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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 10 October 2018 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf Hunting/Fishing Shelf
Political Science Shelf Biography Shelf Health/Medicine Shelf
Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Homeowner Shelf Music Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

In Search of Lost Books
Giorgio van Straten
Pushkin Press
9781782273745 $14.95 pbk / $17.99 Kindle

Synopsis: They exist as a rumor or a fading memory. They vanished from history leaving scarcely a trace, lost to fire, censorship, theft, war or deliberate destruction, yet those who seek them are convinced they will find them. This is the story of one man's quest for eight mysterious lost books.

Taking us from Florence to Regency London, the Russian Steppe to British Columbia, Giorgio van Straten unearths stories of infamy and tragedy, glimmers of hope and bitter twists of fate. There are, among others, the rediscovered masterpiece that he read but failed to save from destruction; the Hemingway novel that vanished in a suitcase at the Gare du Lyon; the memoirs of Lord Byron, burnt to avoid a scandal; the Magnum Opus of Bruno Schulz, disappeared along with its author in wartime Poland; the mythical Sylvia Plath novel that may one day become reality.

As gripping as a detective novel, as moving as an elegy, this is the tale of a love affair with the impossible, of the things that slip away from us but which, sometimes, live again in the stories we tell.

Critique: In Search of Lost Books: The Forgotten Stories of Eight Mythical Volumes brings the true-life, little-known stories about books of legend that once existed, yet were burnt, torn, stolen, or simply disappeared. Here are the stories behind missing works by Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Bruno Shulz, and more. In Search of Lost Books is captivating from cover to cover, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that In Search of Lost Books is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.99).

The Social Issues Shelf

Interracial Relationships Between Black Women and White Men
Cheryl Y. Judice
Book Baby Publishers
9781543934168, $21.00, PB, 214pp,

Synopsis: Cheryl Y. Judice holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University where she is an adjunct faculty member in the School of Education and Social Policy. She has taught sociology, social psychology, and African American studies at Lake Forest College, Northeastern Illinois University and Northwestern University. Her research focuses on the intersections of race, class, and gender. She also writes a blog for titled "Issues in Black and White".

Her landmark study, "Interracial Relationships Between Black Women and White Men" is comprised of vignettes on the lives of black women who are dating, married to, or divorced from white men.

Black women and white men in interracial relationships were interviewed between 2014 and 2017 to learn how they met and how their relationships progressed. These forty interviews offer thought-provoking insights on the lives of those willing to cross the racial divide in pursuit of personal happiness.

Critique: Impressively organized and presented, "Interracial Relationships Between Black Women and White Men" is a critically important and exceptionally insightful study that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collections in general, and American Interracial Studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists if students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Interracial Relationships Between Black Women and White Men" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Hunting/Fishing Shelf

Mike Honeycutt's World of Hunting and Fishing
Mike Honeycutt
9781490788043 $13.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: For author Mike Honeycutt, there's nothing more exciting than a remote trip with great scenery. In Mike Honeycutts World of Hunting and Fishing, he shares a travelogue that speaks to his passion for traveling the world to exotic locales to hunt and fish for unusual animal species.

Based on his extensive travel experiences, Honeycutt narrates stories from all over the world on all continents. From the savannas of northern Cameroon to the jungles of southern Cameroon, and from the mountains of the Rocky Mountains in the United States, to a Himalayan tahr hunt in the mountains of New Zealand, he describes an array of real-life experiences and excursions. He tells about bird hunting in Argentina, turkey hunting in Old Mexico, and looking for the Gobi Argali Sheep in Mongolia.

From airplanes to snowmobiles, to boats, horses, jeeps, four-wheelers, and pickups, Honeycutt has traversed the world experiencing an array of terrain, cultures, religions, food, and personalities. He offers insights into his travel in Mike Honeycutts World of Hunting and Fishing.

Critique: Mike Honeycutt's World of Hunting and Fishing is a globe-spanning adventure that will appeal to hunting/fishing enthusiasts and armchair travelers alike. A handful of black-and-white photographs intersperse the true tales of remote hikes, exotic foods, and the thrill of the sport. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Mike Honeycutt's World of Hunting and Fishing is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

The Political Science Shelf

Vote and See
Dario Klein
Syncretic Press
9781946071194 $16.95

Synopsis: In the United States, the president comes to power essentially because three out of every ten citizens vote for him. Of the remaining seven, four do not vote and three vote against him. In the midterm elections, these figures are even more drastic: the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate answer to the "popular will" of just two out of every ten citizens.

It is with this backdrop that we sought out Jose "Pepe" Mujica, President of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015 and labeled as "the poorest president in the world" during his presidency. Through the lens of his experience as an activist, revolutionary, political prisoner, legislator, and president, Mujica helps us view politics in a different way. He invites us to reflect on the power an individual can wield by voting. On the power an individual forfeits by not participating in elections. On the importance of at least being able to say you tried.

Critique: Vote and See: A Conversation with Pepe Mujica, spells out deep concerns about the political climate of the U.S., from the perspective of Pepe Mujica, who served as the 40th President of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015. Foremost among Mujica's worrisome observations is America's low voter turnout, particularly during non-presidential elections. Here also are discussions about how consumerism is increasingly taking control of daily life; the impact of man-made climate change and why efforts to mitigate it are so important; the basic concept that "freedom means having free time"; and much more. A handful of simple cartoons illustrate this thoughtful, thought-provoking, and highly recommended call to reevaluate one's life priorities - and to make one of those priorities going to the polls to vote one's conscience! Highly recommended.

World Leadership
Neil Hamblin
Living Tree Publishing
PO Box 671, Stafford, VA 22555-0671
9780999238820, $32.95, HC, 603pp,

Synopsis: The United States is the dominant world power today, but that has not always been the case, and may not always be the case. Great Britain, Rome, and ancient Sumer were once leaders in their own time, but their empires dissolved into history.

Understanding how a leader emerges is critical to understanding how our world works because it turns out that the competition to be the leader has been the primary driver of human social progress. "World Leadership" by Neil Hamblin provides a framework for understanding how leadership is developed, not by an individual, but by a society.

"World Leadership" surveys history to identify the three ways societies acquired leadership in the past -- jump to a new societal level first, acquire a new dominating innovation first, or manage the four leadership power sources better than rivals. Societal levels are the stages of human civilization (bands, tribes, chiefdoms, fiefdoms, and nation-states), whichever society jumped to a higher level first became the leader.

Changes in societal level, and leadership power in general, is generated by transformative innovations. Only fourteen such innovations have ever existed, and they work in different ways. Some changed the way resources are managed. Others changed the environment. Some gave a society dominance through military strength and wealth. Whenever a society embraced these innovations early, it gained leadership power and influence over rivals.

Understanding how leadership develops is imperative now because the world is changing. New transformative innovations have arrived and by the end of this century, the world will likely be transitioning to its next societal level, the nation-union. The society that prepares for this now will be best positioned for leadership in the next century.

Understanding leadership also unlocks mysteries about our contemporary world such as why nation-building efforts tend to fail and why the best hope for U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan may rest in restoring its monarchy.

Part I of "World Leadership" surveys history to craft the leadership framework. It examines powerful societies, from antiquity to modern times, to understand the common threads of what made them into leaders. Part II uses this framework to project forward in time. It reveals which regions have a head-start on becoming future world leaders. Part III applies this framework to some of today's thornier problems, particularly those in the Middle East. It also advises societies where to invest if they desire a leadership role in the future. "World Leadership"concludes with a reexamination of society in light of this understanding and challenging us to become the kind of society worthy of a leadership role.

Critique: A major work of historical and political insight, "World Leadership" provides an informed and informative framework for understanding the evolution of human history, as well as contemporary and rational extrapolations as to what can be expected over the next several decades as technological innovation and a continued globalization impact upon current nation states and international relations. A unique study that is enhanced for academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject with a series of Figures, a four page Appendix, seventy pages of Endnotes, and an eighteen page Index, "World Leadership is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Political Science collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "World Leadership" is also available in a paperback edition (9780999238813, $20.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

The Biography Shelf

Tornados, Rattlesnakes & Oil
Thomas E. Cochrane
River Beach Press
9780998510613, $19.95, PB, 234pp,

Synopsis: The personal memoir of geologist Tomas E. Cochrane, whose career ranged from the hills of New York, to the ice fields of Alaska, to the plains of the Midwest, "Tornados, Rattlesnakes & Oil: A Wildcatter's Memories of Hunting for Black Gold" brings the reader along on his complex quest to discover what lay underground.

This is also an insider's look at the petroleum industry of the latter 20th century and what Cochrane experienced along the way. From Oklahoma, to Texas, to rubbing elbows with iconic oilman T. Boone Pickens, his personal tales of the oil fields provide a firsthand glimpse into the art as well as the science of exploring and drilling all in the relentless pursuit of hitting the big one, every wildcatter's dream.

From company man, to making indie deals and partnering on the fly while chasing the next hot prospect, Cochrane discloses the technical processes involved in detail, as well as the thrill of the hunt including what can sometimes go very wrong. From dry holes, to blowouts, to sketchy money men among a cast of other colorful oil patch characters, his story delivers a step-back-in-time look at a bygone era in an ever-evolving global industry -- and he has a sage perspective to share on its future as well.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, exceptionally candid, impressively informative, and a simply riveting read from cover to cover, "Tornados, Rattlesnakes & Oil: A Wildcatter's Memories of Hunting for Black Gold" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography collections.

The Wrong Side of the Room
Norman Mathews
Book Baby Publishers
9781732367104, $18.00, PB, 324pp,

Synopsis: Born in the wrong town, the wrong era, and with the wrong name, Norman Mathews was forced to conjure a more enticing, if imaginary, world to better navigate the perils of childhood. In this world, he didn't suffer from a lack of self-assurance that dashed his dreams of romance and fame. He wasn't psychologically abused by a priest nor did he endure ludicrously funny psychotherapy over his sexuality. And he didn't attempt suicide, nearly shattering his promising future.

But in the real world, he survived all of this and more, and in his autobiography, "The Wrong Side of the Room: A Life in Music Theater" he details with stark honesty and humor how his resolve to build a meaningful life led him to the life of his dreams.

From the ashes of near-calamity rose the existence Norman always dreamed of. Beginning as a magazine editor and eventually becoming a Broadway and film dancer he worked with Barbra Streisand, Gene Kelly, Dorothy Lamour, and Michael Bennett. His star was on a consistent upward trajectory. But an injury cut short his career as a performer and forced him to seek creative fulfillment elsewhere. He reinvented himself as a pianist, composer, and playwright and as such created award-winning works for the concert stage, Tony-Award winners, and opera luminaries.

This passionate and inspirational memoir is steeped in dark humor, celebrity gossip, and backstage intrigue. It not only shines a light onto musical theater, it goes so far as to recount the grisly murder of a Broadway conductor, provides an inside look at the embezzlement of a famed Broadway producer, and details a never-reported rehearsal row involving a famous choreographer.

In "The Wrong Side of the Room" Norman brings his colorful Sicilian-American family, his triumphs and heartbreaks, and his mine-strewn path to love vividly to life. The result is a riveting drama is a paean to all late-bloomers -- proof that no matter how many wrong cards you are dealt, it's possible, with hope and tenacity, to come up with a winning hand.

Critique: Impressively candid, exceptionally informative, deftly written, organized and presented, "The Wrong Side of the Room: A Life in Music Theater" is an extraordinary memoir that will have special and particular appeal for anyone with an interest in show business. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading list that "The Wrong Side of the Room" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Be Heart Smart
Waqar Khan, MD, MPH
Heart Health Books
9781732268609 $12.95 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: If you have coronary heart disease, this book could save your life. Coronary heart disease (CHD) takes the lives of 2,000 Americans every day. But you don't have to be one of them. If you've been diagnosed with CHD or suffered a heart attack, you can still live a long, heart-healthy life. Be Heart Smart shows you how.

In this definitive guide to CHD, cardiologist Waqar Khan, MD, MPH, answers your questions and gives you easy-to-follow advice for preventing heart attacks and keeping your heart in tip-top shape. It's like having your own personal cardiologist on call.

Using real-life patient stories and the latest evidence-based science, Dr. Khan:

* Explains what CHD is and how it affects the body
* Explores the root causes and risk factors for CHD
* Describes the different types of heart attacks and their warning signs
* Walks you through the tests used to diagnose coronary problems
* Discusses the medications prescribed to combat CHD, including their side effects
* Reveals the latest surgical advancements in surgical and non-surgical interventions to open clogged arteries and prevent heart attacks
* Offers simple approaches to eating better, exercising, quitting smoking, and losing weight

Dr. Khan even includes a glossary of commonly used medical terms. Plus, he shares online resources that can help you with everything from assessing your risk level and setting health goals to cooking heart-supportive meals.

Written in easy-to-understand language, Be Heart Smart will help you (and your loved ones) gain a better understanding of CHD and give you the knowledge you need to take charge of your heart health.

Critique: Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Be Heart Smart: Understand, Treat, and Prevent Coronary Heart Disease will prove especially invaluable to anyone with a family history of CHD or already diagnosed. Here are tips for a healthy diet, recommendations for exercise routines, warning signs and symptoms of CHD, plain talk about treatment and rehabilitation plans, and much more. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Be Heart Smart is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

The Fiction Shelf

Beautiful Exiles
Meg Waite Clayton
Lake Union Publishing
9781503900837, $24.95, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: Set in Key West, 1936, "Beautiful Exiles" by Meg Waite Clayton is the story of headstrong and accomplished journalist Martha Gellhorn, a reporter who is confident with words but less so with men when she meets disheveled literary titan Ernest Hemingway in a dive bar. Their friendship (forged over writing, talk, and family dinners) flourishes into something undeniable in Madrid while they're covering the Spanish Civil War.

Martha reveres him. The very married Hemingway is taken with Martha -- her beauty, her ambition, and her fearless spirit. And as Hemingway tells her, the most powerful love stories are always set against the fury of war. The risks are so much greater. They're made for each other.

With their romance unfolding as they travel the globe, Martha establishes herself as one of the world's foremost war correspondents, and Hemingway begins the novel that will win him the Nobel Prize for Literature. "Beautiful Exiles" is a story of lovers and rivals, of the breathless attraction to power and fame, and of one woman (who is ahead of her time) claiming her own identity from the wreckage of love.

Critique: As deftly written as any Hemingway novel, Meg Waite Clayton's "Beautiful Exiles" is a compelling novel by an author with a genuine and impressive flair for character and narrative driven storytelling. While very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Beautiful Exiles" is also available in a paperback edition (9781503949270, $14.95), in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99), and as an unabridged MP3 audiobook (Brilliance Audio, 9781543674828 $14.99).

James S. McCreath
Scottish Laddie Publications
9781775225713, $19.99, PB, 536pp,

Synopsis: Set in Argentina 1978, "Renaldo: A Tale of World Cup Soccer, Terrorism and Love" is set in a time when a brutal military junta suspends civil liberties for anyone who opposes it. Distraught mothers of "The Disappeared" parade daily in front of the capital building. In retaliation, violent acts of terrorism shatter what is left of normal life. Only one thing can unite all the people. The World Cup of football. Two brothers, Renaldo and Lonfranco De Seta, chart a different course for their futures. While both brothers fall in love with powerful women, Renaldo, a young soccer prodigy, strives to make a place on Argentina's national team. Lonfranco, angry and disenchanted, is seduced into becoming a Montonero terrorist. From the plains of the Pampas to boardrooms, boudoirs, battlefields, locker rooms, and seething stadiums, "Renaldo" is a love story unlike any ever written and a novel shockingly relevant to times we live in.

Critique: An extraordinary and compelling read throughout, "Renaldo" is very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Renaldo" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Siren and the Specter
Jonathan Janz
Flame Tree Press
c/o Flame Tree Publishing
9781787580077, $24.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in "the most haunted house in Virginia", he believes the case will be like any other. But the Alexander House is different. Built by a 1700s land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well. For twenty-two years ago, he turned away the woman he loved, and she took her life in sorrow. And David suspects she's followed him to the Alexander House.

Critique: An original, deftly crafted, and inherently riveting novel by an author with an authentic mastery of narrative storytelling, "The Siren and the Specter" by Jonathan Janz is a compelling read and unreservedly recommended for community library collection. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Siren and the Specter" is also available in a paperback edition (9781787580053, $14.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Robin T. Shea
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781502732354, $13.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Sam Black is a successful businessman who has become ensnared in an intimate relationship with his personal assistant. Beautiful, but volatile Iraqi-born Karima Bahanyha will do anything to protect Sam, the love of her life, including murder. To complicate matters, Sam is in love with Jane, the wife of his Marketing Manager, Alan Murby, an alcoholic, bent on self-destruction. He lies to everyone from his boss, to his family, and most of all, to himself, pretending that his addiction in non-existent. Sam's best friend, John Wright, a married man with two children, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, but despite the poor prognosis, he fights with every ounce of his failing strength to beat the odds and survive. He is greatly admired by all who know him for his courage and fortitude in a life-and-death battle. A man of great compassion, Sam attempts to help both Alan and John whilst trying to unravel his own entanglements.

Critique: Set against the urban backdrop of Chester, England, "Parallels" by Robin T. She is a deftly scripted and complex story of human frailties and foibles. Showcasing an author with an impressively genuine gift for character development and the kind of narrative storytelling that provides an inherently riveting read, "Parallels" is very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Parallels" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Free People
Shane Strowmatt
9781983085468, $10.49, PB, 337pp,

Synopsis: Manipulating the minds of the population to vote in favor of her clients is everyday business for an opinion architect like Alethea Caerere. When she's selected to defend a man accused of altering children's online school classes for his own political gains, it looks like just another trial. The verdict won't be handed down by a judge, but by the voters of the Collective (the Free People) using the Libertas app in a live trial.

But when Alethea finds out her client was trying to stop a powerful lobby from conditioning the world's children, she may be the only person who can save her own daughter and the entire population from indoctrination.

The only way to persuade voters is to employ the manipulative methods of opinion architecture. As a battle for public opinion erupts, neither the Free People nor Alethea can tell truth from lie.

Critique: A deftly crafted dystopian novel by Shane Strowmatt, "The Free People" is set in a near-future world that is engulfed by misinformation, where the masses determine everything with the push of a button. Expertly extrapolated from our current 'smart phone' technology and our political polarization around such concepts as Fake New, "The Free People" is an inherently riveting read by an author with a genuine flair for narrative storytelling. The result is a simply riveting read from first page to last. While very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Free People" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Letters from Elk City
Michael Tidemann
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781984978097, $15.00, PB, 348pp,

Synopsis: "Letters from Elk City" is an historical romance by Michael Tidemann based on the Oregon Coast and in the American South. In his deftly scripted novel, high-standing military men have relationships with heroic minority women who challenge both tradition and the standards of their day. At the heart of the story are Sir Francis Drake and his lover Maria, a freed African slave; Philip Davis and his future wife, Carissa; and Philip's descendent Billy Davis and his wife Sarah, a forensic anthropologist. Other characters include George Pickett and his Haida wife Morning Mist and Phil Sheridan and his lover Sidnayoh.

Critique: An inherently intriguing and imaginatively written novel by an author with a genuine flair for character and narrative driven storytelling, "Letters from Elk City" is an extraordinary reader and 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 "Letters from Elk City" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Sicilian Woman's Daughter
Linda Lo Scuro
Sparkling Books
9781907230691, $19.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Most victims of the mafia are the Sicilians themselves. The role of women both as perpetrators and victims has been grossly overlooked. Until now. As the daughter of Sicilian immigrants, in her teens Maria turns her back on her origins and fully embraces the English way of life. Notwithstanding her troubled and humble childhood in London, and backed up by her intelligence, beauty and sheer determination, she triumphantly works her way up to join the upper middle-class of British society. There she becomes a bastion of civility. But a minor incident wakes up feelings of revenge in her like those lurking in Maria's Sicilian origins. As she delves deeper into her mother's family history a murky past unravels, drawing Maria more and more into a mire of vendetta.

Critique: An extraordinary and inherently riveting read from beginning to end, "The Sicilian Woman's Daughter" is an original and deftly crafted novel showcasing the genuine flair for narrative storytelling by author Linda Lo Scuro (a pen name). While very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Sicilian Woman's Daughter" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Jack of Ruin
Stephen Merlino
Tortoise Rampant Press
9780986267444, $15.99, PB, 516pp,

Synopsis: Harric's immortal enemy, Sir Bannus, lies defeated in the valley, his army buried under tons of mountain rubble--a rock fall that Harric brought down with the magic of the Unseen Moon.For now, the quest to deliver the Queen's peace treaty to the mysterious Kwendi is safe. But Sir Bannus rises from defeat with Harric's name on his lips, vengeance in his fist, and a vow to capture the treaty-bearers and spark war to bring down ruin upon the Queen. To Harric, death would be preferable, for if she falls, Sir Bannus or another of the Old Ones will reclaim the throne and cast women and bastards like Harric back into slavery. Yet Harric's companions condemn his use of trickery and magic to fight Sir Bannus -- tools that saved them once before, and which he believes are as vital as swords for the Queen's protection. When treachery, discord, and death doom the quest, Harric must choose between the love and regard of his friends and his self-chosen destiny as Her Majesty's Unseen protector. It is a choice that will forever bind him to one -- and bring ruin to the other.

Critique: The sequel to fantasy fiction author Stephen Merlino's first novel "The Jack of Souls" (9780986267406, $25.98 HC; $12.95 PB), his second novel in his 'The Unseen Moon' series, "The Jack of Ruin", continues a simply outstanding action/adventure fantasy series. While unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated fantasy fans that "The Jack of Ruin" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Arrival
Kastie Pavlik
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781976109799, $12.99, PB, 310pp,

Synopsis: Paresh Hawthorne returns to her childhood home never expecting to learn that her guardian uncle actually kidnaped her, or that the man who should have raised her, attorney Eric Ravenscroft, is an ageless Civil War veteran. Perhaps even more alarming is how Paresh affects Eric -- her very essence both tames the vampiric beast within his heart...and calls to it. As Eric grapples with desire and unearthly urges, a cloaked man haunts Paresh's dreams, and another threat appears in Jonathan, an ominous vampire with murky motives of his own.

Mysteries and lies stack upon escalating threats (both human and vampire) as the danger builds into a situation beyond anyone's control. The Vampiric High Council's Arch Elder has staked his interest in Paresh, and the grace of God may not be enough to protect her. If the fabled prophecy to redeem the Vampiric Nation is actually upon them, will their cold-hearted leader choose salvation...or order Jonathan to kill their savior in favor of destruction?

Critique: The first volume in Kastie Pavlik's 'Children of the Morning Star' vampiric fantasy series, "The Arrival" reveals an author with a genuine flair for originality and character driven narrative storytelling. A deftly crafted and unfailingly compelling read from beginning to end, "The Arrival" is unreservedly recommended and certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Fantasy Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated vampire fiction fans that "The Arrival" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99).

The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales
Michael Bishop
Fairwood Press
9781933846729, $17.99, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: "The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales" is an anthology of four of Michael Bishop's unusual longer stories, from different stages of his almost fifty-year career.

The title story, a deft mix of exotic Joseph Conrad and colorful 1930s pulp adventure, drops the reader (along with self-reliant heroine Lace Kurlansky) into a fictional Latin American country in which the ancient Maya have arisen from extinction into active involvement in a tortuous civil war.

Next, in the early short novel And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees, Bishop imagines a far-future society on a harsh alien world facing three major calamitous challenges and turning to a fault-ridden genius, Gabriel Elk, to meet and overcome at least two of them.

By contrast, "To the Land of Snow" follows the multi-year voyage of a 21st-century starship carrying a cargo of disaffected Buddhists colonists to a planet nearly twenty light years from Earth, all from the perspective of an unorthodox Dalai Lama born aboard the vessel itself.

Finally, in the controversial "The Gospel According to Gamaliel Crucis," an evangelist for an otherworldly female redeemer (an evangelist who is also the navigator of an interstellar expeditionary force) sets out in scriptural format his testimony that this huge sentient insect represents the second coming of Christ.

The four stories comprising "The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales" can be read in any order. Readers will discover the brave, far-ranging, unpredictable talent of Michael Bishop writing at his best at these longer lengths in four exciting subgenres of the SF and fantasy fields.

Critique: An inherently entertaining and compelling read showcasing an author with a genuine flair for originality and deftly scripted storytelling, "The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales" is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of all science fiction enthusiasts and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Fire Fury Freedom
Amanda Rose
Independently Published
9781717880819, $17.99, PB, 502pp,

Synopsis: "Fire Fury Freedom" by Amanda Rose is set on a Earth -- a dying planet on the verge of collapse, tormented pasts that haunt the present, and there is where there is an ancient hidden magick.

The C.D.F.P. mega-corporation rules all, with unchecked power, and dark secrets. Left unchallenged, the company has ruled over the East Green Continent with an iron fist for decades. The pollution they've caused has devastated the planet, destroying the ozone, and killing off plant and animal life. Outside of domed cities the air is thin, and the sun scorches all; it's a veritable wasteland. In the past two decades the planet has reached entirely new levels of decay. Extreme weather patterns, and massive quakes, ravage the land. Time is running out.

The last hope to save it to save the world lies with a man named Mack, an ex-soldier of the C.D.F.P. military division, and his mercenaries. Men who are standing alone against the C.D.F.P. (AKA the Company), in the fight for humanities survival. Mack and his mercenary troupe set out on a quest to stop the C.D.F.P. once and for all, and the planet will test them to their limits. But are they ready for the horrors they'll uncover? Can they alone stand up against the all-powerful C.D.F.P.?

Critique: A veritable saga of a dystopian novel by an author with a genuine flair for detailed originality, and narrative driven storytelling, "Fire Fury Freedom" by Amanda Rose is an extraordinary and truly memorable read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for community library Dystopian Science Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fire Fury Freedom" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

The Homeowner Shelf

Green Work, Green Labor, Green Power
Gerry Bello
Mockingbird Publishing
9780692920497 $34.99

Synopsis: How to move from Energy Poverty to Energy Abundance and why. This is a rational look at the consumer energy economy, and how we can achieve energy surplus in the home with cheap, non-patented easy to implement designs. 200 Pages with over 30 pages of blueprints.

Critique: Green Work, Green Labor, Green Power is filled cover-to-cover with energy-friendly designs, none of which is protected by any active patents. The projects can readily be built without permission from anyone other than a building inspector. These projects can be used to improve energy efficiency, and use solar, tidal, wind, wave or precipitation impact as energy sources. Anyone interested in saving money, conserving power, and living a more "green" life through hands-on effort is enthusiastically encouraged to investigate Green Work, Green Labor, Green Power!

The Music Shelf

Past / Forward: The LA Phil 100
Julia Ward & Robin Rauzi
The LA Philharmonic
9780971612419, $100.00, 490pp, 2 Volumes

Synopsis: Published on the occasion of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's centennial, "Past / Forward: The LA Phil at 100" is a two-volume, slipcased coffee table book that revisits the history of the LA Phil and contemplates the future of "America's most important orchestra".

The publication offers an unconventional approach to institutional storytelling and includes more than 100 firsthand accounts, interviews conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tim Page, 150 rarely seen archival photos, and artwork from Lucky Dragons, Charles Gaines, and Christine Sun Kim.

Volume I: Past offers an episodic history of the orchestra, featuring interviews with its living music directors Zubin Mehta, Andre Previn, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Gustavo Dudamel.

Volume II: Forward is more experimental, inviting the LA Phil's closest artistic collaborators to reflect on the future of composition, performances spaces, and music in Los Angeles.

Contributors include Dudamel, Herbie Hancock, Frank Gehry, Elkhanah Pulitzer, Josh Kun, and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles student Liliana Morales among others.

Critique: Exhaustively detailed, exceptionally informative, thoroughly impressive in organization and presentation, "Past / Forward: The LA Phil 100" could well served as a template for documentary histories of other community orchestras. Appropriate as a Memorial Gift acquisition selection, "Past / Forward: The LA Phil 100" is an especially and unreserved recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library American Music History collections in general, and LA Philharmonic History studies lists in particular.

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

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