mother Delores - whose unwavering belief in her family holds them together in their darkest hours - contrasts with Sidonie's sheltered and ultimately weak mother Marian, who runs at the first sign that her daughter needs her support.
Also set up as a contrast are the two sisters. Chris' sister Vanessa is a force of nature, powered by her volcanic fury at the way the world works. Her inability to step away from this destructive anger has destroyed her marriage and led her to accuse Chris of betraying his race. Sidonie's sister Karen is immediately warm and supportive of the new relationship. Her prosperous lifestyle as a partner at a 'prestigious downtown firm' was made possible when she left her early criminal defense career, something Vanessa would undoubtedly see as selling out.
Another influential minor character is Chicago itself. Sidonie comes from the homogenized northern suburb of Palatine. "Palatine exuded an insistently beige, generic curb appeal." Chris' family home is in that liberal bastion of the intellectual, Hyde Park, home to the University of Chicago. "With its unusually robust campus police force, and wealthy, prestigious demographic, Hyde Park was a kind of island in the midst of encircling urban grit." Palatine and Hyde Park are separated, as with most of Chicago, by the Dan Ryan Expressway, the dividing line between white and non-white neighborhoods. In between is the city itself, with its horrific heat, sneaky pretend-spring days, and spectacular skyline. "Making their way past Wrigley Field, which luckily, was dark tonight, the view was quintessential Chicago: lights, color, the palpable sense of energy."
Chicago is also a dark force, the city where a person of color has to calculate every move, ignore every casual insult, cope with every suspicion and danger waiting just because of skin color. Part of this is Chicago's police force, here depicted as both vicious, bigoted old-school bullies and nice guys like the surprisingly diffident Officer Mike who rescues Sidonie from being arrested, but also tries to justify his fellow officers.
Like Sidonie, I've never lived in Chris' world so I can't say how accurately it's portrayed. I have relatives who served on the Chicago police force, good people who are loving family members. Would they see themselves in the police depicted here? Would they recognize their colleagues?
Ultimately, this is a love story. But is it one the author has the right to tell? As she explains in her Notes, she was in a similar mixed race relationship for years. The emotions she describes are the ones she learned and lived. The writing of The Alchemy of Noise is hauntingly beautiful, shocking, and compelling. I feel like I know so many of the characters, that they are the family and friends and fellow students I knew in Chicago. And yet I don't know them at all, can't believe they would react as the characters did here. But, as Sidonie points out, I've read the papers, listened to the news, heard the casually racist and discriminatory remarks. And even with a love as big as Chris and Sidonie's, I don't know how you get past that. Maybe reading this stunningly well written book is a good way to start.
Barb Taub, Reviewer
Writing & Coffee. Especially coffee. UK book blog
Billy Collins' Bookshelf
The Only Worlds We Know
9781943735600, $16.00, PB, 112pp, www.amazon.com
Michael Lee has found new ways to write about some of the crucial subjects - love and love lost, recovery and addiction, the bullet and the pill. No wonder he writes: 'For my final wish, another/ final wish,' -- wishing to keep writing poems forever.
Carl Logan's Bookshelf
America: Films from Elsewhere
Shanay Jhaveri, editor
The Shoestring Publisher
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9788190472081, $35.00, PB, 616pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The cities, landscapes and people of America have been the subject of many a film, but when seen through an outsider's perspective, new and often significant aspects of its culture are revealed.
Compiled and edited by Shanay Jhaveri (Assistant Curator, South Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ne4w York), "America: Films from Elsewhere" is comprise of thirty erudite articles that collectively examine films and America from the perspective of auteurs from around the world (from anyplace but America) and covering the half-century from the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 to the election of Donald Trump in 2017.
Masters of the medium such as Chantal Akerman, Joyce Wieland, Michelangelo Antonioni, Lars von Trier, Jacques Demy, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Chris Marker are discussed, alongside lesser-known greats such as Yolande du Luart and Babette Mangolte. "America: Films from Elsewhere" also features specially commissioned portfolios by artists, including Camille Henrot, Harun Farocki, Lucy Raven, the Otolith Group and Ute Aurand.
Critique: A unique, impressively informative, exceptionally insightful, and inherently thought-provoking volume of commentary, "America: Films from Elsewhere" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of dedicated film buffs, as well as a highly valued, singularly significant addition to community, college, and university library collections.
The New Huey P. Newton Reader
David Hilliard & Donald Wiese, editors
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
9781609809003, $19.95, PB, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Huey Percy Newton (February 17, 1942 - August 22, 1989) was a revolutionary African-American political activist who, along with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. In 1967, he was involved in a shootout which led to the death of a police officer and in 1974 was accused of shooting a woman, leading to her death. During this time, he continued to pursue graduate studies, eventually earning a Ph.D. in social philosophy. In 1989 he was murdered in Oakland, California by Tyrone Robinson, a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. (Wikipedia)
This newly revised second edition of "The New Huey P. Newton Reader" combines now-classic texts from Newton's books (Revolutionary Suicide, To Die for the People, In Search of Common Ground, and War Against the Panthers) ranging in topic from the formation of the Black Panthers, African Americans and armed self-defense, Eldridge Cleaver's controversial expulsion from the Party, FBI infiltration of civil rights groups, the Vietnam War, and the burgeoning feminist movement. Editors Hilliard and Weise also include never-before-published writings from the Black Panther Party archives and Newton's private collection, including articles on President Nixon, prison martyr George Jackson, Pan-Africanism, affirmative action, and the author's only written account of his political exile in Cuba in the mid-1970s.
Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Geronimo Pratt all came to international prominence through Newton's groundbreaking political activism. Additionally, Newton served as the Party's chief intellectual engine, conversing with world leaders such as Yasser Arafat, Chinese premier Chou Enlai, and Mozambique president Samora Moises Machel among others.
Beginning with his founding of the Black Panther Party in 1966, Newton set the political stage for events that would quickly place him and the Panthers at the forefront of the African American liberation movement for the next twenty years.
Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a section of historical photographs. a one-page Publication History and a two-page Index, "The New Huey P. Newton Reader" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library 20th Century American History collections in general, and Black Panther Party supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
The Joy of Tippling
Berkshire Publishing Group
122 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230
9781614728382, $24.95, PB, 200pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Deftly crafted by the ultimate tippler, Ray Oldenburg's "The Joy of Tippling: A Salute to Bars, Taverns, and Pubs" is an informed and informative testament to the importance of drinking together socially in an establishment specifically designed for that purpose. "The Joy of Tippling" is packed from cover to cover with factual information, humor and wit, personal insights, and sound sociological observations.
Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a six page listing of thematically related books, movies and television shows, as well as a three page index, "The Joy of Tippling: A Salute to Bars, Taverns, and Pubs" is certain to be a unique and enduringly popular addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Joy of Tippling" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).
Editorial Note: Ray Oldenburg is known internationally for his book "The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community" which a surprise hit when it appeared in 1989. Starbucks even asked Oldenburg to endorse their coffee shops (he declined). He has advised cities including San Jose, Stockholm, and Osaka on community development, and often hosts friends in his own converted-garage saloon in Pensacola, Florida. His favorite drink is a Manhattan.
In The Land Of Whispers: Volumes 1, 2, 3
George Robert Minkoff, author
Nigel Gore, narrator
31 Mistletoe Road, Ashland, OR 97520
Volume 1, 9781982749446, $49.99, CD, www.amazon.com
Volume 2, 9781982755508, $39.99, CD, www.amazon.com
Volume 3, ASIN: B07VSLSQP7, $TBA, CD, www.amazon.com
In The Land Of Whispers is a three-part epic historical novel about 17th century Colonial America that is deftly written by author George Robert Minkoff in a language that mimics the speech of the time and can hold the interest of 21st century readers and bring satisfactions and delights as a work of contemporary fiction.
Volume 1, "Weight of Smoke", launches this very special trilogy with the disastrous first eighteen months of the Jamestown Colony, 1607-1609. Entwined with the colony s fractious beginnings are the adventures of Sir Francis Drake, retold around the campfires by an old alchemist, Jonas Profit, who sailed the Spanish Main with Queen Elizabeth s favorite pirate.
Volume 2, "The Dragons of the Storm" follows directly upon the events in "The Weight of Smoke". Captain John Smith has been stabbed by a stingray and falls deathly ill. The old alchemist and mariner, Jonas Profit, doctors his wound, and to ease Smith's suffering tells of the daring circumnavigation of the world by Francis Drake, 1577-1580.
Volume 3, "The Leaves of Fate" is the third and final volume of the epic fictional chronicle In the Land of Whispers trilogy with the hero of Jamestown, Captain John Smith, forced to return to England, never to set foot again in the colony. Beyond his compelling memories of life in Jamestown, with its famine, disease, and discord, lies the sordid history of the rapacious greed of desperate colonists and wealthy London financiers who develop tobacco as a cash crop in lieu of food.
Critique: Ably and dramatically narrated by Nigel Gore (who does full justice to the distinctive narrative storytelling style of author George Robert Minkoff), this flawlessly produced three volume trilogy will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal and community library audio book collections.
Quote Acrostic Favorites: Features 50 Rewarding Puzzles, Volume 5
Charles Preston, editor
9780998832296, $9.95, PB, 70pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Selected by former USA Today crossword puzzle editor Charles Preston, this new fifth edition of "Quote Acrostic Favorites" showcases 50 favorite acrostics that reveal wise and witty sayings on topics from education and humor to history and sports. Crack the clues in the word column; transfer them to the diagram; and discover quotations from people like Dave Barry, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Kuralt, Gloria Swanson, Walt Whitman, and more.
Included are 50 favorite puzzles on topics including "Gentility," "Logic in Nature," "Vanity," and "Wit Is Freedom."
Critique: A puzzle player's delight from cover to cover, this new fifth volume of "Quote Acrostic Favorites: Features 50 Rewarding Puzzles" is unreservedly recommended for all acoustic puzzle enthusiasts.
Editorial Note: Charles Preston, Crossword Puzzle Editor of USA Today and Dow Jones's National Observer for over a decade, is a distinguished crossword puzzle expert. He has compiled more than 100 puzzle books. Mr. Preston is a syndicated puzzle master and his work appears in dozens of leading newspapers and magazines across the country, including the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Martin Puryear: Liberty / Liberta
Brooke Kamin Rapaport, et al.
Gregory R. Miller & Co.
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9781941366240, $50.00, HC, 180pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Accompanying the landmark exhibition by renowned Hudson Valley - based artist Martin Puryear (born 1941), who is representing the United States at the 58th Venice Biennale, "Martin Puryear: Liberty / Liberta" captures a high point in the career of one of today's most acclaimed artists.
In addition to extensive illustrations of new sculptures made for the Biennale, including a significant site-specific work, "Martin Puryear: Liberty / Liberta" features major texts by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Darby English and Anne Wagner. The works and essays demonstrate Puryear's powerful, original and influential engagement with art history and social history on both a personal level, as an African American artist, and universally.
With a definitive illustrated chronology of the artist's career over the last fifty years, "Martin Puryear: Liberty / Liberta" provides an essential look at one of the most important artists today, who continues to work at the height of his powers.
Critique: Impressively informative, deftly illustrated throughout, "Martin Puryear: Liberty / Liberta" will prove to be a significant and valued core addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary American Art History collections in general, and Martin Puryear supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf
Interview of Douglas Cole
The Blue Island
9781949229264, $17.00, PB, 105pp
In Praise of Douglas Cole
Cristina Deptula, editor and founder of Synchronized Chaos literary magazine (synchchaos.com): "We publish art and writing from around the world and develop a monthly theme out of everything we have received. I met Douglas Cole at the Association for Writing Programs conference this past spring, and he struck me as a kind soul. His poetry reflects a genuine appreciation for life."
Jeffrey Alfier, author of The Red Stag at Carrbridge, The Storm Petrel and many more books of poetry, as well as Founder and Co-editor of Blue Horse Press and San Pedro River Review, observed: "The Blue Island is a cornucopia of a book, ranging from fine lyrics to long narratives, filled with everything from fantasy to hard-eyed examinations of life. You'll find so much here, so don't miss out."
Carol Smallwood: What gave you the desire, impetus, to write your latest collection of poems which you divided into such sections as Ascent to the Gallows?
Douglas Cole: Well, it's definitely different from the collections that came before. Looking back, I can see that Interstate is inspired by driving, the road, and the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It's a kind of travelogue, both external and internal. Then, Western Dream came about as a sort of comedy set on the West Coast. I wanted humor to be a strong part of the personality of that collection. The Dice Throwers is a mythologized autobiography, and Bali Poems is a dreamy collection I wrote on a trip to the island of Bali. The Gold Tooth in the Crooked Smile of God is a set of snapshots over five years, made up outcasts, misfits and characters on the fringes of society, with a strong Alki flavor. In contrast, The Blue Island is theatrical, cinematic, the way "Ascent to the Gallows," is a kind of movie. I was glad the folks I asked to read it for blurbs caught on to that. Not that I'm attached to readers seeing the same way I do, but The Blue Island is a quadruple-feature. I've always wanted to make films, studied film in college, thought and dreamed in technicolor. So, among the other books, The Blue Island comes most specifically from the desire to make a movie....
Carol Smallwood: Has being a resident of the state of Washington influenced this collection?
Douglas Cole: At first, I thought, no. But that's only true in regard to the "Ascent to the Gallows" section, which is largely set in Paris, France. However, that's only because that section is a movie within a movie based on the Louise Malle film as I dreamed it (without watching it), based solely on listening to, riffing on, and extrapolating from the Miles Davis Soundtrack. But when I look again, think again, I see details that come straight out of the Northwest landscape. The other sections, too, have definite details, locations and images that are specifically Northwest. I have to admit it, the landscape of the Northwest is all over my writing.
Carol Smallwood: You've published other poetry collections such as "The Gold Tooth in the Crooked Smile of God"
When did you begin writing poetry and have you had other genres published?
Douglas Cole: I began writing poetry right off the bat. Always. I love it, love the freedom of it. But I also write and have published fiction and "non-fiction."
Carol Smallwood: What work won the Best of the Net Award? Nominations for a Pushcart and other awards?
Douglas Cole: A poem called "Trunyan," from Bali Poems, was nominated for a best of the net. A poem called "Rattlesnake," from Interstate, was nominated for a Pushcart. And a story called "Flight," which is an excerpt from a forthcoming novel, was nominated for a Best of the net and a Pushcart.
Carol Smallwood: How would you describe your writing style?
Douglas Cole: It starts as a stream of consciousness, a mind movie. When I decide to make it public, I think I go through a process of making anything like style transparent, so that you just read and get lost in the dream. If you wake up and think, oh, that was beautifully written, that's my ego getting in the way.
Carol Smallwood: What are 5 magazines in which you appear among so many?
Douglas Cole: Well, five journals I've published in that stand out because they're pretty well known (at least to publishing writers) are Midwest Quarterly, Mid-American Poetry Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, Chiron, and Bitter Oleander. Those were journals I wanted very much to be in and sent a lot of stuff to over the years. But there's another five that stand out for me even more because they were the first to publish anything of mine when I didn't have any publishing credits: Raven Chronicles (now closed) published a poem of mine I submitted when I started sending work out thinking that a few publications might help me get into graduate school; that journal was just starting out and was located in Seattle. I felt very proud to be in that journal. Then there was Slipstream, which was the first glossy, perfect bound journal I was in, and then Jeopardy, Louisiana Literature, and a journal (I don't think it's around anymore) called the Mandrake Poetry Review, which was published somewhere out of Prague...I think it was? I can't remember, but they took seven poems of mine, and I just felt like a superstar. That was a fun moment.
Carol Smallwood: How does being a writing teacher relate to being a writer, as I can see it being both good and bad:
Douglas Cole: I've only experienced it as a positive relationship. If I say something as a writing teacher, like, for example, 'you should be ruthless in revision,' I apply it to myself. It's good to practice what you teach.
Smallwood: Do you have social media to share?
Douglas Cole: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/douglas.cole.372
I have an Instagram under the name Duderonimous (I know that sounds ridiculous...) I haven't used it much and don't follow many people.
I've also got a Twitter I started as part of an assignment I gave to a writing class. We all had to make a Twitter account. It was just for fun. For a while, I used it to write prose poems for myself because I liked the limit on the number of characters you can use. I thought of them as American millennial haiku. Then, when someone actually started to follow it, I stopped that and just use it occasionally to make publishing announcement.
I also have these:
Editorial Note: Carol Smallwood is a literary reader, judge, and interviewer. A recent poetry collection is Patterns: Moments in Time (WordTech Communications, 2019).
Carol Smallwood Interviews Michael Foldes, Founder, Editor-in-Chief of Ragazine https://www.ragazine.cc
The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment appears every two months with such sections as: Literary; Art, Photography; and, columns including Politics, World, Education, Resources. Well-illustrated, the free on-line popular zine has a search option to quickly locate and welcomes submissions from artists, photographers, and a wide variety of writers.
Smallwood: You graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor's in anthropology and also attended other institutions. You've been a newspaper columnist, copy editor, and an electronics businessman. Please tell readers about your service with the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry:
First of all, Carol, thanks very much for asking me to do this interview with you. I'm most pleased you've taken an interest in what we're doing and how we do it.
The CIC is an organization founded by Dr. James Palombo to promote political and social awareness, not just to push personal issues. Jim and I became acquainted several years ago when an article appeared in the local paper about "a new zine in town," and Jim called to ask if I wanted to meet for coffee or a drink.
We have similar positions on social and political issues, and later on, when he asked if I'd be interested in working with him to help promote the group, it seemed logical to sign on.
As the political editor of Ragazine, Jim is a regular contributor. His books and columns in Ragazine explore issues concerning political, legal, and social conditions in the United States and elsewhere, which pretty much reflects the core sentiments of CIC: free and open dialog to encourage citizens to educate themselves and others to make informed decisions that will affect the future in the most positive ways possible.
Smallwood: You reside in the state of New York; how did Ragazine get its name, and how/when did you establish it? What was the most challenging part?
I was still living in Columbus, Ohio, in the early 1970s when a group of friends started an alternative tabloid, arts-oriented magazine called Ragazine, to which I contributed. Later, I moved to New York City to work for High Times, and while Ragazine continued for some time in Columbus, it eventually dissolved.
My wife Margot and I were living in Tribeca and had made a number of friends and acquaintances who were artists, writers and photographers. It seemed like a good idea to start an alternative zine that would promote their work, and hopefully fill a need that was not being met by Soho Weekly, the village Voice and other alternative zines.
I had left High Times and gone to work with a construction crew renovating lofts and apartments in the City and tried my hand at publishing another alternative variously called Extra Extra and Monitor East. The idea was to give each issue a different cover name. I've never been very good at fund-raising, and couldn't afford to independently pay for printing, typesetting, and the other expenses that go along with print publishing. I think we made three issues when it went under.
A couple of years on, I changed occupations, moved upstate and went into the electronics business. The desire to publish never left. And, in 2004, with the Internet just coming into its own, I decided to resurrect Ragazine, which was - and is - something I could do in my spare time that other people use to play golf, fix up old cars, fish or go boating. The real key was, online publishing is relatively low overhead compared with print publishing.
Fortunately, I still had contacts with a number of creative friends who were - and are - willing to share their work. We've never had a cash flow to pay contributors, or the people who have worked to bring Ragazine online. We have had some donations over the years, but selling "space" has never been a big part of our effort. Just getting the work out to a larger audience has been the reward. The zine is free online, neither contributors nor staff get paid - all our income goes to covering overhead, such as our hosting site, contact distribution program and our free online daily published through paper.li.
Smallwood: Your poetry has appeared in Mobius: The Poetry Magazine; Paterson Literary Review, Rosebud, and other journals. When did you begin writing--and in what genre?
I began writing as a child. I had written a poem and showed it to one of my parents' friends, who when she read it had tears in her eyes. I didn't understand why at the time, but I did realize then that thoughts and words had power, and I've been writing one thing or another ever since. While in Ohio, after college, I published a series of poetry chapbooks, one with tipped-in prints in a special edition. I guess I've always had it in me to publish cooperative ventures - perhaps to camouflage my own work, which I've declined so far to self-publish in collections. I love the power of word and image combined, and I think that's what's helped make Ragazine.cc stand out among online publications today.
Smallwood: Please tell a bit about Fashions and Passions (Me and Utopia): How did you become involved in translations?
I came across the series by Christopher Panzner, whose Fashions and Passions is a collection of altered images based on generally well-known historical works. Chris is an American artist living in Paris. I was inspired enough by one of the images to write a poem about it, and sent it to Chris.... Soon I was writing poems for all of the series, and to my surprise, he took the poems, combined them with the images, and made a series of it. There was no translating involved. All the poems were written in English by me to go along with the specific image to which they're attached in the series.
I have had poems translated into Hungarian (by Paul Sohar, also a Ragazine contributor), Spanish, French and Slovenian.
Smallwood: What columns seem the most popular with readers?
Steve Poleskie's column, Then and Now, deals with a variety of topics of contemporary and historical interest. Steve is an artist and retired Cornell professor with wide experience in the New York City art scene. He started Chiron Press, which published fine art screen prints by a number of well-known artists in the '70s and '80s.
I would add that all the columns have - or have had - their own followings. Galanty Miller's Re-Tweets, Fred Roberts' music columns, Jim's political essays, Mark Levy's columns with free legal advice for "starving artists", Barbara Rosenthal's articles sharing her experiences as a working artist, Fabia Wong, a Canadian who writes from France, and so on. A full list of contributing columnists and editors appears in About Us, with short explanations of what each is about. We've also been fortunate to have columns by Henry Giroux, who has kindly allowed us to reprint them from their appearance in TruthOut.
Smallwood: What countries are represented by contributors and readers?
We have had contributions from Slovenia, Hungary, England, France, Spain, Japan, Germany, Canada, South Africa, and more. Our readership is global, and we espouse that the arts are a unifying ideal through which people can share in a variety of ways to gain better understanding of themselves and of one another.
Smallwood: Many magazines charge contributors fees or have ads but Ragazine does not. How does it manage?
Good question. Most of the expenses in an ongoing basis are covered by yours truly, but we do have some contributors whose names are listed on our "donors and contributors" page. Some people contribute a few times a year, and occasionally we get a large individual contribution, such as one that allowed us to incorporate, and others that seem to come in just as we think we'll never be able to pay one of our service vendors.
As I mentioned above, we've never been able to generate the cash flow needed to pay contributors - or staff - who certainly deserve whatever we would be able to pay them. It takes a very large amount of time to get out each issue, and doing it any more often than every two months with a minimal staff is out of the question without a living wage for doing it.... I don't apply for grants, as it seems to be a crap shoot who "wins" them, and I don't have the time for that...or for selling ad pages, for that matter. Occasionally we'll find a gallerist willing to kick in something, gratis for an article or just because, but that's rare. Recently I succumbed to accept a paid editorial, something I said I'd never do...it was tough decision and just covered a six-month fee from one of our vendors to ensure we stay on line for the next few months...another "just in time."
We've always hoped that enough people would get exposure, and that enough others would appreciate what they do, to keep the circulation growing. In today's world, hope is not the answer. There's just too much competition, and while you may have the reputation as offering something different or special, if you can't make people aware you're alive, you'll be trampled.
Fortunately, the work keeps coming, and people keep reading. That's what it was about in the beginning, and it really hasn't changed.
Smallwood: Writers and readers have much to thank you for! Do you have any changes planned or a wish list for Ragazine?
Ragazine has a limited lifetime ahead. We will have one more open issue, September-October Volume 15 Number 5, and then a regional issue Volume 15 Number 6, comprised of the work of local/regional talent, and regular columns. After that, it appears we'll be closing shop. We plan to discontinue publishing in January for the foreseeable future. Word is out that Chuck Haupt, our art director, and I, will be stepping away and are looking for people to step in to take it over, but no one's come forward, yet.
Chuck and I worked at the Binghamton Press together in the early '80s, where he was as staff photographer and I was on the news desk and writing columns. He has been extremely helpful putting the zine out since coming aboard several years ago. Chuck is a Red Cross volunteer and recently accepted an expanded role there leaving him little time for Ragazine. If you know anyone.... It's been a good run, 15 years without missing an issue. You can go back and visit some of the early work at www.old.ragazine.cc.
As for a wish list? A lottery jackpot might do the trick. We'd be back in the blink of an eye.
About the interviewer:
Carol Smallwood is a literary reader, judge, and interviewer. A recent poetry collection is Patterns: Moments in Time (Word Poetry, 2019).
Clabe Polk's Bookshelf
Richard T. Burke
9781916141704, $9.99, paperback, 240 pages
B07VR5VN7H, $0.99, Kindle
It's been a while since I read a book with the same level of edge-of-the-seat anxiety and anticipation as that possessed by Assassin's Web. Kudos go to Richard Burke for excellence in writing tales of high suspense.
A high school English teacher without a clue inadvertently picks up a piece of paper while walking. On it is written a cryptic web address and odd login credentials. Curious?
Or cautious? Which would you be?
A couple is murdered in their home; a home located a few yards away from where the note is found. Connected? Or not? How could he know? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it would not have mattered.
But now, suddenly it does matter; and as the cliche says "curiosity killed the cat"- or curious English teachers.
Told in the first person, the main character finds himself at the mercy of unknown antagonists seeking to kill him. Through flashbacks, readers know our hero has an unhappy family past; the operative question being how is his past germane to the current story? The author is gifted at telling two seemingly unrelated parallel stories and kneading them together when appropriate. A reader may begin the suspect the perpetrator, but may not suspect the whole story until it is revealed at the end. Throughout, the main characters are sufficiently developed to fulfill their roles in a believable manner. In the case of the main characters, readers can easily empathize with their circumstances.
Assassin's Web is teeth-gnashing entertainment from a writer of fine suspense novels and will take its place among his best. It should be enjoyed by any reader of suspense, thriller, police action, murder mystery, or other adventure novels. 5-Stars
Clabe Polk, Reviewer
Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Touch Me Not
Hereward Tilton & Merlin Cox, editors
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9781527228832, $49.95, HC, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Collaboratively edited by Hereward Tilton and Merlin Cox, "Touch Me Not: A Most Rare Compendium of the Whole Magical Art" is an Austrian manuscript compendium of the black magical arts, completed c. 1795.
Unique and otherworldly, it evokes a realm of visceral dark magic. As the co-editor of this volume Hereward Tilton notes, the manuscript "appears at first sight to be a 'grimoire' or magician's manual intended for noviciates of black magic. Psychedelic drug use, animal sacrifice, sigillary body art, masturbation fantasy and the necromantic manipulation of gallows-corpses count among the transgressive procedures it depicts. With their aid hidden treasures are wrested from guardian spirits, and the black magician's highest ambition (an infernal transfiguration and union with the Devil) can be fulfilled."
Hidden for decades within the Wellcome Library collection, "Touch Me Not" is published by the Fulgur Press as a full-color facsimile. The German and Latin texts have been translated into English by Tilton and Cox -- able scholars who have explored the sources for the various elements and provided copious references. Tilton provides an informative introduction that lays out the context for the survival of this extraordinary manuscript.
Critique: Unique and inherently fascinating, "Touch Me Not: A Most Rare Compendium of the Whole Magical Art" is a very special and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections and Medieval Magic/Alchemical supplemental studies reading lists.
A Deadly Deception
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781496706607, $26.00, HC, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "A Deadly Deception" by Tessa Harris is set in London, July 1889, with some eight months having passed since the horrific murder of Mary Jane Kelly. The residents of Whitechapel have begun breathing easy again -- daring to leave windows open and walk about at twilight. But when old Alice Mackenzie is found dead, throat slashed almost from ear to ear, the whispers begin once more: Jack the Ripper is back.
Constance Piper, a flower seller with a psychic gift, was a friend to both women. With the supernatural help of her late mentor, Miss Emily Tindall, and her more grounded ally, police detective Thaddeus Hawkins, she uncovers links between the murders and a Fenian gang. The Fenians, committed to violence to further their goal of an independent Ireland, are also implicated in a vicious attack in which the Countess of Kildane's uncle was killed. Could the Whitechapel murders be a ruse to make the British police look helpless?
Soon, Constance is called upon for help. But there are spies everywhere in the city, and a bomb plot intended to incur devastating carnage. And as Constance is fast discovering, the greatest evil may not lurk in the grimy alleys of the East End, but in a conspiracy that runs from Whitechapel to the highest office in the land.
Critique: Tessa Harris is a master of the murder mystery genre and her latest novel, "A Deadly Deception" is a simply gut-wrenching, riveting, compulsive page turner of a read from cover to cover. While unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the legions of dedicated mystery buffs in general, and Tessa Harris fans in particular, that "A Deadly Deception" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.26) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HighBridge Audio, 9781684417681, $39.99, CD).
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738761305, $16.99, PB, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: William MacNary was eight years old when his father went to prison. Since then, he's carefully built a life as a family man and a private banker for the wealthy. He tries to forget that his father dismembered and photographed thirteen women. And he tries to forget those exquisitely composed photos of severed hands, heads, and feet that launched the "murderabilia" art market.
William has not spoken to his father for thirty-one years. No one at his bank knows whose son he is. Not until his wife's colleague is murdered and carved up in the same way his father would have done it.
All the evidence points to William. And only one person can understand the copycat killer -- the monster William hasn't seen since he was a child.
Critique: A deftly crafted and inherently riveting read from cover to cover, "Murderabilia" by Carl Vonderau is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of dedicated Suspense/Thriller enthusiasts. While highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted that "Murderabilia" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).
9781788768160, $16.95, PB, 480pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A serial killer has traveled across the Eastern Quadrant of the galaxy leaving a trail of mutilated corpses behind them. Galactic Council profilers predict the next murder will occur in the Black Systems, a haven for galactic criminals.
With many of the established planetary leaders being bribed to ignore the criminal presence, they refuse to join the council and allow the Galactic Council's police force, known as the Guardians, jurisdiction.
As planetary elections approach, systems president, Coalition Master Darl, wants to eject the alien criminal society and bring his people into the galactic alliance. Risking riots and electoral failure, he requests a guardian work undercover to find the killer.
With Gaeizaan slaves once common in the Black Systems, and rumors persisting about some surviving a plague, it is agreed a guardian will come in under this guise. Space guardians from the quadrant being unable to undertake the mission in case of recognition, a Gaeizaan based guardian, Luapp Nostowe, is seconded to space duty.
To help him with the mission he needs a female assistant to act as bait and draw the killer out. He chooses Enegene Namrae, a civilian he knows has the skills to protect herself. Due to history between them, Luapp and Enegene have a mutual wariness of other, but it doesn't stop them working together.
Critique: A deftly crafted science fiction in the classic action/adventure style, "Masquerade" is an impressively entertaining novel that showcases author Kitty Cooper's genuine flair for originality and distinctively reader engaging narrative storytelling style. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to the personal reading lists of SciFi fans and community library Science Fiction collections, "Masquerade" is unreservedly recommended.
Crystal Kraayenbrink's Bookshelf
White Bird Publications
9781633633841, $18.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 253pp, www.amazon.com
Great by the pool read! I enjoyed the complex female friendship character development because it's something you don't often read about. This book also brought up real issues affecting all soldiers, especially female: the uncertainty of life after the military and dealing with the naivete of civilians. I feel like the romance in this book was too predictable but juicy and a much needed break from Joelle's self doubt at times.
Gilion Dumas' Bookshelf
Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure
Sandra A. Miller
Brown Paper Press
As a child, Sandra A. Miller gathered treasure. Stray buttons, pretty stones, even paper clips caught her magpie eye and found their way to her shoebox treasure chests. She carried her scavenger hunting habits into adulthood, finding herself one day, sometime in her forties, digging for pirate treasure in Brooklyn with a sexy man named David.
But Trove is memoir, not fiction. So reality nudges in to explain that the "pirate treasure" was buried by a couple of entrepreneurial puppeteers as a marketing stunt. Miller lives in Boston, a five-hour drive from Brooklyn, where her two kids wonder why their mom is not home with them. And her husband is getting exasperated with her buddy David now that this armchair treasure hunt has turned into an actual road trip. Is she searching for buried treasure or running away?
Miller explores these ideas and how her search for treasure has always been "an instinct born of yearning." Her parents were volatile, often angry with each other and their two daughters, although always happy and popular with outsiders. Her father died when she was 19, before she felt a connection between them. Now Miller's elderly mother is reaching her end, having never connected with Miller's children or shown Miller motherly love.
Miller summed up her feelings like this:
Maybe it had to do with growing up lonely in a middle-class, Catholic family, being a fiery young girl forced to endure a home life as empty as that hollowed-out tree stump, with no promise of treasure underneath. And maybe that girl grew into a passionate woman who still obsessively believed her only chance for happiness was buried in some unknowable place.
The narrative flows effortlessly with a casual style that is introspective but never maudlin. Just when it was starting to feel exasperating that she didn't tell her husband exactly what was on her mind, Miller brought her story to a conclusion most satisfyingly, even with a bit of a twist.
All in all, Trove is an excellent memoir. It would make a good book club pick. I would recommend it in particular for sandwich generation readers, women facing middle age, and those dealing with aging parents.
Gilion C. Dumas, Reviewer
Grace Cavalieri's Bookshelf
August 2019 Exemplars
Carman Gimenez Smith
9781555978488, $16.00, 79 pages
Gimenez Smith takes no prisoners and buys no bail bonds for how she feels about our present society. Searingly visual language fires one page after another in rhythmic chants dismantling the pseudo-comfort of American life. With meta-energy, this book changes the dialogue about human decency, for its poet is a fierce steward for change. Space and time are compressed into powerful poems that dispel old myths and make new ones demanding honesty and responsibility. Her thoughts are dangerous because they're meant to ignite the next generation to take on the world. Social morality is a feature in American poetry that's more visible than ever. This is tough talk, written and read through the heart.
People sometimes confuse me for someone else they know
because they've projected an idea onto me. I've developed
a second sense for this - some call it paranoia, but I call it
the profoundest consciousness on the face of the earth.
This gift was passed on to me from my mother who learned it from
solid and socially constructed doors whooshing inches from her face.
It may seem like a lie to anyone who has not felt the whoosh, but
a door swinging inches from your face is no joke. It feels like being
invisible, which is also what it feels like when someone looks
at your face and thinks you're someone else. In graduate school
a teacher called me by another woman's name with not even
brown skin, but what you might call a brown name. That sting
took years to overcome, but I got over it and here
I am with a name that's at the front of this object, a name
I've made singular, that I spent my whole life making.
Art by Peter Bruun
9781938144592, $13.00, 45 pages
If all loss in the world were pulled into a knot and placed into the center of your chest, that's how you'd feel reading this book. Poet Harriss loses her man, her lover, her partner, her sweetheart, little by little, as he enters the land of confusion, not taking her with him. There she is outside the bubble of Alzheimer's - with her poems and her heart and her pen and paper in hand. How many times have we read of this disease - yet why, when a poet illustrates with the blood of truth, is the shock as if for the first time? The sweetness of thought, the patience of love, the way to stay alive by writing - this is a beautiful hello/goodbye/I love you/please don't cry theme. Her Tom finds new love in a new home, calling a new friend by this poet's name. The illustrations perfectly enhance the purity of this art; and a love that stays innocent while stained by sickness.
Prologue: Man, with Alzheimer's
Falls, skins knees and elbows, forgets,
wakes to bloody sheets, maybe
learns at eighty how it must feel
to be a thirteen year old girl.
Shows off in yoga class. Such a Happy Baby!
Loves making love. Forgets we just did.
Must be reminded to put clothes on, then
layers shirt upon shirt, sock upon sock,
happily discovers he can wear two more
pairs of yoga pants over his yoga pants.
Is getting ready to take a long trip
carrying no luggage.
Four Way Books
9781945588358, $15.95, 87 pages
The author prays to the gods so she can stop praying. And here is the tone of these wry, tight minimalist poems. Each page has either a conundrum or a puzzle at the center, as Cohen's tries to light a dark world by strengthening thought and stripping words to their hidden literal meanings. We could call this counterprogramming for poetry's lyric. It's also humorous, smart and irresistible reading; and every page is a coalition of new logic - and therefore a new norm for the poem.
The shadow my mother
makes she makes
by mistake. Take
two, she says, rearranging
us in front of the camera,
in front of the brick
wall that is the sea we
are forbidden to drown
or swim in. All these
years we stare her
down, sullen, sun-
blinded. What was
the photo meant
to document? Not
that we were there -
or anywhere - but that
someone was looking.
The Milk Hours
9781571315083, $21.66, 66 pages.
"Do we make the end or does the end make us?" The poet asks, as we taste, see and smell Kentucky's natural world sheltering his poems. There are no limits to words and Jones chooses the exact ones to tell a true story of his earth, its beauty, the death of a father, and becoming a father, himself. Language and lamentation become the way to honor the world rather than succumb to it; and so, a crisis of spirit translates into hymn-like structures - with a paradox of modernism and lyricism. These poems say a crisis in life makes one live more truthfully; and if you love the sentient image, formed by intellect, you need this book.
Beneath the Trees at Ellingsworth
I wake in an orchard chaotic
with apple blossoms.
Kentucky, I know it from the smell.
Field where my dog spun circles
in blue light
bleeding from the mouth.
We piled limestone in the yard to keep the coyotes out.
Covered the grave
and marked it with a wooden cross.
My brother knots his shirt on sheep wire
scores his stomach on the rusted barbs.
His name cuts my lung like split glass -
frost in the hollow of a throat
I can't remember.
The heart's heat begins to slow.
I climb apple tree
after apple tree.
Four Way Books
9781945588389, $15.95, 109 pages
A literary star makes a debut. Not on the horizon but very close to us, in Brooklyn.
"Erou" means a god, or hero, as underpinning for the rich classical layers in these poems by a poet who's clearly guided by the ancients. And with this skill she creates a book-length lament for a father who died young. This is no ordinary document of mourning. It's an original journey transcending time where father, as ghost, is revealed and recreated. His life after death is a parallel universe gliding through every dayness, even when he spies "the inner thighs of the girls on the Q64," and his faults and shortcomings are laid bare. He pervades every section of the living world in this consummate piece of literary excellence. With grace and grandeur, a life is transformed, off-beat, irreverent, loving. Grief remembers everything but never before so originally unfolded. This is life beyond life, and it will lengthen your poetic attention span.
Fathered by rumor, raised
by ghost, you've learned
to love the slimness
of the shadow from which you grew,
the glory of the myth you inherit -
you can build a father out of this,
one side of a story you tell,
the hero's blood that claims you
in the telling - your history half-
hearsay, half-spun out or air, for
it has already been said:
You are the seed of outis,
a nothing, a false wind, trick
of light. So what now
will you call this man?
Four Way Books
9781945588402, $15.95, 136 pages
"To see it. Itself, entire." In clear direct language that moves like silk, we find every experience interesting-- poems about family, daughter, grandchildren, the doughnut baker. It shows a poet being the best he can be, engaged fully with every breath, and each living moment. Who could write a poem about a dog on a leash and allow us to know it's ours and as memorable as a moon landing? If the poet has a rough day, it's here. If he has regrets about his behavior in the past, he means it, here. We trust every word because each one's faithful to the scene, reported with simplicity and substance. When we see inside a life much like our own, reverent attention makes the ordinary something better.
October Moon on Lake
Not another poem about a stunning moon!
It won't be me who writes it.
I've heard the cliches, I've seen that shine so often,
there's nothing more to mean,
to see or say. And yet at that you ought to behold
this pair of night-time loons,
for instance, paddling through a riffled band of light
the moon has deftly laid
from that far shore to this. There may be more to come,
probably more to be told,
even more to signify. It's just that I,
feeling awkward, oblique, can't figure
how or what or why, no matter that now I consider
the cavortings over the sky
to my east of that trio of swallows, who might have returned to their holes,
twilight turning to dark,
to wherever they go after they've played themselves out.
They would have done so, no doubt,
had the moon under which they caper not been so immense,
so vivid, so candid, so bold.
The Mercy of Traffic
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
9780998892597, $15.00, 86 pages
Wendy Carlisle is alive with energy that seems to flower in her body only to show up on the page - sexy, sweet, wild child, transporting us across America. It's an internal travelogue, as well as a field of ideas, that always calculates the impossible with the belief in another probable. The tone is cutting edge: talk, sometimes hip, sometimes contemplative, but always colloquial with more than a tang of poetry pedigree. The poet is the hero of her own story showing us contemporary life with stinging accuracy and clever phrasing. There's a force of raw power in her carefully tailored lives. That's why we hear her. That's why, what she says means what it does to us.
Advice: An Arkansas Sonnet
By a lake shaped like a cartoon parrot,
we practiced the simple art.
You were seventeen and I was nineteen -
two years between us -
and then I was twenty.
This was the first math.
It was Arkansas in the Seventies
and your aunt said,
don't grin honey,
you don't want to work your skin like that.
She told me,
one day you'll be dead,
but until then put on some lipstick,
wear you a cute skirt.
An Infusion of Violets
Nancy Naomi Carlson
9780857426451, $19.00, 74 pages
The title foretells the lushness of lines. As a translator, Carlson knows the value of the rarefied word - she makes decisions from other languages in terms of cadence and sound. This shows up in her careful and credible writing where each phrase is a result of a hard choice. Formalism is a way to hold our art - when it's gifted to verse, we don't see the structure, but we do see the result, if it's a smooth constant reliable line. The poet is on point matching emotions and sensibility. They make up "tone" that advances the visceral to elevated language. These poems, years in the writing, radiate inward. She's right to call it an infusion.
Complications of the Heart
I've heard that hearts are not just simple pumps,
but storage sites of energy - rows
of twitching desires, secret romps
muffled in its four-chambered folds.
Each part carries weight - a string quartet
whose practiced rhythms fit the everyday -
and should a section fail or skip a beat
technology can shock the whole awake.
But still no surgery to transplant love,
uprooting it intact to needed space
when one mate loves too little, one too much -
asymmetry that flusters the hearts' pace.
If balance over time won't self-correct,
demand cuts off supply and hearts defect.
University Of New Mexico Press
9780826360755, $18.95, 104 pages
Old themes with new vitality: life is what we inherit every day; partnerships and the constant motion toward age; and this book translates past conditions into the present. It takes a certain kind of knowing to source personal stories objectively and without sentimentality. What we call experience is described clearly, unlocking new feelings where none are expected. What I like best are Rockman's unconventional techniques for conventional subjects - sometimes the narrations seem multidimensional. She does this with dialogue, line lengths, and surprising imagery. Craft allows the poet to layer thought so an idea is first embodied and next disclosed. Rockman is faceted and prismatic and never explains herself. This book maps a marriage and the natural laws of time on scaffolding, with a private arena made public, showing what we all want to know about ourselves.
There was the dream of a room
of glowing a windowless cave
in which a girl might live
the sun slung low
I was a burrowing creature
cap tied under my chin
cheeks their own hot planets
the sun hung low it was three it was four
snow creaked beneath my knees
sweat at my neck breath steamed
before dark before supper
before the call to come in
son nudging its orange ball
between my knees half of me in
on all fours half of me out
a door a roof coming true
and freckles curving up and I
did not stop to think am I happy
did not pause to hear an odd bird
I'd have a house at dusk
I'd have a home before dark
Days of Our Lives
Four Way Books
9781945588365, $15.95, 143 pages
I couldn't stop reading it, with the suspense of a novel, page after page; the stories build, a brilliant chronology - every day is a diary of detail in a marriage that starts at the very first touch between two people on a rooftop, and moves to its dreadful conclusion. I want to praise the imaginative entry to each line, the shifts in tone and temperament, the grip on subject, along with uncanny ability to hold onto plot and psychological action - surprising moves, good word shifts - only a few poets can write characters occupying poems in sequence. Gluck comes to mind, more than once here, with the control, the ability to temporize decline and keep it alive and make it last through the pages. The narrative and story are strong. The voice is bright and defiant in spite of hardship. Both modest and proud, this writing makes my heart beat fast as if it were an action adventure novel. It captures you. I don't know how else to say it.
Postcard from School
Out of the dorm her first hard year:
four beds jammed together - no place
to be alone except asleep. Out of the alarm
cracking the winter-dark morning;
out of the dim bare bulbs
over the cows' breath and shit
steaming - hauling milk cans
and shoveling gutters. Out
of the phone booth filled
with tears: fear of never being
pretty/bright/liked/loved enough -
To find the card, the stamp, the mailbox,
to know exactly what to write
and write it, reaching me at my own
school, where I read it over
and over to myself and to friends:
Dear Mom, Do you feel young again?
Also, on the Best Books List for August, Prose:
A Life in A Poem
9781848616646, $27.50, 400 pages
This is one of the great minds of our time. I'm only on page 78 and I know more about the Bible and the ancient Greeks and poetry than ever before in my life. This is the book you were waiting for to fill in those islands of thought you'd abandoned.
because the light will not forgive me
Shaun T. Griffin
University of Nevada Press
9781948908122, $27.95, 244 pages
Meditations and encounters by a true humanist. The mercy of a good man who makes the world better, now sharing his thinking about his actions. Griffin's work in the world will not be forgotten.
9781571313867, $15.00, 220 pages
A biography that takes the story of suffering and points it to the healing energy of art, then to the emotional energy of compassion.
Meadows of Memory
Poems and Prose by Lidia Kosk
Translated by Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka
9781627202336 $12.99 amazon.com
A woman, who is a poet, selects her mother's work to translate from Polish, preserving the reality of a world immersed in World War ll, transforming events with imagination and memory.
Best Young Adult Literature
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
9781328594433, $17.99, 345 pages
A novel in poetry.
A young university student pits herself against Hitler's regime, performing acts of resistance, facing crimes punishable by death along with her brother. Young people brought before the Gestapo hope "our deaths will mean something."
Other Words for Home
9780062747808, $16.99, 342 pages
A novel in poetry.
A young girl leaves Syria to live in Ohio with relatives, learning how to find herself, how to find a true "home;" a story of self-discovery and belonging." ...that they all see people like me/ and think/ violence/ sadness/ war..."
Grace Cavalieri, Reviewer & Maryland's Poet Laureate
Washington Independent Review of Books
Jack Mason's Bookshelf
Game of Thrones: The Storyboards
William Simpson & Michael Kogge
PO Box 3088, San Rafael, CA 94912
9781683836162, $60.00, HC, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Game of Thrones: The Storyboards" is an exceptional art collection featuring scenes from seasons one through seven, Game of Thrones as GOT storyboard artist William Simpson shares the brilliant work that is an integral part of assembling each episode of the award-winning series.
A gorgeous coffee table style book, "Game of Thrones: The Storyboards" features a unique behind-the-scenes look into pivotal moments and early conceptual art from Game of Thrones. Curated from Simpson's extensive archive, this revealing collection represents the exemplary artistic development involved in one of the most visually dynamic shows on television.
"Game of Thrones: The Storyboards" is the definitive compendium of storyboards for this hit series and captures the impressive scope of its rich development and artistry.
Critique: With "Game of Thrones: The Storyboards", an official collection featuring striking storyboard art, all dedicated fans can now go behind the scenes of HBO's global television phenomenon -- Game of Thrones. A unique collection that is housed in a finely crafted, deluxe slipcase "Game of Thrones: The Storyboards" is a must-have for all GOT fans, and will prove to be an enduringly popular and unique addition to personal, community, and academic library collections.
Byrd of Legislative Hall
Robert Lee Byrd, author
Celia Cohen, author
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587905025, $19.95, PB, 283pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Robert Lee Byrd has been hearing for years he ought to write a book, so he did. The reason he has been hearing it, is he has been in the know on just about every deal that has gone down in the back rooms and corridors of power in Delaware over some 40 years he has spent as a legislator and lobbyist.
Not only has Bob Byrd seen it all, he has seen who was in on it pulling the strings. He knows how to maneuver a governor into not vetoing a bill. He knows the reason people in Delaware can ride motorcycles with the helmet on their motorcycle and not their head. He knows why there were no Budweiser Clydesdales in a parade when Joe Biden was elected vice president.
Byrd had a choice. He could have decided to take his secrets to the grave, where dead men tell no tales, but he did not. It was much more fun to put them in a book.
Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively candid account of 'real world politics' in the hallowed halls of the Delaware state house, "Byrd of Legislative Hall" is an unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library political biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of political science students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Byrd of Legislative Hall" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).
George R. La Noue
Carolina Academic Press
700 Kent Street, Durham, NC 27701
9781531016029, $21.00, PB, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Recently, many American higher education institutions have endured politically motivated disturbances undermining academic freedom. Unlike the wave of disruptions under the expanded free speech banner in the Sixties, these new protests have often sought to limit the speech of invited speakers, campus spokespersons, and the media with whom they disagreed. In response, many prominent persons, including former President Obama, university leaders, and faculty senates, have sought to restore the primacy of open dialogue as an academic ideal.
The barking dog of censorship usually creates attention. "Silenced Stages: The Loss of Academic Freedom and Campus Policy Debates" by George R. La Noue (Professor Emeritus and Research Professor in Public Policy and Political Science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County) discusses incidents that created national publicity at Amherst, Brown, City University of New York, Evergreen, Lewis and Clark, Michigan, Middlebury, New York University, Reed, Seattle, Yale, UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, Vanderbilt, and Wesleyan.
But, if that guard dog just silently patrols the fences of acceptable campus discourse, nothing may be heard in the vacuum created. Many speakers will not be invited and many public policy issues will be thought too controversial for open discussion. Even tenured faculty may avoid expressing ideas that will upset their colleagues or campus activists. For free speech, the problem may be more often what is omitted from campus discussions, the silenced stages, than overt suppression.
"Silenced Stages" also reports on original research about the topics and participants in on-campus policy debates or forums where divergent viewpoints were presented regarding 24 national policy areas. Accessing campus calendars for 2014 and 2015 in a stratified national sample of 97 universities and colleges and 28 law schools enrolling 991,802 students annually, the results show a paucity of such events, except at very elite wealthy institutions or law schools.
For most students in American higher education, the opportunity to hear on-campus debates about important public policy issues does not exist. Free speech for controversial speakers dominates the press coverage, but the more important story of the absence of debate and divergent opinion is missed.
Critique: A critically important and erudite study of a significant and growing problem plaguing our institutions of higher learning, "Silenced Stages: The Loss of Academic Freedom and Campus Policy Debates" is unreservedly recommended for both college and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Silenced Stages" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.80).
American Comic Book Chronicles: 1940-1944
Kurt F. Mitchell, et al.
10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614
9781605490892, $44.95, HC, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The American Comic Book Chronicles continues its ambitious series of full color hardcover histories where TwoMorrows Publishing's top authors document every decade of comic book history. This newest addition covers 1940 to 1944.
Kurt Mitchell and editor Roy Thomas composed this volume about the "Golden Age" of the comic book industry that was a five-year period (1940-1944) producing the earliest adventures of such iconic super-heroes as Batman, Captain Marvel, Superman, and Wonder Woman. It was a time when America's entry into World War II was presaged by the arrival of such patriotic do-gooders as Will Eisner's Uncle Sam, Harry Shorten and Irv Novick's The Shield, and Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Captain America.
It was also when teenage culture found expression in a fumbling red-haired high school student named Archie Andrews. But most of all, the first five years of the 1940s was the age of the "packagers" when studios headed by men like Harry A Chesler, Will Eisner, and Jerry Iger churned out material for a plethora of new comic book companies that published the entire gamut of genres, from funny animal stories to crime tales to jungle sagas to science-fiction adventures.
These are just a few of the events chronicled in this exhaustive, full-color hardcover edition of "American Comic Book Chronicles: 1940-1944".
Critique: Providing an informed and informative linear overview of the entire landscape of comics history during the World War II era, "American Comic Book Chronicles: 1940-1944" is profusely illustrated throughout, making it an essential and enduringly valued addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library 20th Century American Popular Culture collections in general, and 20th Century Comic Book History supplemental studies lists in particular.
The Alien Book
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Rd., #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578596874, $19.95, PB, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Compiled by Nick Redfern, "The Alien Book: A Guide to Extraterrestrial Beings on Earth" shows that extraterrestrial life comes in all kinds, appearances, sizes, and bodies. They all have one thing in common, however: the human race has encountered them, and we continue to do so today. Not just dozens, or even hundreds, but thousands of eyewitness experiences have been reported.
Covering hundreds of extraterrestrial life forms in more than 40 thematic chapters, this absorbing look at the mysteries of aliens on earth includes: The Space Brothers: long-haired, very human-looking ETs; The fiendish Reptilians: seven-to-eight-foot-tall predatory shapeshifters; Men in Black beings: extremely pale-skinned, tall, and with huge eyes; Black-eyed Children: anemic-looking kids with solid black eyes that might be ET-human hybrids; Bigfoot; The werewolf-like Dogmen; Jellyfish-style aliens that soar around the skies of our world; The Shadow People: dangerous humanoids that terrorize people; The legendary Nephilim; Space-Vampires: insect-like aliens that resemble a giant praying mantis; and many, many more!
With more than 120 photos and graphics, "The Alien Book" investigates the full range of sentient, alien life forms. Some are benign and others downright deadly. Some are small, like a germ or virus that has NASA, creating guidelines to deal with an outbreak of an extraterrestrial germ. Some are big like a giant praying mantis or the biblical Goliath. They all lurk on Earth and in this chilling book!
Critique: An inherently fascinating volume for UFO believers to browse through, and featuring an impressive bibliography, "The Alien Book: A Guide to Extraterrestrial Beings on Earth" is a profusely illustrated and impressively informative compendium of descriptive alien lore that is unreservedly recommended for personal and community library collections.
Janice Stanner's Bookshelf
Dream Take Flight: An Unconventional Journey
9780997072327, $14.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle
9780997072341, $27.99, HC, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Mesmerizing storytelling drive this heart-warming story of an introverted girl who succeeds against the odds. What a fascinating memoir--so unusual for a memoir to have this level of entertainment and insight. Exhilarating and magnetic, I really didn't want to stop reading . . . and didn't to the exclusion of everything else. Not to give anything away, but the story does leave you with an uplifted, satisfied feeling--such a pleasure amidst this somewhat depressing world news cycle.
The other fascinating aspect of this amazing memoir is that Lisa actually gives you advice in the last section of the book--how-to advice on values and goal setting. I love how-to books, and this section on reaching your own goals was as succinct as I have seen in all the tomes I have read on goal setting. Most authors make it too complicated, but Lisa cuts to the chase and tells you only what you need to know to get it right--and it will take you a weekend to do this, well worth it.
This should be required reading for college students. They will all end up being high achievers like Lisa.
As I was captivated with each page, I was also in awe of the skilled degree that Lisa was able to put me right there with her. Her writing is exceptional at bringing each scene to life--not just right before your eyes but in your heart. Lisa is relatable, funny, inspiring, humble--without trying to be anything other than herself. There is such honest vulnerability, and her never-stop attitude gives us all perspective that we too can keep going--even pursue our dreams. I loved the adventure aspect of it, and have so much respect for the author in what she has done and in sharing it so eloquently.
The bonus of the life goals section is a great check-in 1-2 times every year--for bigger or smaller things you're thinking about. For everyone: How cool to have a reminder that you can be just who you are, have an impact on others, be gracious, kind and grateful--and all of that about you matters and is worth it. Lisa shows us that on every page.
This is an extraordinary, life changing read that you don't want to miss.
John Burroughs' Bookshelf
The Art of the Cocktail
Hamish Anderson, author
Charlotte Trounce, illustrator
Salvatore Calabrese, foreword
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781781576564, $12.99, HC, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A cocktail is an alcoholic mixed drink, which is either a combination of spirits, or one or more spirits mixed with other ingredients such as fruit juice, flavored syrup, or cream. There are various types of cocktails, based on the number and kind of ingredients added. The origins of the cocktail are debated. (Wikipedia)
A integral part of the nightlife enjoyed by artists from Toulouse-Lautrec (who famously carried a draft of absinthe in a hollowed-out walking stick), to Andy Warhol (who revelled at Studio 54), "The Art of the Cocktail" is a compendium of cocktail recipes that full capture the artistic spirit in spirits with recipes for 50 art-themed drinks, including such creations as: Dali Wallbanger; Klein Blue Moon; Whamm! Bamm! Pow!; Picasso Sour; Frida Kahlua; Rene Margarita; and the Hirst-inspired Shark Bite.
Original, colourful and bright illustrations accompany classic cocktails and modern concoctions, each cocktail is tied directly to a particular artist's story.
Critique: A cocktail drinker's pleasure to browse through and inspiring to plan cocktail parties with, "The Art of the Cocktail" is highly recommended for personal, professional bar tender, and community library collections. It should be noted that "The Art of the Cocktail" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).
Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850 - 1945
Daniel F. Doeppers
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299305109, $79.95, HC, 472pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Governmental policymakers and scholars have come to realize that getting food, water, and services to the millions who live in the world's few dozen megacities is one of the twenty-first century's most formidable challenges. As these populations continue to grow, apocalyptic scenarios in the form of sprawling slums plagued by hunger, disease, and social disarray become increasingly plausible.
In "Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850 - 1945", Daniel F. Doeppers (Professor Emeritus of Geography and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison) deftly traces nearly a century in the life of Manila, one of the world's largest cities, to show how it grew and what sustained it.
Professor Doeppers follows key commodities for the city (rice, produce, fish, fowl, meat, milk, flour, coffee) and their complex interconnections. In the process he considers the changing ecology of the surrounding region as well as the social fabric that weaves together farmers, merchants, transporters, storekeepers, and door-to-door vendors.
Critique: A meticulous work of seminal scholarship, "Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850 - 1945" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of numerous illustrations, an eight page Glossary, eighty-four pages of Notes, and a forty-five page Index. Exceptionally well organized and presented, this original study is unreservedly recommended for college and university library collections History & Geography collections in general, and Philippines Colonial Era History supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945" is also available in a paperback edition (9780299308445, $32.95).
The White Lotus War
University of Washington Press
PO Box 359570, Seattle, WA 98195-9570
9780295745459, $60.00, HC, 664pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The White Lotus War (1796 - 1804) in central China marked the end of the Qing dynasty's golden age and the fatal weakening of the imperial system itself. What started as a local rebellion grew into a serious political crisis, as the central government was no longer able to operate its military machine.
"The White Lotus War: Rebellion and Suppression in Late Imperial China" by Yingcong Dai (Professor of History at William Paterson University) presents a comprehensive investigation that reveals that the White Lotus rebels would have remained a relatively minor threat, if not for the Qing's ill-managed response.
Professor Dai shows that the officials in charge of the suppression campaign were half-hearted about the fight and took advantage of the campaign to pursue personal gains. She challenges assumptions that the Qing relied upon local militias to exterminate the rebels, showing instead that the hiring of civilians became a pretext for misappropriation of war funds, resulting in the devastatingly high cost of the war. The mishandled demilitarization of the militiamen prolonged the hostilities when many of the dismissed troops turned into rebels themselves. The war's long-term impact presaged the beginning of the disintegration of the Qing in the mid-nineteenth century and eruptions of the Taiping Rebellion and other uprisings.
Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a sixteen page Bibliography, one hundred and two pages of Notes, a fourteen page Chinese Character Glossary, an Appendix (Allocations of War Funds, 1796-1804), and a sixty-five page Index, "The White Lotus War: Rebellion and Suppression in Late Imperial China" is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Chinese History collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, scholars of late imperial and modern Chinese history, and nonspecialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The White Lotus War" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $53.10).
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781631066634, $22.99, HC, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Matthias Hechler developed the "Success Journal" as a result of his own personal discovery adventure, after finding that he didn't need a standard planner/calendar or have time to do long mindfulness exercises included in other journals. "Success Journal" contains only one, quick morning routine to perform and includes concise prompts for each day. Set your goals in the first section, then get started on them in the structured daily journaling pages that follow.
The goal-setting part of the journal helps you find your personal values, set your goals, create a life vision, and get a clearer idea of who you are and what you want. It serves as a launchpad and base camp of how to work, record, and achieve what you want. You'll learn how to visualize and evaluate goals, track habits, and create wish lists.
The daily journaling pages provide space to answer reflection questions, think, and record your daily goals. Prompts include: How do I feel today? What will I do today to achieve my goal? What can I do for other people today? What makes me grateful and happy? Weekly, monthly, and quarterly reviews are incorporated into the pages to help you accomplish your long-term goals.
Critique: Exceptionally well laid out in organization and presentation, "Success Journal" is impressively 'user friendly' and an ideal way to organize and pursue any personal and/or professional goal by breaking down its pursuit into achievable and recorded steps. The "Success Journal" is especially ideal and recommended for use by anyone with limited time available for daily planning.
Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer
Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD
9780578557649, $14.99 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 212pp.
Synopsis: In "Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer", family doctor, teacher, and researcher who is also a stage 4 lung cancer patient himself, Morhaf Al Achkar tells the stories of 39 patients with incurable lung cancer. His aim is to help patients, families, and healthcare providers understand the experience of living with cancer. He also invites reflections on the essential questions of meaning, resilience, and coping with adversity in life. Dr. Achkar himself is patient #40.
Patients with cancer often have an urgency to find meaning in life. They struggle with the illness, its emotional impact, and the consequences of treatments. However, with time, reflection, and support from others, they develop resilience. Cancer patients often are not passive. Instead, they choose different strategies to maintain and restore their health. They also leverage a variety of approaches to cope better with their struggle.
While "Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer" is especially meant for cancer patients who are tarrying at the limits of time, it is also for of immense value those who live around patients with cancer: caregivers, families and friends, and health care providers.
People who struggle with other illnesses will also find aspects of their story reflected here. Also, the ones who have experienced a crisis of identity will discover elements of their story here as well. By sharing the experiences of the forty authentic individuals, "Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer" opens the space for them to teach others.
Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer" is ultimately inspiring and unreservedly recommended for all cancer patients and their loved ones. A potentially life changing, life improving read, "Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer" is an especially commended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Health/Medicine collections in general, and Cancer Issues supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of medical students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer" is available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99, www.Amazon.com)
Editorial Note: Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, Ph.D. was born in Aleppo-Syria and migrated to the United States in 2006 after finishing medical school. He also obtained a Ph.D. in Education from Indiana University. Currently, he is a practicing family physician and a faculty member at the University of Washington.
Julie Summers' Bookshelf
Undercover Bag Lady
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781620236307, $19.95, PB, 100pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: After leading a small nondenominational church and helping to serve the homeless community for 30 years, former pastor Kimberly Bowman set out on a social experiment that was decades in the making. A lifelong curiosity in human interaction and a passion to enact social change distilled themselves in the Undercover Bag Lady project.
Carefully disguised in tattered layers of dirty rags, Kimberly Bowman assumed the life of Jean, the homeless bag lady, and approached 10 different churches from the heart of the Bible Belt. Over the course of eight weeks, Jean attended Sunday morning services and took note of the reception her indigent character received.
From outright hostility to overwhelming generosity, the undercover bag lady encountered the full spectrum of humanity's potential for acceptance. 'Undercover Bag Lady: An Expose of Christian Attitudes Toward the Homeless' examines the silent hypocrisy and the humbling benevolence that exist beyond the closed doors of the Christian church. In beautifully poignant prose, this unyielding expose of a silent, fringe community's experiences turns the mirror on the Christian Church and compels it to examine if it is truly following Christ's message of unconditional love.
Critique: An inherently fascinating and candidly reported study, "Undercover Bag Lady" should be considered mandatory reading for all members of the Christian community. While very highly recommended for church, seminary, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Undercover Bag Lady" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).
Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories
380 New York Street, Redlands, CA 92378-8100
9781589485280, $34.99, HC, 232pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Women look to other women as role models and for inspiration. Seeing confidence, leadership, and accomplishments in other women helps a young woman envision herself with those qualities.
Compiled by the staff of ESRI Press, "Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories" tells the tales of how 23 women applied themselves and overcame obstacles, using maps, analysis, and geographic information systems (GIS) to contribute to their professions and the world. Sharing the experiences of their childhoods, the mis-starts and challenges they faced, and the lessons they learned, each story is a celebration of a woman's unique path and of the perseverance and hard work it takes to achieve success.
From oceanographers to activists, archaeologists to entrepreneurs, the women in "Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories" can serve as mentors to motivate readers who are developing their own life stories and inspire their potential in a new way.
Critique: As informative and insightful as they are inspired and inspiring, the women's stories showcased in "Women and GIS" would be beneficial examples for all women with goals and ambitions of their own. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Women and GIS" is also available in a paperback edition (9781589485679, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).
Surviving the State, Remaking the Church
Li Ma, author
Jin Li, contributor
c/o Wipf and Stock
9781532634604, $27.00, PB, 226pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China" is a sociological portrait that presents how Chinese Christians have coped with life under hostile political regimes over a span of different historical periods, and how Christian churches as collective entities have been reshaped by ripples of social change.
China's change from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, or from an agrarian society to an urbanizing society, are admittedly significant phenomena worthy of scholarly attention, but real changes are about values and beliefs that give rise to social structures over time. The growth of Christianity has become interwoven with the disintegration or emergence of Chinese cultural beliefs, political ideologies, and commercial values.
Relying mainly on an oral history method for data collection, "Surviving the State, Remaking the Church" allow the narratives of Chinese Christians to speak for themselves. Identifying the formative cultural elements, a socio-historical analysis also helps to lay out a coherent understanding of the complexity of religious experiences for Christians in the Chinese world.
"Surviving the State, Remaking the Church" also serves to bring back scholarly discussions on the habits of the heart as the condition that helps form identities and nurture social morality, whether individuals engage in private or public affairs.
Critique: A detailed and documented study, "Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China" is an original and seminal work of meticulous scholarship making it a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library Chinese History & Culture collections in general, and Chinese Christian supplemental sociology studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: Li Ma has a PhD in sociology from Cornell University. She is currently a Research Fellow at the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jin Li is a PhD student at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Wisdom
Hampton Roads Publishing Company
65 Parker St., Ste. 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781571748355, $15.95, PB, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Gibran Khalil Gibran (January 6, 1883 - April 10, 1931) was a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist, also considered a philosopher (Wikipedia)
Compiled by Neil Douglas-Klotz, "Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Wisdom" is a collection of Gibran's words on how to live. Here presented are his thoughts on what it means to live in community and solitude and what gives life meaning, along with his often prescient views on government, organized religion, wealth, and commerce.
Gibran did not recognize any ultimate authority outside of the human soul: "It were wiser to speak less of God, whom we cannot understand and more of each other, whom we may understand."
"Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Wisdom" is the essential Gibran, with 88 selections organized into 5 sections that elucidate answers to the questions that each of us face: Living a Wise Life; Community Wisdom: Wise Exchange; Wisdom from Solitude; Wisdom Beyond Words
An inspirational gift volume, "Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Wisdom" gently guides readers through life's big issues: meaning and mortality, good and evil, and discovering an authentic spiritual path.
Critique: Introducing the thought, wisdom, and insights of one of the most inspiring and popular early 20th Century American philosophers whose influence continues to this day, "Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Wisdom" is an extraordinary and highly recommended introduction Gibran to a new general of appreciative readers. Inspired and inspiring, "Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Wisdom" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Wisdom" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.95).
Dancing Spirit, Love, and War
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299322007, $42.95, HC, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Evadne Kelly is an independent artist-scholar. Her research focuses on the political and social dimensions of dance traditions and her publications appear in Pacific Arts Journal, The Dance Current, Performance Matters, and Fiji Times.
Meke, a traditional rhythmic dance accompanied by singing, signifies an important piece of identity for Fijians. Despite its complicated history of colonialism, racism, censorship, and religious conflict, meke remained a vital part of artistic expression and culture.
In "Dancing Spirit, Love, and War: Performing the Translocal Realities of Contemporary Fiji", Kelly performs close readings of the dance in relation to an evolving landscape, following the postcolonial reclamation that provided dancers with political agency and a strong sense of community that connected and fractured Fijians worldwide.
Through extensive archival and ethnographic fieldwork in both Fiji and Canada, Kelly offers key insights into an underrepresented dance form, region, and culture. Her perceptive analysis of meke will be of interest in dance studies, postcolonial and Indigenous studies, anthropology and performance ethnography, and Pacific Island studies.
Critique: An impressive and original work of meticulously researched and expertly presented scholarship, "Dancing Spirit, Love, and War: Performing the Translocal Realities of Contemporary Fiji" features numerous illustrations, a two page glossary, thirty-two pages of notes, a fourteen page bibliography, and a twenty-three page index. An extraordinarily detailed and fully documented study, "Dancing spirt, Love, and War" is an especially recommended addition to college and university library Anthropology collections in general, and Fijian cultural studies supplemental reading lists in particular.
Present through the End
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611807684, $16.95, PB, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Kirsten DeLeo is an international trainer with the Spiritual Care Program, an outreach network that offers education and care in eleven countries. For fourteen years she served as lead faculty of "Authentic Presence," a professional certificate in contemplative end-of-life care that was launched at Naropa University and now runs as an independent program. She is a member of the Buddhist Ministry Work Group, an initiative of Harvard School of Divinity. Kirsten has been teaching in the field of contemplative care for more than twenty-five years, is a counselor, and has been immersed in Buddhist practice for over twenty years, including a three-year meditation retreat.
In "Present through the End: A Caring Companion's Guide for Accompanying the Dying" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to offer the guidance and essential wisdom we need when we are struggling to support someone who is nearing death. "Present through the End" helps us meet the many challenges ahead and navigate through difficult times with clarity and kindness -- both for the person who is dying and also for ourselves.
"Present through the End" is a compendium of down-to-earth advice and offers short, simple "on the spot" tools to help us handle our emotions, deal with difficult relationships, talk about spiritual matters, practice self-care, listen fully, and more. "Present through the End" offers insight and encouragement when we are unsure what to do or say and shows us how to be present even though we may feel utterly helpless, love when loss is just around the corner, and be fully alive to each moment as time runs out.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Present through the End: A Caring Companion's Guide for Accompanying the Dying" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, hospice center, community, and academic library Death & Dying instructional reference collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of nursing home and hospice care workers, social workers and counselors, and anyone with a terminally ill loved one or family member that "Present throughout the End" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).
Searching for the Amazons
148 West 37th Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781681776750, $27.95, HC, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Since the time of the ancient Greeks people have been fascinated by accounts of the Amazons, an elusive tribe of hard-fighting, horse-riding female warriors. Equal to men in battle, legends claimed they cut off their right breasts to improve their archery skills and routinely killed their male children to purify their ranks.
For centuries people believed in their existence and attempted to trace their origins. Artists and poets celebrated their battles and wrote of Amazonia. Spanish explorers, carrying these tales to South America, thought they lived in the forests of the world's greatest river, and named it after them. In the absence of evidence, we eventually reasoned away their existence, concluding that these powerful, sexually liberated female soldiers must have been the fantastical invention of Greek myth and storytelling. Until now.
Following decades of new research and a series of groundbreaking archeological discoveries, we now know these powerful warrior queens did indeed exist. In "Searching for the Amazons: The Real Warrior Women of the Ancient World ", John Man travels to the grasslands of Central Asia ranging from the edge of the ancient Greek world to the borderlands of China, in order to discover the truth about these women whose legend has resonated over the centuries.
Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative study that includes a six page bibliograph, "Searching for the Amazons: The Real Warrior Women of the Ancient World" is an extraordinary and exceptionally well written history that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular edition for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, that "Searching for the Amazons" is also available in a paperback edition (9781643131474, $17.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: John Man is a historian specializing in Asia and the nature of leadership. John's books have been published in over twenty languages around the world and include bestselling biographies of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, and Attila the Hun, as well as histories of the Great Wall of China and the Mongolian Empire.
Patricia A. Mitchell, editor
Myers Education Press
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781975500825, $145.00, HC, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Patricia A. Mitchell ( Professor Emeritus and the former chair of the Department of Leadership Studies at the University of San Francisco), "Ethical Decision-Making: Cases in Organization and Leadership" provides a unique collection of case studies across a wide range of organizations (higher education, K-12 education, military, state and local government administration, non-profit institutions, and agency management, etc.).
Collectively, these cases examine ethical decision-making and organizational and leadership behavioral concepts that are practiced in these organizations. The individual cases cover topics facing our workforce today and ask the reader to solve the dilemma. Through a discussion of these cases, students apply decision making and organizational and leadership strategies to analyze each case and therefore gain a better understanding of how to effectively lead and manage within their organizations.
The contributors to "Ethical Decision-Making" challenge students to think critically and analytically. Students are encouraged to reflect on options a practitioner could use to solve the problem. All of the cases end with an open scenario and a set of questions, allowing students to offer a wide range of opinions and participate in reflective and robust discussions.
Critique: Featuring a complete listing of all the contributors and their credentials, "Ethical Decision-Making: Cases in Organization and Leadership" is exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library Contemporary Ethics & Leadership collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Ethical Decision-Making: Cases in Organization and Leadership" is also available in a paperback edition (9781975500832, $42.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $40.80).
Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Random House
9780451492845, $26.00, HC, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Georgie was so excited when Darcy announced out of the blue that they were flying to Kenya for their extended honeymoon. Now that they are there, Georgie suspect he has actually been sent to fulfill another secret mission. Trying very hard not to pick a fight about it, because after all, they are in paradise!, Darcy finally confides in Georgie that there have been robberies in London and Paris. It seems the thief was a member of the aristocracy and may have fled to Kenya. Since the two of them are staying in the Happy Valley (the center of upper-class English life) they were well positioned to hunt for clues and ferret out possible suspects!
These aristocrats are a thoroughly loathsome sort enjoying a completely decadent lifestyle filled with wild parties and rampant infidelity. And one of the leading lights in the community, Lord Cheriton, has the nerve to make a play for Georgie while on her honeymoon!
Then Lord Cheriton is found bloodied and lifeless along a lonely stretch of road appearing to have fallen victim to a lion. But it seems that the Happy Valley community wants to close the case a bit too quickly. Darcy and Georgie soon discover that there is much more than a simple robbery and an animal attack to contend with here in Kenya. Nearly everyone has a motive to want Lord Cheriton dead and some will go to great lengths to silence anyone who asks too many questions!
Critique: Another wonderfully entertaining and deftly scripted novel in author Rhys Bowen's 'A Royal Spyness Mystery' series, "Love and Death Among the Cheetahs" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the legions of Rhys Bowen mystery fans that "Love and Death Among the Cheetahs" is also available for their personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).
Kaye Trout's Bookshelf
Avenging Angel: Love & Death in Old Brooklyn
Charles S. Isaacs
Black Rose Writing
9781684332472, $21.95, 393 Pages, Paperback
Rating: Very Good
Beginning as always, I quote from the back cover:
"A riveting tale of revenge, survival, and redemption, wrapped around an unlikely love story, and set against an urban backdrop corrupted by bigotry and misogyny.
"Following a racially motivated rape by three Ku Klux Klansmen, 12-year-old Cassandra Monroe vows revenge. After eight years of training, now a strikingly beautiful assassin, she accomplishes her mission.
"Her campaign continues with solitary walks through dark city streets, hoping to be assaulted by men with bad intentions. Those entrapped by her spider's web pay dearly for their efforts.
Surrounded by three men one night, she's rescued by Mike Borelli, an Italian-American passerby. A stormy, up-and-down relationship ensues. Ultimately, as her rage matures into purposeful action, and as he begins to see the world through her eyes, they become a team.
"Along the way, they encounter serial killers, wife-beaters, actual and would-be rapists, gangsters, crooked cops, a kidnapper and a pedophile priest, as well as numerous women in desperate need of their help. Beneath all the action, though, is the blossoming of a most unusual love story."
And, yes indeed, all that is promised is delivered. The fast-paced action keeps you turning the pages. I started reading one night and finished the 393-page book the next day--unusual for me. The chapters are short and tight, moving from one event to another, yet providing adequate character development.
Some books are plot driven, while others are character driven. I would say this is an excellent blend of both. An easy, smooth read, yet the subject matter and vigilante aspect stir conflicting emotions. Is it okay for a murderer to live happily ever after? Regardless of the justification behind killing.
As I read, I thought of Charles Bronson in his Death Wish movie series and also of Tim Hutton in the TV series Leverage, both based on the premise that something is broken in our justice system--more so for some than others. Therefore, it's acceptable to kill bad people who do terrible things to weaker, innocent people. Perhaps, vicariously, we wish it were acceptable.
Charles Isaacs's Avenging Angel may be a fiction novel but it's a novel about real and serious problems that still exist in society today--abusive and predatory men, organized crime, pedophiles, racism.
Isaacs's writing is similar in quality to John Dunning's Booked to Die but with a little less finesse. Generally, the novel is well-written and well-edited, and I can recommend it highly as an excellent, entertaining, thought-provoking read.
Kaye Trout, Reviewer
Kirk Bane's Bookshelf
When the Movies Mattered: The New Hollywood Revisited
Jonathan Kirshner and Jon Lewis, eds.
Cornell University Press
9781501736100, $19.95, paperback, www.amazon.com
Readers interested in films of the 1960s and 1970s will applaud the publication of this informative and engaging new anthology, ably edited by Jonathan Kirshner and Jon Lewis. Dr. Kirshner teaches at Boston College and is the author of Hollywood's Last Golden Age: Politics, Society, and the Seventies Film in America (2012). Dr. Lewis, whose books include Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles (2017), Essential Cinema: An Introduction to Film Analysis (2017), and American Film: A History (2nd edition, 2019), teaches at Oregon State University.
Comprised of an Introduction, nine chapters, and a Coda, When the Movies Mattered examines the New Hollywood era, which lasted approximately from 1967-1976. For cinema enthusiasts, this was an exceptionally rich period, "an exciting decade of moviemaking" when "European-influenced, character-driven auteur American films" made their impact. This golden age saw the release of such iconic pictures as Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969), MASH (Robert Altman, 1970), The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971), Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols, 1971), The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971), The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972), Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973), Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974), Shampoo (Hal Ashby, 1975), Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976), and Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976).
Kirshner and Lewis have assembled an impressive team of writers, including academics and film critics; among their contributors are J. Hoberman, David Thomson, Phillip Lopate, and Molly Haskell. Essays in this collection include "City of Losers, Losing City: Pacino, New York, and the New Hollywood Cinema," "The Parallax View: Why Trust Anyone?," "The Spirit of '76: Travis, Rocky, and Jimmy Carter," and "What 'Golden Age'? A Dissenting Opinion." Movie connoisseurs and film students, especially those who relish the pictures of the New Hollywood era, should add this admirable volume to their library.
Ripley Robinson and the Worm Charmer
9780578479033, $17.99 HC, $1.99 Kindle, 220pp, www.amazon.com
This YA novel sees a wrestler meet the challenges of bullying and his crush's strange hobby.
Seventh-grader Ripley Robinson has just moved to Hidden Mountain with his family. At school one day, his only friend, Jasper, warns: "You never want to be the last one in the bathroom." But Ripley lingers and bully Dirk Heartley stuffs his head in the toilet and flushes. A talented wrestler, Ripley uses the back of his head to break Dirk's nose. Ripley runs, hiding in a janitor's closet.
A girl named Geddy spies him and investigates. Ripley is instantly smitten by her freckles and quirky style. He learns from her about the town's worm-charming competition, which consists of coaxing the creatures to the surface of a field. The team that charms the most worms wins clues to a secret treasure of $300,000. Geddy hopes to triumph so that she and her mother won't have to move to Oregon and live with Grandma.
Ripley wants to help, but he must also concentrate on wrestling, dodge Dirk, and grapple with being popular after busting the bully's nose. Will Chet, the eerie janitor with a hook for a hand, add to Ripley's problems or solve a few?
Stricklen's (The Heart of the Swarm, 2016) latest novel deftly balances romance, sportsmanship, and lessons in racism. When a girl named Dixie gives Ripley a jean jacket, it's adorned with the Confederate flag (after her name) and he thinks nothing of it. Later, Ripley hangs out with Hawk, his African American wrestling teammate.
In Hawk's predominantly black neighborhood, Ripley feels white for the first time and is reminded that the Confederate flag represents slavery. The boys also have an escapade involving destroyed property that leads to Ripley learning that honesty is the best policy.
The author gives sports fans plenty to love in the wrestling scenes, and music nerds will adore Geddy, who's named after the band Rush's singer. Stricklen skillfully weaves together numerous plot threads, though some readers may find the story arc focusing on an elderly black woman named Betsy Turner overly sweet.
Unlikely elements blend wonderfully in this eclectic adventure.
Mario Puzo: An American Writer's Quest
M. J. Moore
Heliotrope Books, LLC
9781942762638, $17.00, PB, 256pp, www.amazon.com
In 1969, 14 years after his first novel appeared (and quietly disappeared) Puzo catapulted to fame with the publication of The Godfather. Drawing on Puzo's autobiographical nonfiction, essays, published interviews, and memoirs by his friends and fellow writers, Moore (For Paris -- With Love & Squalor, 2017) fashions an admiring portrait of the self-described "working-class novelist" whose spectacular success ended years of professional disappointment.
Puzo grew up poor, amid "the grimy odors, the sooty filth, and the oily stenches" of Manhattan. Summers in New Hampshire, courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund, and sports and arts programs at the Hudson Guild Settlement House nourished his spirit. Sports, cards, and voracious reading became his choice activities. His future, though, seemed bleak to him, and he described the period between 18 and 21 as unremittingly miserable. In 1941, he was "delighted," he admitted, to join the Army. When the war was over, he stayed on in the military in Germany and married a German woman.
Postwar Europe, Moore observes, "was rife with intrigue, dangerous in ways that an ambitious writer would appreciate for sheer narrative intensity." That atmosphere found its way into Puzo's first novel, The Dark Arena, garnering critical praise but "general indifference" from readers. Moore chronicles Puzo's money problems (with a wife and five children to support), affinity for gambling, and work frustrations.
In 1962, he resigned from a government job to become a full-time staff writer at the Magazine Management Company, where he would turn out 30,000-40,000 words per month under various pen names before going home to write his own novels. Hard as he worked, though, he was always in debt -- until he took an editor's advice to write about "that Mafia stuff" that had appeared in some of his stories. It was advice well-taken: Readers made The Godfather a bestseller for 67 weeks, and it has lived on as a movie and sequels.
Puzo's fans will appreciate this warm portrait.
Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Courtney Watson McCarthy
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500239964, $34.95, HC, 16pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Leonardo Pop-Ups" everyone can now experience the most famous Renaissance artist and inventor in a brand-new way. Courtney Watson McCarthy has crafted many brilliant pop-up books, featuring artists like Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali, and "Leonardo Pop-Ups" is the most dynamic yet.
McCarthy showcases a variety of pop-ups showing off Da Vinci's many talents; beyond his famous Renaissance paintings, Da Vinci has also been called the father of paleontology and architecture, and has been credited with the inventions of such diverse machines as the helicopter, the parachute, and the tank.
Featuring many of Da Vinci's most enduring artworks, both as illustrations and pop-ups, including The Vitruvian Man, The Last Supper, and, of course, the Mona Lisa, Leonardo Pop-Ups also includes Da Vinci's self-portrait, an overview of his architectural designs, and inventions such as a flapping ornithopter. A beautiful new way of looking into one of the greatest minds of all time, Leonardo Pop-Ups is fun for experienced art historians and budding artists alike.
Critique: Comprised of 6 color pop-ups and enhanced with 12 color illustrations, "Leonardo Pop-Ups" is a delicate and visually impressive treat for anyone who has admired the accomplishments of one of the leading European Renaissance artist/inventors/scientists. This remarkable book will be a prized addition to any collection, personal or academic.
9780967926896, $19.95, PB, 275pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Joy Road: My Journey from Addiction to Recovery" is the very personal memoir of Julie Evans, a change-of-life baby who was born in 1956 and spent much of her Midwestern childhood nurturing her alcoholic mother and chronically ill father. Both parents died while she was still a teen.
In the pages of "Joy Road", Julie takes her readers on a tumultuous ride through the 1970s as she struggles to find herself, developing addictions to sex, drugs, alcohol and nicotine. In the end it is her experiences as a wildlife rehabilitator, and the wise counsel of a country pastor that rescue her and usher her into a life of service.
A compelling story that is set in colorful locales, including Minneapolis, Phoenix, Key West, New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and finally, upstate New York. Peopled with a memorable cast of characters, Julie's saga is by turns shocking, humorous and inspiring.
Today Julie lives on Joy Road in Woodstock, New York with a loving husband. She s a healed healer, a writer and a motivational speaker with a thriving massage practice.
Critique: An inherently fascinating, thoroughly absorbing, deftly written, impressively candid, and ultimately inspiring personal story, "Joy Road: My Journey from Addiction to Recovery" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and the personal reading lists of anyone who has been or who are now struggling with problems of addiction.
Ana Finel Honigman, author
Kristelle Rodeia, illustrator
White Lions Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9780711240292, $16.99, HC, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Compiled and showcased by Ana Finel Honigman, "Cult Artists: 50 Cutting-Edge Creatives You Need to Know" is a handpicked selection of 50 currently notable figures drawn from the modern art world and explores the creative genius that earned them the 'cult' label, while celebrating the works that made their names.
From the iconic Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo, to radical activists such as the Guerrilla Girls and Ana Mendieta. The artistic mediums explored are similarly varied, with sculptors, performance, graffiti and fine artists alike. From little known artists with small, devout followings, to art world superstars gracing the covers of magazines, each is special in their individuality and their ability to inspire, antagonize and delight.
Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout by Kristelle Rodeia, and offering an ideally organized, presented and entertaining introduction to an illustrative roster of uniquely distinctive artists on the cutting edge of their diversified crafts, "Cult Artists" is a unique and core addition to any personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Art History collection.
Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift
Health Professions Press
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781938870828, $31.99, PB, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, the need for senior living is growing at a steep rate, and the aging services field has been hard at work preparing for these new customers. Current practices aim to bring the kind of comfort and amenities enjoyed at hotels and resorts to the settings we create for older adults to live in. But what if these efforts are misdirected?
Interweaving research on aging, ideas from influential thinkers in the aging services field, and the author Jill Vitale-Aussem's own experiences managing and operating senior living communities, "Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift" challenges readers to question long-accepted practices, examine their own biases, and work toward creating vibrant cultures of possibility and growth for elders.
Shining a light on her own professional field, Jill Vitale-Aussem exposes the errors of current thinking and demonstrates how a shift in perspective can effect real cultural transformation. Her book delves into society's inherent biases about growing older (where ageism, paternalism, and ableism abound) and provokes readers to examine how a youth-obsessed culture unconsciously impacts even the most well-meaning senior living policies, practices, and organizations.
Deconstructing the popular hospitality model, for example, Vitale-Aussem explains how it can actually undermine feelings of purpose and independence. In its place, she proposes better ways to create opportunities for older people to exercise choice, autonomy, and self-efficacy.
Filled with empowering stories of elders who find purpose and belonging within their senior residences, "Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living" builds on AARP's disrupt aging work and demonstrates that to truly transform senior living, we must dig deeper and create communities that promote the potential and value of the people who live and work in these settings.
Critique: As articulate and insightful as it is informed and informative, "Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift" is a timely and valued contribution to our on-going national discussion with respect to the demographic aging of our general population and the increasing strain that presents with respect to the demand for sheltered living accommodations and the role of seniors in our general public discourse. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists as well as community, senior citizen center, and academic library Aging & Senior Living collections.
Editorial Note: Jill Vitale-Aussem, LNHA, MMH, is a veteran of the senior living field with over two decades of experience leading senior living communities in the for-profit and not-for profit sectors. Since 2018, she has served as President and CEO of The Eden Alternative, a global non-profit dedicated to creating quality of life for elders and their care partners, wherever they may live. Jill is passionate about creating community cultures of innovation, possibilities, inclusivity, growth, and empowerment, and writes and speaks nationally on topics of culture, leadership, and ageism.
The CBD Kitchen
Ryland, Peters & Small
341 East 116th Street, New York, NY 10029
9781788791120, $19.95, HC, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: CBD oil (or cannabidiol) has become hugely popular thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to alleviate a multitude of physical and mental ailments. CBD oil is currently receiving huge attention from the mainstream media for its anti-inflammatory effects which may help to improve our brain health, alleviate anxiety, headaches, and arthritis.
CBD comes from the cannabis plant, but unlike the smoking marijuana, CBD contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical of the plant that gets you high. It has the relaxing, anti-inflammatory benefits of the cannabis plant without making you feel weird.
Leah Vanderveldt has taken CBD oil for over a year and is convinced it has helped her with anxiety, pain and to improve sleep. "The CBD Kitchen " is a compendium of her easy recipes that include smoothies, teas and coffees, snacks and desserts, light savory meals, and even mocktails and cocktails. Of special note is the inclusion of a CBD skin care regime such as an anti-inflammatory face mask and a coconut oil moisturizer.
Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, "The CBD Kitchen" is a unique and extraordinary collection of more than fifty hemp plant based recipes that are thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. A unique and extraordinary combination of cookbook, alternative health care reference, "The CBD Kitchen" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college and university library collections.
The Plague Stones
9781785659959, $14.95, PB, 432pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Fleeing from a traumatic break-in, Londoners Paul and Tricia Feenan intend to escape to the isolated Holiwell village where Tricia has inherited a property. Scattered throughout that settlement are centuries-old stones used during the Great Plague as boundary markers. No plague-sufferer was permitted to pass them and enter the village. The plague diminished, and the village survived unscathed, but since then each year the village trustees have insisted on an ancient ceremony to renew the village boundaries, until a misguided act by the Feenans' son then reminds the village that there is a reason traditions have been rigidly stuck to, and that all acts of betrayal, even those committed centuries ago, have consequences -- dire consequences!
Critique: A deftly crafted and inherently compelling page turner of a read from cover to cover, "The Plague Stones" nicely showcases author James Brogden's impressive talents as a fantasy novelist. While unreservedly recommended for community library Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated fantasy fans that "The Plague Stones" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.03).
Religion in The Handmaid's Tale: A Brief Guide
P.O. Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
9781506456300, $12.99, PB, 130pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" captivates readers (and its film version likewise capturing viewers0 with its disturbingly prescient vision of the future and haunting insights into the world as we know it. Religion (especially elements of the fundamentalist Christian faith) pervades every inch of the world as Atwood imagines it.
Gilead's leaders use perverse forms of Christianity to sustain their authority and privilege, making understanding religion an integral part of understanding Gilead. In the face of the inextricable role of religion in the novel, readers are left to puzzle out religious references and allusions on their own.
From the significance of names to twisted uses of religion to the origins of the Ceremony, "Religion in The Handmaid's Tale: A Brief Guide" by Colette Tennant (a Professor of English at Corban University, where she teaches literature and creative writing) answers all the questions you might have about religion in this prophetic novel.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented for both academia and non-specialist general readers, "Religion in The Handmaid's Tale: A Brief Guide" is an ideal, informative, and thoughtful analysis of Atwood's dystopian novel, deftly explaining it and gives providing its readers with inherently fascinating perspectives. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Religion in The Handmaid's Tale: A Brief Guide" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf
Queen of the Flowers: Memories of a Puerto Rican Girl
With warmth and precision, Delia Cerpa's memoir, Queen of the Flowers, chronicles her "wonder years" in Puerto Rico and migration to the US in the 1950s.
After her father's suicide when she's an infant, Delia Cerpa, youngest of eleven, is well cared for by a resilient mother and thoughtful siblings. Her mother manages the family's new farm while her children work and go to school. Delia Cerpa excels as a scholar. Her eagerness to learn extends into 4H and religious studies. She searches for answers about her father's death. As the world economy changes after WWII, the farm is sold and many family members move to the States. Mama Cerpa, Delia and her brother follow in 1952.
The book's title comes from a highlight of Cerpa's childhood, when she's elected to become Queen of the school for a day. The incident takes up a large part of the story, characterizing the place of school in her life, as well as her family's gracious support of each member's endeavors. Her dress and accoutrements are described in luscious detail. Tastes, sounds, textures, and sensations are emphasized. Cerpa maintains a child's perspective throughout. Her family and neighbors play equal roles in shaping the many colorful tales, showing the communal spirit of her upbringing.
The pacing is as steady as life on a well-maintained farm in a vibrant town. Historical facts appear in the background, but the story is highly personal. Cerpa's writing style is inviting, easy to follow and colloquial. Hand drawn Illustrations accompany some chapters, adding to the playfulness of the story. Spanish text and translation is included, as are italicized quotes from Buddha and Cerpa herself - hints of wisdom coming from the future.
The book is the first in a planned series. Ending with the migration to NY creates an eagerness for the next installment. Extra chapters at the end fill out more history. These are integral to the story; don't finish reading until the very last page!
Queen of the Flowers stands out as an immigrant autobiography for its innocence and awe in the face of tragedy.
In Never Divided, the third and final book in Todd Stadtman's San Francisco Punk series, Scott and friends butt heads with the police again - this time from the inside.
In the previous two books, Please Don't Be Waiting for Me and So Good It's Bad, the punk friends sought justice for the murder of follow rocker, Nadya. In this finale to the trilogy, the crew takes part in a 1984 protest against Reagan and the Democrats' ineffectiveness against him. Given Scott's record, the Feds think Scott and crew might be up to worse than mere protesting. They accuse his roommate, Micah, of killing an officer during the event. But the police might need the punks' help against their own: a gang of nefarious policeman inside the SFPD.
The novel begins with a domestic scene: Scott and girlfriend, Bridge, meet Scott's dad's new girlfriend and her son, Hunter. Little do they know, Hunter will become part of an adventure Scott and Bridge never intend to have, involving bar fights, sting operations, and kidnappings. They thought they were done with this! The book flirts with settling down into adulthood. Yet, Scott never compromises his punk spirit. If there's injustice afoot, Scott will face it, along with his pals.
New characters in the series, Hunter, and Micah's girlfriend, Shiva, add ripples to the plot. Scott and Bridge feel parental toward young Hunter - new feelings for them both. Shiva's mysterious past makes her suspect to all the friends. She must prove herself time and again. Reed, aka Inspector Serious, returns, with a humorous twist. These fresh relationships add depth and complexity to the high energy.
Like the other two books in the series, this one is full of vivid, action-packed scenes. The chapters are short, each focusing on one scene. Sub-plots are woven into a thick fabric of intrigue. Sentences are robust, like the layered sound of a punk band. Most chapters end with a cliffhanger, making it hard to stop reading. Love for San Francisco is palpable. Hot spots around the city enliven the narrative.
A coming of age story and crime thriller, the mature characters in Never Divided are also never diluted.
Mari Carlson, Reviewer
Marlan Warren's Bookshelf
How to Communicate with the Dead and How Cultures Do It around the World
Global Adventure, Publisher
9780988401990, $TBA pbk / $9.99 Kindle amazon.com
"Communicating with the dead has been a secret part of my life for many years." - Judith Fein
Judith Fein's fourth deep travel memoir, HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE DEAD AND HOW CULTURES DO IT AROUND THE WORLD, invites us along on her decades of investigations and explorations of the final frontier: Death.
For most of her life, Judith Fein has seen and heard dead people. Not all the time, thank goodness, or it would not leave much time for this prolific journalist to write about her soul-searching globetrotting with her ever-skeptical photojournalist husband, Paul Ross. "Judie and Paul" are the "Nick and Nora" of the travel adventure-supernatural set. She can see a ghostly figure in the middle of nowhere and believe it to be a specter. He can be right next to her, eyes huge, and afterward admit "maybe" it was real. Their yin-yang bonding and love adds to the delightful humor of this Odyssey.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE DEAD signals a coming out of the woo-woo closet for Fein. The Oxford dictionary defines "woo-woo" as "unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine..." Throughout her illustrious career as a journalist, Fein has occasionally penned articles about seeking healers and rituals in "exotic" locales; although mostly she has flown under the radar as a gifted intuitive herself. This book puts the spotlight on Fein's spiritual truths as she has lived them, revealing how she has embraced and been embraced by others around the world who perceive those truths without shame.
There is no navel-gazing in these stories that take us from her father's untimely death (and her first stunned awareness that she could hear him beyond the grave) to her late mother's skepticism that she and her daughter could communicate after her transition (and how wrong that turned out to be) to various vortexes of cultures and religions that accept death as a fact of life that does not end the soul.
Fein's passion to communicate with her living readers shines as an honest desire to help others move through their grief and fears to an understanding that death itself is not the final word on existence.
A discussion guide ends the book with such thought-provoking gems as:
"Would you like someone to contact you after you die? Why or why not?"
No matter what the answer, I'm willing to bet it won't be boring. Fein invites readers to discuss the most taboo topic in America, as if to say:
"Hey, it couldn't hurt."
Available in e-book and paperback via Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Booksamillion, Global Adventure.
Marlan Warren, Reviewer
Marsha Stein's Bookshelf
At the Point of a Knife
9780578502199, $12.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 155pp, www.amazon.com
"What happened to Dr. Fox to cause his divorce and what that divorce cost him over the rest of his life will haunt you for a long time after you read his memoir, At the Point of a Knife.
At a time in his life when, seemingly, all his education, hard work, ingenuity, creativity, and business acumen were coalescing around a successful medical career, a promising future as co-inventor and licensor of a life-saving medical device, and a side job as an expert witness for courtroom trials, with a wife and two children whom he loved, Fox's life took a sudden turn for the worse when his wife, whose bipolar disorder was creeping up on her as Fox was busy with career overload, reached in her bag for a knife and pointed it at his chest as he drove them home from a wedding in the middle of the night.
The ensuing divorce trial was under the auspices of a corrupt judge with whom his wife was in cahoots. They managed to legally exclude Fox from his own divorce trial, slapped him with a $10,000 a month child support order, and threatened him with jail if he did not come forward with the money.
If you have been divorced or known someone who has been divorced, you have to read about this case. How can one man's whole life be taken away from him...and all of it be considered legal despite the very immorality of the entire situation?
Megan Masten's Bookshelf
Anthem: The Graphic Novel
Jennifer Grossman and Dan Parsons
The Atlas Society
9781732603707, $12.30 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Ayn Rand's Anthem (the graphic novel) introduces young adults to Rand's philosophy in an expert fashion.
Anthem is a novel that takes place in a regressed, dystopian society that is dependent on the sacrifice of individuality for the common good. In order for the society to function, people are treated the same regardless of different talents, intelligence, and personal desire. In direct defiance of the system, the main character, Equality 7-2521 conducts experiments and falls in love against the will of the collective. The novel delves deep into the consequences of abandoning individuality. Anthem, originally published in 1938, does not falter in significance in present day. As a young college student, I deal firsthand with pressure to put collectivism on a moral pedestal. Through Anthem, Rand demands that the reader understand the flaws of collectivism and how the destruction of the individual ultimately does more harm for society than good.
Generation Z has grown up on post-apocalyptic novels. I remember taking online tests in middle school on which faction you belonged to from the Divergent series, or which district you would live in if this were The Hunger Games. In addition, The Giver was turned into a movie and the novel by George Orwell, 1984, has increased in popularity in recent years. At first glance, Anthem is a typical post-apocalyptic novel. The dystopian theme as well as the gritty aesthetic makes the graphic novel appealing to young reader, familiar and comfortable to those raised on dystopian literature, and moreover welcoming to those who are not well acquainted with Rand's other works. Even more importantly, the flow of the novel has a natural progression. It makes sense that for a utopia to work free will has to be dismembered, just as it makes sense that jobs would be given by a governing body and that the character's life would be constricted by routine. As a result, Rand's message at the end of the novel is not forced, it just makes sense that the character would escape the society. The conclusions are natural given a utopia's demands. In The Giver, the protagonist escapes with a baby, in Anthem, the protagonist escapes with a box demonstrating electricity. Rand's novel is similar to what Generation Z has grown up with, and Anthem appears to simply be a critique of "utopian" societies.
The creation of Ayn Rand's Anthem (the graphic novel) makes the novel more approachable for Generation Z. As a visual generation with an arguably short attention span, the graphic equivalent is more digestible for young adults in comparison with Rand's other, incredibly dense novels. Atlas Shrugged is 561,996 words, and The Fountainhead is 311,596. Anthem, being a novella, is 66 pages and takes about an hour on average to read. The graphic novel adaptation is a quick read that illustrates Rand's story on a way that is easier to process. The use of artistic visuals also offers clarity to the dystopia that Rand describes in her novel.
Ayn Rand's Anthem (the graphic novel) is able to capture the attention of young adults with its familiar theme and the use of visuals. At a time when collectivism is considered the morally righteous path at universities, Ayn Rand's Anthem (the graphic novel) describes the philosophy's consequences and unattainability, a beacon of differing and independent thought in the fog bank of academia's groupthink pseudo-sermon.
Michael Carson's Bookshelf
Building Migrant Cities in the Gulf
Florian Wiedmann & Ashraf M. Salama
I. B. Tauris Publishers
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781788310680, $115.00, HC, 264pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Human history has seen many settlements transformed or built entirely by expatriate work forces and foreigners arriving from various places. Recent migration patterns in the Gulf have led to emerging 'airport societies' on unprecedented scales. Most guest workers, both labourers and mid to high-income groups, perceive their stay as a temporary opportunity to earn suitable income or gain experience.
"Building Migrant Cities in the Gulf: Urban Transformation in the Middle East" offers a timely and descriptive analyses of the essential characteristics of this unique urban phenomenon that is substantiated by concrete examples and empirical research.
Authors Florian Wiedmann and Ashraf M. Salama have both lived and worked in the Gulf including Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates during various periods between 2006 and 2014. In this collaborative study they explore Gulf cities from macro and interconnected perspectives rather than focusing solely on singular aspects within the built environment. As academic architects specialized in urbanism and the complex dynamics between people and places the authors build new bridges for understanding demographic and social changes impacting urban transformations in the Gulf.
Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of illustrations, a sixteen page bibliography, and a three page index, "Building Migrant Cities in the Gulf: Urban Transformation in the Middle East" is an impressively informative and unreservedly recommended addition to governmental, corporate and academic library International Urban Development & Planning collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, urban planners, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Building Migrant Cities in the Gulf" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $92.22).
Peace or Pacification?
Liam O Ruairc
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
9781789041279, $19.95, PB, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Often the so-called 'Irish question' is reduced to one of ancestral hatreds, but "Peace or Pacification?: Northern Ireland After The Defeat of the IRA" follows the relevant tensions (a soft border vs a hard border) borne out of Brexit negotiations grounds in a thought-provoking study within the context of colonialism, anti-imperialism and liberation struggles. "Peace or Pacification?" demonstrates that 'peace' might not be found in 'justice', and argues instead of a 'peace process' for a 'pacification process'.
Critique: Timely, relevant, informative, thoughtful, instructive, and a critically significant contribution to the current Brexit controversy, "Peace or Pacification?: Northern Ireland After The Defeat of the IRA" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Peace or Pacification?" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.95).
Editorial Note: Liam O Ruairc attended Queen's University Belfast to study Irish politics. O Ruairc is a member of the editorial board of Fourthwrite and of The Blanket: A Journal of Pro-test and Dissent which provided influential criticisms of the so-called Irish peace process as well as what has been called "a republican digital counter culture". His work has appeared in Fortnight magazine, History Ireland and Radical Philosophy as well as in many radical publications. He currently lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.
c/o Actar Publishers
355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781945150654, $34.95, PB, 278pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: When people choose to move to cities for opportunity they do so unprompted by some political authority. Such choices are often made unconsciously, as they are based on rules, traditions, and local communities - or a combination of all three.
"Un-Conscious-City" explores and unravels Dutch architect Wiel Arets' kaleidoscopic viewpoints on the ways the collective, unconscious decisions taken by the world's citizens throughout time - a process that remains invisible to the naked eye - are now working to transform and shift the physical, sensory, and emotional experiences of human beings, as they navigate and live in today's metropolises as well as the countryside.
People tend to only belong to one religion, one society, or one club -- choices which completely defines their existence. Aret's postulates that one day most human beings will live in a global-nomadic-urban-condition; this will soon be amplified to unknown heights.
"Un-Conscious-City" raises questions, predicaments, and ideals regarding the future of our cities, while recognizing their limitations which Aret identifies this condition as the Un-Conscious-City.
Critique: Enhanced throughout will illustrations, "Un-Conscious-City" is an extraordinary and occasionally iconoclastic study that will prove to be of especial interest to urban planners, architects, governmental policy makers, demographers, and sociologists. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Un-Conscious-City" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university collections.
Michael Touchton & Amanda J. Ashley
Cornell University Press
512 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781501700064, $24.95, PB, 276pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: American communities face serious challenges when military bases close. But affected municipalities and metro regions are not doomed. Taking a long-term, flexible, and incremental approach, In "Salvaging Community: How American Cities Rebuild Closed Military Bases" co-authors Michael Touchton (Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Miami) and Amanda J. Ashley (Associate professor of Urban Studies and Community Development, School of Public Service, Boise State University) make strong recommendations for collaborative models of governance that can improve defense conversion dramatically and ensure benefits, even for low-resource municipalities. Communities can't control their economic situation or geographic location, but, as Salvaging Community shows, communities can control how they govern conversion processes geared toward redevelopment and reinvention.
"Salvaging Community" provides a comprehensive evaluation of how such communities redevelop former bases following the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. To do so, they developed the first national database on military redevelopment and combine quantitative national analyses with three, in-depth case studies in California. Salvaging Community thus fills the void in knowledge surrounding redevelopment of bases and the disparate outcomes that affect communities after BRAC.
The data presented in "Salvaging Community" points toward effective strategies for collaborative governance that address the present-day needs of municipal officials, economic development agencies, and non-profit organizations working in post-BRAC communities. Defense conversion is not just about jobs or economic rebound, Touchton and Ashley argue. Emphasizing inclusion and sustainability in redevelopment promotes rejuvenated communities and creates places where people want to live.
As localities and regions deal with the legacy of the post-Cold War base closings and anticipate new closures in the future, "Salvaging Community" presents a timely and constructive approach to both economic and community development at the close of the military-industrial era.
Critique: A seminal work of meticulously researched scholarship, "Salvaging Community: How American Cities Rebuild Closed Military Bases" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a fourteen page list of bibliographic references, four pages of notes, and an eight page index. Exceptionally well organized and presented study, "Salvaging Community" is an especially recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary Political Science & Urban Development collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Salvaging Community" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).
The Life of the Red Sea Dhow
Dionisius A. Agius
I. B. Tauris Publishers
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781848858060, $100.00, HC, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Few images are as evocative as the silhouette of the Arab dhow as, under full sail, it tacks to windward on glittering waters of Red Sea before moving across the face of the rising or setting sun. "The Life of the Red Sea Dhow" is an authoritative new book, in which Dionisius A. Agius (the Al Qasimi Professor of Arabic Studies and Islamic Material Culture at the University of Exeter and one of the foremost scholars of Islamic material culture), offers a lucid and wide-ranging history of the iconic dhow from medieval to modern times.
Traversing the Arabian and African coasts, Dionisius shows that the dhow was central not just to commerce but to the vital transmission and exchange of ideas. Discussing trade and salt routes, shoals and wind patterns, spice harvest seasons and the deep and resonant connection between language, memory and oral tradition, "The Life of the Red Sea Dhow" is the first book to place the dhow in its full and remarkable cultural contexts.
Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a fifteen page Glossary, forty pages of Notes, a fifteen page Bibliography, and a twenty-seven page Index, "The Life of the Red Sea Dhow" is an impressively well organized and presented work of exceptional and seminal scholarship, making it unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Life of the Red Sea Dhow" is also available in a paperback edition (9781838603427, $34.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.45).
Elric: Stormbringer - Deluxe Edition Vol.2
Michael Moorcock, author
Jean-Luc Cano & Julien Blondel, writers
Didier Poli, Jean Bastide, Julien Telo, Robin Recht, Scarlett Smulkowski, illustrators
9781785866623, $29.99, HC, 64pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: When his people are mercilessly massacred, Elric, the albino former Emperor of the ancient island of Melnibone, is cast out into the world. However, fate brings him into the possession of Stormbringer - the fabled, bloodthirsty demon-sword that will sustain him and dominate his destiny.
Elric: Stormbringer is the second instalment of the stunning graphic novel adaptations of Michael Moorcock's most famous work, Elric of Melnibone. Presented in a brand new Deluxe Edition that's essential for Elric fans, it features exclusive, never-before-seen content, including incredible concept art, plus a venerating foreword by renowned comics writer Alan Moore.
Critique: An absolute 'must' for the legions of dedicated Michael Moorcock sword & sorcery fans, this superbly produced deluxe edition of the doomed adventures of Elric is unreserved recommended for personal and community library graphic novel collections.
Michael J. Carson
Molly Martin's Bookshelf
Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills
9781934454275, $7.95, Hardcover, 105 pages
Nancy Bruno's Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills is focused per life skills exhibited by a diverse group comprised of thirty-five men - those everyday husbands, brothers, fathers, neighbors, and friends that most of us see everyday.
Created in part on the concept of a coffee table book despite its smaller size; I found Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills to be an engrossing examination regarding an assemblage of men to include vignettes offered by a wife, a daughter and mothers of sons.
Encouraged by a determination to honor everyday men quietly serving as positive role models engaged in wide-ranging life circumstances; Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills, can be recognized to be a labor of love for author Nancy Bruno.
Journalist Bruno presents a peek into the inspirational lives of a varied grouping of men ranging in age from twelve to ninety-one. She has captured individual narratives thoughtfully and accompanies each anecdote with photographs in this positive volume that accomplishes what Bruno hoped for the work to be.
Keen to show that from earliest days of social awareness cultures worldwide appear to have generally determined worth of the men of their specific traditional and social cultural group by accrued prosperity; whether the medium is cattle or other livestock, or a form of currency, as currency is deemed by the group, while also revering to a lesser extent, courage and proficiency at achievements of profession.
Societal esteem has altered little over time; contemporary mothers continue to boost their daughters to look for a man who drives a classy car, indicating he has a decent, stable job and will provide for and defend her and the children mom hopes will be consequence from the union.
Men are most often evaluated as successful, or not, in modern times; by the magnitude of their bank account, by their education and occupations; doctors rate more significantly than the sanitation worker, as well as how extravagant their automobile is, and, frequently on superficial appearances.
Generally speaking, indisputable male role models cannot, be defined so much by calculable or bodily correctness which often is short-lived; role models are more exhibited by those who make known the trait via life contributions and the manner in which alarming circumstances are faced and resultant behaviors indicate the male in question has learned, perhaps overcome adversity whatever the situation may be.
Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills describes the quintessence of what is accurately meant to be a man of incontrovertible calling and measurable moral fiber.
Christopher, a twelve-year-old youngster is represented in the narrative as a typical youngster while playing soccer, and jumping into the pool, as well as quietly having personal commitment to his team, in addition to dependability by carrying out his responsibility in caring for his dog and school.
Other estimable men encompassed in the volume are a resolute paraplegic, a middle child, a young man studying for his SATs, a Vietnamese emigre, along with a single dad, and a Hispanic religious leader. These men are all shown in photograph, and each has a story to tell.
Mitch is a businessman, as well as a husband and a father, Walt, Rob and Bryant each typify family. Included are men who were raised in single parent homes, as well as men who have dabbled with drugs, or alcohol to lessen pain. Featured are men who who appear to be 'all thumbs', while others are handymen fixit masters and musicians and handymen. Four seniors round out the work.
Ninety-one-year-old Gino was not a good student due in part to poor eyesight; he caddied, drove ambulance for CCC, married and was dad to a son. As well Gino built a golf course and following sons death established a golf scholarship, and, earned his High School diploma at eighty! Gino has been a notable at Siena College for years where he and his wife provide support as ancillary parents to coaches, athletes, faculty and staff.
Many of the anecdotes leave the reader with a sense that there is more to the story, and, that is fine; we do not need the whole narrative regarding each person, each of us deserves that some things be left private.
As a daughter, wife and mother of sons; I especially enjoyed Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills happy to recommend for public library, the high school and college library, and the home bookshelf.
Alligators All Around: An Alphabet
9780060255305, $16.95, Library Binding, 32 pages
Maurice Sendak's Alligators All Around: An Alphabet highlighting a trio of young alligators is a classroom picture-perfect alphabet book.
Each letter of the alphabet presents the alligators completing an activity, including C- catching colds, D- doing dishes; E- entertaining elephants, G- getting giggles, H- having headaches, J- juggling jelly beans, M- making macaroni, N- Never Napping, O- Ordering Oatmeal, P- Pushing People, or R- riding reindeer, T- throwing tantrums and W- wearing wigs.
The volume is attractive, Little Learner pleasing and the main characters, whether alligators or not, are not at all scary or distressing.
Writer Sendak presents a most affable family of alligators involved in performing numerous child recognizable, daily life situations. Alligators All Around: An Alphabet, is a work of approximately 60 words text, is not a predictable A B C matter. Osage County First Grade likes it.
Each letter is embodied on a single page where Little Reader's view tri-color imageries appearing in boxed panels. Limiting himself to hues, shades, and tones of blue, yellow, and green; Sendak's unparalleled practice comes through. Pictures are pretty unassuming.
The three toned imageries enable, these at times, somewhat cranky critters to be looked upon as pretty endearing. Mom, Dad, and The Kid are chockfull with appeal; the collective artworks provoke a full view of the, at times, goofy; while pretty accustomed family dynamic. One way or another, these genial critters capture the unconventionality and distinctiveness of human nature better than many other critters might.
Author/Illustrator Sendak is a writer who certainly comprehends how Little People's thoughts work and he recognizes precisely what pleases Emergent
Readers. My students have long been charmed with oeuvres having no backgrounds; the graphics present the alligators doing what it is they are doing, like wearing wigs, or never napping without a lot of extra busy in the area surrounding the picture.
Facial expressions revealed throughout the book are uninhibited and vivacious: and never more so than the catching colds drawing. We can see both adult and youngster alligator; bathrobe attired, hot water pacs upon their heads, wrapped in scarves and the child grasping his tissue. Much class discussion results as we view the page; and mainly so during the cold/allergy season when it seems we are all stuffy, sneezy and snoffly.
The alligator parents present a bit of - wild things-. Max, the alligator child, paces across the pages. It is an effective and child friendly procedure. The alligators are frequently portrayed standing on two legs, akin to humans; holding something in their hands and with their spiny tails sprawling behind. Osage County First Grade does not find the alligators to be the least bit frightening.
Little Learners and Teacher alike appreciate Writer/Illustrator Sendak's alphabet filled with pleasing jargon and thought-provoking representations used to exemplify letters and sounds. As a teacher I like that Sendak divulges that some letters have more than one sound. Three disparate sounds exemplify letter A- alligators all around. Two sounds are portrayed with U and one usually upside down.
Osage County First Grade, as well as, Little Learners where I now volunteer to read to Little People now that I am retired from the classroom; all like these alligators performing all the things alligators do.
Alligators All Around: An Alphabet is one of our favorites. Happy to recommend for classroom bookshelf, school and public libraries, for their room bookshelf of Little Readers. This book is a nice choice for gifting a special child, or for child to gift teacher and fellow students on first of the new school term.
Html 4 for the World Wide Web
9780201354935, $19.99, Paperback, 384 pages
CAVEAT: I am not now and will never be a creator of web pages, I am a mom who wanted to be able to comprehend a little more what is being said when geek sons and nephew speak.
Thank goodness I do not have to make my living by using HTML; I would soon starve. I picked up geek son's book in the hope that I too might learn a bit of the Hypertext Markup Language which he seems to use with ease. I have not understood much of what the kid has said from age 12 when he devoured his first computer.
Elizabeth Castro's Html 4 for the World Wide Web converses in articulate language significant facets of HTML, along with a discussion concerning Cascading Style Sheets. I found material presented in each chapter to be concise, and makes clear how to accomplish more than a few actions including adding multimedia and how to go about structuring text, to create forms, frames, links and tables.
I particularly like the writer's custom of adding a great many examples, samples and illustrations. Even this cyberpterodactyl has learned an modest command or two.
Html 4 for the World Wide Web is an edition anticipated to guide the rookie in developing an understanding of HTML how-to and how-to go about applying HTML. For readers who do already use HTML or hope to do so in order to earn their living; Castro has included a whole system of HTML tools including singular cyphers, a Hex color table, along with a listing of color codes in addition to a list of HTML tags together with how-to's for using the tools.
The illustrations fashioned in abundance on each page are intended to reinforce what is being taught. Diagrams permit Reader's to see what will take place on the computer as they work.
Castro's book portrays how the markup will appear when it is placed on the actual Web Page. I esteem the familiarity and tenacity of the writer; I now have more of an understanding regarding the use of HTML.
HTML knowledge; is an essential for those who create web pages on an ongoing basis. I have watched son work preparing web pages and appreciate that a web page is not created in a moment.
Castro's presentations of many illustrations, graphics and images concerning step by step what will actually appear on the page being built make it easier for text users to see what is being formed prior to spending a lot of time doing the work only to learn that what is actually produced is not what was actually wanted.
I find especially helpful for a pretty non HTML aficionado that Castro's graphics underscore the specific segment of the page changed by the specific code being used.
A chapter titled Extras makes available illustrations for creating passwords to protect a directory; in addition to how-to for generating buttons for use with tables, as well as how to for production of other motivating bells and whistles useful for adding sparkle to the page.
I found very helpful that the specific lessons are kept brief, are separated into small, and easily read sections which deliver information but do not overwhelm.
Html 4 for the World Wide Web includes a Table of Contents; an imperative particularly for someone like myself who is older, and/or is not really well versed in any computer language. Castro offers a bit of information concerning some problematic areas which may be anticipated particularly for the novice using HTML.
And, she then continues elucidation re how to write, commence a web page and prepare a page having links, imageries, lists, forms and others of the incalculable bells and whistles which cause some web pages to look impressive, and especially inviting. These are the components that the absence of which leaves the page appearing - vanilla- in the words of geek son.
I find myself often checking the index at the back of the book.
I can see/recognize, that for those who do work daily with writing HTML, much of the language will in due time become rote, and constant checking of the command lists will not be quite so imperative. On the other hand; geek son says even experienced web programmers will likely keep a reference work handy.
There are so many commands; I can comprehend that it is not probable anyone can commit all to memory.
Readers can commence reading and using the techniques provided by author Castro, and, can continue to improve and gain confidence and expertise as they proceed through the book from cover to cover.
Html 4 for the World Wide Web might well be used as a reference book and a read topic to topic as needed.
I like the presentation and vocabulary Castro uses in formulating this volume. It is clear Castro is well versed in her subject, however, rather than speaking to those who have previous understanding of much of the constituents of the subject; Castro presents the lessons in understandable, simple to follow, step by step manner for rank novice and the somewhat well versed alike.
Vocabulary used is presented at a level that even a non-techie will understand, be able to use what is exemplified and commence to generate and use HTML with at least a bit of confidence.
I understand, and understood, previous to picking up the book; that HTML, HyperText Markup Language is a programming language. And, I realized and continue to understand that internet pages can be written using this language.
However, comprehending that HTML is the procedure for adding graphics, sound and the like, formatting text, and creating the manner files are to be kept in a format by which most computers can infer what it is, is one thing. While, being able to do necessary formatting with confidence is another matter entirely.
Reading Html 4 for the World Wide Web has assisted me to begin to appreciate a tad of the process a bit better.
I am discovering Html 4 for the World Wide Web to be a dandy resource for a novice such as myself. I like that Castro presumes no prior understanding of HTML or the Internet on the part of the reader.
She commences with the very simple clarifications and illustrations, offers directions in coherent, concise wording to lead the novice toward generating each element of a web page.
She has followed the time-honored principle of all good teachers: take the learner where they are and move them toward what you want them to know/do/understand.
The entire HTML awareness is presented as a series of tasks using text, cascading style sheets, formatting, and layout commands. Precise HTML commands or assignments are denoted via one to a page.
The series of steps used for replicating a specific task is listed within the page margin while illustrations are shown inside the midline of the page.
Happy to recommend Elizabeth Castro's Html 4 for the World Wide Web for cyberpterodactyls as well as for those who are HTML knowledgeable.
Castro's Html 4 for the World Wide Web has a place in the high school computer lab, school library as well as college and public library and for the home library for any and all who would like to know more regarding how to tame these machines nearly all of use at some point during our day.
Houghton Mifflin's American Heritage First Dictionary
Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
9780547215976, $17.99, Hardcover, 416 pages
Houghton Mifflin's American Heritage, hard cover, First Dictionary designed for use in Primary grades is a big hit for Osage County First Grade.
From the cover featuring a nice grouping of child pleasing items from robot, to tot's hand powered top toy, to crayons and a blossom and that bright eyed pup center front; Houghton Mifflin's American Heritage First Dictionary invites little learner's to pick up, turn pages and talk about.
I find that Little Learners tend to be fascinated by sounds, words and reading. 700 appealing, vibrantly hued illustrations, photos and drawings draw attention to the page. Dictionaries are always a big hit in our classroom.
With children in mind explanations and example sentences used to spell out meaning presented in kid friendly prose well within the scope of most 6 - 8 year olds; Houghton Mifflin's American Heritage First Dictionary is receiving plenty of usage.
Close to 300 innovative attribute notes devise\ed to help enlarge vocabulary in addition to exemplifying opposites, rhyming and individual word usage; this particular big kid, firm cover, 416 page edition is geared particularly for younger scholars studying in the Primary Grades.
Dictionary work is an important tool for developing good language arts skills among the Primary Grade Learner. Trying to figure out how to find things in the dictionary is a major facet of our learning for quite a few weeks during the early part of the school year.
True kids come out of Kindergarten able to recite the alphabet. It is a tad more difficult to carry that learning over into look in the b section for box.
Little learners tend to do one of two things when hunting for words, flip the pages rapidly, never looking at the book to declare NOT HERE after a few seconds, OR they turn page by page from A when the word we need is zebra.
Because I personally love words and books I want to instill some of that love in my students. We use our dictionaries on an ongoing basis.
Beginning activities include using alphabet sheets and locating specific items to match each letter, when Little Learners are comfortable then we move on to guide words and where in the alphabet a particular letter is located. Realizing that d is close to the beginning of alphabet enables little learners to home in to where in the dictionary the d words are likely to be found as opposed to those beginning with g, r or v.
I am gratified to find Little Learners often ask to take one or another edition of our classroom dictionaries to their DEAR offices for reading during our extended DEAR reading activities.
Houghton Mifflin's American Heritage First Dictionary is a good choice for the classroom book shelf, school and public library, for gifting word loving child and for a Little Learner to gift his/her new classroom of students on first day of the new term.
Happy to recommend Houghton Mifflin's American Heritage First Dictionary designed for use in Primary grades.
Molly Martin, Reviewer
Richard Waugaman's Bookshelf
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
David P. Gontar
New English Review Press
9780985439491, $28.95 PB, $9.95 Kindle, 430pp, www.amazon.com
David Gontar has written a fascinating book on Shakespeare, that all Oxfordians will want to read. He has an unusual set of professional and scholarly credentials. He is now Adjunct Professor of English and Philosophy at Inner Mongolia University in China. Previously, he taught Philosophy and Humanities at Southern University. With a J.D. in addition to his Ph.D., he then practiced law. His expertise in philosophy and law come through repeatedly in his explication of several topics in Shakespeare studies.
Crucially, Gontar appreciates complexity, repeatedly emphasizing its vital place in our understanding of Shakespeare. He persuasively shows that our reading of Shakespeare will be impoverished if we continue trying to separate the author from his works. In addition to the relevance of a Shakespearean character's "backstory," Gontar notes that "it is equally impossible to form a conception of characters without reference to their future" (36). I found this original and convincing. He celebrates Juliet as the strongest character in her play, commenting, "It is precisely her mix of vulnerability and uncanny determination which makes her vivid, real, and kin to us" (62).
Gontar's close reading of the text offers a superb historical and linguistic exegesis of Shakespeare's character Poins in Chapter 4. There are many places where Gontar's expertise in philosophy, like that of A.D. Nuttall, helpfully informs his reading of the text. For example, in elucidating his persuasive thesis that Prince Hal's friend Poins was a nobleman, he zeroes in on Poins's use of the phrase "How ill it follows," showing that it reflects Poins's knowledge of the principles of logic.
Gontar is also knowledgeable about psychoanalysis, as in his exploration of the psychology of the "wittol" ("a contented cuckold") in Chapter 6. It elucidates his convincing thesis that several of Shakespeare's male characters (e.g., Troilus, Collatine, Posthumous, Othello and Duke Orsino) enact unconscious wishes to be cuckolded. I found his formulation consistent with my clinical psychoanalytic experience. He cogently refutes skeptics such as John Collington, who reject this possibility out of hand. This is merely one example of Gontar's working knowledge of the role the unconscious plays in the human complexity that de Vere understood so deeply.
We can reasonably conjecture that de Vere knew this dynamic of cuckoldry firsthand. Note that the OED defines "wittol" as "a willing cuckold." The word occurs once in Shakespeare, in Merry Wives of Windsor. Sir John Harrington (who hinted that he knew de Vere wrote several "Shakespeare" plays, as well as The Arte of English Poesie) accused de Vere of being a wittol. According to Gerard Kilroy, who published a 2009 edition of Harrington's complete epigrams, he used the name "Caius" in several of them to lampoon de Vere.
Epigram 51 (Of Caius' Increase in his Absence) alleges that de Vere's wife got pregnant while he was "beyond the Seas." Epigram 94, titled Of Wittoll, casts Anne de Vere as a prostitute, and her husband as a pimp: Cayus, none reckned of thy wife a point, While each man might, without all let or cumber But since a watch o're her thou didst appoint, Of Customers she hath no little number. Well, let them laugh hereat that list, and scoffe it, But thou do'st find what makes most for thy profit. The word "epigram" occurs only once in the canon, in Much Ado about Nothing. De Vere may have been responding to Harington's Caius epigrams when he had Benedick say, "Dost thou think I care for a satire or an epigram? No" (V.iv.102).
Chapter 7 vigorously and effectively refutes the tired claim that Oxfordians are snobs, showing instead that our Stratfordian critics are projecting their own elitist views when they make this ad hominem accusation. Given Gontar's sophisticated understanding of psychology, it was disconcerting to read his contrasting claim that "Psychologizing the play [Hamlet] is lame..." (413), as well as his statement that "As Shakespeare is a philosophical poet, psychological expositions of his characters must inevitably fall short" (117). Let me just add that a core psychoanalytic concept is the principle of multiple function, which posits that meaning is complex, and the same feeling, behavior, or symptom can simultaneously express multiple meanings.
While Oxfordians agree that Edward de Vere wrote the Shakespeare canon, we disagree on other matters, such as the Prince Tudor theory. Gontar soft-pedals his Oxfordian outlook in much of the book (he says the authorship issue is "a burning topic of contention" for "a rarified elite" ) Similarly, his endorsement of the Prince Tudor theory is relatively muted in much of the book, though prominent in other chapters. But it no doubt helps explain his insistence that Hamlet revolves around the Prince's realization that his real father is not King Hamlet, but his ostensible uncle Claudius. That is, he attributes to Hamlet the questionable paternity that one version of the Prince Tudor theory attributes to de Vere. More plausibly, because faithful to de Vere's literary sources, Gontar also highlights the likelihood that educated audience members would know of the rumor that Brutus was the illegitimate son of Julius Caesar, and thus hear Antony's words "the most unkindest cut of Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter - "19 - Winter 2014 all" (III.ii, 181) as meaning "lacking in filial affection or respect" (OED 3.b). Yet Gontar is too hard on Brutus. The historical Julius Caesar did show signs of wanting to subvert the Romans' beloved Republic by becoming their dictator.
Gontar will lose many readers when he opines that our age is too "fearful" of "authority" (157). Whatever one's personal political views, it sells de Vere short to interpret any of his plays in an oversimplified way. In Julius Caesar, he manages to keep our sympathies in a tense balance between Caesar and Brutus. I strongly agree with Gontar that "Shakespeare is always about us, not them" (158).
Gontar risks antagonizing his Oxfordian readers when he writes in his Introduction that "the Oxfordians, anxious at every turn to reduce meaning to biography, reveal themselves as the most lackluster of expounders" (23). Biting the hand that buys his book? He also passes up opportunities to illustrate the advantages of knowing who the author is when discussing the plays. For example, he cites "the unknown god" of Acts 17:23, but fails to note that the Vulgate version of this phrase gave de Vere one of his pen names, "Ignoto."
Gontar seems coy when he declines to speculate about Shakespeare's religious views, considering the fact that we have de Vere's annotated Geneva Bible. This is one of many moments when Gontar seems to be writing for a Stratfordian audience, whom he does not wish to alienate by revealing his authorship heresy. Perhaps some of the essays in this book were originally written for publications that would have censored a more openly heretical opinion. He creates a false dichotomy in his exploration of religious themes in All's Well That Ends Well, playing Ovid's Metamorphoses against the Geneva Bible, when de Vere may well have translated the former, and heavily annotated the latter. And yes, pace Ted Hughes, de Vere also explored the myth of the Magna Mater in his plays. But Shakespeare always tolerates complexity better than we do. Gontar correctly notes the religious syncretism in Shakespeare, but dismisses the Christian element as "merely the background noise left over from the 'big bang' of Roman expansionism" (176).
Gontar does stop short of viewing Shakespeare as a primarily secular author. He believes Shakespeare instead adheres to pagan religion, to a degree that is "inconsisent with any smug secularism" (177). Viewing de Vere as a polytheist is consistent with his corresponding perceptiveness about our multiplicity of self-states.
Monotheism can be an unconscious projection of a misleading self-image as having a unitary identity. So de Vere's paganism is indeed a crucial insight. Yet here, as elsewhere in his book, Gontar repeatedly undermines his credibility by favoring either/or dichotomies over a full appreciation of de Vere's "infinite variety."
Like all of us, Gontar sometimes gives in to the temptation of downplaying competing ideas while advocating for his own. At times, he acknowledges that he is merely speculating. On the other hand, he struck me as too dismissive of Greenblatt's excellent Hamlet in Purgatory, and of erring when he claims "Hamlet's angst has nothing to do with the strife of religious theories, and everything to do with who and what he is [according to Gontar's theory, the son of Claudius]" (394).
Gontar is a master of aphorisms. "To read we must learn first to unread, to find the gumption to shrug off the security of adolescent omniscience" (142). Gontar has fine esthetic sensibilities that are closely attuned to Shakespeare's genius. He appreciates the greater impact on us of Shakespeare's subtlety - "the idea is all the more effective for its obliqueness" (148). This is probably so because Shakespeare is thus more effective in engaging both our conscious and unconscious responses to his words. Put another way, he brings together our usually disparate self-states, adding to our esthetic enjoyment, and helping to explain the observation that Shakespeare seems to know us better than we know ourselves.
If I may be permitted a digression, much of my psychoanalytic work for the past 30 years has been with patients who have dissociative identity disorder (formerly called multiple personality). I shared with one patient my fantasy that I might curatively bring her conflicting "alters" together if only I could think of a joke they would all find equally funny. What for me was mere whimsy bathetically reflects this aspect of Shakespeare's creative genius.
It takes a certain independence of spirit to be openly Oxfordian. Gontar demonstrates his individualism in ways that will endear him to some readers, while alienating him from others. Chapter 15, "False Radicals," Gontar risks antagonizing his Oxfordian readers when he writes in his Introduction that "the Oxfordians, anxious at every turn to reduce meaning to biography, reveal themselves as the most lackluster of expounders" (23). Biting the hand that buys his
Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter - "20 - Winter 2014 is a diatribe against Catherine Belsey, a feminist Shakespeare critic - and perhaps a diatribe against feminism in general. Many men will also be offended by Gontar's complaint that "Women will not prosper by seeking to emasculate their counterparts, or exploit male errors to win the upper hand..." (319).
It is not only women - sorry, feminists - who come in for Gontar's scorn. He devotes Chapter 17 to another diatribe, this one against Martin Lings, a Shakespeare scholar and an English Protestant who converted to Islam. Gontar seems to hate Islam, with some francophobe sentiment thrown in for good measure: French scholarship has never been able to come to terms with Shakespeare; filled with envy and resentment, it is forever spinning polysyllabic theories aimed at dissolving his art in a bath of toxic noise. This neoplastic hyper-intellectualism of the French metastasizes in the hands of Gallic-Islamic acolytes... yielding an aggressive and spiritually distempered campaign to wipe out western humanism and replace it with legions of murmuring satraps (374f).!
I don't know about Western Civilization, but civilized discourse does indeed seem threatened here. Gontar seems determined to sabotage interfaith dialogue when he writes (in the context of Islam), "Shakespeare is important. He is our citadel, the bulwark shielding all that is good and genuinely sane in the west. Those who would destroy us know this by instinct, and busy themselves forging alliances with other agents of disintegration to annihilate Shakespeare once and for all" (375).
Some readers have reacted favorably to Gontar's writing style. For example, Gary Livacari wrote of it in his Amazon review of the book: "It is hard to fully articulate his command of the English language... Some may characterize it as pedantic or stilted. By contrast, I found it to be challenging in a most engaging way... And yes, it may be best to have a dictionary nearby."
Gontar himself criticizes writing that is "pompous" or filled with "polysyllabic jargon" (284-285). Ironically, I found myself wishing someone would take Gontar's thesaurus away from him. He weakens his impact by being unnecessarily obscure at some times, and misusing words at others. E.g., "protreptic," "self-diremption," "superpuissant," "emulous," "peccancy" and "fedary" (yes, Shakespeare used the latter word, but the OED calls it obsolete, and editions of Shakespeare have footnotes to explain such words).
The problems with wording are partly a matter of Gontar's seeming uncertainty about his target audience. When writing for fellow academics, it is expected that one will try to use words they will not understand, in order to maintain one's scholarly bona fides. (Much to his credit, Gontar lampoons the typical scholarly article as an "autopsy report" ). But this book seems intended for a general audience. At times, his stilted language combines with what strike this reviewer as mistaken ideas - e.g., "The emotive approach to Shakespeare is perhaps the least fecund of all" (13). But, having said all this, I admit that I tend to be most captious toward authors toward whom I feel most, well, emulous.
Richard M. Waugaman, M.D., Reviewer
The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter
Vol. 50, No. 1, Winter 2014
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us
Greek Tragedy With Our Own Blood
Simon Critchley's "Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us" (2019) explores ancient Greek tragedy and philosophy and discusses their continued significance. Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School of Social Research, has written extensively on philosophy and on philosophy's relationship to literature. He has the gift of writing both for those highly read in philosophy and for the more general reader, as shown in his role as moderator for the New York Times philosophy column "The Stone". This gift for combining the scholarly and the popular is fully used in his study of Greek tragedy. His book draws on ancient texts, scholarly writing, and modern popular culture.
Critchley argues that the ancients need "a little of our own blood" to speak to us. He means that by becoming engaged with the passions and dilemmas of the ancient plays, "we" people of today can get a broader, deeper understanding of who we are and who we might become. Critchley writes:
"Without wanting to piggyback on the dizzying success of vampire fiction, the latter's portion of truth is that the ancients need a little of our true blood in order to speak to us. When revived, we will notice that when the ancients speak, they do not merely tell us about themselves. They tell us about us. But who is the 'us' that might still be claimed and compelled by these ancient texts, by these ruins? And here is both the beauty and strangeness of this thought: This 'us is not necessarily existent. It is us, but in some new way, some alien manner. It is us, but not as we have seen ourselves before, turned inside out and upside down."
With this enigmatic introduction, Critchley offers a complex portrayal of Greek tragedy that focuses on the ambiguities of the human condition and of the multi-faceted, competing characters of human goods that come into conflict in Greek tragedy and in human life. He discusses how seemingly autonomous individuals are controlled by their past, with little degree of self-knowledge. Critchley shows how Greek tragedy displays both the scope of and the severe limits of human reason. In a provocative passage, Critchley contrasts the polytheism of Greek tragedy with the monotheism of the three leading Western religions. He writes:
"What is preferable about the world of Greek tragedy is that it is a polytheistic world with a diversity of deeply flawed gods and rival conceptions of the good. It is my conviction, ... that the lesson of tragedy is that it is prudent to abandon any notion of monotheism whether it is either of the three Abrahamic monotheisms, a Platonic monotheism rooted in the metaphysical primacy of the Good, or indeed the secular monotheism of liberal democracy and human rights that still circles around a weak, deistic conception of God."
Late in his book, he characterizes tragedy and drama as showing what it means to be alive. In a conversation about the themes of tragedy, an actor tells Critchely he is overly taken with concepts. She says: "Of course, what theater is about is a certain experience of aliveness. That's all that matters. The rest is just ideas. Good ideas, maybe. But just ideas."
The development of Critchley's understanding of tragedy offers more than enough for a book, but Critchley offers still more. Critchley contrasts the approach to life of the Greek dramatists with the approach taken slightly thereafter by Greek philosophy, largely in the figures of Plato and Aristotle. Critchley contrasts the "philosophy of tragedy" of the philosophers with the "tragedy of philosophy" of the dramatists. He argues that philosophers tried to use reason to come to an idealistic, unitary understanding of the nature of life; and that through the centuries, as argued by Nietzsche, the claims of reason were dashed, leading to nihilism. The tragedians were wiser in their skepticism of the power of reason. They were more akin, in Critchley's telling to sophist thinkers such as Gorgias in emphasizing rhetoric and the irreducible character of many human separate human goods than to Plato and Aristotle.
The complexity of this book makes it wander and feel somewhat disjointed. The opening section of the book titled "Introduction" offers a broad, wide-ranging statement of Critchley's themes and aims. The following section "Tragedy" ranges widely and explores, among other things, a small number of Greek dramas, scholarly studies, and Hegel's thoughts on tragedy.
The third part of the book explores Greek sophistry, with a focus on Georgias and some of his little-known writings. I found this valuable. Critchley also discusses Plato's treatment of the sophists with a focus on the "Phaedrus" and the "Georgias". Critchley's discussion of the sophists and his sympathy with them over Plato and Aristotle reminded me of Carlin Romano's book, "America the Philosophical" which likewise prefers the sophists to the absolutism of Plato and Aristotle and links sophism to the American philosophy of pragmatism.
The fourth part of the book is a lengthy discussion of Plato's "Republic" and an exposition and critique of his views on tragedy. Then, the book offers an equally detailed treatment of Aristotle's "Poetics" together with a considerable discussion of Euripides as a possible counter-example to some of what Aristotle says. The book in all its parts moves back and forth between discussions of particular Greek plays, discussions of Greek philosophy, discussions of later-day philosophers and critics, and broad discussion and argument about tragedy's continued significance.
The "Acknowledgement" section of a book is usually routine, but I found Critchley's deeply moving. Critchley is not a classical philosopher by training and admits to the weaknesses in his study of ancient Greek. The child of an English working-class family, Critchley was initially a poor student before a perceptive history teacher recommended to the young 11 year old "The Greeks" by H.D.F. Kitto. I read Kitto's book early in my studies and was surprised to learn of its importance to Critchley. Critchley came relatively late to academic life. His book both brought back memories of my own study and enhanced my understanding of Greek drama and Greek philosophy.
Elmore Leonard: Four Novels of the 1980s
Elmore Leonard, author
Greg Sutter, editor
Library of America
The 1980s Elmore Leonard In The Library Of America
The line between genre literature written for entertainment and more thoughtful, artistic writing is frequently difficult to draw. A virtue of American culture is its attempt to break down this distinction, an attempt which sometimes is successful. Elmore Leonard (1925 -- 2013) is an example of a writer who straddles the line between popular entertainment and literature. In his long career, Leonard first wrote westerns before turning to the genre of crime fiction. His work has received deserved popular success as well as critical recognition.
The Library of America does an invaluable service in making America's literary accomplishments available and accessible. The LOA's volumes show the breadth and diversity of America's writing and history, from popular genres to works such as "Moby-Dick" and "Leaves of Grass". Leonard's writing has been well-served by the LOA. In 2016, it published three volumes of Leonard's crime fiction followed in 2018 by a volume of Leonard's western novels and stories. The three volumes of crime writings were edited by Gregg Sutter, Leonard's longtime research assistant. Leonard himself selected the works to be included in the LOA series.
This volume, "Four Novels of the 1980s" is the middle of the three volumes of Leonard's crime writings and includes four works, "City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit" (1980), "LaBrava" (1981), "Glitz" (1985), and "Freaky Deaky"(1988). The volume also includes Sutter's note on the meticulous factual research he and Leonard did for each novel together with a news article "Impressions of Murder" that Leonard wrote on the Detroit Police Department that became the basis for "City Primeval".
Leonard's writing has been growing on me. The first impression his works make usually turns on his gift for sharp, punchy, and colloquial dialogue. As I read further, I became interested in the diversity of Leonard's settings, which range in this volume from Detroit to Miami to Atlantic City. Each book shows its own strong sense of place. The strongest part of Leonard's writing may be his gift for characterization and for portraying ordinary people, good, bad, and ambiguously in-between. Leonard shows an understanding of people and his characters are finely etched. Probably for this reason, he is known as the "Dickens of Detroit". Leonard's crime stories and plotting is sometimes cumbersome and hard to follow. I think it sometimes is the weak part of his writing, but it always serves as a frame for character, setting, and language. Leonard's books are entertaining but also give the reader something to think about.
My favorite work in this volume is "City Primeval" which is an affectionately gritty portrayal of the crime-ridden Detroit in the late 1970's. The book effectively combines crime fiction with the earlier western genre with which Leonard began his career. Leonard was a fan of movies and there are many allusions to film in his writing. (Many of his novels and stories were also filmed) This novel is a struggle between good and evil in the persons of the strong, silent police investigator, Raymond Cruz, and the flamboyant killer, Clement Mansell, the "Oklahoma Wildman". Mansell's efforts to bring the Oklahoma Wildman to justice quickly pass beyond the necessary level for law enforcement and become personal. "City Primeval" is one of Leonard's best novels.
"LaBrava" is set in the deteriorated Miami of the 1980s and features the character, Joe LaBrava, a photographer and former secret service agent. The novel features a close look at the streets, hotels, and history of Miami and of its diverse residents. The characters are photographers, artists, and aging film noir actresses together with some rather dense villains. The plotting becomes cumbersome, but the book works through its language, setting and characterizations. The book received the 1984 Edgar Allen Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for best novel.
"Glitz" is largely set in the high-roller gambling world of Atlantic City but it includes important scenes in Puerto Rico and Florida as well. The novel again pits good guy against bad guy in the persons of detective Vincent Mora, based in Miami and the viciously psychotic killer and mama's boy, Teddy Magyk. The book also has a strong component of romance between Mora and a club singer, Linda Moon, who also figures in Leonard's much later novel, "Be Cool". The title and the story capture the glitz and glitter of Atlantic City's lights and casinos which serve as a veneer for the corruption and violence underneath. "Glitz" became Leonard's first novel to become a best-seller.
"Freaky Deaky" was one of Leonard's own favorites among his novels. The story is set in Detroit of the 1980s but most of the major characters were formed during the counter-culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The primary characters in the story all are morally tarnished, even the protagonist, a sympathetically-portrayed detective who specializes in explosives, Chris Mankowski. The criminals in the story include two former radicals, Skip and Robin, who are plotting to attain the inherited wealth of another figure from the 1960s, the alcoholic, otiose Woody who is tended to by a sinister figure, Darnell, who, like Skip and Robin has served jail time. With their greed and stupidity, the criminals fight against one another as well as against their intended victim.. The book recalls the unlamented youth culture of the 1960s and what one character describes as "their own kind of freaky deaky. You remember that sexy dance? Man, we had people shooting each other over it."
The LOA is to be commended for its breadth of vision in including the works of Elmore Leonard in its series. My appreciation for Leonard has grown with this volume of 1980s novels. The book will interest readers who enjoy crime fiction as well as readers who want to explore the scope of American writing.
Holt, Reinhart, and Winston
A Treasured Poet Revisited
I first read the American poet Horace Gregory (1898 -- 1962) over 40 years ago as a law student looking for relief from the tedium of cases and statutes. Somewhere along the way, I purchased Gregory's "Collected Poems" (1964), and the book and the poetry have stayed with me. Gregory was born in my home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He taught English at Sarah Lawrence University, translated Ovid and Catullus, and wrote essays, literary criticism, anthologies and histories of poetry (co-authored by his wife, the poet Marya Zaturenska) and an autobiography in addition to his poetry. His poetry, unfortunately, is little-known today.
The "Collected Poems" consists of Gregory's own selection from his six earlier published volumes of poetry. A seventh volume of poems, "Another Look" was published in 1976. Gregory received the prestigious Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1965. The six individual volumes included in the "Collected Poems" span over thirty years, and were published in 1930, 1933, 1935, 1941, 1951, and 1961, It is moving to see how Gregory's poetry both retained its character and also developed over the years.
Gregory writes in free verse in what became a highly literary allusive style which focused increasingly on sound and on the beauty of language. His work is highly elegiac and reflective, and his most often used form is the dramatic monologue. Gregory's first book, "Chelsea Rooming House" is different and narrower and scope than the works which followed. Gregory had moved to New York City fired with the ambition of becoming a poet. In Depression Era New York City, he wrote a series of short poems mostly as monologues of individual down and out characters in the poor sections of Manhattan. The poems speak of failed ambition, failed love, poverty, and hope and express the views of the downtrodden and the economically exploited. I still find these Depression-centered poems moving. In the Prefatory Note to his "Collected Poems" Gregory writes:
"The people who walked the streets of Chelsea were the strays of the city. They were ex-circus performers, ex-Boston-Irish, ex-Broadway actors -- ex everything that one could think of, all figures of nightmare who seemed to find cheerful pride in their distress. ... It so happened that the creatures I overheard and saw around me held portents of human waste, bewilderment, and loss that were so deeply and generally felt during the decade before World War II. I feel that some of these sources of inspiration did not play false."
Gregory's later books also explore themes related to human misery and to the downtrodden of Chelsea Rooming House. But the poet's scope becomes broader. He writes, for example, of his native Wisconsin and of Italy in addition to New York City. His poems often center in the past, to the ancient world, with stories and voices that have a modern theme. Widely diverse historical figures including, Emerson, Melville, Goethe, Randolph Bourne, Henry Moore, John Skelton, Hokusai and others appear as characters. The poems are often sad and violent as the speakers reach out for more meaning in the world and in their individual lives. Many of the latter poems allude to World War II. The poems become longer and more complex, particularly in the extended monologues included in the final collection, "Medusa in Gramercy Park" (1961) which was nominated for the National Book Award in Poetry.
Of the six books included, I particularly enjoyed "Chorus for Survival" (1935) a collection of twelve, untitled melancholy poems full of sadness, hope, and memory. Here is the eleventh poem from the collection, about Gregory's home town of Milwaukee.
"Under cool skies, Wisconsin's April weather,
Promise of lilac fragrance in the air,
And that vast Lake where memories restore
Westward the wave to India, the passage
Chartered through night/and the returning dawn:
Over the mast-head shines the morning star.
Gather foregather/ in the pale mist of Juneau's city:
Below it flows the thin Menomenee
Where forests were: clay-banked the silver river,
The trail in memory across the plain.
And from grey roots, the lilac flowering
In tombs that open when remembered spring
Comes home again beneath a tall roof-tree.
And through the night one hears
Across white beaches, out of shifting waves:
The sound of water leaping in the dark:
The shadowy presence of the inland sea."
I was moved when I returned to Gregory's "Collected Poems" again after many years. People sometimes discover their own writers who mean a great deal to them even when these writers may be obscure. I was glad for the opportunity to reread and remember Horace Gregory and some of the earlier times when I had read him and to pass something of his work along to others through this review.
Shannon Carriger's Bookshelf
A Journey for Perlene
9781788302739, 6.99 Brit. pounds, $10.99PB, $3.91 Kindle, 87pp, www.amazon.com
SC: How autobiographical is the novel, and why was it important to you to tell the story in a non-linear fashion?
SR: The book is somewhat autobiographical as the character Perlene's story is very similar to mine. Biographical because the characters Camille and Antoinette mimic the lives of my sisters, who migrated to England the same time I did. The book was written over a period of eight years and was written in a non-linear fashion because I wrote it as and when my memory recalled the events. Taking into consideration that my sisters and I have families of our own, I felt it was wise to use fictitious characters to tell the story in a biographical style rather than an autobiographical one.
SC: There seems to be a cultural commentary at the heart of Judas's deportation. What is this episode in the novel meant to convey about government involvement in the lives of families?
SR: Judas was deported just over a year after he got married. He was studying at the time he was deported and that was for failing to send his paperwork in within the time frame given. This was due to the financial hardship being a full-time student, working part-time, and having to pay a solicitor to submit the paperwork to immigration. He sent it in as soon as he had sufficient funds to do so, but the deadline had lapsed by then.
He got married during that period, but the government decided that this made no difference to their decision when he appealed against the deportation order. He showed evidence of his qualifications, but it made no difference. I visited my local MP and even wrote to the prime minister, and still they would not revoke the order, so in the end he had to leave for a period of over three years before the deportation order could be revoked. This was not justified, as he clearly had every intention of trying to make a better life for himself and his family.
The long-distance relationship had its toll on his marriage, and his children were affected by the decision. Financial limitations meant I was only able to visit twice over the three-year period. When my husband returned, we had to start over again, rebuilding our marital relationship, which put great strain on the marriage. What could have been the marriage of a lifetime was permanently damaged. The reality was that when he returned, he sought employment straight away and found work, and we tried rebuilt together over the next fourteen years before the marriage ultimately ended in divorce.
The government needs to look at their policies when making a decision to separate families, especially when they pose no threat to society and those separations have irreversible long-term effects.
SC: As an immigrant to England, Perlene feels isolated in her new school. What can schools do to be more welcoming to immigrant students?
SR: Perlene came to England in the 1980s, and things have changed since then within the school system. However, starting school shortly after migrating, she was left to make friends rather than being introduced to her classmates or even having a classmate show her around for the first week to help her settle into her new school. There was excitement for the students who already attended the school, as they knew new children were going to start attending the school, but as Perlene was 14 years old and had no idea of the school system in England. It was quite unsettling and challenging. Since 1981, there have been changes to help integrate children of different nationalities into new schools, like assigning a classmate to show them around.
SC: Relationships between men and women are often negative in the book. Is this meant to reflect the negative aspects of a male-dominated culture or just the bad luck of these particular women?
SR: In our culture, many families are fatherless, meaning that the fathers are absent for many number of reasons. This includes families whose children choose not to remain with their parents, and so as a result the children in most cases live without the presence of father or male figure in their lives. Sometimes, as in Perlene's case, they end up in relationships seeking fatherly love. And most of the time the men in the relationship are themselves fatherless and so don't know how to treat or show love to a woman.
Therefore, I would say that it is not so much a comment on a negative aspect male-dominated culture but more on the consequences of having absent fathers.
SC: The loss of Antoinette's child is structured around the loss of the daughter's potential. How does her loss resonate with the family?
SR: The loss of Antoinette's daughter for her was devastating. She loved her very much, and she was the first child in her marriage. Antoinette felt she didn't get the opportunity she wanted to be a gymnast when she was a child, so she supported her daughter, who loved sports. Her daughter managed to compete in swimming galas and secured a place in a private school through a scholarship. Being that her daughter was hard working and had great potential and was so young when she departed this Earth, it was devastating not just to her mother, father, and siblings but to the whole family.
SC: Perlene and Camille both suffer abuse in the novel, though the abuse is not specifically described. Camille receives some form of diagnosis and treatment but still ends her own life. How would you like to see mental health addressed for victims of abuse?
SR: Mental health issues are now taken more seriously than in the past, as we can see from the media coverage. Mental health issues for a child can be difficult to detect when one does not know the underlying problems that might be present. For Camille, she lived with it for many years without telling anyone. However, the fact that she tried to commit suicide on more than one occasion was an indication of mental health issues and therefore should have been taken seriously by health professionals. Camille was also admitted to the hospital and released after two years, but she was sent home without being offered adequate care from Social Services, like ensuring that she was monitored and cared for whilst trying to integrate back into the community.
SC: Perlene struggles when she learns her daughter Ashiek is a lesbian. Do you see her struggle as more influenced by the Christian community of which she is a part or of the Jamaican culture in which she was raised?
SR: Perlene was brought up in a heterosexual and Christian household and so was never educated on that type of lifestyle. Perlene growing up as a child in school did not think about lesbianism, and so this subject matter was taboo. It was also not accepted in the church environment, and it has only just recently been publicly embraced by some church denominations. This is also a taboo subject in Jamaica, where Perlene is from, at least during the time she resided there. I would say that we fear the unknown and subjects we know very little about, so we try to avoid them or pretend they don't exist. However, the bond between a mother and her child is not easily broken.
SC: The value of forgiveness is a meaningful and central concept in the novel. Why was it important for you personally to write about forgiveness?
SR: Forgiveness is taught in every culture and religion in some form or the other, and one of the areas that I study is "The Laws of Attraction," which teaches that to forgive is healthy because we make ourselves ill if we do not. The unfairness of unforgiveness is that it makes people bitter and angry. The most devastating part of unforgiveness is that it is usually the result of person's action being imposed on another. Hence the person who ends up with unforgiveness is the innocent party. Thinking about it, why should anyone allow another to impose anger, bitterness, and other unhealthy emotions on them when in fact they did nothing wrong?
A prime example is when Perlene's husband, Judas, has an affair. Why should Perlene become bitter and angry, which in turn triggers illness and bad days, even though she did not provoke or encourage his behavior? By forgiving him and moving on with her life, she can remain hopeful and have a better quality of life. The laws of attraction teach that Karma puts things right and religion teaches that 'what you sew you reap. Thus Perlene's belief is that you are responsible for your own actions and so you create your own reality.
Shannon Carriger, Interviewer/Reviewer
Manhattan Book Review
Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Because You're Mine
St. Martin's Griffin
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Because I enjoyed Rea Frey's debut novel, Not Her Daughter, I chose to read her second. Told in three points of view (Lee, the mother of Mason, a spectrum child; Noah, Mason's tutor; and Grace, Lee's best friend), this book is a read-in-one-sitting page-turner. All the characters are well-developed, including Mason, but all except Mason have deep dark secrets. None are who they seem to be, and the plot draws readers in with its twists and turns. By the time the book climaxes, three people are dead, and the killers(s) are those you'd least suspect. While in Not Her Daughter a bad thing was done for a good reason, here in Because You're Mine, bad things are done for sociopathic reasons.
I loved the depiction of Mason. Frey does a superb job showing how the delightful quirky, yet devastatingly honest Mason fits into his mother's world.
Read this book for its characterization and for the surprise ending that will leave you understanding all the clues and wondering why you didn't see it coming.
Adelaide Books LLC
I had a hard time getting into the first few pages of Monkey Temple, but I was soon captivated. As a woman of a certain age (roughly the same age as Jules, the protagonist of Monkey Temple), I found myself both living the story and reliving my own past as a child of the Age of Aquarius. I appreciated Jules's lifelong search for himself and for enlightenment. He and various characters he's met on his journey and remained at least on-again, off-again friends with for decades, are staring into the face of death. Scenes in the present pull up memories of the past and trips to Spain, Kathmandu, India, Morocco, sometimes using drugs, sometimes not. Jules, unsure of what he wants to do with whatever time he has left, and seeing his friend Ralston's despair over a cancer diagnosis, embarks on a chaotic, aging-hippie road trip with all the wit of Kerouac and Kesey.
Oil and Marble
c/o Skyhorse Publishing
If you love Florence, the Renaissance, and art history, read Oil and Marble. The rivalry between Michelangelo and da Vinci is much less well-known than their works of art. Oil and Marble is a well-researched, if highly imagined, version of their antagonism. Author Storey depicts Leonardo as a sophisticated older, yet almost-ADHD, man scattered between multiple projects, living in his head while the younger Michelangelo is more concrete in his thoughts and far less worldly. The reader alternates between rooting for one, then the other to succeed. Story has done a great job bringing their competitiveness to life and layers facts into her novel in an entertaining way, allowing the story to come to life without drowning the reader in obscure details. An enjoyable read.
Michael Mammay in his debut novel, Planetside, creates a surprisingly believable science fiction military thriller. It is a tightly-plotted, fast-paced novel that is suspenseful throughout. The science part of the science-fiction was well thought-out and realistically depicted. I especially appreciated the strong presence of women as capable military beings. Colonel Carl Butler is dispatched to Cappa Three to find the son of a powerful politician who is missing in action after being wounded. Things are less clear on Cappa than he anticipated. He's stone-walled at every level off is investigation. He is a well-depicted character with flaws as well as being an honorable and experienced soldier, and the rest of the characters are just as rich and intriguing. I read this in one sitting.
The House by the Cypress Trees
The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Mikalsen describes Tuscany in all its glory, stirring up images of the landscape I saw during the years I lived in Italy. Her details and descriptions are superb. Texas teacher Julia is taking a break after providing long-term care for her now-deceased adoptive mother. Her father urges her to visit her birth mother in Italy. Along the way, Julia runs into a British man visiting his family vineyards. This is a forced-proximity trope romance in the vein of old romantic comedies: light, fluffy and amusing.
The Last Caliph
First Coast Publishers, LLC; 1 edition
The Last Caliph is a fascinating story well-grounded in contemporary current events - even taken right from today's headlines - with a CIA agent trying to stop ISIS's plans to use American sleeper agents to carry out terrorist attacks on their fellow Americans on American soil. The characters reek with authenticity and are well-delineated. Author Williams writes with great detail, sometimes too much so, with details that really aren't pertinent to his story - such shifting point of view to one of Alexander's friends as that friend scratches his psoriasis. That pulled me out of the story. At times the dialogue seems a bit pedantic, seeming to exist only to convey information to the reader, such as when all these CIA dudes sat around talking about details of 9/11. I would expect them to already be conversant on those details and not needing to rehash it. Overall, the book is jam-packed with authentic, technical details which only someone who has "walked the walk" could produce. These details lends the book an authenticity I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Sin Soldiers
The Parliament House
The Sin Soldiers by Tracy Auerbach is a young adult dystopia novel. Earthlings have already destroyed Earth and have moved to the current plant. The book has an interesting concept: the seven deadly sins can be induced by crystals that are mined from the planet. There is also a genetic breeding program which creates super-humans with enhanced physical capabilities or enhanced intelligence.
When subjected to these crystals, the characters' emotions and drive changed constantly, so there was no consistency in their motivation except for Aric who was bred to be emotionless. Kai, the protagonist, doesn't go through much of an emotional arc (of course, the book takes place over a mere week) other than a bit of sexual awakening. Dex, her twin, claims to love her but is also involved in a weird sexual relationship with Aric. The emotions throughout seem to lack depth.
The concept of a YA novel dealing with addiction had potential, but again, the book's time-frame is so brief that there wasn't sufficient time to fully explore these ideas. I did think the scene where Kai, while going through a maze, chose to injure herself by crawling over broken glass so she could get the her addictive substance was excellent..
This book is one in a projected series. Perhaps the further books will fully juggle the various plot points (planet being destroyed, addiction problems, battle between Eastern and Western armies, the emotional depth) with and iron out the characters' motivations. Additionally I prefer books in a series where the plot is fully worked out and the main problem solved, and then the character(s) move forward into a new story.
The Wild Impossibility
Cheryl A. Ossola
Regal House Publishing
The Wild Impossibility is Cheryl A. Ossola's debut novel, but an accomplished feat it is, combing elements of mystery, historical fiction, psychological drama, and love story into a cohesive whole. Kira, the protagonist, has suffered two miscarriages. With the second she begins to have "spells" in which she feels she's reliving someone else's life. When these spells threaten her marriage and her job, she takes off on a spiritual journey to learn whose life she's reliving. Split in time between the present and the past, and in setting between Berkeley and the Manzanar concentration camp for the Japanese during World War II, Ossola pulls the disparate elements together seamlessly. Her prose is adept with moments of lyricism. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of the desert. The Wild Impossibility is a charismatic tale of family history, secrets, and tragedy covering three generations with Kira struggling to comprehend it all. An excellent read, especially for covering Manzanar, a black moment in American history, with sensitivity.
They Called Me Wyatt
California Coldblood Books
They Called Me Wyatt is a murder mystery at heart, yet the book successfully blends several genres of fiction: murder mystery, cultural clashes, and reincarnation. I found it fascinating, particularly since Ms. Tynes is an expert on Middle Eastern affairs. Siwar, a Jordanian woman, is killed on her 25th birthday, but her consciousness moves into a boy born at the moment of her death. It is told in the voices of Siwar, the young woman, and Wyatt, the baby who grows to adulthood during the timeframe of the novel. The ending did seem a bit rushed, and the killer totally unexpected - I'd have liked a hint or two to follow along in the story. I did read the book during two sittings and enjoyed it.
They Could Have Named Her Anything
I chose to read this book because I'm trying to read more #OwnVoices/foreign/minority authors. They Could Have Named Her Anything is author Stephanie Jimenez's debut novel. Set in NYC, it is split between a poor, but comfortable family home in Queens, and a rich, but uncomfortable upper-class condo on the upper East Side. The primary story revolves around seventeen-year-old Maria - a Latinx student attending an elite girls' school and her attempts to fit into the white, upper-crust school - and Marķa, the same girl, finding her way within her own Ecuadorian/Puerto Rican family where her name carries centuries worth of religious overtones. The point of view shifts between Marķa, her wealthy friend Rocky, Marķa's father Miguel, and Rocky's father, Charlie, all characters who have foibles and quirks. The novel is empathetic and honest about adolescent female sexual urges, the "trying on" of identities during adolescence, and the need to fit into a community.
Suanne Schafer, Reviewer
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
The Plan A Diet
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781642793703, $17.99, PB, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Combining her decades-long study of both nutrition and scripture, Cyd Notter founded The "Plan A" Diet to illustrate the correlations between biblical principles and healthy eating, and to encourage readers to take an active role in their health. She demonstrates that a whole food, plant-based diet is not only the optimal strategy for dealing with today's weight problems and chronic ailments, it's proven to be the only diet capable of reversing our #1 killer, heart disease.
"The Plan A Diet" provides: Useful insights for dealing with resistance to change; Delicious remakes of comfort foods, such as pasta, burgers, and brownies; A 7-day Meal Plan, plus an optional 5-week Transition Plan; Tips for evaluating conflicting dietary information; Prayer, biblical encouragement, and discussion questions
Today's unbiased research continually confirms that God's first prescribed diet for mankind (His "Plan A" Diet) remains the ideal food to this day. By choosing this plan for health reasons, incredible benefits will result from living in harmony with your divine design.
Critique: Deftly combining solid information with respect to nutrition with biblical injunctions with respect to acceptable foods for human consumption, "The Plan A Diet" is an extraordinary and unique approach to creating and maintaining optimal personal health and well-being. While unreservedly endorsed and recommended for community and academic library Health/Medicine collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Plan A Diet" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).
Editorial Note: Cyd Notter is a graduate of the Center for Nutrition Studies and a certified instructor for several dietary therapy courses, including The Starch Solution, Food Over Medicine, and Women's Health. In 2015, she also completed Dr. John McDougall's online course titled Dietary Therapy for Reversing Common Diseases. Cyd develops and offers a variety of health and cooking classes, provides nutritional coaching on both individual and corporate levels, speaks to local groups, and has worked with school district employees and a hospital's fitness center. Her column titled "The Nutrition Coach" (which ran in three local newspapers for seven years) featured general dietary advice, recipes, and answers to reader's questions. Several of her articles have also been published in Cape Style Magazine, a Florida-based on-line publication.
Life after Losing a Child
Pat Young & Joanna Romer
1760-F Airline Hwy, #203, Hollister, CA 950243
9781942891710, $19.95, PB, 136pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Compiled and co-presented by Pat Young and Joanna Romer, "Life after Losing a Child" tells the poignant stories of a dozen individuals who have suffered the loss of a child. and describes how they learned to heal.
"Life after Losing a Child" shows readers who have suffered the loss of a loved on how to come to grips with the loss and handle the grief; how to engage in activities that help the healing process; and how to find the strength to move on.
Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Life after Losing a Child" is especially recommended reading for anyone having to deal with the loss of a child -- as well as those wanting to know how they can help someone bereft and grieving the loss of a child. Simply stated, "Life after Losing a Child" should be a part of every community library collection in the country.
Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781788735094, $29.95, HC, 416pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Where are you from?" was the question hounding Hazel Carby as a girl in post - World War II London. One of the so-called brown babies of the Windrush generation, born to a Jamaican father and Welsh mother, Carby's place in her home, her neighborhood, and her country of birth was always in doubt.
A combination biography and history, in the pages of "Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands" Carby untangles the threads connecting members of her family to each other in a web woven by the British Empire across the Atlantic. We meet Carby's working-class grandmother Beatrice, a seamstress challenged by poverty and disease.
In England, she was thrilled by the cosmopolitan fantasies of empire, by cities built with slave-trade profits, and by street peddlers selling fashionable Jamaican delicacies. In Jamaica, we follow the lives of both the "white Carbys" and the "black Carbys," as Mary Ivey, a free woman of colour, whose children are fathered by Lilly Carby, a British soldier who arrived in Jamaica in 1789 to be absorbed into the plantation aristocracy.
And we also discover the hidden stories of Bridget and Nancy, two women owned by Lilly who survived the Middle Passage from Africa to the Caribbean.
Moving between the Jamaican plantations, the hills of Devon, the port cities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Kingston, and the working-class estates of South London, Carby's family story is at once an intimate personal history and a sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands.
In charting British empire's interweaving of capital and bodies, public language and private feeling, Carby will find herself reckoning with what she can tell, what she can remember, and what she can bear to know.
Critique: Offering an inherently fascinating perspective of the legacy of the British Empire through the lens of one biracial woman's life story and that of her extended family, "Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: Hazel V. Carby is a co-author of "The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain", and the author of "Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America, Race Men, and Reconstructing Womanhood". For three decades she taught at Yale University as the Charles C. and Dorothea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies and Professor of American Studies.
The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods
The University of Alabama Press
PO Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0380
9780817320195, $39.95, HC, 344pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods", Emily Blejwas (Director of the Gulf States Health Policy Center in Bayou La Batre, Alabama) explores well-known Alabama food traditions to reveal salient histories of the state in a new way. In a unique approach to state history, "The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods" is part travelogue and part cookbook in which the author pays homage to fourteen emblematic foods, dishes, and beverages, one per chapter, as a lens for exploring the diverse cultures and traditions of the state.
Throughout Alabama's history, food traditions have been fundamental to its customs, cultures, regions, social and political movements, and events. Each featured food is deeply rooted in Alabama identity and has a story with both local and national resonance. "The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods" focuses on lesser-known food stories from around the state, illuminating the lives of a diverse populace: Poarch Creeks, Creoles of color, wild turkey hunters, civil rights activists, Alabama club women, frontier squatters, Mardi Gras revelers, sharecroppers, and Vietnamese American shrimpers, among others. A number of Alabama figures noted for their special contributions to the state's foodways, such as George Washington Carver and Georgia Gilmore, are profiled as well.
Alabama's rich food history also unfolds through accounts of community events and a food-based economy. Highlights include Sumter County barbecue clubs, Mobile's banana docks, Appalachian Decoration Days, cane syrup making, peanut boils, and eggnog parties.
Drawing on historical research and interviews with home cooks, chefs, and community members cooking at local gatherings and for holidays, "The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods" details the myths, legends, and truths underlying Alabama's beloved foodways. With nearly fifty color illustrations and fifteen recipes, this singularly effective approach to the state history of Alabama will allow all Alabamians to more fully understand their shared cultural heritage.
Critique: Unique and inherently fascinating, "The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended to the attention of anyone with an interest in the history and culinary cultural of Alabama. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $35.84).
Warriors and Wenches
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781473899360, $19.95, PB, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The world is full of women we don't know whose stories have been overlooked or airbrushed from history. Often faced with limited life choices, "Warriors and Wenches: Sex and Power in Women's History" by Michelle Rosenberg expertly showcases those women who took matters into their own hands and became forces to be reckoned with. These are women that worth knowing about because love them or loathe them, they each made their own distinctive mark on history.
From cross dressing soldiers to scheming mistresses and courtesans, "Warriors and Wenches" offers up an indulgent romp through centuries of history, ranging from widows turned tank drivers bent on bloody vengeance and fierce martial arts fighters, to women who magnificently and outrageously turned their social lot in life to their advantage: the mistresses, courtesans and uniquely French maitresse-en-titres who wielded incredible power and influence in the sumptuous courts of Europe.
"Warriors and Wenches" doesn't seek to decide whether these women were 'good' or 'bad'. That will be left up to the reader. But these are just some representative examples of the women who, through military skill, incredible courage and loyalty, scandal, poison plots and sexual debauchery, have crossed over into the realm of legend and myth and become powerful symbols of feminist power.
Critique: An absolutely fascinating and informative read from cover to cover, and nicely enhanced with the inclusion of black-and-white illustrations, "Warriors and Wenches: Sex and Power in Women's History" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Women's History collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, feminists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Warriors and Wenches" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).
Editorial Note: Michelle Rosenberg is a writer and passionate women's historian who is on the Advisory Board of the East End Women's Museum.
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982219406, $28.95, HC, 130pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A near-death experience at the age of eight would be only the first challenge Haifa Blanchard would face, and over time, she learned we all have two choices: We can wallow in negative emotions or we can rise above them. In Aim Higher, Haifa reveals the challenging life events that led her to rock bottom, the inward journey that she embarked on to rebuild her faith and life, and the meaningful lessons she learned along the way.
In "Aim Higher: Turning the Storms of My Past into My Biggest Accomplishments" readers will join Haifa as she shares what she has learned and experienced with respect to how we can all take control of our lives to achieve success.
Critique: An inherently interesting, inspired and inspiring life story, "Aim Higher: Turning the Storms of My Past into My Biggest Accomplishments" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary American Biography and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Aim Higher" is also available in a (9781982219390, $11.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf
Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table, Book One
(Champagne, Alsace, Lorraine, and Paris regions) (The Savoring the Olde Ways Series)
She Writes Press
9781631525490, $16.95, 254 Pages
Carole Bumpus a retired family therapist and the author of this absorbing book has within its pages shared her abundance of experiences which she and her husband Winston enjoyed whilst travelling from Paris in the Ile-de-France, through the Champagne, Alsatian and Lorraine regions, and then returning to Paris. Her travels through these eastern regions of France enjoying the food, and experiences of their local inhabitants were enhanced immeasurably by the presence of her French Californian friend and translator Josiane Selvage.
From the first page, this book is packed to bursting point with information, details of the villages they visited, the history of the regions, and the lives of the families they were welcomed into. Reading through it, the impact WWI and WWII had on family life and circumstances is clearly apparent. However throughout the centuries, 'family favourites' have, for the most part been conceived through necessity of one kind or another, either because of food shortages (whether it be conflict or caused through natural events,) or quite simply the necessity to create good, tasty, family food using the vegetable and fruit produce and the animals which are abundant where they live. As the years have passed these dishes may have been embellished by food companies and sold for the masses frozen, bottled or canned, but it is in the family kitchen that the best versions are made, with love, and with fondness because of the memories they evoke. For those readers who are keen cooks traditional recipes from each of the regions can be found at the end.
Living in France and enjoying sharing the last 16 years with our neighbours has taught my husband and I about the closeness of French families, and the importance of food and 'family time.' These values are wonderfully apparent in this book, and I am looking forward to book two in the series which is due to be released in August 2020. In it the author completes her journey, beginning again in Paris, and then heading north into Pas-de-Calais, Normandy, Brittany, to the Loire, my chosen region, and then completing the tour in the Auvergne.
Highly recommended: This book is compelling reading, its pages overflow with memorable moments, family secrets, and delicious recipes, and it will hold a prized place on the bookshelf of readers who love France, its food, people and history.
Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Searching-Traditions-Champagne-Lorraine-Savoring/dp/1631525492
I BELIEVE: I Can Learn to Draw and Paint, Just Like Sara, the Golden Mare
9781982222536, $8.99, 64 Pages
I think we should always encourage creativity, and build self-esteem in our children and grandchildren, and this is why I love the 'I Believe' series of children's books.
In this the third book in the series, two brave horses, Teddy and Carlo, decide to go on an adventure and visit the desert. When they arrive they are amazed at its size and beauty. However, they are even more surprised when the most beautiful horse which has golden hair and a silver mane comes over to say hello, with her friends the Mustangs.
The horse is called Sara and she's very friendly. As they talk together Sara tells them about her life when she ran wild, before she met the Mustangs. She explains that now they all look after the desert, and the rich diversity of wildlife which live in it.
When she discovers that Teddy and Carlo don't know how to draw or paint she offers to teach them, explaining that when she arrived she didn't know either, but that with encouragement and practice it is easy to get better, and have great fun doing so.
At this stage the wonderful interactive part of this book really comes to life. It starts with a follow the numbers dot to dot to complete of a desert bird, which can then be coloured in, and then the author encourages children experiment with mixing colours and doing finger painting. This really appealed to my granddaughter, we had great fun discovering what colours different combinations made, and inventing a few of our own.
Then children are encouraged to first draw a Mountain Lion, colour it in, and then use their imagination to draw an animal a day for 30 days, and create scenes with people helping them. This is a lovely way for children to learn about animals, be creative, but also to think about animals, their needs, and how we can help them.
The author, in this interactive book has, by showing children simple skills, and inspiring, them through a lovely story, used positive reinforcement to empower them to have confidence in their own ability to draw and paint.
Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Believe-Learn-Draw-Paint-Golden/dp/1982222530
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Suzie Housley's Bookshelf
Reece's Vintage Tales
N. Reece Ho-Sheffield
B07TRZKDYN, $5.99, 84 pages
"A book is a magical thing that lets you travel to faraway places without ever leaving your chair"
Step into a world where you will find twelve delightful children's stories filled with Christian values and morals. Each one is uniquely crafted that offers its own life lesson. As you read each one you will find yourself sitting back and absorbing the message each one has.
As an added bonus, at the end of each story a helpful glossary that will help explain difficult or unfamiliar words. This feature would be an idea for a parent and child to learn these words together and share in an education experience.
This book would be an excellent one to select for a parent to read to their child before they go to bed at night. It would allow them to create a positive bonding moment where memories could be made, and offer a peaceful way to retire before the day ends.
The illustrations give a vivid method to allow the scenes to come alive in the reader's head. N. Reece Ho-Sheffield has written a book that is both refreshing and has a valuable education aspect. I highly recommend this book to be incorporated into the school systems library because it is one that will offer a worthwhile reading experience.
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B07NSB3465, $6.95, 205 pages
"You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way"
Banja de Banja is a woman who dances to her own tune in life. By being Bisexual she gets to have the best in relationships from both genders. As a highly successful economist, she has much in life to be proud of, although she feels as there is something missing. Her search to find that missing piece to complete her life is to have the surgery that will restore her virginity. She envisions meeting someone and gifting them with the thoughts of taking her "innocence".
Banja knows if she goes through with the surgery, she must find someone worthy enough to bestow her newfound gift. On a subway, she meets Jarena who is performing with a mannequin. Jarena's free spirit captures her attention, she gives her business card to her in hopes of seeing if the chemistry they share will last.
Banja and Jarena's relationship are short-lived. Although the two of them have some fun times, there is no lasting substance that will help keep the fire alive in their souls. The two decide to go their own separate way for they don't share the same goals in life.
On Banja's quest to find the perfect person she discovers a government consultant. Some of his actions leave her puzzled. His uniqueness draws her closer to wanting to know about his actions. As she grows closer to learning more about him will she be placing herself in unknown danger?
In which direction will Banja's life go? Will it be one that has a fairy tale ending? Or will it be one that ends in turmoil?
COMET FOX presents a wide variety of characters with a strong heroine. Banja possesses her own sense of herself. Following her on the journey of life is like riding a high action roller coaster. It's one that offers thrills and chills as every scene takes you to an unknown adventure.
Peter Quinones writing projects the reader to unchartered territory. Each scene is well thought out and will keep the reader engaged with trying to guess what's going to happen next. This story is one that offers many key elements that readers will embrace. I highly recommend this book for its own special blend of individualism.
William Ray's Bookshelf
David P. Gontar
New English Review Press
9781943003006, $34.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 550pp, www.amazon.com
Unreading Shakespeare coverProfessor David Gontar has traveled far from the beaten path. He teaches at Inner Mongolia University in China, as distant from American academe as an airplane can reach. While there he has contributed to China's cultural life by applying to UNESCO to help protect the Xanadu site.
Gontar's intellectual approach has been to step away from Criticism's authority-based status quo and to read with an open mind, distancing as much as possible from the presuppositions, unstated sub-doctrines, and mandatory guidelines that define and constrict current Shakespeare studies.
For readers skeptical of a Stratfordian authorship position, the book's paradigmatic sentence is: "The imposition of biographical fables on these plays is the most common and insidious way to miss their meaning." He applies this maxim to alternative as well as mainstream views, preferring to read anew what has always been on the printed page. He does not make a systematic effort to support the Oxfordian case. Instead he takes it for granted as a reasonable alternative to the ongoing tradition, which he views as clogged with stultifications and insupportable assumptions.
Such a literally critical position finds expression in a good deal of woodshedding on any number of respected critics, followed by Gontar's own interpretations. Dollimore, Appleford, G. Wilson Knight, Kermode, the poet-critic Ted Hughes, even T.S. Eliot get no obeisance from Dr. Gontar. Northrop Frye comes off rather well in the reckoning, however.
For readers skeptical of a Stratfordian authorship position, the book's paradigmatic sentence is: "The imposition of biographical fables on these plays is the most common and insidious way to miss their meaning."
The twenty essays in Unreading Shakespeare are not related and need not be read in order. A concluding statement assists to sum up each argument. In general, the essays are entertaining and energetic, with copious quotations from Shakespeare texts in large readable print. Gontar assumes the reader is familiar with the given play, allowing him to lecture via present-tense syntax about the action, accompanied by declamations in a personal, informal writing style.
Some of the essays focus on the texts, while others examine theoretical matters. The latter deal with the interpretive mechanisms, or methodologies, of mainline critics - - in almost every case, questioning their validity. As for getting the biographical sequence wrong, we know before the first page that traditional critics, from Knight and Eliot to Shapiro and Greenblatt, had to be wrong when it came to relating author to text. The officially accepted narrative was packaged fiction, but it resulted in an institutional aversion to even delving into the past. The mythology seemed sufficient, and questions about it would not be tolerated.
Though there is no shortage of individual blame to pass around over the years, in my view T.S. Eliot deserves some credit for writing of the Sonnets, "This autobiography is written by a foreign man in a foreign tongue, which can never be translated." At least he had the integrity to admit being stumped by such a work being associated with the presumed "Shakespeare." Hank Whittemore and others have given us ample reasons to consider connecting it to someone else.
Obviously, writer origin (i.e., attribution of the works to the correct person) went missing in Shakespeare studies from day one. To play devil's advocate for a moment, I wonder if Gontar's complaint that his fellow scholars misread the text because they have avoided the biographical point might be better approached as an institutional failing rather than a series of personal intellectual handicaps. Human groups are herd animals. The shifts and grunts from the forward co-ruminators usually determine in what direction the herd moves.
Gontar goes on to put Harold C. Goddard on the hot seat for also readjusting the Twelfth Night characters to suit his program of virtues. He could play a Victorian morals game, too.
The Shakespeare detour to Stratford began as a political strategem, the Herberts' publication of the First Folio in 1623. That publication's elaborately sanctified, but wholly fallacious, "front matter" set the trap for generations of academics to try to make sense of what was really no more than a cleverly constructed Everyman fable. Rarely did any individual scholar question the doctrine of immaculate Stratfordian conception. Those who did paid the martyr's price. Cairncross, Feldman, Hughes, Ogburn -- the list is not long because it is plain that non-conformists would be, and were, dealt with (as a bureaucrat I once knew put it) "immediately and in an appropriate manner."
Unreading Shakespeare gives us an excellent example of how a wrong reading became a long-lived, nearly ineradicable fixture. Essay 5 discusses Charles Lamb (1775-1834) propounding Malvolio in Twelfth Night as being not all that bad a sort - loyal, straitlaced, respectful of his liege, etc. We might reinterpret these praises as rationalizations for a dramatic dupe in the play, probably based on Christopher Hatton, the craven but courtly kiss-up to Queen Elizabeth. Sir Toby Belch, said to be based on Peregrine Bertie, Oxford's brother-in-law, contrasts. He is manly and vital, insouciant, renegade in temperament but capable of understanding, in short a soldier and courtier to reckon with in a rich barbaric state.
Gontar goes on to put Harold C. Goddard on the hot seat for also readjusting the Twelfth Night characters to suit his program of virtues. He could play a Victorian morals game, too. Malvolio gets a positive character report - he is not at all laughable (to which we add that the play itself needs the stooge to be just that). Thus, critical history curves and smooths the way to give status quo representatives a virtuous reading. Ipso facto, Shakespeare literature becomes co-opted for educational and ethical purposes. Twelfth Night's critical history serves as one example of Gontar's thesis, that "Unreading" the work, rather than actually reading it, has taken over.
English criticism has... neglected the obvious fact that the author of the plays was an astute, brilliant, rhetorically gifted and classically trained historian of governments, in the tradition of Thucydides.
Gontar's discussion of "Shakespeare in Black and White" is a significant addition to the literature, how the English felt and dealt regarding slavery and the Other, the Black being. The essay is lively and informative. In something of a parallel, in the introduction to the book Gontar puts Abraham Lincoln himself under the magnifying glass. He is not deified as the usual Christ-like figure, caught in the American version of The Iliad, but is excoriated as a kind of tyrant who denied the South its constitutional states' rights. Though this struck me as an intemperate reading of history, never have I read Lincoln compared to, or consciously comparing himself with, Bolingbroke. Gontar offers a persuasive case that Lincoln studied Shakespeare's histories and tragedies, in particular Macbeth. It was Julius Caesar, played and studied by another reader, John Wilkes Booth, that became the model for the tragedy of Abraham Lincoln, the man and President.
English criticism has somehow managed to neglect such prodigious real-life reverberations of the Shakespeare canon. It has likewise neglected the obvious fact that the author of the plays was an astute, brilliant, rhetorically gifted and classically trained historian of governments, in the tradition of Thucydides. It was through the Bard, using the Thucydides model for high rhetoric, that the rough-hewn Kings of England strangely produced some of the most masterful speeches and soliloquies in any language.
The essay on Montaigne, whose language and philosophy is said to have affected "Shakespeare" considerably, shows the trained philosopher Gontar at work. Though he characterizes Montaigne as a Skeptic, equanimity places him as a descendant of the Stoics, those who saw that life is frequently a tragedy, for which there is no remedy but practicing Honor, to endure travail with grace. This seems to congrue with Shakespearean heroic forbearance. The Shakespeare concordance lists "honor" 690 times. A pertinent sidelight in the essay about Montaigne versus "Shakespeare" is the reference to Plato, who had an enormous influence on Shakespeare's philosophy. Its effect, apart from specific thematic influence such as in Timon of Athens, was to convey the model of the Philosopher King, in whom Knowledge serves Truth. But in the Machiavellian world of the "wolfish earls," Knowledge served Power. Amidst such ruthless conditions, the "Shakespeare" author got eaten alive before final physical death.
A brief review cannot capture the content of twenty essays, but one can see from the foregoing discussion that David Gontar is not afraid to say some unpopular, indeed impolitic, things. He has his opinions. I quote from Essay 16, "Shakespeare's Sweet Poison":
That which calls itself "feminism" today is anti-wisdom, dogma masquerading as thought. One of its most common symptoms is blindness to more holistic outlooks and the evidences that support those outlooks. Feminism is a species of faddism, the assumption that what is new and popular is better than anything in the past. As "ye olde Shakespeare," the "dead white male," is blithely tossed in with the dinosaurs (he didn't have Twitter or an iPhone, did he?), he is the bogeyman, the perfect target.
Gontar is also able to discuss Shakespearean texts with great familiarity and convincing power. Readers will find it another lively example, akin to Ricardo Mena's Ver, begin, of a new wave of "post-Stratfordian," emphatically anti-doctrinal, English criticism.
William J. Ray, Reviewer
The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf
Statecraft by Stealth
Steven B. Wagner
Cornell University Press
512 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781501736476, $39.95, HC, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Britain relied upon secret intelligence operations to rule Mandatory Palestine. Statecraft by Stealth sheds light on a time in history when the murky triad of intelligence, policy, and security supported colonial governance. It emphasizes the role of the Anglo-Zionist partnership, which began during World War I and ended in 1939, when Britain imposed severe limits on Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine.
In "Statecraft by Stealth: Secret Intelligence and British Rule in Palestine", Steven Wagner (who is Lecturer in International Security at Brunel University London, where he also teaches modules on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Counterintelligence & Security, and Conflict & Diplomacy) argues that although the British devoted considerable attention to intelligence gathering and analysis, they never managed to solve the basic contradiction of their rule: a dual commitment to democratic self-government and to the Jewish national home through immigration and settlement.
As professor Wagner deftly shows, Britain's experiment in Palestine shed all pretense of civic order during the Palestinian revolt of 1936 - 41, when the police authority collapsed and was replaced by a security state, created by army staff intelligence. That shift, Professor Wagner concludes, was rooted in Britain's desire to foster closer ties with Saudi Arabia just before the start of World War II, and thus ended its support of Zionist policy.
"Statecraft by Stealth" takes the reader behind the scenes of British rule, illuminating the success of the Zionist movement and the failure of the Palestinians to achieve independence. Professor Wagner focuses on four key issues to stake his claim: an examination of the "intelligence state" (per Martin Thomas's classic, Empires of Intelligence), the Arab revolt, the role of the Mufti of Jerusalem, and the origins and consequences of Britain's decision to end its support of Zionism.
With the publication of "Statecraft by Stealth", professor Wagner crafts a superb story of espionage and clandestine policy-making, showing how the British pitted individual communities against each other at particular times, and why.
Critique: A meticulously researched, deftly written, impressively organized and presented work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Statecraft by Stealth: Secret Intelligence and British Rule in Palestine" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twelve page Bibliography, thirty pages of Notes, and a thirteen page Index. Also available in a digital format (Kindle, $9.99) for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Statecraft by Stealth" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library 20th British Political History collections in general, and Palestinian History supplemental studies lists in particular.
Holocaust Memory and Racism in the Postwar World
Shirli Gilbert & Avril Alba, editors
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814342695, $39.99, PB, 472pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Holocaust is often invoked as a benchmark for talking about human rights abuses from slavery and apartheid to colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Western educators and politicians draw seemingly obvious lessons of tolerance and anti-racism from the Nazi past, and their work rests on the implicit assumption that Holocaust education and commemoration will expose the dangers of prejudice and promote peaceful coexistence.
"Holocaust Memory and Racism in the Postwar World", edited by Shirli Gilbert (Professor of Modern History and Director of the Parkes Institute for Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at the University of Southampton) and Avril Alba (Senior Lecturer in Holocaust Studies and Jewish Civilization at the University of Sydney), challenges the notion that there is an unproblematic connection between Holocaust memory and the discourse of anti-racism. Through diverse case studies, this volume historicizes how the Holocaust has shaped engagement with racism from the 1940s until the present, demonstrating that contemporary assumptions are neither obvious nor inevitable.
"Holocaust Memory and Racism in the Postwar World" is divided into four sections. The first section focuses on encounters between Nazism and racism during and immediately after World War II, demonstrating not only that racist discourses and politics persisted in the postwar period, but also, perhaps more importantly, that few people identified links with Nazi racism. The second section explores Jewish motivations for participating in anti-racist activism, and the varying memories of the Holocaust that informed their work. The third section historicizes the manifold ways in which the Holocaust has been conceptualized in literary settings, exploring efforts to connect the Holocaust and racism in geographically, culturally, and temporally diverse settings. The final section brings the volume into the present, focusing on contemporary political causes for which the Holocaust provides a benchmark for racial equality and justice.
Together, the contributions delineate the complex history of Holocaust memory, recognize its contingency, and provide a foundation from which to evaluate its moral legitimacy and political and social effectiveness.
Critique: Comprised of twelve erudite, informative, thought-provoking, and meticulously presented articles, "Holocaust Memory and Racism in the Postwar World" is unreservedly recommended for college and university library Holocaust Studies collections and supplemental curriculum text 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 "Holocaust Memory and Racism in the Postwar World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.74).
The Church of Us vs. Them
David E. Fitch
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9781587434143, $21.99, HC, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: We are living in angry times. No matter where we go, what we watch, or how we communicate, our culture is rife with conflict. Unfortunately, Christians appear to be caught up in the same animosity as the culture at large. We are perceived as angry, judgmental, and defensive, fighting among ourselves in various media while the world looks on. How have we failed to be a people of reconciliation and renewal in the face of such tumult?
Claiming that the church has lost itself in the grip of an antagonistic culture, David Fitch takes a close look at what drives the vitriol in our congregations in the pages of "The Church of Us vs. Them: Freedom from a Faith That Feeds on Making Enemies". He traces the enemy-making patterns in church history and diagnoses the divisiveness that marks the contemporary evangelical church.
Fitch also shows a way for the church to be true to itself, unwinding the antagonisms of our day and making space for Christ's reconciling presence in our day-to-day lives. He offers new patterns and practices that move the church beyond making enemies to being the presence of Christ in the world, helping us free ourselves from a faith that feeds on division.
Critique: In an era where so many fundamentalist leaders within the Christian community continue to back Donald Trump who is a documented serial adulterer, a self-confessed sexual predator ('grab by the p....'), an unrepentant consumer of prostitute services, a chronic and compulsive liar of things both trivial and vital, a racist and a deliberate enabler of white supremacists (including the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville), "The Church of Us vs. Them: Freedom from a Faith That Feeds on Making Enemies" is a long overdue contribution to setting American Christians and the religion they profess back on track and in compliance with the commands and counsel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Gospels of the New Testament. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Church of Us vs. Them" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).
Human Resource Management and Evolutionary Psychology
Andrew R. Timming
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781788977906, $99.95, HC, 131pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Answering pressing questions regarding employee selection and mobbing culture in the workplace, "Human Resource Management and Evolutionary Psychology: Exploring the Biological Foundations of Managing People at Work" by Andrew R. Timming (Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, University of Western Australia Business School) explores the unique intersection of the biological sciences and human resource management.
With a rich set of theoretical and empirical chapters, Professor Timming shines an innovative light on the fields of human resource management, organizational behavior and evolutionary psychology, engaging with the nature vs. nurture debate as well as offering a ground-breaking explanation for workplace bullying, unconscious bias, and employee selection decision-making.
At times poignant and controversial, "Human Resource Management and Evolutionary Psychology" illustrates the dark side of human nature, with a unique focus on our primordial instincts. An excellent exploration into an emerging area, this Footprint will be ideal for human resource management and organizational behavior academics, as well as those interested in applied evolutionary, social, organizational, and experimental psychology.
Critique: A part of the outstanding 'Elgar Footprints in Human Resource Management and Employment Relations' series, "Human Resource Management and Evolutionary Psychology: Exploring the Biological Foundations of Managing People at Work" is a seminal study of meticulous scholarship that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of 31 pages of References. Exceptional and impressively well organized and presented, "Human Resource management and Evolutionary Psychology" is unreservedly recommended for corporate and academic library Human Resource Management and Contemporary Psychology collections and supplemental studies lists.
Made to Change the World
Post Hill Press
9781642931419, $21.00, HC, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Derek Evans reports that all his life he 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 an insider's look at one man's passionate drive to make a difference, as well as a call to action for anyone who has ever dreamed of being a part of something that changes the world.
Critique: A refreshingly inspirational read in these increasingly troubled times, "Made to Change the World" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, social activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Made to Change the World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Lee English Williams
Fair Oaks Press
9780965881111, $23.00, HC, 192pp, www.fairoakspress.com
Synopsis: "Amazonia 1907" by Lee English Williams is the first-hand account of two young men with one ambition -- to follow the entire course of the Amazon river from its origins in the heart of South America down to the Atlantic Ocean -- a distance of some 4,000 miles through the wildest jungle and rain forest country in the world. Something that no one before them had been able to successfully accomplish.
Williams, born in rural Alabama in 1875, set off to wander the world at the age of eighteen. His account of his exploration of the Amazon river comprising "Amazonia 1907" is the only writing ever attributed to him -- making it all the more impressive as an inherently fascinating and impressively well written, organized and presented account.
Originally published in serial form in a New Orleans newspaper in 1911, this new edition from Fair Oaks Press has been expertly edited and thoroughly annotated.
Critique: Unique, informative, entertaining, and written with a genuine flair for narrative storytelling, "Amazonia 1907" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library collections.
Willis M. Buhle
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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