Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Wisconsin Bookwatch

Wisconsin Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 11 November 2023 Home | WBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Christmas Shelf Education Shelf
Political Science Shelf Cookbook Shelf Wine/Spirits Shelf
Computer Shelf World History Shelf Biography Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf LGBTQ Fiction Shelf
Literary Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Poetry Shelf Comix/Graphic Novel Shelf
Music CD Shelf DVD Shelf Christian Studies Shelf
Judaic Studies Shelf Buddhist Studies Shelf Music Shelf
Fashion Shelf Theatre/Cinema Shelf Needlecraft Shelf
Travel Shelf Business Shelf Photography Shelf
Metaphysical Studies Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Knot Handbook: 50 Essential Knots and Their Uses
George Lewis
The GMC Group
9781784946746, $19.99, HC, 112pp

Synopsis: Some Knots for inclusion into "Knot Handbook: 50 Essential Knots and Their Uses" by George Lewis have been chosen for their fame, some for their beauty, and others because they are knots that everyone should know how to tie.

The "Knot Handbook" from the GMC Group will introduce readers to time-honored techniques of an intricate and practical art that has been practiced since before poetry or painting were dreamt of. Knots which cannot be mastered in just five minutes.

The "Knot Handbook" is an essential guide to 50 knots and their uses with clear illustrations with easy-to-follow step-by-step line drawings. Anecdotes reveal the history and fascinating fun facts about the featured knots.

Critique: This concise (5 x 0.6 x 7.1 inches, 10.4 ounces) hardcover edition is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentations, making it an ideal pick for personal, professional, and community library collections -- as well as a perfect gift for friends and family members interested in outdoor living and the valued skill of knot tying for any and all occasions.

Editorial Note: George Lewis is the author of several books including Mates for Life and Strange Mates (Ammonite Press) and Castles and Waterfalls (Park Lane Books). He also contributes to newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias and partworks. Lewis learned about knots in the 1950s from herring fishermen on his ancestral Isle of Man. Lewis retains the traditional knowledge and demonstrates that knots can give us so much more than the means to catch the traditional accompaniment to chips.

The Christmas Shelf

Nikkolas: The Story of Santa Claus
John G. MacKenzie
Robert D. Reed Publishers
9781638214922, $24.95, PB, 100pp

Synopsis: "Nikkolas: The Story of Santa Claus" is illustrated with 33 pieces of original art by author John G. MacKenzie and is a fictional biography about the life of Santa Claus from birth until death. Given up by his father because his mother died in childbirth, Nikkolas grew up with a different family every year until he was fifteen years old and lived with a carpenter and his wife. There Nikkolas learned the carpentry trade.

Nikkolas and his wife could not have children, so he made wooden toys for everyone else's children and delivered them on Christmas Eve.

Critique: A beautifully presented, impressively original, fully engaging, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' fictional biography, "Nikkolas: The Story of Santa Claus" by author/illustrator John G. MacKenzie is an ideal and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, family, and community library Christmas Book collections for readers of all ages. It should be noted that "Nikkolas: The Story of Santa Claus" is also readily available from Robert D. Reed Publishers in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99) as well.

Editorial Note: As a child, John G. MacKenzie learned how to draw from a commercial artist who lived in the downstairs apartment from his who would sit John on his knee and teach him how to draw stick people. John went to the University of Waterloo for one year and studied acting, then decided that ge was more interested in writing and directing and I went to Humber College for Film and Television Production where he graduated with honors. He became a portrait artist. "Nikkolas: The Story of Santa Claus" combines Johns talents as a storyteller and an artist to in writing an original Christmas book for children.

The Holly and the Ivy
Ink & Willow
c/o WaterBrook Press
9780593580455, $17.00, PB, 96pp

Synopsis: Get into the spirit of the Christmas season with "The Holly and the Ivy", a beautiful coloring book for adults filled with festive illustrations and holiday-inspired quotes from beloved writers, songs, and Scripture.

With candles in the windows, lights in the trees, stockings over fireplaces, and the sound of bells in the air, Christmas really is one of the most wonderful times of the year! In the midst of Christmas shopping, party planning, and event hosting, The Holly and the Ivy offers a beautiful and festive way to meditate on the wonder and joy of the season. Each beautifully illustrated page features an original design from a talented artist that illustrates a corresponding quote.

Critique: Highly recommended and an ideal Christmas gift, this large format (9.75" x 9.75) paperback edition of "The Holly and the Ivy", the to-be-colored pages feature perforated edges for easy removal and display. The pages are high quality, bleed-proof, bright white paper stock -- heavy enough to use pencils, pens, or markers, heavy enough for framing. There are quotes from the Bible, Christmas songs, and a variety of inspirational writers including Ann Voskamp, Asheritah Ciuciu, Charles Dickens, Enuma Okoro, G. K. Chesterton, George Eliot, Liz Curtis Higgs, Maya Angelou, and more. Of special note is a link to a Spotify Christmas playlist to help set the festive mood for worship, creative expression, and a spirit of joy and original illustrations by gifted artists.

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.

The Education Shelf

Paying for College, 2024
Kalman Charry, author
Geoffrey Martz, author
The Princeton Review
c/o Random House Inc.
9780593516614, $$25.99, PB, 353pp

Synopsis: Financing a college education is a daunting task no matter your circumstances. With line-by-line instructions for filling out the FAFSA and consumer-friendly advice to minimize college costs, "Paying for College, 2024: Everything You Need to Maximize Financial Aid and Afford College" helps you take control of your experience.

"Paying for College 2024" covers: Maximizing your financial aid eligibility; Preparing for upcoming changes affecting student aid; Exploring long term and short term strategies to reduce college costs and avoid expensive mistakes; Completing every question on the FAFSA and CSS Profile aid applications to your best advantage; Comparing aid offers and learning how to appeal them if necessary; Planning strategically as a separated/divorced parent, a blended family, or as an independent student.

Critique: Comprehensive, accessible, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Paying for College, 2024: Everything You Need to Maximize Financial Aid and Afford College" is an indispensable and mandatory addition to every highschool counselors office, an essential and timely addition to community library collections, and also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) for personal and family use.

Editorial Note: The experts at The Princeton Review have been helping students, parents, and educators achieve the best results at every stage of the education process since 1981. The Princeton Review has helped millions succeed on standardized tests, and provides expert advice and instruction to help parents, teachers, students, and schools navigate the complexities of school admission. In addition to classroom courses in over 40 states and 20 countries, The Princeton Review also offers online and school-based courses, one-to-one and small-group tutoring, as well as online services in both admission counseling and academic homework help.

The Kid Across the Hall
Reid Saaris
Redwood Press
c/o Stanford University Press
9781503615274, $28.00, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Growing up, Reid Saaris was confused and disturbed by the radically different opportunities his best friend received. After a childhood spent together, Jamie and Reid found themselves on opposite sides of a high school hallway that separated kids based on a misunderstanding of their supposed "potential". The gap between the two friends widened as Reid's classes enabled him to pursue an elite college degree across the country studying educational opportunity and teaching.

Then, Reid became a teacher at an under-resourced South Carolina high school where efforts to serve the incredible students were stymied by internal segregation and administrative ambivalence. He was disabused of the Hollywood myth that a good teacher could simply save the day, when each false start with his students forced him to reckon with how much he didn't know. After Reid assigned students a project to create a positive change, they pushed him to figure out how he, too, could make a bigger difference.

While an individual's efforts are no match against entrenched systems, Reid learned firsthand that a community of people powered by data can effect change. This lesson motivated him to found Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to finding the students who were overlooked, discouraged, or otherwise missing from higher-level classes.

As EOS became more successful, partnering with major philanthropies, universities, and even the White House, Reid grappled with his role as a leader. Only through the efforts of, first, his students in South Carolina, and later his team at EOS, would he come to understand, and begin to overcome, the limitations of his vision. Informed by extensive new data on educational opportunity in America, "The Kid Across the Hall: The Fight for Opportunity in Our Schools" is a powerful story of learning and unlearning; of leading and learning to follow.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, thoughtful, thought-provoking, organized and presented, "The Kid Across the Hall: The Fight for Opportunity in Our Schools" is part memoir, part economic impact study of income inequality upon our education system. Having a great deal of value for readers with an interest in education reforms and the role that non-profits and charity endowments/awards/grants can play, "The Kid Across the Hall: The Fight for Opportunity in Our Schools" must be considered essential reading a an important contribution to personal, professional, community, school district, college, and university library Contemporary Issues in Education collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for student and classroom teachers, education administrators, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Kid Across the Hall: The Fight for Opportunity in Our Schools" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Reid Saaris ( is the founder of Equal Opportunity Schools, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that students of all backgrounds have opportunities to succeed at the highest levels. He is an Echoing Green, a Draper Richards Kaplan, and a Stanford Social Innovation Fellow, and has advised federal, state, and local leaders, teachers, philanthropies, companies, and universities on topics like justice, impact, data analysis, communications, and learning. His most challenging and meaningful professional experiences have been as a classroom teacher.

The Political Science Shelf

The Long Alliance
Gabriel Debenedetti
Henry Holt & Company
9781250829979, $29.99, HC, 432pp

Synopsis: Delving far deeper than the simplistic "bromance" narrative that's long held the public eye, with the publication of "The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama", journalist Gabriel Debenedetti reveals the past, present, and future of the unusual partnership, detailing its development, its twists and turns, its ruptures and reunions, and its path to this pivotal moment for each man's legacy.

The true story of this relationship, from 2003 into 2022, is significantly more layered and consequential than is widely understood. The original mismatch between the veteran Washington traditionalist and the once-in-a-generation outsider has transformed repeatedly in ways that have molded not just four different presidential campaigns and two different political parties, but also wars, a devastating near-depression, movements for social equality, and the fight for the future of American democracy.

The bond between them has been, at various times over the past two decades, tense, affectionate, nonexistent, and ironclad - - but it has always been surprising. Now it is shaping a second presidential administration, and the future of the world as we know it.

Critique: Simply stated, to understand and appreciate the presidencies of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, it is essential to read "The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama" by political journalist and national correspondent for the New York Magazine, Gabriel Debenedetti. Impressively insightful and informative, as well as exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama" is also readily available in a paperback edition (978-1250871534, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Gabriel Debenedetti is the national correspondent at New York Magazine, where he writes about politics and national affairs. Previously, he covered politics for Politico and Reuters. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Economist, Politico Magazine, and the New Republic. A New Jersey native, he graduated from Princeton University. (

The Cookbook Shelf

Taste of Home All New Christmas Cookies
Taste of Home
c/o Trusted Media Brands
9781621459866, $14.99, Spiral Bound, 208pp

Synopsis: The folk at At Taste of Home, based on the popularity of their cookbook "Christmas Cookies", have now created a second volume of sweet Christmas themed treats with the publication of "All New Christmas Cookies". This is a magical collection kitchen cook/baker recipes for 100 additional cookies, bars and brownies worthy of the holiday season (or any other time of year!). From easy bites ideal for making memories with tiny bakers to impressive nibbles sure to wow the crowd, this all-new edition features the cookies you need to make your holiday merry and bright.

Critique: "Taste of Home All New Christmas Cookies" features: 143 recipes with step-by-step directions; Full-color photo with each recipe; Prep and bake timelines for cookie-baking success; Tips for gift-wrapping and shipping cookies, putting together the ultimate assortment and hosting your own cookie exchange; Baking tips and cookie-making secrets from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen. A perfect Christmas gift, stocking stuffer, or holiday present under the tree, "Taste of Home All New Christmas Cookies" will help to make any Christmas party celebration even more 'Merry & Bright'. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "Taste of Home All New Christmas Cookies" is an ideal and very special pick for personal, professional, and community library Holiday Cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Taste of Home ( is the leading multi-platform producer of information on food, cooking, baking and entertaining, serving home cooks engaging media that capture the joy and comfort received from food made with love.

Elf Food
Cayla Gallagher
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
9781510776975, $19.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Fill your plates with peppermint candies, gingerbread, and snowballs and eat just like elves do with the recipes comprising "Elf Food: 85 Holiday Sweets & Treats for a Magical Christmas", a cookbook will take you on a sweet, sugary journey through Christmas Tree Meringue Pops, over rolling hills of Plaid Swiss Roll Cakes, and through a field of Mistletoe Shortbread. You'll arrive at a Classic Gingerbread House and cuddle by the fire with some warm milk and a Hot Chocolate Bomb.

Critique: An ideal menu planning for desserts or snacking with illustrated and thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' holiday classics and new Christmas themed treats, "Elf Food" by culinary expert Cayla Gallagher will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, family, and community library cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Cayla Gallagher ( is the host and creator of the YouTube channel pankobunny, an online cooking show where she creates weekly tutorials, teaching her subscribers how to turn everyday recipes into "edible cuteness" -- colorful, eye catching treats! With an audience of more than 300,000 followers across her social media platforms and more than 300 million views on Facebook, she strives to bring amusement and creativity to tables all over the world. Currently residing in Toronto, Canada, Cayla is also the author of Unicorn Food, Spooky Food, Reindeer Food, and Mermaid Food.

Pickle & Ferment
Susan Crowther, author
Julie Fallone, author
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
9781510775756, $19.99, PB, 184pp

Synopsis: Fermenting, in the simplest definition, is changing food into a healthier version of itself -- a version that basically stays fresh, forever. Sounds kind of magical, doesn't it? It kind of is.

Fermenting is what happens when you mix two things together: food and salt. As soon as food and salt are combined, they wake up microbes -- bacteria and yeast that are living in and on the food.

With the publication of "Pickle & Ferment: Preserve Your Produce & Brew Delicious Probiotic Drinks", co-authors Susan Crowther and Julie Fallone explore a specific type of fermentation: raw pickling or live-fermentation. Live-fermented foods are the healthiest to eat and easiest to make. Live-fermentation is simpler than canning and the food lasts longer than freezing. This technique saves time and energy, as it cuts down on heating and cooking. Live-fermented foods do not require refrigeration. Plus, they can stay fresh indefinitely.

In addition to saving energy costs, fermenting increases a food's health benefits. Live-fermented foods are healthier than their original raw products. Vital nutrients and vitamins (often destroyed with heating) are not only kept alive, but improved. And other nutrients are actually created during fermentation.

In the pages of "Pickle & Ferment: Preserve Your Produce & Brew Delicious Probiotic Drinks", Susan Crowther and Julie Fallone effectively collaborate to offer step-by-step instructions for pickling and fermenting all kinds of produce from carrots to garlic to sweet potatoes, plus offers recipes for Live-Fermented Hot Sauce, Fermented Hot Honey, and more unique and healthy goodies. Readers will also find recipes for kombucha, jun tea, and other probiotic drinks.

Finally, there's an abundance of recipes for incorporating your probiotic-rich ferments into other recipes, such as Healthier Hummus, Jun Sourdough Bread, Cultured Muffins, and even Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake!

Critique: Showcasing 60 classic and unique recipes for probiotic-rich ferments such as sauerkraut, pickled veggies, salsas, kimchi, sourdough, jun tea, and more, "Pickle & Ferment: Preserve Your Produce & Brew Delicious Probiotic Drinks" is beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout with full page, full color photography. It is informative, user friendly in organization, and especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library natural food cookbook collections. It should be noted for the family cook that this DIY instruction reference for home-based fermenting is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note #1: Susan Crowther graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and eventually ran her own catering business - Susie's Menu. Susie's passions encompass cooking, writing, and health. She has worn several hats: cook, chef, caterer, nutritionist, massage therapist, health educator, college professor, and mom. She sells her fermented goodies under the name FerMont in and around her hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont.

Editorial Note #2: Julie Fallone ( has made food her career and passion from an early age. She has run a restaurant kitchen and a catering company and written a newspaper food column. Today she devotes her time to food photography, recipe testing, and jewelry making from her Baltimore apartment.

Pizza Night
Deborah Kaloper
Smith Street Books
c/o Rizzoli
9781922754455, $19.95, HC, 140pp

Synopsis: Showcasing recipes more than 60 DIY delicious pizza recipes suitable for any night of the week, "Pizza Night" by Deborah Kaloper is a mouthwatering, exploration of the delicious world of pizza recipes that range from Neapolitan classics and deep-dish pies, to the sweet and the fried.

With "Pizza Night" as a menu planning resource, even the most novice of kitchen cooks can get the party started with such pizza delights as Sopressa & Olive Panzerotti or Pizzette Fritte. They can satisfy the whole family with fan-favorites like Pepperoni, Margherita, or Hawaiian. Experiment with new pizza combinations like Kimchi & Sesame, Peach with Goat's Cheese, or Radicchio & Candied Walnuts. Then dig into a Detroit-style Hottie or a Chicago Veggie Pie and finish the night off with a Banana Nutella Calzone with Mascarpone.

With pizza to suit any nighttime dining event, whether you're making pizzas with friends, have a date to impress, or want to curl up on the couch with a calzone for one, "Pizza Night" has fun and easy recipes for thin pizza, thick pizza, focaccia pizza, sweet pizza, and the best of pizza's cousins. So with the aid of "Pizza Night", anyone can now get out the cheese and toppings, and get ready to slice up a great time!

Critique: Profusely and beautiful illustrated with full page, full color photography of finished dishes, and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.69), "Pizza Night: 60+ Recipes for Date Nights, Lazy Nights, and Party Nights" is a 'must' for the legions of pizza lovers and a welcome addition to personal, family, professional, and community library cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Deborah Kaloper ( is a California-raised, Melbourne-based sought-after food stylist, prop stylist, and recipe developer. Her passion for all things food started at the age of six with her first cookbook given to her by her grandmother, Nonie. A former breakfast and pastry chef, Kaloper works with top photographers, chefs, food writers, and brands, styling their food for books, magazines, and advertising. In her downtime you can find her up early walking along the ocean to catch the sunrise and trying to perfect her Nonie's Croatian Easter bread.

The Wine/Spirits Shelf

Nixology: Low-to-no Alcohol Cocktails
Elouise Anders, author
Claudia Frittitta, illustrator
Smith Street Books
c/o Rizzoli
9781922754547, $19.95, HC, 152pp

Synopsis: For anyone looking to drink less, to leave alcohol permanently on the shelf, or to wake up a little less hung over on Sunday, shake and stir up your next party with "Nixology: Low-to-No Alcohol Cocktails".

With classics like the Martini, Negroni, and Cosmo, and new creations like a Springtime Fizz, Sparkling Melon Sangria, and Juniper & Tonic, "Nixology" is a compendium of 60 DIY recipes that are full of flavor instead alcohol. Even the most novice of hosts can now whip up single cocktails, batches to share, or low-ABV drinks for a tiny buzz.

Whether it's a sunny afternoon, a dinner with friends, a big bash, or a quiet night in, "Nixology" has the perfect drink to sip.

Critique: Colorfully enhanced throughout with the illustrations of Claudia Frittitta and the 60 classic cocktails remixed with low-to-no alcohol by Elouise Anders, "Nixology" will prove to be an immediate, popular, singularly unique, thoroughly 'user friendly', and prized addition to personal, professional, family, and community library cocktail recipes collections.

Editorial Note: Elouise Anders is a mixologist-turned-culture-writer based in Melbourne. She consults the city's finest bars and restaurants on how to best curate drinks lists. Previously, she has published Cocktail Botanica, Spritz Fever!,and Drinks on the Lanai with Smith Street Books. Claudia Frittitta is an illustrator and graphic designer working in Melbourne, Australia. Her passion lies in creating contemporary, playful, and innovative design.

The Computer Shelf

The Shape of Data
Colleen M. Farrelly, author
Yae Ulrich Gaba, author
No Starch Press
9781718503083, $39.99, PB, 264pp

Synopsis: Whether you are a mathematician, seasoned data scientist, or marketing professional, "The Shape of Data: Geometry-Based Machine Learning and Data Analysis in R" by co-authors Colleen M. Farrelly and Yae Ulrich Gaba is the perfect introduction to the critical interplay between the geometry of data structures and machine learning.

"The Shape of Data" is an extensive collection of case studies (drawn from medicine, education, sociology, linguistics, and more) and offering a gentle explanations of the math behind dozens of algorithms provide a comprehensive yet accessible look at how geometry shapes the algorithms that drive data analysis.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of how to implement geometry-based algorithms with code, "The Shape of Data" covers: Supervised and unsupervised learning algorithms and their application to network data analysis; The way distance metrics and dimensionality reduction impact machine learning; How to visualize, embed, and analyze survey and text data with topology-based algorithms; New approaches to computational solutions, including distributed computing and quantum algorithms.

Critique: Comprehensive and exceptionally well written, "The Shape of Data: Geometry-Based Machine Learning and Data Analysis in R" is impressively 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal instructional resource for anyone with an interest in topology, computer hacking, or mathematical/statistical computer software. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.99), "The Shape of Data: Geometry-Based Machine Learning and Data Analysis in R" is a strongly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Computer Science collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Colleen M. Farrelly is a senior data scientist whose academic and industry research has focused on topological data analysis, quantum machine learning, geometry-based machine learning, network science, hierarchical modeling, and natural language processing. Since graduating from the University of Miami with an MS in biostatistics, Colleen has worked as a data scientist in a variety of industries, including healthcare, consumer packaged goods, biotech, nuclear engineering, marketing, and education. Colleen often speaks at tech conferences, including PyData, SAS Global, WiDS, Data Science Africa, and DataScience SALON.

Editorial Note #2: Yae Ulrich Gaba completed his doctoral studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT, South Africa) with a specialization in topology and is currently a research associate at Quantum Leap Africa (QLA, Rwanda). His research interests are computational geometry, applied algebraic topology (topological data analysis), and geometric machine learning (graph and point-cloud representation learning). His current focus lies in geometric methods in data analysis, and his work seeks to develop effective and theoretically justified algorithms for data and shape analysis using geometric and topological ideas and methods.

The C# Type System
Steve Love
No Starch Press
9781718501584, $49.99, PB, 344pp

Synopsis: The type system is the foundation upon which all C# programs are built. "The C# Type System" by Steve Love will show you how to define and implement value types effectively, and write more performant and robust code. Real-world code examples and test cases throughout will elevate your programming with C# and show you how best to implement the principles you're learning.

Among the core aspects of working with the type system, "The C# Type System" covers: How user-defined value types, and even simple types, can enhance your code's readability; How reference and value types differ within C#; How method parameters and arguments relate to reference and value types; How differences in copy semantics between value and reference types affect a program's behavior; How the different methods of value comparisons for equality work behind the scenes; The unique characteristics and roles of various types in an application, especially how value types go beyond meredata storage; Why inheritance isn't optimal for value types; How to measure and evaluate the performance of an app's use of different data types.

Critique: Exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The C# Type System" is the ideal DIY instruction manual that is unreservedly recommended for novice users and seasoned programmers alike. Indispensable for learning how to turn good code into great code, and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.99), "The C# Type System" is an especially recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Software Computer Code collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Steve Love has been a professional C# developer for nearly 20 years, and has trained many other C# developers of varying levels of expertise. He writes for the ACCU magazines C Vu and Overload, and is a frequent speaker at conferences.

The Async-First Playbook
Sumeet Moghe
Addison-Wesley Professional
c/o O'Reilly
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472
9780138187538, $39.99, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: Distributed work is now inevitable, but conventional agile approaches are too "synchronous" for today's remote teams. Meetings, ceremonies, and rituals can become unsustainable when teams are scattered across the globe. The result: burnout, constant interruptions, a lack of deep work, poor work-life balance, greater frustration, and workplaces with poor diversity.

With the publication of "The Async-First Playbook: Remote Collaboration Techniques for Agile Software Teams", Sumeet Gayathri Moghe (Thoughtworks Principal Product Manager) provides tools and techniques to embed remote-native, asynchronous practices into traditional agile methods, making remote work more efficient, inclusive, thoughtful, and fun.

Drawing on extensive experience leading distributed teams, Moghe addresses the "nuts and bolts" of specific practices and the crucial "softer" elements such as culture, mindset, and leadership. Short, practical chapters show how to adapt traditional agile techniques such as sprints and pair programming for the realities of today's distributed environments. Whatever your project, you'll learn how to create asynchronous environments that promote success, improve the workplace experience, and deliver better results.

"The Async-First Playhbook" covers: Discovering why asynchronous collaboration is crucial to your project's success; Learning the tools, skills, and protocols you need to get right in order to go "async-first"; Mapping current agile techniques to async-first versions that better reflect today's realities; Becoming a more supportive and effective leader of async-first teams; Anticipating, navigating, and mitigating the pitfalls of async-first distributed work; Bringing it all together -- walking through your async-first transition; Accessing valuable resources, examples, and hands-on templates at the companion website.

Critique: Offering a complete and comprehensive textbook quality study and instructional guide that is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Async-First Playbook: Remote Collaboration Techniques for Agile Software Teams", by Sumeet Gayathri Moghe is especially and unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal, professional, and college/university library Computer Software Design/Engineering/Development collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "The Async-First Playbook: Remote Collaboration Techniques for Agile Software Teams" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.99).

Editorial Note: Sumeet Gayathri Moghe is a Principal Product Manager and transformation specialist at Thoughtworks. He loves building great products for clients and leading engineering transformation initiatives. Besides consulting with clients he has also led a number of internal and external programs around knowledge management, learning and development, and capacity building.

The World History Shelf

Inside the Tudor Home
Bethan Watts
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (US distribution)
9781399089272, $42.95, HC, 200pp

Synopsis: Power. Politics. Prosperity. Plague. These were the hallmarks of 16th Century Tudor England. This was a country replete with sprawling landscapes, dense forests and twisting urban labyrinths. This was also a place of stagnation and of progress; of glorious cultural revolution, where the wheel of fortune is forever turning.

From the plush royal palaces to the draughtiest of wattle-and-daub cottages, sixteenth-century England revolved around the people who formed the beating heart of Tudor society. These people celebrated scientific progress and lamented religious persecution; championed the rights of women and the underrepresented; fell in love with sweethearts, cared for pets and mourned the deaths of their loved ones.

With the publication of "Inside the Tudor Home: Daily Life in the Sixteenth Century", historian Bethan Catherine Watts sheds light on the Tudor home and the everyday lives of those who lived there.

Critique: With a three page listing of Illustrations, an succinct discription of Money Conversion, twenty pages of Notes, a seven page Bibliograpy and Further Reading, and an eight page Index, "Inside the Tudor Home: Daily Life in the Sixteenth Century" is impressively informative, historically useful, and a seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship. Covering an immense diversity of issues ranging from foods and recipes, to childcare, to funerary practices, and so much more, "Inside the Tudor Home" must be considered a core and essential pick for personal, professional, community, college, and university library 16th Century British Cultural History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, historians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Inside the Tudor Home" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.99).

Editorial Note: Bethan Catherine Watts is a social historian of medieval and early modern history, and specializes in the everyday lives of ordinary people. She is most interested in the lives of children and youths in history, as well as the health, hygiene, and households of past peoples. Bethan holds both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Medieval History.

The Biography Shelf

Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy
Charles Busch
Smart Pop
c/o BenBella Books
9781637744147, $27.95, HC, 269pp

Synopsis: The Tony Award-nominated writer of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and the long-running hit Off-Broadway play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and a Sundance Festival award winner, Charles Busch has created a unique place in the entertainment world as a playwright, LGBT icon, drag actor, director, and cabaret performer, with his extraordinary gift for both connecting with and channeling the leading ladies of show business.

"Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy" is his memoir, (which is by turns comic and moving), and reveals how ever since his mother's death when he was seven, he has sought out surrogate mothers in his life. In his teens, Charles moved to Park Avenue in Manhattan to live with his Auntie Mame-like Aunt Lil, who encouraged and nourished Charles' talents and dreams, and eventually he discovered his gifts for writing plays and performing as a male actress.

Charles also shares his colorful and sometimes outlandish interactions with film and theatrical luminaries including the hilarious comedian Joan Rivers (who became a mother figure to Charles after Aunt Lil's death), Angela Lansbury (who attended her first Passover seder with Charles), Rosie O'Donnell, Claudette Colbert, Valerie Harper, Kim Novak, and many others.

Critique: "Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy" features wry humor, anecdotal history, impressive candor, and rare photos. "Leading Lady" is of particular interest to readers of entertainment biographies and memoirs, as well as anyone who enjoys the true-life memoirs of artists, actors, musicians, and creatives whose lives 'break the mold, ditch the boundaries, and find their own unique way to sparkle'. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American Biography/Memoir & Broadway/Theatrical History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Leading Lady" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Charles Busch ( is an actor, playwright, and drag legend. He is the author and star of many plays, including Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, one of the longest-running plays in Off-Broadway history. His play The Tale of the Allergist's Wife played 777 performances on Broadway and received a Tony nomination for Best Play. Busch wrote and starred in the film versions of his plays Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie Die, the latter of which won him the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival. He has been honored with a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright and he also received the Flora Roberts Award for Sustained Achievement in the theater by the Dramatist's Guild.

Pauline Boty: British Pop Art's Sole Sister
Marc Kristal
Francis Lincoln
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711287549, $40.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Pauline Boty (6 March 1938 - 1 July 1966) was a founding member of the British Pop Art movement and one of its very few female performers. She attended London's Royal College of Art at a watershed moment when its students included David Hockney, Peter Blake, R.B. Kitaj and Allen Jones. Dying tragically young at the age of 28, she is now seen as central to British Pop Art and an icon of Sixties culture.

As well as her work as an artist, she appeared on the stage, TV and in film (including alongside Michael Caine in Alfie) and was a regular contributor on BBC radio. She was photographed by David Bailey and other society photographers and became a key player in 1960s London's golden age.

Outspoken, provocative and charismatic, she refused to accept the oppositions between sexual woman and serious artist, between celebration and critique, between high and low culture. Observer and participant, feminist and hedonist, subject and object, Boty's 'double vision' was decades ahead of its time, and prefigured a diversity of artists -- everyone from Cindy Sherman to Madonna.

Having been largely forgotten after her death, her reputation has been growing steadily since the rediscovery and exhibition of her works in the early 1990s. As well as cropping up regularly in various books, documentaries and newspaper articles since then, she features as a central character in Ali Smith's novel Autumn (2016) and one of her works sold for $1.4m at auction in June 2022.

Critique: A fascinating, informative, and illustrated biography by Marc Kristal, this heftly (7.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches, 2.45 pounds) hardcover edition of "Pauline Boty: British Pop Art's Sole Sister" will have a special appeal and value to readers with an interest in 60's British Pop Culture & Art history and personalities. Also available for personal and professional reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99), "Pauline Boty: British Pop Art's Sole Sister" is exceptionally well written and presented, making it unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Biography/Memoir and Pop Art History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Marc Kristal ( is an author, screenwriter, filmmaker, editor, and journalist. He has authored, co-written or contributed to more than forty books, notably Re:Crafted: Interpretations of Craft in Contemporary Architecture and Interiors (2010), Immaterial World: Transparency in Architecture (2011), and The New Old House: Historic and Modern Architecture Combined (2017). His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Architectural Digest, Wallpaper, Metropolis, and Elle Decor. He has also written films about contemporary and modern artists, notably Cindy Sherman and Mark Rothko. He is also a two-time MacDowell fellow.

Judy Canova: Singin' in the Corn!
Ben Ohmart
BearManor Media
9781593933166, $19.95, PB, 234pp

Synopsis: Judy Canova (November 20, 1913 - August 5, 1983), was the professional name of Juliette Canova who was a 20th Century American comedienne, actress, singer, and radio personality. She appeared on Broadway and in films. She also hosted her own self-titled network radio program, a popular series broadcast from 1943 to 1955.

"Judy Canova: Singin' in the Corn!" by Ben Ohmart is the first biography of everyone's favorite rube and is comprised of family interviews and along with rare and hitherto unpublished photos.

Critique: Impressively informative and a fun read that rescues music/stage/film/radio star Judy Canova from an undeserved obscurity, "Judy Canova: Singin' in the Corn!" is a particularly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library 20th Century American Biography collections. It should be noted for Judy Canova fans that "Judy Canova: Singin' in the Corn!" is also readily available from BearManor Media in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781504670227, $19.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Ben Ohmart has written books on voice actors Paul Frees and Walter Tetley, as well as biographies of Don Ameche, the Bickersons, Disney composer Buddy Baker, playwright Tim Kelly, and others. He runs BearManor Media, a small publishing company specializing in books on old radio and old film actors.

The House that Cheese Built
Miguel A. Leal
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
9781394184026, $28.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Miguel Leal came to the U.S. penniless as a teenager, speaking almost no English; he literally slept in the boiler room of a Wisconsin cheese factory for months before he was caught. Through hard work, grit, and ingenuity Leal would go on to launch his own business. He is widely credited with introducing Mexican cheeses to the U.S. market and grew his company to a multimillion-dollar success story that defined an industry.

Yet, like many successful entrepreneurs, Leal's great successes were matched by personal failures: the end of a marriage; trouble with law enforcement; and the deeply felt sense that there must be something more to life than great wealth.

With the publication of "The House that Cheese Built: The Unusual Life of the Mexican Immigrant who Defined a Multibillion-Dollar Global Industry" we can now read the astounding memoir of a Mexican immigrant who worked his way to success in the American cheese industry. Readers will find inspiration in Miguel Leal's determination and refusal to give up on his dream. They will see how Leal persevered in the face of obstacles and setbacks in his personal life. They will follow Miguel's story as he finds peace, purpose, and grace -- and realizes that money isn't everything

Leal's memoir, "The House that Cheese Built", is both a quintessential immigrant success story, one that beautifully illustrates the immigrant experiences: isolation, fear, and ambition for a better life and assimilation, as well as a thoughtful personal account of entrepreneurship and all its benefits and costs.

Critique: Candid, eloquent, fascinating, and inspiring, "The House that Cheese Built: The Unusual Life of the Mexican Immigrant who Defined a Multibillion-Dollar Global Industry" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Contemporary Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The House that Cheese Built" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.00).

Editorial Note: Miguel Leal founded Mexican Cheese Producers in 1994. Leal eventually sold his business to Sigma Alimentos, which used his recipes to win the 2020 World Championship Cheese Contest. Today, Miguel is deeply invested in a new passion project: supporting Mexico's organic farming movement with a farm of his own.

The General Fiction Shelf

Daughters of Muscadine: Stories
Monic Ductan
Fireside Industries
c/o The University Press of Kentucky
9781950564330, $24.95, HC, 144pp

Synopsis: Two events tie together the nine stories comprising author Monic Ductan's "Daughters of Muscadine: Stories" - the 1920s lynching of Ida Pearl Crawley and the 1980s drowning of a high school basketball player, Lucy Boudreaux. Both forever shape the people and the place of Muscadine, Georgia, in the foothills of Appalachia.

The daughters of Muscadine are Black southern women who are, at times, outcasts due to their race and are also estranged from those they love. A remorseful woman tries to connect with the child she gave up for adoption; another, immersed in loneliness, attempts to connect with a violent felon. Two sisters love each other deeply even when they cannot understand one another. A little girl witnessing her father's slow death realizes her own power and lack thereof. A single woman weathers the excitement (and rigors) of online dating.

Critique: With individual stories that collectively covering the last one hundred years of history "Daughters of Muscadine: Stories" is an impressive compendium of well crafted and rivetingly personal stories of women whose voices have been suppressed and erased for too long, including Black women, rural women, Appalachian women, and working-class women. As a novelist, Monic Ductan has a genuine and enviable flair for portraying the extraordinary and the revealing in the everyday lives of ordinary women. Of special appeal to readers with an interest in stories of southern small town life and women's lives, "Daughters of Muscadine: Stories" is available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99) and is a highly recommended pick for community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Monic Ductan ( teaches literature and creative writing at Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has appeared in a number of journals, including Oxford American, Good River Review, Southeast Review, Shenandoah, Appalachian Heritage, and South Carolina Review. Her essay "Fantasy Worlds" was listed as notable in The Best American Essays 2019.

The Christmas Guest
Peter Swanson
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
Blackstone Audiobooks
9780063297456, $19.99, HC, 112pp

Synopsis: Ashley Smith is an American art student in London for her junior year. She was planning on spending Christmas alone, but a last-minute invitation from fellow student Emma Chapman brings her to Starvewood Hall, country residence of the Chapman family.

The Cotswold manor house, festooned in pine boughs and crammed with guests for Christmas week, is a dream come true for Ashley. She is mesmerized by the cozy, firelit house, the large family, and the charming village of Clevemoor, but also by Adam Chapman, Emma's aloof and handsome brother.

But Adam is being investigated by the local police over the recent brutal slaying of a girl from the village, and there is a mysterious stranger who haunts the woodland path between Starvewood Hall and the local pub. Ashley begins to wonder what kind of story she is actually inhabiting. Is she in a grand romance? A gothic tale? Or has she wandered into something far more sinister and terrifying than she'd ever imagined?

Over thirty years later the events of that horrific week are revisited, along with a diary from that time. What began in a small English village in 1989 reaches its ghostly conclusion in modern-day New York, many Christmas seasons later.

Critique: A deftly crafted novella by Peter Swanson, "The Christmas Guest" will be of very special interest to fans of psychological suspense thrillers where the quality of the narrative driven storytelling rises to that of truly memorable literary excellence. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Christmas Guest" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackston Audio, 9798212698603, $27.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Peter Swanson ( is the author of nine novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

Spanish Gold
Fred Rayworth
New Link Publishing
c/o Mystic Publishers, Inc.
9781948266178, $17.95, PB, 294pp

Synopsis: The discovery of a centuries-old journal from a Spanish monk sends Detach and his team on another quest for gold. From England to the Azores, and finally, to Spain, they follow a twisted trail filled with hazards that test all of their skills. Each clue uncovered brings Detach and his team closer to the hidden treasure, but they will have to escape the death stalking them to get it!

Critique: A fun read from start to finish, "Spanish Gold" showcases author Fred Rayworth's impressive flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling skills. Of special interest to fans of romance, action, adventure, mystery and suspense, "Spanish Gold" will prove an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to community library fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Spanish Gold" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Fred Rayworth found his passion for writing in 1995. He's so far completed twelve full-length novels and is currently working on number thirteen, in genres including science fiction, icky bug (horror), adventure/thriller and fantasy. Over a dozen of his short stories have made it to print in not only those genres, but non-fiction as well. He has also published numerous non-fiction articles on amateur astronomy including co-founding and editing the original Observer's Challenge for the Las Vegas Astronomical Society. He published a series of autobiographical articles between 2014 and 2016 with the now defunct web site, Let's Talk Nevada. You can read his writing tips and adventures at

Garnett Kilberg Cohen
University of Wisconsin Press
9780299345242, $17.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Opening with "Hors d'oeuvres" and closing with a "Feast," the stories comprising "Cravings" fairly pulse with longing, missed opportunities, recriminations, and joy as author Garnett Kilberg Cohen leads her readers through acutely crafted explorations of the way events shape and change our lives, sometimes for the better and sometimes in ways that haunt us forever. Love, friendship, childhood, parenthood, and leaving home (all these experiences of desire, driven by the unrelenting passage of time) form the heart of this charismatic short story collection.

Cohen's captivating and vulnerable characters often recognize their shortcomings and past mistakes, but cannot always rise above them. One woman learns to forgive her husband's ex; another fears her love of salty snacks caused a family tragedy. A stoic rural community drives a newcomer out of town; a young man's entire life is colored by a traumatic childhood event at a zoo. Focusing on the specific, unforgettable moments that reveal our connections to one another, Cravings offers an expansive vision of humanity that lingers long after the final page is turned.

Critique: The impressive literary quality of the short stories comprising "Cravings" is just what you would expect of a writer who has taught creative writing at Columbia College in Chicago for more that twenty-five years. Eloquent, original, moving, memorable, and published by the University of Wisconsin Press, Garnett Kilberg Choen's short story anthology, "Cravings" is a welcome and recommended pick for community and college/university Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cravings" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.05).

Editorial Note: Garnett Kilberg Cohen ( is the author of three story collections: Lost Women, Banished Souls; How We Move the Air; and Swarm to Glory.

Down the Steep
A. D. Nauman
Regal House Publishing
9781646033706, $19.95, PB, 326pp

Synopsis: The year is 1963 in small-town Virginia. Willa McCoy is a strong-minded teenager who longs to follow in the footsteps of her father, an important member of the KKK. Willa believes the Klan is daring and brave -- like the father she idolizes. She wants only to rise in his esteem; he wants only to keep everyone in their place.

When Willa is sent to babysit for the new minister's wife, Ruth Swanson, she finds herself at Ruth's kitchen table with Langston Jones, a smart young Black man. At first they despise each other, but they have one thing in common: they both love Ruth. When Langston reveals a secret he's discovered (that Willa's father is having an affair) the once-loyal daughter plots to destroy her father's reputation, unwittingly setting into motion a series of events that leads to her family's demise.

Critique: Deftly crafted and impressively original, "Down the Steep" by author A. D. Nauman is a riveting read from start to finish, and one that will hold al special appeal to readers with an interest in southern-based coming of ages stories. With a narrative driven and eloquent storytelling style by novelist A. D. Nauman "Down the Steep" is raised to from ordinary fiction to literary fiction at its best. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49), "Down the Steep" is a solid and recommended pick for community and college/university library Southern Literature collections.

Editorial Note: A.D. Nauman ( is a Chicago author whose short fiction has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Willow Springs, TriQuarterly, Necessary Fiction, The Literary Review, and many other journals. Her dystopian novel, Scorch, was published in 2001 and re-released in a StoryBundle in 2019. Nauman is an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award recipient, whose work has been produced by Stories on Stage and broadcast on NPR. Though now a Midwesterner, Nauman grew up mostly in Tidewater, Virginia.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Johanna Van Zanten
Addison & Highsmith Publishers
c/o Histria Books
9781592111022, $39.99, HC, 524pp

Synopsis: "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Johanna Van Zanten is set in The Netherlands during World War II.

Jacob van Noorden is a military policeman with a wife and two children, and a third on the way, just assigned his first job as chief of a crew in a rural town, close to the German border. When the German army invades and moves through his town, Jacob and his crew have no defense. They can only watch the tanks rumble by without stopping.

As the Queen and cabinet escaped to Britain, their last direction is for all public servants to stay at their posts, as long as it serves the Dutch nation, and the occupier follows international laws. After a pro-German who slavishly follows all idiotic Nazi laws replaces Jacob's boss, all moral guidance must come from Jacob himself. As the Nazis open a prison camp in Jacob's jurisdiction but hire Dutchmen to run it, the ordeal begins.

Jacob's wife, Margaret, is German-born. His mother-in-law is an outspoken admirer of Hitler. Soon he learns that his wife's twin brother has joined the Dutch Nazi Party. Stuck with his family of mixed German-Dutch heritage, he joins the resistance as an informer. Jacob is forced to deal with the increasingly disastrous events of the Nazi regime's occupation. He learns that in the end that every action he takes, no matter how well-intentioned, has enormous, long-lasting consequences to those around him.

Critique: Although a work of fiction, author Johanna Van Zanten has based her novel, "Between A Rock And A Hard Place", on her own family's personal experiences of living through the German Occupation of the Netherlands from 1940-1945. This give her story a feeling of authenticity. Exceptionally well written and inherently interesting, "Between A Rock And A Hard Place" is a strongly recommended pick for community library Historical & World War II Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Between A Rock And A Hard Place" is also available in a paperback edition (9781592112814, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Johanna Van Zanten is an immigrant to Canada from The Netherlands. As she continued her job as a social worker, she discovered the life-altering gift of writing later in life when she began writing short stories. When some of these stories made the shortlist in contests and were published, she took courage and expanded into writing novels. Now retired from her day job, she enjoys her life writing, dividing her time between Canada and Mexico.

The Children of Gods and Fighting Men
Shauna Lawless
Head of Zeus
9781803282626, $29.95, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: 981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son (and herself) but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long.

Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world -- like the Tuatha De Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians.

Fodla is one of the Tuatha De Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fodla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war -- a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise.

Critique: Of special and particular interest to fans of historical fantasy/folklore and alternative history fiction, the publication of "The Children of Gods and Fighting Men" launches author Shauna Lawless' new fantasy Gael Song series that blends factual history with Irish mythology. All the more impressive when considering that it is her debut as a novelist, "The Children of Gods and Fighting Men" is a fun and deftly crafted read from start to finish and will leave the reader looking eagerly toward the next title in this original fantasy series. While unreservedly recommended for community/public library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated action/adventure fantasy fans that "The Children of Gods and Fighting Men" is also available in a paperback edition (9781803282640, $16.76, and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Shauna Lawless ( is an avid reader of Irish mythology and folklore. As an Irish woman, she loves that Irish mythology has inspired so many stories over the years; however, she wanted to explore the history and mythology of Ireland in a more authentic way. She lives in Northern Ireland with her family and can be followed on @shaunaLwrites

When We Were Enemies
Emily Bleeker
Lake Union Publishing
Brilliance Audio
9781662509889, $16.99, PB, 347pp

Synopsis: Camera-shy Elise Branson is different from the other women in her maternal line. Her mother is an award-winning actress. Her late grandmother, Vivian Snow, is a beloved Hollywood icon. But when Elise's upcoming wedding coincides with a documentary being made about Vivian, Elise can't escape the camera's gaze. And neither can her grandmother, even in death.

It's 1943 when Vivian, a small-town Indiana girl, lends her home front support to the war effort. As a translator in the nearby Italian POW camp, she's invaluable. As a celebrated singer for the USO, she lifts men's spirits and falls in love with a soldier. But behind this all-American love story is a shocking secret -- one that is vital to keep buried if Vivian is to achieve the fame and fortune she covets.

For Elise and Vivian, what's hidden (and what's exposed) threatens to unravel their lives. The heart-wrenching choices they must make will change them both forever.

Critique: As a novelist, Emily Bleeker has a genuinely impressive, narrative driven, and distinctive storytelling style that fully engages her readers from first page to last. Her latest novel, "When We Were Enemies" will have a special appeal to readers with in interest in comparative generational historical fiction at its very best. A memorable read throughout, "When We Were Enemies" is a highly recommended pick for community library fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "When We Were Enemies" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781491556696, $19.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Emily Bleeker ( is the author of six novels. Combined, her books have reached more than two million readers. She is also a two-time Whitney Award finalist as well as an Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal best selling author.

The LGBTQ Fiction Shelf

Vulgarian Rhapsody
Alvin Orloff
Three Rooms Press
9781953103383, $16.00, PB, 212pp

Synopsis: Harris, San Francisco's most annoying gay barfly, doesn't mean to be bitchy, passive aggressive, or insulting. But he's so bedazzled by his own critical brilliance he feels morally obliged to share his scathing opinions with the world at any and every opportunity. This irritates no one more than his roommate, Maxine, an avant-garde transsexual cabaret singer.

When she overhears him badmouthing her on the phone she flies into a rage and expels him from their apartment. This crisis couldn't come at a worse time. The year is 1999 and the "dot com" boom has rendered cheap housing nonexistent, and Harris, who works as a part-time telemarketer, is (as usual) low on funds.

Will he be able to convince one of his eccentric, semi-dysfunctional friends with a rent-controlled apartment to let him move in?

Critique: Impressively original, exceptionally well written with a genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling that will keep the reader's rapt attention from start to finish, "Vulgarian Rhapsody" by Alvin Orloff is a fun read and one that immerses the reader in the eclectic bohemian and LGBTQ life styles that San Francisco is so well known for. Highly recommended for both community and college/university library LGBTQ Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Vulgarian Rhapsody" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Alvin Orloff ( began writing in 1977, penning lyrics for The Blowdryers, an early San Francisco punk band. He spent the 1980s working as a telemarketer and exotic dancer while attending U.C. Berkeley and performing with The Popstitutes, an absurd performance art/homocore band. In 1990 he co-founded Klubstitute, a floating queer cabaret that featured spoken word, theater, drag, and musical acts. The author of three previous novels, including I Married an Earthling, he was a LAMBDA Literary Prize finalist for his memoir Disasterama! Adventures in the Queer Underground 1977-1997 (Three Rooms Press), He lives in San Francisco and works in the heart of the historic Castro District as the proprietor of Fabulosa Books.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

What Makes You Think You're Supposed to Feel Better
Jody Hobbs Hesler
Cornerstone Press
9781960329073, $24.95, PB, 236pp

Synopsis: The seventeen short stories by Jody Hobbs Hesler that comprise "What Makes You Think You're Supposed to Feel Better" include: The grisly death of the hermit outsider in a tight-knit neighborhood prompts a young mom to yearn for solitude. A man wrestles with regrets from a 30-year-old affair while his wife hovers toward death in the ICU. An older, childless woman aches to rescue the seemingly mistreated child she observes in the grocery store. And a girl's desire to avoid the party her father dragged her to nearly gets her abducted.

All seventeen short stories comprising Jody Hobbs Hesler's debut collection are told with restraint and deep compassion against the backdrop of Virginia back streets and small towns, shines with its portraits of longing, disconnection, and the ache for renewal and redemption that comes from our own frailties.

Critique: Eloquent, elegant, deft crafted, original, thoughtfully entertaining, Jody Hobbs Hesler's "What Makes You Think You're Supposed to Feel Better: Stories" from Cornerstone Press is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for personal reading lists, as well as community, and college/university library Literary Fiction & Short Story Anthology collections.

Editorial Note: Jody Hobbs Hesler ( has written ever since she could hold a pencil and now lives and writes in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her stories and other work have appeared in Los Angeles Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Necessary Fiction, CRAFT, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere. Growing up, she split time between suburban Richmond, Virginia, and the mountains outside Winchester, Virginia. Experiences of all three regions flavor her writing. She teaches at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, Virginia, and reads for The Los Angeles Review. Her debut novel, "Without You Here", is forthcoming in November 2024.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

One Christmas Morning
Rachel Greenlaw
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
9780063288478, $18.99, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: Eva has spent the past three years burying herself in her work, trying to forget the heartbreaking events of the Christmas that ripped her world apart. This year, the last thing she wants is to attend her friend's weekend-long Christmas party. But at her husband James' insistence, here they are.

When Eva (overwhelmed by bittersweet memories) tries to sneak back to London in the middle of the night, she is visited by the ghost of her beloved grandmother. Gran tells Eva that if she doesn't face her fears head-on and stop shutting out her loved ones, she risks losing them all forever.

When Eva wakes on Christmas morning, she finds herself living not her own life, but that of her hardworking assistant, Diana, whose overflowing inbox isn't the only secret she's been keeping.

The next day, she wakes on Christmas morning again, this time in the body of her best friend's little sister.

As Eva lives the same day again and again through the perspectives of her friends, she is offered a glimpse into the lives of those she has been pushing away. With each Christmas Day comes a new lesson -- and an insight into the secrets and struggles her loved ones have been hiding. To move forward, Eva must let go of the past. But is it too late to fix her future?

Critique: A deftly mixing of romance, relationships and fantasy, "One Christmas Morning" by novelist Rachel Greenlaw is a fun read with a particular appeal to fans of women's friendship and holiday romance fiction. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Harper Audio, 9798212698795, $41.99, CD), "One Christmas Morning" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections.

Editorial Note: Rachel Greenlaw grew up in North Cornwall, surrounded by wild moorland. She studied English with creative writing at Falmouth University before moving to an island in the middle of the Atlantic, where she lives with her husband and two children. "One Christmas Morning" is her first novel.

The Flower Quilter
Mindy Steele
Barbour Publishing
9781636096421, $14.99, PB, 249pp

Synopsis: Barbara Schwartz was born into a family of quilters, but she would rather eat dirt than partake in another quilting frolic or sew on another binding. When her parents send her to Indiana to help her grandmother in her quilting shop, she finds herself amongst a very different community. It's only one summer and then she will be back in Kentucky where she belongs.

Melvin Bontrager's world stopped six years ago when his parents died. Now when his only means of providing for his widowed sister and niece is threatened, Melvin finds his landscaping business disappearing too. When spring delivers a newcomer who is immune to his salty moods, Melvin does something he has never done before, accepts help.

What blooms is the last thing Barbara ever expected, and everything Melvin could ever want.

Critique: Mindy Steele is the author of "The Flower Quilter", part of 'The Heart of the Amish' series from Barbour Books. An original, impressively crafted and genuinely entertaining story of struggle, change, and above all, romance, "The Flower Quilter" is also available and highly recommended for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49), community librarians should note that "The Flower Quilter" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Oasis Audio, 9781685924294, $32.18, CD) and in a large print Library Binding edition (Thorndike Press, 9798885793933, $31.99, CD).

Editorial Note #1: The Heart of The Amish series also includes: Ruth's Ginger Snap Surprise by Anne Blackburne; The Quilt Room Secret by Lisa Jones Baker; Courting the Amish Bishop by Mindy Steele; Mary's Calico Hope by Anne Blackburne.

Editorial Note #2: Mindy Steele ( raised in Kentucky timber country, writes Amish Romance peppered in humor, using her rural surroundings as her muse. She is a best selling author and the winner of the 2022 FHLCW Reader's Choice award for sweet romance. Steele creates realistic characters for her readers and believes in engaging all the senses to make you laugh, cry, hold your breath, and root for the happy ever after ending.

Letters of Comfort
Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing
9781636094878, $16.99, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: Doretta Schwartz used to be so happy and passed her positive attitude along to friends in several letters she wrote each month. But that all changed the day she learned of her fiance's death and a heavy weight of depression fell upon her. Feeling empty, she puts away her letter writing and won't even respond to calls from friends. William's twin brother, Warren, is also grieving his loss, while at the same time, trying to be supportive to his parents and Doretta. Doretta responds to Warren's friendship, but is he just becoming a replacement for the once-in-a-lifetime love she lost?

Critique: Another masterpiece of Amish romance storytelling by the definitive expert (and arguably the founder) of this romance fiction subgenre, "Letters of Comfort" is Book 2 of the Wanda E. Brunstetter 'The Friendship Letters' series. A highly prized and recommended pick for personal reading lists and community library Romance Fiction collections, it should be noted that "Letters of Comfort" is available in digital book format (Kindle, $9.99). Librarians should also note that "Letters of Comfort" is readily available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Oasis Audio, 9781685924263, $37.99, CD) and in a large print Library Binding edition (Thorndike Press, 9798885792530, $35.99, 503pp).

Editorial Note: Wanda E. Brunstetter ( is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She has written more than 100 books translated in four languages. With over 12 million copies sold, Wanda's stories consistently earn spots on the nation's most prestigious bestseller lists and have received numerous awards.

Fancy Meeting You Here
Julie Tieu
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
Harper Audio
9780063245198, $18.99, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Every single one of Elise Ngo's close girlfriends (Rebecca, Jesse, and Beth) is getting married within the same few months, and every single one of them has asked her to be both bridesmaid and florist. Though it's a lot for her to juggle, the work and exposure is a boon to her struggling flower shop.

The stakes are high at Rebecca's high-profile wedding, where the guests are mostly political connections of Rebecca's parents. Desperate for the event to go off without a hitch, Elise enlists the help of an outside caterer who turns out to be Ben Yu, Rebecca's elusive younger brother.

Though Ben is prickly and aloof, he offers Elise much needed business designing flowers for his mom's campaign fundraisers and Elise begins to see there's more to Ben than his gruff and handsome exterior. But their romance takes off as the political campaign ramps up, complicating their relationship with unforeseen consequences. Now always-the-bridesmaid Elise must fight for what she wants to finally get her own happily ever after.

Critique: The stuff of which contemporary rom-coms are made, "Fancy Meeting You Here" by novelist Julie Tieu is an original and fun read from start to finish. Memorable characters, great plot twists, and an ultimately happy ending, "Fancy Meeting You Here" is unreservedly recommended for personal and community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Fancy Meeting You Here" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HarperCollins, 9798212699754, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Julie Tieu ( is a Chinese American writer, born and raised in Southern California. When she is not writing or working as a college counselor, she is reading, on the hunt for delicious eats, or dreaming about her next travel adventure.

To Spark a Match
Jen Turano
Bethany House Publishers
c/o Baker Publishing Group
9780764240218, $16.99, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: After five unsuccessful Seasons on the marriage mart, Miss Adelaide Duveen has resigned herself to the notion that she's destined to remain a spinster forever -- a rather dismal prospect, but one that will allow her to concentrate on her darling cats and books.

However, when she inadvertently stumbles upon Mr. Gideon Abbott engaged in a clandestine activity during a dinner party, Adelaide finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue that resembles the plots in the spy novels she devours.

Former intelligence agent Gideon Abbott feels responsible for Adelaide after society threatens to banish her because of the distraction she caused to save his investigation. Hoping to return the favor, he turns to a good friend (and one of high society's leaders) to take Adelaide in hand and turn her fashionable.

When danger surrounds them and Adelaide finds herself a target of the criminals in Gideon's case, the spark of love between them threatens to be quenched for good -- along with their lives!

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, and a thoroughly entertaining read from start to finish, with the publication of "To Spark A Match", once again documents author Jen Turano's genuine flair as a talented storyteller with a knack for creating memorable novels that will have a very special appeal and interest to fans of Christian historical romance fiction. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "To Spark A Match" is an especially recommended pick for personal and community library Historical Romance collections.

Editorial Note: Jen Turano ( is known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from RT Book Reviews, and praise from Library Journal. She's been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers' Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist.

You Make It Feel like Christmas
Toni Shiloh
Bethany House Publishers
c/o Baker Publishing Group
9780764242069, $14.99, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: It's the most wonderful time of the year -- for everyone except Starr Lewis. As if going home for the holidays jobless and single wasn't bad enough, she's dragged into a holiday season full of activities leading up to her sister's uber-romantic Christmas Eve wedding -- to Starr's ex-boyfriend. But when her brother's best friend, Waylon Emmerson, attends their family Thanksgiving, she starts to wonder if maybe coming home for Christmas isn't so bad after all.

As Starr finds the perfect distraction in helping Waylon make over his late mother's Christmas shop, the most wonderful time of the year works its magic and the spark between them grows. But with the holidays fast approaching, Starr must decide what she wants out of life after the gifts are unwrapped and the ornaments are put away -- to go back to New York City or to open her heart to a love that will last beyond Christmas Day?

Critique: With what begs to be turned into a Hallmark Channel Christmas 'feel good' romance movie, "You Make It Feel like Christmas" by author and storyteller Toni Shiloh is a delightfully fun read from cover to cover, Original, clever, entertaining, memorable, "You Make It Feel like Christmas" is a strongly recommended pick for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted that "You Make It Feel like Christmas" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Toni Shiloh ( is a wife, a mom, and an award-winning Christian contemporary romance author. Her novel In Search of a Prince won the first ever Christy Amplify Award. It has also been praised by Oprah Daily, POPSUGAR, Library Journal, and Booklist, and is a Parable bestseller. Her books have won the Selah Award and have been finalists for the Carol Award and the HOLT Medallion. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Toni enjoys connecting with readers and authors alike via social media.

All's Fair in Love and Christmas
Sarah Monzon
Bethany House Publishers
c/o Baker Publishing Group
9780764242052, $14.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Every December two things are guaranteed for graphic designer Mackenzie Graham -- Christmas celebrations and the annual promotion at her workplace. Those two things are by no means mutually exclusive. In fact, the better an employee is at harnessing the Christmas spirit, the more likely they'll win the new job.

With her social anxiety, Mackenzie never thought she'd be a contender in her company's holiday competition, so how exactly has she found herself dueling her workplace crush with wrapping paper tubes and using tinsel as her weapon of choice for a much-needed raise?

Jeremy Fletcher's life is meticulously planned out, including how to win this year's promotion at work. Not only will the new position fulfill some of his career goals, but as a single guardian to his twin niece and nephew, he needs the salary increase to support his family. Jeremy has barely noticed Mackenzie Graham around the office, but now that she's his rival, he can't stop thinking about her.

Her quirkiness intrigues him, and he's afraid that if he can't get his head on straight, the promotion isn't the only thing he'll end up losing to Mackenzie.

Critique: An exceptionally impressive and thoroughly fun read from cover to cover, "All's Fair in Love and Christmas" is an original rom-com novel from the mind and imagination of author Sarah Monzon. The stuff of which Hallmark Channel Christmas themed rom-com movies are made, "All's Fair in Love and Christmas" will prove a welcome and enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated holiday rom-com fans that "All's Fair in Love and Christmas" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Editorial Note: Sarah Monzon ( is a HOLT Medallion and Selah Award-winner, and a Carol Award finalist.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Barbacoa, Bomba, and Betrayal
Raquel V. Reyes
Crooked Lane Books
9781639105243, $30.99, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: A surprise trip to Miriam's parents in Punta Cana, which should be filled with arroz con pollo and breezy days under the tamarind tree, quickly becomes a hunt for a possible property saboteur. But before Miriam can begin to uncover the person damaging the vacation rentals her parents manage, she's called away to Puerto Rico to film a Three Kings Day special. She's welcomed to the blue ballast-stone streets of Old San Juan by crime scene tape, and things only get worse from there.

An anonymous personal gift on Miriam's doorstep on New Year's Eve screams stalker, and the 400-year-old guesthouse creaks and moans like there is something trapped in its walls. Luckily, her BFF, Alma, and their mutual friend Jorge are in town to keep her distracted between filming cultural segments for the network. But private chef tables and spa days come to an abrupt halt when Jorge's telenovela heartthrob novio goes missing. And there is something worrisome about Alma's too-perfect boyfriend -- specifically, his duffle bag full of cash!

Will demon masks, African drumbeats, and dark alleys lead to Miriam's demise? Or will the mysterious events come together like the delicious layers of a pastelon?

Critique: Featuring all the elements needed for a memorable and fun cozy mystery read with an Hispanic flair, "Barbacoa, Bomba, and Betrayal" is a riveting 'Caribbean Kitchen Mystery' from the talented novelist Raquel V. Reyes for her growing legions of fans. Original, carefully crafted, and with a genuine flair for the kind of narrative storytelling style that fully engages the rapt attention of the reader from start to finish, "Barbacoa, Bomba, and Betrayal" is a prized and unreservedly recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of cozy cuisine mystery enthusiasts that "Barbacoa, Bomba, and Betrayal" is also available in a digital book format ($18.99).

Editorial Note: Raquel V. Reyes ( writes about Latina protagonists. Her Cuban American heritage, Miami, and Spanglish feature prominently in her work. "Mango, Mambo, and Murder" is the first in her Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series, and won a Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery. It also was nominated for an Agatha Award and optioned for film. Raquel's short stories appear in various anthologies, including The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2022.

New Leash on Life
Kathleen Y'Barbo
Barbour Publishing
9781636096629, $14.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Air Force veteran Dr. Lane Bishop and Nora Hernandez's romance has cooled. He is busy working as a researcher at the vet school, and she's busy with her restaurant and opening an antique shop.

What Lane hasn't told her is his PTSD, which manifests mostly with nightmares, makes him believe he's damaged goods. But that is about to change when he meets a stray pup that acts a lot like a military working dog.

When a tornado hits Brenham, there is damage in the downtown area and a fire is ignited in Nora's new store. A Belgian Malinois dog is seen at the fire and later Lane sees him at a wedding venue where an explosion occurs.

Not long after, a second explosion rocks Brenham and sends Nora and Lane on a hunt for the person responsible. Will the pair find the guilty party before more damage is done to the city's landmarks? And will Lane find the words to tell Nora how much he loves her before it's too late?

Critique: A deftly crafted 'whodunnit' cozy mystery of suspense, romance, and a canine companion, "New Leash on Life" is the sixth title in the simply outstanding 'Gone to the Dogs' cozy mystery series. An original, riveting, and fun read for cozy mystery fans from start to finish, "New Leash on Life" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and unreservedly recommended as an enduringly popular addition to community/public library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note #1: Kathleen Y'Barbo ( is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and the author of more than one hundred books. She is a member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, Texas A&M Association of Former Students and the Texas A&M Women Former Students (Aggie Women), Texas Historical Society, Novelists Inc., and American Christian Fiction Writers.

Editorial Note #2: The Gone to the Dogs series also includes: Off the Chain by Janice Thompson; Dog Days of Summer by Kathleen Y'Barbo; Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Janice Thompson; The Bark of Zorro by Kathleen Y'Barbo; Every Dog Has His Day by Janice Thompson.

The Christmas Appeal
Janice Hallett
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781668035887, $21.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: The Christmas season has arrived in Lower Lockwood, and the Fairway Players are busy rehearsing their festive holiday production of Jack and the Beanstalk to raise money for a new church roof. But despite the season, goodwill is distinctly lacking among the amateur theater enthusiasts with petty rivalries, a possibly asbestos-filled beanstalk, and some perennially absent players behind the scenes.

Of course, there's also the matter of the dead body on stage. Who could possibly have had the victim on their naughty list? To answer this question, lawyers Femi and Charlotte team-up to investigate Christmas letters, examine emails, and pore over police transcripts in order to identify both the victim and killer before the curtain closes on their holiday production -- for good!

Critique: A first class 'whodunnit' murder mystery laced with both humor and suspense, "The Christmas Appeal" by novelist Janice Hallertt is an inherently fun novella and highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community/public library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: Janice Hallett ( is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist, and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office, and Department for International Development. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and co-wrote the feature film Retreat. She lives in London and is the author of The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels, The Appeal, and The Twyford Code.

Incentive for Death
James Spoonhour
Oceanview Publishing
9781608095766, $28.95, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: On a beautiful spring morning in Washington, D.C., a high-profile attorney is found dead in his office. McDermott " Mac" Burke and Oliver Shaw, homicide investigators for the Metropolitan Police Department, are called to investigate. There appear to be no signs of foul play, but there is also no obvious sign of a natural cause of death.

The detectives are perplexed until the medical examiner notices a tiny pin prick on the lawyer's neck and theorizes that the man was injected with succinylcholine (aka " sux") which is a common horse tranquilizer that dissipates quickly in the body.

As Mac and Oliver begin to look further, they discover that the lawyer had sold his life insurance policy to a large viatical company. Then, they realize that more deaths under mysterious circumstances have occurred among those who' ve sold their policies to the same company.

Critique: "Incentive For Death" is all the more impressive when considering that it is author James Spoonhour's debut as a novelist. A riveting, original, and deftly crafted suspense thriller from start to finish, "Incentive For Death" is especially and unreservedly recommended reading for readers with an interest in crime thrillers and police procedural murder mysteries. Also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49), "Incentive For Death" is a highly recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: James Spoonhour ( is a lifelong reader turned mystery writer. A graduate of the University of Nebraska and Georgetown University, James has worked in Special Investigations for the Air Force and was once assigned to the Pentagon. He then practiced civil litigation and appellate law in Orlando, Florida, and was later a law professor at the Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans.

Remi Bone
William L. Myers, Jr.
Oceanview Publishing
9781608095728, $27.95, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: Remi Bone is a good guy. He's a hardworking mechanic, a single father raising his late wife's daughter, and now, he's dying of heart failure. But his daughter Kayla was just admitted to the college of her dreams. How will she afford college with two dead parents?

Before he dies, Remi decides to stockpile as much money as possible for Kayla's future. When a chance to participate in a lucrative gun-for-hire scheme arises, Remi, out of desperation, agrees to execute a hit on a shady Philadelphia drug dealer.

This becomes only the first of several murders Remi is hired for, and soon, Remi is the most sought-after hitman in town -- both by his clients and by the police. He leaves investigators little to work with, but ear witnesses identify him by the phrase he recites before each killing: "Tick tock says the clock, time's up..."

With the police catching on to the "Tick Tock Killer," Remi has to work quickly to earn enough money for Kayla's school -- all while ensuring he dies with a clean record. Tick tock.

Critique: "Remi Bone" is author William L. Myers, Jr.'s sixth novel and once again demonstrates his genuine flair for creating memorable characters and an original, compelling, compulsive page turner of a read from start to finish. A fun read from cover to cover, "Remi Bone" will have a special fascination for readers with an interest in organized crime, assassination, and suspense laden murder thrillers. Very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Remi Bone" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Editorial Note: William L. Myers, Jr. is a Philadelphia trial lawyer and the author of the best-selling Philadelphia Legal Series, as well as the psychological thriller Backstory. He has tried cases up and down the East Coast and has argued before the United States Supreme Court. (

The Adventures of Ellery Queen
Ellery Queen
American Mystery Classics
c/o Penzler Publishers
9781613164570, $25.95, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: For Ellery Queen, there is no puzzle that reason cannot solve. In his time, he has faced down killers, thugs, and thieves, protected only by the might of his brain -- and the odd bit of timely intervention by his father, a burly New York police inspector. But when a university professor asks Queen to teach a class, the detective finds there are people whom reason cannot touch -- college students.

Queen's adventure on campus is only the first of this incomparable collection of short mysteries. In the tales that follow, he tangles with a violent book thief, an assassin of acrobats, and New York's only cleanly shaven bearded lady. And the only thing more dazzling than the mysterious murders he confronts are his brilliant solutions at the end.

Critique: Ellery Queen was a master of the short mystery, so closely associated with the form that the longest-running magazine for such tales bears his name; the excellent stories in this volume show why he continues to be considered one of the greatest American practitioners of the Golden Age whodunnit. "The Adventures of Ellery Queen" is once again brought back into print by American Mystery Classics for the benefit of a whole new generation of appreciative readers, as well as the legion of hard-core Ellery Queen detective mystery fans. While an absolutely recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Adventures of Ellery Queen" is also available in a paperback edition (9781613164587, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Ellery Queen was a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905-1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905-1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty-two years writing the greatest puzzle-mysteries of their time, gaining the duo a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age "fair play" mystery genre. Eventually famous on television and radio, Queen's first appearance came in 1929 when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that would eventually be published as The Roman Hat Mystery. Besides co-writing the Queen novels, Dannay founded Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired the fictional Queen upon Lee's death.

Between a Wok and a Dead Place
Leslie Budewitz
Seventh Street Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781645060611, $17.95, PB, 236pp

Synopsis: Pepper Reece, owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle's Pike Place Market, loves a good festival, especially one serving up tasty treats. So what could be more fun than a food walk in the city's Chinatown - International District, celebrating the Year of the Rabbit?

But when her friend Roxanne stumbles across a man's body in the Gold Rush, a long-closed residential hotel, questions leap out. Who was he? What was he doing in the dust-encrusted herbal pharmacy in the hotel's basement? Why was the pharmacy closed up -- and why are the owners so reluctant to talk?

With each new discovery, Pepper finds herself asking new questions and facing more brick walls.

Then questions arise about Roxanne and her relationship to Pepper's boyfriend Nate, away fishing in Alaska. Between her worries and her struggle to hire staff at the Spice Shop, Pepper has her hands and her heart full. Still, she can't resist the lure of the Gold Rush and its tangled history of secrets and lies stretching back nearly a century.

But the killer is on her tail, driven by hidden demons and desires. As Pepper begins to expose the long-concealed truth, a bigger question emerges: Can she uncover the secrets of the Gold Rush Hotel without being pushed from the wok into the fire?

Critique: A deftly crafted cozy mystery from author Leslie Budewitz, "Between a Wok and a Dead Place" has more unexpected plot twists and turns than an Texas tornado and carries the reader along at swift and compulsive page turning speed. On original and fun read from start to finish, "Between a Wok and a Dead Place" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of the legions of dedicated cozy mystery fans that "Between a Wok and a Dead Place" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Leslie Budewitz ( blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series, the Spice Shop Mysteries, set in Seattle's Pike Place Market, and the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, set in NW Montana. She also writes moody suspense under the pen name Alicia Beckman. Leslie is the winner of three Agatha Awards - 2013 Best First Novel for DEATH AL DENTE, the first Food Lovers' Village mystery; 2011 Best Nonfiction, and 2018 Best Short Story, for "All God's Sparrows," her first historical fiction. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime and a former board member of Mystery Writers of America.

Baking Spirits Bright
Sarah Fox
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin/Random House
9780593546635, $8.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 288pp

Synopsis: Winter has arrived in Larch Haven, Vermont, bringing with it holiday cheer, lots of snow, and freezing temperatures. Becca Ransom is squeezing in time to skate on the frozen canals and drink hot chocolate by a roaring fire while also whipping up new creations for her family's chocolate shop and experimenting with holiday flavors like eggnog, gingerbread, and peppermint. At the same time, Becca is preparing for the Baking Spirits Bright holiday baking competition, a popular annual event. She's planning to enter an edible model of Larch Haven, with a mountain backdrop made of cake, gingerbread cottages, and chocolate gondolas on sugar-glass canals.

Professional bakers and a local food blogger are also participating in the event and they aren't about to go down without a fight. The competition quickly heats to a boiling point, with flaring tempers and mysterious happenings. When one of the entrants is found dead, stabbed with Becca's chocolate chipper, Becca tries to salvage the season by finding the killer. But the heat is on, and Becca is in danger of getting burned.

Critique: A cozy mystery lover's delight from start to finish, "Baking Spirits Bright" by Sarah Fox if a fun read complete with memorable characters, and original plot, and more entertaining story twists and turns than a Coney Island Roller Coaster. A part of author Sarah Fox's 'A True Confections Mystery' series, "Baking Spirits Bright" is an unreservedly recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections and the personal reading lists of all dedicated cosy mystery fans.

Editorial Note: Sarah Fox ( was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she developed a love for mysteries at a young age. When not writing novels or working as a legal writer, she is often reading her way through a stack of books or spending time outdoors with her English Springer Spaniel.

Sugar Plum Poisoned
Jenn McKinlay
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin/Random House
9780593549124, $8.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 304pp

Synopsis: When up-and-coming singing sensation Shelby Vaughn arrives in town for two weeks of concert dates, she hires her old friend Angie and the rest of the bakery crew to supply cupcakes for the VIP guest lounge every night.

After overhearing Shelby in a heated argument with her manager, Mel is concerned, but she and the crew decide to make the best of their time working with the star. Just as the bakers fall into the rhythm of the job, Shelby's manager is found dead, clutching a bit of fabric from a Santa suit and a cupcake.

With the bakery crew and Shelby's backup dancers all dressed in similar Santa costumes, it's impossible to say who is the killer. When all suspicions lead back to Shelby, Mel and Angie stand up for their friend, determined to prove her innocence before she's frosted for a crime she didn't commit.

Critique: As an novelist, Jenn McKinlay is a master of the cozy mystery genre as evidenced by her 'A Cupcake Bakery' mystery series and its latest addition, "Sugar Plum Poisoned". An original and fun read from first page to last, "Sugar Plum Poisoned" will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections and is a 'must' for the legions of cozy mystery fans -- especially during this holiday season of celebration and 'whodunnit' murder mysteries!

Editorial Note: Jenn McKinlay ( is the author of several mystery and romance series. Her work has been translated into multiple languages in countries all over the world.

Murder Uncorked
Maddie Day
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
9781496742308, $27.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: As the manager of Vino y Vida Wine Bar in Colinas, Cecelia "Cece" Barton's first Alexander Valley harvest is a whirlwind of activity. Her twin sister, Allie Halstead, who owns a nearby Victorian bed & breakfast, is accustomed to the hustle and bustle of peak tourist season. But Cece barely has a moment to enjoy her new home in between worrying about her estranged college-age daughter, juggling her responsibilities at the bar, and navigating the sticky politics of the local wine association. Just when it seems things can't grow any more intense, Colinas is rocked by a murder within the wine community --- and Cece is identified as a possible suspect!

With her reputation and her livelihood on the line (and the Sonoma County deputy sheriff breathing down her neck) Cece has no choice but to open up her own murder investigation. Tensions are already high in the valley, as a massive wildfire creeps toward Colinas, threatening homes, vineyards, and the vital tourist trade. And now, with a murderer on the loose, and Cece's sleuthing exposing the valley's bitterest old rivalries and secret new alliances, Colinas feels ready to pop! But with Allie's help, Cece is determined to catch the killer and clear her name before everything she's worked so hard for goes up in flames!

Critique: A fun and riveting read from first page to last, "Murder Uncorked" showcases author Maddie Day's total mastery of the cozy mystery genre. Nicely crafted characters, entertaining plot twists, and a fascinating 'whodunnit' murder mystery, "Murder Uncorked" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all cozy mystery fans that "Murder Uncorked" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.77) while librarians need to be aware that there is also a large print paperback edition (Thorndike Press, 9798885795609, $27.99) as well.

Editorial Note: Maddie Day ( is the Agatha Award-winning author of the Cozy Capers Book Club Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries, the CeCe Barton Mysteries, and the Local Foods Mysteries, as well as other series and short crime fiction written under the name Edith Maxwell. A member of Mystery Writers of America and a proud lifetime member of Sisters in Crime, she is a regular contributor at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen and belongs to the Wicked Authors, a group of bestselling authors who blog at

St. Simons Island
Ronda Rich
Mercer University Press
9780881468960, $27.00, HC, 291pp

Synopsis: Stella Bankwell has suddenly found herself in a 'heap of trouble' in the words of her mountain people. Ten years ago, the pretty, charming redhead was a sports marketing executive when she married unforeseen trouble-dashing Asher Bankwell who is descended from 150 years of old Atlanta money and prestige. Now, she is banished from Atlanta society, after her high falutin' lifestyle humiliatingly crashed publicly in front of Atlanta's snootiest at a blacktie gala.

After a brief runaway to her childhood mountain home to her Mama's consoling, she escapes for her beloved St. Simons Island where the sea and her best friend, Marlo, offer peace and calm. But there on the enchanting island, she also finds herself embroiled in a mystery that includes murder and money laundering.

With the help of her best friend, Chatty (Chatham Balsam Colquitt IV, the only good that came from her marriage to Asher), who follows her to his second home on adjoining Sea Island; former Governor McCager Burnett (Chatty's Sea Island neighbor); and handsome U.S. Marshal Jackson (Pepper) Culpepper, they set out to solve a mystery that, most surely, will send a deep rattling through the columned, brick mansions of Atlanta's exclusive Buckhead.

Stella was simply trying to escape her scandalous embarrassment and an unhappy marriage. Now, she's facing real trouble: Possible federal indictments that lead to a murder that leads to serious danger for Stella. It all turns out to be the beginning of Stella Bankwell, former Atlanta socialite, becoming Stella Bankwell, amateur sleuth!

Critique: An original, elegant, eloquent, deftly crafted, richly entertaining, and truly memorable mystery novel by author Ronda Rich, "St. Simons Island" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "St. Simons Island" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.00).

Editorial Note: Ronda Rich ( whose Georgia roots were planted around 1750, is the bestselling author of several books including What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should) and The Town That Came-a-Courtin', also a television movie. Her weekly syndicated column about Southern life appears in forty-seven newspapers across the Southeast.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

City of Bones
Martha Wells
c/o Tor/Forge Books
9781250861672, $18.99, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: The city of Charisat, a tiered monolith of the Ancients' design, sits on the edge of the vast desert known as the Waste. Khat, a member of a humanoid race created by the Ancients to survive in the Waste, and Sagai, his human partner, are relic dealers working in the bottom tiers of society, trying to stay one step ahead of the Trade Inspectors.

When Khat is hired by the all-powerful Warders to find relics believed to be part of one of the Ancients' arcane engines, he, and his party, begin unravelling the mysteries of an age-old technology.

This they expected.

But they soon find themselves as the last line of defense between the suffering masses of Charisat and a fanatical cult, bent on unleashing an evil upon the city with an undying thirst for bone.

That, they did not expect.

Critique: First published in hardcover (1995) and highly recommended as a pick for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, "City of Bones" by Martha Wells is now newly released in paperback by TorDotCom and is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99). "City of Bones" is guaranteed to have a special appeal to readers with an interest in dark fantasy action/adventure novels by a master of the genre.

Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia
Jason Pargin
St. Martin's Press
9781250285935, $30.00, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: Zoey Ashe wakes up every day feeling like she's trying to steer a battleship while tied to the propeller. The twenty-three-year-old heiress to a criminal empire is navigating a futuristic world of high-tech liars and cutthroats, forced to learn the rules of a devious game she never asked to play. Now she's facing a crisis that is both bigger and stranger than all that came before:

The gleaming new city of Tabula Ra$a is hosting its massive annual music festival, which every year precedes the equally massive annual drunken riot. This is all organized by Zoey's people, including the riot. As her advisors explain, the citizens need a little controlled chaos now and then. Zoey, however, fears the chaos will not stay controlled for long.

When a horrific crime is broadcast live on an all-seeing social network, Zoey and her team suspect a carefully-stage hoax arranged by one of the Tabula Ra$a's shadowy power players. But in a city in which lies are always served in layers, even that explanation will prove far too simple.
Read less

Critique: "Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia" is the third Zoey Ashe novel by author Jason Pargin and especially commended to the attention of readers who appreciate their science fiction being original and laced with satirical humor. A fun read from start to finish, "Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia" is an entertaining and memorable novel and one that is unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated SciFi fans that "Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Jason Pargin is the author of the John Dies at the End series. He previously published under the pseudonym David Wong. His essays at and other outlets have been enjoyed by tens of millions of readers around the world. (

The Poetry Shelf

The Blue House: Collected Works of Tomas Transtromer
Tomas Transtromer, poet
Patty Crane, translator
Copper Canyon Press
9781556596858, $40.00, HC, 536pp

Synopsis: Tomas Gosta Transtromer (15 April 1931 - 26 March 2015) was a Swedish poet, psychologist and translator. His poems captured the long Swedish winters, the rhythm of the seasons and the palpable, atmospheric beauty of nature. Transtromer's work is also characterized by a sense of mystery and wonder underlying the routine of everyday life, a quality which often gives his poems a religious dimension. He has been described as a Christian poet. (Wikipedia)

With slow strokes and subtle, rich lines, "The Blue House: Collected Works of Tomas Transtromer" is evidence of a Nobel Prize-winning poet tracing the world with his pen. A stunning testament to an illustrious career, "The Blue House" gathers poems and writings from Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer's fourteen collections into a single volume. Original Swedish sits alongside their English translations as Patty Crane translates his words into revelatory language acute in the understanding of human change and loss.

Subtle in politics and exact in imagery, the poems of "The Blue House" range from agile haiku to cinematic prose. Social phenomena are observed in rich detail (a "dictator's bust" presiding over a train car of doomed passengers) and the collection is propelled by empathy and curiosity. Under Transtromer's watchful eye, no subject is overlooked: Milij Balakirev, the Russian composer; Nils Dacke, the Swedish peasant who led a rebellion against the king; and him, the stranger who forgets his name by the roadside. From the personal to the political to the existential, Transtromer's poems act as a telephoto lens, granting us reinvigorated access to the world we live in.

Critique: Featuring an informative Introduction by Yusef Komunyakaa, this large format (7 x 1.75 x 9 inches, 2.8 pounds) hardcover edition of "The Blue House: Collected Works of Tomas Transtromer" from Copper Canyon Press will prove of special and particular attraction to readers with an interest in Scandinavian Poetry & Literary Criticism. With memorably crafted verse covering a wealth of subjects ranging from nature to death, grieve and loss, "The Blue House" is especially and unreservedly recommended as a seminal and core addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Poetry collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Blue House" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $40.00).

The Comix/Graphic Novel Shelf

The Pacific Comics Companion
Jon B. Cooke, author and editor
Stephan Friedt, author
Dave Stevens, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, et. al., artists
TwoMorrows Publishing
9781605491219, $29.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Pacific Comics Companion", author Stephan Friedt shares the story of the meteoric rise of the Schanes brothers' California-based imprint Pacific Comics, which published such legends as Jack Kirby, Sergio Aragones, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, Mike Grell, Bernie Wrightson, and Dave Stevens.

From its groundbreaking 1981 arrival in the fledgling direct sales market, to a catastrophic, precipitous fall after only four years, "The Pacific Comics Companion" reveals the inside saga, as told to Friedt by Bill and Steve Schanes, David Scroggy, and many of the creators themselves.

It also focuses on the titles and the amazing array of characters they introduced to an unsuspecting world, including The Rocketeer, Captain Victory, Ms. Mystic, Groo the Wanderer, Starslayer, and many more.

Written with the editorial assist of Eisner Award-winning historian Jon B. Cooke, this retrospective is the most comprehensive study of an essential publisher in the development of the creator's rights movement. Of special note are the main cover illustration by Dave Stevens.

Critique: Another profusely illustrated and 'insider' informative history of the comic book industry from NBM Publishing, "The Pacific Comics Companion" is impressively comprehensive and must be considered essential reading by Pacific Comics fans and a seminal and recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library American Comics History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: TwoMorrows Publishing ( is a publisher of magazines about comic books, founded in 1994 by John and Pam Morrow out of their small advertising agency in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States. Its products also include books and DVDs.

Working With Ditko
Jack C. Harris, author
Steve Ditko, illustrator
TwoMorrows Publishing
9781605491226, $24.95, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: "Working With Ditko" takes a unique and nostalgic journey through the 'Bronze Age' of comics, as editor and writer Jack C. Harris recalls his numerous collaborations with legendary comics master Steve Ditko!

"Working with Ditko" features never-before-seen preliminary sketches and pencil art from Harris' tenure working with Ditko on The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, the Odd Man, the Demon, Wonder Woman, Legion of Super-Heroes, The Fly, and even Ditko's unused redesign for Batman! Plus, it documents their work on numerous independent properties, and offers glimpses of original characters from Ditko's drawing board that have never been viewed by even his most avid fans!

Critique: This large format (8.5 x 0.5 x 11 inches) illustrated paperback edition of "Working with Ditko" reveals the creative comic book process by one of the industry's most revered creators, as seen through the eyes of one of his most frequent collaborators. Inherently fascination and impressively informative, "Working with Ditko" is especially and unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of dedicated Ditko fans and community/academic library History of Comics collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Jack C. Harris ( is an American comic book writer and editor known mainly for his work in the 1970s and 1980s at DC Comics.

Editorial Note #2: Stephen John Ditko (November 2, 1927 - June 29, 2018) was an American comics artist and writer best known for being co-creator of Marvel superhero Spider-Man and creator of Doctor Strange. He also made notable contributions to the character of Iron Man with the character's iconic red and yellow design being revolutionized by Steve Ditko.

Dungeon: Zenith: Fog & Tears
Lewis Trondheim, author
Joann Sfarr, illustrator
NBM Publishing
9781681123165, $17.99, PB, 96pp

Synopsis: The valiant duck Herbert and Isis (his beautiful and belligerent Kochaque companion) a son is born. As much as the young parents are delighted with this new arrival, tensions are not long in rising. Isis wants to submit her baby to the traditional Kochaque rite of passage. Herbert, judging it far too dangerous, tries to dissuade her. Unable to convince her, he finally decides to kidnap the infant.

In the second story, the fight to recover the Dungeon from the hands of the big bad Delacourt still keeps our heroes busy. While Horus has been trying for days to hypnotize the spirits of Terra Amata freed from the Vault of Souls by Delacourt, the Guardian calls on Marvin to come to the thaumaturge's aid. But to get there, he will have to, willy-nilly, make an alliance with a former classmate of his new wife.

Critique: The fifth book in the graphic novel fantasy 'Dungeon: Zenith' series by French co-authors Lewis Trondheim and Joanne Sfar, "Fog & Tears" is a beautifully illustrated, deftly crafted, laced with humor, and fully entertaining read that is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of all dedicated fantasy fans and a welcome addition to highschool and community library graphic novel collections.

Editorial Note #1: Lewis Trondheim is one of the leaders of a new generation of comic artists bringing in novel ways of creating comics. One of the founders of the disruptive 'L'Association' publishing cooperative in France, he helped usher in much longer and sophisticated narratives in the graphic novel form. He is an amazing font of original and out of the box ideas that have propelled him to a leading author standing in Europe.

Editorial Note #2: Joann Sfar is an artist, writer, and film director. He is best known for his adaptation of The Little Prince and his original bestselling title The Rabbi's Cat. Boulet, born in Meaux, France, now resides in Paris. He is a leading artist, scriptwriter and colorist for many popular series including becoming the regular artist on the Zenith subseries of Dungeon.

Editorial Note #3: NBM Publishing ( is a leading and critically acclaimed independent graphic novel publisher showcasing the diversity of comics from North America and Europe.

Hockney: A Graphic Life
Simon Elliot
Frances Lincoln
Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711288423, $24.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: David Hockney OM CH RA (born 9 July 1937) is an English painter, draftsman, printmaker, stage designer, and photographer. As an important contributor to the pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. (Wikipedia)

From his childhood in Bradford and early years making it as an artist, to his sun-drenched Los Angeles period, to his triumphal return to the UK and his recent iPad drawings that proudly exclaim that 'spring cannot be cancelled', "Hockney: A Graphic Life" by Simon Elliot is a charming biography published in a graphic novel style format and traces the captivating life and times of David Hockney. Drawn entirely on an iPad in a fun, fully illustrated style (and in homage to Hockney's own iPad drawings) this is a colorful, thought-provoking and joyous biography of one of the world's best-loved artists.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Artist Biography/Art History collections, and a 'must' for the legions of David Hockney fans, this hardcover edition of "Hockney: A Graphic Life" from Frances Lincoln accurately and informatively follows the life journey of David Hockney's exceptional life and career as an artist.

Editorial Note: Simon Elliott is a criminal barrister, art obsessive and standup comedian. Inspired by Hockney's message 'spring cannot be cancelled', and with time to fill (thanks to Covid), Simon engrossed himself in all things Hockney, learned how to paint on an iPad and began a journey to create this colourful, joyous and thought provoking biography with a twist.

The Music CD Shelf

We've Got Nothing
Peripheral Vision
Step 3
$TBA CD / $6.93 MP3

We've Got Nothing is the second live jazz album by Peripheral Vision (Trevor Hogg on tenor saxophone, Don Scott on guitar, Michael Herring on bass, and Nick Fraser on drums) and their sixth full length release. All compositions are by Don Scott and Michael Herring. The songs are selected from the band's finest live performances between January and April 2023. Elements of rock, classical, and improv are reflected in this creative, instrumental collection, highly recommended especially for connoisseurs of the genre. The tracks are Close the Paper and Play, Standing on Two Feet, Full Disclosure Comedy Vehicle, Cone of Silence, Goodbye Heintzman, I've Got Nothing, and The Mask Has Become the Face.

Jesse Dietschi Trio
Privately Published
$TBA CD / $9.49 MP3

Gradient is a completely original contemporary jazz album by the Jesse Dietschi Trio (Jesse Dietschi on bass, Ewen Farncombe on piano, and Ethan Ardelli on drums). The instrumental songs are all composed by Jesse Dietschi. Gradient draws upon elements of orchestral and chamber music to craft its mind-expanding soundscapes; the songs invoke a wide range of emotions, from joyous celebration to placid introspection. Gradient is a treasure for connoisseurs of modern instrumental jazz, highly recommended. The tracks are It's What It's, The Road Home, Both/And, Loose Plug, Lake Effect, Canmore, Waxing Nostalgic, The Process of Perspective, Archetype, and The New Normal.

Allison Au with the Migrations Ensemble
Privately Published
$20.00 CAD CD / $10.00 CAD digital

Migrations is an original contemporary jazz album written in tribute to people who leave their homes in search of a better life in a new land. All compositions, arrangements, and orchestrations are by Allison Au. Allison Au performs on alto and soprano saxophones, with members of the Migrations Ensemble lending their talents with vocals, piano, acoustic and electric bass, drums, vibraphone, violin, viola, and cello. The result is a complex creation interwoven with elements of musical diversity, reflecting the phenomenon of migration itself. Highly recommended! The tracks are The Choice, Prayer, The ISM, Progress, Aves Raras, Racing Across the Land, For Russel and Rowena Jelliffe, Them intro, Them, Keep a Few Embers From The Fire, Migration, Pecola, and I Dream A World.

Alex Miller
Billy Jam Records

Country is a five-track EP album by singer/songwriter and guitarist Alex Miller. Contributions from additional musicians on drums, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, fiddle, steel guitar, keyboards, and harmony vocals enrich Country. Emotional and passionate, Country is a choice pick for fans of the genre and highly recommended. The tracks Girl, I Know a Guy; When God Made The South; Every Time I Reach For You, Puttin' Up Hay; and Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky.

Spotted Peccary Music
$16.99 CD / $9.49 MP3

Titled after a Zen parable, Cup is a reflective album by electronic music artist AeTopus. The instrumental music weaves together electronic beats, complex time signatures, and an internal wellspring of serenity to create a soundscape of solace and introspection. A truly beautiful work that encourages the listener to expand their horizons, Cup is highly recommended especially to connoisseurs of new age and electronic music. The tracks are Pure, Clean Break, Beam, Relic, Sygna, Drue, They Know, Glance, Access, Sundial, Advent, Memento, and Softgreen.

Built In System: Live in New York
Chien Chien Lu
Giant Step Arts, Ltd.
$TBA CD / $10.00 digital

Composer and vibraphone player Chien Chien Lu presents Built In System: Live in New York, a music album showcasing her phenomenal talent. Chien Chien Lu composed all eight tracks, and masterfully plays vibraphone with fellow band members Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Richie Goods on bass, and Allan Mednard on drums. The complex themes of Built In System reflect the tangled weave of fate, as well as Chien Chien Lu's respect for the value of cultural inheritance. Built In System: Live in New York is an expressive, emotional treasure, highly recommended especially for vibraphone music connoisseurs. The tracks are Boulanger's Variation, Hslu Chin, Traumerei, Chun Yi, Special Things, Percussion Song (The Wheel of Fate), Just Listen, and Full Moonlight.

The DVD Shelf

Doc Martin: Last Christmas in Portwenn
Martin Clunes & Caroline Catz, actors
Ben Bold, director
Acorn Media
c/o RLJ Entertainment
Item #XG1552, $27.99, DVD (1 Hour 30 Minutes)

Synopsis: Portwenn is full of festive fun, until Doc Martin has the grotto closed down because he fears Santa has something contagious, upsetting the children prompting his portrayer to show "Doc the Grinch". Of special note is the inclusion of the celebration special 'Farewell Doc Martin'.

Critique: A 'must see' special episode for the legions of fans for the long running Doc Martin television series, this special DVD edition of "Doc Martin: Last Christmas in Portwenn" from Acorn Media is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library DVD collections.

Editorial Note: Doc Martin is a British medical comedy-drama television series starring Martin Clunes as Doctor Martin Ellingham. It was created by Dominic Minghella developing the character of Dr Martin Bamford from the Nigel Cole comedy film Saving Grace (2000). The series is set in the fictional seaside village of Portwenn and filmed on location in the village of Port Isaac, Cornwall, United Kingdom, with most interior scenes shot in a converted local barn. Fern Cottage is used as the home and surgery of Doctor Ellingham

Alliance Entertainment (distributor)
2023 DVD, $27.97, DVD, English, 86min, TV-MA

Synopsis: A married couple almost divorcing become trapped in quicksand while hiking through a rainforest in Colombia. They battle the elements of the jungle and must work together to survive.

Critique: A grim thriller that is not for the faint of heart, the cast for "Quicksand" includes Carolina Gaitan, Allan Hawco, Sebastian Eslava, and Andres Castaneda. "Quicksand" is recommended for both personal and community library DVD film collections. Also included as a special feature is 'The Making of Quicksand'.

The Dive
Sophie Lowe & Louisa Krause, actors
Maximilian Erlenwein, director
RLJ Entertainment
Alliance Entertainment (distributor)
ASIN: B0CCK4VCJP, $13.99 DVD, $14.99 Blue-Ray

Synopsis: For scuba enthusiast sisters Drew (Sophie Lowe) and May (Louisa Krause), their choice of an isolated location to go below turns devastating when a subsea rockslide pins May to the ocean floor, 90 feet down. Unable to budge the boulder off her sibling, Drew faces a desperate race to surface safely and seek help-as May tries to cope with the terror of her oxygen supply running out, in this effective and unnerving two-hand thriller. 91 min. Widescreen; Soundtrack: English.

Critique: A riveting thriller of a film from start to finish, "The Dive" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for personal and community library movie collections. Highly recommended!

The Christian Studies Shelf

Near in the Night
Emily Ley
Thomas Nelson Publishers
9781400231324, $22.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Why is it that when the lights go off our minds start racing? We stew over what we could have done differently that day. We remember details we're afraid we'll forget in the morning. And most of all, we worry. Small anxieties as well as huge fears come alive when we're exhausted and the house is finally quiet.

Emily Ley finds that having a simple devotional routine before bed puts anxieties in their place and brings peace to her soul. In this unique evening devotional, she shares her own stories and struggles, invites you to contemplation, and brings you back to the unchanging comfort of God's Word.

With the publication of "Near in the Night: 100 Evening Meditations on God's Peace and Rest" emily presents a compendium of practical ideas to make your evenings calmer, along with pages for taking notes, making lists (so you can stop thinking about those to-dos!), and writing out personal reflections.

Each of the 100 devotions will help you: Turn off your worries and regrets at night; Remember God's goodness in an uncertain world; Develop a gentle, grace-filled evening routine so you can sleep well and wake up refreshed and prepared for the day ahead

This devotional is ideal for: Anyone looking for uplifting biblical readings for those stress-filled evening hours; Readers of Emily's previous books, including her companion morning devotional, Sure as the Sunrise; Christmas, New Year's, Mother's Day, birthdays, and graduation gift giving.

Pairing biblical wisdom with Emily's simplicity expertise, "Near in the Night" reminds us that God is always faithful and ever near, even in the darkest of nights.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliations, "Near in the Night: 100 Evening Meditations on God's Peace and Rest" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Author, entrepreneur, wife, mother, and devoted Christian, Emily Ley ( is the founder of Simplified(R), a brand of planners and organizational tools for busy women, and the creator of The Simplified Podcast. Emily and her team collaborated with AT-A-GLANCE(R) to create gift and planning collections carried in Office Depot, Staples, Walmart, and Target. Emily is the author of national bestselling books Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy; A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living; When Less Becomes More: Making Space for Slow, Simple, and Good; and Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love.

CSB Life Counsel Bible
Holman Bibles
c/o New Growth Press
9781087773131, $49.99, HC, 1920pp

Synopsis: In the midst of the ever challenging seasons of life there is hope.

The "CSB Life Counsel Bible" was developed in partnership with New Growth Press, is specifically designed to equip readers with biblical truth and counsel on a wide range of topics and tough life issues related to relationships, marriage, parenting, and more. This edition of the Bible includes a wealth of useful tools and resources for life application and discipleship grounded in the truth of the gospel of grace.

The "CSB Life Counsel Bible features: More than 150 full-length articles from respected Christian counselors and scholars; Callout quotes placed near each article provide truth, hope, and encouragement to apply to life; Over 100-word studies focusing on key words applicable to personal healing, growth, and counsel; Introductions that include "Circumstances of Writing," "Structure," "Contribution to the Bible," and a special "Truth for Healing" section with an overview of key truths related to healing from each book of the Bible; Wide margins for notetaking and journaling; Robust page-end cross-reference system with over 25,000 cross-references connecting Scripture from Genesis to Revelation; Durable Smyth-sewn lay-flat binding; Elegant two-color interior design; A two-column text format; Topical subject headings; Easy-to-read 9.5-point type size; A black-letter text; Footnotes ; A ribbon marker for easy referencing between pages; a Concordance; a Topical Scripture Index; a Presentation page for gift-giving; and full-color maps.

The CSB Life Counsel Bible features the highly readable, highly reliable text of the Christian Standard Bible(R) (CSB). The CSB captures the Bible's original meaning without sacrificing clarity, making it easier to engage with Scripture's life-transforming message and to share it with others.

Critique: Developed by more than 100 scholars from 17 denominations, the Christian Standard Bible(R) (CSB) captures the Bible's original meaning without sacrificing clarity -- helping you read, understand, and share God's Word. This thoroughly 'reader friendly' hardcover edition of the "CSB Life Counsel Bible" is especially and unreservedly recommended for members of the clergy, seminary students, all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliations, as well as church, community, college/university library Christian Studies and Biblical Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: New Growth Press (NGP) publishes life-changing books, small group resources, and minibooks that are grounded in scriptural truth and the gospel of grace. NGP's biblical-counseling resources apply God's Word to relationships, marriage, parenting, and counseling issues. An exclusive line of children and family products reach young hearts with the lasting truth of the gospel. NGP's goal is to provide Christian resources that are theologically robust, meet the needs of the church community, and point people all over the world to Christ.

The Beginning of the Story
Timothy J. Geddert
Herald Press
9781513813073, $31.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Although the Bible contains sixty-six books that usually span over a thousand printed pages, most Christians turn first (and sometimes only) to the New Testament. So often, Christian readers have little idea what to do with the Old Testament, if we read it at all. Sure, we value a few well-known stories and use a few psalms for personal devotions and for worship. Beyond that, many Christians find the Old Testament mostly confusing, troubling, or irrelevant.

But to understand the Bible as the grand story that it is (the story of God's dealings with humanity and relationship to the whole universe) we as Christians must learn to read the first three-quarters of Scripture as Jesus did, and as the New Testament teaches us to do.

Walking through the arc and major themes of the Old Testament narrative, "The Beginning of the Story: Understanding the Old Testament in the Story of Scripture" by author and biblical scholar Timothy J. Geddert guides curious readers of the Word into a fruitful and fulfilling reading of the Bible's first thirty-nine books, restoring joy in reading and studying the most important story ever told.

Critique: Informative, fascinating, enlightening, inspiring, "The Beginning of the Story: Understanding the Old Testament in the Story of Scripture" is an essential study that is unreservedly recommended to the attention of clergy, seminary students, and all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliations. Exceptionally well written and organized, "The Beginning of the Story: Understanding the Old Testament in the Story of Scripture" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation and an ideal, unreservedly recommended addition to personal, church, seminary, community, and college/university library Biblical Studies collections and supplemental Hebrew Bible & Adult Christian Education curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "The Beginning of the Story: Understanding the Old Testament in the Story of Scripture" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781513813066, $18.98) and in a digital book format $14.99).

Editorial Note: Timothy J. Geddert is Professor of New Testament at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and adjunct professor at the Theologischer Seminar Bienenberg in Listal, Switzerland. He has worked as a church planter, pastor, and teacher in many countries, including Canada, the United States, and Germany. Geddert is the author of numerous books, including the Believers Church Bible Commentary on Mark.

The Judaic Studies Shelf

Frayed: The Disputes Unraveling Religious Zionists
Yair Ettinger
Toby Press
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
9781592645848, $29.95, HC, 278pp

Synopsis: Religious Zionists are an increasingly influential part of Israeli society, and their influence is felt across the societal spectrum. They are a significant force in almost every sector of Israel, including the media and legal, military, and financial spheres. Their growing prominence, however, has created its own set of challenges.

Deep ideological disagreements are dividing the Religious Zionist community from within. The political and theological glue that once unified the Religious Zionist world no longer exists, and ideological debates are creating the grounds for a possible political and social split within the Religious Zionist community. What are the larger ideas that are causing this internal tension? Who are the Religious Zionist leaders at the forefront of this divide? Is this a uniquely Israeli phenomenon or are there parallel conflicts in English-speaking Modern Orthodox communities across the globe?

With the publication of "Frayed: The Disputes Unraveling Religious Zionists", Yair Ettinger analyzes and discusses these issues. Ettinger takes his readers, both religious and secular, on an intellectual journey into the world of Religious Zionism. "Frayed" looks at burning issues such as the role of women in Jewish life, the scope of rabbinic authority, and the impact that the disengagement from Gaza has had on the community's relationship to the state. Along the way, readers will get an inside look at the rabbis, politicians, female scholars, yeshivot, seminaries, synagogues, halakhic rulings, and internet forums that are reshaping the face of Religious Zionism.

Critique: A seminal and ground breaking study of the influence and impact of Religious Zionism upon the people and state of Israel, "Frayed: The Disputes Unraveling Religious Zionists" will be of special and particular value with readers having an interest in Contemporary Israeli Politics and a uniquely special pick for personal reading lists, as well as professional, community, college, and university library Judaic/Israeli Zionism History collections.

Editorial Note: Yair Ettinger ( is a former Kogod Research Fellow at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and an Israeli journalist whose work focuses primarily on religious affairs, the religious and Haredi communities, and their politics. Previously, he covered issues relating to Palestinian citizens of Israel and was a foreign affairs correspondent in Paris.

The Buddhist Studies Shelf

Illumination: A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method
Rebecca Li
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
9781645470892, $21.95, PB, 280pp

Synopsis: The Buddhist concept of Silent Illumination is a way of penetrating the mind through curious inquiry. It is an especially potent, accessible, and portable meditation practice perfectly suited for a time when there is so much fear, upheaval, and sorrow in our world. It is a method of reconnecting with our true nature, which encompasses all that exists and where suffering cannot touch us.

The practice of silent illumination is simple, allowing each moment to be experienced as it is in order to manifest our innate wisdom and natural capacity for compassion. It can be integrated into all aspects of daily life and is meaningful for secular and Buddhist audiences, new and seasoned meditators alike.

After guiding readers through the history and practice of silent illumination, in the pages of "Illumination: A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method", Rebecca Li shows us how we can recognize and unlearn our "modes of operation" -- habits of mind that get in the way of being fully present and engaged with life. Cultivating clarity on the empty nature of these habits offers us a way to unlearn and free ourselves from unhelpful modes such as harshness to self, perfectionism, quietism, striving for spiritual attainment, and more.

"Illumination" offers stories and real-life examples, references to classic Buddhist texts, and insights from Chan Master Sheng Yen to guide readers as they practice silent illumination not just on their cushions, but throughout their lives.

Critique: A modern guide to the transformative practice of silent illumination from Chan Buddhist teacher Rebecca Li, "Illumination: A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method" is an impressively informative and thoroughly 'reader friendly' resource for anyone with an interest in Buddhist rituals, practices, traditions, sacred writings, and meditation. While highly recommended, especially for community and college/university Buddhism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, as well as students, academia, all members of the Buddhist community, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Illumination: A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Rebecca Li ( is a meditation and Dharma teacher in the lineage of Chan Master Sheng Yen and founder and guiding teacher of Chan Dharma Community. She gives Dharma talks and leads Chan retreats in North America and Europe. She is also a sociology professor (The College of New Jersey).

The Music Shelf

All the Years Combine
Ray Robertson
9781771965705, $18.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: In "All the Years Combine: The Grateful Dead in Fifty Shows ", Ray Robertson argues that a Grateful Dead concert is life. Because like life, it can be alternately compelling and lackluster; familiar and foreign; occasionally sublime and sometimes insipid.

Although the Grateful Dead stopped the day Jerry Garcia's heart did, what the band left behind is the next best thing to being there in the third row, courtesy of the group's unorthodox decision to record all of their concerts. Meaning that it's possible to follow the band's evolution (and devolution) through their shows, from the R&B-based garage band at the beginning, to the jazz-rock conjurers at their creative peak, to the lumbering monolith of their decline.

In "All the Years Combine: The Grateful Dead in Fifty Shows", Robertson listens to and writes ecstatically about 50 of the band's most important and memorable concerts in order to better understand who the Grateful Dead were, what they became, and what they meant -- and what they continue to mean.

Critique: Impressively insightfully informative, exceptionally well organized and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, "All the Years Combine: The Grateful Dead in Fifty Shows" is a 'must read' history for the legions of Grateful Dead fans. While an outstanding and unreservedly recommended pick for community and college/university library American Rock Music History collections and supplemental Musical Philosophy/Popular Culture curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "All the Years Combine: The Grateful Dead in Fifty Shows" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Ray Robertson ( is the author of nine novels, five collections of non-fiction, and a book of poetry. His work has been translated into several languages. He contributed the liner notes to two Grateful Dead archival releases: Dave's Picks #45 and the Here Comes Sunshine 1973 box set.

Allman Joy
Bill Connell, author
Mercer University Press
9780881469004, $26.00, PB, 241pp

Synopsis: Newly published by the Mercer University Press, "Allman Joy: Keeping the Beat With Duane and Gregg" is Bill Connell's insightful account of the mid-1960s musical journey he went on as the drummer for The Allman Joys, a group that was a precursor to The Allman Brothers Band.

A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Connell began drumming as a teenager. A passing encounter with the Allmans in 1966 led to Connell being offered the drummer's chair in The Allman Joys. The day after high school graduation he found himself headed to New York City's Greenwich Village to join the band. His experiences touring with the group over the next several years make for captivating stories and offer tremendous insight into a little-known chapter in the development of The Allman Brothers Band.

Connell's time in the band was cut short by the draft, but he remained in contact with both Allmans, and he resumed his musical career after his service in the U.S. Navy was completed.

Critique: A compendium of personal thoughts and humor laden stories from the road, "Allman Joy: Keeping the Beat With Duane and Gregg" features a section of B/W historic photographs and is exceptionally well written, making it a must-read for the legions of Allman Brothers fans. "Allman Joy" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library American Music History/Biography collections.

Editorial Note: Navy veteran Bill Connell (1948-2023) was a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was best known as a professional live and studio drummer, music publisher, music and video producer, and director for public television. John Lynskey has been involved with The Allman Brothers Band since 1995, first serving as editor-in-chief of Hittin' the Note, the group's music magazine. He co-authored "My Cross To Bear", Gregg Allman's autobiography.

The Fashion Shelf

Wear It Well
Allison Bornstein
Chronicle Prism
c/o Chronicle Books
9781797221427, $25.95, PB, 224pp

Synopsis; Personal stylist Allison Bornstein has mastered the art of helping people look good and feel good. With the publication of "Wear It Well: Reclaim Your Closet and Rediscover the Joy of Getting Dressed, she shares her philosophy and outlines systems that will bring your style into alignment and create a wardrobe that delights your spirit and reflects your most authentic self.

"Wear It Well" is about using the viral Three-Word Method to discover and define your personal style. Curate your closet with the AB Closet-Editing System, eliminating items that don't fit or work for your lifestyle to build a safe and inspiring space that is filled with only clothes that bring you joy, confidence, and empowerment. Create new, sustainable looks by shopping your closet and mixing and matching with the Nine Universal Pieces.

Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of client stories, gentle guidance, and expressive photography, "Wear It Well" is an inspirational resource for identifying, articulating, and developing a personal style, and then dressing with ease.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated throughout with full color photography, "Wear It Well: Reclaim Your Closet and Rediscover the Joy of Getting Dressed" is an extraordinary DIY source that will be of immense, practical, and inspirational interest to readers with an interest in Fashion Design and developing personally memorable wardrobes. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library Fashion & Clothing Design collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Wear It Well" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Allison Bornstein ( is a stylist and wardrobe consultant who specializes in helping "everyday" people look and feel fantastic. She found her passion during the pandemic by helping people from all over the world find their personal style and curate their closets via FaceTime. Bornstein hopes to empower people to view fashion as a tool for self-expression and overall wellness. By encouraging her clients to shop their closets, tune into their authentic needs, and embrace the pleasure of "repeat dressing," she has created a brand that is as much about sustainability as it is about joy. She can be followed on Instagram @allisonbornstein6, on TikTok @allisonbornstein6, and on YouTube.

The Theatre/Cinema Shelf

Magic Time: The Films and Scripts of Billy Wilder
J. R. Jordan
BearManor Media
9798887712512, $44.00, HC, 438pp

Synopsis: Billy Wilder (June 22, 1906 - March 27, 2002) was an Austrian-born filmmaker. His career in Hollywood spanned five decades, and he is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Classic Hollywood cinema. He received seven Academy Awards (among 21 nominations), a BAFTA Award, the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or and two Golden Globe Awards.

"Magic Time: The Films and Scripts of Billy Wilder" by film historian J. R. Jordan is a compendium of descriptively informative and erudite commentaries on all of Wilder's 36 cinematic projects, from the obscure to the legendary, from Begin the Beguine to All Good Things. Of special note us the section devoted to Wilder's catchphrases and the enclusion of a Bibliography.

Critique: Comprehensive, informative, exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, "Magic Time: The Films and Scripts of Billy Wilder" will be of immense interest to the legions of Billy Wilder fans and an essential, core addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Cinematic History collections and supplemental Movie/Video Direction/Production curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of film students, academia, movie buffs, and non-specialist general readers that "Magic Time: The Films and Scripts of Billy Wilder" is also available in a paperback edition (9798887712505, $34.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: J.R. Jordan has been writing about motion pictures for several years. He is the author of Showmanship: The Cinema of William Castle and Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures.

Trash Cinema
Andrew J. Rausch, editor
R. D. Riley, editor
BearManor Media
9781593938222, $22.95, HC, 242pp

Synopsis: It is frequently said that one man's trash is another man's treasure, and nowhere is this statement more accurate than in the case of obscure bizarro exploitation films.

Containing 55 essays on such trash classics as Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975), I Spit on Your Grave (1978), and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), "Trash Cinema: A Celebration of Overlooked Masterpieces" celebrates the good, the bad, and the ugly of these so-called "trash" films.

Some of the pieces are reverential, some poke fun at the absurdity of the films, and others offer a more critical eye to these proceedings. With essays from more than 40 noted film writers, this unique collection is a one-of-a-kind treasure for those amongst those of us with a passion for the seedier side of cinema.

Critique: Knowledgeably compiled and deftly co-edited by the team of cinema fans Andrew J. Rausch and R. D. Riley, "Trash Cinema: A Celebration of Overlooked Masterpieces" is a compendium of succinct and informative commentary essays on 55 films by contributors with inherently interesting perspectives on their chosen movie. An fascinating, thought- provoking, and memorable read, "Trash Cinema" is a 'must' for all dedicated movie buffs. While an important, entertaining, and fully recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Cinematic History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, "Trash Cinema" is also available in a paperback edition (9781593938215, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note #1: Andrew J. Rausch ( is an American film journalist, author, screenwriter, film producer, and actor. Rausch has published nearly forty books with nearly twenty different publishers. His nonfiction includes multiple books on author Stephen King and screenwriter/director Quentin Tarantino. In 2004, he wrote a book titled Turning Points in Film History (2004) that was used as a textbook in many collegiate film classes. He spent seven years interviewing film directors for his book Fifty Filmmakers: Conversations with Directors from Roger Avary to Steven Zaillian (2008). Some of his key nonfiction titles include The Films of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro (2010), The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood (2015), and My Best Friend's Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film (2019). Rausch has written on topics as diverse as film, atheism, blaxploitation, and hip-hop music.

Editorial Note #2: R. D. Riley is also the author of "The Steven King Movie Quiz Book" (

The Needlecraft Shelf

Yarn Cake Amigurumi: 15 Cute Creatures to Crochet
Jacki Donhou
The GMC Group
9781784946678, $24.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: "Yarn Cake Amigurumi" by crocheting expert Jacki Donhou is a collection of 15 adorable amigurumi animals and creatures to crochet using multicolored yarn cakes.

Amigurumi is the art of using crochet to make toys. The varied and fun creations in this profusely illustrated instruction guide/manual range from Biscuit, the adorably cute little duckling, and Aggie, the punkish bull, to Garrick, the mythical dragon, and Jasper, the inquisitive puppy.

All 15 the projects are made using ombre yarn cakes, which have seamless fades of color hues, from light to dark and allow the readers to crochet lots of color, without the need to constantly change yarn. These creations will stand out among the sea of solid colored amigurumi designs, with their bold, transitional striping and flair.

"Yarn CVake Amigurumi" is comprised of 15 adorable amigurumi animals to crochet with Each animal measures 5 - 10in (12.5 - 25cm) in size, making them perfect for play or display. Of special note are the clear and 'user friendly' step-by-step instructions and photographs -- making each individual project suitable for beginner or intermediate level crocheting enthusiasts.

Critique: The large format (8.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches, 1.05 pounds) paperback edition of "Yarn Cake Amigurumi" from GMC Publications is an ideal, fun, and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, professional, and community library Needlecraft/Crochet collections.

Editorial Note: Jacki Donhou ( taught herself to crochet as a hobby to pass the time alongside bringing up her three children, and she has been designing amigurumi and plush patterns ever since. Her passion is to bring something unique to the crochet and yarn community that children and adult collectors alike will enjoy.

Simply Knitted Socks: 25 Beautiful Patterns to Create
Christine Boggis
The GMC Group
9781784946708, $24.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: "Simply Knitted Socks: 25 Beautiful Patterns to Create" by knitting expert Christine Boggis introduces her readers to a dynamic assortment of styles from baby booties that are perfect for beginning knitters, to twisty rib socks for the more experienced knitters.

Whether your interest is in creating unique socks to wear or to present to friends and family "Simply Knitted Socks: 25 Beautiful Patterns to Create" promises hours of stress-free creative fun and relaxation for knitters everywhere and is comprised of beautiful color photography throughout. Of special note are the step-by-step illustrated guides, measurement diagrams and useful tips, and easy-to-follow instructions for a wide variety of sock styles

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated in full color throughout, this large format (7.9 x 0.7 x 9.9 inches, 1.4 pounds) paperback edition of "Simply Knitted Socks: 25 Beautiful Patterns to Create" will prove to be a fun and highly prized addition to personal, professional, and community library Needlecraft/Knitting DIY instructional guide/manual collections.

Editorial Note: Christine Boggis ( is the editor of Knitting magazine and the author of "JOMO Knits: 21 Projects to Celebrate the Joy of Missing Out".

The Travel Shelf

Best of the World: 1,000 Destinations of a Lifetime
National Geographic, author
National Geographic Press
9781426222368, $40.00, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Best of the World: 1,000 Destinations of a Lifetime" armchair travelers and on-site visitors can discover their next great adventure in beautifully illustrated, large format (9.5 x 1.17 x 12.18 inches; 4.52 Pounds) guide to the world's best travel destinations. From the ultimate hiking trails to the most scenic train rides, the most stunning coral reefs to the most epic mountain retreats, here showcases are 1,000 exceptional destinations to add to an travelers bucket list!

Each one of the 1,000 bucket list-worthy trips in this sumptuous coffee-table style volume has been carefully vetted and selected by the celebrated travel experts at National Geographic. On every page there are new ways listed in order to experience beloved destinations to their fullest, such as a family-friendly tour of Rome's beloved ruins or a foodie tour of New York City, as well as hidden gems around the globe, including a cloud forest in the mountains of Ecuador and a kite surfing excursion off the coast of Spain.

Of special note is the profuse inclusion of detailed road trips to places near (Charleston, South Carolina) and far (a grand tour of Switzerland), along with top 10 lists from the best ski resorts to the best green hotels. Within the pages of "Best of the World: 1,000 Destinations of a Lifetime" will be discovered majestic nature escapes, family getaways, cultural hot spots, remarkable cityscapes, and one-of-a-kind thrills in this beautifully illustrated collection that will help aspiring travelers to find their next exhilarating destination.

Critique: Stunningly illustrated, impressively informative, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Best of the World: 1,000 Destinations of a Lifetime" is factual, motivational, a pleasurable delight to simply browse through, and appreciatively inspirational to plan trip itineraries with -- making it a welcome and unreservedly recommended acquisition for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Atlas/Maps and Travel Guide collections.

prettycityparis: Discovering Paris's Beautiful Places
Siobhan Ferguson, author
The History Press
c/o Arcadia Publishing
9780750995221, $40.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "prettycityparis: Discovering Paris's Beautiful Places" by Siobhan Ferguson, armchair travelers and on-site visitors can go beyond the French capital's famous landmarks and discover the hidden gems in this ancient city. From secluded mews and undiscovered cafes to flower markets and tree-lined streets, prettycityparis champions the quiet, gentle moments that allow you to escape in a huge capital city like Paris.

If you know where to look, you will find that traditional shopfronts, vintage transport, artisan bakeries, whimsical florists and timeless bookstores are but a hop, skip and a jump from the center. Some are right in the middle.

Full of the unexplored and less-appreciated areas of Paris, this stunning guide also includes tips on how to plan and photograph your own prettycityparis experience, whether on foot or dreaming from afar.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated in full color, this impressive edition of "prettycityparis: Discovering Paris's Beautiful Places" from The History Press will prove to be of particular relevance and appreciation for readers with an interest in Paris, in Urban Photography, and French Travel Guides. Impressively informative, exceptionally 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "prettycityparis: Discovering Paris's Beautiful Places" is an unequivocally recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.

Editorial Note: Siobhan Ferguson is the curator and founder of the hugely popular Instagram accounts @prettycitylondon, @theprettycities and @siobhaise. A photographer and social media consultant, she is the author of prettycitylondon (2018) and prettycitynewyork (2019). A native Irish woman, she currently lives in Chiswick.

The Family Bucket List
Nana Luckham, author
Kath Strathers, author
Universe Publishing
c/o Rizzoli
9780789344175, $36.95, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: With options for exciting trips and anything but ordinary journeys, the vast choice of experiences showcased in "The Family Bucket List: 1,000 Trips to Take and Memories to Make Around the World" by co-authors Nana Luckham and Kath Strathers is curated to appeal to all types of families and people of all ages: from visiting a "hobbit roundhouse" in Cornwall, England or shopping the docks for lobster in Portland, Maine to birdspotting along the Panama Canal or partaking of hundreds of activities at the Florida State Fair.

Organized geographically,the entries comprising "The Family Bucket List" feature a wide array of things to do spanning numerous interests and activity levels sure to appeal to all ages from kids to grandparents: go boating on New York State's Erie Canal; stroll the tulip fields outside Amsterdam; celebrate Mexico's Day of the Dead - the "original" Halloween; experience authentic Japanese living including a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto; take your family to a cooking school in Tuscany; explore the Pacific Northwest by ferry; and much more.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout with color photography, this large format (7 x 1.37 x 9.19 inches, 1.25 pounds) hardcover edition from Universe Publishing of "The Family Bucket List: 1,000 Trips to Take and Memories to Make Around the World" will have immense appeal to both the armchair traveler and the on-site visitor alike. An impressively inspirational and planning alternative to a generic vacation, "The Family Bucket List" is a very highly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Travel & Travel Guide collections.

Editorial Note #1: Nana Luckham has written for many travel publications and was a contributor to The Bucket List: Eco Experiences.

Editorial Note #2: Kath Stathers is a leading travel writer whose books include The Bucket List, The Bucket List: Wild, and The Bucket List: North America.

The Business Shelf

Belonging Rules
Brad Deutser
Matt Holt Books
c/o BenBella Books
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781637744024, $30.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: The need to belong is innate and enduring, yet often elusive. Genuine belonging requires a bold approach, one that offers both depth and credibility to the work required from leaders whose organizations are craving a sense of connection, security, and acceptance.

With the publication of "Belonging Rules: Five Crucial Actions That Build Unity and Foster Performance", Brad Deutser offers nuanced, direct guidance for navigating both the pre-existing and ever-evolving social and organizational demands of today's workplace. The five rules within, based on extensive research and application, create a framework to dissect and decode the complex, complicated, and controversial issues of the modern workforce.

And executive coach and award-winning management consultant, Deutser gives leaders the confidence to address the most critical societal imperative -- belonging. His approach doesn't tell leaders what to do, rather he provides leaders with the how to: Identify the heart of existing power structures and societal mandates; Reframe the impact of inclusion at an individual and organizational level; Challenge and fundamentally redefine the relationship with diverse stakeholders.

Leading can be uncomfortable. "Belonging Rules" is a guide that will empower leaders to shift attention, understanding, and effort toward bridging differences and uniting the "movable middle" which depowers the extremes, driving necessary change and desired performance.

Critique: Exceptionally 'reader friendly' in style, tone, organization and presentation, "Belonging Rules: Five Crucial Actions That Build Unity and Foster Performance" is informatively enhanced with the inclusion of a ten page listing of Acknowledgments, a four page Selected Bibliography, and a seven page Index. Of particular and specific value to readers with an interest in workplace culture, business management, and organizational leadership, "Belong Rules" is an appropriate and highly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, corporate, and college/university library Business Management collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for MBA students, academia, corporate executives, business managers, entrepreneurs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Belonging Rules: Five Crucial Actions That Build Unity and Foster Performance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212928984, $41.99, CD)

Editorial Note: Brad Deutser ( is founder and CEO of Deutser, an award-winning management consulting firm, and the Deutser Clarity Institute, a think tank, idea accelerator, and innovative learning center. Deutser has transformed many prominent educational, healthcare, energy, industrial services, professional services, private equity, retail, and cause-based organizations through his unique perspective on organizational clarity. He is a leading business consultant, creative strategist, executive coach, and trusted counselor to top corporate leaders working to build great companies inside and out, especially during the turbulence of transition.

The Photography Shelf

New York City Yesterday and Today
Jamie McDonald
The Globe Pequot Press
9781493052110, $29.95, HC, 168pp

Synopsis: "New York City Yesterday and Today: Exploring the City's Tax Photographs" by author and photographer Jamie McDonald is a compendium of little-known, but utterly fascinating tax photographs taken from The City of New York's Hall of Records and also reveals how those areas look today.

The photographs are an interesting page in the history of the city's municipal workings alone, but provide a fascinating look into daily city life in the 1940's. They were taken to help figure out property tax assessments.

Incredibly, city officials employed a team of photographers to go out to all five boroughs and photograph literally every building in the city. The result is tens of thousands of photos of practically every nook and cranny of the streets of New York.

With the publication of "New York City Yesterday and Today: Exploring the City's Tax Photographs", interested readers can now compare the old locations with modern photos -- and marvel at the changes some neighborhoods have undergone, whereas some parts of the city have remained remarkably unchanged. This is a truly remarkable look at the city's past and present.

Critique: A unique, informative, and inherently fascinating approach to the history of the singularly American city, "New York City Yesterday and Today: Exploring the City's Tax Photographs" is a special and unreservedly recommended addition for personal, professional, community, and college/university library American History collections in general and New York City History collections in particular. It should be noted that "New York City Yesterday and Today: Exploring the City's Tax Photographs" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.46).

Editorial Note: Jamie McDonald wrote, directed and hosted the Emmy award winning PBS television series "New York Originals," which brought about the subsequent book of the same name published by Universe/Rizzoli. He is a former producer at Fox News and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His last film, "Pulp Fiction Art: Cheap Thrills and Painted Nightmares" was broadcast on several public television stations nationwide. The film received three out of four stars from USA Today, and won two "Best Documentary" awards. He also co-produced "The Latin Legends of Comedy," which has played in several theaters and has also been released on DVD. Jamie has a Bachelor's Degree in Communications from Boston University and a Master's Degree from New York University. He is also the author of No Access New York.

Just a Minor Threat
Glen E. Friedman, photographer
Akashic Books
9781636141367, $35.00, HC, 138pp

Synopsis: "Just a Minor Threat: The Minor Threat Photographs of Glen E. Friedman" is a large format (10.5 x 0.75 x 8.75 inches, 2.12 pounds) volume of Glen E. Friedman's most outstanding photographs of the Washington, DC, band Minor Threat -- one of the most influential hardcore punk bands in music history. While this edition of "Just a Minor Threat" from Akashic Books offers Friedman's best-known photographs of the band, most of the pictures comprising this volume, shot in 1982 and '83, have never been seen before.

Along with the photography, "Just a Minor Threat" also features writings by Jello Biafra, Alec MacKaye, Guy Picciotto, Zack de la Rocha, Jamie Shanahan, and Ian F. Svenonius. Friedman's own introduction explains how he initially met the band, and the lifelong friendships that grew from there.

The first time Friedman made pictures of Minor Threat was in Southern California early in the summer of 1982, then later on their home turf of Washington, DC. At the end of that same year, he shot them at an "explosive and uncontrollable" performance at CBGB in New York City. In addition to these, Just a Minor Threat also comprises very rare candid and posed photos of the band, including many from the same roll as the now classic "Salad Days" image on the front steps of their "Dischord House."

Critique: This unique collection includes Glen E. Friedman's most iconic images of Minor Threat, as well as many never-before-seen photographs is a 'must' for the fans of Minor Threat and a strongly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library American Photography and 20th Century American Music History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Glen E. Friedman ( is one of the most important photographers of his generation. He is principally known for his influential and iconic images of rebellious artists from classic skateboarding, punk, and hip-hop cultures. As a true artist, his process was much more incendiary than it was documentary. Friedman, first published at the age of fourteen, has produced over one hundred record covers, countless magazine pages, and almost a dozen books, including What I See: The Black Flag Photographs, Keep Your Eyes Open: The Fugazi Photographs, DogTown: The Legend of the Z-Boys, My Rules, and Together Forever: The Run-DMC and Beastie Boys Photographs. His work is now included in a number of notable international collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution.

The Metaphysical Studies Shelf

The Sacred Herbs of Yule and Christmas
Ellen Evert Hopman
Destiny Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
9781644117804, $29.99, PB, 344pp

Synopsis: For millennia human cultures around the world have taken a special and dedicated time to honor the darkest days of the year with lights, foods, rituals, traditions, and celebratory festivities.

In ancient Egypt, people decorated their homes with greenery at the festival of the rebirth of the God Horus. The ancient Romans shared gifts, especially candles, at the midwinter festival of Saturnalia. In Scandinavian and Germanic cultures, the Yule Log was burned in the hearth, fruit orchards were wassailed, and sheaves of wheat were displayed to carry luck into the New Year. In Celtic cultures, mummers and guisers went door to door, and European mistletoe (Viscum album) was gathered by Druids as a medicinal and magical aid.

With the publication of "The Sacred Herbs of Yule and Christmas: Remedies, Recipes, Magic, and Brews for the Winter Season", Ellen Evert Hopman shares folklore, recipes, rituals, and crafts to enliven your Yuletide observance. She explores the origins of the Christmas tree and Santa Claus as well as holiday Spirits and Yuletide animals. She explains how to perform Winter Solstice divinations and make traditional foods and drinks such as Elizabethan gingerbread cookies and Wassail. And she looks in depth at the medicinal and magical properties of the many herbs, barks, and berries associated with the Christmas and Yuletide season such as Frankincense and Myrrh, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Hibiscus, Bayberry, and many more.

Critique: "The Sacred Herbs of Yule and Christmas: Remedies, Recipes, Magic, and Brews for the Winter Season" an exceptionally well written, organized and presented guide that offers a wealth of practical and magical ways to celebrate and honor the darkest days of the year. Providing readers with an around-the-world tour of ancient Christmas celebrations, Pagan Solstice customs, and magical seasonal plants, "The Sacred Herbs of Yule and Christmas: Remedies, Recipes, Magic, and Brews for the Winter Season" is a unique and highly prized addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Metaphysical/Paganism Studies and Herbal Medicine collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, herbalists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Sacred Herbs of Yule and Christmas: Remedies, Recipes, Magic, and Brews for the Winter Season" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99).

Editorial Note: Ellen Evert Hopman ( is a master herbalist and lay homeopath, who has been a Druidic initiate since 1984. She is a founding member of the Order of the White Oak, the Archdruidess and founder of Tribe of the Oak, a former professor at the Grey School of Wizardry, and a member of the Grey Council of Mages and Sages. She is the author of Celtic herbals and Druid novels, including Secret Medicines from Your Garden, The Sacred Herbs of Samhain, and Once Around the Sun: Stories, Crafts, and Recipes to Celebrate the Sacred Earth Year.

Pagan Portals: The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens
Morgan Daimler
Collective Ink Books
9781782798330, $12.95, PB, 92pp

Synopsis: The Morrigan or Morrigan, also known as Morrigu, is a figure from Irish mythology. The name is Mor-Rioghain in Modern Irish, and it has been translated into English as "great queen" or "phantom queen". (Wikipedia)

On shadowed wings and in raven's call, with the publication of "Pagan Portals: The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens", author Morgan Daimler introduces the ancient Irish goddess of war, battle, prophecy, death, sovereignty, and magic. "The Morrigan" is an informative introduction to the Morrigan and several related goddesses who share the title, including Badb and Macha.

"The Morrigan" deftly combines solid academic information with the author's personal experience in a way that is intended to dispel the confusion that often surrounds who this goddess was and is. The Morrigan is as active in the world today as she ever was in the past but answering her call means answering the challenge of finding her history and myth in a sea of misinformation, supposition, and hard-to-find ancient texts.

Here in one place, all of her basic information has been collected along with personal experiences and advice from a long-time priestess dedicated to a goddess who bears the title Morrigan.

Critique: The Morrigan is mainly associated with war and fate, especially with foretelling doom, death, or victory in battle. In this role she often appears as a crow, the badb. She incites warriors to battle and can help bring about victory over their enemies. The Morrigan encourages warriors to do brave deeds, strikes fear into their enemies, and is portrayed washing the bloodstained clothes of those fated to die. She is most frequently seen as a goddess of battle and war and has also been seen as a manifestation of the earth- and sovereignty-goddess, chiefly representing the goddess's role as guardian of the territory and its people. (Wikipedia)

A quick, easy, and impressively informative read from first page to last, this edition of Morgan Daimler's "Pagan Portals - The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens" from Moon Books must be considered essential reading for anyone with an interest in paganism, Celtic mythology, and/or New Age Goddesses. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.49), "Pagan Portals - The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens" is unreservedly commended to personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Morgan Daimler is an Irish Re-constructionist with Heathen tendencies who has been a polytheist since the early '90 s. A wandering priestess of Odin and dedicant of Macha, she teaches classes on Irish and Norse magical practices, fairies, and related subjects around the northeastern United States. Morgan's writing has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies including 'By Blood, Bone, and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrigan' and 'Naming the Goddess'. Morgan is also the author of nine books including 'Fairy Witchcraft' and the urban fantasy novel 'Murder Between the Worlds'

Freya: Meeting the Norse Goddess of Magic
Shannon Steen
Moon Books
c/o Collective Ink Books
9781803410029, $12.95, PB, 104pp

Synopsis: The most popular of the Norse goddesses is the Vanic deity Freya, originating in the Norse myths and brought into modern mass media, yet often obscured by contradictory tales and external moral coding.

Freya is an alluring deity of magic and fertility, a being so important in the mythology that gods and giants fought over her, yet she is never shown as a passive prize to be won only as a forceful being with agency and will of her own. Who is this powerful goddess who has left such a profound mark across not only Norse culture but also wider Western culture?

A part of the Pagan Portals series, "Pagan Portals - Freya: Meeting the Norse Goddess of Magic" by Morgan daimler is a basic introduction to the Norse Goddess Freya that covers her history, mythology, associations, and modern appearances, and offers readers suggestions for how to begin connecting to Freya in their own lives.

Critique: A succinct biography and study of a primary female deity drawn from Norse mythology and folklore, "Meeting the Norse Goddess of Magic" is a unique and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, community, and college/university library collections and supplemental Norse Mythology curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Pagan Portals - Freya: Meeting the Norse Goddess of Magic" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.49).

Editorial Note: Morgan Daimler ( is a blogger, poet, teacher of esoteric subjects, witch, and priestess of the Daoine Maithe. Morgan is a prolific pagan writer, having published more than a dozen books under Moon Books alone, and she is one of the world's foremost experts on all things Fairy.

The Floating World Tarot
Oliver Luke Delorie, author
Mia Komatsu, illustrator
Epic Ink
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780760385814, $26.99, Card Deck, 80pp

Synopsis: Ukiyo (which can be translated to floating/fleeting/transient world) is the Japanese term used to describe the urban lifestyle and culture, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects, of the Edo period (1600 - 1867) in Japan. "The Floating World Tarot: Explore the Ancient Traditions of the Tarot with Japanese Spiritualism creatively reimagines the ukiyo lifestyle through the lens of manga art and pairs it with the ancient art of tarot to create an all-inclusive kit that gives you everything you need to master this powerful divination tool.

"The Floating World Tarot: Explore the Ancient Traditions of the Tarot with Japanese Spiritualism" by tarot expert Oliver Luke Delorie and artist/illustrator Mia Komatsu is comprised of 78 tarot cards encompassing both Major and Minor Arcana, each illustrated in a unique and gorgeous manga style. Also included is an 80-page illustrated guidebook with detailed explanations, guiding keywords, and reversed meanings of each card.

With this deck and book, gather the knowledge and master the ability to analyze the symbolism that comes with each archetype. Then apply that wisdom to your everyday life.

Critique: Of special and particular value to tarot students and practitioners with an interest in Japanese philosophy, spiritualism, and ancient culture, "The Floating World Tarot: Explore the Ancient Traditions of the Tarot with Japanese Spiritualism" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal and professional Tarot and Metaphysical Studies collections.

Editorial Note #1: Nicknamed "monk" the day he was born, and steeped in Eastern philosophy and martial arts, multidimensional creative professional Oliver Luke Delorie has a black belt in self-help, penning the playful 100 Small Ways to Quit Worrying and 100 Small Ways to Manage Time, the philosophical Wabi Sabi and Shinrin-Yoku, and the inspirational Creative Manifestos, among several other books. He has an informative website at

Editorial Note #2: Mia Komatsu ( is a Japanese artist and calligrapher, currently based in Germany. She specializes in modern ukiyo-e style illustrations and brush-and-ink calligraphy, but is increasingly experimenting with digital art and photography. Primarily a freelance artist, Mia has designed everything from shop logos to vinyl jackets. You can see her art on Instagram @miacomart

Soul Journey through the Tarot
John Sandbach
Destiny Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
9781644117095, $22.95, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Soul Journey through the Tarot: Key to a Complete Spiritual Practice", astrologer John Sandbach illuminates in depth that the Tarot is a portal to realms of wisdom. That it can not only can provide deep insight through traditional readings but also offer a hands-on way to learn multiple spiritual practices and metaphysical systems, each of which are interrelated through numbers and the ways the systems are worked with to reveal cosmic truths.

In this guide, Sandbach explores the deep interconnected meanings of each of the 78 cards of the Tarot and explains how to work with the cards for spiritual healing and growth as well as to synergistically learn other methods of spiritual insight, in particular numerology and astrology.

Connecting the traditional, symbolic, psychological, alchemical, astrological, and numerological meanings of each card to its deepest meaning, the one closest to its spiritual core, he shows how exploring the interconnected meanings of the cards allows you to understand the Tarot as an integrated whole and enables you to provide insightful and deeply intuitive readings.

He also explains how every card is connected to the Tree of Life, an ancient Kabbalistic diagram of the universe, and details how to use the Tarot to calculate the numerological value of names, words, and dates, including birthdays, to reveal their metaphysical significance. He explores the connections between alternative rulerships for the cards and how they allow you to understand astrology at a deeper level.

Finally, he demonstrates several types of card layouts that can be used to perform readings for yourself or others, and he provides instructions for Tarot Contemplations to access deeper meanings of the cards.

By journeying through the nexus of wisdom connections within each card, you not only are simultaneously learning the ancient wisdom of numerology and astrology, but also opening access to your own inner wisdom.

Critique: Comprehensive, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Soul Journey through the Tarot: Key to a Complete Spiritual Practice" by tarot master John Sandbach is a complete DIY course of instruction that will have a very special value and appeal to readers with an interest in New Age Mysticism, Kabbalah, and the Tarot. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of metaphysical studies students and practitioners of the tarot that "Soul Journey through the Tarot: Key to a Complete Spiritual Practice" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99).

Editorial Note: John Sandbach ( is a highly respected astrology and Tarot researcher who has been working professionally in these fields for more than 50 years. He is the visionary behind the Chandra Symbols of the 360 degrees of the zodiac system, and he offers private astrology and Tarot readings online. He is also author of several books, including The Circular Temple and Astrology, Alchemy, and the Tarot.

Conjuring Dirt
Taren S
Moon Books
c/o Collective Ink Books
9781803413327, $17.95, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: Right under your feet lies one of the best magickal tools a practitioner could use in their workings - dirt. Whether it comes from graveyards, footprints, crossroads, or elsewhere, the dirt from different places is a powerful aid in the magick to your workings.

When we work with dirt, we're working with one of the most fundamental elements of being human. As they saying goes -- From dust we appeared and to dust we shall return. Dirt creates a magickal, energetic link that heightens any endeavor. This element of earth brings a deep spiritual dynamic and connection to any working.

Since it might be difficult to decide where to start (because dirt covers the planet, even under the oceans) with the publication of "Conjuring Dirt: Magick of Footprints, Crossroads & Graveyards", author Taren S narrows the focus to specific magickal-spiritual locations, locations of merit and power, for you to collect your own dirt. Implementing dirt into magickal workings requires more skill than its availability would denote.

Dirt workings involve the realms of light and dark magick, healing, curses, and death. "Conjuring Dirt: Magick of Footprints, Crossroads & Graveyards" will guide, help, and warn all those who wish to use dirt for magickal workings.

Critique: Fully addressing one of the often overlooked elements of metaphysical/magick studies, "Conjuring Dirt: Magick of Footprints, Crossroads & Graveyards" is an informed and informative instructional guide that is a firmly recommended and essential contribution to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted for both novice and experienced practitioners and students of the arcane arts that "Conjuring Dirt: Magick of Footprints, Crossroads & Graveyards" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Taren S ( stood in her first magickal circle in the backwoods of North Carolina when she was seventeen years old. She was initiated High Priestess within American Witchcraft in 1995. For over a decade she worked at a Haitian Voodoo Doctor's botanica as a spiritual counselor and professional tarot card reader in the South Carolina Lowcountry region. Furthering her magickal and spiritual path she was initiated as a Mama Bridget within American Voodoo/Hoodoo.

Nature Quest Oracle
Theresa Hutch, author/illustrator
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
179 Ludlow Street, Stamford, CT 06902
9781646711147, $22.95, Card Deck

Synopsis: With inspiration from Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, the "Nature Quest Oracle" card deck by Theresa Hutch invites you on a journey to manifest a mindful life in harmony with nature. Prominent sages (Thich Nhat Hahn, Ram Dass, Ramana Maharshi and Anandamayi Ma) share insights that are in alignment with Taoist philosophy to make the teachings of the Tao accessible and relevant to your daily life. This 50-card deck by author and illustrated Theresa Hutch features charming watercolor art and is organized around the five elements. It also includes 132-page full-color guidebook.

Critique: Offering taoist wisdom relevant to our contemporary times, "Nature Quest Oracle" will have a very special appeal and enduring value to students and practitioners of fortune telling and tarot reading. Ethereal, eternal, lovely, and endlessly fascinating, "Nature Quest Oracle" is especially and uniquely recommended for students of eastern wisdom, and practitioners of tarot based fortune telling.

Editorial Note: Theresa Hutch ( is the creator of White Sage Tarot, Land Sky Oracle. She finds inspiration through connecting with nature everyday. Theresa lives and works out of her home studio in Minneapolis, MN. She does tarot readings both online and in-person. She owns an on-line stationery shop called Small Cloud Shop and sells her items wholesale to small shops across the globe. All greeting cards are locally printed in small batches and are encased in eco-friendly bio-sleeves that are compostable. Theresa is plants a tree with every deck purchase from her website through the National Forest Foundation. So far over 2000 trees have been planted!

Divine Nature Oracle Deck & Book Set
Angi Sullins, author
Greg Spalenka, illustrator
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
179 Ludlow Street, Stamford, CT 06902
9781646711185, $26.95, Card Deck

Synopsis: Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be? You were born golden, and the earthly experience of humanity conditions you to believe you're made entirely of earth. But no matter how much encasing the world has put on you, nothing can change your divine nature: golden, radiant, valuable.

"Divine Nature Oracle Deck & Book Set" by the team of author Angi Sullins and artist Greg Spalenka is an oracle/tarot deck that is like a kind of phoenix-fire, melting away all that does not belong to your divine nature. The 100-page book that accompanies the card deck is full of feathers of insight and talons of formidable intent. You don't need to rise from the fire, you ARE the fire, both divine and natural, a treasure beyond your wildest imaginings. It's time that you spent it.

Critique: Extraordinary, exceptional, impressive, memorable, the "Divine Nature Oracle Deck & Book Set" includes 44 gold gilt-edged cards with foil accented backs, an organza pouch and 100-page guidebook, packaged in a magnetic hinged, spot varnish accented box. This "Divine Nature Oracle Deck & Book Set" from U.S. Games Systems is ideal for gift giving to metaphysical practitioners and students.

Editorial Note #1: Angi Sullins ( is addicted to wonder, make videos, sing songs, and write books that encourage both the wonder that is out in the world and the wonder that is inside the soul.

Editorial Note #2: Greg Spalenka ( feels that he is a cross disciplinary artist who loves to work in different mediums ranging from high touch to high tech, paint to pixels, photography to music, books to jewelry -- all in a grand fusion of possibility. For three decades he has been teaching, lecturing and conducting workshops at colleges, universities, art institutions around the country and abroad to share his professional experience and encourage the creation of art businesses. He founded the educational service, Artist As Brand to inspire and nurture art career sustainability.

Fairy Gems Deck & Book Set
Ellen Steiber, author
Linda Ravenscroft, illustrator
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
179 Ludlow Street, Stamford, CT 06902
9781646711178, $26.95, Card Deck

Synopsis: Fairies have been with us forever. Spun of light and shadow, these mysterious beings are timeless nature spirits who belong to the wild and carry all its wisdom and power. They connect us to a vibrant, enchanting world where anything is possible.

Gemstones, too, have always held the promise of magic. They've been used as amulets and talismans -- called upon to protect or heal, to grant clairvoyance and prophecy and travel into other realms.

"Fairy Gems Deck & Book Set" is 40-card tarot deck with which the power of fairies and gems come together through the luminous paintings of Linda Raven-scroft and the book of Oracles by Ellen Steiber.

Each card will bring you insight from the world of Fairy. Enter this enchanted realm to befriend the spirits of earth and sky, and to encounter the treasure of your own soul. Includes 204-page illustrated book and drawstring organza pouch.

Fairies recognize their own. Though you may not be able to detect them yet, you have wings. Your psyche is equipped to soar: through your own adventures, beyond your wildest imaginings and into the realm where impossible things happen every day. Discover the power of fire and flight in this special collector's deck and book set.

Critique; Linda Ravenscroft is a British artist currently living in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. While author Ellen Steiber, was born and raised in New Jersey, lived in New York City, worked in publishing for 14 years, and currently resides in Tucson, Arizona. Together they have created a tarot deck of wonder and enchantment that will have a very special resonance and are especially recommend for tarot practitioners who have an enduring interest in the fairy folk.

Editorial Note: U.S. Games Systems, Inc. has been the premier publisher of tarot and inspirational decks since 1968. Additionally, they also offer inspirational gift products such as Angel Kindness Cards, Pup Notes, and Healing Notes.

For The Love of Dragons
Angi Sullins, author
Amy Brown, illustrator
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
179 Ludlow Street, Stamford, CT 06902
9781646711161, $26.95, Card Deck

Synopsis: Whoever said diamonds are a girl's best friend never met a dragon. Inside "For The Love Of Dragons", a tarot deck by Angi Sullins and beautifully illustrated by artist Amy Brown, you will find majestic guides, petite playmates, cute companions and wild free spirits.

They are all allies to those who hold faeries and fables dear. Because of their voracious appetites, they have tasted many truths, imbibed much wisdom and learned a thing or two about navigating the skies of change.

They also recognize their own. Though you may not be able to detect them yet, you have wings. Your psyche is equipped to soar: through your own adventures, beyond your wildest imaginings and into the realm where impossible things happen every day.

Discover the power of fire and flight in this special collector's book and deck. "For The Love Of Dragons" includes 44 pink gilt-edged cards, organza pouch and 104-page guidebook, packaged in a magnetic hinged, spot varnish accented box.

Critique: Angi Sullins is a poet and scribe who is based out of Northern New Mexico. While artist/illustrator Amy Brown resides in the Pacific Northwest. The two ave them have brilliantly collaborative together to create an original, beautiful, inspiring, and impressive, "For The Love Of Dragons" card deck that will prove a true favorite among tarot readers who are also fans of dragon lore and culture.

Editorial Note: U.S. Games Systems, Inc. has been the premier publisher of tarot and inspirational decks since 1968. Additionally, they also offer inspirational gift products such as Angel Kindness Cards, Pup Notes, and Healing Notes.

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design