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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 10 October 2013 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Environmental Studies Shelf Biography Shelf
Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Poetry Shelf Self-Help Shelf Literary Studies Shelf
Political Science Shelf Health/Medicine Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Unusual Diary of an Animal Shelter Volunteer
Hjordis Olson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492151623, $9.02,

Synopsis: Hjordis Olson tells the story of her weekly experiences at a Wisconsin animal shelter over a period of years. She not only tells the tale of the inner workings of a shelter, she brings the characters to life who work and volunteer there. "The Unusual Diary of an Animal Shelter Volunteer" is filled with humor and sadness. Her stories about the animals are both buoyant and heart wrenching. The book is filled with imagination and her own musings. It is both candid and philosophical.

Critique: Deftly written with candor, insight, personal responsibility, and genuine emotion, "The Unusual Diary of an Animal Shelter Volunteer" is informed, informative, occasionally iconoclastic, and always engaging, making it highly recommended reading for anyone concerned with animal rights issues, Wisconsin's animal shelter programs, or who has ever utilized an animal shelter to acquire a cat or a dog companion for themselves or their families.

The Ghosts Of Happy Valley
Juliet Barnes
Aurum Press
c/o Dalyn Miller Public Relations
9781781310854, $29.95, 304 pp.,

Synopsis: 'Happy Valley' was the name given to the region of Kenya's Central Highlands where a community of affluent, hedonistic white expatriates settled between the wars. Including the writer Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), the pioneering aviator Beryl Markham and the troubled socialite Idina Sackville whose life was told in Frances Osborne's bestselling The Bolter, the Happy Valley set's notoriety was sealed in 1931 with the sensational - and still unsolved - murder of the Earl of Errol, the investigation of which laid bare the extent of the set's decadence and irresponsibility, and made for another bestselling book in James Fox's White Mischief. But what is left now? Juliet Barnes, who has lived in Kenya for many years, has set out to explore Happy Valley in a remarkable and indefatigable archaeological quest to find the homes and haunts of this extraordinary and vanished set of people - grand residences like Clouds up in the hills that once hosted opulent and scandalous parties. With the help of African guides, and guided by the memories of elderly expats she tracks down to the Muthiaga old enough to have first-hand memories of the likes of Idina and Lord Errol and the lives they led, what she finds - ruins reclaimed by luxuriant bush, tumbledown dwellings in which an African family ekes a subsistence living, or even a modest school - is a revelation of the state of modern Africa that makes the gilded era of the Happy Valley set seem even more fantastic.

Critique: Part travelogue, part regional history, part personal memoir, "The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching For The Lost World Of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats" is a uniquely informed and informative read that will have a particular appeal and interest for anyone with an interest in the history of Kenya under colonial rule. Of special interest is the insightful narrative material author Juliet Barnes was able to garner from interviews with two still surviving expatriates. Exceptionally well written and presented, "The Ghosts Of Happy Valley" is very highly recommended for community and academic library African History reference collections. It should also be noted that "The Ghosts Of Happy Valley" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).

Shifting Gears
Carolee Duckworth & Marie Langworthy
New Cabady Press
9780984513611, $18.95, 358 pp.,

Synopsis: Thirty years retired makes for a very long vacation. So... what's a 55+ Boomer to do? Baby Boomers will need to "shift gears", rediscover themselves, then redesign their retirement life and work that will: engage their energy and vitality; stimulate their mind; enhance their physical capabilities; and keep themselves involved, relevant and productive for the next three or more decades... but without tying themselves down completely, nose to the grindstone, as they did during their pre-retirement work life. "Shifting Gears" is for and about members of the Baby Boomer generation who are entering this "New Retirement Frontier" and seeking to design their own post-retirement career.

Critique: "Shifting Gears" is a veritable compendium of practical, insightful, realistic, and thoroughly 'user friendly' tips, techniques, processes, plans, and ideas for establishing and maintaining a comfortable, stable, life-affirming retirement specifically tailored to personal goals and needs. What is certain to be a popular addition to community library collections, "Shifting Gears" is an invaluable and instructive reference that should be read by anyone approaching, entering, or already engaged in retirement.

The Environmental Studies Shelf

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?
Tony Juniper
Synergetic Press
One Bluebird Court, Santa Fe, NM 87508
SCB Distributors
15608 South New Century Drive
Gardena, CA 90248-2129
9780907791485, $29.95, 336 pp.,

Synopsis: During recent years, and since 2005 in particular, the environmental debate worldwide has been dominated by climate change, carbon emissions and efforts to achieve low carbon economies. But a number of academic, technical, political, business and NGO initiatives indicate that there is a new wave of environmental attention focused on a wholly different set of subjects: namely that of 'natural capital,' 'ecosystem services' and 'biodiversity,' or in other words, what Nature does for us. From Indian Vultures to Chinese bees and from recycling miracles in the soil to the abundant genetic codebook underpinning our food and pharmaceutical needs, Nature provides the 'ecosystem services' that underlie our economies. It is been estimated that these and other services are worth about twice the global GDP, and yet we take most of these services for granted, imagining them free and limitless- until they suddenly switch off. This is a book full of immediate, impactful stories, containing warnings, such as the rabies epidemic that followed a disappearance of Indian vultures (hormones in cattle killed the birds and resulted surplus in carcasses, creating an explosion of wild dogs), as well as promising and enlightening tales of how birds protect fruit harvests, coral reefs shield coasts from storms and how the rainforests absorb billions of tons of carbon released from automobiles and power stations.

Critique: Environmental issues and their economic impacts are at the core of our national debate. "What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees" is a significant and articulate contribution to that debate. Of special note is Tony Juniper's concluding chapter 'False Economy?'. Impressively written so as to be thoroughly accessible and useful for the non-specialist general reader, "What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees" is highly recommended for personal, community, school, and academic library Social Issues and Environmental Issues collections. It should also be noted that "What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees" is available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

Tony Juniper's book will change the whole way you think about life, the planet and the economy.

The Biography Shelf

The Forbidden Word
James Henry Harris
Cascade Books
c/o Wipf & Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR, 97401
9781620322604, $18.00, 146 pp.,

Synopsis: Author James Henry Harris is African-American. "The Forbidden Word" is about his reading of Mark Twain's ''Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' as a black man for the first time while in graduate school. The story captures his emotional experience with Twain's use of the racial epithet ''nigger'' more than 211 times throughout the book. The visceral response to hearing the word verbalized by whites with Twain's permission, regardless of irony or satire, is a central theme of this personal history/memoir. The situation is a seminar in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, where the Civil War is still being fought on many levels. The story is the complication of race as a topic of public discussion and the role the word 'nigger' plays in postmodern society especially among Blacks and Hip-Hop music. The use of the word is a sign of evil both historically and culturally and cannot be flipped in a way that erases its history and meaning. It is also a reflection on language and culture.

Critique: "The Forbidden Word" is as candid and insightful as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. An unusual and deeply personal memoir, James Henry Harris is to be congratulated on his honesty and analytical perspective. Highly recommended reading, it should be noted that this Cascade Books edition of "The Forbidden Word" employs a very small typeface that might make difficult reading older eyes. That said, it should also be noted that "The Forbidden Word" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) which would easily allow readers to enlarge the typeface to a comfortable reading level for themselves.

Ticket To Ride
Don Hussey
Seawall Books
PO Box 194, North Weymouth, MA 02191
9780989332415, $18.95, 304 pp.,

Synopsis: In this unflinchingly honest memoir, military man, teacher, successful small businessman and candidate for the U.S. Congress, Don Hussey describes in rich detail how he, after dropping out of high school, outwitted the odds to bring home his "ticket to ride." Fighting his way through every setback and every obstacle, Hussey set his sights on the impossible and never looked back until one late-night accident of fate stopped him cold. How he responded is the triumph over adversity that has come to define him. It is the lessons learned then, and throughout his remarkable life, that he shares in his "Ticket to Ride".

Critique: Now in a newly published second edition, "Ticket To Ride" is an inherently interesting read told with complete candor in the form of an intensely personal memoir. Enhanced with occasional black-and-white historic photos, "Ticket To Ride" is a compelling read and a recommended addition to community library 20th Century American Biography collections.

Return To The Water
John Stephens
C&R Press
812 Westwood Avenue, Suite D
Chattanooga, TN 37405
9781936196296, $19.95, 222 pp.,

Synopsis: In his memoir, "Return to the Water", John Stephens weaves a tapestry of his life experience-of a childhood filled with sorrow and disappointment yet charged with clear and thoughtful memory that informs his adult life; a romantic and rich love story of a lasting and compelling marriage; a travelogue of joy and adventure swirling with a growing and marvelous family of four children, exotic trips, pets, a life well-lived; the revelation of a family secret-as the heartbreaking thread pulling the story together is the devastating death of his beloved first son. We are privileged to get to know this man and so when we were there, present when he hears the news of his son's death, we die a little, too, and are moved to that holy place in hearts where all compelling memoirs move us.

Critique: John Stephen's writes with great candor and effectiveness as he share's his life's personal challenges and his responses to them. Although exceptionally personal, "Return To The Water" speaks to universal themes of the human condition that are common to us all. The result is an extraordinary and very highly recommended autobiography for personal reading lists and community library American Biography collections. It should be noted that "Return To The Water" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).

The Fiction Shelf

If I Fall
Kelseyleigh Reber
Aperture Press
201 Washington Street, Suite 533, Reading, PA 19601
9781466461710, $14.99, 234 pp.,

Synopsis: In 1901 there was a war that reached the village of seventeen year old Elvira Hamilton. The enemy were called Radicals and war raged across the English countryside to the ruin and misery of the populace. Elivra and her sister escape the attack but their mother and father did not. With the war raging in England can the sisters possible flee to safety in America?

Critique: A riveting historical novel set in an Edwardian England, "If I Fall" is as an engaging a read as it is entertaining. The author, Kelseyleigh Reber, has what seems to be an inherent knack for storytelling that is enriched with imagination, populated with memorable characters, and takes the reader on a literary roller coaster of a ride! "If I Fall" is highly recommended, especially to those who appreciate a well crafted historical novel of romance, suspense, and mystery. It should be noted that "If I Fall" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Great Falls
John Lopas
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478707424, $19.95, 348 pp.,

Synopsis: An accident sends Dakota to the past; a modern gadget threatens his future. Great Falls National Park, Virginia: Dakota Wesley drops his kayak into the river's shallow edge. Below him the waterfalls roar in a maelstrom of nature's fury. Shaking off last-second jitters, he peels out into the Potomac's chilly waters, the fast current sweeping his boat downstream and into the realm of no turning back...chasing the big whitewater thrill. But then something goes terribly wrong. When he comes to, Dakota finds that his modern surroundings have vanished. Instead, he discovers the Virginia landscape of an era long past-nearly 150 years earlier-a time torn by civil war. In order to survive, he joins another man's desperate plight, and together they fend off starvation, foraging parties, and locals who question Dakota's identity. Desperate to return to his future, Dakota finds hope in the form of a modern gadget, one that can change his fortunes. But it may also lead to his demise... Expertly weaving a passion for the great outdoors with historical events, Great Falls is a unique and compelling new novel of unexpected journeys and chance encounters.

Critique: A superbly crafted action/adventure, "Great Falls" is a riveting read from beginning to end and marks its author, John Lopas, as especially gifted author who is able to engage his reader's total attention from beginning to end. Very highly recommended reading and a popular addition to any community library Contemporary Fiction collection, "Great Falls" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

A Crowd Of Stars
K. D. Holly
Sunflower Media LLC
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 East Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780989136211, $13.95, 424 pp.,

Synopsis: In a time of turmoil and riots, three college roommates set out on a search for adventure and romance. When they become smitten with charismatic and ruthless men, they find themselves embroiled in dangerous secrets the men are hiding. From Africa to the wild West - complete with modern-day cowboys - the young women struggle to make the hazardous events of real life coincide with the optimistic dreams for the future.

Critique: As her debut novel, "A Crowd Of Stars" by K. D. Holly offers her readers a deftly created and intricately woven story that is pure entertainment from beginning to end. Complex and rewarding, "A Crowd Of Stars" will prove to be a popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections and is highly recommended for personal reading lists.

The Way They See
Evelyn Marshall
Piper Press
c/o Marvin Marshall Company
PO Box 2227, Los Alamitos, CA 90720
978098489968, $15.95, 336 pp.,

Synopsis: "The Way They See" is the story of Susannah Lindstrom could not mark the day she fell in love with Sam Geddes because they played together as children and then as teenagers and all through high school and Sam loved Susannah. Then Sam went off to college, out of their small town. And Susannah waited for his return. And waited.... "The Way They See" is the story of a young, small-town couple in the 1950's who, because of a single misperception about each other, go their separate ways -- then twenty-five years later they meet again...

Critique: Simply stated, Evelyn Marshall has a true novelist's gift for storytelling. In "The Way They See" she has created characters that the reader quickly becomes attached to and a literary roller coaster of a ride that grasps the reader's total attention. Thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end, "The Way They See" will have particular appeal for women readers and would make a decidedly popular addition to community library fiction collections. It should also be noted that "The Way They See" is available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Late To Bed, Late To Rise
Ken J. Kakareka
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781612962207, $16.95, 200 pp.,

Synopsis: The snake bitten peninsula of Korea manages to obscure its alcoholic lust and debauchery-filled night life from the rest of the world, until now. Jack Danowski is an expatriate American teacher living in South Korea. He is fully immersed in the exotic culture of K-pop music, hofs, and jimjilbangs, and enraptured by gleaming neon lights, where vivacious night life thrives and rambunctious clones of global superstar, Psy, roam the streets daily. Jack is entangled in a passionately wild relationship with Sunny, a free-spirited Korean woman ten years his senior. The combination of her lust for soju and her independence from bachelorette life both work against Jack's insecurities, and his longing for her to be a "family" woman. Dealing with recurring health issues is tough enough for Jack, not to mention the language barrier that disables him from fully communicating with Korean doctors. Gradually, Jack and Sunny find they have to decide between their lust for drink and their love for each other. The fact that Jack's group of expatriate friends swill down cocktails and Sunny's friend Sue, a cranky, middle-aged alcoholic, despises Jack doesn't exactly make things any easier. Korea is exposed, which becomes Jack's own tiny sliver of paradise, and ultimately leads to him trying to decipher what the future holds.

Critique: Ken J. Kakareka lived in South Korea for two years. It's clear those years were observant ones. In "Late To Bed, Late To Rise", the writing is vivid, the characters memorable, the plot complexly woven, making Kakareka's novel of lust and life in modern day Korea a riveting read and highly recommended for personal recreational reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

The Colors Of Friendship
K. R. Raye
J-pad Publishing
560 Peoples Plaza, #178, Newark, DE 19702
9781940361000, $12.95, 308 pp.,

Synopsis: Three college friends search for true love, NFL fame, and a successful engineering career. One friend's quest for happiness could endanger all three of their lives? Naive, romantic Melody Wilkins aims to find true love at college just like her parents. But will she sacrifice her soul to obtain it? No-nonsense Imani Jordan strives for good grades and a chemical engineering degree. When a friendship offers more, will she follow her head or her heart? Lance Dunn is only serious about two things: football and protecting his girls, Melody and Imani. When a threat enters their lives and tests their friendship, can he stop it before it kills them?

Critique: "The Colors Of Friendship" is a complex and deftly written novel showcasing the impressive storytelling literary talent of author K. R. Raye. A highly recommended and entertaining read, "The Colors Of Friendship" is the first volume of a trilogy with second volume, "The Colors Of Love", being released in November 2013, and the third volume (True Colors) scheduled for release in March 2014. It should be noted that "The Colors Of Friendship" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

The Bridge Of Isfahan
Nilla Cram Cook, author
Valentina Cook, editor
Burning Daylight, Pearn & Associates
1600 Edora Court Suite D, Fort Collins, CO 80525
Amy Opperman Cash (publicity)
4936 Rt. 414, Burdett, NY 14818
9780984652396, $19.99, 256 pp.,

Synopsis: "The Bridge of Isfahan" is a love story, set in Iran during the postwar 1940s, a time of burgeoning hopes and dangerous conflicts -- not the least among them the cold war. Shirene is the green-eyed granddaughter of the empress of Persia. Jamshid is the blue-eyed son of working class parents and an organizer for the socialist Tudeh Party. Shirene lives in the palatial Dove Tower near the ancient city of Isfahan, once the capital of Persia. She owns land and has feudal power over the local villagers. Jamshid has come to Isfahan to organize the local textile workers and to agitate against Shirene. They fall passionately in love with each other. "The Bridge of Isfahan" is also a feminist fantasy. On her mother's side, Shirene belongs to the matriarchal Baktiari Tribe -- women make the important decisions, and daughters are taught to throw knives and lassos and to ride stallions. Shirene must negotiate her way through perilous situations. In this she gets help from her formidable nurse, Haidah, and from her mother, Muluk, a deposed queen and devoted reader of the columns of the American journalist Dorothy Thompson.

Critique: Author Nilla Cram Cook wrote "The Bridge Of Isfahan: A Persian Love Story" in the 1940s while working at the American Embassy in Teheran. Deftly edited for publication by her daughter-in-law Valentina Cook. "The Bridge Of Isfahan" is a deftly woven, complex, timeless and thoroughly entertaining novel, making it emphatically recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections.

After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine
Mitchell G. Bard
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481907132, $13.99, 380 pp.,

Synopsis: Set in Palestine when Jews were attempting to establish the state of Israel against strong Arab opposition, Tevye, the milkman character from "Fiddler On The Roof", has moved his three youngest daughters (the older ones remaining with their husbands in Russia and America) from his small village in Russia to an Israeli kibbutz. What follows is 380 page novel which proves to be a welcome and extraordinary continuation of Tevye's experiences with strong minded daughters, complex relations with his fellow Jews, and dealing with his Arab neighbors for good and for ill.

Critique: Author Mitchell G. Bard has done Sholom Aleichem's iconic character full justice and in the process deftly crafted a truly memorable, thoughtful, and above all, entertaining novel that is very highly recommended for anyone who ever enjoyed a performance of "Fiddler On The Roof" and wanted to know what came next for Tevye and his family. It should also be noted that "After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine" is available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

The Cloud Seeders
James Zerndt
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478209157, $10.99, 266 pp.,

Synopsis: Climate change has finally come home to roost with a vengeance in "The Cloud Seeders". The nation has gone eco-hysterical after almost going a year without rain. Thomas and his younger brother, Dustin, set out across a bleak, drought-ridden landscape searching for some kind of solution. That search will lead to unexpected discoveries that irrevocably change their lives and their world.

Critique: Author James Zerndt has created an all too believable world that could well be ripped from the headlines just a couple of decades from now. Deftly crafting an engaging novel that will grip the readers attention from beginning to end, "The Cloud Seeders" is thoughtful, thought-provoking, and solidly entertaining. Highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Cloud Seeders" is also available in a Kindle edition ($0.99).

E. L. Farris
Privately Published
9780578124599, $15.99, 328 pp.,

Synopsis: When high-powered attorney Helen Thompson discovers that her fifteen-year old daughter has been sexually assaulted, she takes drastic measures. Finding herself in trouble, Helen must relinquish control and put her faith in a process she knows to be flawed. As a team of lawyers, therapists and women from a safe house help Helen and Phoebe find hope and healing, a sociopath lurks, waiting for his moment to strike.

Critique: E. L. Farris' debut novel "Ripple: a Tale of Hope and Redemption" is a remarkably well written work that engages the reader's total attention as it explores the nature of evil in our contemporary world with a final and enduring triumph of the human spirit. Crafted with an exceptional eye toward character development and a complexly woven narrative, "Ripple, a Tale of Hope and Redemption" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections as thoughtful, thought-provoking, and insightfully entertaining.

Hope Island
Diana G. Hankla
Heart to Heart Publishing
528 Mud Creek Road, Morgantown, KY 42261
9781937008246, $12.99, 136 pp.,

Synopsis: Delanie Masden was an intelligent, well-educated, beautiful woman, or so people told her. She had a deep founded faith in God. "Then how..." she asked herself, "how do I keep getting tangled up in relationships with the wrong men?" Will it take murder for Delanie to find out? Or, will Hope Island give her that final answer?

Critique: "Hope Island" is retired school teacher Diana G. Hankla's debut novel and reveals a genuine literary talent as a storyteller able to create memorable characters and involve them in a deftly woven story that engages the reader's immediate attention and hold's it firmly through throughout. Of special note is Hankla's attention to historically accurate regional history background details. Wonderfully entertaining from beginning to end, "Hope Island" will leave its readers looking eagerly toward Hankla's next novel.

Man-Corn in the Promised Land
Chairman Wow
Wolf-Wise Press
1649 W. Lacewood Place, Phoenix, AZ 85045
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780964074705, $14.95, 158 pp.,

Synopsis: A collection of macabre short stories and narrative poems on the darker side of human existence, Chairman Wow's "Man-Corn in the Promised Land" is a no-compromise, stomach-churning vision of the intersection between horror and revelation.

Critique: It's the literary quality of his writing that marks Chairman Wow and his darkly haunting narratives worth reading. But these are tales told in prose and poetry that are not for the squeamish. Simply stated, "Man-Corn in the Promised Land" is mature reading for mature adults. It should also be noted that "Man-Corn in the Promised Land" is available in a Kindle edition ($7.00).

Scott J. Holliday
Privately Published
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780988555433, $9.99, 326 pp.,

Synopsis: Jacob Duke has come back to Braketon---a sleepy, backwoods town bordering Dover, the mental institution where he spent his formative years. Jacob's intention is to enjoy Braketon's woods and water for the first time as a free man, but he soon discovers that Dover isn't through with him yet. Driven by a curse that compels him to grant any wish he hears, Jacob is drawn back into his disturbing former life by a young boy's desire to see his own father dead. Complicating things is the irresistible and erratic Lori Nelson, who continues to put new boyfriends in Jacob's path, along with Motown, Jacob's friend from his years at Dover, who carries a secret that rocks Jacob's foundation and makes him question his own morality.

Critique: A well crafted novel that holds the reader's total attention from beginning to end, "Stonefly" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections. Of special note are author Scott J. Holliday's deftly embedded descriptions of life in a mental institution and the obstacles inherent in being hearing impaired. A thoroughly engaging read, it should also be noted that "Stonefly" is available in a Kindle edition ($2.99) as well as in paperback.

George Traikovich
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781482022643, $5.87, 214 pp.,

Synopsis: Quiet was the default setting in the teacher's lounge, and quiet was nice, but a new and different kind of quiet had taken hold in the weeks since school began. This quiet was not an absence of conversation, but a conspiracy of silence. The distinction wasn't lost on Bixby's veteran teachers who knew the difference. Something was lurking beneath the surface that nobody seemed willing to talk about, though some were less afraid than others.

Dressing like B-movie monsters is the latest fad sweeping through Bixby Elementary--but what's driving the strange compulsion? That's just what the Zero Avenue kids want to know. Join Drew, Clementine, Grady, Newton, and Spider, as they unravel the threads of a conspiracy that blurs the line between science and magic, between friends and enemies, and draws them into an adventure that tests their character, and their loyalties to each other.

Critique: The test of a good novel is how well and how fast it grips the reader's total attention and how long it can hold that attention while the storyline unfolds. "Crypto-Punk" by George Trailkovich does just that from beginning to end. Populated with memorable characters, "Crypto-Punk" offers a deftly woven and complex story that never fails to be entertaining and occasionally iconoclastic. A unique and rewarding read, "Crupto-Punk" is highly recommended for personal and community library Contemporary Fiction collections for young readers ages 10 and older. It should also be noted that "Crypto-Punk" is also available in an ebook edition (B00CG3MZKW, $0.99).

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Class Reunions Can Be Murder
Susan Santangelo
Baby Boomer Mysteries
PO Box 1491, West Dennis, MA 02670
9780985779917, $15.00, 240 pp.,

Synopsis: "Class Reunions Can Be Murder: Every Wife Has A Story" continues the humorous Baby Boomer mystery series featuring Carol Andrews and her beloved husband, Jim, as they navigate their way along life's rocky highway toward their twilight years. In this fourth book, Carol has no interest in her upcoming fortieth high school reunion. Her memories of days at Mount Saint Francis Academy are mixed, to put it mildly. But BFF Nancy convinces her to join the reunion planning committee, so she'll have some say in how the event is organized. All is going smoothly until the dead body of one of their classmates is found the night before the reunion -- in Carol and Nancy's room!

Critique: With her Baby Boomer Mystery series, author Susan Santangelo documents her undeniable storytelling talents. "Class Reunions Can Be Murder: Every Wife Has A Story" is an especially well crafted and entertaining mystery that plays fair with the reader every step of the way. For those to whom this would be their first encounter with this outstanding series, they are highly recommended to seek out the three previous series titles: "Retirement Can Be Murder: Every Wife Has A Story" (9780615273143, $14.95, 231 pp.); "Moving Can Be Murder: Every Wife Has A Story" (9780615458069, $15.00, 247 pp.); and "Marriage Can Be Murder: Every Wife Has A Story" (9780985779900, $15.00, 237 pp.). It should also be noted that all four titles in the Baby Boomer Mystery series is available in Kindle editions as well.

Travels In Elysium
William Azuski
Iridescent Publishing
9783952401521, $18.90, 540 pp.,

Synopsis: It was the chance of a lifetime. A dream job in the southern Aegean. Apprentice to the great archaeologist Marcus Huxley, lifting a golden civilization from the dead... Yet trading rural England for the scarred volcanic island of Santorini, 22 year old Nicholas Pedrosa is about to blunder into an ancient mystery that will threaten his liberty, his life, even his most fundamental concepts of reality. A death that may have been murder... An island that blew apart with the force of 100,000 atomic bombs... A civilization prized out of the ash, its exquisite frescoes bearing a haunting resemblance to Plato's lost island paradise, Atlantis... And inexplicable events entwining past and present with bewildering intensity... Can this ancient conundrum be understood before it engulfs them all?

Critique: A superbly crafted saga of the first order, "Travels In Elysium" is a major work of deftly written suspense that incorporates and blends timeless elements that emerge as a first class metaphysical mystery. Author William Azuski's novel marks him as a major literary talent with "Travels In Elysium" leaving his thoroughly entertained readers looking eagerly toward his next effort! Highly recommended for community library fiction collections, it should be noted that "Travels In Elysium" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

A Ton Of Gold
James R. Callan
Oak Tree Press
140 East Palmer Street, Taylorville, IL 62568
9781610091183, $16.95, 274 pp.,

Synopsis: Crystal Moore stands on the brink of losing everything - her only family, her self esteem and her career. Because of a long-forgotten folktale, murders, arson, kidnapping, and firebombs besiege Crystal. And while she struggles to sort out the mystery, the man who nearly destroyed her emotionally reappears. This time, he can end her career. Crystal will need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, her street-wise housemate and Crystal's feisty grandmother.

Critique: "A Ton Of Gold" is one of those riveting novels that grabs the reader's total attention from beginning to end. A deftly woven story populated with memorable characters, "A Ton Of Gold" is a superbly crafted and entertaining mystery and documents author James R. Callan as a gifted writer of the first rank. "A Ton Of Gold" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Yucatan Dead
D. V. Berkom
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
The Barret Company (publicity)
12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90025
9781490963266, $12.99, 260 pp.,

Synopsis: She was a dangerous man's lover... now she's his dangerous enemy. YUCATAN DEAD... For Kate Jones, being on the run from her former lover - the vicious leader of a Mexican drug cartel - was never going to be easy. But with a new identity, a new lover, and a new life in Arizona, she was beginning to believe she'd made it through the worst. Then, in an act of twisted revenge, Kate's kidnapped and imprisoned by her deadly enemy, his intention to force her to pay back the money she stole before he kills her. Fate intervenes and she finds herself working against the cartels deep in the Yucatan with a group of off-the-grid commandos. From peaceful northern Arizona to the steamy jungles of Mexico, Kate Jones must decide for herself if she'll continue to run... ...or turn and fight the evil that pursues her.

Critique: A smoothly woven story of suspense, "Yucatan Dead" clearly demonstrates author D. V. Berkom's mastery of her literary craft in creating memorable characters and an unrelenting thriller of a tension filled novel. "Yucatan Dead" is the stuff of which block-buster movies are made and a very highly recommended, entertaining addition to personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should also be noted that "Yucatan Dead" is available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

The Addict
Scott Whenman
Impression Publishing
9781908374790, $7.95,

Synopsis: If you could get away with it would you commit a murder? That's what best friends Reggie Hancock and Jonathan Regis had in mind. The perfect murder. Nothing could go wrong, or could it? While Jonathan struggled to keep it together, Reggie wanted to do it all over again. With the body count rising in town, it was up to Detectives Richard Reynolds and Thomas Bryce to solve the brutal crimes. Reggie began to lose himself as a darker side appeared, a side even his own best friend becomes scared of. Reggie Hancock has become The Addict!

Critique: Serial killers have fascinated the public imagination and populated a great many television mystery shows. "The Addict" is a gritty novel of carefully crafted language designed to fire up the imagination of the reader with a visceral impact that is as memorable as any factual account of homicidal manias. A debut novel, author Scott Whenman has created a truly riveting read. It should be noted that "The Addict" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Blood Rust
W. Hock Hochheim
Lauric Press
1314 West McDermott, Suite 106-811
Austin, TX 75013
9781932113709, $16.95, 272 pp.,

Synopsis: Once an NYPD detective, Rusty was a rising rock star in the Organized Crimes Unit. Then, Mob members and corrupt cops lure Rusty to Grant's Tomb and shoot him in the head. The detective in Rusty dies. The meat puppet Rusty is all that remains, now a brain damaged, paranoid, criminal psychopath terrorizing the streets of Newark, NJ. Years later, Alphonso "The Crepe Hanger," one of the hit men who lured Rusty to Grant's Tomb, reveals the old China Doll case Rusty solved was an elaborate con, executed by the Mob in an international drug smuggling conspiracy. Soon the State will execute Steverino Downing, the man convicted, for a crime he didn't commit. And shooting Rusty was the Mob's way of clearing up loose ends. This news ignites something deep in Rusty's exploded brain. He must find a way to free Downing. His obsession leads him to the Freedom Science Foundation, a group run by the internationally renowned Dr. Sad Prevell and Peter, a former SAS South African commando. Both cut their teeth on such cases during African Apartheid. Rusty's quest will take him from New York to the shipyards of South Africa and Shanghai. Can Rusty nail the pieces of his shattered mind back together? Can he beat the Mafia, corrupt cops, a Chinese Triad and Somalia pirates in time to save Downing's life, and still somehow redeem his own?

Critique: In "Blood Rust", author Hock Hochheim has superbly crafted a hard-boiled, 'take no prisoners' style action/adventure novel that immediately grips the reader's total attention and doesn't let go until the end. Entertaining, riveting, original, and the kind of novel that lingers in the mind long after it's finished and set back upon the shelf, "Blood Rust" is highly recommended reading. It should also be noted that "Blood Rust" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

When The Saints Go Marching In
Anthony Bidulka
Insomniac Press
520 Princess Avenue
London, Ontario, Canada, N6B 2B8
9781554831005, $19.95, 400 pp.,

Synopsis: Your best friend is killed. Your wife is leaving you. Your son hates you. Then comes the bad news. A Sukhoi Superjet carrying a Very Important Person, plunges from the sky over subarctic Russia. A Canadian Disaster Recovery Agent inspecting the crash site is murdered. CDRA sends in their best to investigate. Man-of-the-world adventurer, Adam Saint, lives a fast-paced, often dangerous, always exciting life. When a passenger train crashes in Detroit, terrorists blow up a public building in Belfast, a cyclone ravages Bangladesh, or Angola descends into civil war, if Canadians are there, so is the CDRA. And so is Adam Saint. Saint's Russian investigation is derailed when he receives devastating personal news. Suddenly, the ultimate man of action is thrown into emotional and physical turmoil that tests his moral fortitude to the limit. Thrust into a fight for his life, Saint embarks on a thrilling journey of danger and deceit from the bucolic prairies of Saskatchewan and high rise hotspots of corporate Toronto, through London's outer boroughs, to steamy Southeast Asia and Sin City itself, Las Vegas. Failure is not an option. Until it is.

Critique: Simply stated, "When The Saints Go Marching In" is total and undiluted entertainment from first page to last. Anthony Bidulka has long demonstrated his storytelling talents in the popular Russel Quant novels and now brings to bear his considerable literary abilities to a new series starring Adam Saint, which is clearly the Canadian James Bond. Enthusiastically recommended to non-stop action/adventure fans, "When The Saints Go Marching In" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.49).

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Planet Amazon II
Crystal Dawn
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781483647838, $19.99, 224 pp.,

Synopsis: Others from Earth join Andrea in the Gemini galaxy. Earth seems determined to have a team working toward their own ends, one way or the other. Will the new arrivals cause problems for Andrea and her new home or disappoint Earth and aid Andrea? What will they find as they head out into the galaxy, meet new races, and visit other planets? Will Andrea find she shares a special chemistry with men of other planets, and how will she deal with it if she does? Andrea continues to touch lives and positively influence others as she continues progress on Amazon, Gallegos, and other planets in the Gemini galaxy. Excerpt from chapter 7 from Andrea's viewpoint: We were there and I looked at a planet that some might say had a rosy glow, but to me it looked like the red of an evil vampire's eyes. It beckoned to me, almost as if it said, "Come to me so I can destroy you" Yet I was helpless to stay away.

Critique: "Planet Amazon II" is a solid science fiction entertainment from first page to last and documents Crystal Dawn as a skilled, imaginative, and compelling master of this popular literary genre. "Planet Amazon II" is highly recommended for community library Fantasy/SciFi collections and will leave enthusiastic readers looking eagerly forward to her next book. It should also be noted that "Planet Amazon II" is available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

The Poetry Shelf

Otherwise, We Are Safe
Olivia Stiffler
Dos Madres Press
PO Box 294, Loveland, OH 45140
9781939929006, $16.00, 82 pp.,

Synopsis: Prose poetry is poetry written in prose instead of using verse but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effects. "Otherwise, We Are Safe" is the debut anthology of the prose poetry of Olivia Stiffler and deftly organized into four major sections.

Critique: It's always a pleasure to encounter an accomplished poet for the first time. That's the principle reason for recommending the poetry of Olivia Stiffler whose themes and word imagery are both personal and universal. 'Sensible Shoes': Plantar fasciitis and degenerative disc disease / and whatever other -itis and -ease / have turned me from a Lean spike to a short squat. / Some days I can barely walk the distance / between my memories and my dreams / even in these sensible shoes.

The Self-Help Shelf

Fear Not! Courage for Every Challenge
J. Daniel Moore
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490329895, $15.95, 204 pp.,

Synopsis: Have you ever wondered if fear has caused you to miss something important? Somewhere deep in your heart do you long for more from life but you have felt afraid, tormented or intimidated to go for it? In "Fear Not! Courage for Every Challenge", author J. Daniel Moore walks the reader through some key areas of life where you can regroup and reclaim what fear has stolen from you. Written from the perspective of someone who has learned to face many fears; fear of lack, fear of people, fear of failure, fear of family responsibility, this penetrating, yet easily readable self-help guide will prove invaluable in helping to identify fear and the places it has wounded the reader.

Critique: The principle and persuasive message in "Fear Not! Courage for Every Challenge" is that anyone live a fearlessly and muster the courage for to meet every challenge life has to offer. Deftly and accessibly written, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Fear Not! Courage for Every Challenge" is highly recommended reading and a welcome addition to both personal and community library Self-Help instructional reference collections.

The Literary Studies Shelf

The Berkeley Poets Cooperative
Charles Entrekin, editor
Hip Pocket Press
5 Del Mar Court, Orinda, CA 94563
9780917658396, $19.95, 188 pp.,

Synopsis: "The Berkeley Poets Cooperative: A History of the Times" is a collection of thirty-two essays, memoirs, and poems about tumultuous times. Universities were under attack and free speech was in question. The byword of the culture rang out, "Question authority." It was also a time to come together and discuss such things as the worth of a word in a poem. The young writers who started The Berkeley Poets Cooperative decided to have a say-so about what was important in literature and in the culture. The combined voices form a patchwork quilt of a unique era in Berkeley, California 1960-1990. Now almost half a century since the founding of the Berkeley Poets Cooperative, the difficult times have returned. The Great Recession of 2007, the rise in poverty, a rise of the super-rich, inequality of the 1% versus the 99% --the culture is beginning to fear the closing down of the "American dream." The intention is to share this amazing period in history, from the point of view of poets and writers who were there and lived the experience, and remind the reader of the optimism of "the way we were," when everything seemed possible.

Critique: Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Charles Entrekin, "The Berkeley Poets Cooperative: A History of the Times" is a kind of literary/social/cultural/political literary time capsule with an amazing degree of relevance for the present day. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Berkeley Poets Cooperative: A History of the Times" is very strongly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

The Political Science Shelf

The American Idea of Freedom
Gary J. Quinn
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781482661057, $9.95, 200 pp.,

Synopsis: "The American Idea of Freedom: How Liberty Depends on Property Rights and General Education" describes the early American and Constitutional concept of liberty as understood by the nation's Founders and relates it to current notions of freedom in this country. The book shows that much of the political and cultural turmoil that surrounds us today can be traced to a faulty understanding of freedom. Whereas popular ideas today center on the pursuit of individual advancements and the rights of self-expression, early Americans viewed independence much more in terms of private property rights and genuine educational opportunities. The Founders laid heavy emphasis on these two fundamentals because Constitutional liberties are built on them and are threatened by inattention to their importance. The framework of government they created foresaw many of our current political and social difficulties and was designed to prevent them. They knew that the freedom they envisioned could be achieved and maintained only by vigilant attention to property rights and quality general education of the citizenry. We are slowly losing contact with their idea of liberty and are moving toward some undefined form of social and political life not in keeping with our American constitutional heritage. The unique spirit of freedom known in America since its beginnings is being seriously threatened by these recent developments. If we want that spirit to survive we must become aware of the implications of these developments, and then recover and act upon the principles of freedom so well articulated by early American leaders.

Critique: Exceptionally well reasoned, deftly written, informed, informative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "The American Idea of Freedom" is an insightful and valued contribution to our national dialogue concerning the nature and maintenance of a viable democracy here in the United States. "The American Idea of Freedom" is highly recommended reading and an important addition to academic and community library Political Science reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

A Smoker's Guide To Health & Fitness
Tamir Katz, MD & Hila Katz, MA
THK Publications
c/o News & Experts
3748 Turman Loop, Suite 101, Wesley Chapel, FL 33544
9780615748047, $8.99, 246 pp.,

Synopsis: There's more to you than your cigarette habit. Quitting is a hugely important step for a smoker to take, but there's a lot more that you can be doing for your fitness and health. A Smoker's Guide to Health and Fitness uniquely addresses the total physical and mental health needs of current and former smokers. In this practical and informative book, Dr. Tamir Katz and his co-author, Hila Katz, discuss exercise, diet, vitamins, medical check-ups and preventative screenings, stress and mental illness, tobacco cessation resources (for those smokers who wish to quit), and smoking-related illnesses. It's an excellent resource for current and former smokers and their family and friends.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "A Smoker's Guide To Health & Fitness" is an invaluable read, especially for anyone seeking to deal with a tobacco addiction and the horrendous health problems associated with this compulsory affliction. Simply stated, "A Smoker's Guide To Health & Fitness" is thoroughly 'user friendly' and a critically important addition to community library Health & Medicine collections.

Beanalicious Living
Elizabeth Borelli
Self Health Cafe
360 Meder Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
9781939288196, $20.00, 234 pp.,

Synopsis: Simple, healthy, and money-saving tips for thinking outside the package and taking back the plate! "Beanalicious Living: A Step-By-Step Guide to Breaking Free from Processed Foods and Embracing a Healthy, Nutritious Lifestyle" lays out a workable plan for incorporating more nutrition-dense, whole foods into your family's regular eating regime while keeping your sanity intact. These delicious foods will bring numerous health, energy, and weight management benefits without breaking your back or your budget.

Critique: Informed, informative, practical, and thoroughly 'user friendly', this blend of health tips on breaking old and deleterious culinary habits and lifestyles and replacing them with healthy, nutritious approaches to cooking for oneself or one's family is a welcome and valued addition for personal reading lists and community library Health & Nutrition reference collections.

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

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