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Wisconsin Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 7 July 2022 Home | WBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Writing/Publishing Shelf Education Shelf
Health/Medicine Shelf Cookbook Shelf Wine/Beer/Spirits Shelf
Biography Shelf Self-Help Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf
Audiobook Shelf Music CD Shelf General Fiction Shelf
Historical Fiction Shelf Literary Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Travel Shelf
Business Shelf Christian Studies Shelf Sports Shelf
Antiques/Collectibles Shelf Needlecraft Shelf Art Shelf
Woodworking Shelf Gardening Shelf Metaphysical Studies Shelf
Railroading Shelf Political Science Shelf Computer Shelf
Automotive Shelf Gaming Shelf Criminology Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

The Wongs of Beloit, Wisconsin
Beatrice Loftus McKenzie
University of Wisconsin Press
728 State Street, Suite 443, Madison, WI 53706-1418
9780299335946, $22.95, PB, 184pp

Synopsis: Through family interviews, original photographs, and national records, and with the publication of "The Wongs of Beloit, Wisconsin", Professor Beatrice Loftus McKenzie traces the many lives of a resilient multigenerational family whose experiences parallel the complicated relationship between America and China in the twentieth century.

In the early 1900s, Charles Wong moved from Guangdong Province to the United States and opened the Nan King Lo Restaurant in Beloit, Wisconsin. Soon after, his wife Yee Shee joined him to build the "Chop House" into a local institution and start a family.

When the Great Depression hit, the Wongs shared what they had with their neighbors. In 1938, the tragic murder of Charles Wong murder left his wife Yee Shee to raise their seven children (ages one through fourteen) on her own. Rather than return to family property in Hong Kong, she and her children stayed in Beloit, buoyed by the friendships they had forged during the worst parts of the 1930s.

The Wongs thrived in Beloit despite facing racism and classism, embracing wartime opportunities, education, love, and careers within the U. S. McKenzie's collaboration with descendent Mary Wong Palmer reveals a poignant story of Chinese immigrant life in the Upper Midwest that adds a much-needed Wisconsin perspective to existing literature by and about Asian Americans.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, and fully engaging read from cover to cover, "The Wongs of Beloit, Wisconsin" underscores the value immigrants have steadfastly proven to be as they became (and continue to become) an integral part of the American populace. Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "The Wongs of Beloit, Wisconsin" is an important and unreservedly recommended addition to all community, college, and university library Asian American History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. In particular and especially, every Wisconsin community and academic library Wisconsin History & Biography collections should include a copy of "The Wongs of Beloit, Wisconsin" by Professor Beatrice McKenzie. It should further be noted for personal reading lists that "The Wongs of Beloit, Wisconsin" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.49).

Editorial Note: Beatrice Loftus McKenzie is an Emeritus Professor of History and held the William and Gayle Keefer Professor of Public Humanities from 2017-2021 at Beloit College.

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Simple, Brief, and Precise
Darrel Waltkers
GIA Publications, Inc.
7404 South Mason Avenue, Chicago, IL 60638
9781622775958, $24.95, 266pp

Synopsis: "Simple, Brief, and Precise: How to Write with Clarity" is a straightforward, practical, easy-to-use tool to improve writing in which author, academician, and writing instructor Darrel Walters draws from his experience reading tens of thousands of pages as a university professor to create an essential reference and guide. "Simple, Brief, and Precise" is an invaluable instruction guide for anyone aspiring to make better use of the English language and the writtenword.

Critique: A DIY writing workshop seminar in the form of a book, "Simple, Brief, and Precise: How to Write with Clarity" is an exceptionally effective and comprehensive textbook that is especially and unreservedly recommended for anyone seeking to become adept, efficient and compelling with their writing whether it is for a business report, a letter to a family member, or the next Great American Novel. While an outstanding selection choice for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing collections, it should be noted for students, academia, corporate executives, freelance writers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Simple, Brief, and Precise: How to Write with Clarity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.70).

Editorial Note: Darrel Walters earned a PhD from the University of Michigan, advised masters and doctoral students at Temple University for 24 years, and now presents writing seminars for business professionals and university students and faculty.

The Education Shelf

College Admission 101, third edition
Robert Franek
The Princeton Review
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593450574 $12.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: This friendly, helpful Q&A book from the editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review presents simple answers to your toughest questions about navigating the college admissions process, figuring out financial aid, and getting into the university of your choice!

As The Princeton Review's Editor-in- Chief and nationally renowned expert on education, Robert Franek speaks with tens of thousands of anxious students and parents each year, advising them on how to turn their college hopes into reality.

College Admission 101 is an accessible, timely collection of the 60+ most-asked questions Rob hears. Uncomplicate your search with straightforward answers to questions like:

How has college admissions changed since 2020?
What changes are coming to the PSAT and SAT?
Should I take the ACT, SAT, or both?
What's more important: GPA or test scores?
How do I write a game-changing college essay?
What extracurricular activities do colleges want to see?
How does the financial aid process work?

Critique: Now in an updated third edition with insights into how the college admissions process has changed since 2020 and the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, College Admission 101: Expert Advice for the New Challenges in Admissions, Testing, Financial Aid, and More is a "must-have" for every aspiring college student. Chapters offer guidance in researching a good college, anticipating changes to the SAT and ACT standardized tests, how to present one's high school transcript and extracurricular activities, tracking down financial aid and scholarships, the pros and cons of taking a "gap year" before college, and much more. Thoroughly accessible and reader-friendly, College Admissions 101 is a potentially life-changing reference and resource, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that College Admissions 101 is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Health/Medicine Shelf

The Joy Choice
Michaelle Segar, Ph.D.
Hachette Go
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780306826078, $29.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: What if you could easily and joyfully resolve the in-the-moment conflicts that often derail your eating and exercise goals? Much of what we've been taught about creating change in eating and exercise is simplistic, outdated, and for many, misguided.

Michelle Segar has devoted decades to the study of how to achieve lasting changes in eating and exercise and other self-care behaviors. With the publication of "The Joy Choice: How to Finally Achieve Lasting Changes in Eating and Exercise" Segar reveals the surprising reasons why our eating and exercise plans so often crash when they come up against real life. She calls these conflicts "choice points", and shows that they are the real place of power for achieving lasting changes in eating and exercise.

"The Joy Choice" offers a fresh, brain-based solution that turns the old behavior-change paradigm on its head. A groundbreaking book, "The Joy Choice" will liberate you from the self-defeating obligations and rigid requirements of past diet and workout regimens and reveals what emerging research suggests really drives the consistent choices that power sustainable change.

Designed from cutting-edge decision science and real-world experience coaching clients, you will discover the easy, flexible, and three-step joy-infused decision tool that works with the chaos of daily life, guiding you to finally achieve and maintain your eating and exercise goals once and for all -- and enjoy doing it!

Critique: Not just another simple (and simple minded) food and exercise fad 'how to' guide, "The Joy Choice: How to Finally Achieve Lasting Changes in Eating and Exercise" offers readers a 'real world practical', effective, and healthy minded approach to succeeding for achieving and maintaining optimal physical and mental health. Informatively enhanced with the inclusion of two Appendices (Getting Started Picking The Joy Choice: An Eating Example & Professional Goals and Industry Cases), a fourteen page listing of Acknowledgments, twenty-six pages of Notes, and a seven page Index, "The Joy Choice: How to Finally Achieve Lasting Changes in Eating and Exercise" is an especially recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library Health/Medicine and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Joy Choice" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, MS, is an award-winning, NIH funded sustainable behavior change researcher at the University of Michigan and a lifestyle coach. For nearly three decades, she has pioneered methods to create sustainable healthy behavior change that are being used to boost patient health, employee well-being, and gym membership retention. Inaugural chair of the United States National Physical Activity Plan's Communication Committee, former director of the University of Michigan's SHARP Center, and consultant to companies like Kaiser Permanente, Walmart, and Anytime Fitness, she is frequently interviewed in major media outlets like The New York Times, NPR, Prevention, Real Simple, and The Wall Street Journal.

The Cookbook Shelf

The Backyard BBQ Bible
Oscar Smith
Smith Street Books
c/o Rizzoli
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9781922417602, $29.95, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Comprised of more than 100 recipes for grilling outdoors, "The Backyard BBQ Bible" Sydney-based food writer and photographer Oscar Smith is the ideal DIY guide to getting the best out of any barbecue whether it's a modest charcoal stand-alone or a gas-burning beast with all the bells and whistles.

The recipes designed for cooking in the great outdoors include the barbequing of chicken, beef, lamb, pork, seafood and veggies. There are even options for side dishes and desserts!.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated throughout with the full color photography of finished dishes (of special note is Southern- Style Baby Back Pork Ribs!) this palate pleasing, appetite satisfying compendium is a 'must' for all dedicated BBQ enthusiasts and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, and community library cookbook collections.

Wood-Fired Feast
Jon Finch
The GMC Group
9781784946258, $34.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Wood-Fired Feast: Over 100 Recipes for the Wood Burning Oven", Jon Finch demonstrates that when it comes to wood-fired ovens, pizzas are just the start! Whether new to wood-fired cooking or a food lover looking to step up your outdoor cooking game, "Wood-Fired Feast" provides everything needed to be known about using and maintaining a wood-fired oven and transform the novice into a master of the wood burning oven.

"Wood-Fired Feast" presents invaluable advice on using a wood-fired oven, the tools and equipment needed, tips on wood selection and cooking temperatures, and easy step-by-step instructions for building and maintaining a fire. That's all in addition to the more than 100 recipes, some of which have been created by guest celebrity chefs including Dan Toombs (aka The Curry Guy).

From street food to family meals, and small bites to decadent desserts, the recipes comprising "Wood-Fired Feast" come from all corners of the globe, proving that the potential of the wood-fired oven knows no bounds.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated the finished dishes with full page color photography throughout, "Wood-Fired Feast: Over 100 Recipes for the Wood Burning Oven" is an essential instructional guide and cookbook for anyone wanting to master the art of cooking with a wood burning oven. With its profusion of palate pleasing, appetite satisfying recipes, "Wood-Fired Feast" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Jon Finch is a live fire and BBQ cooking expert, food writer and festival maker. He is the founder of Grillstock festival and is also a contributor in a number of other festivals and fire and feast experiences. He co-owns Quay Street Diner and is a chef for Delivita Wood Fired Ovens as well as Weber BBQ. Jon is the author of three best selling cook books and gives masterclasses nationally. He has an informative website at

Persiana Everyday
Sabrina Ghayour
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781783255146, $34.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: "Persiana Everyday" is an all-new collection of more than 100 fuss-free, crowd-pleasing Middle Eastern cuisine recipes for everyday eating from Sabrina Ghayour, the author of the award-winning, Sunday Times bestselling cookbook "Persiana".

With each featured recipe specifically designed to ensure maximum flavor with the greatest of ease (including no-cook, quick-prep, quick-cook and one-pot dishes), "Persiana Everyday" is full and illustrated compendium of generous, inviting and delicious recipes to cook again and again for family and friends.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of full page color photographs of finished dishes, "Persiana Everyday" is an ideal culinary resource for planning memorable menus feature Middle Eastern cuisine ranging from Aromatic Spiced Beef & Tomato Polow; Pomegranate Chicken Wings; Sauteed Zucchini with Mint; and Spicy Nutty Roasted Cauliflower; Spiced Coconut Chickpeas; Sage Butter, Feta & Black Pepper Pasta; and Tahini & Chocolate Marmar Cake -- and so many more palate pleasing, appetite satisfying, kitchen cook friendly recipes. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Persiana Everyday" is highly recommended, especially for personal, professional, family, and community library Middle Eastern & Ethnic Cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Sabrina Ghayour is an Iranian-born, self-taught home cook turned chef, cookery teacher and food writer. She made her name hosting the hugely popular 'Sabrina's Kitchen' supper club in London, specializing in Persian and Middle Eastern flavours, and went on to be named the Observer's Rising Star in Food. Her cookbook, "Persiana", is a worldwide bestseller. She is also the cookbook author of Sirocco, Feasts, Bazaar and Simply.

Parks and Recreation: The Official Cookbook
Jenn Fujikawa
Smart Pop Books
c/o BenBella Books
9781637740873, $24.95 136pp

Synopsis: "Parks and Recreation: The Official Cookbook" by Jenn Fujikawa is the ultimate way for fans to visit the kitchens, restaurants, and Harvest Festivals of Pawnee, IN, without ever leaving their homes.

And though "there has never been a sadness that can't be cured by breakfast food," home cooks of every skill level will be able to recreate meals for any time of day, including: Leslie Knope's Favorite JJ's Diner Waffles; Eagleton Crepes; Ron Swanson's Meat Tornado Burrito; Paunch Burger's Double Bason Grenade Deluxe; Chris Traeger's Turkey Burger and Literally the Best Salad You've Ever Had; Stu's Stew; April and Andy's Most Amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ever Made; Ben's Calzones; Donna's Mimosas; Marshmallow Ron Swansons; Sweetums Sugar Splash Floats.

Featuring more photos, quotes, and many vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options than there are rules, "Parks and Recreation: The Official Cookbook" serves up something culinary for every fan!

Critique: Wonderfully illustrated in full color throughout with pictures of finished dishes and Parks & Recreation stars, "Parks and Recreation: The Official Cookbook" is as fun to simply page through as it is easy for kitchen cooks to recreate the showcased culinary delights that are as palate pleasing as they are appetite satisfying. A 'must' for the legions of Parks & Recreation fans, "Parks and Recreation: The Official Cookbook" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and will prove a welcome addition to both personal and community library cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Jenn Fujikawa is an author and content creator specializing in lifestyle and pop culture. She has created content for Disney, Lucasfilm, Marvel, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, and more. Her recipes have been featured on Buzzfeed, LA Times, Food & Wine Magazine, and the cover of Food Network Magazine. Jenn is also the author of The Gudetama Cookbook, The I Love Lucy Cookbook: Classic Recipes Inspired by the Iconic TV Show, I Love Lucy: The Joys of Friendship, and the co-author of The Goldbergs Cookbook.

The Artful Pie Project
Denise Machessault, author
Deb Garlick, author
White Cap
c/o Fitzhenry & Whiteside
9781770503601, $39.95, HC, 324pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Artful Pie Project", collaborative culinary authors Denise Marchessault (who holds a Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu, a cooking instructor, and the author of "British Columbia From Scratch" and Deb Garlick (whose art graces international book covers and is in private collections worldwide) featuring more than 50 recipes covering the pie spectrum from galettes, to pastry dumplings and slab crumbles -- plus French Canadian classics such as Tourtiere and Tart au Sucre!

Beyond pie recipes, "The Artful Pie Project" is a compendium of practical and effective tips for dodging pie failures and creative ideas for using precious scraps of leftover dough. There is also a selection of accompaniments to partner with favorite pie recipes.

Critique: A true and dedicated pie lover's delight to simply browse through, as well as profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout with full color photography and illustrations,"The Artful Pie Project" is thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' in organization and presentation -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, family, and community library collections.

The Wine/Beer/Spirits Shelf

Bourbon Is My Comfort Food
Heather Wibbels
The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
9780813186894, $27.95, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: "Bourbon Is My Comfort Food" by Heather Wibbles reveals the delicious beauty of bourbon cocktails and the joy of creating them. Whether readers are new to bourbon or steeped in its history and myriad uses, with this informative guide they will gain the knowledge to make great bourbon cocktails, share them with friends and family, and expand their whiskey horizons -- because the only thing better than bourbon is sharing it with a friend.

From building your home bar to basics on cocktail technique, bourbon and mixed cocktails expert Heather Wibbels showcases more than 140 variations on classic bourbon cocktails (like the Old-Fashioned, the Manhattan, Whiskey Sours, Highballs, Juleps, and more) in approachable ways. She also features several Cocktail Labs, which invite readers to explore classic cocktail elements and experiment with flavors, textures, infusions, syrups, and garnishes.

But more than that, "Bourbon Is My Comfort Food" is a celebration of ten years of bourbon education and cocktails by Bourbon Women, the first group dedicated to women and their love of the spirit. Heather Wibbels celebrates with cocktails from the Bourbon Women leadership team, branches across the nation, and winners from the group's annual Not Your Pink Drink contest -- inviting the reader to get out their cocktail shaker and explore the wide world of bourbon cocktails!

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout with full page color photography, this coffee-table style edition (8 x 1 x 10 inches, 2.5 pounds) of "Bourbon Is My Comfort Food" is an elegant compendium of thoroughly 'user friendly' recipes for memorable bourbon based cocktails and other drinks -- and begins with practical 'how to' and 'what to do' information on Bourbon Basics and Stocking Your Bar. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99), "Bourbon Is My Comfort Food" will prove to be a prized addition to personal, professional, and community library Wine/Beer/Spirits collections.

Editorial Note: Heather Wibbels is an award-winning mixologist, former chair of the Bourbon Women Board of Directors and current managing director, photographer, and digital content creator. Wibbels works with brands and companies to develop cocktails and deliver cocktail education for home mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts, turning cocktail lovers into whiskey drinkers one drink at a time. She develops, writes, and photographs content for her own website at:

The Cocktail Cabinet
Zoe Burgess
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784727994, $24.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: A cocktail is an alcoholic mixed drink. Most commonly, cocktails are either a combination of spirits, or one or more spirits mixed with other ingredients such as tonic water, fruit juice, flavored syrup, or cream. Cocktails vary widely across regions of the world, and many websites publish both original recipes and their own interpretations of older and more famous cocktail.

For several generations now, a cocktail is the preferred answer to so many after work, pre-weekend, Saturday night, holiday lunch, get-together and dinner party cravings. Always welcomed, but often by the amateur recreated with little success.

With a vast scope of information on all things cocktail, drinks researcher and developer Zoe Burgess introduces "The Cocktail Cabinet: The art, science and pleasure of mixing the perfect drink", a comprehensive and detailed guide to creating professional cocktails. Throughout seven chapters she breaks each showcased cocktail down into their five basic tastes and considers the flavor profiles of the key spirits included, analyzing why certain pairings work so you can fully understand the building blocks of this delectable art.

"The Cocktail Cabinet" is a reliable and accessible companion to cocktail-making, no matter what your knowledge, skill or budget may be. It identifies the basic equipment to invest in, provides practical tips on set up, explores techniques used and advises on the most versatile, readily available ingredients to purchase for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails -- so no one misses out. With accompanying illustrations, the structure, method, flavor profile and finished results can be visualized with ease.

Understanding these elements will insure creating, developing and executing dream cocktails, and ensuring that cocktail-making at home is an effortless and enjoyable experience as offered by any experienced and professional bar tender.

Critique: A cocktail lover's delight to page through, "The Cocktail Cabinet: The art, science and pleasure of mixing the perfect drink" is beautifully illustrated throughout with full color photography. So thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The CockTail Cabinet" will prove to be a welcome and enduringly appreciated addition to personal, professional, and community library Cocktail & Mixed Drink instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note: Zoe Burgess is a drinks researcher and developer who has created menus for bars and restaurants including Dinner by Heston, 69 Colebrooke Row and Bar Termini and worked as a consultant for many brands such as Pernod Ricard. She also trains mixologists and runs Atelier Pip, which is an independent flavor profiling company.

The Biography Shelf

Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration
M. G. Barlow
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684337767, $18.95, PB, 189pp

Synopsis: In childhood, M.G. adores her old family house as if it were a guardian with heart and soul. After her mother dies, her father soon remarries and sends her brothers and her, one at a time, off to live with older siblings. M.G. buries her affection for that home, along with the family divisions and pain of her mother's departure. She becomes that kid -- the one who falls through the cracks, and stumbles into adulthood wrecked, scarred, and undisciplined.

All the while, another vintage house, busy protecting an immigrant family in an historic mill community awaits. Years later as an adult, M.G. falls in love with the place, despite its cracked cement, broken stoop, and the chipmunks whizzing in and out from under a door. As M.G. researches her home and repairs its broken parts, she discovers the gradual personal restoration that ensues as a result.

With the publication of "Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration: A Memoir", M. G. Barlow deftly braids the history of a New England house and town with teachings of motherhood, loss, and tradition -- plus a little romance and humor along the way.

Critique: An absorbing, thought-provoking, entertaining, and memorable account, "Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration: A Memoir" is an impressively written and fully engaging read that will have a special appeal to anyone struggling with grief, bereavement, suicide, and family disappointments and disillusions. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration: A Memoir" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: M.G. Barlow graduated magna cum laude from Clark University and was a journalist in central Massachusetts. She has also written extensively about diseases, life sciences products, and on the business of healthcare for commercial organizations. She maintains a website at

Uncredited: The Life and Career of Virginia Gregg
Lona Bailey
BearManor Media
PO Box 71426, Albany, GA 31708
9781629339276, $45.00, HC, 544pp

Synopsis: Virginia Gregg (March 6, 1916 - September 15, 1986) had one of the most recognizable faces and voices in American media for over 40 years. In radio, television, and film, Virginia went largely uncredited for many of her legendary performances including "Norma Bates" from Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho.

In radio she was a favorite on classics like Dragnet, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

On television she was a regular guest on shows such as Dragnet, Gunsmoke, and The Twilight Zone.

In film she gave her most memorable performances in productions including Psycho, Operation Petticoat, and Spencer's Mountain. Read the incredible story behind the familiar face and voice that until now has never been told.

"Uncredited" by biographer Lona Bailey is Virginia's life story of great tragedy, resilience, and perseverance far more compelling than that of any character she ever portrayed. Readers will discover the great lady behind the hundreds of unforgettable characters she gave our world.

Critique: An impressively detailed, exceptionally informative, well written and inherently fascinating biography that will lift Virginia Gregg from an undeserved obscurity, "Uncredited" will have a special and particular appeal to radio, television and film historians and non-specialist general readers with an interest in actor/entertainer biographies. While highly recommended as a well deserved addition to community, college, and university library Theatre/Cinema/Television History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Uncredited" is also available in a paperback edition (9781629339269, $35.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Our Laundry, Our Town
Alvin Eng
Empire State Editions
Fordham University Press
45 Columbus Avenue, Rm 312, New York, NY 10023
9781531500368, $27.95, 212pp

Synopsis: "Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond" is a memoir that decodes and processes the fractured urban oracle bones of Alvin Eng's upbringing in Flushing, Queens in the 1970s.

Back then, his family was one of the few immigrant Chinese families in a far-flung neighborhood in New York City. His parents had an arranged marriage and ran a Chinese Hand Laundry. From behind the counter of his parent's laundry and within the confines of a household that was rooted in a different century and culture, he sought to reconcile this insular home life with the turbulent yet inspiring street life that was all around them -- from the faux martial arts of tv's Kung Fu to the burgeoning underworld of the punk rock scene.

In the 1970s, NYC, like most of the world, was in the throes of regenerating itself in the wake of major social and cultural changes resulting from the Counterculture and Civil Rights movements. And by the 1980s, Flushing had become NYC's second Chinatown. But Eng remained one of the neighborhood's few Chinese citizens who could not speak fluent Chinese.

Finding his way in the downtown theater and performance world of Manhattan, he discovered the under-chronicled Chinese influence on Thornton Wilder's foundational Americana drama, Our Town. This discovery became the unlikely catalyst for a psyche-healing pilgrimage to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China (his ancestral home in southern China) that led to writing and performing his successful autobiographical monologue, The Last Emperor of Flushing. Learning to tell his own story on stages around the world was what proudly made him whole.

As cities, classrooms, cultures, and communities the world over continue to re-examine the parameters of diversity, equity, and inclusion, "Our Laundry, Our Town" will reverberate with a broad readership.

Critique: Providing an inherently interesting and informative perspective, "Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond" is a deftly crafted memoir that will prove to be an welcome addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections and Asian American supplemental curriculum studies lists. Of special appeal to readers with an interest in playwriting, script writing, and the 20th Century Chinese emigrant assimilation experience, it should be noted that "Our Laundry, Our Town" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.49).

Editorial Note: Alvin Eng is a native New York City playwright, performer, acoustic punk raconteur, and educator. His plays and performances have been seen Off-Broadway, throughout the United States, as well as in Paris, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou, China. Eng is the interviewer/ editor of the oral history / play anthology Tokens? The NYC Asian American Experience on Stage (Temple University Press / Asian American Writers' Workshop). His plays, lyrics, and memoir excerpts have also been published in numerous anthologies. Eng's spoken-word videos, songs, storytelling, and commentary have been broadcast and streamed on National Public Radio among others. He is a a two-time appointee to the Fulbright Specialists roster of Theatre / U.S. Studies scholars and a three-time recipient of NYSCA/ NYFA Fellowships. He has an informative website is

Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains
Dawn Morgan
University of Regina Press
9780889778603, $89.00, HC, 392pp

Synopsis: A surprise rodeo leaves a buffalo bull dead and a cowboy gored to death. Seeing the death of the one man who was kind to him, and knowing it was his fault, Dawn Morgan's father goes on a bender and ends up dead. His sudden death and the mystery around it, combined with the blundering way Morgan learns of it, forces her to reflect not only on the events of the bloodied corral, but also the buffalo herds decimated and Indigenous Peoples displaced to make way for settlement in what was becoming ranching country in the prairies.

Unsettled is a deeply moving work of literary non-fiction, a probing memoir examining family tragedy in relation to stories (both fact and fiction) of settlers and Indigenous Peoples on the Great Plains. With the publication of "Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains", Morgan shares the internal struggle between resistance and allegiance to the settler-descendent stories she grew up with while paying respects to her father and documents the censorship she faces from her mother, loyal still to the pioneer myth of the early twentieth century.

It is only when both parents are gone that Morgan is liberated to write a story of reckoning on the northern Great Plains.

Critique: An extraordinary and compelling memoir, "Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains" by Dawn Morgan (Associate Professor of English at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada) will have a very special appeal and relevance to readers with an interest in European settlement of the Great Plains, resulting in the forcible removal of Indigenous tribes from the contested area. An impressive combination of biography and history, "Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Canadian Biography & Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains" is also available in a paperback edition (9780889778573, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.97).

The Self-Help Shelf

Happy Mind, Happy Life
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee
BenBella Books
9781637742112, $22.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: During his 20 years as a GP, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee has seen first-hand that motivation isn't always enough for us to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's only when we learn how to support our own mental wellbeing and cultivate core happiness that these choices become easy.

With the publication of "Happy Mind, Happy Life: The New Science of Mental Well-Being", Dr. Chatterjee shares cutting-edge insights into the science of happiness and reveals 10 simple ways to put you back in control of your health. It features real-life case studies and more than 20 practical exercises, including lessons on how to: Find your flow; Create distance from your phone; Deal with criticism

Whether you are at a crisis point or simply want to experience more joy, "Happy Mind, Happy Life: The New Science of Mental Well-Being" will help you feel calmer, more confident, and able to live your life to the full. Your body and mind will thank you.

Critique: Exceptionally 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Happy Mind, Happy Life: The New Science of Mental Well-Being" is beautifully illustrated throughout with full page, full color photography. As 'real world practical' as it is inspiringly motivational, "Happy Mind, Happy Life: The New Science of Mental Well-Being" is the next best thing to sitting in on a Dr. Chatterjee seminar and will prove to be an enduringly appreciated and valued addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement instructional reference collection. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Happy Mind, Happy Life: The New Science of Mental Well-Being" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is regarded as one of the most influential doctors in the UK. A practicing GP for the last two decades and resident BBC Breakfast doctor, Dr. Chatterjee wants to inspire people to transform their health through making small, sustainable changes to their lifestyles. Leading the charge on how healthcare and medicine is understood in the UK, Dr. Chatterjee most recently co-created a lifestyle medicine course with the Royal College of GPs, which has now been delivered to over 400 GPs and health care professionals. Host of the #1 iTunes podcast, Feel Better, Live More, and presenter of BBC 1's Doctor in the House, Dr. Chatterjee is the author of two Sunday Times bestselling books and his TED talk, "How to Make Diseases Disappear," has now been viewed over 2.6 million times.

Purpose, Passion, and Pajamas
Genevieve M. Piturro
River Grove Books
c/o Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781632992901, $16.95, 202pp

Synopsis: "Purpose, Passion, and Pajamas: How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection, and Lead with Meaning" is the story of Genevieve Piturro's triumphant leap off the corporate ladder to find her life's true calling. What started with a simple question from a little girl led Genevieve to conceive of and build the nonprofit Pajama Program in 2001, resulting in a featured appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and an awe-inspiring display of compassion throughout the US and beyond. Today, Pajama Program has distributed over seven million pairs of pajamas, opened 63 chapters across the US, and established reading centers for children.

In her inspirational narrative, Genevieve Piturro shows her readers how to: Notice and listen to the quiet, internal voice nudging you in a new direction; Lead with empathy, passion, and purpose; Realize the importance of the human connection we've lost in our modern world.

Purpose, Passion, and Pajamas brings the reader to the heart of the matter with eye-opening lessons in leadership, personal growth, and the motivational tools to "find your pajamas."

Critique: With a narrative writing style that is ideal for non-specialist general readers an interest in philanthropy and non- profit organizations, is more than simply a well written memoir, it is also inspired and inspiring call for each of us to improve ourselves while improving the world around us. Interested readers will want to note that Benevieve Piturro has a relevant website at and that more information on the Pajama Program is available at While "Purpose, Passion, and Pajamas: How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection, and Lead with Meaning" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Genevieve Piturro founded the hugely successful national non- profit Pajama Program when a six-year-old girl's question almost 20 years ago changed her life forever. After a career in television marketing, she jumped off the corporate ladder. Today, her Pajama Program has delivered seven million Good Nights filled with magical gifts of pajamas and books to children throughout the US. Genevieve is now a professional speaker and consultant, sharing life and leadership lessons she learned through her Pajama Program journey. Genevieve has been the recipient of many awards, including the Shining World Compassion Award; SmartCEO Award of New York; Edith C. Macy Award for Distinguished Service (Westchester Children's Association); Friend of Abbott House Award; ANDRUS's Heart for Children's Award; and the Thomas J. Caramadre, Jr., Humanitarian Award. Her life story has been featured in several books, including Angels on Earth: Inspiring Real-Life Stories of Fate, Friendship, and the Power of Kindness by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski and Unselfish: Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Selfie by Paul D. Parkinson. She has a website at

The Graphic Novel Shelf

What Did You Eat Yesterday? 18
Fumi Yoshinaga
c/o Kodansha
9781647290900 $12.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: From the James Tripee Award Winning author, Fumi Yoshinaga, comes a casual romance between two middle- aged men and the many meals they share together.

A hard-working middle-aged gay couple in Tokyo come to enjoy the finer moments of life through food. After long days at work, either in the law firm or the hair salon, Shiro and Kenji will always have down time together by the dinner table, where they can discuss their troubles, hash out their feelings and enjoy delicately prepared home cooked meals!

Critique: What Did You Eat Yesterday? is a long-running, black-and-white manga graphic novel series about the everyday life of Shiro and Kenji, a middle-aged gay male couple, with emphasis on home-cooked cuisine. One member works at a law firm; the other in a hair salon; both relish culinary delights at the dinner table as they share their respective daily ups and downs. In volume 18 of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Shiro and Kenji are both approaching their sixties, and Kenji is horrified to discover that Shiro has been making plans for the end of his life. Furthermore, an unexpected problem at work may force Kenji to relinquish his position as manager, or perhaps even leave the salon permanently. As always, appealing culinary creations are sprinkled throughout this saga of love, exquisite cooking, and navigating life's difficult challenges. Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that What Did You Eat Yesterday? 18 is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

The Audiobook Shelf

Sweeter Than Honey
Joy Avery, author
Tamika Katon-Donegal, narrator
Leon Nixon, narrator
Brilliance Audio
9781713657781, $22.99, Library CD, 10 Discs
9781713657798, $14.99, MP3-CD, 1 Disc

Synopsis: Baker extraordinaire Rylee Harris has a recipe for everything -- except love. It's been five years since she lost her husband, but romance is still a struggle for Rylee. In her small hamlet of Honey Hill, North Carolina, Rylee knows she'll be the talk of the town when she finds someone new.

To ease her mother's worries about her love life, Rylee impulsively invents a fake relationship with the only man who's caught her eye: the town sheriff, Canten Barnes. It's supposed to be a secret, but secrets don't last long in Honey Hill. One bit of gossip leads to another, and soon the whole town thinks Rylee and Canten are an item.

As Rylee and Canten embark on a make-believe relationship to save face, they slowly realize that their feelings for each other aren't fake at all. Can Rylee and Canten keep the charade going -- or will the town's prized baker and respected lawman take a real chance on love?

Critique: The stuff of which Hallmark movies are made, the complete and unabridged audio book featuring the narrative storytelling talents of Yamika Katon-Donegal and Leson Nixon take full and entertaining advantage of Joy Avery's impressive flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven novel that lends itself so well to a fully engaging theatre of the mind experience on the part of the listener. Of special appeal to contemporary romance fans, both audio book editions (Library CD & MP3-CD) are highly recommended for personal and community library collections.

Editorial Note: Joy Avery is a member of Romance Writers of America and Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. Fans can find her books and sign up for her Wings of Love newsletter at They can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest @authorjoyavery

The Peacekeeper
B. L. Blanchard, author
Darrel Dennis, narrator
Brilliance Audio
9781713649953, $24.99, Library CD, 8 Discs
9781713649960, $14.99 MP3-CD, 1 Disc

Synopsis: North America was never colonized. The United States and Canada don't exist. The Great Lakes are surrounded by an independent Ojibwe nation. And in the village of Baawitigong, a Peacekeeper confronts his devastating past.

Twenty years ago to the day, Chibenashi's mother was murdered and his father confessed. Ever since, caring for his still-traumatized younger sister has been Chibenashi's privilege and penance. Now, on the same night of the Manoomin harvest, another woman is slain. His mother's best friend. This leads to a seemingly impossible connection that takes Chibenashi far from the only world he's ever known.

The major city of Shikaakwa is home to the victim's cruelly estranged family - and to two people Chibenashi never wanted to see again: his imprisoned father and the lover who broke his heart. As the questions mount, the answers will change his and his sister's lives forever. Because Chibenashi is about to discover that everything about their lives has been a lie.

Critique: A superbly crafted and deftly narrated, complete and unabridged 9 hour and 42 minute audio book experience, "The Peacekeeper" is an Alternate History Science Fiction novel dramatically performed by Darrell Dennis who brings to life author B. L. Blanchard's alternate history based Native American drama. All the more impressive when considering that this is Blanchard's debut as a novelist, ""The Peacekeepers" offers the listener an extraordinary theatre of the mind adventure. Either one of the Brilliance Audio editions (Library CD / MP3-CD) of "The Peacekeeper" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library audio book collections.

The Music CD Shelf

Calling You From My Mountain
Peter Rowan
Rebel Records
$14.98 CD / $8.99 MP3

GRAMMY-award winning artist Peter Rowan presents Calling You From My Mountain, an album showcasing his acoustic guitar music and folksy vocals. The songs cross genre boundaries from bluegrass and Americana to country rock, jazz, reggae, and more. Calling You From My Mountain is a treasure for acoustic guitar connoisseurs, a choice pick for public library music collections, and also makes an excellent gift. Highly recommended! The tracks are New York Town, Veil of Deja Blue, Come Along Jody, Little Joe, The Song That Made Hank Williams Dance, A Winning Hand, From My Mountain (Calling You), Frog on the Lilly Pad, The Red The White and the Blue, Light at the End of the World, Penitentiary Blues (Big Brazos), Dream of Heaven, and Freedom Trilogy.

Breaking News
Clinton Fearon
Boogie Brown Productions
$TBA CD / $9.49 MP3

Breaking News is an original, full-length album by reggae master Clinton Fearon, composed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lyrics stress the need for common sense and compassion, and the music conveys the beating of a steady heart and the strength of the soul in trying times. Profound and emotionally moving, Breaking News is highly recommended not only for reggae connoisseurs, but also for anyone in need of the supportive power of quality music. The tracks are Breaking News, Don't Dump it, Social Unrest, New Chapter, Have Some Fun, Sweet Morning Sun, Brace Yourself, I Wanna Dance, Trod On, I Am Thankful, and Unbeatable Dub.

Jacob Chung
Three Pines Records
$10.00 CAD digital

Toronto saxophonist/composer Jacob Chung (b. 2000) presents his debut release Epistle, an original music album written for quintet performance. Christian Antonacci on trumpet, Felix Fox-Pappas on piano, Thomas Hainbuch on bass, and Petros Anagnostakos on drums contribute their talent to this swinging, energetic Canadian jazz delight, highly recommended especially for connoisseurs of the genre. The tracks are Triage, Bouncin' at Bonafide, Epistle I: Conviction/II; Justification, Epistle III: Sanctification, Epistle IV: Glorification, and Sizzler Kebab.

Into Another Land
Shiri Zorn, George Muscatello, and Mauricio Zottarelli
Privately Published

Into Another Land is a beautiful music album featuring Shiri Zorn's soul-stirring vocals, George Muscatello on guitar, and Mauricio Zottarelli on percussion. Eight songs, two of them original compositions, push the boundaries of jazz to explore contemplations on life, love, and the beauty of the fleeting moment. Into Another Land is a joy to experience, highly recommended. The tracks are Witch Touch, How Deep is the Ocean, Zingaro, Beautiful Love, I Wasn't Ready, vivo Sonhando, Willow Weep for Me, and Detour Ahead.

The General Fiction Shelf

The Various Stages of a Garden Well Kept
R. R. Davis
Blackwater Press
9781735774732, $19.99, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Loosely based on true events, "The Various Stages of a Garden Well Kept" by R. R. Davis is a multi-generational novel about relationships and family. Short, punchy chapters provide a fragmented framework to the stories, which gradually begin to come together into a whole.

In 1920 Irini Gaspari, a young Greek woman, leaves behind all that she holds dear - her family, and particularly her friend Martha - and emigrates to America, bound for an arranged marriage to a man she has never met.

After tragedy strikes and her closely-knit family gradually seems to crumble to pieces, little Marieta finds her own path into womanhood in the changing world of the 1950s and 1960s. She faces struggles and joys, and tends to her garden where each plant and tree bears a memory of someone, while a dianthus holds a bitter secret.

Jumping forward to 2010, in Akron, Ohio, two brothers, Herman and Richard, in spite of their very different personalities, seem to have in common an awkward relationship with love. In their own, de-romanticised ways, they are looking for 'the one.' They navigate romance, and take care of an ageing mother riddled with dementia and an obsession for... her garden. The lives of these characters are interwoven through Frieda Kahlo: an introspective and enigmatic calico cat who drifts between reality and the spiritual world, connecting the generations of characters.

A mysterious character reveals his true identity at the end of the novel, and sets the scene for a much needed happy ending.

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "The Various Stages of a Garden Well Kept" is author R. R. Davis' debut as a novelist, this original and exceptionally well written collection of memorable characters and an inherently interesting and narrative driven story of the emigrant in America is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Collections.

Editorial Note: Author R R Davis is in the process of publishing his second novel and writing his third. R. R. Davis has a website at and can be found on Facebook at

The Beach Trap
Ali Brady
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780593440155, $17.00, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: When twelve-year-olds Kat Steiner and Blake O'Neill meet at Camp Chickawah, they have an instant connection. But everything falls apart when they learn they're not just best friends -- they're also half sisters. Confused and betrayed, the girls break off all contact.

Fifteen years later, when their father dies suddenly, Kat and Blake discover he's left them a joint inheritance: the family beach house in Destin, Florida. The two sisters are immediately at odds. Blake, who has recently been demoted from regular nanny to dog nanny, wants to sell the house, while social media influencer Kat is desperate to hold on to the place where she lived so many happy memories.

Kat and Blake reluctantly join forces to renovate the dilapidated house, with the understanding that Kat will try to buy Blake out at the end of the summer. The women clash as Blake's renovation plans conflict with Kat's creative vision; meanwhile, each sister finds herself drawn into a summer romance. As the weeks pass, the two women realize the most difficult project they face this summer will be coming to grips with their shared past -- and learning how to become sisters.

Critique: A deftly crafted, impressively original, and thoroughly fun read from first page to last, "The Beach Trap" by Ali Brady will prove to be a welcome and appreciated addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Beach Trap" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Ali Brady is the pen name of writing BFFs Alison Hammer and Bradeigh Godfrey. "The Beach Trap" is their first book together. Alison lives in Chicago and works as a VP creative director at an advertising agency. She is also the author of "You and Me and Us" and "Little Pieces of Me". Bradeigh lives with her family in Utah, where she works as a physician. She is the author of the psychological thriller, "Imposter".

Mustique Island
Sarah McCoy
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780062984371, $27.99, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: It's January 1972 but the sun is white hot when Willy May Michael's boat first kisses the dock of Mustique Island. Tucked into the southernmost curve of the Caribbean, Mustique is a private island that has become a haven for the wealthy and privileged. Its owner is the eccentric British playboy Colin Tennant, who is determined to turn this speck of white sand into a luxurious neo-colonial retreat for his rich friends and into a royal court in exile for the Queen's rebellious sister, Princess Margaret -- one where Her Royal Highness can skinny dip, party, and entertain lovers away from the public eye.

Willy May, a former beauty queen from Texas (and who is also no stranger to marital scandals) seeks out Mustique for its peaceful isolation. Determined to rebuild her life and her relationships with her two daughters, Hilly, a model, and Joanne, a musician, she constructs a fanciful white beach house across the island from Princess Margaret -- and finds herself pulled into the island's inner circle of aristocrats, rock stars, and hangers-on.

When Willy May's daughters arrive, they discover that beneath its veneer of decadence, Mustique has a dark side, and like sand caught in the undertow, their mother-daughter story will shift and resettle in ways they never could have imagined.

Critique: "Mustique Island" by skilled storyteller and novelist Sarah McCoy will have a special interest for readers who enjoy elements of mother-daughter relations, the ties and trials of friendship, and the unpredictable impact of divorce. A riveting read from start to finish, "Mustique Island" is unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mustique Island" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200970223, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Sarah McCoy is the author of the novels Marilla of Green Gables, The Mapmaker's Children, The Baker's Daughter, and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post, Writer Unboxed, and other publications. She hosted the NPR WSNC monthly radio program "Bookmarked with Sarah McCoy" and previously taught English and writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso.

The Perfect Golden Circle
Benjamin Myers
Melville House
9781612199580, $27.29, 224pp

Synopsis: Over the course of a burning hot summer of 1989, two very different men (Calvert, an ex-soldier traumatized by his experience in the Falklands War, and his affable friend Redbone) set out nightly in a decrepit camper van to undertake an extraordinary project.

Under cover of darkness, they traverse the fields of rural England in secret, forming crop circles in elaborate and mysterious patterns, painstakingly avoiding damaging the wheat to yield designs so intricate that their overnight appearances inspire awe amongst a mystified public.

And as the summer wears on, and their designs grow ever more ambitious, the two men find that their work has become a cult international sensation -- and that an unlikely and beautiful friendship has taken root as the wheat ripens from green to gold.

But as harvest-time beckons (and as media and the authorities begin to take too much interest in their work) Calvert and Redbone have to race against time to finish the most stunning and original crop circle ever conceived: the Honeycomb Double Helix.

Moving and exhilarating, tender and slyly witty, "The Perfect Golden Circle" is a story about the futility of war, the destruction of the English countryside, class inequality, and the ability of beauty to heal trauma and fight power.

Critique: Having a very special appeal to readers with an interest in contemporary metaphysical fiction, "The Perfect Golden Circle" by Benjamin Myers is an extraordinary, deftly crafted, and inherently fascinating novel that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. One of those novels that will linger in the mind long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Perfect Golden Circle" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in England's Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, Benjamin Myers is a British former music journalist whose work appeared in leading publications including NME, Melody Maker, MOJO and Kerrang. He has since gone on to become one of the UK's leading novelists, with several award-winning books including The Gallows Pole, which won the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction; The Offing, which was a Times (of London) and BBC Radio book of the year; and Pig Iron, which won the Gordon Burn Prize. He has also published poetry and short fiction, and has continued to write journalism for such publications as The Guardian, New Statesman, and New Scientist.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

It's Alive!
Julian David Stone
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626349315, $22.95, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: In the summer of 1931, life was good for Junior Laemmle. Though only twenty-three years old, he was the head of all movie production for Universal Pictures, and under his reign, the studio flourished. So much so, he was about to be bestowed with the greatest honor a young executive can receive in Hollywood: a promotion to vice president of the entire company. What's more, Carl Laemmle, his father and founder of the studio, was returning to California for the first time in years to personally present the honor to his son. -- Or so Junior thought.

When his father arrives, Junior discovers that instead of being grateful for transforming and catapulting the out-of-date studio into the future, his father is obsessed with Junior's next production: Frankenstein. Like the year before, Carl is fervently against making another grisly and gothic film, despite Dracula becoming a huge hit -- a film project which Junior fought for and personally oversaw through production. Also not helping Junior's cause, though the film is just days away from beginning production, the final choice between Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff to play the role of the Monster, has yet to be made.

Although a work of fiction, "It's Alive!" by Julian David Stone provides an authentically thrilling and vibrant portrait of 1930s Hollywood centered around the chaotic and exciting days just before the filming of the beloved cult-classic film, Frankenstein. Woven with hopeful passion, emotional vulnerability, staunch determination, and creative fulfillment, readers will be swept along with breathless cinematic pace through events that will not only change the lives of everyone involved, but Hollywood itself.

Critique: Paying full attention to historical detail, "It's Alive!" will be of particular interest to students and fans of 1930 studio driven movie making. Absorbing, entertaining, and an inherently fascinating novel, "It's Alive!" is highly recommended for community library fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists for fans of horror movies and film historians, that "It's Alive" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

Editorial Note: Julian David Stone's previous work includes screenplays for Disney, Paramount, Sony, and MGM; the full-length play, The Elvis Test; and several short-form documentaries on Frank Sinatra for Warner Bros. He is also the writer and director of the hit cult comedy feature film, Follow the Bitch. Recently he began writing books including: The Strange Birth, Short life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl (which is about the world of the 1950s live television). Julian is also the author of No Cameras Allowed: My Career As An Outlaw Rock & Roll Photographer. He has a website at

A Gathering of Men
Rona Simmons
Koehler Books
3705 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
9781646635856, $31.95, HC, 262pp

Synopsis: In the little town of Candor, North Carolina, the town barber brandishes a copy of the May 1927 Charlotte Observer. On the front page is the announcement of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis on its cross-country flight.

At the outskirts of town, best friends Lake, Roger, and Jim take turns hurling their wingless crate down a hill. Eyes closed, they imagine their future alongside Lindy. But Pearl Harbor changes everything. The boys will have their chance to fly - not over North Carolina farm fields, but across Germany on bombing runs, facing a determined Luftwaffe. The odds of completing their tours of duty are slim.

Although a work of fiction, "A Gathering of Men" by Rona Simmons is based on a true story. It is an account of the boys who board their aircraft for the first time and the men they become in the blink of an eye. The terrors they witness and the pressure to go up again and again and again brings them to the breaking point. It is a compelling story about shattered dreams and enduring friendship, duty, and honor.

Critique: With the publication of "A Gathering of Men", author Rona Simmons has demonstrated herself to be one of those singular novelists who seem to have a natural flair for bringing the past back to life and engage their readers with a true 'theatre of the mind' experience. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Military Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Gathering of Men" is also available in a paperback edition (9781646635832, $18.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.49).

Editorial Note: Rona Simmons has authored historical fiction and nonfiction. She is also the author of "The Other Veterans of World War II: Stories from Behind the Front Lines" shedding light on little-known aspects of the Second World War. The daughter of a WWII fighter pilot and wife of a US Navy pilot, Rona is proud to honor veterans and their stories through her work. Her articles and interviews have appeared in regional and national literary journals and in online and print magazines and newspapers. Rona has her own website at

Joan Cathcart
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781639370078, $19.00, PB, 278pp

Synopsis: In twelfth-century England, soldiers' bloody corpses flew into a castle courtyard, catapulted by a trebuchet, on the order of King Henry II. The king had declared war on the Earl of Boulton, giving him the opportunity to execute a "terrific air show", in the mocking words of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. This astonishing performance was just one of many events provoked by the discovery of a Roman treasure called the Aureus.

Political and military conflict dominated Henry's reign. With new words and weapons, "Aureus", a new historical novel by author Joan Cathcart, explores this violent landscape and the monumental egos that drove these struggles. Marriage betrothals, begotten by the need for war, peace and allies, were the critical glue in patching together the shifting coalitions of the Middle Ages. This practice provides the backdrop for Aureus's budding teenage romance, interrupted by parental match-making, warfare, exile, the mighty English church and, of course, the quest for the treasure.

Critique: An eloquent and thoroughly engaging read from start to finish, "Aureus" by novelist Joan Cathcart is a deftly crafted, impressively original, steadily compelling, and thoroughly entertaining historical novel that is an especially recommended addition to both personal reading lists and community library Historical Fiction collections.

JFK & the Muckers of Choate
Scott Badler
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610885669, $25.00, HC, 324pp

Synopsis: In the turbulent times of a young man's high school experience, he must find his way, make himself known to his peers, and most of all, establish himself in the oftentimes hostile world he is trapped in. A work of 'reality based' fiction, "JFK & the Muckers of Choate" by novelist Scott Badler takes a look at John F. Kennedy's time in high school at Choate, a preppy, Waspish, all-boys boarding school.

As a Catholic at a time when anti-Catholic sentiment was rampant, JFK finds that his four years in this Connecticut institution are much more jagged, complicated, and high-stakes than he expects. Why? It turns out that the future president actively defied Choate's sometimes authoritarian rulers and, in his own personal rebellion, associated himself with, and led, a number of similarly-minded iconoclasts who wind up as his closest companions, both then and afterward.

JFK's chaotic and adventure-filled high school days, as narrated by JFK himself, not only tell us a great deal about an important, yet largely unchronicled, stop on his rapid journey to the presidency, but, because although an historical novel, it is entirely based on real events, offering us a thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating look at a charismatic American icon whom most readers will adore -- many of a new generation for the first time.

Critique: An inherently absorbing read from first page to last, "JFK & the Muckers of Choate" showcases author Scott Badler's genuine flair for extrapolating from biographical realties and using them to created a persuasive and entertaining work of historical fiction. Having an appeal for the legions of baby-boomer generation of JFK admirers, and available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), this edition of "JFK & the Muckers of Choate" from Bancroft Press is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Scott Badler was born and raised in Los Angeles and remembers he and other Jack Kennedy supporters hollering "Nix on Nixon!" at Vice-President Richard Nixon's followers on the school yard on Election Day, 1960. After graduating from San Francisco State University, he moved to Massachusetts where he received a M.Ed. from Cambridge College and taught "Humor Writing" at Harvard. The author of two books of humorous non-fiction, What's So Funny About Looking for a Job? and Oh, Brother! he has had published numerous essays, comedic articles and short fiction. He has a website at

Bone Necklace
Julia Sullivan
Brandylane Publishers
5 South 1st Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781953021533, $33.95, HC, 296pp

Synopsis: In the summer of 1877, the bedraggled remains of the Nez Perce tribe took on the U.S. Army and, despite being badly outnumbered and outgunned, emerged victorious. Inspired by true events, "Bone Necklace" by novelist Julia Sullivan fully captures the intensity, violence, and unexpected conclusion of America's final "Indian War" as told from the perspectives of a Nez Perce warrior, an Idaho militiaman, and an English painter who gets caught up in the violence.

Combining heart-thumping action with an unforgettable cast, the novel centers on the relationship between two fighters, who are both enemies and allies in this war.

"Bone Necklace" is a tale of survival in which the Nez Perce not only overcome staggering odds but also win the grudging respect of a war-weary nation. While deeply rooted in American history, this remarkable story continues to resonate, illuminating modern debates around institutional racism, journalistic bias, and the call for courage in times of moral crisis.

Critique: Although a work of meticulously researched fiction, "Bone Necklace" will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Native American history. Exceptionally well written and with the highest recommendation for community library historical fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bone Necklace" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781953021540, $19.95), as well as in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Julia Sullivan is a lawyer in the United States and a solicitor in England and Wales. Throughout her career, she has worked to expose and root out injustice. She started working on her novel "Bone Necklace" more than twenty years ago, after visiting the Big Hole Battlefield in Wisdom, Montana. She first became interested in the Nez Perce story because of the great injustice the tribe had suffered. What kept her interested was their conduct during the war. While under attack, the Nez Perce won the respect of a broader society whose prominent members were unapologetic racists. At the end of the war, Canada offered them political asylum.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Monte Schulz
Fantagraphics Books
7563 Lake City Way, NE, Seattle, WA 98115
9781683965794, $34.99, HC, 676pp

Synopsis: Regency College senior Julian Brehm's uneventful student life is derailed when he falls for Nina Rinaldi, a beautiful young revolutionary engaged in political activism against the authoritarian regime that rules the country and wages a deceitful, distracting war.

Julian's love for (and moral alliance to) Nina eventually leads him into a vast undercity beneath the metropolis. Then, east by train and into the war zone itself, where mortal danger in that expanding cemetery of millions threatens Julian's life; what he witnesses will alter how he perceives the Republic and ultimately his fate within it.

Julian's adventure can be seen as our own, a world of vacillating morality and unceasing violence. Apathy and passion. Fear and courage of purpose. Julian's is a hero's journey into the dark unknown.

A love story, which extends in many directions. A war novel of incredible scope and horror. A suspenseful mystery novel with a moral puzzle at its core. And a coming-of-age tale of a young man seeing the world he was born into, more dangerous and more beautiful than he could have ever imagined. "Metropolis" is a meditation on the meaning of virtue and goodness in the face of the most monstrous crimes. It could just as easily be the story of ourselves in the world as it is today -- and tomorrow.

Critique: Eloquent, engaging, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Metropolis" showcases author Monte Schulz impressively skills as a novelist and storyteller. A modern masterpiece of literary fiction, "Metropolis" will have a distinctive appeal to readers with an interest in dystopian novels, and is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: The son of the famous cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, Monte Schulz received his M.A. in American Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara. He published his first novel, Down by the River, in 1990, and spent the next twelve years writing a novel about the Jazz Age.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Fake It Till You Bake It
Jamie Wesley
St. Martin's Griffin
c/o St. Martin's Press
120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271
9781250801852, $16.99, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: Jada Townsend-Matthews is perhaps the most reviled woman in America after turning down a proposal on a reality dating television show. When she comes home to lick her wounds, Jada finds herself working at San Diego's newest cupcake bakery, Sugar Blitz, alongside the uptight owner and professional football player Donovan Dell.

When a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are an item, they realize they can use the misunderstanding to their advantage to help the struggling bakery and rehabilitate Jada's image. Faking a relationship should be simple, but sometimes love is the most unexpected ingredient.

Critique: "Fake It Till You Bake It" by Jamie Wesley is an original and fun read from cover to cover -- and will have a very special appeal to fans of romance novels with happy endings. While highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections, it should be noted that "Fake It Till You Bake It" is also availabloe in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

A Poisonous Page
Kitt Crowe
Crooked Lane Books
2 Park Avenue, 10th floor, New York, NY 10016
9781643859200, $26.99, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: It's summer festival time in Confection, Oregon, and that means a barrage of tourists making cash registers ring at Sweet Fiction Bookshop. But what should be bookseller Lexi's most lucrative time of year turns disturbing when a member of the chamber of commerce suddenly dies of a heart attack. Not entirely unexpected (considering her family history) but it's a different story when another chamber member dies just one week later -- also, presumably, of natural causes.

Something about this doesn't read right to Lexi. And it gets more unfathomable when her friend Dash (who dated both women) stands accused of murder! With Cookie, her lovable border collie mix, at her side and countless volumes of inspiration on her shelves, Lexi opens the book on another perplexing case. Who could have murdered two prominent townspeople without leaving even a hint of evidence on the scene? And why is an irksome-but-intriguing detective always seeming to catch her and Cookie working the case?

Lexi's Confection Rose-colored glasses come off when she learns of thorny discussions among the council members, involving a string of secretive real estate transactions. Enlisting her faithful fellow members of the Macaroon Book Club, Lexi sets out to bind the clues together and clear Dash's name. But if she can't devise a clever trap for the real killer, she may soon end up with a very unhappily ever after of her own.

Critique: Simply stated, Kitt Crowe is a master of the cozy mystery genre as continues to be demonstrated with "A Poisonous Page", the second title in her new 'Sweet Fiction Bookshop Mystery' series. A fun read from cover to cover for all dedicated mystery buffs, "A Poisonous Page is both recommended for community library Myster/Suspense collections and available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781666583786, $22.99, CD).

Thunder Road
Colin Holmes
CamCat Books
9780744304978, $24.99, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: When an Army Air Force Major vanishes from his Top Secret job at the Fort Worth airbase in the summer of 1947, down-on-his-luck former Ranger Jefferson Sharp is hired to find him, and because it turns out that the Major owes a sizable gambling debt to a local mobster. The search takes Sharp from the hideaway poker rooms of Fort Worth's Thunder Road, to the barren ranch lands of New Mexico, to secret facilities under construction in the Nevada desert.

Lethal operatives and an opaque military bureaucracy stand in his way, but when he finds an otherworldly clue and learns President Truman is creating a new Central Intelligence Agency and splitting the Air Force from the Army, Sharp begins to connect dots. And those dots draw a straight line to a conspiracy aiming to cover up a secret that is out of this world -- literally so!

Critique: A carefully crafted and original suspense thriller of a read, "Thunder Road" by Colin Holmes is the stuff of which block-buster action/adventure movies are made. With many and unexpected plot twist and turn, "Thunder Road" is an inherently fascinating and entertaining novel that showcases the narrative storytelling style of novelist Colin Holmes. Highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Thunder Road" is also available in a paperback edition (9780744304978, $24.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Colin Homes writes novels, short stories and screenplays. He is also an honors graduate of the UCLA Writers Program, a former board member of the DFW Writers Workshop and serves on the steering committee of the DFW Writers Conference.

The Locked Room
Elly Griffiths
Mariner Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780358671398, $27.99, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: Three years after her mother's death, Ruth is finally sorting through her things when she finds a curious relic: a decades-old photograph of her own Norfolk cottage (before she lived there) with a peculiar inscription on the back. Ruth returns to the cottage to uncover its meaning as Norfolk's first cases of Covid-19 make headlines, leaving her and Kate to shelter in place there. They struggle to stave off isolation by clapping for frontline workers each evening and befriending a kind neighbor, Zoe, from a distance.

Meanwhile, Nelson is investigating a series of deaths of women that may or may not be suicide. When he links a case to an archaeological discovery, he breaks curfew to visit Ruth and enlist her help. But the further Nelson investigates the deaths, the closer he gets to Ruth's isolated cottage -- until Ruth, Zoe, and Kate all go missing, and Nelson is left scrambling to find them before it's too late.

Critique: A compelling and well scripted novel of mystery and suspense, "The Locked Room" continues to demonstrate author and novelist Elly Griffiths literary skills and narrative style storytelling as she creates original and thoroughly entertaining thrillers featuring women sleuths. While also available for the personal reading lists of her growing legion of Elly Griffiths fans in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99), "The Locked Room" is also confidently recommended for community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted that "The Locked Room" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200967964, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Brighton, England, Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Brighton mystery series, as well as the standalone novels The Stranger Diaries (which won the Edgar Award for Best Novel) and The Postscript Murders. She is also the recipient of the CWA Dagger in the Library Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Ravenstone Chronicles
J. Harper Haines
Epicenter Press
9781684920228, $16.95, PB, 248pp

Synopsis: Cara Fielding, an Athabascan journalism instructor at the University of Alaska, unexpectedly finds herself in the middle of the violent death of a distant relative, her Aunt Lucy's neighbor, in the Native village of Goldspring, where an Athabascan artifact is now missing.

Critique: The Ravenstone is an artifact that is central to the ancient healing beliefs of Alaska's Athabascans. With the publication of "The Ravenstone Chronicle", author J. Harper Haines has deftly crafted a riveting suspense thriller of a read with a novel that is enhanced with accuracy in its description of the Native American Athabascan culture. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99), "The Ravenstone Chronicle" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: Over the years, Jan Harper Haines (a graduate of the University of Alaska) has collected the often shamanic stories of her Athabascan ancestors. In l935 her mother was the first Alaska Native woman to graduate from the University of Alaska and a building was named for her. Jan has written for numerous publications, including articles about her great uncle Walter Harper, who in 1913 was the first man to summit Denali. A former secondary education teacher, Jan also has a twenty-year career in advertising.

One Of Us Is Dead
Jeneva Rose
Blackstone Publishing
31 Mistletoe Road, Ashland, OR 97520
9798200706846, $28.99, HC, 318pp

Synopsis: In the pages of Jeneva Rose' new novel, "One of Us Is Dead", the reader will meet the women of Buckhead -- a place of expensive cars, huge houses, and competitive friendships.

Shannon was once the queen bee of Buckhead. But she's been unceremoniously dumped by Bryce, her politician husband. When Bryce replaces her with a much younger woman, Shannon sets out to take revenge.

Crystal has stepped into Shannon's old shoes. A young, innocent Texan girl, she simply has no idea what she's up against.

Olivia has waited years to take Shannon's crown as the unofficial queen of Buckhead. Finally, her moment has come. But to take her rightful place, she will need to use every backstabbing, manipulative, underhand trick in the book.

Jenny owns Glow, the most exclusive salon in town. Jenny knows all her clients' secrets and darkest desires. But will she ever tell?

Who amongst these women will be clever enough to survive Buckhead -- and who will wind up dead? They say that friendships can be complex, but no one said it could ever be this deadly!

Critique: The friendship of women combined with bone-chilling, compulsive page turning suspense, "One of Us Is Dead" is an inherently fascinating, deftly crafted, impressively compelling, and rousingly original story that is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99) and highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: Jeneva Rose is also the author of "The Perfect Marriage", which has been published in nearly a dozen languages and optioned for film. "One of Us Is Dead" is her third novel.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Three Swords
C. L. Werner
Aconyte Books
9781839081101, $16.95, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: During a fierce battle to free the people of Skornheim, the valiant Warriors Three (Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun) encounter an ancient mystic who bears ominous tidings for Asgard. Three sorcerous brothers who call themselves the Enchanters have wrought evil across the realms, and are building armies with which to conquer the Realm Eternal.

It has been foreseen that only one heroic trio can end their wicked plot. But the Enchanters are scattered through time and space, each fortified by their magical Living Talisman. The Warriors Three must be cast across the cosmos, to explore strange worlds, and risk life and limb against unimaginable odds to stop these sorcerers before they can overthrow Odin's rule.

Critique: With the publication of "Three Swords: A Marvel Legends of Asgard Novel" by C. L. Werner, this newest addition to the ever expanding Marvel Universe will prove especially welcome for the personal reading lists of all dedicated Asgard fans. Also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95), "Three Swords: A Marvel Legends of Asgard Novel" will prove to be an impressively entertaining and enduringly popular addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.

Editorial Note: C. L. Werner has writeen many novels and short stories spanning the genres of fantasy and horror, and has written for Warhammer's Age of Sigmar and Old World, Warhammer 40,000, Warmachine's Iron Kingdoms, and Mantic's Kings of War.

The Travel Shelf

Chicago Scavenger
Jessica Mlinaric
Reedy Press
PO Box 5131, St. Louis, MO 63139
9781681063584, $29.95, Spiral Bound, 192pp

Synopsis: "Chicago Scavenger" is a unique guide by Chicago resident Jessica Mlinaric to the hidden gems of Chicago's neighborhoods. The on-site visitor is offered an interactive mission to explore 17 neighborhoods across the city.

No ordinary travel guide, "Chicago Scavenger" deciphers the clues and tracks down the photos to leading the visitor to over 300 little-known museums, vibrant public artworks, nature areas, overlooked historical markers, charming cafes, architectural oddities, and more.

Ideal for itinerary building, "Chicago Scavenger" showcases the nation's first Black art museum and a B&B run by monks, raising a glass at Chicago's smallest bar, and taking a stroll down a real yellow brick road. From Pullman to Rogers Park, seek the thrill of discovery in Chicago's unique and diverse neighborhoods, "Chicago Scavenger" offers surprising stories and the creation of fun memories. With "Chicago Scavanger:, urban explorers, foodies, culture enthusiasts, history geeks, and anyone curious about Chicago can put their skills to the test, solve riddles solo or team up with family, or challenge friends with an engagingly mysterious and exciting way to experience what Chicago has to offer off the well beaten path.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized, impressively informative, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in presentation, "Chicago Scavenger" is a very special and unique form of travel guide that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both residents and tourists alike. Very highly recommended for personal, professional, and library American Travel Guide collections, "Chicago Scavenger" could well serve as a template for similar off-beat guides to other major American citiers.

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, Jessica Mlinaric is also the author of "Secret Chicago: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure". Her writing and photography covering culture and travel has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, the Architect's Newspaper, Chicago magazine, and more. Jessica founded in 2010 to share stories that inspire the culturally curious traveler.

Alaska Adventure 55 Ways
John Wolfe Jr., author
Rebecca Wolfe, author
Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781680515428, $24.95, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: John Wolfe Jr. and Rebecca Wolfe, are a father-daughter team that with the publication of "Alaska Adventure 55 Ways: Southcentral Wilderness Explorations" collaboratively describe activities spanning the broad swath of Southcentral Alaska, 300 miles north to south and 350 miles east to west.

This unique and specialized travel guide features activities on the lakes and peaks of the Kenai Peninsula, the Anchorage front range, the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys, and the Copper River basin, taking in Chugach and Denali State Parks, Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords and Wrangell St. Elias National Parks, several wildlife refuges, and portions of the Iditarod National Historic Trail.

With an emphasis on adventures regular people can enjoy and destinations that don't require highly technical skills, expensive flights to remote locations, or demanding levels of athletic fitness, "Alaska Adventure 55 Ways: Southcentral Wilderness Explorations" will have a very special appeal to all ages, with its family-friendly shorter options and trip extensions adding up to more than a hundred "ways" to adventure in Alaska.

Critique: Nicely illustrated with color photos, "Alaska Adventure 55 Ways: Southcentral Wilderness Explorations" is exceptionally well written, impressively organized, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in presentation -- making it an ideal resource for DIY itinerary planning for visitors, vacationers, and locals alike. While highly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Travel Guide collections, it should be noted that "Alaska Adventure 55 Ways: Southcentral Wilderness Explorations" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note #1: A lifelong Anchorage, Alaska resident John Wolfe Jr. studied at Middlebury College in Vermont and then returned to Alaska and founded the nonprofit Alaska Huts Association. He and his wife, Gretchen Nelson, included their daughters in outdoor excursions as they grew up. John became co-author of this guide with his mother, Helen Nienhueser, in 1994. Although he has guided on Denali, John loves the simple peak scrambles of the Chugach Mountains best of all.

Editorial Note #2: Rebecca Wolfe has been hiking in Southcentral Alaska since childhood. She earned a bachelor's degree from Smith College and a master's of architecture from Montana State University. Becca enjoys finding new ways to experience the Alaska backcountry on skis and by bike, though backpacking in the mountains is when she feels most at home. She splits her time between Mojave, California, and Anchorage, Alaska.

The Business Shelf

Digital Marketing QuickStart Guide
Benjamin Sweeney
ClydeBank Media
9781945051098, $24.99, PB, 335pp

Synopsis: Digital marketing is the component of marketing that uses the Internet and online based digital technologies such as desktop computers, mobile phones and other digital media and platforms to promote products and services. Its development during the 1990s and 2000s changed the way brands and businesses use technology for marketing. As digital platforms became increasingly incorporated into marketing plans and everyday life, and as people increasingly use digital devices instead of visiting physical shops, digital marketing campaigns have become prevalent, employing combinations of search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), content marketing, influencer marketing, content automation, campaign marketing, data-driven marketing, e-commerce marketing, social media marketing, social media optimization, e-mail direct marketing, display advertising, ebooks, and optical disks and games have become commonplace. Digital marketing also extends to non-Internet channels that provide digital media, such as television, mobile phones (SMS and MMS), callback, and on-hold mobile ring tones. The extension to non-Internet channels differentiates digital marketing from online advertising. (Wikipedia)

Digital marketers tap into an unprecedented ability to discover and reach motivated customers at scale. Now more than ever, digital marketing strategies are the key for emerging brands, new and veteran entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes to convert customers in digital spaces. With the availability of cost-effective advertising, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing and more, there has never been a better time to connect with customers and grow a business.

In "Digital Marketing QuickStart Guide", author and veteran marketer Benjamin Sweeney distills a decade's worth of marketing experience into a crash course that covers everything from marketing fundamentals to sophisticated digital strategies. The "Digital Marketing QuickStart Guide" equips its readers with the skills and strategies they need to reach customers and grow their businesses.

Critique: Comprehensive and exceptionally well organized and presented, the "Digital Marketing QuickStart Guide" is essential reading for: Entrepreneurs who want to take control of their digital marketing and grow their business; Freelancers and members of the gig economy looking to diversify their service offerings; In-house or agency marketers who want to brush up on digital marketing fundamentals; Business and marketing students who need a digital marketing edge; Influencers, artists, creators, and anyone who needs to sell or connect with more people in digital spaces! While highly recommended for personal, professional, corporate, and community library Business & E-Commerce collections, it should be noted that "Digital Marketing QuickStart Guide" is also available in a spiral bound edition (9781636100272, $32.99), and in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99, Amazon).

Editorial Note: Benjamin Sweeney is a digital marketer and author with over a decade of digital marketing experience. He maintains a focus on the business sphere that draws from scholarly research and on practical experience from time spent as an entrepreneur and consultant. With well over one million written words under his belt and a marketing role that has him sending more than a million emails a year, Ben knows what it takes to get more customers for a small business, no matter what industry they're in.

Innovation for Entrepreneurs
Marc H. Meyer, author
Chaewon Lee, author
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781800375093, $170.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: "Innovation for Entrepreneurs" presents a powerful but easy to apply toolkit for innovation and is based upon Professors Marc H. Meyer and Chaewon Lee's decades of experience and expertise as company founders and innovators for corporations around the globe.

This instructive textbook includes guidance for developing new product and service ideas with genuine impact, building teams around these ideas, understanding customers' needs, translating these needs into compelling product and service designs, and creating initial prototypes. It also helps students learn how to scope and size target markets and position an innovation successfully relative to competitors. These methods are fundamental for any new, impactful venture.

"Innovation for Entrepreneurs" is comprised of a series of frameworks and methods that build upon one another to the final deliverable -- an innovation project developed by student teams, solving problems for specific types of users and use cases. Each chapter introduces readers to entrepreneurs and their stories of innovation and venture development, across different sectors of the economy and regions of the world.

Going to a core theme of "Innovation for Entrepreneurs", each of these entrepreneurs has tackled a societal-focused problem and created economic value for themselves and their investors. These are stories of inspiration and achievement -- and they illustrate the major frameworks provided. Each entrepreneur faced a problem or challenge solved by the methods presented in that chapter. The authors' own entrepreneurial and corporate innovation experiences then complement these examples with additional industry applications of the method. Then, each chapter concludes with exercises for students to apply their newfound knowledge to their innovation projects. The book's final chapter then shows students how to best integrate their work from each chapter into a compelling presentation.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Innovation for Entrepreneurs" must be considered as an essential book for all undergraduate and MBA students. Indeed, Students in business schools will find this comprehensive textbook addressing a subject missing in many business school curriculums -- how to design a distinctive new product or service.

At the same time, the methods-based approach combined with its inspiring stories makes this book a great learning platform for engineering and science students thinking about starting their own ventures or working for others upon graduation. All this combines to make "Innovation for Entrepreneurs" an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to corporate, college, and university library Entrepreneurship and Business Management collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and aspiring entrepreneurs that "Innovation for Entrepreneurs" is also available in a paperback edition (9781800375116, $55.00).

Editorial Note #1: Marc H. Meyer, Robert Shillman Professor of Entrepreneurship and Matthews Distinguished University Professor, Northeastern University, US.

Editorial Note #2: Chaewon Lee, Professor of Business and Administration and Provost for International Affairs, Seoul National University of Science and Technology, South Korea.

Leading with Heart
John Baird, author
Edward Sullivan, author
Harper Business
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780063052932, $29.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Leading with Heart: Five Conversations That Unlock Creativity, Purpose, and Results", leadership coaches John Baird and Edward Sullivan share hundreds of hours of research and firsthand accounts of guiding leaders at some of the world's most respected big brands and small startups (Apple, Nike, Google, Slack to name a few). Through their coaching and research they uncovered the 5 behaviors transformative leaders engage in to connect authentically with their teams.

"Leading with Heart" underscores the importance of mentors and leaders being: Aware of their people's needs; Helping their people to confront the fears that hold them back; Understanding their own desires & what drives their people; Leveraging their unique gifts & help people find their own; Connecting with their core sense of purpose & helping people find theirs.

The key to achieving these behaviors is asking the right questions and having conversations that connect you and your employees on the deepest human level -- conversations the authors coach you on how to navigate.

At a time when workplaces are struggling to build high-morale and connected cultures, "Leading with Heart" will help leaders to unlock the best version of themselves and those around them with transformative results.

No matter where you are in your career, "Leading with Heart" is your launch point to leading with heart. By encouraging you to ignore outdated "leadership hacks" and embrace introspection and growth, "Leading with Heart" will guide you to ask the right questions and find your own answers. Now you too can create a leadership game-plan that is authentic to you and brings out the best in those around you.

Critique: Offering a complete course of instruction on the subject of becoming an effective business coach and/or mentor, "Leading with Heart: Five Conversations That Unlock Creativity, Purpose, and Results" will also have a special appeal to readers with an interest in business processes, leadership and motivation. Impressively organized and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, "Leading with Heart: Five Conversations That Unlock Creativity, Purpose, and Results" is especially recommended for personal, professional, community, corporate, college, and university library Contemporary Business Management collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Leading with Heart: Five Conversations That Unlock Creativity, Purpose, and Results" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete an unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200972760, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note #1: John Baird is one of the premier executive coaches in Silicon Valley, and over the past twenty-five years he has worked with top leaders at start-up organizations as well as at Fortune 500 firms like Apple, Nike, and Twitter. He founded several companies, including ExecutivEdge, Edgeman Coaching, and the Velocity Group, where he is currently chairman, and serves as a fellow at Sapphire Ventures and on various nonprofit local and national boards. Baird holds a PhD in organizational communication and leadership from Purdue University.

Editorial Note #2: Edward Sullivan is the CEO and managing partner at Velocity Group. His twenty-five-year career as an executive coach and political consultant has taken him around the globe coaching and advising start-up founders, Fortune 500 executives, and heads of state of foreign nations. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, Fast Company, USA Today, and Nasdaq, among others. He holds an MBA from the Wharton School and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School.

The Christian Studies Shelf

Bible Conversation Cards
Ink & Willow
c/o WaterBrook
10807 New Allegiance Drive, Suite 500, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780593235270, $19.95, Card Deck, 100pp

Synopsis: "Bible Conversation Cards: 100 Verses to Memorize and Explore with Your Family" from Ink & Willow is a colorful, interactive card set that walks you through 100 Bible verses to help families establish a firm foundation in God's Word. The front of each card features a single verse to memorize. The back offers three discussion questions, in progressing levels of complexity, to make Scripture accessible to kids of all ages and encourage familes to go beyond simply memorizing verses.

The Bible verses are grouped into five themes that will help families foster conversation around:

Who is God?
Who is Jesus?
Who is the Holy Spirit?
Who am I in Christ?
How do I grow in Christ?

Packaged in a durable box, and with category tab dividers for easy reference, these sturdy conversation cards are the ideal companion for family dinners, devotionals, or road trips.

Critique: Of special appeal and highly recommended to parents and Sunday School teachers throughout the Christian community wanting to introduce themselves. their children, or their students to the Bible, "Bible Conversation Cards: 100 Verses to Memorize and Explore with Your Family" is an extraordinary, fun and effective way to proceed.

Editorial Note: Ink & Willow products infuse contemplation and inspiration into the regular spiritual practice of creative-minded Christians, wherever they are in their faith journey. Each thoughtfully curated gift product is based in biblical truth and sparks a reminder of how God reveals beauty in the midst of our ordinary.

God, Who On Earth Are You?
Stephen McCarthy
Christian Alternative
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781789049435, $15.95, 152pp

Synopsis: The mysterious 'Other' that many of us sense and that Christianity (drawing on the life of Jesus) calls God, is the starting point of "God, Who On Earth Are You?: Mystery and Meaning in Christianity Today" by Stephen McCarthy.

But, the Christian Churches are no longer conveying the wonder of the Christian mystery, the challenging nature of Jesus' message for the world but also God's deep, merciful love for us and the invitation into a relationship with him through prayer or through other spiritual practices including pilgrimage. Church teaching has become tired and routine. It should be fundamentally renewed and their institutional structures reformed for today's world.

The final chapters comprising "God, Who On Earth Are You?" consider how Christians should engage with the seemingly intractable problems ranging from environmental destruction, to the inhuman exploitation of many people, and the obscene levels of inequality, that so universally characterize society today.

An autobiographical thread runs through the text as the McCarthy, a committed Catholic Christian, draws on experiences and vignettes from his own life. The final conclusion is one of hope; God will not abandon us or his world, though we do not know how the future will unfold.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "God, Who On Earth Are You?: Mystery and Meaning in Christianity Today" is exceptionally well written, thoughtful and thought-provoking -- making it unreservedly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations. It should be noted for the personal reading list of clergy, theologians seminary students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "God, Who On Earth Are You?: Mystery and Meaning in Christianity today" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Schrassig, Luxembourg, Stephen McCarthy is a 'Cradle Catholic' who studied physics in Oxford and then moved on to development economics. Taking early retirement to deepen his understanding of theology and spirituality, he walked the Camino de Santiago and followed the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.

Jesus and the Bicameral Brain: Knowing and Being
James P. Danaher
Paragon House
3600 Labore Road, Suite 1, St. Paul, MN 55110-4144
9781557789471, $19.95, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: According to philosophy, theologist, and academician James P. Danaher, it is time to rethink the gospel. When the church of five hundred years ago started selling indulgences, it was time to rethink the gospel. Jesus repeatedly says "follow me" and his words instruct us concerning how to do that. Unfortunately, his words also put us at odds with the world, so we invent doctrines that are merely things to believe in order to find ways around his words. When today's Christianity is reduced to a gospel of material prosperity and the service of political issues like abortion and homosexuality, it is time to rethink the gospel and rediscover Jesus' words.

If one believes that they know the gospel, the spiritual journey to which Jesus calls us comes to an end. The words of Jesus are always addressing what goes beyond our knowing but not beyond our experience. Jesus' words cannot be formed into doctrines and theologies. They are living words meant to take root at the core of our being and lead us through this spiritual journey that is the gospel. Neurologists have shown that the brains' right hemisphere relates more to intuition while the left is related to language and logic.

In 2009, Iain McGilchrist's groundbreaking work, "The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World", revealed the enormous differences between the knowing left-brain, and the right-brain which opens us to what is beyond our knowing. With the publication of "Jesus and the Bicameral Brain: Knowing and Being", Danaher uses the bicameral brain model to help explain the spiritual journey to which Jesus calls us.

The gospel is not something to know but something to be, but the words of Jesus are never compatible with the left-brain's knowing that we have inherited from the world. Jesus' words are meant to be experienced from that level of consciousness that takes us beyond what we know in order to experience the transformative journey that is the gospel.

Critique: Erudite, challenging, insightful, iconoclastic, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Jesus and the Bicameral Brain: Knowing and Being" will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Christian Philosophy & Theology. While very highly recommended for inclusion into seminary, college, and university library Philosophy & Theology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, clergy, seminary students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Jesus and the Bicameral Brain: Knowing and Being" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: James P. Danaher is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and past head of the Philosophy Department at Nyack College, New York. This is his ninth book about Jesus and the Gospels.

The Sports Shelf

Kiira Korpi
Kiira Korpi, author
Jere Nurminen, author
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476685083, $29.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: Finnish figure skater Kiira Korpi's career included triumphal championships and bitter disappointments. Trained from early childhood in a sport that demands uncompromising self-discipline and unrelenting work, her "fight until you make it" attitude brought her success and fame -- as well as an insidious performance anxiety.

Mental and physical burnout forced her retirement in 2015. With interviews and quotes from family, friends, coaches and competitors, Korpi's candid memoir describes the making and eventual undoing of a champion, reveals a darker side to the "ice princess" image of women's figure skating and advocates a more holistic, athlete-centered model of training.

Critique: An impressive and candidly informative sports biography, "Kiira Korpi: Surviving the Ruthless World of Championship Figure Skating" will have a very special appeal to fans of professional figure skating. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49), "Kiira Korpi: Surviving the Ruthless World of Championship Figure Skating" will prove to be a welcome and enduringly appreciated addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Sports Biographies in general, and the personal reading lists of all dedicated professional ice skating fans in particular.

Editorial Note #1: Kiira Korpi is the winner of several European Figure Skating Championship medals and Grand Prix events, a five-time Finnish Champion and two-time Olympian. Now a psychology student living in New York, she trains young skaters using positive coaching methods.

Editorial Note #2: Jere Nurminen is Director of Communications and Brand at Yle (the Finnish Broadcasting Company), where his long career as a sports journalist has focused on figure skating.

The Antiques/Collectibles Shelf

Knowledge of Pressed Ware
George Huemmer
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781638672456, $78.00, PB, 274pp (Amazon, $58.10)

Synopsis: Currently residing in Casselberry, Floriad, George Huemmer's main hobby is researching glassware and manufacturing companies of glass. With the publication of his heavily researched compendium, "Knowledge of Pressed Ware: Trademarks, Labels, and Logos on U.S.A. Glass Companies" antique dealers and pressed war glass collectors now have a dependable and up-to-date reference that is as comprehensive as it is 'user friendly' in organization and presentation.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography, "Knowledge of Pressed Ware: Trademarks, Labels, and Logos on U.S.A. Glass Companies" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Antiques & Collectibles reference collections. It should be noted for personal use that "Knowledge of Pressed Ware: Trademarks, Labels, and Logos on U.S.A. Glass Companies" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Needlecraft Shelf

100 Mini Cross Stitch Designs
Rosemary Drysdale
The GMC Group
9781784946272, $23.99, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Cross-stitching is a form of sewing and a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture. The stitcher counts the threads on a piece of evenweave fabric (such as linen) in each direction so that the stitches are of uniform size and appearance.

The cross stitch is making a big comeback with modern crafters. Providing the perfect introduction for beginners, "100 Mini Cross Stitch Designs" by Rosemary Drysdale will also appeal to intermediate and advanced cross stitchers looking for inspiration. This DIY manual provides a detailed section on tools and materials, instructions on getting started, reading cross stitch charts, essential stitches and finishing touches.

With so many wonderful designs to choose from, selecting a project is likely to be the most time-consuming part of the whole process! From bees to bicycles, caravans to cupcakes, and rockets to rainbows, there are contemporary subjects and styles to suit every taste. Display your stitches in an embroidery hoop, frame or greeting cards or choose a pattern that adorns clothing, home furnishings or other decorative items. Plus, there are useful tips on how to add your own personality to projects and ways to incorporate leftover thread or fabric.

Critique: Profusely illustrated and thoroughly 'user friendly' in approach, "100 Mini Cross Stitch Designs" is a complete and comprehensive course of instruction that is exceptionally well organized and presented, making it ideal and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Needlecraft collections.

Editorial Note: Rosemary Drysdale grew up in the north of England near Newcastle, and learned to knit as a small child. She was at the forefront of the cross stitch craze in the 1990s, traveling the world teaching workshops and giving demonstrations. She is recognized as a global expert on black work embroidery, as well as a teacher of many other advanced stitching techniques. Drysdale joined Vogue Knitting in the late 1990s and has consulted to some of the top yarn brands in the industry. A prolific designer, she has had over 1000 designs published. she can be followed on Instagram @rosemary_drysdale -- Also there is a website dedicated to her at

Embroidery Made Easy: Beautiful Birds
Beth Hoyes
Walter Foster Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780760375365, $22.99, 128pp

Synopsis: "Embroidery Made Easy: Beautiful Birds" by embroidery expert Beth Hoyes is a collection of 12 detailed, full-color patterns with which both aspiring and established embroidery artists will discover how to employ the art of thread painting to create a range of popular birds and waterfowl from around the world, including North America, the Amazon rain forest, and Europe.

Thread painting is the name for using single strands of embroidery floss to create lifelike images with beautifully blended gradients of color and detail. Fortunately, the process is not as hard as it sounds! After learning a bit about how to create gradients and blend colors, anyone can create incredible embroidered masterpieces.

"Embroidery Made Easy: Beautiful Birds" includes: A primer on embroidery materials, setup, and thread painting techniques; Patterns that indicate where each color should go and when the gradients should begin; For each project, step-by-step instructions and reference images of the finished piece.

Perfect for needlepoint artists of all skill levels, there is no better time to learn how to create beautiful birds in embroidery.

Critique: Impressively 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Embroidery Made Easy: Beautiful Birds" is an ideal tutorial featuring easy techniques for anyone wanting to learn how to embroider a variety of colorful birds, including a cardinal, a barn owl, and a puffin. Simply stated, "Embroidery Made Easy: Beautiful Birds" will prove to be a welcome and appreciated addition to personal, professional, and community library Needlecraft instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note: Beth Hoyes is an embroidery artist and art therapist who runs a small embroidery business @rabbithatdesigns

The Art Shelf

The Art of Drawing Manga
Talia Horsburgh
Walter Foster
c/o The Quarto Group
9780760375440 $22.99 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Explore 35 step-by-step how-tos and more than 100 additional tips and tricks for creating a variety of manga characters, animals, and scenes in The Art of Drawing Manga.

With 144 pages of in-depth instruction and hundreds of reference images, The Art of Drawing Manga is suitable for all manga artists and enthusiasts, regardless of skill level or age. From learning the basics of drawing archetypal characters with intriguing personalities to creating action-packed poses and even drawing entire manga scenes from scratch, this is the ultimate guide to creating all things manga. This book shows how to draw people and animals, develop intriguing characters, create eye-catching poses and scenes, and write stories and dialog for a manga book.

All instruction is easy to follow, so you can quickly learn to draw different faces and expressions, hairstyles, clothing and accessories, animals (both real and fictional), heroes, villains, sidekicks, and so much more.

Step-by-step instructions make the drawing process approachable for beginning and aspiring artists.
Projects range from simple and easy chibis to more detailed scenes with multiple characters in action poses.
Also included are tips for developing your own style, while looking to common styles for inspiration.
Templates at the end of the book allow for easy practice of character faces and poses.

With everything you need to start in the world of manga, The Art of Drawing Manga is your ultimate guide to creating your own characters and developing your own original manga books and stories.

Critique: The Art of Drawing Manga is a full-color, step-by-step guide to drawing characters, animals, poses, and scenes in the style of manga (Japanese comics). Chapters demonstrate the basics of creating black-and-white art, shading, and colorization, as well as drawing characters, facial expressions, dynamic poses, and putting everything together to tell a story in one's own unique style. Thoroughly accessible and user-friendly, The Art of Drawing Manga is an excellent starting point for anyone with a creative interest in graphic novel storytelling, highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Art of Drawing Manga is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).

The Nature of Creativity
Jane E. Hall
Merrell Publishers
9781858947013, $35.00, HC, 160pp

Synopsis: As we become increasingly aware of the power of nature to lift our spirits, so, too, are we becoming more conscious of the role that mindfulness can play in sparking our creativity.

With the publication of "The Nature of Creativity: A Mindful Approach to Making Art & Craft" renowned textile artist and embroiderer Jane E. Hall brings this perception together. As a successful professional artist, Jane still finds great happiness and inspiration in connecting with nature, and here encourages the reader to attune to the beauty of the natural world as a way of stimulating their creativity.

Jane begins by explaining how spending time in nature helps us to engage the senses and rediscover playfulness, and outlines her belief that one should embrace the process of making art rather than focusing on its final form. She shares the special spaces, both indoors and out, that allow her imagination to have free rein, and then presents 10 creative ideas inspired by nature.

These 'Creative Contemplations' first explore building your own treasure collection of materials to use in artistic projects, and then move on to the creation of a range of beautiful designs: stunning mandalas of petals, leaves, and shells; delicate dreamcatchers; a dainty purse of honesty seed pods; handmade birds' nests; exquisite embroidered butterflies; 'woodland fairies' composed of lichen-covered twigs and feathers; and much more. Some 'Contemplations' include step-by-step instructions, while others feature the stories behind their making in order to inspire you to push beyond your perceived creative limits.

Jane's writing style is uplifting and engaging, and the text throughout is accompanied by specially commissioned photography. No matter how skilled or unskilled you believe yourself to be, "The Nature of Creativity" will nurture artistic thoughts and help to find inner happiness through the natural landscape, unlock artistic potential and breathe creativity back into daily life!

Critique: Impressively illustrated throughout with full color photography, "The Nature of Creativity: A Mindful Approach to Making Art & Craft" is an inherently fascinating and inspiring read that will have a very special appeal to nature and mixed- media crafts. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Nature of Creativity: A Mindful Approach to Making Art & Craft" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Arts & Crafts collections.

Editorial Note: Jane E. Hall is an acclaimed fine and textile artist and embroiderer whose work has featured in numerous exhibitions and magazines. She is based in Dorset. Her previous publications are The Art and Embroidery of Jane Hall: Reflections of Nature (2006) and The Art of Embroidered Butterflies (2012).

The Woodworking Shelf

Sharpening Carving Tools for Beginners
Lora S. Irish
Fox Chapel Publishing Company
1970 Broad Street N., East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781497103122, $9.99, PB, 32pp

Synopsis: It is an axiom among wood workers every where: Keep all your woodcarving tools and knives sharp and safe!

If you're new to the craft of carving, knowing how to properly sharpen your tools is a crucial, fundamental skill. "Sharpening Carving Tools for Beginners: Learn to Keep Your Knives, Gouges & V-Tools in Tip-Top Shape"is condensed and illustrated instructional guide by wood working expert Lora S. Irish who offers clear, step-by-step guidance to walk beginners through the basics of sharpening knives, gouges, V-tools, and chisels.

Also included are informative sections on safety, basic sharpening techniques, what to keep in your sharpening kit, sharpening both double-edged and single-edged blades, tool storage and cleanup tips, protecting sharp edges, cleaning stops, and sharpening stones.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Sharpening Carving Tools for Beginners: Learn to Keep Your Knives, Gouges & V-Tools in Tip-Top Shape" is essential and invaluable reading for all novice wood workers -- making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community woodworking and wood crafting instructional reference collections and school wood shop class curriculums.

Editorial Note: Lora Irish is an internationally known artist and author who is also a frequent contributor to Woodcarving Illustrated and Scroll Saw Woodworking and Crafts magazines.

Complete Guide to Bird Carving
Woodcaring Illustrated Editors
Fox Chapel Publishing Company
1970 Broad Street N., East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781497102774, $19.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: "Complete Guide to Bird Carving: 15 Beautiful Beginner-to-Advanced Projects" is comprised of 15 step-by-step projects drawn from the pages of Woodcarving Illustrated. This edition of the "Complete Guide to Bird Carving" includes wood carving patterns for a variety of recognizable birds, including woodpeckers, chickadees, owls, blue herons, goldfinches, and more.

From simple whittled songbirds to realistic hummingbirds, the "Complete Guide to Bird Carving" is a DIY project guide featuring various techniques on how to carve wood birds such as whittling, relief carving, and power carving. This thoroughly 'user friendly' combination of instructional guide and how-to manual is perfectly adaptable to any skill level, from beginner to advanced. Also included are helpful overviews on materials, tools, adding texture, painting, and finishing.

Critique: Profusely and effectively illustrated throughout with full color photography and step-by-step DIY instructions, "Complete Guide to Bird Carving: 15 Beautiful Beginner-to-Advanced Projects" will be a welcome and enduringly appreciated contribution to personal, professional, and community library Woodworking & Woodcarving collections.

Editorial Note: As the leading how-to magazine for woodcarvers, Woodcarving Illustrated promotes woodcarving as a fun pastime and recognized art form. Whether you're just getting started in the world of woodcarving or have been making chips for decades, Woodcarving Illustrated is designed to help you make the most of your carving time. Each quarterly issue is jammed with projects, instructions, photos, tool reviews, tips, and techniques. Expert guidance from the world's most talented carvers helps you to complete more projects and hone your skills.

Whittling Workbook
James Ray Miller
Fox Chapel Publishing Company
1970 Broad Street N., East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781497102705, $17.99, PB, 112pp

Synopsis: Comprised of 14 simple projects to carve,"Whittling Workbook" by James Ray Miller is an ideal instruction manual and 'how to' guide for anyone seeking a range of easy wood carvings they can accomplish with just one knife -- including the roughing out stage!

All that is needeed is a copy of the "Whittling Workbook", blocks of wood and one knife to achieve the 14 exciting projects featured within these pages (no band saw needed).

The projects range from a simple strawberry and a whimsical wand to a sea captain, Martian, pig, sunflower, princess, dinosaur, and more, each approachable project includes detailed step-by-step instructions photography, a pattern, reference photos, and helpful tips to walk you through the entire process from start to finish.

Also included are insightful overviews on a wide range of fundamental topics and techniques to equip you with the skills you need before you begin a project. The helpful opening sections cover tools, types of wood, basic carving cuts, painting and finishing techniques, safety notes, and how to join a carving community.

Critique: Profusely illustrated and thoroughly 'novice friendly', "Whittling Workbook" will have special appeal to anyone who would like to learn this ancient woodworking craft -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and school wood shop instructional reference collections. It should be noted that the "Whittling Workbook" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Editorial Note: James Ray Miller is a protege of decorated Scandinavian-style carver, Harley Refsal. A young and up-and-coming carver, James has been a regular contributor to Woodcarving Illustrated since 2010 and published his first book, Whittling Flat-Plane Animals, with Fox Chapel Publishing in 2020.

Learn how to create projects with elements of classic flat-plane carvings, but that also offer a fresh, contemporary style, with Whittling Workbook!

The Gardening Shelf

Borde Hill Garden: A Plant Hunter's Paradise
Vanessa Berridge, author
John Glover, photographer
Merrell Publishers
9781858946900, $70.00, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Borde Hill Garden is set in historic parkland in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in West Sussex, England. The Elizabethan mansion was purchased in the 1890s by Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke who set about creating the garden and woodland using plants from several continents brought back to England by the great plant hunters of the early 1900s. Well over a century and three generations later, Borde Hill remains in the ownership of the Stephenson Clarke family, and today is renowned for its collection of rare shrubs and trees.

"Borde Hill Garden: A Plant Hunter's Paradise" is structured in two main parts. For the first, 'The History', Vanessa Berridge has had exclusive access to the Borde Hill archive, which contains not only family photographs but also a wealth of written sources, such as letters between Stephie and nurserymen, directors of botanical gardens, other landowners, and plant hunters. Giving unique insight into the horticultural world and social history of the interwar years, this correspondence reveals acts of courage by such famed plant explorers as George Forrest and Ernest Wilson and the professional level of accomplishment of Stephie and his gardening acquaintances.

The second part of "Borde Hill Garden: A Plant Hunter's Paradise" takes the reader on an extended tour of the garden, illustrated by the glorious photography of John Glover. Borde Hill is laid out as a series of intimate outdoor 'rooms', including the Old Rhododendron Garden, the Rose Garden and the terraced Italian Garden. With its variety further encompassing wide lawns that flow out into the countryside, many plant species not found elsewhere in Britain and one of the country's largest collections of privately owned rare trees, it is no wonder that Borde Hill lays claim to offering visitors the world in one garden.

Concluding with information on Borde Hill's historic plants, its many RHS Awards of Merit and its 70 champion trees, this authoritative, engaging volume is a fitting celebration of one of Britain's great heritage gardens.

Critique: A beautifully and profusely illustrated coffee-table style (9.84 x 0.55 x 11.42 inches, 3.55 pounds) volume is a garden enthusiasts delight from cover to cover. Inherently fascinating, impressively informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Borde Hill Garden: A Plant Hunter's Paradise" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Gardening/Horticulture collections, as well as Garden Design supplemental curriculum studies lists

Editorial Note #1: Vanessa Berridge is a gardens writer with an in-depth knowledge of British garden history. She is also the author of The Joy of Gardening (Summersdale, 2014), The Princess's Garden (Amberley Publishing, 2015), Great British Gardeners (Amberley Publishing, 2018), and Kiftsgate Court Gardens: Three Generations of Women Gardners (Merrell, 2019). She also contributed to The Gardens of England, published by Merrell in 2013. She was the launch editor of The English Garden magazine in 1997 and now writes about gardens, garden historian, and food for newspapers and periodicals.

Editorial Note #2: John Glover has been a garden and landscape photographer for more than 40 years. He has won numerous International Garden Photographer of the Year Awards.

The Metaphysical Studies Shelf

The Ultimate Guide to Crystals
Rachel Hancock
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780760376614, $26.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: "The Ultimate Guide to Crystals: The Beginner's Guide to the Healing Energy of 100 Crystals and Stones" by Rachel Hancock is is a comprehensive instructional guide and 'how to' manual for the novice who aspires to understand and work with stones.

Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Ultimate Guide to Crystals" provides an illustrated and thoroughly 'user friendly' introduction to all of the key crystal applications and concepts, including: How to use crystals with other practices such as feng shui, meditation, and reiki; Crystal correspondences such as color and which stones should and should not be used together; How to use crystals in ritual, gridwork, and in crystal remedies.

Crystal practitioners will learn the science as well as the art of crystals, including crystal lattice systems, MOH hardness scales, high and low vibration crystals, and energetic concepts such as entrainment and how to use intention to work and manifest with your crystals.

"The Ultimate Guide to Crystals" also includes profiles and meanings for the 100 stones every crystal practitioner should know and work with.

Critique: An ideal and comprehensive introduction to the varieties, uses, and purposes of crystals, including divination, healing, and magic, "The Ultimate Guide to Crystals: The Beginner's Guide to the Healing Energy of 100 Crystals and Stones" is an extraordinary and solidly recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library Metaphysical Studies collections.

Editorial Note: Rachel Hancock is a Certified Advanced Crystal Practitioner, Reiki Master, and holds a bachelor's degree in Physical and Health Science with a minor in Psychology. She, along with her husband Joel, is the founder of LovingThyselfRocks, one the top crystal purveyors and crystal education sites on Instagram. Founded in 2018, Rachel's mission is to promote the power of self-love and healing crystals.

The Railroading Shelf

Backwoods Railroads
D. C. Burkhardt
Washington State University Press
PO Box 645910, Pullman, WA 99164-5910
9780874224092, $60.00, HC, 180pp

Synopsis: Originally published in 1994, and now in newly updated edition with new content and additional images, "Backwoods Railroads: Branchlines & Shortlines of Western Oregon" by D. C. Burkhardt continues to present an engaging description of western Oregon's evolving contemporary branchline and shortline railroad operations.

In the pages of this coffee-table style volume (8.9 x 0.9 x 11.4 inches, 2.8 pounds), Burkhardt's unique photojournalistic account focuses on the Willamette Valley and its bordering mountain chains-the Coast Range, the Cascades, and the Siskiyous, capturing a sense of the state's rural, small-town character and heritage.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a two page Bibliography, a two page listing of Acknowledgments, and a ten page Index, "Backwoods Railroads: Branchlines & Shortlines of Western Oregon" is impressively detailed and illustrated. Having a very special appeal to dedicated railroading buffs, "Backwoods Railroads: Branchlines & Shortlines of Western Oregon" is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library U.S. Railroad History collections and supplemental studies curriculum lists.

Editorial Note: Photojournalist D. C. Jessie Burkhardt first encountered the Ann Arbor Railroad (one of his key subjects) when he visited Frankfort, Michigan, in 1969. The community, the railroad, and the car ferries it served sparked a strong connection, and it became a focal point of his travels and later became a feature of some of his books. Burkhardt currently works for a private contractor transporting train crews in the Northwest and has published several books on railroad history.

The Political Science Shelf

Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity
Mary-Alice Waters, editor
Pathfinder Press
PO Box 162767, Atlanta, GA 30321-2767
9781604881202, $7.00, PB, 184pp

Synopsis: Because without understanding how human society, since our remotest ancestors, has been created through social labor, working people remain prisoners of the capitalist epoch in which we live today.

Without knowing how our labor transforms nature, how it's the motor force along humanity's ongoing road, we can't see beyond the class exploitation that warps every aspect of our social relations, ideas, and values.

The dictatorship of capital hasn't always existed. It is only a few hundred years old. Like slavery and serfdom before it, capitalist rule had a beginning -- and will have an end.

Only the revolutionary conquest of state power by the working class, conscious of our class position and conditions of emancipation, can open the door to a future. One based not on dog-eat-dog capitalist exploitation, degradation of nature, subjugation of women, racism, and war. A world built on human solidarity. A socialist world. That's what a long view of history and a close reading of "Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity: The Long View of History" helps us understand.

Critique: Having a special appeal to students of Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, and the economic history of the United States, "Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity: The Long View of History" is an informative, thought-provoking, iconoclastic, and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Political Science and Contemporary Economics collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Mary-Alice Waters is a socialist feminist, journalist and activist in the United States. Waters became involved in Trotskyist politics at a young age, and joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the fall of 1962 while a student at Carleton College in Minnesota in the fall of 1962. She became the editor of their youth paper, Young Socialist, and the national secretary of the Young Socialist Alliance.

In December 1968, she joined the editorial staff of The Militant and was named managing editor in 1969 and editor in chief in January, 1971.

In the early 1980s, Waters, along with Jack Barnes and others in the SWP leadership, began to reject the label of "Trotskyism" and the theory of Permanent Revolution, in favour of building links with the Cuban Communist Party and Sandinista National Liberation Front.

Today, Waters is the President of the Pathfinder Press and the editor of New International magazine. She has also written a number of books on political topics. (Wikipedia)

The Computer Shelf

Murach's Java Programming, sixth edition
Joel Murach
Mike Murach & Associates
9781943872879, $59.50, PB, 704pp

Synopsis: Whether Java is your first language or whether you've lost count, the newly updated and expanded sixth edition of "Murach's Java Programming" is a comprehensive and essential DIY instructional reference. For those new to programming, the self-paced approach taken in "Murach's Java Programming" allows the reader to absorb all that's required of a programmer as they learn Java itself, with plenty of practice exercises along the way.

For the more experienced programmer, this same approach allows skimming through the familiar to focus on what's new, helping to learn Java faster and better than ever before. At the end, both the aspiring and the experienced programmer will have all the Java skills needed on the job, including those for object-oriented, database, and GUI programming.

Critique: Complete, comprehensive, exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, this new sixth edition of "Murach's Java Programming" is particularly and especially recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Java Programming Reference and Object-Oriented Software Design instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note: Joel Murach has been writing and editing books about computer programming for over 20 years now. During that time, he has written extensively on a wide range of Java, .NET, web, and database technologies.

The Automotive Shelf

Early Funny Cars
Lou Hart
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613256985, $42.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Early Funny Cars: A History of Tech Evolution from Altered Wheelbase to Match Race Flip Tops 1964-1975", Lou Hart showcases the evolving early years of Funny Car drag racing when doorslammers morphed into flip-top rail monsters. This was the era that featured historic mounts ranging from Arnie "the Farmer" Beswick, Al "the Flying Dutchman" Vanderwoude, and "Jungle" Jim Liberman, to Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, and many more!

The metamorphosis from doorslammers to fiberglass flip-top dragsters wasn't ever a cut and dry plan. As drag racers pushed the envelope for more speed, a series of innovations quickly evolved and refined the genre.

Funny Cars cut their teeth in the A/Factory Experimental (A/FX) and Experimental Stock (X/S) classes in 1964 with the 2-percent Mopars that looked funny with their axles moved forward. However, it was Jack Chrisman's supercharged, nitro-fueled 427 Supercharged Factory Experimental (S/FX) Comet Caliente that trailblazed the class on which the NHRA turned its back and the AHRA fully accepted. Showmanship became the draw in the dawn of Funny Car with half-track burnouts and flame-throwing headers that packed fans five deep at the fence.

By 1969, the NHRA had no choice but to create a class for these nitro-breathing, flip-top-sporting rail bruisers, indoctrinating the Funny Car (F/C) class at the Winternationals with 40 cars vying for 16 places in the field. The rest, as they say, is history!

Critique: Inherently interesting and profusely illustrated throughout, "Early Funny Cars: A History of Tech Evolution from Altered Wheelbase to Match Race Flip Tops 1964-1975" is impressively informative and will have a very special appeal to car buffs and automotive historians alike -- making it a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Automotive History collections.

Editorial Note: A life long car enthusiasts and growing up with the first sights and sounds of the muscle car conception, Lou Hart attended his first drag race at Lions Drag Strip at the age of 9 with his trusty Kodak "Brownie" camera in hand. He loved to document all his visits to the strip. Although not a professional writer, Lou Hart's views are seen through the eyes of the fan, and he strives to give back, reliving the times and history of drag racing's golden era.

The Gaming Shelf

Heckadeck Playing Cards
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781297212913, $19.95, Card Deck

Synopsis: The standard deck of 52 playing cards is a staple of game night, but with Heckadeck (a 160-card deck that not only includes the classic cards, but adds all-new ranks, suits, face cards, and other creative elements that open a whole range of exciting new play possibilities), game night just got significantly more entertaining.

Heckadeck from Chronicle Books includes hearts through diamonds and Aces through Kings, but also acorns, clouds, arrows, and planets -- plus zeroes and elevens, Beasts, Hunters, Travelers, an all-suited Watcher, and other delightfully illustrated additions.

An accompanying 36 page booklet offers twists on such classic card games as Crazier Eights, Hearts [and Clouds], Go Fish with Dynamite, plus rules for new games including Epic Match and Beast Hunters, as well as guidance for inventing your own games, and even tips on predicting the future with this unique and family-friendly and fun extended card deck.

Critique: Heckadeck cards are 3.75 x 3.75 x 2.63 inches, serving games of 2-8 players -- making it a very highly recommended source of endless fun for all ages and a prized addition to personal and family gaming collections,

The Criminology Shelf

The Girl I Never Knew: Who Killed Melissa Witt?
LaDonna Humphrey
Genius Book Publishing
9781947521810, $17.25, PB, 238pp

Synopsis: On December 1, 1994, Melissa Witt was kidnapped from the Bowling World parking lot in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Her lifeless body was found 45 days later in the Ozark National Forest. For over two decades the identity of Melissa Witt's murderer has been hidden among the dense trees and thorny undergrowth rooted deeply in the uneven ground of a remote mountaintop.

Determined to find answers, LaDonna Humphrey has spent the past seven years hunting for Melissa's killer. Her investigation, both thrilling and unpredictable, has led her on a journey like no other.

"The Girl I Never Knew: Who Killed Melissa Witt?" is a suspense thriller of an account of LaDonna Humphrey's passionate fight for justice in the decades-old murder case of a girl she never met in person. Her unstoppable quest for the truth has gained the attention of some incredibly dangerous people, some of whom would like to keep Melissa's murder a mystery forever.

Critique: The stuff of which true crime documentaries are made (and is currently being made!), "The Girl I Never Knew: Who Killed Melissa Witt?" is a riveting read from first to last and will have a very special appeal for criminology students and true crime readers. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Law Enforcement, Criminology, and True Life Crime collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Girl I Never Knew: Who Killed Melissa Witt?" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: LaDonna Humphrey is a writer, documentarian, investigative journalist, private investigator and an advocate for victims of crime. And for the past seven years, LaDonna has found herself passionately entangled in seeking justice for 19-year-old murder victim, Melissa Ann Witt. In her pursuit of justice for Melissa, LaDonna has co-produced the documentary "Uneven Ground: The Melissa Witt Story" to be released later this year.

Murder at Minnesota Point
Jeffrey M. Sauve
North Star Editions
9780578341392, $14.99, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: Billed as the crime of the century in 1894, with the publication of "Murder at Minnesota Point", author Jeffrey M. Sauve tells the twisted, sensational true story of a young, unidentified woman found slain on the isolated sandy shores of Minnesota Point, Duluth, Minn.

For two weeks, her corpse was displayed for public viewing in hopes of discovering her identity. After she was buried in an unnamed pauper's grave, her assailant breathed a temporary sigh of relief. Over the next two years, city detectives pursued numerous suspects from every corner of the country. The manhunt captivated a nation enthralled with the sensational details and deepening intrigue.

Only by chance, an overlooked satchel containing incriminating evidence was brought forth, breaking open the case. Speculation suggested that the wanted man was a bigamist and a serial killer, having slain his first wife in 1890 and two other people in 1893. His evil past included chumming with the infamous Minneapolis killer Harry Hayward. The two men may have acted together in dispatching the woman in Duluth.

"Murder at Minnesota Point" is the result of the Jeffrey Sauve's exhaustive 10-year study that traces the villain's descent into ruin. This is the engrossing story of a long-forgotten murder and one that the reader will not soon forget.

Critique: With a very special appeal to readers with an interest in True Crime stories, "Murder at Minnesota Point" is a compulsively compelling account from first page to last. With all the drama of a crime novel, this factual account is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and highly recommended for both personal reading lists, community library True Crime collections, and college/university library Criminology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Jeffrey M. Sauve has been featured in the Minneapolis StarTribune, Minnesota Historical Society's MNopedia, MinnPost, MPR Radio, and TPT television. An award-winning author and historian, Sauve has written eight books and numerous articles for local and regional publications. After serving 20 years as an archivist at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, he now pursues a successful writing career.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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