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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 5 May 2018 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice American History Shelf Biography Shelf
Parenting Shelf Cookbook Shelf Business Shelf
Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Self-Help Shelf Folktale/Fairytale Shelf Religion/Spirituality Shelf
Health/Medicine Shelf Philosophy Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Linda Gartz
She Writes Press
9781631523205 $16.95 pbk / $9.95 Kindle

Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, Redlined exposes the racist lending rules that refuse mortgages to anyone in areas with even one black resident. As blacks move deeper into Chicago's West Side during the 1960s, whites flee by the thousands. But Linda Gartz's parents, Fred and Lil, choose to stay in their integrating neighborhood, overcoming previous prejudices as they meet and form friendships with their African American neighbors. The community sinks into increasing poverty and crime after two race riots destroy its once vibrant business district, but Fred and Lil continue to nurture their three apartment buildings and tenants for the next twenty years in a devastated landscape, even as their own relationship cracks and withers.

After her parents' deaths, Gartz discovers long-hidden letters, diaries, documents, and photos stashed in the attic of her former home. Determined to learn what forces shattered her parents' marriage and undermined her community, she searches through the family archives and immerses herself in books on racial change in American neighborhoods. Told through the lens of Gartz's discoveries of the personal and political, Redlined delivers a riveting story of a community fractured by racial turmoil, an unraveling and conflicted marriage, a daughter's fight for sexual independence, and an up-close, intimate view of the racial and social upheavals of the 1960s.

Critique: Redlined: A Memoir of Race, Change, and Fractured Community in 1960s Chicago lives up to its title as a window to social ills, told from the up-close and personal perspective of a family that stayed in a redlined district even as white residents fled, crime increased, and two race riots devastated local businesses. "Redlining" (the racist practice of denying mortgages to anyone in integrating areas of the city) played a crucial role in shaping the decline of entire neighborhoods. Redlined is absolutely riveting from cover to cover, all but impossible to put down, and highly recommended for both personal and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Redlined is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

Song of Praise for a Flower
Fengxian Chu & Charlene Chu
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781976424540, $19.99, PB, 486pp,

Synopsis: For nearly two decades, the manuscript for "Song of Praise for a Flower: One Woman's Journey through China's Tumultuous 20th Century" lay hidden in a Chinese bank vault until a long-lost cousin from America inspired 92-year-old author Fengxian Chu to unearth it.

"Song of Praise for a Flower" traces a century of Chinese history through the experiences of one woman and her family, from the dark years of World War II and China's civil war to the tragic Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, and beyond. It is a window into a faraway world, a sweeping epic about China's tumultuous transformation and a harrowing yet ultimately uplifting story of a remarkable woman who survives it all and finally finds peace and tranquility.

Chu's story begins in the 1920s in an idyllic home in the heart of China's rice country. Her life is a struggle from the start. At a young age, she defies foot-binding and an arranged marriage and sneaks away from home to attend school. Her young adulthood is thrown into turmoil when the Japanese invade and ransack her village. Later her family is driven to starvation when Mao Zedong's Communist Party seizes power and her husband is branded a 'bad element.'

After Mao's death in the 1970s, as China picks up the pieces and moves in a new direction, Chu eventually finds herself in a glittering city on the sea adjacent to Hong Kong, worlds away in both culture and time from the place she came from.

Critique: As extraordinary as it is unique, "Song of Praise for a Flower: One Woman's Journey through China's Tumultuous 20th Century" is an inherently compelling and impressively informative account that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library biography collections and will prove of especially interest for students of 20th Century Chinese History, Politics, and Culture. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Song of Praise for a Flower" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The American History Shelf

Blackbeard: The Birth of America
Samuel Marquis
Mount Sopris Publishing
9781943593217, $16.99, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: In "Blackbeard: The Birth of America", author and historian Samuel Marquis tells the true story of Edward Thache, a former British Navy seaman and notorious privateer-turned-pirate, who lorded over the Atlantic seaboard and Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy.

A Robin-Hood-like American patriot and the most famous freebooter of all time, Blackbeard was illegally hunted down by Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood, the British Crown's man in Williamsburg obsessed with his capture.

Based on reliable historical records and the latest research, this adventure tale illuminates the true man behind the myth and his doggedly determined pursuer, revealing a cat-and-mouse game and important historical figure lost to us in a "fog of legend, myth and propaganda" for three hundred years. A folk hero in his own lifetime, Blackbeard exploded onto the scene during the birth of America and was one of the first American revolutionaries in the War of Independence against British rule.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read, "Blackbeard: The Birth of America" is an extraordinary and welcome addition to community and academic library American History collections in general, and 18th Century Piracy supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for student, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Blackbeard: The Birth of America" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Biography Shelf

Guy S. Clark, M.D.
Weeping Willow Books
9780996563932 $41.49 hc / $3.03 Kindle

Synopsis: In early 1966, Dr. Guy Clark received orders to go to Vietnam, and upon arrival that June was assigned to be a flight surgeon at Cam Ranh Bay Air Force Base, on the South China Sea. Thus began a year-long assignment that would find Clark flying more than ninety bombing missions over Vietnam in the Phantom F4-C, plunging deep into the Viet Cong-infested jungle with a gaggle of Republic of Korea Marines in search of the remains of two lost Phantom pilots, and tending to the medical needs of the pilots he flew with.

Sharkbait, A Flight Surgeon's Odyssey in Vietnam tells these stories and more, including Clark's survival of "Jungle Survival School" in the Philippines, and temporary assignments at Vung Tau (the "Riviera" for servicemen in Vietnam), Binh Thuy, and other Air Force outposts in Vietnam. Along the way, Clark introduces readers to incompetent doctors, arrogant and clueless military brass, and courageous pilots who day after day fly into the danger and uncertainty of a war that was becoming increasingly unpopular at home.

Guy Clark's experiences as flight surgeon and doctor to the pilots who flew bombing missions every day were very different from the ground troops and helicopter pilots, many of whom have written eloquently about their own war experiences. Clark was a physician who dreamed of high adventure, and flying with the Phantom F4-C pilots was the ultimate high.

Critique: The true-life story of of a doctor who served in the Vietnam War, Sharkbait offers a vivid glimpse into violence, bravery, heroism, suffering, and death. Brutally honest and unfiltered, Sharkbait is unforgettable and a welcome contribution to military biography collections, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Sharkbait is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.03).

Yak Girl
Dorje Dolma
Sentient Publications
PO Box 7204, Boulder, CO 80306
9781591812883 $18.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: This unusual memoir immerses us in the fascinating story of a spirited girl in a remote, undeveloped region of Nepal near the border of Tibet, a place made known to the world in Peter Matthiesen's "The Snow Leopard". Life above 13,000 feet in Upper Dolpo - often called the last paradise because of its breathtaking snow-capped peaks, untouched beauty, and hand-irrigated green pastures - was one of constant risk and harsh survival.

Critique: Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal is a vivid testimony of growing up and learning to survive in a harsh, rugged, yet astonishingly beautiful land. Her story includes a long and sometimes perilous journey, since her parents took her on a month-long trek to Kathmandu at age ten, followed by a meeting with westerners and travel to the United States for surgery to save her from a life-threatening condition. A candid, true-life story of hardship, strength, family ties, and culture shock, Yak Girl is highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Yak Girl is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Parenting Shelf

Let Them Thrive
Katie Novak
CAST Professional Publishing
9781930583160, $14.99, PB, 170pp,

Synopsis: Katie Novak is the mother of four young children, as well as the Assistant Superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District in Massachusetts and a leading expert on Universal Design for Learning implementation. In "Let Them Thrive: A Playbook for Helping Your Child Succeed in School and in Life " Novak draws upon her years of experience and expertise to provide parents with a practical understanding of how education works, and more specifically, how it can work better for their children.

Every learner is as unique as his or her fingerprints. But one-size-fits-all schooling doesn't account for those variations.

In this highly readable and exceptionally presented instructional (enhanced with unique cartoon illustrations), "Let Them Thrive" introduces the research-based framework Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Parents will learn about the origins of UDL in the learning sciences and in practice. (UDL is prominent in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act). They will also learn strategies, tips, and tools to support their children's learning in school and in life.

Critique: An important, thoroughly 'reader friendly' and new contribution to the growing literature on UDL, "Let Them Thrive" is the first such book directly aimed at parents, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Parenting instructional reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Let Them Thrive" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.68).

The Cookbook Shelf

Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb
Tinky Weisblat
The Merry Lion Press
9780974274119, $22.95, HC, 120pp,

Synopsis: As a child, writer and singer Tinky Weisblat disliked rhubarb and balked at eating it. As an adult, she has evolved into an enthusiast for the tart red stalks that pop up in her New England yard every year. Like most converts, she is wildly enthusiastic about her rhubarb culinary religion.

In "Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb Tinky" shares some of her reasons for loving rhubarb: its taste, its place as one of the first crops of the agricultural year, and above all its versatility. This sweet/tart plant can be made into just about anything.

To demonstrate rhubarb's adaptability, she provides more than 60 recipes, ranging from beverages and appetizers through main courses and desserts. From the Madame Rhubarb (a Manhattan cocktail concocted with homemade rhubarb bitters) to Rhubarb Pizza to (of course!) Rhubarb Pie, Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb offers dishes to delight rhubarb enthusiasts and treats to tempt those who are not yet in love with pie plant.

"Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb" also includes essays about the history of rhubarb, rhubarb's place in fiction, its use as the centerpiece of festivals around the country and beyond, and the many meanings of the word rhubarb.

Critique: An absolute 'must' for all rhubarb enthusiasts, "Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb" is a sheer delight to browse through and immensely fun to plan menus with. Beautifully illustrated, thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' in organization and presentation, "Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb" is certain to be a unique, immediate, and enduringly popular addition to personal and community library cookbook collections. It should be noted that "Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Souping Is The New Juicing
Cherie Calborn
9781629994659, $15.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Cherie Calbom is a leading authority on juicing for health and detoxification. Known as "The Juice Lady", she is a TV chef and celebrity nutritionist who has helped in pioneering the fresh-juice movement around the world. In "Souping Is The New Juicing: The Juice Lady's Healthy Alternative" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to reveal the advantages of eating soup for internal cleansing, weight loss, healing, and renewed energy.

Following clear and thoroughly 'user friendly' directions, anyone can now learn to make various types of soups, ranging from warm, hearty soups to chilled, pureed soups, to simple broths. Health-conscious people who have tried juicing but found it to be too inconvenient, too time-consuming, or too unsatisfying will benefit from this well-crafted, motivational health guide to all things soup.

Critique: An inspiring resource for diary-free, sugar free, gluten free sustenance, "Souping Is The New Juicing: The Juice Lady's Healthy Alternative" is a unique and especially recommended addition to community library cookbook collections. Tt should be noted for personal reading lists that "Souping Is The New Juicing: The Juice Lady's Healthy Alternative" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Business Shelf

The Art & Craft of PR
Sandra Stahl
LID Publishing
9780999187104, $14.95, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: Sandra Stahl has specialized in marketing communications and PR for 25+ years holding leadership positions on the agency and corporate sides. In addition to co-founding the PR firm, jacobstahl, she is on faculty as an adjunct professor in the Brand & Integrated Communications master's degree program at the City College of New York

In "The Art & Craft of PR: Creating the Mindset and Skills to Succeed in Public Relations Today" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to present and document the idea that PR as a communications discipline has no boundaries.

Basically, "The Art & Craft of PR" is the PR professional's manual for creating that specific type of mindset and building the necessary skills to meet today's communications challenges, which include mastery of the fundamentals, cultivating unbridled curiosity and creativity, the art of listening, and never losing sight of business objectives.

Critique: Expertly written, deftly organized and presented, "The Art & Craft of PR" is an ideal and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional manual and guide for creating and implementing effective public relation campaigns and activities. Of special note are the chapters 'Never forget, it's business' and 'What's next for PR?' Enhanced with the inclusion of a four page listing of Resources, a two page Epilogue, nine pages of 'Notes and further reading', "The Art & Craft of PR" is unreservedly recommended for corporate, community, and academic library Business Management collections in general, and Public Relations supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Art & Craft of PR" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

David Thomas Roberts
Defiance Press & Publishing LLC
9780996259040 $18.00 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Roberts makes the case that this may be the greatest time in history to start a business! Using Roberts' strategies and principles in this book, learn how to become ''UNEMPLOYABLE!'' your entire life! Most of us are taught to get a good education and a good job. The idea that we should be content to have someone else dictate our daily commute, our income, schedules and vacations is the accepted norm. To some, the idea of life in a cubicle eight hours a day is akin to torture! What does it really take for someone to jump off the employment treadmill and participate in the free enterprise system, unencumbered by traditionally accepted myths?

Critique: You'll never get rich working for somebody else, so why not "fire" your boss and work for yourself? Unemployable! How to be Successfully Unemployed Your Entire Life! is all about becoming your own boss. Chapters discuss the pros and cons of buying a franchise (an absolute "must-read" for anyone considering that option), the demands placed on an entrepreneur, the most common business mistakes to avoid, and much more. Highly recommended! "Rule #2 in business: the very nanosecond you realize you made a bad hire, end it! Nothing is more disruptive and destructive to a company than a bad hire, with the possible exception of the divorce of the owners." It should be noted for personal reading lists that Unemployable! is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Iconic Advantage
Soon Yu, author
Dave Bliss, contributor
Savio Republic
c/o Post Hill Press
9781682615409, $25.00, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: In today's local, national, and international business communities, too many businesses become enamored by shiny new objects and end up overlooking the value locked away in their existing products.

"Iconic Advantage: Don't Chase the New, Innovate the Old" by international speaker and author on innovation and design Soon Yu and featuring contributions by Dave Birss (who is a former advertising creative director who has worked for some of the UK's largest ad agencies) presents a different approach that allows companies to leverage what they already have to create lasting differentiation and deeper relationships with their customers.

The approach advocated in "Iconic Advantage" will generate disproportionate levels of profit and protects companies against market fluctuations. Many of the world's most successful brands have been using it for years. No matter what the product or service being offered, companies can now reach iconic status, whether a a Fortune 500, a local 'mom & pop' store, or an aspiring millennial era startup.

Critique: Impressively 'real world practical', exceptionally informative, extraordinarily well organized and presented, "Iconic Advantage: Don't Chase the New, Innovate the Old" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly valued addition to personal, professional, corporate, community, and academic library Business Management collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Iconic Advantage" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781520098364, $29.99, CD).

The Fiction Shelf

Between the Walls of Time
Michael Stafford
Grey Swan Press
9780998646800, $36.95, HC, 490pp,

Synopsis: Dr. Cyrus Kohler, a philosophy professor at Southern Illinois University, is the father of New Rationalism, a political philosophy which, by defining itself, describes in the language of science, genetics, and evolutionary biology, our political class. As The Front applies logic and reason to social, political, and business issues they lay out a blueprint for the governance of all civilized nations.

"Between the Walls of Time" opens with 1st Lt. Cyrus Kohler and Captain Fred Spaulding in Vietnam fighting the last major American battle of that war on and around Ripcord, or Hill 935, as it was also known. Cyrus is a Curahee, a member of the Band of Brothers, 101st Airborne 2nd battalion, 506th infantry. Curahee is a Cherokee word meaning 'Stand Alone.' There were 650 of them faced off against 40,000 trained, seasoned, battle tested members of the 324b, creme of the North Vietnamese Army and their sister Company, the 304b. The 304b had wiped out the French at Dien Bien Phu. Cyrus and the men he served with were abandoned in the field by incompetent leadership which stretched all the way to the White House. Cyrus was present when America lost the right to draft its own citizens.

Home from the war, welcomed by his rural community, Cyrus married the beautiful Jax, a professor of music and talented artist in her own right, returned to college and became a professor of philosophy. Over the next thirty years he watched America descend into the Age of Violence(c) which led him to conclude, after years of research, that the American political process was broken. Why it broke, how it broke, and the process of fixing it become the basis for three lectures which propel Cyrus and The Front into national prominence. The lectures and the research presented are the foundation of Between the Walls of Time and the beginning of the growth of The Front into a third political party.

Critique: An impressively crafted, multilayered novel that engages and holds the readers total attention from beginning to end, "Between the Walls of Time" showcases author Michael Stafford's natural flair for narrative driven storytelling. An inherently fascinating and entertaining read, "Between the Walls of Time" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.

Life in a Box
Jodee Neathery
Privately Published
9781521750889, $18.95, PB, 276pp,

Synopsis: How much would you sacrifice to hide a secret? The answer reveals itself as Andee Camp, after inheriting a box of old photographs and journals, accepts a challenge from her mother to write a novel based on their family. What evolves is not only the fulfillment of a dream, but the reality of her relationship with her parents and theirs with each other.

As Andee writes the stories of two sets of twins born on the same day seventeen hundred miles apart, the mysteries defining the Smith and Brown families become more poignant as the pieces in the complicated puzzle begin to fit together.

The very fabric of long-held truths unravel in a tapestry woven with love and betrayal, joy and tragedy, humor and melancholy.

Critique: One of those all too rare literary gems, "Life in a Box" by Jodee Neathery offers a roller coaster ride from first page to last in a read that deftly blends mystery and history as colorful characters come alive. A novel that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "Life in a Box" is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Life in a Box" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

A Northern Rebel
John J. Schaffer
Tate Publishing
9781543056976, $10.95, PB, 286pp,

Synopsis: Jameson Hartford and his wife, Abigail, return to their home in South Carolina to claim his inheritance, the Serenity Plantation, where he is determined to free all his workers and put an end to the evils of enslavement. There he encounters hostility and hatred from family, friends, an entire town, and even his wife, as he steadfastly holds to his beliefs.

Through the ordeal, he meets and falls in love with Delilah, one of his female workers, which further complicates the situation. Outnumbered and alone, he must sacrifice everything, as he attempts to liberate Delilah and her people, facing confrontations, treachery, and betrayal; culminating in a final showdown between freedom and prejudice.

Critique: "A Northern Rebel" is a deftly crafted romantic adventure by John J. Schaffer that engagingly touches on human emotions and forbidden love amidst the rich backdrop of the old South at the onset of the Civil War. A simply riveting read from cover to cover, "A Northern Rebel" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Northern Rebel" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

A Parting Glass
Tess Banion, author
Paul Flinders, illustrator
Anamcara Press LLC
9781941237137, $18.95, PB, 298pp,

Synopsis: Elizabeth O'Sullivan is an eleven-year-old girl with uneven bangs, and a grand imagination. She sees the world as she needs it to be and makes the real unreal, a regular derealization. A proper skill to have when born into a family cursed with hard realities. She hopes to reach the age of twelve, leave Catholic school and her nemesis Sister Mary Paul behind. At home her world revolves around her siblings, a sweet mother, and a brutal father who is shaped and defined by childhood diabetes.

While Elizabeth is a survivor and resilient, as many children are who grow up in violence, she is not immune or left untouched by the exposure. Elizabeth sees Sister Mary Paul and her father as two distinct monsters that are tethered together with a long rope that extends for miles. If one appeared Elizabeth knew for sure the other was just around the corner, lurking. A slap, a whack, a switching, delivered by nun or a father are absorbed and become part of her like an extra layer; A sometimes reckless and impulsive amour that she puts on to encounter a world she has no control over. The only place to hide was in a make believe world, where paper Saints wink and dance.

In homes where violence is a daily occurrence, or at the very least an expectation, children can develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. A disorder that can result in symptoms of detachment from reality. When Elizabeth flashes back to a moment of violence, it is not her but someone very much like her that she is watching; there is a separation between her body, and her essence, a depersonalization. She pulls at her eye lashes, rocks, and remembers.

Critique: A deftly crafted an inherently engaging story of hope and transformation, "A Parting Glass" showcases author Tess Banion's genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling. One of those rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "A Parting Glass" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.

Galahad's Fool
Conrad Bishop
WordWorkers Press
9780999728703, $14.95, PB, 196pp,

Synopsis: A year after the death of his wife and co-creator, a grizzled puppeteer struggles to build a solo show. It's to be a lightweight spoof -- an aging Sir Galahad launching a second mad quest for the Grail -- but his heart isn't in it. When he envisions a peasant being flayed and a frail Fool named Sammy Shitpants appears, his play turns sharply personal. Albert sees that his show won't be for kids and probably not so funny.

The story swings between Albert wrestling with the gnarly process of creating his off-beat puppet show and the fantastic narrative itself. While the Knight prepares his army (no solo knight-errant nonsense but a serious campaign) the Fool teaches the lonely wife Mara to juggle, and in desperation to follow her husband, she changes guises with the frail androgynous Fool. The quest becomes a mindless bloodbath, plague strikes, and Galahad and his Lady Fool alone survive as derelicts staggering through a futuristic dystopia.

Meanwhile, Albert's costumer Jeanette has claimed a deep stake in the project and awakens his latent desire. Their conflicts lead them into bed -- a clumsy comedy, but laughter and the project create an ambivalent bond.

On opening night, Jeanette tells him she's moving to Knoxville. Albert is shaken but steps forward into the play. At the climax, horsemen approach at a gallop, the Fool is trampled, dies in Galahad's arms, and is revealed as his wife. His tears fill a battered cup, and he drinks from the Grail.

In the final performances, Albert finds kinship with Galahad's despair and dogged vision. After closing night, Albert turns his battered Honda eastward. Jeanette has invited a visit, and he opens to the risk of new love.

Critique: Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller have toured the USA since 1969 as playwright/actor/puppeteers. Clearly this has provided him as an author with a uniquely informed perspective and useful background details for his new novel "Galahad's Fool". Exceptionally well written and unfailingly entertaining, "Galahad's Fool" is an engaging read from cover to cover and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists, as well as community library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Birds of Wonder
Cynthia Robinson
Standing Stone Books
9781641365260, $16.95, PB, 300pp,

Synopsis: One August morning while walking her dog, high-school English teacher Beatrice Ousterhout stumbles over the dead body of a student, Amber Inglin, who was to play the lead in Beatrice's production of John Webster's Jacobean tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi. Barely able to speak, Beatrice calls the police. That is to say, she calls her daughter. Jes is a detective with two years of experience under her belt and a personal life composed primarily of a string of one-night-stands, including the owner of the field in which Beatrice has found Amber.

In addition to a house and a field, Child Services lawyer Liam Walsh owns a vineyard, where Amber Inglin, along with a handful of other teens who've had difficulty negotiating the foster system, was an intern.

Set among the hills and lakes of upstate New York and told in six vibrantly distinct voices, "Birds of Wonder" by Cynthia Robinson (who is the Mary Donlon Alger Professor of Medieval and Islamic Art and Cornell University) is complex and original narrative chronicles the rippling effects of a young girl's death through a densely intertwined community. By turns funny, fierce, lyrical and horrifying, "Cynthia Robinson is the Mary Donlon Alger Professor of Medieval and Islamic Art and Cornell University" probes family ties, the stresses that break them, and the pasts that never really let us go.

Critique: A fully absorbing and deftly crafted read from first page to last, "Birds of Wonder" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Birds of Wonder" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Bright Star: Handel, His Life And His World
Marie Gotoh
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504367066, $18.99, PB, 284pp,

Synopsis: "Bright Star: Handel, His Life And His World" by Marie Gotoh is an historical novel based upon Handel's life and his musical world. Known for his oratorio Messiah, particularly the Hallelujah chorus, or The Water Music, Handel started his career as an opera composer. In politically unstable 18th century Europe, Handel went to live in different places with different political interests. Born a Protestant, he made himself accepted in Catholic Italy, and then in London, where he spent the rest of his life. In this novel which is volume one of a planed series and covers the years 1683-1712, Handel seeks his training in Italy while he develops an increasing desire to go to London. Before his arrival, London theatres went through unstable and unpredictable changes. The War of the Spanish Succession, predicted to be short, was dragging on, affecting most of Europe and with no end in sight.

Critique: An engagingly entertaining and deftly crafted historical novel by an author who pays close attention to accuracy with respect to historical detail, "Bright Star: Handel, His Life And His World" is a very highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library Historical Fiction collections.

Aphrodite's Tears
Hannah Fielding
London Wall Publishing
9780995566774, $26.95, HC, 592pp,

Synopsis: In ancient Greece, one of the twelve labours of Heracles was to bring back a golden apple from the Garden of Hesperides. To archaeologist Oriel Anderson, joining a team of Greek divers on the island of Helios seems like the golden apple of her dreams.

Yet the dream becomes a nightmare when she meets the devilish owner of the island, Damian Lekkas. In shocked recognition, she is flooded with the memory of a romantic night in a stranger's arms, six summers ago. A very different man stands before her now, and Oriel senses that the sardonic Greek autocrat is hell-bent on playing a cat and mouse game with her.

As they cross swords and passions mount, Oriel is aware that malevolent eyes watch her from the shadows. Dark rumours are whispered about the Lekkas family. What dangers lie in Helios, a bewitching land where ancient rituals are still enacted to appease the gods, young men risk their lives in the treacherous depths of the Ionian Sea, and the volatile earth can erupt at any moment?

Will Oriel find the hidden treasures she seeks? Or will Damian's tragic past catch up with them, threatening to engulf them both?

Critique: It is interesting to note that author Hannah Fielding was born and grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, and is the granddaughter of Esther Fanous, a revolutionary feminist and writer in Egypt during the early 1900s. In her novel "Aphrodite's Tears" she reveals a genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling. An inherently engaging and entertaining read from cover to cover, "Aphrodite's Tears" is highly recommended and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Aphrodite's Tears" is also available in a paperback edition (9780995566767, $13.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.87).

Little Maryam
Hamid Baig
Notion Press, Inc.
9781642490558, $11.99, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: What sacrifices are we willing to make for love? While giving a speech for his Nobel Prize nomination, Dr. Saadiq Haider receives a phone call that changes his life. Abandoning his duties and responsibilities, Saadiq hurriedly boards a flight bound for India, embarking on a journey that spans thousands of miles and pulls him back into a past long-buried.

Seated next to him on the flight, Anne Miller (who is an intrepid journalist with a nose for headline news) senses the reclusive genius has a bigger story to tell, and she's going to get it. With some coaxing Saadiq transports Anne back in time to a small, sleepy town nestled in the mountains of northern India, where the friendship between Maryam and Saadiq matures into an intense love; a love that is tested when tragedy strikes.

Now, after two decades of trying to forget his past, Saadiq tells Anne that fate has acted again; Maryam is the hospital, her condition critical. Months later, Anne learns that after wrenching Maryam from the indomitable grip of death, Saadiq took her back to America, where they finally married.

But her assumption that the greatest love story she had ever known would end happily, is absolutely shattered.

Critique: A deftly crafted and simply riveting novel from cover to cover, "Little Maryam" reveals and showcases author Hamid Baig's impressive and genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling of the first order. A thoroughly entertaining and memorable read, "Little Maryam" is an unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Little Maryam" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

The Voice of Melody
Kaylene Powell
Raymond Shop Press
9781732163317, $19.95, PB, 430pp,

Synopsis: Faith and grace guided those left at home during the whaling era, but their story often goes untold. The account that inspired Herman Melville's masterpiece "Moby Dick" and shook an island's reputation only told one side of Captain Chase's story. "The Voice of Melody" by Kaylene Powell this is a tale in which his wife and daughter tell their side for the first time.

Nantucket whaleman Owen Chase is not at home for the birth of most of his children, including his firstborn, Phebe Ann. Owen's wife, Peggy, works to maintain a sense of security while hoping and praying that Owen is safe. But as Peggy is quietly marveling at Phebe's development, Owen's ship, half a world away, is rammed and sunk by an angry whale.

Against all odds (and contrary to preliminary reports) Owen returns home, seemingly well, to his stunned relatives and neighbors. But will life ever be the same for him -- and anyone who knows and loves him?

Critique: A deftly crafted "sequel" to a classic work of American fiction, "The Voice of Melody" is an extraordinary and engaging novel that showcases author Kaylene Powell's genuine flair for narrative storytelling. An absorbing, entertaining, and at times simply riveting read, "The Voice of Melody" is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of anyone who has read "Moby Dick", and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library American Literary Fiction collections.

Where Lives Lead
Gabrielle F. Culmer
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480851979, $15.99, PB, 214pp,

Synopsis: Mindy is a firm believer that true love conquers all. Her husband, Blaine, has been by her side for years, through even the most horrifying of tragedies. Now as she enjoys a life of marital bliss in upstate New York and Crystal Shores, Mindy has no idea that her husband is about to drop a bombshell that will change everything.

Mindy, who is busy planning a gala and riding her horses, wants a family more than anything. When Blaine tells her he wants to expand his empire to the film industry on the West Coast, Mindy decides to shun her misgivings and support his dream -- but only if he agrees to a bicoastal arrangement.

As their lives are propelled in a new direction and as a cast arrives on Crystal Shores for a film project, Mindy and Blaine must now try to stay focused on each other, despite their hectic schedules. But as Blaine's professional life unfolds just as he imagined it, will he find a way and the time to help Mindy realize her own dreams?

Critique: A deftly crafted and contemporary novel of love, sacrifice, and hope as a married couple attempts to balance their very different professional dreams with a desire to start a family, "Where Lives Lead" showcases author Gabrielle F. Culmer's genuine flair for narrative storytelling and the creation of a novel that will linger in the mind and memory of her readers long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf.

Curtis Smith
Braddock Avenue Books
PO Box 502, Braddock, PA 15104
9780998966786, $16.95, PB, 174pp,

Synopsis: When Eli, a social worker, husband, and father encounters the roiling waters beneath his conventional life, he bonds with his remarkable son in ways he never expected. But nothing is easy in "Lovepain", and this newfound relationship comes at a high cost.

Watching his wife, Kate, descend into drug and alcohol abuse, Eli turns increasingly to Zoe, a client who gives him a sense of order and renewed purpose as he struggles with the destruction of his once-secure assumptions. As Eli's act of generosity exposes the fissure in his own life his wife's indiscretion, his own uneasy relationship with his son, and the possibilities and limits of personal relationships, the reader will empathize and bears witness to our difficult victory over the tangled world of love, hurt, and responsibility.

Critique: Exceptionally and skillfully written, "Lovepain" by author Curtis Smith is an emotionally involved and deftly crafted novel of the complexities of human condition. An inherently fascinating and fully engaging read from cover to cover, "Lovepain" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, and is unreservedly recommended for community Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Dawn Davis
9781525510670, $25.99, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Falling whisks the reader back to the summer of 1813 and the brief American occupation of Queenston where it explores the events leading up to Laura Secord's historic walk of June 21.

In this prequel to author Dawn Davis' novel, "The Tree of Life", Leo Becker has only recently moved into the Rose Park mansion at the invitation of his cousin Dilys. He knows nothing, however, of the strange working of the Tower Room, but that is about to change.

His daughter Francine, a whip-smart Toronto lawyer, is pregnant, and pregnancy has done nothing to soften the naturally jagged edges of her personality. When she is hospitalized over concerns with her blood pressure, it appears likely that Francine, incensed over her forced "incarceration" will soon be dragging the entire hospital into court. And then there is the strange in utero behaviour of the baby...

Leo is beside himself with worry and Dilys deems the situation ripe for his initiation into the mysteries of the Tower Room. With a nourishing soup for Francine simmering in the kitchen, Dilys takes Leo upstairs for a talk and a cup of tea.

What happens next is the last thing Leo expects....

Critique: Another carefully crafted, deftly written, reader compelling, unfailingly entertaining novel by a master of narrative storytelling, "Falling" by Dawn Davis is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Falling" is also available in a paperback edition (9781525510687, $15.49) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

All the Ways You Can Face the Sky
Farlo Ben Truman
New Haven Publishing Ltd.
9781910705940, $17.99, PB, 302pp,

Synopsis: Miles Rockefeller is a troubled young man who was raised in multiple foster homes and as a result has no patience for the folly of other people, surviving from one moment to the next by numbing himself to oblivion. But when he meets another broken in-patient named Sawyer, his life is permanently altered by a senseless crime that shatters not just their own lives, and their unknowing victim, but everyone else in their path.

Critique: "All the Ways You Can Face the Sky" a deftly crafted coming-of-age story by novelist Farlo Ben Truman that is about grief, forgiveness, and human connection. A truly compelling read from cover to cover, "All the Ways You Can Face the Sky" linger in the mind of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "All the Ways You Can Face the Sky" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Ultimate Cruelty: A Mother's Memoir
Marie Paris
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781532022005, $38.47, HC, 530pp,

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Emilie was a beautiful girl caught up in a relationship with the wrong guy. She held onto the dream that life would be everything she thought it would be until one day the dream came crashing down on her and her mother. In Ultimate Cruelty, Marie Paris, Emilie's mother, narrates her daughter's story.

Paris, a single mother, shares how she was caught off guard when her young daughter went missing, and she tells of the frantic search that ensued and the outcome no one expected. Paris writes about the media frenzy, the injustice, the breakdown of her family, and the aftermath surrounding Emilie's disappearance. Ultimate Cruelty discusses the thoughts, memories, and emotions of the family's nightmare. It chronicles each milestone Paris encountered and overcame in this heart-wrenching story.

"Ultimate Cruelty" shares one mother's heart-wrenching story as she journeys through her sixteen-year-old daughter's disappearance and eventual death, reflecting on her daughter's life and the tragedy itself.

Critique: Although a work of fiction, "Ultimate Cruelty: A Mother's Memoir" is based on a true story and thereby making it all the more a compelling and engaging read from beginning to end. A deftly crafted novel, "Ultimate Cruelty: A Mother's Memoir" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ultimate Cruelty: A Mother's Memoir" is also available in a paperback edition (9781532021985, $28.99).

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Ghosts in the Flesh
Roger E. Carrier
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781543434187, $29.99, HC, 180pp,

Synopsis: Late one night in a tragic twist of fate, Dan Peterson is murdered after witnessing a man leave an apartment complex. This serial killer feigns a heart attack and slashes Dan's throat when the Good Samaritan runs to help him. Dan dies a silent, gurgling death, but after a flash of light, Dan wakes up on a park bench next to a statue of Mark Twain.

It is spring, and fifty-three-year-old Dan is young again. The only problem is that nobody can see him, and he cannot interact with any person in the park. In panic, Dan believes that he is dying in a hospital bed and his experience is the result of a drug-induced vision.

Soon after, Dan meets Hannah, who also awoke from death on the Mark Twain bench. The murdered Hannah and Dan are solid and real to each other, but invisible to the outside world.

At last, the two unconventional ghosts set out to find their killer and seek revenge. The first problem they must solve is to find a means of communicating with the police.

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, memorable, and an unfailingly engaging, entertaining read from beginning to end, "Ghosts in the Flesh" reveals author Roger E. Carrier's genuine flair as a novelist with a total mastery of narrative driven storytelling. Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ghosts in the Flesh" is also available in a paperback edition (9781543434170, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Dying for Vengeance
J. M. West
Sunbury Press
PO Box 548, Boiling Springs, PA 17007
9781620064825, $19.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 394pp,

Synopsis: Carlisle Homicide Detective Erin McCoy battles the jitters as the first woman in Homicide partnered with Senior Detective Christopher Snow. On their first case, they track a serial killer who's stalking family members embroiled in an inheritance dispute.

The perp dispatches his victims with toxic chemicals. As the detectives chase clues and connect the related victims, their mutual attraction blooms while she nurses him after a shooting incident. But sparks fly when FBI Special Agent Howard offers McCoy a job if she'll train at Quantico. McCoy returns to Carlisle when she learns she has a rival for Snow's affections.

Snow's former partner, Reese Savage, returns to the CPD from Middle-East deployments expecting to resume their bachelor ways. Savage's ire results in a PTSD spike while he's tailing a suspect. In the interim, Chief March reassigns McCoy to the K9 Unit. When Mac becomes a target, she learns that she needs Chris to shove and shock her into life.

Critique: Very highly recommended and all the more impressive when considering that "Dying for Vengeance" is author J. M. West's debut as novelist with this deftly crafted police procedural mystery, appreciative readers will finish this deftly crafted and inherently riveting read looking forward to the next title in her 'Carlisle Crime Cases' series, "Courting Doubt and Darkness" (9781620065488, $19.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 394pp).

Return of the Jaguar
Norm Cuddy
Granville Island Publishing
9780995868908, $17.00, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: In December 1997, in the tiny village of Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico, 45 unarmed people, mostly women and children, were massacred in a church. The paramilitary group Mascara Roja, or Red Mask, took responsibility, claiming the villagers were supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, led by the mysterious Subcomandante Marcos. Some years later, Ted Somerville, a lawyer from Vancouver on hiatus in Mexico, meets Bailey, a mysterious American woman who had been working in Acteal at the time of the massacre and managed to escape. Bailey has returned to Mexico with one purpose in mind: to seek revenge against Colonel Hernandez, the man responsible for the brutal attack. As Ted's feelings for Bailey deepen and he attempts to help her heal from the unspeakable crimes committed against her, the two become dangerously entangled in the violence of the opposing factions.

Critique: In a deftly written novel that will rivet the readers total attention from first page to last, "Return of the Jaguar" showcases author Norm Cuddy's genuine flair as a novelist for narrative storytelling featuring memorable characters and unexpected plot twists and turns. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Return of the Jaguar" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99,

They Called Me Margaret
Florence Osmund
Privately Published
9780991518579, $11.00, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Cozy mystery writer Margaret Manning thinks her husband may be mimicking the behavior of some of the shadier characters in her books, even though he claims to have never read any of them. When several pieces of her jewelry go missing, she wonders if he's responsible for it or if she's losing her mind. And when her world becomes complicated by health issues and the unsettling actions of friends and family, her dream of opening a bookstore for indie authors begins to crumble...along with the promise for a happier life.

Critique: Original, entertaining, deftly crafted, and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "They Called Me Margaret" is an extraordinary and highly recommended novel for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "They Called Me Margaret" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Becoming the Dragon
Alex Sapegin
Privately Published
9781973410232, $8.00, PB, 178pp,

Synopsis: From now on he's got two hearts beating in his scale-clad chest, and two mighty wings on his back. In the faraway planet of two moons, he was born again as a dragon... but would it make him any less human?

The latest addition to "The Dragon Inside" fantasy series by Alex Sapegin, "Becoming the Dragon" is a saga of portal traveling, bodily transformations, reincarnation and epic combat, but first and foremost a story of discovering and reclaiming one's true self.

Having unwittingly stumbled into the site of a scientific experiment, Andy gets teleported to the faraway planet of Ilanta, inhabited by both human and supernatural beings. In this new world, he will encounter all kinds of exciting adventures and grim challenges, mastering his newly developed magic skills, befriending orcs, elves, and dragons, fighting the good fight, and eventually continuing on his quest for justice reincarnated as a dragon.

It was obvious right from the get-go that destiny has something unique in store for Andy Kerimov, a small-town teenager who survives a direct strike from lightning which leaves him with immunity to electronic devices and extraordinary magic powers just waiting to be released. Teleported to the fairytale world of Ilanta, Andy gets no cordial welcome: he is captured, chained up and sold into slavery - but not before he accidentally activates an ancient artifact and sets Karegar the Dragon free, who would later become his mentor and foster father.

When fatally wounded, Andy chooses to undergo an ancient ritual to be reborn as a dragon, a.k.a. a Master of Heaven. He will have to go a long way before settling into his new body and mastering his newly acquired powers. On his way, he will make loyal friends and bitter enemies, going through fire and ice, defending the right and taking the weak under his wing. Little does he know that he is destined to play a central part in an epic conflict soon to break out where the future of the two planets, as well as his now-faraway homeland, would be at stake.

Critique: Original, imaginative, engaging, replete with unexpected twists and turns, "Becoming the Dragon" showcases author Alex Sapegin's genuine talent for deftly crafted narrative fiction. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Becoming the Dragon" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Wild Magic
Eileen Troemel
Stone Publishing
9781539655268, $9.99, PB, 219pp,

Synopsis: Mallory's magic gifts send her north into Linos Province. A province where her gifts could get her killed or worse. But she must go where her gifts send her. Traveling to an ancient city, she uses her gifts to see where she must go. A boy needs her help or he will die.

Reluctantly, Mallory follows her gifts. Leland, Pintra, Faolan, Jadan, Ovra, and Erga have been sent by a powerful seer to find a magi master. They travel to a small village where Jadan gets separated from the rest and is accused of theft. Without Mallory's help, the angry mob will kill him. Mallory steps in, uses her gifts to save him but puts herself at risk. The seven escape the angry village and hide out in caves.

When Jadan's injuries turn deadly, Mallory is forced to use her gifts, exposing herself to the group of strangers she doesn't trust. They face her past, the bleeding hill, where all the magi were murdered. In facing her past, Mallory is reminded of the morals and ethics the magi live by. If she can help, she must. Even if it costs her her life.

Critique: An impressively original and extraordinarily well crafted fantasy novel that showcases author Eileen Troemel's mastery of the genre, "Wild Magic" is an inherently riveting and unfailingly entertaining read that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated fantasy fans that "Wild Magic" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Remanded To The Night Cafe
M. E. Smith
MSW Publishing
9780999379301, $13.99, PB, 392pp,

Synopsis: In a seedy bar, John Clarke begins his journey. Not so long ago John was pretty much ordinary. He had a steady job, a wife and a place in the world. By working hard and playing by the rules, he believed got you security. Unfortunately, life tenders no promises; he lost it all; marriage, job, sight and sanity.

Now, living in a shabby hotel on the government's dime, stumbling from one misadventure from another, he is urged on by a seductive, enigmatic voice in his head. At midnight of the winter solstice, the voice gives him a simple offer, survive one year and a day and he will get his sight back.

With this desperate hope hung on an insane premise, John takes up her challenge. Unsure of his own perceptions, John navigates this dark urban landscape built from funhouse mirrors and populated by; A lonely, betrayed grad student who rejects that final cab drive we all take and finds love with an arms-dealing creature of darkness; A con-artist who is looking to make a legendary score and ends up auditioning to be the next great trickster god; The last good cop in a city gone bad who learns the difference between law and justice; A fashion-conscious fox spirit who wrestles with her own base instincts lest she loses her franchise on humanity

Between sinister government agents, tutelary bikers and a chess game between voodoo Loas, John threads his way through these events and prepares to face his own demons and reclaim his life.

Critique: A deftly crafted and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover which is all the more remarkable when considering it is his debut as a novelist, "Remanded To The Night Cafe" showcases author M. E. Smith's genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling. While "Remanded To The Night Cafe" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

B. L. Barger
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781480950450, $22.00, PB, 346pp,

Synopsis: "Megiddo" is the third installment of B. L. Barger's sci-fi trilogy and finds that Maxine and the Commanders Qatar have been sent to the settlement moon, Megiddo, to infiltrate and contain a subversive group of Guardians who have taken several hundred human refugees hostage to use as coercion for advancing their own radical political agenda.

Maxine, the Qatars, a mercenary, a band of civilian insurgents, and elements of the US military soon find themselves engaged in conflict against a radicalized group of Guardians. The subversives are led by a witch named Kensa, who is revered as the leader of an ancient occult society known as the Sisters of the Stone. Kensa and her mind-controlled Guardians must be overthrown if the humans they terrorize are to be freed from captivity. Inevitably, war breaks out that pits Guardian against Guardian and humans against Guardians, and threatens to unleash a civil war on the Sirius home world.

As a newly married couple, Max and Kavi are deeply committed not only to each other, but to saving humanity and aliens alike. Their mission is aided by the help of familiar family and friends and new allies, including the kick-ass Blonde Squad. Together they battle the evil forces threatening the goodness of the universe and beyond.

Critique: As is typical of author B. L. Barger's epic science fiction series, "Megiddo" is full of action, surprises, and emotional twists and turns. This stellar adventure brings her readers to a whole new world with an entertaining cast of characters old and new. She has a genuine flair for immersing her readers into an alien world and making it both familiar and totally relatable. A simply riveting read from first page to last, "Megiddo" is very highly recommended and certain to be a popular addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated science fiction fans that "Megiddo" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Self-Help Shelf

The Art of Balance
David J. Bookbinder
Transformations Press
9780984699469, $9.99, PB, 170pp,

Synopsis: In "The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World", life coach and psychotherapist David J. Bookbinder shows you how to stay on top of the forces that unbalance us, recover quickly if you get knocked down, and be prepared whenever life throws you a curve ball.

"The Art of Balance" reveals: The 6-step process for recovering and maintaining life balance; How to recognize when your balance is shaky -- before you fall; How to boost your emotional resilience and stay steady on your feet; How to fend off unbalancers if they strike; The value of being flexible and adaptable; Deal with the inevitable stress that will be encountered such as a romantic breakup, job loss, a financial crisis, illness or accident, the loss of a loved one, balancing work and life's demands, anxiety, depression, medical issues, addictions.

Critique: Exceptionally 'real world practical', impressively informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World" is an ideal and potentially life enhancing read that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Art of Balance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Mindful Framing
Oscar Segurado, MD, PhD
NEO Chi Institute
9780692050989, $12.95 pbk / $8.99 Kindle, 86pp,

Synopsis: Be it politics, the economy, climate change, mass killings, or the simple frustrations of ordinary daily life, anxiety and stress are epidemic in today's fast-paced world. In response, many turn to meditation and related practices with limited long-term success.

A neuroscientist and immunologist with a lifelong interest in ancient medicine, Dr. Oscar Segurado understands why. Meditation worked well for thousands of years, but can't counter the effects of life in the twenty-first century. Instead, we need a new approach to control anxiety, especially given the proven connection between stress and serious diseases, including cancer, caused by a dysfunctional immune system.

"Mindful Framing: Transform your Anxiety into Vital Energy" reveals how a mere fifteen minutes of mindful framing in the morning can create a solid mental framework for the rest of the day. Men and women are the screenwriters and directors of their own lifestyle movie and following the precepts and instructions comprising "Mindful Framing", can create a calm mind, healthy relationships, and a vigorous body.

Critique: Mindful Framing is an accessible guide to generating Chi (vital energy), harmonizing one's mind, connecting with nature, and improving one's quality of life in as little as fifteen minutes a day. Anxiety can be channeled into energy through the practice of mindful framing, as described by author, neuroscientist, and immunologist Oscar Segurado, MD, PhD. Impressively informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Mindful Framing: Transform your Anxiety into Vital Energy" is an extraordinary, life changing, life enhancing read. While very highly recommended for community and academic library Self-Help / Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mindful Framing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

Folktales and Legends of the Middle West
Edward McClelland, author
David Wilson, illustrator
Belt Publishing
9780998018812, $20.00, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: Most people aren't aware that America's first superheroes lived in the Midwest! There was Nanabozho, the Ojibway man-god who conquered the King of Fish, took control of the North Wind, and inspired Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha. Paul Bunyan, the larger-than-life North Woods lumberjack, created Minnesota's 10,000 lakes with his giant footsteps.

More recently, Pittsburgh steelworker Joe Magerac squeezed out rails between his fingers, and Rosie the Riveter churned out the planes that won the world's most terrible war.

In "Folktales and Legends of the Middle West", Edward McClelland has collected these stories, folk tales, and more. Readers will learn the sea shanties of the Great Lakes sailors and the spirituals of the slaves following the North Star across the Ohio River, and be frightened by tales of the Lake Erie Monster and Wisconsin's dangerous Hodag.

Critique: An inherently fascinating history of the region as told through its folklore, music, and legends, "Folktales and Legends of the Middle West" features the occasional black-and-white illustrations of David Wilson. Entertaining, informative, appealing, charming, and a thoroughly compelling read from first page to last, "Folktales and Legends of the Middle West" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.

The Religion/Spirituality Shelf

Exodus: The Master Plan
Alice Gravatt
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504367035, $28.99, PB, 456pp,

Synopsis: In "Exodus: The Master Plan", author Alice Gravatt advocates that a master plan exists for human life so amazing that it goes beyond human imagination. No human mind could give birth to it nor can any human ability bring it into being. The plan is intended for all people who will claim it for themselves. The plan is given to us by our Creator through Moses's tabernacle in approximately 1440 BC in a book called Exodus, and it is about to be fulfilled in the near future.

The tabernacle is the blueprint for the plan through an amazing, voluminous number of symbols expressed in measurements, the furniture within it, metals and substances for construction, and colors and areas used within it. The historic people, Israel, were the scale model of the plan, a living clarification of the symbols on the stage of planet earth. In part five, you'll find several chapters of totally unique revelations that give us a clearer understanding of some concepts that we have had difficulty in grasping, particularly in the chapter "The Cell of Life."

Gravatt argues that we should put off the conventional, humanly preconceived, limiting blindness of human legalism and tradition and explore the concepts from a greater mind whose vision is unlimited. That vision is expressed in a being who has agape (sacrificial) love. The plan with its promises is available to everyone who really wants it--a gift requiring no merit on the part of the receiver, only a hungry heart desiring truth and a willingness to follow its guidance. The purpose of "Exodus: The Master Plan" is to draw you, the reader, into this plan so you may have all of its promise.

Critique: Articulate, informative, challenging, iconoclastic, thoughtful, thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Exodus: The Master Plan" is an especially recommended addition to the personal reading lists of clergy and non-specialist general readers with an interest in a unique perspective on religion and spirituality. It should be noted that "Exodus: The Master Plan" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Fighting Parkinson's...and Winning
Howard Shifke
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781979354028, $19.99, PB, 282pp,

Synopsis: Parkinson's disease is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. While he causes are generally unknown. The symptoms generally come on slowly over time. Early in the disease, the most obvious are the shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking, but thinking and behavioral problems may also occur. Dementia becomes common in the advanced stages of the disease. Depression and anxiety are also common and occur in more than a third of people with Paprkinson's. Other symptoms can include sensory, sleep, and emotional problems.

In the fall of 2009, Howard Shifke was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Howard suffered with internal tremors; extremely poor balance; Bradykinesia (walking -- hunched forward, shuffled feet, arms did not swing); rigidity (arms, legs and upper back were tight and extremely painful); constipation; inability to stand up straight, to get out of a chair without using arms, to go up and down stairs without holding railing; difficulty getting a utensil to his mouth when trying to eat; falling asleep in middle of the day; frozen face; inability to write or to type with two hands; extreme fatigue.

His mother had Parkinson's for twenty-four years before dying in 2007, just two years prior to Howard diagnosis of Parkinson's. Having watched her physically deteriorate from the disease and mentally deteriorate from the medications was difficult and frightening.

Howard did not want to end up the way his mother had ended up with the disease. Fortunately, in 1999, Howard had started studying alternative healing and Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the ten years leading up to his diagnosis, he had learned the body has the ability to heal itself.

As a result, Howard decided he would endeavor to recover from Parkinson's, and he developed an alternative treatment methodology called his Parkinson's Recipe for Recovery. Nine months later, he won the fight against Parkinson's with his full recovery.

In Howard's two neurologist visits subsequent to his full recovery, his neurologist put him through all of the tests used for the original diagnosis. Both times, his neurologist documented in Howard's medical records that there were no signs or symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.

Critique: An extraordinary story, "Fighting Parkinson's...and Winning" is an inspired and inspiring blend of personal memoir and an iconoclastic medical guide that is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of anyone having to deal with Parkinson's in themselves or a loved one. While a critically important addition to community, medical school, college and university library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Parkinson's Disease supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for caretakers and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Fighting Parkinson's...and Winning" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Philosophy Shelf

The Secular Saints
Hunter Lewis
Axios Press
9781604191189 $17.00 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The term "secular saint" may immediately raise questions or even objections. Each religion specifies grounds for being considered a saint. What does it mean to be a secular saint? Presumably an exemplary life. But exemplary based on what? Exemplary according to whom? Perhaps an exemplary life is not even enough to qualify. Perhaps the life must also be inspiring or have something to teach us. But, again, inspiring or instructive according to whom?

Critique: The Secular Saints: And Why Morals are Not Just Subjective examines the lives of Socrates, Aristotle, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, and many more in search of a better understanding of the value of morals and ethics, both individually and in a collective society. Inspirational and thought-provoking, The Secular Saints is a welcome contribution to both personal and public library philosophy collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Secular Saints is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

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

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